By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
In theaters this week: Kirk and Spock head into deep space, Ice Age gets cosmic and shadows hide some scary stuff.
But first, some thoughts on Ghostbusters.
As I wrote about last week, the film has been under fire since it was announced that Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones would step into the jumpsuits once belonging to Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.
Some, including more than a few on my Facebook feed, judged the film unworthy sight unseen. It’s just “political,” whatever that means, or simply unoriginal — as if that ever stopped anybody in Hollywood from making a movie.
Here’s the deal: Remakes happen all the time. All. The Time. From the silent-film era until now, no one ever accused Hollywood suits of rewarding originality. Far from it.
And that’s OK. Yes, originality should be rewarded, but the reality is, a familiar concept is more likely to attract bigger audiences, and this is the business of show. And a good, solid concept — whether it be an adventure film like Tarzan or a romance like An Affair to Remember or A Star Is Born or a comedy like The Shop Around the Corner (later In the Good Old Summer Time and You’ve Got Mail) — can withstand remakes.
And Ghostbusters (2016) proves that Ghostbusters (1984) has an elastic-enough concept that it can easily withstand a remake — and mostly thrive.
I won’t argue that the remake, which I saw last Thursday, is 100-percent successful. Nor will I argue that the original was. Murray’s character’s sleazy sexism, Aykrod’s character’s otherworldly sexcapade and the utter misuse of Hudson all spring to mind.
But here’s the thing: The new Ghostbusters made me laugh, and often. It made me jump a few times. It made me giggle and smile and relax — everything I could have hoped for in a summer blockbuster.
The jokes could have used a bit more punching up, and I would have liked to see McCarthy get to let loose a little more. But Wiig’s freakout in the streets of New York was delightful, Chris Hemsworth gives a hysterical performance, and Jones and McKinnon are absolute breakouts.
Best of all, it gives young girls — who hopefully haven’t yet encountered the disgusting vitriol that this film spawned — a quartet of new heroines who kick butt.
That adds to the world. That’s a good, good thing, in and of itself.
What this film doesn’t do is take anything away — not one blasted thing — from the precious childhoods of millennial (and older) men who have declared this remake the latest hill to die on in their insistence that women’s autonomy is somehow harmful to them. No one has taken the 1984 iteration off of streaming services or out of stores, and they never will. It will be stocked, digitally or physically, next to its equally amusing remake. And life will go on.
And so, on to this weekend’s new movies (which don’t include Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, which is only opening on 250 screens. Sorry, sweetie darlings):
Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party
Documentary filmmaker Conspiracy theorist Partisan with a camera Dinesh D’Souza is back (after feverish diatribes America: Imagine the World Without Her and 2016: Obama’s America) with another attack film, this time asserting that Democrats actually are a cabal hellbent on world domination. “In its first hour, D’Souza lays out a series of past crimes that ‘Democratic historians’ have purportedly tried to cover up, like the Democratic party’s founding by slave-owning president Andrew Jackson — a detail so closely guarded it’s on Jackson’s Wikipedia page,” writes Sam Adams for The Wrap. “In its second, having undermined Democrats’ historical claim to the moral high ground, D’Souza attempts to drag Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton into the mud, mostly by associating them with their party’s past.” (PG-13 for some violence, thematic elements and smoking; United Artists Amarillo Star 14, 8275 W. Amarillo Blvd.)
Ice Age: Collision Course
Critics are not receiving the fifth movie in this animated franchise — in which Scrat somehow causes the solar system to align and the rest try to prevent a meteor crash — too, well, warmly. “Collision Course feels like it was scripted on the back of a beer mat and animated by the folks behind those straight-to-DVD Barbie movies,” writes Tom Huddleston for Time Out. “It’s as if co-directors Michael Thurmeier and Galen Tan Chu, both veterans of the Ice Age franchise, sensed that there was essentially nowhere left to go with the concept and opted to instead overstuff the production with too many characters breathlessly doing tired, pop culture-heavy ‘bits’ like it was open mic night at the Paleolithic Punch Line,” writes Michael Rechtshaffen for The Hollywood Reporter. Owen Gleiberman of Variety offers tempered praise, though: “It may be a slight entertainment in the grand scheme of things, but it’s been made with a busy, nattering joy that is positively infectious.” (PG for mild rude humor and some action/peril; AS-14; Cinemark Hollywood 16, 9100 Canyon Drive; Tascosa Drive-In, 1999 Dumas Drive)
This drama starring Rajinikanth, a major draw in Tamil cinema in India, is expected to be a huge hit overseas. Some companies, reports say, are even declaring Friday, its release day, a holiday or booking entire theaters for their employees. Indian films are finding greater success in America, too; Sultan, released July 8, cracked the Top 10 in its opening weekend and has made more than $5 million stateside in two weeks. In Kabali, Rajinikanth stars as a man who fights the government to stop the practice of sending his Tamil kinsmen to Malaysia to work as indentured laborers. (NR; H-16)
A newly single mother (Maria Bello) and her children is haunted at night by a supernatural friend in this new horror film based on director David F. Sandberg’s popular short film. In expanding the film, a backstory explaining the arrival of “Diana” might have been a mistake, according to otherwise positive reviews. “Lights Out needs to be seen in a darkened theater next to someone who won’t judge you for jumping out of your seat,” writes April Wolfe of the Village Voice. “Ignore Diana’s ‘story’ and cower in fear of her knife nails.” (PG-13 for terror throughout, violence including disturbing images, some thematic material and brief drug content; AS-14, H-16)
Star Trek Beyond
Reviews are fairly positive for the third installment of this rebooted film franchise. In it, we catch up with the crew of the Enterprise about halfway through its five-year mission of exploring the deepest reaches of space — or, to put it in familiar terms, boldly going where no one has gone before. “If you’re looking for a witty workplace sitcom set on a futuristic starship, the latest exploits featuring the crew of the Enterprise, Star Trek Beyond, won’t disappoint. But it has to be asked: Is that really why most of us go to see a Star Trek film?” writes Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly. Others praised the action: “(W)hile he may have seemed like a counterintuitive choice to take over a Star Trek movie, Lin (director Justin Lin of the Fast & Furious films) is absolutely in his element whenever the film becomes about bodies and vehicles moving swiftly through space — which is often,” writes Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice. Hopefully, the film will serve as a fitting memorial for the late Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident last month. (PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence; AS-14, H-16)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
TCM Big Screen Classics brings back this sci-fi classic about damn dirty apes taking over the world (oops, spoiler!) for screenings at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday. (G; AS-14, H-16)
Batman: The Killing Joke
This animated adaptation of the seminal Caped Crusader tale by Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Brian Bolland (Camelot 3000) gets a big-screen debut before being available Tuesday on digital services and Aug. 2 on disc. And demand seems to be high: an additional two screenings have been added this week, though apparently not in Amarillo. The film will screen at 7:30 and 10 p.m. Monday here, though that could change; check Fathom Events for updates. So what’s the fuss about? Not only is Killing Joke nearly universally regarded as the greatest Batman story ever told, the film is a reunion of the acclaimed cast and crew of Batman: The Animated Series — Kevin Conroy voicing Batman, Mark Hamill voicing Joker and Bruce Timm producing. (R for some bloody images and disturbing content; AS-14, H-16)
The Angry Bids Movie (Premiere Cinemas Westgate Mall 6, 7701 W. Interstate 40); The BFG (H-16); Central Intelligence (AS-14, H-16); Finding Dory (AS-14, H-16); Ghostbusters (AS-14, H-16, TDI); Independence Day: Resurgence (H-16); The Jungle Book (WM-6); The Legend of Tarzan (AS-14, H-16); Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates (AS-14, H-16); Me Before You (WM-6); Now You See Me 2 (H-16); The Purge: Election Year (AS-14, H-16); The Secret Lives of Pets (AS-14, H-16); X-Men: Apocalypse (WM-6); and Zootopia (WM-6).