Beyond Darkness

Two new mini movie reviews today as I take on two genre films. The biggest film out this week is the third entry in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Beyond and the second is a modest horror flick with a simple premise called Lights Out. Both have been pretty well received by critics lately, but since I don't seem to be trusting critics this year I had to see them for myself to judge.

Back when The Force Awakens was announced I realllllly wanted JJ Abrams to be stolen away from Star Trek because I truly believed he was the man for taking on George Lucas's beloved saga. Some will think he was, but boy I couldn't be sadder that things went that way now with what happened with both franchises. JJ had a camaraderie with that cast and his directing of them felt effortless and in the early scenes of Beyond something just feels off. Some of the chemistry feels like it's missing. It took me a long time to really get into the movie. I couldn't tell where things were going for a good while, and then once they happened it didn't feel earned. Eventually, I had to just let that go and enjoy the ride. And as always, Star Trek is a fun ride. Honestly, I'll never hate on one of these rebooted Star Trek films because it's just a fun universe to visit and solid characters to spend time with. The world building here was so much more impressive than the film JJ left Trek for. Instead of recycled worlds, our eyes are treated to something new which was half of the fun. And for a film in its genre of sci-fi adventure, it's really as fun and as popcorn as it can be.  One more thing I ought to mention is that the late Anton Yelchin has a bigger role this time around than perhaps in any of the other films and he was as wonderful as always. Made me miss him even more. Anyways, there's not a ton of substance to this film, which easily makes it my least favorite of the trilogy...but I can still appreciate it on its own terms.  EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

Anyone well acquainted with me or this site KNOWS I love a good horror flick. I heard many conflicting reports about Lights Out before seeing it. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes were all fresh and the IMDb user score was still pretty high. Could it be the next great horror film? Or did it deserve the hate that local critics seemed preconceived to having before seeing it? The answer for me is somewhere in between...it wasn't a great horror film, but I had fun with it. And I certainly didn't think it was awful. (Side note: if you want to see a truly awful horror film made this year check out The Darkness immediately.) The film is incredibly short, and as such, some things definitely tend to be a little rushed. The investigation into the entity (real or paranormal) that haunts them is thrown together and you certainly leave the film scratching your head a little at some of the plot holes. The performances aren't amazing and the creature probably could have used a little more work in how she looked (a little too Mama CGI for my taste.) The film breaks a lot of its own rules, but in the second half, you really won't mind because it's just a lot of fun. The filmmakers took a simple premise (a creature that can only appear when it's dark) and surprisingly was able to do a lot with it.  EMILY RATING: 6.5/10


Girl Busters

About a year and a half ago a reboot was announced to a beloved series. Business as usual right? Not quite when the property being redone was Ghostbusters, one of the most popular boys club movies ever made and the cast that was announced for the new film gave the story a gender makeover. Ever since that announcement people have been analyzing, criticizing and arguing over the decision. Some just didn't want a reboot period when they had long been hoping for a sequel with the original cast, some took a misogynistic side and didn't think that women had a place in the ghostbusting world, and others just saw it as a gimmick. It seemed that few people were actually excited for it, and when the trailers were released it only got worse and more hateful hype ensued. For me personally, Ghostbusters was a big part of my childhood as my three brothers were obsessed with it, and I definitely have a fondness for it. I was in the camp of feeling that the original Ghostbusters was lightning in a bottle that even its own sequel couldn't quite duplicate and it was best not to touch it.

The reboot basically repackages the origin story of the original Ghostbusters with a couple of female scientists who can't get funding to pursue their paranormal dreams. The only differences being that this time, the city of New York doesn't embrace them as the Mayor is constantly trying to let everyone know that they're con artists to keep people from freaking out and the other main thing being that all of the paranormal activity is somehow being orchestrated by one lonely man who was picked on his whole life (his story reminded me a lot of Electro from The Amazing Spider-man 2, also a Sony feature.) He unleashes chaos on the city, and it's up to the ghostbusters to save the day.

I will fully admit that I went into this movie expecting and maybe even wanting to hate it. But...I didn't hate it....nor did I really like it. I felt very ambivalent about the whole thing. Was it as effortlessly funny as the original film? No, but I laughed a handful of times. Did the new cast capture my heart and gel as a perfect team? No. There was a moment at the end when Leslie Jones puts her arm around Wiig and I thought "did those two ever even have a moment together this whole film??" Really all I can say for the movie is I found it amusing. But the film definitely thinks it's a lot funnier than it is as certain gags are beaten to death and go on way too long. In a movie all about female empowerment, I hate to say it but the best performer here was probably Chris Hemsworth. Kristen Wiig all too often slips into silly SNL mode, Melissa McCarthy was probably the best but was kiiiiinda phoning it in. Leslie Jones was better than portrayed in the previews....so good for her at least and Kate McKinnon had a caricature of a character that didn't earn her zaniness. It just made me think about in the original how acquainted we were with Bill Murray's Peter Venkman right from the get-go as we see the type of man he is when he hits on his test subject. The original just was so much more character based, when this one just relied on character TYPES. The film is also littered with homages to the original and every time you see one, you can't help but think "I wish I were watching THAT movie."

Bottom line: Ghostbusters the female edition is lackluster, but not really anything worth getting worked up over. It's clear it's standing on the shoulders of a classic and doesn't really have anything new or worthwhile to offer of its own to have it be remembered by anyone. EMILY RATING: 5/10 


The Ab Man...I Mean Ape Man

As I walked into the preview screening for The Legend of Tarzan this last week, I decided to myself that I really had no expectations of the film's quality (or lack thereof.) I told myself, all that I expected from this movie was to enjoy two attractive people in love, one of which spends most of the movie shirtless (sorry guys, it ain't Margot Robbie.) With low expectations like these, could the film possibly disappoint? Apparently, to many of the critics, the answer was yes. I, on the other hand, shut my brain off and enjoyed the ride.

The Legend of Tarzan isn't an origin story, but more of a sequel to a story you've already heard of, or likely seen another iteration of. The story takes place after Tarzan of the jungle has been civilized and has chosen to settle down in England under his birth name John Clayton the III,  with his beloved wife Jane. Tarzan is enticed back to Africa for....reasons. Mostly because a convoluted plot wants him back there to help free slaves while other characters have nefarious intentions toward him, so back to the jungle he will go. Instead of a story of how he came to be, we're treated to his history in glimpses and stories told by Jane. However, soon after their arrival, Jane is kidnapped to bait Tarzan into...more plot contrivances. Does anyone really care? The plot here is all over the place, yet somehow, unlike other brainless blockbusters, I easily forgave this one. 

The beautiful and likable cast are one thing, but there was just something really refreshing about this silly movie to me in the midst of a pretty crappy summer. I appreciated the style of the film; we don't have nearly enough old-timey adventure flicks anymore. There was something endearing about the flashbacks, and I almost wished we could have had an origin film since they were done so well....though I also felt that the "Hook approach" to coming back after the real story happened worked fine enough (much better than say Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.) There's some blandness to the proceedings and some uneven humor, but still somehow I just really managed to have a fun time with this film. Tarzan is almost godly with his powers and what he's able to do, and it's fun, if not ridiculous to watch. He is the Aquaman of the jungle if you will. Tarzan is kind of a hot mess (both the character and the movie hehe,) but honestly, I couldn't hate it. If I was blinded by Alexander's abs, please forgive me. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10