Archive for the ‘Movie reviews’ Category

Movie Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

I just saw the new Ghostbusters movie. I’ll give you the TL;DR first; or, I suppose that’s the “too long, won’t read”.
Good dialogue and visual gags, 95% solid story, and God bless the team that oversaw the color choices.
Ghosts should be green, thank you for the green ghosts. Thank you for the blue ghosts. Thank you for the pink offsetting the green, it was very 80s. Thank you, color team.
I laughed throughout the movie, and I was happy to be the only person in the theater who laughed at the communist undertones of Rowan’s plans. I’m sure if I knew more, it’d be even funnier!
I enjoyed the attention to detail–that is, my own attention to it, anyway. I’m not sure what all time periods are meant to be represented in the film’s final fight, but I saw two films from 1971, and one from 1976 on marquees. I suppose any big film nowadays has so many people working on it–and with computers–that you’re bound to get lots of detail. It’s simply what you notice that informs your reading, so I appreciate being the kind of person who pays attention to the background to begin with. Anyway, we’ve got the 1920s (or a highly stylized version of it, anyway) in the form of the parade balloons. Sidebar: the 1920s are actually referenced twice, explicitly. Let me back up. The first time was in the concert hall, where the prissy manager is upset at the Art Deco fixtures being physically destroyed. (The fact that a metal band (can someone tell me if this was really what a metal band looks and sounds like these days? or was it movie metal, the way movies treated punk characters in the 80s?) is performing in the venue doesn’t faze him, though, I should point out.) You’ve got the 1960s present when the Slimers–the woman Slimer replete with a flip hairstyle–taking a joyride through the city. Oh yeah, and the pilgrim, and whenever the hell the locked-up daughter was from, and whenever the prisoner was supposed to be from.
There’s this mix-and-match, a picking and choosing of what parts of the past to show. Sure, to make the story read, you have to pick ones that are *obviously* representative of certain eras (like, were there Pilgrims in New York? I’m clearly the wrong guy to ask), but the approach remains clear. And it’s the same approach that the film takes when dealing with the original Ghostbusters movie (I’d say movies, but I still remain the only person on the planet who loves GB2). You get jokes about how you can’t have things exactly the same: the rent for an abandoned firehouse is prohibitively expensive; a paranormal studies department could only exist at a shitty college* that forgot it was there; it’s finally revealed at the end that Holtzmann builds all the cool equipment from stuff she finds in dumpsters, and yeah, seriously, where the hell did the original Ghostbusters get the money and manpower to build a giant containment unit? The mix-and-match goes further–nods to the cartoon in the form of Holtzmann’s cartoon-Egon hair; Rowan being simultaneously the 80s cartoon logo, a pastiche of even older “cute ghost cartoons”**, AND both Oogie Boogie and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
It’s commercial, and it’s pandering to an extent, and yes, and I’m sure if I knew more about communism and cataclysms, I could either make this film punch itself–or explain itself. I mean, come on, the opening scene has a ghost terrorizing someone who makes their living off of the commodification of ghost stories. And don’t get me started about how Patty Tolan knew the street artist who made the No Ghosts logo, yet we don’t see her tracking the guy down to license his creation. But it’s precisely the same type of love/hate relationship I–and likely a large swath of my generation–have with the pop culture we grew up on. We wouldn’t have the movie we got without love for the franchise, and we wouldn’t have the movie we got without a willingness to criticize the past. It’s how I write my comics; it’s how I write my Perfect Strangers blog. I think it’s a type of thinking about old media, and our relationship to it, that will never sit well with those who are simply fans, and just want to consume.*** I think that’s part of why Star Wars was a “success”, and why this “wasn’t”. I think it’s why the Perfect Strangers fan community will never get past my swear words and toilet humor to see the thought (and love, I’ll admit) I put into those reviews. I don’t want to downplay the sexism inherent in the pre-criticism of this film, because that was a bunch of bullshit from whiny guys. (An aside: I believe that no one who dislikes GB2 has any fucking right to criticize this film on any basis, but that’s a post for another day. Another aside: I have some theories about why these type of guys are semi-legitimately whiny, but just can’t see the bigger picture (spoiler: it’s basically the same short-sightedness of affirmative action critics).) (Do I love my parenthetical asides or do I love my parenthetical asides?)
I’m going to say that this movie is a great balance of goofy and serious in its storytelling, and like Socrates, let’s understand the city by looking at the man. The hyper, overworking generative force of the Ghostbusting team–Jillian Holtzmann, who manages to be comic at both the broad and detailed levels****–is herself constantly clothed in a fusion of mismatched styles. I think people like to break teams into easy personality categories: the “funny” one, the “serious” one, the “nerdy” one, the “heart” of the group. You know what? Holtzmann *is* the Ghostbusters: she makes everything work and tells everybody what to do. She’s not a leader; she’s a god damn force. She’s the perfect combination of theory and practice, the perfect balance of goofy and brainy, and I fell in love with her more than I’ve swooned for any lesbian with great hair (which is strangely damn often).
Other tiny things I loved:
–There’s a scene late in the movie, where Abby is running from Rowan’s ghost; she tries to lock the door with both locks, even though we–and she–saw in the first act that there’s no amount of locks that can keep a ghost from opening a door
–Erin and Abby’s motivations can be understood through their backstory of being teased in high school for their belief in ghosts; everyone called them the “ghost girls”. At the end of the movie, the resolution of both the threat of the movie and their relationship’s arc results in their hair turning white.  I teared up at the fact their reclaiming of the put-down had taken physical form.
Things I hated:
–the Harold Ramis bust was kind of lame
–I’m primed to keep an eye out for what I call the “videogame scene” in movies like this (that is, a scene that seems to have been come up with by someone who said “this will be great in the video game”), and that scene was popping the parade balloons as they approached
–Also, this movie plays super fast and loose with whether ghosts are made of physical material, and whether the ghostbusting equipment only impacts ghosts, or the physical world as well. We got a whole sequence in Ghost Dad where Bill Cosby went from passing through an old woman’s crotch; to working on trying not to fall through the floor; to mastery over his new relation to his environment by travelling through a phone line. It felt like there were no rules, or at the very least none explained
–This movie shows its seams. I could have used a little more Rowan, and I feel like there probably was more Rowan. I’ll admit I read about the dancing scenes that were cut before I saw this, but I think I would have realized there was something missing in that part of the movie. I mean, Rowan-as-a-ghost-as-Kevin putting people into dance positions, and then nothing happening is the equivalent of one of those “scene missing” screens. Also, the scene where the team tries out Holtzmann’s inventions felt off, like there was too much edited out of it; but hey, this thing was already 105 minutes.
–Ozzy’s cameo was total shit
Lastly, I think they missed an opportunity for Bill Murray’s and Dan Aykroyd’s cameos by not having them be the bums from one of the deleted scenes from the original movie, but I suppose you can’t get everything you want.
*I love jokes about shitty colleges
**Harvey Comics tried to sue over the No Ghosts logo, claiming likeness too similar to Ghastly Trio (Casper’s brothers)
***I think you should all be paying attention to whatever South Park is going to say about this with its 20th season, because “member-berries” are certainly resonating with this line of thinking I’m going down
****never, EVER take your eyes off of her if she’s on screen; she never turns off