Chris Pine

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

STAR TREK BEYOND (2016 Paramount)

Directed by Justin Lin

The “Kelvin era” or “JJ-verse” Star Trek movies have been more “miss” than “hit”.  There was a time when you could count on every even-numbered Trek to be excellent, but Star Trek Into Darkness (#12) and Star Trek Beyond (#13) were two rotten movies in a row.  What went wrong?

Too.  Much.  Dumb.  Action.

Specifically, there is one modern action motif that is freakishly common today and it drives me insane every time.  It’s when a vehicle or body hits a wall or other obstacle, going right through, and keeps going, and going…minimal damage and zero loss of momentum.  This happens far too often in Beyond.   Hell, the bad guy Krall (Idris Elba) has a swarm of spaceships completely based on this physics-defying visual.

Every time Beyond feels like it’s going somewhere, the movie devolves into meaningless, dull action.  The shame of it is, there are other scenes that are character-driver and almost vintage Trekkian.  Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) caring for an injured Spock (Zachary Quinto) felt right.  Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) tiring of his daily space-grind was reminiscent of the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage”, and also colours in a little bit about how the prime Kirk eventually became an Admiral.  These slower, more contemplative shots are then succeeded by numbing action, so far removed from Gene Roddenberry’s original vision that you can hear his complaints in the back of your mind.

Idris Elba is unfortunately underdeveloped and buried under layers of makeup.  His character Krall has cloudy hatred for the Federation, believing that their mission of peace and exploration weakens humanity, who must instead be prepared to defend itself.  Krall is not all he appears to be, of course, but the reveal is far less interesting than it could have been.  Ultimately, the setup is never enticing nor is the execution.  Since the plot is based entirely on the motivations of the villain, the movie can’t hold together.  It’s just an alien looking for a superweapon so he can kill lots of people.  And it’s never made clear why he even needs that superweapon, since he can do plenty of damage on his own.

Case in point?  Krall [SPOILER] takes down the U.S.S. Enterprise only three years into her five-year mission.  Compare this to the original prime U.S.S. Enterprise, which only went down only in a last ditch attempt by her captain to keep his crew alive.  Only after 40 years in space, three television seasons, and three movies.  Its ending was poignant, and after saving the crew countless times, it was earned.  This ships’ ending was not earned, to use the words of Rob Daniels.  We’ve only known her in a few hours of screen time.  Her demise was not earned.  It was just a gimmick to sell tickets.  See the Enterprise go down!

A new character created for this movie, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) is a tough nut and good companion for Scotty.  Unfortunately, knowing the past history of female sidekicks in Star Trek films, that means you’ll never see her again.

Sadly, Anton Yelchin (Chekov) died tragically in an accident shortly before the film’s release.  J.J. Abrams has said that Chekov would never be recast by another actor.

Star Trek Beyond both gains and loses points for some real-world references.  The death of Leonard Nimoy in 2015 is reflected by [SPOILER] the death of Spock prime in this film, and there is a beautiful moment to reflect on that.  Less successfully, the character of Sulu (John Cho) is ret-conned as gay, to honour George Takei who played the original Sulu.  Even Takei found this ret-con to be strange since he never portrayed Sulu as gay at any point in the series.  It technically doesn’t directly contradict anything from the prime universe, but it feels so awkwardly shoed in.

Star Trek Beyond has, for the time being at least, ended Star Trek’s theatrical comeback.  Patrick Stewart has confidently returned to television in Picard, and so Trek never dies.  No thanks to Beyond.

1.5/5 stars

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Rabbit Ears”

AMERICAN DAD – “Rabbit Ears” (Episode 4, season 14)

It has been an exciting week for American Dad fans, as they devoured one of the weirdest episodes of the entire series, “Rabbit Ears”.  This is a series that did an entire episode in the form of a stage play.  Another was styled like an indi film and featured Zooey Dechanel as an overtly stated “manic pixie dream girl”.  This time, American Dad took off for The Outer Limits and ended up in the Twilight Zone.

There is no hint of the episode’s bizarre setting in the standard opening.  Stan, always up to something stupid, goes garbage picking on “big items” week, when people throw out large appliances.  He brings home a mattress infested with bed bugs and a giant, ancient television.  The Smith family are not amused, especially when Roger steals their attention as his latest persona:  a non-verbal newborn baby.  Then it gets weirder.

Sequestered in the basement with his mattress and television set, Stan sets up the antenna and gets nothing but static.  Then suddenly, Stan is woken from his slumber by the sweet sound of jazz, as a show finally comes in: “Nighthawks Hideaway”.

“Nighthawks Hideaway” intro with Alistair Covax

“Weclome Nighthawks, we’ve been expecting you.  The hour is late but the party is just getting started.  I’m Alistair Covax, your host for a sophistical little soirée with jazz, stimulating conversation, beautiful ladies…and more jazz.”

“What IS this show?” asks Stan.  It’s in black and white and clearly from the 1960s.

“Charlie, play some of those notes you know I like,” says Alistair to the jazz pianist.

Nothing on Google.  No record of the host Alistair Covax (Star Trek‘s Chris Pine) either.  Even TV Guide magazine says the show does never existed…but they know of a support group for people who claim to have seen Nighthawks Hideaway!  A show that does not exist…but multiple people have seen it.  Shades of Shazam/Kazaam!

Investigating the support group, Stan finds only one other attendee:  neighbour Al Tuttle (Richard Kind).

“There used to be more people, but one by one, they stopped coming,” explains Tuttle.

But what about the show?  “There’s only one episode!  And it re-runs over and over and over on channel 36!”

It’s even stranger than that.  “There’s only one episode…but it changes!  Little…differences in the show!  I keep track of them!”

That night, Stan notices something different on Nighthawks Hideaway.  Tuttle is in the show!  Not believeing his eyes, he knows further investigation is required.  Tuttle’s house is empty, but Stan finds his TV and notebook.  Here, Tuttle tracked differences from night to night.  The last page has the ominous note “I MUST GO IN.”

Stan studies the book and tracks the changes, night after night, in the basement on the old TV and finally discovers what happened to Al Tuttle.  And that’s when things get really Twilight Zone, and to go further would get into spoiler territory.

This episode “Rabbit Ears” was a truly fresh spin on a classic science fiction / horror theme.  Perhaps this style of storytelling is coming back into vogue.  There is a rebooted Twilight Zone now, hosted by Jordan Peele.  Regardless of trends, American Dad are still the masters of a specific type of surreal animated comedy.  The show is its own genre now, and “Rabbit Ears” is a clear indicator that its potential remains wide open.  Keep ’em coming.

5/5 stars

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The Captains (2011)

This review is for Sebastien!

CAPTAINS 1

THE CAPTAINS (2011, directed by William Shatner)

Who else but William Shatner should do a documentary on all the major Star Trek captains and the people who played them? Shatner obviously knows the rigors of a weekly TV series, and the impact that Star Trek has on a career. With that in mind, Shatner boards a Bombardier jet to speak with Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine.

William Shatner is excellent as an interested, intelligent interviewer. Just watch him with Patrick Stewart. Listen to his questions, as he probes. These are some of the best, deepest Star Trek interviews you will ever see. Shatner clearly has a talent for conversation. This is a remarkable side of the man that has carefully crafted a later image as a funny guy. The only place he awkwardly stumbles is with Avery Brooks.  Brooks, also a very intelligent man, chooses to answer many of his questions by tinkling away at a piano. That must have been strange….

If you are a fan of Star Trek, old generation, next generation, any generation, then this movie is recommended. It will certainly help you get to know and appreciate these great actors who played the captains. William Shatner accomplishes this with an appropriate mix of humour (watch how he meets Kate Mulgrew) and feeling. Mix into that some wonderful footage of him clowning around at conventions, too.

Great film. Shatner’s best directorial offering.

4/5 stars