Friday, October 21, 2016


When it was announce that there would be a remake of the fan favorite movie GHOSTBUSTERS the internet lit up. Fans asked why there was a need to remake a favorite film they found perfect. When they questioned the concept of making it an all-female cast those same fans were accused of being misogynistic. I even remember watching a show with the cast where when asked about those questioning one replied they were all just bunch of 30 year olds living in their mother’s basement. Not a wise way to promote your movie to the fans you were hoping to attract. The question that never seemed to be focused on was the most important though. Was it a good movie or not?

Start off tossing aside most of what you remember about the original movies. This movie doesn’t play off of those directly but has small ties. Instead take it for face value, as a completely different movie with a different story. Going in with that in mind the answer to the question of whether or not it is a good movie is it’s not all that bad but it lacks quite a bit.

The movie opens with Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) trying to get tenure at the university she works at. A problem arises when she discovers that a book she helped co-author years ago with then best friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) is still available and being promoted, a book about the paranormal and ghost hunting. Erin goes to meet with Abby to ask her to take the book off the market and meets Abby’s new sidekick, tech whiz Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon). While refusing the girls are called out to investigate a ghost event at a local mansion turned tourist attraction.

At the mansion they confront an actual ghost and Erin is left covered in ectoplasm aka slime. When video of the confrontation with the ghost goes viral Erin not only loses tenure but her job as well. Abby and Jillian aren’t far behind when they request more funds to continue their work only to find the institute where they work didn’t even remember they were there and then fires them. Heisting some of the equipment they’re using they leave and set up shop on their own. In their new home above a Chinese restaurant they hire a secretary receptionist in the form of Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), a hunk with no brain.

The first customer that get is an MTA worked named Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who takes them to the subway where they confront another ghost. Patty joins the group after their encounter. Video of that event leads a local concert promoter to call them when another apparition shows up during a heavy metal concert. When video of this hits the press it is dismissed by an expert (played by Bill Murray). When he shows up to let them prove him wrong he’s attacked by the ghost.

More events happen, a plotline involving a loner intent on bringing ghosts into the world and another story involving the mayor of New York not wanting anyone to know that the attacks are real meld together as plot movers with little to add to the story, effects or attempt at humor.

And maybe that’s the first problem here. Too much is going on and it doesn’t flow smoothly but feels like set pieces that are then connected. The first film had a storyline that connected the bits and pieces in a way that made sense, that carried along a story. This one feels more like bits and pieces that fans loved was stirred up with things each actress is known for to create something that feels like it’s just there rather than something you want to rush and see.

In addition to that the most surprising thing for me were the performances. Going in I honestly didn’t expect much from Leslie Jones, a comedian who I think relies far too heavily on doing the same thing over and over. She actually gives a performance here instead. Kate McKinnon steals the show among the actresses of the team, displaying a crazy character that you end up laughing at and loving. Wiig, who I’ve seen give some amazing performances, feels like she’s just sleepwalking through most of this. And, sorry to say, McCarthy is the worst of the bunch. I’ve loved her movies, loved her on MIKE AND MOLLY, but unfortunately she’s becoming a one note actress doing the same shtick over and over again to the point it’s no longer funny to watch any more. Come on, Melissa, you’re better than that.

The effects which took such a drubbing from fans aren’t bad at all but they feel like they offer nothing new, no improvement over the effects of the original and that was 27 years ago. In truth while the movie isn’t bad it just feels like there is nothing new here, nothing that makes it exceptional and it actually plays like any other average movie rather than an attempt to reboot a franchise. The end result proved this since it did decent box office figures but not enough that Sony plans to move forward with a sequel, something which they announced prior to the movie being released on disc.

The end result is a mixed bag. It isn’t near as bad as many claimed it to be but it isn’t at all as good as the original. Its day has come and gone, youngsters who never saw the original will probably enjoy it and it will not be a feather in the cap of those involved. But if it’s on the shelf, in the machine or available from a friend it might still offer a decent night’s entertainment.

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In this day and age it’s difficult if not impossible to not have a viewpoint when it comes to politics. I firmly believe that there is a minority of people on both the far left and far right and that the majority of the people in this country fall somewhere in between and move back and forth on various issues. But pundits, politicians and news people would have us all believer you’re either a white hat or a black hat depending on who they support.

Documentary film makers over the last decade or so have joined into the mix beginning with the Oscar win for Michael McDonald for his film BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE. I’ve long been a critic of Moore because his movies get released and within days the fact checking begins and an invariable list of falsehoods and misrepresentations are found, lengthy lists. And yet he is praised and held to high esteem, in part because he had no counterpart to offset his films.

Then along came Dinesh D’Souza.

With his film 2016: OBAMA’S AMERICA he broke the mold with a successful film promoting Conservative ideas. In 2014 he was indicted for illegal political contributions resulting in his incarceration for 8 months, fines paid and community service expected. The result of that was a new book and a film, HILLARY’S AMERICA: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, just out on DVD.

The film opens with D’Souza entering prison and his discussions with fellow prisoners about how they got there and what it took to form a great con. In those talks he learns it takes 5 steps: 1-get a plan, 2-recruit, 3-pitch, 4-take and 5-never give up the con or deny deny deny. D’Souza then begins to discuss how in his opinion the Democratic Party has followed this plan, more directly in recent years.

He focuses on various moments in history re-enacted here discussing the twist of facts that we are currently taught. While we hear that Republicans are the party of slavery, racists and evil, he delves into the history books to discuss things that I for one was never taught. He talks about Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, being a slave owner and supporter of slavery and his land grab from the Indians in an effort to provide cheap land for people in return for votes. He moves on to the Civil War and discusses the fact that there was more support for slavery from northern Democrats than southern. He cites names, places and events in doing so.

He then talks to Carol Swain, an American political scientist, professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, about the alteration of history that’s been happening. While one would believe that the KKK was formed by Republicans the fact is it was founded by Democrats, its first Grand Dragon being Nathan Bedford Forest who attended the Democratic National Convention as a representative.

Other moments in history are brought to light and other names I’d never heard of in history classes. Ida B. Wells is one of those names, an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement and Republican. She talks about Henry Smith and the formation of anti-lynching laws. She discusses Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and a promoter of eugenics and the extermination of the black race.

The film discusses how the things D’Souza learned about a hustle, a con, are being applied to politics as well. It all eventually leads to his talking about how the rules apply to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton not just in the current election but in her life from early on.

Rather than describe all of this I suggest anyone interested in learning make a point of picking up this film and watching it. But don’t watch it blindly, accepting everything you see as fact. Dig into it. Go online and research some of the items brought up. Fact check things in this film as ardently as you would a Michael Moore film. And while looking for information always consider the sources you read from. In researching critiques of this film I found short lists, the biggest being 5 items, that the writers questioned D’Souza’s information on. At least one of them was more concerned that he didn’t give detailed history on all topics other than what he discusses, which had he done what they ask would have resulted in a 10 hour film. Those critiques become diversion and the last part of the con: deny, deny, deny.

There is no doubt the Dinesh D’Souza has a partisan goal in mind. He wears his beliefs on his sleeve. But unlike Moore he doesn’t claim to be impartial, superior or smarter than everyone else in the room. He comes at the topic as a legal immigrant to this country who cares about it deeply. He doesn’t say one thing and do another (like slam capitalism while owning 2 million dollar homes).

The style of the film is polished and well made. Scenes are acted out and when available news footage is used. Re-enactments are on display throughout. All of them combine to make an effective argument for what D’Souza believes. But in the end as a viewer it is up to you to determine if you believe what he says or not. He presents his case in a mild mannered version rather than confrontational in your face styles favored by many film makes these days. So watch the movie. Dig into the issues. And then decide if he’s right or not.

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October begins and it’s the month of Halloween, so what better time than now to highlight a horror series that recently made its way to disc. Fans of EVIL DEAD 1 & 2 and ARMY OF DARKNESS have thrilled to the horrific and yet humorous adventures of Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) since the first film arrived way back in 1981. Praised by Stephen King, loved by fans and a nominee on nearly every list of favorite horror films, the original played for scares while the two sequels more for laughs. They launched the career of Sam Raimi to the point he directed 3 Spider-man films. And now Ash has made his way to series and a disc set.

A basis overview of the original: Ash and friends discover an ancient book bound in flesh that when read aloud unleashed a demonic evil that kills his friends. Ash ends up having to cut off his own hand and take on the demon alone, even going back in time to do so. A quick summation but all you need.

In the Starz series ASH VS EVIL DEAD the story picks up years later. Ash remains one handed, still works a low level job in retail and retains possession of the Necronomicon or Book of the Dead. He’s still the same goofy character we came to love years ago, smart mouthed, subtle as a shovel to the head and more inclined to look for a party than trouble. Unfortunately one drunken hookup has Ash bragging and showing off the book to his conquest of the night and then reading from it. Of course this show off stunt unleashes the Deadites (Evil dead bad guys/demons) again.

Various Deadite occurrences follow. One involves police detective Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) and her partner investigating a dark house. Her partner is killed and then possessed by a Deadite forcing her to shoot him to defend herself. Put on leave she begins to look into any and all clues on her own time to find out just what’s going on, eventually leading her to Ash.

But Ash has his own problems when Deadites attack the store where he works. With the help of co-worker Pablo (Ray Santiago) who worships Ash and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) they escape to his trailer where he hopes to find a way of destroying the book. At that trailer they are attacked and the two youngsters get to see Ash in action as he grabs his “boomstick” aka shotgun to take out one Deadite and straps on his chainsaw to the stump where his hand once was to take down another. Yes, that may sound crazy but it works.

And like that the threesome is destined to take the path of trying to save the world. With a few stops along the way like checking on Kelly’s family and a visit to Pablo’s shaman uncle. Each 30 minute episode takes us down the road they’re traveling and offers us more clues as to what is going on and how to stop it. The end result is that Ash must face the responsibility he’s been trying to avoid all these years and become the hero he was meant to be, albite a tarnished one at best.

The show takes the best parts of the original trilogy and multiplies them to a point where they work marvelously well. The character of Ash is a hoot, with a ton of humor on the surface and a hero buried underneath it all that just needs brought out. Pablo is a fantastic sidekick, wanting to join the good fight for the wrong reason (to get closer to Kelly) but willing to follow Ash anywhere. And Kelly offers that tough girl exterior who has a soft spot as well, who thinks of Pablo as a brother but who may change eventually. While Ash doesn’t want their help initially he eventually knows he’ll need it.

Every actor in this series is well suited for their parts. Let me say up front as a fan of Campbell he once again brings Ash to life, and I mean that in a good way. He offers the broad strokes when needed and the subtle ones when called for. Ash is the reluctant hero, a man whose crass ways lead him to make mistakes but someone you’d want in your corner once he gets there. Santiago and DeLorenzo are fresh faces to me and handle their roles well enough to keep up with Campbell, growing into them with each episode.

The first season now on disc only lasts 10 episodes which is a shame. When it was over I found myself wanting more. Season 2 has just started on Starz but I can wait for the season to make its way to disc. That means I can take the time to savor each episode. I can also enjoy the fact that they’ve announced Lee Majors to portray Ash’ father! In the meantime I think I’ll find myself watching this one more than once, just like I did the original movies. Maybe a weekend of EVIL DEAD with all three films and this series is in order. That might make a fun filled Halloween weekend. This is one not to rent but to add to your shelf. The combination of horror, extreme gore and laughs make it just that good.

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