Saturday July 30, 2016
Book 16: Big, Dumb Objects — Part IV

Star Trek Beyond

StarTrekBeyond2If you love Star Trek, I’m reasonably confident you’ll love Star Trek Beyond.

For reasons whose explanations would require spoilers¹, I did not quite love the movie, but I certainly liked it a lot. Sandra loved it unconditionally. It’s certainly worth the price of the movie ticket and the popcorn, and if friends were intent upon dragging me out to see it with them, I wouldn’t play dead-weight and force them to work for it. I’d walk along quite happily.

Star Trek Beyond enters my list just below the Threshold of Awesome, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again on Blu-Ray, and it’s quite possible that I’ll consider it completely awesome at that point.

¹I’ll hide the spoilers over here.



There was no crossing of the streams, but there has been a crossing of my Threshold of Awesome.

Ghostbusters2016PattyI had a blast at Ghostbusters. There was a little bit of a pacing drag at around the midpoint, and a few of the jokes didn’t fire for me, but in most places the film was kind of perfect.

My biggest concern going into the film was that Leslie Jones’ character was going to be the stereotypically “street smart” character. My worry was based on a snippet of her dialog in the trailer, and I’m pleased to spoil a teency bit of the film by telling you that those lines read quite a bit differently in context.

Of secondary concern was the sound. Specifically, the sound of that lawsuit-worthy walking bass riff, the one that became the audio signature of Ghostbusters back in 1984. Good news! We get plenty of that riff in the film. We also get lots of new stuff, and I find it all much more pleasing to the ear now that I know there’s coexistence rather than replacement.

I had exactly no concern that Paul Feig would give us a fun movie. He and Melissa McCarthy opened a solid line of credit with me last year with Spy, and I’m delighted to announce that the balance has been paid. Whatever their next joint is, I’m in.

Ghostbusters2016HoltzmannIf I’m to quibble about anything, it would have to be the scenes with misplaced focus. Kate McKinnon’s character, Holtzmann, usually was not the focal point of shots where the four Ghostbusters are interacting, but she was by far the most interesting person to watch. It’s as if there’s an entirely different story being told from her point of view.

This isn’t much of a quibble, really. I figured out pretty early on that I didn’t want to miss what Holtzmann was doing in each scene, and I was rewarded for paying attention.

And on the subject of not missing things, the entire credits sequence is entertaining. Don’t leave. Stay in the theater until the lights come up.

I’d love to write a much longer post offering a critical analysis of differences and similarities between the 1984’s Ghostbusters and the 2016 remake/reboot, but regrettably I am made of meat, not time. All I can say at this point is that the craft of cinema has come a long way. The new film is very tightly written¹, and provides lots of wonderful SFX in strong service of the story.


¹For me the 1984 Ghostbusters film plays like a concatenation of good Saturday Night Live sketches. The seams are pretty well polished down, but the sketch-comedy aspect is visible. The 2016 Ghostbusters film feels “through-composed.” When I say that it is “tightly written,” I mean that the story feels like it was structured first to work like a story, and carefully refined in that regard, and then the comedic bits were punched up as appropriate. 


The Secret Life of Pets

TheSecretLifeOfPetsMy 15-year-old daughter joined me in the theater for The Secret Life of Pets. She loved it, and while I enjoyed it quite a bit, I’m sure I liked it more for having her with me.

I’m not sure why it doesn’t quite clear my Threshold of Awesome. It comes close, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, but it didn’t shine as brilliantly for me as did the stuff above that line.

A critical¹ analysis of the film might prove interesting. The main character, Max, is our protagonist, but he doesn’t appear to be the hero. He’s proactive, and is “protagging²” enough to hold down the protagonist job, but the character taking heroic action, the one for whom we’re actually cheering, is the dog who goes looking for him. This is an exercise that students of film, and of storytelling in general, may get quite a bit out of³.

Here’s my take on your weekend movie money: If the adults in the room are on the fence about which animated film to see this week, Finding Dory has more to offer. Kids (and especially kids with pets) are going to have more fun with The Secret Life of Pets.


¹For “scholarly” values of “critical.” 

²I’m not sure if I made up this verb, or if somebody else did, but Brandon Sanderson keeps giving me credit for it. We use it from time to time on the Writing Excuses podcast. Protagging is what protagonists are doing when their decisions move the story forward. Often when we’re bored with a story it’s because the story is waiting for something to happen to the protagonist that will shove them plotward. 

³The main character, the hero, and the protagonist do not all need to be the same person. They often are, but in stories with lots of interesting characters they just as often are not.