To Be Takei


It's always a great day to be OK to be Takei!

It’s always a great day to be OK to be Takei!

(2014) Documentary (Starz Digital Media) George Takei, Brad Takei, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, John Cho, Daniel Inouye, Norman Mineta, Lea Salonga, Dan Savage, Howard Stern, Jay Kuo, Tom Ammiano, Eddie Paskey, Lorenzo Thorne, Telly Leung, Jimi Yamaichi. Directed by Jennifer R. Kroot

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that it must be great to be George Takei. Beloved Star Trek actor, Facebook sensation, activist and advocate for Japanese-Americans and the gay community, he has been described as America’s gay uncle and that might not be far from the truth.

But when you consider the things he’s been through – being imprisoned in two different internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the no less damaging prison that came from being a closeted actor throughout most of his career (he didn’t come out until 2005 and then in response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s veto of the gay marriage bill.

He has overcome some difficult, dark days but he has emerged on the other end with a disingenuous smile and a live and let live attitude that might lead some to underestimate how forceful and passionate he is for the causes he believes in. Even his feud with William Shatner doesn’t seem to be something he takes all that seriously; I get the sense he doesn’t feel any ill will towards the actor. Shatner, interviewed for the film, comes off as somewhat befuddled about the fuss and a bit standoffish – “I really don’t know the man,” he protests on several occasions.

Still, I don’t know if I could be as cheerful as Takei given his circumstances. What keeps him sane, I think, is his relationship with his husband Brad. Brad is kind of the sensible, detail-oriented one in the relationship. He takes George’s crazy schedule and makes it work. Sometimes he can be a bit of a nag, other times he can be a bit startled at George’s occasional penchant for oversharing, sometimes he can be a bit of a nit-picker. Still, the love that is there is obvious and deep.

In fact, watching the interaction between George and Brad made me think “That’s me and my wife!” There is really no difference in their relationship than my relationship with my wife other than that my relationship is with a woman and George Takei’s is with a man. They both drive each other crazy upon occasion but they both lean on and rely on each other – and there’s no doubt either man would take a bullet for the other, literally and figuratively. That’s how most good marriages work. People who are fuzzy about whether gay people should be married should watch these two gay people together. They are indeed, the prototypical gay married couple.

I did find that aspect of the documentary inspiring; I also found that the scenes of George’s activism with both Japanese-American causes as well as gay causes to be among the most interesting in the film which is something since I’m a proud Trekker and love the little insights that come in from the surviving members of the crew of the Enterprise. As a Trekker I might have wanted more on his era in Star Trek but the film critic in me acknowledges that would only appeal to a certain segment, myself included.

However, the film critic in me frowns on the way that Kroot bounces around in subject matter, from the internment to George’s early Hollywood years to his discovering he was gay in high school to his Facebook stardom to his relationship with his parents. I would have preferred something a little more linear in terms of telling Takei’s story, although something tells me that George himself isn’t the most linear of men.

A project close to Takei’s heart these days is Allegiance, a musical about the Japanese-American experience in the internment camps that Takei starred in (along with Salonga). The show is largely informed by Takei’s own experiences and shows a depth in his acting that he rarely gets a chance to display. The musical set records at San Diego’s Old Globe Theater and is expected to debut on Broadway during the upcoming season.

Takei himself makes a fascinating subject for a documentary and it’s high time that there was one made about him. There are some great archival photographs and such but I think the focus here is rightly on the relationship between George and Brad – which is clearly the central focus in George’s life – and on his activism. It is impressive that in his 70s George Takei has become much more of a cultural phenomenon than he was as a younger man, and continues to work an impressive schedule not only as an actor but with personal appearances as well as speaking engagements for his various causes. Takei is a national treasure and we should appreciate him as such.

REASONS TO GO: Takei is as interesting a person as you think he is and probably more so. Does a lot to further the cause of gay marriage.
REASONS TO STAY: The documentary jumps around from subject to subject in kind of a willy-nilly fashion. May not have enough Star Trek material for some Trekkers.
FAMILY VALUES:  Suitable for family audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Takei was born with the first name of Hosato, but was called George by his father, an Anglophile (as his son later became) after the coronation of King George VI in 1937.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/30/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 90% positive reviews. Metacritic: 67/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Before You Know It
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: The Skeleton Twins

Advertisements

Four-Warned: August 2014


Guardians of the GalaxyEvery month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (1.0)
2. FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (1.1)
3. THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (1.3)
4. THE GIVER (1.4)
TIE. INTO THE STORM (1.4)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. TO BE TAKEI (1.3)
2. THE CONGRESS (1.4)
TIE. RICH HILL (1.4)
TIE. DINOSAUR 13 (1.4)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

AUGUST 1, 2014

4 MINUTE MILE (Gravitas) Genre: Drama. A young man in a desperate neighborhood uses track and field as an escape but even that may not be enough. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Looks a little hokey but does have a pretty decent cast with Richard Jenkins and Kim Basinger.
THE ALMOST MAN (Big World) Genre: Dramedy. Although he’s 35, Henrik lives at home and parties with his high school buddies like he’s young but when his girlfriend gets pregnant, it’s time for him to become the man he was meant to be. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A celebration of life, Norwegian style.
BEHAVING BADLY (Vertical) Genre: Comedy. An awkward high school boy will do anything to secure the girl of his dreams but he doesn’t realize just how much he has to do to get her – and that it involves the mob. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Definitely a “stop me if you’ve heard this one before” kind of movie.
CABIN FEVER: PATIENT ZERO (RLJ/Image) Genre: Horror. While on a Caribbean vacation, a group of friends swim in contaminated water and discover that an abandoned research facility may be the only key to save them from the flesh-eating disease they’ve contracted. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Most of this series has gone direct-to-video; I’m wondering if this shouldn’t have as well.
CALVARY (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. A good Irish priest must summon the courage to face sinister circumstances brought on by a mysterious parishioner. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 From the director and star of In Bruges.
CHILD OF GOD (Well Go USA) Genre: Thriller. A man who is deprived of home and family descends into a deep dark morass of crime and degradation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Based on a Cormac McCarthy novel; looks pretty intense.
FINDING FELA (Kino-Lorber) Genre: Documentary. The life of Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti whose fight for oppressed people and Pan-Africanist politics made him a hero in his native land. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 His music is most familiar to Americans through a Broadway musical based on his work.
GET ON UP (Universal) Genre: Musical Biography. James Brown came from a background of poverty to become one of the most influential figures in music in the 20th Century. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Chadwick Boseman looks like he captures the essence of James Brown as he did with Jackie Robinson.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Science Fiction. A ragtag group of thieves, assassins and outsiders are all that stand between the galaxy and the ravages of a psychotic despot with unlimited power. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 An unusual choice for the next Marvel movie may end up being the best in the series to date.
LOUDER THAN WORDS (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Drama. Following the tragic death of their young daughter, a couple decide to honor her memory by founding a children’s hospital which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A great cast and an intriguing trailer make this one a sleeper to look out for.
RICH HILL (The Orchard) Genre: Documentary. Teenage boys in a small Midwestern town struggle to survive in an era of uncertain economics and hopelessness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 This Sundance award winner is an early contender for an Oscar as a realistic portrayal of rural poverty in this time and place.
THE STRANGE LITTLE CAT (KimStim) Genre: Comedy. An extended family gets together for dinner in a middle-class Berlin flat. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 An unusual but inventive looking piece of cinema that played last year’s Toronto Film Festival.

AUGUST 6, 2014

WEB JUNKIE (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. Internet addiction among teenage boys is an epidemic; in China they have developed “boot camps” to deal with it but the problem seems to be beyond the reach of parents, governments or the medical community. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 This is certainly a major problem but I’m not sure focusing on one failed solution really addresses it.

AUGUST 8, 2014

ABOUT ALEX (Screen Media) Genre: Dramedy. After one of them suffers an emotional breakdown, a group of 20-something friends gather for a weekend away but discover all the jealousies, political differences and unrequited love threaten to further divide them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Friendship and growing up in the age of Facebook.
AFTER (Paladin/Accretion) Genre: Suspense. The matriarch of a family struggles to hold things together when their family business starts to fail and shattering family secrets threaten to surface. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer doesn’t really differentiate this much from other family dramas with similar themes.
DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D (National Geographic) Genre: Nature Documentary. Director James Cameron’s passion for deep sea exploration culminates in a historic solo dive into the deepest place on Earth. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 An incredible adventure that even Cameron himself couldn’t script.
FIFI HOWLS FROM HAPPINESS (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. Bahman Mohassess is an Iranian artist known as “the Persian Picasso” was forced to abandon his country as a gay man in a repressive regime where such things were not accepted. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles August 15). RATING: 1.9 An iconoclastic artist allows access to his life and thoughts which may not necessarily be the nicest place in the world.
THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) Genre: Dramedy. In a small rural French village, a larger-than-life Indian restaurateur opens a garish Indian restaurant across the street from a Michelin star rated traditional French restaurant; warfare follows between the aristocratic owner of the bistro and the Indian with his talented son caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 The films of Lasse Halllstrom always have enormous heart.
INTO THE STORM (New Line) Genre: Adventure. A small town experiences a plague of tornadoes with weather scientists predicting that the worst is still yet to come. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.4 Looks like Twister on steroids.
KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON (Radius) Genre: Musical Documentary. Jazz piano legend Clark Terry undertakes one last mentorship as his health begins to fail. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A trailer for this film is lacking.
THE MAID’S ROOM (Paladin) Genre: Thriller. When a maid to a wealthy family in the Hamptons realizes their teenage son was responsible for a fatal hit and run crash, the knowledge puts her in far more danger than she realizes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 The trailer makes this look like a generic thriller.
STEP UP: ALL IN (Summit) Genre: Dance. A major dance competition in Vegas brings back stars from previous installments of this franchise. Release Strategy: Limited (Standard, 3D). RATING: 4.0 Can’t say as I have any interest in this sort of film.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Paramount) Genre: Action. When New York City is beset by the evil Shredder, four unique brothers will rise up from the sewers to protect the city. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 While this has a bigger budget than the previous incarnations of the live action version of this comic book, it doesn’t look particularly better.
WHAT IF (CBS) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After a series of bad relationships makes a young man reluctant to engage in any romantic relationships, he begins to realize that his best friend may just be the woman for him. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan make for an intriguing couple.

AUGUST 13, 2014

LET’S BE COPS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. When a couple of pals dress up as cops for a costume party and are mistaken for the real thing, they decide to see how far they can push their newfound respect and attractiveness to the ladies. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 Looks like kind of a big dumb comedy; hopefully all the best parts won’t be in the trailer.

AUGUST 15, 2014

DINOSAUR 13 (Lionsgate) Genre: Documentary. The discovery of the most intact T-Rex skeleton ever found should have been a major triumph right? However, a bureaucratic government, powerful museums, Native American tribes and competing colleagues threaten not only to take the find of the paleontologist that made the discovery but also his freedom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Even in our most triumphant scientific discoveries the ugly head of greed can be reared.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. Barney and the team must go up against someone who was once a friend. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 More Expendables, more action, more fun.
FOUND (XLRator) Genre: Horror. A picked on high school kid hides a terrible secret; his older brother is a serial killer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A cross between a coming of age movie and a slasher film; a really unique and refreshing take on the subject.
FRANK (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. Looking to make it as a musician, Jon joins a cult band of eccentric personalities that might be a little more than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Original, inventive and funny; could be the coolest movie of 2014.
THE GIVER (Weinstein) Genre: Science Fiction. A young man in a Utopian society discovers that all is not well with his world and that he himself may be the key to changing things. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Based on the popular young adult novels which is a statement that is getting to be the kiss of death for movies lately.
LIFE AFTER BETH (A24) Genre: Horror Comedy. Grieving for the sudden death of his girlfriend, a young man is overjoyed when she mysteriously comes back to life but as it turns out she’s not the same as when she left it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The Walking Dead have feelings too y’know.
RAGNAROK (Magnolia) Genre: Adventure. A historian obsessed with the Oseberg Viking ship discovers that runes found on the vessel may hold the key to the end of days in Norse mythology – and that it may be coming sooner than we think. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Where is Thor when you really need him?
SEPTIC MAN (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Horror. When a curious sewage worker is trapped in a septic tank, he undergoes a horrifying transformation that will help him take on the madman that trapped him there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks pretty gruesome which is just the way I like it.
THE TRIP TO ITALY (IFC) Genre: Comedy. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take another journey to fine restaurants, five star hotels and bicker with each other incessantly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 The opening night film from this year’s Florida Film Festival; you can read my review of it here.
THE WORD (Scarlet Sky) Genre: Drama. After his son is kidnapped and murdered by a religious sect, a grieving father plots an elaborate and wicked revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds interesting but couldn’t find a trailer for it.

AUGUST 20, 2014

EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE WORLD (Argot) Genre: Documentary. Climate change scientists explore a remote area of Greenland only now accessible and find it to be a life-changing experience. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 May not be as profound as it appears to be.
WINTER IN THE BLOOD (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. When a Native American’s wife leaves him and takes his beloved rifle with her, he sets out on a strange journey to get it back. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 This played the recent Florida Film Festival; read my review here.

AUGUST 22, 2014

ABUSE OF WEAKNESS (Strand) Genre: Drama. After suffering a stroke, an acclaimed filmmaker is determined to continue her career taking on the story of a con man who swindles celebrities, not realizing that his manipulation of her is spiraling out of control. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on the director’s actual experiences.
ARE YOU HERE (Millennium) Genre: Comedy. When his eccentric BFF inherits his late father’s fortune, a womanizing weatherman helps him fend off a legal challenge from his overbearing sister.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Considering a cast of Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler, this looks surprisingly dramatic.
FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (Dimension) Genre: Horror. Two tales from the Frank Miller graphic novel series are woven together in a prequel to the first movie. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 Retains the stylized graphic novel look of the original.
IF I STAY (Warner Brothers/MGM) Genre: Fantasy/Drama. Caught between this world and the next after a tragic accident, a young girl must decide whether to live or die. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I’m a big Chloe Grace Moretz fan and this looks like a different kind of role for her.
LOVE IS STRANGE (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A gay New York couple is forced by economic circumstances to separate until they can afford to buy a new place to live. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are amazing actors; this one looks like it shouldn’t be missed.
THE ONE I LOVE (Radius) Genre: Drama. In a last ditch effort to save their marriage, a couple escape to a beautiful vacation home in the mountains but a chance discovery forces them to reevaluate who they are, what they want to be and where they’re going. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 There’s some indie royalty in this one.
THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING (Anchor Bay) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A documentary filmmaker decides to debunk religion and spiritualism once and for all following the death of his wife gets a lot more than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks like a pretty wild ride.
THE PRINCE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. When his daughter is kidnapped, a retired assassin must confront his former rival to get her back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 It may look like standard B-movie action fare but with John Cusack, Jason Patric and Bruce Willis I’m all in.
TO BE TAKEI (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Documentary. George Takei, the beloved icon from Star Trek chronicles his life from an internment camp during World War II to his status today as cultural hero and fierce activist for progressive causes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 This guy is a living legend and one of the most beloved people on Earth; if he isn’t one of your heroes he should be.
VOD (Inline Image 2) Genre: Thriller. After five tourists in Bangkok go missing, a new arrival gets involved with a provocative website in town, which may well end up with her being added to the list of the disappeared. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 No trailer for this Thai film.
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) Genre: True Sports Drama. De La Salle High School’s football team had the longest winning streak in the history of sports but when the streak came to an end the players showed what winning was all about. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 I gotta say that I’m a sucker for these sorts of inspirational tales.

AUGUST 27, 2014

THE NOVEMBER MAN (Relativity) Genre: Spy Action. A CIA superspy is lured out of retirement to protect an important witness, but is marked for assassination himself and is up against his own protégé in an environment where there is nobody he can trust. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Pierce Brosnan proves that he hasn’t lost his Bond touch.
STARRED UP (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Drama. When he’s transferred to the same prison facility as his estranged father, a brutal inmate is taken under the wing of a prison psychiatrist who gives him hope that there might be something better ahead for him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Certain to cause some discussion over the nature and usefulness of prisoner rehabilitation.
THROUGH A LENS DARKLY (First Run) Genre: Documentary. African-American culture and society are reflected through the lens of photographers of color from the 1840’s until present day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An important subject I agree; the trailer sounds like though that the filmmakers have been caught up in their own self-importance.

AUGUST 29, 2014

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (Legendary/Universal) Genre: Horror. A group of researchers venture into the catacombs of Paris and find something terrifying. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
CANOPY (Monterey Media) Genre: Adventure. During the Second World War, an Australian fighter pilot shot down in the Singapore jungle finds an injured resistance fighter; together they must work together to survive the unforgiving terrain and the Japanese troops who have overrun the forest. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Could be very gripping; the trailer looks interesting.
THE CONGRESS (Drafthouse) Genre: Science Fiction. An actress licenses her digital image to a movie studio which then, twenty years later, initiates a comeback for her even though her image is much younger than the actress herself.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Startling and impressive images from the director of Waltz with Bashir.
THE LAST OF ROBIN HOOD (Goldwyn) Genre: Biographical Drama. The scandal of an aging Errol Flynn and underage actress Beverly Aadland and her fame-obsessed mother Florence would haunt the swashbuckling actor in the last days of his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An interesting subject but I’m not sure they pulled it off properly.
LIFE OF CRIME (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Caper Comedy. After the wife of a corrupt real estate tycoon is kidnapped, he decides that he doesn’t want to pay the ransom to get her back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 It’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel so that’s got my attention from the get-go.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Get On Up, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Into the Storm, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Let’s Be Cops, The Expendables 3, The Giver, Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, If I Stay, When the Game Stands Tall, The November Man, As Above So Below