"Spock, I do not know too much about these little Tribbles yet, but there is one thing that I have discovered. I like them … better than I like you." –Dr. McCoy, "Star Trek" (1967)
Greetings from the apocalypse! The trouble with Tribbles is not how cute they are but how much they multiply, or in the case of "Star Trek Into Darkness," the silly plot point for which they cameo. That's the only thing I'll spoil from that movie (besides that it stinks), but luckily there's some sweet alternatives this week that boldly go where no J.J. Abrams movie has gone before … coherence.
Friday, May 17
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POW! IN THEATERS
Oh boy. "Star Trek Into Dumbness" finally fulfills J.J. Abrams' five-year mission to run this franchise through a Cuisinart of stupidity. I would need a spoiler avalanche to make a proper case for how this sequel squanders classic characters and scenarios from previous films on a story that merely serves as flimsy pretext to stage set pieces that make even less sense. Fortunately, life is too short. As in 2009's "Star Trek," the cast is aces, including Chris Pine coming into his own as Kirk, even as Abrams has him making bonehead decisions that would deem one unfit for canoeing in the Special Olympics, let alone captaining a friggin' starship. The perpetually boring Benedict Sourpatch doesn't hold a candle to … well, whatever classic villain he "might" be playing, maybe. Unrelenting momentum, lame 9/11 allegories and Tribble cameos don't make up for bad storytelling. What's in the mystery box? Gwyneth Paltrow's head.
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Those looking to glue on your Vulcan ears and seriously Trek-out this weekend will want to dig on William Shatner's 2011 documentary "The Captains" on Netflix Streaming. This odyssey has the original captain of the Starship Enterprise flying all over creation interviewing all the subsequent "Star Trek" captains, including Sir Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula, as well as an extended arm-wrestling match with Chris Pine in front of Paramount Studios. No joke. It also allows William Shatner to come to terms with the fact that "Captain Kirk" and "Beam me up Scotty" will likely be the epitaph etched on his tombstone. He seems cool with it. Also, if you've never seen it, check out "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," also streaming on Instant … it just might be a handy primer for "Into Darkness." Just … maybe.
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BASIC CABLE BLUES
This is your one-stop shop for all Trekking needs, since we got "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" AND "Star Trek: First Contact" back-to-back at 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on SyFy. A best-of-both-worlds scenario gives you the swan song of the classic Original Cast ("OC" to the cool people) followed by certainly the best installment with the "Next Generation" crew as they battle The Borg and find themselves in a time-travel situation as humans encounter Vulcans for the first time. "Star Trek VI" also sees the return of "Wrath of Khan" director Nicholas Meyer, who seemed to always bring out the best in Shatner and the gang.
It's a good weekend to be an American living on the upper left-hand side of our map with two equally cool fests starting with the Seattle International Film Festival. The birthplace of Starbucks and flannel-clad grunge will rock its way inside your heart-shaped box from May 16-June 9, starting with opening night film "Much Ado About Nothing" (I've seen it; Joss Whedon nails it), and closing with the American premiere of Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring." Guests of honor this year are weirdo director Peter Greenaway ("The Pillow Book") and "Twin Peaks" icon/"Showgirls" not-so-icon Kyle MacLachlan, who will no doubt regale the audience with tales from the "Flintstones" movie.
Just below Seattle, Washington lies its grittier hipster cousin Portland, Oregon, which is right now playing host to The Return to NoirVille at Cinema 21. The final week of dishy dames and the men who do wrong for them includes classic black-and-white fare like "Laura" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" alongside more contemporary neo noirs like the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple" and Robert Altman's "The Long Goodbye."
Saturday, May 18
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POW! IN THEATERS
Imagine the HBO show "Girls" if those twentysomething Brooklynites were enjoyable/funny people (instead of being reprehensible beyond all measure) and you get the delightful "Frances Ha," this week's most recommended "Survivor of Thunderdome." Director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig collaborated on this story of a wayward aspiring dancer at the ass-end of her twenties trying to reconcile career lows and undateability with her friends' thriving adulthood. Sam Levy's gorgeous black & white photography harkens back to Woody Allen's "Manhattan," as does the non-stop bon mots that could fill three or four lesser comedies. Baumbach gets stronger with each picture, and after the misanthropy of "Greenberg" this feels like an effervescent breath of fresh air.
As if I wasn't excited enough about convincing you to go see Greta Gerwig being cute over the Enterprise getting torpedoed for two hours, über-popular podcaster Marc Maron had Noah Baumbach (apparently pronounced "bowm-back") in his cat ranch garage for a cool episode of "WTF" this week. All you What the F**kers, What the F**kbuddies and What the F**knicks can dazzle at this bubbly hour-long chat as Maron probes the director on "The Squid and the Whale," divorce, dating Gerwig, collaborating with Wes Anderson and getting emotional over Wikipedia summaries of movies. You can download the podcast for free at iTunes or at the WTF homepage.
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PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
"Our daughter's been abducted by one of these beige lunatics!" That would be Bill Murray upset at the Khaki Scouts who have absconded with his 12-year-old Suzie so she can elope with her equally precocious 12-year-old boyfriend Sam in "Moonrise Kingdom," which premieres on HBO at 7:15 p.m. Wes Anderson's arch stylings have been known to alienate some as "too twee for his own good," but this charming '60s-set romp has proved to be his most accessible film since "The Royal Tenenbaums." Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and some truly gorgeous Rhode Island coastline co-star. If you doubt how much I dig this movie, check out the Oscar campaign poster I did last year, why don'tcha?
Harvard Square ain't for squares tonight and tomorrow as "Coraline" author Neil Gaiman and his goth pixie Dresden Doll of a wife Amanda F**king Palmer present "You Show Me Yours, I’ll Show You Mine: The Neil & Amanda Double Features" at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Apparently Neil has chosen two films that Amanda hasn't seen (Lindsay Anderson’s "If …" and Peter Greenaway’s "Drowning By Numbers") while Amanda has chosen two films Neil is ignorant of (Alejandro Jodorowsky’s "Santa Sangre" and Philippe de Broca’s "King of Hearts"). Amanda's picks will run tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. while Neil's double feature unspools at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. I personally recommend "If …" for its shattering portrait of life at an English parochial school that prefigured Columbine by 30 years.
Sunday, May 19
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YOU DOWN WITH VOD?
The rape revenge genre gets a feminist twist in the new thriller "Black Rock" on VOD and in very select theaters. Katie Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth play a trio of old friends who try to sort out their personal issues with a weekend on a remote Maine island, where they encounter a trio of bulky ex-military dudes hunting; one thing leads to another and … the girls become their prey. Etc Etc. The twist comes less with the plot than via the Mumblecore sensibility that director/star Aselton and writer Mark Duplass bring to it. The ballsiest choice comes at the height of the tension when these women are naked, being stalked, huddled against a tree in the dark ... and they stop for six minutes to have a "girl talk moment." You won't see John Rambo doin' that s**t, that's for sure.
BASIC CABLE BLUES
It's been a while since we've seen the once-promising Kate Bosworth, but with her blockbuster days perhaps behind her (thanks, "Superman Returns") it's good to have something like "Black Rock" to remind us the girl can act. If you want to catch Bosworth during the peak of her hot streak, check out the 2002 surfing drama "Blue Crush" at 4 p.m. on E! as she, Michelle Rodriguez and actual real-life surfer Sanoe Lake hanging ten on Hawaii's famed North Shore.
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NEW ON BLU
I enjoyed writer/director Roman Coppola's Charlie Sheen vehicle "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" in all its flawed, kitschy glory back in January, so why not mix yourself up a Brandy Alexander to soak up this novelty item on Blu-ray, yes? It's not very often that a director shoots a large portion of a film at his own house, but Coppola used budgetary restraints to his advantage by cramming a lot of personal mementos (knick-knacks, outfits, photos, art, his own baby, etc.) throughout and makes note of them in fond nostalgic detail on the commentary track. A couple short-but-sweet supplemental docs tout the making of the picture as a genuine love-fest, as well as a tribute to the great '70s era of commercial airbrush artists. Lovely.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …