There’s nothing quite like revisiting your favorite films on a random afternoon, but that activity takes on a special added weight when said movie manages to turn up in current film blog news. For example, one of my all time favorite comedies, Ghostbusters, was just added to Netflix’s Watch Instantly service. While giving it another spin on this idle Tuesday, I couldn’t help but think about the on-again/off-again plans to extend the franchise. As I watched, something struck me that made me wonder if the prospect of a third Ghostbusters film is doomed even with all principals on board. But first, a little info on the movie for those unaware.
Who Made It: Ghostbusters is one of the brightest feathers in the career cap of director Ivan Reitman. Reitman also gave us such comedic gems as Stripes, Dave, and (cough) Kindergarten Cop (cough). This time around Reitman was working from a script penned by three of the film’s performers: Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and, though uncredited, Rick Moranis.
Who’s In It: The titular busters of ghosts are played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. Sigourney Weaver co-stars as the lovely Dana Barrett, the love interest of Murray’s Peter Venkman and the catalyst for the supernatural events of the film. Providing plenty of comic relief (in this comedy?) is the perpetually nerdy Rick Moranis as hapless dweeb Louis Tully. While Murray and Aykroyd are legendary alumni of Saturday Night Live, Ramis and Moranis are veterans of the lesser known, but equally hilarious SCTV.
What’s It About: A group of upstart paranormal investigators decide to venture in the additional, and recently invented, realm of spectral elimination. They find themselves in over their heads when they tangle with a resurrected Sumerian god who manifests their doom into the form of a giant marshmallow man. Laugh, cheer, repeat.
Why They Shouldn’t Do Another Sequel:
I’m by no means the first to ponder and muse upon the possibility of a third Ghostbusters. As soon as the rumor mill churned out whispers that the original cast was even flirting with the idea, the Internet exploded into torrent of speculation and supposition. But it wasn’t until this recent revisit, and subsequent viewing of Ghostbusters 2, that my thoughts on the matter finally solidified. They can examine the conceit of the old guard training a younger generation of busters until they are blue in the face, but Ghostbusters 3 should not happen.
Basically, it’s a question of economics. I’m not talking about petty salary squabbles between returning performers and the studio; I’m referring to one of the fundamental appeals of the first film. Sure, it’s fun to watch a towering monster made of campfire treats crush cop cars under his terrifyingly fluffy feet, and yes, the dialogue is as snappy as an angry crab, but that’s not what makes us love these characters. The core of the film is a story about three blue-collar guys who lose their jobs and are forced to strike out into an entrepreneurial enterprise. Ok, maybe scientists don’t typify blue-collar, but they still seem like pretty regular Joes and we can easily relate to them. We root for them as they struggle to find their footing financially and fight valiantly against their own inexperience and hilarious ineptitude. But by the end, they are established, successful, and proven able to handle any supernatural foe. But then in Ghostbusters 2, they are once again broke, struggling to find work, and considered an utter laughing stock. The reason Ghostbusters 2 feels like such a flat, tiresome carbon copy of part one is that they force them to climb the same ladders of public opinion and fiscal solvency; an acknowledgement of the necessary formula.
So the way I see it, they have two choices for the threequel. They can either avoid this repetitive rut by allowing the guys to be well off and their business flourishing, or once again force them to claw their way up from the bottom. The latter approach has the advantage of returning our heroes to the position in which we most relate to them. It also makes sense given the similarities between the current financial crisis, from which we are still working to crawl out, the woeful unemployment rates in the mid-'80s. However, watching the guys have to go through all that yet again will only make for further agonizing repetition. So let’s say we try the former route, wherein the “busting” industry experiences record growth. The problem there is that, logically, more the Ghostbusters are able to ply their trade, the more supernatural occurrences will therefore have become commonplace in their city; making their line of work far less interesting and far less entertaining than it was in the first film.
Basically what I’m saying is that the self-made small business model so aptly lampooned in Ghostbusters creates a damned-if-they-do/damned-if-they-don’t conundrum that poisons the proposed additional sequel from the root upward. But what happen if they are thrust into another dimension where our economic systems bear no relevance? Ok, time to crack open the Necronomiconomy and Paganomics textbooks, we’ve got a new angle to explore.
Dan Aykroyd: Bill Murray Won't Be in Ghostbusters III
Dan Aykroyd: Ghostbusters 3 to Start Shooting in 2012
Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible franchise is a rare phenomenon. Few film series based on properties as old as it is have retained such relevance in the modern movie market and few take as long a break in between installments making each new entry a highly anticipated event. Such is the case with Ghost Protocol the fourth in fifteen years starring Tom Cruise as super-agent Ethan Hunt. Adding to the hoopla surrounding the holiday release is the fact that it marks the live-action directorial debut of Brad Bird the Pixar wunderkind responsible for Oscar-winning hits The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Unfortunately I feel that the animation auteur had too much to prove in his first physical outing and tried a bit too hard to thrill resulting in a film that plays more like John Woo’s over-the-top M:I:II than Brian de Palma’s suspenseful original.
The plot essentially kicks off when a bomb blasts a hole the size of a football field in the Kremlin (Russia’s most important government facility) while Hunt and his team of IMF agents (Paula Patton and Simon Pegg) attempt to extract a nuclear detonation device from the fortress before a mysterious figure known only as Cobalt can get to it first. The problem: Cobalt has gotten to it first and frames Hunt and company for the bombing causing the U.S. President to enact "Ghost Protocol " which disbands the IMF and disavows its soldiers. Knowing that the theft of the device and a batch of codes that enable it to be used prior to this event means that Cobalt surely intends to start World War III the agents go rogue to retrieve the components and bring the terrorist to justice.
Like the fore mentioned bomb blast Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec’s script is devastating leaving scattered pieces of information all over the place and making it hard for the story to truly find its footing. Expository plot points are dropped in way after they’re needed or wanted messing with the pace of the movie on more than one occasion. Perhaps their biggest crime is crafting a lame villain with little presence in the picture. After the intensity that Phillip Seymour Hoffman brought to his antagonist in M:I:III Michael Nyqvist’s quiet and composed Hendricks just isn’t convincing enough as a true threat. On the other hand Bird’s direction is anything but composed.
While his use of IMAX cameras is quite breathtaking when filming the much-publicized Burj Khalifa climb and other notable set pieces as stated before his approach to the material seemed to be “let’s make every action sequence as ludicrous as we can.” I realize that MIGP is a holiday blockbuster designed to get audiences blood pumping but I’ve always found that action films work best when they operate (mostly) within the confines of reality. That’s clearly not the case here where Hunt drives perfectly through a blinding sandstorm without causing much collateral damage and nosedives a Volkswagen off of a 30-foot drop and lives to save the day.
Still it’s all in the name of fun and he does manage to create an entertaining dynamic between his IMF agents. Patton is totally passable as Jane Carter an agent seeking revenge for the murder of her cohort and apparent beau Hanaway (Josh Holloway) while Pegg returning as Benji the tech-geek from the preceding film has been promoted to field agent and is without question the movie’s saving grace. Though his comic relief is relied heavily upon it’s absolutely welcomed. The biggest surprise is Jeremy Renner who was supposedly brought in to take the reigns of the franchise but is pretty stale as Brandt. He never elevates his character to the level of coolness that Cruise has maintained throughout the years and doesn’t provide anything significant other than assistance. Given the talent that we all know he possesses his negligible contribution was a bigger let down than the film itself.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Carbon copying the already overly convoluted idea from the previous Final Destination movies the latest worst installment continues on the theme of one unlucky twentysomething being able to predict who’s going to die and when; this time it’s Nick. After attending a NASCAR race with his girlfriend Lori and their friends Hunt and Janet Nick has a premonition about an elaborate horrific accident that threatens everyone present. Naturally it comes true — and even though plenty of people die in the stands Death (you know the bogeyman) has only just begun. But Nick realizes that he might be able to save the survivors of that day by remembering the order in which they're supposed to die and warning them of their imminent demise. Unfortunately though not everyone believes him and they carry on with their dangerous activities ... like going to a hair salon or — gulp! — through a carwash.
WHO’S IN IT?
Up-and-coming actor Bobby Campo plays the main pretty young thing and he makes the best of what is ultimately an untenable and God-awful role to have to accept. Still fresh faces capable of pulling off his part are a dime a dozen and Destination’s past leads like Mary Elizabeth Winstead at least left us feeling their fear. Supporting actresses Shantel VanSanten as Lori and Haley Webb as Janet are there for little more than eye candy and ear-shredding screams while former MTV 'It' dude Nick Zano as the obnoxious clichéd — and obnoxiously clichéd — Hunt can’t even provide the occasional comic relief for which he was brought on. The lone bright spot comes courtesy of an evidently desperate-for-work Mykelti Williamson (aka Bubba in Forrest Gump) who plays a widowed security guard adding a shred of cred to the otherwise disposable cast (which includes a barely there Krista Allen).
Clocking in at a mercifully brisk hour and 15 minutes the makers of TFD find one way to not essentially call us stupid: They know we want our scares quickly and they deliver — except for actually scaring us. Aside from its running time the aforementioned credible performance by Williamson is literally all the movie has going for it.
Wow where to begin? Destination another in a loooong line of wholly unnecessary sequels is riddled with problems — from the are-you-kidding-me? “special” effects (even in 3-D) to the jaw-droppingly horrendous writing. Director David R. Ellis (helmer of the infinitely better Final Destination 2) should bear much of the blame. He seems uninterested in delivering anything that people go to the movies for; this Destination is nothing more than tenuously connected scenes of video-game-like deaths that try to one-up each other. And not one of the sequences is even mildly suspenseful or scary — just disturbing in the sense that some people will actually smirk in earnest at the cartoonishness of it all.
The writing though is the real culprit. Eric Bress’ (also an FD2 alum) script is incredibly unimaginative merely recycling similar but better executed scenarios from the three previous movies and swapping out the settings. With ideas so bad Bress makes it abundantly clear that there’s no inane death massacre left to explore at this point; it's basically a metaphorical surrender. And yet the dialogue is even worse — with stock stereotypical block characters muttering it to boot.
LEAST FAVORITE SCENE?
Not to completely give it away — lest we make the movie predictable! — but one of the death scenes is just so far beyond ridiculous that it transcends even sarcastic laughter. Hint: It involves water and it’s about midway through the movie … if you dare stay that long.
Even if you’re not a cinephile and you couldn’t care less about things like character depth and plot development and you’re looking for a very quick thrill The Final Destination is well beneath you. It makes recent straight-to-DVD releases look like fully coherent masterpieces. Whether in 3-D or 2-D it’s a mustn't-see!
Just when he thought he was out they pull him back in. Recently retired Agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) now trains new IMF agents while maintaining a fairly normal life with his adorable--and very young--fiancé Julia (Michelle Monaghan). She has no idea what he really does or did for a living but she’s about to find out--the hard way. Ethan is called back to duty on a rescue mission when one of his trainees (Keri Russell) gets trapped in the field forcing him to cross paths with a nasty arms dealer Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Things then turn personal when Davian swears vengeance against everything Ethan holds dear. So now on top of everything else Ethan--along with his crack team (Ving Rhames Jonathan Rhys Meyers Maggie Q)--has to go rogue to rescue his lady love. Geez the guy just can’t catch a break. No matter how overexposed Cruise is these days there really is no denying his onscreen charisma. He is perhaps one of the last true-blue movie screen idols. But it’s also nice to see Cruise handle the emotional side of being a secret agent. He shows Ethan’s internal strife in M:i III--the constant struggle of being damn good at his job and desperately wanting a normal happy life devoid of daredevil stunts masks and guns. Hoffman on the other hand--who usually plays weirdos and wimps--must have been tickled pink to get a chance to play this sort of villain. Although he is a tad more bark than bite in M:i III he definitely gives great face. And he gets to beat the crap outta Tom Cruise. What could be more fun than that? The rest of the cast fills in nicely: M:I veteran Rhames as Ethan’s stalwart right-hand man; Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne as IMF’s corporate honchos; and for a little comic relief Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg as an IMF tech-head. He gets all the best lines. J.J. baby you are definitely on a roll. In his first attempt at feature film director and co-writer J.J. Abrams the same young buck who brought us TV’s Alias and Lost pretty much hits the nail on the head with his M:I vision. He’s obviously had practice working within the whole spy milieu with Alias so taking it big screen probably wasn’t as difficult for him. Of course M:i III isn’t without faults. Abrams’ intent is to bring a human quality to secret agent Ethan Hunt but in doing so the story lapses a bit into the over sentimental. Thankfully there is plenty of action which comes at us fast and furious--from the dark and jumbled such as a helicopter chase through windmills to the death-defying such as freefalling from a skyscraper to land on another and slide down its glassy exterior performed by the leading man. Personally I think Cruise is just an adrenaline junkie but hey it makes for great cinema.
A broadcast of the third Comic Relief benefit to raise funds and awareness to help the homeless. Broadcast live from the Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles. As in the two previous benefits, a toll-free 800 number will be provided on screen for viewers to call in and pledge contributions.