MOVIE BUFF-ET: Strong script, cast chemistry delivers Star Trek film worthy of franchise’s legacy

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond

Simon Pegg is the hero of the latest Star Trek film, but it’s not because he plays engineering chief Montgomery Scott.

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Don’t get me wrong, Pegg is fine in the role of Scottie in Star Trek Beyond, but where he and co-writer Doug Jung did justice to the franchise, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, was in the writer’s room.

The pair delivered a script that captures much of the spirit and heart of the original television series that makes it so beloved, and one that also contains all the action and spectacle needed to please contemporary audiences across the globe.

With a straightforward story, the movie avoids the convoluted story traps that undercut the first two films in the rebooted franchise. The script embraced the optimistic, never-say-die tone of the original series, while also offering a theme of unity and togetherness that would have made Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry proud.

Each character is given multiple chances to shine, and in the third outing, the cast inhabits the roles another group of actors made memorable across 79 TV episodes and six feature films.

Zoe Saldana and Karl Urban sparkle in their respective roles of Uhura and Dr. McCoy. Just as DeForest Kelley often did in the TV show, Urban gets the best lines in the film and many of them come while playing off Zachary Quinto’s stoic Mr. Spock. Urban’s sarcastic and often exasperated delivery is always on target. Spock and McCoy find themselves struggling for the lives when a brutal alien attack on the Starship Enterprise leaves it destroyed and the crew separated from each other on an alien planet.

Saldana’s Uhura has a more active and pivotal role in the rebooted films than Nichelle Nichols ever received in the part, and it’s a welcome change. She’s a part of the solution and not merely a damsel in distress, although Spock does come to her rescue.

Chris Pine is the glue as Captain Kirk. His portrayal remains faithful to the character William Shatner defined, but it avoids becoming a parody of Shatner’s often overly dramatic portrayal.

Idris Elba, unrecognizable buried in makeup and prosthetics, plays the warlord Krall, who leads the attack on the Enterprise and seeks to use a perceived weakness to destroy a Starfleet station. Elba’s charisma and power are on display despite the heavy makeup. Sofia Boutella plays another alien whose parents were killed by Krall. She is instrumental in helping Kirk and his crew combat the vindictive warlord, who’ll stop at nothing to carry his fight to Starfleet.

The film features fantastic special effects that make the drone attacks on the Enterprise and the space station harrowing and thrilling.

The film also offers a fitting tribute to Leonard Nimoy the original Spock, who passed away while the film was shooting, and within that tribute there is a nod to the entire original cast.

Director Justin Lin must be recognized for crafting such a strong popcorn movie and trumping the work of J.J. Abrams in the reboot’s first two outings. Often it’s is the third film in a franchise that sends it spiraling downward, but I came out of the movie much more interested in what is to come than I was when I walked into the theater.

Abrams was the lead producer on the film, and he should be credited for choosing Lin as a director and for tabbing Pegg and Jung to work on the script. By doing so, he infused the franchise with a needed boost of clarity and energy.

(PG-13) 2 hrs., 2 mins.
Grade: A-


Full disclosure, I wasn’t a fan of the 1984 original Ghostbusters film. I know; I know. It’s a pop-culture touchstone and a favorite of many, but it just didn’t do much for me.

I really hate to admit that because I am a fan of Bill Murray, and in the right situations I can handle Dan Aykroyd. Harold Ramis was a capable sidekick to Murray in Stripes, but, unlike Ray Parker Jr., bustin’ never really made me feel good. As I write this, his theme song for the film has already begun to loop through my mind.

The current film, directed by Paul Feig, is O.K. It had laughs. How could it not featuring the comedy talents of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon? Those four would have to try very hard not to draw laughs. To me, Jones was the standout.

Even Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor) garnered a few chuckles as the organization’s chuckleheaded secretary. Andy Garcia also turned in a very funny performance in a smallish role as the mayor of New York City.

However, taken as a whole, their performances never meshed, and the plot failed to deliver much material not covered in the original. Yeah, I got the inside jokes and jabs thrown at the silly internet fanboys who trolled the film on social media platforms because of he switch to female leads. Those shots were clever. So were the cameos by members of the original cast.

The movie never really captured my attention. I checked my watch three times during the course of the movie, which is never a good sign.

If you enjoyed the original Ghostbusters, it might be a fun and nostalgic trip to the theater for you. However, if you didn’t really care for the original, I doubt the reboot will make you a convert.

(PG-13), 1 hr., 54 mins.
Grade: C

Batman: The Killing Joke

(Carmike Sugar Creek 10 Theater, Bella Vista)
(R) 1 hr., 35 mins.

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Carmike Sugar Creek 10 Theater in Bella Vista will hold special showings of Batman: The Killing Joke at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Monday, July 25.

To all parents, the movie does star Batman, and it is a cartoon, but the movie is not for kids, and that’s no joke. The film deals with violence toward women and the suggestion of rape, murder, and torture.

The movie is part of Warner Bros. Animation and DC Comics direct-to-video animated movie series that adapts classic comic book stories. It is the first release in the series that is rated R. The DVD goes on sale Aug. 2.

The movie adapts writer Alan Moore and artist Brian Bolland’s 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, which offered a possible origin for Batman’s arch villain the Joker.

Moore and Bolland are top talents in the comic-book industry, and both were at the top of their creative powers when working on the graphic novel. Moore, however, in recent years has said he is embarrassed by the work because of its callous treatment of the Barbara Gordon/Batgirl character.

The graphic novel was fairly short, but a press release issued by Warner Bros. said additional material focusing on Batgirl was written for the movie to expand her role and to make her more than a victim in the movie.

The film reunites Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as the respective voices of Batman and the Joker. They voiced the characters in the classic Batman: The Animated Series and in other direct-to-video releases.

Classic Corner

Planet of the Apes

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Theater in Fayetteville airs the 1968 classic sci-fi film Planet of the Apes at 2 p.m. Sunday, and at 7 p.m. July 27.

The film is an excellent social satire that nips at the heels of cold-war politics, racism, religion and a slew of other topics. It may seem a bit ham-fisted to some, but it holds up better than many similar sci-fi works of the same era thanks to the dedicated performances of the cast.

Charlton Heston stars as astronaut George Taylor, who finds himself stranded on a strange planet dominated by sentient apes. The humans on the planet are wild, and are used as domesticated slave animals in the film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner that turns the world on its head.

Roddy McDowell and Kim Evans star as chimps Cornelius and Zira, who study and then sympathize with Taylor. Maurice Evans is Dr. Zaius, an orangutan, who seems to know more than he is willing to let on.

The prosthetic make-up effects by John Chambers are some of the most effective ever crafted for the big screen. The apes aren’t exactly simian or human, which works well in the Animal Farm-like world.

The final scene had to be a shock to viewers of the day, and likely would still work on anyone who had not seen the movie previously or paid much attention to the two reboots to the franchise.