Thank goodness finals are over. At least for a little while! The summer semester starts up soon. Time to relax a bit, enjoy the weather before it becomes too hot and catch up on some movies you missed before summer blockbuster season hits full force.
This time, we’ve got two movies that, if box office returns are any indicator, you probably didn’t see. If you add the total domestic gross of both of these, they don’t even add up to the opening weekend haul of The Boss Baby (which was actually kinda cute, by the way). One of them, I vowed to catch and review. The other, I blinked and missed in the theater. Both of them surprised me a bit and both are worth watching but for different reasons.
Ghost In The Shell (2017) [PG-13]
I told you I would finally get out to see it! I have to admit I went to Ghost In The Shell both excited and braced for utter disappointment. I’ve seen all of the films and episodes in the GiTS universe, and I was excited to see what the “American” version would be. I also had heard all of the commotion and controversy over the casting choices. Then the teasers and trailers started coming out. And it looked pretty good. “Guard your heart,” I told myself.
And here’s the thing. Hollywood’s version of Ghost in The Shell was not going to be the same as the original, Japanese version. The cultures and their values are too different. The audiences are not the same. If you are a GiTS fan, please don’t go into this expecting it to have the same feel as the manga or the previous films. It doesn’t.
But what it does do is create a universe that is a surprisingly vibrant and visually interesting mixture of your favorite cyberpunk film classics with a touch of Hollywood glitz and glamour. Honestly, the poster here is a good idea of what to expect visually. There are scenes in Ghost in The Shell that are direct analogs of the films and the manga. Then there are others that are just eye-popping and original.
The visuals are outstanding. The acting is fine. The music is good, though it’s an odd choice not to use the original title sequence music from the 1995 film in the current movie where you are attempting to recreate the look of the original title sequence. It’s really the script that keeps this from getting a better score from me. It’s not bad, just bland. And that’s where the comparisons to the Japanese Ghost in The Shell hurt the Hollywood version. The audiences are not the same, and I suppose you can’t expect what works for a Japanese audience to work for a Hollywood audience. But I wish it would. The script of the 1995 version is more interesting and engaging to me. The Hollywood version is more of a beautiful diversion.
That being said, for those of you who aren’t already familiar with the GiTS narrative, I think you are going to like this. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on coming into this with no preconceived ideas on how things should look or how the story should go. If this is new to you and you do see Ghost in The Shell, do me a favor and send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a message on Facebook. Seriously, I’m really interested to know how this worked or didn’t work for you. Thanks!
6.5 paws out of 10
The Founder (2016) [PG-13]
This one just flew in and out of the theater. And I don’t know why. Unless maybe there was some pressure from McDonald’s? Because I have to tell you, I thought it was pretty darn good.
The Founder tells a “based on the true story” version of the beginnings of McDonald’s. It follows the story of Ray Kroc who is selling milkshake mixers out of the trunk of his car to Drive-Ins when he hears about McDonald’s Restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Run by a pair of brothers, the restaurant dazzles Kroc, and he decides he needs to find a way in. Though initially hesitant, the McDonald brothers agree to take on Kroc as a partner, though they begin to regret that decision almost immediately.
So what makes this such a good movie? Well, aside from the plot being fantastic, the acting is great. Michael Keaton is wonderful as Ray Kroc. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch play the brothers McDonald with humor, warmth and humanity. The whole of the cast does a wonderful job of capturing the lives of these people.
Are there things that give me pause about The Founder? Sure. There is some clear romanticism going on here. The script has a tendency to diminish the role of women. It also eliminates children from several of the relationships and leaves out an entire marriage. I guess that’s why it is “based on a true story.”
Regardless, this is a really good one. Originally, I had wanted to do this in our past series of reviews about Hollywood and business. I’m kind of glad I missed this in the theater and the review series though. It’s a different kind of business film. I’m really glad I finally got to see this, and I think you will be too.
8 paws out of 10