Saturday, August 30, 2014

Species (1995)

I didn’t really know what to do for this week’s review, as, being a colossal idiot, I forgot to take into account that there were five weeks in August - and being a somewhat neurotic personality, I really didn’t want next week’s planned review to be the last one of the month. I had planned Ghostbusters 2 for that slot. But here I was with an empty slot waiting to be filled. I was conflicted over what to do until I noticed what was coming up next on my Netflix DVD queue…

Then I was like, “Hellooooo new can of worms to be opened!”


This was one of those horror franchises I had overlooked prior to watching the movie for this review. Frankly, I kind of wish it had stayed that way after seeing it. I mean, how was this thing funded? My guess is, it had something to do with pointing a lot of guns at crying peoples’ heads while they beg for a little more time to pay you off for the crack they bought.

Director: Roger Donaldson
Starring: Ben Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge

Co-written with Colin/The Observer.

Oh, is our time up? I can live with that. If it means I don't have to watch a second of this horrible movie! But that would be too easy, wouldn't it?

We start off with a list of actors overtop, which I think was a bit cruel; how were they expected to forget the fact that they’d ever been in this if their names are what STARTS the damn thing off? I mean these weren’t exactly unknowns: Michael Madsen, Forest Whitaker and Ben fucking Kingsley? I dunno though - maybe this was more like the price they all paid for the Satanic oath they took in the early 90s to become big stars later.

We then see a girl being held captive in some kind of chamber with Kingsley, playing scientist Fitch. Fitch orders his people to flood the chamber with gas and turns and walks away dramatically, which is always preferable to actually making sure you did the work correctly. As, you know, if you DON’T do that, your subject might escape and flee upon an unsuspecting world.

I see this fall's theater production of Stephen King's Firestarter is going swimmingly.

Oops! Oh well. We tried!

I just think it was irresponsible of them to let the Ferguson police force act as guards for this facility. But oh well, I guess they had to give them some jobs.

The girl escapes to a train where she gets a free ticket because she’s a little girl. However, the stewardess gets what she had coming to her for giving the girl a free ticket WHEN…

Yeah! Take that, train staff who did nothing wrong!

Kingsley is busy gathering a team of complete nonsense, as he has brought together the finest minds that poor writing can produce - a sort of “Super Friends” of idiocy. We get Forest Whitaker as Dan Smithson, a psychic. There’s Michael Madsen as Lennox, a hitman. There’s molecular biologist Laura, played by Marg Heigenberger, and also anthropologist Stephen Arden - I say all of their occupations, but really aside from Madsen and Whitaker, I couldn’t tell who these characters were supposed to be without looking at Wikipedia. Becuase that’s how you make a good movie!

Oh wait, no it isn’t. These characters are just bland with no personalities outside of one-note cliche. Madsen’s line sums it up pretty well: “We’re all here for the same reason...whatever that is.”

"When can I go back to doing blow off a hooker's ass crack? This is already boring me." Seriously, Madsen in this is just like Madsen in anything else - he has two modes of expression; confused and "I don't give a fuck."

It’s called a paycheck, buddy. It’s okay to admit that when you’re in a movie with this in it:

Well they always DID say women were different from men. Though when they said "women are from Venus," I never thought they meant it so literally.

Also, why is Kingsley, a scientist, utilizing a psychic to solve his problem? Isn’t that just like the most desperate, end-of-days sign ever, when a scientist who should have all the answers is just like “Fuck it! I’m calling a psychic!”? I mean Jesus.

That wouldn't be a good sign either!

Whitaker’s character is seriously just a new wonder of the world, as every line he has is just stating the obvious without actually contributing anything. I swear all of his scenes go like this:

[WHITAKER sees a horrific blood-soaked crime scene with a murder victim lying on his stomach with a clear gunshot wound to the head. The killer is being taken away in a police car.]

WHITAKER: Something...BAD happened here….I think…

That really isn’t too far off - he sees the place where that train stewardess lady was murdered, stares at it blankly for a few seconds, clearly understanding nothing, then goes “Something bad happened here.” Where did you come up with that brilliant deduction? Did you sit at your desk for hours and pore over complex formulas for hours? Did you lose sleep as you thought for hours about the complex ramifications of every bit of that concept?

We hit the ultimate low (for the first half hour anyway) when the movie actually tries to pull off an exposition scene with Kingsley explaining how they fucked up so hard. Get this: apparently they were given some space DNA or something from aliens and blended it with human to create a little girl that aged a lot faster than regular humans. Within a month she was already looking like a five year old girl:

So basically it's just another trite "humans fuck with science" movie. We get it, humans are bad. Please shut up and stop thinking you're intellectual in any way.

Maybe if you bungholes got security that wasn’t complete fucking shit, she wouldn’t have been able to escape that easily and you wouldn’t have this problem. You made contact with alien life, fucked with it, and then didn’t even have the good sense to make ABSOLUTELY SURE she can’t get out in like two seconds. That’s fucking amazing. You guys deserve an award. But not the kind you were probably hoping you’d get.

Oh, and apparently they made it a female because they wanted it to be “more docile and easy to control” - what, did you time travel in from the 1950s white-picket-fence suburbia housewife land or what? Are you even serious?

So their next step is to figure out something in the lab. What are they doing? I have no fucking idea - sciencey stuff is just cool! Lab coats and glass chambers! Yeah!

Kingsley orders two of them to go in and fix something wrong with the equipment. They can’t use lab techs who would normally do this because, as Kingsley informs us, “it’s classified.” So they go in there and immediately break off a part of their machine by accident, and spend way longer than they ever had a right to looking for it on the floor. Gee, it’s almost like they weren’t qualified to do anything in there, huh? While they’re doing that, a horrific alien mutation somehow happens in the room and begins to grow faster than an oil-boom town:

Kingsley’s immediate response is to lock all three of the people he hired to kill this thing inside and start counting down to destroy the entire room, chanting all the while that he “has to follow protocol” like a malfunctioning ‘droid from the Stars Wars universe.

Then after Kingsley comes to his senses and hits the ‘unlock door’ button and lets them out, the room then bursts into flames:

I'm really starting to think this whole science lab thing Kingsley runs is one of those cheap back alley ones where they pay you like a hundred bucks to do tests that turn your urine blue for two weeks and make your balls itch. I really don't think it's reputable, guys.

So that’s what would have happened to these poor saps who are working for free for Kingsley’s character, if they hadn’t been let out at the last second. Let’s recap - you’ve blown up your lab, almost killed your team (and if they weren't brain dead they would never trust you again after this) and learned nothing useful at all. Overall I think it was a success. But then again, I'm a complete fraud and nothing I say can be taken seriously.

So while they’re floundering around like complete morons, the alien, called Sil, is busy buying a dress that makes her look like a fucking Power Rangers-themed bridesmaid:

She looks like a Power Rangers suit that stopped changing mid-transformation. Sailor Moon looked more subtle.

Then she goes to some club and kills a woman in the bathroom, then wears nothing but a bra and long pants and takes some guy home to kill him. Her line is as follows: “You want to go to a party?” The guy goes, “Where at?” Then she says, “I don’t know!” I realize having a half-naked woman just walking up and flirting with you is awesome and all, but come the fuck on. That’s ridiculous.

They go home and we get the entire reason this movie was made: show off her beautiful eyes, hair and facial features obviously! What? Did you think I was going to say something perverted?

The next half hour or so is mostly made up of Sil going around killing random men who won’t have a baby with her, because yeah, that’s the plot now - she wants to get pregnant and have some super-baby that grows up fast like she did, which will then start a perpetual train of horrible, horrible sequels. Joyous. I dunno, just set Sil up with the land shark from Creature. They’re both horny freaks and will be perfect for each other.

So yeah, tons of scenes of Sil just killing random guys, which is cool because of boob shots mostly, because this movie is perpetually 13 years old. My favorite is this guy, who freaks out like he’s being molested by a 60-year-old fat priest when she’s taking off his underwear.

Dude, you were already making out with her in a pool with her completely naked, so what the fuck? Oh well. He did make a bit of a scramble for the phone earlier and she had to pull him back in to keep making out. So my guess is he’s got some painful self-discovery to do sometime in the future. Or he would have if she didn’t kill him immediately after.

"I have to get the phone! That's my totally not gay male friend who wants to come over and lather my body in skin-refreshing oils!"

They eventually all meet up with Sil at this hotel or whatever and she thinks it’s a great idea for some reason to come up to Forest Whitaker, stare at him for a second so he can go “it’s you” because this movie thinks its audience is retarded and can’t figure things out by themselves, and then run away.

Spoon, meet audience's mouths.

Helicopters immediately spring up from nowhere, apparently and chase them down - what, were they just lying in wait for anything to happen at all? Must have been a boring fucking night.

"Oh goodie, something to do finally!"

I guess she sneaks back later and tricks Doc Ock from the Raimi Spider-Man movies here to have sex with her, then kills him once she’s finally pregnant. Then she runs into the sewers and they have to chase her, because this wasn't enough like a shitty Stephen King adaptation already.

Then we get one of the pastimes enjoyed by every bad, unimaginative pile of crap - the “flashlights and guns in the dark wandering” scene. Oh yeah. We really needed another one of those. And I really need a good coma right about now so I can wake up after movies stop thinking scenes like this are in any way productive to humanity.

Even the characters look bored to be doing this scene. GOD it's dull!

The movie’s not done with us yet, though, as we still have THIS image to burn into our minds:

The Gerber Baby is falling on hard times after being introduced to the new drug of chemical radiation.

The baby is killed almost instantly and is thrown into the fire below - which really pisses off Sil, who for some reason was just hiding this whole time. Why is she pissed off? She can make another one in like two hours! But I guess that wouldn't give us material for '90s computer game CGI:

There's a fucking reason old monster movies like Alien, Predator and Jaws didn't show the monster - it's because they knew the effects looked fake and wanted to keep up the illusion. Smoke and mirrors, you bungholes. Why couldn't you have taken the similar path?

They knock Sil into the fire too, very easily I might add, and then all that's left to do is save Whitaker from falling in:

Please don't save him. I don't need to hear any more Captain Obvious-style lines from this moron. "Oh, thanks for saving me, you guys; I could have burnt alive if I fell in there. That would have been painful. Pain is bad. I think something really bad was going to happen if you hadn't saved me." AAAAAAHHHHHH!

Then proving the film has the highest quality writers available, we end on this line: “I never thought I’d be so happy to be back in a sewer,” as they’re leaving the caves and instead going back into the sewers.

No. That line is stupid. This movie is stupid. The characters were bland as all hell when they weren’t ungodly annoying, the story was hackneyed shit made for perverted 13-year-olds, the acting was just pitiful and the CGI was seriously just so bad I can’t even think of a good word. Pac Man is laughing at you right now, guys.

It just amazes me that this somehow got enough money and fans to warrant sequels. Three sequels! That’s astounding to me! And they’re probably all even worse than this, which is hard to imagine at this point. What, did the directors of those sequels just blackmail the studio execs? I really don’t want to imagine the kind of blackmail it would require to allow THIS piece of sewer slime spawn sequels. Ugh.

This whole thing is just pure stale '90s cheese at its worst. It's extremely dated now, but I doubt it ever had much shelf life on it even back when it came out. This thing is just pure ass. If you have a chance to pass it up, take it like you would if you were offered a million dollars. You won't regret it and your brain cells will thank you later.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

Ghostbusters was a great film and a classic of cinema. But it wasn’t just a classic. It was the film that defined a generation. It was a movie about a bunch of working class schmucks starting up a business at their lowest point and succeeding. Never mind the fact that it was a goofy, hilarious ghost-romp - it also had heart to it and a lot of wit, and the people of the 80s were probably attracted as much to the working class, blue-collar American entrepreneurial spark as they were to the supernaturally charged antics.

And then the sequel came out.

Director: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd

A lot of people really didn’t like this movie for whatever reason. I dunno - I didn’t see this as a kid; in fact I only saw it as a young adult for the first time, but I always thought it was good. While the original had more classic lines and iconoclastic scenes, this one I always thought was a good movie anyway and plenty funny and enjoyable on its own. As this year marks the 25th anniversary of this film, I thought I’d take a look and see what it was, from a more critical eye, that people didn’t like about this flick. Let’s turn on the proton packs, don our grey janitor suits and try not to cross the streams.

This one starts off immediately with a text card saying Five Years Later - and as the film was made five years in real life after the first one, I think the movie deserves an accolade for truth in advertising. Take that Guardians of the Galaxy - you should’ve waited that 26 years after the opening scene to make the rest of your movie!

We then see that this was at the very edge of that time in movies where things like this could happen and not cause an infuriated outrage immediately:

I'm never having kids.

Sheesh. If that happened in a movie these days, you’d get five Facebook pages the night after it was released crying for the beheading of the director in the middle of a crowded city street. Also, shouldn’t Sigourney Weaver be a bit better at looking after a baby when she’s fought off aliens in the past? Just saying, movie.

We then see where a ghostbusting pedigree gets you - birthday parties where little kids scream about wanting He Man instead. Most parents didn’t want a 75% naked guy with hair like Fabio at their 10 year old boy’s birthday party, so I guess the Ghostbusters were option #2. I guess getting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (i.e. real turtles with voice boxes Krazy Glued to their shells) was option #3.

That's Jason Reitman as the little boy, who would later grow up to make movies like Thank You for Smoking and Up in the Air. Call this scene a "passing of the torch" between father and son, if you will.

We also see them dancing to their own theme song at the party. Wait a second; who the FUCK recorded that song in-universe? I thought it was just a theme song! So they’ve actually gotten a real song IN THE MOVIE’S UNIVERSE to dance along to? Huh. Go figure.

This is like watching your childhood heroes get drunk and fall on their asses while trying to reclaim their former glory. Painful - going down in flames, guys...

This scene is just proof of one of the movie’s flaws … it’s a debilitating condition I like to call sequel-itis, where a follow-up to a well-acclaimed film doesn’t further the story of the original so much as deconstruct it, leaving its characters in a run-down place in life and having the first film’s accomplishments serve as a yellow brick road to the unemployment line.

Characters will do silly and demeaning things that mostly just make them look, well, silly. Instead of a continued story, sequel-itis knocks the franchise over with the proverbial flu, forcing it to lose ground and have to pick itself back up again. It takes a lot more guts and talent to write a sequel where the characters don’t fall down and regress to where they were before the first movie started again - it takes talent to write characters that continually progress. Unfortunately Ghostbusters 2 does tend to fall into this trap.

We also get Bill Murray as a TV show host on a show about weird psychic phenomena - his guests include a guy who wrote a book about the end of the world, claiming it will end on New Year’s Eve, and a lady who says an alien took her to his hotel room and told her the world will end on Valentine’s Day in 2016. Well, all I have to say about THAT is, at least we won’t have to sit through another presidential election that’s actually just a big media circus.

Also I thought aliens would have better taste in hotels than the Hilton. I mean at least go to the Marriott instead, guys. That’s the real hub for supernatural vacationing.

The guys all meet up again to help out Dana Barrett with a problem involving her infant son, who she fears is in danger from some kind of supernatural force. But we see the only danger the baby is in comes from Peter Venkman, who likes to pick up the baby and insult it for not being his child. I sure hope he doesn’t remember any of these diatribes when he gets older. Those are the sorts of things that mess a kid up.

Don't shake his hand, kid. That'll open up doors you never expected - like bursting randomly into comedic jokes...

We also get this line from Egon: "I had part of a slinky as a kid. But I straightened it."

Wow. That's got to be the saddest fucking thing I've ever heard. Good job - up there with Million Dollar Baby and pictures of starving children for sure.

They end up discovering there’s actually a giant river of pink slime under the streets of New York City - wait, this is news to people? I always knew that.

I don’t fucking know. I’m just wondering where the hell they got that construction equipment. Was it just in the trunk of the Ghostbusters car the whole time?

I guess they all somehow became masters of using that construction equipment too. Guess ghostbusting involves a lot of different skills.

They get arrested and are in court the next day with a judge that is perhaps the most extreme I’ve ever seen in my life - he screams like a Looney Tunes character and says he wants to burn them at the stake for being frauds. Geez. Either this guy was having a really bad day and just needed some Quaaludes to calm down, or he’s never judged anything more serious than a parking violation before this.

" life is an unending ruinous smoldering pile of rubble. Why do they let me be a judge again?"

Then again, these days you can shoot an unarmed black kid and get off because “you were defending yourself”...maybe judges in the 80s were just more innocuous.

Dana’s troubles aren’t over either, as she is attacked by Ditto from Pokemon:


That isn’t the only thing she’s attacked by though - she’s also under constant siege from Venkman, who she shares possibly one of the weirdest relationships ever with. He didn’t want a baby when they were together years ago and constantly avoided the subject, yet now acts jealous that she has a kid.

She constantly warns him not to try anything funny and acts like she doesn’t want to be together, but then walks around in his house wearing nothing but a towel.

"We can have sex, but it doesn't mean you can try any funny business."

Not to say either one of them is at fault - THEY’RE BOTH WEIRD AS FUCK. Being a relationship counselor for these two must be fucking fun, huh? Probably requires a person with a will strong enough not to bang your head against a wall with your eyes bleeding and your brain aneurysm screaming after twenty minutes.

Not to mention the crowning achievement of complete insanity these two characters have - after learning that a bloodthirsty centuries-old immortal tyrant is the cause behind the slime in the sewers (just go with it), what is Venkman and Dana’s plan of action? Well, the logical one of course: go on a date while the other Ghostbusters go down in the sewers and mess around with the slime.

Actually, on second thought this is some brilliant entrepreneurial work. Smooth-talk the other guys into doing the dirty work while you go eat at a high class establishment with a beautiful woman. That’s the kind of thinking that allows you to do nothing else after this movie but Wes Anderson films and become a fodder for Internet memes.

They also discover that the pink Ditto slime can light on fire when you get too close to figuring out why it exists. But luckily Ernie Hudson with a fire extinguisher is right there to save their asses, like the boss he is:

They just keep him locked in a closet with a fire extinguisher until they need him.

Down in the sewers, Winston discovers the genesis of one of the great Halloween haunted house scares - the good ole “train coming at you then disappearing” thing:

So after that stunt, the Mayor gets them into his office and they try and explain exactly what the fuck was going on. The Mayor’s aide, who hates them for no reason, ends up getting them locked up in an insane asylum, unbeknownst to the Mayor:

That's Bill Murray's brother Brian Doyle-Murray playing the doctor here. Guess that was fun at family reunions. "You didn't really want to lock me up in an insane asylum, did you, Brian? Brian? Uh...why are you so quiet right now?!"

This is another of the film’s worst moments - why are they in an insane asylum? Did nobody remember the giant fucking Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the first one? Was everyone in this movie just passed out drunk on cough syrup when the Ghostbusters were fighting Gozer in the first movie? How does nobody believe them? In terms of half-crazy TV paranormal investigators with a slightly worrisome obsession with marketing, THESE GUYS are probably some of the more believable!

Fortunately there’s a Statue of Liberty cameo to save us all:

Man that's a lot of people waaaay too happy about seeing the Statue of Liberty marching toward them. How do they know it isn't the bad guy here? They can't see the Ghostbusters from way down on the ground!
That's several thousand dollars in property damage, good job!

I wonder if they’ll use this as a promotional campaign for the city - hey, if you want to experience NYC the right way, take a ride in the Statue of Liberty! It may destroy the city’s streets and sidewalks, but it’ll drive our tourism industry through the roof faster than shiiiiiit. Then go gorge yourself on hotdogs.

So they all save the day, even Louis Tully, who dons a Ghostbusters outfit in a clear case of "nobody needed to see this ever":

I'd say this is jumping the shark, but frankly I'm still traumatized by the word 'shark' after seeing Creature.

So that’s Ghostbusters 2. I still like it. While I won’t say it’s as good as the original by a long shot, I also wouldn’t say it’s bad either. I don’t really know how any sequel they made to Ghostbusters would have been satisfying to fans - after all, most of the cast and even director Ivan Reitman didn’t want to do this at first and only changed their minds later. The genius behind the first Ghostbusters was, in part, because the guys were nobodies; they had no reputation and they just sort of came out of nowhere and captured the worlds’ hearts.

In the second one, not only do people know about them in the movie’s universe, the WORLD knows the Ghostbusters exists in real life. They had huge reputations. For a movie about a bunch of down on their luck schmoes, it doesn’t really work so well when your losers are actually the biggest stars in the world in real life. The cartoon had already aired at this point too, and so a lot of the quiet and somewhat mature wit of the first movie is replaced with goofy slapstick and over the top emoting. And that’s a bit of a letdown.

However, the movie as a whole is still very enjoyable overall. The electric energy and bounce of the first movie is still there, the supernatural goofy plot is still there (albeit maybe not as dark and occult as the first movie’s Gozer plot) and the characters are still really good. There are a few dumb moments, but for the most part the characters - especially Bill Murray and Harold Ramis - carry the film higher than it would have been otherwise, and the chemistry and energy between them is still very ripe and present throughout the runtime. So despite a few goofy 80s-movie moments, a couple dumb cliches, I still really enjoy Ghostbusters 2. I can see why some people dislike it, but it’s good in my books.

Images copyright of their original owners, I own none of them.