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by Chris Barsanti

7 May 2009

Just minutes into J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, you’re left with no illusions that it’s not going to be a dramatically different creature. As James T. Kirk’s mother screams in the pains of labor while onboard a shuttle hurtling away from a doomed Starfleet vessel that his father is piloting on a kamikaze mission toward a menacing Romulan ship (sacrificing himself to save the hundreds of crew on those shuttles), it seems less like something out of Next Generation than a flash-forward scene from Lost. Not surprisingly, Kirk (Chris Pine, who assumes the character’s egomaniacal mantle with shocking ease) grows up to be a danger-seeking punk with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Enterprise, and a dueling interior drive to either ignore or somehow surpass his father’s towering legacy.

This shameless hammering of emotions and its vision of a person born out of conflict and fire is pure new millennial televisual drama of the kind that fuses thriller conventions with soap opera relationship fireworks. And for the most part, it’s exactly what the Star Trek needed to blast away the fusty old traditions that had barnacled the franchise over the course of ten feature films and five series. But while director Abrams’ handling of Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s propulsive screenplay—which introduces each of the franchise’s main characters with a smooth élan—is sleek and spiffy, to say the least, it ultimately hews far closer to his television work than might have been wise for a big-screen reboot.

In short: there’s no Khan.

Eric Bana as Nero in Star Trek

Eric Bana as Nero in Star Trek

Abrams’ style has tended to emphasize the interplay of relationships between his protagonists—their rivalries and loves, in addition to the inevitable moment of heart-clenching sacrifice—at the expense of the opponent they are arrayed against. So it is with Star Trek, in which the villain, a hulking rogue Romulan miner named Nero (Eric Bana), rates barely a flicker of interest. The film is so enveloped by the hormone-stoked heat and pulse of its intertwined origin stories (all those over-achieving young Starfleet cadets), that when they finally face up against Nero and his seemingly unstoppable titan of a planet-annihilating ship, there’s little to latch on to with the guy, much less fear.

Beneath the bulk and tribal tattoos—this film’s Romulans are to their distant cousins the Vulcans what Tolkien’s orcs were to his elves—Bana manages a few flickers of sulfurous enmity, but it all seems more of a delaying tactic before the film gets back to its real interest: the growing friendship between Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto).

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto in Star Trek

Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto in Star Trek

It’s in the spiky moments of this relationship that Abrams finds the beating heart of the story, not the clashes between Starfleet and Nero. An overly quick scrap of exposition about the reason behind Nero’s universe-destroying rage plugs the necessary holes in the plot, but is hardly the stuff of epic drama.

This is not necessarily a bad move, as the whole point of this Star Trek was to reintroduce the franchise to a new generation, and on that score the filmmakers have done a superb job, updating the characters without losing a bit of what made them special in the first place. Also, it doesn’t set up the sequel for automatic disappointment, in the particular way that Star Trek III and IV couldn’t help but seem wan and pale after Ricardo Montalban ran away with Wrath of Khan.

And just think, they haven’t gotten to the Klingons yet…

by PopMatters Staff

7 May 2009

Tuesday night Franz Ferdinand dropped by the Letterman show to play “No You Girls” off their latest album Tonight. On 2 June the Scottish band is releasing a dub version of that album called Blood.

by PopMatters Staff

7 May 2009

British punkers Gallows released their new album Grey Britain this week. They dropped by ShockHound to discuss the new album and the band’s mission, yeah because punk bands always have a mission. These guys believe Armageddon is around the corner, so watch out.

by PopMatters Staff

7 May 2009

Bat for Lashes played “Daniel” on the Letterman show in their U.S. network television debut.

by Christian John Wikane

7 May 2009

Nostrand Avenue (Brooklyn, NY) and Sunset Boulevard (Los Angeles, CA) could not be more geographically incongruous, yet the members of Brooklyn Dreams know both streets intimately. Over a four-year period in the mid-1970s, Brooklyn-born and bred Bruce Sudano, Joe “Bean” Esposito, and Eddie Hokenson recorded for a label that virtually defined the colorful characters that resided along the Sunset Strip.

Their street-corner harmonies landed on Casablanca Records, home to P-Funk, Village People, and a Viking-outfitted Cher. Brooklyn Dreams was something of an anomaly on the roster, with New York-centric lyrics and doo-wop and rock and roll-influenced melodies dressing their songs. After a one-album stint produced by Skip Konte (Three Dog Night) on Jimmy Ienner’s Millennium, which Casablanca distributed, Brooklyn Dreams was matched with a pair of unlikely producers—Bob Esty, who produced numerous disco acts on Casablanca (Roberta Kelly, Paul Jabara, and D.C. LaRue), and Juergen Koppers, best known as engineer for Giorgio Moroder. The gambit to sell Brooklyn Dreams as a disco-pop act worked for a moment when the group appeared with Donna Summer on “Heaven Knows” from her Live and More (1978) album, which earned them a Top 5 gold single. The group also co-wrote “Bad Girls” with Summer, which became the most commercially successful single of her career.

At their core, Brooklyn Dreams was not a disco act, and a faithful return to their influences on Won’t Let Go (1980) made little movement in the marketplace.  Concurrent with the shift in style, Casablanca encountered seismic executive changes when company founder Neil Bogart sold the company to PolyGram and many artists either left or were released from the label.  Caught in the shuffle, Brooklyn Dreams disbanded shortly thereafter. Eddie Hokenson returned to New York while Bruce Sudano recorded a solo album back on Millennium, Fugitive Kind (1981), and co-wrote a number one country hit for Dolly Parton, “Starting Over Again” with Summer.  Joe “Bean” Esposito worked extensively with Giorgio Moroder, including the Flashdance (1983) soundtrack and the duo’s full-length Solitary Men (1983) collaboration, and became something of a cult figure when his recording of “You’re the Best” from The Karate Kid (1984) was adopted by the athletic world.

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