GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) Review: Bustin’ Makes Me Feel… Okay… I Guess

It’s hard for me to determine how much I liked the new Ghostbusters. I did like it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure how much of my enjoyment came from the new product versus how much was Nostalgia driven.

Not that there is anything wrong with counting Nostalgia as a factor when reviewing films based off classic franchises from my childhood. Jurassic World’s extreme Nostalgia factor certainly influenced my review of the film, but my review of Independence Day: Resurgence proved that a long delayed sequel can’t rest on its Nostalgia factor alone.

Let’s look at the facts, scientifically, shall we, like the three Scientists and one Transit Worker that make up 2016’s new roster of Ghostbusters! NO SPOILERS ahead. If something doesn’t appear in the trailer or doesn’t happen in the 1st act, I won’t mention it here.Ghostbusters 2016 Review Melissa McCarthy Kate McKinnon Kristen Wiig Leslie JonesTaking over for Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson from 1984, are Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, respectively, as each does fill the archetype of their predecessor. Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is the new Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray), leader of the group and biggest skeptic, without any of Murray’s charm or sarcasm. Gilbert may be the flattest character in this film, and that’s a problem.  Abby Yates (McCarthy) is an update on Dr. Raymond Stantz (Aykroyd) with just as much enthusiasm and dopey humor. Patty Tolan (Jones) is more or less Winston Zeddmore (Hudson), Black, street-smart, and last to join the team.  The only actress to stand out in her role, separating herself from the archetype that existed previously, is McKinnon as Holtzmann, a much wackier version of Egon (Ramis) that steals the show, with the exception of…

Chris Hemsworth rocks this film so hard. While gender swapping the Receptionist feels right at home in a cast of all female Ghostbusters, Kevin (Hemsworth) is nothing like his predecessor Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), filling a completely different role in the film/plot that elevates him past background character. If anything, this sexy Blond hunk has more in common with Rick Moranis’ Louis Tully; both in lack of intelligence and the desire to be a Ghostbuster (which, to be fair, in Moranis’ case, wasn’t examined until  1989’s Ghostbusters 2). The humor in this film is solid, and no one looks to be having a better time than Chris Hemsworth and Kate McKinnon.Ghostbusters 2016 Review Chris Hemsworth KevinIt does seem a pattern is arising, does it not? Aside from each female Ghostbuster bringing a slight twist to their pre-assigned archetype, none of it feels fresh except the aforementioned Kevin and Hotlzmann. The plot, while not using the same ghostly entity as the big bad from the 1984 film, does feel recycled, with little new to offer. If anything, it offers much less, with a much simpler plot than that involving the Gatekeeper, Keymaster, and Zuul, which was deliciously bizarre and mysterious, with a real sense of danger. While I appreciate the reboot’s successful attempt to explain why Ghosts are suddenly a thing in New York City, the evil Ghost plot falls flat on its face and the finale is more goofy and action packed than the original; a remake in the modern age of CGI in every sense of the word. There feels as though there is no peril in the end of the film, just an overabundance of CGI Ghouls. It also lacks charm. These new female comedians certainly have the chemistry and the comedic chops deserving of the roles they landed, but there’s still something missing. The ending to the 1st film is so great, with those four men on a roof, facing a God and a Building-Sized Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, with only their wits and whit. The stakes and the chemistry just isn’t all the way there in this new Ghostbusters.

And since when can you “murder” a ghost? Aside from trapping one ghost, these new Ghostbusters expand to weapons that can pulverize ghosts… killing them again? The tricky fun of trapping ghosts is gone in exchange for modern day violence and unnecessary action.Ghostbusters 2016 ReviewThe humor does feel a bit off, but that is because the original film excelled in the humor of the 80s, while this reboot is obviously very modern. That being said, I think, like most modern takes of classic genres, the film is a little heavy on the humor and a bit light on character development, plot, and even the supernatural. Just compare Lethal Weapon (1987) to The Nice Guys (2016) as an example; both are the same genre and written by the same man, but the later goes overboard on the humor, losing the more poignant moments from the former.  I was a bit turned off by all the jokes at the ladies’ expense, considering Director Paul Feig downplayed the fact he cast women in roles originally inhabited by men. I expected there to be some differences; obviously female character behave differently than men and will get into different comedic situations, but by the end of the film I was so tired about hearing jokes about women being able (or not being able) to do “a Man’s Job.” I don’t think it’s just the sexist haters that need to get over the fact that the Ghostbusters are now women; Feig should take a chill pill of his own.

Is this 2016 Reboot better than the original Ghostbusters? Hell, No! Is it better than Ghostbusters 2? Hell, Yes! Now that all that pesky world building is out of the way, I expect the inevitable NEW Ghostbusters 2 to be an even better film, hopefully relying more on originality than Nostalgia and tried and true archetypes. If you’re going to reboot a movie for a new generation, take some risks!


CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE Review: A Little Hart and a Big Johnson Go a Long Way

Central Intelligence follows the long tradition of “Buddy Cop” movies, pulling off humor, action, and a mismatched pair of heroes who must learn to work together. It pairs this formula with a Mission: Impossible style “Spy on the Run” plot; the film’s biggest weakness. While the plot doesn’t always click, Dwayne (formally “The Rock”) Johnson and Kevin Hart certainly do, with “Buddy Cop” chemistry we haven’t seen the likes of since Hot Fuzz.

Note: Yes, I realize neither Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), nor Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) are cops, but Bob Stone is a CIA Agent on the run (with a name that fits his line of work perfectly) while Calvin is dragged into the action in a movie that still feels more “Buddy Cop” than any other sub-genre. Now that we have that clarification out of the way…CENTRAL INTELLIGENCECentral Intelligence works best when it’s all jokes. Johnson and Hart are hilarious together, with this film perhaps being Johnson’s most funny thus far. It was this pairing, not the unoriginal plot, that had me excited to see the film and this aspect of the film certainly delivers! Johnson is side-splittingly-funny as the muscle bound CIA Agent Bob Stone whose personality does not fit his ripped facade. Bob Stone still has a chip on his shoulder from being the fat kid who was humiliated in High School, also never outgrowing his nerdy personality, to a point where he still loves and wears a Unicorn shirt… and a fanny pack… as a CIA Agent…

Meanwhile, Kevin Hart plays “the straight man,” in a very broad sense of the word, as he too is at the top of his comedy game. The exact opposite of Bob, Calvin was the coolest kid in school, voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” yet 20 years later he doesn’t want to attend his High School Reunion as he has amounted to an accountant in a building with an inflatable gorilla out front. Yikes.

Bob clings to Calvin because 20 years later he still doesn’t have any friends, all because he has misconstrued an accepted friend request on Facebook as an invitation to bug Calvin, not unlike Jim Carry in The Cable Guy. Of course, Bob is more than the clingy loner Calvin and thinks he is; he is instead a CIA Agent on the run who needs Calvin’s accountant expertise to track and stop the sale of satellite coordinates before the CIA catches up with him. The plot may be weak, with all the clichés and twists you expect, but the humor is what makes this movie work.Central Intelligence Review Bob Stone Dwayne the Rock Johnson Aaron PaulThe supporting cast is full of great actors and comedians, including Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Kumail Nanjiani, Melissa McCarthy, and an incredibly funny role for the incomparable Jason Bateman. All add a nice flavor and a bit more comedy into the mix (Aaron Paul even gets to say “Bitch,” immediately calling to mind his Breaking Bad catch-phrase, intentional or not). Calvin’s fear and resistance to being pulled into Bob Stone’s world, including his interactions with Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) and inexperience/fear of danger make for some funny laughs, but nothing tops the glee of Bob as he goes about his violent business with a big smile on his face and a bigger fanny pack on his waist!

The weakness here is the aforementioned plot and an unbalanced ratio of humor to action. The action is great, but similar to nearly every “Buddy Cop” movie since the 2nd Rush Hour film, the comedy seems to outweigh the action. The action isn’t bad, there just isn’t very much of it, though when there is, it does call to mind films like Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop.  Yes, the comedy to action ratio is no accident on the filmmakers’ part; Central Intelligence is best billed as a comedy first, with the action being more of the icing on this Johnson/Hart cake. This is more a personal pet peeve of mine; I wish other modern “Buddy Cop” style movies like The Other Guys and even Hot Fuzz put more focus on action and a realistic world while still sporting great comedic moments like Lethal Weapon,Beverly Hills Cop, and even Rush Hour.Central Intelligence Review Bob Stone Calvin Kevin Hart Dwayne the Rock Johnson 2If more of a comedy is what you’re looking for, and you enjoy the antics of the now fun-loving Dwayne Johnson (whose older movies used to take him too seriously; The Rock’s a funny dude) and/or the comedy stylings of Kevin Hart (Get Hard comes to mind as the closest comparison), then you will love Central Intelligence. It is exactly the film as advertised by its great trailers. If you’re looking for a more traditional 80’s “Buddy Cop” movie, this still isn’t it, but that’s not a deal breaker.   The chemistry and comedy are great, the supporting cast is solid, as is the action (if only there was more of it…).

Central Intelligence certainly takes a little Hart and a big Johnson to make for a pretty successful summer flick. Hopefully what follows is a long line of comedy roles for the artist formally known as “The Rock.”


Podcast #18: The Late Late Show With John Constantine

After missing a week…. After a one week Hiatus (TV shows do it!), Nick and Andrew are back with a vengeance… and a killer theme song.

The main topic of the day is DC and NBC’s ‘Constantine,’ but before heading to spoiler territory there, our heroes talk the new ‘Avengers’ and ‘Daredevil’ trailers, breaking ‘Star Wars’ news, and the possible horrors of building too many “Cinematic Universes.” 

New Breaking Geek Podcast Every Friday!

…Except for when Nick and Andrew’s work schedules get in the way.