Notes from the back row 

Geeks rejoice

When I was a kid, most of the geeks were either die-hard Star Wars fans or Trekkies, with almost no cross-pollination between the two franchises. (I guess I was more of a Star Wars kid although I much preferred G.I. Joes and Enemy Mine. )

This Friday then, is geek paradise, as the Village 8 opens JJ Abrams' new Star Trek reboot. It's a smart, action-packed joyride that mixes elements of George Lucas' classic trilogy into the venerable universe created by Trek-originator Gene Roddenberry to ultimate success.

Of all the original Star Trek flicks The Wrath of Khan was the best, because it was dark and Khan was so bad ass. Happily, this film takes a similar route, with a tattooed Eric Bana starring as Nero, a pissed-off Romulan that travels back trough time looking to kill Spock and destroy a couple planets. Problem is, he went back a little too far. Spock is just a young man, as is James Tiberius Kirk, a hard drinking pussy hound who gets guilted into joining the Federation to do his dead hero-father proud. Eventually all the classic characters, from Doctor McCoy to Scotty to hot-and-sassy cunning linguist Uhura end up as cadets on the brand new Enterprise just in time to learn to get along and save the universe for the first time this summer.

With enough nudge-nudge references to keep fans of the original series happy this Star Trek builds itself around a Kirk-Spock character clash where the former's human instincts, emotions and matters of the heart butt heads against Spock's reason, logic and matters of the mind, with sexy Uhura as the woman in the middle of course. Zachary Quinto deadpans a nice Spock and newcomer Chris Pine brings a little Hans Solo to James Kirk.

All the acting, a mixed bag of emulations and new takes on the classic characters, is decent and the script and effects are good enough in some places, great in others (although the ice planet monsters seem a bit B-grade). Leonard Nimoy even pops up as the original Spock, thanks to film's embrace of time travel, which it pulls off.

All in all JJ Abrams ( Lost, Mission Impossible 3, Cloverfield) does it again, from the Empire Strikes Back -esque battle/escape sequence that opens the film, right though all the strong characters. He injects new life into an old money-maker and makes it cool (and not just by using Beastie Boys in the soundtrack). The film runs just a tad over two hours but feels a lot faster. The future begins and you can expect sequels.

Also opening this week at the Village 8 is The Soloist , which isn't about Chewbacca's wingman but rather the unlikely friendship between a Los Angeles journalist played by Robert Downey Jr. and a homeless man/virtuoso musician played by Jamie Foxx, who is...the polite term would be 'mentally incapacitated,' but since the movie never really reveals what his condition is, let's stick with schizo or batshit crazy. The flick aims to be an uplifting drama touching on issues such as poverty, mental health, art and race but instead director Joe Wright ( Atonement) mostly gives us heavy-handed preaching, Neil Diamond, and piss jokes. Downey is great, Foxx is equally great (he even adheres to Downey's instant-classic speech from Tropic Thunder and avoids going "full retard") but the directing and scripting of this tale, based on a true story, will disappoint.

So the action/sci fi geeks win again. Summer is our time isn't it? I'm already getting stoked for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which drops in August. Yo-Joe!

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