Flop Friday: Ghostbusters (2016)

Everybody and their mute, blind, and deaf granny has heard about the controversy surrounding the Ghostbusters remake. Development Hell was the first stage, dating back to the release of the original sequel. Then came a draft of the script that sat unused for so long it eventually became a video game. Then came… the internet. *shudder* I don’t feel the need to go over the controversy point by point, especially since things appear to have died down. What I will say is that the controversy–any and all sides–is the worst thing about this film.

Ghostbusters 3, erm, GhostbustersGhostbusters: Answer the Call? Okay, seriously, what is the title of this thing? Screw it, let’s just call it Ghostbusters 3 Redux: Answer the Call Platinum Edition XD Volume 7.0 (GBRACPEXDVII.N for short). WHEW! Anyway, the story behind this is about a bunch of gals getting together to bust ghosts. Are you surprised? Well when ghost sightings begin to rise, these ladies charge out to investigate, only to find that a creepy little dude is ready to unleashed the entirety of the underworld upon New York.

It’s funny. And fun. I can honestly say that I’m surprised by that considering that I really don’t like McCarthy and McKinnon. They bore me, they’re crude, and they’re too politically motivated. That being said, Wiig and Jones were fantastic. In Ghostbusters McCarthy plays Abby and she’s probably the most toned-down role I think I’ve seen the woman play (which numbers very low). I found her likeable enough to not hate her. McKinnon’s Holtz was just flat out bizarre. Obviously, she was meant to be, but your staring actress isn’t supposed to be creepier than the frickin’ ghosts! I enjoyed both Wiig’s Erin a and Jones’ Patty as they’re struggling to figure life out and not having an easy time of it. Patty especially is down to Earth and her lack of experience gives the audience a character to identify with. And the real show stealer? Chris flippin’ Hemsworth. A lot of people grew angry with his role since he’s the only real male lead and he’s dumb as a post, but he’s hilarious in every scene he pops up in. Much better than that boring old God of Thunder business, yeah?

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, they spent an awful lot of time fleshing out and focusing on characters in this flick.

The visual effects go off without a hitch. Unsurprisingly, the movie is saturated with CG, but it doesn’t come off as crummy. I still long for the charm of the practical effects the original films toted, but the newer effects still work well here. One thing I did notice, but haven’t been able to figure out is the frame-breaking effects in several scenes. The proton streams stretch beyond the borders of the pictures. In the final scene the black borders disappear completely only to come back again. But why? Considering the harshness of some colors (mainly red) and how unfocused certain scenes appear to be, I kind of wonder if these are artifacts left over from 3-D rendering. I don’t mind it as it almost looks like it’s breaking the fourth wall, but could ya’ll fix the red next time? It hurts to look at and it seems unprofessional to not fix that before home release.

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In Theaters: Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Superhero, 133 minutes, PG-13

StarringTom HollandMichael KeatonRobert Downey, Jr.Jacob BatalonMarisa Tomei

Imagine the smile on my face when poor-boy me gets a movie ticket to see something that just got released. A big thanks to my friend Mike for hooking me up with the ticket! Dear reader, you may not know this, but I don’t go to the movies very often and it almost never happens that I see something first-run… much less this close to the release date. I just had to do a review.

So Spider-Man finally had his legs unshackled from the confines of Sony, (even though the digits in handcuffs are still collecting checks) to take a romp through the MCU. Old news, considering Civil War, but this was a much needed addition to the universe. And, like always, it’s a good one.

Peter finally skips the whole origin story nonsense and gets to work as awkward superhero Spider-Man. But we all knew that, right? What we don’t know is the Vulture’s plan and how it ties back to the events of the Chitauri invasion from the first Avengers movie. Explosions? Yes, please!

By now the Marvel Cinematic Universe might be blending into a giant smudge of coy references somewhere in the back of your mind… providing you’ve kept up with it for the past decade. This movie, while no different (I saw you Triskelion construction sign!), acts as a slight refresher, quickly running on a nearly parallel line to the events already gone by in previous films until it reaches the present. Thus we skip that played out origin and are given the shortest of passing conversations about the whole ordeal. Thumbs up to the MCU.

Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, so of course I like this movie. But by the end of it, I realized that I didn’t see it for him. I came for Vulture. And I hate Vulture. Some boring old man in tights that robs banks? Get that trash out of here. No, wait. Woah. Who is the guy in the mecha suit? THIS Vulture put a sinister sneer on my face. I loved THIS Vulture and I very badly want to see him again.

Let me do a little explaining on that point, because Michael Keaton is behind that role and his performance is certainly noteworthy. Keaton’s Batman is very well known, even though it was on the campy side, but his Bruce Wayne marred that film. Then there’s Birdman, where Keaton plays a disgruntled actor that may or may not be a superhero, and it was just… weird. Both of these roles were superhero-related, but they just didn’t seem to fit him.

However, there’s something different going on in this newest Spider-Man film. I feel like Keaton had had enough practice and was now fully ready to take on the role of a supervillain. The predatory darkness that Keaton brings to the role while keeping from being over the top makes the movie. And I feel that character was well written, too. He’s a bad guy, but not a boo-hoo-feel-for-me bad guy. Vulture is a strategic survivalist with enough brute force to back up his threats. His wings, a beefy mechanized powerhouse beyond anything Norman Osborn cooked up in the 2002 film, have a screen presence all their own. Plus he’s a salvager, so the name and the role completely fit like two perfect puzzle pieces.

Don’t get me wrong, Spidey is also great, but by the end of it, the movie didn’t really feel like it was about him. Perhaps my focus was too narrow. Of course Peter has plenty going on with him, but his own unfocused attitude might have reflected in the movie’s watchability. What is a stand-out feature of the film is that both Spider-Man and Vulture have stories that revolve around responsibility and the task of facing it when you screw up. I found that the interplay worked well.

I know I’m in a minority here, but I am actually a fan of both the McGuire and Garfield Spider-Man movies. So… all of them. This movie is just another serving of the same, except we’re finally allowed to talk about other superheros without upsetting someone’s bank account. One of the great things this movie has done is giving Spider-Man a chance to shine among his peers. Better yet, we get a chance to rediscover a whole slew of baddies that are still waiting for their own time in the spotlight.

Rating: Own it… eventually–along with the inevitable $1,000 special edition box set of everything MCU (in stores sometime around the year 2035 when they finally stop making these movies or whenever the sun gives out–you know, whichever happens first).

tl;dr
Watch: The Vulture (who I hate in the comics) is amazing on film.
Don’t watch: Because you’re not a nerd and you haven’t seen that stupid Captain Iron Hulk movie anyway.

Tom and Jerry & The Wizard of Oz (2011)

Starring: Grey DeLisleKath SoucieLaraine NewmanRob Paulsen

Watching the original “Wizard of Oz” as a kid I was able to just watch and enjoy the story. As I grew older, the internet and school began to warp my perceptions and make me more critical of unimportant details (fun fact kids: don’t go to art school–EVER). So after re-watching the MGM classic for this monthly-themed review, I began to notice some things that didn’t quite make sense. Was it just easier for the production crew to skip over some details or was their something else in play? Perhaps something… furry?

Enter Tom and Jerry, the timeless cat and mouse duo intent on slapping each other silly. On a distant Kansas farm these two mortal enemies can only agree on one thing: the well-being of Dorothy (DeLisle). When the tornado strikes, they helplessly get carried along to the Land of Oz.  There they meet a munchkin mouse who takes them on a parallel path to Dorothy, allowing them to protect her from the evil machinations of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Acknowledging that the source material is the 1939 movie instead of the book doesn’t get more extreme than recreating scenes from said film to the letter. No joke. With the exception of Tom and Jerry and their antics being added, each shot is a faithful construct of the original. And those extra shots? Well, they uncover new truths to those questionable moments. I love the parallel play.

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Not knowing how that dress remained spotless has bothered me for years.

We’re given the additional character of Tuffy, the Munchkin mouse. He’s not really a new character as he’s often enough seen as the gray mouse in the old cartoons. Tuffy acts as more of a catalyst, seemingly making himself the only reason some events progress or how situations make themselves worse. And while other characters from the series do make appearances, they aren’t companions to Tom and Jerry the way that Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are to Dorothy. I must admit that I’m a little disappointed they didn’t try to add in a flying monkey, porcelain doll, or kalidah as sidekicks, but I can see how having that many characters involved would make things messy.

Other characters from the MGM universe make appearances in this movie. I’m always happy to see Droopy do his routine where he’s in every room, but I am disappointed that Spike the bulldog didn’t make an appearance. He would have easily fit as a protector for Dorothy, but instead he is replaced by Butch who turns out to be more of a villain. And as annoying as I’m sure some people find him, I do have a soft spot for Quacker. I guess that means I wanted more characters than I was given. Does that make me spoiled?

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That hat would never fit a talking mouse! This is so unrealistic!

Something that really disappointed me was the presentation. From the beginning we’re given scenes entirely in color. I was enthralled by the frame for frame shots, but once they arrive in Oz I suddenly realized the shock of adding color like the MGM film was missing. This is even more disappointing as one of the special features allows you to watch the movie with the beginning and end in sepia. I really wish this had been the original presentation, but they probably figured modern audiences would find it bland and boring and turn it off. Stupid educational system…

This little movie is silly and pretty much everything you’d expect from a Tom and Jerry cartoon made by Warner Bros. There’s nothing truly wrong with it and it’s great that it follows the famous film so closely. The classic slapstick of this duo always gets a thumbs up in my book.

Rating: Watch it. Own it if you’re a fan of the 1939 film.

tl;dr
Watch: Parallel play to the Judy Garland movie.
Don’t watch: Because you’re a boring, gray individual and a victim of the education system.

Images © Time Warner

Flop Friday: The Wizard of Oz (1933)

Not Rated, 9 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Absolutely no one.

Digging through the legacy a little book about a Kansas farm girl left behind can yield some interesting results. I didn’t expect there to be quite so many variations on a story that this millennium doesn’t seem so concerned with. Last millennium? Well, that’s a different story. Slap the word “Oz” on it and you’ve got yourself a nice little pile of money.

Known for being the original color version of Wizard of Oz, the 1933 version is an animated short in the style of Betty Boop cartoons. Dorothy, living a gray world, rides the winds to Oz where her arrival is celebrated by the masses… for some reason. The Wizard of Oz himself greets Dorothy and her assembled party only to set a giant… chicken… upon them. At this point I never expected to see or write anything with the context of a giant chicken outside of a Chicken Boo cartoon. Ba-cuck!

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this… It’s just a forgotten short that was almost certainly tacked onto a weekly newsreel. The story is bizarre and rushed. Dorothy meets everyone in what seems like seconds just before a montage of birds and butterflies that somehow transitions in a parade. This is all nonsensical time-filler that takes waste to its highest painful degree. No golden cap to command the flying monkeys. No witch enthroned upon a seat of rubies. I can’t help but wonder if six year-olds in the ’30s found it all dumb and boring as well.

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Travel advisory for all visitors to the Land of Oz: They’ll break yer dang shoulders.

The Wizard himself is probably the most non-conventional depiction of the character I’ve seen. He’s more of a villain in this short as he sets the supersized fowl upon our heroes, though no explanation is given as to what the animators were drinking before creating this mind-boggling mess. I’m voting for furniture varnish. So lost in their stupor were they that they even forgot to put the lion in the story. R.I.P. courage.

If you’re into this kind of weird animation, I’d say check it out. Personally I can rest easy knowing that I’ll never put myself through this short again. There are better adaptions of Baum’s book and we all know that in a fight Chicken Boo would win against Cluckzilla any day.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch: He’s a giant chicken I tell you!
Don’t watch: A GIANT CHICKEN!

Flop Friday: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

Not Rated, 13 minutes, Fantasy

Starring: Bebe DanielsHobart BosworthRobert Leonard, and a bunch of weirdos

These days bonus features plague the home media market. I get it: they still don’t really know how they made King Kong, so they’ll forever document every second of the film making process. I think there’s only ever been three movies that I’ve eaten up all the special features for and quite frankly there’s too much mythos surrounding The Wizard of Oz (1939) to get the real story. The best I have come to hope for is additional movies packed with the main feature and I lucked out with not one, but five. Sometimes they’re awesome looks back and sometimes… they’re flops.

Straying far, FAR away from the classic film (because, you know, it came first) and also the source material, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz gives us the earliest adaptation of Baum’s fairy-tale. Once again Dorothy (Daniels) takes flight to Oz with her loyal scarecrow (Leonard) and… herd of livestock… What???

While the basic story is intact, there are some bizarre–um, “creative” differences in this short. Most notably, a viewer is likely to notice how brisk the story is. With a run time of just 13 minutes, there isn’t much room for detail. Instead, each frame is a compacted mess of actors crowded together, overly ornate sets, and props that take up large portions of the screen.

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“Everyone move in…  A little closer…  A little closer… Fuse with the person next to you… Splice DNA… CLOSER!!!  …Perfect.”

Two bizarre things stick out the most when watching this. The first is the aforementioned livestock. By the end of the story Dorothy has started her own menagerie. There’s a mule, cow, dog, cat, and lion–all of which are people inside of ridiculous costumes. And… and… they dance. The animals dance. Oz’s court dances. His tailors… well, they flat-out could NOT dance if they had a gun put to their heads. With all the dancing going on, it’s makes you wonder why they didn’t try to act out more of the original story.  Kalidahs anyone?

In all this short film is nothing shy of forgettable. It comes and goes quickly, leaving you with the sense of wonder–wondering why you willingly let go a quarter of an hour of your life. Save yourself the trouble.

Rating: Don’t bother.

tl;dr
Watch: Because you’re a film nerd. NEEEERRRDDD!!!
Don’t watch: Period.

Thoughts and Trivialities: Blogging

New plan: no plan.  I’ll post when I have make time.

It’s been over a year since I started this silly thing.

Originally, I had I intended to force myself to write.  Everyday there was going to be a new post.  I had intended to get my brain working.  Everyday there I would analyze what I did and not like about a movie.  Seems simple enough.  By the end of a year I’d have 365 posts and that’s nothing to scoff at.

It’s been almost a year since I last posted.

Over the past year I’ve coached sports (and I don’t like sports); worked as a cashier (and I love numismatics); worked as a non-maintenance un-security guard (my current job sucks); started working a second job; battled the ever-menacing tidal wave that is depression; made friends; challenged enemies; took up scavenging; got a new car; took an extreme chance; packed my things in order to move out of state… and then didn’t; and finally failed with my original goal for this blog.

Moral of the story: make goals you can actually keep and not ones you think you can.

Writing these little reviews ended up taking considerably more work than I expected.  Movies are usually about two hours long (unless it’s a Leone or Tarantino flick), writing reviews are an easy half hour, and collecting images to post can take up to another half hour.  So three hours per post is a fair assessment and that number increases depending on the length of a film.  TV series take me all month.  It’s simply something I cannot do on a daily basis while working 35 hours a week, scavenging to earn extra income, and still trying to keep this dilapidated roof over my head.

So new plan: One post a week–screw all that daily posting.  Additionally I’m gunning for extra posts on holidays (at least a week around Halloween and Christmas) and whenever else I have enough free time

Keep your fingers crossed that I can keep up.

A Christmas Story (1983)

PG, 94 minutes, Comedy

Starring: Peter BillingsleyDarren McGavinMelinda DillonJean Shepherd

I haven’t had cable in a decade. This always sends someone into a fit whenever I say I haven’t seen shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones. Maybe I’ll get to them someday, but I just don’t feel the need to bother to wade through a sea of commercial-ridden channels just so I can watch another Golden Girls rerun. So as such I have no idea if TNT or TBS or whoever that once was still has four-day marathons of Randy laying there like a slug (it was his only defense).

A Christmas Story became a tradition for me at a young age thanks to that old TV station marathon. I think my dad liked it, so at some point during the Christmas season, after school had been put on holiday hold and the house became covered in Department 56 ceramic, that old bear of a Zenith television glowed with the reflection of the hopes of one child and yet every child.

In case you haven’t seen it, the story goes a little something like this: Ralphie (Billingsley) sets his eye on a BB gun and begins to plot every possible way to convince those around him that it’s a good idea. Unfortunately every adult he talks to warns him that he’ll shoot his eye out. As Christmas draws closer, Ralphie becomes desperate, focusing on his coiled-steel goal and surviving the hustle of the season.

I haven’t seen every Christmas movie out there, but I get the impression that this is where the season’s commercialism hit cinematic media. Off the top of my head I’m having a hard time coming up with a movie produced before 1983 where an actual product was the focus of the story. I don’t know. There’s probably something out there, but a childish yearning for the Christmas present of the year has been felt for generations. It makes this movie very relatable.

To add interest there are multiple subplots and tons of characters that Ralphie runs into. From bullies on the street and smart aleck classmates to radio programs of the day and Ralphie’s own detailed subconscious, this film works to not only detail the era but to capture the essence of childhood as well. And it works well. No computer graphics needed here, folks. Just a classic Victorian home and the oldest still-mobile Oldsmobile you can find and you’re sent back to a time before technology ruled the Earth and the worst things to happen were really just little things.

I suppose I can’t write about this without mentioning the dang lamp. In its own right that stupid thing has not only become an icon, but also a kitschy marketing ploy so the official producer of the official replica lamp can make an official quick buck. As an element to the story, I enjoy it, but just as the Old Man once did, I think it’s time to lay it to rest and focus on other aspects of perfectly good story… so of course they put it into the sequel…

A Christmas Story is simple in context, yet detailed in approach. It brings back a sense of nostalgia, not necessarily from the ’50s, but from our own childhood frenzied glee. This movie is silly, but so were we all as excitement caused us leap from bed to ravage paper-wrapped boxes. Just ignore how corny it is, because it’s really a Christmas classic.

Rating: Own it.

tl;dr
Watch: Because you were a kid once, too.
Don’t watch: If you’ve already shot your eye out.