Ghost in the Shell Reviews Are In

*So far, the consensus seems to be that Ghost in the Shell is  a merely okay film. I haven’t seen it and had no plans to do so, not because of the Whitewashing, although that’s a big issue, but because I’m more than a little tired of looking at Scarlett Johansson.

There’s quite a lot of spectacle but yeah, there’s the little issue of Whitewashing, not just of the film itself, but actually referenced in the plot, where the identity of an Asian character, Motoko, is erased and placed in the body of a White woman. 

According to the critics, it is possible to watch this movie and not care about any of the social issues involved, but this movie is never gonna be a classic, and doesn’t have the depth of the original anime. It’s never going to be Bladerunner, or The Matrix either, no matter how much it apes those movies aesthetics. According to the critics, it’s a gorgeous film that lacks warmth. It’s at about 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The reception of the movie, even by audiences,  has been rather lukewarm.

There are a handful of reviews giving it a rousing endorsement, like Variety, Entertainment Weekly, The Telegraph and The Chicago Tribune (Roger Eberts old employer). But the critics who panned it, come from more Geek oriented online sites, that skew much younger than the ones mentioned above, with a millennial audience who grew up watching the original movies and series, and I guess they’re unimpressed by the story.

http://www.salon.com/2017/03/29/scarlett-johansson-and-the-perils-of-white-feminism/

http://www.avclub.com/review/beguiling-ghost-shell-more-replicant-remake-252941

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/29/15114902/ghost-in-the-shell-review-scarlett-johansson

https://www.dailydot.com/parsec/ghost-shell-review-remake-2017-johansson/?tu=gav

http://www.gq.com/story/ghost-in-the-shell-review

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/30/ghost-in-the-shell-review

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/30/15121524/review-ghost-in-the-shell

http://www.businessinsider.com/ghost-in-the-shell-review-2017-3

 

*And because apparently I’m just not finished bashing Iron Fist for what we could have had vs. what we got:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/heres-the-important-stuff-that-happens-in-iron-fist-so-1793445273

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/21/14980216/iron-fist-problems-marvel-netflix-writing-villains-optics

http://www.polygon.com/2017/3/17/14958828/finn-jones-and-iron-fist-have-one-thing-in-common

*Bottom line: if your character’s backstory features him punching a gobdamn dragon, to obtain his superpowers of being able to punch shit, and you don’t show that shit on screen, you need your entire ass thoroughly kicked. So far, we’re stuck with Finn Jones as Danny Rand but this can be fixed. He’s never going to look good as a martial artist until he gets some serious training. Put him in some intense stunt training, so that he can at least look as competent as the actors from The Matrix. Get a brand new showrunner. And this time find someone who gives a shit about Danny’s Rand being Iron Fist,  cares about his martial abilities, and is willing to do the research to make it look good.

 

*Just to cheer us all up, here are some Logan reviews. I loved this ugly, bittersweet movie, so much.

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/6/14829768/logan-movie-wolverine-hugh-jackman-patrick-stewart-discussion-highs-lows

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/why-we-needed-logan-to-kill-the-modern-superhero-movie-w470501

https://theringer.com/logan-and-conquering-pessimism-through-fatherhood-86d377ae85b9

Nightbreed (1990)

In honor of the release of the book, “Midian Unmade” I’m reviewing the movie  Nightbreed. The movie is based on Clive Barker’s Cabal and is a pretty faithful retelling of the novella. Along with Cabal, there’s an entire series of comic books, which I have not read, and a photo book of the movie, which I do own. The photo book has a more complete listing and photos of the major  monsters created for the film, with names and brief biographies.

Midian Unmade is a series of short stories based on the monsters found in the movie.

Nightbreed is among one of my favorite monster movies of all-time, even if it didn’t make my ten favorites list. I know the names of most of the monsters in the movie, (my favorite being Peloquin), and I’m very happy there’s been a revival of interest. If you enjoyed The Hellraiser series, you will enjoy Nightbreed. And if you’ve seen neither, than you need to hop on  it.

STAT!

The movie is not just notable for its quantity of monsters but has the distinction of being one of the only movies,  the director, David Cronenberg,  has ever starred in, as a psychiatrist/serial killer named Decker, who sets up his patient , Boone, to take the fall for his crimes.

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Boone keeps having nightmares about Midian, aka “the place where the monsters go”. Believing himself to be a monster, because of his mental illness, its fairly easy for Decker to trick Boone into  believing he’s a serial killer. Decker drugs Boone, who wanders into traffic and has an accident. The movie is notable for it’s depiction of mental illness, as a form of vulnerability, rather than violence. Usually the mentally ill, in movies and television, are shown as violent, amoral, and  irrational people  to be avoided. It’s not entirely clear exactly what Boone’s mental illness is but he does have an apartment, a loving and supportive girlfriend, and is undergoing treatment.

This movie makes an effort to show the mentally ill the way they really are. As vulnerable people, with lives and loved ones, who can be taken advantage of, by the unscrupulous. But  this is entirely in keeping with the theme of the movie. The most denigrated people, are often the most vulnerable, to those who wish to harm them. At no point is Decker’s savagery conflated with Boone’s mental illness and none  of the cruelty and stupidity of the regular humans in the movie is ever equated with it either. They are simply evil people. Not crazy.

But also at no point, are any of the marginalized people or monsters depicted as victims who feel sorry for themselves. They have attitudes and opinions and desires of their own. Some of them are murderers themselves, some of them eat people, some of them are pissed at human beings and like to fight, some are beings of peace and compassion, and you are not given the impression that they do what they do out of a sense of malice or cruelty.  They want what they want and make decisions that affect the plot and do so of their free will.

At the hospital, Decker shows up to complete the job and tortures and kills another patient, Narcisse,  who also knows about Midian. When Boone flees from the hospital. Decker sets out in pursuit, guided by Narcisse’s descriptions of Midian.

When Boone gets to Midian, he is rejected by the monsters, Moonface and Peloquin. Peloquin prepares to eat Boone, but only bites him, infecting him with whatever Peloquin is, before Boone gets shot down by police at the urging of Decker. Resurrected by Peloquin’s bite, (and yes, the Jesus theme is strong in this movie,)

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Boone escapes the morgue and sets out for Midian again. This time he’s an actual monster, thanks to Peloquin, the monster with “the bite that mocks God”, according to Nightbreed mythology. Boone  is then inducted into the Nightbreed by Moonface, Peloquin. a mystic named Lylesburg, Narcisse and Shuna Sassi, a woman covered in porcupine quills and one of the most awesomest beeyotches to ever be put on a movie screen (she’s also possibly Peloquin’s main squeeze, the two of them seem very close.)   The makeup for Shuna is absolutely superb.

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In the meantime, Boone’s girlfriend, Lori,  distraught because of his shooting, goes to Midian to visit the place where he died, along with a new friend she met in a bar. At Midian, her friend gets killed, because she was conveniently dating Decker, and Decker chases Lori into Midian, where she stumbles across a little half beast child named Babbette,who has been caught out in the sun. In exchange for rescuing Babbette, Babbette’s mother lets her into Midian, where she finds Boone, and the two of them eventually get chased out by the residents.

Lori is just about the only human in the entire movie who possesses positive qualities. She is loving and supportive of Boone, is well aware of his mental and emotional difficulties, and she’s strong and courageous, too.  At no time, do you get the impression that she is Boone’s handmaiden. The decisions she makes, to save Boone, to save Babbette, all come from a place of compassion and a need to do what is correct, despite her fear. The one time we see her take advantage of Babbettes mother’s kindness feels wrong, and she comes to regret having done so, as she gets threatened by Peloquin and doesn’t save Boone. When she approaches Midian the second time, in a more open spirit, she is accepted inside and she acquires the their help in rescuing Boone from the local jail.

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Back at Lori’s hotel, Decker has been busy killing all the residents. When Lori and Boone arrive at the hotel, Decker (once again, using them as his attack dogs,) calls the police, who arrest Boone. He was distracted by the scent of blood. Lori escapes. Sheriff Eigerman, having been told about Midian by Decker, decides that its his  God-given duty to route out the monsters. After Shuna Sassi and Lori break into the jail and free Boone, and at the urging of Decker, (who has done nothing but use the police like mindless puppeted  thugs throughout the entire film,) he puts together a posse of lawman and good ol’boys and rides into the cemetery. The  monsters, having been warned by the prophecies of their leader, Baphomet, are waiting for them. A pitched battle ensues, where we get to see the monsters in all their glory, and exactly what many of their powers are.

After the battle is over, Midian has been destroyed, the monsters have been scattered to the four winds, and most of the humans are dead, except for an insane priest and Decker, whose body has been  resurrected using the elixir that extended Baphomet’s life.

But this recap of the movie doesn’t actually do justice to its themes or its images. This is a movie whose imagery can’t be described in words. What good is it to you to have me describe the bizarrity of the inhabitants of Midian, or Baphomet and what he is, or even the Berserkers? This is a movie, that must be seen, to be appreciated. Some of the special effects are a bit dodgy but this was the eighties, it was a low budget movie, and it is at least, not bad CGI, which serves to make the monsters more warm and personable.

Baphomet
Baphomet

Yes, some of the monsters are quite hideous to look at, but there’s not a single human being in the movie, besides Lori, that comes out of this movie looking good. To a one, they are murderous, venal, ignorant, cowardly, stupid,  and horribly arrogant and Decker is the poster child for all their worse qualities. The monsters, on the other hand, are brave, curious, courageous, accepting, tolerant, funny and disturbingly sexy, in the case of Peloquin and Shuna Sassi. In essence, they’re everything that humanity is supposed to be, but is not on display in this movie.

Essentially, I rooted for the monsters.

So will you.

Nightbreed is available on Netflix.

Gang of Roses

Although this movie was released sometime in 2003, I’d never heard of it. I was recently watching it on cable and thought I’d give a shoutout to the only Black female Western in existence, to my knowledge. (It does have a sequel, btw)  A Jean-Claude La Marre film, starring Stacy Dash, Monica Calhoun, Bobby Brown, Macy Gray, LisaRaye, Loius Mandylor, and Marie Matiko, it’s about an all-girl posse, seeking revenge for the murder of the leader’s (LisaRaye) sister by an all-male posse led by Bobby Brown.

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Kind of like a cross between Set It Off and Mario Van Peebles’ Posse, the focus here is entirely on the women, their adventures and interrelationships. Just like Posse, the cast is almost entirely African American.  I’m not normally into heist films and this is only partially that, but I do like a good Western. This is not a Blockbuster film, it’s not even a great film. I give the film about 3 stars, or rather 3 bullets. The acting could be much, much better, but it’s interesting for what it is.

I know there were plenty of Black people running about in the West, after the Civil War but this is the one of the few Westerns that acknowledges this. Yes, there were whole towns of Black folks, cowboys, sex workers, gamblers and what have you in the Old West but no one knows these stories. I rather enjoy the idea of Black gunslingers and wish more movies like this were made and received the kind of backing and acclaim of any one of Kevin Costner’s movies.

The movie is full of the usual Western cliches. (The shootout, the saloon, some whores.) There’s a lot of horseback riding, naturally. What makes this all so interesting to watch, is the novelty of seeing a Black woman in white leather, winning a card game and a shootout in the local saloon. Black women in Westerns don’t get to have shoot outs or ride horses or look cool as fuck in white leather.

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(Thank you LisaRaye, for that image.) Black women mostly get to be prostitutes or cooks and this was a refreshing change from that, even though the movie itself is merely mediocre. See, we like to have adventures, too and it was nice to see a movie where the Black people have their own wants, desires and agendas that didn’t revolve around White folks needs, wants or agendas. The women in this movie aren’t there to make anyone else happy but themselves and that’s a refreshing change from the usual Black woman as sidekick in most genre films. (The first Aliens vs Predator movie, starring Sanaa Lathan and Demon Knight starring Jada Pinkett, stand  out for this reason, too. )

The end of the movie is a little like the end of Wyatt Earp, which I enjoyed a lot. There’s a lot of shooting in the streets and yelling for people to come out, to be shot. Bobby Brown is his usual awful self. Great Chuck!  That man can’t act a lick and mostly looks rather sloppy in lots of brown fringe. Ms. Matiko, in black leather and a bustier, looks much better and stands out for her ability to twirl her six-guns and she’s awesome.

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This movie is great for spectacle and I approached it the way I approach most fantasy films. It’s like watching Django Unchained or Steampunk or Tolkien. You know this couldn’t happen in real life (several men, both White and Black, get shot and no one raises an eyebrow at that, or the thought of an all female gang in the first place.)

Also if you’ve seen the end of Django Unchained, with the dancing horse, there’s a scene, just before the end credits, that I believe Tarantino stole, sorry… borrowed from this movie.

The music is also not too bad either. It mostly uses all modern songs by Popular artists. There’s no twanging guitars or country-soul hybrids, though. It’s straight R&B-Soul. So,  if you like  mid-tempo music with a New Jack beat the soundtrack is worth listening to.

Its not a great movie but it was a diverting 90 minutes. If you like to watch beautiful Black women shooting and riding (and I would love to know the behind-the-scenes stories on this movie) you could do worse than this and it’s still a lot better than Bad Girls,  a movie that just put me right to sleep.