Showing posts with label ghostbusters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ghostbusters. Show all posts

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016) stands on its own two feet

Photo Credit: Ghostbusters / Columbia Pictures
Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is a quirky physics professor whose bid for tenure is put on hold when a former friend obsessed with the paranormal Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her zany engineer Dr. Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) republishes a book they wrote about the supernatural. In exchange for removing the book from publication, Gilbert assists the duo to investigate a possible haunting.

When their investigation turns out to be a real phenomenon, the group decides to open a ghostbusting business, soon adding Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) into the mix. This being 2016, the gals' work soon faces backlash from online spectators and band together to save New York City from an impending supernatural apocalyptic event.

Even though the movie features some of the biggest comedians around today, my two biggest reservations were the movie's comedic tone and the cast. Comedy and action flicks today have a knack for breaking the fourth wall to become super awkward in landing punchlines. This, coupled with not being big fans of Wiig's work and worrying that McCarthy would only be on a roll of sweary tirades and pratfalls, my expectations for the movie were low at first. How the flick was going to fare was like gambling to cross the streams and praying it pays off.

Payoff, the movie really did. Director Paul Feig with screenwriter Katie Dippold pack in enough action, comedy, and heartfelt team spirit to create one heck of a ride. The script subtly follows thee original but stays unique in all the right places. They commit to doing their own thing, and deal with the extensive offline backlash, but not forget where their inspiration sprang. Their adventure isn't concerned with being flashy or "rewriting film history", just with being entertaining, giving more actors a chance to shine, and celebrating friendship.

The cast is truly a revelation, especially Wiig and McCarthy and how I imagined them. They step out of their comfort zones and don't rest on their trademark personalities. Gilbert and Yates are sensible, pragmatic and quirky leaders of the pack with McKinnon's Holtzmann and Jones' Tolan are not too far behind. There's no doubt these women are funny in their own right, whether I'm a fan of them or not, but the cast shares more than just camaraderie through comedy. Their characters use brains, brawn, and sisterhood to take down some nasty, creepy ghosts; it's downright awesome.

However, even though the movie takes two steps forward with its leads, Hemsworth and the villain both take a complexity hit. Chris Hemsworth's role as the beefcake secretary Kevin is dumber than dumb and is pretty useless. The villain, too, a creepy demon responsible for unleashing the ghosts on New York City is just a-okay. The epic finale between the Ghostbusters versus supernatural bestows some epic special effects, but the demon himself isn't entirely threatening and a little too forgettable. It would've been nice and even better if they weren't merely stand-ins (hot or not).

After so many reboots and remakes, it's a good skill to learn how to distinguish the old from the new. Ghostbusters didn't hold a lot of hype for me in the beginning, but it really exceeded my expectations. In the opposite effect of Suicide Squad's trailers over-promising, Ghostbusters' promotions under-delivered. The cast is so much fun and their characters achieve so many levels of kick-assery. Feig's movie doesn't clone the original and manages to stand on its own and beyond the hype. Let's go!

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Ghostbusters? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gender Swapping Takes Hollywood by Storm (and we're already tired of it)

After the critically-praised and box office failure Ghostbusters (2016), Hollywood is on a roll with not just remakes in general, but ones featuring gender-swapping. The latest is a female-centered Ocean's Eight set to star Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling and Awkwafina. Upon release of this news, a supposed Ocean's Eleven fanclub came out in protest with battle cries of "How could women do this?" and "Hollywood has run out of ideas".But it's not like remakes are anything new.

Consider: the newly announced A Star Is Born (2018) is a remake of A Star Is Born (1976) which is a remake of A Star Is Born (1954) which is a remake of A Star Is Born (1937). The upcoming Steven Soderburgh produced Ocean's Eight feels right at home in following Soderburgh's remake franchise of the original Frank Sinatra version from 1960. (Is your head's spinning yet? Mine is. *sigh*)
If most stories in books to comic books and films are recycled and remakes have existed since yesteryear, is gender-swapping a problem? how do we solve it?

As superhero franchises, adaptations, sequels, and spin-offs take over the movie calendar, remakes prove Hollywood has run out of ideas. And, gender swapping may gradually worsen the genre's already poor reputation.

As female actors replace roles previously assumed by male actors, news of the casting is designed to create buzz. However, the news is more or less coming across as boring. Instead of movie goers growing excited about the go-to tool Hollywood is using to get butts into the seats, it seems flipping sexes is only engaging people into man or woman hating. Adding to the misogyny and misandry pot, flicks focusing on female gender-swapping receive more negative feedback than male-swapping.

Splash is another remake on the chopping block. The film centers on Tom Hanks' Allen falling in love with a woman who is secretly a mermaid and living out this wild fantasy of being her beau. In the newer version, Channing Tatum will star as the merman while and Jillian Bell takes over Hank's role. The details have already received positive support across the board. As audiences ride the waves until Tatum scales the scene, Ocean's Eight is already looking to avoid a misogynist reception.

In all of this effort to empower performers and audiences, Hollywood is essentially missing the point. Women can offer more representation without having to be forever associated with re-creating "men's films". Or without the one male role in a female-flick being the sexy idiot. The truest way for remakes to succeed is not to just switch sexes, but ensure that the quality in how characters are written, directed, and portrayed is good or better than the average remake.

Ghostbusters might have not been a box office success, but it was praised by critics and audiences for giving women the opportunity to be seen as funny, smart, and capable individuals who kick ghoulish asses. It's one of the reasons I loved the revamp, and the same could be said for Ocean's Eight if turns out that all of this gender-swapping is just white noise. But the vitriol reception director Paul Fieg's recreation received cast the film into the ether before it's official release, only furthering a reflection of rampant sexism. And it hasn't halted Dan Aykroyd's plans for his all-male reboot set.

Real opportunity for layered characters exists. But Ghostbusters failed in this regard when it came to Chris Hemsworth's role. As tongue-in-cheek commentary on the male gaze, he's pretty much reduced to the beefcake secretary, he's funny but dumber than dumber and just there to be a eye candy. While there's nothing wrong to slobber over celebrity hotness, the Thor actor wasn't used to the best of his abilities - especially considering his hilarious stunts hosting SNL. Just like the wives in the Ocean's Eleven movies, he's almost so useless he might as well not be in the movie. The movie has great female leads, but his performance is surface-level.

One of the positive qualities Hollywood has going for it with gender-swapping is that, like Ghostbusters, it might improve representation and raise the bar of speaking roles versus shedding clothes. Women, while replacing men, have an opportunity to make their casts as diverse as possible, opening more opportunities to women of color gracing the screen too. However, critics are trying to use the history of women being treated as objects to excuse men to pay their dues. It's sad, that so far, gender swapping is limiting performers into one-dimension.

A dire doubt emerges in these seas of clones: if studios are so focused on remaking male-dominated films, do they believe women can't sell movies? that it's advantageous to tie them to a previously "masculine" franchise? What will happen to our own unique stories if Ghostbusters and Ocean's Eight aren't simply creative anomalies?

In 2015, director George Miller created post-apocalypse action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road. No harm, no foul, the flick was the fourth installment of his series, and it still proved to be one of the most innovative, game-changing movies of that year and years to come. Additionally, women weren't the only driving force of the film, but the production team such as the editor were the heart of his crazy, imaginative adventure. Meanwhile Tom Hardy's Mad Max nor the villain Immortan Joe were reduced to tropes. It wasn't just a "she movie" or a "he movie"; it transcended type in more ways than one.

The remake genre is notorious for sucking. Fresh stories ignite imagination so much more than cardboard cut-outs. Unfortunately, wholly original mainstream movies that aren't a spin-off, an adaptation, a sequel, apart of a franchise or a remake seem all too rare. In actuality, movies should incorporate all people; not "assign a gender" to tick off certain boxes. If remakes are going to tackle gender-swapping, they can't rest on being carbon copies.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 15, 2016

Back Off Man, I'm a Feminist

feminist Ghostbusters movie blog
The original Ghostbusters is one of me and my sister's favorite movies. It's right up there with other movies like Back to the Future that we watch, quote, and analyze all the time.

When news broke out about a Ghostbusters reboot, frankly we weren't surprised. Hollywood has been and will be remaking movies. Studios and producers are always up for revamping any kind of classic for a younger generation while also ignoring that the genre can be a tiresome idea.

Negative reception of the new version before the movie even reached theaters was, in fact, disappointing but again unsurprising. Unlike other re-imaginings that only get a whisper of unflattering reviews, Ghostbusters was put through the ringer of overwhelming misogyny.

Fanboys by the masses opposed the reboot to one of  'their' beloved favorites. Not just opposed the movie but absolutely vilified it and the cast. Their reaction reached new heights of erratic behavior: IMDb was flooded with one star reviews, conspiracies were created about Sony paying off reviewers, and made the new trailer the most disliked in YouTube history, dowsed the cast in vitriol backlash - to say the least.

While the unprovoked response was alarming, it was also not unexpected. Not when Renee Zellweger is criticized for aging, Blake Lively's Shallows is torture porn , profiles on actresses reveal critics' deep-seated sexualization and the list goes on.

It can't be denied that in film, books, and television we need other stories that don't focus solely or for a majority on the male's version of the hero's journey. Fiction is a reflection of the real world; it's universal and doesn't apply to just one kind of person.

When we go to the movies, we look for a good break from our regular lives, looking to escape, for a reflection of ourselves or where we are in life, to be entertained and/or enlightened. As a woman, I look for people who aren't there to be no-named sought after hotties whose only lines in a movie are to say No to a guy who won't take no for an answer and then inevitably gives in because he won't leave her alone.

As Viola Davis said upon her 2015 Emmy victory, "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there..." Well we can't see movies with women if they aren't there.

One only has to look at the success of Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the complex nature of Mad Max: Fury Road, or the incomparable success of Frozen as examples of the importance of roles for girls of all ages. And, Ghostbusters is no different. Seeing women playing scientists and ghostbusters will give women and young girls something to identity with and vicariously live through.

Opportunity and equality is what levels the playing field. 30% of speaking roles belong to women, so it shouldn't be a surprise when we ascend upon the hogged platform and set up our own mics for a fellow audience that is surely craning to listen.

Films with all-male casts get the star power and the "original story" but aren't touted specifically because they are men. Everything is just accepted as if it's law. They're just marketed and believed as bad-ass, funny, smart, action-packed, and capable as is - so why can't women enjoy the same?

When movies star anyone besides the typical male star, they are the special snowflakes of Hollywood that were created by osmosis. Movies shouldn't be compartmentalized into a girl's thing, and instead women have access to tell layered and entertaining universal experiences. Case in point, rumors about an Oceans' Eleven reboot have been circulating. Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lawrence have been attached without any further confirmation of its development, except again that it will star an all-female cast. This gives me hope that a heist film with women might actually utilize actresses to play roles other than love interests.

Case in point: The 1960 original starring the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Sammy Davis. Jr.), practically the only woman is Angie Dickinson as Sinatra's wife, who is given little to do in terms of the heist or her husband's cohorts. Likewise, Steven Soderbergh's 2001 remake limits roles for women as spouses with little agency such as Julia Roberts to George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones to Brad Pitt, and an independent and powerful right-hand woman (Ellen Barkin) who is tricked to beg Matt Damon for sex. It's embarrassing that nearly fifty years passed, and the results are the same: if the women were removed, the plots could go on as if business was usual.

The lack of depth a female character is not given isn't right. But we can't go back in time and change the original, and we shouldn't want to solely because they had male casts. Just like literature mavens have to contend with changes of their beloved books when they're adapted to movies, we must be able to separate remakes from originals. Rarely does the makers of the former want to eradicate the former; everything is just about expanding on the other and growing it. I's okay to watch a movie, know the era it originated from, the gender politics of this time and then, and be aware of the differences (if even rare ones).

Unlike the initial ugly reception of the Ghostbusters reboot, it would be great to see a heist film, or film in general with women that exclude the emphasis on gender but instead focus on the material, strength of it's script and direction, the talent (not looks, race, weight or age) of its cast. A movie like Ghostbusters is just the beginning. Certain critics, official and unofficial know how to do this, but not enough. (The surface hasn't even been scratched for movies with racial diversity, LGBTQ community, trans community, people with disabilities, etc.)

As a fan culture, a territory has been marked around 'the classics'. If anything happens to selected untouchable favorites, well, it's just forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria...Only it isn't. This reboot could've been something the pre-emptive haters enjoyed if they looked past themselves to give it a chance.

Women's contribution to film shouldn't be devalued and discriminated. Gender equality within entertainment, within the world, can be accomplished if we just make the right calls.