Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016


Ghostbusters ~ My pre-viewing problems with the 2016 remake/reboot/reimagining of Ghostbusters had nothing to do with the gender or talent of the actors involved. Maybe.

I didn't care about the gender switch, and I actually thought the idea that only the women were competent and the men are idiots was pretty clever. My problem was with the Bridesmaids connection, a film I did not like, and Ghostbusters has its director and two of its stars. That was my problem.

And I'm also not one of those folks who worship the original and don't want it remade, because it's 'sacred.' Hey, yeah, the original was awesome, still holds up, is freaking hilarious, and is an almost perfect movie, but nothing changes that. The 2016 Ghostbusters is not the 1984 Ghostbusters, but let's be honest - what is? It's hard for such lightning to strike twice. Don't believe me? Just ask Ghostbusters II. Bam. Yeah, that was me dropping the mic.

The theme is roughly the same as the original, three scientists and a fourth team member chase ghosts in New York, until a larger threat rears its ugly head for the final battle. In this case, it's not an extra-dimensional entity trying to break through on its own, but someone in this world trying to bring the netherworld here, and become the king of ghosts. The story works, despite some plotholes that may be the result of worrisome editing - I won't hold it against the movie.

Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig are adequate but funny and believable, and it was a blast seeing Chris (Thor) Hemsworth playing mimbo, but the prize performances in this flick are undoubtedly the wonderfully hilarious Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon who steals the movie whenever she is on screen. She easily out-weirds Harold Ramis from the original.

There are also appearances from the original cast as well, most notably Bill Murray as a disbeliever who is so mean and humorless one had to wonder if this was acting or how he really felt about Ghostbusters. Either way, he's good. Too bad Rick Moranis couldn't be convinced to show up out of retirement.

The 2016 Ghostbusters is a great summer popcorn movie, and a hell of a lot of fun. It is thankfully no Bridesmaids, and certainly not worth the harassment many fans of the original have put it through. It's just great entertainment, check it out, you'll love it too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A Preacher Virgin Looks at Preacher

Unlike a lot of comic book properties that move to television and film, I don't really know all that much about Preacher. I've never read it. I know it was by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, for mature readers, and that it had characters like Jesse Custer, Cassidy the vampire, Arseface, and the Saint of Killers - but that's about it. I also knew it's fans were passionate and loyal. When I watched the AMC TV series however, it was all-new to me.

I didn't know what to expect in its first moments with its purposefully cheap effects, but they were soon forgotten as I was enveloped by the tale of Preacher Jesse Custer possessed of a power called Genesis in a quirky Texas town named Annville. While Jesse on the whole is well played but fairly boring, his situation is not, and neither are his somewhat companions Cassidy and Tulip. Dominic Cooper, and especially Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun are wonderful. And the more I see of them, the more I want them in the show, but the showrunners seem to be holding back giving me what I want. The screen shines when either are on it.

Annville itself seems to me to be what "Twin Peaks" might be as a comic book written by Quentin Tarantino. Episodic, bizarre, violent, and defiantly Lynch-ian. I love it. As more quirky characters are introduced, notably two angels sent to retrieve Genesis by ridiculous and arcane methods, I am enjoying myself but find the storytelling lacking. Like "Twin Peaks," we don't actually seem to be going anywhere.

There are subplots I want to see more of like Tulip's quest for revenge and Cassidy's pursuers, but these are overshadowed by others that I either don't care about or don't understand - like Jesse's childhood or Quincannon's madness or these old west flashbacks. They may well be Easter eggs that comics readers get and love, but I don't get them.

I'm eight episodes out of ten in, and I have to say I'm losing interest. The things I want to see I'm not getting and what I am getting is just not doing it for me. I suspect they are stuffing as much as they can into the show despite the effect it might have on virgin viewers like me. I'm still watching, but I prefer the early episodes to the later ones.

For a different view on the series, this one from a fan of the comics, check out Amanda Blue's reviews of "Preacher" at Biff Bam Pop! right here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jessica Jones S01 E12: AKA Take a Bloody Number

We pick up scant moments after the last episode, when Luke Cage blew up his bar with himself in it, as per the Purple Man's commands, made sure Jessica Jones saw it. He is of course unhurt, but his bar is toast. As I wondered if he had insurance and what an insurance investigator might make of his story, we dove into flashback - Kilgrave has been busy during the episode where he was missing.

When he left the hanging restaurant with his father, he ran right into Luke Cage, who had been following Jess in hopes of running into Kilgrave. Best line, and our title reference comes when Kilgrave asks Luke what he wants. His reply is to kill him, and Kilgrave's sharp comeback - "Take a bloody number." Then he commands Luke into the getaway car for clarification and interrogation.

The second best line is when Jess brings Luke back to her office/apartment and tells him to mind the mess from the fight with Nuke. Luke asks if he needs to know what happened there, she simply replies, "I guess we're both lousy renters," to which both Luke and I said in unison, "at least it's not on fire." Five minutes in, this one's not so bad so far. I'm smiling.

Of course now that Luke is at her side and Jessica has sworn to kill the Purple Man, there's some creative stalling. Trish is still paranoid about Simpson, asks around and finds the program is a made-up organization called IGH, with initials that apparently stand for nothing. I wonder though, could that H stand for Hydra?

Despite Jessica's warning, Trish's mom comes to visit her estranged daughter in the hospital. What a harpy. Good thing Jess doesn't know. As she joked with Trish earlier regarding Simpson, Jess can only fight one big bad at a time. I guess Nuke and the harpy will have to take a bloody number.

There's mention made of Hammond Labs as being the place where Hope's fetus was sent. This could be a number of different references. There's a Hammond Labs where Speedball, later Penance, got his powers; or it could be a reference to Camp Hammond, a Marvel Civil War era training facility for superhumans; or simply a nod to the original android Human Torch.

The writing is much better in this episode, elevating it above previous ones. I'm not surprised to see the name Hilly Hicks, Jr. on the script. The playwright and screenwriter is also responsible for the excellent "AKA 99 Friends" earlier in the season. Perhaps he can be convinced to write more when the second season of "Jessica Jones" rolls around.

More clues about IGH come from a surprising source. When Trish's mom comes to visit her daughter at home, again against Jessica's wishes, she brings her a folder marked IGH. It contains Jessica's medical records from the accident that killed her parents and brother. IGH paid her bills. But I guess that's a mystery for another day.

The main event is the showdown in a blue-hued theater between the Purple Man and Jessica - and Kilgrave's proxy is Luke Cage. The whole episode, as their chemistry blended and he played sidekick, Luke was in Kilgrave's power, a puppet working her like a dummy. And now they dance. It's a fight we didn't know we wanted, and it's awesome.

It's a fight that can only be stopped by a shotgun blast to the face. Is the "Luke Cage" Netflix series canceled now? To be continued…

Next: Smile!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

RIP Garry Marshall

Award winning television and film icon, director, writer, and producer Garry Marshall passed away yesterday from complications of pneumonia, after having a stroke. He was 81 years old.

Garry Marshall's name was one of the first I was aware of that worked behind the camera on television, the other one was Norman Lear, and yeah, I realize I'm probably dating myself. I knew that Marshall was behind "The Odd Couple" which I got to stay up and watch on Friday nights, and I knew his sister Penny was on the show too. Listening to the adults talk, the big word I learned was 'nepotism.' Nothing wrong with that, and she was funny too.

His name next caught my attention on Tuesday nights with "Happy Days," one of my favorite shows, that would soon create a phenomenon of 1950s nostalgia in the 1970s. The adventures of Fonzie, Richie, Potsie and friends would soon spawn "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy, which launched the career of Robin Williams. Like the aforementioned Lear, Marshall was a master of the spin-off in the seventies. I even remember the ones that no one does - like "Blansky's Beauties" and "Out of the Blue" - and even "Joanie Loves Chachi."

Later Marshall turned to film, perhaps most famously for Pretty Woman, Beaches, Runaway Bride, and the Princess Diaries movies. I admit a weakness myself for his first, Young Doctors in Love and The Other Sister. We just recently watched Marshall act in A League of Their Own, his sister Penny's film, and one of The Bride's favorites.

Garry Marshall was always one of my favorites. I have his second memoir My Happy Days in Hollywood on my Kindle unread, but not for long now. We've lost one of the great ones.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

The Legend of Tarzan ~ Don't tell him this, I don't want him to get a swollen head, but my big brother rocks. Even before he saved my life by giving me one of his kidneys, I always looked up to him. As his ten years junior little brother, I wanted to be like him, and what he thought was cool, I wanted to think was cool too. I've mentioned numerous times in my writing that my love of the Flash comes from him, and a recent interview with Joe DeVito reminded me of how I watched King Kong because of the big bro too. And then there's Tarzan.

My big brother also made me watch Tarzan by his enthusiasm for it. I remember very distinctly being sat down on a Saturday afternoon to watch 'the one where Tarzan goes to New York to save Boy.' The film in question was Tarzan's New York Adventure with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, and for me, it was awesome. A new world had been opened up to me. From there I discovered Tarzan books and Tarzan comics (both of which were the best), the TV series with Ron Ely, and whenever one of the Weissmuller flicks showed, I was right there in front of the boob tube.

I loved the movies, and the TV show was okay, but I really grooved on the real Tarzan, the one from the books, and to some extent the comics. I knew he was a lot smarter than Weissmuller in the movies, a noble savage, a clever warrior, and an intelligent opponent. And I loved all the lost cities and fantasy elements, which led to my appreciation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other awesomeness like Pellucidar and John Carter of Mars.

Because of this knowledge of what Tarzan was all about from the books, that he wasn't all yells and "me Tarzan, you Jane," I had rarely been truly happy with many cinematic versions. Casper Van Dien came close in Tarzan and the Lost City, but of course, no matter how you measure it, it's still a Casper Van Dien movie. I wondered if we'd ever get a Tarzan movie again, let alone a good one, and then came The Legend of Tarzan.

I had only heard whispers about it while it was being made, but had heard it was quite good. When I first saw the trailer, I was excited, and then I saw who was playing Tarzan, and my heart fell. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Alexander Skarsgard, in fact, I'm a fan. His Eric Northman in "True Blood" was consistently one of the best things about the series, even when it was at its worst.

My great fear was that every time I looked at his Tarzan, I would see Eric. This is one of the reasons why studios usually look for unknowns when casting serial protagonists. I shouldn’t have worried though, from the moment we see Skarsgard on the screen, from the moment I saw him, I saw Tarzan. He is stunning in the role. Alexander Skarsgard is Tarzan. A man of few words, much action, and a caring hero, Skarsgard brings the king of the jungle to life in a way we've not seen in quite some time.

As Jane, and in previous films, Margot Robbie continues to impress me as an actress. Her Jane Porter Clayton is tough, takes no nonsense, and is yet still believable as a turn of the century woman of stature. Christoph Waltz overacts like a madman as the baddie, and it works, much better than his attempt at villainy in the James Bond franchise. He has shown that he can be evil in both a subtle and a manic mode. Samuel L. Jackson brings the humor and his contrast to Tarzan is one of the better aspects of the flick. I wish he'd been more however.

I'm not going to harp on or bring up the racism of the Tarzan stories (in that only a white man save Africa, etc.), there are much better men than me that can handle that, but I will note that the story of the movie takes place in a very dangerous era of the Congo, a time of massacre and genocide, and I wish the character would have stayed in the fantasy realm. Furthermore, I have to express distaste in the choice of Jackson's role, especially if he was going to be used for comic relief.

Samuel l. Jackson plays George Washington Williams, a real historical figure. He was a human rights activist who very specifically attacked King Leopold for his actions in the Congo. In my mind, especially played by an actor of Samuel L. Jackson's skills, I wish they'd gone with a more accurate portrayal of the man, rather than just comic relief/sidekick status.

That aside, I really loved this flick, and was grinning ear to ear throughout most of it. I can't wait for sequels. I enjoyed this almost as much as Captain America: Civil War, recommended.