Movie Reviews: Ghostbusters and Café Society

A comedy classic remade, and a Woody Allen showcase for Kristen Stewart at her best.

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Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

Q: How much does this new Ghostbusters suck?

A: It doesn't, actually. Have you seen it?

Q: #Never.

A: Okay. Well, apart from the overlong ending—a city-wrecking CGI orgy of a very familiar sort—director Paul Feig's Ghostbusters is a cleverly scripted reinvention; there are imaginative new scenes and bits of business, and it's full of sharp, funny lines, some of which have the feel of on-the-set improvisations. There are also two performances—by SNL's Kate McKinnon, the star of the show, and a cast-against-type Chris Hemsworth—that have a really original spin.  

Q: But why did the new Ghostbusters all have to be women? Is this some kind of feminist lecture? Why not have the old Ghostbusters come in and pass the torch to a new crew of women and men?

A: That's a good question, partly. Passing the torch would have been a smooth way of establishing continuity with the two earlier Ghostbusters films, maybe less jarring than simply presenting us with a whole new group. But this isn't a sequel; it's a remake. And the all-women thing—well, why not? It turns out not to be an issue at all. The new ghost-busting crew—McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, and Leslie Jones replacing the 1984 team of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson—aren't quirk-for-quirk copies of the previous gang; they're engaging in their own way. It's not really one of those women-can-do-this-stuff-too deals.

Q: But who needs a remake of a movie that was already perfect?

A: Who needed John Carpenter's remake of The Thing from Another World? This new Ghostbusters might not be necessary, but it's better than not bad.

The story has been effectively tweaked. It's still set in New York, but now we have Wiig's Erin Gilbert, a Columbia University physics professor, worried she'll be denied tenure after the embarrassing reappearance of a book on the paranormal that she wrote years earlier with her estranged friend Abby Yates (McCarthy). It's Abby who has re-launched the book online; she's still in the paranormal-phenomena business, and Erin finds her in a cluttered lab working on a "reverse tractor beam" with her partner, the leeringly androgynous weapons inventor Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon). Soon these three are beset by red-eyed demons spewing gouts of good old green goo (right into our faces—this is a 3D movie with likably cornball instincts). Erin joins the team, and they set up shop as Ghostbusters.

Q: And?

A: Before long, they round out the lineup with an MTA employee named Patty Tolan (Jones), who has encountered a menacing apparition down in the subway where she works. Next they hire an office receptionist named Kevin (Hemsworth), a ridiculously hunky Australian whose brain seems to be wired into another dimension. (Fielding a call for demon assistance, he reports that "There's a goat on the loose"). After that, we get callbacks to the original movie: proton packs and a Ghostbusters hearse with an "ECTO-1" license plate, plus cameos by Murray, Aykroyd and Hudson. (The late Harold Ramis is represented by a memorial bust in a school hallway.) And of course we get lots more demons—most memorably, a towering creature that rises up onstage during a heavy metal concert (it fits right into the show).

Q: So you're saying this is a pretty great movie. Is Sony paying you for this review?

A:  No. And, alas, no. The picture has problems. It helps that McCarthy has been directed to dial down her loudmouth-fat-lady inclinations (she's appealingly restrained here), but Wiig is puzzlingly under-used—she spends a lot of her screen time gazing longingly at the ultra-buff Hemsworth. (A satirical thing, I know, but still a waste of Wiig.) There's already been grumbling about Jones playing a retrofitted black stereotype; and the villain of the piece—a bitter janitor named Rowan (Neil Casey), mumbler of things like "Create the Vortex" and "Open the barrier"—is too mild-mannered to be a convincing demon master.

But I'd see this movie again just for Kate McKinnon's unhinged grin and her ga-ga delivery. (She fully inhabits a character who might have been dropped on her head at an early age, and the queef joke she gets off in one scene is pretty avant-garde for a PG-13 film.) Let me risk a cliché and say that this actually is a breakthrough performance.

Q: Yeah, well, I'm still not sold.

A: Hey, it's summer. Lighten up.

Cafe Society
Lionsgate

Café Society

Woody Allen's new movie is set largely in Los Angeles in the late 1930s, and it looks as if it were shot in a perpetual twilit golden hour. It's Allen's first collaboration with the great cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now), and the production furnishings—the silks and linens, the richly paneled rooms and parchment lampshades—have a sweet, gentle glow. Even in the director's 81st year, the picture suggests a new creative direction in which he might move.

The story is simple, but it has the tug of enduring heartbreak, thanks mainly to the movie's stars, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Eisenberg is Bobby, a Jewish kid from New York who comes to L.A. to seek employment with his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a movie-biz titan who heads a top talent agency. Phil hires Bobby as a lowly gofer, and soon he becomes involved with Phil's assistant, Vonnie (Stewart). Vonnie tells the love-struck Bobby she already has a boyfriend, and this turns out to be the long-married Phil, who keeps promising Vonnie that he'll leave his wife in order to marry her. That never seems to happen, though, and Vonnie, who truly loves Phil, has grown tired of waiting. Soon she realizes that she truly loves Bobby, too. Complications naturally ensue.

Eisenberg is playing what would usually be the movie's Woody Allen surrogate, but now without the nasal whine and the nebbishy mannerisms. He gives a strong performance as a young man on the rise, a guy who can have anything he wants except the one thing he wants most of all. But Stewart is the conflicted heart of the film, creating a character out of haunted gazes and gestures and finely judged line readings. It's an eloquent portrayal of a woman who's trapped in a romantic stalemate, and can't find her way out of it.

The supporting cast is more than solid. Blake Lively is beautiful and poignant as a smiling-through-the-tears woman Bobby meets back in New York. And Corey Stoll injects a rowdy energy into the story as Bobby's older brother Ben, a mobster who settles his personnel problems by burying them in wet cement at outer-borough construction sites.

The movie has most of the traditional Allen signifiers: the vintage music (mostly Rodgers and Hart), the fond period referents (passing Hollywood mentions of Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, "Mr. Goldwyn"). But in striking addition, there's also a sense of hope against mortal odds. Allen's gloomy jabs at death and human futility are less pronounced. Here we have Bobby's other brother, the straight-arrow Leonard (Stephen Kunken), arguing the existential necessity of being kind and helping other people. There's even talk of a redemptive afterlife. The movie ends, movingly, on a note of yearning regret. But maybe it's not the end of the world.

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  1. You’re not fooling me, Loder. My theory is the movie is only good in relation to the expectation of it being the worst piece of shit ever put on film. Methinks though dost protest too much.

    Carpenter’a Thing improved on the orginal, not just adding to the noise. That was,a bad argument. However, if you think something is going to be horrible and you get mediocre, it feels better than it is. This movie will be forgotten before Christmas.

    1. You can’t see me, but I’m drunkenly shaking my fist and that’s why there are typos and extra commas.

    2. Here’s another take on Ghostbusters.

    3. Carpenter’s The Thing was also more faithful to the source material that both movies were based on. The original movie was absolutely nothing like the story, except for the fact that it was based at a research station in Antarctica, and it involved a bunch of scientists finding an alien. There was nothing in the original movie about the alien being able to assume human form, which was kind of the whole point.

  2. “Fielding a call for demon assistance, he reports that “There’s a goat on the loose””

    *crickets*

  3. Shorter Loder: “Everyone expected the worst suck in the history of film, but it had some mildly amusing moments.”

    1. “It’s not as good as the original, but at least it won’t give you cancer!”

      1. one film abuses childhood nostalgia for a quick buck, and another film directed by an actual child abuser. what a summer!

  4. I’m willing to give GHOSTBUSTERS the benefit of the doubt; the original wasn’t perfect either (even then Bill Murray was entirely to full of himself, and could have benefitted from a director willing to thump him on the head regularly). “Everybody knows” that remakes are no good, which conveniently forgets that (unless you are a major silent film buff) you favorite DRACULA and your favorite TARZAN are necessarily remakes. Heston’s BEN HUR is a remake. There are awful remakes, but there are awful completely original films, too.

    What I’m not willing to give the benefit of any doubt is the new Woody Allen film. Not because of his marital antics (A New York Intellectual is acting like trailer park trash. Who cares? Or even is surprised?) but because he used to be funny, and then came down with what I call Garry Trudeau syndrome (after another once funny creator who started to take himself frightfully seriously). For the last several decades Allen has been playing largely to his New York Intellectual peers, and clique of inbred twits who (pretend to) read Updike and listen to Mahler. May God have mercy on Allen’s soul, which died sometime after he made TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.

    1. “even then Bill Murray was entirely to full of himself, and could have benefitted from a director willing to thump him on the head regularly”

      Sure, but he was written in as the self-absorbed asshole in the group. So, the role worked well.

      1. Oh, I’ll admit, it had a round peg in a round hole dynamic. But he still should have been reigned in a little.

        1. Since taste can be accounted for, I submit that your balance is zero.

    2. “you favorite DRACULA”

      Bitch, speak for yourself. My favorite Dracula is, and will always be, the Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens.

  5. Some people are going to hate this movie way too much, some people are going to love this movie way too much. Both are too caught up. Either way, just doesn’t look like my kind of comedy.

    1. Are you talking about Ghostbusters or the Woody Allen one? Either way, you’re probably right.

    2. I avoid Melissa McCarthy movies on principle. She doesn’t seem capable of playing anything other than passive-aggressive harridans.

      1. She doesn’t seem capable of playing anything other than passive-aggressive harridans.

        There are times when she seems modestly capable of channeling the talents of Randy Quaid or Jeff Daniels.

  6. The original Ghostbusters was a product of its time. 3 years in either direction and it would’ve flopped… hard. A “faithful” remake of Ghostbusters is gonna suck ass, feminist overtones or no.

  7. Serious question: Is Leslie Jones in real life like her persona?

    1. Like Butterfly McQueen?

    2. Her livetweets of Game of Thrones are pretty funny, but her standup routine is terrifying.

  8. McKinnon is damn funny on SNL.

    1. I think I’ve seen Saturday Night Live , live, once. Meh. All them best routines will get quoted to you before too long, amd many f them are better secondhand, anyway.

      1. yeah, ok. but mckinnon is still very funny.

        1. Ginsburned! *pop’n’lock*

    2. She can be very funny, though sometimes leans too much on her crazy eyes schtick. Richard Roeper’s review said she is waaay too broad here, which is what I’d expect. But if it’s a “breakthrough performance,” good for her, and I hope she gets in to some more comedies.

    3. Her Hillary Clinton this past year has been spot on.

  9. There are also two performances?by SNL’s Kate McKinnon, the star of the show, and a cast-against-type Chris Hemsworth?that have a really original spin.

    Kate McKinnon’s the one actress in this with actual comedic chops. McCarthy and Wiig are overrated hacks, and Jones is in there for both the tokenism and the fact that she looks like Andre the Giant standing next to McCarthy. There’s also nothing original about Hemsworth’s “clueless himbo” role.

  10. Let’s make this simple. When the girl Ghostbusters was originally put forth we were told that it was to be a successor team. Possibly with some of the children of the originals, and with appropriate cameos.

    That got shot down in favor of a what the hell, let’s just have the original team……but Bill Murray is a dick, and then Harold Ramis died.

    Suddenly the girls were back……………but now it’s THEM as the ‘originals’. A remake. BUT, we’re still gonna have callbacks and cameos. And actual beloved characters from the original. The story we had started looking forward to way back when is gone–replaced with Feig-humor and a good helping of ham-handedness.

    And a ‘review’ that is deliberately written to obfuscate.

    What does that say?

    Yup.

    1. A successor of Ghostbusters with the original’s progeny or proteges as the new Ghostbusters seems like it would work better. Considering its now 30 years later it would be chronologically plausible.

      I’d even settle for a new batch of enthusiastic parapsychology candidates with no connection to the old Ghostbusters who in the course of their research stumble upon the plans for the original proton packs and containment system in a forgotten basement at Columbia.

      1. “Forgotten basement?” Meh. A computer nerd should find them on a haunted Lisa.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Lisa

      2. Having to endure the later invented fictional progeny of a popular franchise has never worked. It’s just cheesy soap opera fodder replacing original character development.

        It’s also a very weird obsession and clich? Hollywodd has over-invested in.

  11. That quirky yet very unenthusiastic review of Ghostbusters tells me that the money I could spend could be better spent elsewhere. Does that make me a misogynist?

    1. “Does that make me a misogynist?”

      Apparently not vigorously supporting the party line makes you guilty. You are with us or against us Comrade.

      Yes, I know that’s an over statement, but sadly not too much of an overstatement. Certainly all of the reviewers I would tend to trust are writing “qualified” reviews. In my mind the reviews translate to, this movie isn’t very good, but I can’t just come right out and say so.

  12. It’s not really one of those women-can-do-this-stuff-too deals.

    the leeringly androgynous weapons inventor

    She fully inhabits a character who might have been dropped on her head at an early age, and the queef joke she gets off in one scene is pretty avant-garde for a PG-13 film.

    Growing up around women who chewed tobacco and actually could build weapons and having been raised by women who, even though they couldn’t necessarily build weapons, were more than capable of tearing the heads off of live animals with their hands, I’m pretty sure most of them would say you’re full of shit Loder.

  13. Loder this comment is bullshit:

    “Q: How much does this new Ghostbusters suck?

    A: It doesn’t, actually. Have you seen it?

    Q: #Never.”

    You are the reviewer. Hardly anyone in the general public has seen this movie yet. So, this is a set piece straw man post.

  14. WARNING = RECYCLED COMMENT

    “Taking older franchises and “X-ing them up” (e.g. replacing the characters with women, blacks, gays, muslims, or crippled otherkin eskimos etc.) is by definition ‘Racist /Sexist /Homophobic / Colonialist-Imperialistic, Inherently Demeaning and Exploitative and etc..

    It is stating to the respective minority groups =

    “There is nothing interesting or unique about yourselves that merits any original character or narrative; and even if there were it could not possibly be as successful as these older, proven CisHeteroCaucasian Characters and Narratives. You should thank us for allowing you to play these characters; moreover, you should be obligated to praise the works no matter how poorly executed, because you acknowledge that your minority is always held to the lowest of all possible standards.””

    Anyone who tries to provide cover for these inherently exploitative works is a racist/sexist/homophobic/colonial-imperialist apologist. Everyone should demand that media companies cease “Race/Gender/Sexual-orientation-‘Washing’ older franchises, and stop forcing “oppressed” groups to ride on the backs of their predecessors.

    1. Nicely stated. This is why I have zero interest in the musical Hamilton. A Hispanic plays Hamilton. Thomas Jefferson is played by a black man. Yawn.

      1. SEE ITS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY BECAUSE HISPANICS NEVER MAKE SUCCESSFUL GOVERNMENTS

      2. Yeah… that’s not the point or draw of Hamilton.

      3. Really? You are unwilling to watch one of the most highly reviewed plays in broadway history because it casts non-white actors? That doesn’t make any sense.

    2. I guess that’s one way to interpret it, but it’s not The Implication.

      Another is that people like to see “their kind” in roles, and investors like proven properties. It’s a natural match.

  15. No intention of watching the new Ghostbusters as the humor in the trailer doesn’t seem very natural. I’d expect the movie to be much the same.

    That said, after watching the original 84 trailer I probably wouldn’t watch the original movie either, mostly on account of the narrator.

    1. To be fair, back in 1984 trailers weren’t treated as the event they are today because movies made their bank almost entirely on word of mouth from the initial viewers and movie critics. A trailer is pretty critical now to generating goodwill and positive media buzz ahead of the release to ensure a massive opening weekend.

      That’s why the studio essentially nuked this movie with its shitty trailers. It’s looking like this will be a $40 million opening weekend and its not even going to show in China, so unless McCarthy and Wiig signed studio-friendly contracts that don’t siphon off percentages of the gross, it’s going to be a massive bomb after all the money spent on advertising and promotion is taken into account.

  16. The trailers don’t make me want to see it. And that’s more to do with how they seem to be deliberately replacing the dry sarcasm of the original with more modern, lowbrow humour than any feminist controversy.

    “HAHA, LOOK PLEBS, GHOSTS PUKING ON LADY! SASSY BLACK WOMAN! LAUGH, PLEBS, LAUGH!”

    You know who’d probably be able to make a good Ghostbusters remake? Edgar Wright.

    1. And that’s more to do with how they seem to be deliberately replacing the dry sarcasm of the original with more modern, lowbrow humour than any feminist controversy.

      Agreed except there’s nothing saying it can’t be both. IMO, Liam Hemsworth’s role is the perfect example. If you’d put Scarlet Johannsen/Mila Kunis/Jessica Alba/etc. in the role and had the men fawning her, not only would it spoil or seem out of place comedically, it would be (pretty accurately) sexist. But, in this iteration, it’s not really sexist and supposed to contribute to the comedy because gender reversal and franchise or something.

      Not to say that you can’t ‘remake’ from high brow to low brow or from one gender to the other but that, at some point, you really have to admit that at best you’re just dropping a New York Strip and a Filet Mignon in a meat grinder with the hopes that you’ll get a porterhouse out the other side.

      1. Except when it was Annie Potts no one was fawning or leering. She was not a bimbo. She eventually starts dating Rick Moranis character. The entire premise for Chris Hemsworth’s character is absurd.

        The role you’re referring to was held by Sigourney Weaver–and only Murray showed interest in her. And, as revealed in the second film–didn’t even ‘get the girl’

        What they’re doing with Hemsworth is trying to create a ‘female gaze’ situation to counter a ‘male gaze’ situation that didn’t exist whatsoever in the originals.

        That is a prime example of the fail built into this movie..

  17. Kristen Stewart at her best

    This week’s winner of the Internet Oxymoron Award!

  18. onnie tells the love-struck Bobby she already has a boyfriend, and this turns out to be the long-married Phil, who keeps promising Vonnie that he’ll leave his wife in order to marry her.

    Ugh. Typical Woody Allen, trying to make us buy into adulterers being sympathetic characters.

  19. My buddy’s step-mother makes $96 an hour on this PC. She has been fired for 9 months but last month her payment was $9600 just working on the PC for a few hours. Check It out what she do..

    GO to the web>>>> http://www.CareerPlus90.com

  20. “Q: Yeah, well, I’m still not sold.

    A: Hey, it’s summer. Lighten up”

    Well that’s a ringing endorsement.

  21. “some of which have the feel of on-the-set improvisations.”

    And, of course, on-the-set improvisations never ever look like crap, like actors doing the job of writers with no time to think through a second, third, or nth draft. They *always* sparkle with that clever spontaneity you can only get with an Algonquin Round-table populated by C-List Hollywood actors.

    Jesus, Loder, you got this job… how? Seriously, who do have to blow at Reason to become the movie “critic”?

  22. Ghostbusters is what Mrs Clinton is going to do to all four National Socialist “pro-life-after-death” parties after the election. Every member of the GO Pee, No Tea, Prohi and Consta-to-shun parties is going to be castrated and cauterized in one fell bzzat. I’m gonna MISS those jerks!
    I’ll be laughing all the way to the precinct to cast my libertarian vote.

  23. I had hoped that this might be a sort of “Ghostbusters: The Next Generation” with the four women being related to the original Ghostbusters and carrying on the family business. That could have been good. But now that I know it’s just a remake I no longer have any interest in seeing it.

  24. imdb.com gives the Ghostbusters remake a 4.4/10. Do you know HOW BAD a movie has to be to get a score that low in IMDb?

    1. It doesn’t have to be that terrible considering they’re trying to remake a cult classic. Those are generally always terrible and they rarely capture whatever it is that made the original withstand the test of time; which is why this review is such a head scratcher.

      Redoing the movie with four women is an especially jarring move that automatically turns most discussion into the undeniable fact they’re going for a ‘gender doesn’t matter’ message that they instantly fail at by having the main characters fall victim to your typical female RomCom bullshit.

  25. The original was something I showed to a Chinese exchange student as “a classic American comedy”. I’ll be surprised if this even turns up in a Beijing pirate’s stand.

  26. Pivot to pander to the people who would bother to watch the GB remake…

  27. The Ghostbusters remake would have been better if they had given the lead roles to the Dixie Chicks.

  28. I’d still rather sit through “Gigli” than this quad-abortion feminazi queef-fest.

  29. I was curious whether this movie was as good as the critics claimed it was or if was as bad as the trailers made it seem.

    So, I waited a week to see what the rating on IMDB was. The IMDB rating quickly deteriorated as the week wore on.

    Currently it’s 5.3/10.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1289401/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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