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Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) and Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy), nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), and subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) band together to stop the otherworldly threat. (From Sony’s official synopsis)

 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition
I’d like to start this review by saying I love the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters remake. I’ll happily endorse all-female remakes of every male-driven franchise imaginable. An all-female Die Hard? Sounds great! An all-female Predator? Sign me up! All female Transformers? Can’t be worse than the movies that already exist, right? In fact, the gimmick (not a bad word) of an exclusively lady cast gave this unnecessary, but inevitable remake purpose. Ivan Reitman’s original 1984 film is a unique genre-bender that grew out of a very specific and unrepeatable series of events. It can not be recreated, as we learned from the reasonably funny, but forgettable Ghostbusters II (1989). Another Ghostbusters sequel/reboot stewed quietly for several decades, but didn’t materialize because it needed a reason to exist. This was it. With that in mind, I was rooting for Paul Feig’s movie – especially when the dregs of the internet and their fragile masculinity started railing against it.

So then, it’s a bummer to report that Ghostbusters 2016 – or Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, as it is apparently called – is not a very good movie. The key issue is probably the fact that it so precisely fits the Paul Feig improv comedy formula. As someone that doesn’t really appreciate this type of movie, I do think that Feig does it better than most of his contemporaries, including subgenre pioneer Judd Apatow. Bridesmaids (2011) and Spy (2015), in particular, are both well-rounded, funny movies that don’t get too bogged down in ad libs. Not only is Ghostbusters not as funny than these films, but the stiff improv constantly stifles what is clearly designed to be a more neatly structured, plot-heavy movie. In contrast, Feig and Katie Dippold’s screenplay has a solid through-line plot that doesn’t repeat too much of the original movie’s story. I’d argue that the Anti-Ghostbusters, living human threat would provide better fodder for a sequel to the origin story, but the momentum is smothered by overlong takes of actors riffing on gags that don’t support the narrative. This stands in contrast to the 1984 movie, where Reitman allowed his cast to improvise lines without pausing the the film to admire their performances. I understand Feig’s impulse, because his cast is in good form, but he doesn’t do them any favours by letting them blather until a gag isn’t funny anymore.

 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition
Pacing, structure (including awkward cameos), and the generic jokes are all what I’d consider objective problems with this movie. These things come part and parcel when you hire Paul Feig to front a tentpole franchise-starter and rein him in with a PG-13 rating. His talents are better utilized by medium budgets, lenient runtimes (even with time allotted for set-pieces, Ghostbusters is his shortest movie since Unaccompanied Minors in 2006), and R-ratings. Some of us were hoping he’d step up and prove that his comedic instincts could translate to a different kind of filmmaking, but the producers more or less got what they paid for. The Feig experience issue extends to special effects and action, which probably didn’t surprise anyone. While I don’t subscribe to the theory that a modern Ghostbusters needs to function as an action movie – the original is hardly a paragon of dynamic visuals – I do think the director showed a better understanding of what makes on-screen action work with Spy. His work here isn’t disastrous (had Feig made this directly after Bridesmaids, I might actually be impressed) or distracting, it’s just bland and badly timed, considering the amount of screen-time devoted to the CG-heavy climax. The strangest thing is that the stuff that occurs over the front end of the end credits prove that Feig and company were more than capable of tightening up their improvy comedy into bite-sized montages that give the story some room to breathe.

On a more personal level, I miss the original films’ and cartoon series’ straight-faced admiration of occult literature/legend. I understand that stuff like “I F*cking Love Science” and Neil deGrasse Tyson are super popular with kids these days and appreciate this series doing everything it can to differentiate itself from the first movie. The science is especially fun when it comes to the oodles of new ghost-catching equipment (I’m even okay with them not needing to house the ghosts they defeat). These and the hyper-colourful ghost designs are a delightful reminder of the animated series (they’re even a bit scary!), but most of the apparitions have only vague history behind them. There’s no Egon or Ray-like character to give a ridiculous, yet somehow spooky backstory. Leslie Jones’ character, Patty, comes so close to filling this role in an original way (the Ley Lines bit is one of this film’s best scenes for this very reason), before her talents are thrown away on some of the movie’s most obvious jokes. I admit that this is a particularly subjective complaint and not a particularly constructive criticism – especially while I’m praising the things this movie does to transform the concept for 2016 – but, in a better movie, her expertise and outsider status would save the day, instead of more orange & green explosions.

This Blu-ray features a new extended 133-minute version of the movie. The longer cut doesn’t correct any of the structural issues and ends up aggravating the pacing issues, but there are a handful of funny gags and a bit more explicit explanation of the villain’s plans. Ozzy Osbourne’s cameo is 50% less annoying in this cut, as well.

 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition

Video


Ghostbusters was shot using Arri Alexa digital HD cameras and post-converted in 3D for theatrical exhibition. The aspect ratio changed depending on what type of screen it was being projected on. The 2D version was released in straight 2.35:1, while the 3D version appeared to be framed at 2.35, but was actually framed at 1.85:1, so that some of the 3D effects could ‘leak’ over the black bars. The IMAX versions featured 1.90:1 and (reportedly, I didn’t see it myself) 1.43:1 full-frame sequences. This 2D, 1080p release follows the lead set by the 3D theatrical release, because the majority of the film is scope-framed, but the special effects occasionally swell beyond the top and bottom edges (during the top of the climax, the framing opens up entirely to 1.78:1). I don’t think I’ve ever seen this effect used on a home video release, outside of maybe trailers for 3D movies in the 2D format. It’s a fun addition, or at least a unique one. Feig and cinematographer Robert Yeoman’s plush focus and gradations are beautifully set against the glowing, neon ghost effects. Details are softened without flattening depth or fuzzying the edges. Patterns and textures are also pretty complex throughout and neatly supported by rich black levels. Something I hadn’t noticed in theaters is how often Feig and Yeoman use a subtle iris effect during low-light sequences. The corners and edges of the frame are ever-so-slightly darker than the center. All hues, not just the ghost special effects, are boosted (specifically, reds appear more pink), which expands the cartoonish qualities of the costume/creature design.

Audio


Ghostbusters is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sound. It’s less aggressive than the average special effects tentpole, but there are a number of standout moments. The climax is the biggest aural overload, including both supernatural threats and the Ghostbusters’ sci-fi blasting equipment, while the less actiony ghost attacks feature more subtle, multi-channel movement and dynamic range. The improv sequences are dry, almost entirely dialogue-based and clean in its own respect. Theodore Shapiro’s music kinda, sorta apes Elmer Bernstein’s original cues, even reusing them on occasion, but also manages to be its own thing. Like Bernstein, he deals mostly in scary and adventurous themes, which are cleverly contrasted with the silliness of the on-screen action. Speaking of music, how frustrating is it that they didn’t use an established act/band for the heavy metal concert sequence?

 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition

Extras


  • Commentary with co-writer/director Paul Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold (extended and theatrical version) – As you might expect, the first commentary focuses more on the writing process, celebrating the cast, and pre-production topics. Feig and Dippold get off to a slightly awkward start, but fall into line quickly enough, unveiling enough factoids and anecdotes to fill the complete runtime.
  • Commentary with the filmmakers – The second track features Feig again with editor Brent White, producer Jessie Henderson, production designer Jeff Sage, and effects supervisors Pete Travers (digital/post-production FX) & Mark Hawker (practical FX). This is the more lively of the two tracks, simply because there are more people talking with Feig acting as moderator. This track was recorded after the director/writer track, so he is able to pose questions and expand upon his earlier discussion. This means there’s surprisingly little overlap between the two tracks and that fans might want to listen to them in the ‘correct’ order.
  • Two gag/outtake reels (15:29, HD)[*Four deleted/extended scenes (9:22, HD) – These are mostly little bobs & bibs, but the last two indicate that Erin apparently quit the team after they thought they had defeated the villain.
  • Eleven alternate/extended scenes (21:14, HD)
  • Jokes-A-Plenty (34:30, HD) – More alternate takes on the improv jokes. If all of this deleted/alternate/extended footage isn’t enough for you, there are 60-plus minutes of additional extended/alternate scenes available with the included digital download.
  • Meet the Team (8:04, HD) – A fluffy casting/character featurette that focuses the four main Ghostbusters actresses.
  • The Ghosts of Ghostbusters (13:57, HD) – This is a relatively substantial look at the inspiration, design, and special effects execution of the film’s colourful monsters. It’s impressive how much of the neon effect is achieved in-camera with the use of LED lights.
  • Visual Effects: 30 Years Later (15:16, HD) – A comparison of the 1984 movie’s optical effects and the 2016 version’s digital effects. It’s a decent behind-the-scenes featurette, despite the fact that Ivan Reitman refers to his original film as ‘one of the last analogue effects films,’ which is a painfully inaccurate statement.
  • Slime Time (5:15, HD) – The cast & crew discuss the ins & outs of practical effects slime.
  • Chris Hemsworth is ‘Kevin’ (7:42, HD) – A tongue-in-cheek celebration of the movie’s biggest scene-stealer.
  • Photo gallery
  • Trailers for other Sony Pictures releases


 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition

Overall


I think Ghostbusters pulled in mediocre box-office receipts not because the general public is adverse to a female-driven reboot, but because it was a mediocre movie. There are some interesting things going on here, though, specifically the cast is strong and the creature/production design is fantastic. If Sony is compelled to make a sequel, I hope that the filmmakers dial way back on the improv and spend more time developing scripted jokes alongside a compelling story. When you really boil it down, we have three Ghostbusters movies – an original, a sequel, and a reboot – that follow essentially the same plotline. Those folks that enjoyed the movie enough on its own merits to buy this Blu-ray are in for a very good-looking transfer, a very busy DTS-HD MA soundtrack, and loads of deleted/extended/alternate material, including a longer cut and special feature outtakes. The dual commentary tracks are stacked with behind-the-scenes info, too.

 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition

 Ghostbusters: Extended Edition
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-rays and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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