‘STAR TREK’ REVIVED: SIZZLING, SEXY, AND COOL

The new “Star Trek,” movie directed by J.J. Abrams of ‘Lost’ and ‘Mission: Impossible 3’ fame, is buoyant, sexy and cool. It’s hard to imagine, but Abrams has completely revived a moribund movie idea, reinvented it and pointed in a direction no man has gone before.

Well, maybe once before: this is akin to what happened with ‘Spider Man 2.’ The new ‘Star Trek’ is a revelation.

I saw ‘Star Trek’ with an audience last night in a big theater. When you see it this way, this weekend, you’ll be thrilled: there is lots of spontaneous applause, laughter, and communal ‘uh-huhs’ as Abrams and crew reference the original TV series and the best of the early ‘Star Trek’ films.

It helps that they’ve cast it perfectly, because this is the story of all the ‘Star Trek’ characters before we met them on the Enterprise in 1967. What a genius idea, and how clever as the characters assemble one by one: Spock (Jeremy Quinto), Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Bones (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin) and Sulu (John Cho).

There are even some unusual choices for peripheral characters. Winona Ryder makes a welcome appearance as Spock’s mother. Ben Cross, from ‘Chariots of Fire,’ plays his dad. (Jane Wyatt and Mark Lenard played them originally on TV.) Tyler Perry makes his acting debut outside of his own films as an admiral.

Abrams et al have also revived a character from the TV show pilot, Captain Pike, who preceeded Kirk. This time he’s played dead on by the estimable Bruce Greenwood. Eric Bana‘nearly unrecognizable in makeup’is Romulan bad boy Nero. Clifton Collins Jr. (from ‘Capote’) is terrific as Nero’s sick sidekick, Ayel.

And there are numerous ‘Easter eggs’ buried throughout the film for fans and fanatics. One that I caught: At the Vulcan council there’s an admiral named James Komack. (He has the only name plate, and it’s big.) The real Komack was the beloved producer/director/actor who directed the ‘Star Trek’ pilot for TV. He was also Bill Bixby’s best friend on ‘Courtship of Eddie’s Father’ way back when. He died in 1977.

I also thought I saw, toward the end of the movie, someone who looked like a young Walter Koenig, the original Chekhov, matted into the background. Maybe, maybe not.

And, of course, Leonard Nimoy makes a long cameo as Spock himself. It’s a device that works, since he’s visiting from the future. William Shatner has complained about not being asked back as Kirk. But in this episode, it would have been too much. Maybe next time, since Abrams has made time travel’do you watch ‘Lost’?’his recurring them.

But the most important thing about Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ is that it’s the rare combination of total crowd pleaser and a work of movie art its makers can be proud of. They’ve breathed life into a well known concept with respect and originality. They’ve also avoided making it campy, or sending it up in any way. These new players take talk of Romulans, Klingons, Vulcans, warp speed and the rest of it quite seriously.

So just wait: if you thought ‘Wolverine’ had a good weekend, get ready for this ‘Star Trek’ to steal all the thunder starting Thursday in its IMAX edition. The movie will break records, set new ones, and inspire more lunatic Trekkie frenzy than ever before. What a tribute to Gene Roddenberry that 43 years after his TV series was cancelled three seasons in, ‘Star Trek’ in all its glory is still here and better than ever. I won’t be the first to paraphrase the Vulcan salute this week, but ‘Star Trek’ should live long and prosper!

ELIZABETH EDWARDS ON OPRAH: WHO’S TELLING THE TRUTH?

Either John Edwards hasn’t told his wife, Elizabeth, the truth about anything, or Elizabeth has reworked the truth for her own peace of mind.

Either way, whatever she’s telling Oprah this week on her syndicated show doesn’t jibe with the reality of how hubby John met ex-girlfriend Rielle Hunter.

Elizabeth, promoting her new book, ‘Resilience,’ tells Oprah that Hunter’whose name is not uttered on Oprah’s show lest she become ‘real’ to the audience– was more or less a stalker who preyed on the ex-Senator and possible presidential candidate until she got what she wanted.

Elizabeth Edwards tells Oprah, according to one report, that she thought Hunter waited for her husband when she spotted him in a New York hotel restaurant. She says Hunter told her husband, ‘You are so hot.’

The delusional part of this is that the wife believes the husband was a passive participant, an unwitting victim, in all of this. She’s somehow forgotten her husband is a former US senator and trial lawyer who’s so rich that they’re now living in a 28,000 square foot house.

In fact, as I’ve heard it over the last year from sources, Hunter and some friends literally bumped into Edwards outside the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue and got into a conversation. ‘There was no loitering,’ says a source. The meeting was a coincidence.

And then Elizabeth also tells Oprah that she ‘has no idea’ whether or not Hunter’s 15 month old baby girl Frances was fathered by John Edwards. She’s an attorney and former law clerk to a federal judge, the author of two books, makes thousands of dollars on the lecture circuit, is supposed to have been a reckoning force in Edwards’ political campaigns. Yet, Elizabeth Edwards wants us to believe that she doesn’t know the truth about her husband’s illegitimate child, the half sibling of her own children.

Maybe the title of the book should have been, ‘Denial.’

KARL AND ANNA AT ‘LAGER’-HEADS?; TIME’S 20

Are famed designer Karl Lagerfeld and Vogue editor Anna Wintour at ‘Lager-heads,’ so to speak? I’m told Lagerfeld backed out of Wintour’s annual Met Museum Costume Ball at the last minute. Maybe he got test pictures of what Madonna was planning to wear. Wintour was said to be furious since so many other regulars skipped the event this year. For the record, the Costume Ball and dinner are a big loser in and of itself for the Museum, costing over a million bucks. The upside, of course, is contributions to the museum and support for its programs. But still, does it have to run so deep in the red during a recession year?…
‘Time Magazine’s 100 dinner produced a lot of stars who didn’t make the list. They looked good, anyway, from Liv Tyler and Kate Hudson to Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy. For some reason, movie comedy factory producer Judd Apatow (‘Superbad,’ ‘Knocked Up,’ etc) was there with his comedienne wife Leslie Mann even though neither of them was on the list. It’s possible he thought the Jon Favreau who was honored was the director of ‘Iron Man.’ He’s not. He’s President Obama‘s wunderkind speechwriter. PS The big stars were Oprah, and of course, Michelle Obama’

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