Despite Melissa McCarthy’s Chewbacca Mom schtick now running very thin, a weirdly bipolar it is/it isn’t linked to the originals stance, a distinct lack of that SNL ’84 bite from these SNL ’16 ladies and some fun, but wanting cameos (who ultimately underscore the film’s schizophrenic relationship with its source material), oddly and rather refreshingly Ghostbusters – Answer The Call is still miraculously heaps of slick fun, creepy when it needs to be and is not quite the childhood-destroying proton beam the cackling undead of the internet’s movie fan community needed it to be.
Yes, it’s no Bridesmaids II. But it’s not Ghostbusters II either. Losing Dan Aykroyd’s ever passionate pursuits of ancient ghost-foolery versus society’s ills is no bad thing. And whilst the original 1984 classic is understandably held aloft with great reverence it too is not that perfect a movie. If the original and surviving cast members couldn’t get this third Gozarian off the ground then possibly it was for a reason.
Admittedly director Paul Feig (The Heat, Spy) has bargained with a franchise devil and maybe not wholly stood up from the séance as victor. The now reviled initial trailers for this new movie were actually fine. But they did tap into a heritage – the ’84 fire house, the New York was saved before mantra, the suits, the proton guns – that the subsequent trailers and this final film oddly try to distance itself from when it suits. This is a 2016 world where no Ghostbusters have ever existed….yet a subway graffiti artist nails their logo without trying, a real estate suit shows the new gang around that Tribeca fire station and the cameo wrangler clearly has the ’84 original on loop somewhere. For a film whose director and press tried to distance itself from the first two movies, it makes no sense that Ghostbusters – Answer The Call (that seemed to be the title we got in our cinema but who knows what this alias of a movie wants to call itself) repeats the beats of the ’84 original. From an opening phantom menace to some cool and kickass calls to duty, the unbelieving world of academic elders (Charles Dance is sorely wasted), camp venue managers, a finale haunting in a late 19th century apartment block and meddlesome city bureaucrats, the film that doesn’t want you to know it is Ghostbusters III is about as convincing at subterfuge as a Halloween kid under a white sheet.
And so to the ghostly white elephant in the Manhattan library room. Does the all-lady ensemble work? Yes, it does. Very much so. When the end credits roll (and not the eye-gougingly awful spectacle of Chris Hemsworth trying to add some Slumdog Millionaire flash-mob er fun to proceedings) one is left with a guilty moment of “I think I want to see those characters again“. Yes, they are shameless photocopies of the original line up of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson (with the exception being that Wiig is not Venkman with the “smallest bowtie in the world“). Wiig especially has the onscreen ability of being the comedy ring leader without pitching for the bigger laughs. That is left to Leslie Jones and the comedy balls she brings to the haunting. And likewise Kate McKinnon’s science lesbian Holtzman and the gentle hots she has for Wiig’s Erin Gilbert works more than not, despite being kept at arm’s length. If anything, a film that is/isn’t based on the 1984 Columbia Pictures stalwart needed a love story in the ecto-mix to echo that Dana and Peter dynamic. And not with Hemsworth’s dire receptionist. We really don’t need to talk about Kevin – a terrible, terrible homage mix of Rick Moranis dumb and Annie Potts phone answering swipes whose dumb blonde comedy gold must have stormed that first cast read-through, but maybe not since. Whilst it obviously panders to the ladies (and some of the boys) leaving the cinema, a film that has weathered such female-skewed criticisms should have thought a bit more about whether having a dancing Hemsworth flashing pictures of his topless torso was quite the 2016 statement about onscreen gender it could have been.
But politics was never Ghostbusters thing – though there is a great “Jaws mayor” gag at Andy Garcia’s expense. It is great to see the various ages of New York be that summer blockbuster Big Apple again (albeit one shot in Boston and Harvard), the effects straddle cartoon and creepy well enough and that klaxon of a title song never ceases to stir. In a world of social media (who you gonna tweet?) and countless haunted reality shows, Ghostbusters – Answer The Call doesn’t maybe feel the contemporary statement that the ’84 classic was. The original tapped into the cult of inadvertent celebrity, academia and both city and American politics with more skill than here. But for two hours of your Summer movie time, director Feig and his ensemble have not buried our childhoods alive. They have not killed a franchise that has been dead of its own accord for nearly thirty years. They have raised a movie spirit that is knockabout, visually rich, fun when it needs to be and is a stylish piece of matinee fluff. In the kneejerk “jumpers for goal posts” nostalgic-steered attacks it is worth noting that 2016’s Ghostbusters is more of an Eighties comedy blockbuster than maybe even 1989’s Ghostbusters II was. This is a successful ensemble pantomime with a gloss, a pace, likeable characters and no need to mentally string out four sequels before the credits have even rolled. In an age when the gatekeepers of summer cinema are comic book movies obsessed with endless teaser-y teasing to movies not yet made, it is refreshing to just have a self-contained film that has a confidence in itself. That is more Eighties cinema than not. If you’ve got it, haunt it.
Ghostbusters is on general release both in the UK and US from 15th July 2016.
“My guess is that if they now choose to change of director for every other film, it’s just because you can’t really change the formula, you can merely try to film it your way.” – Guy Hamilton
And it’s goodnight from him.
“Here is a funny joke that will make you laugh – well I don’t suppose it will make everybody laugh – that, as I have said before from this very chair, is a matter of circumstances. I mean, if your wife has gone off to her pottery class and left you at home explaining the Karma Sutra to the Swedish au-pair then we won’t get much out of you until the epilogue. So good luck and try not to break anything” – A Ronnie Corbett chair monologue (by Spike Mullins)
One of my writing privileges, highlights and blessings was writing for Ronnie Corbett. We met at during the Edinburgh festival after a Lionel Blair Tap & Chat lunchtime show (naturally). He was looking for a writer, I professed I was just a fan and not fishing, he said he was fishing and it went from there.
Ronnie was of course old school professional. He sent me some old photocopies of his chair monologue pieces by Spike Mullins and underlined how the gag and the punchline is not enough. You need to “lay the edge with stuff and weave it in“. He would always end a mail or message with the Scottish adage – “yours aye” – and was a keen, keen advocate of Scottish comedy and new voices (he was often found quietly taking in a new comic’s show or stand-up during many an Edinburgh August). He once left a great voicemail on my phone. Despite his familiar diminutive references, he had a booming eight foot tall voice with that rich and lyrical Lothian burr. I made a point of saving that voicemail and have it to this day.
Like all funny folk Ronnie was also a seriously good actor. The same could be said of his working life partner and comedy husband, Ronnie Barker. The ridiculously pitched, though gloriously title-tuned 1980s sitcom Sorry! worked because Ronnie sold it with wit, warmth and the right through-line of nonsense. Having started out as a friend and on-stage co-star of Danny La Rue, he was also in The Saint, a Bond movie (as Polo in 1967’s Casino Royale), one of the few chuckle-some elements in the awkward Fierce Creatures (1997), had a memorable performance in John Landis’s Edinburgh horror Burke & Hare (2010) and holds the chaos in check in the 1978 No Sex Please, We’re British. Ronnie was once also invited by Stanley Kubrick to audition as one of the apes for 2001 – A Space Odyssey (not joking).
He refused to let the devastating loss of comedy partner and valued friend Ronnie Barker hold him totally back. He poked fun at himself in shows that were not strictly Sunday evening comedy fare. His turn as himself in Extras is a delight as was his fruity turn in Little Britain and taking a painful prat fall in a Peter Kay charity video.
There are too many moments of The Two Ronnies’ genius and comedy to cite – four candles, oddly progressive returning sketch serial The Worm That Turned, “Your nuts M’Lord”, Harry & Bert, The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town…. His CV was one forever entwined with a [now] yesteryear of British entertainment – of that BBC White City behemoth Television Centre, Radio Times Christmas covers, charity golf matches, viewing figures in the tens of millions on a regular basis, Barbara Dickson musical interludes, the big end number, drag for comedy’s sake, slavish homages, gags against Auntie Beeb and long running narratives about the cheapskate aspirations of “the producer“. Ultimately it may be the ‘Class’ sketch from The Frost Report (April, 1966) that holds the greatest cultural clout. It is of course brilliantly written and perfectly relayed. But amidst the airtight humour, Frost satire and class attacks, it was Corbett who conveyed the humanity and ridiculousness of the whole piece. He may have memorably and forlornly added, “I know my place“. But to be fair, Ronnie’s place in British entertainment was always going to be higher up than that.
Rest in peace, Ronnie. And thank you.
Ronnie Balfour Corbett, 1930 – 2016.
So right, the party is just going along nicely because his parties can get a bit dreary – I remember the last one, a light bulb blew out and we were still laughing about it two hours later”.
“Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. But always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage.” – Jor-El, Superman The Movie (1978)
Forgive me Jor-El, for I have sinned…. I have taken the internet’s need to shame in vain and didn’t mind Batman Vs Superman – Dawn of Justice.
It’s not perfect. The reaction thus far is partly justified. It starts as a Batman movie, ends as a Superman film, sorely misses any of what original Superman The Movie director Richard Donner called the all-important ‘verisimilitude‘ and both characters fall through some narrative earthquake cracks in between without chance to wind back the earth and clock to rectify things. But unlike the ever tiresome and increasingly cinematically barren Marvel movie universe, this new Superman VII Meets Batman IX enterprise somehow retains a through line of order rather than Marvelling into an attention deficit mess.
Despite pitching Bruce Wayne as a morally confused bully and wavering Superman between social pariah and national hero, there is proper chemistry between Affleck and Cavill. However, they have been pitched into a film and the ever pallid and sadistic visions of director Zack Snyder which is clearly fearful of any real comic book red, white and blue heroics. It certainly doesn’t want to see these two icons just hanging out and being what neither of them has – a pal. Would it have been so amiss to drop in a scene of Bruce and Clark having some bromance time at a baseball game (which then needs both their superhero skills) or comparing the coolest ways to extract information from a street thug? Would it have hurt to see the kings of G0tham and Metropolis actually on the streets of said cities, grabbing a beer, comparing world saving methods or hanging out back in Smallville during the holidays? Are the billowing grey dust clouds of 9/11 really the only destructive touchstone American superhero cinema can – tastelessly – mine?! Did we really need the umpteenth dutch-tilted prologue of the Wayne family’s ill-fated departure from movie night (John Boorman’s Excalibur it seems). That personal pain could have been equally signposted by what the film already has – Diane Lane’s great Martha Kent adding some surrogate mother poignancy for a visiting and always orphaned Bruce.
Batman and Superman are the kings of movie superheroes. They are the regal box office and critical principalities the others forever want to be. As great as Ant-Man is (and it is a cracking exception to Marvel’s ever-dogged movie plan), the world wasn’t holding its breath for a movie version. But this Marvel-ification of the project – of overstretching a character’s wings before they literally fly – is waving Kryptonite in the face of all comic book movie heroes. It is also wrongly pitching the world of the comic book into a cinema one. They need to be different. What may work as an ensemble piece in newsstand ink does not automatically fly on the movie screen. If handled erroneously these multi-character superhero flicks become expensive trailers for themselves. Bruce and Clark deserve better. Batman and Superman deserve better than yet another Jesse Eisenberg-is-better-than-you performance (it worked in The Social Network but is getting patronisingly irritating now), a dubiously pinned disabled veteran come suicide bomber and a clunky Martha, Martha, Martha turning point.
Whatever Batman and Robin‘s faults are, failing to have an eye on the next two unmade sequels is not one of them. Whilst Batman Vs Superman’s insane insistence – in part fuelled by that Marvel obsession of ensemble – that Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Batman and Superman are not four characters enough to withhold a narrative, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman is a welcome breeze. Her story is one of the few strands introduced here that just does it visually and with a certain panache and launch-party glamour rather than pugilistic bun-fights ad-nauseum.
Henry Cavill is not wooden as Kal-El and totally flies (!) with the dignity and humanity afforded to the DNA of onscreen Superman by Christopher Reeve. It is a welcome improvement on his Superman From U.N.C.L.E. mugging and verbal tumbleweed. He also remembers that Superman is a world hero with all that baggage of responsibility, whereas Bruce Wayne forgets he is merely an east coast city icon. This film does however have a bipolar view on Kal-El. In one beat he is social pariah and in another he is national hero being heralded by the masses in Washington. Fortunately Cavill keeps his [red] eye on the role throughout. And, as expected, Ben Affleck makes a sterling Bruce Wayne. With his grey flecks of hair and ability to flatter a lady when needs be, gone are Christian Bale’s over-moody internalisations. This new Dark Knight however is oddly bound to a graceless, over-bulky Bat Suit and some seriously unintelligent decisions (wouldn’t a chat and some sparkling dialogue with Superman have determined things a bit better than beating the hell out of him to appease online forums and the “VS” marquee banner?).
But oddly, weirdly and refreshingly this Superman fan bought it. Despite Zack Snyder’s sadistic world view (there is nothing very comic book or matinee special about beating up Diane Lane’s Martha Kent with some ISIS hostage leanings) and his pallid insistence on not only draining every frame of all colour, immediacy and reality, this film is instantly more fluid and watchable than either Avengers carnage fest. It suffers for missing its chance to be a modern commentary on male camaraderie, heroism, sexism and the American political system (when a real Lex Luthor is circling the White House the movies do need the likes of Superman and Batman to step up to the mark). Also, for a Batman Vs Superman marriage of a movie concept whiteboard session to come out barely a year after America got Equal Marriage and to not have some quick passing fun with it is another indication this film is not wholly sure of its place in current culture. Superman II had 1980 stamped all over it. Batman Vs Superman is not sure when it is set. Superman The Movie balanced a homespun 1950s nostalgia in the face of a Nixon-fatigued America. But when it works, this new film does sort of work. Batman Vs Superman is far from the steaming pile of Kryptonite some vloggers want us all to hear. It is a folly of a movie. And if this film exists because Man of Steel didn’t quite ultimately rescue the Superman franchise from being stuck up a tree, then it is a Bat-wards step of sorts. But sometimes a folly has its merits. Sometimes a bloated pantomime of a movie still has its moments.
There is still great fun in this film. Holly Hunter plays Nancy Pelosi playing Hillary Clinton, Amy Adams’ Lois Lane gets in a Margot Kidder helicopter fall homage, Bruce Wayne has a really cool new driveway and Kevin Costner’s cameo is welcome and full of dignity. Ignore what kneejerk haters bound to the sub-industries of comic book lore want to spout about it. To its utter credit, Batman Vs Superman doesn’t get obsessed by its future film cousins to the detriment of the movie you’re watching (Marvel’s fare is fast becoming an industry trade show of future intent over current content). Maybe now a new director might bring some renewed zeal before cod….?
Man Of Steel thoughts.
Man of Steel Magnolias via OUT magazine.
Ever since its March 2014 launch, the London Film Museum and EON Production’s Bond In Motion exhibition has coyly gone up a gear or four. As well as being one of the world’s best public collections of Bond vehicles, planes, bikes, boats and submersible crocodiles, the Covent Garden based collection is fast becoming THE exhibition space for EON Productions and their ever-evolving 007 archive.
Fast on the heels – or DB10 tyre tracks – of Daniel Craig’s fourth spin of the Bond wheel, Bond In Motion’s Jonathan Sands and EON’s chief archivist Meg Simmonds have already judiciously added The Cars of SPECTRE in November 2015 and have recently swollen the already rich collection with yet more exhibits, props, costumes and artwork from the likes of Octopussy, The Man With The Golden Gun and more.
Already now the base of choice for many a celebration, spy-skewed launch and birthday kid’s imagination; Bond In Motion has recently held its own two year anniversary weekend in apt style. Marked over two days and fully accessible to the visiting public, fans and those curious just to know more, screen critic Will Lawrence interviewed key Bond personnel about their experiences and world-leading crafts. On Saturday 19th March 2016 Visual Effects Supervisor Steve Begg (Spectre, Skyfall) and famed stunt coordinator Vic Armstrong (Tomorrow Never Dies) took part in a public Q&A. On Sunday 20th March 2016 Catching Bullets was invited to hear the thoughts and reminiscences of costume designer Jany Temime and Special Effects legend Chris Corbould in a typically Bond bespoke day of insight, honesty and craftsmanship.
“We’re just a service department… to help the actor become the character” – Jany Temime
The French-born costume designer of the Harry Potter series, Children of Men, In Bruges and Gravity, Temime has also of course designed the costumes for the last two Daniel Craig Bond bullets, Skyfall and Spectre. Flanked by costume designs and exquisite drawings for both films (including the marked skulduggery of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival for Spectre and the various sartorial approaches to the likes of Swann, Severine, Moneypenny, Mr & Mrs Sciarra, Silva and Blofeld), Temime is quick to enthuse about her striking contributions to the Bond series so far. The creative brief for Spectre was “black and white”, to “go darker” than Skyfall. Temime relished the chance to up the ante whilst bringing vintage movie and yesteryear fashion influences she clearly holds dear. She wanted “a Fifties look” to Bond’s alpine wear for the Solden scenes in Austria – evidenced particularly in those bold mid-century sunglasses and “the very sleek silhouette” and “army look” of Bond’s dark jacket and trousers. She also wanted to echo that Italian sense of fashion and dignity in Bond’s funeral coat and suit.
“You have to love film more than costume” – Jany Temime
Hoping to join the EON crew for the next and twenty-fifth Bond movie, Temime has nothing but praise for current leading man Daniel Craig. “He likes his clothes”, she remarks, “he’s proud of it”. It was Temime who suggested we see Bond in the white tuxedo in Spectre. And not because of any Goldfinger homage or reference, but the whole “1930s style” notion of Casablanca, Morocco and Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine. Likewise Swann’s dining cart gown had to almost be “naked” as if she is wearing nothing as she makes her head-turning entrance for dinner and death. The dress in question was on display, enabling Temime to remind how a costume must not just look good or in character. It also has to work under the lights, to be able to withstand the scrutiny and eye of the world’s best cinematographers, to be practical in an action sequence, original and fully aware of the script. Temime notes how she gave more attention to the back of Swann’s evening gown as she knew the back of it would hold more screen time in the ensuing fight between Hinx and Bond.
Likewise she has very specific ideas for Ben Whishaw’s Q. Aside from the woollen hat he wears in Spectre being chosen for no other reason than Whishaw’s ears were going to go blue with the Austrian cold, Temime reminds how she has to fully read a character, their lifestyles, their tastes and spending habits. “Q – “, she suggests, “– is a man with money…he’s a geek into computers”. Of course he would have high end woollen wear, accessories and laptops. Two cats and a box of Twinnings Earl Grey don’t cost that much to feed, surely?!
Temime also likes to hear from the actors themselves. She was in awe of Spectre’s Monica Bellucci and utterly agreed at the actress’s suggestion of a veil for grieving widow Lucia Sciarra. Temime wanted her to have the outline of a bird – augmented no doubt by Bellucci’s killer heels and coquette-ish skills at traversing the “pipes and stones of Pinewood Studios” like a pro. She would of course disagree too. Director Sam Mendes always wanted Moneypenny’s Macau casino gown to be gold, but Temime was hesitant – “she will look like an Oscar”. “She is not going to be gold, she’s going to be lime” Temime recalls as she hints she may have cheated a bit and allowed the dress a lime tinge to downplay the gold.
But of course there was no downplaying on the streets and clothes rails of Mexico City for Spectre’s magnificent opening overture. The Day of the Dead backdrop was clearly a design treat for Temime and her team. Yet she notes how it was the Mexican dressers, designers and extras who educated her on where to go with the somewhat large task of individually dressing 1500 extras as well as three leads and a raft of support characters. Temime was most complimentary of the Mexican art school students who collaborated on the memorable sequence. “They explained and you understand the difference between party and death” she notes, “and Bond had to be one of them”.
Likewise Temime had a careful brief with Dame Judi Dench’s costumes for Skyfall. Realising the character would be dressed early on in what was ultimately going to be her final costume in the narrative (and indeed series), Temime fought against the spoilerific colours of black and death and pushed instead for – like Bond’s tuxedos – a dark blue that holds only the merest taste of black on film. It is that attention to reasoning – let alone detail – that marks Temime out as a key mind in the Bond production family. She is tasked not just with dressing the good and the bad of 007’s world. She has to get into the mind of the characters. She has to decide just what Blofeld would be thinking when selects a dress for a visiting Madeleine Swann (Temime’s thinking is that his mind was all over the place so he would pick something that was loud and busy). Naturally Temime enthuses over a rail of Craig’s blue Tom Ford tuxedos (size 38R no less) and Sciarra’s bloody and torn white suit as well as Swann’s Jimmy Choo footwear and that train gown.
I asked Temime if perhaps one of the greatest pressures for her is less the obvious need to make everything look forever amazing, but does she – the figurehead of the costume department – have to remain on fine sartorial fettle throughout? Is there an inadvertent pressure to look good each day? She jokingly assured me she never worries as she always looks good each day (and this session at Bond In Motion was no exception). Besides, who looks great at half four in the morning in a muddy British field?
I wondered too if there was anything she would still like to bring to Bond and a possible third film?
“Do you know when I started Spectre I was so afraid. I thought ‘Oh my god, I gave everything I had. How can I do better?’ And then – thank God – they gave me incredible people to work with. They gave me a great script. They gave me a great DOP. They gave me a fantastic actor. So it is not only me. I’m a part of it. And I hope if I have the chance of doing the next one they will give me a fantastic actor again, an amazing script and a fantastic DOP. And then those people will help me to create something that is maybe not better, but different.”
“And I hope if I have the chance of doing the next one they will give me a fantastic actor again, an amazing script and a fantastic DOP.”
Clearly endearing myself to Temime for utterly seeing the deliberate influences of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky (1990) on Spectre’s Moroccan shoot (those desert train station images of Bond and Swann are very Bertolucci – as are parts of cinematographer’s Hoyte Van Hoytema funeral coverage in Rome) I later wondered if there is an era of history she has not yet tackled? Maybe not so much Bond, but any time in history she was desperate to tackle?
“No. I have been working for a long time”, she laughs. “I think I have been covering every single period of film. It’s no much the period, it’s how you want to access it. Because a period in itself is not that important. If it was then I think I would just work for a fashion house. It’s more how the director and why the director chooses that period. What does he want to tell about that period and how somebody from 2016 will look at the period to get something of it? So the period in itself isn’t that important. It’s what it expresses nowadays”.
“You make your own era as long as you have a good script” – Jany Temime
It is this insight to the Bond creatives, their choices and talents which Bond In Motion continues to herald. Far from a Bond petrol-head’s dream destination, the exhibition has matured into a fascinating and accessible platform for movie audiences to question and meet the minds behind their favourite movies and moments. It is worth keeping an eye out for possible future events and celebrations of our man James. It is certainly worth taking Bond In Motion for a new spin too.
To book tickets and find out more about Bond In Motion click here.
For a full photo gallery of Jany Temime and Chris Corbould’s sessions at Bond In Motion’s second anniversary weekend click on Catching Bullets Facebook page.
With thanks to Jany Temime, Chris Corbould, Meg Simmonds, Will Lawrence, EON Productions, Jonathan Sands, Rebecca Britton and the team at Bond In Motion and the London Film Museum.