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The 2009 Star Trek reboot went into pro­duc­tion on the eve of the writers’ strike and there­fore had no right to be as enter­tain­ing – or to make as much sense – as it did. In fact, it was so suc­cess­ful that it has become the gold stand­ard of dormant fran­chise resus­cit­a­tion and I’m hop­ing that the les­sons – what to hon­our, what to ignore, the mix of know­ing humour and state-of-the-art action – are taken on board by the forth­com­ing Superman block­buster Man of Steel.

A re-watch of Star Trek on Wednesday night con­firmed my thoughts from the ori­gin­al review. It worked so well, on so many levels, that by the end I was eagerly anti­cip­at­ing my Friday night reunion with Christopher Pine’s Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Hot Spock, etc. So, it is with a heavy heart then, that I have to report feel­ing let down by Star Trek Into Darkness. Everything seems a lot more self-conscious than before, as if the film­makers have just real­ised that there are a squil­lion people watch­ing and they’d bet­ter not make a mess of things. Which usu­ally means that’s exactly what happens.

Not long after the Federation has been saved in the first film, our her­oes are out explor­ing the galaxy, get­ting into trouble. As pun­ish­ment for viol­at­ing the Prime Directive (and incom­plete paper­work), Kirk is relived of the Enterprise com­mand but before he has time to prop­erly lick his wounds, a ter­ror­ist bombs Starfleet’s London office and threatens to kick off an inter­galactic (intra-galactic?) war with the Klingons.

It’s the exe­cu­tion that dis­ap­points this time around. The humour feels a bit heavy-handed, the attempts to incor­por­ate beloved ele­ments from the Original Series are clunky and the action is repet­it­ive – there are sev­er­al last second res­cues, for example, and at least two of them involve actu­al on-screen count­downs. I can­’t say more for fear of spoil­ers but – suf­fice to say – Star Trek Into Darkness is only a B minus while its pre­de­cessor mer­ited an A.I also don’t get the fuss over Benedict Cumberbatch, but more about that anoth­er day.

Song for Marion opens with one of the ten best songs ever writ­ten – Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl (In the World)” – so puts mul­tiple brownie points in the bank before a line is spoken. Terence Stamp plays tacit­urn Arthur, grudgingly escort­ing his ail­ing wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) from their mod­est bun­ga­low to the hall on the loc­al estate so she can sing with her mates while he sul­lenly smokes outside.

Marion’s choir is organ­ised and led by a perky young school­teach­er (Gemma Arterton) and she is determ­ined for them to enter a loc­al com­pet­i­tion. Arthur is wor­ried that Marion’s health is not up to the extra work involved and when his fears are real­ised he with­draws even fur­ther into him­self, to the extent of ali­en­at­ing his own son (the always wel­come pres­ence of Christopher Eccleston) and granddaughter.

But this is a feel-good – uplift­ing – movie, not some­thing by Michael Haneke, so the pleas­ures are to be had in the turn­around. Song for Marion could not exist without the bril­liant doc­u­ment­ary about a pen­sion­ers’ choir, Young @ Heart , which dis­solved me into a puddle on the floor of the Embassy back in 2007. It milks the inev­it­able humour less suc­cess­fully but hits the sen­ti­ment­al tar­get, helped by Stamp’s vanity-free per­form­ance and Redgrave’s warmth. Viewers of a sens­it­ive dis­pos­i­tion are warned to vacate the cinema before Celine Dion starts warb­ling over the clos­ing credits.

Marion and Arthur may argue oth­er­wise but it’s a uni­ver­sal truth that “dying is easy – com­edy is hard”. This is the main les­son that Colin Firth can take from the caper movie Gambit in which he plays a frus­trated art his­tor­i­an try­ing to defraud his boor­ish employ­er by means of a forged Monet and a beau­ti­ful Texan chick­en pluck­er. It’s very rare to see a film with such prom­ising indi­vidu­al con­trib­ut­ors (a script by the Coen Brothers for starters, Alan Rickman as the media tycoon, Cameron Diaz as a not-so-dumb blonde) fail to click to quite this degree but here we are.

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers arrives on our shores with quite a repu­ta­tion for all sorts of cul­tur­al and social trans­gres­sions, but I found it to be an old-fashioned mor­al­ity tale dressed (scantily) in music video appar­el. It’s the clash between what actu­ally hap­pens to the char­ac­ters and how their story is presen­ted that makes Spring Breakers both inter­est­ing and at the same time fairly repulsive.

Four teen­age girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine), des­per­ate to join their friends on the Florida beaches for Spring Break, rob a diner, torch a car and blow the tak­ings on blow before get­ting bus­ted by the loc­al cops. Feeling a tiny bit sorry for them­selves at this point – but not sorry for any­one else – they are bailed out by bejew­elled playa James Franco who intro­duces them to a genu­inely crim­in­al underworld.

It’s one of the inter­est­ing things about cinema – that the cam­era can make glor­i­ous the ugly and pro­fane but also turn beauty into some­thing foul, some­times just by mak­ing us con­scious of our own gaze. Spring Breakers spends a great deal of time objec­ti­fy­ing pretty drunk­en girls on beaches, but the nar­rat­ive also pun­ishes the trans­gressors in quite tra­di­tion­al ways. I think what I’m say­ing is this – Spring Breakers is more inter­est­ing as a cul­tur­al arte­fact than it is as a movie.

The mar­vel­lous doc­u­ment­ary Maori Boy Genius was one of my picks of 2012 and I’m pleased to note that it is now get­ting a decent cinema release so more people can be exposed to the charm­ing young New Zealander Ngaa Rauuira Pumanawawhiti. Only 16 dur­ing film­ing, Ngaa Rauuira shows great prom­ise as a schol­ar and a lead­er and Pietra Brettkelly’s film fol­lows him as he takes on the immense chal­lenge of study­ing inter­na­tion­al polit­ics at Yale University. This is only the begin­ning for a fas­cin­at­ing young man.