Star Trek

Starz Digital Media

Director/writer Jennifer M. Kroot documents one of America’s most beloved national treasures, Star Trek star and civil rights activist George Takei, in To Be Takei. The actor is of course most known for his role as Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise, though in recent years, he has become a recognized face in the equal marriage community in addition to supporting human rights in general. He was one of the more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent — many of them Americans — who were confined to internment camps after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Takei starred in the 2012 musical Allegiance, based on this experience. This unique list of personal attributes, accomplishments and allegiances makes Takei the perfect theme for Kroot’s documentary, a light-hearted affair despite the weightiness of some of its issues. Fans of Takei, who love him not only as Sulu but also as a Facebook and Twitter legend, won’t be surprised by the volume of humor in the doc. For every dark moment touched upon there are ten times more of Takei’s signature laughs or another handful of smiles from his husband and co-star in the documentary, Brad Takei.

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The Fisher King

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Michael Giacchino

Coming up with song titles for a score or soundtrack can be a tricky business. The music for a film is usually released before the film itself to get audiences excited, but if the track listing reads like a spoiler list for what happens in the film, the music can end up being more upsetting than enticing. Other times the titles that make up a film score can be boring and forgettable (even if the music is not). However composer Michael Giacchino has taken a different approach by making his track titles stand out by giving them funny (even pun-y) titles.

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Inside Deep Throat Still

On June 26, 1974, the first product with a UPC barcode was scanned at a Marsh Supermarkets store in Troy, Ohio. The randomly selected item from a cart filled with varied scannable goods was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum, and that’s of enough historical significance that the pack is now in the Smithsonian. But that’s not the only part of the story of the retail game changer that’s interesting. The path to the barcode revolution was long, and it involved scientists and grocery executives and some inspiration from the movies. And yet so few films have been inspired by the UPC technology for anything more than barcode tattoos on heads, necks and arms in sci-fi dystopias. Typically those markings are for keeping track of people, but in a classic bit from Mike Leigh’s Naked, David Thewlis’s character goes on about how in the future we’ll have barcodes on our hand or forehead instead of paper and plastic currency, to pay for items that also have “the ubiquitous barcode that you’ll find on every bog roll and packet of johnnies and every poxy pork pie.” Read ahead to learn about how the advent of the sound cinema and the rise of the porn film — with the notorious Deep Throat — figured into the development of the Universal Product Code as well as its legacy in the form of an Errol Morris short, a Jude Law feature, a Star Trek reboot and one of the most clever interactive online movie projects in recent years.

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Movies live orchestra

Would bringing live music back into theaters improve your experience of watching a film? Or would it feel like an old timey distraction? Eight-seven years ago, before movies were able to synchronize sound to the actual picture, having live musicians and orchestras perform as the film played was the norm. The Artist showed audiences how silent films relied on the music to convey the feelings and emotions of the actors on screen in lieu of dialogue. But as film (and the film industry) moved into 1927 – film technology began to advance and recorded dialogue and sound synchronization became the way of the future as theaters began swapping out orchestras for speakers. But should theaters bring live music back to the movie going experience? We say yes.

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NBC

Back in 1967, Star Trek set the standard for evil twins in the episode “Mirror, Mirror,” birthing an instant genre cliche fully formed like Athena’s trepanation gestation. An alternate universe right next door, populated by characters that act like our heroes and but for the telltale evil goatee, look exactly the same, too. Part of the reason this worked so well, and resonated just right at the time, was simply the politics of the era. There was a good empire and a bad one. We both stood astride halves of the world, both defended ideologies the other found repugnant. The world made sense to us as a mirror of black and white, because over the decades our armies, statesmen, and citizens glaring across at each other through the dark curtain. It was like looking in a shadowed mirror. We each had counterparts, our armies had counterparts, our leaders, our space programs, our institutions. Anything either side put a value on, the other had a version of. What made the war Cold was the fact that it wasn’t a chess game, but the prelude to one. It was forty years waiting for one side to slide a pawn forward, just staring out over at a bunch of pieces that looked like ours, but twisted and different.

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backtothefuture_movieswelove

Time travel stories are one of the most polarizing things for film fans. They either love them, or they turn their noses up at them. Still, that doesn’t stop writers from coming up with them, and it’s not even for the science fiction fields. Time travel stories have an unexpectedly strong placement in romance fiction as well, such as The Time Traveler’s Wife or the upcoming Starz series Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling historical romance series. While many of these romance-driven stories – like Somewhere in Time and more recently Richard Curtis’s About Time – are not concerned with the greater implications of meddling with the space-time continuum, the science fiction movies are. Traveling through time has been a central figure in stories for years, often presenting the viewer with a crash course in theoretical physics and opening themselves up to plot holes almost impossible to close. As a personal fan of the time traveling story, I love to see what the writers will come up with next. But these movies always get me wondering… is it possible to travel through time the way people do in the movies?

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Man of Steel

When I was a kid, we went on a lot of road trips. When I say a lot, I mean a lot. Summers usually meant that we were gone nearly every weekend in the travel trailer my dad hauled behind his suburban, off for a new campground somewhere in Texas. He even drove that thing to Orlando one year, taking my mother, brother and me to DisneyWorld, staying at Disney’s rustic Fort Wilderness. Great trip, but that is a long trip from the DFW Metroplex. This was the day and age before iPods, iPads, and Kindles, so I usually relegated myself to the way, way back with a stack of comic books, or a science fiction novel. Thankfully, my mom encouraged my reading, and a trip meant that she would pick up a book for me (or sometimes, even let me pick one) from the spinner racks at the grocery store checkout. Speaking of those, do they even exist anymore? These days you never see books for sale at the checkout, and if you do, chances are it’s a Harlequin romance. Blurgh. At one point, my mom picked up a novelization of a movie for me, giving me a chance to read the story before I’d seen the film. I can’t remember exactly which movie it was… probably The Empire Strikes Back. But I readily recall reading novelizations for The Last Starfighter, Tron, The Goonies, Explorers, and even a couple of Knight Rider adaptations, including the classic “Trust Doesn’t Rust” episode, which […]

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cornish monsters

After the terribly disappointing Star Trek Into Darkness, there may be hope for the next installment in the very good possibility that Joe Cornish will direct Star Trek 3. Yesterday, Deadline exclusively reported the rumor, whatever that really means, and ever since I’ve been trying to imagine what this development could mean. A lot of fans of both Cornish and Trek have been debating the pros and cons of the pairing. Cornish is too inexperienced as a director, some say. He shouldn’t waste his time with a franchise threequel, others argue. Well, I am optimistic for a few reasons. One is that we’ll probably get more Simon Pegg‘s Scotty, because Cornish and Pegg go way back — he helmed behind-the-scenes docs for Pegg and Edgar Wright films and also scripted The Adventures of Tintin, which featured voice work from the actor. And maybe he could find a role for Pegg’s buddy Nick Frost, who acted in Cornish’s sole feature directorial effort, Attack the Block. Mostly, though, it could be a lighter, more humorous episode. Not just if that reunion happened, but because of the Star Trek stuff Cornish has done in the past. Namely the TNG parody from The Adam and Joe Show that you can watch after the jump.

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Mars Attacks Congress

It’s that time of year again. Leaves are turning burnt orange, horror movies are confusingly not being released, and the GOP has threatened to shut down the government because they failed for the 54th time to stop a law that was passed three years ago. Only this time they actually followed through with the threat (go figure), and now none of us can enjoy the leaves at National Parks or watch NASA launch stuff into orbit. Unsurprisingly, the concept of the government shutting down (or at least this version of a shut down) isn’t well represented in movies because of how breathtakingly uncinematic it is. When we want to see a political crisis on screen, we demand that Harrison Ford punch a terrorist off of Air Force One or Denzel Washington get brainwashed. That doesn’t stop films from tiptoeing around the periphery or taking a central role in this current freeze. Whether directly referenced by politicians or symbolically evoked by our collective subconscious, movies are here to help us make sense of it all and/or confuse us even further.

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Star Trek

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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IntroBarFights

The World’s End was a great film, and amongst its many covered genres, it made a pretty big mark in the ranks of epic bar brawl movies. To celebrate, why don’t we explore some of the other great drunken tussles of the sci-fi and fantasy genres? Excellent. Glad you’re on board. Because no matter what sorcery or technology you have at your fingertips, there’s always time to get soused and hit someone.

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Wired Mech Stui

This morning’s fascinating articles from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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IntroEffects

Sometimes the best solution is also the easiest. When it comes to making movies, however, nothing tends to be easy. Then again, there have been a few instances where the solution – while still not anywhere close to easy – was at least simple. Cheap, even. Check out the following big budget effects that you could theoretically recreate in your own basement.

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people_festival_3

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. I’m taking a couple liberties with this week’s Short Starts. For one thing, the video I’m sharing is not a short film, although it’s one of the original Star Trek episodes that has that one-off feeling of being based on a short story. The other main liberty is that this 1967 episode, “The Return of the Archons,” is not officially related in any way to the movie I’m tying it to. But many people see the plot of the new thriller The Purge as being similar to that of “Archons.” As the imaginary judge inside my brain said in response to the idea, “I’ll allow it.” The sci-fi concept of The Purge is that in ten years time the U.S. has developed a bonkers strategy for dealing with crime. One day each year Americans are allowed to commit any crime they like without consequence, and their victims are allotted no help of any kind. Illogically, the existence of this “purge” has drastically reduced the crime rate for the rest of the year. In this Star Trek story, the Enterprise crew visit a planet in which there is constant peace except during the “Red Hour” of a Festival period, when citizens are given free will and allowed to be as bad as they wish. The episode is said to be inspired by Philip Jose Farmer’s novel “Night of […]

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Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci

Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci are probably two of the busiest screenwriters working today. It seems like every month we hear of a new project they’re scripting, developing, or what have you (a look at their current IMDb pages includes listings for upcoming projects, from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to that Van Helsing reboot). Their schedules have certainly stopped me from interviewing them in the past, and when their names are appearing on four high-profile films in the span of a single year, you can see why scheduling would be a bit of a problem. Now the pair has two projects coming out only weeks apart, with Star Trek Into Darkness and Now You See Me both arriving this spring. Now You See Me has a chance of being a sleeper success, while Into Darkness already opened to impressive numbers this past weekend. It’s been four years since their Trek reboot, and ever since then there’s been plenty of rumors over what exactly J.J. Abrams was hiding in his mystery box. With the film finally out, we spoke with screenwriters/producers about what that box contained in a SPOILER-filled discussion:

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Khan - Star Trek

Author’s Note: While on a survey mission, Al Gore is sucked into a giant hole in the ozone that deposits him in the past. Stranded, he uses his knowledge of the future to invent the internet decades sooner than he did in his original timeline. By the 1980s, the internet has evolved to what it became by the early 21st century, dragging fan culture with it. This is one such review that I obtained from our alternate past.

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Star Trek Into Darkness

After four years of waiting and anticipation, geek honcho J.J. Abrams has finally given us the sequel to his 2009 box office and critical hit. And it is … serviceable. Abrams’ new movie is as sleek and shiny as his first Star Trek picture but lacking much of its charm. The novelty of seeing these characters coming together is gone, the villain is lackluster in bizarre ways, and the high-flying pacing is absent, making many of the film’s logic gaps even more head-scratching. And there are indeed some real head-scratchers. Choosing emotion and spectacle over logic can work, and it does in the last Trek outing and the first half of Star Trek Into Darkness, but this time around Abrams and his screenwriting team can’t gloss over all the leaps in logic and other narrative problems. What starts off as another thrilling Abrams movie ends up turning into a mess by the end. Here are some (spoiler-y) questions which arise out of that mess:

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Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-trio

It’s hard to watch Star Trek Into Darkness and not think about Star Wars. Yes, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII and so we have that knowledge on the brain going into this. Maybe we’re even on the lookout for clues hinting at what we should expect from his take on that galaxy. This isn’t the first time the Trek franchise has had to try and prove itself in the shadow of George Lucas’s own series. Even though it originated with a TV show in the 1960s, Trek‘s cinematic resurrection a decade later was in part allowed by and somewhat influenced by the success and quality of the first Star Wars. But even regardless of the fact that Abrams is following the latest Trek with the next Wars, I often otherwise felt like I was watching one of the latter while sitting through Into Darkness. Before getting into the evidence that Abrams is a clear fan of Lucasfilm works (and not just Star Wars) and likes to sample from them, let’s take a moment to think about what all his call back references and allusions to both Wars and Trek might mean for Episode VII. Will there be too much winking and fan-service, unhidden Easter eggs and inside jokes and maybe even outright recycling the way Into Darkness is with certain prior Trek installments? Could Episode VII have a number of allusions to Trek the way Into Darkness pays obvious homage to Wars? Rather than creating new worlds of his […]

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commentary-startrek

The reboot of Star Trek in 2009 was a risky move for Paramount. However, it paid off, reinvigorating the franchise that had died with the poorly performing film Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek became one of the biggest hits of that summer and introduced a whole new generation to the classic franchise. Abrams was not a Star Trek fan before working on the film (and arguably even less of one after making the movie), but that didn’t stop him and his production team from making a solid science fiction update. Throughout the commentary with his writers and producers, recorded only a month after Star Trek came out in 2009, it’s clear that the Star Wars films had a greater impact on the production team’s childhood. Maybe the search for a Luke Skywalker in the character of James T. Kirk was what made the film work so well.

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