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Going Boldly but Keeping the Lights On

Hope Madden Hope Madden Going Boldly but Keeping the Lights On
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Why binge old TV shows when you can wander into a big, air conditioned movie theater and see your old small-screen buddies expand to monstrous proportions? Unless you’re afraid of the dark, in which case, there is this one movie out this weekend you may want to avoid. Actually – you may want to skip that one anyway.

Star Trek Beyond

Kirk. Spock. Bones. Wisecracks, a villain, and some heroic space swashbuckling. We’re pretty familiar with the Star Trek setup by now, and three flicks into the J.J. Abrams-fueled reboot, the latest seems the most comfortable in its journey. And though Star Trek Beyond doesn’t quite boldly go, it is a fun, satisfying ride.

Three years into a five-year mission, the crew of the Enterprise stops for some downtime at an immense new space station. Kirk (Chris Pine) in awaiting a promotion, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is mulling a return home to Vulcan, and Bones (Karl Urban), good God, man, he has some fun needling Spock about a botched romance with Uhura (Zoe Saldana).

The gang gets back in action to answer the distress call of a stranded crew, but falls into the trap of the Kahn-like Krall (Idris Elba), who’s after a very powerful artifact that Kirk just happens to be holding.

Fast and Furious vet Justin Lin takes over for Abrams in the director’s chair and, working with a snappy script co-written by Simon Pegg (“Scotty”), has the film feeling like a fun Trek TV episode beamed up to the multiplex.

Though the adventure is a little tardy getting its legs, things only get better as they go along. The banter is crisp, the derring-do daring, and the chemistry of the ensemble, so important in a franchise such as this, is undeniable.

Grade: B

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie

There is something cathartic in watching the brazenly wrong-headed Eddie Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and her enabling bestie Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) of Absolutely Fabulous make bad decisions. This summer, they take their Bollinger, ciggies, Botox and bags of coke to the big screen. The result is Moderately Fabulous.

Will the boozy duo’s quest for the swingin’ celebrity life ease as they sashay into their sixties? Of course not.

Though the plot is almost painfully thin, padded with a veritable cameo-gasm (the highlight of which is a hilarious Jon Hamm), Saunders keeps the raucous one-liners flowing. And their wisdom is, as usual, spot on.

Unfortunately, director Mandie Fletcher can’t hide the threadbare script behind a runway’s worth of cameos, either. Like so many cinematic sit-com adaptations, Absolutely Fabulous would have played better on the telly. But thanks to Saunders and, in particular, the comedic genius of Lumley, you will laugh.

Grade: B-

Lights Out

There aren’t many phobias more basic than a fear of the dark, and Director David F. Sandberg had nifty fun with it in his Lights Out short film from 2013. He gets a producer assist from James Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious) for his big screen debut, and though the opening segment does offer the same spark as that original short, expanding the premise to a mere 81 minutes brings more filler, less killer.

Young Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is increasingly scared to stay in his own house, since his mother (Maria Bello) talks to unseen beings and strange things happen whenever the lights go out. Martin’s older sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is contacted by social services, and she’s instantly reminded of similar trauma from her own childhood. Rebecca sets out on a determined quest to finally uncover the truth about what’s hiding in the dark…which ends after opening the first storage box she sees.

Thanks for neatly organizing all this evidence, Mom! Now how do I get rid of it?

For those tired of all the love art house horror has been getting, Lights Out is your anti-Witch. It’s all about the jump scares, in a universe where major plot turns are explained by “something went wrong” and no one seems to have a job. Don’t think about it, just…boo!

The finale is as abrupt as it is unsatisfying, and though Sandberg flashes chops worthy of a better script (he is directing Wan’s Annabelle 2 next year) Lights Out merely flickers.

Grade: C

Also opening in Columbus this weekend:

  • EQUALS (PG-13)
  • I AM JFK JR (NR)

Reviews with help from George Wolf.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly horror movie podcast, FRIGHT CLUB.

Looking for more film events in Columbus? CLICK HERE to visit our Events Calendar.

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