Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Movie Review: Jason Bourne (PG13 – 123 minutes)

Jason Bourne was created by Robert Ludlum for his book the Bourne Identity in 1980 – which was actually first adapted for TV in 1988.  

In 2002, the novel was loosely adapted into a feature film starring Matt Damon and directed by Doug Liman.  It is the best example of the shift in action-movie leads from the giant, larger-than-life heroes of the 80s and 90s (Schwarzenegger, Stallone, VanDamme, etc.) into a more realistic, skilled, everyman.  The movie style also signified a shift from the bombastic action movie to a smarter, more thriller-type action movie, which took itself far more seriously and was more tightly directed – less ‘splosions, more self-doubt and introspection.

Matt Damon was a unique choice for Bourne, having been mostly recognized for really smart independent dramas up to that point.  In the novels, Bourne was a much older man, but Damon really suited the part for this confused hero.  Bourne wakes up after being rescued by fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea; he has no memory of who he is or why he was unconscious in the water, but he suddenly realizes he has a very particular set of skills.  Following clues starting with a laser pointer embedded in his hip – he begins to realize he was a hitman working for the CIA under Operation Treadstone.  Treadstone seems to be a program that was brainwashing and enhancing ‘volunteers’ to create the perfect soldier…or several soldiers.  Along the way, he gets help from a woman named Marie Kreutz; and in a roundabout way from another CIA associate Nicky Parsons.  The movie wraps up pretty tightly, with Bourne helping to expose Treadstone, and retiring to Mykonos with Marie.
That was all pretty great, and if you haven’t seen it in a while – watch it again.  Of course, it did really well, and since there are a whole bunch of the Bourne novels – we got three other movies.  

The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and the Bourne Ultimatum in 2007 were both directed by Paul Greengrass (there was also the Bourne Legacy in 2008 with Jeremy Renner, but it was both connected and unconnected, and that’s a little confusing).  Greengrass took Liman’s tight action style to heart and developed his own trademark style.  And by style – I mean completely ignoring the fact that the Steadicam was invented and instead shooting everything with handheld cameras.  This results in the audience feeling like they are part of the action, inside the fights and chases with Bourne.  It’s a style I hate, but that others love – which is fine, to each their own. Personally, I prefer the action and fights shot from a distance (with a Steadicam).  The actors worked really hard on that fight choreography – pull back so that I can see it.  Don’t stick the camera in between them so that I feel like I’m getting punched. I’m not here to get punched or be in the backseat during a car chase – I’m here to watch a bunch of actors get punched or be in a car chase.

In any case – the movies continued Bourne’s search for himself and the cause of his strife – which really kept being varying levels of CIA Black Ops programs. Supremacy wasn’t great, and Ultimatum wasn’t bad – I particularly like how it tied up nice and neat with Bourne floating in the water, the same way he had started this mess.  It seemed like a great end to the trilogy, so I think you’ll understand when I refer to this new movie as mostly unnecessary.   

We pick up a decade after Bourne exposed Blackbriar/Treadstone and then disappeared – he’s basically wandering around the world participating in underground fights to make some money…as you do when you’re a spy with amnesia.  

Ex-CIA analyst, Nicky Parsons, is busy hacking the CIA and dumping all their black ops programs online when she accidentally discovers something about Bourne’s father – so requests to meet up with him in Greece during a huge protest.  Well, the CIA is on to her pretty quickly, and the head of their cyber ops division, Heather Lee, and the CIA Director, Robert Dewey, start tracking her down so they can get Bourne.  Dewey pulls another ‘asset’ to eliminate Bourne, while Lee asks if she can instead attempt to bring him in.  The ‘asset’ is all about going after Bourne, because due to Bourne’s actions in exposing Treadstone, the ‘asset’ was captured and tortured years ago – so he’s harboring a major grudge.

Parsons gets eliminated pretty quickly, but manages to get Bourne a key, which he follows to a locker and finds her research, which leads him to another operative, which the CIA tracks again.   He grabs the former operative in London – and learns that his own father was the one who came up with Treadstone/Blackbriar, and was killed once he protested his son’s recruitment into the program.  And all this time, Bourne thought he was volunteering – but his father created the program and the CIA went after him in particular!  This all came out of nowhere, and was never mentioned in any of the other movies, but hey – whatever.

While all this is going on while Dewey is making a deal with Aaron Kalloor, the CEO of a social media enterprise company called Deep Dream, to allow the CIA to use Deep Dream to essentially spy on everyone all the time.  Kalloor is beginning to regret his decision to partner with Dewey, and is thinking about pulling out.
After Bourne evades capture by Lee in London – he gets back in touch with her to learn that Dewey is behind all this and he’s about to be on a panel with Lee and Kalloor in Vegas (what? Is the CIA director really doing tech panels in Vegas?).  In any case, Bourne also heads to Vegas the same time as the other ‘asset’, who Dewey has now reassigned to kill Kalloor, Lee, still Bourne, and really anyone else who gets in his way.  

Bourne gets there just in time to prevent the hits, take out Dewey in his Aria hotel suite, allow Lee to let him get away, then have an unbelievably epic car chase with the asset up and down the strip before finally crashing into the Rivera; defeating him, and once again walking away.  He meets up with Lee in Washington D.C., who seems to be about to get a big-time promotion, and records her as she offers to either bring Bourne in, or put him down if necessary.  Then he walks off into the sunset as Moby plays – again.

Greengrass is once again behind the handheld camera here, and while I found the camera shakiness annoying in some of the others, I found it almost unbearable here.  The extensive car chases with the shaking were actually on the verge of making me nauseous. I get that he loves that as a device, but it’s so unnecessary in every single scene.  There are scenes in this movie where characters take out a cell phone to read a text, which the audience is supposed to also read, but the camera is shaking so much you cannot read it. No need to use a handheld there and no need to use handheld for simple conversations.  That aside, the story also felt unnecessary – no mention of Webb’s (Bourne’s real name) father had ever come up in any previous movie, so to make the whole point of this movie a revenge story since Dewey was the man who hired the asset to kill Bourne’s father felt really forced.  In terms of the cast, they were all very good – I honestly have no complaints there.
  • Matt Damon is still fantastic as Bourne.  He’s confused and angry – mostly angry because he’s confused. In this one he continues to get angrier once he find out his father was murdered. I am a fan of Damon, and I like him in these movies.  Think about how much better BvS would have been with him as Lex Luthor – with a more quiet, intelligent, menace…

  • Tommy Lee Jones plays CIA director Dewey – and he’s great, but you’re never fooled by him into thinking he’s a good guy – he’s pretty villainous almost the whole time, but he’s great at that, so I’ll go with it.

  • Alicia Vikander plays Heather Lee, and I actually really liked her very cold, calculating performance here.  Similar to her Ex Machina robot – but less emotional!  For a moment, you think she may be on Bourne’s side, wanting to help him by bringing him in, but then you realize that she’s using it as career-boosting power, which really makes her more layered and interesting.

  • Vincent Cassel plays the ‘asset’ who spends tons of time chasing Bourne around. He’s got very little to do, which is a shame, because he’s really an interesting guy.  I couldn’t help but think when they were running around Vegas that he did the same amount of running around Vegas in Ocean’s 13.  If you want to see what he can do – watch Brotherhood of the Wolf – it’s a French movie starring Cassel and his wife Monica Bellucci, and it’s really weird but good.

  • Julia Stiles plays Nicky Parsons again – and she felt really flat in this. I couldn’t tell if that was as choice, or simply her, but either way, it didn’t seem to match the intensity of the information she was trying to pass on, since that’s really what gets Bourne out of hiding and back into the game.

  • Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor, the head of Deep Dream, who is basically a Silicon Valley character. If you’re not watching Silicon Valley on HBO – you should be.

  • Ato Essandoh plays CIA agent Craig Jeffers – and his job is really just to go around with Dewey and give him updates on where Bourne is and what he’s up to.

Overall, the whole movie just felt unnecessary, which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to it.  The action might have been good, but the camera was shaking so much I couldn’t really see it.  The car chase at the end went on forever, which is interesting if you’ve ever spent any time on the Vegas Strip – you know there’s almost no way to have a car chase there, first because of traffic, and second, because it’s not really as long as it seems to be in this movie.  I enjoyed the cast, for the most part, and I wanted it to be better – but really, skip this one and just rewatch the original. 

4 out of 10 – removing extra points for the shaky camera work.
Cast Interviews:

Bonus – Brotherhood of the Wolf, so weird and French – but really entertaining!

Monday, August 1, 2016

TV Movie Review: Sharknado 4: The Fourth Awakens

Welcome to the beautiful disaster that are the Sharknado movies. Hard to believe we’re already on the fourth one!  SyFy tends to create a lot of silly creature feature movies – they are filled with D-grade celebrities and insanely terrible writing, special effects, and acting – but all of that is what makes them so absolutely watchable.  As long as you understand you’re watching total crap – it’s a good time.

Sharknado first aired in 2013, staring Ian Ziering and Tara Reid fighting to reunite their family while battling a tornado filled with sharks.  That one speculated that global warming was causing sharks to mass in unnatural numbers while a freak hurricane occurred above – when tornadoes spun off the hurricane, they sucked up the sharks and dumped them into the flooded streets of L.A. The movie was an unexpected hit due to viewers live-tweeting their shock and awe.  And so a franchise – based mainly on Ian Ziering’s confidence in his over-committal - was spawned. 

You’ll remember that the last one ended with Fin pulling his wife, April, and their infant son out of the belly of a great white shark as she had given birth there while falling back to earth from space – where they had to leave Fin’s father, Gil, on the moon after he fired a space laser that disrupted the bank of sharknados along the east coast.  The movie ended with fans getting to choose April’s fate by tweeting #AprilLives or #AprilDies as she appeared to be directly in the path of falling space debris.  I tweeted that she should live, because after you give birth to your baby in the belly of a great white as it falls back to earth from space – really, nothing should kill you.

This movie picks up five years on from that point, billionaire Aston Reynolds has created company Astro-X, and installed Astro-Pods around the earth that are able to eliminate sharknados as soon as they crop up.  He’s also developed better space travel so he was able to rescue Colonel Gil Sheppard (Fin’s Dad) from the moon.  Gil is now working with Fin’s daughter Claudia at Astro-X, developing a mechanized suit with the assistance of a scientist named Wilfred – who we later learn is April’s dad.
Fin and his now five year old son are on his mother’s farm in Kansas.  Young Gil is drawing family pics with his mother as a shark (not even going to get into that…) and they are still in mourning from losing April – apparently she was in a coma for four years, and they finally pulled the plug.  

Well, Fin and his cousin Gemini mention that Nova is in Paris (to quickly explain why she is not in this movie), and they are heading to Las Vegas because Aston Reynolds is celebrating five years of being Sharknado free by opening a huge Vegas hotel/casino called SharkWorld.  Fin’s son Matt is scheduled to meet them there after being in the military for the last few years.  His military service has really changed him. I don’t mean emotionally, I mean literally changed him into a different actor than he was in the first movie.  In any case, new Matt and his fiancĂ©e Gabby are about to get married while skydiving when a sharknado hits.  This allows for all kinds of Sharknado-Vegas bits as a shark eliminates CarrotTop’s head, they swarm through a casino, and the Chippendales dancers get to fight falling sharks.

Fin and Gemini jump into action (literally) to save Matt and Gabby during their dive – and then, in a moment of pure genius (or nonsense), Fin hijacks the pirate ship from in front of the Treasure Island hotel to sail down the flooded strip, narrowly evading a ‘sharkberg’ formed from falling sharks.  And that’s just the cold open.

At this point we learn that April is still alive – well, sort of alive.  Her father, Wilfred, has turned her into a cyborg of some sort, rebuilding what he could of her from the bits that were left after the space wreckage hit her. He’s told her that Fin, the baby, Gil – everyone else basically, died, so she’s spending her time doing cyborg training montages.

Aston and his crew realize that the reason their systems didn’t disrupt the Vegas Sharknado is because it was sand-based, not water-based, like a regular Sharknado (what? How did the sharks get … you know what, nevermind. The science is sound).  They bring Fin, Gemini, Matt and Gabby down to Texas where Aston is based to talk it through – and they decide to drive to Kansas. Meanwhile, a sharknado – with ice and hail in it (hail-nado?) pops in over San Francisco – just as April learns Fin is still alive from a news conference, and breaks out of her holding area in time to save Gil and Claudia from being sucked up into the hailnado by catching their car WITH HER HANDS.  Aston comes to get them after they yell at Wilfred for telling everyone that everyone else was dead.  Then they head out to meet the others in Kansas.

Okay – so the Vegas Sand-sharknado headed down to Texas, and while Fin and Co. fight it – it crosses over an oilfield, becoming, you guessed it – an oil-nado.  It hits power lines, there’s a spark, and sure enough – the oil catches fire – so now you have a fire-nado – but still with sharks inside, so it’s spewing out firey sharks as it twists over Texas.  Fin uses a large bit of machinery and some fire extinguishers to defeat that ‘nado, and the hail-nado has been taken out – but there’s still one over the central U.S., a large sharknado that went through Salt Lake City, and is now heading straight to Kansas. It also rolls over a farm, picks up cows, and the cows were fighting the sharks inside of it.
As Fin and all drive north, after some help from his lavalantula-fighting buddy Colton (I can’t even get into that now), the remaining ‘nado hits the world’s largest ball of twine, filling it with sharks, and causing it to roll down the streets just as they arrive in Kansas to rescue Fin’s mom and son. Gabby gets hit by falling sharks as Matt, Gemini, and Fin get into the farmhouse to rescue little Gil.  Then, concurrently, we are introduced to the mayor of Chicago – who has launched into a tirade on TV about how all these sharknados are actually Fin’s fault and he’s not allowed in Chicago – not really an issue, since he’s still in Kansas – but of course, the house gets picked up in the storm, and carried to Chicago – where it falls on the mayor, wicked witch-style.

Aston’s plane lands with April, Gil and Claudia – and April heads into the ruined farmhouse to rescue Fin and little Gil.  Now, the Sheppard clan is completely reunited on Aston’s plane as they come up with a plan to stop the ‘nado, which is complicating things by rolling through the Perry nuclear plant in Ohio and heading towards Niagra Falls – now a full-blown nuclearnado filled with radioactive sharks.  The science is sound.

Everyone heads to Niagra Falls for the final showdown, and they get a slow-motion walk up.  Inevitably, they manage to shut down the nuclear-nado, with Fin using the completed mechano-suit, and April revealing that she CAN FLY.  She can straight-up fly because she’s mostly cyborg.  Of course, every member of the family gets swallowed by different sharks, Russian nesting-doll-style (seriously) ending with Fin getting swallowed by a large great white that then gets swallowed by a whale. Where did the whale come from (whale-icane?)?  Little Gil is the only one left out – so he takes his baby chainsaw and jumps into the whale, rescuing each member of the family in turn. They all crawl out of the ick to stand triumphantly together just as the Eiffel Tower spins in and lands in front of them with a lone figure on it. Looking up at it, Fin says, “Nova?!” 

Honestly, I was exhausted after watching it – emotionally and mentally drained, and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. Really, they outdid themselves this time.  Props to writer Thunder Levin (yes, that is his real name) and director Anthony C. Ferrante.  The movie is so much insane fun.  The cast keeps expanding in terms of celebrity cameos – but the core is pretty much the same.
  • Once again – half of the success is Ian Ziering, and his decision to pay Finley Allan Sheppard with complete and total dedication.  He’s in on the joke, but playing it so incredibly seriously really adds to the fun.

  • Tara Reid plays April, and I never thought I would say this – but she’s better in this one! She actually seems to be a little more self-aware (instead of half-asleep), and really, that training montage was hilarious.

  • Ryan Newman plays Claudia Shepphard in both this one and the third, but is not the same Claudia as in the first one. And that’s a good thing, because Newman is way more fun and aware.

  • Cody Linley (yes, Jake from Hannah Montana if that means anything to you) plays new Matt, and again – he’s way better than the previous Matt. 

  • Imani Hakim plays Matt’s wife Gabby, they met in the military and had a whirlwind romance (see what I did there?) but it was unfortunately cut short after sharks fell on her.  Too bad, because she was awesome while she was around.

  • Masiela Lusha is new this time around as Fin’s cousin Gemini – I’m not going to lie to you, I missed the explanation of who she was, and I kept thinking of her as not-Nova until I thought maybe she was his sister?  But no, cousin – she’s pretty fun and action-ready.

  • David Hasselhoff plays Gil, Fin’s father – and continues to match Ziering’s intensity.  Especially fun this go round was that he got to interact with Baywatch alums Alexandra Paul and Gena Lee Nolin again as they played two Astro-X technicians who got killed by nuclear sharks because they were slow-motion running away from the nuclear-nado.

  • Gary Busey plays Wilfred Wexler – April’s father. Honestly, I completely believe Busey and Reid are related.

  • Tommy Davison plays Aston Reynolds – and this may have been the role he’s been meant to play. He matches the silliness of the tone perfectly, and I particularly enjoyed the cameo from his Living Color co-star T’Keyah Crystal Keymah as one of his techs.

  • The rest are basically cameos, and honestly this time there were pretty much too many to mention, but here’s a few:  Carrot Top, Vince Neil, Wayne Newton, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Jillian Barberie, Stacey Dash, Dan Yeager, Dr. Drew, David Faustino, Kym Johnson, Gilbert Gottfried, Paul Shaffer, and Seth Rollins. 

Overall – it’s complete nonsense.  Turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. You’re going to encounter multiple people who will tell you it’s dumb.  Yes, of course it’s dumb, that’s the point.  Remember, tell them the science is sound, and if they persist, throw a knunch their way.  That’s the simultaneous knee-punch that is really hard to defend.

10 of 10 – because, why not. Gained points for the Star Wars quotes and references, the Wizard of Oz quotes and references, and all the other quotes and references.

Bonus – Comic Con Panel!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review: Star Trek Beyond (PG13 – 120 minutes)

The Star Trek series was rebooted in 2009 with J.J.Abrams at the helm. I am a fan of the original series, but even more so of the six movies featuring the original cast.  I didn’t think it needed a reboot – especially in an established universe as vast as the Star Trek ‘verse.  Why not use an entirely new group of characters and a new ship?  In any case, Abrams went ahead and cast new actors as Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. The first movie had them encountering an enemy that knocked them out of the timeline, creating an alternate timeline, which Abrams said he could use to create entirely new adventures but with the same characters we knew from the old show. 

That was actually a genius idea.  The new cast could play the roles and add their own spin and touches to characters we already knew so well.  Then – Abrams went ahead and completely went against everything he had stated he was trying to accomplish with that move by re-creating the most beloved movie of the original series, The Wrath of Khan, with his Star Trek Into Darkness.  This was, in my opinion, a huge mistake. The role of Khan was horribly miscast, and the story lost the majority of the impact that it had in its original format.  You can check my review of that movie for more ranting on my part, but I was so angry with it I completely wrote off this franchise and had no interest in seeing anything else from them.

Then they announced they were doing another one, Simon Pegg was helping to write, and Justin Lin was directing. Lin is responsible for the three best Fast and Furious movies – 4, 5, and 6, and Pegg is not only playing Scotty – but is first and foremost a fan, and knows what other fans would like to see – and what they would not like to see.

This movie picks up about two years after the previous adventure – nearly halfway through their ‘five year mission’ and Captain Kirk seems to be suffering from a bout of ‘space boredom’.  He’s become a little tired of going from world to world, and is craving a bit of adventure – I found this a little strange since this movie opens with what should have been a simple diplomatic operation and turns into an action escape.  McCoy attempts to cheer him up with an early birthday drink, but doesn’t do a very good job (he does not gift him a pair of reading glasses – not yet anyway). 

The Enterprise is docking at the Starbase Yorktown outpost, the newest station in deep space (I loved the design, it was absolutely beautiful!), and the crew is ready for some shore leave.  Kirk takes the opportunity to put in for the Vice-Admiralship of the Yorktown, seeking a change.  Spock, meanwhile, has broken up with Uhura, and received word of the death of Ambassador Spock (this is a brilliant bit of art imitating life and provided a beautiful opportunity to say goodbye to Leonard Nimoy).  Shaken by this more than he has expected, he has put in for a transfer to ‘New Vulcan’ to help rebuild his race.  Neither he nor Kirk has told the other about their plans – yet.

Of course, while there, a small ship in distress comes barreling out of a nearby nebula with an alien on board who is talking (after being fitted with a universal translator) about her ship and crew being attacked and now held on a planet nearby.  Since the Enterprise is the ship most able to handle the situation (it always is), shore leave is cut short and the crew heads out to see what they can do to help. They get through the nebula without too much of a problem, but once through, before they can get down to the planet, they encounter a new race, flying what I would call a ‘swarm’ of ships, led by Krall.  Overwhelmed by sheer numbers – the Enterprise gets destroyed, and the majority of the crew escapes down to the planet in various methods. Scotty shoots off in a torpedo, Spock and McCoy end up hijacking an alien ship and crashing, Uhura gets stuck with Krall while separating the saucer section, and Chekov and Kirk crash land in their escape pods with the rescued alien. 

Split up, each mini-group of the crew has their own small adventures.  Sulu and Uhura work together to try to figure out how to free the crew from Krall’s base camp – and learn that he has some bio-technology that seems to allow him to steal the life-force, bio-energy, soul, whatever you want to call it, from his prisoners.  Kirk and Chekov realize the alien lured them into a trap, and try to continue to hide the item she is looking to give to Krall that they had onboard. Scotty encounters Jaylah – a woman who has been evading capture on this planet and planning an escape, while McCoy has to help Spock with an injury and then they basically get to bond until they run into Scotty and Jaylah.  Together, they realize she’s been living in an old crashed Federation ship – the U.S.S. Franklin - and if they can get it powered up they can get everyone off the planet. Of course, parallel to this plan, Krall gets his hands on the item, and turns it into a really impressive bio-weapon that he then wants to unleash on Yorktown.  Our intrepid crew has to get off the planet in enough time to stop him and his swarm of followers.

Based solely on the three F&F movies he’s done, I knew Justin Lin could direct action – but I have to say, I was still impressed by the action in this movie.  It moves fast, and aside from a few slow points at the beginning, it really was well-paced the whole way through.  The action and hand-to-hand sequences were great, and there were far less lens flares – in fact, I’m not sure I saw any!  The sequences on the planet were fun, and I actually enjoyed splitting the cast into mini-groups.  I worried that the motorcycle sequence shown in the trailer would be annoying, but it actually was really fun.  I really loved that this was a new story, and that this round of actors could now work on putting their own touches on the characters, instead of being unfairly compared to those that came before because the story is the same.

  • Chris Pine plays Captain James T. Kirk. He’s beginning to feel more like the leader of this group. Pine is capable, and is certainly the action-packed captain. His portrayal of Kirk as bored by the ‘exploring and peacekeeping’ part of the missing is really interesting (and strange, because it seems really off-character from the Kirk I know).  His realization at the end of the potential of where they can go keeps him in the chair.

  • Zachary Quinto plays Commander Spock, and really the inclusion of the moments honoring Leonard Nimoy felt so real and so honest, it made me tear up a little.  Especially at the end when he goes through the personal effects of Ambassador Spock, he gets to see a picture of the original cast during Star Trek V.  Quinto is still not quite perfect as Spock, but to be honest, it’s a lot to live up to.  He’s getting closer, and does a good job of continuing to bond with McCoy in this movie.

  • Karl Urban plays Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy and still seems to be the closest to the original portrayal of the character. His grumpy exterior covers his amazing heart, and how much he truly cares about all of his crewmates – again – really on display in the scenes with Spock in this movie.

  • Zoe Saldana plays Lieutenant Uhura, and while I’m still not sure about the choice to hook up Uhura and Spock, she and Quinto do an adequate job of making the relationship believable.  I do enjoy the emphasis on Uhura’s particular skill of sorting out communication and languages.

  • Simon Pegg plays Montgomery Scott and again – thank goodness for him taking over some of the writing duties. He gives Scotty charm and wit and skill.  I love his interactions with Jaylah – and his ability to help her trust them, despite being alone for so many years.

  • John Cho plays Hikaru Sulu with the best sense of duty and confidence.  He’s such a ready action hero, that you have no doubt he can fly the Franklin, despite it having been stuck in the mud for what seems to be a lot of time. 

  • Anton Yelchin plays Pavel Chekov, and this will be one of the last things we see him in since he tragically died in a car accident this summer. He’s fun, he’s light, and his version of Chekov really helped to lighten the cast.  I hope they don’t recast, but I don’t know how they would write him out. We’ll have to see what they do next.

  • Idris Elba plays Krall and I’m still a little perplexed how you have one of the most beautiful men on the planet covered in full facial prosthetics – especially since he complained about having to wear Heimdall’s helmet.  Also – the last trailer did ruin a bit of a twist with his character, I’m not going to mention it – I’m hoping it hasn’t been ruined for you. He’s great – super vengeful and angry.

  • Sofia Boutella – who owned every scene of Kingsman: Secret Service she was in as Gazelle (you remember, with the razor feet?) also manages to steal many scenes of this movie as Jaylah.  She’s aggressive and self-sufficient, but also afraid to go up against an enemy that has already caused her to lose so much. I really hope she sticks around and gets added to the cast going forward.

  • Joe Taslim plays Krall’s right hand man, Manas.  He gets a really badass fight sequence with Jaylah on top of a building in Krall’s camp.

  • Kydia Wilson plays Kalara; the alien refugee who cons our crew into getting involved in this mess in the first place. Her look was lovely, and I really enjoyed the flip of her character.   It’s tough to act when covered fully in facial prosthetics and not speaking English – but she did a really good job of making want her to be helped, which of course, only then made the betrayal that much more painful. 

The entire final fight sequence takes place between Krall and Kirk floating in the center of the Yorktown where gravity goes a bit crazy. Again, I loved the design of the Yorktown base, it’s really lovely and visually interesting.  I loved that we finally get to see some beginnings of true friendships between the crew.  I also really loved the way they worked in the goodbye to Leonard Nimoy – it was very touching, and really beautifully done.  Because the movie was basically finished when Anton Yelchin passed away, there’s nothing in the movie directly related to his passing, but the movie is dedicated to him.  It does bring up an interesting quandary.  Do you recast the role of Chekov? Do you write Chekov out?  I hope they do it right, I don’t think he should be recast, but I’m not sure what the right way to handle that would be.

I was so upset with Into Darkness, but this one really did win me back over, I’m so excited about where they could go from here.  My favorite part of original Trek was the heart of it – the hopefulness of it, and the focus on the relationship and friendship between the characters. This cast isn’t quite there yet, but they are getting closer. You can start to see their friendships in this one.  In a way, it did feel like a long episode, but I think that’s what this franchise needed. I really enjoyed it.

8 out of 10 – surprisingly fun! 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Movie Review: Ghostbustsers (2016) (PG13 – 116 minutes)

The first Ghostbusters was released in 1984, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and was directed by Ivan Reitman.  The film is a comedy classic, bizarrely hilarious and entertaining, and also endlessly quotable, “Listen! Do you smell that?” and, “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.”  The story was that of three scientists and one civilian fighting a rising tide of ghosts in New York City as an ancient evil was preparing to reenter our realm. They thwart the evil and save the city.  The story itself is not all that impressive, but it is one of the very best examples of the execution elevating the material.  The cast was spectacular, and allowed friends Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis to play off one another through the whole thing. Throw in the deadpan normal-guy-ness of Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver, the off-the-wall zaniness of Annie Potts and Rick Moranis, and you’ve got a hit. It’s a movie that if I catch it while flipping channels, I will almost always stop and watch it.

It had a sequel in 1989, which was not quite as good, and then stories of the writers kicking around an idea for the third movie were floating around since.  With the passing of Ramis in 2014, it seemed to hit an impasse.  Then, the idea of a reboot started coming up – and Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy, announced he was doing the reboot with four female leads, and the collective internet lost its damn mind. People claimed it was a horrible idea to remake a classic and it would ‘ruin their childhoods’, people claimed women weren’t funny, people claimed it was sexist to be in favor of it, people claimed it was sexist to not be in favor of it, people claimed all sorts of nonsense.  As with all internet nonsense, the very best response to all this crap is to simply ignore it – see the movie – and form your own opinion.  Did I think Ghostbusters needed a reboot?  No – I did not, I loved the original. However, Paul Feig is fantastic, and once he announced his cast, I was on board – because they are four of the best comedians working today.  Please note – I did not say that they were four of the best female comedians working today.  In that same way I will tell you that Shonda Rhimes is not one of the best female showrunners working today.  She is one of the best showrunners working today. Period.  There’s no need for qualifiers. 

The movie itself begins with a tour at a ‘haunted’ mansion in New York. The tour guide mentions the lady of the house killed her servants and then was imprisoned in the basement until she died down there. A small device goes off, and she comes back and starts spooking everyone.  Meanwhile Erin Gilbert is working on pursuing tenure as a professor at Columbia, hoping no one finds out about a pro-ghost book she wrote some years back with co-ghost-scientist Abby Yates.  Abby has put the book up on Amazon, and desperate to get it removed, Erin goes to visit Abby, and meets her new ghost-scientist co-worker at the suspicious Higgins Institute, Jillian Holtzmann.

While there, they get word about the haunting at the mansion, so the three of them head out to the mansion and witness the ghost resulting in Erin getting slimed – because someone has to.  They upload the video to the internet – resulting in all of them getting fired, and taking up residence in a ‘lab’ above a Chinese food restaurant.

A second ghost is spotted in the subway, leading the three to meet MTA officer Patty Tolan.  They spot the same strange device from the first haunting. After encountering this ghost, Patty joins them, Holtzmann creates a bunch of devices for them to use in the busting of ghosts. Every time there’s a moment of downtime, she’s suddenly got more tech for them, but you never really see her assembling them, they just keep showing up – I really enjoyed that running gag. 

The ladies gain some notoriety, resulting in the need to hire the world’s worst receptionist, Kevin. The mayor’s office wants them to keep it quiet, but they keep helping citizens, and eventually track down the why behind the hauntings. They work together to save the city while hijinks ensue.

The movie is funny, it’s not nearly as hilarious as I wanted, but it is funny.  There are many, many callbacks to the original, and yes, every surviving member of the original core cast (with the exception of Rick Moranis – who retired years ago) does have a cameo, and they were all enjoyable. Honestly, I could have done with a few less callbacks.  The four ladies are hilarious, and honestly were the best in the scenes where they were just sitting around talking with one another.

  • Kristen Wiig plays Erin Gilbert, and I actually enjoy her more when she’s cut loose – here, she’s playing the “straight-man”, but it does work. She goes from frustrated to determined to prove that they are telling the truth, and are legitimate scientists. She is also really borderline creepy around Kevin, which goes from funny to awkward, but then cycles back around to funny again.

  • Melissa McCarthy plays Abby Yates, and she doesn’t get to be as crazy as I would like, but she is super fun. She’s confident, and knows they are doing the right thing by pursuing the busting of ghosts. Her ongoing debate with Bennie the delivery guy about how many wontons are in her soup is a tiny bit of brilliance.

  • Kate McKinnon plays Jillian Holtzmann, and honestly, she’s hilarious. Holtzmann is completely nuts, and is all about putting together the gear, making crazier and crazier items for them to use. 

  • The amazing Leslie Jones plays basically Leslie Jones as Patty Tolan, an MTA worker who knows almost everything about the layout of the city and becomes invaluable to the team, and also provides the hearse that will become Ecto 1. 

  • Zach Woods plays the tour guide and Ed Begley Jr. plays Ed Mulgrave, the caretaker of the mansion who is desperate for help in getting the ghost out of the mansion.
  • Steve Higgins cameos as the dean of the suspicious institute where Abby and Holtzmann are working, he finds several creative ways to flip Abby off as he is firing her, and honestly, I laughed really hard at that.
  • Neil Casey plays hotel lobby boy or bellhop Rowan North.  He’s creepy, weird, and a scary genius with evil plans….

  • Chris Hemsworth plays up his Thor-like good looks as the bumbling Kevin. He’s so dumb that he covers his eyes when things are too loud.  That sounds really stupid, but Hemsworth somehow manages to pull it off. 

  • Michael McDonald plays the theater manager where the Ghostbusters have to come catch a large demony ghost.  Why was that one shaped like a traditional demon? They were all shapes and sizes in the original too, so I guess it makes sense.  It did perch on Tolan’s shoulders, which was really funny.

  • Michael K. Williams and Matt Walsh play Agent Hawkins and Rorke, two officers working for the mayor’s office who are trying to keep the whole ‘ghost’ situation under control.  They are surprisingly entertaining for the little amount of screen time they have.
  • Andy Garcia (that’s right, Andy Garcia) plays Mayor Bradley, who is slightly similar to the mayor from the original movie, but a little more informed.
  • Cecily Strong plays Jennifer Lynch, who I would describe as the mayor’s handler. She’s the one who lets the Ghostbusters know that the mayor is aware of the situation, but trying to keep it quiet so as not to panic the public.

Overall, I really enjoyed it.  I did want it to be a little funnier, and actually a little more frightening.  I will say that I saw it in 3D, and some of the effects pop through the top and bottom of the letterbox black bars, causing a really interesting effect – and yes, I did jump at the first ‘sliming’, because with the 3D, that stuff was coming right at me.

I also felt that the villain has a plan, but that plan wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. It was really interesting, but then gets a little dropped off in favor of silliness.  The original played as a horror-comedy, there were scenes that were legitimately scary.  This one, and maybe because everything is CGI (there are really no practical effects), feels more cartoony than scary, and in that way – this one felt more like a kids or tween movie whereas the original feels like an adult comedy. I would have liked this one to be a little more adult. Somewhere I’m sure there’s an R cut of this, with all the ladies’ improv left in, and I would really love to see that version.  But, yes, it is funny and no – it won’t ruin your childhood.

8 out of 10 – Gained points for the four funny leads. Gained points for Thor being surprisingly funny.  Lost points for too much cartoony CGI. Don’t go in with any expectations if you can help it!
Bonus - Leslie was on with Seth Myers to do some cooking...