Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Classic Movie of “Child and Big Thing”

Earlier this year we had “The BFG”.  Later this year we will get “Pete’s Dragon”.  And later still we will get “A Monster Calls”.  I do not know why this is the year of “Child and Big Thing” but for whatever reason, here we are.
In honor of that I am going to talk about a classic iteration of that sub-sub-genre.
This movie poster is just rad.
The Iron Giant” came out when I was 14, massively under performed in cinemas, and then went on to become a classic that was underappreciated in its time… and arguably still is.
I actually find this movie hard to talk about because there are only so many ways to say, “It’s really good.”  Or the other thing that is often said, “It is really touching.”  Or, “You know how Groot was so endearing in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’?  Yeah, that was the voice of Vin Diesel.  Guess who voices the titular Giant?  Vin Diesel.”

The movie is a period piece that intentionally evokes the strange paranoia against communist agents that nearly resulted in the end of the world.  What is odd is the movie was released in 1999, and much like the movie “The Siege” (which is in a totally different genre, and has a different cast, and is not animated) these movies seem to be ahead of their time evoking the post-9/11 paranoia as a thing to ruminate on.  In fact, that might be why the movie picked up so much steam years later as it spoke to such feelings while evoking the better angels of Americana (Superman is directly referenced in the movie, and the Iron Giant also has the Christ like bit of self-sacrifice during the climax).
Overall, the animation is top notch as it was directed by Brad Bird, who is the modern Prometheus of animation.  The humor is great and has been gif-ed numerous times (though I do wonder how many people know that this is the origin of some of those).  And the action at the climax evokes the 1950’s B-movie alien attack perfectly, so much so that I wonder if this movie could have been made in live action during that era using stop motion, forced perspective, and other methods that allowed “THEM!” to be made.
If you enjoyed “The BFG” or think that “The Monster Calls” or “Pete’s Dragon” look interesting I would encourage finding this movie.  “The Iron Giant” is great fun and should be enjoyed by people who like fun things with a science fiction twist rather than the fantasy spin this year’s movies are offering.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Thoughts on the "Ghostbusters" Franchise

            Let me talk a bit about one of my favorite things ever: Ghostbusters.

            The original film holds a special place in my heart as the movie I have seen the most in my life.  My estimates are inexact (as most of the times I saw it were prior to my turning 5) but I think a guess of 100+ times would not be out of the question.  I could quote whole tracts of the movie’s dialogue before I even knew what they meant.  My father brings up wistfully the numerous times I would talk to strangers at the grocery store introducing myself as, “Hello, my name is Ray Stanz, I’m a Ghostbuster” which I pronounced “Gose-Busser”.

More than that, I am a big fan of the cartoons.  I own the gigantic premium box set of “The Real Ghostbusters” and I feel the biggest misstep of the marketing of “Ghostbusters (2016)” is that they have not released “Extreme Ghostbusters” on DVD (it is the most underrated cartoon of the 1990’s).  I watched “RGB” to the point of destroying the VHS tapes of it my grandparents had at their house.

I owned and played with dozens of the toys, to the point where they fell apart, with bits snapping off, pieces going missing, and paint flaking off.  More than “Masters of the Universe”, more than “Transformers”, more than “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” this was the toy line that dominated my childhood (till Lego showed up and took over completely).

I even liked the sister(?)… knock-off(?)… rival?  We’ll go with rival.  I even liked the rival show “Filmation’s Ghostbusters”.  Which had two guys and a gorilla fighting ghosts and monsters sent back in time from the undead hellscape of the future.  It was mostly garbage, but still entertaining, if for no other reason than the music had a lot of get up and go.

The Gorilla Invented all of their equipment.
This used to be a live action series.
If I had the resources I do now (the internet) I would have collected and read the comics which for some reason only ever saw success in the UK.  I have a collection of the first 25 (thank you IDW) and will maybe get others in the future (honestly, the stories are freaking bananas and include an Ecto-4 which is a god damn rocket ship, and the first adventure includes the ghost of an intelligent alien slug monster).

I thought the sequel was fine, bit too much of a rehash of the first movie (kind of a lazy script when you get down to it) but harmless.

The video game was also fine and served as a good unofficial “Ghostbusters 3”, the game play was fun, and the writing (while hampered because there are clearly roles meant for Louis Tully and Dana Barret) is ultimately comparable to “Ghostbusters 2”.

I plan to see the new one this weekend.

That all being said I feel that I disagree with something that a lot of people list as the reason they like the original movie.  A lot of people seem to think that “Ghostbusters” only works because of Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray.  That their singular chemistry allowed it all to come together.

I disagree.

The idea of “Funny guys fighting monsters/ghosts” has been around a while.  It is a simple premise, and while the execution of that premise varies WILDLY in both how it is done, and how well it is done.  The idea of “comedians fighting ghosts/monsters/aliens” is too broad a concept to be fenced in to just those three actors plus the extended cast (this is not to cast shade at Ernie Hudson, who I feel is underrated both in the franchise and as an actor in general, but he is a supporting character in the story).  Dan Aykroyd did not invent the idea.

Though, back in Mickey's day of fighting "Lonesome Ghosts" they didn't have proton packs.
They had to make due with a shotgun and a deerstalker cap.
The biggest issue I have with Ghostbusters (and I say this keeping in mind all of the positive things I have said above) is that they did not grow the concept.  The 1980’s was filled to the brim with talented comedic actors and special effects that got better every year.  The first “Ghostbusters” was set in New York and used several well-known comedians (and considering Eddie Murphy and John Candy were both originally in it, they didn’t even get their original picks), WHY THEN WAS THE SECOND ONE DOING THE SAME THING?

"Ghostbusters: Mardi Gras", "Ghostbusters: Liberty Bell", "Ghostbusters: Bambino's Curse". Just take a city, and throw comedians at it.  Lily Tomlin, Phil Hartman, Jane Curtin, George Carlin, Chris Rock, and anybody else.  Seriously now, do you think that Bill Murray invented being snide?  There are 100 cities in America that could all have their own ghost stories.  Voodoo zombie hordes, the Jersey Devil, HALF THE STUFF THEY DO ON “SUPERNATURAL” could all have been done with John Lithgow and Jeff Goldblum wearing proton packs.

A Trillion nerds on the internet and this is the only image of an alternate 80's cast.
Really wish I had Adobe Suite on this computer I would have put more into this effort.
“The Real Ghostbusters” cartoon had 140 episodes.  And while they all had different problems (they seemed to face a Gozer level world ending threat every episode) clearly there are stories that exist with people fighting ghosts.

            The reason I saw fit to write this is because I have seen a lot of people online arguing things like, “It is a big part of my childhood, they shouldn’t remake it”.  And I feel that is just stupid.  While I would prefer a movie in which the Ghostbusters already existed, and did the stuff from the movies and video game and then just had Ray and Winston showing up to hand the keys of the New York offices off to new people… That would have been better.  But, that is over with.  You can’t fence off the best iteration of a good idea.  The execution was too good not to run with in various permutations.

Just like Batman has been rebooted 10,000 times, and James Bond has looked like a half dozen people, Ghostbusters is starting fresh and hopefully is good enough to do what I wanted the series to do all along: GO PLACES.

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.