Tag Archives: four

Review: ‘Ghostbusters’ a feminist milestone

The easy, electric chemistry of the four leads in Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” acts like a firewall against the supernatural and the adolescent, alike, in this spirited reboot of the 1984 original.

Ghouls and anonymous Internet commentators — who flocked to their thumbs-down buttons ahead of the film’s release — share plenty of characteristics. Each is likely to drool and quickly disappear when you turn on the lights.

Feig’s “Ghostbusters” ain’t afraid of either.

Why should he be, anyway?

In his corner he has the best comic actor of the decade, Melissa McCarthy, the klutzy wit of Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live” standout Kate McKinnon and the big-screen breakthrough of Leslie Jones, the film’s secret weapon.

This “Ghostbusters” makes some winks to the uproar that preceded the gender-swapping film, but it mostly steers straight ahead, too busy being funny to worry much about misogynist detractors.

It does, however, pay a lot — too much — attention to placating “Ghostbusters” fans with the familiar showdowns and iconography of the original two films.

I was proudly raised on Bill Murray comedies, but the preciousness many have over a “Ghostbusters” remake is nevertheless mystifying. This isn’t “Stripes” we’re talking about here. It’s not even “Meatballs.” Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” —equal parts spectacle and deadpan, inspired by “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” — was good, all right, but it wasn’t some sanctified ground never to be trod on again. It already spawned a mediocre sequel, after all.

Here, the iconic ambulance has been traded for a borrowed hearse and cameos from original stars (excepting Harold Ramis, who died in 2014) have been awkwardly forced in. The team, once assembled, is astonished at the sky-high rent required for the original’s firehouse and instead relocates to a Chinatown office above a takeout joint. (The film’s New York overall is refreshingly authentic.)

After an early ghost sighting (featuring an excellent Zach Woods) and the familiar synths of Ray Parker Jr.’s theme, screenwriters Feig and Katie Dippold bring the foursome together.

Wiig is a physics professor trying to make tenure at Columbia but she’s disgraced by her latent belief in the paranormal. Her old friend, Abby (McCarthy, reliably solid if somewhat restrained), has stayed on the case, though, with her eccentric gizmo-making sidekick, Jillian (McKinnon). The bug-eyed, fizzy-haired McKinnon is like a blow torch of steampunk fire to the movie.

Jones, who plays a subway worker, might have been expected to be the broadest performer of the bunch, given the knockout punch of her “SNL” appearances, but her character is impressively grounded. She’s the best of the quartet, though Feig doesn’t give her enough to do later in the film.

Murray, Ramis, et al excelled at finding laughs when nothing was happening, without seeming to be trying at all. Feig’s film never has that anything-can-happen feeling, and it suffers for it. I wish he had let his talented cast truly loose.

Big-budget special effects are the enemy of comedy: they suck the air out.

In a sense, this “Ghostbusters,” which swells to a bloated CGI finale in Times Square, has overpowered one Hollywood specter — sexism — only to be stifled by another: the all-powerful force of franchise-making.

Still, the freewheeling and funny solidarity of the four leads win out in the end, even if Feig shows more timidity than he did in “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” or “Spy.” Chris Hemsworth, playing a ditzy secretary, is one of the most clever stereotype reversals: He’s the office eye candy.

It feels a little like this “Ghostbusters” was a cultural test that we (not the movie) have already failed. Feig’s film may be a feminist milestone: a big ol’ popcorn movie taken over by women (something that should have happened long ago and engendered far less vitriol). But it’s also simply a breezy good time, one that just happens to culminate with four very funny ladies shooting a monster in the balls.

‘Four’ lacks authenticity

Four, the full-length feature film debut by writer/director Joshua Sanchez, is an adaptation of award-winning gay playwright Christopher Shinn’s first play. An intimate portrait of four characters’ lives intersecting on the fourth of July, the film features solid performances, but the film as a whole comes off as self-conscious.

The story begins with restless gay teen June (Emory Cohen) arranging online to hook up with a bisexual, African-American married man named Joe (Wendell Pierce). They meet near a payphone (remember those?) and drive off in Joe’s BMW convertible. June, an only son, is reserved and admits to not being out to his parents. Joe, who is outgoing and fatherly, appears to be genuinely interested in the boy, although his interest could be sexually motivated.

Across town, Joe’s obedient and responsible daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) is at home taking care of her sick mother. Abigayle believes Joe is out of town at a work-related conference. Abigayle and Dexter (E.J. Bonilla), an athletic classmate with bad grades and a police record, meet at a nearby basketball court.

Both couples end up having sex, but instead of making them more comfortable with each other, it has the opposite effect. Everything comes to a head in a diner parking lot, where Abigayle spies her father getting into his car with June in the passenger seat.

In Four, issues of race, class and sexuality collide with the characters’ desires for an authentic life. But Four itself feels inauthentic and stagey.

DVD bonus features include commentary by Sanchez and Cohen, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette.

4 detained for anti-gay attack in France

Four people have been detained on suspicion of carrying out an attack at a Lille gay bar, the Interior Ministry said this week, amid nationwide tensions over a bill that would legalize gay marriage.

Several other people were detained in Paris late Wednesday after a protest against gay marriage that ended with some demonstrators fighting police and damaging cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue.

Legalizing gay marriage was one of President Francois Hollande’s campaign promises, and polls show a majority of voters support the idea, as an increasing number of governments open marriage to same-sex couples.

But opposition to the bill has mounted throughout the French legislative process, largely from conservative groups from France’s conservative heartland. While the protests are largely peaceful, violence has occasionally erupted on the sidelines.

At the same time, gay rights groups say they are seeing an increasing number of anti-gay attacks in recent weeks and months.

Hollande urged calm, expressing concern about “homophobic acts, violent acts” related to the gay marriage bill while insisting he respects “the right to protest.”

Interior Minister Manuel Valls took a sterner tone, saying in a statement that he “condemns, with the greatest firmness, the homophobic aggression perpetrated last night in a bar” in Lille. He said the four suspects “clearly belonged to the extreme right movement” and are accused of intentionally targeting gay customers in the bar, punching the bar manager and causing material damage.

In a first reading, both houses of the French parliament have approved the bill that would legalize gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.