4 Star Double Feature – Coming of Age Flicks

Starter for 10 (2006)

The cast boasts the likes of James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, and even James Corden all in one film together! The year is 1985 and Brian is off to his first year at university which turns into a formative moment in his life of new experiences, romantic entanglements, and, yes, even trivia. He’s really good at trivia. But sometimes being good at trivia still cannot prepare you for the things that life throws at you. That’s what makes life, life and not a game show as he finds out.

Sing Street (2016)

Also set in 1985 but in this case in Dublin, Sing Street is a high school coming of age story about a boy who forms a band to get a girl. It’s a simple premise but John Carney’s film explores much of the turbulence as well as the glories of that time in life. It’s about love and music and personal exploration. It also happens to be a darn good musical with a steady stream of catchy 80s tunes both real and fictional.

Starter for 10 (2006)

215px-Starter_for_tenOftentimes I get my greatest excitement not simply from the masterpieces I get to discover, but also hidden gems that get unearthed along the way. This one just happens to have some of Britain’s best talent. Starter for 10 is a coming-of-age film which immediately sets off a number of ideas in one’s head, and it has most of what you expect in that department. However, it also has an astounding plethora of young British talent. The list of names is as follows: James McAvoy, Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dominic Cooper, and even James Corden.

The heart of this film is Brian Jackson a college-aged kid, who grows up wanting to be clever and he has a passion for trivia because he always wants to learn more and he spent some formative moments in front of the telly with his now deceased dad. Now in 1985, he gets ready to leave his mother (Catherine Tate) and head off for new experiences at Bristol University. But she’s not the only one he leaves behind. His friends Tone and Spencer are not as ambitious as him, but he promises not to forget them.

Still, when he gets to college, he’s excited for the new challenges ahead and although his first acquaintances are rather odd, he does meet the winsome girl Rebecca Epstein (Rebecca Hall), who has an affinity for political protests. Soon he’s quick to join the University Challenge quiz team anchored by a very stuffy post-grad (Benedict Cumberbatch) but that’s not all. He also gets his first encounter with the posh girl with a gorgeous figure (Alice Eve). He’s immediately smitten with this new quiz kid and for good reason.

But what follows is all the drama that one would expect. The pitter-patter of his beating fragile heart as he dreams of days with the beautiful Alice. It even manifests itself in a dinner date and a rather awkward New Years with her parents. But then there’s Rebecca too. She’s brilliant as well and he has to figure out what he’s doing. Mixing up names on New Year’s Eve is not the best plan, but of course, that’s what happens.

His best friend Spencer (Dominic Cooper) comes to visit and that fosters more turmoil than Bri would like with the old world intersecting with the new. He’s confused and apathetic about the University Challenge by now. Everything goes wrong before the big day of the final competition and to top it all off Brian messes things up in a big way that leaves him dejected. He cannot even face his team now. Early on Brian latched onto the idea that knowledge is the key to being happy, not a job that you might hate. Although that can be true, it seems he slowly realizes that there’s even more to happiness than knowledge. If that’s all you have, you’re probably not going to be all that content. You see, he’s certainly clever, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do some stupid things and make some big mistakes. Don’t we all, and otherwise, this could not be a coming-of-age story full of discovery, confusion, and love.

It’s a bad metaphor, I know, but do you want the Marilyn Monroe blond bombshell or the sweet Audrey Hepburn brunette? Everyone has their proclivity, but Brian seems to make the right choice because he doesn’t go with the outward appearance, he goes with the one with a depth of character and the ability to forgive. That’s big.

There’s a formula being followed certainly, but it’s easy to look past that and enjoy Starters for 10 for its heartfelt performances and simply the good fun it brings to the table. The names attached to the picture were slowly on the rise and it’s impressive to see how far their careers have taken them.

3.5/5 Stars

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

afa29-startrekintodarknessEvery film franchise needs an installment where the stakes get higher and the outlook gets a lot bleaker, dropping lower into the darkness. Star Wars has Empire Strikes Back, The Hunger Games has Catching Fire and the new Star Trek series has this film. The opening gambit exhibits all the problems that normally arise with the enterprise crew. Kirk acts rashly not following protocol, Spock is far too logical for his own good and the native population sees far more than they should. All in a day’s work except their exploits get Kirk relieved of his command and Spock transferred. It’s not a good situation by any means.

Then out of the woodwork comes John Harrison a former Star Fleet weapons expert who has gone rogue and induced a man to blow up a seemingly insignificance archives building, but its all a ploy to get at the command. The aftermath leaves Kirk’s mentor dead and Kirk himself reinstated bent on revenge. The Enterprise heads after Harrison who fled to Kronos, part of the airspace of the dreaded Klingon. In a heated confrontation the unstoppable fugitive mows down the Klingons and allows himself to be taken in, but obviously something is not right.
Now Admiral Marcus is on their tale bent on finishing off Harrison and doing it by any means necessary even going so far as shooting down the Enterprise. The balance of right and wrong is completely off kilter by now. Once again Kirk chooses to ally with Harrison to take down Marcus, a risky proposition to be sure. Little does he know who Harrison actually is and what his mission entails. Ultimately Kirk is left with a few options with a ship without little power and a crew that are sitting ducks. In a fitting role reversal, he does the only logical thing he can and Spock takes over the bridge using Kirkian-like tactics. But the mission is far from over with danger still afoot. It takes a little ingenuity from all hands on deck including Spock, Uhura and Dr. McCoy. They cannot be expected to stop there however because their true mission is to go where no man has gone before. Gear up for another 5 years in space or possibly 5 years until the next movie.
I must admit I am not a true Trekkie but I did appreciate a few of the nods in this film including the appearance of Leonard Nimoy and the resurfacing of Khan. Now I really want to go back and see the classic Wrath of Khan too. However, I found this film to have nice pacing some good about-faces and a generally good story line. There are times when I get sick of the drama and picture perfect special effects but Star Trek Into Darkness is undoubtedly good blockbuster fodder. For Trekkies, it certainly is worth it and the cast is endearing. I must say I miss Deforrest Kelly especially, though. Bones is just too overdramatic in this film for his own good. But what do I know? Since villains are always so important Benedict Cumberbatch did a wonderful job raising the stakes by playing the audience beautifully. Well done.
4/5 Stars