Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) movie review

I have a confession to make. I never saw the original Ghostbusters in the theater even though I'm pretty much the perfect age to have done so. (It came out when I was in the fourth grade.) Back when I was a kid, I was easily scared of anything that looked even remotely scary, and my neighbor describing the scene with the librarian ghost at the beginning was enough to frighten me away until years later when I finally saw it on video. After that, it quickly became one of my all-time favorite movies and I watched my crappy VHS copy of a copy over and over again.

I did see Ghostbusters 2 in the theater, and I remember being really excited for it. I went out of my way to see it on the last day of school of my freshmen year of high school. And even though my standards were a lot lower back then, I remember being really disappointed in the whole thing. It just felt like a less funny and less exciting version of the first one. I watched it again recently when I bought a blu-ray combo pack of both movies, and I continue to be disappointed.

When I heard about the current remake/reboot, I was interested. I most definitely did not join the chorus of fans who freaked out when there were going to be four female Ghostbusters this time around. The last one had four men, and that wasn't a problem. Why would four women be a problem? I also am not somebody who bemoans the "lack of originality" in movies, as I teach Shakespeare and that guy was all about rewriting previously told stories.

The only thing that I cared about was whether the movie was going to be good or not. Four women is fine so long as they are four funny and talented women. The story also had to be good. It had to capture the spirit of the original while not simply giving me what I've already seen before.

My hopes were raised when they announced the cast. I was only really familiar with Kristen Wiig, who I think is awesome. Even the weaker Saturday Night Live bits with her in it were usually worth watching just to see what she'd do. I also liked Bridesmaids, and she's hilarious as the yoga instructor in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (You have to watch the extended edition of that movie to catch that scene.) I also think that Melissa McCarthy is pretty funny as well, as she had a lot of the best bits in the aforementioned Bridesmaids. I didn't know too much about Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones, but I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

If I'm totally honest, I did have an opinion regarding the all-female buster casting. It made me root for this movie to succeed because I'm a big believer in the notion that we need more diverse and positive roles featuring women. I'd personally like to see more completely original stories with female protagonists, but this is a decent step in between male dominated action movies and a more diverse fare.

Still, I figured all of this would be for naught if the movie stunk, so while I say that I was rooting for it, I was rooting for its potential to be something good. I wasn't going to praise it no matter what.

Which leads me to the first preview.

Egads. That did not look good. I know that I'm not alone, as I heard a lot of other people chime in, including Kevin Smith on his podcast. In fairness to Smith, he was quick to blame whoever cut the trailer, as he couldn't imagine how that cast with director Paul Feig could possibly make something that looked so horrible. All of the gags were slapstick and obvious. I mean, there was an Exorcist reference. What year is this? And it didn't help that Leslie Jones's character seemed to be a stereotype of a black woman.

I really wanted to be wrong, but I was ready to accept that for the second time, there was going to be a lousy Ghostbusters movie.

My hopes raised a bit when I saw some other trailers, but not too much. I figured that I'd wait until the reviews came in, and if they were mostly positive then I'd make the effort to see it in the theater. Lucky for me, that was the case, and I went to see it with my wife.

I don't know if anybody is outright praising this movie, but I absolutely loved it. In a way, it made me hate the trailer even more, as it really did the film a disservice. Maybe the problem is that the really funny bits require a certain context. Whenever there was a silly slapstick moment, what was usually funny was what the other characters were saying or doing as it was happening. I'm eager to see the film again, as there were some moments where I was laughing so hard that I no doubt missed two or three other funny lines that came right after them.

What else did I like? I thought it did a really good job of capturing the heart and spirit of the original without being slavish to it. The characters didn't evenly line up with their male counterparts from the original. At best, you could say that Kate McKinnon's part was a combination of Egon and Venkman. Other than that, they all brought something new to the franchise.

Wiig and McCarthy didn't disappoint, and Jones's character rose above the stereotype to the point where I didn't even think about it anymore. It was really McKinnon who nearly stole the movie for me though. She was definitely not quite in her right mind, but she had enough charm to her that you could believe that she'd get away with it.

I was also pretty surprised with Chris Hemsworth, better known as Thor from the Marvel movies. I knew that he could be funny, as he's had some good bits as the Thunder god. However, he really got to show his comic timing in this one. He was a complete airhead, yet he still was able to inject his character with enough humanity to make him more than just a figure to laugh at.

I don't think that this is ever going to hold up to the original, but it was loads better than Ghostbusters 2, and hopefully if they do a sequel, they can outdo the previous franchise.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Hope for the Ark Encounter?

Utnapishtim's, ahem...Noah's ark
Depending on how much you pay attention to issues regarding religion, you may or may not have heard of the Ark Encounter. In a nutshell, it's a museum devoted to the Biblical flood story, and it's a life-size reconstruction of Noah's boat. I suppose it's more of a construction than a reconstruction for the simple fact that NOAH'S ARK NEVER FRIKKEN' EXISTED.

Yeah, I'm being a little harsh, but if you think that the Noah story actually happened, or you even entertain the possibility that it happened, then the rest of this post isn't going to appeal to you. Unless you can provide some AMAZING evidence (you can't) of a global flood, I'm going to put flood believers into the same category as Scientologists who learn about Emperor Xenu and still stay in the organization anyway.

It opened on July 7th, and from what I've read, opening day didn't have quite the turnout that they were expecting. Maybe there aren't as many Biblical literalists as they were hoping for? Or maybe the literalists just don't care that much? Who knows? I'm not expert in these matters, and I haven't seen any official figures, but I have to wonder if this thing will one day go the way of Jim Bakker's Heritage USA, and become a monument to religious folly.
Let's just assume that I'm right and this thing will eventually go bankrupt and have to close down one day. Overall, this would be a good thing. Perhaps it's too bad that the state of Kentucky is losing out considering how many tax breaks Answers in Genesis (the company that built the thing) got for it, but the good far outweighs the bad. For starters, the place is basically devoted to spreading ignorance and anti-science. Even worse, it's targeted at children with its inclusion of dinosaurs. (It's funny how for some people the dinosaur thing is what puts it over the top into Crazy Town territory. Guess what? It's crazy without dinosaurs.) It will also be good to see the end of a place that has discriminatory hiring practices (no non-Christians, no gay people) while receiving taxpayer money. 

With that said, I wouldn't want to see the place get torn down. I also wouldn't want to see it just sit there and rot. Here are some possibilities as to what can be done with it:

1. Turn it into a science museum. Have a big part explaining how flood geology is riddled with fallacies.

2. Have it be a museum devoted to mythology. Utilize much of what's there, and keep the dinosaurs in a section entitled "What happens when people take myths literally." Include displays for various flood myths, paying special attention to Utnapishtim and his similarities/differences with Noah. 

3. Make a nautical museum. Yeah, it's in a landlocked part of the country. Well, who would be more starved for boat-related stuff than them? People on the coasts have their fill of that sort of a thing, thank you very much.

4. Make it a literal monument to religious folly. Have displays ranging from the weird to the outright dangerous like snake handlers and Jim Jones.

5. Why was the world flooded? Because of sin, right? Make it a museum of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. People will love it. Throw in some hookers while you're at it. See if the firmament opens and the waters pour forth.