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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ghostbusters Review Part II: Girl Power? Please Do Me No Favors

I normally don't post reviews that are negative. I don't feel it's necessary since my opinion may not be everyone's. But I felt the urge to review this movie for a couple of reasons, some of it to counter what I find to be a disingenuous attitude by certain people involved with the project. In this review I want to address the concept of misogyny (which is a term many of the defenders of the film resort to to brush away any criticism aimed at the film) and how it seems to me as if the backers of the film are kind of using it as a crutch to insist that a sub standard film is better than it is. And it's irritating because as a woman who loves to see more Girl Power in films, it annoys me that a film isn't being allowed to stand on its own merit. 

As someone whose been hoping for more Girl Power in films and TV since the folks behind "Xena: Warrior Princess" showed us how it could be done, I walked away from this movie thinking, "This is not what I want to represent female strength" basically because I didn't find the characters to be very strong.


When the cast of the "Ghostbusters" remake was announced, indeed, many cave-men out there expressed outrage over the fact that the Ghostbusters would all be women. These were truly pathetic people whose posts on social media instantly told you where they stood on women in general, not just the Ghostbuster gals (for example, if you use the terms "bitches" or "ho's" in making your argument...it's fairly obvious where your head is at regarding females).

Unfortunately, the misogyny that was out there suddenly became a great marketing tool by the people behind the project and anyone deciding that the project struck a blow for "Girl Power." Consequently anyone who criticized the project or the cast no matter how valid their reasons they presented, were instantly thrown in with the misogynists. 

When I heard about the all girl "Ghostbusters" it simply smacked of a gimmick to me. It didn't seem a sincere attempt to make a good movie in the series and as I explained in the first part of this review, that's all most fans wanted: A well-made continuation of the series. 



And there seemed to be some hope even with the gimmicky casting when talk of making a passing of the torch movie started up. The women could be the daughters or female relatives of the original four and would pick up the proton packs to carry on the tradition. It was simple, it honored the old movie while opening up possibilities for the new cast. Best of all it wouldn't be a remake which no one wanted.

It's possible that the 2014 death of Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler co-star and co-writer of the original) derailed the idea of a passing of the torch. Ivan Reitman, director of the original, was set to be more involved in this project but Ramis' death led him to back off more from the project (though there has been some suggestion that Sony was behind a little of that as well).


When it was announced that Paul Feig was chosen to direct, I had no opinion having not seen any of his movies at that point. Having seen three of his films I think I would have been even more concerned with him taking the wheel of this project.

"The Heat" was okay. "Spy" was very good (though a lot of that had to do with Jason Statham sending up his "brand"). But "Bridesmaids"...the film everyone talks about to indicate Feig's comic genius, in my opinion was absolute garbage. I laughed twice, then midway through the film gave up and turned the movie off. That was exactly the humor and tone that the original "Ghostbusters" wasn't. Unfortunately it's the sort of humor the 2016 remake would be full of.


Now I know there are people out there who found "Bridesmaids" incredibly funny, and while the concept of this scene has some humor to it, 10 minutes of it goes a long way. It's also not the sort of scene that can work well in a movie such as Ghostbusters which along with comedy is dependent on special effects. 

Oh...that doesn't mean they didn't try.

Add to that the names that were ultimately chose for the cast. I wrote a blog piece regarding who was chosen to star in the movie and with a slight softening of my opinion after seeing the movie, I still insist that better actors could have been found for the roles. 

Add to that Paul Feig's (almost arrogant) insistence that the new movie would be a total reboot with completely fresh ideas and no ties to the original. 

Well let's just say I wasn't overly impressed with the direction of this project.

So yes, I was a Debbie Downer about the project from that point on. When the trailers were released, they only confirmed my suspicion based on the cast this was not going to be a good movie.


This is the third trailer released and it still looks bad. Th material just isn't there to work with to create an interesting trailer.

The release of the trailers really set off a back lash against anyone who thought they were bad. It didn't matter that the editing stank, the jokes weren't funny, the FX seemed over the top and cartoony. If you thought those trailers were bad it was all because the cast was female. (And yet one could argue that people were defending the trailers and the movie because the cast was female which I'll bring up later).



It was a pathetic controversy (which I discussed in another post) ginned up I believe Sony marketing who seemed ready to take advantage of the chance to gain sympathy for this project. They took on the demeanor that they were fighting the good fight for more female representation in movies (though give a movie a weak box office and Sony'll change that demeanor really quickly). Paul Feig went after anyone who criticized what they were seeing of the project using the "Girl Power" shield to insult anyone who might not be a fan of what he was doing. In a New York Daily News interview Feig is quoted as saying, "Geek culture is home to some of the biggest a-holes I’ve ever met in my life, especially after being attacked by them for months because of this Ghostbusters project."

Now he's right about the geek-culture thing. It can be home to a lot of a-holes far too passionate about their passions to present their opinions rationally.


But in that one quote he seems to boil all negative opinions about the execution of this movie down to unreasonable discontent in attempt to negate the fact that there are a lot of people who had valid reasons not to be impressed with how he was handling the brand. A good portion of people hitting the "dislike" button were fans who didn't like what had been done to a beloved franchise (and as I stated in another blog piece about the controversy, if someone talked about a love for the original, the next marketing strategy became defenders of the 2016 film sticking out their tongues and saying, "The original wasn't even that good. Nya! Nya!")

No it wasn't misogyny that led to the dismay, it was the people behind the remake that dropped the ball. Simple as that. And cramming a message into a movie rarely works. It has to be done with subtlety, more organically. 

So all the, "poor us, the fanboys are picking on cause we're women" started seeming very disingenuous. In fact, it came off to me as if this new movie had been given a pass because of the supposed extent of the misogyny directed toward.


Now, as I stated in the previous review in which I focused on the remake aspect, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the movie and the potential I saw for the cast. Bear in mind, I forked over the cost of the ticket with very low expectations so they didn't have a high bar to climb. But it wasn't the complete train wreck that the trailers led so many people to believe it would be (and I do find it interesting that many of the scenes in those trailers were not in the finished product including a dance scene that isn't in the main movie but is shown over the credits which actually might have been kind of funny for a few moments). 

In the previous review I mentioned that the remake feel of the movie ended up being a detriment to the film. You can't help comparing the two movies when they have so many elements from the original (down to the way the villain allows them to "choose your destructor") in this film. Again, a big deal was made by Paul Feig who didn't want to do a passing of the torch. He wanted to do a complete reboot with entirely fresh ideas. Yet when the time came he created a film that milks the original for all its worth. I think that was a marketing ploy by the studio who hoped to bring in more of the fan base waiting to see another "Ghostbusters" movie. "Okay, it's with a new team, but see, we have cameos by the former cast, we use symbols and characters that appear in the original (Mr Stay Puft, the Ghostbusters' logo, the firehouse, even Slimer, etc.). So we're not totally washing over the original."



But you are. And you're doing it in a way that makes no sense. The trailers spoke of four scientists saving the world 30 years ago...but in the universe presented in the 2016 remake, that event never occurred. So why confuse the issue?

Gimmicks abounded with this project. 

And as I stated, there is so much borrowed from the original that there's way too much baggage for the new team to carry. The writer, the director and the cast just simply don't have the skills to pull off a movie as funny, yet subtle as the original was. A perfect blend of comedy, horror, and paranormal becomes, in the hands of the people behind the 2016 movie, a cartoon. Which is fine, but don't jump on people who would have preferred to see a better retelling of the tale.

Speaking of cartoons, getting back to the point of this post, while the people behind the production shouted out "Girl Power" and all the reporters and hopeful bloggers followed suit, bashing anyone who hated what they were seeing as misogynist, the folks behind the movie managed to take Girl Power and make it as cartoonish as everything else in the movie. 

This is why I wanted to write this second review addressing that. If this is Feig's idea of "Girl Power", please don't do me any favors. These are not women I want representing my notion of "Girl Power".


Annie Potts as Janine
So far, outside of the ridiculous, "The original wasn't even that good" statement, I've not heard too many people claim that the original was some sexist movie. And I'm glad. Because it wasn't. Quite the contrary. The women in that movie are actually very strong.

The reason the Ghostbusters were men was because a bunch of guys who worked together before got together again and created a movie. They weren't worried about gender ratios, or ethnic ratios or whatever. They were simply interested in making a movie together. 

But let's consider the characters in the new movie that are supposed to represent "Girl Power".


Kristin Wiig plays Dr. Erin Gilbert, a particle physicist. One reason I wasn't impressed with her in this was because she gives this character the same demeanor she seems to give most of her characters, carrying herself in the movie as if she's desperate to lie in the corner curled up in the fetal position. She seems constantly on the verge of an apology, as actually McCarthy's character does as well. After the prologue, we introduced to Erin as she stands in front of a white board with a hell of a lot of impressive math figures on it (I've heard most of it was gibberish but I don't know cause I ain't a particle physicist). She's cool, she's confident. The camera pans over to the audience and there's no one there. Back to Erin and she's doing some kooky sort of wiggle to get some courage up for the discussion to come later. 

Okay, there are even brilliant people who have a problem speaking in front of the public. But I think this scene was supposed to be funny, especially with Wiig's body movements and it just fell flat. So you've already established the character as supremely lacking in confidence, which I suppose one could argue she builds up during the course of this movie...I don't know, but her lack of confidence isn't even endearingly funny.

Now some have compared her to the Venkman character, but I believe she's more Ray...the heart of the Ghostbusters. She has tried to distance herself from her previous paranormal research for the sake of her career, but that doesn't mean she isn't still a believer (Venkman, of course never seemed to be a believer until the encounter with the library ghost). 

But here's part of the problem: Several years ago she wrote a book with her friend Dr. Abby Yates on the paranormal. It's a book that should in  no way jeopardize her current career. And yet the moment it springs up again (Abby tries to sell it on Amazon), Erin does everything she can to hide from her boss at the University (played by Charles Dance). She even goes to Abby, the woman she had a falling out with years before and hasn't spoken to since, to get her to take it down. (The supposed years of resentment between them seem to be as weak as the script). 

The inevitable (for the sake of the plot) happens and Erin's previous paranormal work is discovered. She's shown with a box of her belongings walking out of the University after she's been fired.  And as she walks, she insists to everyone that she hasn't been fired, she just cleaning her office (or something along those lines). Again, Wiig doing her typical schtick that really isn't all that funny. The comedy of constant apology.

Her firing was completely unfair, yet she's going out as if she herself has something to hide. How about giving us a character that gives the middle finger to injustice? Many women have been in that situation and who have gone out blazing. 

Yes, one could argue that her character will go through a story arc that will have her connecting with her self esteem through her experience with the team, but it doesn't really get that much better. The team go to the mansion to meet the ghost who a particularly unfunny scene barfs a ton of slime on her (that's why Charles Dance's character ultimately fired her, because the video of it was posted on YouTube).

She carries herself through the film like scared rabbit waiting for the next bit of slime to be puked upon her. Not someone I would consider a great role model for "Girl Power".


Let's consider Abby Yates, another person who seems always on the verge of an apology but she does it with a cutesy smile and just the slightest bit of fire in her voice. Amy, while very enthusiastic about the cause, also seems every bit as capable a salesperson as Venkman was. She even convinces Erin to come back into the fold (after ruining her chances at the college) despite the bad blood between them. The problem is that while Bill Murray’s Venkman was incredibly funny, McCarthy’s cutsy bit just doesn’t have the gas to pull that off. (Even her character’s name, Abby Yates, is sickeningly cute). That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have her moments. But the slight chuckle is not the same full on laugh that so many of Bill Murray’s often improvised remarks produced (all the original cast improvised throughout the shoot. Rick Moranis improvised the whole one shot party scene in which he introduced “Ted and Annette Fleming who own a dry cleaning business in receivership.”). If McCarthy could have turned up the bite in her portrayal a bit, she might have been able to pull it off. She didn't. 

And let's consider how well she wears the "Girl Power" mantle. A running gag in the film is that Amy is constantly short changed when it comes to the won tons in her won ton soup that she orders from the Chinese restaurant (that they actually end up opening the business above). She's even developed a hate/annoyance relationship with Benny the delivery boy who she constantly insists that he tell the preparers of the order about the won ton issue. 

I've had a few bad experiences with take out restaurants and you know what I did? I stopped going to them. Because there are about 100 others I could go to that would give me better service. In the whole of New York is this the only Chinese restaurant that Yates can order from? Of course not, but rather than choose a different restaurant, she settles. Now I know that this is for the comedy and the gag (which sort of gets old after a while), but if you're claiming your movie has a positive "Girl" Power message, then maybe you need to rethnk the gag. Because really, even taking out the gender issue, I just thought Abby was a complete idiot for continuing to order from a restaurant that consistently disappointed her. 


Now two characters did impress me. I had a feeling I was going to like Kate McKinnon as Dr. Jillian Holtzmann, who is obviously the Egon Spengler character: The on the cusp-mad scientist slightly out of touch with societal norms (and how cool would it have been if she were Egon's niece or something!). But where Egon, outside perhaps of Ray and Peter (and later Winston), had no problem projecting his slightly superior, anti-social attitude on others (for hobbies, he collects spores, mold and fungus), Holtzmann seems to try masking  her social awkwardness using attention grabbing ticks and reactions.

From what I can gather in reactions to the movie, you either love Holtzmann or you hate her. I’m in the love camp. I really enjoyed the character. Yes, she chewed the scenery a bit (but really, they all chewed it here and there. Subtlety was not really practiced in this version). She delivered what was written of the character. And I found it kind of fun. Her's is a character that does exuded "Girl Power".


The character that actually surprised me was Patty Tolan, as played by Leslie Jones who is done a complete disservice in the trailers. I expected her to be screaming for most of the movie (and unfortunately they did keep one of the worst scenes in the trailers) but she actually turns in a much better performance than the trailers would lead us believe. Patty is the Winston Zeddemore of the group. The every-person. The stand-in for the audience. He knows very little about the paranormal, he’s simply in it for a steady paycheck. Unlike Winston, however, Patty gave up her steady paycheck to “join the club” after witnessing frightening paranormal phenomena on the tracks of the subway where she works. Yes…the questions are valid: Why couldn’t she have been a scientist? Why wouldn’t the other members of the team have a working knowledge of New York geography having lived there for as long as they had? It is a lame selling point for her to give to join the team (as is her borrowing a hearse from her uncle's funeral business). That’s the sort of thing that Feig and his crew could have easily tweaked. But the character was actually more fun than one would initially suspect. She has the confidence that a movie touting "Girl Power" seems to promise of its characters. She takes the sort of the chances that the original "Ghostbusters" took. 

As for "Girl Power", here are some of the fantastic examples of it that the movie offers: If we remember the first movie, these guys had no idea what they were doing with this business and it was going to cost a lot of money just to get them started. But they charged forward and bought that unique fixer upper of a firehouse (after Ray Stantz took out the third mortgage on the home his parents left him) not even sure if they’re going to be able to make it work. They got up equipment, devised a storage facility, and waited for the calls...which didn't exactly light up the switchboard right off the bat. 

What do the Ghostbusters in the new movie do? They settle. First they swipe most of their equipment from the questionable "institute" that Abby and Jillian have been working out of for years (the dean of which fired them the moment he found out their department was still there). Unable to afford the firehouse which would be much better suited to their needs, they instead take an office over a Chinese restaurant (that has a convenient enclosed garage next to it where they can park the “Ecto-1” once that makes its entrance in the movie). Coincidentally enough, it's the very same restaurant that consistently screws up Abby's order, and can't even deliver the food within an hour when the delivery address is one floor above.

And yet she continues to order from them. 

And of course, as in the original, they need a secretary. As played by Annie Potts, Janine the secretary in the original movie could be surly (frustrated in the beginning by lack of work) and fancied herself a bit psychic, but she could also be warm-hearted and was surprisingly dedicated to the team. And she was a match for Bill Murray's Peter Venkman who insulted her once with, "And stop staring at me, you have the bug eyes" then immediately apologized for the rude remark indicating his own frustration at the situation the business was in. That's real dialogue between two humans, regardless of gender.



As female characters go, I don’t think the “Girl Power” brigade have anything to grouse about with the original movie's secretary.


In the new movie, Feig decides upon a male secretary. A gorgeous male secretary. An insanely stupid, vapid, gorgeous male secretary. As played by Chris Hemsworth, the character of Kevin starts out kind of funny. But the bit gets tiresome really fast…or should I say the one note character gets tiresome really fast. Unlike Janine in the old movie, Kevin in the new movie is a cartoon. Full on. And he does things that make you wonder, “How the hell has he made it to this age without walking into an open manhole or something?” 

Remember the blonde secretary in "The Producers"? That's Kevin, except that movie was made in the '60s and this is 2016.

Many people have detected a bit of hypocrisy on the part of the filmmakers who insist that they've created a movie featuring "Girl Power" yet to do so, apparently feel the need to reverse a stereotype at one time used against women. I don't know, maybe, maybe not. All I know is that there is a chance that this character could have been fleshed out, and Hemsworth does have the comedic chops to do more with it, but again, laziness seemed to win out and waste the comic potential of the character. 


And it does beg the question: The team hires this idiot because the moment he walks in, they all lust after him, especially Erin Gilbert who practically dissolves into jelly every time he’s near her. And that's cute. But four supposedly intelligent women looking for someone to help with the growth of their business decide to hire a man so stupid that he won’t answer a working telephone on the desk because he thinks the ringing is coming from the telephone in the fish tank (and who the hell knows why there’s a phone in the fish tank). All because their hormones are swelling. How is that "Girl Power"? How is that showing any individual characters, male or female, at their best? 

When love entered the domain of the original movie, it was between Peter Venkman and the wildly attractive and incredibly independent Dana Barrett played by Sigourney Weaver (You know Sigourney: Ripley in the "Alien" movies. You want "Girl Power", there you go) who was every bit Venkman’s equal if not his better. She was attracted to him. She enjoyed the flirtation. But she never pooled herself with desire the moment he entered the room (although he was totally in idiot-love-land when he saw her).



There is a particularly funny line in regards to how the girls in the new movie feel about Kevin when he’s possessed by the evil entity Rowan. “Let’s go get Kevin, we’re not going to find a secretary that pretty again.” I enjoyed that. Sure he may be an idiot, but he's our idiot. 

But while women weren’t featured heavily in the original movie they were none the less were very strong characters without having to carry a banner of any sort. Don’t give me the “Girl Power” chant when you have the strong women in your movie going gaga over the idiot secretary (actually, acting not that much differently than the guys in “The Producers” acted around their gorgeous blonde). 

Eventually, the Ghostbusters get their first call. A ghost at a rock concert (that's the scene with the oh so hilarious, "Let's go!" uttered by both McCarthy and Wiig who then agree to decide that the other one can say it next time. Yes, that's the level of humor). And again, in this scene, Leslie Jones actually shines in it (aside from the idiotic joke, "I don't know if it's a race thing or a lady thing...").

But they successfully trap the ghost and become overnight sensations. Unlike the original which followed up the first trapping scene with a montage of them going around the city catching ghosts, this seems to be the only ghost the team catches. And in the remake they can't even hold on to the one they caught. 

In one of the weirder cameos (though somehow perfect for the star) Bill Murray plays a skeptic who goes on TV attacking the Ghostbusters. For some reason he makes his way to their office and begins a discussion with Erin in which he manages to goad her into releasing the ghost. I'm not sure what his character's credentials are. I do know that of Dr. Erin Gilbert, according to Abby Yates, "No one's better at quantum physics than you." And yet this genius, who has witnessed a number of examples of the paranormal, who knows she has a ghost in the trap (that was trapped at concert featuring hundreds of eye witnesses) let's this guy goad her into releasing a dangerous ghost. 

I know they needed a device to advance the plot and I know they needed to shove a Bill Murray cameo in there. And there is potential in the Murray character and the scene. 

As I stated before, when it was announced that the new "Ghostbusters" would all be female, so many people cheered it as a shot across the bow for the representation of strong women in the movies. It was presented (beaten into the ground actually) as if Feig and his crew had to right some massive wrong that had been perpetrated by the makers of the original "Ghostbusters" or most certainly right the wrongs of an industry that has had a bias against women in these sorts of roles.

Yet these are the sort of characters he presents as powerful women?

Interesting that Erin was facing off with a character played by the man who starred as Peter Venkman in the original. What a different approach each took to the situation. Peter made Walter Peck (William Atherton) of the EPA back down once when he tried to get in to see the grid.



When he came back with writs and police, Venkman stood his ground as long as he could. After the grid was off, the ghosts were released, and the Ghostbusters were face to face with the mayor, he still came out fighting issuing some of the funniest lines in any movie. 

That's what I want from my Ghostbusters, male or female. Someone with the courage of their convictions who can debate toe-to-toe with anyone. Not some wishy washy character who is goaded into releasing an entity.

Consider the difference in tone when both casts met the mayors in their respective movies. All hell was literally breaking loose in the original. "The walls in the tenth precinct are bleeding," as one of the police characters states. The mayor isn't sure what to do when he's faced with people claiming that ghosts are behind it all. Venkman is canny enough to zero in on the one thing that will sway the mayor's mind.



In the new movie, things are a bit different. The mayor knows there are paranormal occurrences out there, but the mayor doesn't want the citizens to know so they don't have, "Mass hysteria." The women sit there sedately, knowing that something is up, knowing that they can do something about it, but being told they won't have the backing of the mayor or homeland security if they do. As a scene, like so much in the movie, it falls flat. Though of course it sets up the conceit that unlike the original, the new Ghostbusters is being pegged as a secret organization to battle the emerging paranormal threat.

Just don't tease Erin about whether or not she has a ghost in a trap.

Of course during the big battle their weapon technology has increased to the point where they can actually kill ghosts...if one can kill something that isn't already alive (again, no explanation of that concept). One more concept that didn't really make sense, but at that point the girls are kind of kicking ass and there's so much crap going on anyway, that you don't really care. As an over the top action movie at this point it finally found its footing. 



But it was at this point that I grew truly frustrated. The characters, flawed as I found them, I had finally warmed up to and I saw just how well the actors (if given better material) could have truly made this their own. If they could have had a passing of the torch movie that followed their own characters, or if this was a true reboot that didn't rely so heavily on the original for concepts and scenes and such, I think the whole movie could have been a good movie. 

But whether it was Sony's decision, Feig's decision, or a bit of both, they decided to mine the original for every thing they could to put in this movie, including the end face off with the evil entity (Rowan, now inhabiting Kevin's body) which is a direct rip-off of the concept behind the face off in the original. (and this is where fans of the original start to lose patience with Feig and his attitude).

In the original, a god-like entity arrives (in the form of a woman, no less) from the other side. She allows the Ghostbusters to choose their form of destruction. They clear their minds but of course the hapless Ray messes it up.


In the 2016 version, Rowan, tiring of using Kevin's body, allows the Ghostbusters to choose their form of destruction. The tense scene that follows in the original is no where to be seen here but Patty does ask, "Well why couldn't it be something cute like a cute little ghost or something?" And thus, Rowan decides to become a giant version of the Ghostbusters logo (though with a bow tie, for some odd reason).

The scene in the original that leads up to the reveal (and the reveal itself) of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is a classic. There's actually a surprising amount of tension as the footsteps leave you wondering what is coming down the street. Even Egon's absurd response to one of Venkman's questions manages to add to that tension. And then the tension is released with hilarious laughs when you see in it's full glory the adorable face of the giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man here to destroy the world.



The lead up to giant ghost scene in the remake...meh! Rowan pretty much just takes Patty's suggestion and grows into a monster that tears apart everything. If it wasn't a "Ghostbusters" movie (and the joke hadn't been done better before) it might be a cool scene, but again, much too similar to the original not to compare. So it was completely unsatisfactory.

As was the way the ladies were able to take the big guy down. As I mentioned earlier, many people have pointed to examples of hypocrisy in regarding to gender treatment in this movie. Specifically, men are given the same treatment the folks behind the movie claimed women have been getting for so long. I'm not sure about that. Yes, Kevin is an obvious stereotype (to go along with Paul Feig's obvious style of humor). Rowan might have been inspired by the "fanboy" culture that Feig seems to dislike so much (I'm not sure. I actually think if Feig hadn't been so lazy and actually fleshed out Rowan's character, he might have been a serviceable villain).

But the way they were able to bring down Rowan in his giant logo form does smack a bit of slamming it to the men. The ladies all aim their the guns of their proton packs (apparently now able to kill ghosts) at Rowan's crotch which burns up dramatically.

Who knew a ghost had any junk to be affected in such a way?

Here's my problem with this scene aside from it being more of the desperate sort of humor that seems to be Feig's stock and trade. If that was a statement from a crew that seemed intent on making statements from the moment this film was announced, then yeah, it's pretty hypocritical. And I can't help but wonder how many women would be yowling if, in the original version, the guys took down the female form of Gozer (who actually manages to get the better of them) by aiming for her tits. Or heck, maybe drilling those rays into her vagina; you know women hurt when they're injured down there too.



But for some weird reason, people think it's the height of hilarity when a guy is kicked in the nuts. Or shot in the nuts. Kneed in the nuts. Breaks his fall with his nuts. Hell, when Lorena Bobbitt cut off her cheating husbands penis, it was the fodder for late night jokes for years. Imagine if a husband cut the breasts from his cheating wife's body. How much hilarity would ensue then?

So there is some weird thing people have about guys getting kicked in the nuts. My problem with the joke is that, first of all it's not all that funny, it's lazy physical comedy, and secondly it has been so amazingly overused the past few decades. Cartoons, TV shows, movies, what have you. Do you want an easy joke? Just put a guy's junk in peril. Personally, I don't think I found it all that funny the first time, I don't think it's funny after 5000 viewings of similar things in various forms of media. 

I wish I could remember the original review, but film critic Roger Ebert had a wonderful commentary on this type of joke and I have to agree with him. It's too easy. Cheap. And doesn't really pay off all that much for the effort.

Perhaps that's why Feig decided he would use it. He might have run out of ideas at that point.

That's possibly why ultimately, a movie I wouldn't have cared about, has led me to write two reviews on it scrutinizing two different aspects of it. For all Feig and Company's clamor about the misogynistic fanboys, what they have offered us is writing not that much better than what you would find amateurs doing on YouTube and other social media platforms. 

For this movie he needed to step above the level of humor he used for "Bridesmaids". Even the level of humor he used for "Spy." He needed to present us with something funny, and interesting, and if he wanted to include a message fine but there was no reason to beat us over the head with it. He needed to give scenes a lot better than those containing endless riffing of characters who sometimes sound more like children on a playground than doctors of anything. The original cast improvised, but there was an intelligence behind it added immeasurably to the comedy (and the other elements of the film). This movie resorts to the lowest form of humor for most of it and as I said before, it gets old real fast. 

And to try to deflect from this inadequacy by couching any criticism of it in terms of misogyny is doing a disservice to the very people you claim you're trying to support. If the material is strong, the performances strong, then you shouldn't have to silence every critic with accusations that can neither be proven or disproven (how does one prove a negative? How does one prove their criticism isn't misogyny?)

There was most definitely potential to this project. It is worth a viewing even if on DVD. I saw potential for a tale of true "Girl Power." In my opinion, it's just a shame that the writer/director couldn't rise to the occasion. He was too busy offering us the same sort of characters he's offered us before in his previous movies: Girls who rather than roar, squeak. Or if they roar, they follow it up immediately with an apology for causing a scene. My hope is, if Sony does continue with plans for a franchise, they find better writers and a director who truly understands how to do the movie right. 

So that next time Dr. Erin Gilbert faces down a skeptic, she'll come out swinging like the Ghostbuster she is.









Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 Review Part I

Well the movie has been out for a week. I’ve been hoping to get this review up but it’s taken a while to figure out what I want to do with it because there are a couple of points that I’d like to make and as I was writing the review, it was becoming as big a monster as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. 


But I really want to do the review because the original Ghostbusters happens to be one of my favorite films. My friends and I were huge fans of the film when it was released in 1984 and saw it repeatedly during the time it was out. I was not overly happy with the way the production team was treating any fan who expressed worry that they wouldn’t be able to handle it and as it turns out, I don’t think they were able to handle it. While it’s not as bad a movie as I thought it would be based on the trailers Sony itself released, I can honestly say that I think I laughed four times during the movie. The jokes are weak and often fall flat and the paranormal part of it isn’t overly scary. Especially considering the cartoon colors they use for the ghosts.

And I can’t help but think so many of the people calling it hilarious are sort of giving it a pass they wouldn’t have given if the controversy (some of it I believe ginned up by Sony) wouldn’t have happened. It’s noble to want to defend the cast who have indeed been hit by some incredible examples of walking (or blogging) misogyny, but if the movie was stronger, they wouldn’t need to be defended. They wouldn’t need a “handicap”.  They’d have quality material to put into the trailers released in an effort to entice people to see the movie. 



They wouldn’t need people who hadn’t even seen the movie yet claiming it was going to be awesome (at the same time slamming the original which is something I discussed in a previous blog entry which you can access here). Let the movie, the cast, the writers and director rise or fall on their own merits. And what I saw had little merit. 

So I’ve decided to do two reviews, each focused on a point of contention I have about the project and the controversy in general. This entry will focus on the idea of a remake/reboot. The next entry will focus on the misogyny angle. And there will be some spoilers though I'm guessing anyone interested in going to see it has seen it by now.

The other day, to my comment that the producers had borrowed way too much from the original for the 2016 version to be a reboot (I insist it’s a remake), someone insisted it was a reboot and that the producers had barely borrowed anything. 

I’m not quite sure if she saw the same movie I did, or if she saw the original, but the fact is, there was a lot swiped from the original for this movie. And I think it’s to the current film’s detriment because it forces a comparison to the original which simply had better material.

When deciding on an approach for the project, a passing of the torch movie would have probably been the best choice. It would have acknowledged the original and allowed for new blood (if done correctly as it was in “Star Wars the Force Awakens”, it can be exciting). A passing of the torch movie had been discussed with perhaps the daughters of the original Ghostbusters taking over the work, but that apparently was kiboshed. Personally, I think such a movie could have been a lot of fun. And it would have pleased a lot of the “Ghostbusters” fans who’ve been hoping for another installment in the series for years.

Like it or not, the original “Ghostbusters” is an iconic movie for adults who saw it when it first came out as I did and people who were kids when they saw it later. There's a reason for this: Partly because it was such a unique movie at the time (comedy with big budget special effects), but mainly because it was really good. An exceptional and organic blending of humor, horror and the paranormal. 



But when the new project was announced, Paul Feig insisted that he was going to do something completely original. Starting with making all the Ghostbusters female (I’ll discuss that in the second review). And as I watched “Ghostbusters” 2016 I started thinking, since they hadn't made a passing of the torch movie, that a reboot would have been the next best thing. It would have given both the production team and the audience the chance to enjoy a brand new take on the concept.

Despite his insistence, what Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold ultimately created was a remake, and that's where part of the problem stemmed from. Hardcore fans (the ones he would later insult because they didn’t jump for joy over his casting choices) didn't want a remake. They've been anxious for a third “Ghostbusters” movie in the series (though many are making do with the video game as the third movie). Sure “Ghostbusters II” was off kilter, I believe partly due to the fact that at that point, Columbia Pictures was so concerned about merchandising and marketing to kids since the original had proven such a hit with the kids. But it wasn't a terrible movie. There were some really good aspects to it. Fans wanted a carrying on of the series without writing out the original Ghostbusters.



Making a remake as if the original never happened was bad enough, but then to swipe so many key elements of the original to prop up this remake just adds salt to the wound. And it only added excess baggage to the film by using elements that the “creative minds” behind the film just weren’t able to handle. 

Let’s consider some of the elements, down to the beats of the original that were used in this movie. The very beginning (a curator in a historical mansion comes upon paranormal happenings that frighten him) harks back to the original (in which a librarian at New York Library comes upon paranormal happenings that frighten her) in tone, pacing, even in the way the original Ghostbusters theme started up over the action toward the end of the scene and led us to the next scene. The only difference was the wretched excess that was used in the scene (a problem throughout the movie). 

Through a series of events, Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) reunites with her old friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) who she’s had a falling out with years before. Abby is doing paranormal investigations with Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Erin mentions being contacted by a man who told her of a ghost appearing in a mansion (the ghostly haunting that opens the film) and the three rush over to the mansion the way the three originals rushed over to the New York Library to investigate the ghostly haunting that opened that film. (This, by the way, is when the wonderful “messing of the pants” joke is driven into the ground which unfortunately seems to be the highest level of humor the remake can achieve).

So…in the library of the mansion, the three paranormal investigators confront the ghostly woman. Just like in the original. And as in the original, the woman seems relatively normal…outside of the whole ghost thing. And as in the original, these three women have no plan on how to communicate with the ghostly woman. And as in the original, when one makes a try for it, the woman turns into a hideous creature and scares them out of the building.


The library ghost in the 1984 Ghostbusters

I don’t think we’re even a quarter of the way into the film and already it’s borrowed a number of major elements from the original. But in this case, it goes one better (or I suppose I should say, worse). It takes an element that occurs later in the original and crams it into the mansion scene. In the original, slime is used quite sparingly. It appears on the card catalogs in the library and Bill Murray has a fun scene dealing with it. But the only other time it’s used a lot for the sake of a joke is when the Ghostbusters go to the hotel to catch the ghost that will be later known as Slimer. When he goes through walls, he leaves a little slime behind. 

While investigating one of the hallways, Murray’s character Venkman has a run in with Slimer which is actually kind of a tense scene. Cut to Stantz (Dan Aykroyd’s character) running down the hallways to help his friend only to find Venkman rolling around on his back on the floor like a turtle (because of the proton pack) and covered in slime. He then utters the immortal line, “He slimed me.”

Now in her rather pathetic piece appearing on Time.com, "Sorry but the Original Ghostbusters Isn't Even that Good", Stephanie Zacharek claims that this is the sort of line that sounds "...like a parody of dumb comedy writing, the sort usually accompanied by an aggressively fake laugh track." Which is her prerogative to think. But it’s ironic that the line is not only considered one of the most quotable lines in the movie, the crew of the 2016 version (the version she said in the piece that she liked) thought so much of the concept of sliming that it takes the concept to such idiotic heights. When the mansion ghost turns into the monstrous entity, she opens her maw and vomits about 80 gallons of slime on Erin in what I’m guessing the writers thought would be one of the funniest scenes ever filmed. It wasn’t. It was stupid and over-done like so much in the movie. But it’s also a direct rip-off of a funnier scene in the original (and probably also a rip-off of countless scenes in countless Nickelodeon shows). Perhaps Stephanie Zacharek is easily amused.


The mansion ghost from Ghostbusters 2016 spewing wild

And the similarities with the original continue. As in the original, this experience convinces the women that they can actually do something with this paranormal investigating.

The three paranormal investigators, in an effort to get a grant to get better gear, visit the dean of the “institute” (a loose description since the institute seems fairly shady) where Abby and Jillian were conducting their research. The dean’s name is Yeager and once he realizes that the department was even still functioning, he promptly throws them out of the institute. A name and move straight out of the first movie in which the grant of the three soon-to-be Ghostbusters at Columbia University has been terminated and a Dean Yeager is only too happy to inform them that they’re out of the University. In the original movie it’s used basically as a narrative device to propel the Ghostbusters into their new life. And in the new one, it’s also used as such but goes on much longer. Now the scene in the new movie is actually kind of funny, but don’t tell me that you’re making something fresh and original when you pull a move like that. There could have been any number of reasons invented to make these women go out on their own as Ghostbusters. Feig and crew chose to recreate (remake) a scene from the original movie to accomplish the same goal and even used the name of the main character instigating that change.



Another unnecessary scene swipe comes later in the film as Erin tries to get the mayor’s attention as he and his aide are eating in a fancy restaurant. She’s pounding on one window, then the other, then another, shouting at him. The diners aren’t paying attention and even the mayor and his aide, who do see her, are pretending to not notice her (because in this universe the mayor has decided not to acknowledge the ghost threat publicly to avoid… “mass hysteria.” Yes, another classic line from the original used to weak effect here). As I watched the scene all I could think about was how similar the scene was to the scene in the original where a panicked Louis Tully (played by Rick Moranis who didn't make a cameo in the new film), chased by a demon dog intent on possessing him, runs to Tavern on the Green and pounds on windows, unable in his fright to figure out where the door is. He screams for help but the restaurant patrons don’t even look up until the very last minute when the demon finally gets him. The patrons look up, wait a beat, then return back to their eating as Tully slides down the window. It’s a funny scene, but sort of a sad scene too as you can’t help but feel bad for poor Louis and that’s thanks in large part to Moranis’ sympathetic portrayal.



The scene in the new one just alternates between shrill and bland and all I could think about while watching it was how good the scene was in the original. And that’s why I say all the remaking and re-purposing was to the new film’s detriment.

But it goes on:

In looking for a base of operations, the ladies visit the firehouse that was featured in the original (but it’s too expensive for them so they have to choose the office over the Chinese restaurant). Why even feature the firehouse (which they do find their way back to by the end of the movie) at all? The team achieves fame after its first ghost catch (though unlike the original which shows a montage of the team going out and catching ghosts which is why they need to hire help and hire on Winston, this team seems to have caught only one ghost and they don’t seem to have an idea what to do with it). The team meets with the mayor (in a scene much more sedate than in the original). The gear is similar, the traps are similar, the car is similar (and is even called the Ecto 1).



The threat is similar (something is breaking down the barriers between this world and the next and the ghosts are breaking through), they use possession to advance the plot (in the original it was the client Dana played by Sigourney Weaver) and Louis Tully; in this one it’s the team’s secretary, Kevin played by Chris Hemsworth), there’s a face off at the end with an entity that apparently has god-like powers and the end battle involves a giant figure of a cute character who comes to destroy everyone. This is perhaps the most egregious swiping as Rowan, the evil entity in the remake allows them to choose the form of their destructor. That’s straight out of the original movie.  

The difference, of course, is that while it was handled hilariously in the original, it was handled ridiculously in the 2016 version. The reveal of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (who also makes an appearance in this film as a parade balloon) is probably one of the funniest scenes in a movie. It’s a perfect build up to the absurd humor of it all. 



In the 2016 film, the “turning” of the Ghostbusters logo into the giant destructor is ham-fisted and really not very funny. Again, it goes back to the wretched excess and an inability to know when to stop because at that point there's so much being thrown at you that you don't really care.

Which was what all those "whining fanboys" out there were worried about when some pinhead at Sony said, “Hey, I know, let’s remake ‘Ghostbusters’!” Fans of the original were worried that the source material would be used by people who had no idea how to use it right. 

And let’s be honest, all this plot, character, scene borrowing and allusions to the original is Sony hedging its bets. The first trailer they released tells us that 30 years ago four scientists got together to save the world as a soft piano rendition of the "Ghostbusters" theme plays. Then the first scene you see is the original Ghostbusters logo on the wall of a subway. The problem is those four scientists in the universe of this remake, never existed. So why bring them up unless you want to spark interest for the new film in the fans of the original? Why was it so important to have cameos of the original actors (albeit playing different characters) in this movie if you’re simply erasing all thoughts of the original with what you term a reboot? Heck even Slimer has a cameo which makes no sense since he wasn't a part of the new Ghostbusters busting scene. 



There’s talk that Sony had to strong arm some of the actors, especially Murray, to appear in the film. That could be why Murray gives the performance of a man who would really rather not be there at all. But with those cameos Sony can say, “See, we have nothing but respect for the original film. We even included the original cast.”

Outside of the late Harold Ramis’ “cameo” (a bust of him is seen in the hall outside of Erin’s office) and Ernie Hudson (who plays Patty’s uncle from which she borrows the hearse for the Ecto-1) the cameos are fairly forgettable and actually sort of gum up the pacing of the film when they occur. Hudson’s, which is okay, is at the end and actually made me think of how easily this movie could have been a fun passing of the torch movie with a bit of tweaking. Aykroyd (who has a piece of the film) plays a cabbie who claims, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts”, Annie Potts (the wonderful secretary Janine from the original) plays a hotel manager, Sigourney Weaver plays a mentor of Jillian’s (which might have been great but too little time is given to the scene as it runs during the credits).

But Bill Murray’s…what can be said about the weird little scene they concocted for Bill Murray? 

He plays a skeptic who goads Erin into releasing the one ghost they managed to catch (I’ll address this more in the second part of the review because it certainly didn’t scream, “Girl Power”). He sits through most of the scene and when the ghost does fly out of the trap, it takes hold of Murray’s character and tosses him out the window. 

Yes…there is a notable death in the movie. Now that’s something they didn’t steal from the original because no one was killed during that movie. At least, no one was shown being thrown to his death by a ghost. And after, when the girls…well I’d say "rush" downstairs but it seems like they take a leisurely stroll to get downstairs considering how the police and Homeland Security are on the scene by the time they got on the street, they're taken to see the mayor by Homeland Security. No one seems overly upset over the fact that a man was just tossed out the window and is lying broken on the ground below their office. No one asks the team to make statements. You’d think something like that might just tarnish the team’s reputation slightly. 

So you have a film with all these elements from the original film practically the same plot which the producers insist isn’t a remake, it’s a reboot. They’re rebooting the franchise. Please, don’t do me any favors.

And yet, toward the end of the film, as I finally started warming to the characters, I thought of all the potential wasted on this project. If they weren’t going to do a passing of the torch movie, then they should have went for a true reboot and made minimal if no use of the original source material. That’s what I meant about the baggage that was in this movie. How do you not compare the two movies when so much of the original is used for the remake and in that case, how can you not think, “Christ they did this better 30 years ago”?

I also left the movie with the firm belief that as a writer and a director, Paul Feig is creatively lazy. Not only with the humor, which when it's there goes for the easy laughs but because there are so many things in this movie that he doesn’t even try to make sense on. Yes, I know it’s a comedy about the paranormal, but even in the original, they at least tried to give some context to what was happening. 

Take Rowan, for example, the villain of the story. He might have been a good villain if a little more effort had been spent on developing the character. But Feig seems to go with the Stephen Moffat philosophy of character/plot development which is, “I don't want to make the effort explaining it. Just go with me on this.”

Rowan North (Neil Casey), a busboy at the hotel where the big showdown at the end takes place, is apparently also an occultist trying to usher in the ends times. He builds a big device to break down the barriers between the worlds, then plants smaller devices on ley lines around the city (that’s when he’s discovered by the Ghostbusters) to break down the barriers. Why? I mean obviously he’s nuts (and brilliant) but what made a brilliant man go nuts? Why is he simply a busboy in a hotel (or is that part of his plot since the hotel has such a strong paranormal force to it—it’s really hard to tell)? How long has he been working on this scheme. Where did he get the funding for all this? How has no one discovered the doorway to hell that he’s built in the basement of a major hotel? 

Eventually we discover that he wants the apocalypse because…he was bullied. Now I’m not saying that bullying hasn’t pushed people over the edge. But this is probably one of the lamest reasons a movie has used for their villain trying to destroy the world. And who bullied him? Has he been nursing this hate since childhood? Was he bullied at college? Is he doing it because his fellow scientists laughed at him and his experiments?

If you’re going to present me with a villain who is interested in ushering in the apocalypse, then you’d better give me a better reason than he was simply bullied. Or if that’s what you’re going with, you’d better explain properly.

Rowan forces his own death (oh, that’s death #2 in the remake) so that he can cross over to the other side and apparently become King of the Ghosts. He’s able to possess people as he does with Amy and eventually Kevin, and later does with the military and police forces sent out to battle him. And he’s able to do all these other fabulous and magical things including ordering other ghosts to battle the Ghostbusters, which is interesting considering how, evil as he may be, he’s fairly new to the paranormal realm. Where did this new ghostling get this power? The power to control entities that have been on the other side for centuries?


The end of the movie is over accessorized with product placement
Am I nitpicking? Perhaps. But it would certainly make a more well-rounded movie to have at least some of these details. The original "Ghostbusters" faced off with a god from another realm. That’s how they explained the entity being able to create something like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. 
What do we have in this movie? A guy who was bullied and achieved his power through suicide.

A similar questions comes in to play when Kevin suddenly decides he wants to be a Ghostbuster. The decision (that conveniently leads to his being possessed) seems to come out of nowhere. In fact, it's hard to imagine this character would desire much of anything he's so vapid and cartoonish. But suddenly he wants to be a Ghostbuster "and no one is going to stop" him. Except for the spirit of Rowan who after possessing Abby in a particularly unfunny and unsuspenseful scene, flies in to possess Kevin.

Explaining a character's decision really does help add to the experience of a movie. But Feig doesn't seem to think it's all that necessary. 

So in the end, this movie was more an excersie in frustration than anything else because of the wasted opportunities. I didn't despise it as I thought I would. I laughed a few times. But when I think of the joy that the original brought me years ago and still does, this movie doesn't even come close.

My hope is that Feig will not be at the helm for a sequel and perhaps they can actually really do something creative with the concept or the characters. Though, judging by the end of the movie, which is a set up for a sequel, there will still be some milking of the old movie. As the women listen to the Electronic Voice Phenomena (played on a tape player that I think went out of style in the 1970s), Patty hears the name Zuul.

Let the games begin again. 

On to Part II of my review.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016: The Controversy

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge "Ghostbusters" fan. It’s in my Top 5 of all time favorite movies. I saw it in 1984 (as an adult—I’ve heard so many people opine that the new "GB" is “ruining their childhoods” that I feel compelled to remind people that the original was not geared to children even if children ended up liking it) and fell in love with it. To me it is the perfect blend of comedy, horror and the paranormal. I wrote a piece about it when it turned 30 a few years ago that you can read here.

Well, the remake opened on July 15 and I made an effort to go to see it even though the project never appealed to me. But I thought to be fair I needed to see it. So I’ve decided to review it for the blog. 

First, though, I’d like to address some of the rancor that has surrounded the project since its inception. There were people who really wanted another chapter in the "GB" series and there were people who weren't happy about it. I believe the big problem arose when it was decided rather than a continuation movie, they would totally remake it (it's been called a reboot, but there's far too much borrowed from the original for it not to be remake). And I have to put myself in that camp. It doesn't need to be remade. I think they did a really good job with the first one. This universe is so rich that I think a continuation movie could have been made very easily.

And studios need to understand something: You're putting out product that you're hoping touches the hearts of the audience (so said audience will continue to go see the movies). So yeah, you're going to have some fans invested in the movie. And they may not be happy with your decision to try to wipe the slate clean by completely remaking the movie that the fell in love with. Especially when remakes can fail so often. You don't have to listen to them, but they're not assholes for feeling that way.

Whether it be movies, books, music, motorcycles, whatever, we all have that one thing that we'd really appreciate nobody screwing with. It won't end the world of something is redone, but it does stick a little none the less.
This one still hurts. And I'm not
too fond of the 2014 version either.

Add to the problem Hollywood's current need to remake, reboot, redo EVERYTHING! Rather than have an original thought, they decide to just grab something that was popular years ago and redo it knowing that there is a built in audience for the material (which again, is why it's wise to show a little more respect to fans of the originals). While some remakes have been very well done, if people are gun shy it's because so often they fail miserably. 

So fans of the original "Ghostbusters" weren't overly happy when they found out that there would be a remake of a movie that got it right the first time. 

Then came the announcement of the cast and there was a contingent of people who just rejoiced that the leads were all female. And of course you had some who weren't happy that the leads were all female. And some who simply weren't happy about the particular actors who were chosen (I would fall into that category). But no matter what the reason was for the discontent, those unhappy with the project were all thrown into the "misogynist" camp by its defenders. Yes, the only reason these "manboys" didn't like it was because the leads were all female, or so the narrative held. Anything else was invalid. 

Over the course of time from the announcement of the project to the release, there seems to have been three main stages of argument (a bit like the four stages of grief) used by defenders of the project to invalidate the opinions of anyone that might have differed from theirs. And bear in mind, and prior to release, neither side had seen the work, yet the defenders of the project were as vociferous in their praise for it as they accused the detractors to be in their condemnation.

But watching the stages occur over time has been fascinating. They range from the childish to the unfair to the down right hypocritical.

Let's start with the childish (and most pathetic) which seems to be the most recent (third) stage people are using to insist that the aversion others have for this project is just plain wrong. 

Stephanie Zacharek, in her piece that appeared July 14 on Time.com, uses a sort of playground argument to defend the "Ghostbusters" remake by titling her op ed, “Sorry, But the Original Ghostbusters Isn’t Even that Good.” This is something I've heard a lot of people say lately, most of whom haven't even seen the new movie, when discussing it. Sort of like children saying, “Oh sure you can do a somersault, but it’s not even that good of one!” Zacharek's piece is a desperate little diatribe against a movie 30 years old that for a good majority of people still holds up but for her…well she’s decided that it was never that good. So that must be right. 

Here’s a little taste of her clever assessment of the original film: “But the movie’s pacing isn’t nearly as brisk as it could be, and the lines of dialogue Ghostbusters heads love and quote most—‘He slimed me’—sound like a parody of dumb comedy writing, the sort usually accompanied by an aggressively fake laugh track. By the end, the picture’s spirit is gloomy and ill-humored, as if it had tried hard to be a dark comedy and simply failed, leaving a vaguely sour taste in its wake.”

No, you're right, this scene isn't nearly as funny as a scene where a ghost vomits a couple of gallons of slime on the protagonist. 

Well…part of the reason the picture’s spirit may have seemed gloomy toward the end was because it wasn’t just a comedy and the climax featured them fighting a god to keep the end of the world from happening. But maybe that fact slipped past her because the color palette wasn’t Nickelodeon-bright.


Here’s a quote from the review film critic Roger Ebert (I miss him) gave it at the time: “They're funny, but they're not afraid to reveal that they're also quick-witted and intelligent; their dialogue puts nice little spins on American clich├ęs, and it uses understatement, irony, in-jokes, vast cynicism, and cheerful goofiness. Rarely has a movie this expensive provided so many quotable lines.”

Sorry Steph, but I think I’m going with Ebert on this one. Here’s a clue, the movie’s pacing isn’t supposed to be brisk. There’s more going on in it then one-liners. But again, perhaps you were confused by the understatement and subtlety. For example, in "Ghostbusters" 2016, a great deal of time…really far too much time…seriously a sickeningly long amount of time is spent describing the contents of a man’s pants after he messed them upon seeing a ghost. Oh...my sides still burn from laughter on that gem. 

Now to be fair, in the original, Bill Murray as Peter Venkman did ask the librarian whether or not she was menstruating when investigating paranormal activity at the library. But it was a one off joke to illustrate just how out of his element he was in the whole paranormal investigating thing. He didn’t go on for five minutes discussing color, flow and viscosity.

That’s the difference between the original and the new movie. The creators of the first movie knew when to stop. 

I mean honestly, how weak is the horse that you’re backing when to praise it you have to denigrate a 30 year old classic film?

I understand that the original "Ghostbusters" isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And I’m not always sold on the notion that ticket sales translates into a work of art. I mean, "Transformer" movies are still being made.

But the original "Ghostbusters" was a blockbuster when it was released. It was re-released very successfully a few years ago on its 30th anniversary (which probably helped Sony at last green-light a new stab at the project that had been floating around for decades). And it remains one of the most widely quoted movies ever made. There had to be some sort of quality backing all that. 

I will admit that I wasn’t dancing for joy when I originally heard about the new reboot/remake/redo whatever they were claiming it would be (it’s changed over the years of production). Quite honestly, because of the cast. And no, not because they’re women. 

See, that’s the other thing you have to do if you question the cast chosen for "GB"2016. It couldn’t possibly be that you just don’t find those actors funny. No, you have to assure everyone that you aren’t being misogynistic because that’s the narrative so many of the project’s defenders have been trying to drive home from the moment the names were announced (and even as a woman, I’ve been called misogynistic for not liking this cast). This is first stage defenders went to the moment the leads were announced. It's unfair. How do you prove a negative? "No, I don't hate the project because the cast is female. No really, I don't." Not to say that there weren’t jerks out there who did rant at the thought of an all-female cast. Get social media involved and you get all sort of creepiness posted on YouTube.

But there were many people such as myself who just weren’t impressed by the actors they chose for the roles. I could think of other women I would have preferred in the roles. In fact, I wrote a blog piece on that when the cast was announced stating that, unlike Lindy West who wrote a piece for GQ on the casting, I did not find it “The most indomitable fucking comic dream team of all kind.”


                          Yeah, sorry these names just didn't instill confidence in the project.

You can read the blog entry here but the bottom line is that I found the group chosen for the "Ghostbusters" remake anything but “The most indomitable fucking comic dream team of all kind.” And Lindy was beating the misogyny drum loudly in the heavy-handed piece starting it out with, “As you may have heard, a few delicate internet man-flowers are terribly, terribly, terribly upset at the news that the beloved 1984 classic "Ghostbusters" is being remade with a stunning ensemble cast of some of 2015’s most hilarious and sought-after comedians.”

My thought at the time was, if that was who 2015 had to offer, could we hold out till 2016 and hopefully find some funnier women?

But no, to Lindy, any nay-saying of the cast was only based on the fact that they were women, not that they might not be that funny. And interestingly, Lindy hadn’t even seen the movie but she decided it was going to be the best movie EVER because women were chosen for the roles. She decided that the all-male original cast was a gender imbalance. I wonder why she was so hating on the men. 

Then came…the trailers. And suddenly, the internet blew up! These were bad trailers. I mean really bad trailers. I mean the sort of trailers where you stare, mouth agape, in stunned silence despite the fact that you’re supposed to be laughing since, you know, comedy and all. Now usually trailers are intended to entice people to see the movie. Your A-scenes are chosen to really whet the prospective viewer’s appetite. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out. You can have a bad trailer for a really good movie and vice versa. The problem with "GB"2016 was that it didn’t seem to have a lot of A-material from which to create a trailer.  


So if you were already skeptical about the project based on the quality of the actors or director chosen, these trailers did not help. And when people expressed their aversion for the trailers, the old “misogyny” chestnut cropped up again. If you didn’t find the project appealing, it was because all the leads were women not because what they offered in the trailers was really terrible.

How many people who aren’t interested in seeing a Jackie Chan movie are accused of being racists? How many women who weren’t interested in seeing "The Expendables" were accused of hating men?

When the misogyny logic ran its course (or was milked long enough), we entered the second, or hypocritical stage which featured the question: “So…you haven’t seen it but you’ve decided it’s bad? How can you make that claim if you haven’t seen it?” 

Every day people use certain factors to judge whether or not to invest time and money in viewing/reading/listening to a product. That’s why they make trailers and book blurbs and have reviewers, etc. If someone isn’t into the horror genre, they’re not going to read Clive Barker. Very rarely does anyone grill them with, “Oh, but how can you judge whether or not you like it if you don’t read it? Maybe this is the novel that will change your mind.” If someone doesn't appreciate a particular actors work, they don't go see the movie.

When the movie "Pixels” was released, for example, I heard a lot of people say they weren’t going to see it cause they disliked Adam Sandler or they just thought that it looked stupid (both opinions I completely agree with) but I didn’t hear anyone defend that movie as vigorously with the, “But how can you know? You haven’t seen it yet” argument as I did with this latest "Ghostbusters". State that nothing about the new "Ghostbusters" movie seems appealing to you and you’re accused of being a hater and raked over the coals. It smacks of hypocrisy because how many of these people standing up for the new "Ghostbusters" stood up just as self righteously for a film like "Pixels"? (and for that matter, how many women who didn't want to see the movie were accused of disliking it only because there were four leads in the roles?) 


So this whole "Ghostbusters" controversy actually says more about the defenders of the project and the people who toss around the misogyny accusation far too easily than it says about the people they call haters. 

What’s even more fascinating about Stephanie Zacharek’s piss-fest on the original movie (getting back to stage three) is that it was written prior to the release of the movie, which leads me to wonder how she could write, “Thank heavens the Ghostbusters remake came together, against their will and their wishes” when she hadn't even seen if the finished product?

Poor Richard Roeper, reviewer for the Chicago Tribune, did actually see the movie and had the temerity to express intense dislike for the finished product in his review (despite being a huge fan of the ladies in the cast). He paid for that on various social media platforms with the usual slams aimed at anyone who wasn't blown over by "Ghostbusters" 2016. 

 

And interestingly enough, having seen the new "Ghostbusters" movie (I will post a review after this), I can tell you they borrowed a heck of a lot from the original. In my opinion, to the new film’s detriment (which I’ll explain in the review). So…I’m guessing some people connected with the new production must have had a bit more affection for the original than Zacharek might think. In other words, the original "Ghostbusters" must have done something right. 

I will post my review of "Ghostbusters" 2016 on the next post. 

In the meantime: