Remember 1984? Be a Lot Zuuler If You Did

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

by George Wolf

Have you tried to branch out, only to end up with a revolt on your hands? Perhaps fan service is right for you! In other words, if 2016’s Ghostbusters was The Last Jedi, Afterlife is The Rise of Skywalker. With a side of Goonies.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun trip down memory lane.

Director/co-writer Jason Reitman picks up the 1984 baton from dad Ivan, crafting a new adventure that casually ignores the 1989 sequel.

Egon Spengler’s long-estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) is being evicted from her Chicago apartment, so she takes daughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace – just terrific in a completely heroic arc) and son Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) to the only thing Dad left her when he died: a dilapidated farmhouse in small-town Oklahoma.

Ah, but this farm holds secrets, and it isn’t long before science whiz Phoebe is getting familiar with proton packs and Trevor is checking to see if the ECTO-1’s engine might actually turn over.

Good timing, too, because Phoebe’s teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd) has been noticing some serious seismic activity in town that he cannot explain. Turns out the Sexiest Teacher Alive is also a big fan of the original Ghostbusters, and he clues in Phoebe and her conspiracy-happy friend “Podcast” (a charming Logan Kim) about Grandpa’s heroics back in the day.

Once Trevor’s crush Lucky (Celeste O’Connor from Freaky) makes it a quartet, it’s up to the kids to figure out the real reason Egon abandoned the GB’s all those years ago, what’s brewing under the farmhouse, and just how to wrangle a stage 5 apparition.

This is a film so steeped in the nostalgia for its source material that you cannot imagine it existing on its own. Is that a direct result of the savagery that greeted the female (and for what it’s worth, underrated) reboot or a natural reaction by a son following in his father’s footsteps?

Either way, the benchmark callbacks come early and often, with Reitman frequently holding the shot an extra beat just to make sure you pick up what he left for you. And while the Bill Murray zany-ness is replaced by Paul Rudd sarcasm and wisecracking from a cast of wonderful young actors, there is humor here, enough to justify the “comedy” label (which honestly, the original trailer had me questioning).

But is it fun? Oh yeah, with some slick CGI and high points that are zuuler than the other side of the pillow.

You’ll want to stay through the credits for two extra scenes, but there’s a good chance you’ll still be thinking about all that Reitman has in store during that finale. It’s plenty – maybe even enough for your eyes to stay as pufty as a certain marshmallow man.

Risk & Reward

The Nest

by George Wolf

If you saw the quietly unnerving Martha Marcy May Marlene nine years ago and have had the name Sean Durkin filed away since then, you’re not alone. Good news for both of us then, as Durkin finally returns as writer and director with The Nest, another precisely crafted examination of family dynamics.

This time, though, it’s a nuclear family, one that’s slowly imploding before our eyes.

It is the late 80s, and hotshot commodities trader Rory O’Hara (Jude Law) has news for his wife Alison (Carrie Coon): they need to move. Business in New York is drying up, but his native London is “booming.” Alison isn’t loving the idea of uprooting their two kids – and her horse training business – for the fourth time in ten years, but can’t help but be impressed by the 15th century manor Rory has secured in the English countryside.

The place is legendary (“Led Zeppelin stayed here!”), and huge. And from the moment the O’Haras move in, the spaces between them only grow larger.

Though it lacks the sinister edge of MMMM, Durkin’s storytelling here still carries a chill, assembling precise details with a subtlety that often betrays a focused narrative. With a microscope trained on the minutiae of finding a work/life balance, Durkin gives his stellar leads plenty of room to dig indelible, often heartbreaking layers.

Law shows all the easy charm that makes Rory an office favorite, while slowing revealing the cracks in his entitled, high roller facade. Pretending can be harder to sustain than success, and Rory is wearing down.

And Alison – thanks to a wonderful performance from Coon – becomes the weary embodiment of a last nerve exposed. She’s facing the reality of who her husband really is – and grasping for the best way to react. Fortunately, not giving a fuck is one of the options, and Coon makes all of Alison’s frayed edges irresistible.

Still, even as this family breaks down before us like some sort of clinical exercise, Durkin brings a darkly humorous undercurrent to the O’Haras’ way forward that feels like a first step toward honesty.

A house isn’t always a home. The Nest may rarely be comfortable, but it’s strangely inviting, and once you’re inside, plenty hard to look away.

The Long F*cking Goodbye

Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town

by Matt Weiner

For a character who’s supposed to have trouble holding down a steady job, Izzy is putting in some serious work: Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town is a road trip movie that never leaves its first city, a shaggy dog celebration of Los Angeles with characters who could rival those in any LA noir. But more than anything it’s a sharp inversion of the manic pixie dream girl and the role she inhabits.

Written and directed by Christian Papierniak, Izzy GTFAT is disjointed by design. Mackenzie Davis (Tully) holds everything together as Izzy, a once-promising musician who is now too strung out to keep a catering job, let alone the man of her dreams. When she finds out that her ex-boyfriend Roger (Alex Russell) is getting engaged, she sets off across Los Angeles to make it to the big party and win him back.

At each stop in her journey, Izzy gets help from a standout supporting cast. Lakeith Stanfield, Haley Joel Osment, Alia Shawkat and Annie Potts run the gamut from wistful and strange to funny and strange to… well, strange and strange. These vignettes have the feel of early Richard Linklater, so while the structure of Izzy’s Odyssean journey gets repetitive midway through, the actors keep it interesting.

Papierniak gets the film back on track with Izzy’s major confrontations: first a bittersweet reunion with her sister (Carrie Coon), which hints at a lifetime of backstory in just a few tender minutes. And then finally with what has been teased all along: Roger’s engagement party.

Without giving too much away, the confrontation and aftermath go in a remarkable direction, serving up an altar of clichés only to mercilessly destroy them—a sacrifice to Izzy’s rebirth. She has spent the entire film careening from one manic pixie trope to the next in her desperate attempt to be the catalyst in somebody else’s story. So it’s pure delight to watch the way in which Izzy takes control after spending her adult life in thrall to her own fantasies, failures and dreams deferred.

There could easily be a version of this movie from Roger’s perspective. And ten years ago, we would all be expected to care about what happens to that bearded thumb and be happy for him. It’s probably the reality Izzy would have been happy with at that point in her life, too.

But times change. People change. Slowly, unevenly. And maybe not in ways we always hoped, but hopefully still, in some small way, for the better.