Darke Reviews | Ghostbusters (2016)

The original Ghostbusters, released in 1984, is iconic. It is a staple of comedy and a near perfect film in many of its respects. As the aforementioned link indicates the movie holds up decades later from a raw filmmaking standpoint, much less fond memories. So when Sony announced, not only an all female Ghostbusters and on top of that a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe I was of mixed opinions. The move felt like a money grab on the cultural zeitgeist of nostalgia; adding the cinematic universe aspect to it added to the cash grab feeling after Sony continued to watch Marvel/Disney continue to mint their own money with the MCU. Now…it must be said the response to the all female part was….visceral from a certain demographic I would happily see wander into a ghost trap ne’er to return. I was cautiously optimistic, but then I heard the casting and was less so. I am not a fan of the movies around Melissa McCarthy. Until tonight, I have never watched a Paul Feig …anything. Not Bridesmaids, not The Heat, not even The Office when he was directing. I watched 10 minutes of Spy (also with McCarthy) and couldn’t stand it – though not because of her, but the movie around her.

Then the trailer for this came out. I was not pleased. I didn’t like the look of the ghosts. I didn’t like the humor they showed. Didn’t like Leslie Jones character…sorry caricature. Didn’t like how they implied it was part of the same universe as the original. Yes, the “30 years ago….” makes a strong implication it was a shared ‘verse. I am not the only one who didn’t like it as it quickly became the most hated trailer …ever. Then more trailers came out and I got used to the ghost design. I ended up finding the beauty in it. I was still nervous about Jones, the trailer joke was a bit meta. But I gained hope overall. Then…Fallout Boy happened. I *LIKE* Fallout Boy, quite a bit. Immortals, Centuries, My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark, etc; but the song sounds over produced and doesn’t have an original beat or bone in it’s body and is just hollow. Now, the original song while iconic – is not *great*, but Fallout Boy has talent and this didn’t do the movie any favors for me. Nor apparently the people who were dying to hate it.

I have been waiting all this week, anticipation building in me like the psychokinetic energy of New York City. People keep asking – have you seen it yet…

Now I have, but should you eat the twinkie?

From here on out I judge the movie on it’s own merits, it’s own flaws. No comparison to the original will be made.

Written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Rec), and directed by Fieg the movie tells the story of four women who come together to bust ghosts. Simple right? At it’s core sure, if you don’t want to care about anything or anyone in the movie. You have to give the women depth. Make them relatable, and more importantly likeable. You have to decide if you are going for a horror vibe, comedy vibe, somewhere in between, and where on that needle you want to move. While the review won’t compare, the writers/director must keep the original in mind so that they can at least try to be faithful to the balance, the story, the characters, the world, and the science. You have to put the science in the front. Yes, this adds another factor in the horror/comedy – science fiction. It’s easy to overlook the science and focus on the supernatural. What I am trying to say here, before I ramble too much more is that they did not have an easy job on this reboot. No one would have. There’s a reason they haven’t been able to get Ghostbusters 3 off the ground for the past thirty years (video game notwithstanding).

I don’t think they fully succeeded in the balance factor. The four mains are *excellent*; they feel real, but in a just exaggerated enough factor to be larger than life and to be something that could one day be iconic. Every other character, and I mean every other character is so beyond real they are a walking farce. Because of that the movie suffers in the humor beats that do not involve the four interacting directly with each other and their environment. It’s like looking at a balloon that is overinflated and starting to distort. It just separates you from the otherwise enchanting characters and breaks the moment. The plot itself is sufficient, works, and is absolutely serviceable.

What brings more to the party is Kristen Wiig (Despicable Me 2, How to Train your Dragon) as Erin Gilbert, McCarthy as Abby Yates, Leslie Jones (SNL)  as Patty Tolan, and Kate McKinnon (SNL, The Venture Bros) as Jillian Holtzmann. McKinnon absolutely steals every single scene she is in. Even in the background you cannot take your eyes off of her. Holtzmann is hands down the *best* character in the film. You can try to argue, but you’d be wrong. Wiig and McCarthy are clearly a best in class combo for comedy and they work so well together playing off of each other with a natural charisma that makes them really likeable. Jones was screwed by the trailer. This also cannot be argued. Patty fits with the other three very well and while playing the everyman role, still adds to the group and its needs as the plot moves on. All four were clearly on their A game and it shows, that even the jokes that fall flat we’re close to not doing so because of their talent. I really don’t want to talk about the other characters, they are either flat, annoying, or otherwise so unrealistic as to break the world view the crew tried to create.

That said, lets talk production.  This movie is *deeply* flawed. I could talk for hours about all the flaws. Mediocre or bad music set at the wrong times, bad editing, bad jokes, lousy camera work…the list goes on. Fieg is a comedy director so the idea of an establishing shot may be lost on him. Equal blame goes to Director of Photography, Robert Yeoman on that one. The movie cuts too often and doesn’t transition between scenes in any intelligent way that could have been creative and enhanced the mood or moments. From an editing perspective you can tell there is *a lot* of this movie on the cutting room floor. I estimated at least one five minute long scene is gone and you can tell it’s gone – that isn’t good. References are made to something you never saw and a beat you would expect to happen and didn’t. The downside, the ramifications of the beat are still on screen and it leaves you wondering – if even for a moment. I *really* didn’t like the treatment of Chris Hemsworth’s character to the point that the joke with the character wears out quickly and too much time is spent on him when it should be spent on either the story or the mains.

Lets talk part of the title.

The Ghosts. I like them. Seeing them on the big screen. I liked them. They made me smile and some of them were quite original looking.

The Busting was fun. The ideas and engineering, the build up, and the testing was actually kinda fun and really added something to the movie.

The lack of practical effects, flaws in how the plot was executed however did lead to less investment in the overall movie, which was only saved by the mains. There’s more I want to say here, but it delves into spoiler territory, but there’s some beats that flat out annoy. There are some elements so painfully telegraphed I sighed deeply when I noticed.

TL;DR?

This review is kinda long for me already, so let’s cut right to it.

I liked it.

Despite its myriad flaws, I enjoyed myself. All of the responsibility on that falls on the four stars of the film and they do deliver. All of the flaws I firmly put on the director and a lack of skill with this type of movie.

I love that girls out there can look at these characters and go “I wanna be a scientist” because of this. Not a paranormal researcher, but a scientist. They made science such a focus that these characters *can* be looked up to. They give a message of not giving up on your dream. That’s important. That representation is needed. Movies like The Martian, and others are bringing more women into leadership and scientific roles; which girls can see and realize they can live their dreams as well.

Should you see it?

Yeah. Yeah you should. This movie doesn’t do anything to the original. Absolutely nothing is taken away if you prefer the 1984 version. You still have it, you can still prefer it. You should give this a chance. If you let yourself enjoy it you may even laugh. I did.

What about 3D?

3D enhances this one. Thanks Malcolm.

Will you buy it Jess?

Yes. BluRay. Heck I might go see it again. Not just to tick off the MRA’s who are determined to see it ruined.

Anything else?

The cameo’s are applaud worthy. Stay to the end of the credits.

Shameless plug for an awesome charity group: The Arizona Ghostbusters

http://www.arizonaghostbusters.com/

No event too big.  No charity too small. Proudly serving Arizona communities since 2007

 

My final thought is, yes I enjoyed it beyond its flaws. I want to see more of these characters and I want a sequel, with a director more skilled to this type of film. I am ok with a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

Darke Reviews | The Martian (2015)

This is not part of my October reviews, fortunately or unfortunately, my regular reviews do not get trumped by October. I had every intention of seeing this Thursday night but exhaustion kicked in and a desire for a record 6 hours of sleep ended up winning. Having seen it today and after some rest I can provide you the review you deserve.  I will say this, do not let Matt Damon or Jessica Chastain near the space program. Something goes wrong every time; how is it he is the one always stranded?

Anyway; does the movie hold up to the hype machine?

The film is based on a book by Andy Weir and adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard. I understand from some friends it is an excellent book and will be curious to hear the comparison between the two. Goddard on the other hand was the producer of the much loved (and very awesome) Netflix series Daredevil, The Cabin in the Woods, and Cloverfield. He also wrote one of my favorite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Conversations with Dead People.” So the source material is very strong, the writer has some solid understanding of characters and tension but do they have a director who can do something with that?

Well lets talk the story for a moment. This is a what you see is what you get. The movie literally is: Matt Damon gets left behind on Mars. NASA tries to figure out how to save him, while he tries to save himself.

Simple story. You need good actors and a good director to make it work. I give you Ridley Scott. I give you the man behind the camera and actors of Blade Runner, Alien, Black Hawk Down, and the list goes on. He doesn’t have a flawless list (Robin Hood, Hannibal, Exodus) but a solid one. He, despite his stumbles, is a brilliant film maker who can do more to create tension with a shot and space than a dozen of the modern horror directors combined. That is what this movie needed. Tension. You don’t know if they will bring him home, you don’t know if they will all survive doing so. Goddard, Weir, and Scott have masterfully crafted a story where you just aren’t sure.

Of course some of the work must go to the actors. Matt Damon by necessity carries the film and he has the chops to do it. I was watching the movie and thought is there another actor who could do this? Short answer I came up with is no. End to end of this movie, there’s not another bankable actor who could do this with such charm and such range.  Then you combine it with the following cast members

  • Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, Mama, Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Michael Peña (Shooter, Fury)
  • Jeff Daniels (Newsroom, Speed)
  • Kristen Wiig (Despicable Me 2, Brides Maids)
  • Sean Bean (duh)
  • Kate Mara (House of Cards)
  • Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier, Once Upon a Time)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, 12 Years a Slave)
  • Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire)
  • Donald Glover  (Community)

This is the literal definition of a powerhouse cast. Each person despite how much or little screen time they are given manages to translate that into a memorable or otherwise engaging character. That’s art folks. This movie would die in the vacuum of space if you didn’t want to root for the characters. If you didn’t want to sit at the edge of your seat or bite your lip. Everyone is understandable in every decision made. Every action. Every consequence.  The movie lives and dies because of the performances these people gave in conjunction with solid directing, and source material.

In other words, this is everything Fantastic Four was not.

It is also not as pretentious as Interstellar, which I wanted to like, but really couldn’t.

As a technical point, the CG enhancement of the landscapes, the background, the skies made me really believe that they could have been on Mars. This is the George Miller lesson folks. Use CG to enhance not dominate. There’s only one slightly jarring, but appropriate effect in the movie. Everything else to me is beautiful. I was commenting the other day how claustrophobic modern movies tend to be. Tight locations, tight camera’s, fear of long range shots or appropriate long range shots. This movie is anything but. It uses distance as a tool as much as it uses sound and lack there of when needed. It really lives by show don’t tell on a lot of points and again is a better movie for it. If there are any other flaws, there’s some pacing issues (a Ridley Scott natural flaw) but otherwise that’s it.

TL;DR?

This is a good movie. This is a damn go0d movie. This isn’t a good sci fi movie. This isn’t a good dramatic movie. This IS a good movie. I watched the movie on the edge of my seat more than a few times.

I came out of the movie inspired.

I came out of the movie wanting to Science!

I came out of the movie satisfied with my experience in a way few movies this year have.

I highly recommend The Martian to anyone.