Star Trek Beyond


"Someone's sitting in my chair."

“Someone’s sitting in my chair.”

(2016) Science Fiction (Paramount) Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Joe Taslim, Lydia Wilson, Deep Roy, Melissa Roxburgh, Anita Brown, Doug Jung, Danny Pudi, Kim Kold, Fraser Aitcheson, Matthew MacCaull, Emy Aneke, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Greg Grunberg, Fiona Vroom. Directed by Justin Lin

 

The Star Trek franchise turns 50 this year as next month marks the anniversary of the first appearance of Captain James T. Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise on the NBC network way back in 1966. The franchise has gone through six different television series including one animated version and a seventh set to debut in January, thirteen movies, dozens of fan-made videos and innumerable novels and fan-fic entries.

The latest film (and the first of the rebooted “alternate universe” Trek without J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair) finds the Enterprise in the middle of its five year mission and a bit of a malaise has set in among the crew, not the least of which is Captain Kirk (Pine) who is contemplating taking a promotion and a desk job. After a botched diplomatic mission left an ancient yet apparently unimportant artifact in the possession of the Federation starship, Kirk and crew pull into the gigantic Starbase Yorktown for some desperately needed R&R.

While the Enterprise is docked at the impressive space station, an unidentified ship comes from a nearby largely unexplored nebula. Its lone occupant, Kalara (Wilson) pleads for assistance, saying that her crew has been marooned on a planet inside the nebula after the ship was damaged. Kirk takes his ship into the Nebula, only to meet a foe that the pride of the Federation fleet has absolutely no defense again.

Separated on a hostile planet with much of the crew captured, the officers of the Enterprise have to figure out a way to warn the Starbase that Krall (Elba) a maniac with a serious mad on for the Federation is coming and has the might to bring the Yorktown to its knees. With the help of Jaylah (Boutella), an alien whose family was murdered by Krall, Chief Engineer Scott (Pegg), a badly wounded Spock (Quinto), his ex-girlfriend Uhura (Saldana), the irascible Dr. McCoy (Urban), plucky navigator Chekhov (Yelchin) and reliable Sulu (Cho) must utilize an ancient, outdated vessel and find a way to take down Krall before he takes down the Federation.

Justin Lin, who has directed several films in the Fast and Furious franchise, brings an action pedigree to the science fiction franchise and as you might expect, the emphasis here is more on the action. Surprisingly, however, there is a great deal of focus put on the various interpersonal relationships of the crew, particularly on the Spock-McCoy bromance which was a centerpiece of the original series but got little play in the reboot until now. Some of the best moments in the film involve the bickering between the two of them.

This is a fine-looking film and great care has been put into the sets and special effects. The Yorktown is particularly amazing, a space station that has a bit of an Escher vibe to it with amazing maglev trains and soaring skyscrapers. It’s what you’d expect from a cityscape four centuries from now. The question becomes why would something like that be built in space when there’s a perfectly good planet below it? It looks nifty as a space dock but would an entire city the size of Chicago be needed to support starships docking for repairs and resupplies?

But of course, the future is whatever you make of it and conventional logic can disappear in a flash of new technology. Speaking of technology, it’s put to good use here as the special effects are state of the art. There’s no doubt that you’ll dig that aspect of the film even if you enjoy nothing else. Quite frankly, there’s a lot more to enjoy too; the cast here is strong and getting Idris Elba as your lead villain is absolutely a coup. Elba is climbing up the ladder to what no doubt will be eventual A-list status and a slew of awards. Even unrecognizable under prosthetics and make-up, he still has the ability to command the screen in almost a Shakespearean turn here.

This isn’t the best movie in the Star Trek canon but it’s right up there. It’s good to see that someone besides J.J. Abrams and Nicholas Meyer can make a great Trek movie. Some blue blood Trekkers may grouse at the surfeit of action sequences (which has been true throughout the reboot) and even that it isn’t true Trek. I disagree. Much of the movie revolves around the concept of working together for a common goal versus waging war for the betterment of the species. It is a question we continue to struggle with even now. While this isn’t as thought-provoking as hardcore Trekkers may like, it is an extremely entertaining summer entertainment. Unfortunately, that hasn’t translated into box office dollars so it is likely that the franchise – with the next installment already greenlit and featuring the return of Chris Hemsworth as George Kirk – will take a different turn. And perhaps that’s for the best.

REASONS TO GO: The film emphasizes the interpersonal relationships of the crew. Some very cool special effects here. Idris Elba even under layers of make-up is one of the best actors today.
REASONS TO STAY: A couple of holes in logic appear here and there.
FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of violence and action, some a little bit gruesome.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first Star Trek film or television show to be shot primarily outside of Hollywood. It was mainly shot in Vancouver and all of the interior sets were built from scratch.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/14/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 84% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT: The Little Prince

Cold Weather


Cold Weather(2010) Mystery (IFC) Chris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raul Castillo, Robyn Rikoon, Jeb Pearson, Brendan McFadden, Ben Stambler, Katy Rothert, Paul Rothert, Jerry Moyer, Virgil L. Howell, Barry Seltzer, Orianna Herrmann, Elliott Glick, Joshua Locy. Directed by Aaron Katz

In Portland (the one in Oregon) it rains a lot. The weather is often a misty rain-soaked grey that carries a chilly hint of the northwest.  A lot of hipsters live in Portland; a lot of young people who work menial or arts-oriented jobs trying to get a handle on who they are as they transition from being teens to being adults. There’s a lot of energy there when the rain and the grey don’t weigh it down and waterlog it.

Doug (Lankenau) has just moved to Portland from Chicago. He is living there with his sister Gail (Dunn) in a small apartment. He works at an ice plant moving bags of ice all day with his friend Carlos (Castillo). Doug is a Sherlock Holmes fan, so much so that he has taken to smoking a pipe and had plans to be a detective at one time, going to college to study Forensics but eventually dropping out for reasons undisclosed.

Doug’s former girlfriend Rachel (Rikoon) comes to town and spends time with Doug, Carlos and Gail. Carlos becomes sweet on her. Asks her out on a date. Gets stood up. Looks for Rachel to get an explanation. Rachel is nowhere to be found. Carlos freaks out. Asks Doug, the forensics expert of the group, to investigate.

And that’s it in a nutshell. Katz is using kind of a mumblecore style here; the movie is not so much about the investigation into Rachel’s disappearance but more about how it affects the lives of the three left behind. The first third of the movie is more of a slacker diary, looking at the lives of these four people who have very little inertia in them. The dialogue is realistic for the people and place but at the end of the day they really do or say little of interest during that time.

When Rachel disappears the film picks up a little and not a moment too soon because quite frankly I was beginning to nod off. I’m all for slice of life films but those slices need to have some sort of meaning, some kind of insight for me. Something more than young people stuck in the current of life and not particularly interested or motivated to get out of the stream.

The performers are all unknowns and quite frankly don’t take the material and run with it. While I will grant you that the movie looks beautiful (particularly the scene at the waterfall, depicted above) and that the images of Portland rainfall are clever and artistic, I needed a bit more from the movie. Of course, I did see it late at night and I might have been too tired to really appreciate it so take all of this with a grain of salt – but I didn’t connect with the characters and I wasn’t captured by the story. Those are troubling results for a movie.

WHY RENT THIS: Hits the right notes on realism. Beautiful cinematography.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The performances are uninspiring. So low-key and dry that boredom could set in.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of language and some smoking.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Aaron Katz’ first film as a director was Dance Party USA.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $141,358 on an unreported production budget; while it’s possible that it was profitable, it’s more likely that it broke even at best or lost money at worst..

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Brick

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Memento