JUMPSCARECUT: Ghostbusters: Answer The Call (2016)

Year: 2016
Directed by: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth

Written by Chris Gelderd

When unexplained sightings of ghosts start to come to light in New York City, former authors and scientists Erin Gilbert (Wiig) and Abby Yates (McCarthy) come together after being distant for many years to investigate the sightings.

With help from nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) and subway worker Patty (Jones), the quartet form a business that aim to research and prove the existence of ghosts whilst keeping people safe. They hire dim-witted receptionist Kevin (Hemsworth) and form the ‘Ghostbusters’, kitted out with Holtzmann’s equipment, a new car provided by Patty’s uncle and Erin and Abby’s knowledge of the paranormal.

They discover that a seemingly normal man, Rowan North (Casey), is behind the spooky goings-on as he uses devices to amplify paranormal activity in a wider plan to destroy Manhattan to satisfy his own deranged hatred of humanity. Only the Ghostbusters can stop him before it is too late, and also before they are deemed frauds by the Mayor (Garcia)…

Never has a remake of an 80s classic gained so much fear, scrutiny, and doubt than ‘Ghostbusters’. We’ve had ‘The Karate Kid’, ‘RoboCop’, ‘Conan The Barbarian’ and even ‘Annie’ but this is off the chart. It’s not surprising given the cultural significance of the family-friendly 1984 original populated with now iconic genre moments, characters and showcasing the talent of actors at the top of their game. Films like the original come along once in a generation, such as ‘Back To The Future’ and even ‘The Terminator’. They are a product that just should not be touched.

And this effort by Paul Feig shows why.

Firstly, to not like this film doesn’t make me racist, sexist or any other ‘–ist’ you can think of. If anything, I’m a Paul-Feig-Comedy-ist. Populated with actors with little acting experience bar work on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and those who are Paul Feig’s usual suspects, this feels like a film where Feig and crew have a goal to reach but can be silly and stupid along the way as long as they reach the end credits. It’s that untouchable bond between cast and crew that doesn’t always work in delivering something worthy to stand by its predecessor.

Melissa McCarthy, surprisingly, is probably least irritating out of the 4 leading ladies and she comes across as most humane of them all. Kristen Wiig continues her style of comedy where she narrates and makes overly unnecessary comments and quips about people or situations which gets old very quick. Kate McKinnon, whom I thought would be the best, turns out to be the worst with an annoying amount of over-played “wacky scientist” characterisation that comes across as nothing but childish. And Leslie Jones, while thankfully not as loud and in your face as the trailers made out, has her moments to shine but still plays a very uninspiring character. In fact, all characters are what you get initially on introductions; they don’t change, develop or progress from start to end. You have to take two acceptable characters to follow at the same time as following two irritating ones, which never makes for total satisfaction in viewing.

It’s actually Chris Hemsworth who comes off ok here, granted he’s playing a man who is dense to the point it’s too OTT at times, but I was chuckling along the lines of how absurd his character Kevin was and what his role was even relevant for except more silly gags, a point of lust for Erin and to use in the finale.

And the actors are fuelled by one thing I don’t sit well with – the comedy. Modern comedy, or that comedy that Paul Feig injected into work like ‘Bridesmaids’ or ‘Spy’, is evident here. The film sucker punches you in the opening spooky 5 minutes where you have some wit in the script and you think you’re on safe ground; we even have the classic opening theme in short bursts, but then the “crude humour” that gained the film’s certification hits you.

Jokes and gags about wee and poo and sex and parts of the female anatomy. That’s when my expectations crashed and burned. If that sort of thing amuses you, along with characters who throw in racial quips, shout and do silly gurning and pratfalls in what I consider amateurish, lazy comedy, then you’ll be ok. If you prefer more discreet comedy and humour coming from character chemistry, serious delivery and an time when being crude wasn’t needed, then you’ll struggle to find this amusing.

Production-wise, it’s decent enough. It delivers a few moments that make you jump but if you’ve seen the trailers, you know when to expect them, and it’s always moments when the music goes quiet and then the sound is cranked up with loud piercing scream and exclamation. It’s not exactly discreet, but it’s there. And we have a wealth of locations across Manhatten to explore and plenty of energy from the leads to carry us through the 2hr story. The Ghostbusters certainly kick ghostly ass with a variety of gadgets and gizmos to add more action and excitement to the demand for bigger and better action scenes.

Nods to the 1984 original come thick and fast, and it shows that even though this is a reboot of the franchise, it can’t help remake the original bar a few character replacements. It shows to me there is no confidence in rebooting a series to be more original and just serves as a silly love-letter to the original from shoe-horning in short but amusing cameos from nearly all the main cast, showing us the firehouse, revamping ECTO-1, introducing Slimer and his girlfriend (ugh), keeping the proton packs and traps, and pretty much doing the same story but tweaked. From the opening pre-titles to the large, white monster in the finale, it’s a checklist of “spot the homage” in a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be.

But where the film most is the CGI. All the ghosts look like something from a computer game or an episode of Scooby-Doo. Colourful, crisp and cartoonish. A few work, most not and there is very little realism to them if anything. At least the original had effective model work and make-up on actors to give us something that resembled a human or monster, rather than just a colourful CGI creature. And it’s over-used in the finale where again, Feig abuses what he can do with CGI and delivers a tension free, action-heavy battle in front of green-screen that goes for excess rather than simplicity. No model/actor-in-costume/camera manipulation here like the iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – we have a CGI Godzilla style creature destroying the CGI city like all modern blockbuster films have their villain doing now. Yawn.

If I’d have known the humour would be this crass and lazy, I’d have not watched it but I did, as many will, out of curiosity on how a classic film is re-imagined for a modern generation. With another final moment after the credits that once more shows a lack of originality in setting up a sequel, I left feeling disappointed. That’s all. I wanted to enjoy it, but it just wasn’t for me. Had I known there would be so much nostalgia over originality, I’d have just watched the original at home and seen it done properly.

I will say one thing, I think it’s clear that a quarter of the budget went to the designing the closing credits; very visually appealing right to the end I have to say. Good job!

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INTERVIEW: Paul Feig Talks A Simple Favour, Freaks and Geeks, Ghostbusters & The Box Office

Interviewed by Dave Curtis

Paul Feig is in the midst of a PR promo tour which will take him all over the world. At the start of his career, Paul wrote Freaks and Geeks which is now considered a cult classic but initially was considered a flop and quickly cancelled. Now the man who directed the hugely successful comedies Bridesmaids, Spy and the much talked about Ghostbusters remake is about to embark on a new challenge. A Simple Favour starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, which is based on the hugely popular novel by Darcey Bell, is his latest endeavour. Not one to shy away from a conversation, Paul chats to us about his new film and what its like working with Anna and Blake. He also talks about his experience working on Ghostbusters and what he enjoys about filmmaking.

The following has been transcribed from a telephone interview between Dave and Paul.


Hello Paul, How are you?

I’m good, how are you?

I’m good. Thank you very much for talking to us.

My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time.

It must be a long day. It was your premiere last night wasn’t it?

Yes it was (laughter). I’m still feeling the effects. It was quite a celebration, but very very fun.

I could only imagine, with your sense of style I imagine it being very good.

(Laughter)

So Paul, ”A Simple Favour’- its a slight change in direction for you in that it is a thriller. Are you a fan of the genre?

Oh yeah. They are probably my favourite thing to watch, I’ve always loved them. Technically I don’t watch a lot of comedy. Its the bit I work in so I really enjoy the heightened tension and just the kind of drama and everything about thrillers. I also really love the old Hitchcock thrillers which were really fun and I kind of think that kind of thing is missing from the thrillers today. I still love them, but I really like the fun old ones.

Yeah a good thriller is quite hard to come across nowadays.

Well you know Hitchcock wasn’t afraid to inject humour into the characters and add quirkiness into them in a way that would make them fun. It can still be a real thriller and still let people have a good time.

Is that what attracted you to the project, were you approached by the studio or were you actively searching for something different?

I really wanted to find a thriller. You look at all my movies, they are all comedies really. You know there is a wedding movie, a buddy cop comedy, a spy movie. So a thriller was something I always wanted to do, but it’s one of the those genres I didn’t really know how to write. I feel like I would have to write it from scratch. So it was one of those things when you say hopefully a project will come in, that does and the script got sent to us. My company, we have a deal with Fox and at the time Fox 2000 had bought the book and had Jessica Sharzer write a version of it. They sent it to us because basically we had a producing deal with them. They were like ‘We have this movie and we don’t know what it is because its a thriller but its also really crazy and its kind of funny but we don’t really know’. So they were like ‘Maybe you can figure it out’. I read it and I just loved it so much and I said this is the thriller I’ve been looking for. This is one I know I can make. I can make it funny and fun and its mainly because A) it has so many twists and turns which I loved and B) because of the character that Anna Kendrick plays because I thought I can just get comedy out of that character. First of all its exactly the kind of character that’s in all my movies. Which is the awkward person, undervalued and sort of underestimated who really hasn’t found their place in the world yet. By going through whatever situation the movie throws at them to become a better person because of it and so that was my in. Just a fact that there was this nerdy mum who none of the other parents like. Its very earnest, sweet and that’s what I loved about it. I always want to make my movies good natured, you know even if they are dark. I don’t like things that are ugly and have a very negative statement about the human race in general. If you look at my movies they aren’t mean spirited.

Did you know of the book beforehand or was it the script that caught your attention?

Yeah it was the script. I read that first and then I read the book after that, but it was really the script which I thought was really fun. What Jessica Sharzer did which was so amazing, was that she really took the best moments from the book and then kind of mixed them around in a way that made it much better for the screen.

She is a wonderful screenwriter. I watched ‘Nerve’ the other day and I thought that was a good film. A bit of a hidden gem.

Oh yeah, and what a great person. A great partner to have, somebody who is so wonderful and so open to trying anything.

The trailer states that this is from your darker side. Should we be worried from now on, is this going to be something that is going to carry on?

(laughter) Honestly every project is new for me and I just want to tell great stories and so all the films that get sent to me, that I respond to or what idea I have that I want to write. But my next movie is going to be more of a romcom, kind of very fun, emotional movie. But I would love to work in the thriller genre again. I want to work in every genre that I can. Howard Hawks is my favourite director and the fact he worked affectingly in so many different genres has always been a inspiration to me and I think that’s the way to go.

You come across as a fun guy and a fun director. Was it fun making ‘A Simple Favour’ because it must of been fun making ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Spy’, but was this as enjoyable?

Oh yeah really fun. Sometimes even more fun than doing straighter comedy because you are getting so much out of the script than you already have because its so tightly plotted that you don’t have a lot of room to really to play around in that way. What you get to do is relish all these extreme emotions and these quirky extreme characters and so there is something incredibly fun about that. It helps when you have actors that are game and Anna and Blake were just so game to play and have fun with it and then I’m able to do my favourite thing which is to surround them with great supporting characters who are funny and quirky and just be so additive to the proceedings.

Talking about Blake and Anna, just from the trailer they look like they share wonderful chemistry. Was it like that from day one or had they met before or had you had rehearsals?

No not really. They only really met at a few times at social events over the years, showbiz events. They didn’t really know each other at all and you know when you are hiring movie star you can’t really go ‘Hey come in and audition with [this] person and see if you have chemistry’. You hire them and hope it works. But they hit it off from day one. I mean the chemistry was there and the dynamic of those characters was just kind of played in to their natural dynamic and also how they got to know each other and all of that. The way Blake’s character drops into Stephanie’s life and you know it was like when you cast somebody in a movie and you are like ‘and here is your partner out of nowhere’.

Yeah I’ve watched a couple of interviews with them recently and they just seem to get on really well, so it’s really nice to watch a film when two leads are so good together and actually have a friendship.

Yeah its really, really nice. But I’ve found in my career that all the actors I’ve worked with tend to just get along because they are just really professional and they are team players. You know the best movie stars are team players and not out for themselves. They know they are only as good as the people they are working with. That’s what is so nice, they know and realise they need each other.

You seem to attract many fantastic actresses like Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Rose Byrne, Sandra Bullock, Leslie Jones and now Anna and Blake, what do you think attracts them to your projects in particular?

Well I think I have projects that have really good roles for women and the thing that I hate is people saying its strong female leads. No its not that, its just that they are good three dimensional roles and they can be strong and weak and vulnerable and they’re smart and they mess up. It allows whoever is going to play the role to just have a fully developed fun character and show off their comedic chops or just show off what a good actor they are. So you realise how bad things have been for actresses for so long. There weren’t enough roles that they could really sink their teeth into.

I totally agree with you. I think you have been spearheading the revival of good quality female comedies, starting with Bridesmaids, Girls Trip, Rough Night and most recently The Spy Who Dumped Me, which I felt was heavenly influenced by you. Kate McKinnon is just brilliant in that.

She is just so great. Thanks. The good thing now is that studios are letting people make movies about women and god forbid letting women behind the camera to direct them too. Its slowly course correcting and I mean its such a major course correction that they have to do. They’ve behind for a long time but at least its starting [to change].

Did you feel least pressure working on A Simple Favour compared to your other films?

You always feel pressure because of how much the movie costs. If it doesn’t do well there is still a mark against you because you may have made a bad decision or you are just creatively off. So I always definitely feel the pressure regardless, but it was nice not having to carry the pressure of an enormous budget because that help wins some fights and arguments you have with the studio. If you want something and they don’t want it you’re like ‘hey do you know much money I’m not making to do this, you know how much I’m sacrificing to do this!’ So yeah it really allows me to experiment a little more and do the things I wanted to do. That said the studio was so supportive of us because the movie ended up going to Lionsgate. It was going to be Fox 2000 and they at the last minute got nervous about it and decided not to do it. Lionsgate swept in and kept us on schedule and I will be eternally grateful. I’m really, really grateful to them for that.

Talking about the box office, is that something you look at. Do you worry about it or do you finish the film, finish post then go on holiday and try not to think about it. Because it seems some directors don’t seem to care, but do you worry about it?

All I worry about is the box office, its drives everything I do, every decision I make, every sleepless night. I’ve got different perspective of this than a lot of other people which is that I was in movie jail once. I started really good and fell apart really badly and then I was allowed to make movies again. That was a hard lesson like “unless you make me some money”, unless you get return of their investment you don’t get to do it again. So I’m sadly obsessed with it, but it does mean that I’m trying to make movies that I know are going to entertain the biggest amount of people. Well that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m not trying to shoot a little niche film I want, no matter how much my movies cost because I want everybody to see them, because I’m proud of them and want them to entertain.

Well I think you are doing a good job because all your projects make a good profit. For example Bridesmaids made a ridiculous amount of money from a moderate budget. So I don’t think you have to worry. (laughter)

Well thanks, the old saying is true, you’re only as good as your last picture. You never lose sight of that. You never rest on your laurels. Then they go and start giving you life time achievement awards and don’t let you work anymore.

(laughter) Well you don’t want one of those yet. Talking about your last picture Ghostbusters, which I really enjoyed, did the response from so called fanboys put you off for a while or did you brush it off?

Oh yeah it definitely bummed me out, it was a real assault which I wasn’t prepared for. Now I realise I made so many mistakes and how I dealt with all of that, because I just didn’t expect it. It really broad sided me because all my interactions on the internet before that were just absolutely lovely and just supportive. There was whole little group of people that liked what I did. So when I announced that project I just expected everyone was just going to be really happy (he laughs) and then there was daily stuff of awful awfulness. At the same time there were so many nice people. You just tend to focus and notice the bad stuff. It definitely threw me and definitely put me off but it didn’t stop my desire in doing stuff. It just made me think about ‘Ok what am I going to do next and what’s the next thing I want to say and what road do I want to go down to entertain people?’ Do I want to make another giant movie right away or do I want to make something? I don’t want to say smaller because that sounds less commercial, just something that’s not on the same scale, but hopefully something that is as entertaining or even more so.

You have a gift in casting male actors who are naturally funny but aren’t really known for their comedy chops like Jon Hamm, Jason Statham and Chris Hemsworth. Do you take credit for that? I truly believe if there was no Ghostbusters there would be no Thor: Ragnarok because Chris Hemsworth really shows his funny bones in it.

I mean I’ll own part of it, he is a funny guy. When I really got inspired, well it was a double thing that happened because we have the same agents so when it came to Ghostbusters my agent said ‘hey Chris Hemsworth said if you want him to do anything in your movie, he really wants to do a movie that his kids could enjoy’ so I was like ‘wow that would be awesome like to have Thor being their receptionist.’ Then I saw he hosted Saturday Night Live and I just thought he was really funny. What I look for, I don’t know if I look for people who are funny, I look to see if they have a sense of humour about themselves.

I’ve got to mention Freaks and Geeks, I think people would be disappointed if I didn’t. Your CV for TV is very impressive. You directed some episodes of The Office (US), Parks and Recreation, Arrested Development, and Freaks and Geeks. Do you still get offered to do more TV?

I love TV. TV is in such an amazing place right now. I wish TV would have been in this place when we did Freaks and Geeks, we might still be on the air. We were such a fish out the water at the time, just an hour long dramedy. It just wasn’t what people were looking for at that moment. But I love TV and what’s great about TV now is the fact that it is embracing the realization of story telling and so these series are big long movies. So I love that, but I never love anything more than the challenge of trying to tell a complete story in two hours. It’s the hardest thing to do but the most satisfying thing to do.


We’d like to say a huge thank you to Paul for taking the time to chat with Dave!

A Simple Favour is out now in the US and releases in UK cinemas 20th September!

Decade Definers: 1980s – Goonies, Gremlins and Ghostbusters: The Golden Age of the Family-Friendly Film

Written by Fiona Underhill

Full disclosure: I was born in 1980 and therefore obviously the 1980s WAS my childhood. So, I am biased when I say that the 1980s was a golden age for the family-friendly live-action film. However, I stand by it (and I’m about to show you the receipts). The 1980s were NOT a golden age for animation (which was reignited by Disney with ‘The Little Mermaid’ in 1989), but sci-fi and fantasy live-action films aimed at and featuring children, which the whole family could enjoy, were numerous and of a great quality. From epic fairytale fantasies, to aliens, robots and spaceships, to creatures on earth, to the dawn of the fear of computers and technology – there was something to bring everyone to their local smoke-filled flea pit. We didn’t get a VHS player until around 1992, so the only options were to watch a film if it happened to come up on one of the 4 TV channels (and walk to the TV to switch between those channels), or to go to our town’s one single-screen cinema. It is so bizarre now to think back on the cinema having smoking ‘sections’ (as if the smoke wouldn’t permeate the whole room) and that was how we watched films then – through a haze. The amount of choice on offer nowadays is preferable of course, but has it really improved the quality of what is on offer to children? I would argue that family films have never bettered their 1980s hey day. So, strap yourselves in for a journey back to the golden age…

Decade Defining Directors: Dante, Henson/Oz, Howard, Gilliam, Reiner & Reitman

Decade Defining Actors: Tom Hanks, Rick Moranis, Martin Short

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Master of Puppets: Fairytale-style Fantasies

Flash Gordon (Hodges, 1980)
Time Bandits (Gilliam, 1981)
The Dark Crystal (Henson & Oz, 1982)
The NeverEnding Story (Peterson, 1984)
Return to Oz (Murch, 1985)
Labyrinth (Henson, 1986)
The Princess Bride (Reiner, 1987)
Willow (Howard, 1988)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Gilliam, 1988)

This sub-genre was dominated by one man: Jim Henson. The man behind ‘The Muppets’ and ‘Sesame Street’ not only directed some stand-out films of the 80s, but had his hand (literally) in many more. The Jim Henson Company’s puppets and creatures were a defining feature of the decade and something that I have the hugest feelings of nostalgia and affection for. From NeverEnding Story’s Falkor the Luckdragon to Labyrinth’s Ludo and Hoggle; these characters were infused with such tender emotion by Henson and given fully realised character arcs and relationships with humans. It is extremely hard for me to choose, but if I had to pick just one ‘desert-island’ film of the 1980s, it would be ‘Labyrinth’. A tense and scary story, amazing creature design and David Bowie – what more could you ask for? But this sub-genre is ripe with absolute classics – ‘The Princess Bride’ is a hilarious twist on the classic fairytale with unforgettable characters such as Inigo Montoya, the giant Fezzik and Prince Humperdinck. ‘The NeverEnding Story’ shows a real-world boy, Bastian following the fantastical adventures of Atreyu and his trusty horse Artax as they battle to save the childlike Empress. ‘Return to Oz’ still haunts my nightmares with its ‘Hall of Heads’ and the terrifying wheelers. However, it has some delightfully affectionate creatures such as Tik-Tok, Billina, Jack Pumpkinhead and Gump. ‘Flash Gordon’ came from the same love of 1940s comics and serials that inspired both ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’. It is an epic that traverses space, involves good vs evil and Brian Blessed. I do not know what else to tell you.

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A Tribe Called Quest: Adventures Run Amok

Romancing the Stone (Zemeckis, 1984)
The Jewel of the Nile (Teague, 1985)
The Goonies (Donner, 1985)
Three Amigos! (Landis, 1986)
Twins (Reitman, 1988)

The quest, the journey, the mystery, the adventure – these are tropes as old as time and ones fully exploited during the 1980s. ‘The Goonies’ is a beloved classic and involves a gang of kids finding a pirate treasure map and going on an exciting quest. ‘Three Amigos’ features SNL alum Chevy Chase, Steve Martin and Martin Short as three actors who become embroiled in a real-life battle of life and death in Mexico. ‘Romancing’ and ‘Jewel’ aren’t really aimed at children, but are PG-rated and make good companion pieces to ‘Indiana Jones’. They have a similar storyline to ‘Three Amigos’, where those writing adventure stories become involved in an adventure of their own. ‘Twins’ is the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger discovering he has a twin brother; obviously played by Danny DeVito and their quest to discover more about their parents.

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Creature Features: Aliens, Robots, Monsters and Magic

ET: the Extra-Terrestrial (Spielberg, 1982)
Gremlins (Dante, 1984)
Gremlins 2 (Dante, 1990)
Starman (Carpenter, 1984)
The Karate Kid Trilogy (Avildson, 1984-1989)
Ghostbusters (Reitman, 1984)
Ghostbusters 2 (Reitman, 1989)
Teen Wolf (Daniel, 1985)
Teen Wolf Too (Leitch, 1987)
Little Shop of Horrors (Oz, 1986)
The Worst Witch (Young, 1986)
Short Circuit (Badham, 1986)
Short Circuit 2 (Johnson, 1988)
Batteries Not Included (Robbins, 1987)
Harry & The Hendersons (Dear, 1987)
Mannequin (Gottlieb, 1987)
Vice Versa (Gilbert, 1988)
Tremors (Underwood, 1990)

A rich history of aliens and robots visiting earth was mined with aplomb during the 80s; from the love-story (featuring a young and hot Jeff Bridges) ‘Starman’, to alien-robots in ‘Batteries Not Included’, to the classic ‘ET’ – this sub-genre offered plenty. The key was that the human story that surrounded these creatures was taken seriously and delivered with emotion, from the older people battling large corporations and dealing with Alzheimer’s in ‘Batteries’ to the single mother struggling with three kids in ‘ET’ (a story I could strongly identify with, as the Gertie of my single-parent family). Pretty much every creature you can think of got its own feature in the 80s; the mermaid in ‘Splash’ (which I’ll talk about later), werewolves in ‘Teen Wolf’ and ‘American Werewolf’, Big Foot in ‘Harry & the Hendersons’, ghosts in ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Beetlejuice’ and vampires in the not-quite family-friendly ‘Lost Boys’. More unusual creatures came in the form of giant underground worms in ‘Tremors’, the mysterious mogwai from the Far East in ‘Gremlins’ and the man-eating plant in 1950s-set musical ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. A home-grown robot came in the form of ‘Short Circuit’s’ Jonny 5 who befriended the beautiful Stephanie and if I were pushed, this is perhaps my favourite from this section. ‘Magic’ was introduced in a rare British entry to the 80s family film; ‘The Worst Witch’, via an ancient Egyptian inhabiting a department store mannequin and a mysterious Tibetan skull causing a father and son to swap bodies in ‘Vice Versa’. Whilst not featuring any magic, ‘The Karate Kid’ trilogy continued the fascination with cultures considered ‘exotic’ at the time and along with the cartoon ‘Hong Kong Phooey’, certainly increased interest and participation in the martial arts. It should be noted how many sequels feature in this sub-genre (perhaps demonstrating they are not a new phenomenon destroying film, as some would have you believe) and I’m going to do a shout-out here for unfairly maligned ‘Ghostbusters 2’.

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Fear of the Computer Age: Spaceships and Tech Going Awry 

War Games (Badham, 1983)
Explorers (Dante, 1985)
Flight of the Navigator (Kleiser, 1986)
Space Camp (Winer, 1986)
Innerspace (Dante, 1987)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Herek, 1989)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (Johnston, 1989)

Considering the 1980s signalled the dawn of affordable personal computers and games consoles (I can remember our Amstrad and Atari with fondness), cinema actually started addressing the perceived dangers of computer technology very early on. ‘War Games’ is an unbelievably prescient and ahead-of-its-time film about a teenage Matthew Broderick thinking he is playing a computer game but actually accidentally hacking into a super-computer which controls the US military arsenal and almost starting WWIII. ‘War Games’ also managed to utilise fear of the Cold War, which very much dominated the decade, with the Russians as the perpetual villains. Of course, these films reflected a real fear and caution about what was such a new technology at the time. ‘Explorers’, ‘Flight of the Navigator’ and ‘Space Camp’ all feature children accidentally setting off in alien spaceships or earth-made rockets and their ensuing adventures. All three feature young actors who went on to adult success; including Ethan Hawke (Explorers), Sarah Jessica Parker (FOTN) and Joaquin Phoenix (who went by the name Leaf in ‘Space Camp’). ‘Innerspace’ has (a very young and hot) Dennis Quaid as a pilot, who is taking part in miniaturization experiment, being accidentally injected into the body of Martin Short. Miniaturization is also the theme of ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’, which features that other most 80s of actors Rick Moranis. ‘Bill & Ted’s’ problem is less a spaceship and more time machine – which takes two very dumb surfer dude teens through history and ends up helping them ace the subject at school. In my humble opinion, 1991’s ‘Bogus Journey’ is even better.

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King of the 80s: Tom Hanks

Splash (Howard, 1984)
The Money Pit (Benjamin, 1986)
Dragnet (Mankiewicz, 1987)
Big (Marshall, 1988)
Turner & Hooch (Spottiswoode, 1989)
The Burbs (Dante, 1989)
Joe Versus the Volcano (Shanley, 1990)

Many of you will associate Hanks with his oscar-winning roles and Spielberg collaborations. I, however, will always think of the young, curly-haired actor who benevolently guided me through my childhood by starring in one stone-cold classic after another. Hanks began the 80s with the R-rated comedy Bachelor Party, but after that, he starred in the greatest run of family-friendly fare of any actor. Not to get too serious or maudlin on you, but my father died in a car accident in 1983 and I genuinely feel like Tom Hanks played a part in raising me. Starting with ‘Splash’, in which he falls in love with a mermaid and moving onto ‘Big’, in which the mysterious animatronic fortune-teller Zoltar causes Josh Baskin to become ‘big’ overnight – Hanks’ endearing everyman persona sold the emotion in these films. Hanks is also great at playing frustrated and thwarted by circumstance, in ‘Money Pit’, where a dilapidated house drives him crazy, in ‘Turner & Hooch’, where he plays an uptight cop teamed with a very messy and stinky mutt and in ‘The Burbs’, where he becomes obsessed with his neighbours who he believes are part of a satanic cult. Satanic cults were obviously dime-a-dozen during the 80s, because they also crop up in ‘Dragnet’, where he again plays a cop, this time partnered with Dan Akroyd instead of a large mastiff. Ritual sacrifices are ALSO a feature of ‘Joe Versus the Volcano’ (yes, I’m cheating by taking us to 1990, but there’s no way I was leaving this out). This is by far the best Hanks team-up with Meg Ryan and is, well, there is no other way of putting it, bat-shit crazy.

 

So; there you have it. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you grew up the 1980s as I did and are familiar with most of these films. You will have your personal favourites (please comment on social media with yours!) and will view the decade with similarly rose-tinted glasses to me. However, if you’re a ‘yoof’, I encourage you to dive into this decade and discover these gems for yourself. From epic fantasy fairytales, to science-fiction, creature features, adventurous quests and the ouevre of Tom Hanks – there really is something to appeal to everyone. That was the key to the 80s; films that were suitable for children, that could be enjoyed by the whole family.

My personal Top 12 (couldn’t squeeze it into 10) of 1980s family films:

12) Space Camp
11) Three Amigos!
10) The Princess Bride
9) The Worst Witch
8) batteries not included
7) The Goonies
6) Joe Versus the Volcano
5) Innerspace
4) NeverEnding Story
3) Short Circuit
2) Return to Oz
1) Labyrinth

We have more articles to share for our 80s Decade Definers, including why ‘Back to the Future’ was a game changer and a look at teenage-orientated films, so why not catch up on our previous posts before we share them with you:

The Indiana Jones Trilogy

The Birth of the Action Hero

 

Female-Led Remakes: Help Or Hindrance?

Written by Gillian Finklea

Just over a month ago now, on January 21, a large and international march led by and attended by so many amazing women inspired me in many ways. Women, and supporters of women’s rights, came out in droves to support many different things, but one universal message was clear – that women’s rights need to be respected and upheld, and that women’s voices need to be heard. And since movies are always at the back of my mind, I hoped this woman-positive energy would somehow transfer to the screen. Then I remembered ‘Ocean’s Eight’, and the distant talk of ‘The Expendabelles’. And now there’s plans for a ‘Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ remake, with Rebel Wilson. It’s tough to be supportive of female-led movies, when they are just retreads of popular movies that originally starred men.

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What Makes A Good Remake?

Written by Gillian Finklea

Like many movie purists, I used to despise the dreaded remake. As a believer in originality, I held out hope that we could do more than simply repeat the past. More than anything, it just seems like a waste to pay money to watch the exact same things that have already entertained me years before.

But now, I have learned to accept, and even enjoy movie remakes. Occasionally you get a delightful spin on a property you were never truly familiar with – such as ’21 Jump Street’ – or a modern twist on an old story like ‘You’ve Got Mail’. I’ve learned that remakes can be a welcome event or an unmitigated disaster, and now I’m able to look for signs as to how successful a remake is going to be.

21 JUMP STREET

Let’s use ’21 Jump Street’ as an example. The trailer for this movie was funny, light, and utilised two well-known actors. Compared to the trailer for the TV show, which takes itself very serious despite the outrageous plot, it seems like the two properties are barley related. The revitalised franchise doesn’t rely on similar plot lines or character relationships as foundations for the movie, instead it takes the general idea of undercover cops in high school and spins it out into a whole new world. We have one great cameo from the original television show, and then we don’t really think of it ever again. It is a remake that created its own universe and it’s certainly one worth exploring.

Psycho

Now let’s look at the opposite end of the remake spectrum — Gus Van Sant’s almost shot-for-shot remake of the classic Hitchcock masterpiece ‘Psycho’. For the first 20 seconds, the trailer makes it seem like you are going to get a movie from Norman Bates’ perspective which, while that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, would at least be an interesting take. But then the trailer starts showing very familiar and famous scenes – Marion in the shower and Arbogast running on the stairs. But what else are we to expect? This is a very specific movie with a very specific twist. We get excited to see those famous shots in the trailer because we briefly think that maybe this would be a chance to see more of the the psychological turmoil and expand the horror universe. However, when the movie came out it was literally the exact same as the film which came 40 years prior. The best parts were shown in the trailer and those parts were obviously better in the original.

junglebook

In order for a remake to work, it needs to be updated with its own sense of self and if possible, be better than the original. The trailer for the new ‘The Jungle Book’ movie appears to have its own ideas and themes, at least in the fact that it’s not animated and seems to take itself more serious than the Disney classic. It doesn’t completely rely on familiar songs and has an interesting enough cast that I think it may be a worthwhile remake.

ghostbusters2016

The new ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer however, has left me a little suspicious. Now, I have been a champion of the ‘Ghostbuster’ remake because I don’t think the original is some kind of Holy Grail never to be altered, and I trust Paul Feig with most things relating to comedy. However, that trailer was way too close to 1998 ‘Psycho’ territory. In the trailer there’s a ghost in the library, a funky car and even Slimer; all of which we’ve seen before. And while the actresses seem to have developed fun and interesting characters, the overall feeling is too similar to the original movie and that’s a problem. Remakes that don’t forge their own path are doomed to make viewers wonder why there needs to be a remake at all.

So when you see a trailer for a remake and get an instant rush of nostalgia, take a pause. If the trailer just conjures up reminders of the previous movie or lifts from scenes beat-by-beat, you are probably destined for a disappointing trip down memory lane.

First Trailer For Female Ghostbusters Movie

The iconic Ghostbusters return this summer, which surely has everyone happy, right? Not quite. For some reason, this reboot has really got some people angry, but not us. Four funny ladies taking over the mantle of spiritual exterminators shouldn’t make anyone angry; it’s not like they’re replacing the originals. 

We think this trailer is really fun, and with plenty of references to the ‘Ghostbusters’ heritage, it looks like director Paul Feig and his band of merry women are respecting the past whilst bringing the franchise into a modern world. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are proven Hollywood hits, and Saturday Night Live favourites Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are pretty great too, so we have faith that this will be a good movie.

If you’re not a fan of this trailer, or indeed the whole reboot idea, please tell us why? And if you are a fan, and you are looking forward to seeing the female ‘Ghostbusters’ in action, show your support on Twitter and we’ll be sure to share the love.

Ghostbusters is set to hit UK cinemas 15th July 2016 

 

Watch This Space: October 26 – November 1

Welcome to your weekly go-to film guide – WatchThisSpace – where we recommend what to watch in the cinema and on the television, and remind you of those brilliant films hiding in your DVD collection. This week, it’s all about spooks and scares, as we celebrate Hallowe’en!

IN THE CINEMA

It’s seemed like an eternity since the cinematic release date for ‘Spectre’ was announced, but the time is finally here! James Bond’s return to the big screen promises to be fantastic. Cast and crew have all claimed that this is the most ambitious Bond film of all time, in terms of scale and stunts. This may also be the final time that Daniel Craig will be starring as Britain’s best suave, super-spy, so we’re hoping this will be a fitting end to arguably the best Bond era there has ever been.

ON THE TV

Seeing as though it’s Hallowe’en this week (and given the fact that this is an awful week for films on television), we’ve decided to give you a run down of the best spooky films on offer on the 31st.

16:55 GMT: They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re altogether ooky. The Addams Family! At least that’s all I needed to get in the mood to watch this one! Watch the playful, family friendly, ‘The Addams Family’ on Film4 this afternoon.

18:00 GMT: Simply a classic in the genre of all things ghoulish, ‘Ghostbusters’ is a must watch this Hallowe’en on Comedy Central. It will make for some pleasant family afternoon viewing before the really scary stuff starts later on at night. So make the most of it whilst you can!

21:00 GMT: One of many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s famous fictional vampire, but 1992’s ‘Dracula’ is regarded by many as one of the best. Starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola, this star studded adaptation hits all the right notes for a spooky night in. Tune in to Film4 for this classic horror/romance.

22:00 GMT: Undoubtedly one of the “big three”, ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ is more than a match for the ‘Halloween’ and ‘Friday the 13th’ franchises, in definitively classic Halloween Horror movies, with plenty of sequels out of which to make a malicious movie marathon. Don’t miss Freddy Kruger at his filthiest on Dave and make sure to tuck in the covers extra tight! A near-perfect Halloween weekend picture.

22:25 GMT: Drew Goddard’s ‘The Cabin In The Woods’ is a film which has really divided audiences down the years. Some praise the originality, whilst others call it completely ridiculous and nonsensical. It’s a film that certainly ticks the boxes in terms of scares, gore and monsters but the plot is pretty far fetched. If you can open up your imagination and get involved in the narrative, head to Channel 5 tonight and get behind the sofa!

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Creep: Not the Radiohead documentary we’ve all been craving. Instead, a delightfully dark, found-footage thriller, starring the terrific two man duet of Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice. When a videographer answers a Craigslist ad for a one-day shoot in a remote mountain town, he finds his client is not at all what he initially seems. A tremendously unnerving indie picture, that debuted out of 2014’s SXSW Film Festival, ‘Creep’ is a must-watch for anybody who likes Duplass’ work, and is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!

Phantom Of The Opera: The 2004 film adaption of the masterpiece musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and French Novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. A tremendous box-office success, ‘Phantom Of The Opera’, is delightfully mysterious, spooky, and musically inclined. Although panned by critics, this horror drama, directed by Joel Schumacher, is entertaining nonetheless for fans of the classic tale. Catch Gerard Butler in his best pre-spartan role, and dwell in the fantastic sets, magnificent costumes, great art direction, and imaginative camera work that will immerse you in such a dangerous time!

The Purge: You know the annoying guy in your office who’s always bragging about how great life is? Or the jerk that cuts you off in traffic with a stupid smirking face? Well, it’s time for payback. Release your vicious angst and vengeful thoughts with this horrifyingly wicked, mischievously original concept – for 24 hours, once every year, there is no law. Find out how truly terrifying it can be when there is no way to protect yourself and your family with this underrated hit.

Slumdog Millionaire: Danny Boyle’s new biopic, ‘Steve Jobs’, premiered in London this week, to a widely warm reception, with it already being tipped for academy awards. One of Boyle’s most celebrated films, by audiences and critics alike, was the 2008 smash hit, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. If you’re done with frights and trick or treaters, this winner of 8 Academy Awards, is perfect. The film follows Jamal (Dev Patel), who is arrested under suspicion of cheating his way to a fortune on India’s favourite game show, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. The film takes you on a journey through every walk of life across India, from the grand palaces and the Taj Mahal to the criminal undergrounds where human traffickers rule the cities. This moving and breathtaking film is an absolute must see if you haven’t already.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Nick Deal and Patrick Alexander.

Watch This Space: June 15 – 21

Welcome to your weekly go-to-guide – WatchThisSpace – where we give you recommendations of films to watch in the cinema, on the television and those brilliant films hiding at the back of your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

If you’re a fan of the TV show, then you will have been waiting for this day for a very long time. If you’ve never seen ‘Entourage’ before, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with the whole gang. With A-List cameos coming at you from all angles and the usual touch of humour from the regulars, this movie has entertainment value in abundance. Read our exclusive, sneak peek review if you’re still unsure.

See one of England’s best-loved detectives portrayed by one of England’s best-loved actors this week in Mr Holmes. The film is very different to its predecessor starring Robert Downey Jnr, as it stars Ian McKellen as a 93 year old Sherlock looking nostalgically back on his career. This film won’t break box office records, but it should make for some pleasant viewing if you decide to take a trip to the cinema.

ON TELEVISION

Tuesday 23:55 GMT: Whilst it may not command as much attention as some of Quentin Tarantino’s higher profile films, ‘Jackie Brown’ has all the trademark violence, dark humour and plot twists that you would expect from any film in his portfolio. Prop up the eyelids and catch this underrated classic on ITV4.

Wednesday 18:35 GMT: I remember watching ‘Beaches’ years ago, but it is only retrospectively that I have come to appreciate how powerful a film it actually is. If you do choose to tune in to Film4 this evening, beware! Tears will flow, and if they don’t? Well, you’re just not human.

Friday 16:40 GMT: A pioneer in the sci-fi genre this Friday afternoon as ‘Planet Of The Apes‘ graces our screens on Film4. Sit back and enjoy the original film from a franchise that has spanned decades. The effects may look a bit dated now, but this is classic and a must watch for any sci-fi fan.

Sunday 16:30 GMT: Again, a film which doesn’t particularly stand out amongst its competitors in the formidable Disney collection, but ‘The Hunchback Of Notre Dame’ is a delightful family film. Tune in to Channel 5 and give the kids a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Sunday 21:00 GMT: Multi-Oscar winning film ‘The Deer Hunter’ finishes off our week of recommended films, and it ensures we go out with a bang! A captivating film about the troubles and terror caused by the Vietnam War and how it affects a group of friends, this film is a must watch over on ITV4 if you haven’t already. Remember to have some tissues on hand though; you could be tearful by time the credits role.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Good Will Hunting: Last week we were treated to the first trailer of Ridley Scott’s latest epic ‘The Martian’ starring Matt Damon. One of Damon’s most captivating and celebrated performances is the title role in ‘Good Will Hunting’ starring alongside the late, great Robin Williams (who is phenomenal in this film by the way). This film is incredibly moving and boasts an incredible script from Damon and Ben Affleck, so if you’re going to watch any Matt Damon film, make sure it’s this one.

Jaws: Jurassic World’ was tearing up box office records last weekend (if you haven’t already seen it, then make sure you do as a matter of urgency), and the franchise began with Steven Spielberg and his visionary directing. Why not dig out one of his other monster movies in ‘Jaws’. The film celebrates its 40th birthday this year, so what better excuse to relive the horror and immerse yourself into the dark depths of the ocean. Oh, and remember that iconic soundtrack? That’s worth a revisit in itself.

Ghostbusters: The wheels are really turning on the upcoming, female led reboot of the classic ‘Ghostbusters’ franchise, with Paul Feig directing his favourite ladies. But news from the project this week revealed that Chris Hemsworth, the mighty Thor, will be taking on the role of the receptionist for next year’s reimagining. Rewind time and enjoy the original this week.

Guardians Of The Galaxy: This week there’s double the celebrations, with birthdays for both Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana coming up. Watch the pair link up as part of the best Marvel team (yes, better than The Avengers, promise), for tonnes of action and excitement, the usual Marvel humour and one of the best soundtracks EVER.

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Nick Deal