Movie Review: Scream

I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Scream franchise. The first film did feel fresh and slightly unique at the time. Though personally speaking, I’ve always felt that Wes Craven did the whole self-referential, meta-horror film thing far better a couple of years earlier with New Nightmare.

Anyway, I did enjoy the first Scream and it reinvigorated the dying slasher sub-genre by poking a very self-referential finger at it. Watching the first film now, it feels very cliché but at the time, it really was quite a revelation to the horror genre. Scream 2 decided to take on the topic of sequels with its meta writing. Scream 3 tackled the horror trilogy, while Scream 4 poked fun at horror remakes. The first film really was quite brilliant, the first sequel was okay but the concept was already beginning to feel stale. The third and fourth films, which I have seen, I couldn’t tell you a thing about them as they were so unforgettable and tired.

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Now twenty-six years after that first iconic movie comes Scream 5… or just Scream as it is titled. My dislike for movies that fuck up their titles like this aside, this fifth film also has a horror film subject as it attempts to make light of, the reboot/sequel… or requel as the kids say these days.

Okay, so I’m not doing spoilers here, so this is safe to read if you have not yet seen Scream… the fifth film, not the original film.

Scream wastes no time in getting to the meta writing as it opens up with what is basically a remake of the opening scene from the original film… as seen in the trailer. Let this set the tone for what this film is. A film that very heavily references the first film while trying to be new. Scream falls into the whole legacy sequel thing that is on-trend right now. A sequel to a film from a few decades ago trying to breathe new life into an older franchise.

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This being a Scream film means it can have a bit more fun with that idea thanks to its meta writing. Of course there is a scene where people sit around and talk about requels. Of course there’s a reference to ‘passing the torch’. Of course there is the return of some of the original cast to show the newbies how it’s done. The trouble is, this shit just isn’t fresh anymore, it’s about twenty-six years out of date.

So the basic plot of Scream is that the in-universe film series, called Stab, is floundering now it is at its eighth instalment, stylised as Sta8 (poking fun that Scream 4 was stylised as Scre4m). As the Stab films are (now) very loosely based on the events derived from the first film and are not very good, as they have begun to take severe liberties… like giving the killer a flamethrower. So someone decides to restart the famed Ghostface killings and teens begin to turn up dead so that perhaps the Stab films will have something new and realistic to be based on. Dewey has become a recluse after his divorce from Gale but the teens convince him to look into Ghostface attacks. Dewey gets in contact with both Sidney and Gale and the trio turn up to sort things out.

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That is your basic plot, though there are a few more spoilery details that I’m skipping over. How best to sum up Scream? It’s a Scream sequel… that’s about it. The film isn’t terribly awful but it doesn’t really do anything you haven’t already seen before… especially if you have watched the Scream sequels before it. David Arquette’s Dewey is by far the best character in the franchise and it is great to see him back here. It’s also a very different Dewey who has changed following the events of the franchise. He is no longer the goofy Deputy Sheriff of Woodsboro, he’s actually pretty bad-ass here, while being a broken man. Then you have Courteney Cox as Gale Weathers and she is still a bit bitchy if not just a tad softer when she wants to be. Yes, Sidney Prescott is back and played by Neve Campbell and she is fine I guess. But if anyone is the standout here, then that has to be David Arquette.

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The new cast are your typical teens played by people way too old to be playing teens. I don’t even think I could tell you one of the new character’s names off the top of my head because they are so stereotypical and bland. The only name I remember is a character called Wes and that is because I’m pretty sure he is a reference to the series’ original director and master of the horror genre, Wes Craven. Wes isn’t behind the camera for this one as he sadly passed away back in 2015.

Scream has a multitude of references and throwbacks to the first film. There are some subtle and not so subtle returns of some other characters from the original. Plus the fact that this is set in Woodsboro once more, you’ll also get to see some familiar locations. This almost feels like one of those legacy sequels that ignores the franchise’s other sequels… almost. There are returning characters from Scream 4, so the events of the other films most definitely did happen. In this regard, Scream kind of feels like Ghostbusters: Afterlife in how that film heavily referenced the first film but mostly ignored Ghostbusters II… even though Ghostbusters II did happen. Scream just references Scream (see the issue with the title?) more so than the other films in the series and this makes it feel like it is ignoring the other sequels when it isn’t.

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This isn’t a scary film at all but then again, I don’t think the Scream films ever really were. There are quite a few bloody kills but those feel very ‘seen it all before’ as there really is only a handful of ways to kill someone with a knife. People get stabbed in the neck, in the back, in the chest, in the legs. There is nothing imaginative or creative in any of the death scenes (or the fakeouts) at all. The surprises are minimal and you should be able to work out who the killer is before you get to the halfway point, especially if you have seen any of the previous films in the franchise and know all the signs and false signs.

It is the writing of the Scream films where the real attraction lies. The meta humour, nods and references to other horror films, the ‘satirical’ sideways look at the horror genre. Yes, Scream has this in spades but very rarely does it feel like the writing pops in the same way it did in the first, and for most of the second film. The concept of the meta-horror film has been done to death and Scream really doesn’t do anything worthy with it here. For me, the whole meta-horror film idea peaked with Scream 2 and never really got any better.

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There were a few lines and references here that kind of worked but for the most part, it was tiresome and predictable with a lot of recycling tired, old ideas without a sense of irony. Yes, the title of Scream (instead of Scream 5) gets a reference. There is a bit of dialogue calling out ‘toxic fans’ in what felt like a preemptive attempt at shielding against the negative press this film could quite easily amass. Yet, Scream has been getting loads of massively positive press and I can not work out why. The film is okay at best. I loved the first film, the first sequel was pretty damn decent too. After that, they got a bit ‘meh’ and this sequel is very much at that level of quality. Scream is Scream 3 & 4 okay-ish and not Scream 1 & 2 levels of cleverness.

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If you are a die-hard fan of the franchise, you’ll probably get more out of this than I did. I got a very okay film with a concept that just feels outdated now. Scream movies put me in mind of knock-knock jokes. The subject may change but the structure, the delivery and the payoff is always the same. Still, as annoying as the title Scream is for the fifth film, at least they didn’t call it 5cream.

Movie Review: The Matrix Resurrections

Well, it’s finally here. After an eighteen-year gap from The Matrix Revolutions, Mr Anderson is back.. but was it worth the wait? Okay, I’m not doing spoilers here so this is a safe review to read. Still, I would recommend just going into The Matrix Resurrections as blind as possible and avoiding any reviews.

Not only is this film one of those legacy sequels that seem to be all the rage these days. This The Matrix flick also joins the list of brilliant film sequels that uses the ‘resurrection’ subtitle. I mean…

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Surely The Matrix Resurrections can’t be this bad… can it? I often find these legacy sequels follow similar paths, high on the nostalgia and references, while lacking any real substance of its own. The Matrix really did change cinema back when it was released in 1999. Every other film released for a few years had some kind of reference or joke that was The Matrix influenced. Several filmmakers tried to emulate the style of the then Wachowski brothers, see movies like Equilibrium or even the Keanu Reeves starring John Wick trilogy. Films that used sci-fi or action… or both to stylistic effect. If there was one thing that The Matrix oozed, it was style.

Of course, under all of that style was some ‘effing awesome substance too. The Wachowskis created a hell of a world with the first film, a film that got a lot of people theorising, analysing and talking for years, even today. I was lucky enough to see The Matrix on the big screen when it was released. It was a film I knew nothing about, I hadn’t even seen a trailer. It was released at a time when Keanu Reeves’ career was pretty much dead, so nobody really paid it any attention. It was topped off with a lot of unknown or forgotten about actors. Honestly, back in 1999, The Matrix was a massive underdog of a picture that people didn’t expect anything from… especially me. Yet, I came out of that cinema and said that this film would be our generation’s Star Wars. A comment I still stand by and one I feel that became true in many ways. Star Wars had legacy sequels too… ones that (perhaps) didn’t really please the fans of the franchise.

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As for the sequels to The Matrix, they are largely detested. For me, I thought they were fine. hardly as groundbreaking as the original. Yet, since when have sequels ever been better than the original? It happens yeah but it is very, very rare. I thought that The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions were okay films. I don’t outright love the sequels as I do with the first film, nor do I outright hate them like so many fans do. So yeah, I’m kind of going into this film with an open mind. I’m not full of hate that we have another sequel, I’m not exactly full of hope because these legacy sequels (or just sequels in general) rarely turn out great.

Well, it’s time to see just how good or bad The Matrix Resurrections is. Again, I’m not doing spoilers here, other than mentioning things already seen in the trailers, so I can’t really go into depth with the plot here. I’ll just copy & paste a synopsis that I found to cover the basics.

To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, Mr. Anderson, aka Neo, will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. If he’s learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of – or into – the Matrix. Neo already knows what he has to do, but what he doesn’t yet know is that the Matrix is stronger, more secure and far more dangerous than ever before.

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Anyway, the first thirty minutes or so of The Matrix Resurrections is full of self-gratification, meta, sucking its own dick, ‘aren’t we clever’, non-stop references to the first three films. All legacy sequels do this, they can never just be their own thing, they have to lay on the nostalgia trip hard and heavy. The Matrix Resurrections does this harder and heavier than most other films if its ilk. I had a few niggles with Ghostbusters: Afterlife for doing the same thing (especially the ending), this film though? It takes that shit to whole new levels of unbelievable forced nostalgia. The Matrix Resurrections feels like it’s trying to be clever… and failing hard. There were times during the first half an hour when I could feel my eyes rolling, as if they had a mind of their own. It really is quite sickening how much ‘look at me, I’m a sequel to a popular film’ that this does do.

From lines of dialogue that are either taken directly from the previous films, lines that are similar but slightly altered to other lines like “Reboots sell” that force what the film is down your throat. Subtle scenes that echo those from the previous films or reference events. Neo eating noodles in a local restaurant, etc. Yup, this film really does its very best to let you know that you are watching a sequel to a massively popular film that has had a good few years gap between. Honestly, I really was getting a bit angry at just how ham-fisted The Matrix Resurrections was being with its blatant callbacks and references.

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After all of that self dick sucking though and when the plot began proper, once they got all of the front end heavy nostalgia crap out of the way… the film seriously kicks up a gear. Not only that, all of that shit in the opening suddenly began to make a lot more sense. This wasn’t forced nostalgia just for the sake of having it, just to keep ramming it down your throat that you are watching a sequel to a film that’s a couple of decades old. What first felt like a film trying to be clever and failing, soon felt like a genuinely clever film. It feels… well I guess it feels very The Matrix. The opening thirty to forty minutes began to feel like it was making fun of legacy sequels that do the nostalgia trip thing. It got most of that crap out of the way in the opening so it could get into the main story proper, all while still having some importance on the actual plot too.

The think the best way to describe The Matrix Resurrections, without going into deep spoilers, is by linking to this officially released trailer. That way, you can choose to click on it and reveal more about the plot of the film, still without spoilers. But there is just enough there to get the theme and concept of just WTF is going on, still using what is known about the universe that the films take place in.

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How and why both Neo and Trinity are brought back (they were most definitely dead at the end of The Matrix Revolutions) makes sense within the universe that these films exist. Are they even the original characters, are they some kind of program, are they real? That’s the beauty of The Matrix as a franchise, it is pretty much limitless and with some thought behind the writing, you can really do anything. What Lana Wachowski has created here is pretty damn impressive given the legacy these films have created. There have even been questions of whether The Matrix Resurrections is a sequel at all. If you have seen the trailers, then you’ll know there’s a lot of reusing certain shots, effects and iconography that makes this feel like it is some kind of a remake… I can’t really get into that without spoiling the plot. All I can tell you is that this film has a lot more depth than it first appears to.

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Of course, you have stylised action. There are mass shootouts, “I still know kung-fu” fight scenes, vehicle chases and so on. In this regard, The Matrix Resurrections does very well indeed. It’ll never be as groundbreaking as the first film was, you just can’t capture lightning in a bottle twice. Still, the action here is very well done and while hardy original anymore. still manages to impress. There’s a scene that involves an interesting new look at bullet-time which is also used to deliver a hell of a lot of exposition too. A kind of a slow, race against time action scene that is packed with urgency… just presented in a very slow way. It’s certainly an interesting twist on what we have seen before. As the trailers show, there’s new Morpheus. Once it is explained why, it makes perfect sense. There are several returning characters from the previous films some very much expected, some genuine surprises.

There really is a lot here to talk about, I just can’t as I’m not doing spoilers. I think this is a film that’ll need more than one viewing to get the most out of it too. Not because The Matrix Resurrections is confusing or anything, it’s really not. If you could follow the first film, you can follow this. The multiple viewings will really be because there’s a lot of little details here, a lot of nuances that need your full attention and I’m pretty sure there are things I missed when I watched.

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I went into this film, not dismayed but definitely weary and unsure if I should even bother with it. By the time the end credits rolled, I was pretty damn happy. The Matrix Resurrections takes what we already know about the world and updates it for a more modern era. Some great action, balanced out with more character-driven and story elements. Not as amazing as the original but a very worthy sequel in its own right. It does sequel-bait at the end and there’s a very pointless ‘comical’ end credits scene that you really don’t need to see. But yeah, I say give this one a view.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.