Movie Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home

Don’t worry folks, no spoilers here. Aside from mentioning things already seen in the trailers, this review is giving nothing major away.

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I’ve actually been pondering whether or not I should even do this review for a few days now. See, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a very tricky film to talk about without spoiling anything. There really is a lot to unpack here that I can’t mention as to not spoil anything. So this’ll have to be a very vague review that’s lacking a lot of details.

When it comes to the MCU, as much as I admire the immense talent and work involved in it, I’m not a die-hard fan. I’ve actually not seen more MCU films than I have seen. I do know a bit about the source material without being a ‘comic book nerd’. So I’m familiar with the characters and universe but without being fan-obsessed by it. When it comes to superhero films, I can take or leave them, to be honest.

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Yet, there’s always been something about Spider-Man as a character that I personally have always felt worked better than any other superhero. I think it’s a relatable thing. I mean, I’ve never been an alien, a multi-billionaire, a literal god and so on. Yet I have been a teenager struggling to understand the world and my life. And I think that’s a big part of the appeal of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man character. He’s a kid under that suit and even though he’s saved the world… he still goes to school.

With Spider-Man: No Way Home, you get a lot of that ‘reality’ and begin to feel a lot of the pathos that the character brings. Spider-Man is a kid and Tom Holland plays that part of him marvellously. He’s far from perfect, he gets confused and he most definitely makes mistakes. All of that happens in this film and you can sympathise with a teenager struggling to maintain their life around being a superhero more than you can someone like Tony Stark and his billionaire world.

This film picks up right where the previous film ended, with J. Jonah Jameson revealing that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and him also being outed as killing Mysterio at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home. Of course, this causes mass hysteria and Parker’s life is thrown into turmoil for not just being outed as Spider-Man but also now believed as to being a murderer.

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Desperate for help, Peter Parker seeks out Doctor Strange and convinces him to cast a spell so that the world forgets that he is Spider-Man. As Strange is casting the spell, Parker keeps interrupting and asks to make numerous amendments so that MJ, Ned and Aunt May still remember that he is Spider-Man. These interruptions cause the spell to go wrong and opens up the multiverse.

From then, villains from other Spider-verses begin to appear in Peter Parker’s world. The likes of Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Sandman, Lizard and Electro turn up and Spider-Man is left to try and get things back to normal.

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Obviously, there is quite a lot more of the plot to delve into… I’m just not doing that here. What I found interesting while watching Spider-Man: No Way Home was seeing how many of the fan theories were right and how many were wrong. I avoided as much about this film as I could before seeing it. I only watched the first trailer. But for the last few weeks, there have been all sorts of articles popping up from notable sites sharing various social media fan theories. As I said, it was interesting to see how right and wrong the fans were.

As for the film itself, you’ve got your usual MCU mix of action, drama and humour. Going into this film and knowing there were five villains (revealed in the trailers), I thought that was a bit overkill and could make the film feel over-bloated. Yet, if there is one thing the MCU writers have proven more than once, it is that they can really handle ensemble cast stories like this.

What could’ve been a very messy film ends up brilliantly crafted. The backstories of all the villains are handled well with some pretty sharp and clever dialogue. Parallels between events and histories of the characters are mentioned and dealt with in a way that forwards the main plot, while also working as a reminder for people who know of the other universes they are from. And yet, the writing is so well done that even if you don’t know who these characters are, you’re brought up to speed very quickly and it never feels intrusive or forced. The villains have little bits of banter between them that keeps the flow of the film moving, even when stopping to get all that exposition out of the way.

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Tom Holland proves how great he really is in the role here. Having to deal with some pretty astounding action and fight scenes, while also conveying some heavy, raw emotion during some of the non-action scenes. There are moments in Spider-Man: No Way Home that really do hit home that this Peter Parker kid is just that, a kid. This could almost be seen as a ‘coming of age’ story as by the time the end credits roll, you really get the feeling that Peter Parker’s life has changed massively and the future of Spider-Man is blown way open. In fact, this feels more like a Peter Parker film than a Spider-Man one. There’s a definite evolution of the character here and I think it’ll be really interesting to see just what Sony and Marvel have in store for the web-slinger from this point onwards.

Everybody playing the villains here brings their A-game. Alfred Molina as Doc Ock is simply brilliant… but he is really blown off the screen by Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin. Seeing these two on screen together though is utter bliss. Not just in terms of acting, but their characters finally meeting after so many years is amazing. They are also the two of the five villains that really do move the plot forward.

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Thomas Haden Church’s Sandman and Rhys Ifans’ The Lizard are characters that perhaps don’t get used as much as the other two and save for the final big fight, they really don’t have a great deal to do in terms of the main plot. Then there’s Jamie Foxx as Electro. When it comes to plot development, he’s more like the latter two villains, in that he doesn’t have as much to do as the former two. But he is also the funniest and the one that I couldn’t help but fall in love with quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he’s a useless comic foil, he actually kicks some serious bum-cheeks. But he is the funniest of the five and that really helped to make him very memorable.

For me, someone who really expected this to be a bit of a mess, I was impressed with just how tight Spider-Man: No Way Home was. Discounting the credits, the film has a runtime of around two-hours and fifteen minutes (give or take). I never felt that the film dragged in any way and the two-hour-plus runtime blisters along. Even when the film does ease up on its pacing, it never felt slow at all and this is most definitely well worth a watch.

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Of course, there is a lot of fan-service as the nods and references come thick and fast. Some work well, some really do feel a bit forced, yet nothing ever derails the story of the film. There are two credit scenes. One kind of ties up an interesting development from another credit scene from another film… while also setting up a huge possibility. The second is really just a trailer for the Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness film coming next year.

With Spider-Man: No Way Home now released and plans for not only more Spider-Man in the MCU but also Sony creating a Spider-verse (Venom, Morbius and more)… there’s really a lot to look forwards to in terms of the Spider-Man character. But yeah, this film was great. A fantastic way to round off the trilogy, while opening up for so much more to come. Go watch it. 

Movie Review: Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago – The Ultimate Director’s Cut

Well, it’s only a few days until Christmas now… yeah okay, I admit it. I forgot to do a Christmas article for this year. I usually plan and write my Christmas article(s) in early November but I’ve been too damn busy this year and I just plain forgot. Still, something Christmassy was released a while back that I could take a look at. Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago – The Ultimate Director’s Cut. See, during the whole lockdown/covid bollocks of 2020, Sylvester Stallone decided to do something with all the spare time he had, he thought it would be a good idea to go back to his 1985 Rocky IV film and re-edit it on what would’ve been the film’s thirty-fifth anniversary.

We all know the plot of Rocky IV, don’t we? A big, nasty Russian boxer man comes to America and kills Apollo Creed in the ring. Rocky Balboa gets upset and agrees to fight the Russian boxer man in Russia on Christmas Day. See… Christmassy, it counts.

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Anyway, I adore the Rocky films. For me, creating Rocky Balboa was the greatest thing that Stallone ever did. That character is one of the most charming, endearing and loveable ever captured on screen. There isn’t a Rocky film I outright dislike but my least favourite, if pushed, is most definitely Rocky IV. Yeah, I know that popular fan opinion would be more than happy to get in the ring with me and fight it out over my view.

I don’t dislike Rocky IV at all, I think it’s a good, stupid, over the top, riot of a film. But I’ve always considered it the black sheep of the franchise because it was so stupidly over the top. Every other film in the franchise has been grounded in a level of believable verisimilitude. Even when being a bit silly (see the Rocky vs Thunderlips fight in Rocky III), it still always felt relatable and grounded.

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With Rocky IV though, it was typical eighties cheese. The previous film’s heart had been replaced with a huge dose of ‘America is the greatest country in the world’ hyperbole. That human element of the Rocky character was gone, paving the way for ham-fisted Cold War propaganda. Sure, Rocky IV is a fun movie… it’s s just a very stupid Rocky flick.

When Stallone announced he was going to do a director’s cut of Rocky IV, I honestly couldn’t muster up the interest to even give it the time of day. Then I read a headline of an article covering the new cut that claimed Stallone would be cutting the fucking annoying robot out completely. That one headline was enough to pique my interest. If Sly was going to cut that, what else was going to be cut and what would replace it? The weeks passed and then, a trailer for this new version was released, along with a new title that’s a hell of a mouthful. Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago – The Ultimate Director’s Cut. I watched the trailer and my previously piqued interest was piqued further.

In that trailer, I saw more of the human factor that I loved about the Rocky franchise. There seemed to be more drama, more dialogue… even from Drago. That is what was missing from the original cut, those human moments. The original cut was about being big, loud, brash and bombastic. This new cut seemed to be far more character-driven and I liked it. I’m not saying that there were no character-driven scenes in the original cut, I’m just saying there weren’t enough of them.

So yeah, after not being all that interested in this new version, I suddenly had a serious drive to want to see it. So I did… hence this review. Just to get in the mood and also as a refresher. I watched the original cut first. As I said, Rocky IV is my least favourite of the franchise and while I have seen it a few times, I’ve watched it far less than the others. So I thought it would be best to rewatch the original before the director’s cut. After watching the original film… I still think it is a stupidly dumb but fun flick. But onto the main event.

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Now, I’m not going to cover every difference between the original and this new cut. I’ve read that forty minutes were cut and forty-two minutes added. Plus there are alternate takes and shots of scenes from the original cut too. There are quite a few changes both big and small. As I say, I’m going to cover all of the additions and changes but I will take a look at the ones I feel make the film feel different.

So, the film opens with a seven-minute recap of events from Rocky III. This change from the intro of the original is a bit of a double-edged sword. I felt that seven minutes of the previous film was a bit too much but on the other hand, it does help to get the Rocky and Apollo relationship across… which is pretty important for what does happen in the film later. Plus, this version also cuts out the secret Rocky vs Apollo fight and all references to it too, a bad cut in my opinion.

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Yes, that fucking annoying robot is gone and that’s a good thing. The bad side to this piece of film exorcising though does mean less Paulie and I really do love the Paulie character. In place of the robot scenes are more human moments. More scenes with Rocky and Adrian, more scenes with Apollo talking about the Drago fight and so on. Adrian herself has more to do in this cut and it all just feels more grounded now.

The montages are all still here too, they had to be really. No Easy Way Out, Burning Heart and the Hearts on Fire montages have been recut, there’s some editing changes and new scenes added to them. Those changes don’t really alter the montages too much though but they do add a bit more gravitas.

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The Apollo vs Drago fight has some new footage and is more brutal. However, new footage added gives Apollo more of a chance here. In the original, he just straight up gets destroyed. In this new cut, Apollo fights back more, lands more punches and generally, it feels more like an actual boxing match over a complete destruction. There are also some very small changes that feel right. Like when Apollo is lying in the ring dying. In the original cut, the Russians seem quite nonchalant about it. Here, it shows them to be more shocked. Plus, Rocky throwing in the towel has been edited to make it seem like he was just too late as opposed to being too stupid in the original cut.

The Apollo funeral scene has an extended speech by Duke and the previously silent Rocky now delivers his own eulogy that helps reinforce their friendship as he takes the blame for his Apollo’s death. This feels so much better in terms of character development and really helps play on the guilt of the character. There’s also the inclusion of a scene where Rocky talks to the boxing commission over the whole fight against Drago. Something that was missing from the original as it was just a fight that went ahead with zero questioning. Here, it is covered how dangerous Drago is and that perhaps Rocky shouldn’t go ahead with the fight. It’s shown in the trailer too, but there’s a bit where it is brought up how Drago has only had one professional fight and one man is dead. You know what, that’s actually a bloody good point to highlight in a boxing match.

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One of the biggest changes in the film is the fact that the Russians are far less stereotypical eighties bad guys. Don’t get me wrong, they are still not exactly pleasant and you’ll never be rooting for them. Yet, they do come across as actual characters now instead of just 2D caricatures. Drago has a few more lines of dialogue and this helps to flesh him out a bit more. He feels more like the Drago from Creed II now, and I think that may have been Stallone’s intention all along with this cut, to make it feel more like the other films in the series. For the most part, it does just that too. It’ll never be as grounded or gritty as other films in the franchise but this cut does get it as close it probably could be.

The big fight at the end is also re-edited. Subtle changes like different angles and shots. Even the ending has been changed. When Rocky wins, in the original cut, the Mikhail Gorbachev lookalike stands up and claps, cheering Rocky on. That doesn’t happen here. Instead, he stands up with his entourage and walks out. For me, this makes more sense that he would be disgusted with Rocky winning over lauding him as a hero. Rocky’s speech is also different with some new lines about Apollo and it feels a lot less cheesy overall.

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There’s also a nice shot of Rocky leaving the ring and tapping gloves with Drago to show respect from fighter to fighter. Now, I’m not sure if that was a character moment for the film or just behind the scenes footage of Stallone out of character thanking Lundgren as an actor after a difficult shoot. Either way, it really works.

It’s not all just visual changes though. The sound editing and mixing has been altered too. Some of it is very subtle and unless you do a back to back watch, as I did, then you’re not really going to notice much. But things like the sound effects of the punches are more ‘realistic’ I guess. The original cut opens with Eye of the Tiger but this cut ends with it instead. There are a few other musical edits and changes throughout the film.

Overall, I felt this new cut was far better than the original. It’s still a bit of a silly film and perhaps that really is part of its charm. The changes here make the film feel just a bit less eighties cheese and you do get a better sense of the character’s emotions. I don’t think that every change is for the best though, we do get less Paulie due to the robot being cut. Some edits really made no sense to me, for instance, when in Russia and Paulie is going on his rant over the shack they are staying in, he says the line “We’ll crack out here.”. It’s a very Paulie thing to say, yet it has been cut in this version and I don’t know why.

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Brigitte Nielsen has pretty much been cut out of the film entirely. She is still here, just about, but her screen time has been massively cut down from the original. I’ll need to double-check but I think she now only has two lines of dialogue in the whole film and one of those is off-screen. To me, this feels a bit petty on Sly’s part as if it is some kind of revenge over their very public relationship breakdown. Especially given how important her character is to the plot and Drago as a character. We get more Dolph Lundgren instead, which isn’t a bad thing but does bring me to a notable point.

The runtime between the two cuts is pretty much the same at around ninety minutes. I feel this ultimate director’s cut (as it is called) should’ve been closer to a two-hour cut. Instead of Stallone cutting scenes and replacing them, I don’t see why some of the old scenes couldn’t have been kept to complement the newer ones. Why cut and have less Brigitte Nielsen and replace her with more Dolph Lundgren instead of having both? In short, this really doesn’t feel very ‘ultimate’ at all, I think there’s still a better cut of the film that could be made here. I’m sure a fan will do their own edit in time that does feel more ultimate.

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As I have already said, Rocky IV is my least favourite and least watched of the main films. I’d be more than happy to sit through this (full title) Rocky IV: Rocky Vs. Drago – The Ultimate Director’s Cut again over the original version though. It still has some of that silliness and eighties cheese but it feels more refined. This version is still a bit rough in places due to Stallone’s insistence of removing scenes completely, instead of using them to work with the new ones and I do think this would’ve worked better with a longer runtime.

There is a workprint of Rocky V on the interwebs too. A rough version with deleted scenes. I’m one of the few that actually liked Rocky V (I did start writing an article that I need to finish). It had some stupid moments sure, but it felt that the film worked and was a great down to Earth moment for the characters after the events of Rocky IV. I’d like to see Stallone’s re-edit of that next. Still, that could be a bit too much of an ask what with Sage Stallone playing his son and all. but yeah, I really liked this new cut of Rocky IV and think it’s well worth a watch.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.