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What Did You Watch This Week? (Reviews Of ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot, ‘The Survivalist’, ‘And Then There Were None’, ‘Dirty Grandpa’)

What You Watched This Week Short reviews of the ‘Ghostbusters’ who did not appear in their pre-chosen forms, the bodily function-obsessed ‘The Survivalist’, Agatha’s Christie’s third-time’s-the-charm-on-the-title ‘And Then There Were None’, and Robert De Niro’s most fearless performance in years, ‘Dirty Grandpa’.

Ghostbusters (2016)
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth
Director: Paul Feig

When a college professor (Wiig) finds her shelved book about the supernatural has been published by its co-author (McCarthy) she ends up accompanying her and her wacky engineer (McKinnon) to their first encounter with a sprit. Forming the Ghostbusters they take on a handsome but dumb secretary (Hemsworth) and a New York savvy metro worker who encounters another ghost (Jones). Meanwhile a geeky weirdo (Neil Casey) is waking spirits across the city with his own inventions, hoping to open a portal to the spirit dimension and lead its army… Leslie Jones is by far the best thing in this version because she feels authentic. McCarthy is, no surprise, unconvincing as a cutting edge scientist, but she’s not as bad as McKinnon who might be the the least convincing engineer ever put on screen, she both overacts and acts badly to the point where it feels like she’s in an unfunny SNL skit rather than a movie. The villain looks like he’s doing a table read rather than living the part. While the concept that the bad guy would be the ghost from the famous Ghostbusters logo, thereby explaining the logo’s origins, a great idea, was completely lost in the execution. Bad decisions riddle the film, from the ghosts that are too Disney dayglo, to Slimer getting a girlfriend. The audience lifted when Bill Murray appeared but then were confused and disappointed to find he was playing someone else. The number of original cast cameos and throwbacks in the final third becomes a big distraction, often dominating scene after scene. On the plus side, this Ghostbusters still entertains in a throwaway manner, there are funny lines, Hemsworth is sometimes amusing and Wiig works sometimes. You’ll enjoy it more the less you remember about the brilliant original, and underrated sequel. This always should have been a handover movie with the old team. Rating: B- (if it were not a Ghostbusters film), C (as a Ghostbusters reboot)

Grand Budapest Hotel (Rooftop Screening Hosted By Movie-Moron)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Jude Law
Director: Wes Anderson

This Facebook post by one of the guys who won tickets sums it up nicely:

Now if only I could learn to enjoy public speaking…

The Survivalist
Starring: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouere
Director: Stephen Fingleton

After worldwide oil supplies run out, the population goes into freefall amidst fights for resources. In this time of starvation, a survivalist lives off a small plot of land hidden deep in forest. When two women seeking food and shelter discover his farm, he is faced with the decision of whether to trust them and accept their companionship. This is a low budget British thriller that plays something like a movie version of the popular PC game ‘Rust’, with survivalists in teams or solo trying to build up shelter and food sources while engaging in lethal raids on other camps. Desperation means humans are the greatest threat, and this portrays that very well. It makes for superb tension (including the most suspenseful shaving scene ever), tapping into something quite primal. With few words spoken by any characters, it’s left to strong visual storytelling to drive the story. Why the survivalist didn’t set traps or move camp after being found three times could be seen as an oversight. It is slow, it is bleak, and nothing about the bigger picture is altered by the end, but all of these are deliberate choices. Grade: B+

And Then There Were None
Starring: Martin McCann, Mia Goth, Olwen Fouere
Director: Stephen Fingleton

In 1939 ten strangers are invited to an island by a mysterious host, and start to get killed one by one. Could one of them be the killer? Adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel, the world’s best-selling mystery and the 5th best-selling novel of all time (!). Technically this is a BBC TV miniseries, but at 174mins it is movie length, it has the same production values and a fine cast that includes big screen regulars like Sam Neill and Charles Dance. It’s also the best adaptation since (arguably) the 1965 film. Small but smart changes are made from the book, including tweaking the ending and having the accused guests more clearly guilty of their past crimes, though it skillfully generates enough sympathy to prevent us willing their demise. It could have pushed the atmosphere a little further, the killer(s)’s misdirection is a little too convincing, the nature of the plot means you never get deep characterisations beyond their past crime, and the story has been much imitated by this point, but it’s still one of the greatest murder-mystery plots of all time. Grade: B

Dirty Grandpa
Starring: Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Dan Mazer

Right before his wedding, an uptight guy (Efron) is tricked into driving his grandfather, a perverted foul-mouthed ex-Army general (De Niro), to Florida for spring break. Grandpa’s looking to score again after 15 years unlaid, and a super-skank (Plaza) might help him succeed. Meanwhile his grandson is starting to question if getting married isn’t feeling like more of a prison sentence… This is the year’s most underrated comedy. The director previously co-wrote ‘Bruno’ and ‘Borat’, and that influence is keenly felt here. The R-rated film starts like a deadweight, but when De Niro gets going he’s hilarious, if a couple of times humiliated. Seeing him wack off to an adult movie might be the low point of his career but within minutes he’s exclaiming that his nightmare would be Queen Latifah taking a dump in his mouth from a hot air balloon, with a delivery that no other actor could have matched. He’s a machine of full-on bad taste and, rather than lament his fall from prestigious grace as critics have done, I fully admire his commitment to this role. Indeed the film is the most filthy and un-pc I’ve seen in a long time (only bested by ‘Grimsby’, it’s quite a year), so if De Niro telling a story about Andre the Giant f****ring women or Zac Efron with a swastika of dicks inked on his forehead isn’t your thing, stay away. Grade: B

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  • gd smith said

    The problem with Ghostbusters 2016 is that it’s desperately mugging for laughs. The original is actually like the light comedies of the 1930s or 40s or the Donner Superman or for that matter Trading Places, right down to having a romance at the core of the story. It’s more witty than funny. Also Murray’s character has an arc that takes him from sexist irresponsible cynic to a sort of crumpled decency. This thing is all eye rolling, big gestures and shouting. It’s the difference between Cary Grant and Abbot and Costello.

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      Right. A lot could be written on the topic, but the remake also lacks anything scary and because it’s so inauthentic the stakes never seem high, which contrasts to the original. Just look at how they both handle their possession sequences, the first still feels fresh, the way Dana and Louis act, the idea that the Gatekeeper and Keymaster have to find each other, it’s all bristling with originality. Compare that to what happens in the reboot: cheap laughs, slapstick, pop culture references, Exorcist spinning head gag, seen it all before.

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      • gd smith said

        I wouldn’t say the original has a lot of Horror as such, but it does have a very strong fantasy element which owes a strong debt to Lovecraft. The problem for me with sequel is that it’s much lazier. However, it is still much better than Ghostbusters 2016 which plays like a an extended Scary Movie skit. Ultimately. it’s down to the script and directorial choices rather than the performers. McCarthy isn’t bad at all in Spy and in the less overblown comedic scenes is fine here, but is forced to go OTT with rest of the cast as the action is upped. In truth the cast, except McKinnon who is utterly terrible, are doing the best they can in a badly written and ill judged mess of a movie. Maybe, once Sony committed to an all female Ghostbusters crew, they should have been braver and given it to Elizabeth Banks. She has a much better feel for character and a far lighter touch than Feig, which is what the film needed.

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