‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Review: ‘Choose Your Pain’ Puts the Crew in a World of Hurt

Star Trek Discovery Choose Your Pain Review 2

Okay, what was with that ending of the latest Star Trek: Discovery episode? Did “Choose Your Pain” turn Star Trek into a horror show?

“Choose Your Pain” is, as the title suggests, filled with tons of pain, including the minor pain of seeing another Stamets continue to look in his bathroom mirror while the real Stamets walked away. The only levity found in this episode, aside from the first usage of the f-word in Star Trek history, was Rainn Wilson’s highly enjoyable Harry Mudd. Seeing this Star Trek OG character was a sight for sore eyes. Speaking of sore eyes, let’s get into the types of pain caused by both the Klingons and Starfleet.

Lorca’s Eye Problem

As a person with 20/80 vision, I sympathize with Lorca trying to protect his eyes at all costs. When he’s captured by Klingons, I had to actually avoid looking at the screen since the Klingons’ choice of torment for Lorca was to subject his eyes to harsh light. I’m squeamish about any kind of eye prodding.

I thought he would have gone blind after that. Conveniently for the action sequences, he did not, but it seems like his eyes have been badly damaged. He’s been told to get his eyes “fixed,” but what does that entail? Does that mean Lorca will don some eyewear like Geordi La Forge’s visor?  That’d be cool.

Also: we find out he’s killed an entire crew before his turn on the Discovery. It’s a shocker, even though Lorca has been portrayed thus far as a possible villain. But was it for a good reason? Was he really trying to keep them from being abused as Klingon POWs? My money is on him just being bloodthirsty.

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Tyler’s Sexual Assault

Poor Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) was a victim of sexual assault aboard the Klingon vessel. What else does the line “the captain of this ship has taken a liking to me” to mean? Thankfully, Tyler managed to escape with the help of Lorca, but not before he got some licks in on his attacker. Yes, his attacker is a woman Klingon.

Considering the news we’ve been hearing from Hollywood and the film criticism industry over these last few weeks, it’s quite poignant that this episode would air now. It provides another layer to the conversations we’ve been having about victims and predators. In this case, Star Trek: Discovery is shining a light on male victims of sexual assault at the hands of female perpetrators.

The insinuation that Tyler has been raped repeatedly by the Klingon captain was so subtle in the dialogue between Tyler and Lorca that it’s easy to look past it, or even excuse it away as Tyler purposefully using his sex appeal to his advantage. But the way he swings at the Klingon captain tells a different story. He’s trying to throw back some of the pain she’s caused him.

Tyler’s victimhood might also go unrecognized by some viewers due to how much our society’s view of toxic masculinity keeps us from seeing men as sexual assault victims, especially when it’s at the hands of a woman. Male victims are often scorned or seen as weak. Just look to last week, when Terry Crews revealed he had been sexually assaulted by a powerful Hollywood executive. While Crews received tons of support, there were also people — many of them men — wondering why he didn’t say anything and why he, as a man, didn’t do anything, particularly since his assailant was another man. Some people assumed Crews couldn’t be a victim just because he’s a burly man (that’s not counting the racial implications there are to this assumption).

While women are often wrongly stereotyped as “asking for it,” male victims are also stereotyped in the same way. Somehow, it’s always painted as the victim’s fault — not the perpetrator’s — for their own assault. Even worse for men is when other men might congratulate male victims for “getting lucky” if their assailant happened to be a woman.  I haven’t seen much on the internet in the way of actually recognizing Tyler’s trauma — I’ve only seen one person tweet about wanting the show to explore Tyler’s PTSD. I’ve also seen a person say Tyler ended “a relationship” with the Klingon captain? This was no relationship. Hopefully, Discovery will explore this further. After all, Star Trek has always been about using science fiction to tackle real world social, moral, and ethical questions and quandaries. It’s only right for the new show to dig deep here.

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The Tardigrade’s Abuse

Seeing the Discovery crew abuse the tardigrade so much was quite painful. I won’t go into a “Would the original Star Trek have done this?” debate since the Discovery is a ship under duress in a myriad of ways. However, the tardigrade’s suffering provided a much-needed moral wake-up call for the science crew, which — thanks to Michael — realized the tardigrade was in distress.

They realized this too slowly, though. Honestly, it’s quite surprising and tone-deaf for the crew to not realize that this animal could have some form of sentience. Even Saru, who is prey on his planet, assumes the animal has no smarts. You’d think he of all people would understand what it’s like to be, well, preyed upon.

Folks were also slow to get into gear solely because it’s Michael giving them the advice. I get she got nearly everyone on board the Shenzhou killed, including the beloved Captain Georgiou, but doggone it, do they still not get that everything she does involves trying to save people’s lives?

On the flip side, everyone’s got a right to be mad at her, especially Saru, who idolized Georgiou as much as Michael did. Saru expected to become Georgiou’s next Number One, but, as he told Michael later, he never got that chance. His grief increased when he was made acting captain in Lorca’s absence; a role he felt he would have been more prepared for if he had gotten the same training from Georgiou as Michael did.

Saru didn’t have another option except to use the tardigrade to find Lorca; if another host for the tardigrade DNA was available, the tardigrade could have been spared. But after it went into protection mode, another organism had to step up. That organism was Stamets. The tardigrade was set free, but Stamets has apparently opened up a tear in the space-time continuum that could be the beginning of the mirror-verse and the start of the alternate realities as we know it (hello, Star Trek reboot series). Things are going to get loopy.

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LFF Review: Brazilian Film ‘Good Manners’ is a Clever Horror Creation

Good Manners

This Brazilian horror drama film falls under the category of WTF?!, but it’s so so so good. Good Manners, or As Boas Maneiras in Portuguese, is a film from Brazil set in São Paulo that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. If I am to sum it up in one sentence it would be: a Brazilian, lesbian, musical, werewolf drama. It’s kind of a horror film, but not really, much more of a drama with some horrific elements. Good Manners is the most clever, refreshing reinvention of the werewolf film in years. It will make you freak out and laugh and cover your eyes and throw your hands up aghast in bewilderment. The less you know about it going in, the more enjoyable the experience will be when you finally watch it unfold. So be careful with what you read. ›››

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LFF Review: Chloé Zhao’s ‘The Rider’ is an Assured, Emotional Drama

The Rider

What place does a broken cowboy have in this modern world? The Rider is a gem that will reward those patient enough to discover it. Filmmaker Chloé Zhao tells a story of an injured cowboy in contemporary times who has to deal with the trials and tribulations of life, all the while yearning to get back to the rodeo. This film won an award after first premiering the Cannes Film Festival, and I finally caught up with it at the London Film Festival. I wasn’t expecting to be so moved, so overwhelmed with emotions, yet I was wiping away tears by the end of the screening. Whenever a film hits me that hard and leave me sobbing by the end, that’s usually a sign it’s something special. This is one of those outstanding films to seek out and discover. ›››

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Sitges Review: Joachim Trier’s ‘Thelma’ is One of the Year’s Best Films

Thelma Review

The power of love. It’s such a relief to watch a film and discover it’s truly as wonderful as everyone has been saying. Joachim Trier’s Thelma has been getting rave reviews ever since premiering at the Toronto Film Festival and Fantastic Fest (Jeremy wrote a glowing review already). I caught up with the film at the Sitges Film Festival and it’s now one of my favorite films of the year, a wonderfully exhilarating, gripping sexual awakening story. Joachim Trier is a very talented Norwegian filmmaker who has already made a name for himself with the films Oslo August 31st and Louder Than Bombs, but continues to get even better with each new film he makes. Thelma is his finest work yet, one of the year’s best that is worth your time to discover. ›››

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Sitges Review: ‘The Osiris Child’ is Ultra Ambitious Sci-Fi Storytelling

The Osiris Child Review

Where did this film come from?! I finally caught up with a sci-fi feature called The Osiris Child, originally titled Science Fiction Volume One: The Osiris Child in full. This film is way, way, way better than it should be, and left me totally blown away. It’s not perfect by any means, but it is extremely impressive storytelling, with some cool ideas I have never seen before in any film. I can’t speak for others who don’t like it, but I can say this is exactly the kind of sci-fi I love. It’s remarkably ambitious storytelling on a galactic scale, created on a minimal budget, utilizing some sleek filmmaking tricks that actually make this successful. The world building (or rather, universe building) in this rivals Luc Besson’s Valerian, and in all honesty, upon first viewing I actually like this more than Valerian. I really, really enjoyed it – but I do not think everyone will. ›››

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Review: Villeneuve’s ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is Emotionally Affecting, Artificially Intelligent

Blade Runner 2049

Based on the Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction thriller, Blade Runner, introduced audiences to a dystopian future where synthetic humans, known as Replicants, are bio-engineered for use in off-world colonization. When these Replicants go rogue, special police units called Blade Runners hunt down and “retire” them. Despite its initial lukewarm critical and commercial reception, Blade Runner has become one of the most influential movies of the last 40 years, pioneering what became an entirely new genre: neo-noir cyberpunk. 35 years later, thanks to subsequent releases like the 1992 Director’s Cut and the definitive 2007 Final Cut, Scott’s film is now heralded as a groundbreaking visionary masterpiece and one of the most important motion pictures ever made. ›››

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Fantastic Fest Review: ‘Bad Genius’ Is a Slick, Remarkable Caper About Exam Cheating

Bad Genius Review

A heist-style drama about genius high school students and their task to pull off the ultimate, cheating scam on behalf of dozens of wealthy peers doesn’t quite sound like the nail-biter Bad Genius ends up pulling off, but here we are. The Thai film we do get, which is directed by the very talented Nattawut Poonpiriya, not only brings with it a whip-smart screenplay, it’s an incredibly intense caper loaded with crackling dialogue and impressive performances that ranks up there with recent, instant classics like Moneyball and The Social Network. Poonpiriya keeps your attention from beginning to end and ends up delivering one of the tautest thrillers (without really being a thriller) to come along in some time. ›››

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Fantastic Fest Review: Superb Stephen King Adaptation ‘Gerald’s Game’

Gerald's Game Review

Sometimes when transferring a novel to a film, the best way to go is a straight, no-frills adaptation. The author has said all that needs to be said on the subject, and the job the filmmaker undertakes is simply bringing that source material to life through visual representation. With so many adaptations of the works of Stephen King already made – and many more just on the horizon – it’s refreshing to see a film based on his works sticking so closely to the book. Enter Gerald’s Game, based on the 1992 novel, directed by Oculus and Hush director Mike Flanagan. A streamlined adaptation, the film hits with surprising intensity and delivers ample amounts of atmosphere and scares. It also boasts a career-best performance from Carla Gugino, who aids in raising Gerald’s Game to the levels of some of the very best Stephen King adaptations. ›››

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Fantastic Fest Review: Joachim Trier’s Gripping & Unnerving ‘Thelma’

Thelma Review

Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier is an artist whose works are always delivered with a healthy dose of message. With Oslo, August 31st (2011) and Louder than Bombs (2015), the filmmaker broke onto the scene ready to force the viewers of his films into deep reflection and meticulous thought. It’s no surprise that Trier’s latest film, Thelma, comes with that same level of analysis but with an increasingly engaging, sci-fi/horror tale to go along with it. Thelma is a slow burn film, but what starts out as a low simmer eventually builds into a rolling boil, all of which is presented to the viewer with outstanding execution. It’s the kind of horror story that keeps the viewer’s skills of dissection at work long after the film is over. ›››

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‘Chappaquiddick’ Review: Jason Clarke Plays Ted Kennedy in an Absorbing, Maddening Drama [TIFF]

Chappaquiddick review

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters,” declared then-candidate Donald Trump in the middle of the 2016 Republican primaries. Perhaps he was well acquainted with the chapter in the life of Ted Kennedy, the legendary “lion of the Senate,” chronicled in John Curran’s Chappaquiddick – and how it ultimately failed to move the needle among his constituents. Despite lies, misrepresentations and cover-ups, Kennedy’s involvement in the death of a political aide now serves as little more than a footnote on his Wikipedia page.

Curran, with stone-faced intent and brutal focus, makes the case that such an incident cannot help but illuminate the true character of a man. People may not need to reconcile Kennedy’s deficient response to a tragedy of his own creation with his legacy of championing liberal causes. But Chappaquiddick provides a sobering, non-ideological reminder that if such deeds do not become a part of a public figure’s narrative, then a frightening impunity for elected officials can reign.

Ted Kennedy, embodied here by Jason Clarke, may not consider himself above the law, although he certainly assumes he can act outside it and face fewer consequences. In a decade where his family staked an almost dynastic claim on the American government, he fancies himself an heir apparent to the presidency like a monarch eyes their future throne. (Of course, the Kennedys unabashedly fashioned themselves as something akin to a royal family.) For a brief, shining moment, the family business was not politics. It was public service, a trade that placed them in the powerful position of bestowing their presence like a gift to others.

If Jackie and John F. Kennedy’s “Camelot” myth, so brilliantly evoked in last year’s Jackie, captured the pinnacle of American optimism in the early 1960s, Chappaquiddick captures the decade’s dissolution in the bitter discontent of the 1970s. Early in the film, Ted remarks in an interview that he’s always walking in the shadow of his late brother, unable to free himself from the burden of his older sibling’s legacy. Ted’s incident takes place quite literally against the backdrop of the weekend in which the greatest aspiration of President Kennedy – putting a man on the moon –  came to fruition.

The assassinations of both John and Robert Kennedy scarred the American psyche in profound ways, but they had a more direct impact for Ted. As the last remaining male descendant of his demanding father Joe (Bruce Dern), Ted gets thrust into a leadership role in the family enterprise for which he is ill-prepared and remarkably unsuited. He lacks the charisma and skill which came so naturally for his brothers, yet he needs copious amounts of both to escape the mess of Chappaquiddick.

While blowing off frustration and steam, Ted drives his car off a dock, killing passenger Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a former staffer for his brother, Bobby. His immediate physical response remains a mystery lost to time, though his first verbal reaction sums up the overarching concern in the fallout: “I’m not going to be president.” Rather than expressing any remorse or respect for the deceased, Ted filters everything through the lens of his own political future. Chappaquiddick takes place primarily in back rooms of resplendent Massachusetts waterfront homes where rich old white men plot a public relations campaign to protect a criminal from receiving justice.

Curran’s filmmaking tends to freight the proceedings with tragic overtones. Practically everywhere, there’s a symbol carrying an overloaded weight – the moon, the water. And yet through it all, Jason Clarke’s performance runs counter to the strained elements of Chappaquiddick. Despite the monumental, life-altering events that occur in the film, Clarke maintains an even keel by committing to a pervasive numbness. Scenery chewing is nowhere to be found, despite the consequential events taking place. Once Ted’s assumed birthright disappears from his grasp, he simply floats through his own life like a disbelieving observer. Clarke, a perennial scene-stealer in films from Zero Dark Thirty to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as well as this year’s upcoming Mudbound, seizes the spotlight and quickly establishes his typical measured tone.

Biographical films typically do not choose to dwell on the worst period of a public figure’s life, and seldom do they linger in the unsavoriness of their subject to the extent Chappaquiddick does. Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan’s script portrays Ted Kennedy as an impulsive figure who often ignores the sage advice of his closest counsel, even nearing an abusive level with his relative Joe Gargan (a touchingly earnest Ed Helms). The film catches Kennedy in a vicious cycle. He’s perpetually disappointed in others, which leads him to perpetually disappoint everyone around him. The result is a disgusting miasma of spin and deception that evinces the Kennedy instinct to favor their created myths over the truth. By divorcing Ted Kennedy from his accomplishments, Chappaqudick forces a reckoning over the divide between his rhetoric and his actions.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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