‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ Does Not Give The ‘Ghostbusters’ Franchise Any New Life

Courtesy: Sony Pictures

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Everybody knows that old adage, and for director Jason Reitman that could not be farther from the truth in watching Sony Pictures’ Ghostbusters sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  The thing is that in the case of this movie, which was helmed by Reitman, the son of Ivan Reitman – who directed the original Ghostbusters movie back in 1984 – the adage does not apply in a good way.  That is because there is little if anything to like about this movie.  Its story is its most problematic concern and will be discussed shortly.  The general writing and acting is problematic in its own way to the movie’s presentation and will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content (or rather the lack thereof) rounds out the movie’s most prominent concerns.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this movie.  All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife hopefully the last big screen Ghostbusters iteration for a very long time.

When Columbia Pictures released its take on the Ghostbusters franchise, audiences did indeed answer the call, but not necessarily in the way in which the studio heads had hoped.  While some audiences appreciated the movie, the overwhelming majority of audiences and critics panned the movie, and justifiably so.  Interestingly enough, the movie was helmed by Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters movie in 1984.  It (the 2016 reboot) received a score of 74% from Rotten Tomatoes (along with a 49% audience score), so one would have thought that after the movie’s general failure, studios in general would have had second thoughts about taking on the franchise yet again.  Apparently staff at Sony Pictures (and Reitman’s son Jason) did not worry too much about the movie’s response when they decided to make Ghostbusters: Afterlife happen. Sadly, this latest entry in the Ghostbusters franchise is disappointing in its own right.  That is due in large part to the story.  The story featured in this movie is itself just a reboot of the 1984 movie.  Gozer the Gozerian is back to try and take over the world again.  This after the original Ghostbusters team destroyed Gozer almost 40 years ago atop a skyscraper in New York City.  The difference is that this time, it’s not the original Ghostbusters crew taking on Gozer (though ¾ of the original team does appear in the movie’s end to help deal with the evil Sumerian God – not to give away too much).  Rather it is a new, much younger team of Ghostbusters consisting of Egon’s grandson and grand-daughter and their friends.  Trevor (Finn Wolfhard – It, Pinocchio, Stranger Things) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace – I, Tonya, Troop Zero, The Handmaid’s Tale) are Egon’s grandchildren.  They are joined by Phoebe’s friend “Podcast” (newcomer Logan Kim) and Trevor’s love interest, Lucky (Celeste O’Connor – Freaky, Selah and the Spades, Irreplaceable You) as they take on Gozer and its minions.  The very knowledge that the original Ghostbusters team defeated Gozer so many decades ago makes suspension of disbelief impossible right from this point.  This is only the tip of the iceberg, too.

It is clear in watching Ghostbusters: Afterlife that Reitman and the rest of the movie’s creative heads were doing two things here.  The first thing they were doing was just a bunch of fan service.  From the giant stack of books in Egon’s house in Summerville, to the footage from the original movie that Phoebe watches on her laptop (which is clearly blatant product placement for YouTube) to the use of another giant structure from which Gozer and its forces originate, and more, there is so much fan service happening throughout this story.  As if that is not bad enough, the creative heads’ use of young actors was clearly an attempt to satiate those (like this critic) who wanted an Extreme Ghostbusters style movie.  Instead, they gave said audiences little more than a teeny bopper flick meant to make older audiences feel nostalgic and younger, pre-teen and teen audiences interested because they thought there was some need to update the movie.  Reitman explains in the lone bonus feature in the movie’s home release of how the idea for this story came about, but it does not make the story any more bearable.  Only it makes things worse.  This will be discussed later.  Simply put, this so-called sequel really could have been so much better if those in charge had really taken more time and thought about how it could have succeeded, but sadly it did not reach that level.  Instead it ended up just being a shallow re-hashing of the original, much like so many sequels out there from so many franchises.  It is just one of the problems that mars the movie’s presentation, too.  The collective writing and acting featured throughout the movie brings out its own concerns.

The writing starts out strongly by setting the stage, explaining that Egon had lived in the house and was obviously there facing off against some kind of evil being, but failed to do so, to a point.  The thing is that from there, the story is quick to go from that to present day, introducing his family and front loading the story with so much contrivance along the way.  Gary’s (Paul Rudd – Ant Man, Ant Man and the Wasp, Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) flirting with Callie (Carrie Coon – Avengers: Infinity War, Gone Girl, The Post) from early on makes it honestly painfully clear that they would take the place of Dana (Sigourney Weaver – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Alien) and Louis (Rick Moranis – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Honey, I Shrunk The Kids) as the Gatekeeper and Keymaster.  What’s more, their interactions just feel so cheesy and forced in every scene.  Whether that was intentional is anyone’s guess, but regardless, it is painful to watch. 

On the same note, Gary’s lack of concern for his students, simply popping in copies of horror movies for the students to watch while he examines earthquake maps in his office simply is not believable.  Even less believable is how Phoebe just casually strolls into Gary’s office and talks about it all as the other students sit watching the movies.  The pair’s dry, so-called witty banter falls flat and not only there, but throughout the movie.  Staying on that note, that none of the students take any interest when she and Podcast bring in an old ghost trap leaves one scratching one’s head just as much.  Add in the moment in which Lucky’s dad, who happens to be the town’s police chief (played by Bokime Woodbine – Spiderman: Homecoming, Halo, Fargo) asks Phoebe, ‘Who ya gonna call?” when she declares at the jail (again, not to give away too much) that she gets a phone call is just as cheesy in its delivery and timing.  It felt like one more piece of the creative heads’ fan service for those who grew up with the original 1984 Ghostbusters.  Audiences cannot help but feel some sympathy for Woodbine, being that it fell on his shoulders, considering how little screen time he got. 

From there, Ray’s (Dan Akroyd – Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) explanation of how Egon ended up in Oklahoma (which basically tells the story) is so misplaced and contrived in itself.  Had this explanation been somehow incorporated more into the movie early on instead of just going from the brief intro to the present might have helped the movie’s presentation more.  The story itself of how Egon ended up there is contrived, though.  ‘Oh, Egon went crazy ,talked about the end of the world, and that Evo Shandor built another temple in a random spot in America’s heartland’ (roughly translated from Ray’s story) just feels so outlandish.  That is especially the case considering again that Egon, Ray, Winston, and Peter defeated Gozer in the original movie, so how did Gozer manage to come back?  That issue is never explained away as part of the story, either, leaving that massive plot hole wide open.  Between everything noted here and so much more, the issues with the story’s writing and the cast’s work interpreting the scripts, there is little to nothing to appreciate from those elements.  When their problems are coupled with the issues raised by the movie’s very story, the movie becomes that much less entertaining and engaging.  It still is not the last of the movie’s concerns.  The bonus content (or rather lack thereof) featured in the movie’s home release rounds out its most important items.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife’s home release features one bonus feature.  The feature is the standard “making of” featurette.  It presents interviews with the movie’s cast and crew, beginning with Jason Reitman discussing how the idea for the movie’s story came about.  His revelation makes clear that he never had any intent to create a story in the vein of Extreme Ghostbusters, but rather, it was always going to involve younger cast members.  To that end, at least it makes it seem like it was not just all about the dollar signs for Reitman.  However, all of the blatant product placement (YouTube, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Walmart, etc.) throughout the movie, one might think otherwise.  At the same time though, Reitman also admits that he wanted to write a story that was a “love letter” to the original movie.  In other words, he openly paid fan service through this story while also making it more youth oriented, even though the original movie was geared toward older audiences and had a certain edge.  Neither of those applied here, and that hurt the movie greatly.  So again, that led to the movie being just a rehashing of the original Ghostbusters but just more family friendly so to speak.  Hearing the comments from Reitman and company as they talk about the movie in the movie’s lone bonus feature does so much to detract from the movie’s engagement and entertainment in its own way.  When the revelations in the “making of” featurette are considered along with the shortcomings in the story and its collective writing and acting, the whole makes this latest Ghostbusters installment its own disappointing presentation.  One can only hope that seeing all of the movie’s problems, it will be a long time before the franchise will see another installment, even though the grand finale here left the door open for another movie.

Sony Pictures’ latest Ghostbusters iteration, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is a disappointing new entry in the storied franchise.  It offers little if anything to like for fans of the property who have clear heads.  The story featured within is one part fan service and one part teeny bopper flick loaded with unnecessary romance subplots.  The mix makes me its own share of problems.  The writing and acting makes for its own problems, as little if any of it is believable.  The lone bonus feature that comes with the movie’s home release makes for its own share of problems, making the movie even less engaging and entertaining than it was without that item.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Ghostbusters: Afterlife a work that shows the Ghostbusters franchise needs to remain buried for the foreseeable future unless a truly good story is crafted for the next movie.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is available now on digital and physical platforms.  More information on the movie is available along with all of the latest Ghostbusters news at:

Website: https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/ghostbustersafterlife

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ghostbusters

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ghostbusters

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Brother Bear 2 A Simple, Fun Story

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s Brother Bear 2 is one of the better of the crop of sequels released by Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.  Unlike sequels such as Mulan II and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Brother Bear 2 lives up to the reputation and label of a sequel.  This roughly hour and five minute long movie picks up not long after the events of its predecessor.  Kenai and Koda are enjoying life as bear brothers out in the wilderness.  Enter Kenai’s old childhood friend Nita (Mandy Moore), and just as with other Disney romances, it leads to a very difficult choice to be made by the protagonist (I.E. Kenai).  Kenai is forced to choose between life as a bear or returning to human form so that he and Nita can marry.  Sure, it’s a predictable story.  But the messages of love and sacrifice make up for that predictability.  Add in a relatively short run time, the return of both Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as everybody’s favorite pair of moose, musical backing from none other than Melissa Etheridge (who can easily be mistaken for Sean Lennon), and animation that is just as solid as the previous movie in this franchise, and viewers get a movie that actually stands out as one of the better sequels in Disney’s modern era.

The central plot of Brother Bear 2 has already been explained.  Just as the story is simple enough for viewers of all ages to understand, so are the messages tied into the story.  The most obvious message of Brother Bear 2 is the same as any romance movie.  That message is that true love conquers all.  Tied directly into this is that true love means true sacrifice.  And a sacrifice (albeit a predictable one) is made.  What that sacrifice is will be left for viewers to find out for themselves.  It’s one from which parents will take more value than their children.  Though, as heartwarming as the story is, the sacrifice in question will mean more to children when they get older as this movie is worth more than just a passing glance once or twice.

The messages contained in Brother Bear 2 are ones that both children and adults will value and appreciate with each viewing.  Appreciation of the messages will also lead to appreciation of the movie’s central story.  It’s a relatively easy story to follow.  This applies to both children and their parents.  And unlike Brother Bear, the story it’s just over an hour long. The run time on the new triple disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack lists this animated feature at seventy three minutes.  The actual feature itself runs just over an hour.  This is a good fit for younger viewers, especially considering the general attention span of the movie’s intended audience.

The story and run time of Brother Bear 2 are the most notable of this movie’s positives.  Though there is more that can be said of it.  Another of its positives is the musical backing of another famous musician.  Melissa Etheridge explains in the movie’s behind the music feature, explaining how she came to be part of the movie and what writing and performing its songs meant to her.  Her discussion of the song played in the movie’s closing minutes (that moment won’t be given away as it would be a spoiler) helps audiences to better understand the importance not just of the music, but of the moment in question.  Understanding this, one can’t help but go back and watch the moment in question again, as well as other important moments throughout the movie.  Watching them again (as Rutt and Tuke note in the bonus commentary from Brother Bear) gives them whole new meaning.  The same applies in watching the movie for its animation.

The animation of Brother Bear 2 is just as impressive as in Brother Bear.  That can especially be noted of the sequences involving the Northern Lights.  One can’t tell if they were digitally created or crafted cell by cell, frame by frame.  And what is believed once more to be the Northern Canadian wilderness is just as impressive as a background to the story.  The detail in the snowcapped mountains and the waterfalls is beautiful.  It shows yet again that digital and hand drawn animation can co-exist and really should rather than letting digital animation take over as much as it has.  It would be wonderful to see not just Disney but every company that sets out to make an animated feature do what this movie and Brother Bear 2 have done.  Brother Bear 2 is available now alongside Brother Bear in a brand new triple-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It’s available in stores and online.  It can’ be ordered online via the Disney Store at http://www.disneystore.com/brother-bear-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331569/1000316/ and via the Walt Disney Home Entertainment store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/brother-bear-two-movie.html.

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Brother Bear A “Beary” Fun Family Flick From Disney

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Brother Bear is one of the better animated features from Walt Disney Studios in the company’s modern era.  This unsuspectingly enjoyable feature came at a time when the company was churning out a pretty big number of pieces that were largely being panned by the press and audiences alone.  Considering this, Brother Bear could not have come along at a better time.  Its largely animal cast, simple story, impressive mix of hand drawn and digital animation, general lack of song cues (though there are songs peppered in), and comedy make it a wonderfully piece for the whole family.  Though, it should be noted that some scenes early in the story that might be a little bit scary for much younger viewers.  Despite that and what so many critics had to say of this movie, it’s a welcome return to form of sorts for Disney.

The story behind Brother Bear is simple enough for viewers of all ages to follow.  It sends an obviously environmentally themed message through its story.  Audiences are introduced in this story to young Native warrior Kenai (pronounced keen-eye).  Kenai lives in what appears to be an unnamed corner of prehistoric era Canada.  This seems to be the case being that included among the mostly animal cast are mastodons and a pair of moose (played wonderfully by veteran actor Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas).  Audiences will love the comic relief provided by Moranis and Thomas.  They expertly serve to alleviate the story’s more emotional moments and bring viewers back from said moments.  Young Koda (Jeremy Suarez) offers his own share of funny moments, too.  The story though, centers on Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix).  Kenai learns a very valuable lesson about respecting Mother Nature and all of her creatures after he kills a bear that killed his brother.  He killed the bear because he did not understand or know that the bear in question was only defending her child, who turns out to be Koda.  Upon killing the mother bear, Kenai is then forced to live as a bear and see life from a different vantage point.  It’s sort of the message of “walk a mile in my shoes.”  This adds an extra element to the otherwise environmentalist plot line, and thus adds more depth to the overall presentation.

The cast and the story are both positive elements in the overall presentation of Brother Bear with their mix of emotional depth and comic relief.  They together make for their own share of enjoyment in this movie.  The mix of traditional hand drawn and digital animation add even more depth to the presentation.  The colors are so deep and rich throughout each scene.  And even the digital animation used in correlation with the more traditional hand drawn art is just as incredible when viewed on an HDTV in “cinema” setting.  The difference between the hand drawn and digital animation is noticeable.  However, one doesn’t overpower the other thus making each scene more fluid.

As one can already tell, there is a lot to like about Brother Bear.  It impresses with its animation and with its balance of comedy and drama through a well stocked voice cast.  And the story is simple enough to keep audiences engaged throughout its near ninety minute run time. There is at least one more aspect of this underappreciated movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences.  That aspect is that it doesn’t follow the standard formula for so many of Disney’s musicals.  There are musical numbers.  But unlike so many of Disney’s musicals, this movie boasts music from the likes of Phil Collins to aid in setting the emotional tone of given scenes.  That aspect mixes with the positive message of family and its other positive aspects to make Brother Bear one more movie that stands out as one of the better releases of Disney’s modern era.  It is available now alongside Brother Bear 2 in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/brother-bear-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331569/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD Home Entertainment Store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/brother-bear-two-movie.html

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Home Run Showdown A “Hit” For Families

Courtesy: Image Entertainment

Home Run Showdown is a “hit” for families.  But it is in itself not a home run.  One part Bad News Bears (the 1976 original, not the most recent remake), one part Mighty Ducks, and one part Little Giants (just on a baseball field), this story mixes the standard underdog sports story with the family split plotline that’s seen in Little Giants(1994).  On the surface, the comparisons to The Bad News Bears (1976) are far too obvious.  Just as in that original baseball flick, a young ragtag group of baseball players is led by a washed up ex-minor leaguer to great heights.  Matthew Lillard (Scooby Doo, Scooby Doo 2) fills the shoes of the late great Walter Matthau this time out. 

The Bad News Bears isn’t the only movie from which this movie very liberally lifts.  Just as Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill went toe to toe in the pee-wee football movie, Little Giants (1994), so do Lillard and co-star Dean Cain (Lois & Clark:  The Adventures of Superman) here.  To their credit, the feud between Joey and Rico is very believable.  The sibling rivalry between these brothers is very real.  There are so many families out there today who still suffer great rifts because of something that happened many years ago.  And as angry as Joey gets at Rico at some points, some older audiences may just be waiting for Joey to punch out Rico.

Audiences will love to hate Rico.  And that audiences will so love to hate him shows that Cain did his job.  At the same time, watching Joey (Lillard) grow from not caring what he was doing to really caring about the whole team will make older audiences cheer for him that much more.  At the same time, his lack of drive early on will make audiences want to hit him on the head and tell him to get up just as much as the kids on his team wanted.  Just as Rico made audiences hate him, Lillard’s ability to garner an emotional response from viewers means that he did his job, too.  In the same vein, Barry Bostwick (Spin City) is just as believable as the brothers’ frustrated father.

Lillard, Cain, and Bostwick did a wonderful job in this movie.  The trio carried it on its own.  But they weren’t the only cast to make the movie worth a watch.  Supporting actor Wayne Duvall was just as despicable as Commissioner Simpson.  In Simpson, audiences see a man who was stuck in his old ways, doing everything he could to keep a girl off of a baseball team, and basically keep the Cubs down for his own personal biases.  While he wasn’t a major player in the cast, Duvall’s portrayal of Simpson added that much more enjoyment to the story, as there are sadly still people like Simpson out there, too.
Home Run Showdown may not be the most original sports movie ever written.  But it does boast a cast that makes for a lot of heart.  It makes for enough heart that it’s worth at least one watch.  Home Run Showdown is available in stores and online now on DVD and blu-ray.

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