A BRAVE NEW WORLD WITH NEW GHOSTBUSTERS

When is a movie not a movie? The new Ghostbusters could be an example of such a thing. There are seldom few reviews out there that don’t feel like diatribes about gender, remakes and fan service. Negative reviewers feel compelled to point out their history with the franchise and whether they enjoy female led films. Positive reviews take the time to scold small brained insecure men who couldn’t deal with women being at the forefront of a beloved franchise. Which is fair enough because there were puzzling and unsettling paradoxes here. For example, late last year several underwhelming trailers were released for this season’s blockbusters but even bad trailers for anxious releases get more likes than dislikes on YouTube. Not so for the Ghostbusters trailer whose unprecedented negative rating seemed the result of a concerted effort by those with a sexist agenda. Paul Feig has made 3 films previously with female centric casts in traditionally male dominated genres. Bridesmaids (gross out comedies), The Heat (buddy cop action) and Spy (ummm the spy genre). None of these caused controversy or debate albeit Bridesmaids was celebrated a little for breaking new ground. Is it that fan boys particularly felt under attack for the casting in their beloved franchise? Was it a perverse extension of the mindset that had caused a stir when Daniel Craig was cast as blond Bond? Yet these are different characters in a new iteration, Bill Murray remains the only actor to have portrayed Peter Venkman, you can leave those old films on a shelf unharmed. After years of false starts and Harold Ramis’s passing, doing a new take with a female led cast felt like a great way to organically do something new, different and fresh. Plus the old cast were showing up in cameos to give their blessing. While that often is a case of writing enough numbers on a cheque surely the old fans would not want this to fail if the old cast didn’t? It can’t be worse than say Blue Brothers 2000? Ghostbusters  peter macnicol ghostbusters ghostbusters 2Ghostbusters for some holds a special place in their heart the way Superman and Star Wars does for others. Yet the response for this film seems a little over the top given how much Ghostbusters II failed to fire. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy are well established movie stars now in their own right and at one point Elizabeth Banks was rumoured to be under consideration (what the hell happened there Hollywood?!) although Kate McKinnon does look very similar. wink ghostbusters kate mckinnon winkingThe trailers and marketing were subpar but the negative reaction has also felt targeted and revealed some ugliness. On the other hand the implication that people who don’t like this film are all sexist is insulting to both genders and something Sony seems happy to have exploited.

So here we are…maybe we can talk about the film now for a bit. Wiig stars as physics professor Dr. Erin Gilbert trying to get tenure at her university when an old book she co-wrote about paranormal research is re-published hurting her chances. She tracks down her old friend and co-author Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) who is now continuing paranormal research at a technical college with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon). She tags along with them in their latest investigation and wouldn’t you know it they come across an actual ghost which thus begins their adventures of busting ghosts. Soon enough they’re joined by Transit Officer Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) who calls them to one scene and reveals herself an expert on old historical landmark buildings and their hauntings. All four are entirely new characters with echoes of the original quartet, Yates is Ray Stantz-the believer super excited by what they’re doing, Holtzmann is Egon Spengler – socially awkward and tech minded, Tolan is Winston Zeddemore-the practical outsider (references to Patty or Winston as being streetwise I don’t get, they were just very grounded and smart in that sense) and Gilbert is Peter Venkman-interested in other things including in an adorkable way the opposite sex. Not to sound too politically correct but Patty Tolan in the trailers seemed a throwback to old stereotypes of African American women. In the film she is more well rounded and arguably the most likeable character compared to killjoys chasing tenure and others complaining about Chinese take-away.

The film following all the media coverage seems oddly prescient in retrospect, the film’s villain is a little man who studied the ghost research of Wiig and McCarthy only to use it to cause more havoc and bring about him becoming a more powerful giant being. A thinly veiled reference to the stereotype of a basement dwelling fan boy geek who can’t relate to women and who has delusions of grandeur. Some have suggested this is an attack on the franchise’s fan base but who wants to identify as this guy? More disappointing is the fact that this idea for an interesting villain isn’t further developed.

Ghostbusters  ghostbusters original ghostbusters
Ah. Old New York city with your rampart crime and filthy streets.

The film follows trends of blockbusters these days, less scary and sexy than previous incarnations or more pointedly less adult and more family friendly for four quadrant appeal. Boston fills is for New York City for the most part, there’s a great deal of CGI which has less impact than practical effects. Everything has less impact! A neat touch though is McKinnon slowly developing the tech throughout the film after each encounter to make it more practical and combat effective which comes in handy during the finale.

kristen wiig ghostbusters kate mckinnon melissa mccarthy leslie jonesThese are some of the most likeable female comedic actresses working today and they remain likeable in this film. I read a really good piece by Matt Zoller Seitz citing how here is a blockbuster with four women in the lead who are all about the work, not defined by their relationship to a man, are all supportive of each other, surrounded by people (mostly men) saying they can’t do their job before they prove ultimately they can. These are all great things to have in a blockbuster but as a scary film it’s not scary enough, as a comedy there are great spaces of time between laughs throughout and chemistry wise something is off with this film. The new Ghostbusters film isn’t bad but it ain’t great either and don’t both genders deserve a great Ghostbusters film?

I’ll close with this picture. These little girl wants to bust ghosts, were there little girls who wanted to busts ghosts in 1984 but were told they couldn’t just because all the Ghostbusters in the movie were men? I don’t know, my sister had Princess Leia, Supergirl, She-Ra and Rainbow Bright so it didn’t come up. If this movie makes it a little easier for these girls or any girls to play being a Ghostbuster, if it spurns an interest for these girls or any girls to do science, if it makes these girls or any girls have a more positive image of themselves as women then that’s a good thing. I hope they enjoy the film too.

-Lloyd Marken

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DEADPOOL: FINALLY A HAPPY ENDING FOR RYAN REYNOLDS

Oh hello. I don’t like to always follow the formula of film reviews. Sometimes I can’t help but use the dreaded pronouns I, myself and me. Sometimes I break away from the formula of having the first paragraph be about whether the film is good, the second paragraph introducing the plot followed by a third paragraph to expand on said plot and maybe start to go into the performances. Sometimes I never really have much of a fourth paragraph referring to technical aspects that stand out which often include cinematography, score or the stunts. Sometimes I skip straight to the fifth paragraph and rate the director in comparison to his/her other films before closing with the sixth where you reiterate how good it is maybe with a pithy comment. I don’t always follow this formula but it is insane how much better my reviews have been when I have started writing trying to fit this structure. By the way I really like the review I did for Youth if you’re interested. Deadpool likewise is a comic book movie screaming how much it is not like your average comic book movie and yet still following the structure of the formula in some ways. That’s not to say it isn’t like a breath of fresh air in this comic book movie saturated market. Timing can play a part in these things coming off Age of Ultron which was great but not as satisfying as its predecessor and arriving just before the juggernauts of Batman v Superman (v what the fuck is that?!) and Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool feels like a renegade upstart lacking the big bucks of those films but daring to go to places with meta-humour and adult content that those franchise four quadrant blockbusters would not dare. movies film dc features total filmGuardians of the Galaxy, which I really shouldn’t be mentioning because the link to it is tenuous at best and will just increase my word count which is always far too long but screw it it’s a blog and nobody is paying me so I’ll be self-indulgent, arrived at a time that there hadn’t been a space opera in a while besides those Star Treks of which the latest was good but not nearly as funny as a Talking Racoon with a machine gun. If it came out now it might feel like it was trying to catch the wave of popularity The Force Awakens is enjoying. A few years ago Deadpool would have been subverting a genre the average movie goer didn’t know inside and out. It turns out my ex-wife was right, timing is everything although I think she was talking about foreplay rather than motion picture releases and box office success.

The film opens with possibly the best opening titles sequence of the entire decade, certainly the most memorable and original one I can think of in a long time. The camera tracking through a car crashing in ultra-slow motion, while orientating us to where the car’s occupants are and throwing up humorous self-mocking credits. This is a moment from the film’s most impressive action set piece. Opening with a conversation in a taxi cab it becomes a car chase down a crowded freeway that segues into a lengthy shoot-out before concluding with a character stand-off where the lead villain and two X-Men are involved. This sequence is such a stand out that it is broken up into at least the 4 listed sections above each ending with a cliff-hanger to peak interest before it is intercut with a series of flashbacks. By chopping and changing like this the filmmakers also disguise the fact that in sequential order the audience would basically be following yet another standard origins story. Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a mercenary and former special forces soldier who falls in love with escort Vanessa played by Morenna Baccarin. The flashbacks while not as interesting are still unconventional themselves (the development of the central love story is partly depicted in a sex montage that will never let you think of international women’s day the same way again) but it is also where the film reveals it’s heart showing the lead character as vulnerable as we will ever see him. A cancer diagnosis is played honestly by Reynolds and Baccarin showing what a young laconic couple would face when disease creeps into their lives. Wade gets an offer to enrol in an experimental government project that will cure him but not all is as it seems. The torture basement where his mutant powers of healing as well as physical disfigurement come forth is suitably dinghy and depressing. Deadpool is actually insane in the comic books which I’m not sure is as obvious in the films where the fourth wall breaking just seems like a good running gag but his anger against villain Francis is well articulated and as an audience member you are right there with him following the basement story. The second act of the film having left the freeway and flashbacks plays as a more straightforward revenge showdown but is lightened by crude jokes and Reynolds’s nice interplay with Leslie Uggams as Deadpool’s roommate Blind Al.

Uggams is part of the supporting cast that fares best including Karan Soni as the taxi driver Dopinder, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, an assortment of people bringing Colossus to life and Gina Carano as Angel Dust completely channelling major henchman parts from 80s action films that I expected her to do a neck crack at some point. Baccarin as love interest Vanessa is limited somewhat in the second half but comes across as a whole human being in a role that would have been in danger of being a cliché. My favourite moment for her is when they are in the Doctor’s office. Ed Skrein is effective as Francis but lacks presence possibly due to playing against Reynolds in the role the latter was always meant to play-just not like he did in that Wolverine film! T.J. Miller as Wilson’s best friend Weasel has his moments which are a bit like his comedy. His acceptance speech at the Critic’s Choice Awards last year was awesome but the guy just doesn’t always do it for me and that’s true here too. I suppose since this is a review I should probably be more articulate in my opinion of Miller but  I really would rather write about how amazingly hot Jennifer Garner is. I mean seriously those cheekbones, that smile. By the way Jenny there was absolutely nothing wrong with the black one.

 Absolutely nothing.

I also respect you for your talent, personality and intelligence and I love my wife but there really was nothing wrong with the black one and yes I think about sex a lot. By the way I don’t have an ex-wife like I mentioned earlier. But if I continue to write blog posts like this…. Maybe I’ll need to buy a unicorn stuffed toy for myself too.

And now it’s time for the technical paragraph. Tim Miller shoots the action effectively and the effects are first rate especially given the budget, the crew are not lacking in ambition. The palette is grey and gloomy for the most part and I for one could’ve used a bit more colour but it fits the mood. Different sets are effectively lit to convey mood but there is little variety, this is a drab grey city that is mostly overcast when not raining and full of small dinghy apartments and bars. Yes the humour buys an awful lot of good will and is the best part of the film but if the action didn’t hold up or the film lacked heart we wouldn’t care as much. We do. The soundtrack as well is a fantastic arrangement of old hits mixing country, hip hop and power ballads. Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning is well and truly back folks.

Mic movies film marvel trailer

A few years ago I saw a great romantic comedy that pushed Sandra Bullock back into the superstar stratosphere. She followed with an Oscar win in The Blind Side, an excellent action comedy The Heat and anchored a special effects drama directed by a first rate film maker. Her male co-star Ryan Reynolds did some good films after The Proposal but if there was a Ryan who broke out in that time frame his surname was Gosling not Reynolds. But like I said kids it’s all about timing. Here we are and some of those failures have made this film’s success that much sweeter. Alright getting close to 1,200 words so better wrap this up. Ryan Reynolds can play a lot of different notes, he really can and I hope he gets to in the years to come but he has always delivered as a first rate smart ass and the Merc with the Mouth (that is not stitched up!!!) really is the role he was born to play. Did I say that already? Whatever he is great in this film.

I saw Deadpool on opening night in a packed cinema; the crowd was lapping up every minute. Two days later I saw it again for a late session and the theatre was uncharacteristically packed again. The marketing had been clever and hitting the mark for months but don’t let anybody tell you any different- nobody expected this. The film cost $58 million dollars and has so far grossed $710 million dollars worldwide. In its opening week initial gross estimates were revised three times at least. It was hoped to be a hit but it has surpassed all expectations and delivered something audiences were craving. It has not been an easy, likely or guaranteed journey to this film getting made let alone it being this good. God it’s just so nice when everything just comes together. If you’re 18, do yourself a favour and go see this movie.

-Lloyd Marken