Ghostbusters (2016) Review

(WARNING: Contains minor spoilers)

OK. I'm going to be completely honest with you. I'm a huge Ghostbusters fan. I love the original two movies and grew up watching them. It's gotten to the point where I can pretty much quote the films as I'm watching them (and I did when introducing a friend to the films). As a kid I wanted to be a Ghostbuster. Me and my brother drew the sign on a piece of paper and hung it outside out window. That's how much I loved them as a kid and as an adult I only learned to appreciate them more thanks to the jokes that flew right over my head when I was younger. I bought the 2009 game the day it came out and played it repeatedly. I've watched the Return of the Ghostbusters fan film, I have the soundtracks, I've even have a ghost trap I bought off Etsy on the way. I've wanted a new Ghostbusters film since I was seven. I wanted Ghostbusters 3 for so long and when they announced they were finally doing it I was ecstatic! I didn't care that they were a lot older since at the time bringing back old old franchises was a trend thanks to Rocky Balboa. The film that had been in development hell was finally moving forward- and then backwards- and then forwards...and then backwards again. There were talks about the original team passing the torch on to a new generation, which I was fine with. It made sense. And then Harold Ramis died and all plans for GB3 came to a screeching halt.

Ivan Reitman and then one word popped up: reboot. This was when I became concerned. I was convinced that the film would be fine as long as Ivan Reitman was in charge as director but now it was being handed off to someone else, someone who might not understand the type of humour that made the original film and its sequel (to a certain degree) so timeless. The humour came from the film's dry wit, not from over the top gags. Horrifying images came to mind of an Adam Sandler movie featuring Kevin James, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogan as Ghostbusters while Megan Fox played the receptionist. My problem with Hollywood now is that it gets lazy with the casting. I understand the reliance on reboots, sequels, prequels and spin-offs. They make money. Those that are original ideas don't appear to do as well. Jurassic World and The Force Awakens proved just how successful sequels can be but when they announced The Force Awakens I honestly didn't think I'd end up going to see it because, as weird as it sounds, I couldn't imagine a cast that I could take seriously. I thought that I would see the cast and think how odd they looked in a Star Wars film but then they did something interesting: they hired unknown actors. Suddenly I was excited for the film. But when they announced that the reboot of Ghostbusters would be an all-female cast I was convinced that they would be lazy and hire Melissa McCarthy. I wasn't wrong.

I was worried that they would be lazy with the rest of the cast but I was actually surprised. I had expected people like Emma Stone or Sandra Bullock, who I both like as actresses but didn't really want to see in Ghostbusters. I thought maybe I was wrong about my initial reaction. Maybe it would be fine. I took a wait-and-see approach and pushed the Ghostbusters reboot to the back of my mind. I had Jurassic World, Force Awakens and MCU films to look forward to. I actually ended up forgetting that the film was happening through production until the first image of the four in full costume popped up. It looked fine. Then the first images of the Proton Pack arrived and while I was disappointed that it wasn't the classic design I had no issues with it...although I couldn't understand why there was a heart symbol on it. Odd design choice if I'm honest but it was small, hardly noticeable. Then the teaser trailer hit. Again, no issues and the remixed version of the Ghostbusters theme was enjoyable. But then the full trailer hit and I kind of just stared at my phone screen in disbelief. It felt all wrong. "That stuff went everywhere. In every crack" made me groan and Leslie Jones shouting "OH HELL NO! THE DEVIL IS A LIAR!" before slapping McCarthy's character repeatedly while proclaiming that "THE POWER OF PADDY COMPELS YOU!" had me slapping myself on the forehead. The humour was wrong. It felt like every comedy that had come out in the last few years. The internet blew up with negative comments with either sexist comments or concerns about the way the film was being presented. People rushed to the films defence, shouting about sexism and loser fanboys. The internet over the last couple of years has been nuts and it only escalated the closer we got to the film's release!

A second trailer hit and, while its as better than the first trailer, it didn't do much to change my thoughts. I felt torn. I wanted to see it out of curiosity but I was worried that I'd end up hating a film that I had technically been asking for since I was a kid. Yes, it had been Ghostbusters 3 that I had wanted specifically but still, it was a new Ghostbusters film. It wasn't exactly what I asked for but it was still a Ghostbusters film. It would be the first Ghostbusters film I would get to see in cinema! So last night I put on my Ghostbusters t-shirt that I bought from TeeFury and went to see it with my friend Shauna. She was the one convinced that it would be good, although she did admit on the way there that she really hoped it wouldn't be a case where she ended up hating it while I ended up liking it. We arrived, bought our tickets and sat down, ready for the film to begin.

We came out two hours later feeling very meh.

The film itself isn't terrible by any stretch but at the same time it's not very good. It's OK. The cast carry the film pretty well but the storyline is almost paper thin. The antagonist doesn't have much of a backstory. He's established as being "a freak" by everyone around him and he talks about how he was bullied throughout his life. That's it. That's the big bad's motivation for wanting to destroy the world using ghosts. His introduction scene was also extremely lazy. He walks up to Paddy as she's working and tells her that the world will soon be enslaved and that the labourers will be the last to be purged in a very OTT manner before walking off onto the train tracks and activating a device to call a ghost. That was the antagonist's introduction. He literally walks up to one of the main protagonists and practically announces that he's the bad guy and this is where my main problem with the film lies. There are some interesting ideas but the execution just isn't there.

He goes around planting devices to bring ghosts into the real world but his motivation is lacking any real depth. He was bullied and therefore everyone has to die. Two of the Ghostbusters were bullied too and it could have caused some interesting parallels between the two sides but they try to get a unfunny joke out of it. Kristen Wiig's character Erin is undeniably the heart of the film. She is the first character we are introduced to and she is the one given the most character development. She recounts her first encounter with a ghost and all I could think of was "wow! That is excellent!" When she was a child her mean old neighbour died and came back as a ghost. Every night for a year the ghost stood by her bed watching her. No one believed her, not even her parents, and she had to go to therapy to deal with it. I was honestly surprised at that scene. It was a sign that the film could be something really good and it explained why she was so desperate to prove that the ghosts were real. Again, it could have been the source for some excellent interactions with the antagonist and could have even helped develop him as a character but all it comes to is a joke about soup before he begins the final stages of his plan.

The finale is...well...it's built up as a big moment where they have all their gadgets and take what they've learnt throughout the film to fight off an army of ghosts and it just doesn't work. It breaks the own film's rules. They're blasting the ghosts, using Proton Grenades (which were a nice addition and are awesome in the comics), Proton pistols and whatnot but they're not trapping them. They actually manage to kill the ghosts. I wouldn't mind so much since a similar idea was used in the Return of the Ghostbusters fan film but there it was explained and was accidental thanks to an experimental device. It wasn't supposed to happen but here they zap them with regular proton streams and the ghosts just turn into smoke. No explanation as to why it's happening and I get the feeling that we're not meant to care since it is the climax after all. They have a "Ghost wood chipper" that neutralises the ghost by turning them into slime, which was a neat idea, but it's only used once or twice in the big fight scene.

The film ends like the original, with the Ghostbusters fighting a big monster, this time in the shape of the famous ghost from the Ghostbusters logo. The film follows the template of the original film closely which only serves to hinder the movie. The first ghost we see feels very much like the Grey Lady from the original film. They have a scene with the mayor, the mayor has a Walter Peck-like assistant, they're kicked out of the university they work at in the beginning, they have a scene where the mayor doesn't believe that there's really a threat. What I think would have made the film better would be to take certain elements from this film and the Max Landis Ghostbusters 3 pitch (I'll post the link below) to make this into a passing-the-torch movie as originally intended with Ray being the last of the original Ghostbusters still working at the firehouse, Erin as Egon's daughter.

So in the end Ghostbusters 2016 was an OK movie. The film had problems but shows promise as a franchise now that the origin story is out of the way but sadly the humour wasn't for me, especially the joke where Abby and Holtzmann play a prank on Erin by playing what they claim is an audio recording of a ghost...only for it to be a fart "from the front" and no, I'm not making that up.

That really happened. 

Max Landis GB3 Pitch: 

http://www.maxlandiswrites.com/ghostbusters-iii/

Shadowhunters (The Mortal Instruments) Episodes 1-2 Review

One thing you shouldn't do is judge a show by its first few episodes because the show is just finding its footing. It needs to work out just what it wants to be and this is exceptionally hard when the show in question is an adaption of already existing work. The first few books of The Vampire Diaries series have very little in the way of story, meaning there was less for the writers of the TV series to pull from. They had a lot more freedom when it came to developing their versions of L.J Smith's characters making the show an adaption in name only. Saying that the first few episodes of The Vampire Diaries were slow and were more about character building before the real threat arrived. I'd even say the show didn't fully hit its stride until Season 2 so I went into Shadowhunters, a televised adaption of Cassandra Claire's The Mortal Instruments with an open mind. My first experience with The Mortal Instruments was from the film adaption starring Lily Collins and, despite the overwhelming negative reaction the film got, I throughly enjoyed it to the point where I was shocked that it had received even worst scores online than the Twilight films. Due to the underwhelming performance of City of Bones, the intended sequel was cancelled and instead the series was rebooted with a whole new cast and on the small screen.

With the advancements in technology, TV has become a real force to be reckoned with to the point where anything can look like a film in HD, and the nature of TV allows for more time to develop storylines and characters, making it a perfect platform for adapting a novel, but adaptions are tricky since it restricts the writers and directors in telling the story they want to make and any slight change can cause an uproar from the fanbase they're so desperately trying to impress. No matter what the source material is, whether it be A Song of Fire & Ice or Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, things are going to change. A character may be introduced as a substitute for two other characters or a character might even die when they had lived in the books. I also feel that certain books are easier to adapt than others.

Shadowhunters has the task of telling a story that has already been told both as a novel and as a film while still being interesting to watch. It's hard for me to describe my feelings towards the first two episodes because I know it has a lot going against it. It needs to prove itself to its fanbase while trying to bring in new audience members. It has to keep to the mythology detailed in the books but also keep things simple for those who haven't read the books.

The first two episodes are shaky. They try to keep the basic storyline of the book while also trying to add in its own elements but it feels like the show is trying to desperately get through the book's plot elements so it can move on to its own thing but this can create confusion to newcomers of the series. Characters react very briefly to what happens around them all in an effort to move the plot along. Movies have a limited runtime so they require the characters to move on while books can detail what a character is feeling without them uttering a word. A TV show has the time to show a character growing and responding to the changes around them but we're never shown it. Clary barely blinks in surprise when she arrives at the Institute and soon she's walking Simon in with a little smirk on her face at his surprised reaction to it all but even his reaction doesn't last long before he's part of the action! It doesn't help that his ignorance of the shadow-world being played more for laughs than proper world building. He only ever questions something when the plot require him not to be involved.

As far as production goes, the show looks nice. Aside from a few shoddy CGI shots there's not much to complain about. The show has done a far better job at showing magic in two episodes than TVD has managed in seven seasons. The sets, Pandemonium and the Institute in particular, are beautiful. Where the show fails on at the moment is writing, direction and acting. The dialogue, while serviceable, sometimes comes off feeling very forced or unnatural. It doesn't help that the acting of some of the main stars isn't very good. Dominic Sherwood, who plays Jace, hasn't shown nearly enough charisma to make Jace's character and sarcastic wit work. He berates Clary for not thanking him after saving her life just thirty seconds after doing it, making him come off more arrogant than probably intended, but this could also be due to the writing and the direction he is given. Again, the show is finding its footing so I expect this to get a lot better. The biggest offender is Emeraude Toubia playing Isabelle. Every flirtatious line that comes out of her mouth looks and sounds like its being acted by a pornstar. When she's given quieter moments her acting truly shines, but every time she flirts with Simon it just feels wrong.

Matthew Daddario as Alec is fine. The character isn't given much to do except scowl and make nasty remarks about or to Clary. Katherine McNamara as Clary is great but the shoddy dialogue proves even too much for her to sound believable. The best actor/character out of them all is Alberto Rosende as Simon. Every line intended to make me laugh worked and I look forward to seeing more of him. I'm not intending to be overly critical of the show or the actors as it is the early stages in the show. The direction of the episodes is OK, except for the action scenes that are either plagued by jumpy editing or weird motion blurs. I know TV episodes have less budget than a motion picture but shows like Teen Wolf and Game of Thrones have shown impressive fight scenes. Hell, even the Highlander TV Series had fantastic fight scenes (many I would argue are better than the fights shown in the actual movie series). 

Episode two ends with Simon being kidnapped by vampires, an event that didn't happen in the movie until roughly half way through while removing Bane by having him go into hiding so the rest of Clary's memories will be hidden away from her. So far the show seems torn between its identity has an adaption and as its own story. It currently has thirteen episodes listed on Wikipedia but that might change depending on the ratings and the network's wishes. I don't expect the show to magically become a lot better in the next few episodes but I do expect it to be more focused and polished as time goes on. 

Scream -The TV Series- (Episode 1-7)

Contains spoilers.

"You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series," Noah Foster says in the pilot episode of MTV's adaption/reboot of the iconic slasher film series, Scream. When it was announced that MTV would be making the show there were some obvious concerns from fans. This is a channel that produces shows such as Teen Mom while the original Scream revived what had become a dead sub-genre of horror. The slasher genre had been plagued by bad sequels that were cheap to make and belonged in the over-the-top 80's. The Friday the 13th series almost had a film out every year from 1980 to 1989. That's how easy it was to make them and by the 90's everyone was aware of the rules and the conventions of a typical slasher film.

Then came along Scream, written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, famed horror director of the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and it presented a new kind of slasher to audiences. This was a horror film that poked fun at horror films by pointing out the conventions, as an audience member would. The audience are aware of the "never have sex" or "never say I'll be right back" rules. It was a smash hit and was followed by three sequels with varying results. The fourth film did not make the financial killing (pun intended) that the studio was hoping for and, with the supposed fifth and sixth films cancelled, it looked like the series had been laid to rest.

So MTV had a lot of weight on their shoulders when it came to developing a TV series. Some were skeptical. I wasn't. I've watched MTV's Teen Wolf, an adaption of another (although not as fondly remembered) film and they managed to take what was originally a goofy, light-hearted comedy and turn it into a serious TV Show with a fantastic cast and writing team that doesn't talk down to its audience or spoon feed them. It handles subjects in a mature way and its small amount of episodes mean that its plot threads aren't stretched out to ridiculous lengths (I'm looking at you Vampire Diaries) and it constantly feels like its moving forward, so I was optimistic when it came to them "rebooting" Scream. It had ten episodes which meant it had more than enough time to establish characters and brutally murder them.

When it comes to horror I'm very picky. As a genre I don't particularly like it. I like horror films but as a genre it's bogged down by terrible sequels full of unlikable characters and unnecessary jump scares or are just overly gory for the sake of being gory (basically the Saw films) but at the same time some of my favourite films are horror films. Halloween, Halloween 4 and the first two Scream films are all in my top ten films and that's because of their characters. They are given time to either develop or come across as normal human beings, not stereotypes (although it could be argued that Halloween did have stereotypes, e.g. the repressed virgin with Laurie) so a TV series felt like the perfect place to tell a horror story.

So Scream the TV Series. What do I think about it? Going by the previous few paragraphs it shouldn't surprise you that I like this show. I'm only covering the first seven episodes and will cover the remaining three when they air so this is a "so far" review. The problem with reboots and remakes is that they walk a very thin line when it comes to making references to the previous instalments. They can come off as unoriginal with too many references or scenes inspired from the originals. At the same time they could fall into the trap of not respecting the original enough  then it becomes unrecognisable to fans of the original. Scream the TV Series luckily doesn't have these problems.

"It's a very simple formula!" Randy exclaims about the slasher genre in the original film and ironically Scream developed its own formula. We expect certain things from a Scream film. We expect the killer to torment his/her victims with phone calls, we expect the meta tone, a dramatic death to open up the story and Scream has oddly always had this theme of secrets within a family. The TV series has all that and expands on them. The killer now more tools at his/her disposal. He/she now torments his victims with phone calls, text messaging and at one point even Snapchat! You have the meta tone with Noah, who acts in many ways as the Randy of the show and even the killer makes a meta remark at one point. Secrets in a family as a theme now is both literal with Emma's mother and metaphorically with Emma's surrogate family with her friends (and even some of their parents are holding back secrets).

It hits all the marks of what we expect from Scream and because of this the show's references come off feeling very natural and even scenes/dialogue that resemble the original don't feel like ripoffs because every Scream film technically followed the same formula and story beats. They all had a scene where they deconstruct horror films and Scream 2 had a discussion about how sequels tend to pale in comparison to the original. It was a film where characters in a horror sequel insulted horror sequels. This is a show based on a slasher film that has a character bluntly point out that a slasher film as a TV show wouldn't work. They all had secrets within Sydney's family come to light, whether it was her mother's affairs coming to light or her cousin's insane jealousy issues causing her to go on a murderous rampage. The show is very much focused on Emma finding out the secrets of her mother's past and her connection to the town's supposed notorious mass murderer, as well as Brooke finding out that her father might have murdered her mother and covered it up.

As I've already said the extra run time means that these story elements can be expanded upon. Usually the revelation of the family secrets would be only vaguely hinted at and then actually exposed with the unmasking of the killer or literally just come out of nowhere but in the series the killer actually gives Emma clues and/or answers throughout the episodes. In fact he/she teases Emma about the fact her mother is keeping secrets and in turn forces Emma to keep secrets from her. The killer even exposes the secrets that her friends are keeping from her.

Are there problems with the show? Of course. Nothing is ever perfect. The character of Jake in particular comes off as a too-obvious red herring. He acts a bit too over the top and suspicious to actually be the killer but that in itself could be a red herring and oddly enough there are some plot points that come and go way too quickly. A serial killer is tormenting the town so obviously the FBI are brought in and the Sheriff is kicked off the case because of his lack of results, but all it takes is one episode for the FBI Agent to be taken off the case and for the Sheriff reinstated. Plus Emma's love triangle (yes...sadly there is a love triangle involved) with Will and Kieran comes in like a flash of lightning. It literally starts in the first episode. There's no build up to it. Emma finds out that Will slept with their mutual "friend" and the next thing we know she's making out with Kieran in a greenhouse. Did I mention he had just moved to the town? Because THAT'S not at all suspicious...

Where it also fails is that it comes off a bit predictable. This isn't because of the story beats inspired from the original four films, however. In the first episode they establish that the town had a mass killer called Brandon James who was apparently obsessed with a girl called Daisy. He then went on a murderous rampage after she freaked out after seeing his disfigured face. They claim that no one knows who Daisy was and in the next scene we see Emma's mother getting out a hand carved heart with "Daisy" carved into it. It was at this moment I predicted that Brandon wasn't really the one who killed all them people and even predicted that Emma's mother might of had a sexual relationship with him and that could explain why Emma's dad is absent. Sure enough Emma's mother reveals to Emma that Brandon was her friend and she didn't believe that he really "snapped" and committed the crimes on the night of the murders. The next episode the killer sets up a sick game just to give Emma a recording of one of her dad's therapy sessions where her dad says he can't get the image of his girlfriend sleeping with "that monster" out of his head.

Despite this the show is very enjoyable. The characters (aside from Jake) are for the most part likeable. I say for the most part because they are flawed characters. They've made mistakes, some worse than others, but this makes them feel very real and it gives them room to grow. Will starts off as someone who has made many mistakes and allows himself to be influenced and led around by other people, but then he tries to make up for this and takes responsibility for everything he has done. Brooke, who at first comes off as the typical b*tchy blonde girl seen in every slasher film actually decides to change her attitude after the death of a close friend and we see her character grow and, this is where the show excels.

Even though the original film had its quiet moments where the characters could reflect on their lives, they were still limited by the run time of a film. The show does not have this problem. It has enough time to develop its characters and have them react to the deaths of their friends. There's a reason why the majority of the killings happen near the end of a horror film and that's because they can't afford to have the characters waste run time by saying things like "remember that time when..." every time a character dies. This show has a whole 42 minutes where characters reflect on the death of a character and we see the consequences. This, again, makes the characters feel very real and in turn makes us grow attached to them, which makes their inevitable deaths even more painful- something they tell us near the end of the first episode. That is the show's intention and they warned us about it in a very Scream way. We go into horror films knowing that almost everyone is going to die, but we're not given enough time to grow attached to them unless they're an actor we already know and are a fan of. The show gave Will an arc of redemption only to kill him with farming equipment afterwards.

Is the show a worthy successor to the original films? I'd say it's definitely better than the third and fourth instalments. The first two films can easily act as horror's answer to The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgement DayAlien/Aliens and The Godfather/The Godfather Part 2. If Scream 1 2 are horror's equivalent to the James Cameron Terminator films then Scream the TV Series can easily be seen as their answer to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles...and that's not a bad thing.

Be sure to check back for my reviews on the last three episodes and my final thoughts!