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.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again ★★★★
Released: 20th July 2018
Directed By: Ol Parker
Starring: Lily James, Meryl Streep, Cher, Christine Baranski, Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard
Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths
The iconic Swedish pop group said ‘Thank You For The Music!’. An overjoyed studio said ‘Thank You For The Box Office!’.
Sure. Pierce Brosnan singing ABBA’s SOS had a hint of the Borat (Sorry Sacha!) about it. But the summer of 2008 bared witness to a cinematic juggernaut in ‘Mamma Mia’, a jubilant jukebox musical whose sense of joy and fun proved irresistible for audiences. Considering life’s too short. Ten years on we return to the sumptuous setting of Kalokairi Greece with ‘Here We Go Again’, as the sequel fleshes out the timeline, remaining keen to create more cinematic memories.
Content with her unorthodox triple father situation in Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgard) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) fierce determination to honour her mother Donna’s (Meryl Streep) dream of renovating her surroundings into a lavish hotel, coincides with the severe turbulence she’s enduring in her ongoing relationship with Sky (Dominic Cooper).
Increasingly doubtful of her own capabilities. The dynamo duo of Christine Baranski’s Tanya and Julie Walters’ Rosie look to bolster her confidence by delving into Donna’s past, as Lily James’ enthused younger incarnation of the character guides us through her eventful youth with the dungarees intact, reliving her initial encounters in 1979 with Sophie’s dads (Hugh Skinner/Jeremy Irvine/Josh Dylan).
Previously unapologetic in its ramshackle charm and high camp. Director Ol Parker to much relief resists applying restraint to its energetic, big-hearted song and dance numbers, whilst technically and narratively tightening up the deficiencies that perhaps plagued its 2008 counterpart for the purists, with a sharper focus on emotional engagement. As a result, it may not be as quick to overwhelm us with its blindingly sunny disposition like its predecessor, occasionally labouring in its first half with its time-hopping.
Yet when those glorious highs arrive like a new take on ‘Dancing Queen’ and Cher’s stellar firework-heavy rendition of ‘Fernando’, whose cameo evoked hearty cheers in the screening i was in. They are now armed with a poignant and reflective slant, reinforcing the ingenuity in how these timeless songs are integrated into the framework, in order to offer fresh interpretations.
Lighting up the screen as a young Donna Sheridan. Lily James captures the carefree spirit and mannerisms of the character superbly, proving a solid counterpart to Meryl Streep’s original performance and Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in the singing stakes. Speaking of Streep, much has been made about her (lack of?) involvement in this follow-up. Without slipping into spoiler territory, her gorgeous screen moments this time around epitomise why many fans deemed her an instant hit in the first film. Elsewhere, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters continue to provide fantastic farce, stealing much of the script’s zingy dialogue whilst Andy Garcia’s enigmatic hotel manager is a disarming and dashing addition.
It may not have been a sequel we were warming up the vocal chords for. Yet in striking a killer balance between emotive and euphoric. ‘Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again’ is a truly wonderful follow-up that brims with sincerity and show-stopping splendour.
Dig out the spandex and unleash your inner ‘Super Trouper’…
Hotel Artemis ★★★
Released: 20th July 2018
Directed By: Drew Pearce
Starring: Jodie Foster, Charlie Day, Sofia Boutella
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Iron Man 3 alum Drew Pearce makes his feature directorial debut with this slick future-set actioner – evoking the neon-tinged hyperbolic aesthetic of John Wick and applying it to a more stripped-down set-up akin to Joe Carnahan’s strangely forgotten Smoking Aces. Hotel Artemis sees the eponymous underworld hospital of the future come under siege by forces both outside and in, with a who’s-who of “hey – it’s….!” figures to bring its gleefully vitriolic war well and truly to life.
On Pearce’s part, Hotel Artemis knows its own playbook pretty well – tense action beats are played with coherence but don’t skimp on imagination, and the staging of it all is first rate. Jodie Foster, meanwhile, leads an engaging cast that includes a wonderfully sleazy Charlie Day, the brilliantly deadpan Sterling K. Brown, and an amusingly in-her-comfort-zone Sofia Boutella. It’s best to keep as much of its casting a surprise as possible, but there’s tons of fun to be had via mere cast reveals to keep proceedings engaging.
On the action front, though, it is strange that Hotel Artemis feels as subdued as it does as regards its own sense of internal rage. Whilst far from a bloodless PG-13, Pearce’s film never quite embeds itself as much in the hyperviolence of its world as you’d expect, or, rather, hope. It’s certainly no John Wick in that sense, and, though there is a decent share of world-building to kick things off, it’s quickly evident that this element of restraint is self-imposed by Pearce’s writing, rather than a by-product of now requisite franchise-creation. Hotel Artemis, incidentally, could easily garner itself a cheap and cheerful sequel or two, were there somehow a demand.
On the back of this pretty solid ninety minute actioner, that’s absolutely a consideration. The world it builds is fleshed out enough to intrigue, the cast are game for an intriguing balance of quirk and creepiness, and Pearce steps up to the director’s chair with unbroken confidence and a comic book sensibility that takes him deftly to the finish line. Stoker cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung astonishes as ever, and, while not his showiest work to date, Cliff Martinez’s score fleshes out the bonkers world of Hotel Artemis nicely.
Best aimed at those looking for another round of Smoking Aces-grade action – though, without quite the same singular ferocity – Hotel Artemis is a nice bit of bullet-laden fun with a lively cast and some slick visuals. It’ll never be one of the iconic points on the timeline of action cinema, but it’s a worthy stop-off on the way between the ones that are.
Released: 12th July 2018
Directed By: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Be honest. Sooner or later, you knew The Rock was going to make Die Hard. It was inevitable. As he ascends higher and higher thought the upper echelons of the – increasingly spartan – Hollywood star system, this was always going to be coming. The only question really, was going to be whether or not it was going to be either any good, or even welcome in a world in which even a bonafide Die Hardsequel now typically ranks among the worst of whichever year it’s released in.
Alas, Dwayne Johnson is no Bruce Willis, and that quality control barrier could not be any clearer as Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno – with a dash of The Fugitive – for Skyscraper. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s adrenaline-fuelled ride takes DJ to China as amputee and former FBI tactical agent Will Sawyer, an American tasked with signing off on the security of The Pearl – the tallest building in the world. When terrorists seize The Pearl, however, Sawyer finds himself the subject of a Chinese manhunt and forced to find a way back into the building in order to save his wife and children from not only the terrorists seeking to fulfil their own agenda, but also to the out-of-control blaze that threatens to consume them all.
Johnson’s played in the sort of arena on more than a few occasions now, with Skyscraper arguably skewing closest to San Andreas as regards the sort of tone and polished spectacle you’re in for. There are some offhand nods to more classical genre archetypes – hell, it makes more Die Hard references than Jake Peralta – and there’s the requisite degree of fistbumping and utilisation of the term “brother”, but those still unsure of what to expect can rest easy on the promise of what’s essentially an Irwin Allen movie with a Neal Moritz sensibility. It ain’t clever, it doesn’t want to be, it just wants you to sit on the edge of your seat and then cheer afterwards. Which you will. A lot.
Neve Campbell brings an impressive amount to what’s an already impressively sketched out female supporting character in Sawyer’s wife (take notes, Bedelia – that’s how you handle hostage takers), and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) continues to make for an engaging added value element. Roland Møller, meanwhile, makes for a decent enough villain, but lacks the charisma needed to really sell the ludicrously named Kores Botha as much of an evil mastermind. Sure, he was never going to rival Hans Gruber on the scale of action movie villains, but Botha’s so thinly devised as a villain that he’s not up to the grade of Tommy Lee Jones’ Under Siege villain either. And that’s a real detriment when your action hero lead is someone as genuinely charismatic as Dwayne Johnson. Both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Joe Manganiello took the wrong Rock movie, would be a decent takeaway.
In lieu of a captivating villain, Thurber nonetheless ensures value for money is had with a barrage of spectacle-fuelled set-pieces the likes of which will have you squirming in your seat biting your fist for dear life – IMAX could well inspire a sense of vertigo with this one. It’s a glossy-looking actioner – thanks to some smooth production design and slick visuals from cinematographer and Mission: Impossible alum Robert Elswit – and fight choreographer Allan Poppleton goes above and beyond to stage Johnson’s antics not as the all-powerful action commando, but a credible fighter dwarfed by the spectacle of what’s up against him.
It’s a good time for all. Sure, it’s in no way destined to become an enduring classic of the action genre – though, the spoilerific marketing campaign does well and truly show off what will become one of this summer’s more memorable movie moments – but it’s Die Hard on fire. With The Rock. In 2018. And if there’s an easier sell for a good time at the movies than that, it just means Dwayne Johnson has another movie out. In which case, still see Skyscraper first.
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