Ghostbusters (2016); Or Safety Lights are for Dudes

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where we look at films that are fun for the whole family! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they strap on their proton packs and suit up for a reported disturbance in NYC.

Today’s film offering: Ghostbusters (2016)

Andy: How could we not do Hallowfest this year without touching on one of the biggest and most weirdly controversial movies of the year? But before we begin, let me make a few things clear:

1) We liked this movie. A lot.

2) We liked the original a lot too. Probably not as much as many people, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

3) There is no point getting angry about remakes.

Anyway, with that out of the way, onto the movie itself!

Lilly: Unless this review is going to ruin your childhood, too.

Excuse me, I’ll be right back, I just need to fetch my eyes that rolled clear out of my head.

Andy: The plot concerns one Erin Gilbert, a physics professor desperate to achieve tenure at Columbia University, and tries to cover up her past as one of those weird paranormal researchers you see on covers in that section of the bookshop.

Unfortunately for her, though, her partner Abby and past come a-callin’, and before you know it she’s out on the street out of a job. Cue teaming up with her ex-partner, her wacky engineering friend and streetwise subway worker, and, well, who ya gonna call?

Lilly: Besides your friends so you can complain about why women don’t NEED to be Ghostbusters, and LOOK, they are making a sex object out of Chris Hemsworth, and GOSH this is the WORST.

Okay, but seriously. Go on.

Andy: It’s worth noting that even with the comedic talents of Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy (who we are fans of, to be clear), Kate McKinnon as Holtzmann doesn’t so much steal the film as chloroform it in a dark alley and demand a ransom. Like I said, we like this movie a lot, but she is the only thing to completely come out of the shadow of the original.

Part of this is due to the nature of a remake though. It is inevitable that with the plot requiring a team be set up, many of the same plot beats will be hit, and story-wise there’s not a huge amount of originality here, but it’s not really where the heart lies – it lies in letting the comedic actresses do their thing.

The film is at its best when it focuses down on this – Melissa McCarthy’s endless running feud with the delivery boy downstairs is wonderful, Kristen Wiig’s awkward flirting with an oblivious Chris Hemsworth is amazing and creepy and funny as hell, and Kate McKinnon – well, we’ve already covered her. Rounding out the quartet is Leslie Jones, who manages to be boisterous, knowledgeable within her area, and very, very genre savvy. She skirts the line of being a stereotype on occasion, but that’s forgivable when she’s this charismatic.

Lilly: And going back to something I said earlier (obviously I haven’t been listening to Andy, I’ve just been waiting to say things), re: Chris Hemsworth’s character and the aforementioned flirting Wiig does, she is doing the thing male characters typically do to ‘secretary roles’, throwing flirtatious lines out, ha ha, and it’s like okay, fair turn! Fair turn, there should be a female character who gets to do that. Ladies get to ghost bust AND make unwanted advances, DAMN IT. The difference was, Chris Hemsworth had a character who was fleshed out past a ‘Oh stop!’ and giggle most of those female equivalent characters get. He had a shitty acting career and idiocy that topped most, not to mention his actions in the second act! Plus, at the end of the film, they didn’t somehow end up hooking up even if her lines had consisted of ‘Oh you!’, ‘Oh stop!’, and ‘Phonecall for you, sir–why yes, this IS a new blouse!’

Ghostbusters works to make something accessible to another HALF of the population, and I appreciate that ever so much. At Party City, seeing the fact that the female ghostbuster jumpsuits (not the sexy ones with cleavage on the go and thighs for days, but the actual jumpsuits) were sold out while the male ones weren’t just made my tiny black heart flutter because yes. Yes. Women should get to dress up as any occupation they damn well please, including fictional ones. And that’s the point of the film. Women should get to pretend they are whatever they want to be, because that’s the wonder of imagination, and maybe someday, reality will follow suit so we can be whatever we want. Including Ghostbusters. I’d say I’d sign up, but I’m more a secretary, not going to lie.

Anyway, back to the film as a film, not a social movement.

It was funny! Having heard not too much in praise of it, I was surprised by how much I was laughing. And the cameos! Like seriously, how can you claim to know what is best for a franchise, saying women can’t do it, when all of the cast who could return were there! Even a bust of Harold Ramis showed up! And then there was Charles Dance, and Andy Garcia (yelling ‘Never compare me to the mayor in ‘Jaws’’ which was PERFECT)! Like Andy said, Kate McKinnon definitely stole the show (and my heart) but the cast was still so talented, I was delighted by all of them. I mean, the one odd casting job was the villain of the piece, but. Not to spoil it, that didn’t really make too much of a deal in the long run.

Thinking of it in the realm of family friendly, I did think the ghosts were a bit too scary looking–but then, I’m a known and admitted scaredy cat. If your kids are watching the original, they should be able to take this one, but I’d definitely take a look at the ghosts first to be sure.

So, that’s a definite go, watch, and enjoy from us! Give it a go, and who knows–you might like it more than the original!

Hahaha okay, I’ll stop trying to anger internet people now. But seriously. Go, watch, and enjoy!

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Beetlejuice; or Careful, That’s Already Once…

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where the films are meant to be enjoyed with your little boyles and ghouls! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they leaf through the pages of their handbook and try and make sense of this whole afterlife gig.

Today’s Film Offering: Beetlejuice (That’s twice!)

Lilly: Tim Burton is at his most Burton-y in this 1988 cult classic telling the story of a couple (played by young, hot Alec Baldwin and young, hot Geena Davis) who just want to haunt their house in peace when a family from New York shows up to ruin their afterlives.

Andy: Not to mention trash their house.

Lilly: Enter the titular ghost with the most, who wants to help by using his skills as a ‘bio exorcist’ to scare off the Deetz family (including young, hot Winona Ryder–we all had a crush on her back then, get over it). The film features some stop motion monsters that would later show to be a Burton thing in films like A Nightmare Before Christmas, and it had such excellent and creative character designs that it won an Academy Award for best makeup. It was such a hit, it spurned a cartoon that ran in the early nineties (and captured the attention of one little goth girl at the very least, hello), and there was talks of a sequel. Which never happened. Oh well.

A film that is actually a watered down version of the original script, what we have here is a PG film that features a teenage girl being forced to marry a demon, loads of perverted gropes and grabs, and the allusion to conception problems within the first ten minutes. Then there is the topic of suicide and the afterlife, and well, you definitely got yourself some interesting conversations to have with your kids after viewing if you haven’t yet approached all that. Coming from the angle of this being a family movie night choice, well–depending on how old your kids are, there is a lot to unpack. I actually don’t remember seeing this film for the first time as a kid, but by the time I did, I had seen the cartoon, so it was almost like something I liked was made more adult, and what kid doesn’t like that?

As an adult, though, there is something very appealing about this film. From the joke that those who commit suicide become civil servants in the afterlife to the actual depiction of the offices and existence of those who pass over, I just eat it all up with a spoon. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s imaginative. Right down the Handbook for the Recently Deceased reading like a manual for a VCR–it’s the little thoughts and details that went into the creation of the world that really speak to me. Of course, if it isn’t already clear, I’m a lifelong fan of all this, so maybe my bias is showing. No maybe, actually. It is.

Andy: Hm. I’ve been keeping quiet so far because this is a film Lilly likes a lot more than I do, and I’ve never been able to unpack the reasons why. It’s good, and you should watch it for all the reasons Lilly said. I guess my problem is less with the movie, and more with Tim Burton.

Lilly: Whaaaaaaaaat.

Andy: He has a reputation as a dark director, but all of his movies are almost all gaudily colourful or monochrome (in the case of half of Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie). I don’t think I know of another director that has shown such a limited range in his catalogue.

So I guess I don’t dislike Beetl

Lilly: THE FILM THAT WON’T BE NAMED AGAIN, SHUSH.

Andy: …The film that won’t be named again, but I dislike the fact that Tim Burton has been essentially making the same film again and again and again since 1988. The only thing this one lacks is Johnny Depp. Having said that, it is fun. And I really, really like the depiction of the afterlife as a relentless bureaucracy.

Lilly: Now that Andy’s tossed himself to the wolves that are Tim Burton’s fans…As far as the family friendly aspect of this film goes, it’s really up to you, but as someone who has loved this film since she was a tiny, likely age-inappropriate viewer, I say go, watch, and enjoy!

The Addams Family; or Try and Not Snap Snap Along

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Family Friendly Friday, where we talk about a film that’s good for the little boils and ghouls to watch with the groan-ups. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get the family together for a mamushka under the moonlight.

Today’s film offering: The Addams Family

Lilly: The Addamses are the patron saints of the weird but welcoming. Originally mere illustrations on the page created by Charles Addams, the family burst onto screen in the mid sixties and they proceeded to be off and on it, whether it was live action or cartoon, until the present day, where talks of the musical heading to the UK are happening. You can’t keep a bad family down, so to speak, and the Addams have merrily proven that.

Andy: For many people though, this version may be the definitive one, in the same way that Jack Nicholson is the definitive Joker, no matter how far Heath Ledger or Jared Leto go or the fact that the character first appeared when Mr.Nicholson was three years old.

Lilly: 1991’s The Addams Family decided to take the story of the Addamses and shake it up a little. The film tells the story of a lost Addams brother, Fester, and that lack of Fester being taken advantage of by a conniving woman and her son who bears a passing resemblance to the lost relative. They attempt to infiltrate the family from the inside to get ahold of the fortune they know is kept in the Addams family vault. Not actually as easy as it sounds (not that it sounds easy at all to fool a man like Gomez who is clearly passionate about his familial connections), and it proves to be far more difficult than they could handle. Toss in the fact that maybe it isn’t so bad for the son, being an Addams, and you got yourself a fun family romp!

It is incredibly difficult to talk about this film with any sort of distance for me because the Addams Family are basically my heroes. They are weird, gothy, creepy folk who are happy to welcome you into your home! Who doesn’t aspire to that! I wish I could host like Morticia, be as enthusiastic as Gomez, or as hip as Cousin Itt. But. For the sake of Hallowfest, I’ll attempt to critique it.

Andy: There is something very appealing about them as a family unit. They are, in many ways, the ultimate outsiders – they clearly have money, but fashion means almost nothing to them in their embrace of gothic chic. Their family motto – “We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us.” – as well as being hilarious suggests the kind of screw-you mentality that many of us who grew up as outsiders strive for. And at the heart of it is a family that, although very weird, is also loving, kind, passionate and caring. They can foster a greater understanding of our values simply by rejecting some of them and fully embracing others; and they, ultimately, are just as human as we are; teaching us that perhaps our differences as humans are merely cosmetic and that our similarities are far deeper. Not bad for a family film!

Lilly: Exactly! Exactly. This. The Addamses send the very strong message that you can be a role model without having to be like everyone else. You can like dark decor and still have a bright outlook.

So onto the cast. This is a film that was made with a good chunk of history behind it–people had played the roles before, there were comparisons ready to be made. There had already been three Gomez Addamses prior to Raúl Juliá, and four Morticias prior to Angelica Huston! Yet, when I think of Gomez Addams, it’s Juliá I think of. He was Gomez! And Huston! Come on. Their chemistry was nuts (and g rated, even with the sexy S&M references because if your kid gets it, that’s up to you), and they were everything I wanted to be when I grew up. And they took the roles seriously, which can’t always be said for films that are adaptations of shows and cartoons.

Andy: And how nice is it to see a married couple where one character doesn’t look down on the other. There is never, ever any sense of one looking down or putting up with the other.

Lilly: Throw in Christopher Lloyd’s confused Fester, and Christina Ricci’s on point blank-faced Wednesday, and again, you forget these roles were played multiple times before. That’s pretty impressive.

If you are talking plot, The Addams Family pretty much gives what it says on the box. This is where it is evident that this film has had decades of audience tests and joke re-writes because it was a perfect feature length film introduction and embrace of the Addamses without coming off as shoving too much in or being too brief with the details. The film goes along at a clip because it knows it has a past and isn’t going to be bogged down by details. The Addamses aren’t about the details, anyway.

Andy: So, over all, is it a recommendation from us?

Lilly: Always. Like the song says, those Addamses really are a scream. Not to mention great role models, loving parents, and a warmly loving, functioning family unit. It’s just not as easy to write those parts into a theme song, I guess. So go, watch, enjoy!

Monster High: Haunted; or Ghoulfriend’s Boo-vie Night

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to Family Friendly Fridays, where our bloggers look at films fit for the whole family to enjoy. You join our reviewer, Lilly (with her special guest, Livi), as they get ready to go back to school, even if it is a bit spookier than she remembers.

Today’s film offering: Monster High: Haunted

Lilly: For those of you not in the know, Monster High is the creation of the Mattel toy company that features a series of dolls that had a web series and now have full length feature films documenting the adventures of Draculaura, Clawdeen, and Frankie, who, along with their friends, are just too GHOUL for school.

That was a tester pun. Because if you couldn’t handle that, then Monster High is just not for you. It’s not. It is full of puns, including and not limited to:

Ghoulfriend, Las Plagues (instead of Las Vegas), Ghostoevsky, hall moanitors, unboo-lievable, hauntdog day, ectonomics, paintergeist.

So. Good. I love puns, so this whole franchise is up my alley, plus it has characters of all shades of supernatural, including and not limited to the daughters and sons of:

Frankenstein’s creation, Dracula, the wolf man, the creature from the Black Lagoon, a banshee, a skeleton, Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde, a zombie, a siren, gargoyles, and lesser knowns like the noppera-bō, or a Japanese spirit otherwise known as the faceless ghost.

Seriously? Sign me up! Twice.

So for this first edition of Family Friendly Friday, we thought it might be nice to actually get someone who this film was aimed at to weigh in on if it was really worth wailing home about (practice pun, I’ll get better). So I’m joined by our friend, Livi, who has not only excellent taste in films but is a friend’s five year old who definitely knows what is entertaining for those under (mumble our ages mumble). To start off, Livi summed up our film choice’s plot:

Livi: I want to watch 13 Wishes.

Lilly: Wait, no, she summed up the fact that Haunted was not her first choice, and in fact, she’d rather watch the film where one of them (BOO knows who) wishes to be popular and drama ensues with a Djinn. Cue a long discussion about how Haunted had ghosts so it was a bit more Halloween-y, which completely was ignored because 13 Wishes.

We eventually settled in to watch, and while the puns were cracking me up (as well as the school’s swim coach being the creature from the Black Lagoon, one of my favs), the physical comedy had Livi laughing. Not only was she laughing, but she was following the plot, and so was I, because, gosh darn it, a good mystery was brewing. Yes, there were a few weird little sub-plots like the resident Gossip Ghost (aha) learning gossip hurts and a gargoyle who longed to swim, but most importantly, Draculaura was being frightened by a ghost haunting her! Oooooo.

Of course, as an adult watching this, I was confused as to how she was scared by a ghost when she goes to class with a banshee and a spectre, but okay. Maybe it was the stranger element of it, not just the ghost part. Maybe.

Anyway, as we watched, questions were asked of Livi, and she easily answered them, the plot not too murky for HER to work out, even if I was surprised by certain things, such as Serena being a SIREN. GET IT.

As we went along, Livi helpfully explained things (see: spoilers abound for we were all innocent once), laughed at some of the jokes (yet didn’t think the puns were as funny as I did for some reason), and pointed out her favourites (Clawdeen, Frankie, and Draculaura, in that order). It was actually really fun to see the monsters from movies I love being adapted and made accessible to younger audiences, as I have no problem with the gentrification of monsters that were fading into the distant past for the profit of a toy company. I mean, when they turned into ghosts (I spoil things, too) I know that Mattel was behind that plot point, rubbing their hands with glee over how much money the new line of dolls could get. New outfits! Fierce new looks! Buy your kid a second Clawdeen doll at full price because she has different teensy clothes! Well played, Mattel.

While Livi liked it, I really enjoyed it, too. It was not only full of puns, but was surprisingly deep at times–it even used themes that Charles Dickens used in A Christmas Carol, like a representation of the burden of punishment for misdeeds with chains in the afterlife. Shut up, Monster High. Shut up. You got me impressed already with your Japanese faceless ghosts but to be using the chains of punishment that made A Christmas Carol super depressing for old Scrooge? Come on.

So this first family friendly Friday was a success, in my opinion. I laughed, Livi laughed, and even Andy, who was barely watching, laughed. What more could you want from a film that was rated G? More puns? More puns. So settle in, relax, and let the play on words wash over you. Mmmm spooktacular. Enjoy!