GhostBusters 2016 review

GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 REVIEW

 
Ghostbusters 2016 teaser logo

Ghostbusters 2016 teaser logo

I ain’t afraid of no ghost
— Ray Parker Jr
‘Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.’  
— imdb
 

 

                                   

When I first read about the 'Reboot' to the 1980s movie 'Ghostbusters' I was more than a little apprehensive. To say that I'd had my fill of uninspired reboots would be an understatement.

When they released the first pictures for the main cast of the all female lead ghost busters, I at least thought maybe it might be funny. With the talent assembled here there was at least potential for comedy.

 
 

Then I watched the movie. Very few laughs were to be had. It felt more like 'throw as many jokes at the screen as possible and see what sticks' formula. And unfortunately not many did.

The movie follows a very similar set up of the original 'Ghostbusters', only deviating very slightly in story and set up. It should work. There should be moments of laugh out loud comedy but there isn't. There's a strain of comedy on display that, to me at least, isn't very funny. It seems the magic improvising potion got lost in translation resulting in a flat rendition of one liners that just don't really hit.

The actors themselves didn't seem to really know how to play with the characters and instead clutch at comedy straws that aren't really based upon character, instead wholly on props. A recurring 'joke' about wantons falls flat every time its used and its used a lot.

I'm not saying the original Ghostbusters movie was perfect, its not. But what it did get right was character. I engaged with them. I found them annoyingly like-able. And for the most part the comedy worked. 

So apart from the comedy was it an interesting movie to watch? Well, yes and no. I thought visually the hyper colourful images were very nice and the renders of the ghosts were nicely captured. At times, though, the actors seemed to be slightly confused in the CGI environment especially in the beginning of the movie at the haunted house.

Chris Hemsworth was probably the funniest actor in the movie, he plays an engagingly stupid receptionist called Kevin. You could tell he had fun with the role and the other actors bounced off him including Wiig who unashamedly undresses him with her eyes at every opportunity.

 
 

Kate Mc kinnon plays scientist Jillian Holtzman as an Egon lite character with a crazy edge. Her brand of humour didn't hit for me. Her one-liners falling flat and missing nearly every time. The expectation was clearly high as they cut to her character repeatedly for a one line zinger that doesn't quite work for the scene.

Which brings us nicely onto the movies Cameos featuring some of the original cast members. This and the constant call backs to the original movie were one of the movies biggest weaknesses. For me, they felt lazy, shoe horned into the movie without thought or conviction. Bill Murray sleep walks through his cameo seemingly uninterested in what's happening. And how he ends.. ahem spoiler alert is quite badly put together almost like the editor ran out of usable footage to complete the scene properly. One of a number of strange edit decisions in the movie. This admittedly, could be the result of scenes which were ad-libbed for comedy. 

When the finale rolls around, it becomes a CGI rampage with Ghouls and ghosts circulating downtown Manhattan. There is a big call back of sorts to the stay puff marsh mellow man from the original which did get a chuckle but ultimately the ending just came and went. It was a forgettable piece that wasn't really satisfying and deserved better. You could say that for most of the action scenes in the movie. They were nothing memorable and just ok. This seems to be the calling card of this movie and its lasting impression: nothing memorable.

1 and 1/2 * out of 5*

 

'Phage' book review

Disclaimer:The auther sent me his book to read in exchange for a review* I have tried to review the book without giving away plot spoilers as best I could. However if you like to know very little of the plot of books then stop reading*

Phage is a techno-thriller by author and microbiologist Dr Mark Tamplin. Phage tells the story of Doctor Sam Townsend a microbiologist who is caught in the midst of a conspiracy to frame him for criminal acts against the state and the impending release of a biological weapon engineered by a sociopathic USDA microbiologist called Owen designed to strike at the heart of the food chain releasing a deadly mutant bacterium engineered to kill the unsuspecting American public. Set in modern day, it poses an intriguing question: what if someone where to target our food source for a weaponised biological attack?

Indeed this question is what I found the most intriguing in Tamplin's book. It is the heart of the story and what drives the narrative. In a world ravaged by war and uncertainty the one constant, to a certain degree, is the fact that we can put uncontaminated food on our plates. However, if this did happen what would we do to protect ourselves? Or could we even stop it if this actually happened?

In the setup we are given a brief introduction to the protagonist of the story Dr Sam Townsend, a man living with a past who is focused on a world of microbes when the outer world - the world of his own existence - is microscopic like the microbes he spends so much time investigating. One of the problems I have with the story is the fact that we never really get to know Sam and at times I felt his dialogue exchanges with certain Characters were a little contrived and unrealistic. As the hero of the piece I felt we really needed to know him in order to root for him, otherwise we are following a somewhat slender character that we cannot totally engage with. Perhaps that was the authors intention that he be as cold as the microbes he investigates and is holding back some more detail for what, I understand, is a planned trilogy of books involving the same character. To me its important that im along with the character for the ride and not a passive viewer. I want to know something of him and 'intuit' the rest as we go along. Character is king and informs the plot in my view.

Some Other small niggles were some subplot turns that took me out of the main storyline mostly involving the FBI and the search for Sam and his students that didn't play out realistically for me and took away from the main drive of the plot. The students dialogue exchanges, at times, felt unrealistic and didn't quite serve the plot for me. It seemed like one less character in these situations would make for a tighter, more streamlined plot and reading experience overall.

The Antagonist, professor Owen Potter was much more complex character, more deeply drawn and I could tell that Tamplin enjoyed writing his pieces. For me he was the most interesting character in the book. He was somewhat unpredictable with sociopathic tendencies and a bitter self aggrandizing attitude which combined spells disaster for anyone who crosses his path. His delusions about his mother where very reminiscent of Norman Bates, their relationship seemingly on a similar plane. His plot to contaminate food was frightening with potentially catastrophic effects on a world scale.

I Really enjoyed the opening of the book and found the build up, contamination and subsequent clean up explaining the technical scientific aspects of a 'phage' intriguing. It is very crichtonesque. I felt it got the balance right without overwhelming the reader. *On a personal note, I would probably have wanted more technical information as the subject matter itself fascinates me.

Overall, it is a fast paced thriller with a very interesting plot. If you enjoy science-based technical thrillers then I think you might enjoy reading 'Phage'. Putting aside certain plot and dialogue niggles overall it was an enjoyable read and I thank Mark Tamplin for reaching out and asking me to read his book.

Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Below are a link to buy his book on Amazon.  

https://www.amazon.com/Phage-Mark-Tamplin-ebook/dp/B015AUR1YM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468344720&sr=1-1&keywords=phage

 

 

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Review

BvS logo

BvS logo

'Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.'

Synopsis: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) taken from Imdb.
— http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2975590/

A direct sequel of sorts to 'Man of steel', Zack Snyder is once again in the directors chair of this dark sober tale of fear, demi gods and angst.

In the current run of high profile comic book movies this venture from DC studios and Zack Snyder is a curious mix, often muddled, with both good and bad points.

It is a sober, dark and brooding affair where we once again witness the murder of Batman's Parents in a stylish opening introduction to his character. The titular role of Batman is given to Ben Affleck who plays the role in a very understated fashion. Hard boiled, brooding and angst ridden. One of the more interesting aspects of this incarnation of the character is the fact that he brands the perpetrators he brings to justice. It's strangely dark and nice touch but it is only very briefly touched on in the movie and never really spoken about. It had more potential to add layers to his character.

you can quite evidently see Christopher Nolans influence on the film. Some of the editing choices are clearly from the Nolan playbook. The skips in narration, slightly off kilter, abrupt style in the action sequences are undoubtedly Nolanesque. Its just a question wheter this hinders or helps the storyline.

I felt at times, it made the narrative a bit muddled, trying to add depth to the story that wasn't really there to begin with. If the story beats are broken down you can see the plot is really rather simple. Admittedly, I can see why you would want the epic approach given that its a tent pole summer blockbuster but at the same time I do wish that there was more substance. We never really crawl under the surface. So it feels very scant while attempting depth.

I liked Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, given the limited material he had to play with he gave the tortured soul of Batman life for the most part. However, I wasn't a fan of the batman voice which to me came across a little silly and unconvincing. Henry Cavill is once again short changed as Superman, left looking stern with no sense of humanity, humility or humour, the type of stoic hallmarks of superman in the original Richard Donner movies and it was sorely lacking. The biggest surprise was the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthar which was wholly misjudged seemingly acting in an entirely different movie to everyone else. At times his acting style was cringe worthy eliciting a snigger rather than intrigue or interest.

But was the movie any good? That's a good question. To be honest I'm torn. I have to admit that usually I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder's approach to super hero movies generally. They tend to be too over the top for me. Taking 'Man of steel' as a point of reference, I felt the ending was just forty minutes of buildings getting blown apart and needless destruction. It felt more like a video game than a movie. This approach very quickly became boring and I began looking at the clock to see how much time was left to run - something I never do during a movie. Sometimes less is more.

With BVS the premise seemed very silly because ultimately where could you go? An indestructible Alien facing a human with a bat suit fetish seemed like a non-starter for interest. At times it does feel exactly like that. There is quite a lot of build up for a showdown that lasts for maybe five minutes of screen time. And how it concludes is rather abrupt and unintentionally silly. Its the kind of moment where you do a double take.

its not all bad though as the movie had some potential which was squandered under the weight of trying 'to fit it all in' including the obligatory intro to the upcoming Justice league movie. As a result the movie just feels too focused on plot and not on Character. Which is, admittedly, a dichotomy as the plot itself is simplistic. It is filled to the brim with subplots and bit players that don't really add much to the movie. Visually it is quite nicely shot in a hazy sepia tone colour palette and the effects are colourful and overblown, as you'd expect from a Superhero movie. The action for the most part is well done especially involving Batman and hand to hand combat.

 

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Ultimately though the movie felt muddled plotwise and I found it hard to keep my attention for the entirety of its running time. 

** out of 5

 

Fractional goes live on Amazon.co.uk!

Now available to rent of buy on Amazon.co.uk or free to watch with a Prime account! Click the link below to be taken directly to Amazon.co.uk

 

Death wish 3 review

For the last little while I've been taking a trip back down 80s nostalgia filmwise watching a few classics and not so classics and ones that are so bad they're almost entertaining. Almost. I think death wish 3 falls into this category.

As with the other death wish movies Charles Bronson plays Paul Kersey architect cum vigilante who says very little and let's his gun do the talking for him.

Death wish 3 poster

Death wish 3 poster

As with with the other death wish movies the setup is similar. Kersey comes to town to visit an old buddy but low and behold there is a gang who controls the streets and promptly does away with kersey's buddy just before he arrives. Less than two seconds later (literally) he is arrested by a detective 'dude' ( we never get to know his name as far as I remember ) and despatched to jail for his friends murder. Huh? With that type of service the cops would have the streets cleaned up in no time. But I digress. After being jailed and having an impromptu fight with a gang member in the jail cell where he pushes his head through the jail cell bars, he is set loose by detective 'dude' to do his vigilante thing.

Cue kersey's revenge Replete with bazookas through the mail and a Hand cannon dirty Harry would be proud of. In fact they make a joke about that one. The film is a funny mix of dark material and tongue in cheek action. Bronson was reportedly not impressed with the movie at the time and vowed never to work with the director again.

But the question remains is this movie any good? Even as I type this I can't quite decide whether it's nostalgia or plain lunacy but in a twisted way the movie is strangely entertaining. Now I'm not saying its good, it's not its really bad, but it's entertaining as in entertaining to see how badly constructed it is and how much the film maker doesn't seem to care. They seemingly make no effort to mask it. It's like saying 'in for a penny in for a pound'. 

Right on!

Right on!

The film is funny in a not intentional way. The scenes are played completely serious and earnest which makes it that much more fun. The acting is really bad at times but it moves quickly, shifting from one stilted 'acting' scene to the next eager to get to the action which is the real heart of the movie anyway. These small filler scenes seem to be there just to fill a cinematic convention that there must be a 'story' to break the action. I may be wrong but I think this is the least amount of dialogue that Charles Bronson speaks in any movie. It's somehow awkward when he does, however, so maybe that was a wise choice.

There are lots of moments of nihilistic action. It's completely over the top. The traps that kersey uses to lure the gang members out so that he can gun them down mercilessly are unintentionally hilarious. He buys a new car (wtf?), gang member tries to rob it, one badly scripted and stilted dialogue exchange and the gang members are blown away. Kersey goes back to his dinner. Kersey goes to buy ice cream with a brand new camera only to be robbed by 'the Giggler' (seriously!) a gang member with a permanent laughing disorder. Mr giggles eats pavement with a big hole in his chest. The whole neighbourhood celebrates. The gang members stew crying awkward crocodile tears 'they killed the Giggler!'.

The Giggler in action

The Giggler in action

A women we have only briefly met for one or two short scenes is brutally attacked by some gang members and ends up in hospital. The ending to this is a phone call to say that this unfortunate women has suffered a broken arm and will be fine. Cut to: visiting her in the hospital and kersey is informed by the medical team that she has 'expired'. Huh? A moment ago she had a broken arm? Yes, but apparently there was a complication with trying to fix her arm and she died. Don't cut your finger in this town you might just keel over and die from 'complications'. It's a device if one was needed for full on revenge and carnage on the streets.

Gatling gun carnage

Gatling gun carnage

The final twenty minutes or so is summed up simply by stating that kersey becomes a one man army, taking on an endless supply of gang members who die theatrical deaths at the business end of a gatling gun. The perpetrators die doing somersaults through the air that Spider-Man would be proud of. No one just simply dies. Its even more comic book than the avengers. Add to the fact that 'the neighbourhood people' join in on the killing spree randomly gunning down anyone they see, gleefully celebrating like they'd won the euro millions and you have the nihilistic, generally funny picture. You can't take this movie seriously. At all. Ever. 

No weapon props left? No problem! A plunger will do!

No weapon props left? No problem! A plunger will do!

Without doubt it is in the category of 'so bad its almost entertaining' with the emphasis heavily on 'Bad'. Enjoy!

 

Leterboxd review of Mad Max: Fury Road

 

★★★★ Watched 16 May, 2015

A tour de force of action with some spectacular practical effects enhanced by some digital trickery at times.

I would say though that Tom Hardy plays second fiddle to Charlize Theron, in fact she often has more 'presence' on screen. For a mad max themed film I felt a little cheated. But this is a minor quibble, when the action kicks in full tilt you can't help but be drawn into it for the spectacle and the sheer mayhem on camera. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that its mostly all practical. There are moments of 'how exactly did they film that?' about it which only adds to the intrigue for me.

The plot itself is quite simplistic so if you are looking for deep characters and existential pondering then this film is most definitely not for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a well shot action movie you should check it out. Setting aside the fact that there are some holes in the plot and questionable logic of characters there is still nihilistic fun to be had. Although it must be said that this film isn't quite as violent as the others in the series, even though it borrows heavily from The Road Warrior and Thunderdome. I did feel that the very first action set piece set inside a violent sand storm would have been a more thrilling conclusion to the movie as it was hard to up the ante in subsequent action scenes. In fact you could say that they fell a little short of hitting that high again.

Having seen it in 3D I can only assume that the movie would be even better in 2d. For me it suffered from horrible 'Double vision' on screen at times to a level that was very distracting and the only true 3d (Ie object coming out of screen rather than purely depth) seemingly on display was an explosion near the end of the movie where a steering wheel and other items fly into your face. I may be biased but I find 3D mostly a waste of viewing time and try to avoid it if I can as it darkens the picture quite a bit for me it's rather like watching tv at home wearing a pair of Ray Bans. Cool they may be but watching a movie through them doesn't aid with pleasure. And if the 3D is lost in the mix and suffering with the awful 'double vision' phenomenon then you have a recipe for disaster. Ok maybe not disaster but limited enjoyment. The only saving grace with this movie is the fact that practically all the scenes are brightly lit even the night scenes.

So a conclusion, if a conclusion where to be drawn from this, is avoid 3D and go with 2D. But having said that that's a personal preference and up to the individual viewer.

The film is well worth a view. Kick back relax and enjoy a colourful scorched palette and great action set pieces.

LETTERBOXD REVIEW OF NIGHTCRAWLER

LETTERBOXD REVIEW OF NIGHTCRAWLER

short review of Nightcrawler on letterboxd. Checkit out and like it if you like it.. or else ;-)