Star Trek Beyond
The revamped Star Trek franchise, which started in 2009, has gone through some interesting developments. Thankfully, it’s been a largely positive experience. I could never truly invest in the older movies. Wrath of Khan is good, but I first caught the magic of Trek with First Contact. With the new franchise, JJ Abram brought his flair, even to the point of gluttony. I believe he made the Star Trek cinematic experience acccessible to non-Trekkies. (Which, I’m sure brings out anger in original fans.) I think Abrams missteps in the previous two movies are rushed endings, the hide/reveal of Khan in Into Darkness and essentially remaking Wrath of Khan. Where Abrams succeeds, is in casting. He somehow found the perfect cast to lead the Enterprise to box office success.
The crew of the Enterprise are in the middle of their five-year mission of peace and diplomacy. As they explore the deep reaches of space, they’re sent on a rescue mission that quickly turns deadly and leads the crew to be separated, with the need of rescue themselves. The big bad, this time around, is Krall (Idris Elba). He easily eliminates anyone standing against him and has a bone to pick with the Federation.
Abrams left the Enterprise for the Millennium Falcon. Taking his place is Justin Lin, the man behind four of the seven Fast and Furious movies. With his direction, Star Trek Beyond is the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster.
After the initial incline, the roller coaster descends down the biggest hill and relies on that speed to take it through a few more hills. At times, it flattens out and the nausea starts to catch up with you. But before you can think about it, you’re picking up speed and going through a loop. Before you know it, the ride is over.
Beyond is that type of ride. In each act, there is a major action scene that keeps the movie flowing at a quick pace. At times, it moved so fast, that I had to stop and wonder if I knew what the plot was supposed to be 30 minutes in. This feeling continued even further and I mentally started expecting a major explanation for the villain’s motivation. Yes, to assure you, the motivation is partially explained. However, by that point, it doesn’t matter. The purpose of this sequel is not to weigh you down with philosophies, it wants you to have fun. By the end, you’ll accept it as the adventure it’s meant to be.
The cast spends much of the time apart from one another, but the chemistry still proves to be the highlight of the series. Beyond veers away from the Kirk/Spock/Uhura lead dynamic. Instead Bones and Spock prove that they could have the greatest buddy comedy if there were ever a spinoff. Kirk and Chekov, and eventually Scotty, spend the majority of the movie together. Meanwhile, Uhura gets to kick butt on her own. It was great seeing Anton Yelchin as Chekov one last time. His absence (he won’t be replaced in the sequel) will be felt in Star Trek 4.
What absolutely works for the movie is the world-building. It learned from the mistakes of the safe ‘Into Darkness.’ My gripe with that movie was that the remake didn’t “boldly go where no one has gone before.” In Beyond, the movie extends into the far reaches and shows a new amazing set piece in a new Federation starbase. While seeing recognizable villains like the Romulans or Klingons are fun for fans, we get a new race of aliens in Beyond, which extends the mythology even further.
Star Trek Beyond couldn’t be more different from a movie like Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It cuts out much of the depth, which may anger longtime fans. It does have the potential to garner the interest of wide audiences, as long as they’re not scared off by the vast history of the franchise. A more fitting title for this movie is Star Trek Adventure. With that knowledge, you’ll know what to expect going in. Star Trek Beyond gets a B-, but could improve on repeat viewings.
Lights Out is based on a 2013 short film by David Sandberg. This 3 minute horror short went viral with its clever use of darkness and what may be hiding in it. The idea was soon picked up for development with Sandberg attached to direct a longer version of his concept.
This is very similar to 2014’s Mama. It, too, was the result of stretching out a great original short. While opinions varied on that movie, there have been horror flicks created from much less.
In Lights Out, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) has been enjoying her foray into adulthood. She has happily distanced herself from her family, or more specifically, her crazy mother, Sophie (Maria Bello). Yet, tragedy brings the family together. Soon, Rebecca’s little brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) seeks to leave home and live with his sister because of what he’s been noticing at home. Lately, Sophie has been, more increasingly, spending time talking to something in the dark shadows of the closet.
The concept itself is that the threat in the movie can be seen or noticed in the dark. Yet, when you turn on a light, the threat completely disappears. However, as a light flickers, this ghost takes that opportunity to get near to you. It basically plays on the fear that something really is chasing you up the stairs immediately after you flick the light switch off.
Lights Out is an incredibly short 81 minutes, even with credits. It knows that there isn’t much else to add other than the concept itself. It fills the time with mostly unbelievable character motivations mixed with reasonable tension.
In terms of scares, certain audiences will devour the seemingly endless jumpy moments. The ghost is scary when it’s introduced in different situations. Yet, I feel that a stalking ghost standing in the dark, watching you is far more terrifying than an invisible ghost that waits for you to turn off the lights to mangle you. In Lights Out, the fear disappears when the forceful sound effects shock you as the ghost appears right in front of the characters. The fear should center on the tension of never feeling safe, but at the same time finding sanctuary in the light. This is all removed when a ghost can simply blow the fuse box and permanently cut the lights.
Teresa Palmer is a very reliable actress. While she may be going through the (final girl) motions here, she attempts to give Rebecca some character in the short run-time. While Mario Bello may be camping it up a bit much, she is at least having fun in the role. I often wished the plot would keep going back to her. She is the right amount of crazy.
The back half of the movie, while not overly scary, lets it all go and stops taking itself so seriously. A few moments, which display clever uses of cell phone lights, for example, show glimpses of smart writing.
Lights Out is the perfect jumpy scare flick for teenagers. It’s not incredibly scary or memorable, but it’s a decent PG-13 movie meant for Redbox on the weekend. C