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.

The Front Runner

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/12/19;
Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $2 million;
$30.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language including some sexual references.
Stars Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Mamoudou Athie, Spencer Garrett, Ari Graynor, Kaitlyn Dever, Steve Zissis, Bill Burr, Mike Judge, Kevin Pollak, Tommy Dewey, Molly Ephraim, Josh Brener.

The bright future of a rising political star runs smack into the maxim that “a lot can happen in three weeks” in director Jason Reitman’s exploration of the relationship between politics and media.

The Front Runner isn’t much of a political movie, in that it doesn’t overtly deviate into policy debates. Nor does it lay out any easy answers or preach to the audience what to think.

The docudrama relates the brief campaign of former Colorado senator Gary Hart (Hugh Jackman) for the presidential election of 1988, when he was considered the most likely nominee upon entering the race in April 1987.

Hart had come close to becoming the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 1984 and was considered a favorite for securing the spot for 1988. However, dogged by rumors of womanizing, Hart challenged a Washington Post reporter to follow him around, claiming anyone who did so would be “very bored.” Subsequently, a team from the Miami Herald decided to do just that after receiving an anonymous tip that Hart was having an affair was planning to host the girl in Washington, D.C.

When the Herald reported that Hart had been seen at his home with a potential campaign worker named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), the story exploded, though Hart denied having any inappropriate relationship.

Hart bristled at the notion that the public and the media should have any interest in a politician’s private life, but the exposure took a toll on his family, and within a week his political career was over (save for a brief return to the presidential race in December 1987, which the movie doesn’t get into, and some appointments during the Obama administration).

Reitman, who co-wrote the screenplay with journalist Matt Bai and political operative Jay Carson, describes the event as a defining moment of tabloid journalism swerving into politics, fueled by the expansion of telecommunications technology and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle.

In the past, members of the media had made an almost tacit agreement to ignore the infidelities of the politicians they covered. But at some point, notions of character and morality began to intertwine with notions of policy and perceptions of leadership, shining an ever-wider spotlight on the personal lives of those seeking the public trust.

The Front Runner

As relayed in the bonus materials, in Reitman’s eyes, the Hart incident serves to presage a modern media environment in which every scrap of social media will be scoured, every statement dredged up and over-analyzed, and every stone unturned in an effort to extract a partisan toll.

In terms of framing the story, then, Reitman asks two competing questions: “what is important?” versus “what is entertaining?” Accordingly, he constructs almost every scene to give the audience more than one thing to focus on, putting it on the viewer to decide what is more important to the story, and how it reflects the overall message of the film.

But in leaving so much for the audience to decide, The Front Runner ends up as more of a conversation starter than a definitive statement on the issue.

Fortunately, the regular trappings of cinema on hand make for an otherwise entertaining movie. The performances are spot on, and Reitman does a nice job handling an all-star cast whose orbs of influence only occasionally intersect.

Likewise, Reitman deftly captures the feel of the 1980s with some subtle camerawork that reinforces the costumes and set design in evoking the mood of the period. In particular, Reitman notes, is his insistence on letting the rawness of the film as a medium speak for itself, and not to clean up the image using modern computer editing.

The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with Reitman, producer Helen Estabrook, production designer Steve Saklad, costume designer Danny Glocker and cinematographer Eric Steelberg, in which they delve into all the techniques and artistic touches they layered into the film.

There’s also a 15-minute featurette called “The Unmaking of a Candidate” that touches on the making of the film and the themes it’s exploring.

There are also three deleted scenes, including a slightly alternate opening sequence, that run about four-and-a-half minutes.

Sony Releasing ‘The Front Runner’ on Home Video Feb. 12

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release The Front Runner on Blu-ray, DVD and digital Feb. 12.

Jason Reitman directs the rise and fall of Gary Hart during his 1988 campaign for the U.S. presidency, based on the book All the Truth Is Out.

Hugh Jackman stars as Hart alongside a cast that includes Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Sara Paxton, Ari Graynor and Kaitlyn Dever.

Extras include three deleted scenes, a filmmaker commentary and the featurette “The Unmaking of a Candidate.”

Tully

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 7/31/18;
Universal;
Drama;
Box Office $9.23 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language and some sexuality/nudity.
Stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Ron Livingston.

Tully re-teams the writer/director pairing of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman with actress Charlize Theron to present a raw, unflinching look at motherhood, postpartum depression and the sacrifices of being a parent.

The film plays almost like the flipside to the trio’s previous collaboration, 2011’s Young Adult, which featured Theron as a professional writer who practically refused to accept the boundaries of adulthood. Here, she plays Marlo, a 40-year-old mother of three who is confronted nonstop by responsibility.

Already dealing with a son with special needs, Marlo’s attention is pushed to the limit by a newborn daughter. Her wealthy brother (Mark Duplass) offers to pay for a night nanny to deal with the baby so Marlo can get a regular night’s sleep, which leads to the arrival of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), who seems to be the answer to all of Marlo’s troubles.

Marlo’s conversations with Tully and admiration for the girl’s youthful energy lead her to reflect on the path of her life and how the potential of her youth gave way to the road she ended up taking.

The schism between youth and maturity has become a common theme in the films directed by Reitman and scripted by Cody, who first teamed for 2007’s Juno, about a teenager dealing with the effect a pregnancy would have on her future. That proved to be a fruitful collaboration given that Cody subsequently went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (The pair also worked on the Cody-penned Jennifer’s Body together, with Reitman serving as producer.)

Theron gives a tremendous performance in a role for which she reportedly gained 50 pounds. Ron Livingston is effective in a subtle performance as her husband, who would be willing to help more if only he realized how in over her head his wife was with the children. Theron and Livingston have a nice rapport together, suggesting a healthy marriage nonetheless weighed down by the experiences of life and the obstacles of family.

The Blu-ray includes a solid 10-minute featurette about the making of the film featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers.