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To Be Takei (DVD Review)

To-Be-TakeiTo Be Takei is an entertaining and moving look at the many roles played by eclectic 77-year-old actor/activist George Takei whose wit, humor, and grace has allowed him to become an internationally beloved figure. The film offers unprecedented access to the day-to-day life of George and his husband/business partner Brad Takei and chronicles George’s fascinating personal journey, from his childhood in a U.S. internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII, to his iconic and groundbreaking role as Sulu on Star Trek to his rise as an internet phenomenon with over 7-million Facebook fans. The film shows what it truly means To Be Takei.

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Film 

George Takei’s story is a rather important adventure and likely the most engaging and interesting of any of the members of the original Star Trek cast.  As a young boy, Takei and his family were forced into American Internment Camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This, just for the mere fact that they were Japanese and living on the West Coast.  Its quite astonishing that the man has come out if it with such love and a positive outlook on life, not to mention the fact that he still lives in America and loves this country.  Rather than getting angry or even, he devoted his life to try and make for a better America that wouldn’t do those sort of things anymore.

The documentary covers George’s life from childhood through his television career, to his political career, through his coming out and now being a Facebook sensation.  But, the way its told isn’t completely straightforward.  The big things in his life definitely occur in chronological order, but there’s plenty of veering off into other, more brief territories.  And then there’s just showing him in his life when he’s not so busy, which apparently isn’t very often.  Throughout there are interviews with his fellow Star Trek cast members (Yes, William Shatner is present and very game to ham it up and take on a strange and comedic side of the story).

One of the best aspects of this documentary is watching how much joy and liveliness George has brought to this second wing of his career since coming out in 2005.  He’s been busier than ever.  But you almost see an even bigger sense of joy from him than even when he was the captain of the Excelsior.  He’s just free and 100% who he is.  The guy is ever present in creating his own art, caring for his fans and being a big proponent for gay rights.  Oh yeah, and he’s also still acting doing stage, television, film, commercials and a bunch of voice work.  On top of that he’s got one of the most popular Facebook pages on the planet and people look to it for a little daily humor or pick me every day.

This documentary was terrific in the fact that it fully painted a picture of who George Takei has been and truly is to this day.  You get his history, anecdotes to Star Trek and other things he was a part of, seeing his relationship function and just who Takei the man is.  All of this and it doesn’t push any issues on you, it just channels you to learn about this iconic and highly influential figure in entertainment history.  I was interested in this documentary because I like Takei and am a fan of Star Trek, but I was hesitant as I thought it might be some sort of forced comedic effort and whimsically put together.  But, I’m happy to report those preconceived notions were very wrong and this is the real deal.  A genuine experience in learning about an important individual.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:  There are a lot of different source videos provided in varying degrees of quality during the film.  Most of it is in some impressive condition.  The newly shot interview footage is of very high quality (for a DVD).  Detail is presented above average and the image is about as sharp as one could hope for.

Depth:  Foreground images remain nice clear and detailed, but backgrounds are understandably a little blurry.

Black Levels:  Black levels are solid and manage to seep some detail through more often than hiding it.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are lifelike and bold.  When you get to convention segments they really pop a little more than the rest of the film thanks to all the cosplay and colorful displays on hand.

Flesh Tones:  Lifelike and consistent.  Detail is very high in the personal interview segments.  Takei’s face shows a lot of detail while his partner’s looks a little smoothed out.

Noise/Artifacts:  Nothing irregular for a DVD.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  While the 5.1 track sounds very nice, clean and clear, like most documentaries its mostly unnecessary and a 2.0 track could easily have sufficed.  As it is though, there’s a really good dynamic going on here with vocals being the star.  Also impressive is the clarity and seamless transition of the new audio to clip audio.

Low Frequency Extension:  Most for scoring with low stringed bass-y instruments.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Some sound are abound in vintage clips, but most of the action takes place up front.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud, clear and front heavy.

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Extras 

The only extras on the DVD are additional scenes/deleted material.  It winds up being over a half hour’s worth and what it entails ranges from funny to significant anecdotes.

La Casa Encantada (SD, 2:14)

The Proposal (SD, 1:10)

Coming Out To Mom (SD, 1:01)

Allegiance Opening Night (Before The Show) (SD, 5:30)

Allegiance Opening Night (After The Show) (SD, 3:37)

Shakespeare (SD, 1:59)

Social Security (SD, 2:07)

Jimi At Tule Lake (SD, 1:08)

Ordering Lunch (SD, 1:32)

Kimono (SD, 1:34)

The Gym (SD, 2:00)

In Full Regalia (SD, 1:48)

A Well Appointed Apartment (SD, :38)

Fan Frenzies (SD, 1:39)

On Horseback (SD, 2:05)

The Sandwich (SD, 1:31)

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Summary 

To Be Takei is a terrific look at a cult figure who worked his way into becoming an icon for reasons that go beyond being on a beloved show and film series.  This DVD has a solid audio and video presentation with a good amount of extra scenes provided to continue the experience and learning after you’ve finished the film.  Its not too long either, clocking in around 90 minutes.  Its well paced and engaging.  Currently, To Be Takei is only available on Amazon as an exclusive.  You can pre-order by clicking the link below!

To-Be-Takei-DVD

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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