Movie Review – Ghostbusters


Saw the new movie today. I wasn’t very impressed. It was poorly written, to the extent that it was written at all, and while the leads were fairly engaging, nothing about it really popped, it was full of pointless cameos from basically every TV show that NBC airs, and it all felt like it was very much by-the-numbers.

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Numbers like 2 out of 5, for example.

But what I’d like to discuss today is something regarding the movie. Not the quality, but the casting.

I don’t care, honestly, that the leads were all female. Why should I care? It’s 2016. Who gives a fuck?

But I very much cared that the black woman was, in almost every way, shape, and form, just a stereotypical black female character. You know, the kind who will, at some point, say, “Oh, hell no!”

I mean, why? As I said, it’s 2016. Why couldn’t one of the white women play the street-wise, lower-class character, and the black woman be one of the scientists? Melissa McCarthy could have done well playing such a character.

I know, I know. We’re copying the beats from the original movie’s casting, etc. Well, fuck that noise. If you’re going to change-up the movie by casting all women in the lead roles, you can change the color of those women around as well.

This felt, overall, like a terrible missed opportunity.

And on a final note, this movie very much commits one of the greatest sins of any comedy: it isn’t funny. Avoid.

Movie Reviews – Absolutely Fabulous and Star Trek Beyond


Today I went to see two movies. They were very good, both of them, and I was very happy to see them. Let’s start with the first!

I loved Absolutely Fabulous back in the day when it first began to air. Of course I did; I’m not straight so I had to love it.

It’s hard to say why it appeals to me so much. I’m not actually gay, and find most of the gay lifestyle to be a little silly and twee. But Patsy and Eddie are just fantastic. I love everything about them.

And thankfully, what I love about them returns in this movie.

In the film, our ageing stars find themselves on in the run in the south of France after Eddie inadvertently knocks Kate Moss into the Thames. The usual levels of hilarity ensue, with Saffie, Saffie’s daughter, Lola, and Eddie’s mom winding up in the south of France as well.

There are plenty of wonderful celebrity cameos, and appearances by pretty much every character who has ever been on the series. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll likely love this movie, and if you haven’t ever seen it before…hard to say. I liked it quite a bit, though.

As for the other movie…I liked the first Abrams Trek movie back a few years ago. It wasn’t great, but it was decent. Into Darkness was, however, deeply disappointing, so I went into this one with great trepidation.

Again, I was very pleased. It was surprisingly good; I liked it more than the other two movies, and liked it more than Ab Fab.

The set up is pretty basic. Kirk and company are on the far reaches of the Federation, visiting a truly impressive starbase called Yorktown. Seriously, the visuals on this are astoundingly good. I was quite pleased with the ambition on the screen, especially as I’ve been very disappointed in that sort of thing in many other sci-fi franchises.

Pretty soon the Enterprise is destroyed, the crew are separated on an alien planet, and a struggle for survival is on.

There’s almost nothing wrong with this movie, which is a pleasant surprise. All the characters have something to do, especially McCoy, which is fantastic given how neglected he’s been in the other movies.

The story flows nicely, and works in some wonderful tributes to the original Trek, a tribute to Nimoy and Yelchin, and, surprisingly, a lengthy tribute to, of all things, Enterprise. That last part really kind of pleased me, which means it’s been long enough for me to escape the pain of that series.

So, really, two excellent films, and I was pleased to watch them, and will happily recommend.

Movie Review – Into the Woods


I’ve never seen Into the Woods on stage. I was lucky enough to see a PBS broadcast of it many, many years ago, and liked it quite a bit. So I was very much looking forward to this movie. Did it deliver?

Well, sort of. The first two acts, wherein our heroes meet up, deliver goodies to grandma, climb beanstalks, and deal with a wicked witch, are quite great. The songs are wonderful, and the casting is excellent. The story is light and enjoyable and flows along at a good pace.

Then comes the third act.

If you’ve seen the musical you know about what happens after “happily ever after”. Now I have no problem with dark and Grimm (as it were), and I’m ok with the concept of the movie darkening up quite a bit. I’m sure it works out wonderfully on the stage.

But this version of it, at least, draaaaagged. The pacing was terrible, and the third act just went on and on and on. It was also quite a bit lighter than the stage version of the third act, and that is not to its benefit. It’s very much like Disney wanted to have their cake and eat it, too, and instead we just get something vaguely warmed-over and not that appealing.

I will say the movie is great for those first two acts, and if you leave at the right point, you’ll probably leave happy. Of course doing so means you’ve basically seen the children’s version, but frankly, that’s better than staying for the last part.

Movie Review – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug


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If I’ve learned nothing else from the two most recent movies in the Tolkien series, I’ve at least learned how to pronounce “Smaug”. When I was a wee lad in high school we read The Hobbit for a sci-fi/fantasy class I was taking, and myself, as well as everyone else including the teacher, pronounced the name as “Smog”. Now I know better.

It was thoughts like that that kept me going throughout this movie’s 161 minute run-time. Now normally I’m the last person to complain about a movie being long. As Roger Ebert once noted, no good movie is too long and no bad movie is too short. He didn’t have a lot to say about middle-of-the-road movies and length, but he really should have.

I really enjoyed the various Lord of the Rings movies, and the first movie in this series. But, alas, it must be said that this movie is decidedly middle-of-the-road. It is quite dull in several stretches, and it makes you feel every single one of those 161 minutes. The entirety of act 2, especially, drags and drags.

But let’s discuss some of the good. The acting was great, as expected, and the dialogue was well-written and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Bilbo and Smaug, which were crisp, enjoyable and entertaining. Some of the new characters, like Stephen Fry’s pompous mayor, were thoroughly enjoyable as well. And of course it was lovely to see Gandalf, Radaghast, Bilbo, and the various dwarfs. It was even, yes, quite nice to see Legolas who is still pretty easy on the eyes, even if he doesn’t exactly need to be in the movie. I will also say that while I know he was’t in the story, it would have been nice to see Gollum again.

And of course one needs to take a moment to appreciate the sheer beauty of the world presented on the screen. The lakeside town, with its bridges and canals, the inside of the dwarf kingdom, the interior of the elven kingdom (though, oddly, no one in Middle Earth seems to have invented the handrail), and the regular New Zealand scenery are all put to excellent use.

Now on to the rest of the movie. The pacing was absolutely terrible. There were huge stretches of the movie where there was nothing but dialogue. Well-written, well-delivered dialogue, to be sure, but there was just so much of it! Add to that the fact that several of the action scenes, while certainly reasonably entertaining, went on and and on and on. There was no need, for example, for the barrel sequence to be as long as it was, and don’t even get me started on how stupid it is to have someone body-surfing down a river of molten metal without getting his beard singed. There’s also the matter of the cliffhanger ending, which occurs exactly where you’d expect.

I’m really not sure where Jackson and company went wrong here. They can and have made excellent movies before, but this time it just felt terribly off. It wasn’t at all a bad movie, and I’m not disappointed that I saw it. But I can say that I won’t see it in theaters again and I don’t see myself feeling the desire to watch it when it comes out on blu-ray, and that’s really quite a shame.

Movie Review – Les Miserables


Hide the razor blades, it's time for some Les Mis!

Hide the razor blades, it’s time for some Les Mis!

This is the first time I’ve ever seen the musical version of Les Miserables. This is something of a surprise, because around 21 years ago I listened to the full soundtrack. I just never had the chance to actually see a performance. During that time, for personal reasons, it became a very important story to me. Now I’ve finally had the chance to watch this movie. Was it worth the 21 year wait?

In a word, yes. This was absolutely everything that I’d hoped for in a movie version of the famed musical. Visually stunning, with such a memorable soundtrack and incredible performances, especially by Anne Hathaway who, goodness me, may well have sewn up an Oscar with her singing of “I Dreamed a Dream”, something that put even the Susan Boyle version to shame.

The story is by turns basic and complex. Hugh Jackman plays Jean Valjean, a man convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. During that time, he tried to escape, but was caught, and ends up having fourteen years added to his sentence. Now after 19 years, he’s released on a parole, but, as many released from prison discover even now, he can’t find a job and can’t find a place to live. He’s taken in by a kindly bishop (Colm Wilkinson, who originated the Valjean role on stage), and then repays the bishop’s kindness by stealing silver plates and the like. When he’s caught, he claims the silver was a gift, and is astounded when the bishop not only backs him up, but offers him more. Valjean, who had been on the verge of turning into a villain, instead becomes a hero and sets out to return to being an honest man. Meantime, police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe, who really has an incredible singing voice), sets off in pursuit of Valjean, while around them France seethes with revolutionary fervor.

That is, mind you, just scratching the surface. It doesn’t touch on the romance, the comedy relief, the violence, the death, the other death, the many, many, many deaths. Some of these deaths are truly heart-wrenching, and I’m only half joking when I comment about hiding the razors before watching.

The music is everything I’d expected and the sets are wonderful. But the real gem here are the performances. Jackman, Crowe, Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bohnam Carter are all exceptionally good in their roles, but it is Hathaway who walks off with the best performance on film. If you can sit through her final song and not want to start crying like a child, you might well need to have emotions.exe installed. In fact the only complaint I have about casting is that of Eddie Redmayne, a normally fine actor, but someone with a singing voice that sounds like what someone who wanted to parody a stage singing voice would sound like. It’s not bad, really, but very stylized and odd.

While I don’t think this movie will or should win Best Picture at the Oscars, it still has a great deal to recommend it. I highly recommend it, the highlight soundtrack, currently available for fifteen bucks from Amazon, and even, if you feel brave enough, reading the original book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in any of the above.

Movie Review – Prometheus


I wanted to like this movie, I really did. I wanted it to restore my faith in the Alien franchise and in Ridley Scott as a director. I wanted it to blow me away and leave me as impressed as anything I’ve ever seen at the movies. It is possible, perhaps, that my hopes for the film were too high, but I really wanted this movie to be great and instead it was just…there. Not great, not bad. Merely Serviceable and it should have been so much more.

You probably are aware by now that this is a (more or less) prequel to Scott’s sci-fi epic, Alien. This film owes much to that and has many parallels, though you don’t need to have seen the other movies to watch this one.

The movie shows us a world where alien astronauts visited the Earth back in the day (they’re vague as to when, but at least as far back as 35,000 years ago), and apparently the aliens had a hand in the creation of humanity. A team of scientists go to an alien world to have a look-see and find out what was going on all those centuries ago. Bad things happen, stuff gets blowed up real good and we get our tie-ins with the other movies.

If this sounds like I’m writing off the plot as being kind of a paint-by-numbers affair, it’s because I am. There’s no real revelations, except a stupid and pointless one involving DNA, the main character isn’t nearly as interesting as Ellen Ripley and the science in the movie is laughable. This is also one of those films that relies on everyone acting like an idiot (ie: a biologist who, when confronted with a snake-like reptile that’s clearly adopting a threat posture, moves in for a closer look, resulting in what you’d expect to have happen). The movie leaves us asking far more questions than we should be, and they aren’t ones like, “What’s the real nature of humanity?” but instead are ones like, “Why did anyone think this was a good idea for a film?”

But that’s not fair, perhaps. It wasn’t a bad idea for a film. There’s some rich treasure to be mined with the premise. It’s just that the execution was very flawed. I’ll say that Michael Fasbender did an excellent job as David, and the film looked very good. But beyond that, it just isn’t anything like what I’d wanted.

That said, given how very disjointed the plot is, I’ll be very curious to see what the director’s cut will be like. Mark my words: I’m expecting at least half an hour of deleted scenes which will probably clear up some of the problems with the film. I certainly hope so, anyhow, because as it stands it just isn’t very good.

Movie Review – The Avengers


Well, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it, and for a change, I actually haven’t anything bad to say about a movie I’ve seen. Usually if I push, I can find at least one or two things to complain about, but this? I actually can’t think of anything.

You probably know the plot by now. Loki (from Thor), is working with a mysterious alien someone to invade the Earth and wreak havoc. Nick Fury gets the Avengers together, including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, and they all fight Loki and company. What follows is every fanboy’s wet dream as we get action, excitement, comedy, suspense and plenty of bang for the buck!

Surprisingly, I have really no major complaints about this movie. It is everything I like in an action film. There’s characters I like and can root for, there’s a clearly defined threat, and all the action was very easy to follow. Compare and contrast with something like Transformers 2.

How much did I like this movie? I’d be willing to pay again to see it in the theater, and given my current financial state, that’s saying something. Really aces all around! I can’t wait for the sequel!