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.

Fright Club: Library Horror

Google has meant a lot of changes, perhaps the most tragic is the end of the old library scene in horror. While we find ourselves settling for the new cliche of the quick online search to uncover the hidden history behind a haunted home or town tragedy, this never used to be the case. Countless horror films led invariably to the Act 2 discovery in the old library. Either a helpful librarian carried large, impressive volumes to our hero at their tidy, green lamp lit library table, or a plucky sleuth scrolled their way through the old microfiche via the big microfilm machine.

How much do we miss those days? Enough to look into the very best in library horror.

Big thank you to Jennifer Snoek Brown of Reel Librarians for dropping loads of knowledge.

5. Se7en (1995)

Countless horror films begin Act 2 with a trip to the library. Act 1 has something creepy happening that puts our hero (or, more often than not, heroine) on edge and there’s nothing that can put them at ease except a little information search.

But David Fincher is not like other directors. While the beats are all here: big books stacked on an elegant desk, green lamps illuminating pen-and-ink drawings of the macabre and unsavory, a montage of pages being copied. But here, by flashing back and forth between Somerset (Morgan Freeman) doing the research and Mills (Brad Pitt) simultaneously studying case files, we learn a great deal more about what has happened and – don’t overlook all those decapitation images – what will happen.

The music gives the whole affair am appropriately religious fervor. This is how you make that cliche library scene work.

4. It (2017)

Poor Ben. It’s not enough that he pines in poetic silence for the lovely Beverly. It’s not enough that he’s the lonely new kid without even a posse of losers to hang out with (yet, anyway).

Nope, now he’s got intel and he doesn’t even have anyone to talk to about it.

This is the traditional “digging up big ol’ books about my spooky new hometown” scene, complete with a very creepy librarian. (Keep an eye on her in the background while Ben’s reading.)

But then comes the balloon. I have come to learn that a red balloon is never a welcome sight in a small town library.

3. It (1990)

Normally, we don’t include TV horror, but this scene is just so good! The Nineties TV miniseries is inferior to the later big screen adaptation (Part 1, anyway) in many ways, but not here.

Part of the credit goes to the fact that this film does not recreate that same, tired library scene. No microfiche, no big books on the history of Derry. Not in this scene. Just lunacy, Prince Albert in a Can jokes, and exploding, blood-filled balloons.

Plus Tim Curry, who improves any scene.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmOLwrvH-Ag

2. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Another film that takes what you know to expect and serves it up to you in the most delightful way, Behind the Mask is among the greatest of all horror comedies and satires.

This particular scene points out the inevitability of that library research scene in horror movies. That would be reason enough to appreciate it, but Zelda Rubenstein (of Poltergeist, obviously) is the icing on the cake. Ever the dramatic, weirdly helpful librarian that the genre relies on for all its historical towny gossip, Rubenstein shines as a woman who really wants to shine in the spotlight.

Just one more reason this film is such a treasure.

1. Ghostbusters (1984)

No, it’s not horror – but it is a scary scene! In fact, for most people it is the scariest scene in Ivan Reitman’s comedy classic.

What makes it perfect is the tension it generates before the jump scare because we know Pete Venkman (Bill Murray, perfection) is going to get in trouble. You just can’t keep talking like that in the library.

Get her? Heh heh heh.

Whom Might You Telephone?

Ghostbusters

by George Wolf

Just weeks ago, Dan Aykroyd set the trollosphere into a stage 5 tizzy when he dared to suggest the new Ghostbusters just might be scarier – and funnier – than his 1984 version.

He’s not really wrong.

Simmer down, I’m not saying this new one is a better. It doesn’t match the freshness or overall attitude of the original that, when combined with generational nostalgia and Bill Murray’s ascension to beloved icon, has propelled the film to a slightly more lofty pop culture perch than it deserves.

But, the 2016 GB’s do battle more frightening ghosts and do deliver a solid amount of laughs.

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is chasing tenure at Columbia University, and trying to forget her days chasing ghosts. A report of a local haunting reconnects Erin with old partner Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her new tech wizard Jillian Holtzman (a scene-stealing Kate McKinnon). The trio gets a close encounter of the slimy kind, brings the feisty Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) on board, and sets up shop in modest digs above a Chinese restaurant, which somehow still doesn’t help them get lunch any faster (delivery guy: “I have bad knees.”)

Director/co-writer Paul Feig gives each actor both the material and the space to carve out distinct characters, and it isn’t long before casting that smelled like a gimmick feels not only inspired, but perhaps the most sensible way to reboot such a classic team.

Giving the ladies an air-headed piece of beefcake named Kevin for a secretary (Chris Hemsworth, having a charming bit of fun with his own image) isn’t a bad move either. The comic benefits are obvious, but it’s also one of the devices the film leans on to throw subtle shade at the misogynistic vitriol that’s been spewing since the female leads were announced.

Stars from the ’84 film make effective and well-placed cameos (extra points for the clever way the late Harold Ramis is included), but eventually the amount of homage feels excessive for a film blazing its own trail. A similar penchant for excess bleeds into the finale, as our heroes face off against a number of spectacular ghouls in a fireworks-laden battle, but can’t wrap it up before an unnecessary serving of schmaltz creeps in.

McCarthy and director/co-writer Paul Feig again prove to be a reliable comedic team, but can’t quite match the sustained hilarity of Bridesmaids or Spy, which is actually a bit ironic. Similar expectations dogged Ramis and Murray after the successes of Caddyshack and Stripes, but initial concerns about their ghost-chasing epic got vaporized in a New York minute.

Can the new look GB’s repeat? They’re off to a solid start, and be sure to stay through the credits for a clue about who they ain’t gonna be afraid of next.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

 





Five More Remakes in Need of an All Female Cast

Rumors of an all-female Ghostbusting team got us A) excited for the reboot, and B) thinking of other movies we’d love to see reimagined with women in the lead. Here are the 5 films we think could benefit from some gender-retooling, along with our dream casts.

Jaws

Steven Spielberg’s 1975 great white classic benefitted from one of the best buddy trios in cinema with Roy Scheider’s reluctant shipmate Sheriff Brody, Richard Dreyfuss’s on-board scientist, and salty sea dog Quint played to perfection by Robert Shaw.

Who has the gravy to run nails down a chalkboard, frighten the locals and bark that she’ll find the shark for $3000, but “catch him, and kill him, for 10”? Nobody but Jessica Lange. We’d flank her with Anne Hathaway as the transplanted cop who wants a bigger boat and Emily Blunt as the oceanographer willing to take the risk when the cage goes in the water.

Easy Rider

How fun would this be? Let’s rework the classic American outlaw motorcycle ride! Who’s the laid back badass looking for an unsoiled America? We’d put the great Viola Davis in Peter Fonda’s role. For the thoughtful square up for an adventure, we swap Amy Adams in for Jack Nicholson. And who could fill legendary wacko Dennis Hopper’s motorcycle boots? We want Melissa McCarthy. (Come to think of it, she’d give Blue Velvet an interesting new take as well.)

Glengarry Glen Ross

Who on this earth could take the place of Alec Baldwin with perhaps the greatest venomous monologue in film history? Jennifer Lawrence – can you see it? We really, really want to see a movie with JLaw chewing up and spitting out this much perfectly penned hatred.

“Put that coffee down!”

And at whom should she spew? The wondrous Meryl Streep should take Jack Lemmon’s spot as loser Shelley Levine. We’d put Kate Winslet in Pacino’s slick winner Ricky Roma role and Kristin Scott Thomas in Ed Harris’s shadowy Dave Moss spot. Then we’d pull it all together with the magnificent Tilda Swinton in the weasely role worn so well by Kevin Spacey.

Predator

We knew we needed an action film, but who could be the new Schwarzenegger? Our vote: Michelle Rodriguez. We then put the ever formidable Helen Mirren in the Carl Weathers boss role. Obviously. The ragtag group of soldiers sent to, one by one, to be skinned alive? Scarlett Johansson, Kerry Washington and Gina Carano. Done.

Reservoir Dogs

Picture it:

Ms. Orange (Tim Roth): Rosamund Pike

Ms. White (Harvey Keitel): Julianne Moore

Ms. Blond (Michael Madsen): Charlize Theron (Cannot wait to see her get her crazy on.)

Ms. Pink (Steve Buscemi): Lupita Nyongo

Ms. Brown (Tarantino): Shailene Woodley

Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn): Cate Blanchett

Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney): Kathy Bates

 

All right, Hollywood. We’ve done the hard part. Now get on it! All we ask is executive producer status and points on the back end.