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Under Review

We review the latest Star Trek, the Dalai Lama, and comic book movies

Back and better than ever.

Star Trek
Paramount Pictures
Released: May 8

I am a born-again Star Trek fan. As a geeky kid in middle school, I once dressed up as a Klingon for Halloween, but over the years my fandom lapsed. I originally was into The Next Generation, starring Patrick Stewart, but by the time I got to high school I fell off on Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and wasn’t interested in Enterprise (the show that some say is the worst series to date). But the new movie, directed by Lost’s J.J. Abrams, is awesome enough to not only bring back straying fans but possibly also attract some new ones.

The big worry about creating a film based off a franchise with a huge cult following is that the director can get bogged down in the mythology and forget to actually tell a good story (read: Watchmen). Or, worse, they might ignore crucial parts of what makes the original great in an attempt to make money, leaving fans feeling robbed. The good thing about Star Trek is that it has the perfect balance of nods to the original, but some clever writing prevents the characters from getting too trapped by the original series.

Star Trek’s casting was done particularly well. Not only did the filmmakers get spot-on likenesses—Heroes’ Zachary Quinto as Spock, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and Karl Urban as McCoy—but they can all act pretty well. Even Chris Pine plays a believable Kirk, but without William Shatner’s annoying acting quirks. And diehard fans will be pleased with Leonard Nimoy’s appearance in the film. (Hint: It’s more than a cameo.) So beam yourself up this weekend!

10 out of 10 cereal-box communicators

-Kay Steiger


He knows the path to serenity and enlightenment and how to nod to the home crowd. (Photo courtesy of Reuters.)

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Gillette Stadium – Foxboro, Mass.
Date of address: May 1

Last weekend, for my mom’s 60th birthday, I went with her and my dad to see the Dalai Lama speak at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots play. It’s an odd thing, walking into an NFL stadium where the Dalai Lama is about to speak. For one thing, you begin to examine all your actions and thoughts in a different way. “Wow, these are really good seats,” I thought as we sat down. But then, a quick bit self-reproach: is this the sort materialistic self-satisfaction the Dala Lama would approve of?

Not that he seems to be a particularly judgmental fellow. He’s 73 years old and exudes an air of almost preternatural serenity, and there is something exceedingly whimsical about him. During his talk, he’d make a comment about the day’s windiness and laugh. He’d pull up his hood and laugh. He’d say something in Tibetan to one of the monks kneeling near him and laugh. “Childlike wonder and joy” is such a saccharine, clichéd phrase to use when discussing a Buddhist spiritual leader, yet in this case it hits the spot exactly.

He gave two addresses, but we only saw the first one. In it, he laid out the basics of Buddhism and contrasted it with the other major faiths. Those differences he identified were merely that, he emphasized, not drawbacks or weak points. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Jainism (a faith he repeatedly mentioned due to some similarities and shared history) all have a lot to offer the human spirit. For my money, the coolest feature of his speech was his repeated insistence that the core of Buddhism is intellect, that the best path toward spiritual understanding involves examining the world around us and slowly piecing everything together. This is obviously a far cry from many interpretations of the monotheistic faiths, and it’s an important message for many of us, nonbelievers like me included.

9 out of 10 moments of transcendental peace and intuitive insight that neurotic Westerners like myself could never hope to achieve

-Jesse Singal


No. No more.

Comic Book Movies
Coming soon to a theater near you… for the rest of your life

I remember leaving the first X-Men movie in awe. All my favorite mutants lovingly rendered in towering cinematic glory, eyebeams blazing, storm clouds swirling and the sound of adamantium blades whizzing from between Wolverine’s knuckles (snikt). I knew there would be a sequel; there had to be, as even my tender 13-year-old ears could pick up the ka-ching sound of a producer’s pupils being replaced by green dollar signs, each one worth about $150 million.

I wasn’t the only one who heard that magical noise. Superhero movies hit a lull after the excruciating Batman and Robin, which made most people want to rake their fingernails across their eyeballs, a sentiment which tends to result in poor action figure sales. But X-Men’s success signaled the beginning of the Era of the Comic Book Movie.

Thing started off all right. I’d never much cared for Spidey, but I fell in love with X2 and Batman Begins. But the detritus of broken characters and crappy storylines piling up in multiplexes across the world was hard to ignore. Dark Knight offered succor, but when I saw Wolverine, the latest X-Men film, the familiar snikting offered little comfort.

Nothing worked. (Lord, please never let me see another hackneyed love story in an action movie.) Gambit, my favorite X-Man, was casually wasted. By the time he entered the plot I too focused on filing my fingernails into points, and not for love of Sabertooth.

There is no one person behind comic book films, so there is no hope of a classy bow out a la Seinfeld. In fact there is no end in sight, because while I may have hated Wolverine, I can still hear the familiar ka-ching of $160 million in worldwide profits. As long as there is a dollar to be made, Hollywood will keep churning out god-awful comic book films. The luster has worn off.

0 out of 10 pleasegodmakeitstops

-Jake Blumgart

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