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Early June movie round-up

This is a bit of an inertia post. I do not feel ready to completely abandon my drive-by movie reviews, but none of the movies I caught in the last month or so were truly on my to-watch list (not even Star Trek, an impulse decision, or Coraline, watched at the behest of the kids, both of which I enjoyed). I’m overdue for an installment of the feature, so even though I have few illuminating thoughts on these, here they are.

Coraline 2009
Ghostbusters 1984
I Am Legend 2007
Star Trek 2009
Wanted 2008

Becky saw I Am Legend on Sky schedule and enticed me to watch it with her. I am normally lukewarm towards post-apocalyptic scenarios, but it turned out to be a good viewing, despite being predictable at times. The sweeping scenery of deserted Manhattan was spectacular and the theme of personal responsibility amid catastrophic unintended consequences coming from the best of intentions was very powerful. Will Smith did a good job portraying the mental state of a sole survivor with a high purpose in mind, mixed with constant worry about safety. A couple of sequences felt conveniently without foundation (explosions and fires could not drive the mutants away, but Anna could with nothing but her car’s projector? mutants seem to possess capacity only for aggression, yet one retains enough of his cunning mind to set an elaborate trap for Neville?), but I rarely find a movie these days without gaps in coherency. It made me want to pick up the book on which it is based, and that’s what mostly counts.

Flipping the channels one day, I catapulted directly into a mind-blowing Wanted car chase and felt that I needed to check out the whole movie. It is an adaptation of a graphic novel with a properly fantastical plot and an objectionable to me notion of a mystically divine way of “ordering” a human life to be extinguished, which later morphs into no less objectionable notion of a human putting himself in a position to give such orders. The twists of the plot are nothing short of inane, and the action resolves with a scene that stretches the limits even of the bullet-trajectory-bending universe. But Russian director Timur Bekmambetov has a brilliant action style, many sequences are jaw-dropping, and entertainment value is certainly there.

I also accidentally dropped into a showing of Ghostbusters and, having never seen the movie in its entirety, figured on recording and watching it. As it often happens to me, I lack the perspective on the movie impact when it first came out. I’ve heard quite a few people professing being fond of it, but I do not see what the big deal is. Bill Murray’s facial expressions are always a joy to watch, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroid are not half bad, there are a few lines worth a chuckle, but on balance the movie is not that funny, the villain is properly inept when it counts the most, and the giant marshmallow man – a send-up/homage to Godzilla – must be what continues to inspire all of the recent (and mostly worthless) spoof movies. I don’t get the attraction.

I am clearly not much of a cinema-goer, but this sample suggests that I enjoy movies seen in a theater more than the ones I pick up on cable. Hmm, could be the nature of the sample…


  1. Brian Greenberg

    Ghostbusters was one of those movies that was more of a marketing blitz than just a movie. The song was huge at the time, there were all sorts of tie-ins with the movie, and everyone seemed to go see it simultaneously, so everyone was talking about it. Kind of the Susan Boyle of it’s day, without YouTube to help it along.

    I enjoy it when I catch it now for nostalgia reasons, but I can easily see how you’d walk away underwhelmed.

  2. jason

    I agree with Brian on this one: if we’re being honest, the success of Ghostbusters stemmed as much from the ubiquitous “no ghosts” logo t-shirts and the popularity of Ray Parker Jr.’s catchy theme song as from the quality of the movie itself. (That said, I still enjoy this film very much. But then I am on record as fiercely defending stuff others find dated.)

    It’s interesting that many so-called comedies from this time period really aren’t as funny as we remember them being, and I don’t think it’s merely the passage of time that’s responsible. It’s more like, removed from the contemporary ad campaigns that pushed the idea of these movies being knee-slappingly hilarious, we can now see that many of them were actually more-or-less “straight” action movies with humor layered over the top, usually in the form of wisecracking leads. I’m thinking now of Billy Crystal’s Running Scared and Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop, among others. Ghostbusters was a bit more of a true comedy than those, but I think you could still make a case that it’s really a sci-fi/fantasy movie that just happens to have moments of goofiness, and of course Bill Murray’s dead-pan smart-aleck reactions.

    Personally, I prefer that sort of comedy to the one-gag-every-90-seconds variety that dominates today. But again, that’s just me…

  3. Ilya

    Actually, I prefer the same type of comedy as well, which helps explain why I have not been impressed with recent on-screen comedies for a long time. That comedy layer is probably just too thin for me in Ghostbusters.

    Incidentally, I’m pretty sick of the theme song. There is a series of nauseating commercials for some phone assistance service in the UK that uses it as the audio track…

  4. jason

    Ilya: you should’ve been in the US for its first surge of popularity… oy. Talk about burn-out.

    Brian: I vaguely remembered that, too, so I googled. He was sued for ripping off “I Want a New Drug” by Huey Lewis and the News, which had come out earlier the same year. The case settled out of court. Interestingly, according to wikipedia, Huey recently remarked on a VH1 special that Ray had been the one who paid in the settlement, and Ray is now suing Huey for a breach of confidentiality. These things just never end sometimes…

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