After six complete series on television and twelve (!) feature films so far, it seems a rather difficult task for the Star Trek franchise to go where no one has gone before, boldly or not. There are only so many worlds in which the crew of the USS Enterprise can venture and only so many adventures they can undertake before it all starts to bleed together into a big, sci-fi mess. That's not entirely the case with their latest excursion, though you certainly wouldn't notice on paper. It plays like a one-off, run-of-the-mill story centering on Captain James T. Kirk and his crew, but Star Trek Beyond has something of an ace up its sleeve in the form of director Justin Lin (of Fast 5 and Furious 6 most recently). He keeps the mood light and the action consistent, and, though it's nothing new, the film finds its way to boldly go towards goodhearted adventure.
Throughout my teens and early twenties, I was visited by the Night Hag. I would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, and there would be something in the room with me: a woman in a blue dress. With wiry black hair and pallid flesh, the woman crawled around in circles at the foot of my bed, scratching at the floor with long, claw-like fingernails. Upon making eye contact with her, I would feel an immense pressure on my chest, unable to move my extremities as she spider-walked closer to my bedside. I would clench my jaw and squeeze my eyes shut as she climbed onto the bed. I could feel her gnarled hands pushing down on the mattress to pull herself up — her fetid breath on my neck. And then suddenly, nothing. She was gone.
The original Ghostbusters from 1984 captured the imagination of a generation in a way few films do. As a kid, I was obsessed with the spooky-but-silly world director Ivan Reitman and writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis created. I watched The Real Ghostbusters cartoon religiously, had Ghostbusters-themed birthdays, and experienced a memorable Christmas in which Santa left Slimer, The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the Fire House Headquarters, and Ecto-1 under the tree. I idolized Peter Venkman and Egon Spengler and spent entire days busting ghosts with my proton pack, ghost trap, Ecto-Goggles, and PKE meter. For "Ghostheads" — diehard fans of the franchise — Ghostbusters was their childhood. But even though I have many fond memories of my time with the boys in gray, I would never consider myself among them.
We are once again at that time of year when the air is filled with excitement as well as an abundance of explosions. Sure, that could mean 4th of July fireworks and grilling with friends. It could also be referring to another, American pastime, this one a little newer and a lot more exciting. That would be the annual Purge, 12 hours when all crime, including murder, is perfectly legal and the people of this country – those who don't hide behind locked doors – are allowed to get their own, individual aggression out. It's become such a successful tradition – on film, anyway – that the third entry in the franchise, The Purge: Election Year, makes its way in front of our eyes. Once again sights of twisted violence mix with political & social themes, and once again this series turns a mirror on its audience to deliver a fully charged, eye-opening good time.
20 years to prepare. 20 years of anticipation. That's where we're starting at in 2016 with Independence Day: Resurgence, the long-awaited follow-up to the massive sci-fi hit released in 1996. Though film technology has advanced as much as the defense technology found within the movie, it's no substitute for fast-paced entertainment and human emotion. You know, the stuff that made Independence Day such a crowd-pleasing success back then. Instead we're left with overblown effects and seemingly bored actors delivering dull, meaningless dialogue. Independence Day: Resurgence isn't the worst blockbuster sequel to come down the road, but its mildly amped pace and predictability in story leaves even the most die hard of fans of the original squirming for something more. Maybe they'll get it right in another 20 years.
Nicolas Winding Refn creates iconic characters, individuals who, despite the madness in which they're usually swept up, have a mythological aura that clings to them like a bur. His latest, The Neon Demon, follows suit. The protagonist is a young woman trying to break into the cutthroat world of modeling. Though Refn instills in her the same, memorable qualities he has used to grow many characters before, the harsh world and sadistic players he builds become more so. The Neon Demon is a wicked, bloody, fairy tale that could only be delivered by Refn. Uncompromising in tone, pace, and outcome, it may be his most divisive film yet. That doesn't stop The Neon Demon from being a brutally honest look at the fashion world and the shallowness that goes with it that slowly builds to a violent finale. In other words: it's pitch-perfect Refn.
Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as wrestler "The Rock") has solidified himself as a global box-office powerhouse, with numerous box office hits over these last few years. In 2001, he starred in The Mummy Returns, which grossed more than $400 million worldwide. Universal Pictures immediately planned a spin-off based on his character, The Scorpion King, which broke a few box office records in 2002. Since then, Johnson has starred in dozens of movies, including the enormously successful Fast and the Furious franchise, San Andreas, Pain & Gain, and Hercules. With this year's buddy comedy Central Intelligence, however, Johnson has found the perfect vehicle to flex his comedic muscles, as well as his ass-kicking ones.
Since the 1960s, Ed and Lorraine Warren have been the world's most renowned paranormal investigators. In 1971, the Warrens battled a malevolent entity that permeated a remote farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island — a case brought to the big screen in James Wan‘s 2013 horror film, The Conjuring. Wan's follow-up, The Conjuring 2, picks up five years later, in 1976. In the film's prologue, the Warrens are called in to investigate another supernatural disturbance, this time in the small Long Island town of Amityville. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) hold a séance to summon the evil entity lurking within the walls of 112 Ocean Avenue. During the encounter, Lorraine is overwhelmed by a demonic presence
16 years and 8 films have passed since the beginning of the X-Men series. It's hard to believe director Bryan Singer is still trying his hand in this particular cinematic universe, but the X-Men series has created something of a wheelhouse for the filmmaker who has left and returned to it. You'd think his voice would be ever-present even in offshoots like The Wolverine and Deadpool. Alas, X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest entry helmed by Singer, is a mess, a hodgepodge of generic ideas, paint-by-numbers action, and a continuity that will leave anyone who has followed along with the previous 8 films slapping themselves in the forehead. Singer can't even pull convincing performances out of the staggering cast built up throughout the franchise, and X-Men: Apocalypse quickly proves itself to be a stale and blasé entry into this once-promising series.
Anyone who isn't familiar with this filmmaker yet needs to start watching his films. Asghar Farhadi is an Iranian filmmaker with quite a few films on his filmography already, including most recently A Separation (which won the Academy Award in 2011) and The Past. Farhadi returns to the Cannes Film Festival with his latest film, titled The Salesman (originally titled Forushande), and while it doesn't top A Separation it's a very solid morality tale that deals with the issue of revenge and fear. The first film that comes to mind that handles this topic similarly is The Revenant, another story of revenge where the lesson is that revenge is an empty pursuit that doesn't provide satisfaction, only more pain or suffering. A lesson learned the hard way.
Shane Black has had a storied career and one that becomes retold whenever the filmmaker releases a new work. The screenwriter of Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight previously has had quite the resurgence in the last 10 years, all thanks to his directing skills being as edgy and as uncompromising as his writing style. Maybe more so. As with 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and 2013's Iron Man 3, Black's latest work, The Nice Guys, tells a detective story unlike any you've seen before. Rough, endearing, hilarious, surprising, and cool, The Nice Guys is pitch perfect Black and a reminder how lucky moviegoing audiences are that this filmmaker is once again playing strong in the industry.
This film is going to piss off some people, and I love it even more because of that. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn returns to the Cannes Film Festival again after his previous film, Only God Forgives, was panned by critics in 2013. His latest, titled The Neon Demon, was booed at the press premiere yet again - but I'm on the opposite side as all of those people. This film admittedly doesn't have much of a real story to follow, but it does have oh so much more to offer. The Neon Demon is a totally wicked, totally messed up, neon-drenched study on vanity/narcissism featuring one hell of an exhilarating synth score. It's subversive and Refn knows it, so much so that he's almost laughing at the audience (and the people who hate his films).
What a magnificent one-of-a-kind animated film. The Red Turtle is animated film from director Michael Dudok de Wit, produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli with Isao Takahata involved as an artistic consultant, even though the animation was finished in France. The film is about a man who washes up on a desert island after a destructive storm, and every time he attempts to build a bamboo raft and escape, a red turtle appears out of nowhere and demolishes it. He finally gives up and accepts his fate and explores the island. The film is very simple and tells an inspiring story without any dialogue, only a few shouts of "hey" and other noises, but that's it. It's so simple yet so beautiful; I honestly was moved to tears by a few scenes.
With the conversion to digital cinema nearly complete worldwide, will 35mm still live on somewhere? This documentary is proof that yes, a love for film and 35mm projection will live on forever, even in the most remote places in the world where it's hard to even get electricity. The Cinema Travelers is a documentary made by directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya and it profiles a traveling cinema in India, which shows up in desolate places of the country with very basic projection rigs to show classic films to swarms of people. It is absolutely wonderful to discover, capturing so spectacularly the joy and wonder that movies bring to people of all ages. It evokes the same emotions as Cinema Paradiso, but this is all real life.