Sunday, 31 July 2016


Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon
Writers: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Director: Paul Feig

So here it is, the movie which has already been accused of ruining childhoods and destroying a generation's memories of a timeless classic. Apparently this movie is currently causing the gradual breakdown of society and will ultimately trigger the Apocalypse so before we all burn in the fires of Hell I should probably get on with writing a review of this.

Dr. Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is trying to downplay her paranormal past in order to achieve tenure at Columbia University but that's difficult when her ex-colleague Abby Yates (McCarthy) is hawking the book they co-authored years ago. Heading over to Abby's workplace in order to advise her not to continue dredging up their ancient tome, Erin finds herself joining Abby and her new lab partner Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) on a trip to a supposedly haunted mansion. Will they discover the existence of ghosts and throw themselves into combatting the spectral menace? Nope, there are no ghosts and the film ends. Come on, of course there are ghosts. The hint's in the title.

As someone who loves (and I mean LOVES) the Ivan Reitman original then maybe I should invoke the spirit of a wronged fanboy and denounce this film as being the spawn of Satan but I can't quite see why a 2016 variation with an all-female Ghostbusters team should in any way tarnish my affection for Venkmann, Stantz, Spengler, Zeddemore et al. Hey, I thoroughly disliked the Point Break remake but it didn't even come close to shattering my fond memories of the Swayze/Reeves incarnation.

In fact, where was the vehement, unrelenting dislike for that remake? I must have missed that meeting. If I didn't know better I'd be tempted to think that the vitriol directed at Ghostbusters was because - shock horror - it's centred on four women who get to crack wise and kick ass and generally save the day without screaming and fainting and waiting for a bloke to turn up and sort it all out. Still, that surely isn't the case because people out there can't be such misogynistic dicks, right?

I also don't understand the argument that women can't be funny. If someone doesn't find a particular person funny, be that person male or female, that's fair enough but to say that all women aren't funny? Really? Well, I laughed at all four distinctly non-male ghoul chasers in this movie and although Wiig and McCarthy have their fair share of amusing lines their characters provide the bedrock upon which the movie is built, generously allowing Jones and McKinnon to grab the biggest laughs in the piece.

Jones' sassy, no-nonsense ex-subway worker is a fine everywoman counterpoint to the scientific babble being spouted by her more science-based colleagues, chiefly McKinnon as nuclear physics expert Holtzmann who is surely one of the greatest nerd creations in the history of cinema. Arguably there's a hint of Egon Spengler about her but Holtzmann is a fully-rounded character, smart without being smart-arsed, quirky without being annoying, kicking serious phantom butt with an ever-more snazzy array of weaponry. McKinnon is, simply put, adorable.

For anyone who thinks any movie which passes the Bechdel Test is destined to be a worthy, joyless plod, firstly: are you kidding me? Secondly, rest easy. The new Ghostbusters boasts plenty of laughs, a few well-timed chills (yeah, they're multiplex-friendly chills but chills nonetheless) and several entertaining action set-pieces. The supporting cast adds to the general air of fun, so you get performers such as Andy Garcia as a Mayor who doesn't take at all kindly to comparisons with his counterpart from a certain 70s movie and Chris Hemsworth as Kevin, the team's hunky but unrelentingly dim secretary.

Then there are the cameos from....actually, I won't say who appears, that would spoil some of the fun. All I will say is that they're sprinkled throughout the movie, including midway through the end credits so don't get up as soon as the end titles start to roll. Arguably there may be slightly too many nods to the original but some of them aren't immediately obvious and there's not so many of them that they get in the way of the updated story.

Speaking of Hemsworth, his character doesn't spend the movie being fought over by the Ghostbusters to see who can date him first. It's clear that Erin takes a shine to Kevin from the get-go but this doesn't form the romantic subplot you'd find in countless other movies because there are other concerns to deal with, such as preventing the Fourth Cataclysm from occurring. Trust me, the Fourth Cataclysm is not good. If it happens, any notion of romance you may have previously had is pretty much null and void.

You may have already taken against this movie because you loved the source material so much, you may have taken against this movie because you're just a big sexist dork. I can't force you into a cinema to watch this and I wouldn't want to. If you want to spend the rest of your life being a whiny, entitled arsehole that's your business entirely. That's kind of a shame because if you approached this film with a clear head then you might just find Ghostbusters a warm, funny, charming experience.

After all of this, if you're still dead set against a bunch of ladies who ain't afraid of no ghost (I know it's a double negative, take it up with Ray Parker Jr. if you have a problem with that), allow me to enrage you further by revealing that the post-credits sequence not only sets up a sequel but sets up one that will probably take the world's biggest dump over the blissful reverie of your youth even more. Who you gonna call about that one?

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Starring: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha
Writer: Jennifer Saunders
Director: Mandie Fletcher

Edina (Saunders) and Patsy (Lumley) are still living the high life in London, despite Edina's dwindling PR client list. Spurred on by an opportunity to represent Kate Moss, Edina pursues the supermodel at an exclusive launch party only for things to go catastrophically wrong, resulting in Kate Moss going missing in the Thames and Edina and Patsy going missing to the French Riviera in an attempt to escape the growing chaos back home...

In the run-up to seeing this I heard people say they loved this and I also heard people say they hated it. Well, I'm going to say that I neither loved nor hated it. Some of this movie works very well and some of it doesn't work at all, which makes for a slightly frustrating experience. I laughed, don't get me wrong, just not as much as I was expecting to.

As you'd expect, Saunders and Lumley have their characters down pat and the interaction between them is terrific. Lumley, as ever, is nothing short of brilliant as the almost permanently sozzled Patsy and she's given plenty of moments to shine, my personal favourite being her chat with a bemused/terrified Jon Hamm.

For fans of the series, it's also a chance to check back in with some beloved characters from the series, notably Jane Horrocks' Bubble, still on another planet, and Julia Sawalha as Edina's put-upon daughter Saffy, still tutting on the sidelines and trying to do the right thing. Saffy has a daughter of her own and this will cause its own set of issues.

One of the problems here is that, Bubble and Saffy (and perhaps Kathy Burke as brutal fashionista Magda) aside, the movie tries to crowbar in so many of the original cast that they're invariably given little more than a glorified walk-on part. Christopher Ryan, Mo Gaffney, Helen Lederer and Harriet Thorpe disappear as quickly as they show up.

Outside of this, it's stuffed to the gills with cameos from models, actors, singers, comedians, news reporters and general celebrities including Lara Stone, Jerry Hall, Poppy Delevigne, Alexa Chung, Lily Cole, Gwendoline Christie, Rebel Wilson (great as a cabin crew member on a budget airline), Emma Bunton, Graham Norton, Kirsty Wark, Sophie Raworth, Sadie Frost, Stella McCartney....and that's just a subset. Was it a competition to cram in as many famous UK people as possible?

And if there are too many celebrity cameos to take, there are way too many supporting characters given sub-plots which a 91-minute movie can't hope to sustain: Robert Webb as a policeman (and boyfriend of Saffy) who's investigating the disappearance of Kate Moss and trying to track down Edina and Patsy after they've gone on the lam; Mark Gatiss as a potential publisher of Edina's memoirs; Celia Imrie as a rival PR guru; Lulu as a vengeful client of Edina's; Barry Humphries as an old flame of Patsy's; June Whitfield as Edina's mum, who's gone to Cannes in order to activate a plot device; a chance meeting with the world's richest woman; Jean-Paul Gaultier wandering the beach with his metal detector...

Actually, Jean-Paul Gaultier's pretty funny but you see what I mean in terms of what's going on here. And yet, most of the plot threads are hurriedly resolved (or, in Imrie's case, jettisoned completely) in a rush to get to the end credits without building to anything resembling a proper climax. In one line of dialogue, that's it. It's over. Quick jump to what happened next. Roll the titles.

Having said that all of this, there are a number of inspired moments and a handful of majorly chucklesome lines but, given the pedigree and general hilarity of the TV series which spawned this cinematic spin-off, it's a bit of a shame that Edina and Patsy haven't quite been given the send-off they deserve. Some sequences are great, some fall bafflingly flat, some seem to belong in another movie. The uninitiated (is there anyone out there going to see this who has never seen the TV show?) may very well wonder what the fuss is about, more forgiving fans of Edina and Patsy might think this is, indeed, absolutely fabulous. What did I think? Not terrible but not much of a reason to break out the Bolly, sweetie darling.