“Star Trek” Should Please Trekkies

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
With a solid dose of battle sequences, “Star Trek” should please hardcore Trekkies and new fans alike.

“Star Trek”
By Gavin Greene
Staff Writer

As much as Trekkies may dislike the idea, J.J. Abrams’ take on Gene Rodenberry’s famous space-faring series is actually good. Fans of the original series and its film spin-offs may cry foul at this alternate take on their beloved space soap opera, but it’s precisely because the new “Star Trek” film doesn’t cater to the old television show’s motifs that makes it watchable and entertaining.

Many people, including other science fiction fans, were put off by the existing canon due to its B-roll effects, acting and choreography. That and the rabid fan base actively shoving the B-roll effects, acting and choreography down our throats as something we were supposed to like. By favoring solid action and special effects sequences, and by tipping his hat to the original material without completely devolving back into it, Abrams does what was once thought near impossible, making a “Star Trek” film that both fans and non-fans can enjoy.

The story of “Star Trek,” penned this time around by long-time collaborators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (co-writers/executive producers of TV’s “Alias”), follows a young and rebellious James Tiberious Kirk and oft-tormented Vulcan Spock in their earlier years, eventually coming to a hilt when both characters are enrolled in the Starfleet Academy. As they eventually find their way to the series’ hub-ship the USS Enterprise, both Spock and Kirk eventually come across and get to the eventual crew members who would inhabit the vessel in the future, when the original television series began.

The main baddy this time around is Captain Nero, a commanding office of another humanoid alien race known as the Romulans, and who is inadvertently responsible for the death of Kirk’s father. Wanted for the destruction of entire Starship fleets and with intent to destroy more, including Earth, Kirk leads the Enterprise crew to try and stop him. While nearly overdosing on fan-service moments and using time travel almost abusively as a cop-out, “Star Trek” doesn’t try to be anything it’s not, including its lack of intellectual stimulation. While it’s popcorn fodder at best, the lack of any ponderous Kirk monologues or ridiculously melodramatic intellectual discussions lets the series breathe, and, for what seems to be the first time in its series, just be fun.

The new Enterprise cast brings out simple-minded pleasure from the story. While not boasting much of an ensemble that anyone outside of a specific fan base would have heard of, Abrams and company thankfully cast for resemblance to the older counterparts from the series and general acting talent.

Both relative newcomers Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto (“Heroes”) fill their respective shoes as Kirk and Spock with noticeable reverence and homage to the original performers, but with a fresher, more comfortable-in-their-own-skin take on the lighter and more audience-friendly script. On the other hand, Eric Bana is off in his own little corner, playing off Nero as something far too serious for the script.

The rest of the Starfleet team ranges from pleasant diversions to the best parts of the film, a gleeful and spirited Scotty as performed by Simon Pegg (“Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead”) quickly becomes more entertaining than half of the film’s CG-work. Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is an odd mix of cliché feminism and very short skirts, and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov is a mild revisiting of the character, while you won’t be able to differentiate John Cho’s Sulu from his trip to White Castle with Kumar.

But when the crew is assembled or even in small, cooperative team scenes, the overall effect of the ensemble is palatable, if shallow entertainment. Add to it a solid special effects package, a functional soundtrack plus visual design, and “Star Trek” comes off as a film that touches base with its roots, but not too much where non-fans have to be higher than William Shatner’s acting coach to enjoy it. It’s nowhere near “best” or even “great” status, but it knows what it’s supposed to be, and isn’t too proud to stay there.

“Little Ashes”
By Emmercelle DeLeon
Staff Writer

“Little Ashes” toys with the speculated romance between two artistic greats, poet Federico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and painter Salvador Dalí (Robert Pattinson). Although it seems we are in for an interesting ride from a conceptual standpoint, the film actually ends up becoming an almost two-hour long, meandering road with only a couple of interesting blips along the way.

Pattinson plays a bit of dress up in a number of wigs and ridiculous ensembles, and the sad thing is, maybe he should have stuck with his “Twilight” fangs. His performance seems more like a parody.

Pattinson’s performance as Dalí is a bit comical. Set around 1922, Salvador arrives as the shy, ugly kid at a Madrid university, with white ruffles and long, awkward hair. His pompousness, however, attracts the attention of wordsmith Federico and future filmmaker Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNutly), whose featured clip is partially responsible for the R-rating.

Pattinson rids himself of the gaudy get-up with a couple of cuts here and there and easily fits right in. The elite trio, accompanied by a couple of women and a bouquet of various accents, spend their nights over-liquored and over-zealous, throwing heavy ideas into the night and speaking quite out of turn at dinner parties. Despite the professional attention he receives from the ranting anarchist Luis, Salvador’s sexual attraction is directed toward the charming and sensitive Federico. Salvador even goes so far as to abandon a class to blindly follow Federico, hopping behind pillars and walls and acting casual when Federico finally notices him.

On his part, Federico throws down some pretty serious prayers in hopes of banishing his strengthening mutual lust until a seaside vacation in which the two curiously don completely white, pristine outfits. With the moon lighting the water (“Twilight,” anyone?), the two realize their attractions with a kiss and struggle to fully realize themselves in the midst of a conservative society.

Meanwhile, Luis, the third wheel, watches the relationship develop and beckons Salvador away to Paris, knowing that Federico will not leave his beloved country. The plan works, and the blossoming romance between Salvador and Federico is cut painfully short.

However, what’s more painful is that the would-be apex of the film is actually kind of a let-down. They go about their separate ways, talking about big topics such as revolution and religion without really saying much. Federico and Salvador meet again on greatly awkward terms, one of which scandalously confirms the relationship while simultaneously ending it. And while the ending does elicit a couple of tears, what translates off the screen is at times forced and uninspired.

Because “Little Ashes” attempts to explore the full scope of the situation by spreading out its focus between each of the main characters, none of the characters are fully developed. Federico, the character most worthy of sympathy, is only a slightly chalked outline of a person. The three main actors step into the roles of strong, charismatic people but end up as mere caricatures of the historical figures they strive to be. What’s more disappointing is that their portrayals never stray far from the tired clichés of the “tortured artist,” and the overdone “woe is me” spun over and over again.

We end up with a handful of voiceovers, a trio of handsome men and a romance that almost beckons tender “Brokeback” nostalgia only to fall very, very short. It is a long, drawn-out tease that leaves us scratching our heads in the end.

At just eight minutes shy of two hours, this sentimental movie has a tendency to drag at parts and seems even slower with long, brooding glances amid pretty scenic shots. The Spanish guitar is a nice touch, but does not take away from the fact that this entire film plays out like a painfully long teenage diary entry that just happens to feature three great artists. Make that a poorly-written, slightly incoherent, painfully long teenage diary entry.