The Goonies (1985): An Over Indulgent But Good Children’s Coming of Age Tale

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“The Goonies,” is a good but not great film. I get into the reasons for this later but a huge portion is it is hard to take any of the villains seriously and product placement.

“The Goonies” is also a film I hadn’t seen for years, so seeing it again with new eyes also gave me an appreciation for everything that worked and didn’t work in the film. The story was written by Steven Spielberg, with Chris Columbus doing the screenplay while Richard Donner was one of the producers and also directed the film. The other producer was Harvey Bernhard.

The story involves a group of kids called The Goonies made up of Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) the inventor, Mouth (Corey Feldman) the bully, Chunk (Jeff Cohen) the nervous kid who likes to eat a lot and tells tall tales and Mikey (Sean Astin) the leader. They live Astoria, OR where their homes are being foreclosed on and go on a quest for One-Eyed Willie’s Pirate Treasure when they find a map in Mikey’s father’s things. Around this time the Fratellis are being chased down the cops and go out in the woods to hide. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Goonies – The Goonies are great characters. I’ll describe why below.

Data – Ke Quan is fantastic in this role! He isn’t annoying like when he played Short Round in “Temple of Doom” and is a super creative character, with lots of inventions that they put to use to stop the Fratellis and get to the treasure. We learn later his dad is an inventor too. His arc is his facing of his fears as he is the one of the ones who wants to leave when they have a chance to escape up the well.

Mouth – Mouth goes from being a prick to a nice guy. This is partially due to his attraction to Stef and in the end they both balance one another out as his laid back attitude rubs off on her and her caring attitude rubs off on him. Hated this character for the first third because of how much of a bully he was to Chunk. He acts as translator of the map since he knows Spanish.

Chunk – This is the character who becomes friends with my favorite character, Sloth Fratelli in the movie. He is anxious but uses that to his advantage when he stalls the Fratellis during his questioning. It is also his kindness that leads to Sloth breaking them out of their cell and saving the Goonies.

Sloth – The abused and deformed Fratelli who just wants to be cared for. This character is great and has been completely shaped by television since that’s all his mother and brother left him in his cell. For this reason we see him adopt the hero role when he is treated with kindness and saves all the Goonies at the end as well as being taken into Chunk’s family. He is by far the best character in the film and shows not to judge by appearances.

Stef – She started out really annoying but came around and was the one who actually had a character arc out of all the teenagers traveling with the Goonies. She finds joy in the adventure in the end and is there to add perspective to amazing places like the wishing well.

Mikey – Is the leader of the Goonies played by Sean Astin. His role is fighting to keep their homes from being foreclosed on and driving the adventure forward. When they have the chance to escape he tells them that they need to take of their parents now as they’ve been taken care of and that they should take risks and not live with regret. He is a kind character who was a good choice for the lead.

The Adventure – The Adventure to get the treasure is amazing! They go underneath the town, travel through trap filled caves and have to have a skeleton piano played to reach the treasure and the pirate ship. The adventure is the best part of the story besides The Goonies.

Okay: Andy and Brand – The generic teens along for the ride. They are attracted to each other and eventually get together. Brand is also Mikey’s older brother but not nearly enough is done with that relationship.

Momma Fratelli – The only Fratelli that felt like a threat since she threatens to cut out Mouth’s tongue at one point. Besides that she’s just as much of a joke villain as her kids.

The Cons: The Villains – Most of the villains are one dimensional jokes, which doesn’t help if they are supposed to provide tension.

The Fratelli Brothers – They brake one out of prison but they never shoot to kill, they are also constantly bickering which makes their threat level go down. They have some slap stick humor moments happen to them too which doesn’t help their case for being villains worthy of fear.

The Suits – The guys coming to foreclose on 50 houses in the neighborhood to build a country club and golf course. They have no personality traits beyond dickishness and are a waste of characters. I get they are the bad guys, doesn’t mean they have to be caricatures.

Product Placement – There are two really big product placement moments…when Sloth breaks his chains to get the Baby Ruth that he and Chunk share and at the end when someone brings Domino’s which is Chunk’s favorite pizza. It isn’t subtle at all as the camera lingers on the Baby Ruth and Domino’s label.

This film is based on a story that Spielberg wrote, but you can tell he didn’t direct as the quality of the direction isn’t super memorable. I attribute this more to Richard Donner and the problems with the villains to the screenplay by Chris Columbus. It still is a fun movie I’d recommend, but it’s problems are extremely apparent. The best parts of the film are the adventure to get the treasure and the moments with Sloth and with  The Goonies.

Final Score: 8 / 10. Solidly good with problems.

World War Z (2013): An Alright Action Film

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We continue Apocalypse Week with “World War Z.” World War Z is one of my favorite books, and I’m going to say off the back, there is not much related to the books in how this film was executed at all. It doesn’t prevent it from being an enjoyable film mind you, it just doesn’t reach it’s full potential and takes the simple route for storytelling and entertainment value.

The novel World War Z written by Max Brooks is told as a historical narrative of life under a zombie apocalypse, with journalistic reports of the outbreak as it happens from the initial spread, to the end and how humanity fought back against it. It takes place in locations all over the world and has a diverse cast of interesting characters. There really isn’t a traditional main protagonist. These are some of the reasons, beyond the social justice commentary that make it such a miraculous book. There isn’t any of that in “World War Z” the film.

“World War Z” was directed by Marc Forster and went through a lot of writers to actually be completed. There are five names attached to the screenplay. Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof and came from a screen story by Carnahan and J. Michael Straczynski. From the look of it, they did not know what they were doing, so it is a miracle it even managed to come together as much as it did. Everything was going against this film being any kind of good.

The story itself is simple in the end. Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a United Nations Employee is called out of retirement to help find out how the outbreak occurred and finding some way to stop it. The narrative is entirely around him and the survivors and people he meets as he tries to survive the initial outbreak and trace the source of the contagion and find a cure.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: The Action – The action is really good. The zombies are like fire ants and having rage type zombies is great for action since people turn quickly and it creates tension when a zombie gets close since you don’t know if one of the survivors that Lane is with are going to turn. There is also a great scene of the outbreak occurring on a plane in flight.

The Cinematography – You see Israel, London and New York City as some of the locations destroyed by the outbreak. The sheer destruction…most of which we cause in trying to stop the spread of the zombies is powerful and the shots of fear and creating tension with simple things like people singing is masterful. Most of the times hope occurs it is squashed…until the third act.

The Music – I really liked the score for this film. Marco Beltrami created a great score that adds tension and drama when it needs too and can be reflective on the scenes that demand it. I plan to use music from this score to write sometime.

Gerry Lane – Brad Pitt is a solid actor, and he pretty much needs to carry the plot since they kill off all the interesting characters, like the doctor who thinks he knows what might be causing it dies when they land in South Korea, they go to Israel and the government agent who built the wall to protect from the outbreak dies too before we get the chance to know him, the only two who survive are people who are interesting characters who I’ll list below.

The Scientists – The final area is the pharmaceutical company in the UK where some of the scientists have a theory that the infected only target the strong to spread the contagion so they need to infect themselves with a deadly virus and cure it in order to be safe from the zombies. This is done and is one of the best parts of the film. Peter Capaldi (The 12th Doctor) plays one of the scientists and he is great as the distrustful guy. We also see one of the scientists go with him and the Israeli soldier to get the viruses. This scene is great and everyone survives!

The Ending – The ending is when we finally see people other than Brad Pitt and the military fighting back. We get references to things in the book too like the the fight in the north where people went to in order to escape the zombies and to get their bodies to freeze and destroy them that way. We also see some folks in an apartment creating a makeshift flamethrower to fight against the zombies. Honestly, I wish this had been the film. Seeing different groups from all over the world fighting against the outbreak is what made it interesting.

Cons: Lane’s Family – He has two daughters and a wife and they don’t feel so much like characters as props. Which is a shame since a lot could have been done. They are there to motivate Lane to do his job and to be protected. They are motivation and nothing more.

Most Minority Characters are Killed or Turned – If you are a minority in this film, chances are you will be turned. We see this in the Hispanic family who decides to stay in the apartment during the initial outbreak, the doctor who slips in South Korea and accidentally shoots himself and in the Palestinians and Israelis who die when the zombies climb over the wall. Only ones who survive are the U.N. Deputy-Secretary General and one of the Israeli military folks who is working with Pitt and almost gets infected.

The Pepsi Moment – Lane after he is infected grabs a Pepsi from a machine and looks relieved as he drinks it. He later uses it to get the zombies away from the door so he can get back to the science team. It is pretty blatant product endorsement and I laughed during it because it was so against everything going on before. I’m sure Pepsi was on this survivor’s mind…Wow, in the final score taking away a point just for this scene.

I honestly was expecting worse from this film. Most of the problems with how minority characters and the family were handled was just bad writing, which I think wasn’t the intent. Since Lane works for the U.N. and the whole feel of the film is global, it should have had more of it’s global characters survive. Since every group has people turned. In that way I recognize those issues but also that they were larger issues…like the blatant product endorsement thrown in at the end. The movie still manages to have a pretty strong narrative for it’s protagonist Lane and the music and cinematography are fantastic. I thought those would suffer too because of all the different writers and time in development hell.

Would I recommend this movie? Yes, just know the problems going in…and know that it is pretty much nothing like the book. Where the book was a deep story that had a larger point socially and politically, this is just a fun apocalyptic survival action film.

Final score for this is 8 / 10