Why I’m Wrong

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Magnificent Seven an earnest throwback

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a nasty habit of excessive rebooting and unnecessary franchising, so I went into The Magnificent Seven remake with a healthy dose of trepidation. It didn’t help that this was also a “double down” of sorts, as the original 1960 film itself was of course an adaptation of Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. As I sat down to this 2016 version, I was taken with how earnest a throwback this was to the rollicking Westerns that dominated the cinemas in the 1960s. It carries the themes of bravery, honor, and teamwork that were prevalent in the previous film while also updating the cast with a diverse and talented group of actors who all bring their own set of eccentricities to their respective roles. The action has Antoine Fuqua’s signature style of gritty realism that makes the set pieces and showdowns thrilling to behold, even if they do tend to run a bit longer than necessary. It’s not a classic in the same measure of the original Magnificent Seven but as any remake should, it skillfully corrects some of the more outdated elements of its predecessor and has plenty of fun doing it.

(Brent’s full review here.)

From: Brent Leuthold

Ghostbusters more subversive than you think

This is the first time I have decided a movie is a must-see after watching a bad trailer for it.

The backlash behind the release of the new Ghostbusters is very real, and has been going on for two years now. Leslie Jones, one of the leads, has been tweeting all day the horrible, hateful messages she has been getting (@lesdoggg, look into it). When the trailer came out, and it was weak (and it WAS weak), male commenters flooded YouTube and gave it the worst rating ever for a movie trailer. Mind you, the trailers for Gods of Egypt, Warcraft and the upcoming Kevin Spacey movie Nine Lives, in which he plays a man who magically changes places with a cat, are all out there. And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.

After this reaction, I realized the way I wanted to fight this toxic treatment of a movie starring a bunch of hilarious comics, who happen to be women, was to see it opening weekend. If it was terrible, I would get over it. I am already over seeing Independence Day: Resurgence. When I laughed out loud twice in the first minute of Ghostbusters, I knew I had made the right choice. The movie is VERY funny. I laughed continuously. But comedy is subjective. And it was more than just a funny movie.

There is a scene in Ghostbusters where Kate McKinnon, dressed in a loose jumpsuit, fights a bunch of ghosts in a way that can only be described as badass. (Spoiler alert: the Ghostbusters fight ghosts in Ghostbusters.) In slow motion, McKinnon runs and makes a bunch of ghosts sorry they ever came back to New York. It was at this point that I realized I had never seen a woman in a scene quite like this one. The only one I could think of was a highly sexualized Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix, but her costume was so tight, she may as well have been naked. (She was also very badass, and I love her). Honestly, I got a little misty in the McKinnon scene. It was just so — unique.

Like last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Ghostbusters makes no attempt to hide its feminist message. In Mad Max, Immortan Joe, the cruel warlord, storms into the room where he keeps his slave brides and sees “WHO KILLED THE WORLD” painted in large letters on the wall. (Hint: it was not the slave brides who killed the world.) I love this film, but this could hardly be considered a subtle message.

In Ghostbusters, the idiotic men who griped in various Internet message boards are in the movie. They are addressed and shrugged off or taken down by four of the funniest people on the planet. The villain is a carbon copy of these immature bullies. (Many of them did not appear to get the joke, and described the villain as “cookie cutter” and “bland.”) Two of the lead actors are larger than a size two and the movie never notices it, never makes a joke at their expense. In fact, one of the not-size-twos crowdsurfs at one point. I cannot imagine another movie having Melissa McCarthy be the one who crowdsurfs when Kristen Wiig is standing right next to her. (And even though Melissa McCarthy writes some of her own films, there are pretty much always fat jokes in them. The exception is Bridesmaids, also directed by Ghostbusters director Paul Feig.) The leads are smart, capable women, and most of the guys in the movie are buffoons who are in over their heads and try to stop them from helping. The mayor even devises a method by which he scolds the Ghostbusters publicly, while allowing them to solve his city’s problems and praising them in private. Any woman who has even been treated like crap by a partner or boss in public, or had a boss take credit for their work, noticed.

And then there is Chris Hemsworth. As the dim bulb secretary Kevin, he is not just hilarious. In any other movie, Kevin would be a woman’s role. She would be only comic relief. She would not have a discernible personality, or any hint of a brain. She would be the butt of jokes, and no one in the audience would ask, “Why did she have to be so dumb?” (a complaint I read in several comments and reviews) because it’s so common.

I found Ghostbusters to be incredibly subversive, and was so excited by this, combined with how genuinely funny I found it, that I did not care that McKinnon’s character was not well developed, or that the editing was sloppy or that the stupid reboot of the stupid theme song wasn’t great. Honest to God, the hills some people want to die on. The reboot of the Ghostbusters song, which was stolen from Huey Lewis originally — there was a lawsuit about it, I’m pretty sure — was not very good. Oh the humanity.

While leaving the theater, a father asked his two daughters what they thought of it. The young girls were both effusive in their praise. They asked their father if he liked it. He said, “No, it was terrible. I only went because I thought you’d like it.”

I wonder what he thought of Independence Day: Resurgence.

P.S. I agree with you that the cameos were all terrible.

From: Wendy Fox Weber

Batman v Superman outclasses Avengers

I had bought advance tickets for Batman v Superman and was mildly excited for it. Then I read your review and everyone else’s review and dread swept over me. But I already had the tickets and at worst it would be a night out with friends and we could laugh about it. But it wasn’t terrible at all. How could everyone else but me be so wrong? (I don’t know why this keeps surprising me, but it does). Was it a great film? No. Did it have problems? Yes, definitely. Does it deserve one star or deserve all of the critical pooping on that it received? No! Absolutely not. I can’t convince every Tom, Dick and Idiot on the Internet that this is a good movie, but maybe I can try and move your needle from detesting to at least recognize that the film has some merit — especially compared with other comic book movies that everyone, including you, seem to praise more.

First, the imagery. You recognized this a bit in your review. The Bruce Wayne parents’ scene was the best of the 1,052 film versions we’ve seen. It was the shortest but most powerful of any of the movie renditions; it didn’t need the full narrative; just cuts of the violence interspersed with the funeral was very emotional. Generally, I thought the visual style was great throughout. I loved the scenes at the burnt down Wayne mansion. All that Bruce has tried to achieve and in the end, all he’s done is burn down his parents’ house. I loved the views of Metropolis across the water from Gotham. These two sides of the same coin — bright shiny Metropolis full of potential and hope looking across at dingy, depressed Gotham full of apathy and despair — reflecting our reality. I love how Batman was shot up close, so we are in the trenches with him as he fights. The action is visceral and real, especially compared to most Snyder films (or even the Nolan Batman). Superman was always a speck on the horizon, far removed and flying faster than our eyes can track. We could only hope that he lingered long enough to touch him. We don’t even see him rescuing the family on the roof, he just flies far above them in the sun —almost like it’s enough for that family to know that he is there.

Second, the themes. This was where you had the most issue and the story is a bit of a mess. Your review was something about tomatoes and motivation. (And I don’t want to watch you eating tomatoes by the way.) If anything, I think the movie tried too hard to convince you why these two had to fight. And maybe the idea of Superman’s immediate motivation being to save his mother was cheesy, but set aside cynicism and accept that idea as a classic comic book story and consider it within the general themes of the film, and it works. So the film shows all of these ways that Lex is trying to manipulate these two men (and he obviously knows their secret identities, which is kinda cool and I appreciated it just being left unsaid) but look past all of that and consider the motivation for Batman. He is a broken, defeated man in many ways. Like you said he is tired. Purposefully shown that way. He’s been doing this for 20 years and has accomplished nothing. His guilt about his parents still overwhelms him as evidenced by the dream sequence at the grave. He has seen good men gone bad. Perhaps things are worse because of him than without him. For every criminal he takes down at least another pops up. They are more violent, more armed because of him. And for as long as he’s been doing this he is a curiosity, a myth, a topic for debate. But Superman. Here he is and there are statutes for him, great monuments. There are no Batman statutes. Superman is a god and is worshipped — for what? For destroying a city or for saving a city? The 9/11 type imagery of Bruce Wayne going into the dust was also a great visual. And the movie does what no other superhero movie does, it explores what happens after the epic fight and the people it affected. These two super powered beings level a city and kill thousands. This movie posits the consequences of these events. The movie had emotional impact and was more than just oh isn’t it neat to watch them fight. You said on Filmspotting that Superman is boring. I agree, he can be very boring because in conflict he can’t lose. Yet here he does lose. Didn’t you enjoy the fight a little bit? The action was manageable at least — not 10 heroes fighting 1,000 villains in CGI whack-a-mole. OK a few walls got broken, but they obviously weren’t up to code — I blame the city inspectors. But the idea of the consequences of Superman is not boring, it is interesting.

These themes were not perfectly realized for sure. And the score was abysmal. I felt like it was a bad 50s score that was far too dramatic — compared with the lighter touch of the Dark Knight score. So there were a lot of problems with the execution. But I ask that you consider this: can you not give the movie a little quarter if only because it asks the audience to deal with compelling issues? Even if the theme of God versus man was too on the nose at least it was there. And maybe for a comic book movie on the nose is better than nothing at all or even better than too subtle.

This is why I’m baffled. You gave Avengers 3 stars — meaning one star away from perfect. Avengers: Age of Ultron got 2 stars — so twice as good as Batman v Superman. This movie was at least as good as Avengers and had to be better than Avengers 2. I left the first Avengers and almost instantly forgot what happened and didn’t care. Do you remember the plot of Avengers? It’s a Brigadoon that only exists while we watch it. It has no gravity to its characters or to its plot to keep it in our minds. Absent Robert Downey Jr.’s charm and the colorful spectacle of these characters bonking heads, there isn’t much left.  And Avengers 2 was far worse — far, far worse than Avengers — but you gave it a whole 1 more star than Batman v Superman! I contend that Batman v Superman was more visually interesting, more thoughtful and at least tried to do something great — even if it didn’t succeed — than at least Avengers 2. Every other big movie is a comic book movie. Do you want them to be more thoughtful and visually compelling or more colorful action without consequences?

From: Nick Bohl