Was Sony Brave When it Made its 2016 Ghostbusters Reboot?

Director Jason Reitman found himself in some hot water recently (with who, I wonder?) when he said on a podcast his new Ghostbusters sequel will “hand the movie back to the fans.” I, for one, read this and thought, yes, thank you! As a huge fan of the original 1984 Ghostbusters, I’m excited to see the son of its original director continuing the franchise.

But after facing criticism for his comments (again, from who?), Reitman backtracked in the most cringe-inducing way by groveling on Twitter and making this ridiculous statement:

“Wo, that came out wrong! I have nothing but admiration for Paul and Leslie and Kate and Melissa and Kristen and the bravery with which they made Ghostbusters 2016. They expanded the universe and made an amazing movie!”

Jason Reitman, @JasonReitman, Feb 20, 2019

Um, what? Whether or not the 2016 Sony Ghostbusters film was amazing or not is a subjective opinion, but was it brave to make that film. Brave? How was it brave to take elements from an ’80s franchise and repackage them to make a quick buck? I don’t think Sony, Director Paul Feig, or its cast were anticipating the massive fan backlash. That happened after they already started making the movie.

When their gimmicky reboot came under fire for ignoring the original films and being generally terrible and unfunny, its apologists blamed “misogyny” and “toxic fandom.” And here, in this article on TheWeek’s website, the writer repeats this slander of the fans by saying Reitman “made it sound like the 2016 all-female reboot had taken the series away from devotees, or that the misogynistic trolls who were so violently opposed to it were the true fans.”

Yes, the only reason anyone could possibly have for thinking Ghostbusters 2016 was a piece of hot garbage was “misogyny”. Not because it was unfunny, gross, over-saturated, didn’t respect the previous two films, or maybe even that the viewer didn’t like its style of improvised comedy. The only reason you didn’t like their film is because you’re a terrible human being. How dare you.

I wonder why Jason Reitman felt the need to grovel and pay lip service to these charming defenders of the 2016 film. He wants to make a movie that will pay homage to the originals, that fans of the original films will love (hopefully). There’s nothing wrong with that, and he certainly has nothing to apologize for.


The ‘Burbs Turns 30

This quintessential Suburban Gothic tale lampooned middle class fears in the 1980s, but remains refreshingly relevant.

Yesterday, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, The ‘Burbs, turned 30. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, ultimately raking in over $36 million. Though panned by clueless critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise, The ‘Burbs has since become something of a cult classic.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche. It stars Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Rick Ducommun as three friends who suspect an eccentric and reclusive family is up to no good in their neighborhood. Carrie Fisher and Corey Feldman also play prominent roles.

The ‘Burbs was written by Dana Olsen and directed by Joe Dante. Olsen, who is usually known for sillier comedies like George of the Jungle (1997) and Inspector Gadget (1999), was inspired to write the script after hearing about gruesome crimes in his own hometown. Joe Dante directed Gremlins (1984), Gremlins 2 (1990), and the TV series Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992), Witches of East End (2013-2014), and Salem (2015-2016). Eerie, Indiana was also about the strange and unusual underbelly of a quaint, unassuming town.

Welcome to Mayfield Place

Ray and Carol Peterson (Hanks and Fisher) live in a picturesque home on Mayfield Place, a cul-de-sac in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. Dr. Werner Klopek (Henry Gibson), his son, Hans (Courtney Gains), and his brother, Reuben (Brother Theodore), quietly moved into the old Victorian home, which used to be owned by Mr. and Mrs. Knapp.

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Five Things You Didn’t Notice in The ‘Burbs

From obscure film references to subliminal messages, this ’80s dark comedy has it all.

The ‘Burbs, my favorite comedy horror film from the 1980s, turns 30 today. It premiered in theaters on February 17, 1989 and grossed $11 million in its opening weekend, though it was panned by critics who couldn’t see past its campy premise. While on the surface a lighthearted satire of ’80s horror, The ‘Burbs delved deep into the American psyche.

This film had a profound effect on me as a kid, and every time I watch it I discover something new. Have you spotted these subtle hints and references?

Breakfast at the Peterson’s

Ray and Carol Peterson (Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher) live in a quaint home on Mayfield Place in suburban Hinkley Hills with their son, Dave (Cory Danziger) and their dog, Vince. The Petersons live next door to a dilapidated house owned by a reclusive family named the Klopeks. When Ray looks out the kitchen window to comment on the Klopek’s barren yard, you can see a box of Gremlins Cereal sitting on the counter. Joe Dante, director of The ‘Burbs, also directed Gremlins (1984).

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Cast of Ghostbusters Reboot Unironically Upset at New Ghostbusters Film

No, this isn’t an Onion headline.

As news broke that Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original Ghostbusters (1984), is moving forward with a continuation of that film franchise, grumbling erupted from supporters of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. Jason Reitman, you see, plans to continue the story from where Ghostbusters 2 (1989) left off, you know, as fans of the original films have always wanted.

As a kid, I loved the original Ghostbusters, and in my mind, it came as close to a perfect comedy as you can get. When the 2016 gimmicky reboot, which was a gender-swap of the franchise starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and directed by Paul Feig, came under fire for ignoring the original films and being generally terrible and unfunny, its apologists blamed “misogyny” and “toxic fandom.”

It annoys me that I have to say this, but I don’t have a problem with female-led films or with sequels and reboots highlighting diverse stories and characters. I’m also a fan of the Rocky franchise, and I thought Creed (2015) was a solid film in its own right and a good addition to the franchise. It went a different direction while still holding true to all the things that made Rocky great.

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The Death of Stalin

You’d be wrong if you thought there was nothing funny about a regime responsible for the deaths of 6 to 9 million people.

Events surrounding the 1953 death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin are recounted in The Death of Stalin (2017), a dark and irreverent dramedy written and directed by Armando Iannucci, et al. A talented cast perfectly captures the chaotic and absurd at this pivotal moment in Russian history.

Joseph Stalin, born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, was a principal figure in the rise of communism in Russia and served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1952. He led the Soviet Union through World War 2, oversaw massive industrialization and collectivization programs, and instituted state terror to maintain control. After his death, his successors undertook reforms and denounced his crimes.

The Death of Stalin depicts events from the night of Stalin’s (Adrian McLoughlin) cerebral hemorrhage to Nikita Khrushchev’s (Steve Buscemi) coup and the execution of NKVD (Soviet secret police) chief Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale). It portrays how paranoid and aware of their precarious position members of Stalin’s inner circle were, and the struggle to find a leader among a group of frightened sycophants.

Lavrentiy Beria was a truly monstrous figure. As soon as Stalin fell ill, he moved to eliminate his enemies and position himself as Stalin’s successor, while currying favor with the public with a general amnesty for all prisoners. While the helpless and inept Georgy Malenkov (played brilliantly by Jeffrey Tambor) acted as Premier of the Soviet Union, his rivals fought behind the scenes to take control. They made a critical error by putting Nikita Khrushchev in charge of Stalin’s funeral, where he was able to organize a coup with WW2 Soviet military hero Marshal Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs).

The Death of Stalin effectively blends comedy, farce, and drama. In one memorable scene, the amnesty order arrives while secret police are executing a line of prisoners. The executioner stops abruptly just before shooting the next man. We see the look of confusion, relief, and disbelief on the prisoner’s face, and can only image how we would feel in that situation. Get that man an Oscar!

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BlacKkKlansman: An Ahistorical Dark Comedy

An African-American police detective in 1970s Colorado Springs fights for acceptance at work while infiltrating the local branch of the Ku Klux Klan with help from his Jewish partner. Will he win the affection of a Colorado College activist and foil the KKK’s violent schemes? Starring John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Laura Harrier, BlacKkKlansman (2018) was written and directed by Spike Lee, et al. While entertaining, it jettisons historical accuracy to score contemporary political points.

BlacKkKlansman was inspired by the book Black Klansman (2014) by Ron Stallworth. Stallworth was a police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department who in 1979 responded to an ad in the newspaper looking to start a local branch of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. With the help of a white officer posing as Stallworth at meetings, he successfully infiltrated the Klan for nine months. The Colorado Springs PD shut down the investigation after Stallworth was asked to lead the chapter, fearing word would get out that the police department had Klan affiliations.

Aside from a few incidents, like Stallworth speaking to David Duke (Grand Wizard of the KKKK) and having his picture taken with him, that’s where the comparison parts ways. It turns out “based on a true story” is really “inspired by true events.” The writers took many creative liberties to forward a cinematic narrative and spoon feed the audience an overtly political message.

Attacks on the film’s accuracy have come from many corners. Sorry to Bother You (2018) director Boots Riley criticized Spike Lee for allegedly ..er.. whitewashing Ron Stallworth, turning him into a hero and downplaying his infiltration of black student organizations. “It’s a made up story in which the false parts of it try to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racial oppression,” he argued.

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First Impressions of BlacKkKlansman

I finally went back to the theater (instant sticker shock, btw) to see the one movie I’ve been looking forward to for the past several months, BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee is always an interesting if not controversial filmmaker, and the story of a black detective infiltrating the KKK promised to be entertaining if nothing else. The fact it was based on a true story sealed the deal. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. Here are some of my initial thoughts, with a full review to follow next week.

  • After doing some research, it turns out “based on a true story” is really “inspired by true events.” Only the basic premise, and a few scenes, actually happened. The rest was made up.
  • This opens a can of worms for me, and not just from a historical perspective. If Spike Lee wanted to make a movie about racism, why fictionalize events from the 1970s, when there are so many other clear cut and dramatic examples of racism in U.S. history?
  • The dialog in BlacKkKlansman is so bad and anachronistic. It’s literally “I’m a racist character so I do nothing but talk about how much I love whiteness and hate minorities,” or “I’m a black activist so I do nothing but talk about black power, blaxploitation references, and how much I hate cops.”
  • The acting among the lead cast was decent. Topher Grace stole the show as race huckster David Duke.
  • What was Spike Lee’s message? Is it just to make parallels between racism in the 1970s and racism in the 2010s? Because he does that. A lot. He beats the audience over the head with it.
  • Or is he criticizing identity politics as a whole by making a side by side comparison of black power activists and white power activists? At one point a jump cut shows both groups shouting their respective slogans. This is contrasted with the main character’s chummy relationship with coworkers of different backgrounds.

That’s all for now. My review is mainly going to focus on the historical accuracy of the film and divining its message. Look for it on Monday!