Ghostbusters (1984) Fan Audio Commentary

Who you gonna call? Us, if you want to hear a commentary for Ghostbusters. Here it is, and if you’re watching with us on the old UK DVD, be sure to start it five seconds into the film as for some reason there’s a stretch of nothingness before the Columbia logo fades in. Not sure about other editions, but if you start it a second before the logo begins, you’re all synced up and ready to rock! Listen for free on the link to the right or download as an mp3 for free! 🙂

Film round-up: Week ending September 2013 (Elysium, 2 Guns, Jurassic Park, Compliance)

Elysium (2013)

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Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to District 9 has been getting some mediocre press – not as good as D9, too Hollywood, too liberal, too dumb… well, it isn’t as good as D9, that’s a definite. Yes, it does resort to basic punch-up action at the end, and despite the potentially fascinating science on show (the healing powers of state-of-the-art technology which more or less cures you of nearly all ills), it doesn’t explore it in any moral, cerebral or way beyond using it as a plot hook. Also, Jodie Foster’s performance is odd to say the least – a very mannered, borderline-stilted turn which seems to have been treated with some kind of audio alteration which makes her voice sound…well, off. Still, Matt Damon is a good lead, the gritty visuals conjure up a heated, close, claustrophobic atmosphere, the action is terrific and Sharlto Copley delivers a hilarious, hugely entertaining performance of such scenery-chewing evil that he may very well be the most gleefully cruel villain in a Hollywood blockbuster over the last few years. Not a film to blow your mind, but at the very least one to blow your face off.

2 Guns (2013)

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Moderately entertaining fodder that wins points for enthusiasm on the part of Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington as two mismatched criminals who are really undercover good guys but neither knows who the other one is and whatnot. The chemistry between the two leads is infectious, so it’s a pity they aren’t rewarded with a memorable script. It has all the trademarks of a quick-fire, banter-loaded buddy-buddy comedy, but it falls short of magical. Still, Bill Paxton makes for a calmly threatening villain who does painful things to his victims with drawing pins, and the whole affair is pretty enjoyable before it gets bogged down in a darker tone toward the messy final confrontation. Still, it’s okay enough. Co-stars Paula Patton from the fourth Mission: Impossible film, whom I only just discovered is married to Robin Thicke, who sings lead on the other impossible-to-avoid chart summer hit with Pharrell Williams that isn’t ‘Get Lucky’, and also made headlines for dry-humping chief ‘twerker’ Miley Cyrus at some awards ceremony.

Jurassic Park 3-D (1993/2013)

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It’s weird, but every 3-D film I see feels less 3-Dy the more it progresses. As this re-release of Spielberg’s splendid blockbuster begins, I could feel Bob Peck was in the same room as me as he stares forebodingly at that cage with the raptor inside. By the end, it’s all feels as though it’s reduced to the same perspective and I couldn’t tell what was nearer and what was further away. I feel the same way with all 3-D films. Still, it’s great to see all of this on a massive screen, and despite the odd dialogue clunker, slightly underwhelming ending and strictly 2-D characters, this is a phenomenal thrill-ride that boasts awe, wonder and terror in equal measures. The 3D conversion seems to have made the film look a little grainy, and the special effects a bit more obviously artificial, but this is still a spectacle to be truly reckoned with. Even if some find the build-up overly long, I would suggest that the leisurely approach only makes the eventual horror all the more effective, with the first T-Rex attack being one of Spielberg’s absolute best sequences, a masterclass in tension, terror and PG-rated envelope-pushing traumatisation.  The work of a master for sure, and definitely the most fun I’ve had watching it ever since that first time twenty years ago.

Compliance (2012)

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Inspired by a true story? Hmm, time to take this with a pinch of salt, methinks. Yet a cursory search online reveals that more or less all the events in this depiction of crank-call harassment taken to the extreme really did happen. So why does this film still feel so damned preposterous and frankly, totally unbelievable? Seriously, this may very well be one of the most frustrating films you will ever see – the characters behave so stupidly and ridiculously that you may very well end up wanting to punch the screen in. Still, it really happened – what can I say? Well, truth is truth, but Compliance presents it all the wrong way. For example, it would have been much more effective to experience everything from the victim’s point of view so that we could only hear what they hear, but by revealing that the caller in question really isn’t a police officer investigating a suspected theft early on, it’s makes his frankly outrageous demands all the more difficult to accept. Also, when things get seriously twisted, the film throws in a ten-or-so second shock moment that comes out of nowhere, that just seems unnecessary and over-the-top, and yet too also happened in real life! Here it just seems unbelievable, and this was the point that I just started laughing. Sorry if that sounds disrespectful, but a film shouldn’t get a free pass just because it’s based on truth. In fact, the almost cavalier way it goes about this shock moment is almost more offensive because it was based on truth. And then the fact that the victim herself is pretty much sidelined at the end in favour of the naïve store manager who pretty much let all of this happen makes for a very muddled and confusing depiction of what really was an astonishing real-life case of sick manipulation.

Haywire, Martha Marcy May Marlene and War Horse

Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is definitely a step-up from his unfocused, underwhelming Contagion, but there’s something similarly lacking here too. Let’s call it human empathy. It was difficult to give much of a monkeys about any of the stock characters in Contagion, and the same applies for Gina Carano’s solider on the run either. This is Carano’s first major lead role, being better known as a Mixed Martial Arts star, and wow, can she kick arse. The plot is the usual soldier/spy/whatever being betrayed by her superiors and becoming a high-priority target, blah, blah, blah, and it’s easy to lose interest in all the scheming and double-crossing malarkey, which isn’t very excitingly staged. So it’s good that the action scenes are absolutely fantastic – real knife-edge brutality and kinetic ferocity. Carano has real presence in these scenes, and to be fair, does a solid enough job everywhere else, but it’s the fight scenes that everyone will remember. There’s various shady support from the Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and the always welcome Michael Douglas, and Bill Paxton’s suddenly old enough to play the main hero’s father, which was quite surreal. Michael Fassbender (hooray!) gets the best of the supporting roles as one of Carano’s contacts in the field, and their big scene together is the highlight of the film. Haywire is also amazingly stylish – the locations are great, the camerawork breathtaking and David Holmes’s terrifically versatile soundtrack a real bonus too. This is a real pleasure to watch, but only on the surface. Underneath, there’s nothing.

Much better is Martha Marcy May Marlene, an atmospheric, haunting and eerie drama about a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the more famous Mary-Kate and Ashley) who flees a cult only to find her attempts to re-assimilate back into normality just as alienating. The plot switches from her return to her family (more specifically, her sister and her boyfriend) and then back in time to her experiences within the cult, which is a male-dominated world where the women are there for cooking, working and sex, sometimes against their will. The leader of the cult is played by John Hawkes, who gets saddled with worthless mini-roles in big-studio stuff like Contagion, but really gets a chance to shine in smaller-scale films like this and Winter’s Bone. Here, Hawkes exudes a quiet, understated but threatening presence, at once welcoming and scary. However, he is more than rivalled by Olsen, who is really superb here – she’s not a wholly sympathetic character, but she is a totally beguiling one. Director Sean Durkin effortlessly leaps back and forth in time, creating an atmosphere that’s dream-like, dazed with the hazy fog of memory, and subtle enough to make you want to watch it again to pick up on the little details that you might have missed out on. The ending is very inconclusive and will annoy the kind of people who got wound up with Inception’s open-ending. Open-endings can be used as a cop-out for writers and directors who simply don’t know how to end their plot, but in the best examples they can haunt and linger, and that’s the case here. The film’s obliqueness will frustrate some, but I loved it.

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is an unashamedly brash and sentimental epic that leans towards overkill, but is too well made for it to be dismissed as soggy goo. Joey is the horse of the title, who is initially bought by reckless farmer Peter Mullan, who then gives him to his son (Jeremy Irvine) to bring up, only for World War I to begin, during which Joey is sold off to the war effort, where he begins a remarkable journey from new owner to new owner. Since our lead character is a mute and mostly inexpressive animal, War Horse doesn’t have much of a central hook to latch onto, and some of the film’s mid-section is too episodic. However, the film is littered with terrific set-pieces, beautiful photography and powerful moments. The performances are uniformly effective, especially Tom Hiddleston as the soldier who buys Joey to take to war and Anthony Worrall-Thompson lookalike Niels Arestrup whose granddaughter discovers Joey hiding in their barn. Yes, the film shamelessly tugs at the heartstrings, is relatively coy in in its depiction of war and so forth, but it is a stirring, pleasing bit of entertainment.