Ghostbusters: Afterlife – A Movie Review

I’ve always been a lifelong Ghostbusters fan. I loved the movies, had the toys, watched the cartoon, and even tried to make my own proton pack out of cardboard boxes back in the day. I constantly wanted more of Peter, Egon, Ray, Winston, and the rest of the gang up on the silver screen, but it never seemed destined to happen. Heck, I even supported the Ghostbusters reboot with Kristen Wiig (and still do)!

So when I saw the photo of the Ecto-1 covered in a tarp while in an old barn, I got very excited, but also a little confused. What exactly was going on there? Was this Wiig’s Ghostbusters? Was this another reboot? Was it the old gang getting back together? How is that possible due to the unfortunate passing of Harold Ramis in 2014?

Without spoiling anything, Ghostbusters: Afterlife disregards Wiig’s Ghostbusters and essentially functions as Ghostbusters III. It fully acknowledges the 80s Ghostbusters and, in a very real way, continues that storyline.

The plot centers around a grown woman whose father passed away in Oklahoma. She is down on her luck, broke, and completely estranged from her dad. She gathers up her 12 and 15 year old kids and heads to Oklahoma in the hopes of gaining some kind of inheritance. All she gets is an old, creepy house, a dirt farm, a dilatated barn, and–for some reason–Ecto-1.

The two kids, played by Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard, actually carve out their own little niche in the small town as their mom, played by Carrie Coon, becomes involved with a local teacher played by Paul Rudd. The first half of the movie focusses on the kids’ slowly discovering who their grandfather actually was as they tinker with his gear and experience strange abnormalities. Before long, as you would expect, ghosts start popping up. The last half of the movie is full-on fun, surprisingly sentimental, and overflowing with just the right amount of nostalgic fan service. I mean that as a real compliment–no snark here.

If you loved the 80s Ghostbusters movies, you’ll love Ghostbusters: Afterlife. The music is similar, the effects are similar, even the story is honestly pretty similar once you reach that last half. It’s no accident that Jason Reitman wrote and directed Ghostbusters: Afterlife. His dad, Ivan Reitman, directed the original two. This is obviously a love letter to what came before and a proper goodbye to Harold Ramis.

Yet, even though the nostalgia is high, Ghostbusters: Afterlife also sets up a lot of future possibilities. I wouldn’t say it’s a coincidence that Finn Wolfhard is in this film. He’s one of the kids from Stranger Things as well as the two recent It movies. I think they plan to partly build the franchise around him. Mckenna Grace plays his sister, and she’s actually the star of the film. Her character, Phoebe, has the most in common with her grandpa and is a ton of fun to celebrate. Plus, her only friend named Podcast, played by Logan Kim, is an absolute joy. You’ll see what I mean.

Let’s not forget the two Hollywood heavyweights in the movie–Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon. It doesn’t get much better than these two. Reitman has a cast with ample chemistry and oodles of charisma. I’d be more than happy to keep watching them all together for years to come.

But … there’s even more to it than that. I won’t give anything away, but there are two distinct future storylines already at play, one for the old, and one for the new. I have no doubt they’ll eventually converge. Speaking of which, be sure to sit through ALL of the credits.

So, I could have saved you a lot of time by simply writing this one phrase: If you love Ghostbusters, you’ll love Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Mute – A Movie Review

mute movie poster

Mute is a sequel of sorts to Moon, which you may remember I enjoyed quite a bit. Ducan Jones wrote and directed both, so it makes sense that they exist in a shared reality.

I have to admit that I did not enjoy Mute nearly as much as Moon. Mute has a run-time of two hours and six minutes, and because it felt every bit of that, I found myself drifting away. The movie is very slow to start and features Alexander Skarsgård in the beginning, which also contributed to my disinterest. In Mute, he plays the protagonist, and a mute hero at that. Skarsgård is a fine actor, particularly when he plays a villain, but he just can’t carry a movie as the star in my opinion.

The plot features a man living in Berlin in the near future. He grew up disconnected from technology and suffered a terrible accident in his  youth, which led to his muteness. He’s now a bartender, and when his troubled girlfriend goes missing, he desperately tries to find her. As he searches, he becomes mired in all kinds of villainy.

Like I said, the first half of this movie is rather slow. However, when Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux begin to dominate the second half of the film, it really picks up. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the last thirty minutes. Rudd and Theroux play former military medics, men who seem decent enough, but as the movie progresses, their depravity becomes more and more apparent. I enjoyed the end so much because I’ve never seen Rudd play someone quite as edgy as “Cactus Bill.” He fully committed to his role, and he mesmerized me much like Sam Rockwell did in Moon. In fact, had Mute featured only Rudd and Theroux, it would have been far more captivating (though it obviously would have needed a different title).

That’s really the main issue I have with Mute–it’s almost two different movies in one. One movie features a silent man looking for his missing girlfriend, the other features two men who are very likable but also really quite awful. Eventually their worlds collide, but only because they must.

If you want to see Paul Rudd do something drastically different from his usual fare, I highly recommend Mute–his charisma is no less potent even as a morally ambiguous miscreant. However, if you’re just looking for something to stream on Netflix, I wouldn’t settle on Mute. Pick Moon, instead.

 

Ant-Man: A Movie Review

I’ve got to be honest, I think Ant-Man may have more heart than any other Marvel movie to date.  It touts itself as a heist movie, and it is, but this movie is mostly about fathers and daughters.  You’ve all seen the trailers by now – Scott Lang is recruited by Hank Pym to be the new Ant-Man.  Lang is a recently released master burglar, and he wants nothing more than to reconnect with his young daughter.  Hank Pym has a daughter, Hope, in her mid-thirties, who wants to don the Ant-Man suit, but Pym can’t bring himself to put her in harm’s way due to a tragedy in the past. With Hank’s secret Pym Particles about to be outed, both men must look deep within to save the world from chaos.

Ant-Man found a perfect balance of comedy and action.  I wouldn’t call it a comedy, yet I found myself chuckling, even laughing, throughout.  There is action galore, and the special effects are mesmerizing, especially when Ant-Man enters the world of miniature.  Yet, for me, the best parts of the movie arrived when Michael Douglas (Pym) finally revealed the fate of Evangeline Lilly’s (Hope) mother.  Also, every time Paul Rudd (Lang) interacted with this daughter, it just brought a smile to my face.  These well-acted, subtle, emotionally authentic moments don’t happen often in Marvel movies, and they were played perfectly.

Rudd is that kind of actor who can make any character likable, so I thought he was perfect for Scott Lang.  And Michael Douglas, man, I forgot what a great actor he is.  There’s no doubt that this would not have been the same movie without him.  He definitely brought a gravitas to Hank Pym that was very much needed.  Don’t get me wrong, he had some great one-liners as well!  Lilly also found the sweet spot of her dynamic with both Douglas and Rudd.  These three brought real emotional depth and fun to a movie that could have become all spectacle.  I won’t spoil anything, but I’m particularly excited to see where Lilly goes in the Marvel movie universe from here.

And Lang’s crew, led by Michael Pena, killed it.  Pena was an absolute riot.  He stole every scene he entered.  He’s been getting a lot of accolades for his acting in this movie, and he deserves all of it.

Truthfully, when I heard they were making Ant-Man, I cringed.  But then I heard Edgar Wright would direct, and I saw infinite possibilities.  But then Wright left, and I, like everyone else, figured Ant-Man would sink.  I’m here to tell you, director Peyton Reed took the existing script and nailed it.  This movie exceeded my expectations in every way.

Because of the fun, the father-daughter dynamics, the comedy, the special effects, the action, and the acting, I have to consider Ant-Man one of my favorite Marvel movies thus far.