The Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982)

golden cobraSteven Spielberg’s classic Raiders of the Lost Ark has seen its fair share of imitators and blatant knock-offs, certainly during the early 80’s when it was fresh. In this case, we have an Italian-made knock-off that plays out like a made-for-TV film. It’s essentially a low-budget knock-off of Indiana Jones, but with only tiny fraction of the charm. It’s pretty silly on the whole, and to be completely honest, it’s not that great of a matinee film, considering how much it looks like a cheaply made carbon copy.

The film’s story, which is set in 1944, involves two textbook action heroes, an typically rugged American solider named Bob Jackson, and a stereotypically British intelligence agent David Franks. Together they’re on a mission in the Philippines to track down an ancient relic called the Golden Cobra, teaming up with a woman searching for her missing sister.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about the story, but it’s a bit jumbled and gets off to a frenetic and silly start. It’s mildly entertaining for a while, but then get into a lot of weird nonsense that seems like it was jammed into the film in order to distinguish it from Indiana Jones, which ultimately fails because the film is so much like Indiana Jones and so cliché-ridden that it’s downright comical. Even the climactic final showdown is rendered impotent by poor choreography.

The characters are pretty much plain stock characters, but they have their quirky moments. Indeed, the British character was so ridiculous that he’s actually moderately funny. However the film is ruined by some terribly bad acting. A lot of the characters come across as remarkably hammy, like they got people who don’t do much acting, and only did one take. It also sounds like they dubbed the voices over the movie. I assume this to be the case, given that the film was originally released in Italy and eventually got an English language release a few years later. I also noticed that there are a number of background characters that look like they don’t really belong in the film, like a sailor who looks a bit like John Candy.

I have to assume the film must have had a low budget, because the film looks cheaply made. I’m not sure, but I think there might have been a few cardboard props. Unique to this film, however, is that sometimes you’ll see a few scenes that are kind of like spaghetti Western scenes (specifically, these are gunplay scenes), just a lot cheesier. Everything in the film is the cheesier version of Indiana Jones, like taking a loving tribute to old school B-movie and turning it into an actual C-movie.

I’m not entirely sure if this film could have been much better, considering it’s basically a knock-off. In other words, this film was clearly pointless. I sometimes wonder why I subject my eyes and ears to films like these, perhaps so you don’t have to. Either way, if only I were paid to this.

  • Score: 48%
  • Grade: D

Weird Science (1985)

movie_poster_for_weird_science_1985Weird Science was very much a film that was emblematic of the bizarre excesses of Hollywood in the 1980’s. It’s ridiculous, it’s loaded with kitsch, and the story seems to be over the place. Sometimes that can make a film so goofy that it’s downright irresistible, but that’s not the case here in Weird Science, which simply hasn’t aged that well compared to other films from the mid-80’s.

The plot is essentially a typical teen comedy, revolving around two awkward teenagers named Gary and Wyatt, who have no luck with women, but they’re swooning over the girlfriends of two boorish Neanderthals who consistently humiliate them. Disappointed with their lot in life, they use Wyatt’s computer to create their ideal woman, who is brought to life after a lightning strike. The woman, who comes to be known as Lisa, begins to teach the boys self-confidence, but not without a slew of zany shenanigans ensuing along the way.

It’s not too much like John Hughes’ other films (which I tend to be sharply critical of), but like the rest, the film revels in Hughes’ consistent romanticising of the dreaded teen phase. As if teen films weren’t already unbelievable, this film pretty much demands suspension of disbelief, as much of the plot raises several questions that I’m sure none of the writers will have any answer for aside from “it’s just a stupid movie”. Nothing about it makes sense, but I’m quite sure that it’s not supposed to. At least this film had the good fortune of being made in a time where you could get away with it.

The acting certainly doesn’t help the cause by much. The actors aren’t particularly bad, but they aren’t exactly high-calibre performers either. They’re essentially actors stuck in a brainless genre that limits their potential. I should give some kudos to the film for using actual teenage actors in the lead roles, unlike the majority of teen films which use actors in their early 20’s, or older for all I know. The characters themselves aren’t particularly likable, and Lisa is perhaps the least convincing character by her very nature as an artificial woman.

If the film has any redeeming virtues, it’s that it at least had good production, as John Hughes films generally did for their time. The film also made wildly liberal use of special effects, and they become more common towards the end of the film as the more nonsensical scenes play out. Of course, the film isn’t bereft of humour, which is fortunate for a film that’s supposed to be billed as a comedy film. It’s not as funny as it perhaps ought to have been, but there are parts of the film that are rib-ticklingly funny, but those are few and far between.

In conclusion, this is a film that very much belongs in its time. I remember hearing that there was a remake in the works, but nobody would really want it. It just wouldn’t work in my time, not just because it’s too cheesy, but also because Hollywood doesn’t know how to write comedies anymore. I dare say that a modern Weird Science would turn out to be even more juvenile than the film we got, and more reprehensibly irritating as a result. This film, thankfully isn’t that bad, but it’s age shows in too many ways.

  • Score: 58%
  • Grade: D

Inception (2010)

inception_2010_theatrical_posterGiven Christopher Nolan’s solid treatment of The Dark Knight, one might think that his artistic intent could translate into something bold and original. That certainly seems to have been the intention behind Inception, and the mainstream critics ate up the hype even as they were building it up. Of course, I’m always sceptical of films that got a lot of hype. Even when I was 16 and Inception was new, I got the feeling that they were overselling it, and watching the film again I felt I was right. Overhyped, overrated, and astoundingly pretentious, Inception is a textbook example of a film that got a lot of hype when it was new, did well in the box office, but when the hype was over nobody cared, probably because Inception wasn’t very good in the first place.

The story is perhaps the most immediate gripe I have with the film, but before I go into why, I’ll try and explain it. The premise revolves around a Dominick Cobb, a professional thief who steals people’s information by infiltrating their dreams (the film tries to explain it, but does a poor job of it). His job involves projecting himself into people’s minds, and by doing so, he can obtain information that even the most skilled computer hackers can’t. When Cobb fails an assignment, he is offered the chance to have his criminal history erased as payment for a task that seems impossible – planting a new idea into a target’s mind. Cobb and his crew have everything they need to carry out the task, but the only thing complicating matters is a projection of Cobb’s dead wife, emerging from his subconscious.

That’s about a simple as I can describe a plot as insanely muddled as Inception’s plot is. I remembering hearing that the film’s plot is so complicated that you can’t even take a bathroom break if you want to understand what’s going on. I’m sure that sounds exaggerated, but the film certainly has an extremely complicated plot. It’s the kind of film that tries to sound intelligent, but just because the premise of a film is ludicrously complicated doesn’t make a film intelligent. In fact, much of the film’s 148-minute length is spent explaining the film. I would argue that any film that has to spend much of its runtime explaining itself is hardly intelligent. To be fair, I think the film could have implemented its ideas well had Christopher Nolan stuck with his plan to make it as a horror film about dream thieves. The film’s cerebral ideas find themselves wasted in a heist film, and a very pretentious one too.

Believe it or not, the film’s ensemble cast isn’t that effective. The performances weren’t bad, but I wasn’t very impressed, mainly because I see it as typical Hollywood overacting. Leonardo diCaprio is perhaps the most obvious example. Throughout his career diCaprio has depended his looks for success, and I’m pretty sure the same applies here because diCaprio isn’t a very convincing actor. Maybe I’m just too much of a demanding viewer, or more likely, I simply don’t like him, but whatever the reason, I can’t find myself getting invested in his character, and maybe that’s because his character was never really likeable in the first place.

Of course, the film did have incredibly high production values on its side, and with its massive $160 million budget that’s understandable, but I find that the film looks and sounds inescapably hollow. Perhaps the only part of the film most people got (and the most heavily promoted scene) was the scene where part of a road folds. It is a rather impressive display of CGI, but the problem is that most of the film feels inorganic, perhaps because the film is loaded with CGI. Even some of the fight scenes were done with CGI. It almost feels like a glossier version of The Matrix, but loaded with explanations that make no sense no matter how hard Leonardo diCaprio tries to convince you of it.

Though not a completely terrible film, Inception is what happens when film directors get too full of themselves. They lose grasp of what makes sense on screen and the resulting film is very big, bloated and pompous. Of course, the more popular a director becomes, the more mainstream that director’s work becomes, and clearly Inception was Nolan’s attempt at a boldly avant-garde thriller film, but it winds up being such a painfully mainstream Hollywood film that its a mirror image of the very character of Hollywood, with its head stuck firmly up in the clouds.

  • Score: 56%
  • Grade: D

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

sword_and_the_sorcererposterA lot of American fantasy films back in the 1980’s essentially boiled down to Conan the Barbarian clones, and sadly this film was no exception. As implied by its very title, The Sword and the Sorcerer is basically a by-the-numbers sword-and-sorcery fantasy film, with all the tropes that one might expect, and there isn’t a lot that makes up for it either, save for one rather mediocre gimmick. It wouldn’t have been too bad as a made-for-TV movie, and might have actually been better as a TV show, but as a feature film, it is very underwhelming.

The story of this film sees the fictional, prosperous kingdom of Ehdan being taken over by the brutal despot Titus Cromwell, who uses the power of the sorcerer Xusia of Delos to take over the kingdom with little opposition. Years later, a young mercenary named Talos, who wields a three-bladed sword that can fire off its extra blades with the push of a button, discovers that he was a prince of Ehdan, and takes on a quest to help the princess Alana rescue her brother Mikah and restore the kingdom, and exchange he will have one night in bed with her.

It is pretty much typical a fantasy yarn, but if there’s anything good about it, it would be the fact that it’s only 99 minutes long, and that’s not saying much, considering the film’s meandering pace. The story is boring, but it’s not tastelessly bad. It’s the kind of writing I would probably expect from a TV show, which is a shame because I haven’t seen many TV shows like it. Not even the few interesting twists (and believe me, there are) can save a mediocre plot from the clutches of its own mediocrity. Also, the three-bladed sword literally across as a pointless gimmick. I’m a connoisseur of fantasy, and even I can’t suspend my disbelief for this, and if a sword that fires extra blades like missiles doesn’t convince a fantasy nut, you know you’ve failed.

The characters aren’t too convincing either. The hero of the story comes across as the producers’ attempt at creating a knock-off Han Solo and failing. Given that the man playing him, Lee Horsley, had plenty of experience as a TV actor, his character might have worked better on TV than on film. I can say the same thing for the other characters, who seem to have been written rather lazily as clichéd stock characters. The acting is fairly decent, but it’s the at least they’re trying kind of acting, and it’s not that hard to tell in this film.

The special effects aren’t too bad, but they aren’t exactly stellar either. The film looks and sounds like a made-for-TV production, just with a bigger budget than most. The music sounds rather generic, but then, the action scenes have the same quality, with an added air of ridiculousness. How am I meant to believe that the hero, after being crucified, can muster up the strength to free himself without causing unbearable pain to himself? All in all, while not a terrible disaster of a film, it certainly wasn’t very good either, and it seems more like a disservice to a genre already stuffed with cheap genre films.

  • Score: 58%
  • Grade: D

The Witches (1966)

witchesThe thing about older horror movies, especially those from as far back as fifty years ago, is that they rarely if ever hold up, and are mostly relegated to the realm of the camp, accidentally comical B-movies. If nothing else, this film is a textbook example of a typical Hammer horror film from after the studio’s prime, and it’s about as bland as it can get in a cheesy horror film with little actual horror.

The film’s story revolves around a British school teacher who at the start of the film is working in Africa as a missionary. During a rebellion led by witch doctors, she suffers a nervous breakdown after being exposed to witchcraft. After recovering back home in England, she takes a teaching job in a small country town, only to find out that the town is home to a coven of witches who plan to sacrifice a local girl for their ritual.

I’m not exactly a fan of occult horror films, mainly because the point of those films is to make anything to do with the occult seem scary, when you know it’s not. If anything, these films tend to be tedious, boring, cheesy, or a combination of all three. From my experience, they typically have a slow pace, and this film is definitely no exception. In this film, these clichés make it practically boring, coupled with its slow pace and meandering plot.

The premise itself isn’t entirely bad, but its boring, and the characters don’t exactly help. They seem a lot like stock characters, or at least characters that are very typical of the kind of film we’re looking at. The performances were certainly lackluster, bereft of much of the qualities that make for a convincing performance. I found it rather difficult to comment on the script, as I often do, but it certainly seems as if they didn’t try very hard on this one, especially given the hackneyed, unentertaining witchcraft scenes.

The production values are certainly very typical of a mid-60’s Hammer Horror film, and as one might expect, it comes across as rather dated, but not in the endearing way. In fact, it’s the kind of film that looks like it wasn’t much when it was new, perhaps valued by the producers only as a star vehicle and then quickly forgotten by all except die-hard Hammer junkies and fans of Joan Fontaine.

The special effects aren’t that great, resembling basically the kind of standard fare that now looks comical. At least one can safely say they got a few laughs out of it, because there are certainly no scares to be found. That’s the very odd thing about these kinds of horror films, they age very quickly and are quickly forgotten about, probably because the vast majority of them weren’t great to begin with. The same is true with this rather mediocre film, which marinated in its clichés and did nothing to innovate in a genre that clearly needed it, and that perhaps is the film’s most egregious failure.

  • Score: 56%
  • Grade: D

Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma (1989)

curse_of_the_yomaThis film is a strange case, mainly because, believe it or not, it wasn’t originally released as a film. It was originally two episodes of an original video animation (or OVA) back in 1989, but they were later compiled into a single movie when released on DVD, so for all intents and purposes, this is a made-for-TV anime movie, and in many ways, it certainly shows.

The overall plot concerns the rise of demons (or Yoma in this film), fuelled by the spilt blood of warriors slain amidst a terrible war ravaging the land. A skilled ninja named Hikage seeks to end the bloodshed and stop the Yoma from wreaking destruction on humanity, but he must fight his deceased friend, a fellow ninja named Marou who was killed in battle, and resurrected in order to serve the Yoma.

That summary alone glosses over a very muddled and disorganised plot that essentially jumps from one formulaic and impotent fight scene to the next, in a sort of “monster of the moment” fashion, with no real thread tying everything together. In an action-oriented anime film, you’d think that it’d be a good thing to have lots and lots of violent action scenes, but the film does this so sloppily that it’s downright boring, and that’s such as shame because it seems as if it could easily have been good if done properly.

Another problem is the characters. They’re incredibly hard to take seriously, and that’s mainly because of the horrendously bad English dub, which makes the characters sound very ridiculous with wooden acting. As I may have mentioned in a few other reviews, this is pretty common in older anime films, and in this one, it makes the film sound comical. Sadly, this isn’t the kind of film that sought to take advantage of accidental humour. I’m sure the original Japanese voice acting is much better (I hope), because in English, it sounds like everyone’s shouting out what the protagonist should do next, either because the script was poorly translated, or because it was bad in the first place.

The art style isn’t bad. It’s typical of anime from the 80’s and early 90’s, but it looked pretty good, but the problem is the choppy animation. In at least one scene, Hikage is seen talking to and old man, and the old man’s lips don’t even move. Very often it seems as if this was sloppily made, as if rushed in order to meet a rather slim deadline. I guess the music sort of makes up for it, in its own somewhat cheesy way, but it doesn’t make up for everything else. The action scenes should have been very good, but because of the choppy direction and bad writing, they’re boring and ineffectual.

Why they decided to merge two TV episodes into a movie simply baffles me. It certainly has all the hallmarks of a mediocre TV production, and barely qualifies as a movie. Either way, this film should have been better, and I was hoping it would be good, but apparently the producers were a bit too incompetent for that to happen, and what we have is an inferior film that leaves very much to be desired.

  • Score: 52%
  • Grade: D

Cool World (1992)

Cool_WorldFor the past few years there’s been one animator who I’ve come to admire, the legendary Ralph Bakshi. Unfortunately, while I admire much of his work (for instance, Wizards was particularly influential on me and remains so to this day), I can’t exactly say the same for his last feature film, which was something of a legendary flop. Savaged by critics and gunned down in the box office, Cool World was intended to be an animated horror film, but it ended up being a cautionary tale about the horrors of executive meddling, and the disaster that ensued effectively drove one of the great geniuses of animation out of the business. If you ask me, that might as well be the film’s sole accomplishment.

Before I talk about what the film ought to have been, let’s look at the film as it is. The film revolves around Holli Would, a sultry cartoon temptress who resides in the eponymous Cool World, the realm of the cartoon characters. Holli wants nothing more than to be human, and she gets her chance when a cartoonist named Jack Deebs gets sucked into her world. The only way she can achieve her dream is if the two enter in carnal embrace with each other, thereby breaking the oldest law in Cool World (“noids and doodles can’t have sex”), and drawing the attention of detective Frank Harris, who wants to stop Holli.

Now I’m sure anyone looking at this will no doubt think of this as essentially a mediocre clone of the technically superior Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and they’d be right. The premise is much the same (Cool World is essentially a sleazier version of Toontown, but with original characters), right down to the noir-style detective story. To top it off, it uses the exact same combination of live-action film and hand-drawn animation that Roger Rabbit made famous. It’s as if the producers couldn’t think of anything better than a dumbed down version of Roger Rabbit, and compared to what Ralph Bakshi originally had in mind (which I’ll eventually talk about), it comes across as wasted potential more than anything else. The film also suffers from a disjointed plot broken up by the occasional antics of the minor toon characters, and the end result is a chaotic mess of film noir clichés and half-baked Looney Toons characters.

The acting isn’t completely bad. If anything, Kim Basinger, though not the director’s first choice, does a good job at conveying the intensely sensual character that is Holli Would. Brad Pitt, the man who plays the detective, spends the whole film pretending to be a 40’s gumshoe, complete with the obviously typical accent, but he’s not a very convincing character. The villain from Roger Rabbit was more convincing, and he was essentially a caricature of a villain. The rest of the characters are all unlikable, and everyone else is a background character. The film itself is often billed as a comedy, which I find ironic because the jokes are so dull that much of the laughs will probably be coincidental.

The animation style, as I said before, is identical to Roger Rabbit, with animated characters pasted into a live-action world, and vice versa. I actually like the way they’ve drawn Cool World. It’s a far more surreal counterpart to Toontown, and I personally feel that they could have done plenty with that sort of world. They certainly took the time to animate original characters, but the vast bulk of them are purely background characters that often whiz around the screen like wild spectres, and the end result feels unfocused. I kind of like the music they composed and selected (including David Bowie’s brilliant “Real Cool World”), though I think some of the songs they picked were selected just because they sounded trendy at the time, and don’t exactly sound right.

I can go on and on, but ultimately I would be saying the same thing. Cool World was ultimately a disappointment. Now the question is how exactly did we end up with this? I mentioned in the preface that Cool World is essentially a cautionary tale of the horrors of executive meddling, and that’s exactly how Cool World was made. In 1990, Ralph Bakshi began working an avant-garde animated horror movie which he pitched to Paramount Studios, who quickly bought Bakshi’s idea. The original Cool World was supposed to involve an underground cartoonist and a cartoon woman who have sex and produce an illegitimate hybrid child who hates herself for what she is, and visits the real world in order to try and kill him.

This version would have been a gritty, sex-laden horror film of an avant-garde breed, and if you look at the original storyboards, it seems as if it could have been a great work of art. For a time, everything seemed to be going well, but one of the producers, Frank Mancuso Jr., had the script completely rewritten without Ralph’s knowledge, and the two got into a fight. At this point, Ralph would probably have quit, but Paramount, which was run by Mancuso’s father at the time, threatened to sue him if he refused to finish the film. Added to that, Kim Basinger wasn’t even Ralph’s first choice to play Holli. He originally wanted the character to be played by Drew Barrymore, with Brad Pitt playing the role of the cartoonist. However, Basinger was cast, and she basically wanted to turn the film into a PG film (which ended up being rated PG-13) so that it could be shown in hospitals, and for no real reason other than it might further her career. Nonetheless, Mancuso agreed, and under threat of litigation, Ralph was basically forced to make a movie that, if I’ll be totally honest, probably wasn’t even his anymore.

Well, there you have it. Cool World may have been a disappointing film, but it’s not as if Ralph Bakshi could help it. After all, the film was practically forced from his hands. Had Ralph been left to his own devices, I’m sure it would have been a very good film, but sadly, that isn’t the case, and what we’re left with is a disjointed, mediocre clone of Roger Rabbit that embodies the twisted committee thinking of Hollywood.

  • Score: 53%
  • Grade: D

Warlock (1989)

warlockWarlock seems as if it might have been a fairly ambitious horror film, and at first glance, it does sort of seem like a fascinating supernatural horror film but upon closer inspection, it’s not much to get excited about. In fact, you’re most likely to find a film that could have been good, but thanks to a number of bad decisions made during the production phase, we instead get a cheaply made devil yarn that reeks of cheese.

The plot is very simple. An unnamed warlock is captured by a local witch hunter named Giles Redferne, and is about to be executed for witchcraft, but before his execution, Satan appears before him and sends him to 1980’s Los Angeles, where he sets about on a quest to reassemble The Grand Grimoire, a book that can supposedly reveal the true name of God. Along with him, Giles is also transported into the same time period, and his mission is to stop the warlock from succeeding in his quest.

Almost immediately, the film’s basic premise reads like a Terminator clone, only instead of travelling from the future, the main characters travel to the present from the past, specifically during the era of the Salem witch trials. Of course, you can’t just reverse the formula of a popular movie and expect success. In fact, when Warlock does exactly that, it ends in unadulterated mediocrity, which is perhaps the film’s only real crime. That being said, it’s also rather obviously derivative of other cliched horror movies, making for an all the more contrived horror flick.

Believe it or not, the characters and acting are even worse. Julian Sands actually makes for a decent villain, even if you don’t necessarily buy him as a horror villain. Meanwhile, his adversary, played by a younger Richard E. Grant, is just bad. The other characters give pretty bad performance, but Richard’s dreadful Scottish accent takes the cake. It doesn’t even make any sense, considering his character is supposed to be a witch hunter from 17th century Boston. The film only really recognises three characters by name, and the rest are simply bit parts. Either way, such lackluster performance is something I’d expect from a TV show.

Speaking of that, the film looked and sounded very much like a made-for-TV movie. In fact, it’s made in such low quality that it looks very much like you’re watching a mid-80’s TV show on an old TV screen (imagine watching MacGyver if it were a cheesy horror movie and you get the picture). It looks as if it could have been made a decade earlier, and it wouldn’t have been much better either way. The special effects aren’t exactly stellar either. I like that they used practical effects, but they’re used to bad effect here, and the main problem is that they look obviously cheap, and that often turns the film’s intended horror into accidental comedy (not that I’m against that sort of thing).

I have no doubt that it could have been a good or at least an okay horror film, but the producers clearly cut corners almost everywhere, and the end result is a mediocre supernatural romp that I’m honestly surprised isn’t confined to the bargain bin, and yet it somehow garnered a reputation as a cult film.

  • Score: 56%
  • Grade: D

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters_2016_film_posterFor the past two decades, the idea of a third Ghostbusters movie was the dream of everyone who loved the original, then that film went through development hell, after several rewrites and delays, and after a while, it got to a point where I’m surprised anyone wanted it anymore, but somebody apparently decided to make it anyway. Of course, when this film finally was announced, I was pretty worried about the direction the film would go in, and then I finally went to see it, and seeing it only confirmed my suspicions about the film’s quality as I subject myself to a film that tries its best it meet the expectations of the first film, but ends up collapsing under the weight of its own impotence.

For me, the first problem is the story. They essentially attempted a reboot of the original film, wherein you have four ghostbusters trying to prove that ghosts are real, and they’re the people you should call. I understand why they might want to call back to the original. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was essentially a call back to the original Star Wars, but the difference is that film was great, but this film is just lazy. The writers were basically just riding on the coattails of the original classic film, while adding nothing of worth to the table.

A number of aspects of the plot feel like they were just shoehorned into the movie. For instance, there was a scene set in a heavy metal concert, but the way it was written just indicates to me that it was just an excuse to get a cheap, cringeworthy Ozzy Osborne cameo. If nothing else, it feels as if the writers blatantly copied the first film to the point that, aside from the change of scenery, it basically felt like the same film, but significantly less entertaining. I feel like they should have made a film where catching ghosts is a legitimate career, and the main characters are trainee Ghostbusters with Peter Venkman or Egon Ray as their teacher. That would have worked excellently, but instead they went with a lazy reboot that misses the mark in terms of writing.

Let’s talk about the characters, because I have a lot to say in this regard. When there’s something strange, who are you gonna call? Certainly not these Ghostbusters, in fact they’re probably the last people I’d call for help. Let’s make one thing clear, I didn’t care that the Ghostbusters were female. In fact, I think it could have worked, but the problem is that they were bad actors. How Melissa McCarthy is supposed to be funny seems to elude me, because it turns out I live on a planet where she isn’t funny. None of the Ghostbusters were likeable characters, and it seemed to me that the producers were trying desperately to pass them off as badass action heroes, but I wasn’t convinced that they were badass. I wasn’t even convinced that they were funny. It feels like most of the jokes could have been written for any flash-in-the-pan sitcom coming out of Los Angeles.

The worst character in the whole film is Kevin. Before I saw the film, I thought it was going to be Chris Hemsworth playing an insufferable white knight, but it turns out that his character is a lot worse. Apparently Kevin is a handsome yet dim-witted goof who can barely use the telephone, and yet the Ghostbusters hire him as their receptionist because they think he’s hot. Indeed, Kevin basically spends most of the film fulfilling the stereotype that man are oafish buffoons while the Ghostbusters waste no time ogling him at every turn. His character is basically little more than sexy furniture, the film does a terrible job at hiding it. This is exactly the kind of blatant objectification that feminists claim happens to women on a daily basis, but somehow it’s okay when men are being objectified. Am I the only one who questions the logic here? If Kevin were a woman, and the Ghostbusters were men, the producers would be up to their asses in angry tweets.

The film also features cameos from the three original Ghostbusters who are still alive. I find it ironic that Bill Murray (who played Peter Venkman) is now playing the role of a man famous for debunking the paranormal. It was nice to see him again, but the irony is so stunning that it’s funnier than nearly all the jokes in this film. Meanwhile, the film’s main villain comes across as a badly recycled version of Janosz Poha from Ghostbusters II, but with all the funny parts of his character sucked out of him. He acts like an excessively angsty kid with an entitlement complex, and I get that he’s supposed to be a miserable character, but the end result is a badly written villain.

In terms of writing and acting, the whole film was a disgraceful display. I’ll admit that the film had some nice quality ghost effects, but all those high production values seems like a typical Hollywood façade in this film. The film frequently gets bogged down in nice-looking CGI, but the whole film looks much too polished, as if the producers want to make it look nice in order to compensate for bad writing and even worse acting. The CGI is perhaps most prominent in the scenes towards the end of the film, where the Ghostbusters are fighting their way through the ghoul-ridden streets of Manhattan. It looks incredibly flashy to a fault, but it doesn’t make up for much.

All in all, my immediate conclusion is that Hollywood, in its propensity to shamelessly reboot older films rather than coming up with new ideas, has ruined one of the most beloved films of all time. It’s as if somebody had taken Ghostbusters, chopped off its manhood, and offered it as a sacrifice. While it may appease the goddesses of third-wave feminism, it certainly doesn’t appease me, nor the average moviegoer.

Even if it isn’t the worst film of all time, it certainly embodies all that I find despicable about Hollywood, and if nothing else, it made a hollow mockery of the original. The original Ghostbusters was classic, but this film is just a worthless excuse for a comedy, and riding on the coattails of the original made it worse.

  • Score: 45%
  • Grade: D

Titan A.E. (2000)

Titan_AE_One_SheetDon Bluth used to be one of the most respected animators in the film industry (and probably still is), where he became famous for his work on many popular Disney films such as The RescuersThe Fox and the Hound and Robin Hood. He then went on to form his own company and direct his own films. This led to one his greatest films, The Secret of NIMH, but unfortunately, it also led to this lazy abomination of a film called Titan A.E., which disappoints in every possible area. Though I doubt you could expect much from a film like this, but believe me, it somehow manages to be even more boring sci-fi fare than it looks.

The premise revolves around an invading race of energy-based aliens called the Drej, who at the start of the film destroy Earth, leaving the surviving humans drifting throughout space and being ridiculed by other races. The rest of the film sees its protagonist Cale Tucker guiding a crew of humans and aliens towards the Titan space station, which was built with the purpose of creating a new planet in the event that Earth was destroyed.

The film’s plot is very standard sci-fi riding on all manner of story clichés, including the obligatory betrayal by a supporting character. It’s the kind of film that tries for space opera territory but runs of fuel right before it could get there. The writers and producers tried whatever they could to keep it afloat, but failed miserably. In this regard, a lot of is to do with the fact that the writers did very little to explain the things that needed to explain it. For example, why do the Drej not want the Titan space station to be found, and why would any human sell out the future of his own kind?

Speaking of that, the characters are so flat and lazily written that not even an star-studded cast could save them. They simply come across to me as cookie-cutter Stargate characters in a movie that’s somehow out of even their league. The acting isn’t even that great to be wholly honest, as if the Hollywood stars they got to work on this film were only in it for the money. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. The dialogue is also really lazily written, with the Drej suffering from the laziest writing the film has to offer.

As for the visuals, the film’s animation style is a mixture of traditional hand-drawn animation and extensive CGI. The end result definitely looks polished, but a polished turd is still a turd. The film looks like a bigger, shinier version of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1990’s. At the very least it accomplishes the easy feat of presenting itself better than Heavy Metal 2000 (another animated atrocity from the year 2000), but could somebody tell me why the producers thought that a Don Bluth film needed music from contemporary rock bands? The music is awful, and it reflects badly on the mindset of whoever decided to put it in the film.

To be honest, I think the film might have had some potential, but the producers just squandered it without a care in the world, and the consequences are rather apparent given mixed critical reception and disappointing box office returns (the film made $36.8 million against a $75-90 million budget). It’s also rather telling that after this film was released, Don Bluth never directed another movie, which is such a shame because of what he made before. If the plethora of cheap direct-to-video sequels (made without his involvement) didn’t tarnish his name, then this film surely did. Even if it’s not terribly bad, it’s a creative low point for someone who was clearly a talented visionary in the field of animation.

  • Score: 50%
  • Grade: D