New Celebrities for Star Trek

09-Sep-10 12:57 PM by
Filed under Celebrities, Star Trek; Comments Off on New Celebrities for Star Trek

When Star Trek: First Contact premiered, the Boston Herald published a rather incendiary review by James Verniere. Though he was judging the film from the perspective of a non-Trekkie, many of his comments were baseless, such as the utter confusion he experienced over Picard's history with the Borg. Did the film not feature a monologue addressing that very point?

One of Mr. Verniere's more interesting comments was that Star Trek had to stop recruiting from within its own ranks (the film's director was Jonathan Frakes). Why not have Antonio Banderas as an ensign on the Enterprise, he suggested? I presume the critic was trying to expand the franchise's appeal by giving non-Trekkies a point of familiarity by which to be introduced to the series. Though it would be jarring for an established cast to suddenly be joined by an actor known for non-sci-fi work, Mr. Verniere's suggestion proved correct in the appropriate context: the presence of Bruce Greenwood, Winona Ryder, Zachary Quinto, and others didn't detract from but added to last year's reboot of Star Trek: TOS, which provided an entirely new slate on which these actors could gel as a team.

What other celebrities might Star Trek benefit from introducing? We still don't know what's to come in the sequel, slated for release on June 29, 2012 — but we can imagine what it might look like if Nicolas Cage, Summer Glau, and David Tennant joined the ranks of Starfleet, courtesy the Photoshop machinations of Rabittooth.

Several of the stars in this small sampling would surely be scene-stealers; Kevin Spacey warrants nothing less than prime antagonist, for example. But Brandon Routh, whose one leading role as Superman was fleeting enough to allow him to turn in a stellar yet innocuous performance in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, could be a subtle yet effective addition to any bridge crew.

This isn't the first time non-Trek actors have been inserted into Gene Roddenberry's universe. Alex Luko transposed one show's entire cast onto the Enterprise with a result that left geeks salivating:

Firefly Star Trek

I had likened Serenity's crew to the Enterprise's myself so can totally see such a shift of universes as successful.

Who would you like to see in the next Star Trek movie, and why?

Recruits Riveted on Ruminants

02-Sep-09 10:17 AM by
Filed under Trailers; Comments Off on Recruits Riveted on Ruminants

Some movie titles are short and descriptive, like Alien or Terminator. Others tell you little about the film, like TRON or Ponyo. Then there are those that are memorable for being nearly complete sentences without telling the uninitiated hardly anything about the film — think To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.

When I first heard the title The Men Who Stare At Goats, I first thought it was a documentary about bestiality fetishes — so naturally, I watched the trailer. I found the truth to be much stranger than I expected:

Based on the 2002 book of the same name, The Men Who Stare At Goats is a dark comedy "inspired by a true story" that describes the United States' research into creating psychic soldiers akin to what the USSR attempted during the Cold War. Perhaps "research" is too strong a word, as these recruits seem to have a license to operate without any evidence of their abilities.

I like stories of people with extraordinary talents, especially when they're subtle, as in Mystery Men and The Specials. These ruminant-staring ruffians seem to maintain that lighthearted mood with inept-but-well-intentioned characters reminiscent of Fanboys, played by an all-star cast I can get behind: Ewan MacGregor (Star Wars Episodes I-III), Kevin Spacey (Superman Returns), Jeff Bridges (TRON), J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Robert Patrick (Terminator 2), and Stephen Root (Office Space). (Yes, I'm purposely overlooking Batman with nipples)

Watch for this film in theaters on November 6.

An Election Too Close to Call

20-Oct-08 12:54 PM by
Filed under Reviews; Comments Off on An Election Too Close to Call

The 2000 presidential election was the first I was eligible to participate in. I remember being surprised and disappointed at how slowly that election resolved itself, but I confess I didn't pay it much attention — I was still in college and felt I had more immediate concerns, like exams and concerts. The election also seemed a dull matter of lawsuits and recounts; I cared more about the resolution than the methodology.

Fast forward eight years, and I hope I'm a bit more civic minded. Still, I'm more a film buff than a politician, so it wasn't until I heard Kevin Spacey was the lead that I found myself wanting to see HBO's recent dramatization of that convoluted election.

Recount logoRecount, which aired in May and came to DVD in August, begins on November 7, 2000, and ends on December 13. What begins as a clear loss for Vice President Gore quickly snowballs as confused voters step forward and political affiliations persuade officials into partisan decisions. A series of lawsuits, hearings, and legal interpretations showcases this affair that was more drawn out than I recalled.

The title suggests a staid documentary about recounting ballots, but it's a tenser political drama than that. I live in a so-called blue state and so was challenged to find anyone who wanted to watch with me a movie "about Bush stealing the election", as they called it. I wanted to watch it not so that it would infuriate me, but for it to serve as a case study of the process in which this country will be engaging in two weeks. Recount is a look at the American election system and its flaws and loopholes — at how it should work and how it actually works.

This election is brought to life by an award-winning cast. Kevin Spacey and Tom Wilkinson play Ron Klein and James Baker, recount overseers for the Gore and Bush camps, respectively. The supporting cast includes Denis Leary (born in the city I now live in), John Hurt (Watership Down, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones 4), Bob Balaban (Waiting for Guffman, City Slickers II), and Ed Begley Jr. (Arrested Development, Star Trek: Voyager). DVD extras include interviews between the actors and the real-life characters they portray.

Attorney David Boies (Begley) invites Ron Klain (Spacey) to eat "the red ones" for breakfast.
Attorney David Boies (Begley) invites Ron Klain (Spacey)
to eat "the red ones" for breakfast.

We see only the backs, never the faces, of the actors portraying Al Gore and George W. Bush, and after the film's first few minutes, we don't see even that, being limited to their voices on speakerphone (or historical footage on TV). Although this conscious effort is a bit awkward, it underscores that the leading roles are their campaign leaders. In one particularly tense scene in the Supreme Court, we can see Kevin Spacey hold his breath as Ed Begley Jr. is asked difficult questions. There's a pause as pregnant as a chad that gives the audience time to consider how trapped and speechless we would be in that same situation, and Spacey doesn't let his breath out until Begley somehow spins an honest and helpful answer beyond the eloquence of your average American. Even though we know how Recount ends as much as we did with Titanic, it's the behind-the-scenes twists, turns, and surprises that make this film more than a historical recounting.

The cast and crew also has a pair of surprising geek connections. First is that the script was written by Danny Strong, a minor actor from Joss Whedon's Buffy and Firefly series. Second is a ten-second cameo by William Schallert, prolific actor from the Patty Duke and Dobie Gillis era. Though insignificant in this film, Mr. Schallert always brings a smile to my face, which those depressed by the remainder of this film could likely use.

Whoever the stars are on either side, it Kevin Spacey's camp that is the lead. Democrats in the audience will be happy to see their party portrayed as the scrappy underdogs working out of a strip mall while the evil and finely-tailored Republicans play hardball to get their way. I do not necessarily interpret this angle as a liberal bias; every movie needs a protagonist, and given that we all know how the movie ends, there is little cinematic alternative but to cast the two parties in these roles. Besides, I came not for the people, but for the process — and ultimately, regardless of the fairness of the process, I must believe in this closing statement for the hope of future elections:

"The system worked. There were no tanks on the street. This peaceful transfer of power in the most emotional and trying of times is a testament to the strength of the Constitution and to our faith in the rule of law."