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Ghostbusters: The Remakening

July 30th, 2016 // Moving Pictures // No Comments

I finally got around to seeing the new GHOSTBUSTERS the other day. Several weeks of travel this past month, while quite fun, kept me from seeing a few movies that recently came out that I really wanted to. So I was really happy to be able to catch this one.

So how was it?

Really, really entertaining. Easily my favorite film so far this year.

Other than keeping to the same general premise — three nutty scientists and a black civilian prosper off the extrajudicial imprisonment of the spirits of the dead — the movie charts its own course plot- and tone-wise. These are all good things for this film, which helped to keep the pacing brisk and the jokes funny. Highlights include a bit of role reversal with Chris Hemsworth as the team’s beefcakey secretary, several amusing sequences of the team testing out new ghostbusting implements, and Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, who is brilliantly quirky and hilarious. I hope to see a lot of kids cosplaying her for many years to come. Hell, I would go as her for Halloween.

I’ve seen this movie take a lot of shit online, largely because it stars a cast of — gasp — all women. Women who are smart, capable, and funny in a film that pretty much passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. Apparently there exists a certain class of dude who felt that remaking GHOSTBUSTERS with an all-female cast was so terrible that it was going to ruin their childhoods. Well, good. If the adventures of lady ghostbusters is the sort of thing that is the Ruiner of Childhood to you, then you’re probably an entitled manchild with a chip on your shoulder, and not meriting of much sympathy. Get over it.

Anyways, to sum up: GHOSTBUSTERS is a ton of fun. You should go see it, if for nothing else that to become acquainted with Jillian Holtzmann.

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JOY-less

January 16th, 2016 // Moving Pictures // No Comments

Earlier in the week I saw JOY, and I’ve been thinking about it off-and-on since — but not in a good way.

JOY is the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film about a woman who invents a new type of mop, and despite her truly awful family, manages to sell it on QVC — the setting is the early 90’s — and eventually becomes a hugely successful entrepreneur.  The plot itself is compelling, and Lawrence is entertaining and believable in the title role, as she tends to be in almost all of her movies.

No, what makes this movie so frustrating to watch is the rest of the characters.  With the exception of Joy, her grandmother, ex-husband, and the bigwig at QVC who eventually lets her sell her product, I loathed the rest of the characters.  They — “they” largely consisting of her family — use and belittle her, treat her continuously like crap.  And she just takes it.  I understand that, for narrative purposes, there need to be obstacles in the way of her achieving her objectives.  But c’mon: must that require we hate 90% of the film’s characters in the process

About an hour into the movie, as Joy’s fortunes are starting to change for the better, I whispered to my sister, “I hope at the end she never talks to any of her goddamn family again.”  Honestly, Joy could snapped in the middle of the film, and spent the second half hunting down and killing her family off one by one, and I would have been cheering.

The ending is satisfying, but her family was still alive as the credits began to roll, so I won’t say it was a happy ending.

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Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the gun.

THE FORCE AWAKENS

December 27th, 2015 // Moving Pictures // No Comments

Caught a showing of THE FORCE AWAKENS tonight, which marks my second time seeing it. I enjoyed it in a slightly different manner this time, in that I was able to pay attention to more of the details, instead of being happily 100% absorbed in the tale unfolding on the screen.

John Scalzi has a good review that encapsulates a lot of my feelings — especially going in the first time, when I was still slightly terrified that it still turn out to be a clusterfuck of a film like the prequel trilogy.

I do disagree with Scalzi’s assertion that THE FORCE AWAKENS is just a good film, and not a great one. J.J. Abrams and the writers did a fantastic job at capturing the feel of the original trilogy. The reintroduction of Han, Leia, and Luke was done in a natural way, which acknowledged that time had passed and people had changed, but in believable and interesting way. They weren’t just shoehorned in to introduce the new cast. Speaking of the new cast: they were phenomenal, especially Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey. She’s very much in the Luke Skywalker tradition, except less whiny and a lot more independent (at the beginning of the film, she is a scavenger on a desert planet who lives by herself, and who beats the shit out of people who try to take her things). The villain of the piece, Kylo Ren, definitely hearkens back to Darth Vader, in both a figurative and literal way, without simply being Vader 2.0. I’ll be curious to see where both his and Rey’s characters go in later installments. (Side note: the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account is damned amusing (but spoiler-y).)

I won’t go into the plot, but I’ve read some complaints that it is too similar to A NEW HOPE[1]. It’s a takeon the Hero’s Journey, like the original was, with some similar locations. (For more Hero’s Journeys, see also: THE MATRIX, THE HUNGER GAMES, and Moses.) While they do share some parallel themes, it’s not like THE FORCE AWAKENS is a shot-for-shot remake of the original.

If I have one quibble with the story, it’s that I’m a little unclear on the political make-up of the galaxy in this new era.  There is a new Republic, and also a Resistance movement, both of whom seem to be fighting against the First Order (AKA the new Empire).  It seems a little needlessly convoluted, but it’s not enough to bother me. Honestly, I’m just happy that people didn’t spend half the film having politicians debate and moralize like they did in the prequels.

What makes THE FORCE AWAKENS great, I think, is that, aside from being an exciting and well-made movie, it’s captured the public’s imagination in a way that hasn’t happened, really, since A NEW HOPE came out nearly forty years. People are seeing it multiple times, blathering about it, like me, to each other constantly, and a shit-ton of merchandise is being sold everywhere. It’s Star Wars fever again, which I was as surprised to learn as anyone that I am not immune to. I thought that ship had sailed years ago, after a terrible trilogy of films and an ever-increasing shitty bunch of books.

That’s probably the highest compliment I can pay THE FORCE AWAKENS. It made me love Star Wars again.

1 In my head it is and always will be just STAR WARS, not A NEW HOPE. But when talking about the numerous movies, that can get a little confusing. So A NEW HOPE it is, albeit reluctantly.

KRAMPUS’d

December 23rd, 2015 // Daylog, Moving Pictures // No Comments

So KRAMPUS was an odd movie.  It was directed by Michael Dougherty, the same fellow who made TRICK ‘R TREAT, which I only saw a couple of months ago for the first time.  It was weird, funny, had some genuinely entertaining plot twists, and overall was quite good, so my hope was that KRAMPUS would be in a similar vein.  Going in, the PG-13 rating put me off a little, since clearly horror movies should always by rated R, as God intended.  The plot was a little bit CHRISTMAS VACATION, with a dash of HOME ALONE and GREMLINS thrown in, and of didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Around the end of the first act, which was mostly establishing “this extended family is so nutty and dysfunctional!,” the tone made a sharp one-eighty when the family began getting picked off one-by-one.  On the positive side, the casting was spot-on, and the monsters, which were creepy takes on traditional Christmas tropes, looked great.  The movie also had a lot of funny scenes, which shouldn’t have surprised me because TRICK ‘R TREAT also did.  The ending, though, felt forced, made no sense, and can eat a dick.

KRAMPUS wasn’t bad by any means, and had several clever moments, but it felt like the filmmakers weren’t sure who their target audience was or what tone to strike, and as a result the film suffered for it.  In the end, though, I’m not mad I saw it.

After the movie: dinner at Salar, a somewhat swank Peruvian restaurant, followed by a drink at Century bar, and then back to my place to get a little drunk and watch GINGER SNAPS, another horror classic.