Tag Archives: Dan Aykroyd

Who You Gonna Call?

New gender-flipping ‘Ghostbusters’ confronts critics—then gets down to funny business

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Ghostbusters
Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones
Directed by Paul Feig
PG-13

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

The Ghostbusters, of course! But which ones? The latest, if you haven’t heard, are an all-female crew headed by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, with Saturday Night Live cast mates Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Months before the new Ghostbusters movie was finished, some people didn’t like the idea of anybody futzing with the iconic 1984 original, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis—and especially, apparently, changing the gender roles. The first trailer for the film ignited a firestorm of online trolling and ugly sexist criticism, mostly about bringing women into an all-boy’s club.

The new movie confronts its critics head-on, in a scene where the new Ghostbusters see the doubtful—and hateful—comments underneath online clips of the first spooks they’ve ever captured on video.

“You’re shouldn’t even be reading this,” Abby (McCartney) tells her colleague Erin (Wiig). “You’re not supposed to listen to what crazy people write in the middle of the night.”

Melissa McCarthy;Kristen Wiig;Kate McKinnon;Leslie JonesThen it’s back to funny business—and girls busting ghosts.

Mixing fresh new gags with respectful retro riffs, director and co-writer Paul Feig lets his funny bone point the way, as he demonstrated in BridesmaidsThe Heat and Spy. And he’s working with a cast of comedic dynamos. Wiig’s delightfully dry, droll wit is a perfect complement to McCartney’s bigger, brasher, bawdy physical bravura. They haven’t teamed up for a project since Bridesmaids, and it’s great to see them collaborating again.

Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth

Leslie Jones gets plenty of laughs as Patty, a subway worker with a knack for Big Apple history who becomes the fourth Ghostbuster. Chris “Thor” Hemsworth seems to be having a ball as the gals’ office “himbo” receptionist, perhaps relishing the opportunity to parody his own macho movie image and the film’s flip of gender roles in general.

But it’s Kate McKinnon who practically steals the show. Her wacky, tech-crazy, live-wire lab-nut weapons wonk feels somewhat of a nod to Dan Aykryod’s character in the original, but she takes it to a totally new place in a unique role that may break her out beyond her hilarious SNL skits.

The plot: Yes, there is one, but it’s hardly worth mentioning. There are fleeting cameos by former Ghostbusters stars and other folks too, including Ozzy Osborne, who shows up at a heavy metal concert. So does a big, bad winged ghost demon. The audience loves it—rock and roll!

It all rises to a screaming crescendo, wobbles and then kind of falls apart, when all the ghosts come out to wreck havoc on the streets and there’s a big, swirling special-effects vortex, a bunch of goop and goo, a parade of giant ghost balloons and appearances by Ghostbusters Hall-of-Fame specters.

Definitely stay for the credits, though, and beyond, because this is one movie that’s not over until it’s over—completely over. And when it is, as the final version of the familiar theme music (this time by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot) plays out and makes your toes tap, the message is clear: For good, ghostly summertime fun with a strong dose of freewheeling 2016 girl power, who you gonna call? You know who!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Soul Man

Chadwick Boseman channels James Brown in explosively entertaining new biopic

Film Title: Get on Up

Get On Up

Starring Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellas, Viola Davis and  Dan Aykroyd

Directed by Tate Taylor

PG-13

“When I hit that stage, people better be ready,” James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) says early in a scene from director Tate Taylor’s Get On Up, the explosively entertaining new movie about the Godfather of Soul. “Especially the white ones.”

Indeed—James Brown was something the likes of which the world had never seen in the early 1960s, a keg of black dynamite sizzling with unpredictability and danger: sexual energy, gospel fervor, hyperkinetic dance moves, combustive rhythms, and intense, screaming, searing vocals. As he made his way to the top, he rewrote the rules about could, and couldn’t, be done by black artists in a music business owned and controlled by white men.

Film Title: Get on Up

Chadwick Boseman is electrifying as James Brown.

Get On Up is a revelation, not only because it’s so well made, written and acted, but also because it shows—reveals—so much about its subject. Most viewers will know who Brown was, and will certainly know his hits—“I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World”. But the exceptionally sharp storytelling and direction take us inside, outside and all around Brown, across a span of nearly six decades, from his childhood of wrenching Alabama poverty and abuse, through his rocky adolescence and finally into adulthood.

And through it all, we see, hear and feel the rhythm, music and grooves that drove him forward. Taylor (a Southerner who also directed The Help) shows us an internal funk engine constantly churning, turning and burning—young Brown incurring the wrath of his father by tapping a stick on the edge of a table, unable to stop the beat inside him; seeing a dreamy, hallucinogenic vision of his step-and-groove future in the horns and drumbeat of a Dixieland jazz band; having a sweaty, stomping, out-of-body experience on the set of a cheesy, white-bread ’60s Frankie Avalon movie.

Film Title: Get on Up

Dan Aykroyd plays Brown’s manager.

And Taylor skips around, putting the events in Brown’s life on shuffle instead of play mode, juxtaposing events from childhood with moments later that show how, and why, they connect, against a backdrop of politics, civil rights and Vietnam.

The movie also doesn’t shy from Brown’s darker side: He was a complicated, preening, strutting egomaniac who beat his wife, wielded guns, did drugs, served time in jail and berated and fined band members for the slightest infractions.

Portraying Brown as a teenager through his final years (he died in 2006), Chadwick Boseman (who played baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson in 42) is electrifying in a tremendous performance that captures his walk, talk, mannerisms, stage moves and morphing looks over the decades.

The movie also features some stellar supporting performances from Viola Davis (as Brown’s mother), Octavia Spencer (as his aunt, who raised him), True Blood’s Nelsan Ellas (as his longtime right-hand band mate Bobby Byrd), and Dan Aykroyd (as Ben Bart, the talent agent who became his manager).

Film Title: Get on UpBut this movie belongs to Boseman, and to Taylor—and to producers Brian Grazer and Mick Jagger (yes, Rolling Stone Mick Jagger), who persevered for eight years, even when this movie seemed un-makeable, because they believed in it. When you see it, you’ll believe, too. It’s a knockout. It feels good.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Anything for a Laugh

Melissa McCarthy is up for anything…but is that a good thing?

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Tammy

Starring Melissa McCarthy & Susan Sarandon

Directed by Ben Falcone

R, 96 min.

Melissa McCarthy’s breakout, in the raunchy hit 2011 comedy Bridesmaids, was an Oscar-nominated supporting role in which her character pooped in a bathroom sink.

As her star ascended, with Sandra Bullock in The Heat and Jason Bateman in Identity Thief, her humor didn’t necessarily rise alongside it to a higher, classier level. Now, in her first bona fide star vehicle—which she co-wrote and produced and her husband, actor Ben Falcone, directed—she sticks with the type of character, for better but mostly for worse, her fans have come to recognize…and expect.

We meet Tammy in the first scene driving her junk car, stuffing her face and jamming out to classic rock on the radio. She’s a big, sloppy mess with a big heart—and big problems. Soon enough, she loses her job, finds her husband cheating with another woman, and sets off on a boozy cross-country road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) to see Niagara Falls.

L14A2579.dngIt’s all meant to be a custom-made template for the wide-open, plus-size shenanigans of the boldly physical McCarthy, who fearlessly charges and barges from one gag to the next. Tammy crashes a jet ski into a pier. Tammy brags about her irresistible sexual prowess—only to be flatly rebuffed by every guy she approaches in a bar. Tammy puts a greasy paper bag on her head to stick up a hamburger joint.

The story careens between crude, lewd slapstick, sentiment, and family woes so deep and dark you’ll have to remind yourself you’re watching a comedy. The characters of Tammy and her grandmother are so poorly written, so badly formed, they seem to be different people at different times, sometimes during the same scene.

The supporting cast—Kathy Bates, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd—loll about, pop in, pop out. But none of them are given anything of real significance to do, and I have to wonder what Kathy Bates was thinking as she delivered a ridiculous soliloquy to a piece of sporting equipment at a Viking funeral.

And, shades of Thelma and Louise, what is Susan Sarandon, wearing a grey wig that looks like it’s on loan from the prop closet of TV’s Mama’s Family, doing here at all? She’s a total pro, but she’s barely 20 years older than McCarthy, and the movie wants us to believe she can be Tammy’s grandmother? It’s a colossal casting fail, and it further bungles this bumpy inter-generational road trip.

TAMMYMcCarthy and her director husband Falcone (who appears in an early scene as Tammy’s boss) may enjoy working together, but it appears that what McCarthy really needs is someone who can funnel her comedic chops into something more focused and refined.

At one point, Tammy drives a car between two trees, where it gets stuck. But she keeps giving it the the gas, yelling, ripping off the rearview mirrors, denting the doors and the fenders, determined to get through—which she eventually does.

Like Tammy, McCarthy just keeps pressing, pushing, running, rolling, slamming and bamming—anything for a laugh, a chuckle, a giggle. Tammy may be one banged-up, scuffed-up, dented mess of a movie, but somehow, nonetheless, McCarthy makes it out, to the other side. To what, now, is the real question.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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