(WOMENSENEWS)— “Ghostbusters,” the highly anticipated 2016 femme-centric reboot of the beloved franchise, arrives in theaters today, following a huge fan-based debate about its merits. As is to be expected, this female “Ghostbusters” does a good job of delivering scares and laughs, but there is nothing particularly new or intriguing about the story, dialogue or effects. Director Paul Feig, known for femme-centric comedies, reunites Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig (who co-starred in Feig’s “Bridesmaids”) in leading roles, adding Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to the team. McKinnon brings singularly appealing wackiness to her performance. See the film for her. Pre-release controversy involved whether the story, effects and performances could possibly be up to fan-satisfying snuff. Some also pointedly asked whether the proton-gun packing women in their beige jumpsuits really represent a female perspective in film and satisfy pressures on Hollywood to come up with greater diversity in mainstream movies. The pre-release media flap all but guarantees that this girly “Ghostbusters” will be a box office success. And since money talks in Hollywood, we can probably expect more movies with rewritten male-to-female characters who in no way satisfy the clamor for more women’s stories on screen.
“Ghostheads,” a documentary about the phenomenally loyal fans of the “Ghostbusters” franchise, doesn’t delve into the controversy over Feig’s female reboot. But in telling the stories of several fanatical fans and the “Ghostbusters” clubs to which they belong, filmmaker Brendan Mertens underscores the film’s cultural impact. Releasing on the same day as the big reboot, the documentary should please and appease “Ghostbuster” loyalists.
“The Infiltrator,” a truth-based crime thriller, is the story of undercover federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), who broke the Columbian drug cartel by getting the goods on where, how and with whom Pablo Escobar was laundering money. Scripted by Ellen Brown Furman, the film focuses on the aplomb and smarts of Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), a rookie agent. It opened July 13.
“Equals” is a futuristic romantic thriller starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult as a pair of star-crossed lovers living in an era when all human emotions – including love and tenderness – are completely repressed and citizens have a drone-like existence, barely interacting with each other. A new disease, Switched On Syndrome, or SOS, causes the emotional awakening of its “victims,” including our two leads. How they cope with their first-time feelings is the core of this social drama. The forthright honesty of Stewart’s performance is astonishing.
“Café Society,” Woody Allen’s latest relationship romp, also stars Stewart as the central “love interest” of a movie set in the glam era of the 1930s. The film spans posh and scenic locations in New York City and greater Los Angeles, but never quite settles into the swank nightclub scene to which its title refers. If you’re an Allen lover, “Café Society” will likely please you. Otherwise, probably not.
“The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is the week’s femme-centric horror thriller. It is set in an all-girls Catholic boarding school where two girls are left in the care of the school’s two nurses when their parents don’t pick them up for winter break. At the same time, in a seemingly unrelated incident, a young female hitchhiker is picked up randomly by a couple. The two story stands intertwine scarily, as if ordained by a preternatural force pushing the plot dead on into dread. Cinematography and sound design are awesome. Written and directed by Oz Perkins (actor Tony Perkin’s son), the film is a genuinely unnerving twist on the horror genre.
“The Student Body” is a documentary by Bailey Webber, a first time teen filmmaker who found the state-mandated body mass index (or BMI) testing of her high school peers to be both an invasion of privacy and a dangerous act of discrimination against teenagers prone to struggles with their body image. Brava, Webber. This film, in limited release, should be screened in every high school in the nation. It opened July 11.
“Don’t Blink – Robert Frank” is filmmaker Laura Israel’s compelling documentary profile of the life and work of the legendarily inventive photographer and filmmaker. From his unique and fearless perspective, Frank documented humanity and the human condition, capturing soul-revealing images of Peruvian indigenous people, Welsh coal miners, London financiers, the Rolling Stones, the Beat Poets and Americans at work and play across the breadth of the nation. If you don’t know his work, you should. This film is a terrific introduction to the mindset of the artist who recorded iconic images for the ages. It opened July 13.
Stay tuned for more July openers and movie news next week.