Monday, December 05, 2016

The Future of Shopping

Today one of my co-workers sent me a video from Amazon. "This is so cool!" she said. And I agree.

Thing is, I remember this same idea from 2006 brought to us from IBM:

Oddly, I was just thinking about that second commercial yesterday as I looked at the long lines at Kroger and thought, "Why can't I just walk out and have all of my stuff scanned and my account billed via my Kroger ID?

Now I'm waiting on my jet pack, rocket car, and no lines at the grocery store.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Hateful Rebel

A few weeks before Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight came out, the story broke that it was, um, inspired by an episode of the TV show "The Rebel" (Season 1 Episode 25 - Fair Game). As soon as this news broke, people started asking me if I was going to do a comparison video between the two things. Not being that handy with video software -- at least not nearly as handy as a lot of people I see online who seem to have some strong AfterEffects skills.

To that end, I was waiting for someone else to do it -- maybe Jacob T. Swinney? -- to put something together. While I think that this could be better, Geektoid has cut together something that juxtaposes a few scenes and ideas.

If someone doesn't put together something better soon, I'm going to have to dive headfirst back into Sony Vegas.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Obligatory Ghostbusters 2016 Review

Going to the the 2016 Ghostbusters on opening weekend was something of a point of pride for me after reading all of the "trollicious" comments about how terrible the new movie would be. After having written my thoughts about the bizarre anti-women sentiments of too many fanboys (disguised as "this remake will ruin my childhood" whining), I felt obligated to review the film one way or the other -- positive or negative -- as long as I could review it honestly.

In 2011, director Paul Feig struck gold with the comedy hit Bridesmaids. Since then, he's made three additional film starring Melissa McCarthy (Heat, Spy, and Ghostbusters). These films, penned by Katie Dippold, Paul Feig, or a combination of both, all seem to draw from the same well. There's a pattern to the jokes in these films which mixes ribald comments with a seemingly faddish turn wherein characters riff a series of allegedly funny lines and, rather than using the best one, several of them are strung together in the final product.

That kind of "on the fly" humor can be effective but it has to be honed and used judiciously. At times, these jokes pile on to one another, making scenes increasingly funny. When not done well, however, scenes can feel clunky and each additional comment makes the scene clunkier.

Unfortunately, Ghostbusters 2016 is a very clunky movie.

The film re-teams Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy while introducing "Saturday Night Live" alumn Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to the mix. Wiig as Professor Erin Gilbert is our protagonist though she quickly becomes eclipsed by McCartney as Abby Yates and McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann. Gilbert and Yates bicker like the former friends they are while Holtzmann embodies some kind of living cartoon character -- appropriate since she seems styled after the Egon Spengler on the animated "The Real Ghostbusters". This presents a conundrum as Holtzmann becomes the most interesting person to look at on screen but she never gives us anything but an out-of-step lipsynching scene (where she's seemingly seducing Gilbert?) and several nonsequiters. She may be brilliant when it comes to making ghost-catching gadgets but she doesn't know DeBarge from Devo.

After the three women begin a business to investigate the paranormal, they hire Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). Dumb as a box of rocks, Kevin is a one-note character whose first note rings flat and only gets worse from there. The scene of him showing his graphic design skills might be one of the most excruciating bits of the film.

We eventually meet Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a mass transit employee who manages to make it past Kevin's incompetence and summons the Ghostbusters to the subway for their second supernatural encounter. Apparently, Patty is impressed by the team's incompetence and inexplicably joins them. This is one of many "this thing needs to happen so it's just going to happen" moments of the film.

There is an antagonist in Ghostbusters... of a sort. Rowan North, played by Neil Casey, has less depth and backstory than a "Criminal Minds" freak of the week. He's such a thumbnail sketch that I kept expecting that he was just a lowly henchman for some bigger baddie (like Andy Garcia's Mayor character or, even better, Cecily Strong as Jennifer Lynch, the Mayor's assistant). Alas, no. The film's villain remains unmotivated and as poorly drawn as the rest of the characters in the film.

It seems that the real bad guy of the film is Paul Feig who's given his team very little to work with. Additionally, the film suffers from being simply poorly made. The most glaring example of this comes in the scene after the team gets called into the Mayor's office and told that they have to stop their ghost-busting antics. This cuts to the team in an alley where Yates says that the Mayor is allowing them to continue to hunt ghosts!? The scene proceeds to exist with the sole purpose to demonstrate a few weapons that will be used in the final confrontation with the Oogie Boogie version of Rowan North. There's really no need for this scene as the audience has seen Holtzmann making quantum leaps in technology throughout the film. The film then cuts to what was the next natural scene after the Mayor's office scene where our heroes are downtrodden, not the elated characters we saw during the brief weapons try-out.

This same kind of editing and pacing issues mar much of the film. Of course, the film takes an extra beat whenever introducing a ham-handed cameo from the original Ghost Busters cast (the Sigourney Weaver bit just feels tacked on, because it is) but then one of the film's other cameos, Ozzy Osbourne, cuts away too quickly (after a terrible laugh line).

Other pacing problems present in the Ghostbusters only catching one ghost before the final confrontation, the inexplicable absence of Gilbert from the team after their strange-but-brief "victory" over Rowan North, and the gaping absence of the dance number Kevin-as-Rowan is setting up the police for (which we see somewhat in the credits).

I won't even go into how troubling Leslie Jones's role was handled in her "white people be crazy" stereotype into which her character was cast. Again, better writing and judicious editing could have helped her character just as it could have helped all of the other paper-thin characters in this overblown film wherein, at the end of the day, it didn't matter what gender the actors are but how good the script and direction need to be.

Ghostbusters 2016 is not the worst movie I've seen. It's not necessarily a terrible movie. It feels like there's a competent film hidden beneath the incompetence of the product that came to theaters. I don't think that a fan edit will help the movie once it comes out on home video as that can pare back some of the clumsiness of the current film but it can't do anything to help build the characters into something more than the synopsis descriptions they're limited to on screen.

And, by the way, I don't think it's going to ruin your childhood.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Trouble with Ghosts

I've written a bit in the past about the trouble with so-called "fan boys" and women. When the piece about Lianne Spiderbaby came out, a lot of males didn't get angry about Ms. Spiderbaby's plagiarism as much as her being a woman "writer" in a typically male-dominated field (penning genre reviews). The acceptance of women as being fans of and participants in genre films, filmmaking, and fandom has only gotten worse rather than better with major flare-ups around events such as "Gamergate" and Sad Puppies.

This same anti-woman sentiment seems to be the undercurrent of the backlash against the 2016 remake of Ghost Busters which reverses gender roles of our five main characters (Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth). Rather than being forward with the idea that a female-lead Ghost Busters is anathema to "fan boy" culture, it's easier to disguise the hatred while holding up the mantle of fandom and originality. While film culture is beset by remakes, sequels, and prequels, too many male fans have used Ghost Busters as the rallying point to decry remakes as if it were simply a bridge too far.

Apparently it's no big deal to make horrible movies out of geeky TV shows like "Transformers" or "Jem & The Holograms" but Ghost Busters (1984) is a sacred text. Can I remind people that Ghostbusters 2 was absolute garbage and one of the two (!) "Ghostbuster" cartoons was also terrible. If anything, Ghostbusters 2016 seems to be cleverly paying homage to the good Ghostbusters cartoon -- "The Real Ghost Busters" -- via Kate McKinnon's wild Egon hair.

That said, I have been not-so-silently lambasting James Rolfe AKA Angry Video Game Nerd, as being something of the face of this issue. That's probably not fair as he's not overtly come out to say that he has a problem with the gender-reversal of Ghostbusters 2016 but he has been very vocal in his dismissal of the film prior to its release via a video he made for Cinemassacre titled "Ghostbusters 2016. No Review. I refuse."

Watching this video is painful as Mr. Rolfe comes off as a whiny little prick. It takes him five and a half minutes to state to his fans (the audience of the video) why he won't be reviewing Ghost Busters 2016. He does this without vitriol or even raising his voice from a languid librarian pitch. There's no "koala dropping" rant. No. Instead it's a very calm discussion of how there's no way that Ghostbusters 2016 can be good because:

  1. It uses the same name as the original movie
  2. It forgets about the old characters
  3. It doesn't pay service to the fans

Apparently, all of those things can be judged by the trailer (which is one of the most disliked trailers in YouTube history). Mr. Rolfe goes on to talk about good examples of remakes/reboots/sequels like Star Wars VII and Star Trek XI which pass the torch from one generation to another. "A little fan service goes a long way," he says. How does Mr. Rolfe know that there won't be any "fan service" in the new Ghost Busters? I already mentioned Ms. McKinnon's hair, the trailer seems to show a few familiar characters like Slimer, and Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and Ernie Hudson make appearances in the new film. I suppose it's too little because Harold Ramis (RIP), Bill Murray*, and Rick Moranis won't be in the film. It seems to me that, if anything, Ghostbusters 2016 is going to have too much fan service but I can't be sure because I haven't seen the movie yet.

*Bill Murray may show up in an uncredited cameo as he did in at least one other film.

I think Brad Jones does a terrific job of recontextualizing Mr. Rolfe's video by taking the gender politics out of it and simply pointing out the absurdity of Mr. Rolfe's arguments against the remake/reboot/sequel protest:

Again, Mr. Rolfe does not say anything untoward against women or that the idea gender-swapping is a cheap gimmick. Instead, he seems to focus more on the idea that this new Ghost Busters will sully the memory of his love of the original series. As someone who suffered through The Phantom Menace, I would ask him to get a grip. He doesn't know what pain is.

Does Mr. Rolfe sound like a "whiny man baby" in his video? He doesn't whine but he comes across as whiny because he felt the need to even bother to spend the time to make the video. Some people feel that he had to address his fan base because they were demanding it. I don't buy it. Isn't it enough to say "That movie looks bad. I'm not going to see it."?

Mr. Rolfe has his very odd reasons for not watching Ghostbusters 2016 and he felt the necessity to get on his YouTube soap box for five and a half minutes to talk about it.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rolfe has become something of a poster child for paranoiac fan boys who feel they're being persecuted by feminists.

Seeing the responses to the responses to Mr. Rolfe's video (here and here) really make me sad. Are people really persecuting fan boys for not enjoying the trailer for Ghostbusters 2016? Are they being burned in effigy? Has anyone been killed because of it? Or is this all conjecture based on self-delusion and some internet comments/tweets?

You can hate the new Ghostbusters without being a misogynist and I'm not saying you are a misogynist if you do. I'm not saying you can't pre-judge a movie based on its preview. Full Disclosure: I have only watched one of the trailers for Ghostbusters 2016 as I don't like to watch a lot of trailers because they can misrepresent the movie (Hugo), give away plot twists (Shutter Island) or simply show all of the plot points of a movie. The one preview didn't look very good but I'll still be seeing the movie as I'm curious to see it.

If you dislike Ghostbusters 2016 because it's a remake of a film you hold sacred then get a grip. If you dislike the movie because it's bad, that's fine. If you don't see the movie because you don't want to spend money on it, that's fine.

I'm just saying that with the gender-reversal of the film that it's very easy for people who misogynist or at least gynophobic to decry a movie they've never seen based on the idea of strong female characters and masquerade as simple "movie fans speaking their opinion."

But, please, don't try to pretend that you're anything other than a sexist pig if the real problem here is that you can't stand the idea of women playing in your safe space.

If you want to see a video version of what I said here, Comic Book Girl 19 does a good job of summing it up:

Friday, May 27, 2016

Noir City Festival: Detroit

From Film Noir Foundation:

This fall, the historic Redford Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, will play host to a three-day NOIR CITY festival, the inaugural edition of what could become an annual event. The Redford is a classic single-screen movie palace rescued from oblivion by the Motor City Theatre Organ Society, a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of theatres featuring original pipe organs. NOIR CITY Detroit, hosted by Eddie Muller, will take place September 23–25, 2016 at the massive 1928 movie palace, which accommodates 1,600 patrons—200 more than NOIR CITY’s flagship venue, San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. The festival’s film schedule is in development now.“There’s a great synergy here,” said Muller. “At the FNF we’re preserving at-risk films, and these dedicated folks at the Redford are preserving this classic movie palace so folks can see the films as they were originally meant to be seen. It should be a perfect match.”

And here's the schedule:

September 23
7:00 The Killers (1946)
9:30 99 River Street (1953)

September 24
7:00 Double Indemnity (1944)
9:30 The Prowler (1951)
11:30 Blue Velvet (1986)

September 25
3:00 Lady From Shanghai (1948)
5:00 Woman On The Run (1950)
(35mm Film Presentations)

Learn more about the historic Redford Theater.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Journalism Is Dead

Not "listicles" per se, the phenomenon of top ten videos by hackneyed outlets such as ScreenRant, WatchMojo, along with the Everything Wrong With and CinemaSins groups are really a scourge to anything related to valid journalism or criticism. Even when being satirical, they fail miserably.

Let's take a look at a recent ScreenRant video. First, the title of the video is "10 Amazing Hidden Easter Eggs in Superhero Movies". We'll soon be asking if ScreenRant knows what an Easter Egg is. For the record: An Easter Egg is an unexpected or undocumented feature in a piece of computer software or on a DVD, included as a joke or a bonus. The term has since been bastardized to now include simple references or inside jokes.

Back to the title. The video says "10 Amazing Hidden Easter Eggs in Superhero Movies" but the title on YouTube is aimed more at being Clickbait by being more inflammatory: "10 Hidden Superhero Movie Easter Eggs You Never Noticed". By saying "You Never Noticed" ScreenRant presents a challenge to the viewer.

Looking at the list, most of these things are items that are little jokes or inside references, nothing "hidden" and no "Easter Eggs".

  1. A reference to Doctor Strange in Spiderman. Yup. Caught that years ago. Thanks. Not hidden. Not an Easter Egg.

  2. Reference to Cat Woman in Batman Begins. Caught that. Thanks. Not hidden. Not an Easter Egg.

  3. Reference to Magneto being Quicksilver's dad in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Caught that. Thanks. Not Hidden. Not an Easter Egg.

  4. Reference to The Black Panther in Iron Man 2. Well, it could be a reference. So maybe that's an Eater Egg? Maybe not.

  5. Reference to the Iron Man cartoon theme in Iron Man. Yup. Caught it. Not sure if that would be considered either hidden or an Easter Egg.

  6. Reference to Sapphire in the Green Lantern movie. Okay, this one might be an Easter Egg.

  7. Reference to issue 121 (the death of Gwen Stacey) in Amazing Spider Man 2. Hey! I would consider that a valid thing!

  8. Reference to Willy Lumpkin in Fantastic Four. Not really an Easter Egg. Just a character that not a lot of people may know.

  9. Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill cameo in Superman. I've known this one for years, I'm not sure if everyone did. But, major points deducted for showing a picture of George Reeves and Phyllis Coates in the video to demonstrate Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill. Even more points deducted because George Reeves had been dead for quite a while before Superman cam out in 1978. I guess the people behind the video forgot about Hollywoodland.

    What's worse is the the site Sploid (one of the Gawker family of websites) then teased the "article" with this GIF:

    This might have worked better:

  10. Steve Rogers punches Hitler in Captain America: The First Avenger as a reference to the comic book cover. Nice if you know it but not really an Easter Egg.

This bloated list of pedestrian references is nothing compared to just how terrible CinemaSins and Everything Wrong With can be. Here's a wonderful video that explains everything wrong with a typical CinemaSins video:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Let's Do Some Math

Is The Hateful Eight really the 8th film from Quentin Tarantino? This seems suspect.

1/2 My Best Friend's Birthday
1 Reservoir Dogs
1 Pulp Fiction
1/4 Four Rooms
1 Jackie Brown
1 Kill Bill: Vol. 1
1 Kill Bill: Vol. 2
1/8 Sin City
1 Grindhouse: Death Proof
1 Inglourious Basterds
1 Django Unchained
1 Hateful Eight

It seems like the 9th full feature. Maybe the 8th if we're counting Kill Bill as one film (though I paid for two tickets). But, really, it seems like it's the 9.875 film from Quentin Tarantino.