REVIEW: GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

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GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

The 1984 Ghostbusters is a true classic and as this is the day and age of reboots and remakes, it was only a matter of time before this property got the rehash treatment as a sequel was stalled in development hell for years. This reworking is brought to us by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig and the only thing different about this new version is that the team are now all female. The story is very similar with scientist Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) being fired from her university job due to the resurfacing of her past as a paranormal investigator. She reluctantly re-teams with her old associate Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her current partner Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon) who are still in the ghost hunting business. Their timing is perfect, as NYC is suffering from an increase in paranormal activity and someone is trying to turn the Big Apple into spook central. Joining forces with street-smart MTA worker, Patty (a hilarious Leslie Jones) and their hot but dumb-as-nails secretary, Kevin (Chris “Thor” Hemsworth) they form the Ghostbusters and set out to save the city from this spectral epidemic and the villainous individual (Neil Casey) responsible.

The new Ghostbusters is nowhere near as bad as early speculation had it pegged to be, but is still a bland retread that isn’t as entertaining as it should be considering the talent involved. The problem here is that Feig’s script, that he co-wrote with Katie Dippold, just isn’t that funny and the story is thin and un-involving. The rambunctious fun of the original film is sorely lacking and the laughs and thrills are few and far between. The new team do have a chemistry with each other and that helps, as does Leslie Jones getting all the best lines and moments and running with them. Hemsworth is also having a visibly good time playing a dolt and the updated SPFX are all very impressive. The film is weighed down, though, with simply having a weak story, including a weak villain, namely a revenge minded janitor named Rowan who wants to unleash an apocalypse to get back at the world for being mistreated. Boo Hoo. Add in that a lot of the gags fall flat and the film’s climax lacks any real sense of urgency and we get a rather bland reboot with a few moments scattered here and there. The film also overdoes it with the 1984 Ghostbusters cameos with practically every major actor or character turning up at some point and only Slimer and Ernie Hudson’s bits actually feel like part of the film and not a “Hey, stop the movie…it’s so and so!” like most of them. The key to a good cameo is to have it feel like an organic part of the movie, Feig fails to give all but a few that feeling. I appreciate trying to honor the 1984 flick, but here they try too hard. The film also plays it too safe and never really does it’s own thing and thus never truly reboots the series but instead just recycles it. It really doesn’t justify it’s existence when all is said and done, even if it does have some entertaining moments.

We have a talented cast here and it’s a shame Feig doesn’t give them better material. McCarthy is showing some nice restraint like she did in St. Vincent and that is when she is most effective…if she has good material. Here she really doesn’t have much to work with. Same can be said of the brilliant Kristen Wiig who plays the straight women here and rarely gets to show her comic gifts and certainly isn’t required to give her Erin the dramatic depth she’s capable of. Kate McKinnon on the other hand, gives such a weird and off-putting performance as the apparently demented Holztman that she just makes one uncomfortable with her mannerisms and line delivery. She would have made a far more effective villain than the bland Casey, she’s that unsettling at times. Leslie Jones is fortunate to get most of the best lines and moments in the flick and the hardest laughs where given to her antics and her fiery line delivery. She really makes her sassy MTA worker come alive and the rest of the cast needed her spark and energy. Hemsworth’s part is the thinnest as the incredibly stupid Kevin that the girls hire only for his looks. His character may be annoyingly clueless, but the actor seems to be having a blast playing him and it does become infectious, especially when he figures more prominently in the climactic confrontation. Rounding out is Neil Casey who is sadly underwhelming in a part that is underwritten to begin with. He makes a lame villain and not even a funny one such as the original film’s possessed Rick Moranis.

Overall, the film is not a total disaster but not a success either. Despite a talented cast and director, the film is simply not all that funny nor does it have the audacious fun of the film it’s rebooting. It gives it talented leads little to do with their proven skills and thankfully, at least Leslie Jones was able to make the most of the best moments of a weak script. The SPFX are impressive, but the action scenes lacked any real energy or urgency and the bad guy was all sorts of dull. The film never really dares to be it’s own thing and as an imitation of the original classic, forgot to emulate the most important part…it’s heart. Do stay through the credits, as there is some funny stuff and a post credit sequence which may imply where a sequel would head if there is one. The fact that the film was dedicated to the late Harold Ramis and he does get an amusing cameo (sort of) was a nice touch and earned a few extra points.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 spooks.

paranormal activity 5 rating

 

 

 

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: ED WOOD (1994)

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ED WOOD (1994)

Halloween Favorites is back and this Tim Burton classic is certainly a fun Halloween season watch when you need a break from decapitations, masked killers and lurking fiends.

Ed Wood is a twisted and funny film that delightfully tells the story of arguably the worst filmmaker in history, Edward Wood Jr. Johnny Depp plays the ambitious Wood whose passion for making amateurish sci-fi/horror movies by far eclipsed his actually talent. The film follows the wannabe director through the making of some of his most infamous flicks, like Glen Or Glenda, Bride Of The Monster and Plan 9 From Outer Space and his relationship with an oddball assortment of characters, including a drug addicted Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), TV hostess Vampira (Lisa Marie), wrestler/actor Tor Johnson (WWE’s George “The Animal” Steele), drag queen Bunny Breckinridge (Bill Murray) and fortune teller Criswell (Jeffrey Jones). It also takes us into his equally odd personal life, including his relationships with wannabe actress Dolores Fuller (Sarah Jessica Parker) and his future wife Kathy (Patrica Arquette) along with his love for wearing women’s clothes.

This is one of Burton’s best films, as he directs Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s script with healthy doses of respect and heart. While Burton has a lot of fun with Wood’s story and the making of some of his most notorious films, never at any time does he make fun of Wood, or treat the man with contempt. Wood’s life makes for a movie as strange and off-beat as one of his own productions and the director knows it and films the story in black and white and in the same whimsical style as if we were watching one of Wood’s films, only about Wood. The film is loaded with atmosphere, charm and a lot of entertaining and oddball bits as Wood certainly lived in his own little world and Burton takes us into it. Burton also captures the spirit of Hollywood in the 50s and and the spirit of a man who wants to break into movies and be remembered for his films…and he is…though not the way he wanted. The movie’s atmosphere is enhanced with Danny Elfman’s boisterous score and Stephan Czapsky’s sumptuous black and white cinematography.

The cast is fantastic, with Depp really having a blast as the goofy, cross-dressing amateur filmmaker. He gives him passion, a kind heart and wonderfully naive charm. He is only outshined by Landau who is truly incredible…and sympathetic…as the aging, morphine addicted Bela Lugosi. The two have a wonderful chemistry together and make this odd pairing work. Lisa Marie and George Steele are perfectly cast as Vampira and Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson, who appeared in a few of Wood’s flicks. Jones is also perfect as the bizarre psychic Criswell and Murray steals every scene as drag queen and Wood associate, Bunny Breckinridge. As his love interests, Parker gives us a frustrated woman who gradually snaps at being drawn into the bizarre world her boyfriend lives in and Arquette is sweet and has almost an innocent quality, as the woman that would become Wood’s wife till he died in 1978.

This is a great movie about one of the worst directors of all-time. A man now idolized for his awful…yet, oddly very entertaining…flicks. The film chooses to focus on the more off-beat aspects of Wood’s life, while avoiding the subject of his depression and alcoholism, though it does not shy away from Lugosi’s. Burton chooses to make a more whimsical take on Wood’s life and that works very well considering how bizarre and surreal his films were. It’s a spoof, that never makes fun of it’s subject and never looks down upon this amusingly terrible filmmaker. A fun movie that indirectly captures the Halloween spirit far better than some films with more direct intent. Sadly, the film was a box office disappointment, but has developed a much deserved cult following and Lugosi did get an Oscar for his amazing turn as Lugosi.

-MonsterZero NJ

4 Woods!

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BARE BONES: TRAINWRECK and ALOHA

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TRAINWRECK (2015)

Trainwreck is a bit of a return to form for director Judd Apatow, who hasn’t made a really funny movie since Knocked Up. Film tells the story of Amy (Amy Schumer, who also wrote) a party girl who uses her wild ways to avoid getting truly close to anyone. That is until a writing assignment (Why do all these movies feature lead’s who work for magazines?) introduces her to dorky sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Now faced with possible true love, will Amy’s self destructive behavior ruin the best thing that’s ever happened to her?

Obviously, a big factor in why this routinely plotted romantic comedy works is it’s feisty, funny leading lady and the cast she is surrounded with. Schumer’s script is also legitimately funny and not only has some laugh out loud moments, but has some actual wit behind the more vulgar humor…a condom story Amy tells at a baby shower is particularly hysterical. She and Bill Hader have an off-beat chemistry and helps keep us engaged even as the move is about 15 minutes too long and gets a bit too sentimental for it’s own good. Also stars Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton and some surprisingly funny appearances by WWE Superstar John Cena, as a muscle-head Amy’s dating and a scene stealing LeBron James as himself.

3 star rating

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ALOHA (2015)

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who has given us more than one classic, this flick has quite an engaging cast and might have been a good movie, if it ever decided what it was about. Is it about military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) helping billionaire entrepreneur Carson Welch (Bill Murray) get his communications satellite in orbit?…Is it about Gilcrest trying to uncover what’s in the satellite’s secret payload?…Is it about Gilcrest trying to win back former flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams) who’s in a troubled marriage?…Is it about Gilcrest falling in love with the military aide (Emma Stone) acting as his Hawaiian liaison?…or is it about Gilcrest discovering the daughter (Danielle Rose Russell) he never knew he had?…we don’t know and neither does the movie! Add in some rambling dialogue sequences that go on and go nowhere and you have a waste of 105 minutes and a very solid cast…not to mention beautiful Hawaiian locations. Also stars, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride as military officers. An oddly schizophrenic screenplay and very haphazard direction from a filmmaker who can direct stuff like this in his sleep…and maybe this time he did!

2 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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BARE BONES: THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER, THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY P.1 and ST. VINCENT

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THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER (2010)

After seeing David Robert Mitchell’s much acclaimed horror It Follows, I decided to check out his first feature film, a teen-centric comedy/drama. Flick takes place in the Detroit suburbs and tells the story of a group of teens on the night before school starts as they wander back and forth between a number of sleepovers looking for love or simply to punctuate the last day of summer vacation. The film is enjoyable and is more of a low key flick than the usual bombastic Hollywood style teen movies. This works both for and against it, as while it is more realistic and spares us the usual cliché melodrama and slapstick that a lot of teen flicks have, the drawback is that none of the characters are particularly interesting and nothing particularly interesting happens. It has a charm to it and the cast are all very convincing, so it is overall a pleasant watch, but kind of forgettable at the same time. Does exhibit more of Mitchell’s skilled shot composition that made It Follows so effective. Worth a look, especially if It Follows made you a fan of Mitchell’s. An enjoyable little movie, but maybe a little too understated for it’s own good.

3 star rating

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THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY p.1 (2014)

I liked the first flick, but found the second installment to be a darker, more depressing retread. While this installment takes the story in a different direction with Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) now sequestered in the rebel stronghold and being pressured into becoming the figurehead of the rebellion, it’s still bleak, depressing and filled with overblown melodrama. There’s a few decent action sequences and Lawrence does her best with the material, but make up your minds…is Katniss a strong force to be reckoned with, or a weepy emotional mess that seems on the verge of a breakdown. She switches back and forth from scene to scene. Production value is strong and Francis Lawrence gives it a bit more of a steady pace than the meandering Catching Fire, but the film still failed to really hold my interest or attention. Never read the books and the films don’t inspire me to do so.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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St. VINCENT (2014)

I really enjoyed writer/director Theodore Melfi’s comedy/drama about cranky, down-on-his-luck, alcoholic spinster Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) whose life changes when he gets a new neighbor, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and begins to babysit her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) to get some much needed cash. Sure, we’ve seen this story about a kid who changes the life of a bitter, angry, older character before, but it’s done so well here and mixes the schmaltz perfectly with some laugh-out-loud humor. Murray is in top form and McCarthy, who I am not a fan of, proves she can be more than just a female Chris Farley. Best of all is young Jaeden Lieberher who really shines and tugs the heartstrings as the awkward Oliver and a scene-stealing Naomi Watts as Vincent’s pregnant Russian hooker associate, Daka. She is absolutely hilarious. The cast all have a great chemistry together, especially Murray and Lieberher and the film never goes overboard with the sentimental bits or the comedy. In fact the sentimental moments really resonate, such as the scenes with Murray and his Alzheimer afflicted wife Sandy (Donna Mitchell). A really good movie and maybe a bit of an underrated/under-appreciated one!

three and one half stars rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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