Ghostbusters (2016)

No film has had so much stacked against it pre-release like the new Ghostbusters. The online hate for it reached legendary levels of festering bile. The first trailer became the most disliked movie trailer on YouTube, every new snippet of info was greeted by out-and-out hostility and frankly, it’s been exhausting to watch. The trouble is, the hate has become part of the whole package and it’s almost mandatory to mention it in some capacity.

Remaking something like Ghostbusters is a dumb move. The original film is a lightning-in-a-bottle classic that had just the right amount of cool ideas, unique chemistry between the leads and witty, quotable humour. Even the makers of the original couldn’t recapture the magic. The best they could do was the rehash sequel Ghostbusters II. However, in this movie climate where there’s an increasing numbers of suits who don’t know movies in charge, things are going to be remade and you may as well roll with it. I hate the situation, but you have to be realistic about these things.

So now we have Ghostbusters 2k16. I’ve been on board with the women Ghostbusters thing since it was announced, because I’m not a complete shitheel. It was the best pick of bad ideas. I’ve seen many fans angry that the movie isn’t the “passing of the torch” Ghostbusters 3 they’ve been fan-ficcing for years, but fuck them. I can’t think of anything more lame and pedestrian than that idea. It’s irritating that the main conversation about this has turned to classic shitty sexism and whether you choose to see it or not is practically a political statement. Maybe we could have had a discussion about Hollywood remaking beloved properties at some point, but surely even the most ardent arguers hanging out at the shallow end of the anti-Busters pool have to admit that the pool’s now overcrowded, has been pissed in by the “bitches ain’t shit” brigade and now everybody’s eyes are stinging.

Lecturer Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) works at a prestigious university and is horrified to discover that a book she co-wrote years ago with former friend Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) about the paranormal is available online, threatening her respectability and putting her chance of tenure in danger. She confronts Abby at a ramshackle college and learns that both Abby and her genius lab partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) have made big advances in ghost detecting technology. The trio end up teaming and manage to document a genuine ghostly encounter, setting them on a path to supernatural investigation and entrapment. Along the way, our team meet NYC Metro worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and enlist her help to uncover a big supernatural plot that has “apocalyptic” written all over it.

The story’s solid enough, if a little by-the-numbers. It’s basically a remix of the first film’s story with the same basic beats. The Ghostbusters have to start their business and become successful amidst scepticism before heroically coming together to fight a potentially world-ending threat at the end. It plays things a little too safe. It’s mostly a remake and similar scenes are to be expected, but the way it kept stubbornly shackling itself to the original was disappointing and I was urging it to knock it off. Having said all that, I enjoyed the cameos and I felt the brief Harold Ramis shout-out was a deft and touching tribute. If this movie does get a sequel, I’ll be excited to see it. Nobody would be dumb enough to remake Ghostbusters II as it is and they’ll have to do something wholly original. Don’t get me wrong, the story we’re given is decent enough and passable, but I want more from this franchise.

The main villain, Rowan (Neil Casey), is exactly the sort of character you’d expect to be posting negative Ghostbusters forum diatribes in real life. He’s an angry loner with a fascination with the occult and a desire to bring about the end of the world. I get what they’ve done and it’s a cute idea, but it doesn’t make him particularly interesting.

The film’s biggest successes come down to the cast. I liked all of the new ‘Busters. Melissa McCarthy tones it down around 11 notches from her usual level, playing it more like her character in Spy, and it works. Kristen Wiig is mostly the straight-woman but she affords Erin a warmth and affability that is not as easy as she makes it look. Like many people, thanks to the terrible trailers I was worried that Leslie Jones’ character was going to be a walking, yelling stereotype.  There are elements of that, and the “hysterical screeching and slapping” scene hasn’t got any less unfunny, but Patty’s portrayed as just as smart as our scientists, just in a different field. Jones was great in the role too. Chris Hemsworth completely gives himself over to the role of exceptionally dim but hunky receptionist Kevin. The Kevin stuff is really silly, but Hemsworth makes it work. He’s got some serious comedic chops.

Hold the phone though, because I haven’t talked about Kate McKinnon yet. She owns this film. Holtzmann’s most obvious counterpart in the ’84 team is Egon, but she takes it in a whole new direction. She’s zany, unhinged and slightly dangerous. I normally hate quirky characters, but there’s something about Holtzmann. I get the feeling her presence may be divisive, but damn, I loved her.

I really enjoyed the first two thirds of the film. The opening was suitably spooky and I loved the way the team slowly formed. The characters bouncing off each other was great and at times, really funny. The movie isn’t as funny as it should be, but there are some great one-liners and gags here. I started chuckling during the beginning, when it was mentioned that a creepy old estate was built with an “Irish-proof fence” and there was always something to keep me amused. There was a real sense of energy and fun that kept it all bouncing along nicely. The humour here isn’t the dry, sardonic humour of the original, but it’s funny nonetheless. One of the scenes that had me laughing the most was a meta-moment when the gang check out some of the dudebro comments left on a ghostly encounter they uploaded to YouTube.

I don’t know what the big deal was with people calling out the special effects for being rubbish. I loved the look of the ghosts, especially the earlier, more humanoid ones. The colourful glowing reminded me of the library ghost in the first film. I was a big fan of the gadgets too. The proton packs got a nice upgrade and I liked their take on the traps. Whilst I wish they’d saved some of the wackier gadgets like the “Ghostchipper” and Holtzmann’s dual proton pistols for a sequel and had waited until the team were more established, this small gripe doesn’t take too much away from the entertainment factor.

Then we get to the third act. Christ, what a mishmash of ideas. It doesn’t manage to spoil what’s come before and it does have its moments, but it simply doesn’t work. Times Square is turned into a grotty ’70s version for some arbitrary reason. There are tons of ghosts from all time periods thrown in and apparently the proton packs and devices now “kill” ghosts instead of trapping them. That shit wouldn’t have flown if professional weirdo and true believer Dan Aykroyd was in charge of scripting. There’s also a huge, synchronised dance sequence that was clearly cut from the final act and plays over the credits instead.  It’s obvious that the finale had been written, rewritten, filmed and cut many times over before they settled on the underwhelming one in the finished product.

All in all, I liked GB 2K16. It’s not the runaway success I’d hoped for and the big finale is a swing and a miss, but I left with a smile on my face. I want to see more of these new ‘Busters, which I would count as a win for the movie. Sorry Ghostbros, it’s pretty good.

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The Do-Over (2016)

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It’s safe to say I’m not an Adam Sandler fan. I can see the appeal of his earlier work and he was great in Punch Drunk Love, but that just serves to make his period of completely not trying, using movies as an excuse for paid exotic excursions with his buddies and his whorish fellating of corporate sponsorship all the more offensive. Movies like Jack and Jill and The Ridiculous Six are barely films. They’re lazy, cynical products stuffed with ugly humour. I can’t resent people finding them funny too much as humour is completely subjective, but I do resent the way in which Sandler’s riding on a wave of unearned nostalgia for his particular brand of “entertainment” with effort going into all the wrong areas.

The Do-Over is Sandler’s second Netflix project. Sandler plays Max Kessler, an FBI agent who finds his high school BFF, Charlie (David Spade) in a bad place in his life. Charlie’s a meek and submissive bank manager for a bank inside a supermarket, married to a woman who belittles and cheats on him and father to two young punks who have no respect for him whatsoever. Max swoops in and takes Charlie on a yacht, reminding him of all the good times they had. Max drugs Charlie and blows up the yacht, ostensibly killing them. The pair then assume the identities of two dead men and Max gives Charlie a chance to have a fresh start. However, the lives the men have assumed carry life baggage with them and they soon find themselves embroiled in a big plot that has heavily armed men pursuing them across the globe.

The Do-Over‘s construction is more involved than I initially gave it credit for. It functions like a standard comedy script and there are actually set up jokes that pay off or are called back to later in the film. It even has twists based around new information coming to light. Now, granted- 90% of films should have these things as the bare minimum, but I was surprised that a modern Sandler film even bothered with genre conventions at all. The inexcusable Jack and Jill just existed, with one scene happening, finishing and then another starting, with no real reason why and no flow between skits whatsoever. The Do-Over actually has some elements of proper storytelling to it and whilst the bar is set so low crabs could trip on it, I have to call out good things when I see them. For instance, David Spade actually puts in a comedy character performance, with the nebbish Charlie being a fair distance away from the usual smarmy, insufferable scrotes Spade usually plays.

Is it funny? Nope. I’m sure there are people out there who wet themselves every time Sandler cracks a gag, but I ain’t one of them. Like with the structure, I could see how certain things could be funny, but the film had me rolling my eyes, sighing and checking how long was left throughout. Not one joke or gag worked and most of them had concerning things to say about Sandler’s outlook on life.

Y’see, I may have vaguely praised The Do-Over a bit, but that doesn’t stop it from being truly awful in a whole bunch of ways. Sandler’s character of Max is an awesome badass, who is meant to be the hero of the piece. Apart from providing us with the hilarious spectacle of having scenes where he’s all serious and shoots guns, Sandler seems to be playing an idealised version of himself, complete with little to no flaws and leaving all the pratfalling and looking dumb to Spade. There’s always been an off-putting sense of ego to his work and the character of Max is a complete monument to that. It may have writers, directors and all the other filmmaking things, but Sandler owns all the toys and he’s not going to bother with anything that doesn’t make him look good or conform to his seemingly depressed, misogynistic and angry world view.

Gender politics and Happy Madison productions have never seen eye-to-eye. Women do not come across well in The Do-Over. All the women are either crazy bitches, nymphomaniacs or both. Paula Patton (who can do so much better than this toss) is the standard “hot one” with a relatively normal personality. That is until the film decides to (SPOILER I guess, but get real) reveal that she’s been a crazy bitch all along and was manipulating our poor innocent males with her feminine charms. There’s one eyebrow-raising scene when Charlie fights her, thumping her whilst screaming about being tired of being lied to and screwed over by women. The message of the film, as gossamer thin as it is, seems to be an asinine “bros before hoes” kind of deal and instead of it making me laugh, it just bugged me how a powerful and influential 49 year old man has the sensibilities of a dumb 13 year old kid. With great power, there must also come great responsibility. Why do people always forget about the responsibility part?

So I hated every turgid second of The Do-Over. I know you won’t believe me, but I do try and keep an open mind and I’m always delighted when low expectations are met with a surprisingly good product. People will tell you to turn your brain off, that it’s a typical Sandler movie and that critics just wanted to hate it, but that’s more troubling than anything else. I can imagine liking it, but feeling so passionately about it that you defend and make excuses for it? That’s straight-up alien behaviour and you may want to have a word with yourself.

If you’re a Sandler fan, you don’t need me to tell you what I think. However, if you’re opposed or indifferent to Sandler’s nonsense and you’re absent-mindedly browsing Netflix and see the thumbnail, please don’t bother. It’ll only hurt.

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Deadpool (2016)

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Fittingly, Deadpool has had an unconventional journey to the big screen. A Deadpool film has been talked about since 2000 when its rights, along with Captain America, Ant-Man and others, were sold to Artisan Entertainment. Artisan were taken over in 2003 and New Line Cinema stepped in, hiring David S. Goyer to write and direct in 2004 with Ryan Reynolds attached to star. As these things often do, shit fell apart and the project stagnated. The rights then went to 20th Century Fox. Cut to 2009 and “Deadpool” showed up in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, giving Reynolds the opportunity to finally wisecrack as Wade Wilson. Well, for about five minutes before he showed up at the end, his mouth sewn shut and the fun character arbitrarily changed into an angry, silent mutant with laser vision and swords in his arms. Fans were pissed. In the following years, a script for a solo Deadpool adventure leaked online, which garnered enough attention for Fox to stump up some money to film some test footage, which also leaked online. The reaction to what was leaked was incredibly positive. Fox took note and here we are. I don’t normally start reviews with film development talk, but I think it’s important to understand a) how long Ryan Reynolds has been attached to the project and b) how satisfying it must be for fans to have a nice, spurty release after over a decade of cinematic blue balls.

Mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He undergoes an experimental treatment to rid him of the disease. The treatment turns out to be a sinister plot to turn people into superpowered slaves. A man named Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his partner in crime Angel Dust (Gina Carano) inject Wilson with a serum that cures the cancer, gives him superhuman abilities, but leave him horribly scarred and disfigured. Not wanting to face his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Wilson fashions himself a red suit and goes on a personal rampage, determined to find those responsible and make them fix what was done to him.

Straight from the meta and genuinely amusing opening titles (including credits for “A British Villain” and being produced by “Some Asshats”) it’s clear that this is the Deadpool people have been waiting for. From there, the film is fast and funny with a furious gag rate. It’s bawdy, gross and sweary as anything, which is fucking refreshing. In complete contrast to the Origins version, nothing about this incarnation feels compromised. The trademark hyper-violence is also present and correct. Want to see someone slice off a man’s head and kick it like a football at someone else? This is your film, you weirdo.

Ryan Reynolds was born to play this character. The film wouldn’t have worked nearly as well with another person in the suit. Reynolds has always been well known, but aside from his early turn as Van Wilder, he’s not had a defining role that connected with audiences. Green Lantern was meant to change that, but we all know what happened there. Deadpool is that defining character for him. I’ve always liked the guy, even sat through dross like Blade: Trinity and R.I.P.D. purely because of him, but to see him throw himself into a role so completely is awesome. Now it’s officially a big hit, breaking all kinds of R-rated box office records, maybe this’ll exorcise a few of the demons. Shit, the film itself feels like it’s doing that at times, with digs at both Green Lantern and the Origins version of the character. Reynolds fucking crushes it as DP and it’s genuinely heartening to see him get a hit with a passion project 10+ years in the making.

The supporting cast are great too. Morena Baccarin does stellar work in the usually thankless girlfriend role. She gets some fun moments and gets to play a lovably mucky role. Despite some of the more outlandish elements, Wade and Vanessa’s relationship feels rather genuine and touching. They’re together because they’re both as fucked up as each other and it makes sense. Their “Four Yorkshiremen” inspired meet cute works a treat.TJ Miller is also a lot of fun as Wade’s confidante, getting nearly all the best lines. Karan Soni is affable as cab driver Dopinder and I loved the little back and forth between him and Mr. Pool. Ed Skrein and Gina Carano are decent enough presences, but neither get much to actually do.X-Men Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and the eyebrow-raising, eye-rolling Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are also welcome additions.

Deadpool’s story is told in flashback, which thankfully negates that problem origin stories usually have of audience impatience for the lead to snap on the spandex and dole out street justice. It does make the thing slightly wonky though. You’ll feel some of the pre-mask stuff drag because it’s clear that’s not where the writing effort went. Obviously, the movie doesn’t want you to laugh at Wade’s diagnosis or anything, but a lot of the flashback scenes are rather inelegant tonal shifts and it leads to the feeling that the film’s pumping the fun brakes a little too hard. When the film is underway, it flies. The gags come thick and fast. It reminded me of something like Airplane! in a few bits. The jokes aren’t all great though. A good 40% didn’t hit their target, or at least didn’t for me. It’s a scattershot approach. Still, the subjective nature of comedy meant that different people in the audience were laughing at different moments. The only moments of silence when funnies were meant to be happening was during some of the more obscure U.S. pop culture gags. Considering its target audience, I’m not sure American audiences will get them either. I laughed, snorted and guffawed way more than I was expecting to and certainly more than I do at most pure modern “comedies”. The action was on point too. I especially loved ‘Pool getting the audience to mentally count down the rounds in his last clip.

With something as tongue-in-cheek and audience winking as Deadpool, it’s hard to determine what is parody and what’s not. Is the thinly-sketched plot a commentary on current movie trends? Is the fact that we only have action sequences in generic locations like a highway, a warehouse and a junkyard part of the joke? Who knows. The plot is an excuse to showcase Deadpool’s character anyway, but it would have been nice to have some stronger villains or some more interesting locations.

I had a blast with Deadpool. It’s a lot of fun and whilst many jokes didn’t hit, the ones that did hit big time. I felt good supporting it too. Whilst it is a big studio release with a very strong marketing arm, it’s still a moderately budgeted R-rated flick, something which is still a rarity in the current movie climate. More please.

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Rose-tinted spectacle : Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

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Like the handsome go-getter that I am, I dedicate a lot of time to reading film sites, forums and the like. It’s a good way to get the lay of the cinematic land and see what people are responding to and what they aren’t. One topic that keeps coming up is this year’s Ghostbusters film and how many people are straight-up willing it to fail. I’ve talked in depth about the Fembusters thing before in this piece- click – I wrote when it was first announced. You may read that piece and think- “Ben, you absolutely fucking nailed it last time, what more could you possibly add?” Well, this isn’t specifically about Ghostbusters, although it definitely includes it. I’m here to talk about the nostalgia business, fandoms and the weird vitriol that surrounds both things.

Nostalgia is money. It always has been, but I’d argue it’s been ramped up considerably in the last fifteen years or so when it comes to media. You can’t move for nostalgia nowadays. It seems every other week some supposedly iconic film is celebrating an arbitrary anniversary. There are people already nostalgic for the Harry Potter films, a series that ended a mere five years ago. That’s insane.

Our culture of pining for shit has led to the current box office climate. The Transformers films cashed in on ’80s kids who never quite grew up and became a huge franchise. The Force Awakens was marketed almost entirely on nostalgia. Jurassic World made a embarrassing amount of cash by leaning on fond memories of Jurassic Park. Superhero films are banking on nerdy ex-children to buy a ticket to see their favourite hero on the big screen. If you loved something in the current “golden era” of the 1980s/1990s, chances are it’ll make a comeback if it hasn’t already. Whilst there are missteps like the recent flop Jem and the Holograms movie, the reason behind it being made in the first place is clear. Nostalgia sells and everyone wants a piece.

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The screenshotted comment above, taken from the official Ghostbusters Facebook page, is a sentiment I’ve seen repeated a lot. I first became aware of people claiming something had “ruined” or “raped” their childhood during the Star Wars prequel backlash. People seem to hold childhood memories of Saturday morning cartoons and the like incredibly close to their hearts. Not only that, they seem to want to defend and protect those things from the big bads out there. They internalise it and take it personally when said thing is criticised. I even have the same urge occasionally. If someone was to say to me that Bucky O’Hare was a pile of wank, my first reaction would be one of righteous indignation, because I remember watching it as a kid and playing with the toys. I’ve not watched it since and I’m sure it’s not aged well, or was even any good in the first place. However, because I have good memories associated with that cartoon, I feel I should not only remember it, but rejoice in that fact.

So, why is this? As far as I can see, it’s a combination of things. It’s partly down to the general infantilization of society. We’re encouraged not to grow up. I suspect marketing has had a huge hand in this. As an example, look at the insurance ads we have in the UK (and I suspect worldwide). They tend to consist of CGI characters dicking about and the promise of a toy of said character if you sign up with them. They’ve turned one of the more responsible and adult things you can do into fucking Happy Meal sort of deal. Still though, isn’t that one loan company advert with the singing satsuma funny? Yeah, probably won’t be as amusing when you can’t keep up the payments, face crippling debt and bailiffs come to take all of your shit, you goop-brained twat.

Then there’s the goddamn internet itself. Apart from providing more devious ways for the slimy claws of marketing to rake across our brains, there’s also the polarising nature of it all. You have to love or hate something as the hyperbolic voices are the ones that get heard the most. It’s why Buzzfeed has headlines like “33 Beyonce Gifs To Complete Your Life” or “20 times John Virgo Was Literally Perfect”. On sites like Tumblr and on social media, it’s almost the law to pick a fandom/several fandoms and then defend it/them to the hilt. Marvel or DC? Supernatural or Teen WolfHunger Games or Divergent? One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer? Lines in the sand must be drawn, motherfucker! Define yourself with your fandom! What you like is literally a part of you and you’re not a true fan unless you make a monochrome gif of that one moment when you couldn’t even.

I used to post on the now-defunct Empire magazine forums and I would often get hostile responses to my plainly stated viewpoints. I’ve had my fair share of poison here too. I rarely get TPB comments but when I do, about 70% of them have been angry diatribes as to how I’ve misunderstood my own opinion. The linked Ghostbusters article I did was a toxic wasteland. To date, it’s my most commented-on article and I couldn’t show any of them to my mum. I put the most memorable one below. You know what the search term was that led at least one of them to this very site?: “I hate female Ghostbusters”. That just says it all, doesn’t it? Once you’ve picked your side, the Internet is there to nurture and cultivate that opinion, connecting you with other people who share your views. At that point, it becomes a hugbox and it’s easy to switch from being a two-way receiver to broadcast only.

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This thirst for the good old days is affecting how films themselves are constructed. When done right, a sense of nostalgia can be really effective. Look at Back to the Future‘s intentionally idealistic portrayal of the 1950s. More recently, you’ve got Super 8‘s attempt to evoke early ’80s Spielbergian magic. On the other end of the scale, we have Jurassic World, which constantly felt the need to nod its head towards the original film and which only ended up reminding me of all the ways that it wasn’t as good as Jurassic Park. Terminator: Genisys was even worse- cutting up the iconic moments of the only two good films and pasting them together haphazardly using jizz and a Pritt Stick.  The Force Awakens was playing the same dangerous game, but there was enough narrative and character meat in there to just about get away with it. Neat little homages and references are one thing, but building an entire film around fan service is an ultimately hollow experience.

Back to the “ruining your childhood” thing (which, as we’ve established, is a notion created by both marketing and internet culture – keep up). How does a new, subpar film do that exactly? I’m a huge Ghostbusters fan and if the new film is awful, I’ll be disappointed. However, it doesn’t mean its lack of quality erases the original from existence. The negatives aren’t going to burst into flames. I can still pop the Blu-ray in and watch it to my heart’s content. Nothing changes. I’ve been a James Bond fan for almost as long as I can remember and the franchise is littered with duds. It’s not like you’ve grown up and found out that your comfort blanket movie has been arrested for touching kids. Fuck- even if that was possible it’d be a case of separating the art from the artist.

In fact, nostalgia almost separates the art entirely. Most things we watch as kids are shite, let’s be honest. Very few of my childhood favourites have held up to adult eyes. However, because I remember watching several crappy kids’ films on VHS with my grandmother, they’ll always have warm feelings attached. The thing is, “I watched it with my nan a few times” isn’t a conversation about the art. It’s not a review. Nostalgia shuts down that avenue of analysis and it becomes more a part of someone’s personal history. This is probably why people seem so personally offended when I say Tim Burton’s Batman isn’t very good. Which it fucking isn’t.

It’s due to society getting nostalgic about everything that the whole thing will be devalued somewhat. Nostalgia can be awesome in small doses. I love it when it reminds you of something you just don’t have the think space for any more. I saw a Boglin the other day. I hadn’t thought about Boglins in the longest time and it was like someone had blown the dust off a part of my brain and plugged it back in.

Boglins, in case you weren’t aware.                                                               Source: nothingbutnostalgia.com

So, try not to get too upset when Thing You Like gets resurrected and shoved into cinemas. If it’s good, you’ll get a sweet hit of nostalgia and if it sucks, you can ignore it, safe in the knowledge it doesn’t change a damn thing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get into my superhero pyjamas, curl up on my beanbag and eat a bowl of Frosties whilst watching The Rocketeer. Standard Thursday, really.

Pissing in the wind – why “Paint Drying” is pointless

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Ha, those crazy people on the Internet! You’ll never guess what they’ve gone and done now, the mentalists! They only Kickstarted a 10 hour film of paint drying, actually called Paint Drying, that the stuffy old British film censors have to watch. They, like, HAVE to watch it. Haha, what I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall when they do! I want to buy them all drinks, the absolute legends. Teehee!

You may have heard of the whole Paint Drying thing this week. Some douchebag crowdfunded a 1o hour long film of nothing but paint drying to protest the fact that every film that goes on sale in the UK has to pay for a mandatory classification given by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). This includes a submission fee and a per minute rate. Say your film is an average 90 minutes long, that would run you around £740 all in. Plus, to release something on DVD/Blu-ray, everything on the disc including featurettes and commentaries have to be similarly vetted, incurring additional costs. There’s also a bit about protesting the BBFC banning and censoring stuff on the Kickstarter page, but I’ll get back that in a minute.

The thing is, I half agree with the core principle of the matter. A submission fee and a per minute rate is fuck all to most studios, but it may harm smaller independent filmmakers from getting their stuff seen. It’s restrictive and rather exclusive.

However, that’s only if you want to be able to show it in cinemas and sell it nationwide. You can release it digitally for next to nothing (there will undoubtedly be server costs an’ shit, but they’ll be nowhere near the classification fee). If you’re a fan of physical media, you can get DVDs/Blu-rays printed yourself and also sell them via several sites. I could make a 70 hour film called Paint Drying 2: I Like The Colour, But I’m Not Sure I Want It In The Hall, host it on this here site and charge you poor suckers to download it right now if I wanted to. No BBFC involvement required. From what I understand, whether or not something can be shown in cinemas is down to the local authority anyway, like how Monty Python’s Life of Brian was technically banned in Aberystwyth until 2009.

I get that the campaign was to spread awareness, but what did it actually help? Most sites that picked up the story weren’t sure what the protest was actually about with this one saying that it’s anti-censorship and this one focusing on the prohibitive fees. Both of which have that sort of fuckawful “check this guy out!” tone exemplified by the opening of this article. It’s been largely written about as a kerr-azy prank and the original meaning, as confused as it may have been, was buried under how fucking “random” it was. Plus, the BBFC people got paid to do their job, just like they are every day. I’m sure that fucking stung ’em. I’ve sat through some crusty toss as a reviewer, I’m sure they’re completely battle-hardened by now.

What about all that talk of banning and censoring? Well, here’s a list of films banned in the United Kingdom. I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty small list. Now, whilst I’m against censorship in all forms and I believe that adults should be able to watch My Daughter’s a Cocksucker if they want, I really don’t think it’s that much of a deal. The BBFC is one of the most transparent and reasonable film boards going. For starters, they’re a hell of a lot better than America’s MPAA, who still seem to bump up ratings if there’s even a hint of homosexuality. If you haven’t seen the eye-opening documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I urge you to do so.

The BBFC haven’t always been as decent. There were the infamous “video nasties” in the ’80s and they had a proper moral crusade going right up until around ten years ago. In the early 2000s they had an especially weird issue with headbutts. Star Wars shitquel Attack of the Clones risked being pushed from a PG to a 12 purely because of one scene where bounty hunter Jango Fett gave Obi Wan Kenobi a Glaswegian kiss. They’ve thankfully knocked that shit off since and fictional people can headbutt each other without fear of the censor’s scissors.

If I have any problem with the BBFC, it’s how studios use them. There’s a fairly recent trend of studios asking the BBFC for advice on how to get a desired rating for their films. The Hunger Games films, Spectre, The Maze Runner films, A Good Day to Die Hard, The DUFF and countless others have all been rated something higher than the broadest audience, money-making 12A certificate and have gone to the BBFC for help trimming their shit down. Like you needed any more proof that artistic integrity was the rarest thing in Hollywood. Their BBFC entries all say the same thing: “During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure the desired classification. Following this advice, certain changes were made prior to submission”.

I’m fine with these things being cut for cinemas in certain cases. It would have been dumb to release of version of The Hunger Games into cinemas which the built-in preteen fans of the books couldn’t see. It makes sense for certain films to have a lower rating for their theatrical release.

What it all comes down to is choice. When it comes time to release your film on shiny disc, give us options. The Hunger Games had 12 and 15 rated editions, as did The Maze Runner. A Good Day to Die Hard also had a harder, extended cut when disc time rolled around. However, this is not the case across the board. Spectre will not have a meatier cut on DVD/Blu-ray when it’s released in late February. Now, granted it would take a lot more than a few nastier action sequences to make that fucking facepalm work, but it would be a start.

So yeah, to return to my original point- fuck Paint Drying. Just think- the money raised could have put at least five proper films through certification. Right, I’m off to set up a Kickstarter to paint my arse blue and wave it around Pinewood Studios to protest the lack of an uncut version of Spectre on Blu-ray. See you on The LAD Bible. Wahey!

Oscars 2016: It’ll be all white on the night

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If you’ve been away from glowing screens for the past week, you should know that a media shitstorm has rolled through town since the Oscar nominations were announced. For the second year in a row, all the acting nominees were white and only one non-white director was given the nod. People got pissed at the lack of diversity and the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite started trending soon after. Then, Jada Pinkett-Smith, her much more famous and likeable husband Will and Spike Lee announced their intentions to boycott the ceremony. The Academy has since responded and has released a statement about the Board “doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020” as well as reviewing their lifetime membership policies.

Much like most of the Academy voters, I haven’t seen half the films nominated. I’m going on basic critical consensus and “my mate said it was good” anecdotal evidence. Should Creed and Straight Outta Compton have got more nominations? Almost certainly. From what I’ve heard, both are equally as decent as some of the other contenders with more noms. You’d have thought the Academy would have realised that only nominating the white people involved in predominantly black films would raise eyebrows at the very least, if not a few torches and pitchforks.  I can’t believe Beasts of No Nation got completely snubbed. Despite being a Netflix film, it played in LA cinemas making it eligible for consideration. It’s complete and actual bollocks (the non-inclusion that is, the film is great, if emotionally draining). I’m saving the actual film for a Blu-ray viewing, but I’m already pre-scandalised that Benicio Del Toro didn’t get a nod for his role in Sicario.

The issue isn’t black and white in all senses of the phrase. The whitewashed nominee list is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Unfortunately, it’s not one that the Academy booting a few dusty old farts out of their comfy lifetime board seats is going to fix. Diversity is a problem in media full stop. Women and people of all ethnic backgrounds, disabilities and sexualities need better representation. The Oscars are just a reflection of how things are at the moment. Most films are still stories about white dudes doing white dude things. That needs to change and the only sure way it will is by people and wallet power. The sole thing we can do this side of the screen is to continue to support the kind of films we want to see more of.

I’ve not cared about the Oscars for a long time. It’s been nice when someone or something I liked got the nod, but I haven’t given a thimbleful of spunk about the results for years now. I’ve mostly used the winners list as recommendations for what to see at some point and even then, when I’ve sat down to watch one, the record is patchy. Hopefully, the Academy’s new recruiting policies will send ripples through the industry. It won’t happen overnight, but admitting you have a problem is an important first step in fixing it.

Perhaps this added diversity will mean relevance once again. Maybe it’ll mean an end to bland, sort-of inspiring period dramas or films about how bloody brilliant cinema is being dead certs for Best Picture. The fact that there’s a “type” of film that usually wins the big awards is fucking embarrassing. The only thing that should unite them is quality.

Actually, whilst I’m on that subject of quality, let’s start to break down the dumb two-tier system between “serious” and “pop” movies when it comes to showing some award love. Last year, Vin Diesel said that Fast and Furious 7 was going to win Best Picture. That’s charmingly optimistic, but there’s no real reason why something as popular and crowd-pleasing as one of the F&F films couldn’t be considered if the quality was high enough. “Blockbuster” is not necessarily a synonym for something that’s artistically worthless. Guardians of the Galaxy was excellent and wouldn’t, in my awesome opinion, have been out of place amongst 2014’s Best Picture nominees, especially if it bumped American Hustle out. Guardians even had the superior Bradley Cooper performance.

Still- one step at a time for the Academy. They’ve only just discovered that there are other flavours besides vanilla out there.

The Hateful Eight (2016)

I’ve been a Tarantino fan for many years. I feel it’s necessary to qualify that bias straight of of the gate. Sometimes Tarantino fans can get carried away stumbling over themselves to call his latest film a masterpiece or something similar, whilst ignoring any legitimate flaws. As loath as I am to use the word, it happens with most “fandoms”, but Tarantino disciples can be pretty bullheaded in their defence of their chosen one. This may explain the mixed critical reaction to QT’s latest, The Hateful Eight, which is both the most Tarantino-ist film that ever Quentined, but also the least like his usual work.

The Hateful Eight follows a bounty hunter, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) as they travel through a blizzard so that Ruth can claim the bounty on Domergue’s head. They take refuge in a remote cabin to wait out the storm and find it occupied with several more colourful and likely untrustworthy characters.

As opposed to the roaring rampages of revenge we’ve been used to, The Hateful Eight is like an extended Agatha Christie mystery. The film spends most of the runtime in the same cold looking cabin  and uses the interplay between the characters as the set dressing. There’s a wonderful creeping tension as allegiances are made and broken based on new information coming to light about the characters. It also reminded me strongly of The Thing, another Kurt Russell film. One of the criticisms (that I can’t disagree with) of Tarantino is that he stitches films together out of stand-alone scenes and sequences. Hateful Eight is a lot more like a conventional, logical story played out in front of us. It would make a fantastic stage play, something which Tarantino says he’s working on.

The Hateful Eight is in no rush to tell its story. Clocking in at just over three hours, the pace is leisurely and may frustrate some. The whole thing is rather indulgent and I can see how people have been turned off by the trudging pace. However, I must admit that I was absorbed by the whole thing. I’m a mark for Tarantino’s writing and to hear quality dialogue spoken by actors I respect and admire like Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell was a treat. As the story progresses, we do move into vintage violent territory, but by that point, I feel it has been earned. The film has been amping the tension up and it’s rather satisfying to see the balloons burst after a long time inflating.

The film is split into chapters and I agree with the detractors that one entire chapter could have been taken out and the story would have still made sense. However, I feel it makes it more of an experience, considering you’ve been in the same seat for three hours. I am aware that I’m in the minority on this one. I watch deleted scenes and director’s cuts. The Hateful Eight feels like an extended director’s cut of a film I’ve never seen the theatrical version of. It’s a little baggy narratively, but it contains more juicy dialogue and character beats for me to gorge myself on.

Do I really need to comment on the cast? They’re all seasoned actors, most of which have appeared in previous QT films, and they’re all brilliant. The title isn’t wrong either – all the characters are terrible, loathsome human beings and the cruelty on display may be too much for some people. To a twisted husk like me, it was magic. This kind of Sam L. Jackson is my favourite kind of Sam L. Jackson – quiet and reserved, but a hat drop away from being all bulgy eyed and intense. Also, the film serves as a great reminder of how good Tim Roth is. His character, Oswaldo Mobray, was easily my favourite, coming off like a cross between Christoph Waltz and Tim Curry. Newcomers to Tarantino’s collection like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Channing Tatum also do stellar work. I really hope to see them in future projects.

The Hateful Eight is perhaps not as fun or as accessible as previous films like Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. However, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It felt like a proper cinema experience. I loved the fact that Hateful Eight had an intermission built into the film itself. It’s little old-school touches such as that that makes me a fan of the man and his work.  I’m not sure where it fits in with the other seven QT titles just yet, but I’m looking forward to repeat viewings to find out.

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