Ghost in the Shell, Ghostbusters, and a few more films

The Ghost and Mr Chicken (1966)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"It was terrible. It was just terrible. I'll never get over it as long as I live."

C'mon, it's not that bad.

Everything in this movie is cornball, but it's a giggle if you're in the mood. 

Don Knotts plays Luther Heggs, a typesetter at a small-town newspaper. Hoping to be a reporter, he takes a 'special assignment' to spend the night at a haunted mansion that was long ago the scene of a murder.

#288  [archive]
MAY 8, 2024

Knotts is the master at portraying this kind of jittery cowardice, wringing laughs out of situations that otherwise aren't funny.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Ghost Goes West (1935)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This begins very Scottish, with a long-running feud between the Glouries and MacLaggans. I'm with the MacLaggans, just because they're kept waiting outside the Glourie castle, hoping to see the great and powerful Old Man Glourie.

Then comes war against the dratted English, with Glouries and MacLaggans supposed to be on the same side, but Old Man Glourie urges his son to kill any MacLaggans first. 

Did I mention, this is a comedy? And sometimes it's a funny one, too. 

Old Man Glourie is quickly dead from old age, and the clan sells his castle to an American (Eugene Palette), who has the place dismantled and shipped to the USA. What he doesn't know is that Glourie ghost came along for the ride.

Directed by the French moviemaker René Clair, filmed in England and in English, starring Robert Donat as the ghost and his living descendant. It strong start, drags in the middle, and then a strong finish.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Ghost in the Machine (1993)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"A hacker this good can mess with your credit cards, he can wipe out your bank accounts, he can even cancel your driver's license, but there is no way anyone can kill somebody with a computer."

That's what good-guy hacker Chris Mulkey says, but he's mistaken. In this slice of computer paranoia from the dial-up era, modern technology gets intermingled with a serial killer's mind, and suddenly everything electronic wants to kill Karen Allen. The microwave waves the whole kitchen, traffic lights will fool ya, the hand-dryer in the restroom bursts into flames, etc.

It's a chuckle, mostly, but some of the graphics are kinda cool, and I liked it when the neutrons up and smacked the annoying boy playing Karen Allen's son.

"Hurry up and get everything unplugged! I know it sounds crazy, but something is after me!"

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Now, this is something not so silly...

Motoko is a female assassin, working for the National Public Safety Commission, and she's plugged in and augmented.

It's the way of the near future — human body parts, up to and including the brain, can be swapped out for cyborgish replacement parts. Motoko has been so thoroughly artificialized, a woman on the outside but circuitry and tech inside, it's not certain she still qualifies as human.

Her partner, a big man who's also been augmented, thinks of both of them as human, but Motoko has checked out, doesn't even care about the question until a 'Puppet Master' wants to merge itself with her. "Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you," says the Puppet Master.

Cartesian dualism comes into play, a philosophical concept so complex and confusing that I had to pause the movie and read the Wikipedia article about it.

Ghost in the Shell is a cartoon, but also a headache, and a billion light years from Disney. It's heavy sci-fi manga, possibly too intelligent for me. The dialogue is dense, and sometimes sounds like encyclopedias having a conversation, and the issues in play are way, way more intense than most movies. 

I watched it twice, and tried to cheat the second time by switching from the English-subtitled version to an English-dubbed copy. That didn't work, because the dubbing is not a translation so much as a dumbing down. A lot of the complexity gets subtracted in the dubbed dialogue, and even acknowledging that I'm a dummy, I don't want to watch the dumbed down version, so I went back to the Japanese.

The film is beautifully animated, and even if (like me) you can't keep up with all of it, enough sinks in that it's absolutely recommended, preferably in Japanese, with the lights out and no distractions.

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Ghostbusters (1984)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Everyone knows this horror comedy, and nobody needs a detailed review of it forty years later.

I'll simply say, I watched it again one gloomy night last week, and it's still funny and frightening, but mostly funny.

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis. Written by Aykroyd, Ramis, and Moranis. Directed by Ivan Reitman. 

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Giant (1956)
The Giant Claw (1957)
Giant from the Unknown (1958)
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
Ginger in the Morning

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting recommendations for movies,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. What would be a modern equivalent of a cheesy, fun Don Knotts movie? I feel like Adam Sandler's oeuvre might qualify but I haven't seen many of them and none all the way through.

    Feels like an "old" screwball comedy is just a different beast entirely, like hearing a knock-knock joke from an old man vs from a 30 year old nightclub comic. Quaintness isn't everything but it can account for a lot!

    1. Except maybe the early films of Jim Carrey, I don't think there's been any resurrection of the Don Knotts style, where jokes are special guest stars but the comedy is actually based on the actor's face.

      Adam Sandler's movies have devolved into don't bother, but some of his early ones were good. The Wedding Singer is his best, I think.


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