Swanner: In a summer of remakes and sequels, we finally get to Ghostbusters. Here is another example of the question, “Should you mess with a 30 year old classic?” Why not? I know young people who have never seen the original film, so why not try and entertain a new generation, without a doing a shot-for-shot remake. Fortunately, director Paul Feig and co-screenwriter Katie Dippold weren’t intimidated by the original film, and have created a familiar world, but with all new characters and a new story. Yes, ghosts are all over New York City but how that all happens in new.

Judd: For anyone who’s lived under a rock for the past year and doesn’t know, the cast is made up of female comedy heavyweights Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as Erin Gilbert, Abby Yates, Jillian Holtzmann and Patty Tolan respectively. Gilbert, Yates and Holtzmann are scientists that specialize in paranormal phenomena, while Tolan is a native New Yorker who knows the city like the back of her hand.

Swanner: The new storyline follows Rowan North (Neil Casey) who is deliberately releasing ghosts as part of his plan to make the world pay for his mistreatment from bullies. As villains go he’s pretty nerdy, but it’s a nice change from the same old thing we keep getting. The four women have good chemistry together; I just wish McKinnon wasn’t so strange in the first half of the film.

Judd: I wish I liked the movie more than I did. I thought Paul Feig did a fantastic job keeping the large personalities restrained – as he always does – and I agree that McKinnon’s character was a little too “wacky neighbor”. I also liked the special effects. I’m sure there was plenty of CGI, but it was extremely well done, and felt almost as quaintly analogue as the original. The movie’s downfall was the script. As a writer, Feig has a handful of TV movies and Spy under his belt. Dippold wrote for Mad TV; Parks and Rec; and she’s solely responsible for the awful McCarthy/Bullock movie The Heat. Based on that alone, I’m willing to let Dippold carry the blame for nearly ruining this movie. The majority of the jokes fell flat, and the characters never felt fleshed out. There was no arc.

Swanner: I’ll admit to a few terrible jokes in the beginning of the film, but I found the rest very funny. I was laughing out loud a lot. I do have to have to call you out for you referring to The Heat as an awful film. That film is hilarious! If it’s on cable I watch it and I already own it. I think your misogyny is showing. Not only for the screenwriter, but for one of our greatest working actresses of our time… Sandra Bullock. Shame Mister Judd, Shame!!!

Judd: Sure, the movie has some decent laughs, but not nearly enough. There were stretches where the audience was silent — these silences came during some big comedy moments. While I respect Dippold and Feig for trying to do something new, if you’re going to remake a classic you have to have a 100% slam-bang script, and this one isn’t it. But, if you’re standards are such that you found a movie like The Heat hilarious, then Ghostbusters 2016 isn’t going to disappoint.

Swanner: 3 stars
Judd: 2 stars

The Secret Life of Pets


Swanner: From the makers of The Minions comes this behind the scenes look at our pets. Well, it actually follows Max and his friends as they lead their own lives after their masters leave for work. Imagine Adventures in Babysitting with dogs and cats. Max and his new canine roommate, Duke, get separated from the dog walker that leads to a day of surprises, which includes dog catchers, snakes, a tattooed pig and terrifying bunny named Snowball. 

Judd: The cast features a cavalcade of some of the hottest comedians working today, Louis C.K., Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Hannibal Burress, Eric Stonestreet (who sounds like he’s doing a Seth Rogan impression), and Bobby Moynihan. The movie also features veterans Steve Coogan, Dana Carvey, Albert Brooks and Laraine Newman. It’s huge cast delivers an equally huge movie, written by Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch and Cinco Paul, directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, the movie is packed with story. While I never felt the movie lost focus, at points it felt like the writers were just throwing things at the wall to see what stuck.

Swanner: What I liked was that the characters were memorable. So often in animated films we have a parade of characters that make no impression at all. Remember The Nut Job? All of Max’s friends are there for a reason and take part in the story telling. The crew has been working together through the Despicable Me movies and it shows. The animation team working out of Universal has really changed from the days of Land Before Time.

Judd: While I agree that Pets is leaps and bounds better than The Nut Job, the movie still feels, at times, very muddled. The whole part where Max and Duke end up in Brooklyn, visit a sausage factory, then try to find Duke’s old home — in addition to outrunning a gang of renegade pets while trying to get home, plus Gidget’s (Slate) storyline in trying to rescue her friends — it was too much. I never felt overwhelmed, and I liked the movie, but I would be remiss to not point out its excesses.

Swanner: It was an early screening, and I stayed awake through the whole movie, so that says something. Granted it’s not Pixar, but this is by far better than Despicable Me or The Minions. I know the theme of friendship is foreign to you, but it’s a nice lesson for kids. I’m was thinking of setting up cameras to see what Honey did when I’m not home, but working from home means I’m rarely gone. I wonder if Sean has cameras set up for me?

Swanner: 3 ½ stars
Judd: 3 stars

The Purge: Election Year


Judd: The Purge: Election Year, written and directed by James DeMonaco, takes place two years after The Purge: Anarchy and finds Leo Barns (Frank Grillo) acting as head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), as she runs for POTUS on the platform of abolishing Purge Night. Purge Night is a 12 hour period where all crime is made legal in order for American to “purge” themselves of anger and sin. As the first two movies state, Purge Night unfairly focuses on killing off the poor, while the rich can afford to barricade themselves, and murdering high-level politicians remains illegal. With Sen Sloan raising awareness, the New Founding Fathers of America (aka NFFA) realize that the hoi polloi are on the verge of revolt, so they decide to lift the ban on killing politicians in order to make themselves a viable target “just like everybody else.” It quickly becomes apparent they have more sinister plans in mind.

Given the state of current politics, both domestic and global, and America’s issue with gun violence that our politician’s refuse to address, The Purge is reckless and irresponsible filmmaking. I’m no prude and I love a bloody slasher film, but a movie that exploits gun violence while preaching peace and “a better way” is insultingly hypocritical. In addition to that, the movie makes a handful of appallingly racist (and appallingly lazy) jokes – one with the punchline “…a bunch of Negros looking at us like a bucket of fried chicken.” DeMonaco must have felt the line was passable since it was delivered by a black guy.

Anarchy raised the stakes of the original Purge, by taking the carnage to the streets and making the story about evading the bad guys instead of keeping them out of the house. Election Year expands upon that further, by including larger set pieces and a bigger cast. Outside of Barns and Roan, we have a sub-cast of characters that include a small business owner and his employees, and a large group of revolutionaries out to assassinate the NFFA. The black government trucks from Anarchy are back with the help of drones and CGI helicopters. Locations include a deli, house, church, and a large bunker where the revolutionaries shelter and provide medical attention to the homeless.

The movie was shot digitally and looks it. The script is overwrought and hammy, and relies on tired tropes such as Rich White Evangelicals, Violent Blacks, Nazi Mercenaries, and The White Savior. It would have been palatable (maybe even fun?) had DeMonaco taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to the ridiculous script, but he plays it in all seriousness. He wants these movies to appeal to those who  wish they could participate while at the same time superficially condemning those violent urges. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Unfortunately he succeeds; while I was walking out of the theatre I could overhear the mostly younger audience crowing how “hella good” the movie was, and how they’re looking forward to the fourth.

Judd: No Stars