Movie Review: “Lights Out”

Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, Alexander DiPersia
David F. Sandberg

Had “Lights Out” been released after “The Ring,” it might be considered one of the all-time greats of supernatural horror. It has a genuinely creepy (if slight) premise, courtesy of a relentless, unstoppable villain, and several blood-chilling scenes. The film’s biggest problem is that it doesn’t trust its stuff, falling for the cliché trick of needlessly filling the score with crashing, ‘Boo!’ punches of percussion when the movie was already perfectly scary. Director David F. Sandberg would have been wise to take a page from executive producer James Wan’s “Conjuring” films and let the camera do the talking, rather than the score.

Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is concerned for his mother Sophie (Maria Bello). He hears her talking to herself at night, and one night, he sees something frightening that he cannot understand. Martin begins falling asleep at school, since he refuses to sleep at night. When Sophie doesn’t answer calls from Child Protective Services after Martin has fallen asleep for the third time in a week, Martin’s adult half-sister Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) picks him up. When Martin tells Rebecca about Sophie’s friend Diana, Rebecca stops in her tracks. Diana was a girl that befriended Sophie when both were under psychiatric care as teenagers. Diana died during an unconventional treatment called light therapy, and in death, she has latched on to Sophie, moving in the darkness. (Rebecca saw Diana as a child too, but no one believed her.) As Martin and Rebecca learn more about Diana, the more aggressive Diana fights to keep Sophie to herself.

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Movie Review: “Star Trek Beyond”

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim
Justin Lin

In 2009, director J.J. Abrams helped to successfully relaunch the “Star Trek” franchise, and his reboot remains an immensely entertaining adventure movie. Although its sequel, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” is not without its moments, it’s a disappointing follow-up that’s held back by some unfortunate twists and a misjudged villain. The film hardly slowed down this now 50-year-old franchise, however, which returns to the big screen with “Star Trek Beyond.” The Justin Lin-directed sequel quickly gets the crew back on track by delivering a very entertaining and often kind-hearted summer movie.

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is tired of his five-year mission to seek out new life and explore new worlds. While on a diplomatic assignment with fellow crew members Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Doctor “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Kirk presents an alien species with a peace offering from the Federation. The gift is part of a deadly ancient weapon called the Abronath, but he has no clue what it is or what it’s capable of. Krall (Idris Elba), on the other hand, knows exactly what it can do. The face-changing villain is against everything the Federation stands for, so he dupes the Enterprise crew into going on a “rescue mission” to a distant planet, where he attacks them, leaving the crew completely torn apart. Even though they’re outnumbered and outmatched, Kirk and the gang are not alone in their fight against Krall, joining forces with an alien warrior named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella, who turns out to be a great addition to the series) to stop him from unleashing the Abronath.

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Missing Reels: “The Fearless Freaks” (2005)

Missing Reels examines overlooked, unappreciated or unfairly maligned movies. Sometimes these films haven’t been seen by anyone, and sometimes they’ve been seen by everyone… who loathed them. Sometimes they’ve simply been forgotten. But in any case, Missing Reels argues that they deserve to be seen and admired by more people.


“You don’t even have to be a fan of the music!” That’s a lie that people often spread about music-centered films. Whether it’s a biopic, a documentary or a concert film, fans of the movie will insist that, in order to like it, viewers don’t even have to like that particular artist’s music. It simply isn’t true. If you don’t like Ray Charles music, then those recording sessions in “Ray” will seem fruitless; if you’re not a fan of The Talking Heads, then “Stop Making Sense” is an interminable bore. No matter how well crafted the film is around those scenes, or how well shot the performances are, if you don’t dig the music on display, you won’t really like what’s happening on screen.

So I won’t repeat that lie here about the music of The Flaming Lips when watching the documentary “The Fearless Freaks.” I will, however, say that there’s a lot more going on here than just the music, which is true of the band itself. The Flaming Lips have always been about the experience, whether it’s their four-disc Zaireeka album played simultaneously, or their freak-out concerts, and the same goes for the documentary which covers their odyssey from crappy punk band to psychedelic musical masters. It helps if you’re already partial to some of their music to enjoy this film, but if not, then hopefully you can enjoy its simple story and arresting images.

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Blu Tuesday: Batman v Superman and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

WHAT: Terrified of what Superman (Henry Cavill) could do with his godlike power after witnessing the damage he caused during the Battle of Metropolis, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) – now a seasoned crime-fighter as the vigilante Batman – becomes obsessed with stopping him by any means necessary. Meanwhile, billionaire tech genius Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is building his own weapon to combat the alien threat using a piece of Kryptonite uncovered in the Indian Ocean. But when Luthor discovers that he shares a common enemy with Bruce, he manipulates Batman into doing his dirty work for him.

WHY: It’s scary to think that Warner Bros. is betting the future of its entire DC Comics film slate on “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” because it’s an overlong, overstuffed and disjointed mess of a movie that’s made only slightly better with the new Ultimate Edition extended cut. The film is constantly being pulled in mutiple directions, tirelessly working to function as a sequel to “Man of Steel,” a Batman reboot and a prequel to the forthcoming Justice League movie. That it’s even remotely coherent at all is to the credit of director Zack Snyder. In fact, there’s a really solid superhero flick buried somewhere beneath all the clumsy plotting and self-seriousness, but while the film has its charms – specifically, Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jesse Eisenberg’s bold take on Lex Luthor – Snyder gets so caught up in teasing future installments that he neglects his characters in the process. “Batman v Superman” wants to have its cake and eat it too, and although you can’t fault Snyder’s ambition, if Marvel taught us anything with its measured buildup to “The Avengers,” it’s that the proverbial cake tastes much better when it’s been earned.

EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release is packed with over two hours of bonus material, including a behind-the-scenes look at uniting the heroes of the DC cinematic universe, in-depth profiles on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Lex Luthor, production featurettes on the Batmobile and Batcave, filming the titular showdown and much more.


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Third Time’s Not the Charm: The worst threequels in cinema


Sometimes it’s best to quit when you’re ahead. It’s tempting to keep on going with the gravy train and assume that the cash will just flow in based on the name alone, but sometimes that means coming up with paper-thin excuses to make a movie, to tell a tale no one was asking for, and to simply try to skate by on the goodwill of the former films. Some of these duds are nadirs of the series; some of them are just portents of worst things to come. A couple would be the forerunners for better films (“Rambo” is a great return to the brutality and morality of “First Blood,” and many Trekkies hold “Star Trek IV” close to their hearts), but for the most part, these third entries are unabashed attempts to cash in on known quantities without any of the artistic merits of the previous two films.

There are some pretty good threequels as well, but these ten films aren’t anywhere in the neighborhood of being considered good. In conjunction with the upcoming release of “Star Trek Beyond,” the third part in the new Kelvinverse “Star Trek” series, it’s time to reflect on the ten worst threequels in film history.

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