Ghostbusters: Afterlife

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/1/22;
Sony Pictures;
Comedy;
Box Office $128.06 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray, $45.99 UHD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for supernatural action and some suggestive references.
Stars Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Bob Gunton, J.K. Simmons, Bokeem Woodbine.

Somewhere out there, lost to the annals of time and space, is the ideal third “Ghostbusters” movie. While Ghostbusters: Afterlife might not achieve that lofty goal, the circumstances that led to its creation make it a valiant effort.

Following the 1984 original film and its 1989 sequel, plans for a third film eventually stalled out when the creative team couldn’t agree to a satisfactory story to tell. The 2014 death of Harold Ramis, who was one of the creative forces behind the franchise in addition to playing a key character, seemed to signal the end of attempts to continue the original storyline. The consolation prize for fans was the 2009 Ghostbusters video game, which franchise co-creator and co-star Dan Aykroyd referred to as essentially being a third movie.

In 2016 a third movie did come along, with director Paul Feig’s reboot of the original that severed ties with the continuity of the first two films, presenting a cast of talented female comedians whose characters invented the concept of and equipment for ghostbusting on their own, only to come across a villain who used similar equipment to summon ghosts. The remake, eventually dubbed Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, was largely rejected by franchise fans because it wasn’t rooted in a continuation of the lore, instead sticking original cast members into mostly awkward and bizarre cameos.

Then, director Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the 1980s movies, had a vision of a girl discovering ghostbusting equipment, leading her to discover her family’s legacy. This idea eventually germinated into Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a true continuation of the storyline from the original films.

The girl is Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), who along with her brother, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), move to Oklahoma after their mother, Callie (Carrie Coon), inherits a derelict farm from her father, Phoebe and Trevor’s grandfather. While Callie tries to make sense of her father’s finances, Phoebe and Trevor discover their grandfather was one of the original Ghostbusters, who had settled in Oklahoma to combat supernatural forces that threatened to bring an end to the world. Along with some new friends and a teacher played by Paul Rudd, they take up his mission to avert the return of the evil forces.

Afterlife is far from a perfect movie and is at times almost too reverential to the 1980s films, with a third act that is essentially a re-creation of the end of the first film, relying more on nostalgia than originality. But it respects the lore, and that’s probably enough to earn the appreciation of longtime fans.

The “new generation” plot gives the younger characters an entry point into the mythology by making it a mystery for them to solve, which is a clever way to reintroduce the concept while also providing a touching way to address the absence of Ramis (though how it’s addressed in the film does raise a lot of questions that are left unanswered). However, longtime fans will see what’s coming from a mile away, as the retread elements of Afterlife really start to wear thin by the end.

In a way, this actually makes the existence of Answer the Call more infuriating, since its story arc of ghostbusting-like equipment being used to call forth the forces of darkness rather than stop them would have been a nice fit for a next-generation Ghostbusters movie and better served Afterlife. (In Answer the Call, the equipment isn’t ghostbusters gear per se, but similar hardware developed by a bad guy — the concept could have been adapted for a story about modifying ghostbuster tech).

So, what we are left with is a movie that is a bit of a double-edged sword. Up until some fan service in the third act, Afterlife works well as a standalone movie about a struggling family uncovering a lost legacy and learning who they are, playing more along Jason Reitman’s sensibilities as an indie filmmaker. But as a “Ghostbusters” movie, it’s more like a tribute band paying homage to the original, which might make it less appealing to viewers who don’t have the nostalgia for the 1980s films.

The Afterlife Blu-ray includes some thorough behind-the-scenes materials and a few featurettes aimed at the fandom.

The central making-of video is the 10-minute “Summoning the Spirit,” which starts with Jason Reitman’s concept for creating the film as previously mentioned, and picks up from there. Supplementary to this are a six-and-a-half-minute featurette about the visual effects.

For the fans, the eight-minute “We Got One!” looks at the many references to the earlier films layered into Afterlife. There’s also a six-minute guide to ghostbusting equipment, and a five-minute look at the return of the Ghostbusters’ car, the Ecto-1. The 10-minute “A Look Back” featurette offers a reminiscence with the surviving original cast members, while the four-minute “A Look Ahead” teases what might be yet to come.

Also included is a single deleted scene, running a minute-and-a-half, that offers a fun extension of a scene between Callie, Phoebe and one of the original cast members.

Fox Bringing ‘Dog Days’ Home in November

The comedy Dog Days will be released through digital retailers Nov. 6 and on DVD Nov. 20 from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The film follows a group of strangers whose lives intertwine as a result of their dogs. The cast includes Vanessa Hudgens, Jon Bass, Nina Dobrev, Adam Pally, Eva Longoria, Rob Corddry, Finn Wolfhard, Ron Cephas Jones and Thomas Lennon.

Dog Days earned $6.8 million at the domestic box office.

It: Chapter One

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 1/9/18;
Warner;
Horror;
Box Office $327.48 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $44.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence/horror, bloody images and for language.
Stars Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott.

It’s easy to see why director Andy Muschietti’s It was such a huge hit in theaters. In successfully translating the themes present in Stephen King’s source 1986 novel, Muschietti has managed to craft a solid piece of entertainment that works even for viewers who aren’t necessarily interested in looking for the deeper meaning of it all.

The film covers roughly the first half of the book, in which a group of kids in a small town in Maine band together to confront a demonic creature that emerges every 27 years to feed off the fear of the town’s youth. (It: Chapter Two, about the adult versions of the characters fighting the creature, is due in 2019).

The kids, who call themselves the Losers’ Club, are mostly social outcasts who find a common bond in their efforts to save the town from the shapeshifting creature, whose best-known persona is that of Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). None of the adults in town believe anything they are saying about it.

There are clear metaphors at play about the awkwardness of growing up and overcoming childhood anxieties. But the film also works on a pure nostalgia level, a throwback to youthful adventures such as The Goonies and Stand By Me (also based on a King story). Indeed, some of the scenes of the kids confronting real-life hazards, such as dealing with local bullies or abusive parents, are almost more unsettling than Pennywise’s attempts to devour them (though the Pennywise scenes are certainly up to the task of freaking out viewers looking for a good fright).

The film is also well-timed to take advantage of the huge popularity of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which itself is a throwback to 1980s movies featuring kids embarking on adventures and often encountering aliens or other supernatural threats. The It novel and 1990 miniseries were certainly influential on the development of “Stranger Things,” whose creators, the Duffer Brothers, had pitched their own treatment of an It feature film before doing the TV show. “Stranger Things” star Finn Wolfhard also appears in It as a member of the Losers’ Club.

The Blu-ray features about an hour of bonus materials, including 15 minutes of deleted scenes and three featurettes focused on the making of the film.

The most interesting is a 14-minute interview with Stephen King as he explains his motivations and inspirations for writing the book, and why he thinks the film version gets it right.

There’s also a 15-minute profile of the kids who play the Losers, and a 16-minute look at Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise.