Late To The Party

Ben and I finally got around to seeing Star Trek Beyond this past weekend. Between procrastination and admittedly a certain amount of apathy, I was beginning to think this was going to the first big-screen Trek that I wasn’t actually going to experience on the big screen.

Before seeing it, I already knew the storyline: malevolent alien, disgruntled former Starfleet Officer, or unknown galactic entity threatens to destroy the entire Federation and only Kirk, the Enterprise and its valiant crew stands between it and total annihilation. (“You’ve seen this before!”)

Was I wrong? No. Did I walk out of the theater feeling like I’d been cheated out of my money? Not at all. It was an enjoyable—albeit fairly predictable in places—two hours of entertainment and something I will no doubt be adding to my collection when it comes available on disk. (Plus, pretty much all the lead actors bring a level of eye candy to the screen that is undeniable.)

But am I the only one to notice how a plot point from the Space Seed episode—that was not really utilized in Star Trek Into Darkness—showed up in a roundabout way in the current film?

I’m speaking about a group of people who for all intents the Federation abandoned. In Space Seed, it was Khan’s group that was left on Ceti Alpha V (which as we all know thanks to Wrath of Khan was a planet devastated by the explosion of Ceti Alpha VI some years after the relocation, rendering it nearly uninhabitable) with the Federation apparently completely forgetting about it—and with Beyond it was the ill-fated crew of the U.S.S. Franklin that was given up for dead.

And the brouha over Sulu being gay? Please, Mary. If you didn’t know to look for it, you wouldn’t even have spotted it.

Quibbles aside, I’ve come to love the “new” crew and it’s obvious the actors are developing that chemistry we have come to expect of the Trek franchise. How they will cope with the loss of Anton Yelchin remains to be seen; I know I felt a pang whenever Checkov was on screen, knowing full well that the fine young man who played him was snatched from our lives far too soon.

It will be interesting to see where future films take us. I’m looking forward to the journey.

So Many Feels

To celebrate National Dog Day, Universal Pictures presents the first look at, A Dog’s Purpose, an upcoming 2017 family comedy film starring Josh Gad, Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, and Dennis Quaid. A Dog’s Purpose comes to theaters on January 27th, 2017.

“Based on the beloved bestselling novel by W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose, from director Lasse Hallström, shares the soulful and surprising story of one devoted dog (voiced by Josh Gad) who finds the meaning of his own existence through the lives of the humans he teaches to laugh and love.”

This Looks Amazing

I just read Story of Your Life the other night after seeing a teaser for Arrival, the upcoming film that it’s based on. It’s not an especially easy read, concentrating as it does on language and how it influences our perception of the world, so I’m not exactly sure how this will translate onto the big screen. There were only two or three main characters in the work and it contained none of the ominous military excursions that are hinted at in the trailer.

Still, I’m excited to see this. More excited than about I was about seeing Star Trek Beyond—which we still haven’t made it to.

Not Yet Feeling It

I mean, look at that. Already there’s fan-inspired art from a film that hasn’t even been released yet.

Seeing those AT-AT walkers looming on the horizon should send my heart fluttering the way they did on that Cinemascope screen in 1980. But they just aren’t. And it’s all George Lucas’s fault.

I turned 19 shortly after Star Wars originally hit the theaters in May 1977. (You do the math. I’m old.) So while I wasn’t a child per se, it nonetheless fired my imagination in a way that was to carry well into my adulthood. Surprisingly, initially I had no real desire to see the film, but a friend from high school dragged me to it one hot summer afternoon a couple weeks after its release, telling me it might just change my life. And it did.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, I came out of the theater that afternoon high, and it wasn’t from any pharmaceuticals. Star Wars set me on what I refer to now as nothing less than a spiritual quest. While I know this isn’t even close to being a record for total number of screenings, during the next year that it was parked at the old Cine Capri in Phoenix, I saw the film 30 more times. (I remember being outraged when they raised the price of a ticket from $2.75 to $3.00!)

When The Empire Strikes Back opened (again, at the Cine Capri) three years later, I wasn’t about to be caught with my pants down as I had been with its predecessor. I was in line opening night, rushing over immediately after work to join the crowd of other fans in line wanting to get their first glimpse at that galaxy far, far away.

I didn’t see Empire nearly as many times as Star Wars. Thinking back, it was probably only a dozen or so, but it wasn’t because I didn’t like the film. Quite the contrary, I loved how the story was progressing.

Three years later, I was now living in Tucson so I didn’t get to see Return of the Jedi at my preferred venue in Phoenix, but I was still there opening day. Anticipating more huge lines, I called out sick that morning and dragged my friend Lee along (who, by the way, found it appalling that I would play hookie for a movie). As it turned out, there was a line, but nowhere near as long as what I’d been expecting, and we were actually able to get into the first showing without any difficulty.

My reaction? Meh. Jedi was okay, but I overall I came away from it disappointed. Even then I thought it was the weakest of the three films. And the Ewoks were abominable. I should’ve seen the writing on the wall that Lucas had become more concerned with merchandising than actually telling a good story. Yes, it wrapped up the Skywalker-Vader saga and the rebels scored a significant victory against the Empire, but what next?

What came next—at least for me personally—was a relocation to San Francisco. When the tenth anniversary of the first film came around in 1987, one of the theaters in the North Bay threw a party and showed all three films at one sitting. I went because there were rumors that stars from the films would be in attendance, and even ten years later I still had a tremendous crush on Mark Hamill. Sadly, those rumors proved false, but it was still interesting to see all three films at one time, and while I didn’t leave with a Hamill autograph, I did walk away from the experience with a cool Tenth Anniversary sweatshirt.

Sidebar: I actually did run into Mr. Hamill—and his wife and son—on the F-Line in San Francisco many years later. We locked eyes, and I nodded as if to say, “I know who you are but I will respect your privacy and leave you alone,” and exchanged smiles. It was kind of an anti-climactic encounter considering I’d known since he first appeared on that screen in 1977 that eventually our paths would cross.

Flash forward to May 1999 and what I now refer to as “George Lucas’s ass-raping of my young adulthood” or as the rest of the world calls it, “The arrival of the Star Wars prequels.”

I’m not going to say much about these three films (or Lucas’s tinkering and reissue of the original trilogy) since so many words have been spilled over the last decade regarding the casting, acting, directing, make-your-eyes-bleed use of CGI, and all that midichlorian nonsense, but I will say they soured me to the idea of ever seeing another new Star Wars film lest the few remaining vestiges of my wide-eyed youth get ground into a bloody pulp.

That being said, I am curious about Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Curious. Not champing-at-the-bit I-can’t-wait-to-see it level of excitement as might’ve been the case if Episodes 1-3 had never happened, but curious. I haven’t kept up with any of the Star Wars spin-off stories, books, or animated series; I have no idea who any of these new characters are, but with only minimal Lucas involvement and J.J. Abrams at the helm—and the use of practical effects vs. CGI—I’m at least a little hopeful that it won’t be the giant steaming pile of Banta poodoo that the Prequels were.