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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Filmsnork Review: Ghostbuster (2016)


Ghostbusters (2016) had an uphill battle from the day it was announced (sexism is alive and well in this country.) Along the way that hill became much steeper when the studio chose the wrong director and writers delivering this embarrassingly bad revival of the Ghostbusters franchise.
Unlike what some people would like to hear, the casting is not the problem here. Good films let you forget you are in a movie theater (on your couch or in a subway car) and transfer you into the film's world to escape for a couple of hours - not this Ghostbusters. The fatal flaw is the dialogue - it never feels natural, (with the exception of a few) EVERY line delivered in a way that you'd assume the script notes consistently read "wait for laughter to die down" after each line. When you try too hard to deliver laughs you often lose the human qualities that make up a good character. What you are left with ad are "joke" delivering caricatures - each actor/actress is given a well-defined role to play and only delivers specific jokes to match that respective personality. A script like this is constricting for the actors, leaving very little room for authentic feeling dialogue. It is similar to an ensemble sitcom that has passed it's prime, the characters no longer feel like people with real thoughts/emotions/etc. You can essentially anticipate what they will say every time it is their turn to open their mouth. This can work with the right script and direction, but here the jokes are shallow and repetitive and the direction does nothing to help. Every line is played for the laugh. A perfect example of this are the receptionist jokes. How many Chris Helmsworth, dumb-hunk jokes can you have in a two hour movie? Answer, too many. The problem only becomes compounded when all those jokes lead to little or no laughter. Comedy is about timing and instead we are hit with a barrage of jokes that fall flat. If the four Ghostbusters are on screen they are trying to amuse you. It is numbing. The ratio of joke to non-joke is way off. Fix this and the film is automatically better.
There are hints of what could have been scattered throughout the film. One scene I actually enjoyed has a frantic Kristen Wiig coming across like a crazy conspiracy-theorists in a fancy reference complete with a very funny Jaws reference. The scene works because the character is not just delivering a clever joke, there is much more at play. Come to think of it, the original GB worked best when the core four were in the room together to play off each other, that is the opposite here.
As for the fan service, there's plenty - they could not cram in enough. It is as if the writers were convinced that referencing the original film would be considered clever. It's not, especially the couple dozen times it is done here. That is the equivalent of shouting "How about them Cubbies?" during a concert in Chicago. You can only shout out "How about them Cubbies" a couple times before it loses it's impact. And, with whole scenes dedicated to these shout-outs to the original, how can this new BG interpretation come into its own? I love a good cameo now and then, but today's cameos have become so ham-fisted that they have lost their luster. It is obvious, when the camera is avoiding to show something/someone that's at the core of the scene, something/someone nostalgic is about to appear - oh brother. The whole wink at the camera approach is played out. Instead of winking, the time would have been better spent exploring the new characters is wasted with reveal upon reveal upon reveal of fan service. (FYI, if you want to see a great cameo, watch Zombieland.) 
Director, Paul Feig, could not piece together enough pieces to make the film the fans deserved. Instead of a team of outcasts we can all get behind as they try to save the world, we are delivereda group of comedians in a room trying to out do each other for laughs. I have hope that the right director could harnesess enough from the talented cast to turn this franchise around. Here's hoping that Hollywood doesn't pull a DC bring back the wrong director for a second chance. 
In a typical review, I'd usually delve into the acting, but in this case there is little to say here. These ladies had nothing to work with. And, although some haters out there are probably happy with that, I was completely let down. Ghostbusters was the very first film my family rented when we we lucky enough to have a VHS player. It will always hold a special place in my cinematic heart. I wanted to love this (or at least like) - to have a film to share with friends, fans and family. Sadly, that didn't happen and all we have here is a forgettable mess of a film. That is why I am giving it 3.5 out of 10.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016)

The battle of these two iconic characters is the type of thing geeks have debated of and dreamed about for decades. On paper seems like a slam dunk - Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, what could go wrong? According to most critics, a lot. Universally they have been beating it up. And while no where near perfect I A flawed movie that I liked none the less. Most the flaws are delivered at the hand of director Zack Snyder. While he is great with delivering amazing visuals, he lacks the ability to bring much else... maybe this is a little unfair since he did not write the screenplay, but since many of the same shortcomings found in Man of Steel are still present here, I have to put the blame on him. For the film the deck was stacked against him, unlike Marvel that slowly built up to an assemble film (The Avengers) he was handed a huge task, kickstarting the Justice League universe that consisted of only one established big screen character a tepidly received Superman. This is the film's biggest problem is always feels like the kickstarter that it is. Overall, it is an overstuffed, dark mess - much of what happens on screen seems like a checklist of required storylines/backstory/characters that need to be checked off so the future Justice League franchise films can come to the big screen. Problems arise and are often resolved too easily/quickly and perhaps not all that logically. But, with the non-stop action and effects it is easier to overlook (at least on first viewing) because there is little time to think think while your senses are being bombarded.

The tone is dark from frame one until the very end with the lightest line delivered by Martha Kent (Dianne Lane) - the theater chuckled, after and before that it was dark and moody. If there was some breathing room perhaps the characters would not seem so one-dimensional. Which had me thinking, this would be a great TV series with 13 episodes to tell the same story crammed into one film... more time to develop characters, time to add some subtlety to the story and maybe, just maybe the occasional well lit scene. I get it, this is the darker, grittier superhero franchise, but they can still own a couple of 90 watt bulbs and walk outside on a day that is not overcast.

Ben Affleck was fine, not great, not memorable - just fine. His costume and the way they had him move around the screen felt very Batman-like, but his performance was pretty much one-note. Again, this may have more to do with DC trying to cram three films into one.  

The biggest head scratcher was Zack Snyder's penchant for shirtless people - very odd.

When the credits rolled, I have to admit I kind of liked it. Maybe I had lowered expectations, maybe I have to see it again to evaluate closer or maybe I liked it. No matter what is the reason I can recommend this film for any superhero fan - it has plenty of right off the comic book feel to it. As a film, not just a superhero film, it is not as successful. Still, I enjoyed the 150 flawed minutes more than expected which allows me to give it a 5.5 out of 10.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

FilmSnork Official Oscar Picks:




Best Picture: Spotlight
Actor: DiCaprio
Actress: Larson
Director: Inarritu
Supporting Actor: Stallone
Supporting Actress: Vikander
Animated Feature: Inside Out
Cinematography: The Revenant
Costume Design: Mad Max
Documentary Feature: Amy
Film Editing: The Big Short
Foreign Language Film: Son of Saul
Makeup - Hair: Mad Max
Music - Score: The Hateful Eight
Original Song: Til It Happened to You
Production Design: Mad Max
Sound Editing: The Revenant
Sound Mix: Mad Max
Visual Effects: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Adapted Screenplay: The Big Short
Original Screenplay: Spotlight
Animated Short: Bear Story
Short Film Live Action: Shok
Documentary Short: Girl In the River

Picked a few with my heart... hoping for that perfect year. Fingers crossed. Enjoy the show.