Film Review: Ghostbusters: Afterlife

So finally, after several delays, Ghostbusters: Afterlife has been released. But the big question is, was it worth the wait? Well, that’s why I have written this article. An article that I’m going to split into various sections. A quick history lesson, a confession and then finally, a review. Now, I’m doing this review spoiler-free. While I will be touching on plot and story points, I’m not going into detail and if I do, I’m only covering things already seen in the trailers. So yeah, no spoilers here, just my honest opinion of a film that has taken over three decades to arrive.

GHOSTBUSTERS LOGO

The History

It’s been a long time coming, but we finally have a cinematic Ghostbusters III. Truth be told, a Ghostbusters III movie was on and off the cards a few times over the years. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis had been working on a third film for years, but various obstacles prevented the film from being made… mainly Bill Murray being a bit of a dick about the whole project. As it was looking less and less likely that a third film would be made, Aykroyd and Ramis reworked the scripts they had been writing and changed used them in Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009 instead.

Often seen as the ‘third film’, the game was well-received by fans (I personally found it a tad tiresome and repetitive). But the success of the game led to talks of a proper Ghostbusters III film once more and once more, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis started to work on a script. Then, sadly Ramis died in 2014 and the hopes of a new Ghostbusters flick died with him.

EGON

All was not lost however, as a new Ghostbusters film was made. 2016 saw the release of a remake with an all-female ghostbusting team. Fan backlash aside, the new film was meant to be a springboard for a whole interconnecting Ghostbusters universe and a new production studio was created, Ghost Corps. The idea was to make multiple movies, TV shows and (possibly) even new video games all under this Ghost Corps label. However, the Ghostbusters remake tanked at the box office and almost killed off Ghost Corps before it even had a chance to live. However, Ghost Corps did have one thing up their sleeves that they were working on at the time.

A new Ghostbusters film was announced. It was nothing more than a teaser image and for a while, it was believed to be fake. A fan-made image just to mess with people. Then a very small teaser began to circulate around social media. It looked convincing… but again, it was being dismissed as a fan-made thing. Until Jason Reitman confirmed it was real. But who is this Jason Reitman fella? Only the son of Ivan Reitman, the director of the original Ghostbusters movie. Not only did we have confirmation that there was going to be a new flick and from the son of the original film’s director too… it was going to be set in the original film’s universe. Not a sequel to the underperforming remake from 2016, a sequel to the ‘proper’ Ghostbusters.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE TEASER

Fans went wild with anticipation, they waited for more news and info. After a while a title was announced, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Then at the end of 2019, a trailer was released. Just from that short, out of context edited two minutes and forty-five seconds, the world saw a Ghostbusters film, more importantly it ‘felt’ a Ghostbusters film. At the end of the trailer, fans were told it was coming summer 2020, about a six or seven month wait. Then, of course, the coronavirus pandemic hit hard, cinemas closed over summer, which meant no films were released. Ghostbusters: Afterlife was delayed for a whole year until summer 2021. But the pandemic was still very much ongoing and doubts began to rise over the film seeing that delayed summer 2021 date. Other films were getting delayed or delayed even more (see the James Bond flick No Time To Die).

Ghostbusters fans were fit to burst. They had waited decades for a cinematic Ghostbusters III and they knew there was one all finished and ready to be watched, but that damn pandemic was casting a huge black cloud over the whole thing, another delay was looking very likely. Eventually, that delay was announced. Instead of a summer 2021 release, the film would have a November 2021 release. Long story short and finally, Ghostbusters: Afterlife hit the big screen, thirty-two years after the release of Ghostbusters II.

The Confession

When it comes to Ghostbusters, I’m not as big of a fan as so many others are. I do often think that the first film is over-hyped. Now, I’m not saying that Ghostbusters is a bad film, very far from it. I enjoy it, it’s great. I just think it’s a decent, goofy, throwback to classic comedy-horror flicks like Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff or Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man or Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Abbott and Costello did a lot of these types of flicks. I do like the film but I do think it is highly over-praised at the same time.

On the whole, the Ghostbusters franchise is pretty damn weak. As good as the first film is, it was followed up with a pretty ‘okay’ sequel. Ghostbusters II lacked so much of what the first film had. Bill Murray seemed to be totally bored, he said of the film in 2008 that:

“We did a sequel and it was sort of rather unsatisfying for me, because the first one to me was … the real thing. They’d written a whole different movie than the one [initially discussed]. And the special-effects guys got it. There were a few great scenes in it, but it wasn’t the same movie.”

Even the director, Ivan Reitman, admits they got it wrong:

“It didn’t all come together. We just sort of got off on the wrong foot story-wise on that film.”

Reviews at the time were not kind and while I think some of them may have been overly critical for the most part, they also made several great points. Ghostbusters II was a very lacklustre sequel to a really good film. Part of the reason it took so long to get another sequel off the ground was because everyone involved (except Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis) decided to wash their hands of the whole franchise after the sequel.

GHOSTBUSTERS II LOGO

Between the first and second film, there was the animated TV show The Real Ghostbusters (which is on YouTube via the official Ghostbusters channel with episodes uploaded weekly). In all honesty, the first two seasons are great, season three is pretty good too… and then season four started. The show was retitled to Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters and it all went very wrong. I need to do a more detailed look at just why this show went downhill so much from season four onwards, just not here and now. Anyway, the show was really damn good and even tied into the movie, with the movie (supposedly) being a fictional take on the ‘real’ Ghostbusters of the show. They even go to watch the film within the cartoon show in the Take Two episode.

The cartoon show had its own sequel with Extreme Ghostbusters. But by the late-nineties, the Ghostbusters franchise was dormant. Aside from the 2009 Ghostbusters: The Video Game… errrrr video game, which was said to be a ‘proper sequel’ to the films at the time, the franchise was pretty much dead. Then we had the whole rebirth via the Ghost Corps production studio, the 2016 remake, etc. But overall, the Ghostbusters franchise is really rather weak all told. A very good first film, a very ‘meh’ sequel, a great animated show that went bad, a video game that was above average at best and a much-hated remake. As a whole franchise, it’s all very underwhelming. And that is my confession in a rather large nutshell. Ghostbusters (aside from the first film) is rather weak. Something I have always felt, to be honest.

Which makes watching this film and writing this review really very ‘interesting’ as I don’t really feel any compulsion to get the rose-tinted glasses on, while being blinded by nostalgia. I’m a fan of the first film, but not to the point of hysteria and I like to think that I can watch this sequel with a relatively open mind… while knowing the franchise is okay-ish.

The Review

If you have seen the trailers over the last few weeks, then you should already know the basics. Egon dies and he leaves his rundown shack of a farmhouse to his daughter. She moves in with her two children, Egon’s grandkids. One of those children, Phoebe, is a bit of a whizz-kid, very much science orientated like her grandfather. However, there’s more to the farmhouse than it just being a rundown shack. Egon discovered something, something his grandkids have to deal with.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE MAIN 2

Really, and to no surprise to anyone, this is a passing of the torch movie. The old Ghostbusters making way for the new blood. I thought the kids really pulled it off too, to the point where I wasn’t even that bothered if the original cast turned up or not. The two main characters being Phoebe and Trevor (Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard) really do carry this film and you can see a lot of Egon Spengler in Phoebe. Then there’s Podcast (Logan Kim), yes that is the character’s name… cos he’s a podcaster He was great fun and had quite a few funny lines and he felt stereotypical eighties side-kick, just in a 2021 film.

I did say I’m avoiding spoilers here but it’s really not a spoiler to say that Ray Stantz, Peter Venkman and Winston Zeddemore are all in the film, it’s been an open secret since the first trailer. I’m not going to tell you just how they are used… but it is pretty fitting. While they really are nothing more than glorified cameos, that is all that’s needed really. Of the three, it is Dan Aykroyd who gets the most screen time and that feels right too, he was always the one that delivered the exposition. Plus, Janine Melnitz is back too, even if her role really is only a minute or two.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE JANINE

The story most definitely works and it fits right in with the events of the original film. While this is being called the third Ghostbusters film, for me, it felt more like an alternate Ghostbusters II. From what I recall, I don’t even think the events of the sequel were mentioned in this one. The events of the first film are mentioned and referenced several times. Very, very, very slight spoilers here. There’s a bit in the film where the kids discover a prophecy, dictated by years. Various cataphoric events throughout history are linked to the years found. 1984 and the events ghost invasion of New York from the first film is one of those years… yet there’s zero mention of the events from Ghostbusters II. Ray does say a line of dialogue that kind of, in a roundabout way, very loosely, seemingly and quite possibly alludes to a small plot point in Ghostbusters II. That being that they went out of business because they did too good a job of cleaning up ghosts and they all went their separate ways. However, in Ghostbusters II, they get back together and the main plot kicks in. But here in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, they just split up according to Ray. So yeah, it seems this ignored the events of Ghostbusters II to work as a direct sequel to the first film. I may be wrong, but that was the impression I got.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE ECTO

One thing I really did love about Ghostbusters: Afterlife is something I really enjoyed about the remake and something sorely missing from the first film. You see the characters become Ghostbusters. In the original film, they just become Ghostbusters because the script says so. They get the firehouse, get the car and there you go, they’re Ghostbusters now. In the remake, you see the characters create and build their equipment, they test it out they evolve and become Ghostbusters. The same goes for this film too. the kids discover Egon’s old equipment and they tinker with it, they learn how to use it. They don’t find it and just become Ghostbusters, in fact, they don’t really become Ghostbusters proper until the last 15-20 minutes. And I really liked that, the characters grow and evolve, they become.

There were some negatives for me. The fan-service is off the charts and I do think the nods and references to the original were certainly a bit overdone even clumsy at times. From tiny little background details like vertically stacked books, which are fine, to more in your face and obvious ‘who ya gonna call’ dialogue or a close-up shot of a Twinkie that did make me groan a little. Of course, I knew going into this that the references would be there, I just feel that there should’ve been fewer of them. This really does work as a great sequel to the first film and can even be held up in its own right. It really didn’t need all the fan-service, to be honest and some of it just felt too forced and awkward. As if Jason Reitman thought he needed to tell the audience that they are watching a sequel to Ghostbusters every other scene.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE SCREEN

The third act is basically a remake of the first film too. That did disappoint me somewhat. Mainly as up until then, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is doing its own thing, it is standing on its own two feet and really impressed on its own merits. Then the climax arrives and you are just watching events from the first film, very slightly remixed. The same events happen to two side characters, the same lines from the first film are used, the same plot points, a lot of the same iconography, images and effects are reused. Yeah, that last third of the film is good… but just too familiar and with what happens up to that point, I’d rather that it did its own thing instead of rehashing the finale from the first film.

Then there’s the absolute ending. Without spoilers, something happens at the end that made me let out an audible sigh. It was something I feared the film would do when it was first announced, even more so when the title was revealed and it was something I knew for sure the film would do when I watched the opening. Even so, when it happened, for me, it was too much. It should’ve been more subtle, more suggestive. Instead, it was like, ‘hey look what we did everyone… it’s a Ghostbusters sequel remember!’. Yes I know some Ghostbusters fans will tear into me for this, but it really is just a tad on the cheesy side, it was too on the nose.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE SCREEN 2

Overall though, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a fun romp. It feels right, it feels very eighties. Imagine if The Goonies had walked onto the Ghostbusters set and you have Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Taking the action away from the big city and placing it in a small town really works, it feels more personal and more involved. While Harold Ramis died back in 2014 and Egon is no longer alive, the character is very central to the plot. For the most part, both character and actor are treated with respect.

There are a couple of credit scenes. The first one is nothing more than even more pointless fan-service. As great as it was to see these two actors together, the scene just felt desperate. It’s also a surprise that is ruined if you pay attention to the credits. The last scene after the credits is more fitting and is most definitely sequel-bait. But it is sequel-bait done well and a scene that really made me smile.

GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE SCREEN 3

For me, Ghostbusters: Afterlife really does work, for the most part. I loved the two main leads with both Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard carrying the film well… even if it is Mckenna who does most of the carrying. But she is wonderful and picks up the Ghostbusters torch very well. I do maintain that some of the fan-service was a bit OTT and clunky and that final act was disappointing when compared to how well the rest of the film came across. But yeah, this is a great sequel that really does work. Ignore everything else, re-watch the first film before going to see this and you’re in for a treat.

Movie Review: Going for Golden Eye -Double Bill

The mockumentary film genre is a tough one to pull off well. This Is Spinal Tap is one of my all-time favourite films and one of the greatest comedies ever made. For a mockumentary film to work, you need two things. First, a good topic to mock. Second, a writer/director that really knows what they are doing. Can writer/director, Jim Miskel, make the Nintendo 64 classic, GoldenEye 007, a good topic for the mockumentary film treatment?

Going For Golden Eye

GOING FOR GOLDENEYE

Released in 2017, Going for Golden Eye is a real fan project. Written and directed by Jim Miskel and starring David Burnip and Daniel Bruce. This really is a passion project born from Miskel’s deep love for the N64 classic, GoldenEye 007 game which he played a hell of a lot in his teenage years. The film tells the story of two characters, Ben (David Burnip) and Ethan (Daniel Bruce). Ethan is the 19 times Goldeneye 007 World Champion, he’s confident to the point of sheer arrogance. An egomaniac whose ‘fame’ as the greatest Goldeneye 007 player in the world has gone to his head.

“One day, when they make a Mount Rushmore of video games, Ethan will be right up there. Carved in stone, in between Mario and Lara Croft’s big pointy tits.”

Conversely, Ben is much more grounded. He’s very nerdy, still lives with his parents… despite being 33-years-old and is very unassuming. Ben and Ethan get ready to take part in the 20th Goldeneye 007 World Championships with Ben very excited to meet his hero, Ethan and take him on in a very David and Goliath type story, with Ben very much being the underdog. Only, people don’t actually care about Goldeneye 007 anymore. The world had moved on and with each successive year, the attendance for the Goldeneye 007 World Championships has dwindled. Going from a  huge event to a small gathering held in a pub in the North of England.

That’s about it for the basic plot. As previously mentioned, Going for Golden Eye is very much a mockumentary film. A film crew follows both Ben and Ethan as they prepare to take part in the 20th Goldeneye 007 World Championships. The crew interviews the two main characters and that acts as our window into their lives. The backstory of the championships is filled in via those most directly involved in it. Then there’s the family and friends of Ben, they also get a decent slice of the spotlight and provide some truly great laughs.

The humour here is very much English and very much ‘Northern’. Think something along the lines of Keith Lemon, only actually funny instead of shit. Going for Golden Eye is crammed full of footage from the game as well as countless Easter eggs, references and jokes. To the point where one viewing is just not enough, you’re probably going to need to watch this film a few times to really get the most out of it.

ETHAN

Clive Fingerley (Terence J Corbett) as the foul-mouthed organiser of the Goldeneye 007 World Championships is brilliant and I’d say that he even steals the whole film. The character’s bluntness and tendency to be, perhaps, just a little bit too detailed is, absolutely hilarious. The times he does appear in the film, you just can’t help but stop and pay attention to his utter crassness and laugh.

I’m not going to spoil the film’s plot for you here, other than to say it is very funny as well as even being more than a little heartwarming with an unexpected finale. The humour can be very cringy, very ‘Northern’ too and I mean that in a very respectful way. Jim Miskel knew exactly what kind of film he wanted to make and he made it. You can really tell that Going for Golden Eye was a labour of love, a film that took Miskel back to his teenage years playing on his N64 and dreaming big.

TOURNEY

“The annals of history only remember the winners. For example, we all know that Winston Churchill led the allies to victory in World War II. But I tell you what, I challenge anyone to tell me who led the Germans.”

If you’re a fan of Goldeneye 007, a fan of gaming in general and just want to have a good laugh, then I certainly have to recommend you give Going for Golden Eye a viewing. Maybe even more than one, to be honest. It’s a quick watch too, coming in at just under an hour-long, the film doesn’t feel too long or too short. You can find Going for Golden Eye on Steam and Vimeo to rent or buy. I actually rented it at first but soon realised that this is a film I’ll watch a few times, so I ended up buying it too.

Bringing Back Golden Eye

BRINGING BACK GOLDENEYE

Jim Miskel followed up on that first film with this ‘sequel’, released just a few weeks ago. Bringing Back Golden Eye is once more, made in the mockumentary style. I say sequel, but to be honest, this is more a follow-up film that takes place in the same universe over a direct sequel, in the traditional sense of the word. Jim Miskel steps down as director for this one, he’s still the writer and producer but Dan Guest is sitting in the director’s chair this time around.

There are quite a few returning characters from Going for Golden Eye but the focus shifts over to a new character called Glen (Gabriel Cagan) who is a huge fan of not just the game, but the whole Goldeneye 007 World Championships and the previous mockumentary film exists as a real documentary in this film… if that makes sense. However, after events in the first film, the championships are no more.

Ethan from the first film has disappeared after his loss at the last Goldeneye 007 World Championships, his fame dwindling. To find Ethan, Glen sets out to track down the others from the Going for Golden Eye documentary in order to try and not only find Ethan but also bring the Goldeneye 007 World Championships back. See, the title makes sense.

The first thing I need to cover is that the humour is back, and maybe just a little more ‘diluted’. The more crass swearing is gone and some of the jokes are definitely less adult-focused. That’s not to say that the jokes aren’t funny, they are and there are even jokes making fun of the toned-down language, especially with a character saying ‘flipping’ a lot. It’s just that it feels less ‘adult’ over the first film, though I still wouldn’t recommend watching this with the kids. In terms of the production, the quality has been vastly lifted the acting is far better than the previous films and there’s some clever use of Goldeneye 007 styled graphics that fill in parts of the backstory as well as being used for comedic effect.

BRINGING BACK GOLDENEYE SCREEN 1

“Oh my God Ethan, your nob looks really clean. I mean the control-stick, not your penis.”

The successor to Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, gets thrown into the plot and sparks a rivalry that personifies an argument between the two games that still exists to this day. Then there’s a pretty damn awesome cameo for fans of the development team of the games too. There are more in-jokes, more gaming and movie references (including a very well shot Star Wars: The Force Awakens one). You can certainly see a vast improvement all-round in terms of the production over the first film. The actual tournament is also pretty damn exciting to watch and feels like a genuine gaming contest.

The fact you can watch both films as a nice double feature in two and a half hours is worth doing. The two films feel very different to each other with Going for Golden Eye feeling rough and ready, while Bringing Back Golden Eye is much more polished with higher production values and better acting. Truth be told, this is actually something that bugged me slightly. If the first film is supposed to be a genuine documentary within the plot of the second film, which is supposed to be a fan-made film… then the documentary should be the one with more polish over the ‘fan-made’ film the second one is supposed to be. Still, that is just a slight personal niggle and nothing more. Between you and me, I liked Going for Golden Eye more than Bringing Back Golden Eye. I just prefered its rawness.

BRINGING BACK GOLDENEYE ETHAN

“In 1994, he punched a full-grown man and that man died… fourteen years later from diabetes.”

Still, the two films do work brilliantly together and for me, as a fan of Goldeneye 007, I think both films are most definitely worth watching. A wonderful love letter to one of the most celebrated video games ever. Anyway, Bringing Back Golden Eye is completely free on YouTube, give this link a click to watch. All Jim Miskel and the crew ask is that you give a donation to the Samaritans charity (which is probably why the swearing is watered down, as the point is to raise money for charity). So you get to watch a funny film for free and help out a worthy charity too.

But yeah, I recommend both films for some irrelevant, nonsensical very British humour.

(Guest) Movie Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League

I have something a little bit different today. A movie review… but not by me. Instead, I have fellow beardy-blogger and friend, Lord Badger Nimahson from Stoffel Presents doing this one. My first-ever guest reviewer taking a look at one of the biggest films of 2021, Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Let’s find out what he thought. I’ll just pop up a quick SPOILER warning.


The internet has been abuzz for months now with the anticipation of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. This release is 100% due to fan pressure online and I can’t help but wonder is it a case of being careful of what you wish for?

For those not aware, Zack Snyder was the original director responsible for the vision of the DC Expanded Universe (DCEU), this started with Man of Steel, moved onto Batman v Superman and was due to culminate in The Justice League. The devastating tragedy of his daughter’s suicide meant that Zack Snyder pulled out of directing The Justice League a fair way into the project and Warner Bros. handed the reins over to The Avengers director Joss Whedon.

Whedon’s time in charge of The Justice League was plagued with several issues. From accusations of “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable behaviour” to THAT hilarious, utterly atrocious and frankly horrific looking CGI removal of Henry Cavill’s moustache (the reshoots clashed with Cavill filming Mission: Impossible – Fallout and he was contracted to keep his moustache).

CAVILL CGI MOUTH 2

Whedon implemented quite a few reshoots in order to finish The Justice League. Finally, the film was released in cinemas and whilst earning around $638m at the box office ($230m of that in the USA alone), it was considered to be both a commercial and critical flop.

Hence, fans on the internet bombarding Warner Bros. with demands for them to release the ‘Snyder cut’. At first, Warner Bros. denied any such cut of the film even existed. Then they said it would never be released, before finally announcing they had given Zack Snyder a budget of $70m to finish the Snyder cut and that it would be released exclusively on their own streaming service HBO Max. And so, on the 18th March 2021, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was finally released to the world… All four hours and two minutes of it!

It’s certainly a marathon that many people have failed to sit through. But thanks to a recent injury, I have had the time to watch the film in its entirety… Twice! So, here I am taking up this tiny little corner of Steve Perrin’s wonderful blog to give you my thoughts and feelings on Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Cinematography

My overriding thought of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is just how unbelievably stunning the visuals are. Every fight jumps out of the screen at you. Every inch of this movie is quite simply beautiful. The use of colour in the darkness is sublime. Releasing the Snyder Cut on HBO Max will no doubt be a massive boost to subscriptions for the streaming service but I can’t help but feel this is a film that needs to be experienced on the big screen. That been said, the cinematography isn’t without criticism. For example, Snyder chose to release this film in a 4:3 aspect ratio, which has upset and confused quite a few people online. The best place to find out what the film is in this ratio is from the man himself:

“My intent was to have the movie, the entire film, play in a gigantic 4:3 aspect ratio on a giant IMAX screen. Superheroes tend to be, as figures, they tend to be less horizontal. Maybe Superman when he’s flying, but when he’s standing, he’s more of a vertical. Everything is composed and shot that way, and a lot of the restoration is sort of trying to put that back. Put these big squares back… it’s a completely different aesthetic. It’s just got a different quality and one that is unusual. No one’s doing that.”

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE TEAM

Personally, my biggest problem with the cinematics of this release is that slow-motion effects are massively overused. At first, it looks impressive, but by hour two of the film, it just becomes annoying. I get that they are predominantly used to highlight moments when Snyder has taken a splash page from a comic book and wonderfully recreated it on screen but it does just feel overused and slows the film down even more than it already is. To be fair this may be an issue with the length of the film rather than the overuse of slow motion. So that being said…

Pacing

Any film with a length of just over four hours is more than likely gonna struggle with pacing but by Nimah, Zack Snyder’s Justice League seems to crawl to a halt sometimes. I am not being hyperbolic, but it is actually around thirty-minutes into the film before we actually see any of the superheroes involved in this film. Now yes, you have to set the scene and convey the state of the world that this story takes place in, but it really doesn’t need to take this long! The action is spread evenly throughout the film and is genuinely impressive, but the times between the action seems to just sludge along at a snail’s pace. I understand that this is Zack Snyder’s epic but there is so much that could have, and indeed, should have been left on the cutting room floor.

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE TEAM 2

The length of the film and the pacing of it is what kills Zack Snyder’s Justice League more than anything. The run-time is simply too long for most people to sit down and watch in one sitting (which ruins the flow of the story) and those who do find the time, will honestly, find their attention waning. I watched this film twice and both times found my attention drifting to my phone to check updates while watching. As I mentioned earlier, Zack Snyder’s Justice League feels like it should be experienced in a cinema and whilst four hours is a hell of a long time to be sat in an uncomfortable seat, I wouldn’t have my phone switched on and would pay more attention to the film regardless of its extremely slow pacing.

Story

It is probably unsurprising to discover that the story is essentially the same in both the Whedon and Snyder versions of the film, but the latter does have more depth and progression to it. The biggest difference is that Cyborg has an actual story arc. I know I know, shocking in this day and age for a character to have an actual story where we see their flaws, their struggles and ultimately their redemption. But that is exactly what we get in the Snyder cut and honestly, it is wonderful to see Cyborg explored in more depth and is a great performance from Ray Fisher.

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE CYBORG

One of the major difference from the Whedon cut is the inclusion of Darkseid. Whilst Darkseid isn’t in the film for that much, his sheer presence adds a completely different aspect to Steppenwolf’s story and character arc. Instead of being the big bad of the film, we now see him as a fallen favourite of Darkseid who is trying to reclaim the good graces of his master, after failing him in such a massive way. The fleshing out of Steppenwolf and Cyborg are probably the two biggest changes that impact the Snyder cut and make it infinitely better than Whedon’s version. Whilst I truly enjoyed these additions to the film, unfortunately, there were a few things I just couldn’t get over.

Plot Holes

There are a whole host of plot holes that, not only leave you scratching your head but sometimes they can jarringly snap you out of the film itself as you question why? I’m gonna attempt to cover these as briefly as I can:

  • Superman screams awaken the mother boxes.
    Why? As far as I am aware Superman has nothing to do with the mother boxes, isn’t connected to them in any way yet is dying screams (which take forever) awaken them.
  • Steppenwolf declares the planet will be easy to conquer as there are “No Kryptonians here”.
    How has Steppenwolf met Kryptonians before if A) Krypton is destroyed and B) every planet he visits he burns? We know Steppenwolf didn’t destroy Krypton and also why would he be scared of Kryptonians? They are only powerful on Earth due to our yellow sun. If he had visited Krypton he would have destroyed it.
  • Darkseid just lost an entire planet.
    We are shown earlier in the film that ‘The Darkness’ came to Earth and the heroes of Earth united and defeated it (Steppenwolf in the Whedon cut, Darkseid in the Snyder cut) and the mother boxes were left here and went to sleep. We are then expected to believe that Darkseid, the conqueror of over 100,000 planets according to his own boasts just forgot where Earth was! We see his ships fly away. Did they not record the path they took to fly home?
  • How did Darkseid conquer 100,000 other planets?
    When we see Darkseid defeated early in the film we are told that the three mother boxes unite into a unity and burn the planet. Darkseid lost the boxes on Earth but claims to have destroyed 100,000 planets in his search for them. How did he destroy the other planets and why couldn’t he just use that method of attack on Earth?
  • Flash gets shot.
    During the finale we see The Flash move so fast that the shockwave from an explosion passes him by. He just phase-shifts right through it. Yet when he is running at almost the speed of light a Parademon gets a lucky shot and shoots him!?
  • Wonder Woman knows Steppenwolf.
    Earlier in the film, we see Diana descend into the underground temple and learn all about the last time Earth’s heroes banded together and saved the planet from Darkseid. She even sees a picture of Darkseid. Yet when the reach Stryker’s Island and meet Steppenwolf for the first time Diana calls him by name!

Now, those points may seem petty upon reading, but these plot holes genuinely had a negative impact on the film for me. This is a shame because I enjoyed it for the most part. 

Final Thoughts 

There is no denying that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an epic masterpiece. This film will be dissected and discussed in film schools across the world for decades. For the wonderful and interesting debates about composition and lighting, framing and delivering and artistic vision to the screen. As well as used as warnings for cutting unnecessary and unneeded footage to keep your runtime tight, the overuse of slow-motion special effects and the importance of pacing. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is in no way a perfect movie but it is a fantastic example of the wondrous results when a studio allows a director to make a masterpiece unfettered. I came away from watching the Snyder cut feeling that this is a Lord of the Rings moment for the current generation.

SNYDERS JUSTICE LEAGUE TEAM 3

A film longer than any of conventional release, an epic trilogy that conveys the director’s vision and about a million and one bloody endings! Seriously why so many endings? The film finished an hour ago why are you showing me Martian Manhunter when it could have easily gone into the next film? Why are you showing me a nightmare sequence for a film that is never going to be made?

Zack Snyder’s Justice League should be applauded for so many wonderful things. It should also be criticised for an equal amount of errors.

Is it epic?… Yes.

Is it Zack Snyder’s masterpiece… Probably.

Will it save the DCEU?…. No way.


Big thanks to Lord Badger for doing this review. I did watch the first two hours of the flick myself, before boredom set in. I will try to watch the rest of the film and maybe give my own view in the future, but it’s just not very high on my list of things to do right now.

Movie Review: Coming 2 America

Thirty-three years ago, the ‘fish-out-of-water’ comedy flick, Coming to America hit cinemas. It was made at the perfect time too, as director John Landis was riding high after a string of successful and popular comedy films. Then there was its main star, Eddie Murphy. For me, this was Murphy at his very finest. Coming to America fast became one of my all-time favourite comedy movies ever, still is too. Now, a little over three decades later, we have Coming 2 America. Same title, just written in that really obnoxious and annoying way of using numbers for letters/words. Was Coming to America II such a bad title? In fact, I’ll be calling the film Coming to America II for this review from now on.

This sequel has been a long time coming, with news of it being worked on several years ago. It had many false starts and for a while, it very much looked like a dead project. But here it finally is and with pretty much all of the original cast back too (sadly, Madge Sinclair who played Queen Aoleon died in 1995). But gone is the original’s director, John Landis… And that instantly put a huge cloud of uncertainty over the film for me. Then there’s the rating. The original flick was rated for adults due to nudity and swearing, but this sequel was given a more tame PG-13. And of course, let’s not forget that (let’s be honest) these sequels to films made decades after the original very rarely, if ever, work.

COMING 2 AMERICA POSTER 2

So, as an avid fan of the first Coming to America, will I enjoy this sequel? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Order a McDowell’s, get some Soul Glo for my hair and watch Coming to America II myself.

Quick pre-warning. There could be some slight SPOILERS here. So if you don’t want anything ruined, stop reading now.

The Plot

King Jaffe Joffer is on his death bed and reveals that Akeem has a son called Lavelle that he never knew about, living in America. Needing a male heir to the throne (as is tradition) and seeing as Akeem (now King) only had three daughters, he has to go back to America and bring his bastard son (that’s what he’s constantly called in the film) to Zamunda to be Prince and heir to the throne. Meanwhile, evil General Izzi (who is the brother of Akeem’s arranged bride from the first flick) turns up to cause trouble with the royal family, wanting to take over Zamunda for himself. With Akeem’s son and native New Yorker in Zamunda, the challenge is to turn him from a typical New York street-rat to a Prince.

In fact, now thinking about the plot and the film’s awkward title. This really should’ve been called Coming to Zamunda, because that’s basically what it is. Coming to America but with the fish-out-of-water trope flipped to the Americans in Africa. In fact, I’ll be calling this film Coming to Zamunda for this review from now on. Because let’s be honest, it’s a far better and more accurate title than Coming 2 America.

The Cast

As I said in the intro, pretty much the entire original cast returned for the sequel, even some of the smaller actors came back over three decades later. Of course, we have both Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall return as all of their previous roles… All of them. There’s even a new character played by Hall too. Shari Headley as Lisa is back and now Queen of Zamunda. Paul Bates also returns as the royal aide, Oha. And all of them do a great job of sliding back into their respective roles and ones they haven’t played for over thirty years.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM AND SEMMI

Along for the ride are a handful of new characters. Jermaine Fowler plays the bastard son, Lavelle Junson, with Leslie Jones playing his mother, Mary. Wesley Snipes plays bad guy General Izzi and (spoilers), he steals the entire film.

My View

Okay, let’s get the bad out of the way first. Leslie Jones is not funny, she actually manages to suck the comedy out of everything she’s in. She can’t act and her only ‘joke’ is that she screams her dialogue as she tries to be the loudest person in any film she ever does. Why people keep hiring Jones I have no idea, she’s shit! And I quite liked the Ghostbusters remake… Where Leslie Jones screamed her way through the film.

The fact this sequel has a lower age rating that the original is also a sore point. The first Coming to America was rated for adults due to the nudity and swearing. The nudity was so slight, a few seconds of Akeem’s bathers at the beginning that it’s not really missed here. But, I do have an issue with the lack of swearing in the sequel. Swearing can be really effective when used properly and Coming to America used it brilliantly. A couple of instances that spring to mind are when Akeem is in New York and talking to his neighbours, wishing them a good morning. He gets a “Fuck you!” retort, for Akeem to reply with the classic, “Yes, yes and fuck you too!”. It’s a great joke because Akeem doesn’t understand swearing, he’s proudly screaming “fuck you!” thinking it’s a term of endearment and the way Eddie Murphy plays it by speaking so proudly just adds to the humour. Then there’s the old guys in the barbershop. They get into an argument and the main guy, Clarence (Murphy) just screams “Fuck you, fuck you and fuck you… who’s next?”. It’s that quick switch of character from swearing old man, to nice and polite barber that makes the joke work. The quick jump from “fuck you” to smiling, softly spoken barber makes me laugh every time and it worked because of the swearing. After seeing a really bad TV edit, trust me, it’s the swearing that sells the joke.

COMING 2 AMERICA BARBERSHOP

The lack of swearing in Coming to Zamunda really does damage what could’ve been a much funnier flick. Now, there is some swearing in the film (mainly the word bastard), it’s just not used as well, as much nor is it as effective when it feels so diluted. I never understand why directors/producers do softer sequels to adult films, it makes no sense. Those who watched and loved the original did so because it was more adult for an adult audience. So why make a sequel that isn’t as adult if your audience is an adult one? And even if you were a kid when you saw the first flick (I was around 13-14), you’re an adult now thirty-two years later. So make the film for adults.

This film just lacks any truly great laughs and most of the jokes are poorly written and executed. I mean, there’s a part in the flick where a character talks about how great American cinema is. And they get the retort of:

“What do we have besides superhero shit, remakes and sequels to old movies nobody asked for?”

Seriously? You really want to try to get meta and trump folk who are inevitably going to call this it for what it is? I’m sure that on paper, that joke looked good. But in practice, it’s just terrible and a real eye-rolling moment. The only time I genuinely smiled at Coming to Zamunda was when it referenced the original, something it actually does really damn well. There are loads of nods and references and admittedly, some of them are really bloody clever too. So much so that I don’t actually want to spoil them here. But there is a scene I really need to address and spoil.

So, you are probably questioning just how did Akeem sire a son, thirty years ago during the events of the first film? Well, that’s covered in both a brilliant and really stupid scene. There’s a flashback to the club scene from the original film. You know the one where Akeem and Semmi are looking for possible brides? Anyway, new footage has been shot and some de-ageing (cos every film does that now) tech is used to show what ‘really’ happened that night. So, it turns out that Semmi wanted to dip his wick, so he found a woman, Mary (Leslie Jones) to keep Akeem busy while he got busy himself. While back at their apartment (lovingly recreated from the first film, complete with chalk lines of the dead guy and his dog), Mary drugs and ‘takes advantage’ of Akeem, becoming pregnant with his son.

COMING TO AMERICA CLUB

The scene is actually really well done, what with the whole de-ageing and all that… But, it also annoyed me for a couple of reasons, not just because they’ve changed the background song (think I wouldn’t notice eh?) First, the first film specifically shows that Akeem and Semmi return home very much dateless from the club, no women. They go from the club and bump into Clarence from the barbershop, who tells them they can find good women at the pageant he is going to. And that is where Akeem sees Lisa for the first time. But this film retcons that to say that Akeem and Semmi don’t talk to Clarence as they go back to their apartment with two women. So if they don’t speak to Clarence, they don’t go to the pageant and Akeem doesn’t see Lisa and fall in love. That’s a gaping plot hole that I just could not get over. Plus, Semmi very clearly states in the first film that he’s not had sex since arriving in New York, but this film now says different. Come on, fans are going to pick up on this haphazard/lazy writing pretty quickly.

The other major issue is one I found in another film recently too. Mary drugs and (essentially) rapes Akeem. He doesn’t consent to the sex, he is raped. Akeem himself even says he wasn’t ‘willing’ and that he has no knowledge of the sex happening in the film. Just like the random guy in the recent Wonder Woman flick. Seriously, why is the sexual assault of men becoming a thing in films now? Flip that scenario with a male drugging a female and having sex with her and they’d be outrage. As I said, as good as the re-edited club scene is on a technical level, it really fucks up quite a bit.

By the time the film ended, I felt like I had already seen it. Now, I don’t mean due to all the beats it rehashed from the original (of which there’s a lot), more like the film in general just felt like I had seen it before. It took me a while to work out where I had seen Coming to Zamunda before and it wasn’t until I was writing this review when it hit me. Coming to Zamunda is basically Crocodile Dundee II. Look, you have the first film where the fish-out-of-water goes from his own country and taken to America… Particularly New York. The fish-out-of-water does exactly what fish-out-of-water do, they feel uncomfortable, have trouble fitting in and all that guff. But finds love along the way. Then the sequel rolls around and things get switched up a tad as the native New Yorker is taken from their home, to the unfamiliar surroundings of the original’s fish-out-of-water’s home. Mick Dundee did it with Sue in Crocodile Dundee II in that film. And Akeem does the exact same thing to his son, Lavelle, in this flick. Coming to Zamunda is a Crocodile Dundee II remake, just with a lot of references to Coming to America.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM

To be honest, I went into this with low expectations. The original flick really is one of my favourite comedy films, one that was made at the upmost optimum time, a time when the cast and crew were riding high. There’s no way a sequel could ever match up to its greatness. Still, Coming to Zamunda, despite its various shortcomings (Leslie Jones being the biggest), did manage to make me smile a few times. It doesn’t have the impact the first film had and it is just a rehash of the original’s plot too. Perhaps a little too heavy on the nostalgia in some places and a sequel that would’ve been better off existing twenty years ago. But still, it was okay, just a shame it wasn’t more ‘adult’, I really miss those arguing and swearing barbershop guys. They are in this sequel… But it’s clear they’ve had their balls cut off sometime in the last thirty years. Coming to Zamunda is more of a slightly likeable nostalgia trip with some quite honestly great, clever cameos and references than a good sequel. The set designs and costumes in Zamunda are really stunning. Oh, and Wesley Snipes is awesome.

Another disappointment is that, while the original film’s director, John Landis, is gone, taking on the job is Craig Brewer. Now, Brewer recently directed Eddie Murphy in the 2019 biopic, Dolemite Is My Name… Which is brilliant. So it’s a shame for them to have not captured that magic again for this flick. But I can’t really blame either the star or director when it’s very clearly the lazy, sloppy, plot hole creating and rehashed writing that is to blame.

COMING 2 AMERICA AKEEM NEW YORK

If the original Coming to America was a McDonald’s Big Mac meal, then Coming to Zamunda is a McDowell’s Big Mic meal. A lower quality and questionable copy, but still digestible. It’s worth one view just for the cameos and references to the first film, just don’t expect much more out of the film than that. Still, at least Coming to Zamunda wasn’t as bad as the TV pilot.

Joker, A film That’s Not About Joker

Joker, written and directed by Todd Phillips, it’s the biggest surprise hit of the year. A relatively small budget… I guess, comic book movie in a sea of big budget comic book movies. The grandiose scale of something like Avengers: Endgame is gargantuan compared to Joker. But sometimes (most of the time), throwing a lot of money at something does not necessarily make the end result better.

So let me go back to the very beginning before I take a look at this flick. When Joker was first announced, I was nonplussed. The DC comic book films up to this point had been very, very hit and miss… mostly miss. The whole shared universe they forcibly tried to create just didn’t work at all. Even when DC flicks were ‘good’, they were still very bog standard and lacking in any real character or story. So when a film telling the origin story of perhaps the most famous DC comic book villain was announced, I lost all interest. The first teaser trailer was released and I was even less interested. The first few on-set pictures emerged that showed Joaquin Phoenix in full Joker regalia and the funny memes about McDonald’s began, I joined in. This film was going to be terrible, as much as I thought Joaquin was a phenomenal actor, and he is, this was going to be another DC movie failure, I was sure of it. So I pretty much ignored the film… then the early reviews started to come in a few weeks back. The critical response was insane, everyone was giving the film high marks and extremely favourable reviews. Joker even got an eight minute standing ovation at it’s Venice premiere. Let’s just say that my interest was most definitely piqued.

Pheonix Arthur 2

Still, there was this niggle at the back of my head that all the Joker praise was hype and over hype. Did Warner Bros (distributor of the film) just pay a load of reviewers to praise the flick to gain a lot of interest in an attempt to combat the previous badly received other films? Hey, I’m a cynical thinking kind of guy. It couldn’t be as good as people were saying, it just couldn’t. So sure I was that this film would be terrible that I just could not even open my mind to the slight possibility that just maybe it wasn’t. But there was one saving grace for me, Joaquin Phoenix playing Joker. Even if the film was utterly shit, I knew Joaquin would be amazing.

So when I sat down to watch Joker, I had already decided I was not going enjoy it…

Just a quickie. I’m going to avoid major spoilers, so this is a safe one to read. But I would still suggest that you go into the film completely blind regardless.

So I guess the first thing to cover with this film is the fact that it’s not really about Joker at all. Joaquin Phoenix plays struggling and unfunny stand up comic Arthur Fleck. A middle aged man who still lives with his ill mother in a shitty apartment in crime ridden Gotham City. Arthur is a simple kind of guy, he just wants to look after his mother. He holds down a few menial jobs, sign spinning for a local business, entertaining ill children at a hospital, all while dressed as a clown. Arthur has a heart and is the central figure in the film, not Joker. In fact, Joker doesn’t really make an appearance proper until the last twenty minutes or so.

The film really concentrates on Arthur and his social awkwardness, his mental troubles, his decline as man, his failures, his loose grip on reality and sanity. Arthur suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh, usually at the most inappropriate times, which often lands him in trouble. His condition is treated via medication from a social services worker but when funding is cut, Arthur is left without his meds, coupled with him losing his jobs, this when things begin to unravel. His mind begins to wander, he starts to engage in flights of fancy.

Pheonix Arthur 3

Arthur tries his hand at stand up comedy… which he is really bad at. But his performance catches the eye of popular talk show host Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) who invites him onto his TV show… and that’s about all I’m willing to give away about the plot here in this article.

As I’ve already said, this is not really about the Joker character despite the title. This film is about the human psyche, the rather taboo subject of mental health and how it is perceived, the breakdown of a man struggling to get a grip on his life. This is a film about Arthur Fleck losing his faith in society and perception of the world. Joker is jet black dark, depressing and yet also extremely thought provoking with an ending that really opens things up for questioning. There are plot lines that are not entirely covered and left up to you the viewer to make up your own mind. It’s a very open film all told, especially the ending. The film allows you to make up your own mind on just what kind of person Arthur is.

Seeing as Joker is Batman’s greatest and most famous enemy, of course there are a few Batman references in the film. They are well done and don’t at all feel intrusive. Well, there is one thing at the climax of the film that did kind of irk me because we’ve seen it so many times before that caused me to roll my eyes a little. No need at all for that particular scene.

Pheonix Arthur 4

Joker is a very slow paced film and one that really focuses on character over plot… and that’s not a bad thing when you have such an interesting character as Arthur Fleck to invest in. Joaquin’s performance is nothing short of genius as the troubled Arthur and you do feel a little sympathy toward him… a little, depending on how you chose view the character. You can really see the gears begin to breakdown in his head as he helplessly descends into madness. This is not a happy film, you won’t come out of it glowing with a smile on your face. Joker is dirty and grimy. It’s downbeat, depressing and exhausting. You’ll feel like you just been dragged through the sewers of Gotham City after watching this and will probably want to take a shower to try and get rid of some of the dirt, though the smell will never leave you.

You ever see the classic film Taxi Driver? Well this has a very similar style and tone.

Joker is brilliant if you are in the right frame of mind for such a film. I was wrong with my initial dismissive attitude toward this movie and that’s something I’m very glad about. Joker is the best film I’ve seen in decades… but it most definitely will not sit well with others.

“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

– Arthur Fleck