Movies

Why Modern Ghostbusters Sequels Will Always Be Mid

2024-03-26 

This is not an original thought.

In my opinion, the modern Ghostbusters sequels never quite “get there” in terms of being a success, because they’re focusing on the wrong things. They’re all about the nostalgia. The original was a huge success because the supernatural angle was just the dressing. Fun dressing, to be sure! But the heart of Ghostbusters (1984) was the schlubby, funny misfits led by a grifter, cynically exploiting a brand new area of science in order to make a buck…. and they just happen to end up saving the world. They had the tools and the talent: but if they weren’t making money doing it up to that point, we’d have all been screwed.

Even the name of the business is unglamorous: “Ghostbusters”. It’s “Dale’s Dead Bug” with the giant fake bug on the roof of the van, but with a ghost.

Hell, I’m not even sure you can make a true Ghostbusters “sequel” that doesn’t focus on the business aspect. The RLM guys had a great idea for a hypothetical Ghostbusters III (in the 90s). Venkman is basically CEO over a nationwide franchise of Ghostbusters locations across the country and they try to unionize, so he fires them all just as some new big threat emerges.

I can absolutely see that working, and in the spirit (hoho!) of the original.

Review: Leave the World Behind (2023)

2023-12-09 

As one of the billions of fans of Mr. Robot, after seeing the trailer and finding out the film had direct connections to the show… well, there was no way I wasn’t going to throw this on the moment I could.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, there were moments where it felt like it dragged on a bit too long. And I think part of what made me feel that way was that the film doesn’t hide it’s sinister intent: right from the opening credits everything is cast in suspenseful music and suspicious moments.

As viewers, we know a bad mystery is about to unfold, and we’re left watching as the characters catch up to where the audience is. So when the story takes the time to spend with the characters, I find I don’t care as much unless their interactions directly inform the greater situation.

Admittedly, it ALL matters, in an abstract sense. Looking back, I can see where it fits into the film’s story. But more than once I found myself looking to see where I was in the film’s runtime. Something I’ve found to often be a bad sign. Not always, but it was one here…

But these moments are spread apart. Typically it keeps the mystery unfolding enough to keep things interesting.

The cast is decent and nuanced. Except for the son character who exists to be a dumb, cruel big brother. Thankfully the bulk of the bad things happen to him. He’s kind of disposable from a story/audience standpoint, so good call? (Through no fault of the actor, of course. It’s just how he was written.)

But my biggest criticism and disappointment: it gets far too blunt with the ‘message’. The film literally has characters verbally exposit the core messages — telling us things that should be explicit in the story and not directly spoken. It came dangerously close to having “MESSAGE INCOMING, PAY ATTENTION VIEWER” flash along the bottom, like the EAS alert on the TV. Have some faith in the audience, for chrissakes.

Still, the film’s gorgeous cinematography makes it’s intriguing and terrifyingly realistic plot (as far as cinematic hacking exploits go) a real treat. Definitely worth a go; a decent, frightening epilogue to Mr. Robot, if it’s literally intended to be that on some level.

And even if it wasn’t intended, it works quite well as one.

(I also have to wonder if this was intended to be split into four 30-minute episodes: it’s split up into “PART 1: CHAPTER TITLE” cards. πŸ€”)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: The Munsters’ Revenge (1981)

2023-11-16 

The Munster’s Revenge is a half-hour plot stretched into an hour and a half made-for-TV movie.

And boy, do you ever feel it.

The box art going around for this is honest, at least: Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis get the majority of screen time, and they’re the same as you remember from the original series. They look great in color, too.

Unfortunately this feels like a mediocre left-over 1960s TV sitcom script in a 1981 production, which works about as well as it sounds. The original Munsters series isn’t terribly deep, and being a weekly comedy, it didn’t need to be. But a film? In 1981? Rescue from Gilligan’s Island had more going for it. (And probably twice the budget.)

According to IMDB, Gwynne originally turned down coming back to do this, but his wife reminded him that money exists, and he could ask for a ton. Unfortunately for him, NBC called his bluff.

Sid Caesar shows up just to cash his check, bringing nothing to the film’s lukewarm villain other than the usual half-smirking shtick that made him famous.

Everyone else in the cast is merely unexceptional, at best.

With the exception of the new, visiting member of the Munster family, The Phantom of the Opera (played by Bob Hastings). He’s absolutely insufferable, loud, and grating. By design, I get it. But easily my least favorite part of the film, and he exists purely to solve a problem in the third act, and deliver a gag at the end. And for some reason he looks like a deformed Dwight from The Office.

Anyway, if you treat this as a super long, unfunny “lost episode” you’ll get what you expect, and probably walk away feeling robbed of your time.

One interesting point, though: there’s no laugh track. A welcome choice, but it’s weird hearing Herman and Grandpa’s zingers without that canned laughing following it.

Not that much of what was said warrants it.

2/5 (and only because Gwynne and Lewis are awesome)

[reposted from Letterboxd]

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but…

2023-08-10 

The 40th Anniversary “Ultimate Telepathic E.T.” figure from NECA sure looks cool, as most of their stuff does. (Check out their surprisingly underpriced ALF figure; it’s incredible.)

He doesn’t come with quite the same the glut of accessories as ALF, but what he has is pretty sweet.

But I noticed some letters on the Speak & Spell: XWVURFP.

My ROT-13 sense was tingling, so I popped it into CyberChef.

KJIHESC.

Rats. 😐

But I kept rotating the count around until I got to what would be considered “ROT-23″…

UTSROCM.

I squinted.

No way.

Unscramble the letters to get… SCROTUM?!

Surely, this is just a coincidence. There’s so few letters, and it’s such a simple cipher that it’s probably not on purpose. Maybe it shows up in the film, and they’re just going for authenticity.

But, you know, back in the day, on the playground, we joked that he was “E.T.: The Extra Testicle”.

I’m on the fence here, honestly.

Review: The Questor Tapes (1974)

2023-02-05 

NOTE: If you’re following along on this Roddenberry adventure with me, you might have noticed that I’ve skipped over reviewing Strange New World, the third attempt at making the Dylan Hunt saga a reality. This is not an accident. It’s a terrible pilot and I’ve already given it more than enough attention by reminding people it exists.

Another prototypical Star Trek concept before it got dumped into the 80s. In this case, the inspiration for Commander Data on TNG is fairly easy to see.

Though this goes in a completely different direction, as this android is built by a mysterious genius who disappeared, sending his creation on a hunt across the world, with a ticking clock running before he explodes like a nuke.

Questor passes for human (Foxworth is lucky he didn’t have to wear gold contacts), but is less articulate than Data. Though I certainly hope his generic ‘robotic’ voice would have mellowed out a bit if this had gone to series. (They do lay narrative groundwork for it eventually easing up.)

“My human friend needs a ride to Korea.”

Mike Farrell is a fine actor, but he’s not strong lead. I don’t dislike him here, but it took a while to warm up to him. It’s tough to shake “BJ Hunnicutt”, even if this is a year before he scored that role. He lacks a certain gravitas, for lack of a better description. He’s like a rice cake.

It’s a slow paced, but quite interesting romp in the same vein as other high-brow sci-fi concepts like ‘Million Dollar Man’. As good as it had the potential to be, I can sadly see why it wasn’t picked up. I’m not even sure what kind of adventures they could have had to maintain a series.

Quite good, but there’s an unrealized potential here that feels frustratingly just out of reach.

Another missed opportunity. In some alternate reality this went on for several seasons.

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Observations:

  • Not even “fully functional” was an original joke. Geesh.
  • He got machine gunned like Data did in the missile silo, except it went much worse for Questor.
  • Take a drink every time a failed Roddenberry pilot includes “male”, “female” or references anything relating to gender.
  • Questor Tapes succeeds where Strange New World failed: this show made the entire premise of the series THE story for the pilot episode. Where SNW treated the intro as if we’d all seen it before and just jumped right into an episode of the week. This, at least makes Questor Tapes a far superior watch standing on it’s own.

via https://letterboxd.com/drfortyseven/film/the-questor-tapes/

Review: Planet Earth (1974)

2023-02-04 

Keeping the “failed Roddenberry pilot” train going this evening…

I’m struggling as to whether I find this better or worse than it’s direct predecessor, “Genesis II“. I’m leaning towards worse, even though most folks seem to think otherwise.

The budget has clearly gone up, and there’s an overall boost in the production values. It seems to have saved some money recycling props, locations, footage, and ideas from the original. Made me a bit sad seeing the G2 sets reduced to cameos in the background of this clunker.

As a pilot, the first half of this is terrible and lazy.

It skips over the entire introduction of “Dylan Hunt” (now played by the great John Saxon) — not even showing his misfortune via montage, save for one very brief scene — and delivers the bulk of the backstory via a narrator exposition dump and “captains log” style diary recording, slipping us into a PAX mission already in-progress. It serves a means to introduce us to the ‘team’ before jumping into what could have been any ol’ episode. (In fact, it adapts a planned Genesis II script.)

The first half is a real slog despite taking so many shortcuts. Surprisingly, the second half picks up considerably. But it’s still schlocky and cant’ seem to get out from under the shadow of Star Trek’s whole feel.

Indeed, Saxon is clearly cut from the ‘Jim Kirk’ vein of hero: a too-cunning, perfect “man’s man”, almost, but not quite, overthrowing the savage, backwards evil tribe of women with his dick alone.

And holy hell, is this thing roughly 10x more horny than Genesis II — something I dinged THAT show for. But, in comparison, it’s downright wholesome. Planet Earth is clearly Roddenberry just GOING FOR IT, pressing the limits of TV sex and violence in order to appease the network gods.

I naively called Genesis II “Roddenberry Unchained”, but this is THAT cranked to eleven.

That certain camp charm that made me enjoy Genesis II is not present here. Planet Earth is well cast, but much more blunt, far less cerebral, and somehow much less fun.

⭐⭐⭐

Observations:

  • You’ll never look at Dr. Pulaski the same way again.

  • Speaking of doctors, the guy they’re looking for, to do heart surgery on a guy back at PAX headquarters, resembles quite a bit like Chuck Huber who played Dr. McCoy in the “Star Trek Continues” fan series. (And also vaguely resembles DeForest Kelley.)

  • Ted Cassidy reprises his role from Genesis II as a white Native American character. It was bad enough there, at least he played the role with a bit of dignity and it wasn’t too much. It wasn’t so blatantly stereotypical as it is here. Here, it’s just… really overstepping good taste.

  • This whole remake feels like it’s IQ dropped a good 50-75 points from Genesis II.

  • You’ll never see another piece of media use the word “dink” so many times.

  • Keep an eye out for what’s clearly an early prototype for the Klingon ridge make-up that would make it’s way into Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This is the real delight of watching these — seeing Roddenberry recycle all kinds of shit, and even the origins of things.

Review: Genesis II (1973)

Whoo boy, this was certainly “Roddenberry Unchained”.

You know, I kind of loved it?

The pitch: like so many other similar stories, smarty man from the past is frozen in time and wakes up in the future — this time around it’s 150 years. Upon being woken, the two major factions recognize his value as someone who has knowledge of how to fix things, like nuclear power plants, and just what all these “k-cup” things are. One side tricks him into helping, but they’re really the bad guys. The good guys kind of suck, too, in a weird science/near-religious mish-mash kind of way, but one group doesn’t have pain sticks, nukes, and slaves, so our hero reluctantly makes his choice by the end.

It was kind of awful, and needlessly horny (as was tradition), but… man, there’s just this weird charm to it that only something ambitious, but produced on a low budget in the 1970s can make work.

The cast is mostly good, with Mariette Hartley, especially, standing out among them.

There’s much of the original 1966 Star Trek DNA strewn about this pilot-cum-TV-movie, including some VFX tricks with the elevator, the wardrobe and cinematography, those phony ‘caverns’, musical stylings, a small Majel Barrett role, the hand-to-hand combat stunts, etc.

“I’m ethnic, don’t you hear my accent?”

Pretty much what I was hoping for when I’d first heard about this.

Again, I had fun with it, riding the line right down the center of “fun to riff on” and “genuinely enjoying it”.

I’ve heard this is the BAD version of this, and the seemingly traditional network order to later remake it “less cerebral, and more action-oriented” is the superior one. 

Sounds like a win-win for me.

Observations:

– This feels like the missing link between the original “Star Trek” and “ST: The Motion Picture” in terms of technical evolution. In reality there were only 3-4 years between this and Star Trek‘s third season finale. Yet it feels very much like a 1970s production. Maybe what Star Trek might have looked like if they had a sliiiightly larger budget.

– Lurch plays a “white Comanche Warrior”.

– “Decepticons” was a name invented for a kids TV series. What’s the “Tyranians” excuse, Gene?

– After detonating a fucking NUKE over the Tyrianian city: “you didn’t take any lives did you?” πŸ‘‰πŸ₯ΊπŸ‘ˆ

“Bet you’ve got a nice pancreas.”

⭐⭐⭐1/2

Wet.

via https://letterboxd.com/drfortyseven/film/genesis-ii/

2022 Personal Movie Retrospective

2022-12-31 

Over the last couple years I’ve started using Letterboxd quite a bit to keep track of what I watch, and maintain a list of “to see” films. I’ve been trying to really make an effort to catch all those classics I’ve missed.

Historically I’d be lucky to watch at least one film a month, if that, and it was usually whatever the Marvel flavor of the month is, or something of similar mainstream nerd appeal.

But as of late, I’ve really started to come to appreciate “cheesy movies”, which should come as no surprise being a long time MST3k fan.

But could I do it without the riffing?

No. Fuck straight off.

But I didn’t strictly need Mike and the bots to have a good time, either. Thanks to OSI74 and Cinema Insomnia, and the gang over on the Twitch channel, I’ve been virtually drowning in weird, horrible horror and exploitation this year.

And, of course, a lot the mainstream stuff.

So, looking back on this year, here’s a quick rundown of the four/five star ones, along with a quick blurb.

Title/Review⭐Thoughts
Monty Python and the Holy Grail5I’ve seen pieces of this throughout the decades, but never properly saw it front to back. Discovered some new bits, too! The whole European/African question, in context, is a brilliant punchline. And I had no idea about the thing with the cops!
Prey5I don’t think anyone saw this one coming — a risky, unexpected twist on a franchise that should probably have given up by now. Glad it didn’t. More like this, please.
Everything Everywhere All at Once5The MCU’s attempt at the multiverse peaked with Loki, and by this point I’m burned out on it as a concept. But EEAaO owns the hell out of it. And it didn’t need two dozen films behind it to give it meaning. Not to be missed. A lot of heart.
The Batman5Another franchise that seemed to be burning out, but took a risk and went all-in on “the Twilight guy” as Bruce, leaning into a grittier noir-focused take on Batman. Yes, even more so than usual. The cinematography really makes it stand out, even if the film itself is a bit long.
Spider-Man: No Way Home5The epitome of a guilty pleasure. Even with the multiversal gimmick laid bare long before seeing it, it was still a delight having all three Spider-men on screen together. They had genuine chemistry that made it really enjoyable seeing them working together. Or even just hanging out bullshitting. But the best part? Having Andrew Garfield’s version of the character be redeemed IN FULL. That made it worth it, all by itself.
The Wizard of Oz5Much like Holy Grail, this is one that slipped past me, but I knew enough of it from cultural osmosis that it felt like I’d seen it already. There were plenty of bits I was unfamiliar with, but unlike Grail, those were largely forgettable. A real spectacle of a film, though. It’s reputation is well-earned.
Black Dynamite5A new favorite, taking a place along side Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon. And that’s a sacred spot on my shelf that I don’t just hand out to anyone. This WILL spawn many repeat viewings.
Glass Onion4.5Craig’s Benoit Blanc is a Sherlock for the modern age. This hilarious take-down of modern internet culture and bizarre billionaire worship ruffled a lot of feathers. Good.
Spirited4.5I’m not averse to musicals, but it REALLY has to be good. And I was not aware this WAS one, going in. I was hoodwinked! Thankfully it’s probably one of the best musicals I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s actually a pretty great twist on the usual, tired Christmas Carol concept.
The Thing From Another World4.5This took me by surprise. The 1980s remake of this is legendary, but I haven’t seen it. Itself another “knew it by reputation” film. I figured I’d see that before I ever laid eyes on this 1951 version of the story, but I’m glad I did. This has some of the most terrifying visuals I’ve ever seen in a film from the era. But that’s probably owed more to my relative lack of exposure. Still, this made an impact on me.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special4.5The Guardians of the Galaxy will always be on another level from the rest of the MCU, and this just cements that belief for me. It’s barely 45 minutes long, but it packs a lot of love and heart into that tiny space.
Joker4.5I can’t believe I actually saw Joker. I swore I wouldn’t. But I finally caved. And I’m glad I did: it’s pretty amazing. A moody, violent exploration of mental illness. It’s fans tend to be garbage, though — I get into that, and why that might be, in the review.
The World’s End4.5A film wearing many hats. Is it an alien invasion movie? Or maybe it’s a metaphor for Pegg’s character stuck in the past? Or maybe it’s an action film involving shattering a child’s skull the wall? Maybe it’s all of these.
Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers4.5This had no reason being as fun as it was. A blend of animation and real life film in the tradition of Roger Rabbit, and easily as enjoyable. This could have gone wrong in a million ways, but it’s clever writing and love of the material keeps it together.

Other notables, without comment: Confess, Fletch, Fletch, The Munsters, Red Dwarf: The Promised Land, Jaws, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, and a whole lot more.

So, damned good year for films for me. Hoping to keep up the pace for 2023. πŸ₯΅

Review: The Munsters (2022)

2022-12-29 
Not gonna lie: I love the neon lighting in this film. It’s excessive to the point of actually working.

Garish. Crude. Extremely corny and cheesy.

Those bits I don’t have a problem with — it’s fun. I had a great time, ultimately. It’s clearly a love letter in the form of an origin story for The Munsters.

So it’s pretty much as expected, if you’ve seen the trailer.

It’s a flawed film, but I want to protect it, despite them.It’s biggest problem: an excessive runtime given the content.

It has a very strong start, don’t get me wrong, but it feels like there was only enough story for half a flick. The major conflict of the story is essentially resolved just over half-way through the film. Both the concern between Lily’s scheming brother, and The Count trying to chase off Herman.

It’s kind of jarring — Grandpa really hated Herman, but once the marriage is over and they’ve been evicted, it’s like a switch is flipped and he’s a happy member of the family, like in the original series.

At that point any actual narrative challenge in the film evaporates as it coasts down to the other side, straight into the credits (complete with a recreation of the original title sequence).

Still, it’s earnest as fuck, and the cast is a delight. All the sight gags and attention to detail is a lot of fun. Absolutely adored the stylish touches everywhere, including that over-saturated neon vibe.

If you saw the trailer and liked what you saw: there are no surprises. It’s that, but two hours long.

⭐⭐⭐

https://letterboxd.com/drfortyseven/film/the-munsters/

LOVE this cover.

Review – The Batman (2022)

2022-04-18 

That was, maybe, the perfect Batman film.

I mean, Batman ’89 will always be my personal favorite. It’s infinitely rewatchable.

But I can’t deny just how great nearly every corner of The Batman is. The overall mood. The music (oh god, the music).

It just all FEELS RIGHT.

The plot may not be terribly original (good luck finding a fresh Batman story after all these decades), but the nearly flawless execution of that story cannot be ignored.

More like this, please!

πŸ€πŸˆπŸ¦‡β“

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

https://letterboxd.com/drfortyseven/film/the-batman/