Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Hah, like you’re watching this for the plot

I went in with low expectations. Everything I had heard about this was negative. If I saw an article online about it it was how it was a disgrace and never should have been made. These articles were backed up by the lack of advertising I seemed to see, I don’t recall seeing a trailer at the cinema for it at all, the only pre-release marketing I saw was the car doing a display at a local shopping centre. I actually went in on my own because I didn’t want to drag anybody else to a disappointing film.

That was a mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’ll be honest, it has a different energy from the 80s films. Those were madcap quick ones, they had the SNL energy which a lot of comedies had back then (the influence that show had on 80s American comedy movies cannot be understated). This does have an 80s energy, but a different one, it almost seems Spielberg-ian. The warmness, the sense of adventure, the incredibly likeable characters, it’s all wonderful and very lovely.

I wish Paul Rudd was in it more, considering how he was heavily mentioned in the pre-release things I did see, it’s disappointing how small a part he plays in it, especially since his character has such obvious chemistry with some of the other cast members. His chemistry with Callie (played by Carrie Coon) is the main focus when it comes to his character, but he has a really interesting dynamic with Phoebe too. Of all the characters in this, his definitely seems the most underdeveloped and wasted.

I kind of expected that if there was going to be comedy, it was going to come from him. Nope, most of it comes from two other characters. Podcast, played by newcomer Logan Kim is an unexpected highlight. Really this film belongs to one person and one person only. A character who I watched and thought “wow, this is a REALLY good performance, that character could be an insufferable know-it-all but whoever is playing them is doing a really good job of making them likeable”. Then I saw the closing credits and figured out why, it’s Mckenna Grace. I genuinely believe she’s the most talented young performer in the world at the moment. She’s normally relegated to “Young version of the main character” in films like I Tonya, Captain Marvel, and Scoob. But when she is given the chance to lead a film she is incredible. The best example of this is Gifted, where she manages to outshine Chris Evans. Important note: she filmed that when she was NINE YEARS OLD. If she picks the right projects I genuinely believe she could end up being the most acclaimed performer of this generation. She completely nails every part of her performance here and delivers some of the biggest laughs, and some of the weirdest jokes I’ve seen. They’re deliberately bad but also still kind of funny, but definitely weird. There’s one in particular which stood out because I’m still not entirely sure if I dreamt it or not:

“How is a hamster like a cigarette? They’re both harmless until you put them in your mouth and set them on fire.”

There’s also a delightful moment where she makes a geometry pun (which did just remind me of this and this tbh) and then when asked if it was intentional says “yes, that’s why I winked”. It’s delightfully awkward and cute and I loved it.

Now onto what I didn’t love. Theoretically, you could go into this having not watched the originals. It does a really good job of catching you up on the universe and the events of the first two films (the 2016 version goes curiously ignored). The story itself does a good enough job of that. But there are some directorial choices that won’t work for newcomers and are just kind of embarrassing to long-time fans. There are too many REALLY unsubtle references. One that stood out was when the camera focuses on a twinkie for a good five seconds or so. It being in the car was enough of a reference, the camera focusing on it for that long is just embarrassing and is basically the director saying “Hey, I’ve seen the original!”. Like, we hope so considering your dad made it.

The directing is the weakest part, it has the right amount of heart needed, but it’s lacking a sense of playfulness and fun that I feel would help it. It’s in an awkward stage where it’s not directed in a playful enough manner for the comedy, but also isn’t dark enough for the horror elements. He nails the emotion though, especially at the end. I didn’t expect to hear tears in the cinema during a Ghostbusters movie, but there we are. Also, stay around for the two credits scenes. Very fun.

2020 In Film Day 2: The Bad

Films which were bad, but had at least one moment I would recommend

Becky

Oh Becky, what a pity, you don’t understand, what makes a good movie. This should be better than it is. At the very least it should be fun. It should not be as utterly boring as this is. It’s a teenage girl killing nazi’s, if I’m looking at my watch during this film, that’s on you and your script. So why is it here? Because of the performers and the make-up. It is occasionally very bloody, and when it is it looks great. There’s a moment where Kevin James gets his eye gouged out and has to cut it off. It’s great and you really feel the pain. It’s a shame that watching the rest of the movie is just as painful.

+It’s good that Kevin James is trying new things.

-It seems way too restrained at times.

Best Moment: The aforementioned eye-gouge. It’s just a shame it doesn’t effect the plot at all

Birds Of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn

First off, what the hell is with that title? Secondly, all this film seemed to do was do was remind me of Suicide Squad. It made the exact same mistakes as that did; having a group of people bond WAY too quickly, not being sure if it’s gritty and realistic or a Tom and Jerry cartoon when it comes to violence, the terrible characterisation. It’s all here. I’m not sure if this was supposed to set up a spin-off film series for Birds Of Prey but if it was an attempt for that it failed as they’re not featured enough to be memorable. The only one I can remember fully is The Huntress, and that’s partly due to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance. But the rest are not given enough attention. Black Canary in particular doesn’t have her powers discussed until near the very end. It did have a unique look though, and I love to see that.

Original review here

+Mary Elizabeth Winstead

-What is the villain’s gimmick? He is so underwritten it’s hard to tell

Best moment: The fight in the amusement park. Fun, chaotic, and hella inventive.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga

A film which belongs on Netflix. I would have hated this if I saw it at cinema. But because I saw it at home I didn’t hate it quite as much. I mean, I still don’t like it. It’s still way too cliche to be considered great, and too annoying to even be considered good. It’s also way too American, no film about Eurovision should have, as a supposed centerpiece of their film, a musical medley consisting of Black Eyed Peas, Cher, and Madonna. You do one of songs from EUROVISION, you know, the thing the fucking film is based on. Even if people don’t know the songs, it will be pushing the concept of the contest. As it is you’re just saying that all of Europe’s musicians secretly wish they could be American. 

Original review here

+Fun at times.

-The story doesn’t work. At all.

Best moment: The opening song. It’s bombastic and weird, perfectly eurovision.

Scoob!

The world needed a Scooby Doo movie. They needed something light and fun and nostalgic. Instead they got this. It suffers a real identity crisis where it seems to be trying to aim itself at children, and people who grew up watching the original cartoons. But it handles it badly to the point of alienating both its potential audiences. Also features possibly the ugliest animation I’ve seen all year. It looks cheap and like it’s made for tv, it will age horribly. Although I do have to ask, if you had a talking dog, would you really be annoyed/disappointed if it had a lisp?

Original review here

+At least they tried something new. And if you’re a fan of the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons you will see a lot of references that make you feel things.

-Yet another Scooby Doo film based around “what does Shaggy do?”

Best moment: it is nice to see how the gang all met each other. Very sweet

The Witches

I don’t often say this, but Anne Hathaway was fucking awful in this. Her accent wavered like it was standing on a surfboard in a tsunami. I don’t know what she was thinking but the director should have stopped her. Was she supposed to be Russian? Because it seemed like she was just Russian to get to the next accent in her rolodex. Actually most of the adult performances in this were pretty bad. The only saving graces being Octavia Spencer and Jahzir Bruno. That, and the cosy nature of the opening sequences, are the only things that keep this film being an absolute shit show.

Original review here

+The ending is more in keeping with the original book, as opposed to the weirdly saccharine ending of the first film.

-Completely pointless.

Best moment: There’s a scene where the witches click their lobster-like claws together in unison. Incredibly creepy and echos back to how creepy the original film was at times.

Underwater

A Cthulhu film that tries to hide the fact it’s a Cthulhu film. Bit of a weird choice there, I would have led with that. For me my main issue with this is the inconsistent identity. It tries to be both a slow-paced atmospheric thriller, like Alien, and a disaster movie. So you have a film that’s attempting to be both atmospheric and quiet, as well as bombastic and loud. Those are two things which don’t mesh together at all. As such the thing from the Alien franchise it resembles most is Colonial Marines. It’s a shame as the opening is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a while. It just never matches that for the rest of the film. Plus, personal preference, I fucking hate shakey-cam.

Original review here

+The music, very creepy at times.

-The inconsistent tone.

Best moment: the opening credits. Sets up the story, and the tone. Perfect.

Scoob! (2020)

Films are designed with a lot of things in mind. Budget (no point attempting to make Die Hard on a Clerks budget), the directors vision, the writers vision, even the actors vision (Johnny Depp’s performance in Pirates Of The Caribbean completely changed the franchise), but also you have the audience. You need to know who the film is aimed at. There’s not point doing a Die Hard sequel that is a romantic comedy, it will annoy the audience. This is why Birds Of Prey was a weird film, as it seemed to be aimed at young teenage girls, but then the rating made it so they couldn’t see it. I bring that up for this film for two reasons:

  1. To pad out the review.
  2. Because I’m not sure who it was aimed at.

The humour was very childish, but it was full of references to obscure Hanna-Barbera cartoons, one of the main characters is Blue Falcon, who’s television show ended in 1977. People might know Captain Caveman, but only through Family Guy and Simpsons references to the character. It’s just a bit of a weird choice as the intended audience won’t understand the references, and the people who would understand it won’t like the film.

This film seems to not like Scooby Doo that much, seemingly spending a lot of time mocking the characters. There’s a time and a place for slightly cynical and wry reboots, but that time and place will never, and should never be, scooby doo. He is brightness and light in a dark world. A symbol of skepticism and grounded reality-based courage in the face of fear. It’s about facing your demons head on, and realising that 90% of the time, the villain is not some mystical demon from an unspoken world, but a rich old white guy who just wants more money. It’s a childish franchise, with all the joy and wholesomeness that that entails. And trying to turn that into some cynical semi-gritty film just to suit modern audiences destroys the entire point of the character. It would be like doing an Assassin’s Creed game set not in the lush landscapes of medieval Italy, but instead in 1980’s Britain, where you just spend your time sitting around waiting for a bus.

It has some comedic moments, but they’re just enough to make up for how pedestrian a lot of the film is. The animation is….well kind of plastic. It reminds me of video games in the late 90’s. After the success of Mario 64, platform games felt the need to force themselves into 3D designs, even if it didn’t suit the characters. It was done because “progress” and the old 2D games felt outdated. But since the games were so ill-suited to a 3d environment/design, the push to feel modern only made them look more dated, like they were unsuitable for modern audiences (whereas if they stayed 2D, it wouldn’t have been noticeable). The animation for this is similar, the modern animation style doesn’t suit these characters. In 20 years time when people draw the Shaggy, Velma etc. They won’t be doing it based on these designs, they’ll be doing it based on the classic style, because that will definitely outlast this.

This year needed joy, it needed something wholesome. It needed Scooby Doo, and this? This isn’t Scooby. Also, no Matthew Lillard, which is unforgivable at this point as he pretty much IS Shaggy.