Jaded Unafraid

Have I reached my maximum spoop capacity with horror movies?

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Come with me now on a journey back to 2009. Barack Obama had been inaugurated as president, shit was going down in Sudan and Darfur, and the airy love-ballad “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha (₭€$₴؋ on the international market) was all over the airwaves. As autumn loomed in the distance, TV audiences were graced with a trailer for an upcoming horror flick. However, instead of laying out every detail of the plot and spoiling every twist like trailers today, this trailer mainly focused on movie audiences. It showed them jumping and screaming. It showed their moments of vulnerable terror as the reeled in fright at the events happening on the screen. It was an exciting trailer and one that made horror fans, like myself, absolutely salivate.

That movie, of course, was Paranormal Activity.
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I Ain’t Afraid of No Sequel

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A new Ghostbusters film is in the works!

I am so incredibly excited for this. Ghostbusters for me is one of those childhood films that you just somehow keep coming back to. As a kid, I feel like I watched that movie over and over again, and it just kept popping up throughout my life. I love it so much.

Granted, not everybody is happy. Shortly after the announcement, Leslie Jones expressed her personal hostility on twitter, saying that replacing the all-female cast with men was like “Something Trump would do.” However, she’s completely approaching it the wrong way. First of all, any attempt to separate the universe isn’t some sort of anti-woman campaign. While, yes, there was a completely unacceptable campaign against the movie by a portion of the internet that were unhappy about the all female cast, the main failing point was that the reboot was just mediocre at best. Both the laughs and action fell short and it wasn’t able to launch itself to the height of the original. It was in its own way a fun movie, but in trying to compete with a classic, it just didn’t gain any footing. Will Jason Reitman’s sequel do better? It’s far too early to tell, but it’s also far to early to say there won’t be any female Ghostbusters involved, so let’s put the torches away for now.

The second point to remember is that Jason Reitman is making this movie as part of his legacy, not some vendetta against the female cast of the reboot. Reitman’s father, Ivan Reitman, directed the original two Ghostbuster films (as well as Evolution, which if Jason would like to also make a sequel to that, I’d be very appreciative), and Jason was often on set for those films, even having a speaking role in the second movie as one of the kids from the party. For Reitman, this franchise is about family business. He’s connected to it, has literally lived through it, and is absolutely the best choice to continue the movie and retain its tone, visual themes and brand of humor. Reitman’s choice to make a new Ghostbuster film is from a lifetime of attachment to the franchise, not in direct response to the underwhelming result of the reboot. The studio’s decision to move in a different direction, however, probably was.

Now, I don’t want to just take shots at the reboot. It’s been 3 years, it’s had enough at this point. Is it perfect? No, definitely not. Does it do a good job nodding to the original and throwing in some fun Easter Eggs? Absolutely. Like I said, it’s a fun movie in its own way, but is definitely cringe-worthy at points and hard to get through for some people. However, Paul Feig did a good job working in tons of cameos and send backs to the original franchise. Honestly, aside from the general clunkiness of the script, the biggest falter of this movie was that it was a reboot to begin with.

Had it been a sequel, had it focused on the original Ghostbusters, or at least some of them, training up a group of new Ghostbusters that just happened to be female, it would have avoided the entirety of the screeching internet troll brigade, which wouldn’t have entirely saved the movie, would have at least given it a leg to stand on by the time it made it to theaters. Reboots are just tough, especially those were you have to spend an ample amount of time giving credibility to the characters. Reboot Batman, you can jump right into him nut-punching bank robbers. Reboot something like this with intention of focusing it around new characters, you have make those characters worthy replacements for the original. If you provide them connection to the original, their credibility can be established through training or the sage advise of a seasoned vet in the field.

Granted, the struggle to get a Ghostbusters 3 has been a long and mainly uphill battle. Dan Aykroyd original pitched a script with a budget of $150 million, but was simply scoffed at by the studio. Over the years the process ebbed and flowed in a common pattern: Screenwriters were found, drafts were made, Bill Murray wouldn’t read them, problems would arise, script would be tossed, rinse repeat. By the time 2016 rolled around, a reboot seemed like the way to go since nobody could get on board for a sequel. And yet, the reboot saw the return of the entirety of the main cast in cameo form, minus Harold Ramis, who passed away in 2014 six months before the movie was announced, and Rick Moranis, who has long since retired from acting. Paul Feig taking the movie in the direction of a reboot made sense, as it felt like everybody had mostly just excepted a sequel wouldn’t happen at that point.

So, for what it’s worth, there was a lot stacked against the reboot, and what we got wasn’t entirely awful. Heck, it even won some Kids Choice Awards.

But this is why a sequel is so exciting. The teaser seems to suggest that the Ghostbusters weren’t a continuous and consistently successful thing, a them familiar from Ghostbusters II, which opens with the group mildly disbanded and some members having to do birthday parties to make a buck. Jason Reitman has mentioned that we’ll meet all sorts of new characters as well as reintroducing old ones. It’s perfectly set up to be what I mentioned above: New people drafted into a cause by the seasoned veteran. In addition, Reitman’s connection to the franchise will hopefully keep the film grounded in the tone and visual appeal of the first movie. I’d like plenty of practical effects, but I won’t hold my breath. I’m excited all the same, CGI ghosts or not.

One thing that I wish would become more commonplace, and would easily have been an option of some kind to the reboot, is setting an IP in the WORLD of another IP, without directly rebooting the IP or connecting to the IP. If they had set the Ghostbusters movie in the world established by the Ghostbusters movies, with all the freaky occurrences and creative ghost design, but NOT made it tie directly back into the original franchise, with the aforementioned “sage advice from an experienced expert” trope, it would have hit theaters as both a connected IP to the original world and lore of the first two movies and also something that stands on its own without the need to be compared to the original. This doesn’t happen nearly enough, honestly. Recent examples are the Fantastic Beasts movies set in the World of Harry Potter, which are stories set in the past of the Wizarding World and, except for brief glimpses, do not tie directly into the Harry Potter movies the way a prequel would, in that the actions of these characters don’t directly produce the story of the main Harry Potter title, even if some of the ripples do.

We’re so obsessed with letting there only be Sequel or Reboot that we just don’t allow people to build new stories in the compelling world they’ve already created. It happens from time to time, typically as directly connected Spin Offs, a la Angel spawning out of Buffy. It works sometimes, doesn’t at other points. Another recent example is Fear the Walking Dead, which was set in the world of the Walking Dead, but out in California instead of the American South. As far as I know, the show didn’t do great. I mean, first of all TV is tough in general and viewership can decline fast. Second, it’s zombies. No matter where you set it, it’s not going to have much appeal or really feel to different. However, in the end this was a new IP created in a world built by previous IP and that’s commendable. That’s creative. Constantly looking to continue stories or completely reboot them just feels stagnant at times or even ruins the impact of the original stories end.

I often fly into this rant when I think about the upcoming Last of Us 2. I was excited when they announced this game because I had hopes that it would be a new tale from new characters set in the grim wilds of the Last of Us world. Again, it’s zombies, but the Last of Us crew has shown incredible ability at writing character-driven narrative with the apocalyptic dangers as a backdrop. While their zombies are definitely more creative than what we’re generally used to, it’s the characters steal the focus. Their plights and the air of untrust that drapes across the world. The first game beautifully developed this relationship between Joel and Ellie as they quested across the nation and learned how to trust one another. It ended with this trust being tested and Ellie silently deciding what that means to her. We don’t know for sure what Joel’s actions would lead to for their relationship, but the point we left them at was beautiful culmination of a visceral story of humanity. Close book, take deep breath, move along.

Then comes part two, which again focuses on Ellie and Joel. They’re older now and interacting with a few new characters (oh look, Laura Bailey and Troy Baker in the same game….weird), but where does the ending of the first one fall. Are we going to see how that ending impacted their friendship or father-daughter dynamic? Will they reference it too much or not enough? Do we learn if Ellie chose to believe Joel or if his decision to lie to her hurt her trust? More importantly, do we need to know these things? What’s the problem with an ambiguous ending?

I’m bummed, to summarize, and I may be in a minority, I’m not sure. The only person I’ve really talked to about this is a close friend of mine and is, honestly, very hyped for that game. However, she tends to be very hyped for a lot of things. She hypes easily. It’s one of her lovable quirks.

I just believe they built this big beautiful world and deep lore that could easily be explored by new people. It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be direct sequels or full on reboots. Assassin’s Creed has been doing this well lately, though their story is a might bit convoluted. I just wish more creators would see the potential of building their story from a new angle as opposed to rehashing and reworking the same characters, never truly giving them an ending until we watch them die on screen (sorry Han). Looking forward with this concept in mind, I’m very curious where Star Wars will go. The latest trilogy is wrapping up and Disney is juggling all their “Hey, what about this character but as like a 20-something or teenager?” movies around. It will be interesting if we just keep getting movies about the youths of characters we’ve already met (Watto at Business School: A Star Wars Story) or if we’ll start getting some more original stories. I’d love for the next push to focus on the Old Republic or possibly more stories set in the Outer Rim. Just no more Skywalkers, please.

In the end, I just wish creators focused more on the boundless potential of world-building instead of just one character’s story or focusing on origins. There are so many stories to be told in these beautiful worlds and rich lore we’ve established. We as consumers need to support and praise the new and bold.

……Seriously excited for that Ghostbusters sequel though.

[I’m a hypocrite]

~C

A Year in Movies

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Toward the end of 2017, I got into the habit of seeing one movie in theaters every single week. It became a steady part of my routine, so much so that I dedicated myself to seeing one movie a week every week of 2018 and keeping a rolling list.

I failed.

Not miserably so, I ended up being just 5 shy. Various weeks of extreme business and the inevitable business of the holidays prevented me from fully reaching my goal. Still, 47 movies in a year is not bad.
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Turd Polish: Fallen Kingdom

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NEW SERIES! I mentioned a long time back that I wanted to do movie reviews where I took critically panned films and found the good in them. Not necessarily a SUPER panned film, but it’s current, so I figured this is a good place to start:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest entry in the much-adored dino-go-smashy-bitey series, is currently leaving fans and critics alike yearning for the mystique and wonder felt by the original trilogy of movies. Honestly, I agree: The movie was very much a missable entry in the series and I hope if they plan to continue they do some serious work building this thing up from its bare bones.

But say you’re going to see this movie soon, with a date or a friend. What can you look forward to? What redeeming factors might exist amongst the muck? Well, like the paleontologists these movies used to actually involve, let’s dig our way through the rock of shallow characters and tonal shifts to find some nuggets of good that were obviously just put there by satan to fool non-believers (science is cool).
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Destiny Requires Careful Planning

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Avengers: Infinity War is an absolutely beautiful testament to the potential of the Superhero medium. As a film, it successfully avoided many of the dangerous pit falls that Superhero films tend to fall into, such as confused pacing between too many characters or an underwhelming villain (the latter of which this movie was definitely FAR from). However, I wanted to talk about probably my favorite thing about this movie, which is something that I think is getting overlooked, or at least I haven’t seen much discussion on it.

SPOILERS for Infinity War ahead.

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A Familiar Face

The other day I was watching a random horror movie I found on Hulu. It was called “Digging Up the Marrow” and was overall quite good: had a solid premise, some great creature effects and a good bit of humor. It was an enjoyable movie and I definitely recommend it.

As my wife and I are watching this movie, a few minutes in a character comes on screen that draws from us a cheer, a ritual we’ve fallen into every time we see this particular actor.

“Leland!” Continue reading

Boogie Nights

Halloween is approaching, so how about we get all lit-major on Nightmare Before Christmas?

Why not, right?

So, the other day I literally woke up thinking about the main “antagonist” in that movie, Oogie Boogie. For the longest time it’s bothered me that this character was not more developed. He isn’t even MENTIONED until Act II of the film, and after that point we continue to know very little about him except that he “eats” bugs, he’s been locked away for some reason, and Jack DESPISES him. However, we’re never given an inkling as to why he is so hated by Halloweentown, enough so that the very sight of his “boys” gives the Mayor anxiety. I feel like there was a lot to be done with that character, but in the end it kind of just feels like a cheap attempt to allow Jack (who very well should be the bad guy of this story) to have a moment of redemption by saving Santa from the very predicament his hubris landed Santa in. It’s always just felt like a tacked on character because some Disney Exec was all “hey, there needs to be a villain so we can sell toys.”
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Talk About a Lost World

So, I recently watched the three Jurassic Park movies over, having not seen them in a while. They were on TV so I was able to watch them close together. It had me thinking about Jurassic World, since the next one of those films is coming up and the hype train has been rolling with the news that Jeff Goldblum would be involved.

I wanna set this up with the fact that I am a HUGE Jurassic Park fan. I grew up on those movies, first seeing them at an age where every kid is obsessed with dinosaurs to a degree. Over my life, I’ve watched these films tons of times, learned many of the lines and use them in normal conversations, because I am a totally cool person and not weird in any way. My first time going to the Jurassic Park area of Universal Studios was like reaching El Dorado, despite the awkward looks received when one loudly states “man, if only people were actually in danger of getting eaten alive, that would be swell” because blah blah a twelve year old should keep those kinds of thoughts inside blah blah what’s wrong with you. Continue reading

Reviewed

Sometimes I have people say to me:

“Hey, you watch a lot of movies and read a bunch and stuff. Maybe you should use that blog thing to do some reviews.”

Well, imaginary person, I just don’t know if that’s something I can do.

I actually have a serious problem with many, if not most reviews. I think the main problem is that there exists this idea among people who choose to review things that having a negative opinion somehow makes your opinion smarter. There is a hoard of nearly mindless contrary zombies groaning out whatever sound-bite they’ve decided to latch in on regarding a particular film, and though that is the only real negative aspect they might be able to focus on, they do so with fervor and completely negate any good that may be remaining in the film.  Continue reading

Creative Indulgence

I admit, I’ve always been a bit of the brooding artist type.

I honestly detest talking to other writers about writing. The mere thought of engaging in some sort of “community” of like minded creatives is cause for eye rolls and gruff sighs from yours truly.

I despise everything I’ve ever created and am easily my biggest critic. Though, less of a critic and more of an ever-persistent internet troll.

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome was the idea that being a writer meant I could only write. Time spent watching movies, listening to music, playing video games, socializing, was time I was losing getting to where I want to be. It was a tough hurdle and one that was not easily broken until inspiration came from the most unlikely place. Continue reading