Tag Archives: George Takei

To Be Takei (2014, Jennifer M. Kroot)

To Be Takei is unexpected, even though everything it presents about its subject’s life is somewhere between common knowledge and readily accessible knowledge. Even though director Kroot opens the film on a jovial note–George Takei (the titular Takei) and his husband, Brad Takei (sort of also the titular Takei), taking their morning walk and bickering about whether they’re walking faster for the benefit of the camera–Takei is serious. Kroot has a lot of fun, but her thesis is it’s serious.

Of course, she also opens the film with Howard Stern introducing it, so she has to work uphill to get to serious. And George Takei’s life certainly has a lot of serious in it. Kroot often saves clips (and discussions) of William Shatner for when she needs to relieve some of the stress in the film.

The film does have a somewhat set narrative; it tracks Takei as he opens his first musical, based on his experiences in internment camps. Along the way, Kroot covers everything else Takei’s famous for–“Star Trek”, Facebook, being gay. The Facebook stuff is almost an aside, ditto the “Star Trek” stuff. Takei’s experiences–both as a gay man in the mid-to-late twentieth century and in Hollywood at that time–are exceptional. Kroot never draws attention it, but Takei’s life is uncommon on almost every level. Except maybe the bickering married stuff.

To Be Takei is surprisingly good. Sure, the protagonists are engaging, but Kroot’s presentation and conclusions make it work.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jennifer M. Kroot; director of photography, Christopher Million; edited by Bill Weber; music by Michael Hearst; produced by Kroot, Gerry Kim and Mayuran Tiruchelva; released by Starz.

Starring George Takei and Brad Takei.


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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, Nicholas Meyer)

From the second scene of the Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, it's clear director Meyer is going to be somewhat merciless in how he presents the film. It's not just a story about a sea change in the franchise's mythology or about the familiar cast members retiring, it's also about it being the final Star Trek movie.

Meyer gets phenomenal performances out of his cast; there's the light stuff, usually with DeForest Kelley or Walter Koenig, but he also goes dark with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Somehow, Meyer manages to balance the film between serious–it's about violent bigotry, after all–and a dark gray genial. The film opens with space disaster followed with a jolting dose of that bigotry.

Playing a new crew member, Kim Cattrall gets the most comedic relief moments. Not as the target of them, but as the perpetrator. Meyer relies on her to be the audience's entry into some of the picture; she's the regular person among the titans. It's a nice narrative trick and one of the more successful ones. There are some less successful ones, which mostly get by due to the abilities of the actors. The big example is Shatner's character arc. It doesn't work because Shatner can't play it bigoted enough; Meyer tries to edit around it but still. Also less successful is Christopher Plummer's character. Plummer's great, but the part's too thin.

At the same time, lots of subtle narrative moves work out great.

The film's problematic, but incredibly successful.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Nicholas Meyer; screenplay by Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn, based on a story by Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal and the television series created by Gene Roddenberry; director of photography, Hiro Narita; edited by William Hoy and Ronald Roose; music by Cliff Eidelman; production designer, Herman F. Zimmermann; produced by Ralph Winter and Steven-Charles Jaffe; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring William Shatner (Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhuru), George Takei (Sulu), Mark Lenard (Sarek), David Warner (Chancellor Gorkon), Kim Cattrall (Lt. Valeris), Rosanna DeSoto (Azetbur), Christopher Plummer (Chang), Kurtwood Smith (Federation President), Brock Peters (Admiral Cartwright), Paul Rossilli (Kerla), John Schuck (Klingon Ambassador), Iman (Martia), Leon Russom (Chief in Command) and Michael Dorn (Klingon Defense Attorney).


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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989, William Shatner)

In some ways, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is an ambitious movie pretending to be popcorn entertainment pretending to be an ambitious movie. There's a lot of nonsense about self-help, not to mention the whole God thing, and none of it works. Partially, it doesn't work because David Loughery's script is too thin, but it also doesn't work because Final Frontier is paced as an action movie, not a self-reflective sci-fi outing.

But there's a definite subtext–not quite subplot, the film ignores any subplots it starts–regarding the continued bond between William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley. About the only thing the movie does really well is the character stuff, not just for those three principals (it's often a comedy showcase for Kelley), but also for the rest of the regular cast. Of course, the script forgets about developing these good character moments, but they're nice to have around.

There's also a good performance from Laurence Luckinbill as the film's de facto antagonist. The handling of his character is another positive about the film. He gets more of a character arc than any of the regular cast.

As far as directing, Shatner does a fine enough job. The action's fast-paced, with excellent editing from Peter E. Berger. Andrew Laszlo's photography is decent too. A lot of the special effects are fantastic. Except the end when it really needs them.

The Jerry Goldsmith score's trying.

The Final Frontier's about as good as any "Star Trek finds God" picture could be.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by William Shatner; screenplay by David Loughery, based on a story by Shatner, Harve Bennett and Loughery and the television series created by Gene Roddenberry; director of photography, Andrew Laszlo; edited by Peter S. Berger; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, Herman F. Zimmerman; produced by Bennett; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring William Shatner (Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), George Takei (Sulu), Laurence Luckinbill (Sybok), Charles Cooper (Korrd), Cynthia Gouw (Caithlin Dar), Spice Williams-Crosby (Vixis), Todd Bryant (Captain Klaa) and David Warner (St. John Talbot).


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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986, Leonard Nimoy)

In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, director Leonard Nimoy establishes a light-hearted, but very high stakes, action-packed environment. Voyage Home is in no way an action movie–the action sequences mostly consist of chases and comedic subterfuges–but there’s a new one every few minutes. The screenwriters came up with a scenario where there’s always danger, but always an almost immediate comic relief.

Flipping between that danger and relief is where William Shatner is so important. He’s able to activate the intense concern momentarily, a grin ready for when the implications have surfaced. Shatner has the most to do in the film, but owns it the least–he’s got some flirtation with Catherine Hicks, but nothing as substantial as most of the other cast members. When he’s out with Nimoy in modern day San Francisco, he’s usually just there to set up Nimoy’s laughs.

The modern day setting is an incredible success too. Nimoy is able to so convince his audience of the 23rd century setting at the start, the trip to the audience’s own time takes them out of water too.

DeForest Kelley gets a lot to do, sort of switching between sidekick for Shatner, Nimoy and finally James Doohan. Kelley and Doohan are great together.

As a director, Nimoy’s sensibilities–especially for comedy–are strong. For a Star Trek film, he’s surprisingly uninterested in complicated space effects. He sticks to the grounded stuff.

Nimoy and company engage the franchise’s iconography to excellent result. Just great.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Leonard Nimoy; screenplay by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer, based on a story by Nimoy and Bennett and the television series created by Gene Roddenberry; director of photography, Donald Peterman; edited by Peter E. Berger; music by Leonard Rosenman; production designer, Jack T. Collis; produced by Bennett; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring William Shatner (Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), DeForest Kelley (McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty), George Takei (Sulu), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), Mark Lenard (Sarek), Jane Wyatt (Amanda), Robert Ellenstein (Federation Council President), John Schuck (Klingon Ambassador), Brock Peters (Admiral Cartwright), Robin Curtis (Lt. Saavik) and Catherine Hicks (Gillian).


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