Quick Movie Review: The NeverEnding Story (1984)

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Director Wolfgang Petersen sure had an ambitious task on his hands when he decided to take on creating the spectacular world that is Fantasia. And it sure paid off.

I watched NeverEnding Story often as a child, though hadn’t seen it in almost 20 years. But images like these stick in your brain indelibly.

Based on the 1979 novel of the same name by Michael Ende, it follows a young boy, Bastian, as he happens upon a mysterious book that bridges the gap between what’s real and what’s fantasy.

Filled with unique and visionary characters and set pieces, it’s such an attractive film. The vision is executed so imaginatively that when we see the world of Fantasia, we never for a second feel like it’s the same world–the real world–that Bastian is living in.

You can tell it enjoys showing off its effects. And it should–they’re amazing! But the film isn’t just a “look what we can do” effects spectacle. No, it’s very deep and has some important things to say. It’s mainly about hope and imagination, with subtle religious undertones as well.

It’s a fairly short movie, but the adventure never feels rushed, building momentum evenly and moving along at an almost-perfect pace.

Often times, filmmakers know that if they just throw a bunch of fancy effects and weird-looking characters into their children’s movie that the details of the story don’t matter. This isn’t the case here. For a fantasy film, the details aren’t convoluted at all. It’s easy for kids to understand, but adults won’t feel talked down to, either. In fact, they’ll likely relate to it too.

Twizard Rating: 100

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Quick Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

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I’m not blindly biased about the original Ghostbusters as many other lifelong fans tend to be. And I’m also not afraid to admit that I like Ghostbusters II better than the first.

With that said, this new Ghostbusters may not have the originality and importance of the original, but it definitely has the entertainment value.

The new quartet of ghost-fighters is made up of Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. As a reboot to an all-new series, the story shows how they come together and rise to fame amidst backlash from the government and other naysayers.

The looming–and probably inadvertent–Cold War undertones of the original get substituted for nothing in this one. And honestly, it’s better that way. We have enough social commentary in our superhero movies these days that we don’t need it all the time. Sometimes it’s good to have a movie that can just be fun.

And that’s what this film is. In many ways, this one is funnier. Whereas the the original found comedy from pretty much just Bill Murray and Rick Moranis, this one tries squeezing it out of its entire cast. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It mostly doesn’t work in the case of McKinnon and Jones. While Jones’ comedy style doesn’t fit well in most places, McKinnon’s just doesn’t fit well in this scenario. Wiig will say or do something funny and then McKinnon pipes in and it awkwardly falls flat. It’s jarring. It’s not just that the audience doesn’t expect it–the audience doesn’t want it. I think Kate McKinnon is funny, and I love the brand of humor she brings to this movie. But it just doesn’t work here.

There are few that may appreciate the cringe humor of McKinnon, but to most others, they just won’t get it. Which isn’t really what you want in a very mainstream reboot of one of the most popular comedies of all time.

Chris Hemsworth is the brightest ray of sunshine in this film, as he plays the earnestly stupid receptionist who goes as far as proposing the 7-Eleven graphic as the logo for the Ghostbusters team.

The script has some pacing issues, but a lot of the jokes are well-written and thought-out. Imagine if the ones that fell flat didn’t. Director Paul Feig does a good job not just handing McCarthy the reins and letting her run off with it recklessly. Fortunately, she’s contained enough that it doesn’t just feel like her movie where she’s stepping on everybody’s toes. In fact, no one really does.

There are enough solid references to the original film to keep old fans into it. There’s that connection. It never feels like a distant cousin of Ghostbusters, but like it could, possibly, still be in that same universe.

It’s obviously not as much of a zeitgeist of an era as the original Ghostbusters was. No one ever expected it to be. In fact, no one really expected anything (with the exception of those fanboys who just hated its existence). And that plays in its favor as we can just sit back and be entertained, for all that it’s worth.

Twizard Rating: 86

Quick Movie Review: Ghostbusters (1984)

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We all know the theme song. Society has long been ingraining it into our heads since forever. And no matter where you stand on the Ray Parker Jr./Huey Lewis debate, we can all say that, when it comes to Ghostbusters, the good looks don’t outweigh what’s on the inside. The film, even today, is as fun a movie as ever. It’s a microcosm of the era–perhaps not as much as Back to the Future was a year later, but in 1984, the decade was just about forming into itself.

The film follows a group of perverse scientists who have long been trying to uncover the world of the supernatural. After ominous events start happening and their radical ideas get them fired from the University which they work at, they form their own business as ghostbusters.

Even though it works, Dan Aykroyd is slightly underutilized here. He and Harold Ramis serve very little purpose as either straight man or top banana. But Bill Murray and Rick Moranis prove to play the funny guys well enough.

Murray was the king back then. He could say or do whatever he wanted without outshining any of his costars or commandeering a film. What he does so well is give the audience both broad and subtle humor, letting them chose for themselves. And he’s at his best here. Moranis is phenomenal as well–although he doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. He and Murray stay comedically brilliant without ever having to step on each other’s toes.

It doesn’t hold up quite as well as some of its contemporaries, but it gets better with every watch.

It can be slow intermittently, but that’s just a sign of the times. Slightly dated, sure, but Ghostbusters still gets the job done.

Twizard Rating: 93

Quick Movie Review: The Terminator (1984)

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It’s a little dated, but 1984’s The Terminator is nevertheless jam packed with entertainment. The effects seem cheesy by today’s standards, but are impressive considering the lower budget. And the movie’s impact on modern day action films is undeniable.

In The Terminator, a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from the year 2029–when machines rule the earth–is sent into the past to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son will lead a human rebellion against the machines. One human from the future, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), is hired to follow the cyborg into the past and save Sarah from assassination.

While I’m not a huge fan of James Cameron’s writing when it’s comes to dialogue, he always has really deep premises. And often times I feel as though he casts actors because of their look rather than their acting ability. The Terminator is no different. The dialogue is painful at times, but the themes are still relevant and the narrative is consistent. And Biehn’s poor acting is utterly distracting. Luckily Schwarzenegger has limited lines.

I also wish that Sarah and Reese’s chemistry had been a little more realistic. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. Their dynamic feels a little forced and sudden with no buildup.

There are a few plot holes and paradoxes in the film, but we can’t expect anything else from an 1980s time travel film.

Although ahead of its time, it comes off as more ordinary when compared to modern action flicks. Possibly because it influenced most of them. But the ’80s setting makes for great nostalgia when viewed today.

Twizard Rating: 92