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“Infinity War” starts on a bang…and ends on a whimper

From the moment the lights went up during the end credits, I did not feel a sense of optimism or joy. I turned to the left and right, noticing many kids, and Marvel fans, upset and/or in tears. Even the post-credit scene didn’t add any sign of hope. I’m certain it did set-up the future debut of a certain Marvel character, but at that point, I really didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I felt great disappointment in a Marvel movie and I have to thank “Avengers: Infinity War” for giving me that feeling.

For a good bulk of the first half, “Infinity War” really does feel like a Marvel movie. There is a fight scene in the city and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) delivers some funny one-liners. However, midway that joyful and light-hearted tone takes a noise dive going for a more darker concept. Those who want to get an idea, look up “Dalek Master Plan” and you will see what I mean.

Even in theaters, this is a hard movie to critique and talk about when the whole thing feels like one massive spoiler. There are certain story elements and sequences that make it tough for me to elaborate on and that might be hard to discuss when some wish to go in blind. So, I will try my best to be spoiler-free as I can here.

The first thing I should talk about is Thanos, a evil purple skinned and muscle bound alien that wants to conquer the universe. He is played by James Brolin under all that motion capture effects and does the job well. They give a reason for his tyrannical nature that doesn’t make him feel one-sided. He is a villain that will do anything in his power to obtain a bunch of powerful gems known as Infinity Stones. And when I mean anything, I mean, by God, ANYTHING. This not only makes him the darkest, but also the scariest being to ever hulk on the big screen.

As expected, there are some nice team ups, as Thor groups with the Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man works off of Doctor Strange, the list kind of goes on. But for a 2 and a 1/2 hour movie, there is the sense that some characters feel underplayed. A prime example is Black Panther. After “Captain America: Civil War” and his own solo movie, you think he would play a major part in this. However, he gets saved for the big finale at the end, when maybe some of his expertise could have been used earlier.

Did I mention this movie is long? Length is an expected criticism for a feature like this, but there are some things I felt that could have been shorten down or made more simpler. I feel like they are trying to make something grand or epic, like the “Lord of the Rings” franchise. It does make sense when you think about it. We have had 18 Marvel Comic movies within the past 10 years. And yet, it suffers the same  fate of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies by going too big and too grand. The pacing for certain storylines feel somewhere between too complex or not fleshed out enough.

And that falls onto the final nail in the coffin I have with this entry. Yes, the action scenes are good. Yes, it feels nice to see other characters work off each other. But what it lacks is a sense of heart or, to a lesser extent, a solid conclusion. I guess they are planning to resolve many things in another movie, seeing one is coming out next year. However, here is my argument. “Back to the Future: Part II” and “Empire Strikes Back” did have cliffhangers, but they felt hopeful. They gave you a feeling that you knew problems were going to be resolved and indicated a sense of good under a mass of darkness.

Here, they go straight to the wall and let things conclude on a downer note. I admit, I was really caught off guard by this. But after sitting through so much fighting and superhero banter, to end it all on a whimper is the last thing I would ever do. Certain characters die off and it really makes you feel like this is the end. From all the fatigue of fighting and arguing, could they at least end it on a note of hope?

And furthermore, there are too many open holes to let this end on. How did this character from (movie name withheld) end up here? How come this guy can’t use his powers anymore? What happened here? What happened there? Why even care when we are given this big of a tease and left with little to no sign that good will rise up? It makes movies like 1974’s “Earthquake” more joyful in comparison. OH YEAH, I went there!

We go to movies to escape from our own reality. We want to join in on the adventure and enjoy the ride. All of the pain from our reality deserves to be nullified for a good 2 hours or at least something longer. That is my own personal view of what a movie should be to me. And yes, once in a while, I will go for something darker, but there is a point to the existence of why it is there. Movies are a dream-like thing with shadows of character that hope not to offend their viewers. And if they do so, man…do we feel cheated in the end….

New “Ghostbusters” underwhelms with unfunny humor and dull spirits

ghostbusters2016Prior to seeing Paul Feig’s new film, I read an article from the daughter of Harold Ramis. I enjoyed with delight seeing Violet share moments with her father and how much she appreciated the cult phenomenon he created. There were two parts in that piece that got my attention. One where she goes on to say how disappointing it was to see her dad’s likeness not used for “The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon. To which Harold replied, “It’s fine. …The cartoon is its own thing.The same way you used to ask if the fans knew I wasn’t really Egon? Well, I’m not. It’s a character. There was a different Superman when I was a kid. Things change. ”

The second part that got my attention was near the end when she mentions the backlash of the new Ghostbusters movie with the principal characters gender swapped. At first she was mad, until the negativity came in. In a response, Violet pleaded to stop using the death of her father as a reason to hate the movie. To which I agree. Because a creator is gone and unable to make his vision, doesn’t give reason to use it as a purpose to hate another’s interpretation. Consider this a public service that just because someone decides to make their version, doesn’t mean it must be shunned. Call this contradicting considering my thoughts of the movie to come later, but if you don’t want to see or bother with this movie, then don’t. But when you criticize and claim you saw something before you have seen it, doesn’t give it the satisfaction it deserves. And while I admit this is not a good movie, its not one to really hate over. Because right now, right across from the laptop I am typing at are two copies of the first movie. One on Blu-ray and the other on DVD. They are on my shelf unharmed and untouched. And even if this new movie tries to erase the continuity of the original, it still exists in the minds of those who love it. Now that I am off my soapbox, let’s break into this.

Even as I type this, I feel really bad for saying that I didn’t find myself enjoying Paul Feig’s take. And personally, there’s a lot of factors to blame here. I could point my finger at Sony for how they tried to make another franchise after losing Spider-Man to Marvel Studios. Its quite clear in the advertising and marketing that they want this to be a big thing. But the problem is that the original 1984 film wasn’t destined to be a huge cultural hit. There was no planned franchise at the time. It was like lightening in a bottle. Once it comes it, it makes a strike on the big screen that can’t be duplicated. They sure tried here, but it falls pale in comparison. Even on its own, I can’t help but pick apart certain plot points and things that really bugged me which I talk about later in.

Another problem I could say is the casting, but even that’s not it. These are all really funny and talented people. I’ve seen Melissa McCarthy in movies like The Heat and she can be really funny. Even thought I wasn’t a fan of Bridesmaids, I admit she was the funniest thing in that movie from her twisted attitude and loud personality. But even here, I felt like she was struggling a bit considering the PG-13 tone this movie is mean to have and the relationships with the characters. The only break out was Kate McKinnon who had this mad scientist personality which was delightful to watch. Kate felt way more animated and seemed like she having way more fun. When Kristen Wigg and Melissa are together, there is more banter than playing off each other. Almost like arguing and that’s in part to what the characters do to each other early on. Nothing said to me, “oh, these two are close friends and I can see them getting along.” The performances were sort of dull and not very interesting. To which I personally blame more the script as opposed to the effort going into it.

The big take away is that the cast and crew really wanted to make a good movie, but it feels like they knew nothing worked because how weak the story was. Basically, it does feel like a rehash of the first movie with similar beats. There are differences here and there to keep it far apart from the original, but nothing stands out. For example, in the first movie, the original crew captures their first ghost and immediately they find the business they created booming greatly. Instead here, once they capture their first ghost, our heroines  get an immediate scolding for no reason. We want to root for these underdogs and see them succeed. That’s what made the first film work, because you felt success was on their side. In this new film, reality intervenes and prevents you from enjoying their success. Now they are being told to keep this supernatural stuff under warps and avoid public panic, when clearly its not even sending a panic. That never made any sense to me.

Another thing that bothered me was the constant use of negative male stereotypes. When watching this new take, I barley remember a point when I recall a male character that actually did some good justice for the girls. In a way, I felt more sorry for them to be surrounded by a cavalcade of jerks, morons and (without giving too much away) delirious fanboys. A prime example is Chris Hemsworth who joins in as their secretary and all he does is just act dumb to them. He doesn’t provide any help and just goes about like a buffoon.  It kept aggravating me because I felt like some better use could have been made out of this character and it didn’t. It was a one note joke that went on for way too long.

Without giving too much away, the villain is certainly the most weakest part of the movie. Neil Casey plays this creepy janitor that plans to bring an end to the world and they try to make it fit into this whole message about bullying. But it doesn’t feel blended in right. I feel its due to how there is no justification for the Ghostbusters crew and how unfairly they get treated. All Neil’s character does is go about and try to motivate the plot, but his moments are so little they could have been cut and replaced with something different. The motivation is not big enough to care for as he mucks his way to the big finale which tries way too hard to please.

The finale in particular tries to be overblown with much effects and spooks, but it goes on for too long. Its like they throw one thing after another just to please viewers of old and new with new monsters and appearances by old faces. However, there is no build up to this big climax. Ghosts come out and start to tear up New York like a giant cookie. Even the choice in ghost designs are uninteresting. In the original, they had these abstract and deformed designs that looked other worldly. In the new version, they feel like floating pedestrians crossed with rejected designs from The Haunted Mansion ride.

This new movie really tries to win fans of the old with Easter eggs and even cameos from characters who were in the original film. But it tries way too hard. Its trapped between trying to do something new for a different generation and appease fans of the old. And a good example are these cameos by the stars from the first film. Some I did find a little cute like Annie Potts and maybe Ernie Hudson. But others suffer either from feeling forced or going against what their original characters represented. One in particular plays this scientists that tries to debunk the girls, but the person who plays him doesn’t fit it. It completely goes against what the original role intended from the first film for someone who believes in paranormal activity.

I’m certain this movie might have it fans and I know really well, this will be an easy movie to hate on. But at the end of day, all these cast and crew members wanted to do was make a good movie. However, a troubled script can’t save the day. I feel really bad for not liking this because I wanted to give this new incarnation a chance. I wanted to walk out of the theater and admit I was wrong about the whole affair. Sadly, that is not that day. Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” is so flawed that I found myself being emotionally taken out of the movie a lot. I wanted to accept what was on screen, but nothing clicked. The jokes were unfunny, the effects were not memorable and the overall experience was just dull and boring. I literally sat there in my seat trying to find a good joke throughout the whole affair. In the end, I only laughed three times. So far, this has been a dull crop of summer blockbusters and I keep hoping something will come along to break the dullness. To which I am sad to say “Ghostbusters” didn’t answer the call very well here.

 

P. S. If you are curious about Violet Ramis’ article, click the link below. I really recommend it. It helped me out.

http://splitsider.com/2016/07/on-my-dad-harold-ramis-and-passing-the-ghostbusters-torch-to-a-new-generation-of-fans/

“Heart of Sea” ambiguously medicore

Just another whale of a tale...

Just another whale of a tale…

Director Ron Howard has always been an interesting case to me. When he does historical drama and fictional drama, that appears to be his forte. From Apollo 13 to Backdraft, he is able to articulate the human emotion in such dangerous situations. The energy and dilemma comes from these problems like being trapped in space to rescuing innocent lives in a burning building. He knows how to capture the exhilarating rush while getting across the danger as well. However, his latest outing “In the Heart of Sea” didn’t leave me with excitement or any life changing splendor. In fact, I honestly don’t know what to make of it. I do admire the craft and effort but at the same time one must question why and what was necessary to tale this whale of a tale in the first place.

Based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s non-fiction book, Chris Hemsworth portrays Owen Chase, a First Mate of the historical Essex that was said to have been taken off course and badly damaged by a sperm whale on their whaling hunt. In a nuthshell, it sounds like a simple premise but yet there is an unnecessary need to extend the truth in order to make it feel grand to scale. For example, in real life, Owen was said his account of the incident was published to the public and which would later inspire Herman Melville to write his American whaling epic. On the other hand, the movie has a different accord as the story is told by one of the cabin boys, now an elderly Brendan Gleeson, who claims the story of what happened to the Essex crew has been under wraps for so long that he is the last remaining survivor to pass the tale. In fact, this exact tale is being told to a young Herman Melville who is doing research for his whale epic Moby Dick. The framing device for this feels off and only works when grisly events are needed to be described without the aspect of showing a grim event (more on that later on.) Then again, a movie like this will tend to stretch the truth so I shouldn’t be surprised for things like this.

Odd narrative aside, one can see a lot of effort into this sea-fearing epic right from the design of the Essex itself to trying to nail as much detail as possible on the disastrous whaling expedition. As it turns out their Captain (Benjamin Walker) steers the crew in a different direction as they make their way through typhoons and days of bare catch. Much like the days of no whales in sight, there is too much slow build up to the centerpiece event as we have to endure the crew mates who feel as developed as a 1970s disaster movie. Despite accuracy of who is portraying who, it feels little effort is placed on defining character much like in James Cameron’s Titanic as everyone is filled to the brim with tropes and cliches. The Captain comes off as the ignorant leader who gets his crew in trouble waters (no pun intended) while Hemsworth’s character tries to be the reasonable guy who knows better and yet no one listens to him. Again, despite the accuracy in spots, the delivery and development makes it feel more stock than actual character.

When the big whale hunt comes in, we do see a lot of brutality that is detestably tame for a PG-13. Quick warning to animal lovers, some may feel uncomfortable by the misting spray of blood the harpooned whale blows out followed by hollowing the creature out for oil and blubber. In revenge (I can only speculate,) its not till midway the eventful moment happens when a giant sperm whale attacks the ship as our crew is stranded out in the ocean as they try to make their way home. Sadly, the big scene is nearly engaging and far energetic than anything else that happens throughout the last half. The Essex crew is depicted as floating around on three boats, desperate for the search for land and even at one point enact cannibalism in order to survive.

In regards to that last point, the idea and implication is there but we don’t see much action. Those who are sensitive must be noted that while this theme is present in the last act, we don’t see anyone get munched on outside of the elderly cabin boy discuss what happened and the sight of some bones laying around one ship might upset. While the whole survival aspect carries a very unpleasant feel to it, the “Heart” of the movie lacks avoiding any power or passion to its own topic.

In Ron’s previous moves like Apollo 13, we get a sense of raw emotion and care for our characters because they are aware of the risks and do what they can to survive. Here, this is very little of it and sadly when your actors can’t convey the dread and fear of things to come, the viewers won’t feel or fear it. Even Chris Helmsworth can’t convey a single thread of emotion as in one scene he argues against the Captain’s choices and the argument is very underacted like how two Shakespearean actors would read straight from a script. And for a movie to have such promise and not deliver the pain, suffering and emotional tone of its journey, the end result makes for a rather boring fishing trip.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: The Cabin in the Woods

Horror-wood 2

 

And now, the most beloved one of the bunch

And now, the most beloved one of the bunch

After the streak of films presented here, you think I would finally come across a gem among the bunch. Well, today is your lucky day because I get to go over what makes The Cabin in the Woods such a delight. Writer Joss Whedon has a very interesting style that feels like a near parody while playing it as a straight forward narrative. At times, his material can get self-aware but not to the point it becomes painfully obvious. Cabin was also directed by Drew Goddard who worked previously with Whedon on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series and its spin-off Angel. You think these two talents would make a match made in horror. And surprisingly, that’s what this movie is. A great send off to all the traditional horror tropes and cliches we come to expect from scary movies.

The plot follows a group of teenagers who drive off to the middle of nowhere in the forest just to booze up, drug up and party. Its the typical kind of schlock you would find in The Evil Dead. And within the group are people that feel like basic stock characters like the virgin (Kristen Connolly), the sultry one (Anna Hutchinson), the jock (a surprisingly young Chris Helmsworth), the drug addict (Fran Kranz) and the smart one (Jesse Williams). As one would expect, it becomes the ultimate guessing game to who is going to die and who is going to live. And sadly, I wish I could talk about what makes this movie work but there’s a reason why.

Dare to know what lies within the cabin...

Dare to know what lies within the cabin…

Surprisingly, a lot of fans tend to be very hush-hush about the “secrets” and twists that happen. And honestly, I agree. Why spoil something good in a movie when someone is going to see it? I remember learning that one the hard way when I ruined the ending to Borat to a friend of mine. He never forgave me or even talked to me after that. It was that kind of moment. A movie tends to play with your expectations and when it goes down a path your uncertain of, that is when it gets interesting. What starts as a basic teen horror becomes more of an a homage to the genre along with a send off to the viewers that respect it.

If we know the cliches so well, why now twist them around? Why not have the druggie suddenly get smart or the jock be less of an arse and try to be nobel? That’s just scraping the surface and dare do I ruin the monster(s) that lurk about the place. Trust me when I say less said the better, because this one is worth checking out. While its not a masterpiece by any means, there is one huge element that makes Cabin stand out. A twist so good that you have to find out for yourself.

OR IF YOU ARE DYING TO KNOW, READ PAST THIS POINT. ALL ELSE WHO WISH TO LET THE MYSTERY OF THE CABIN BE SOLVED UNTO THEM, DO NOT GO ANY FURTHER AND PLEASE WATCH THE MOVIE!

LONG STORY SHORT,

SPOILER ALERT IF YOUR THAT DESPERATE TO KNOW…

If you read past this point and what to know what happens…then your in for such a treat. Its revealed that cabin is part of a scientific experiment to please a set of strange gods that rest underneath them. As each of the stock characters die, it fills to be a sacrifice to keep the gods pleased and not bring on the end of the world. This here is what makes Cabin stand out. In fact, every scene with the scientists are the best part. As they control the environment above ground, we see how things can be motivated with the push of a button and what can be used to meet their demise.

SPOILER ALERT! Monsters gone amuck!

SPOILER ALERT! Monsters gone amuck!

But it gets better. Further in, we see that they have a huge collection of monsters they use to unleash to the places they created. It almost feels like a complete ode to nearly every horror movie out there with creepy clowns, werewolves, giant snakes and much more that inhabit these odd cells. But even describing this is still scraping the surface. I dare not ruin anymore or else the whole game is given away. But I will say the magnitude of monsters gives for a great opportunity in the climax when hell breaks loose as we are giving the ultimate monster mash ever depicted on film. Its an entertaining sight that will make any creature fan pleased.

Even so, The Cabin in the Woods has probably one of the most interesting commentary that I don’t think any horror movie has attempted. This might be stretching it but I have my own interpretation that I think describes what makes this movie so good. The stock characters are the ingredients of a horror movie being controlled as the scientists are sort of like filmmakers that want to make the film their way. They know people will go for the same old and rarely break the mold. This is in part because of the gods who feel more like film critics waiting to be awarded something they want. And if they don’t get what they wish, then its them who has the last say as the movie is killed by the mighty blow of their hands. Its an out there theory but I feel it fits for a fun film like this. Oh, as a nitpick, if your not for bleak endings, the way it concludes might turn you off…just saying…