Ghostbusters (2016)

Director: Paul Feig (2016) BBFC cert 12A

This supernatural reboot rakes over the bones of the 1984 comedy classic but fails to scare up the fun.

 Being bravely recast with an all female team has resulted in a ferocious online furore. However this gender switching is nothing new to Hollywood, it worked super successfully for Rosalind Russell in screwball comedy His Girl Friday (1940) and you don’t have to go that far back for other examples. Last year Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) gave a turbo charged reboot to that ’80’s franchise by putting the women in the driving seat.

This is very funny and scary. But only for the first five minutes before the new team turn up. From then on it’s sadly an indulgent Melissa McCarthy vehicle loaded up with CGI to paper over the holes in the weak script.

This is very much her movie and on a par with her recent The Boss (2016) and less fun than the similarly spooky Jack Black caper Goosebumps (2016).

Once again New York is awash with ectoplasm and evil spirits as the apocalypse approaches and only the Ghostbusters team of paranormal investigators can prevent it.

McCarthy and Kristen Wiig star as scientists Abby and Erin. They go into business as paranormal investigators after losing their university jobs.

Pushed into the background, poor Kate McKinnon is forced to gurn for attention as Jillian, the inventor of the teams ghoul catching gadgets.

She’s given a dance scene, an action moment and a speech, and all are great. However they feel more like ‘a bit for the trailer’ or a guilty ‘we’d better give her something to do’ than organic character reveals. McKinnon is easily best in show and I wish she’d been put front and centre.

Leslie Jones is subway worker Patty who sees a ghost and inexplicably joins up. She shouts most of her lines, probably in order to get noticed. Enough has been said about the fact there are three white scientists and one black transport worker. This isn’t a result of malicious intent but a foolish and avoidable lack of script oversight.

The dull villain played by Neil Casey is a self proclaimed genius called Rowan. He’s a janitor who wants to bring forth the apocalypse as revenge on an uncaring world.

Despite some familiar locations, New York is curiously underpopulated and never seems like a living metropolis. This neuters a threat which is never set higher than Def Con Scooby Doo.

Given far more to do than his equivalent in the first film, Chris Hemsworth has a great time at our expense as a dimwitted secretary called Kevin. He’s employed on the basis he looks like Chris Hemsworth. This is fine but is one of many underdeveloped ideas.

Other wasted opportunities include the new Ghostmobile being a hearse and having a ghost chasing scene in a death metal concert. These are starting points not jokes in themselves and are left hanging, waiting for a punchline that never arrives.

Andy Garcia’s city mayor is a character in search of a purpose. He’s picked off the nostalgia shelf  in a tick box exercise to keep the fans happy.

This is an origin story of how the gang get together. In order to eke out some sentiment it fleshes out character backstory the first didn’t feel the need to possess.

One character muses why she joined the team. Never mind the supernatural stuff, this is the real mystery that is never explained.

There’s an unfunny running gag about Chinese food which has no purpose except to indulge McCarthy’s showboating and prolong her screen time.

If because of your attachment to the original film you’re pleased this isn’t a glowing review, then you’re an idiot. No material is safe from being resurrected, rebooted or recycled, no matter how precious it is to you personally.

Plus the deficit of female led high profile films in Hollywood needs to be addressed and I would have loved the opportunity to sing the praises of a great piece of work. My fear is this weak effort may stifle the production of other potential projects.

I enjoyed McCarthy and Feig’s Spy (2015) though Bridesmaids (2011) was over praised. If you thought those were hilarious you may enjoy Ghostbusters (2016) more than I did.

Lacking the sly wit of the original but borrowing the familiar logo, costumes, equipment, theme song, dialogue and story, this adds slapstick and feels like a collection of undercooked tribute sketches happy to coast on the personality of the performers.

Original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts are among the cameos. But by the time Sigourney Weaver turns up, my interest had long since given up the ghost.




Kill The Messenger

Director: Michael Cuesta (2015)

Despite a plot of international significance featuring political corruption, money laundering and drug dealing, this real-life thriller is surprisingly weak and muddled.

It’s a busy dramatisation of the fall from grace of investigative reporter Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner). Uncertain of tone it begins as a courtroom romp, rifles into an astonishing hard news story then dissolves into a dull human interest feature.

Renner hides behind a goatee bristling with self-righteous rage but his taciturn everyman act lacks charisma. His two Oscar nominations (The Town, The Hurt Locker) seem ever more indebted to strong direction than any tremendous ability.

A scruffy family man with a penchant for British cars, motorbikes and music, Webb works on the small San Jose Mercury newspaper.

In a 1996 newsroom teeming with now unimaginable numbers of staff, Webb is indulged by young editor Anna (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and avuncular executive editor Jerry (Oliver Platt).

One day the glamorous Nicaraguan Coral (Paz Vega) drops a folder of confidential information into his lap. The first of many characters to pop up before being forgotten, she uses an unwitting Webb to have her boyfriend’s court prosecution collapse.

Following the info in the folder, Webb is soon interviewing incarcerated drug-dealer Rick Ross (Michael K. Williams). He claims the CIA turned a blind eye to Danilo Blandon (Yul Vazquez) importing industrial quantities of cocaine as it served their foreign policy purposes. The enormous sums of cash raised funded the Contra’s attacks on the communist Nicaraguan government.

It’s a doddle for Webb to bribe his way into a Nicaraguan jail to meet fearsome drug baron Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia). Everybody is happy to tell the journalist exactly what he needs – which means there’s no tension or drama to his story-gathering.

Publishing his story online (a novelty at the time) attracts nationwide attention. Webb is nominated for journalist of the year but quickly competitors line up to challenge the story, mostly by pointing to his conspicuous lack of evidence.

Now painted as a conspiracy theorist, Webb himself becomes the story. He’s convinced the CIA are in cahoots with the Washington Post to discredit him and the pressure affects his relationship with wife Sue (Rosemarie DeWitt) and teenage son Ian (Lucas Hedges).

Blinded by his indignant anger to the realities of the world and consumed by a martyr complex, Webb is demoted to a backwater department but keeps obsessively working the case.

Government insiders Fred Weil and John Cullen (Michael Sheen and Ray Liotta) appear in cameos to confirm Webb’s theories. They could well be figments of his imagination.

As his paranoia increases Webb sees prowlers in the dark and enemies everywhere. When his bike is nicked he stupidly smashes up his own car and harangues passes-by. As Webb’s mental state deteriorates his attire becomes progressively sharper.

Webb suffers a tragic end but the film fails to provide sufficient evidence to support it’s theory as to why.