REVIEW: GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

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GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

Ghostbuster: Afterlife opens with down on her luck single mom Cassie (Carrie Coon) receiving word her estranged and eccentric father has died and she has no choice but to move to his broken-down farm in Summerville, Oklahoma with her kids Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Upon arrival, science nerd Phoebe begins to sense a presence in the house and soon discovers her grandfather was Ghostbuster Egon Spengler and that he was out there trying to stop the next prophesied coming of Gozer the Gozerian (a cameo that won’t be spoiled here). Now Phoebe, Trevor, new friend Podcast (Logan Kim) and teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd) must get those proton packs working and save the world, like their grandfather did thirty-seven years ago.

Sequel is directed wonderfully by Jason Reitman from his script with Gil Kenan and obviously based on the 1984 film. It is not just a sequel though, but a heartfelt love letter to not only the iconic pop culture classic, but 80s coming of age adventures as well. As such, Reitman gives us a very likable bunch of characters to populate this film with, especially Phoebe, and links it back to and pays homage to Ghostbusters in many clever and nostalgic ways. He films the flick like one of those coming-of-age movies and delivers some nice goosebumps when Phoebe, led by a certain spirit, begins to find the hidden away ghostbusting equipment, as Trevor finds and repairs the Ecto-1. The trail leads the kids to an old mine and soon some familiar sites and ghoulish faces start to surface, as the clock counts down to Gozer’s return. The tone is a bit more serious than the original, with some drama between mother and kids, especially since Cassie is still bitter towards her father for leaving her. It lightens up as Rudd’s Gooberson becomes a romantic interest for her and a believing friend for Phoebe, and the kids slowly transform into a new generation of Ghostbusters. Technically, film is nicely shot with some really solid visuals, from Egon’s spooky old house, the Midwest farm country setting, and the Gozer temple within the mine that was delightfully nostalgic. The SPFX are top notch and even if it is a little slow to get started, it delivers a fun and tear-jerking climax with Ghostbusters old and new facing the paranormal threat. A film with a big heart that knows when to be subtle and when to let the ectoplasm fly.

Reitman has assembled a great cast. Grace McKenna is simply wonderful as nerdy genius Phoebe and she evokes the great Harold Ramis as Egon nicely, while being totally her own character. Wolfhard is good as the more cynical Trevor, who is struggling to just be a normal teenager. Carrie Coon is also very good as their bitter and angry mom, who’s still hurting over Egon’s abandonment of his family. Rudd is fun as summer school teacher and science nerd Mr. Grooberson. He adds a little levity to the proceedings early on, when the film is at its most dramatic. We also have Celeste O’Connor as Trevor love interest Lucky, Bokeem Woodbine as her sheriff father, and Logan Kim is fun as the eager to help Podcast. As for the appearances from original cast members, everyone who does appear fits back into their roles with nostalgic fun and see if you can recognize a certain actress as Gozer the Gozarian. A great cast.

Overall, this was a delightful and very sincere tribute to and continuation of a true comedy classic. It was great to see returning familiar faces, and the new editions were very welcome ones. It starts out a little slowly, with a more serious tone, but once its momentum starts, it’s a blast of fun as it pays homage to both Ghostbusters and the coming-of-age flicks of the 80s. The climax is simply wonderful and will find any fan of this franchise getting a little choked up. Highly recommended and watch through the entire credits!

On a more personal note…I was there in 1984 on opening night when I saw the original Ghostbusters and it became an important and much beloved film in my movie loving life. There are so many parts of Ghostbusters: Afterlife that made me smile, gave me nostalgic goosebumps and yea, that ending had me crying life a schoolgirl. Thank you, Jason Reitman for bringing back the magic that Ghostbusters fans thought was long past! -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 swords

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REVIEW: FREAKY (2020)

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FREAKY (2020)

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Blumhouse’s latest is a slasher twist on the classic body switch scenario. While the town of Blissfield is being stalked by a serial killer, misfit high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) has her own problems to deal with. She is still mourning the death of her father, her mother (Katie Finneran) has turned to drinking, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) doesn’t even notice her and she is not exactly the most popular girl in school. The paths of she and The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) are fated to cross and when they do, the use of an ancient Aztec dagger, procured from a previous victim, causes Millie and her attacker to switch bodies. Now, on Friday the 13th, of all days, Millie, in the Butcher’s body, has till midnight to fix things before the switch becomes permanent. She has to convince her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) that it’s really her, avoid her cop sister (Dana Drori) and stop The Butcher, who is using Millie’s body to stalk new prey in her high school’s very halls. It’s going to be a freaky Friday the 13th indeed!

Flick is directed by Christopher Landon from his script with Michael Kennedy. Landon is responsible for writing a number of Paranormal Activity sequels and directing that series’ The Marked Ones installment, as well as, directing and writing the fun Happy Death Day movies. It’s an entertaining mash-up of slasher meets Freaky Friday, though not quite the energetic fun that was his previous slasher meets Groundhog Day flicks. It is a lot more gruesome than Happy Death Day, though, and earns it’s “R” rating, while still being filled with some fun dialogue and generous movie references. The script is fairly clever with getting the Aztec dagger “La Dola” into The Butcher’s hands quickly, to get the story rolling, and using web savvy teens to give us the exposition we and Millie need, as to how the dagger works and what needs to be done. This sets in motion the race to regain possession of La Dola, before midnight passes and Millie is trapped forever in the body of a middle aged murderer…which The Butcher realizes may not be a bad thing. The film only falters a little when a few sentimental dialogue scenes go on for a bit too long and the filmmaker’s desire to be politically correct becomes a little too obvious in spots. The last act could have been a bit punchier, too, with it’s teen filled party in a warehouse setting. Otherwise, it’s a fun slasher/high school flick homage with some witty banter, some bloody carnage and a hip sense of humor.

The flick wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, if it wasn’t for our two leads having a blast playing each other’s parts. Kathryn Newton is very good, first as the awkward, likable and sympathetic Millie, and then as the sadistic serial killer. Newton is very successful at oozing evil and malice from within a high school girl’s veneer and has a threatening presence despite being a very pretty young girl. It’s Vince Vaughn, however, that really has a chance to take the ball and run with it as Millie in The Butcher’s body. Vaughn is hilarious as the awkward high school girl in the body of a middle aged serial killer and his mannerisms and body language are just as funny as his line delivery. He is even very threatening when he is The Blissfield Butcher back in his own body, in case you forgot he was a sadistic killer. Supporting cast is solid, too. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich as Nyla and the flamboyantly gay Josh are a fun duo. They play off Vaughn very well and have some amusing dialogue and comic bits as they race to help get Millie back in her own body. Katie Finneran is good as Millie’s lonely, mourning mother, as is Dana Drori as Millie’s tough, sarcastic cop sister. Uriah Shelton is likable as Millie’s crush, Booker, who is dragged into this mess and Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck appears as a harsh wood shop teacher.

Overall, this flick was fun and was a nice mash-up of two types of film’s one wouldn’t immediately think of mixing up. The cast are really good, especially our body swopping leads, who have a blast playing each other. It can be gruesome, but is very witty and clever as well. It does drag in a few parts, due to some lengthy attempts at adding some sentimentality to the proceedings, but otherwise is an entertaining homage, though not quite the infectious fun of Landon’s Happy Death Day flicks…which Landon recently conceded take place in the same universe. Freaky Death Day someday maybe?

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaws which pretty Kathryn Newton wields quite well.

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