Ghostbusters Review

And now for one of the most talked-about and controversial films of 2016. It’s trailer was one of the most disliked in YouTube history and it has had a torrid affair with fans on one side and filmmakers on the other, mud-slinging like their life depended on it. But let’s try and cut through all of that to the film. It’s Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters stars Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon and Chris Hemsworth and is directed by Paul Feig. A reboot of the popular 1984 film of the same name, the new film follows an all-female crew who have to save New York from invading ghosts.

Let’s be upfront, I wasn’t looking forward to Ghostbusters. The trailer was very poorly put-together, it looked like a lot of the charm had been taken out and to top it all off, I really disliked director Paul Feig’s earlier work. Things like Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy are very poor films, so it was with great scepticism I went to Ghostbusters. How wrong I was.

The cast is the greatest thing about the film. I was always okay with the idea of a female Ghostbusters, and the four actresses are funny and work well with each other. They are not just straight re-treads of the old characters (apart from maybe Leslie Jones, the only non-scientist and token black lady of the team) and while none of them are as stand out as Bill Murray was, they do a good job. The surviving cast members of the original Ghostbusters turn up, but I felt it was a little forced and would have worked just as well without them. Chris Hemsworth though as the not-too-bright secretary Kevin is one of the best characters in the film. He has the funniest lines and it’s nice to see a change of pace from Hemsworth’s work in Thor and The Avengers.

Again, the trailer showed a few jokes and many of them were received poorly by fans. And while there are quite a few duds near the beginning, after a good 20 minutes the jokes start getting really good. I laughed a lot near the middle of the film, but towards the end, as the film moves more from comedy to action, the jokes fizzle out.

One of the main complaints was the CGI ghosts and after seeing the film, I can sympathise. The ghosts are a bit too clean, they looks more like plastic dolls which loses their scare value. A lot of the original ghosts and demons were animatronics, and the CGI from thirty years ago makes them oddly creepy. Here, they are a bit too processed, but they sometimes still manage to be spooky. One sequence involving mannequins looks like it would be right at home in an episode of The Twilight Zone and is effectively sinister and humorous.

The pacing is also rather off. The new film mirrors the original in the way that the squad forms and starts to take down ghosts, but there is hardly any build up to the final fight. The original (sorry I keep comparing them but it’s necessary) had that team-building but then had a montage of the team catching several ghosts from all over the city. In this version, the team catches one ghost, let’s go free and then it’s off to the final encounter with the big bad guy. It seems a little rushed, hopefully they put more of it in a sequel if they decide to do more.

In the end, the new Ghostbusters defied my expectations. It has several great jokes, the characters are interesting new additions to the series and it actually manages to be suitably chilling at times. It may not reach the heights of the original, be it easily surpasses Ghostbusters 2.

Score: 7/10 Surprisingly enjoyable. No need for mass hysteria and boycotts.

Spy Review

Spy marks director Paul Feig’s and actress’s Melissa McCarthy’s third partnership in filmmaking. Their first film together, Bridesmaids received positive reviews and various awards. Their second film The Heat had a more mixed response but was still fairly positive. Can they pull it off again in Spy?

Spy stars Melissa McCarthy as CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who is tasked with going undercover to find the location of a wayward nuclear bomb that is soon going to be sold to a terrorist group. The film also stars Jude Law, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Alison Janney, Rose Byrne and for some bizarre reason, 50 Cent.

Let’s start with the good. The pre-credit sequence, involving Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy on a mission to try and retrieve the nuclear bomb that sets up the entire film is fun, and adds a nice flavour of old-school James Bond to the film. Even though there is an overly long joke involving bats and Melissa McCarthy which doesn’t work, the first couple of minutes are good pulpy fun. The title sequence after said opening is also good, again bringing in a flair of James Bond to the film.

There are also several fight scenes peppered throughout the film and each one is film brilliantly. Taking some inspiration from earlier 2015 film John Wick, the hand to hand combat in the film is bone-crunching and satisfying. Director Paul Feig does have an odd habit of shooting most fight scenes from a bird’s eye view, but it doesn’t destroy the scenes too much. There is even a homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 during a fight sequence, but at least Kill Bill as a good film. Spy is not.

Where to start? Okay, I like Melissa McCarthy, she seems like a very nice person in interviews and such, but here she fails dramatically. McCarthy sheds her usual typecasting of the loudmouth (e.g. Bridesmaids, The Heat and Tammy) for a more timid approach, but halfway through the film she changes back to her usual role. It’s really annoying to see a talented actress keep getting typecasted in the same character type, but writer/director Paul Feig seems to think otherwise. Most of the jokes are at McCarthy’s expense, but they all seem to be recycled from Feig’s earlier films, leaving Spy seemingly with no new jokes.

Most of the women in the film are portrayed rather poorly, ranging from ditzy and clumsy to evil, scantily clad murderers who behave like petulant children having a tantrum. Even though by the end of the film McCarthy is gun-toting badass, the film still makes jokes about her appearance and ability to perform her duty competently. The exception to this would be Alison Janney as the head of the CIA, but she hardly clocks in ten minutes in the two hour run time.

The men meanwhile are all obnoxious idiots who are all in love with themselves. Jude Law is your usual spy type, but during his time in the film he is always fixing his hair in reflective objects and smugly smiling. Jason Statham is a nutcase whose entire dialogue seems to be anecdotes about nearly dying and a remarkable number of swear words that would rival The Wolf of Wall Street. The character I had the most trouble coming to terms with however was Peter Serafinowicz’s Aldo, an Italian whose wandering hands are the subject of many jokes. Every time he opened his mouth, the words spoken were usually some sleazy come-on to McCarthy, which along with his wandering hands, became distasteful and unnerving pretty quickly.

The script meanwhile has flaws with how it brings in its villains and drops them again. We are introduced to several key players early on, who are all involved with the nuclear bomb that is at the centre of the film. The problem is Spy doesn’t focus on any of them apart from Rose Byrne, leaving us with some rather bland stereotypical villains. Some are no sooner produced from the ether before swiftly returning mere minutes later, leaving us wondering why they were even conjured up in the first place.

The film also has some pretty terrible continuity flaws. Clothing, markings on the actors and the geography of the sets all disappear and reappear during the film, leaving me wondering whether Paul Feig even cared about Spy while he was filming it.

In summary, Spy is just bad. While the fight scenes are surprisingly good and there are a few funny lines which raised the barest of smiles from me, Spy doesn’t deliver anything fresh. But who am I kidding; this film is going to make a boatload of money isn’t it?

Score: 1/10 The weakest film of 2015 so far.