Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Seen in June 

No children or franchises were harmed in the filming of Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Image via The Movie DB.

A month of life, death, travel, and illness, but not a month with a lot of films or television.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Amazon Prime
Despite mixed reviews, this is a fine and enjoyable film. It feels like a summer movie (especially the score for some reason). Directed by Ivan Reitman's son, Jason Reitman, this is a much better addition to the "Ghostbusters" lore than the previous effort. I should confess here and now that, while I loved the originals, we should not let the dust of nostalgia cloud our vision. The original film was fine, funny entertainment, but the fandom that has grown around these films seems to ignore how simple and corny they were. This latest edition is certainly one of the best looking of the Ghostbusters films and the charm of the originals remains intact. Yet do not expect some old glory to be restored. Again, it's a better film than some reviews would have you believe but let's just lower our expectations a bit first. In this version, Egon Spengler's grandchildren and their mom find themselves in a small town with not much to do but save the world. Which they do, while also discovering Egon Spengler's legacy. The end.

The short The Very Pulse of the Machine seems very much inspired by comic book icon, Moebius. Image via The Movie DB.

Love, Death & Robots Volume III
Another mixed anthology of animated sci-fi and fantasy shorts ranging in quality from something akin to a good video game to the epically mind blowing. The inconsistency should be expected by now and I guess fans of the series probably enjoy that. The quality of the stories is also inconsistent ranging from simple one-off jokes to inconclusively unfulfilling to satisfying short films. Despite the unevenness, the short nature of these episodes means there is little commitment to watching something you don't quite like only to find something you love. Two episodes, The Very Pulse of the Machine and Jibaro (from Oscar winner Alberto Mielgo) are two standouts in my mind.

Eve and Villanelle, together one last time. Image via The Movie DB.

Killing Eve S04
The final season of this series about an MI5 agent, Eve, played by Sandra Oh, in pursuit of a serial killing assassin Villanelle, played by Jodie Comer, does not disappoint. The show maintains it's high level of action, thrills and dark comedy as Eve and Villanelle team up to try and take down the stealthy and powerful criminal organization, The Twelve. In some ways the series provides a satisfactory conclusion but also enough open threads to leave you wondering what actually happened. The show should also finally prove that a female led, created, written and directed series can be every bit as great as a male led story. It certainly met and exceeded the Bechdel Test for female representation many times over.

Doctor Strange, Wong and interdimensional being, America Chavez in one of the most appropriately named Marvel films ever. Image via The Movie DB.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
I've said before that Spider-man: No Way Home almost required the viewer to have seen a dozen different films over the last decade to get all of the references the film made. While that isn't necessarily true of the latest Doctor Strange film, it does assume the audience is familiar with many of the constructs of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the idea of many universes. The plot is that someone simply wants to steal America Chavez's ability to jump universes and she has sought out Dr. Stephen Strange to save her. The visualization of this concept can be spectacular at times, but also spectacularly confusing at other times. The effects in this film can be either stunning or cause stunning. There is also a lot of what can be called "Fan Service". That is the idea where the filmmakers bring in characters or ideas they know that core fans will undoubtedly want to see, whether it adds anything to the story or not. The freedom of the idea of the multiverse may allow writers' ideas to explode off the screen but it also removes many of the high stakes films like this obliterate. You can introduce, then kill as many characters as you like in as many ways as you fancy if it's all happening in someone else's universe. I've been surprised by some of the emotional moments the film offers because as I said they happen to a character in some other dimension. In the end, the character of Doctor Strange that Benedict Cumberbatch has created and the ability of ring master extraordinaire, director Sam Raimi, keep the threads of this movie together but just barely. The wildness of the ideas lead to too many things happening all at once and not enough focus on any one to care about. At some point these Marvel films can be so far up their own self-referential butt as to become some new kind of medical condition. When Martin Scorsese criticized these kinds of films as a theme park ride, he wasn't wrong, but I kind of think Marvel has created a whole new type of entertainment that some people will not recognize or enjoy. For those that do, it's quite a ride.

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