‘I’m basically a comic’: William Shatner speaks on ‘Star Trek II,’ going to Asia and doing stand-up comedy

He has entered the one-name club. Entered it long ago, in fact.

Che. Bowie. Jagger…

Shatner.

The man, the myth, the hair.william-shatner-captain-kirk-star-trek-joins-the-wizard-world-comic-con-tour-4_2

William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk, aka T.J. Hooker, aka Denny Crane (for which he won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe) aka the man who gave us a truly epic version of “Mr. Tambourine Man” (and, come on, perhaps THE definitive take on “Rocket Man”).

Look, Shatner has an entire encyclopedia devoted to his work, devoted to his philosophy, devoted to his very being. What more can we ask for from our life and career?

startrekii_spotlightHe is here in Austin for the Wizard World convention and to do a Q&A before a 35 mm screening of the almighty “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” on Sept. 23 at the Paramount.

Shatner thinks Star Trek II resonates because, really, what is missing? “There’s a story of revenge, filled with all kinds of theatricality, and Ricardo Montalban makes a great villain,” he says. “It’s a good film. You’ve seen these characters on television, you see them on screen and you feel you know them.”

But then, that is in the past. Shatner is a man who keeps himself busy. He’s just released a new novel, “Zero-G,” written with Jeff Rovin, about, as the book description puts it, “intrepid, 80-year-old FBI deputy director Samuel Lord” whose “space based ‘Zero-G’ men are in charge of investigating terrorism, crime, corruption, and espionage beyond the Earth’s atmosphere” aboard the space station Empyrean.

“I’ve been talking to astrophysicists on another project, and they think in the same way science-fiction writers do,” Shatner says. “It is the same imaginative process. ‘Zero-G’ is imagining what the FBI will be doing out in law enforcement out in space 50 years from now. That is what science fiction does: It imagines the future, and since nobody knows what the next instant is going to be, then my opinion of 50 years from now or Roddenberry’s opinion of 300 years from now is equally valid.”

Then again, Shatner has done an incredible amount of stuff over the years, some of which has faded, some of which has resonated. “I did a couple of Twilight Zones that remain popular whenever the show is rerun, and I sort of wonder why,” Shatner says. “But, again, it’s the story. There’s one about a little furry creature on a wing of a plane (“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”) that’s played again and again. Why it is one of the more popular ones, I don’t know. The fear of flying, maybe? Every so often you do something that touches a universal nerve.”

better-late-than-never-nbc
The cast of “Better Late Than Never”

He even had a recent hit with the semi-scripted reality show “Better Late that Never,” which teamed him with Henry Winkler, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw and younger comedian Jeff Dye. “NBC said, how would you like to go to Asia, and of course I said yes. All I knew is that I was going to go to a part of the world that I had longed to go to. … It was all taken care of. All you had to do was show up and be amusing. And these guys together turned out to be hysterical.”

And, yes, while Shatner is best known for dramatic (or melodramatic parts) such as Captain Kirk, he considers himself as much a comedian as a dramatic actor (see also Denny Crane). “I’m basically a comic,” he says “I did some stand-up in New York at the Gotham Comedy Club, and it was great! In their words, I murdered.”

Hey, that’s terrific.

“No, I murdered, it’s better than terrific.”

The show that is perhaps most “near and dear to my heart,” as he puts it, is “Shatner’s World,” a one-man show wherein the man expounds on, well, all of the things. “I was on Broadway with it, I’ve toured with it, it’s the project that has the most of me in it,” Shatner says. “It’s about saying ‘yes’ to life. Yes to the things that happen to you. Say yes instead of saying no. Get out there and do something and find something passionate and have an adventure. It’s over so quickly that it’s ridiculous not to expose yourself.”

Ladies and gentlemen … Shatner.

This week in popular culture: Philippa Gregory, “The Get Down” and “Pete’s Dragon”

three-sisters-three-queens-9781476758572_hr“Three Sisters, Three Queens” by Philippa Gregory (Touchstone). The best-selling historical fictioneer takes on King Henry VIII’s sisters Mary and Margaret, along with Katherine of Aragon, which I didn’t mean to read as “Angelica! Eliza! And Peggy!” as it does. (Aug. 9)

  “The Get Down” (Netflix). Baz Luhrmann recruited writer Nelson George (as well as Grandmaster Flash, DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa) to contribute to this insanely ambitious-sounding new Netflix musical drama about New York during the 1970s and the rise of hip-hop, punk and disco. Starring Jimmy Smits, Giancarlo Esposito and Jaden Smith. (First six episodes released Aug. 12)

  “Pete’s Dragon.” Texas director David Lowery remakes the 1977 Disney animated film as a live-action adventure with a CGI dragon, transporting the action from early-20th-century Maine to the modern Pacific Northwest. With Robert Redford, Bryce Dallas Howard and Oakes Fegley as the orphan Pete. Look for an interview with Dallas director David Lowery and a review on Thursday.  (Aug. 12)

 Rae Sremmurd, “SremmLife 2” (EarDrummer/Interscope). There have been so many singles (four) over the past six months for this thing that I thought it was already out. But, nope, here is the second album from the Southern hip-hop duo. (Aug. 12)

The Dead C's "Trouble" (photo: Ba Da Bing)
The Dead C’s “Trouble” (photo: Ba Da Bing)

The Dead C., “Trouble (Ba Da Bing). The newest album from this long-time New Zealand trio, which, in its 30 of so years of existence, have become underground rock icons for moving from rough-hewn, no-fi noise rock to long improvisational excursions. They still sound like nobody else, and nobody else sounds like them. (Aug. 12, but probably in stores now)

The Emmys: 20 thoughts on who was nominated, who should win and who was snubbed

  1. The nominations for the 68th Emmy Awards are out and, to the surprise of exactly nobody, “Game of Thrones” picked up 23 nods.
  2. The completely amazing “The People v. O.J. Simpson” picked up 22 noms,  “Fargo” has 18 and “Veep” has 17 nominations.
  3. It’s outstanding to see “The Americans” and “Mr. Robot,” the two smartest live action series on TV, given best drama nods. Even with the 23 nominations, I am not completely convinced “Game of Thrones” should be there for season five, which I found a little rambling (thought I thought this season was just stunningly entertaining). “Better Call Saul,” another best drama hopeful, is often brilliant. I would love to see either “The Americans” “or “Mr. Robot” win.
  4. Unlike the drama nods, nearly half of the best comedy nods – “Master of None” (Hulu), “Transparent” (Amazon) and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt” (Netflix) – are streaming shows.
  5. Also in best comedy, the often excellent and usually family-friendly”Black-ish” (which my kids love) and “Modern Family” (which should be put out of its misery rather than be nominated again) are on ABC; “Silicon Valley” and “Veep,” both terrific, are on HBO.
    Rami Malek in 'Mr. Robot' (Peter Kramer/USA Network)
    Rami Malek in ‘Mr. Robot’ (Peter Kramer/USA Network)

     

  6. So much for comedy programming on CBS, Fox or NBC. Ouch.
  7. For my money, the lead actor in a drama Emmy should go to Rami Malek (“Mr Robot”) in a walk. His performance is like nothing else on television — complex, weird and 21st century.
  8. Matthew Rhys and his perma-frown are essential parts of what make “The Americans” great. Nominees Kyle Chandler, Bob Odenkirk, Liev Schreiber and Kevin Spacey are all excellent, but Malek and Rhys feel like something new.
  9. As far as actor in a comedy goes, Jeffrey Tambor is obviously brilliant in “Transparent, but he’s already feted (and the drama often works better than the comedy on that show).  As much as I like Anthony Anderson and Aziz Ansari, I am pulling for Thomas Middleditch’s note-perfect programmer on “Silicon Valley.” (I am mystified as to why T.J. Miller didn’t get a best supporting actor in a comedy nod for “Silicon Valley.” His bluster is brilliant.)
  10. The lead actress in a drama category is a game of inches: Keri Russell’s mission-first vibe on “The Americans” becomes more complicated by the second. (Also, will she ever stop doing laundry?) But Tatiana Maslany on “Orphan Black” is a tour de force, every episode, where, as various clones of her character, she is often playing three or four or five parts an episode. It’s nuts.
    In this image released by FX, Matthew Rhys, left, and Keri Russell appear in a scene from "The Americans." On Thursday, July 14, 2016, Rhys was nominated for outstanding actor in a drama series for his role in the series. The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. (Craig Blankenhorn/FX via AP)
    Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell both got acting nods for “The Americans.” (Craig Blankenhorn/FX via AP)

     

  11. Lead actress in a comedy should probably go to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep,” but here’s the thing:
  12. Laurie Metcalfe should be a mortal lock not for HBO’s “Getting On,” the comedy for which she was nominated here, but for for her astounding turn in Louis CK’s genuinely groundbreaking “Horace and Pete,” which is very much not a comedy.
  13. The Playhouse-90-on-the-web format of “Horace and Pete” felt exciting and daring, one of the few times this past year that something appeared in front of your eyeballs that made anything seem possible.
  14. Metcalfe, who was terrific for years on “Roseanne,” also picked up a nomination for a guest spot on “The Big Bang Theory.” Three noms in three different acting categories is an Emmy first. She certainly deserves it.
  15. Interesting to see the total absence of David Simon’s HBO mini “Show Me A Hero” from the limited series category, whose nominees included the Austin-filmed “American Crime”; “Fargo,” from Austin’s Noah Hawley; “The Night Manager”; “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”; and the History Channel’s remake of “Roots.”
  16. As much as I loved “Fargo,” whose second season was cracklingly alive, my vote has to go to “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,” which managed to be dramatic, funny, timely, campy, dark and incredibly weird, often all at the same time.
  17. Speaking of, Courtney B. Vance should win lead actor in a movie or limited series for embodying but not copying Johnnie Cochran in “The People.” He is up against Cuba Gooding Jr. in this category as well.

    In this image released by FX, Sarah Paulson portrays Marcia Clark, left, and Sterling K. Brown portrays Christopher Darden in a scene from "The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story." On Thursday, July 14, 2016, Brown was nominated for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or movie for his role. The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. (Ray Mickshaw/FX via AP)
    Sarah Paulson portrays Marcia Clark, left, and Sterling K. Brown portrays Christopher Darden in a scene from “The People v O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”(Ray Mickshaw/FX via AP)
  18. I feel exactly the same way about Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark in “The People.” In fact, it would be kind of great to see “The People” sweep the acting for limited series or movie.
  19. Most unjust snub? “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” one of the year’s breakout shows, wasn’t nominated for variety/talk, while “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and
  20. One sentimental favorite: I would love love love to see Jonathan Banks finally grab a supporting actor win for his incredible performance as Mike Ehrmantraut on “Better Call Saul,” a prize he should have won for the same character on “Breaking Bad.” 

The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and broadcast live Sept. 18 on ABC. Check out a list of all the nominees from the most prominent categories.


Ten things we wish for various characters on “Game of Thrones,” season six

uh-oh
uh-oh

Sunday, HBO’s smash hit epic fantasy “Game of Thrones” returns for a sixth season.

The show is at an odd point (besides ending its last season on roughly a billion different cliffhangers).

If each previous season is roughly equivalent to one book (which it isn’t quite, I know, so stop typing that angry email), this is the first season that won’t have a corresponding novel by George R.R. Martin completed before the season starts. “A Dance with Dragons,” Martin’s most recent book in the A Song of Ice and Fire cycle, was published in 2011, and Martin has said there is no way a next book, “The Winds of Winter,” will appear in 2016.

While Martin and “Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have said some “Winter” plot elements will appear in season six, the show and book could go in radically different directions.

The following are not predictions, nor are they questions we want answered, really. This is what we wish for various characters on “Game of Thrones” and one thing we hope for the show in general.

  • We hope that Jon Snow continues to know nothing…as a living human (but we are not holding our breath).

When season five ended, Jon Snow was lying on the ground, bleeding out, eyes wide open, betrayed by his men on the Watch. (His fate in “Dragons” is similarly up in the air.) If he is just grievously wounded, that would be swell (though his Wildling love Ygritte is dead). But if he’s a (very handsome) corpse, there are various magical ways he could come back to life. But one of the nice (as it were) things about “Thrones” is the extent to which the dead stay dead (Ned Stark, we will never forget you). Most depressing scenario? Snow comes back as an undead White Walker.

  • We hope Sansa Stark gets to flex a bit.

When we last saw poor Sansa (and that “poor” might as well be an honorific now), she and a barely-sane Theon Greyjoy had to literally leap out of Winterfell to escape the savage Ramsay Bolton, the meanest man on television. In the trailer, there is a shot of Sansa in a cloak that screams “Queen of the North,” so here’s hoping she raises an army, maybe of Stannis’ men with Brienne of Tarth (who doesn’t know she needed rescuing) by her side, sacks Bolton and becomes queen in the North.

  • We hope Ramsay Bolton is torn apart by direwolves.

The usurper in the North still has control of Winterfell but no longer has Sansa or Theon, who were basically his slaves and pretty good bargaining chips. It would be great if Sansa had his head sent to his father Roose Bolton, one of the Red Wedding’s architect’s. Look, this show makes us a little cruel.

  • We hope Arya Stark becomes the badass assassin we have long been promised.

We last saw Arya blinded by one of the Faceless Men (the order of assassins she is trying to join) for killing Ser Meryn Trant because she wanted to rather than was ordered to. Odds are she gets her sight back, then we are in favor of her grabbing Needle and raining stealthy death on everyone on her kill list (even if it annoys the Faceless Men), especially…

  •  Cersei Lannister, whom we hope gets Westeros’ Trial of the Century.

That said, she did get a humiliating (and, as the kids say, problematic: see below) walk through the streets of King’s Landing. There is nobody who wouldn’t enjoy her getting a taste of grim, Thronesy justice, but at the hands of the antipope High Sparrow and the fanatical Faith Militant? That’s less appealing.

  • We hope that Jaime Lannister stays out of his sister’s eyeline, forever.

When we left Jaime, he had just rescued his and Cersei’s daughter Myrcella from her thus-far-not-too-terrible time with the Martells. They reconciled, hugged and then she died, assassinated by the Sand Snakes. Jaime’s mission was the definition of “you had one job,” and he blew it. Cersei is going to kill him, bring him back to life, then kill him again.

  • We hope Bran Stark … well, who cares?

The Bran-as-visionary plotline, his seemingly EXTREMELY LONG quest to find the three-eyed raven, has been so far removed from the central action that it’s increasingly hard to stay engaged – Daenerys over in sunny Meereen is closer to the events in King’s Landing.  I am pulling for Bran to meet someone, anyone from his family, if only to apply Mr. Tossed-Out-A-Window’s powers to one of the bigger, denser plots.

  • We hope Daenerys rides into battle on a freakin’ dragon because, come on, they have been teasing that since the things were hatched.

Turns out that Daenerys, who seemed like a yasss-queen-level boss for a while there, is kind of a mediocre ruler, what with the whole soaring out of Meereen, now in chaos, atop a dragon, only to end up back with the Dothraki. Oof. Get back on that horse, er, dragon, girl!

  • We hope Tyrion can bring the noise.

Seriously, I don’t care where he is or what he is doing. Stuck in Meereen, on a boat with Jorah Mormont, hanging out as the King’s Hand, whatever. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister is delivering one of television’s all-time great performances, and his sly humor works in almost any situation.

And finally…

  • On behalf of characters and viewers, we sincerely hope the sexual violence gets, at a minimum, dialed down.

Here are some sex crimes in “Game of Thrones,” just off the top of my head: It is implied that Ramsay’s sexual abuse and rape of Sansa is near-constant, sometimes with Theon forced to watch.  Cersei was raped, as was Daenerys.

Joffrey killed one of the women he bedded by tying her naked to a bedpost and shooting crossbow bolts at her. Cersei’s sexual humiliation in last season’s finale was brutal. And this is just what I could remember. I am certain I am forgetting quite a bit and none of them resulted in much character development for anyone involved

The level of sexual violence on “Thrones” has gotten so egregious that the fansite the Mary Sue threw in the towel on the show altogether.

Last year, one fan tallied up all the sexual assaults in the books and on screen. Over the course of five seasons, there were 16 rapes or attempted rapes. (It also turns out that there are something like four times as many sex crimes in the book, which is a mighty depressing thought.)

Enough already. Enough, enough, enough.

There is a lot to love about the show: stellar acting, palace intrigue, giant wolves, sword fights, dudes wearing all black, and dragons.

There is just no narrative reason for the level of sexual violence depicted on this show. None.

“But it’s in the books!” Well, a lot of things are in the books. The books are huge. The producers make choices on what to include. They chose to include a whole lot of sexual violence (some of it by characters we are supposed to root for in the long term).

In addition, the producers chose to add an assault when Ramsay raped Sansa, combining the experiences in the books of two characters: Sansa, who is not raped in the books, and Jayne Poole, a Winterfell servant whom Ramsay marries and rapes. (I can’t believe I typed all that, either.) Again, they didn’t have to use the Sansa rape plot – they chose to.

“But ‘Thrones’ is a riff on the War of the Roses! Rape happened all the time in 15th century war! This show thrives on its realism.” The show also has dragons.  I am pretty sure they weren’t in the War of the Roses. Again, the show’s producers made choices.

“But HBO pushes the content envelope!” Hey, the producers want to show explicit consensual sex, they are more than welcome.

Besides, again, the nice thing about season six is, unless they want to show us a whole mess of flashbacks, the producers are out of books to draw from. For the first time in the show’s history, it can go pretty much anywhere it wants to. And if it chooses to move away from using sexual violence as a plot engine, then everybody wins.

 

Welcome to Check It Out. Feel free to leave your shoes on, it’s cool.

So, there will be a lot of different stuff going on in this blog:

All sorts of television – the great, the not-so-great and “Vinyl,” a show that should really be called

The correct title. (Thank you to the brilliant David W Alexander Parker for creating this image)
The correct title. (Thank you to the brilliant David W Alexander Parker for creating this image)

Movie things that don’t fit in the Austin Movie Blog (cool home video releases, what’s new in streaming, supplementary notes about movie reviews or maybe some of the angry trolling I got about this thing.)

Music things that aren’t quite right for the Austin Music Source (cool band I find on, say, Bandcamp, what I’ve been listening to, etc.)

Books things that might not be right for the Reader (including comics, comics and more comics).

Cultural detritus from around the Web. A place to discuss all that is new and interesting in culture, or old and interesting in culture, popular or otherwise.

And if I use the word thinkpiece, please feel free to send me a strongly worded note.

A word about the blog name:

I thought I was making a horrible pun that maybe three people would get, as in

a) this blog I would love for you, the reader, to in fact check out, and

b) it is the catchphrase, more or less, of one John Brannon, one of the greatest punk frontmen who ever lived and a man possessed of a truly singular vocal roar. He fronted Negative Approach, one of the three or four best first-gen American hardcore punk bands; Laughing Hyenas, a truly mighty indie rock force back when indie rock could mean everything from the Jesus Lizard to Heavenly to Yo La Tengo to Fugazi; and Easy Action, whose “Kool Aide” is one of my all-time favorite Brannon joints.

Anyway, this is what he looks like:

the Voice
The Voice

And this is the photo that made everyone familiar with both of us laugh out loud:

some dude
Some dude

See? Dumb joke.

The problem, of course, is I completely and totally (and I mean this sincerely) forgot about the phrase’s association with these guys:

RIP MCA
RIP MCA

In fairness, that (admittedly Grammy-nominated and very popular) song is on “To the Five Boroughs,” which I do not recall as an album with which I spent a whole lot of time. That said, I understand why SEVERAL people have said, “Oh, like the Beastie Boys song?”

No, not like the Beastie Boys song. And definately not like the John Cougar Mellencamp song. Never, ever that. Ever.

In sum, welcome to Check It Out. Watch this space.