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November Movie Thoughts: Ghostbusters Afterlife, Red Notice, More

December 1, 2021 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Mckenna Grace

After seeing how close I had come by October, I knew that I’d definitely get 200 movies in by the end of 2021 unless something truly went awry.

So then came the next thought… could I do it by the end of November?

And that led me on a film spree where I averaged about a movie per day, so let’s get the heck into it already!

MOVIES – First Half Of The Month

But wait, there’s more!

Scream 4 rounded out my viewing of that series in anticipation of the next entry in early 2022. And it was the easy call for Worst Of This Stretch. So let’s hear it for that. Humorously, having never seen Scream 4, I went into it thinking “They waited a decade to make this one, so hopefully this is the one where they got shit back on track”.

HA! Nope.

Scream 4 starts off with THE most obnoxious opening sequence[s] ever, and then just… never gets any better. I’m absolutely certain Wes Craven thought the opening to this was amazingly clever, but it is… the opposite of that.

This one is also easily the most predictable of the franchise.

Before we get to the massive pile-up at 2.5, let’s look at the lone 2-star flick, Pig. Two stars or not, I love the current stretch of Nicolas Cage’s career where he’s just taking weird ass indie flicks by the handful and doing his level best. I see what Pig was doing; I really do. It sets up this very John Wick-ian story that has you expecting–and WANTING–to see John Wick levels of revenge pour out. And then… it does very much NOT that in the climax, all while holding up a mirror to the viewer and saying “What does this say about you for wanting revenge porn?”. It’s clever. It’s subversive. It’s also a tedious movie at times, and it really drags.

The Highbrow Return of Nicolas Cage - The Atlantic
Imagine this picture, lingering on screen for ten seconds, and they do that, like 52 times across the movie.

In that way, Pig has a lot in common with our first 2.5 movie, A Mighty Wind. Both of them could have been called “60 Minutes Of Plot Stretched Out To A 90 Minute Runtime”. I chuckled several times at Wind, but I also found the middle to be almost insufferably dragged along. The story had one (1) worthwhile angle, but felt compelled to overburden us with, like, three others, anyway. I like Christopher Guest, but this was him at his most self-indulgent, just cramming stuff in without much regard. Here’s Ed Begley Jr and Fred Willard! Why? The movie didn’t need them. But here they are because they are just “supposed” to be in these!

Hey, Eternals was 2.5, and I covered that here.

What else? Sunshine, Resident Evil, the Evil Dead remake… a slew of middling horror flicks. All with their own benefits and warts. Sunshine was tense and brilliantly acted across the board, but the twist makes it all a bit gonzo, and Danny Boyle’s direction and cinematography are hard to stomach here. He tries a lot of tricks and weird gimmicks with the camera just to do them, and it annoyed me more than it impressed. Why are there freeze frames? Why is one character intentionally out of focus? I get that it’s the name, but the constant bright sunlight just washes out what I’m looking at. Movie, why don’t you want me to SEE you? This could have been an audio book.

Resident Evil is just Mediocrity: The Feature Film. It’s fun; it does what it sets out to do. But there’s nothing special about it at all. The music and the action are swell, but there’s no soul to it.

Speaking of no soul, that’s what an Evil Dead movie without humor is. Just another gory, poorly acted horror spectacle. It’s a good scary movie, but a bad Evil Dead movie. I don’t want those to take themselves this seriously!

Antlers and Old are both 3 star 2021 new release horror entries (why am I still watching so much horror in November? Oh, because I always watch horror) with extremely different circumstances. Old is a big budget M. Night Shyamalan thriller about a vacation gone terribly awry. Antlers is a low budget, grimy indie tale of Native American mythology.

Old is actually really good for the majority of its runtime! Sure there is that old “M. Night can’t write dialogue” chestnut, but the story and its goings-on reach out and grab you. Then you get to near the end, and… it’s not like there’s a bad Shyamalan reveal or anything… it just goes all the way off the rails at parts. Two characters die in the span of a few minutes, and their deaths are too silly to take seriously.

Antlers reminded me of The Babadook in being an indie horror with the least subtle analogy ever (“OPIOD ADDICTION IS THE REAL MONSTER!” here), but it does mange to be scary while also cramming in a ton of subplots for Felicity’s character that have zero payoff. She’s a recovering alcoholic! Thrill as that doesn’t matter at all!

The Birdcage is our sole 3.5 before we get to another logjam at 4.0! I never noticed it growing up, but Robin Williams’ son in this movie is the worst protagonist ever. He’s just the pits. Eminently unlikable, and it made me WANT the plot to fail.

That said, did Nathan Lane really not win approximately thirty Oscars for this performance? Shame on you, Academy Awards!

Four-mania: Total Recall, The Host, Last Night In Soho, Deep Murder, and To Wong Fu…(etc)! Pleasantly, these were all new watches except for one (Deep Murder, which I’ve written about before here). I know, I know… how did I never see Total Recall before, right? I have weird blind spots.

Anyway, yeah, Total Recall is great. Really ahead of its time, and a decent mindfuck. I actually somehow knew very little about this going in (I knew it was about Mars and that, like, heads blew up, but nothing about the plot), so it worked for me the whole time. I wonder if I’d have appreciated this if I watched it when I was younger? Oh well. I appreciated it NOW.

To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar. Not a great title! And yeah, this movie is simplistic and idealistic. But I also LOVED the way it made me feel. It just brought me such joy. I loved the world it built, I loved the actors all taking it seriously, and I loved the sugary sweet, unrealistic resolution. More movies need to make me feel like that. Also, the Chris Penn stuff consistently made me laugh out loud. “Places For Homos”, ha!

I’m going to lump my other two four stars in with my one 4.5 entry, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, because watching it, The Host, and Last Night In Soho all in short succession allowed me to embrace that Taika Waititi, Bong Joon-ho, and Edgar Wright are my top three filmmakers.

Last Night In Soho has some third act problems, but the ride there is terrific. Thomasin McKenzie is a god damn star. The movie kept me guessing and intently involved in everything going on. I really appreciate Wright showing he can do something that isn’t comedy or action.

The Host is an older work of Bong Joon-ho’s, but it holds up even better nowadays in our post-COVID world (it’s hilarious seeing a movie where the United States is attacking another country for their handling of a virus, but then you realize it’s just them blaming an Asian country again, and…). Nobody blends genres as well as Bong; The Host is, at turns, scary, intense, hilarious, sad, and tragic. But it all feels like it belongs together.

Then we have Hunt For The Wilderpeople, and what a tremendous flick that is. Not as emotionally impactful as Jojo Rabbit, but equally good at being funny and getting the best out of a young lead actor.

MOVIES – Second Half Of The Month

Let’s get that low score out of the way right off. Ghostbusters Afterlife is a movie I wanted to write a whole article’s worth of review on, but then just… didn’t. I didn’t want to spend 1000+ words on vitriol.

This movie has the same effect on me that the MCU has on folks like Ridley Scott: I hated it, and I worry it’s going to irrevocably break all of cinema for the next several years. That’s big feelings, sure, but Afterlife became one of the very few movies that, as I watched it, I was just angry at its existence.

It’s the safest, most risk-averse movie made in a long time. I’ll forgive, or at least appreciate, a movie for swinging big and missing. Afterlife was barely a bunt. It just stood at the plate and took an intentional walk. It’s… I’m out of… I don’t know anything else about baseball.

It’s just… it’s Ghostbusters 1? But like… again? Zuul! Gozer! Crossing streams! Keymaster! Gatekeeper! It’s the EXACT SAME STORY. Did this movie forget what the difference between a sequel and a remake are? The biggest risk it took was making a ghost who was exactly like Slimer in every way, but not calling him Slimer. Which is to say, it took no risk at all.

I’ve heard people say The Force Awakens was just Star Wars all over again, but at least they didn’t literally fight Grand Moff Tarkin and Vader again. They didn’t win by shooting space pew-pews into an exhaust port.

(I mean, they might have, I never saw TFA)

I eagerly await the next several years of movies that do the same thing. A Princess Bride sequel where they fight Prince Humperdink and The Sicilian and the 6-Fingered Man. And has the exact same lines of dialogue they already know people mark for. Why not? Ghostbusters Afterlife worked!

Also, the movie is joyless as hell. Imagine not laughing once at a Ghostbusters flick. Even the 2016 iteration–which I’m not here to defend, don’t worry; it was bad, too–made me LAUGH.

And that is my abbreviated but impassioned rant about Ghostbusters Afterlife and how angry it made me. It’s weird; I’m by no means the kind of person that cares if people feel differently about entertainment than I do. I’m very much a “that’s cool! You like what you like and that’s great” guy. And I still am! If you tell me you loved this movie, I’m happy for your experience! But this makes me worried about the future of blockbusters.I’m a grumpy old man like Scorsese or Ridley Scott now, I guess. It happens!

ANYWAY! Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk on Ghostbusters, I suppose. I’m sure you loved it. Everyone else did. It’s fine. It’s FINE. I’m fine. It’s just… it’s Midsommar all over again where I feel like I saw a different version of the movie than so many others did. I’ve heard people say Afterlife made them cry! What about this soulless cash grab gave anyone ANY emotion?

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Ending Secrets Unpacked - Den of Geek
These three were pretty much my expressions watching this movie.

Aside from one other flick this stretch, everything else graded out at LEAST above average, so let’s talk about Matrix Revolutions, that other dud. This is actually the second time I’ve watched that this year because friends wanted to do Matrix Mania in advance of the next one. It’s… not great. But I do like it better than Reloaded. Revolutions is a better Star Wars movie than a Matrix movie; it’s probably my third favorite Star War.

A whole bunch of entries clocked in at Above Average (3/5). We had Red Notice (harmless, stupid-but-fun, short enough to be inoffensive, even if it completely wasted The Rock’s potential). Attack On Titan (live action iteration, and I’m not gonna blow smoke here: this movie is TERRIBLE. Low quality. Bad acting. But the third act is so batshit crazy that I did laugh, and I can see the value in that). Wayne’s World (parts of this feel dated as hell–a fucking GREY POUPON JOKE, anyone?–but the stuff that works really works, and it is surprisingly clever and meta for its era). Bone Tomahawk (a really good atmosphere movie which could really, REALLY stood to have cut twenty-plus minutes from the tedious second act. But Kurt Russell and Patrick Wilson are both stars).

That’s… a lot of different ways to get 3 out of 5, I guess. Bone Tomahawk and Attack On Titan are basically antonyms as far as filmmaking goes. And Wayne’s World is brave, but sometimes falls short, whereas Red Notice doesn’t try anything outside of its own kiddie pool.

ATTACK ON KURT RUSSELL! And I remain the best at photo editing.

Only one 3.5 this time, with Seth Rogen, Zack Efron, and Rose Byrne starring in Neighbors, a mostly funny, occasionally awkward-on-purpose comedy that just had those moments where the protagonists are too stupid to cheer for. Big bonus here? I’m not sure I’d ever heard Rose Byrne’s accent before, and I’m kind of in love with it.

Another bunch-up at the 4/5’s! Long Shot (hey, it’s Seth Rogen again, and his chemistry with Charlize Theron here is ridiculously great). Evil Dead 2 (Seen it before, obviously, but felt like finishing up some Evil Dead after seeing the remake earlier. A one-man-show, but a great one). Best In Show (to wash the mediocre taste of A Mighty Wind away, I went back to Christopher Guest’s better mockumentary).

Why do not enough people admit that Aliens is VASTLY superior to Alien? Alien is a good science fiction horror flick. Aliens is a TREMENDOUS sci-fi/horror/action work of art. I’m not trashing Alien–without it, we would never have had Aliens, after all–but its sequel bettered it in literally every way.

And then we have the 5/5’s. Three of them, but I’d seen two of them before, so it’s kind of cheating. It took me less than two months to rewatch Your Name because I felt like I had to share it with my wife. It’s still perfect.

Army of Darkness is another flick that, like Aliens, surpassed its predecessor in every way, although I know that is a divisive opinion. Evil Dead 2 is great, but Army perfected the Ash character and made him into what we all think about when we imagine him in our head. Also, it’s just glorious one-liner after glorious one-liner. If you miss the more pure horror aspects and less sheer goofiness of ED2, I appreciate that! But I’ll take AoD every day.

By the same people behind Your Name, we got Weathering With You, and while not quite AS good as Your Name, it’s still a stellar, powerful story. And the animation is beyond belief. I’ve now got to seek out everything else that Makoto Shinkai has done.

And that’s it for November, holy crap! I’m at 197 movies on the year (but I HAVE cracked 200 viewings since I saw Matrix Revolutions, Your Name, and Jason X all twice).

Does that count?

I feel like that counts.

Also! I watched two different Friday The 13th fan films (Never Hike Alone and Never Hike In The Snow), but Letterboxd doesn’t have those listed. Even if I count them combined as one movie, I could be 198 movies / 201 viewings!

Not that I won’t break 200 legitimately anyway. But I feel like Letterboxd is holding me back here. Regardless, I wasn’t anywhere near on pace for 200 for the year as of the end of September, so it’s good to see my hard work (?) paying off.

Until next time… take care!