Short Film: Snap!

S&T Pictures, my (James’) small production company, is now in the business of churning out short films.  The most recently created is ‘Snap!’, a brief, slightly pythonesque comedy.  It was a lot of fun to make and took very little time, about seven hours in total. It’s got a little mild language and some brief adult humor. Watch for the layers; it’s a film that needs a second glance. The sound design, especially at the end, is important.

The Other Guys

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Stars: ★★★☆

Summary: A surprisingly enjoyable and funny comedy that has enough class to show some restraint.

Review: I’ve seen better buddy cop films, better parodies of buddy cop films, and better wholesome comedies than ‘The Other Guys’. But in the latter part of the summer, among sucky vampire spoofs, lame romantic comedies, and the abominations of aging action stars, this film feels surprisingly fresh and original.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg star as Detectives Allen Gamble and Terry Hoitz, two police men who, unfortunately, are confined to desk jobs while other, cockier cops get the action, the fame, and the women. Wahlberg’s character is particularly frustrated by his lowly role, as he once had a much more exciting one on duty until an accident demoted him. Everything changes when a small case of Allen’s reveals a much larger crime operation. Now is the chance for these two men to prove their worth as men of the law.

What makes this film work is an unusually high level of restraint and discretion. Most of the jokes don’t go for crude humor, but are actually sophisticated and funny (A lion/tuna fish joke near the beginning is quite amusing). The action, as well, is effective but also doesn’t go to any real extreme, and there really isn’t that much of it. Having seen ‘The Expendables’ the night before, I was relieved not to experience anymore pointless gunfire and explosions. Although I found 2007’s ‘Hott Fuzz’ to better satire buddy cop movies, ‘The Other Guys’ doesn’t do a bad job of taking jabs at the genre’s various cliches (The car chases, the frustrated police chief, volatile partner chemistry, etc.). Particularly though, I think that Ferrell’s character is what really makes this movie worthwhile. Unlike his usual over-the-top and immature characters, Allen Gamble is a mature, intelligent, and reserved human being. Seeing him interact with his sometimes vicious partner and the crazy situation in which he finds himself was the highlight of the film for me. I hope that, after this film, Ferrell is more willing and better able to get mature parts like this.

‘The Other Guys’ is a good movie. Not a great movie, but a good one. Its worth a watch and is guaranteed for some laughs. Now-a-days, that’s pretty nice.

Buy It From Amazon: The Other Guys [Blu-ray]

Classic Review: Ghostbusters

Stars:  **** out of 4

Summary:  Hilarious, scary, accessible fun.

Ghostbusters!

Pictured: Who you are going to call, minus one.

Review: Oh my God, this is the greatest movie I’ve ever seen in my life!  Okay, maybe not, but it’s definitely up there.  This is what we call a “comedy”, ladies and gents, which I make a point of pointing out since we seem to have forgotten what exactly that is.  You see, a long time ago people went to movies to experience the phenomenon dubbed “laughter” typically accompanied by “fun” and an overall sense of narrative satisfaction — and sometimes they even brought the kids!  Okay, maybe I’m going over the top, but the point is they don’t make movies like this anymore.  ‘Ghostbusters’ is like a flash in the pan.  There’s only a few comedies I can put on its level, all of which shall be reviewed!

I’m not going to tell you the story, darn it! If you don’t know it, shame on you! Go see this movie now!

This movie works because it actually doesn’t try to wring out as many jokes from its premise as it can, which is a common mistake for films of its type.  Instead, it relies almost wholly on creating fun characters with great chemistry who naturally produce comedy.  It’s like magic!  And, crucial too is the application of real suspense and nightmarish special effects.  This isn’t a total farce, this is a credible fantasy film.  If I don’t think some of the ghosts are scary, then I can’t laugh at them either.  It’s a paradox.

What ‘Ghostbusters’ represents to me is the perfect balance of horror and comedy.  I don’t mean slasher or zombie horror, I mean like ‘Poltergeist’ horror.  There are plenty of films that mix the two, to be sure, but none so pure a balance as ‘Ghostbusters’.  I least that I’ve seen.  Feel free to suggest a rival.  Anywho, ‘Ghostbusters’ was a big part of my childhood and was kind of the gateway drug into darker, scarier movies that I couldn’t stomach before — when I was 9, I mean.  I saw ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ before ‘Ghostbusters’, but it scared the mellow yellow out of me, and seeing a film both fun and freaky like GB opened my eyes to the awesomeness of Indy.  My life was fun that way.

This is also a movie that helped form my opinion of the horror genre in general.  I’ve mostly been opposed to it until recently.  I don’t like many horror movies.  I tend to find them unentertaining at best and sickening and gutwrenching at worst, the latter of which, actually, many of them aim for.  I prefer the concept of a film that uses eerie, otherworldly imagery to help us deal with childhood phobias and confront evil in our adult lives.  A great scary picture can have the greatest potential as a morality play or message movie.  There’s something about the nature of it that can make it seem less anvilicious.

‘Ghostbusters’ is the definitive family action/horror/comedy film.  I like it.

Cult Classic: Flash Gordon

Stars: ★★1/2☆

“Flash!  A-ah!  Savior of the universe!”

Thats just amazing.

That's just amazing.

Review:  So the universe… er, actually, just Earth, is in big trouble.  The devious Emperor Ming of the planet Mong has decided to arbitrarily screw with Earth’s inhabitants, with the ultimate goal of destroying it.  “Pathetic Earthlings!” He gloats, “Who will save you now?”

Well, gee, Mister Ming, that’d be a dimwitted blond football player named Flash (A-ah!).  Be afraid!

So while Ming is screwing with Earth by dumping bizzare phenomena on them, such as hot hail, Flash is getting ready to fly Somewhere Else, with a reporter named Dale (who happens to be a girl).  Ming inexplicably vaporizes the pilots of the jet, and Flash crashlands it in a mad scientist’s greenhouse.  Dr. Zarkov, it so happens, has “figured out” that aliens are causing the disasters, through some contrived explanation involving shifting the moon’s orbit.  So he prepares a rocket he appearantly has lying around so he can blast off and tell the aliens that they are silly for messing with the moon.  Yeah, you tell ’em, Doc.  He wanted his assistant to go with him, but the guy freaked out when Dr. Zarkov pulled a gun and tried to force him into the rocket (like most sane people would).  When the jet crushes the greenhouse, it seems to kill Zarkov’s freaked-out buddy, which nobody acknowledges.  Ever.  So, anyway, Flash and Dale are tricked oh-so-cleverly by Zarkov into the rocket, and they all end up blasting off into deep space. Where, we find out later, you can breath.  Rules do not apply in ‘Flash Gordon’.  Common sense and logic?  What’s that?

So all kinds of ridiculous plot goes down.  Flash beats up Ming’s imperial guards with football (and teamwork!) and even dies and is brought back (by Ming’s daughter!).  Dale is taken to Ming’s harem and prepared to, well, you know.  She escapes and kicks more butt than Flash does in this entire movie (!).  Meanwhile, Ming’s daughter flies Flash to meet Prince Barin on a forest, er, planet (if you can call it that, it’s more like a floating, flat-topped rock.)  Prince Barin, incidentally, is played by Timothy Dalton,  who played James Bond for two movies, which arguably are some of the best of that long-lived series.  It’s completely odd that he’s in this movie, but there he is, swearing and stabbing away.  While we’re on the subject, it seems that everybody in this movie is more awesome than Flash, but inexplicably they all think he’s great.  The soundtrack (by Queen!) doesn’t help, either.  You have this awesome anthem for a character who… does… nothing.  Flash!  A-ah!  He’ll save every one of us!

So some stuff goes down on Barin’s forest world, which further cements how useless Flash is.  He then meets with Prince Vultan (BRIAN BLESSED!) of the Hawkmen, yada-yada-yada.  This movie just drags.  If you can’t tell already, this is a bad movie. As long as you expect nothing more, that isn’t a bad thing.  That’s why it’s a cult movie, especially in Britain.

So after all kinds of ridiculous stuff, Flash accidentally (yes, accidentally) skewers (yes, skewers) Emperor Ming with a spaceship (yes, a spaceship).  He then climbs out and threaten the wounded villain with a sword.  Ming just disappears, leaving Flash wondering what to do next.  A little floating robot shows up, and announces “Long live Flash!  You’ve saved your Earth.  Have a nice day.” and Flash answers, “YEAH!”  How’s that for dialog and plot resolution?  Hitchcock, eat your heart out.

This movie is just nuts.  Incidentally, it was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr., who was responsible for several episodes of the 1960s ‘Batman’ TV series and the subsequent movie, which is itself a camp classic.

“Flash!  A-ah!  You never did anything!”