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Ghostbusters (2016)

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ghostbustersReleased: 11th July 2016 (UK)

Director: Paul Feig

Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Liam Hemsworth

Reviewed by: Jeff Cutshaw

Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is about to become a tenured professor at Columbia University when she is approached by Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley, Jr.) the owner of a historic home in New York City. Gilbert co-authored a book on the paranormal with Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) Mulgrave found on Amazon. He says the home he owns is haunted and wants Gilbert’s help to remove the spirits. Gilbert is shocked to be confronted by the book she disowned years ago and tracks down Yates at the small technical school where she works. Gilbert confronts her former friend and colleague about the book when she becomes aware of another person in the lab, engineer Dr. Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Gilbert tells the two how she was approached by Musgrave with the book and they want to be taken to the home so they can investigate. In exchange, Yates says she’ll consider taking down the book. At the house, the three women encounter a ghost that spews slime all over Gilbert, renewing her belief and interest in the paranormal, while also getting her fired from Columbia. She decides to join Yates and Holtzmann in their hunt for proof of ghosts that can be brought into the laboratory and studied scientifically. Meanwhile, mass transit authority worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) has an encounter with a strange man named Rowan North (Neil Casey) who talks about the coming cataclysm. She writes him off as another kook but sees him on the security monitor jumping off the platform and walking down the track. She follows but sees a strange device that sparks then explodes. Immediately afterwards, she encounters a ghost. Tolan is able to find Gilbert and the others in their new headquarters located above a Chinese restaurant. She tells them what she saw and they go and investigate bringing along some equipment Holtzmann has created. They run into the same ghost that tries to attack them while they are almost run over by a train. Tolan, who has vast knowledge of New York City history, joins the team and along with Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), their frightfully dumb but handsome receptionist, and they become the Ghostbusters.

Not since the announcement of Ben Affleck as Batman has the publication of a cast been greeted with so much anger and hostility as when the rebooted female “Ghostbusters” became public. The cries of destroyed childhoods and worst idea ever were deafening. Director Paul Feig and his four new Ghostbusters were targeted for the kind of social media scorn usually reserved for people caught abusing puppies and kittens on video. The first trailer was one of the most disliked videos ever on YouTube. Without seeing one second of the movie, many commenters declared it the worst film in history. Now that it has come out I’m pleased to announce your childhood is safe because the movie isn’t a time machine that can go back to kill your parents and is actually a great deal of fun.

The ensemble cast is a collection of proven comedy pros mostly current or former cast members of Saturday Night Live. Wiig, McKinnon and Jones along with McCarthy prove more than capable of delivering the laughs with a script by director Paul Feig and writer Katie Dippold that gives them plenty to work with. McKinnon proves to be the biggest scene stealer with lines delivered in a way that invokes a sense of threat and menace while also being funny. She aggressively attacks her character and a great deal of the technobabble she is responsible for fearlessly. It is the kind of performance that would make her a breakout star if she wasn’t already popular from her run on SNL.

Chris Hemsworth’s Kevin is a deadpan delight as he plays a character that is almost too dumb to live. Hemsworth is a hidden comedic gem that is now exposed to the light of day with a performance that creates laughs with the simplest of actions. He steals the movie almost as often as McKinnon.

The movie moves at a lightning pace and spends very little time in any one location. This actually proves to be a bit of a detriment as the story isn’t terribly well developed. We are introduced to the main villain of the film and watch as he puts his plan in motion but we are left to guess what exactly led to his turn into a bad guy. He is treated poorly by those around him and I suppose that is meant to give us an idea of what his whole life has been like but it isn’t terribly clear. The rest of the characters also aren’t very well defined or unique other than Leslie Jones’ Patty. She is the “average person” in contrast to the educated eggheads. While each has their quirks, none of the Ghostbusters really is a well-established person. That is something that may need to be addressed in promised future installments in the series (stay to the very end of the credits for a clue as to what the next film might be about).

Visually, “Ghostbusters” is a dazzling film that more than makes up for shortcomings in the story. The ghosts are vibrant and probably better delineated than the main characters. The tools and weapons the
Ghostbusters use prove to be as dangerous to the users as to the ghosts. They also provide a great deal of visual flash and avenues for humor.

“Ghostbusters” is rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor. The Ghostbusters are attacked on numerous occasions by ghosts of various types. None of it is gory. We see a character thrown out a window. A possessed Ghostbuster tries to kill two others. A character electrocutes himself. The test of their weapons creates some peril. The crude humor is a fart joke. Foul language is nearly nonexistent.

Most of the surviving cast of the original 1984 film shows up in cameos. Even Harold Ramis who died in 2014 gets some screen time. This reboot realizes it has big shoes to fill and pays respect to its elders. This isn’t an attempt to turn your fondest memories into some kind of Title 9, equal opportunity statement. “Ghostbusters” is an effort to breathe new life into a franchise that hasn’t as much as twitched since “Ghostbusters II” in 1989. Aside from several aborted movie ideas and a video game with the original cast providing the voices this film series has been dead as a door nail. Getting in a huff because a very talented group of actors were selected and they all happen to be female is misogyny pure and simple. If you put your Twitter feed on blast and announced your hate for a movie without seeing a single frame you are an awful person that needs to take a hard look at yourself and start making some changes. Also you need to see this movie and realize what a moron you were.

“Ghostbusters” gets five stars.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Colette

Colette can feel a tad velvety at times but is lifted by Keira Knightley’s sensual performance and liberating battle that painfully resonates today.

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Director: Wash Westmoreland

Stars: Keira Knightley, Dominic West

Released: London Film Festival 2018

Born in 19th century France, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette wrote more than 80 volumes depicting her childhood, her life, her pains and pleasures. Her writings were sensual, vivid and all published under her husband name, “Willy”.

No stranger to female-centric stories, Wash Westmoreland follows up on “Still Alice” and “Echo Park, L.A.” with this dazzling period biopic starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West.

The film starts, the young country girl, Colette (Knightley), marries writer and critic Henri Gauthier-Villars (“Willy”) who introduces her to Parisian salons. Willy soon finds himself in debts and is desperate enough to seek his wife’s help. She will write. Colette writes what she knows and her first novella, “Claudine à l’école” (Claudine at school) is a success. Willy forces her to write the next ones, locked in a golden cage, to ensure his fame and success.

The settings are sumptuous and we gladly follow the camera through the stunning but confined Parisian apartments where the outside light only comes through when she feels inspired. Costumes evolve, as Colette, from heavy and restricted dresses to wild and daring clothing as if Mademoiselle Chanel had designed them herself.

Colette finally loosens from her husband and experiments with woman, society and dancing, feeding her inspiration. Forced and uncredited, Colette cannot enjoy writing and runs off to perform in the music-hall in her own name. In like most biopics, we go from one key event to another, regrettably quickly and often without knowing how we got there. Willy’s sudden appointment of his wife is left as unexplained as the abrupt ending that could have potentially seen Colette, a happy writer.

In the second part of the film Westmoreland seems more interested in looking at the awakening of a young woman rather than at the birth of an author whereas Keira Knightley shines in the lead role. Often known for playing the innocent and rebellious youth, Knightley still pulls off the young Colette in the first part of the film but is at her best when she evolves into a mature woman, aware of own desires. The best scenes of the film come when Colette is free and herself, usually in the company of other woman, particularly the terribly charming Missy (Denise Gough). Westmoreland multiplies two shots and close ups and creates impactful intimate scenes but regrettably gives up on them too fast.

It is a change to see a character such as “Willy” that is both ridiculous and loving. This duality creates, perhaps, a more truthful relationship between the two. No one is born an artist and behind every writer there is an intuitive editor (and in 20th century France, who else could it be than a man?). For Westmoreland if there is no Claudine without Colette, there would have been no Colette without Willy.

With its lavish setting and jumping plot, Colette can feel a tad velvety at times but is lifted by Keira Knightley’s sensual performance and liberating battle that painfully resonates today.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – If Beale Street Could Talk

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Beale Street Movie Marker

Released: 8th February 2019

Directed By: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

In his entrancing and eventual Best Picture Oscar winner ‘Moonlight’, it was the longing to be authentic. To be accepted in an often volatile environment that powered its narrative.

Clearly in this pitch-perfect adaptation of the James Baldwin novel, director Barry Jenkins is consumed with longing of a different kind that is just as potent. Justice. An eradication of the infuriating systemic abuse of law and power against black people in America, that sees this luminous love story in 1970’s Harlem, strike modern-day parallels with our own divided, morally skewed society.

An incandescent portrayal of young romance. The tenderness, respect and sheer revolve that underpins the relationship between Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) will leave you spellbound from the outset, as their lives are soon mired in despair. The rapturous joy of new life as Tish falls pregnant, backed up by the triple threat of mom Sharon (Regina King), dad Joseph (Colman Domingo) and sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris). Quickly cancelled out by the malice of Fonny’s staunchly religious family and a false yet potentially devastating rape allegation made against him, as they scramble to prove his innocence.

Punctuated by Kiki Layne’s wholesome narration and an overwhelmingly beautiful Nicholas Brittell score that i would be content listening to for days on end. Jenkins exchanges the melancholic blues of his previous effort for a broader but no less lush visual palette, with its exquisite interiors and classy costume design almost serving as a rainbow for the tears that have streamed down their faces through such hardship, but their spirit and love continues to illuminate their gritty surroundings. Whether it be lingering close-ups of sweet embrace or deep sorrow. Its director doesn’t flinch for a second in conveying the simmering emotions on display and in doing so, leaves you completely transfixed by his tactful approach to the source material.

There is a raw resilient energy that permeates throughout its central romance. Kiki Layne’s Tish serves as the remarkably understated, calming influence to Stephan James’ broken-hearted prisoner, a slave to a corrupt system with a searing monologue by Fonny’s dear friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry) reinforcing the pain inflicted. Through it all, their hopeful adoring looks and stifling intimacy simply captivate. In Regina King’s marvellous mother figure, she peppers the film with considerable candour, armed with dialogue that pierces your soul. Whilst Jenkins leaves enough room for inspired cameos that are best left a secret, which gorgeously represent a sense of community and a progression in attitude, that defies the period.

A steady panning shot as Fonny smokes may seem throwaway. In this case, it is awfully fitting to articulate the finesse of its director. Lose yourself in the mesmeric haze of ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’.

A lyrical experience that reminds you of the poetic power cinema can truly possess. His love for the art form brought him here. On this form. Trust Barry Jenkins to go all the way.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Stan & Ollie

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Stan and Ollie Rating Movie Marker

Released: 11th January 2019

Directed By: Jon S Baird

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C.Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Products of classic Hollywood whose superior slapstick routines triggered endless laughter from their legion of fans, propelling them to legendary status. The sheer physicality and comedic prowess displayed by the English/American duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, still puts many modern-day efforts to shame.

But like so many comedians, there is a tragic element to their careers that contradicts their profession. Through this solid biopic by Filth director Jon S. Baird, it looks to give us a poignant insight into the duo’s grueling twilight years.

Their popularity slowly dwindling. Their bones creaking. Whether on the big screen or the stage, Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Hardy (John C.Reilly) are suddenly not the hottest ticket in town in the early 1950’s. Lumbered with Rufus Jones’ Bernard Delfont, a wisecracking promoter who seems more invested in the likes of Norman Wisdom, they look to reignite interest with a lengthy theatre tour and a long-gestating film project. Yet with audiences middling, contract negotiations stalling and the workload far beyond what was expected, it puts a significant strain on the health and friendship of these two towering talents.

Inevitably with its story, you would expect ‘Stan & Ollie’ to be assured in its abilities to make you laugh. However much of the first half feels surprisingly stilted as Coogan and C.Reilly throw themselves into the pair’s much-beloved routines, with regular cutbacks to their adoring audiences. For the uninitiated, it may initially make you wonder what the fuss was about. Thankfully as the film’s supporting players are introduced to spar with our central characters, it finds a more consistent comedic rhythm, neatly intertwining with the film’s simmering emotion.

Whilst it’s undoubtedly a few visual flourishes away from being a formulaic BBC Christmas special. The admiration of S.Baird for Laurel & Hardy certainly shines through in its refined production, beginning with an exquisite tracking shot on a studio lot as he works his way through the duo’s masterful mischief with fondness.

The rapport between John C.Reilly and Steve Coogan anchors proceedings wonderfully, skilfully capturing the mannerisms and effectively articulating how dependent they are of each other, despite their ongoing disputes. In C.Reilly’s Ollie, his fully-fleshed turn pierces through the fat suit he wears, whose willingness to perform despite failing health is soul-stirring. Whilst the relentless nature of Coogan’s Stan, as he looks to churn out the material strong enough to breathe new life into their double act, makes for compelling viewing. The real danger posed however, is that the film’s main attraction are nearly upstaged by their witty wives, with Shirley Henderson’s Lucille and Nina Arianda’s Ida threatening to steal every scene they grace.

Entertaining enough to gently applaud. Yet perhaps not an act that quite raises the roof. ‘Stan and Ollie’ coasts by on its endearing nostalgic charm and committed performances.

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