Ghostbusters: Kate McKinnon and crew can’t save Paul Feig’s shoddy screenplay

Erin Gilbert

The new Ghostbusters is finally in theaters, and the good news is that its first trailer (the most hated YouTube video of all time) was not an accurate predictor of the movie’s overall quality. The bad news is that Ghostbusters, like Batman v Superman, is a film that is done in by a shoddy screenplay. The cast does the best it can with writer-director Paul Fieg’s story (co-written by Katie Dippold), but no amount of improvisation can lift the product above “mildly amusing” status.

Ghostbusters Holtzmann

First off, anyone who has seen the original Ghostbusters will know how the story goes:

  • Female versions of Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz,
    Dr. Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddmore form a band of misfit do-gooders who believe the city faces a spiritual threat of gargantuan proportions.
  • City officials treat them like second-class citizens.
  • The Ghostbusters piece together a mystery and stop a paranormal apocalypse by closing a portal to the netherworld.

Bill Murray Ghostbusters

With that being said, I think it is important to review Mr. Fieg’s movie by pretending the original film never existed. If the world were never introduced to Bill Murray’s Dr. Peter Venkman, then how would critics rate this movie?

They would say the following:

  • Kate McKinnon is a firecracker. Whether one likes or dislikes her weird tics throughout the movie, there is an energy and “it” factor to “Holtzmann” that a franchise can be built on.
  • The villain, Rowan (played by Neil Casey), is hardly defined — and that is putting it nicely. His motivations are not shown — viewers are told he was “bullied” when he was younger — and his actions during the movie’s climax make no sense. He literally controls a sea of cops and military personnel, but then chooses not to do the same to the four people who clearly pose a threat to his plans.
  • Chris Hemsworth’s character, Kevin, is so stupid that he is borderline retarded. Even if he is a parody of the “bimbo secretary,” I cannot remember a single female in similar roles who came across as Dumb and Dumber-stupid. Even desperate employers would not hire the man, no matter how handsome he may be.
  • There was obviously a Michael Jackson-inspired “Thriller” scene planned for the film that was cut from the finished product and wedged into the end credits. The problem is that aspects of the scene do show up in the film, which makes the audience go, “Huh? Why are the cops and the soldiers frozen in ‘Thriller’ poses? What the heck?”
  • Tension does not exist in this film because at no point does anyone feel as though the Ghostbusters might be in real danger. They become masters of new and experimental technology fairly quickly, and the one time they appear to be in trouble the camera angle shows them with the kind of smashed faces one might see in a Ghostbusters cartoon.

Ghostbusters Abby Patty

Ghostbusters is a movie that is worth checking out on Netflix if there is nothing else to do on a Friday night, but it is not worth full price at the movie theater. It is a movie that fails not because its cast is filled with women, but because its screenplay is sloppy.

Finally, it must be mentioned that Bill Murray’s cameo will be painful to watch for anyone who enjoyed the original films. It is hard to believe the man agreed to the part unless he has serious issues with Ivan Reitman. If Mr. Fieg or anyone else associated with this re-imagining thinks they were giving the 1984 Ghostbusters a respectful tip of the hat with Mr. Murray’s cameo, then the property is in worse hands than previously thought.

If you have a little kid who really wants to see ghosts busted, then you probably should buy a cheap ticket on an early Sunday. If you don’t have kids, then my suggestion is to wait until you can check it out for little to no cost. That isn’t an “I have a thing against women” thing, it’s an “I have a thing against paying full price for muddled writing” thing.

Did you see Ghostbusters this weekend? Did you refuse to see it? Either way, let me know what you think of Sony’s tentpole film in the comments section below.

Update: Here is my latest YouTube video on Ghostbusters and why the “Slime the Critics” strategy is important.

Obama is like Bill Murray’s ‘The Man Who Knew too Little’: The buck stops with the NSA

While I was recently home on vacation, I heard on the radio that President Obama “didn’t know” that the NSA was spying on Germany’s Angela Merkel. I burst out laughing and told my father that in Barack Obama’s world, the buck stops with the NSA. It looks like I’m not alone with the observation. He’s ‘The Man Who Knew too Little.’

The New York Times reports:

As a practical matter, no president can be aware of everything going on in the sprawling government he theoretically manages. But as a matter of politics, Mr. Obama’s plea of ignorance may do less to deflect blame than to prompt new questions about just how much in charge he really is.

In recent days, the president’s health and human services secretary said that despite internal concerns and a failed test run Mr. Obama was not told about serious problems with the new program’s website until it was rolled out this month. Other officials said the president was not aware that the National Security Agency was tapping the phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other friendly leaders until this summer, although intelligence officials said Tuesday that others in the White House had known. …

“It seems to me there’s a pattern here — with any bad news coming out of the administration, the excuse is the president just didn’t know about it,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois.

“There’s a point at which the I-didn’t-know excuse really violates the idea of the buck stops here,” he added.

The conservative who doesn’t realize it yet, Jon Stewart, puts it nicely:

“It may be a be concerning that the president was not kept in the loop about the program that was named after him, but in his defense it appears that there are fairly few loops … he’s in.”

You can not be for an ever-expansive federal government on one hand, and then not own up to its failings when they happen. Saying “I didn’t know” that the NSA was spying on world leaders for five years is not a good PR move. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You can only believe the president was left in the dark — for years — and didn’t bother to ask tough questions of the spy agency if you believe that he’s incompetent or ill-suited for the task at hand.

The New York Times continues:

[President Obama] has seemed uninvolved at significant junctures. He has said he learned from news reports about Operation Fast and Furious, a botched federal investigation into gun smuggling that allowed weapons to fall into criminals’ hands.

His staff knew about an investigation into the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, but did not tell him until it was becoming public. Likewise, aides said the president was unaware of a Justice Department decision to secretly obtain reporters’ phone logs in a leak case.

If this was anyone else, comedians would be likening the president in all the worst ways to Bill Murray’s ‘The Man Who Knew Too Little.’

Think of all the bad news stories that have come out over the past five years that the president “didn’t know” about. Now ask yourself how your employer would respond if you pulled the “I didn’t know” card with Barackian aplomb. Would you still have a job?

Moonrise Kingdom: The Young Person’s Guide to Great Movies

To understand Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, the opening sequence tells us almost everything we need to know. A record player is turned on, and a narrator to ‘A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ says:

In order to show you how a big symphony orchestra is put together, Benjamin Britten has written a big piece of music, which is made up of smaller pieces that show you all the separate parts of the orchestra. These smaller pieces are called variations, which means different ways of playing the same tune. First of all he lets us hear the tune, or theme, which is a beautiful melody by the much older British composer, Henry Purcell. Here is Purcell’s theme played by the whole orchestra together. …

Moonrise Kingdom is a top tier orchestra, all playing the same tunes on very unique instruments. When all is said and done, Anderson walks away the master director. The finished product is one of the most beautiful, pitch-perfect pieces of film making I’ve seen in a long time.

The story revolves around two young adults, “Khaki Scout” Sam (Jared Gilman) and “troubled child” Suzy (Kara Hayward), who run away together, and the mad scramble to find them by the town’s authority figures. The time is 1965, and the location is a rugged little island. A storm is approaching, which adds to the urgency.

The adults in Moonrise Kingdom may be looking for the children, but it soon becomes apparent that — like Sam and Suzy — they too are runaways. They too are searching for love and forgiveness and redemption. And it’s the subtle way that Anderson slides all the layers together that makes Moonrise Kingdom so special. He even goes so far as to leave the most poignant part of the film for its final moments, a note that will leave many with tears (of happiness) in their eyes.

Frances McDormand and Bill Murray play Laura and Walt Bishop, respectively. They are parents of a family in tatters, for personal and professional reasons. Bruce Willis plays the town’s “sad” sheriff. Edward Norton plays Scout Master Ward. All of them have tales of loss and longing, law and order … and family. Along the way they will confront issues related to sex and violence, betrayal and forgiveness. It sounds graphic, but with Wes Anderson it isn’t. All of it is just beneath the surface of an orderly, almost picture-perfect world of literature, classical music and decorum.

Where Anderson truly shines is the way in which he captures that transition between youthful innocence and adulthood. Before 24 hour cable news, cell phones, and the internet fused with a debased culture in ways that now rob children of innocence well before their teenage years, the kind of communities Anderson dreams up, on many levels, existed.

Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t try to deny the worst parts of human nature — it is all most certainly there — but it captures a yearning for a time where mechanisms were in place to try harness those faults, so that our better parts could be trained and cultivated into something productive and beautiful.

Finally, Moonrise Kingdom is about unconditional love. At one time or another, we’ve all felt unwanted or unworthy. We’ve all lashed out or acted in ways that were beneath us, perhaps so much so that we were scared to admit it to those we care about most. Whether it’s with our sons and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives — or even surrogate families — everyone wants to be accepted and loved. What Anderson points out is that it doesn’t matter what age we are, there are universal things we’re all looking for. The ways in which we search may change from childhood to adulthood, but the destination is always the same.

If you have a chance to see Moonrise Kingdom in the theaters, it’s a trip well worth taking.

Bill Murray: Our Moonrise Kingdom Needs More Personal Responsibility

When someone speaks of personal responsibility on national television they open themselves up to cries of "coded" racism by Princeton University professors. So when Bill Murray did just that on CNBC the other day, it took people by surprise.

Bill Murray was on CNBC the other day, and the famous comedian set off alarm bells in liberal circles everywhere when he dared to speak of “personal responsibility.” Doesn’t Bill know that, according to Princeton’s African American Studies professor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, that he’s using racist “code” language? Regardless, he went there:

CNBC Host: Do you have…a view on this country and what we need to do and where we are in time?

MURRAY: I think we ought to be personally responsible. I think if you can take care of yourself and then maybe take care of someone else then that’s sort of how you’re supposed to live. It’s not a question of asking other people for help or being rescued or anything like that. I think we’ve sort of gotten used to someone looking out for us, and I don’t think any other person is necessarily going to be counted on to look out for us. I think there are only so many people that can take care of themselves and can take care of other people, and the rest of the people—they’re useful in terms of compost for the whole planet—but there are just certain people who are going to go up, and certain people that are going to stay the same, and certain people who are going to drop. So, you’d like to be that person who is going to elevate. And if you can do that you can take care of yourself, and if you’re really good enough you should be able to take care of about this many [ the panel of four ] people.

CNBC HOST: Are you saying that America was founded on individualism, as opposed to Europe? Are you making a contrast—

MURRAY: This country really is a pioneer country. We forget the kind of discipline they had to have to get from—occasionally it seeps in that they came in wagons from Illinois to Oregon or whatever it was. That they came in wagons and the wheels broke, and you see it. The [researchers say], “Gee, that must have been hard for those women to push that wagon up the mountain.” And that’s what they had to do.  There was no option but to do it yourself, to have your own personal responsibility. There is no turning back. This is your life. As we say to one of my brothers, “This is your life. This is not a dress rehearsal.”

Bravo, Bill. He makes incredibly lucid points, which seldom happens with Hollywood stars. I highly suggest watching the entire interview, if for no other reason than to see just how carefully Bill treads. He seems to be a very smart man, and throughout the entire interview you can see him very delicately addressing the issues, as if he knows all of Hollywood is watching. Conservatives in the entertainment industry—or even those with tinctures of conservatism—need to lay their cards on the table with a pitter-patter, while “comedians” (I use the term loosely) like Rosanne Barr or Joy Behar get to blurt out liberal brain-farts without a care in the world.

Regardless of Bill Murray’s voting patterns (he may very well be a Democrat), it’s obvious that he at least realizes just how far of a departure the country has made from its founding. Whereas we once road rickety wagons across the Great Plains to realize our dreams, we now have kids who are on their parent’s health care coverage until age 26 complaining about how hard things are. We’re at an all time low and we don’t even realize it because our friends overseas are in an even sorrier state of affairs.

While I commend Bill Murray for even broaching the subject of personal responsibility when asked about his worldview, I can’t help but find it sad that in this time and place common sense earns a pat on the back. Since I probably won’t run across Murray in public anytime soon, I’ll just check him out in Moonrise Kingdom on opening night.

Iranian Groundhog Day: Ending Won’t Resemble Bill Murray Flick.

I’ve posted on Iran quite a few times over the past few years, usually lamenting the Christopher Nolan Momento-ish feel to the whole situation. However, I think articles like Why We’re Not Going to War with Iran, that touch on the same observation, are flawed. Sure, it’s Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day with the Iranian nuclear crisis, but even Groundhog Day comes to an end.

There was great librarian at The Library of Congress I used to see every few months, and he’d always tell the story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant. One would grab its tail, one would grab its trunk, one would wrap his arms around a leg, and the last man would grab its stomach. Of course, each blind man had a completely different take on how to best describe an elephant, and they were all essentially wrong. Likewise, what’s going on in Iran is much bigger than we think. It requires commentators to step far back to have a fighting chance at predicting the end game.

Wars don’t happen over night. Liberals tried to make it sound like that’s what happened with the Iraq War, but it didn’t. The build-up lasted years, even if many of us don’t want to admit it. In the internet age, our ability to accurately read events on a lengthened timelines has atrophied. We can’t see wars forming in slow motion on the horizon and stop them, and when they do begin we expect them wrapped up like a 30 minute television show. It doesn’t work that way.

Right now Leon Panetta is on record as saying he thinks there is a “strong likelihood” Israel will strike in April, May or June. Cable news is covering the play-by-play, but what matters is the trajectory we’re on. And the trajectory clear.

Movies that star Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in place of Bill Murray don’t end well, and one of the sad footnotes to this story is that there are people who are paid a ridiculous amount of money to know that…who don’t.