True Trek Fans Will Appreciate The Captains Close Up

Courtesy:  Entertainment One/epix

Courtesy: Entertainment One/epix

The Captains Close Up with William Shatner is an enjoyable documentary for anyone that has grown up with Gene Roddenberry’s beloved sci-fi franchise that is Star Trek.  That started as a shot in the dark decades ago has grown to become one of television’s most beloved franchises.  And the people that have helmed the most famous of all starships in sci-fi history have by connection become among the most respected, beloved, and famous figures in television’s modern history.  Fans get to see them every year at conventions around the country.  But how many fans have ever had the chance to see all of the Federation’s most well-known captains in one place at the same time?  Thanks to Entertainment One and epix, Star Trek fans can hear from those individuals in this new DVD.

Epix and EOne’s new Star Trek documentary sees the very first of the individuals to lead the Federation’s flagship interview those that came after him.  This includes Avery Brooks (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).  Even Chris Pine (Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, People Like Us), makes a surprise appearance in the first of the DVD’s five segments.  Audiences will appreciate the interviews culled for this presentation as they show not just the captains, but the people behind the uniform.  One of the most intriguing factors that viewers will note ties together each of the actors is their collective theatrical background.  Each of the cast members started out in theater before making a name for themselves in each of their respective installments of Star Trek.  One cast member from one of the more recent franchises even notes in her interview that having a theatrical background coming into any of the Star Trek franchises was very important.  That is because it helps to adapt to and interpret each script and situation.

The theatrical experience tying each captain to the other is intriguing.  There is no doubt about that.  Most interesting of all though, is the interviews themselves.  Shatner comes across in an entirely unpretentious fashion as he sits down with each star.  Watching him discuss life on and off screen with each captain is more like watching two old friends catching up on old times than any formal interview.  Deciding which interview best illustrates this is difficult.  But being that he is the most well-known of the captains, the most logical choice would be Shatner’s interview with Sir Patrick Stewart.  Stewart speaks candidly with Shatner about his modest upbringing, his career before and after Star Trek, and about his charity “Refuge.”  Even Stewart’s own son gets in on the act.  He comes in, sits down with Shatner and his dad, and shares some rather entertaining tidbits of information about growing up in a family of actors.  Viewers will laugh along with Sir Patrick as his son shares these entertaining anecdotes.  Sir Patrick’s reaction is timeless.  He visibly blushes, hides his face and laughs embarrassed at the stories.  On the completely opposite end, Sir Patrick’s own emotional story of growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father is just as moving.  It is moving not because he admits his father only beat his mother, but because it led him to create “Refuge” in an attempt to help women who have been victims of domestic violence.  It’s easy to see how difficult it was to discuss this story.  And it makes him that much more human.

After his interview with Stewart, the next best example of the interviews’ candid nature would have to be Shatner’s interview with Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager).  Somehow, the pair moves from talking about home cooking to the more serious discussion about reactions to audience criticisms and so many other topics.  Among those topics is that of how Mulgrew came into the role of Captain Janeway almost by chance.  Those that are less familiar with Voyager will be surprised to discover that Mulgrew got the part of Janeway after the original actress who was to play Janeway abruptly quit mere days after being given the position.  She goes on to discuss the joy of working on the show and balancing that with her own personal sadness and stress of dealing with divorce off screen.  It’s another of the more emotional moments shared throughout the interviews collected for this DVD.  Fans will find their own favorite moments when they buy or order the DVD for themselves.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D3XM3MY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=12P7CS8DNG71Y48M096T&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1389517282&pf_rd_i=507846.  More information on The Captains Close Up with William Shatner and other DVDs and Blu-rays from EOne is available online at http://www.entertainmentone.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Star Trek Sequel One Of Summer 2013′s Best

Courtesy:  Paramount

Courtesy: Paramount

Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the best movies of the Summer 2013 movie season.  However, for all of its successes, there is no denying that it is not a perfect work.  The movie, which clocks in at just over two hours keeps audiences engaged from the story’s opening moments.  And that is thanks in large part to following the standard Summer blockbuster formula.  Here’s where things get dicey, and some of this critic’s fellow Trek fans might be angered.  To those potentially angered readers, please read this entire review before attacking.

One of the biggest factors in the success of Star Trek Into Darkness is that much like its predecessor, audiences don’t have to know the rich history of Gene Roddenberry’s creation that started with Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS).  Its references to the movie franchise’s reboot were so few that audiences that have yet to see that movie need not worry about having seen it in order to enjoy this story.  Director J.J. Abrams and his staff of writers did an impressive job in keeping this tradition alive from the movies based on both TOS and TNG.  Though, those that are long-time fans of both Star Trek TOS and the long running movie franchise will enjoy it just as much as TOS and the movie franchise’s reboot.  Long-time fans will enjoy the reference in this movie to the famed Troubles with Tribbles episode from TOS.  Long-time fans will enjoy seeing actor Leonard Nimoy reprise his role as the original Spock just as much (not to reveal too much).  That’s right.  Leonard Nimoy is back once again.  And long-time fans will love how Abrams and company poke fun at themselves with his re-appearance.  How they go about doing so will be kept under wraps so as to not spoil another positive moment from an overall impressive work.

Director J.J. Abrams and his staff of writers did an impressive job making a story that much like the movies from TOS and TNG, doesn’t require knowledge of the previous movie to be enjoyed.  This and the references to TOS played important roles in this movie’s success.  Just as much cause for success was the personal growth of Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock.  Kirk starts off in this movie the same brash almost Tom Cruise “Maverick” style figure as they were introduced to in the series’ 2009 reboot.  It would be impossible to explain this without spoiling at least one aspect of the movie.  That aspect would be that Admiral Pike is killed off.  In his death, audiences finally see Kirk grow as a person.  They see what was obviously the relationship of a son and his (for all intents and purposes) surrogate father in Pike.  Audiences also see the relationship between Spock and Kirk grow even more from their initial meeting in the 2009 reboot.  This is perhaps one of very few aspects of this work that would require viewers to have seen the previous film in order to appreciate it.  Theirs are the only relationships that show any growth from the previous installment in the franchise.  That’s not an entirely bad thing.  Simon Pegg is as funny as ever in his role as Scotty.  And the relationship between Scotty, Kirk, Spock and Bones produces more than its share of laughs once again.

For everything that makes Star Trek Into Darkness such a success, it isn’t without its faults.  This story has plenty of comical moments between cast members; enough that they would make quite the blooper reel in the movie’s home release.  But one can’t help but look back on the movie and realize just how much running around and yelling filled most of the story.  There was so much that in hindsight, it makes for more than enough fodder for Saturday Night Live’s writers to spoof.  Thankfully for the movie’s staff of writers, all the running around and yelling wasn’t enough to overpower the story’s main plot that while not overly original, is still nicely updated.  It’s a story that is well worth its time overall, whether one is an experienced Star Trek fan or not.

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People Like Us Is An Underrated, Moving Drama

Courtesy: Dreamworks Pictures

Family is the most important thing that any person can have.  Without family, what does anyone have?  Sam (Chris Pine), his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), and the sister he never knew he had (Elizabeth Banks) learn this lesson in Dreamworks’ new movie, People Like Us.

People Like Us is a powerful and emotional drama.  On the surface, it may be just another movie that’s based on actual events.  But the story presented here is much more real and emotional than audiences may want to believe.  Cases such as the story presented here really do happen.  The problem is that society has attached a stigma to it.  So it tends to be generally swept under the proverbial carpet.  People don’t want to know about such stories.  Keeping in mind just how real People Like Us is, one can’t help but feel sorry for Sam’s sister, Frankie.

When Sam first revealed to Frankie that they were related, she goes absolutely berserk.  Not knowing for so many years would make such a revelation a massive load both emotionally and psychologically.  One has to put oneself into Frankie’s shoes to really appreciate her reaction.  She was looking at the situation from the vantage point of having had an emotional connection to Sam before discovering he was her long lost brother.  Here was this single mother who had no clue who the father of her child was.  The shock of having her hopes dashed is entirely understandable here.  Of course, she does come around by the movie’s end.  The full ending won’t be given away for the sake of those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the story.  Though audiences are encouraged to see it for themselves to find out how it all ends.

The emotional drama between Sam and Frankie is just part of what will keep audiences watching throughout the movie’s near two-hour run time.  Sam’s relationship with his mother Lillian (played expertly by veteran actress Michelle Pfeiffer) gets tied into the story.  The secret that Lillian keeps plays directly into Sam’s relationship with Frankie.  At the same time, it’s that same secret that eventually brings Sam and his mother closer by the story’s end.  It would be wrong to say that the end of People Like Us is happy.  Rather, it’s better described as bittersweet.  But ironically, enough, it will leave audiences feeling fulfilled after the emotional journey on which they embarked at the story’s beginning.

When it was originally released earlier this year in theaters, People Like Us was released among a glut of Summer blockbusters.  Because of that, it was easily lost in that sea that is the silver screen.  But it will be released next Tuesday, October 2nd on DVD and Blu-ray.  As surprisingly deep and emotional as it is, hopefully it won’t be lost in the sea of new home releases as it is definitely worth the watch. 

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