Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Though there have been rumours of a new ‘Busters movie for years I never really thought it would happen.  When it was announced that a new movie was not actually happening, like really happening, but that the cast would be all women, I was really looking forward to it. Despite the poor first trailer I stuck by it and stuck up for it, largely on the basis that it was another Melissa McCartney/Kristen Wiig/Paul Feig vehicle. I’ve been a big fan of McCartney and Wiig since Bridesmaids and a fan of Feig ever since he helped Sabrina with science in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

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As I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty excited when I finally got to see it at the cinema. We paid our money and purchased overprice yet oddly plastic tasting snacks and made our way into the cinema.

It’s at this point that I want to tell you that I had the single greatest cinema experience of my entire life. Sadly, as a purveyor of truth, I cannot.

I had heard from reliable sources that the opening sequence was awe inspiring and simply perfect, maybe it was these high expectations I felt like I was waiting for the life changing moment to begin. It revolves around a tour guide at a ‘haunted house’ that turns out to be really haunted. I’m not trying to say that it was bad, it was pretty good  actually and kinda creepy. I just wanted more from it, it didn’t blow me away.

Next we get introduced to Kristen Wiig’s character, Dr Erin Gilbert. A rather straight laced professor of physics who gets fired from here job at Columbia University. Consequently she has to visit her old schoolyard chum, Dr Abby Yates, an eccentric person who loves Chinese food, played by Melissa McCarthy. Unlike Erin, Abby did not give up on her search for ghosts and proof of life after death. In her search she recruited Dr Jillian Holtzman, (Kate McKinnen) who is pure eccentricity and my favourite of all the characters. The last ‘buster to be recruited is  Patty Tolan, a sassy black lady played by Leslie Jones.

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I must admit that my inner feminist loved seeing a group of four women doing some pretty kick ass moves, and investigating the various strange going on in New York without having a man to lead them in some way (it should come as no surprise that it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours) . The only man to really be a part of the gang is Chris Emsworth as Kevin Beckman, the well meaning, but somewhat simple and misguided secretary. I loved the role reversal of that character, and I must admit that Emsworth plays it brilliantly, often stealing the scene. I hope that this film helps to inspire young women and know that they too can be doctors of science and fight the bad guy without needing a man, and most importantly that she can be a complicated character that is worth so much more than window dressing for the men to stare at (Michael Bay, take note!)

That being said, the main plot involving a loner trying to bring about the end of New York with some kind of strange machines that bring ghosts out of… Ghost… world? failed to draw me in the way I would have liked. It works, I was interested as to what this strange chap was up to, and it kept my attention throughout, I never got bored. I just felt that the plot could sometimes be thrown out of the window in  favour of a neato set piece, and overall could have done with a bit of tightening. I felt at times as I was watching it that it needed more of a world building mythology, as we had with the original.

holtzmanThough the acting standard was good throughout, I felt that Wiig didn’t really give her all, she could have really sunk her teeth into the character and gone all out, and it fell just short of that, with McCartney occasionally joining her. Perhaps it was the requirement of a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate that meant their performances were toned down a little. Though it must be said, again, that it was really refreshing to have strong female characters with a complicated past and feelings. Holtzman was my favourite character, she was just the right amount of weird with a slight tinge of creepiness dashed in for good measure, she is the archetypal mad scientist and I loved her.

pattyThere are laughs to be had here, and I did titter throughout. for me though there were just not enough belly laughs, not enough smart insightful jokes peppered through to make me really think, it at times could be a little silly and puerile. Patty brings most of the good laughs and has some of the best lines. I did find Patty a little problematic at times, for a film full of individual women kicking ass, I felt that she could sometimes slip into a little of a black stereotype, luckily Jones brings lot of intelligence and brilliant humour to the character so they just about get away with it. If there were to be a sequel, I would like there to be a little more development of Patty.

One thing that was no lacking are the effects, they are perfect and manage to bring about a creepy and grossness without going too overboard. I also really liked how they seemed to invoke the style of the original, but they have taken it and improved upon it to make some truly stunning scenes. The end scenes where all hell breaks loose are so well done and the proton beams really look amazing.

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There are many references to the original, some that work well, like the effects, and others not so well. I’m sure others may disagree, but I felt that some certain cameos did not work for me. In a film about kick ass women these moments almost felt like they were getting permission from the men to make this movie, permission they do not need. The film works best when it stands on it’s own two feet and travels down it’s own path, to create something new and original, not just raking over old ground they desperately need to get away from.

This reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise has courted controversy from the moment it was announced, there has been a tirade of abuse from online trolls and misogynists who are under the misguided impression that women are incapable of being Ghostbusters. Whilst I do not believe this to  be a perfect film, I am pleased to say that it at least manages to put those notions to bed.

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The plot needed to be a little tighter, the comedy needed to be funnier and there needs to be less references to the 1984 classic.There are still great things here, the characters are kick ass, intelligent, individual and not dressed up in ridiculous, impracticable outfits, the effects are brilliant and you’ll have a rip roaring good time. It might not have blown me away the way I would have liked, but I still had a good time and you will too.

★★★☆☆

Stranger Things (2016) Review

I have done my best to give you an idea of what this is about without giving away the plot and the ending, as Stranger Things is best enjoyed spoiler free.

I just want to get this out of the way. Netflix is bringing about a new golden age of television on the internet. As it doesn’t rely on selling advertising space in order to make money, Netflix allows its shows more freedom to express themselves and they can afford to take more chances of smaller projects that might have been missed by short sighted executives who need to make a quota.

One of these projects was Stranger Things. It has become somewhat of a hit amongst Netflix subscribers. With it’s powerful and evocative story line, characters and 80s charm.

dungeonsThe story begins with a group of four boys playing Dungeons and Dragons when it’s home-time for the friends of twelve year old Mike who have come round to play. When he arrives home and there is no one around one of the group, Will appears to be attacked and consequently goes missing. The day afterwards a mysterious girl with a shaven head and telekinetic powers appears, kick starting a slow descent into the mysterious goings on surrounding the town of Hawkins, Indiana.

bikeWith it’s depiction of a great adventure on bikes, the resourcefulness of youth and having to hide a mysterious new friend from both The Authorities and parents, you can see how Stranger Things is clearly heavily influenced by those great 80s adventure films like The Goonies and E.T. All this comes together to give the whole thing an amazing charm and a sense of nostalgia for that period. It takes the adventure genre and manages to mix in a massive dollop of Stephen King mystery and thrill riding. The set pieces, the clothes, the movie posters, the music. Even the camera and direction style are all period accurate, and they all come together to create one of the best 80s series not made in the 80s.

winonaI must doff my hat to all the actors involved. Winona Ryder makes a triumphant return to form as Joyce, the beleaguered mother of missing child, Will. Her apparent descent into madness after the disappearance of her son was done well, and though to the outside world it may appear that she is simply going mad with grief, we as the audience are given snippets throughout to give her a method to her madness. The young children all give great performances, Finn Wolfhard as Mike and Millie Bobby Brown (who really shaved her head for the role) as Eleven, or ‘El’ for short are especially great managing to keep a sense of innocence despite some of the horrors they have witnessed. David Harbour as the police Chief Jim Hopper also deserves a mention for his performance as a man battling his own demons as he helps to search for Will and unravel the mystery surrounding his disappearance. It is important to note that they have used age appropriate actors of the roles of the pre-teen and teenager characters which is always nice to see. There’s something quite jarring about seeing people who are almost hitting thirty playing an 18 year old.  

Each episode is a chapter of a story, and though it never leaves you in the middle of the action, like Lost it does, it does have a cliffhanger at the end so you’re always begging for more. I watched it over two days, and I really regret starting it when I didn’t have a spare eight hours to watch it all at once. It manages to drip feed you the information perfectly throughout giving you answers or part answers to questions you’ve been gathering in your mind from the start. It always manages to give you just the right amount to get just enough to satisfy your hunger for more but never too much that you feel like you know what’s going to happen before it does. I would say that around episode seven (there are eight all together) there are one or two moments I felt it was running out of steam a little, but then it pulled it right back for the finale, which was 55 minutes of suspense and excellent payoff.

the gangAll the way through there is a sense of foreboding and terror that gives it an edge that makes it hard to tear yourself away from the screen, though it always makes sure to take a break from the tense energy every now then to show kids just being kids and having fun. Which can be a nerve settling release when you’ve just spent the last twenty minutes on the edge of your seat shouting at the screen for the characters to be safe. Which is probably my biggest criticism, it was so tense and nerve wracking at times I found myself getting a little exhausted.

All of this terror giving way to relative calm is beautifully tied together by the music, which is quite possibly my favourite thing about Stranger Things. The synth wave based soundtrack has been lovingly constructed by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. It serves to really draw you in, and perfectly balancing the soft, gentle moments and the more intense scenes perfectly, it really gets under your skin and is another mark of how Stranger Things is able to effortlessly evoke that 80s feeling.

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80s movies.  Stephen King. Really good kids adventure movies. Really good mystery thriller films. Great acting. Well played out story. Great Directing. Great Writing. Amazing Soundtrack. If you love at least one of these things then you will enjoy Stranger Things and I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it at the first available opportunity.

★★★★★

 

Vacation (2015) Review

In 1983 Clark Griswold took his family on a road trip they would never forget, and they were going to enjoy it. Whether they liked it or not. Clark’s desperation to provide an unforgettable experience for his kid and bring the family together provided many laughs and many sequels.

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Hello Griswolds!

The movie was a bit of a hit and there is a sense of fond memories surrounding it. So naturally it needed to be remade for a whole new generation to enjoy it, because as we all know you need to re-make it or it ceases to exist. Or the makers just wanted to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and unnecessarily remake something to make a quick buck. Having watched this failed fart of a movie, I  strongly suspect it was the latter.

This time round it is Rusty (Ed Helm) who is the desperate patriarch trying to provide his family with an unforgettable holiday they’ll fondly remember for years to come. For those of you with keen memories you might remember him as the son from the original round of movies, making this more than just a straight remake. It’s sort of a reboot, or sequel of some sorts. I suspect the term ‘updated for modern audiences’ and ‘edgy’ was used in the pitch.

The story kicks of with Rusty flying a plane for an economy airline. A small child excitedly asks if he is a pilot when on the way to the toilet, which results in Rusty accidentally sexually assaulting the child’s mother during some turbulence. This provides the movies first of many ‘Really?!’ moments. Seriously, this is the 21st Century surly we have moved past the ‘accidentally on purpose feeling a woman’s breasts’. It’s a joke that feels like it belongs in a bawdy 1960s hospital, not in a film released in 2015. This scene pretty much sets up the tone for the rest of the movie, and I can promise you it only gets worse from here on in. Better buckle up because the pilot has put on the safety belt sign. 

borhtersAfter his little jaunt Rusty returns home to his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) and two kids James, (Skyler Gisondo) and Kevin (Steele Stebbins). We see James, the older child being bullied by his younger brother Kevin. A running joke that doesn’t work. The writers were obviously so pleased at coming up with what they thought was a subversive idea of having the younger brother bullying the older one, that they failed to realise they would need to make the jokes funny. Or give it a decent conclusion where they learn to get along or at least have some sort of mutual respect in the end. Instead throughout we get treated to some very dull swearing and highly unimaginative name calling that relies heavily on sexism. As a result of this pathetic bantering neither of the boys feel like real people. In fact none of them feel like they are real people.

Part of the charm of the original was Clark felt like he could be real. Yes he was a bit over the top and on occasion you wondered how social services had never been called to their house. At the end of the day though he was a Dad who just wanted to spend some time with his kids, and even though they were American they all felt they could be your next door neighbours or your school chums or your work mate. This pile of one dimensional caricatures flailing about in poop and vomit are not people you want anywhere near you.

Once Rusty discovers that his family hates the annual vacation a log log cabin in Cheboygan he decides to surprise them all with a road trip to Wally World! Just like he did with his dad. The next day he comes home with a bizarre looking car, (there is a length and unfunny sequence showing just how bizarre it is)  and with trepidation the rest of the family join Rusty on a trip to Wally World.

The only real sequence Christina Applegate gets to try and stretch her comedic wings is the first stop. At her old sorority house. They are doing the annual chug Run for Asperger’s, (which provides at least two jokes around the mis-pronunciation of Ass Burgers, yes it sinks that low) which involves chugging a pitcher of beer and then attempting a Total Wipeout-esque obstacle course. Debbie gets challenged to do the chug run for the first time in twenty years, when the current sisters discover she is the famous Debby Does Anything. She gets knocked off almost immediately and proceeds to  vomit everywhere. It fell as flat as she did. There is no joke here. It’s just a woman vomiting. 

I’m not averse to gross out humour, I was raised on a diet of Farley Brothers and Adam Sandler comedies. I can handle gross humour, but there needs to be a joke to go with it. This appears to be being gross just for the sake of seeing a woman vomiting.

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Raw Sewage is actually a better, and more accurate title for the movie.

After this there are scenes involving them bathing in raw sewage, Chris Hemsworth’s enormous penis, Rusty bursting through a cow, and some dangerous rapids. Each and every one more horrible than the next making you slink further and further into your seat in the hope that if you reach the ground it will just stop or turn out to be some kind of hideous dream. 

None of it works, none of it is funny. The gross out humour isn’t humour, it’s just gross. The basic plot sort of works, it’s just a series of skits loosely tied together with the vague premise of a road trip. 

_DSC6085.DNGThe one saving grace that provided a couple of laughs was the cameos. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for Kaitlin Olson and Charlie Day from their work in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but their separate cameos were some of the very few times I laughed during the 1hr 35min running time. Though when they’re gone you’re left wondering what they were doing in such a garbage heap of a movie. Maybe they lost a bet or owed a favour, or maybe they just needed the money. 

The other great cameo that provided a much needed comic relief in this festering cesspool of unfunny jokes is the man himself, Clark Griswold! That’s right Chevy chase and Beverly D’Angelo make an appearance to reprise their old roles and show these young whippersnappers how it’s done. Clark and Ellen are living conveniently close to Wally World making a perfect pit stop for Rusty and co to drop by before their final destination.

I know Chevy Chase has courted controversy in the past for his behaviour, and he might not be everyone’s favourite comedian of all time ever, but I have a soft spot for him thanks to his appearances in the video for You can Call Me Al (One of my favourite songs) and as Pierce in the sitcom Community. I got more laughs out of the five or ten minutes he was on screen then I did for the rest of the movie combined.

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What you’ll look like five minutes in.

This is a truly terrible movie filled with ill-timed and disgusting jokes that land as well the pilot from Airplane! There is really very little enjoyment here for anyone, there isn’t even an element of ‘so bad it’s good’ to it. Just avoid it at all costs.

☆☆☆☆

 

Absolutely Fabulous Review

Hi sweetie darling sweetie! Grab a bottle of bolly and settle into yourself into your favourite designer arm chair, the most fabulous comedy of the year is here.

I’m going to start this review by saying that I love the Ab Fab TV series, growing up it was one of the few shows my mum and I could agree on. The antics of Eddie, Patsy, Saffy and Gran had us in stitches. I even called my guinea pigs Eddie and Patsy I love it that much.

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Eddie (left) and Patsy (right) Pig

You can bet your bottom dollar that I was there, excitedly lining up to get tickets to see the glitzy spectacular with my mum. We grabbed our cocktails, our bolly and a copious amount of chocolate and settled ourselves in for a glittering spectacle.

So bearing all that in mind, I’m saddened to report I was a little disappointed.

The movie starts off with Eddie learning that Kate Moss is looking for a new PR person, with her career in decline Eddie decides she needs to get Kate on her books to give herself the well needed professional boost. Thankfully Patsy is throwing a big glamorous celebrity party, and you’ll never guess who’s RSVP’d! That’s right, the face of modern modelling herself, Kate Moss.

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So far so good, and the film opens with a great sequence where Eddie and Patsy accidentally end up on a runway as they enter a fashion show a little late and they try and find their seats. These are two inherently funny ladies, who can make you laugh from a single awkward movement or withering look. So it’s sad to see this potential not fully lived up to in other parts of the movie.  

In her haste to beat a rival PR agent for a chance to speak with Kate at the party Eddie knocks Kate from her perch on a wall, throwing her in the Thames.

A shame faced Eddie and Patsy have to go on the run in order to avoid the hounding press, and the murder allegations. So off they fly to the only place they can hide in the comfort and luxury they’ve become accustomed to, the South of France.


edna mole cropThe film is funny, there are plenty of laughs to be had here. However I felt that they just weren’t often or consistent enough for me. It starts of quite strong, and once they hit Cannes in the South of France things start to fall apart a little and become a little too silly in places. Over all, it felt a little like a regular episode stretched into ninety minutes. The side plot involving Patsy sticking on a fake moustache and marrying the richest woman in the world (a little old lady who looks a little like a real life Edna Mole from The Incredibles. I kept expecting her to shout NO CAPES! At any moment) was a little too out there for my tastes, and didn’t really add anything to the plot or the laugh count.  

As I mentioned before Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are very funny women, it’s in their bones. They have an amazing on screen chemistry fostered by years of working together, and you can tell they were having an absolute blast making the film. Joanna Lumley really shines as Patsy, she really took the opportunity to make the most of being as horrible as possible and is great fun to watch.

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Lots of frowning for Saffy

Almost all of the other characters from the show make an appearance at some point, there’s Saffy (Julia Sawalha) and Gran (June Whitfield), of course. Bubble (Jane Horrocks) pops up with some of her most outlandish outfits yet. I did feel that Saffy (who was always my favourite) got a little sidelined and was left with nothing but shouting insults at Patsy and frowning a lot. Gran is as dotty as ever, though she is good fun.

The slew of celebrity cameos did little for me, they just weren’t funny enough really, and gave the feel that this was a big luvvie love in where all the rich and fabulous all got together to congratulate each other on their own fabulousness. Though I must admit the ones they managed to get were very impressive and it just goes to show how well thought of the show is amongst the celebrity elite.

If you’re a fan of the show you will enjoy it. It is fun watching the characters having a big screen romp, everything is bigger and better and more extravagant than ever.  However, if you’ve never seen or didn’t like the TV show then I think there will be little for you to grasp onto. It does rely on it’s audience already having a knowledge of the characters, their background and relationships with one another. There is a scene where Eddie and Patsy draught in two of their silly friends to swap places with them, though there is no intro for them or any real explanation as to who they are. If I hadn’t seen the show,  I think I would be a little lost.

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If you’re looking for a bit of fun on a Friday night with the girls, then this will be a good bet. It’s silly and fun and is best enjoyed with cocktails. If you’re looking for something as good or insightful as the TV show then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed, just like I was.

★★★☆☆

5 Modern Sci-Fi Films You Should Probably Watch

Just do it.

The Machine (2013)

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A prime example of a film with an unoriginal concept (military trying to create super-soldier cyborg types to defeat a pesky Cold War enemy) but with great execution. Like most of the films on this list, the budget for The Machine was low (around the £1million mark) but they still managed to bag a decent cast (Toby Stephens, Denis Lawson, Caity Lotz) and make fantastic use of the low key location. Lotz steals the show, her transformation from enthusiastic young graduate to kick-ass cyborg is sublime, though Stephens puts in a decent performance as the scientist driven to obsession. There are some delightfully well choreographed fight sequences and while it is a little naval gazing and slow in parts, it does pose some interesting questions, and the ending stays with you.

 

The Final Cut (2004)

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Before Black Mirror plunged in there with its weird dystopian visions (that seem to be coming fruition scarily enough), Omar Naim produced this little known nugget of sci-fi weirdness. Released during the period where Robin Williams was throwing out some curveball performances (One Hour Photo, Insomnia), The Final Cut sees him playing it a little more straight and restrained as Alan Hakman, a cutter who is drawn into a dangerous game of intrigue and blackmail. The Final Cut is not going to win, and didn’t win, any Oscars, it’s structure and plot are pretty standard. However, the world building and concepts are where the film really comes into its own, and you sort of wish they had kept the focus on that instead of heading down the action thriller route. Either way, The Final Cut is a strong and interesting entry into Robin Williams’ filmography.

 

Grabbers (2012)

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Lots of jokes about being drunk. Check. An alcoholic lead character. Check. Excessive use of the word ‘feck’. Check. All the hallmarks of a decent Irish film, and Grabbers is no different. It’s a proper no frills, sci-fi/horror/comedy monster film, with some amusingly gory deaths, daft plot twists, and amiable character stereotypes. The monsters are fantastically realized and the one key aspect of their biology leads to residents of the island retreating to pub and getting pissed. Grabbers does nothing new, it owes a lot to Tremors, however the film has such heart and wit, and some gorgeous cinematography, that it is more than enough to make watching this film well worth your time. And have a few drinks while you’re at it.

 

Coherence (2013) 

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Coherence is an absolute mind-fuck (excuse my French). It starts as a seemingly straight forward relationship drama with a lot of smug people sitting round a dinner table, however after an astronomical anomaly passes by, things begin going south. Coherence sets out a truly fascinating ‘what if’ scenario. What if we existed on parallel realities but co-existed on the same plane? What if we saw those ‘other’ versions of ourselves but they weren’t quite ‘us’? What if we interacted with those ‘others’? The major thrill in Coherence is that you don’t know which characters or which ‘others’ you are watching at any one time, you don’t know whose reactions are legitimate. Where you watching the ‘others’ in the first place? Are the ‘others’ just as baffled as confused as the first set of characters we meet or are they already aware of the situation? Coherence is a film that deserves multiple re-watches and almost requires it, and it also deserves a first watch so get going onto Netflix and seek it out.

 

Primer (2004) 

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When I first watched Primer I didn’t quite understand what was happening. When I watched Primer for the second time I still didn’t quite understand what was happening. Primer is an obtuse, borderline impenetrable piece of work, but therein lies its charm. Shane Carruth (director/writer/producer/actor) refuses to dumb down the science or give people massive doses of exposition to help them understand exactly what is going on. The plot of Primer is a simple one to start with; two friends invent a device in a garage which they discover can send objects back in time, however, their relationship begins to fracture as does their grip on what they have created. Primer is a staggering bit of cinema when you consider the size of its budget ($7000), the fact that no one in the film had acted before, and that Carruths had never written or directed before. Like Coherence, Primer is on Netflix and it is worth keeping on your ‘to watch’ list even after you’ve watched it for the third or fourth time.

Why I love Working Girl

Working Girl was a pretty big hit when it was first released, and even garnered itself six Oscar Nominations, including one win for Best Original Song. More recently though it seems to have been forgotten about a little. It rarely turns up in people’s top ten of all time ever favourite movies, and most younger people have never heard of it let alone seen it.

tess beforeWorking Girl is one of my very favourite films. It makes me sad that it seems to get little love these days. Maybe it’s because it’s a little cheesy in parts. Maybe the giant hair is a little too much and the shoulder pads too broad and pointy. Maybe it’s because it can be a little sentimental in places. Or maybe it’s because the title makes it sound like the dodgy bargain bin version of Pretty Woman.

For me these are all positive points, I love the 80sness of it all. I love the hokey ending, and the questionable fashion choices. It has some of the best lessons in feminism and women in the workplace whilst all being wrapped in a candy coated rom-com coating.

The film follows the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a go getting 30 year old woman. She worked hard a night school to get her degree, and probably knows more about the markets then the men she works for. She is desperate to make her way in the world of Wall Street, and will take any opportunity given to her, though these are few and far between and often a ‘business meeting’ organised by her boss turns out to be a hook up for his friend. After one such run in with Bob (Kevin Spacey) she humiliates her boss showing them she is not a forced to be reckoned with. She wants to get ahead, but she wants to do it on her own terms, not just because she slept with someone.

tess and kathAfter returning back to the office and humiliating the boss who set her up with Bob she gets re-assigned to work for Katherine Parker, who is delightfully over played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is able to play the supportive, yet underhanded boss very well, even if she occasionally veers off into Disney Villain territory.

Katherine appears to be the perfect boss, she listens to Tess and encourages her to come to her with ideas for their clients,with the promise of reward for hard work.

One day Tess comes to Katherine with an idea for a client to buy a radio station. Katherine appears to listen and take and interest. Though just before her departure to Europe on a skiing trip she informs Tess the idea was a no goer. The inevitable happens and Katherine breaks her leg whilst away, leaving Tess to look after her apartment until she can return.

Katherine represents everything Tess wants to be, elegant, poised, sophisticated, and, above all in power. So of course in an attempt to mimic her Tess goes through all of Katherine’s things, including her Dictaphone, which just so happens to contain a memo about Tess’ idea that Katherine has kept for herself.

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So it turns out Katherine was a massive lying dirt bag all along. Tess decides not to take this lying down, ‘cause she actually kicks ass. She sets up a meeting with Jack Trainer (the ever sexy Harrison Ford). The night before the big meeting Tess gets dolled up in Katherine’s finest clothes to attend a party where the famous Mr Trainer will also be in attendance.

He espies her across the room and tells her Jack Trainer just left before she got there, but she should totally have a tequila with him to make up for it. She ends up getting hammered, thanks in part to the Valium she had taken earlier to calm her nerves.

 

I love this scene, it’s all about how you can be an empowered woman who can handle business without having to give up your femininity and dress, as Jack Trainer himself puts it ‘ how a woman would think a man would dress if he was a woman’

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Together Tess and Jack pull together the deal with the client, and on the big meeting between the client and the radio station they are buying Katherine returns from Europe, and discovered Tess’ double-cross when she finds her diary that was left behind in her haste to leave and get to the meeting.

sigourney weaverKatherine manages to get dressed and down to the office where the negotiations are taking place and burst through the door like the wonderfully campy villain she is and kicks Tess out for lying and stealing her idea, all whilst flailing her crutches about. Though at the final meeting the truth prevails. Katherine gets her comeuppance and Tess gets her reward in a new job in a junior position with a new firm, as well as falling in love with Jack. 

On Tess’ first day in her new job she automatically places her things on the secretary’s desk, only to be told by the woman appearing from the fancy office that she is in fact the secretary and the office now belongs to Tess. As she does her introductions to her new employee she decides not to be like Katherine, and be a better boss and a better support.

alec baldwinThere are so many lessons to be learnt from Working Girl, you don’t need to pretend to be a man in order to fit in in places of business. You don’t need to sleep with someone to get ahead. It’s OK to get rid of unsupportive people in your life (At one point Tess finds her unsupportive boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, so she kicks him to the curb). It’s OK to be supportive to your friends with aspirations, Tess’ best friend, Cynthia (Joan Cusack, who also has the best ever New York accent and some of the highest hair I’ve ever seen) is always there for her, no matter what. Even joan cusackwhen she might not agree with Tess’s actions, she supports them and doesn’t judge her for wanting a career over her cheating boyfriend. Above all, it’s about how everyone should come together and supportive of each other in the workplace in order to achieve equality. We are a little closer to this goal nearly thirty years on, but with men still in the vast majority of positions of power we still have a way to go.

Yes, the production values are little dated. Yes, the fashion choices are questionable. Yes, it’s a little fluffy and things happen at the convenience of the plot. But this is a wonderful film, it’s hard not to get swept up with Tess’ ambitions and fight to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men. She refuses to give up her morals for the sake of getting ahead. She is truly a feminist hero and a great inspiration for any young woman wanting to enter big business.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

If you grew up or were born in the 80s, that chances are you watched the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles at some point. Me and my brother, we were huge fans out mum even made a turtle costume for us to play turtles with. Here’s the photo to prove it.  little me

In the UK they were called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, just incase kids were corrupted by ancient martial arts and nunchucks or something like that. The reasons are a little hazy.

I haven’t seen this since I was a young kid, and I remember it being… Not great, but then what did I know, I thought  . When it was my turn to choose the movie for  my regular bucket o’ chicken night with my friend I had a hankering for some nostalgia, and I wanted to wipe the Michael Bay effort from my mind.

So, the movie starts out with various news outlets reporting about a spate of break ins and gang activity in New York, which has been linked to a Foot Clan, which originated in Japan.

A plucky young reporter by the name of April O’Neil comes under attack in the Subway after some super sleuthing  led her to talk about the Foot Clan on television. After she gets knocked unconscious a mysterious turtle like figure comes to the rescue and takes her back to his sewer.

turtlesHere April meets the rest of the Turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo (Raphael being the one who rescued her), as well as their master, Splinter.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that the characterisations are spot on. Even through those strange rubber suits, they’re all just as I remember them from the show. Raph is the wise-ass, Mikey’s the party dude, Donatello’s the techy guy and Leonardo is the natural leader of the gang. Even dear old splinter is full of Eastern wisdom and serenity just like the old days. Most important of all, they’re still obsessed with pizza!

april oneillThe best character, though is April. She goes out there and follows her heart even though she could get in trouble or lose her job. The truth is what is important to her. Best of all, she has not been overly sexualised. She’s just a regular woman trying to do her job well. She’s not some glamazon, she’s not doing it for revenge or some convoluted reasons about her dad. She’s trying to be a good reporter who is accountable for her own actions. Though sometimes she’s a little left out of the action sequences she still kicks ass in her own way.  

After the introductions it becomes clear that a Foot Soldier has followed Raph back to the turtle lair, after some (intentionally) comedic fighting they all manage to escape, apart from Splinter who gets kidnapped and taken back to meet the leader of the Foot Clan, the evil Shredder.

shredderShredder doesn’t really have that much to do in the film, apart from skulk about and make threats. He also has a hat that looks like a bicycle helmet with bits stuck on and wears a top that looks like he stole it from Prince’s wardrobe, but he does a good job of skulking about.

The turtles and April team up with Casey Jones and start to prepare to take on the foot clan, and ultimately Shredder to take back the city, and their Master from the evil scourge.

I was really expecting this to be really, really terrible. Like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter terrible. Actually, it wasn’t nearly half as bad as I remember it.

Yes, it was pretty cheesy, but so was the cartoon. If you just go with it you’ll love it. There’s plenty of bad puns and dad jokes to give you a good groan, with a secret ‘that was pretty funny’ smile. As well as some great slapstick moments.

Speaking of which, the choreography is done pretty well. When you consider they were four guys in rubber turtle suits it’s actually kind of impressive. The fight scenes are al interesting and provide a good mix of cheesy puns and actual fighting, which is never too violent as this is a PG.

splinter gif.gifThe puppetry works well even if they couldn’t quite get the hang of lip synching and Donatello has this weird thing where his lip keeps going up at the end of every sentence. Though it has to be said, the scene with a pre-mutated Splinter practising ninja moves whilst watching his own Master, Yoshi. It truly is something to behold.

 

Something else I really loved about this is that it really encapsulates the feeling of New York in the late 80s/early 90s when the city was still years away from becoming the relatively safe tourist destination it is today. It feels grimy and dirty, even though it has that PG rating it feels like there is danger in the air every time it ventures into the street of New York.

Even though it has been watered down and made acceptable for children it’s also a great showcase for how gangs operate by finding vulnerable people and giving them a place and people to call their own, a substitute family.

turtle wax

Overall this is a bit cheesy, and maybe a bit naff in parts. Sometimes the story becomes a little confused, but you still get the jist of what’s going on. It might not make a greatest ever movie list, but for what it is, it is great. A piece of nostalgia you can let wash over you like snuggling up to a favourite childhood blankie.

 

Top 5 Remakes That Were Better Than The Original

As we groan in abject disdain as Hollywood pumps out more and more seemingly pointless remakes (hello Robocop and the-stuck-in-development-hell Highlander) we are in danger of losing sight of the fact that sometimes the remake can actually improve on the original. Yes, the percentages are low, for every Coen Brothers True Grit there is a bargain basement Get Carter, but remakes can sometimes surprise us, adding a new dimension to an old story, and in some cases (which there are two of on this list) new technology and visual effects can provide a more visceral experience.

I admit, I am a little bit of snob when it comes to remakes, especially those that don’t seem have a point to it; doing a remake for the sake of ego boosting or raising the profile of a particular actor/director makes absolutely no sense to me, there has to be an advance or something fresh whether it be political, technological, sociological, whatever… that the original either was lacking or fudged in the first place.

So here we are, my own personal top 5 remakes that were better than the originals.

1. Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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The 70s remake of ‘Invasion…’ is on every single one of these remake lists and usually at the top. The reason being because it is absolutely bloody marvellous. The original ‘Invasion…’ was released in 1956 and dismissed without fanfare by the critics but as time as passed it has been widely re-assessed as an allegoric masterpiece tapping into the paranoia and fear of the US populace during the rise of communism and the Soviet Union. The remake keeps the main themes intact, the dangers of conformity, or not asking questions of those around, of just blending into the crowd, of someone exerting complete control over your mind and body, but ramps up the visuals with some deeply disturbing and Cronenberg-esque body horror (see the scene in the garden with Donald Sutherland and bunch of replicated bodies writhing on the grass). And that final scene, oh that final scene, hopeful at first and then horrific afterwards, I dare you to find a closing scene that gives you such a conflicting shock of emotions. Also you get a very, very youthful Jeff Goldblum and Donald Sutherland with a moustache and perm. I don’t know what much more you would need.

2. The Thing (1982)

The-Thing-1982

A remake of an adaptation of book that has its own prequel, The Thing has its origins and tentacles all over modern cinema, but John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror is unparalleled in both technical achievement and as a perfect example of how to execute a simple plot in one location with small band of actors. We all know from a previous post how much i admire Kurt Russell and his glorious beard, but credit also has to go to the supporting cast, specifically Keith David as Childs and Donald Moffat as Garry (who has a cracking one liner during the tense blood test stand off). Like ‘Invasion…’ above, the main progression from the original is the special effects. Rob Bottin and his team create some effects and pieces so disgusting and strange that it’s both mildly stomach churning yet extremely difficult to look away. The Thing is not a complex watch but is a compelling one, and again like ‘Invasion…’ and all good sci-fi horror films, the ending is bleak but open for endless theorising, and I am not ashamed to say that I have watched the videos and read the message boards about whether or not Childs or MacReady or either of them is The Thing at the end (and it’s a heck of a rabbit hole).

 

3. The Departed (2006)

The-Departed-6

A remake of the Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs, The Departed is absolutely rammed to the gills of all the actors the Scorsese had on speed dial, apart from De Niro who was probably off making a shit comedy because he is De Niro. You’d think with all that talent, and egos probably, that The Departed would possibly sink under the weight but this is Scorsese and he is the king of keeping an ensemble cast in check (I’m guessing by boomeranging his eyebrows if one of them gets a bit feisty). This is one of those remakes that sort of doesn’t have a point to it apart from it being adapted from the Far East in order to suit the American market and usually that just doesn’t work (I’m looking at you Oldboy and Dark Water), but The Departed is one of those rare occasions  where everything just works. Damon and DiCaprio are the two sides of the same coin with Jack Nicholson, as unpredictable as ever, flipping between the two of them. The supporting cast is sublime (the scenes with Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg out-yelling and out-swearing each other is worth the price of a dvd alone), the script has some wonderfully ornate foul language and strong twists and turns, and while it does run on a little long, The Departed just pips Infernal Affairs in high crime drama stakes.

4. The Fly (1986)

flyhed

Of all the body horror films The Fly is the one that stays with me the most, probably because it’s the most…. juicy. A remake of the 1958 film, it sticks to the core plot of mad scientist mixes atoms with a fly after a cross-contamination incident but takes the gore and excess to new heights. There’s acid vomit, a maggot baby, Jeff Goldblum (who obviously has good taste in sci-fi because this is his second appearance on this list) falling apart in the most grotesque manner possible, and some phenomenally vile set pieces. The 1958 version was shocking at its time, the visual effects disturbed and appalled in equal measure, but watching it now it’s almost amateurish, so Cronenberg’s remake is a prime example of how advancing technology aids and gives reason to a great remake.

 
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Audrey-II-in-Little-Shop--007

I’m being bold here and letting you all know that I am not a fan of musicals. Most musicals bring me out in a serious case of hives. Just give me drama, give me comedy, don’t sing it at me. Ya dig? However, I will let Little Shop of Horrors through my musical defences. A remake of a Broadway musical which in turn was based on Roger Corman’s 1960 film, Little Shop of Horrors is an absolute blast. With its tongue firmly in cheek, it presents the story of sad old Seymour and Audrey, desperate to escape the NYC slum and end up in the possession of a strange plant that feeds on human blood. What follows is a bizarre, amusing and pleasingly camp 90 minutes with some wonderful musical song and dance routines, and some glorious cameos from Bill Murray and Steve Martin. The original 60s film wasn’t a musical at all, just a very low budget black comedy and it did work, but when presented with the 80s form with musical additions then you realise that this remake is exactly what Little Shop of Horrors needed.

Fantastic Four Review

spoiler alert

There are spoilers in here, so proceed with caution if you care about spoilers.

 

The Fantastic Four do not have a great history when it comes to big screen adaptations.

1994
For some reason it didn’t do well

There was the 1994 adaptation that no one really remembers, though I’m not sure how anyone could forget that Thing costume. He looks like one of the Goombas from the Mario Bros movie.

Then Marvel waited eleven years and released a reboot, after all comic book movies were farting out money by this time. It was like they couldn’t fail. Yet the 2005 movie managed to do just that. It left both critics and fans pretty cold, though it must have made some money because Marvel decided a sequel was well worth the effort.

Rise of the silver Surfer was the only Fantastic Four movie I had seen, and it was… Not good to say the least, with an incoherent plot and a lot of questions about the relationships between the characters, it was pretty excruciating to watch.

2015
Look at how dark it is. Must  be really gritty and realistic.

After so many failures I was quite surprised to hear they were doing another reboot. Naturally I approached this new reboot with some trepidation, worried that it’d be full of weird costumes and quips that just aren’t funny. My caution was well deserved.

The films starts with a young Reed Williams (Miles Teller) who gets picked on for inventing a teleport at the age of 12. He recruits the help of one Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and the become BFFs, awww.

The science teacher declare his science project unscientific (for some reason, I suspect it was supposed to be out of fear) and declares them disqualified from the science fair. Luckily Professor Storm just so happens to be there and recruits Reed to help him and his kids Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael. B Jordan) on a project to build a ‘quantum gate’. Which is not so much a gate, but like a pod… Thing.


After them doing some sciencey type stuff Reed, Ben, Johnny and a guy called Victor Von Doom (I bet you can’t guess what happens to that guy) go into the quantum gate on a mission for science, leaving Sue Storm back at the office to look after the computers and stuff.

green planet

Stuff goes wrong on the alternative planet they find themselves on after stabing the ground and angering it. Reed, Johnny and Ben manage to get back to the gate (though not before getting a dose of radiation) and Sue gets electrocuted from her computer or something. It was hard to tell exactly what happened with her.

Unfortunately they couldn’t save Victor Von Doom from, well, his doom and he gets left behind

After spending a few months of being hooked up to various beeping machines Reed escapes and finds his friends have been turned into a talking pile of rubble (The Thing), a fireman (The Human Torch) and an invisible lady (The Invisible Woman). He feels really guilty about this, so he escapes leaving them in the hands of the government for a year.

In the last 20 mins of the film they go back into the quantum gate for some reason and find Victor still alive, though after spending a year on a radioactive planet has left him looking kinda like a big lump of coal. After dragging him back to Earth it turns out he’s a little bitter about the whole being left on a violent glowing, radioactive planet for a year and starts to destroy the world.

doom

And here you will find the best line in the film. They’re trying to reason with Victor only to be told ‘There is no Victor, only Doom’. I can’t figure out with that was an intentional reference to Ghostbusters or if they were all in the writing room feeling very pleased with themselves for coming up with such an awesome line. I like to think it’s the latter. 

Finally the heroes get together to fight the big evil and become the Fantastic Four.

OK, so the main thing that’s wrong with this film is that It takes far, far too long to get to the good stuff, which is super heroes with some awesome powers fighting a bad guy with equally awesome (but evil) powers. This though, gets all bogged down in it’s own history. As if the audience is going to be sitting there not believing what they are seeing because they don’t know every precise detail of why that guy can light himself on fire. He’s a super hero, it’s the sort of shit they do! 

I feel it would have actually worked a lot better if they had just left the origin story thing for now and just let them have an adventure with mild references to their origins. Thus setting it up for another movie and which could concentrate on just one or two of them.

mr fantastic
It’s actual cannibal Miles Teller

Miles Teller always has a bit of a gormless look on his face and somehow manages to come across as an even less charismatic Shia laBeouf, making Mr Fantastic (as he is known once he becomes stretchy) just, meh. He’s there and he’s smart, there is nothing else to say about him. The others were just as bland. Personally I found there to be little chemistry between the main four actors. With the exception of Reed and Ben they just felt like four work colleagues who didn’t really like each other. So it felt a little forced when they come together at the end to fight the sudden appearance of Doom.

The special effects are pretty awesome and they’ve really made the characters look great and realistic once they do get their powers. It just takes so long to get to that point and the characters themselves are so bland that you simply don’t care. It’s like at Christmas when you came downstairs all excited at the presents nestled under the tree with their bright wrapping, inviting wrapping paper. Only when you tear it off it’s a roll of sellotape and a pair of black socks, not even novelty ones.

The story is just all over the place and you just don’t care about anything that happens, there’s no one strong character to route for or care about. They’re all just floundering  about with nothing to do. 

Marvel clearly really love The Fantastic Four. They keep resurrecting them every few years despite it being a major stink bomb each time. Maybe they love them too much and need to take a step back and look at it objectively. Stop dragging these poor guys through the mud, Marvel!

I’ve never read the comics, but they’ve been going for years, surely there’s an interesting story in amongst the hundreds of issues for them to draw on instead of yet another origin story?

joss whedon
He even comes with his own hat

Come on Marvel, just draught in Joss Whedon again and let him have a go next time. It is not good when your movie earns five Golden Raspberries (though Worst Picture was tied with 50 Shades of Grey… Yeah, that’s right, this is 50 Shades bad!).

 

 

If you’re a really big fan of the comics there might be something in here for you to enjoy, though I would recommend giving this a miss.

★★☆☆☆

 

My Top 5 Animated Movie Villains

We all love a good hero, but they cannot exist without a great villain to hate.Without  a villain a hero is just some jerk beating people up over nothing. So, we have villains to fight against and to teach us that greed and being evil is bad.

Although I firmly believe that not all animation is for kids, for the purpose of this list I have decided to concentrate of kids’ animation, so I can hark back to all those times I pooped my pants in the living room watching a movie (sorry Mum, you washed those knickers like a pro!)

I’ll warn you now, there are spoilers contained within!

5) Ursula – The Little Mermaid

UrsulaTheLittleMermaidShe was probably the first real villain that I ever encountered as a little whippersnapper. The Little Mermaid was my first ever VHS and I watched it all the time.

Ursula just looks evil from the start. As soon as Ariel drops on by to sell her voice and change her species so Prince Eric will fall in love with her (seriously though ladies, don’t change who are just for some man, Prince of not) we can sense Ursula’s evility. She’s all in black, she’s got some kind of weird thing going on with her hair, she has, quite frankly an amazing bosom. She lives in a sea cave thing full of withered twiglet looking things with eyes. Have you heard her laugh? It’s the most typical evil laugh you’ve ever heard!

I have to admit I don’t really remember being scared of Ursula, but I do remember being mesmerised by her and the way she used to slither about with her wayward tentacles. Even when watching it as an adult the grand finale with the gazillion foot tall Ursula is pretty disturbing, especially when she laughs as though she’s a vinyl recording of a creeping seaside laughing man played at the slowest possible speed.

4) Dr Facilier – The Princess and the Frog

dr facilierYou could be forgiven for not having a clue who Dr Facilier is, even if you’ve seen The Princess and the Frog. No one calls him by his name in the movie.

This guy is so scary the townspeople of New Orleans don’t even use his name, either that or they don’t think he’s interesting enough to bother learning his name. They refer to him as The Shadow Man or sometimes The Voodoo Man.

Dr Facilier uses his shadow friends from ‘the other side’ to hatch a plan to take over the whole of New Orleans to… Harvest their souls, or something.

This guy is both awesome and a total scumbag in equal measures. He has one of the most impressive musical sequences in modern Disney memory with the Friends on the Other Side song, where he makes himself look like a total badass with all the magic he needs right at his fingertips. He’s whispering green stuff here and there, he even appears to turn into a sugar skull at one point

He put on this big show so everyone knows how hard he is only to later on show himself to be a snivelling snot weasel worse than that kids in school who hung out with the bullies, but only had the guts to agree with what the head bully had to say.

 

3) Judge Doom – Who Framed Roger Rabbit

judge doomYou remember this guy, he broke your heart when he dissolved the squeaky shoe in that green goopy stuff. Never have I had such emotional attachment to a bright yellow and red clown shoe. *wipes a single tear from eye*

This guy was creepy as hell. As the human Mayor of ToonTown he reigns with fear thanks to his disgust for Toons and their whimsical nature. With a cool and collected demeanor He delights in torturing any Toon that dares to break any of his stringent rules with ‘The Dip’ (the aforementioned green goopy stuff).

judge doom toonHowever, after getting steam rollered during the finale, he reveals himself to be Toon, the very thing he hates the most. As a Toon he switches from the cold and calculated psychopath type to more of a maniac killer profile. He starts spouting daggers from his eyes, he develops springs in his feet. Most disconcerting of all his voice ascends to a shrill squeak as he admits to the murder of Bob Hoskins’ brother.

Whichever Judge Doom you get, Human or Toon, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

 

4) The Raptors in the Kitchen – Jurassic Park

raptorsI know what you’re thinking, they don’t count, they were interacting with live actors, in a live action setting. They were designed to look as realistic as possible. Technically, they were animated, so they totally count.

 

You’ve got to be careful who you say raptors in the kitchen to. If they’re in their late 20s you might just trigger a latent case of PTSD. Those demon dinos struck fear into children of all ages in the early 90s and most have still never gotten over the ordeal.

Unlike the onslaught of might and power from the T-Rex, the raptors are sneaky and were willing to play the softly softly catchy monkey game, they even learnt how to open doors to get at their prey. Doors! I bet a T-Rex couldn’t do that with it’s comically small arms.  

The great camera work from Spielberg really puts you in the action. It makes you feel like you are in the kitchen with those two annoying twerps trying to avoid not only a violent and wild creature, but a clever one. Giving thousands of children nightmares for years to come in the process.

 

1) The Other Mother – Coraline


other mother goodThe Other Mother, for me, is one of the creepiest little mo’fo’s out there. The others on this list have been evil from the start, their intentions were clear. You knew Ursula and Dr Facilier were not really concerned with helping poor unfortunate souls. You knew dinosaurs were only out to eat what they can.

The Other Mother though, although she might look a little weird with those button eyes, she starts out as being the ever loving matriarch. She provides Coraline with a caring environment filled with all the delights her heart desires including delicious food, a colourful garden and attentive parenting.

One day The Other Mother offers Coraline the chance to stay in the alternative realm forever on the condition Coraline sews buttons onto her eyes. Coraline senses something is afoot and declines, angering the other mother and revealing her true colours.

the other motherGradually The Other Mother morphs into her real form and the magical house reveals itself to be a prison for the ghosts of other children who were more willing to have buttons sewn onto their eyes.

Why is The Other Mother the worst? She pretends to love you, she lures you in with delights and kindness only to pull the rug from under you as she delights in stealing your life essence. Always beware of something that seems too good to be true.

If you can think of any other great animated villains, from a kids movie or not, leave a comment.