Ghostbusters Review: Girl Power


Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig

Stars: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones

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Release date: July 14th, 2016

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 116 minutes


3/5

Best part: The four leads.

Worst part: The cameos.

No movie in cinema history has faced as much anger as 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot. Prior to release, it was showered in searing hatred. Delusional fanboys attacked it for coming near the 1984 original’s lasting legacy. Misogynistic creeps resented the all-female leading cast members. With all that said, it’s best to judge Ghostbusters for what it is and not what certain factions might want.

It has to be said – Ghostbusters is much better than most of 2016’s other blockbusters. The franchise kickstarter follows a familiar structure. Dr Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) is a geeky professor at Columbia University just short of gaining tenure. However, a book about paranormal beings in our realm – co-written by herself and Dr Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) – gets in her way. After reuniting, Gilbert and Yates reluctantly team up with wacky engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) to tackle a reported ghost sighting. After getting fired, the trio turn into a full-time ghost-catching group looking out for New York City. Joined by streetwise MTA worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and ditzy receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), the group face an army of ghouls and naysayers.

The original delivered big laughs, unique visuals and intelligent heroes for geeks everywhere to look up to. The 2016 version follows a wholly specific formula from script to screen. This one also features an array of Saturday Night Live alumni coming together, proving everyone wrong and saving the world. Writer/director Paul Feig overcomes the barrage of hate and uncertainty with ease. This – like earlier works Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy – is a pleasant, crystal-clear experience free from anything ‘dark and gritty’. The plot itself boils down to everything you’d expect from a modern supernatural-comedy. The first and second acts revolve around the origin-story dynamic – building up and then shaking the team’s foundations. Of course, the third act is reserved for the underdeveloped villain’s master plan. Ghostbusters doesn’t change the game, but certainly gives it a little push.

Feig and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold make their characters human and understandable in spite of the ensuing chaos. For the most part, the humour is a mix of clever references and light-hearted one-liners. The four leads, having worked together before on many projects, make the jokes, sci-fi gobbledygook and touching moments work effectively. However, Feig’s direction occasionally lets them down. Awkward editing choices and sluggish pacing keep this reboot from reaching its true potential. Sadly, the third-act action extravaganza delivers bland, CGI-laden visuals rather than unique flourishes. Worse still, cameos from Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and the rest of the original troupe stop the movie dead in its tracks. The score also fails to impress, partly due to Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott’s rubbish remix of the original theme.

Ghostbusters valiantly highlights the best women in contemporary Hollywood comedy. The cast and crew deliver many laugh-out-loud moments, engaging performances and effective reminders of the franchise’s appeal. However, it can’t decide whether to stand on it own or cling to the original.

Verdict: A quaint reboot.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War Review: The Ice Queen, The Hunk, His Wife, and the Sequel No One Asked For


Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Writers: Craig Mazin, Evan Spiliotopoulos

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron

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Release date: April 7th, 2016

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Countries: UK, USA 

Running time: 114 minutes


 

2½/5

Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

In the Heart of the Sea Audio Review: Punchered Vessel


Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Charles Leavitt

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland

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Release date: December 11th, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 121 minutes


3/5

Review:

Blackhat (Home Release) Audio Review: Code Black! CODE. BLACK!


Director: Michael Mann

Writers: Morgan Davis Foehl, Michael Mann

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis

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Release date: January 16th, 2015

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 133 minutes


 

2/5

Review:

Thor: The Dark World Review – Hammered Home


Director: Alan Taylor

Writer: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins


Release date: November 8th, 2013

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 112 minutes


Best part: Hemsworth and Hiddleston.

Worst part: The bland villain.

Review: Thor: The Dark World

Verdict: An enjoyably frantic and action-packed superhero sequel.

Rush Review – Speed of Life


Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Peter Morgan 

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara


Release date: September 13th, 2013

Distributors: Universal Pictures, Entertainment One, StudioCanal, Universum Film AG

Countries: UK, Germany, USA

Running time: 122 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: Hemsworth and Bruhl.

Worst part: The under-developed female characters.

To a certain extent, sport is instilled in everyone’s flesh and blood. In an instant, it can send people into dizzying highs or crushing lows. It can represent an entire country’s strengths and weaknesses, and can turn hard working men and women into enviable role models. A sport built on an excess of prestige and power is Formula 1 racing. This enrapturing event is captured seamlessly in Rush – a movie about taking names, becoming a champion, and rolling with the punches.

Chris Hemsworth.

Built on top of piles of money and will-power, Formula 1 is one of sporting history’s greatest accomplishments. This popular sport, as Rush is concerned, attracts people thanks to thrills, chills, and spills. Documenting the search for glory and recognition, Rush presents a brutally honest yet beguiling analysis of this dangerous competitive sport. This pulsating and emotionally powerful sports drama chronicles two drivers pushing themselves to breaking point. Money and power hungry playboy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) lives for the many highs of his debaucherous lifestyle. Sleeping around first and winning Formula 3 races later, his immense talents are a match for the punishing Formula 1 circuit. His leap from Hesketh racing to Mclaren sets him up for success. Meanwhile, irritable and socially inept Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), after turning down his father’s offer to become an accountant, takes it upon himself to reach his near untouchable goals. His intensity and overblown persona push him from low-level team BRM into Formula 1 powerhouse Ferrari’s line of sight. With both drivers reaching the prestigious event by 1975, their troubling Formula 3 rivalry spills over into their first Formula 1 season. From then on, the opposing forces stare each other down whilst speeding along tracks across the world. Off the track, Hunt’s enviable yet questionable antics hurl him into several regrettable decisions, including a rushed marriage to supermodel Suzy Miller (Olivia Wilde). Meanwhile, Lauda’s relationship with the ever understandable Marlene (Alexandra Maria Lara) will force Lauda into deciding where his priorities lie.

Daniel Bruhl.

Whether Steve McQueen is lighting up the track in Le Mans or Lightning McQueen is zipping through an animated universe in Pixar’s Cars, car races/chases are welcome on the big screen. Tapping into modern sporting culture thanks to Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull Racing quarrels, Rush illustrates that sportsmanship is just as important as landing a spot on the podium. Unlike today’s Formula 1 competition, the 70s era relied entirely on sleaze, slickness, style, technological advancements, and greed. It was an era in which Cigarette sponsorship and chauvinistic personalities were far more important than teamwork and determination. Its cultural impact rang true with people escaping their lives to watch celebrity sportsmen glide around a track at breakneck speeds of up to 300km/h. Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) potently relays these seminal themes. Known for jumping between genres and extraordinary stories, Howard’s directorial style achieves a sensory and psychological stranglehold over multiple demographics. From crime-thrillers (RansomThe Da Vinci Code),to Westerns (The Missing), and family-friendly adventure flicks (The Grinch), Howard’s film-making dexterity, attention to detail, and persistence continually shine through. Like with Cinderella Man, Howard is unafraid to present the realistic and fantastical elements of this inspirational story. He is brave enough to utilise advantageous sports movie tropes and an efficient docudrama structure. Like his other biopics, Rush highlights the lead characters’ historical importance by presenting a memorable and valuable part of their lives. Despite having not been interested in Formula 1 racing before, I was instantly swept up in Rush‘s subtleties and frenetic narrative. Thankfully, the energetic pacing establishes the thrills and visceral nature of Hunt and Lauda’s bitter rivalry.

The thrill of the race!

The greatest sports movies leave the most alienating aspects of each sport on the sidelines. They swing for the fences to highlight the symbolic intricacies and emotional moments. Like Moneyball and Warrior, Rush focuses on the intense physical, mental, and spiritual training these athletes undertake. The movie’s tension-inducing spectacle, of cars circling round tracks and livelihoods spiralling out of control, delivers a rush in itself. Before it reaches the checkered flag, the movie depicts a sensitive yet dense examination of manliness, egotism, and humility. The lead characters embark upon parallel journeys that strengthen the narrative. Throughout the snarky battle of brains, braun, wits and raw talent, Howard leaves no stone unturned. This invigorating drama lives by the phrase uttered pensively by Lauda: ”A wise man learns more from his enemies than a fool from his friends”. It captures the soaring highs and crushing lows of these characters’ existences. Pushing themselves tirelessly to achieve perfection, their breaking points are expressed in startlingly different ways – Hunt’s through pleasure and Lauda’s through searing pain. Like with Frost/Nixon, Howard crafts a metaphorical boxing match, on and off the track, between two understated professionals. Howard creates a detailed timeline of applaudable life achievements, from the gleeful Formula 3 race to the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix, and gently hits the breaks during the tender moments. It’s a tale of sportsmen driven by obsession, manipulation, oneupsmanship, and envy. These men would rather complain to the authorities about petty insults and slight miscalculations than accept defeat. Despite this, these unlikable yet lauded figures transition into empathetic individuals. With explosive arguments spiced up by punchy, profound dialogue, Peter Morgan’s impeccable screenplay is whistled through commendable accents and mannerisms.

“A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” (Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl), Rush).

Olivia Wilde.

Rush‘s pulpy visual style, thanks to Howard’s succinct direction and Anthony Dodd Mantle’s kinetic cinematography, punches it into overdrive. Their attention to detail and engaging visual styles capture the era’s bold aesthetic. Mantle’s monumental camerawork tingles the senses and lends this obscure story a bubbly personality. Howard gleefully toys with historical events. Eye-catching montages emphasise the distinct intricacies of the characters’ lives and ostentatious Formula 1 season. Rush gleefully displays every bright, enthralling facet of this valuable and chauvinistic era. Archival footage is spliced seamlessly into certain sequences to emphasise the story’s importance. Howard relentlessly splatters the screen with a vibrant and eye-catching re-creation of the sexy 70s. The immaculate costumes, set designs, practical effects and CGI vistas fuel the movie’s verisimilitude. If that wasn’t enough, Howard’s auteur touch even makes sure the wacky hairstyles, bloated egos/personas, and roaring crowds all put in 110%. The ladies may turn out for Hemsworth’s staggering physique (on display throughout), but everyone will enjoy the kinetic and meticulous race sequences. These tension-inducing set-pieces move blindingly fast and illustrate why 25 drivers risk their lives to compete each year. Mantle puts the pedal to the metal in these sequences, emphasising each joyous and disastrous moment with immersive tracking shots and first-person photography. Crashes and tailspins cap off each race with flawless technical precision, depicting the competition’s baffling cruelty. This is edge-of-your seat entertainment, hitting the audience with car crash-like force. Flashy title cards, freeze frames, and Hans Zimmer’s thundering score rev-up each race and illuminate Rush‘s sweeping scope. The movie accurately presents the cars, pit crew gear and tracks from this memorable era. Shots showcasing oil hurriedly pouring into engines, flames bursting out of exhausts, and intense rumbles continually build to captivating climaxes.

Man and machine!

Despite it’s glorious positives, Rush pulls some awkward skids along the way. Howard’s heavy handed messages are needlessly explained. Philosophical moments, clunky speeches, and metaphors dent this otherwise enjoyable experience. As with most docudramas, the celebrity characters attract large audiences. Formula 1 nuts, in particular, will be pleased to see Hunt and Lauda being treated with respect. Rush‘s objective insight focuses on the well-known wheelings and dealings of Formula 1. Lauda is a fascinating and frustrating character. Ordering a pit crew to stay over night to fix his car, Lauda is a man who, for better or worse, always has his mind on the job. Believing that Formula 1 is, by far, the greatest thing on Earth, this socially awkward character embraces his persistence and rat-like persona. Insults fly left and right when he meticulously inspects other drivers’, managers’ and mechanics’ efforts. Bruhl delivers a captivating and intense performance as, arguably, Formula 1’s greatest machine. His romantic sub-plot develops this multi-dimensional character. On the other hand, Hunt is a god-like enigma and confused, childish celebrity who continually pushes himself to the limit. A spoiled brat fascinated by life’s most pleasurable facets, victory, money, women, drugs, and alcohol may push him to the edge. Hemsworth delivers a dynamic and touching performance as this alluring yet tragic figure, capturing Hunt’s sense of humour and boyish charm. Rush‘s most powerful moments involve conflicts between opposing individuals e.g. Hunt’s violent run-in with an obnoxious journalist. Unfortunately, the sub-plot between Hunt and Miller lacks lasting impact and is only touched upon in three potent scenes.

Faster than a Ferrari, smoother than an Aston Martin, and grander than a Rolls-Royce, Rush is a modern action-drama without the excess, bloat or predictability. With its immaculate attention to detail, kinetic visuals, and powerhouse performances, the movie ultimately suggests that nothing is more exhilarating than the speed of life.

Verdict: A tense, thought-provoking, and emotionally resonant sports-drama.

Red Dawn Review – Hemsworth’s Hindrance


Director: Dan Bradley

Writers: Carl Ellsworth, Jeremy Passmore 

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki


Release date: September 27th, 2012

Distributor: FilmDistrict

Country: USA

Running time: 93 minutes


 

1½/5

Best part: Chris Hemsworth.

Worst part: Cinema’s worst product placement.

Following the end of the Cold War, many Americans became enthralled by the exploitative yet paranoia inducing thrills of the 1984 cult classic Red Dawn. Many kids dreamed of one day facing a global threat with their buddies in their very own backyard. This imaginative idea has been brought to life yet again, in the form of a fresh faced remake quickly forced into hibernation by distribution company Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Red Dawn however doesn’t even belong on anyone’s list of guilty pleasures, sadly becoming yet another typical and unnecessary  Hollywood remake.

Chris Hemsworth.

After a six year tour of duty in Iraq, Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth) is an all around nice guy returning to his home in Spokane, Washington. He quickly attracts the attention of the locals, his feisty brother Matt (Josh Peck), his father Tom (Brett Cullen) and attractive childhood friend Toni (Adrianne Palicki). Barely can he settle back into his father’s couch when the threat of war comes back to haunt him, this time in the form of invading North Korean/Russian forces. Attaining a rag-tag group of high-schoolers of all divisions, the Eckerts must soon find a way out of their new situation with the help of Jed’s military training. Having lost their homes, lives and loved ones, the young renegade force known as the ‘Wolverines’ must stop this ominous foreign threat from spreading across the United States of America.

Isabel Lucas & Adrianne Palicki.

This jingoistic and forgettable remake of the hauntingly relevant original falters despite its somewhat promising start. Following a harrowing montage of news footage linking the 2008 Global Financial Crisis to the onset of nuclear war, Red Dawn’s fantastical account of an invasion of US democracy stretches any sense of credibility beyond a simplistic Call of Duty-like scenario. What made the original such a patriotic yet vital action flick was the link to Cold War paranoia surrounding its initial release. Upon this realisation, creating a North Korean (formerly Chinese) enemy worthy of the Soviet Union stretches plausibility. What is left is just a forgettable action flick bordering on xenophobia. This remake was finished in 2008, put on hold after MGM was hit by the recession. It’s easy to see why it was left to a release date four years later, becoming a film without a sense of place in our current political climate. The North Korean threat is a largely over-the-top band of thugs, little more than target practice for the Wolverines.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

Director Dan Bradley has worked as stunt coordinator and/or second unit director on big budget action films such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Swordfish and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. His penchant for expansive action set-pieces pays off in the film’s many shoot-outs and chases, yet fails to create a sense of either atmosphere or brutality for this dull narrative. Despite the tight pacing and high level of explosions, Bradley’s work on Paul Greengrass’ Bourne films has led to many tense scenes ruined by shaking cameras and quick cuts. This ultra-modern remake fails to learn from the original’s noticeable flaws. This contrived and silly story creates an emotionally manipulative yet undercooked survival tale of US citizens fighting oppression. The story is set to one training and battle montage after another, creating a breezy yet unrefined documentation of this peculiar invasion. Trying unrelentingly to achieve impact, Red Dawn‘s inappropriate score its only one step away from being as emotionally manipulative as the world’s biggest onion. The characters are awkwardly placed into certain types. High school and military politics are depicted as comparable in this film, conveniently comprising the jocks, rebels, nerds and hotties as the pecking order of this unit. Pretty predictable stuff here.

“Marines don’t die, they go to hell and regroup.” (Jed Eckert (Chris Hemsworth), Red Dawn).

Hemsworth, Josh Peck & Josh Hutcherson.

Hemsworth, Josh Peck & Josh Hutcherson.

Australia’s 2010 Red Dawn-like action flick Tomorrow, When the War Began is a far greater re-iteration this implausible situation. Any chance at developing character or resonance falls flat with every cheesy one liner and underwhelming speech, creating an inexplicably cloying experience to endure. This earnest retelling provides a humourless and bland romp, with comedic moments falling flat and ridiculous product placement achieving only unintentional laughs. Despite becoming little more than uninteresting enemies for the North Korean troops, the underused cast is full of recognisable faces. The original’s fun vibe was created partly through its charismatic young cast including Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey. The chemistry between the original cast is lost in the remake, as the new group fails to create a believable or likeable fighting force. Chris Hemsworth (achieving major success with Thor and The Avengers) is a charismatic screen presence as the hapless leader. Josh Peck however becomes a bumbling and irritating soldier playing by his own rules. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) is easily replaceable, as is the rest of this underwhelming group of small soldiers.

Despite Bradley and the cast’s enthusiasm, their Red Dawn remake has been through hell and back itself. Given the resources on offer, this action-adventure could have been something for new generations  to cling onto. Unfortunately, it has arrived several years too late.

Verdict: Yet another in the line of lacklustre remakes.