Film Review: “Rough Night”

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Zoe Kravitz
Directed By: Lucia Aniello
Rated: R
Running Time: 101 minutes
Columbia Pictures

Our Score: 3 out of 5 Stars

I’m reminded of “Bad Moms” as I reflect on “Rough Night” because it appears the raunchy comedy playing field is beginning to even out. For every Seth Rogen vehicle there appears to be a female ensemble dropping four letter words and talking about their menstrual cycle like men talk about their farts and ejaculations. While it’s good to see things equalizing, I can’t help, but also think about “Bridesmaids” or “Trainwreck” and wonder why they all can’t be on that same level.

The set-up is simple; Alice (Jillian Bell) is setting up the bachelorette party for her best friend Jess (Johansson). Joining them on this girl’s only weekend is their other friends from college, Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Kravitz), and Jess’ new friend, Pippa (McKinnon). After a night of pot smoking, drug experimentation, and over-priced Miami bar drinks, they retreat to the safety of their getaway pad. That’s where they order a stripper and in an accidental heated moment, kill him. I swear the premise is slightly funnier than fortuitous murder.

The main gags come from their misguided attempts at concealing the crime scene, disposing of the body, and the brief cuts to the bachelor party that Jess’ fiance, Peter (Paul W. Downs), is attending. The brief glimpses of the bachelor party, and its ensuing insanity, are the first of many instances where “Rough Night” pokes fun at role reversals. While Jess and her gang do bumps of cocaine while talking about scoring tail, Peter and his crew sample fine wines and talk about their emotions. These moments of subtlety are actually some of the film’s best moments.

Other times the movie falls into a predictable coma, finding it relying on ill-fitting and unfunny jokes and double entendres worthy of a bad Adam Sandler film. However, “Rough Night” moves at such a frenetic pace, there’s very little time to ponder those moments. It also helps that up-and-comers, Glazer, McKinnon and Bell, feast on the scenery while Johansson and Kravitz do fine trying their hand at comedy.

“Rough Night” is more or less the female version of movies like “The Hangover,” which isn’t a bad thing, but it lacks creative originality. Glazer and director Lucia Aniello work on the TV show “Broad City,” combining absurdist comedy and life in New York City. While there is flirtation with genuine human emotion and female camaraderie, it doesn’t package it as neatly as a 22-minute TV show. Hopefully “Rough Night” is a stepping stone to bigger and better movies.

Film Review: “Masterminds”

Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Kristin Wiig and Owen Wilson
Directed by: Jered Hess
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hr 34 mins
Relativity Media

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

What do you do if you’re a short, dumpy man with a Prince Valiant haircut that is hopelessly in lust with your hot female co-worker? If you’re David Ghantt (Galifianakis) and that co-worker is Kelly Campbell (Wiig), you agree to steal $17 million from your employer. Piece of cake!

Based on a true 1997 event, “Masterminds” has been sitting in the can for a year while the studio went through bankruptcy. The film is extremely funny at times and features a cast of comedic who’s-who. Galifianakis gives Ghantt a quiet dignity, making him appear to be oblivious to those who would take advantage of him. Wiig is equally sweet. Wilson is part of an amazing supporting cast which also includes Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudekis and Leslie Jones. McKinnon, who stole this past summer’s “Ghostbuster” reboot, does the same here as David’s unsmiling fiancé, threatening to withhold consummation if he continues to eat Googoo clusters.

The script has fun with the film’s premise and setting, which is the late 90’s where everyone in the South hangs out, robs banks and hire hitmen. With every instance you can’t help but be amazed how such a stupid group of people could pull off the biggest cash robbery in United States history. As things get crazy, the setting jumps first to Mexico then to North Carolina where the story climaxes. The gags are hit and miss but when they hit they’re pretty amusing.

Quick note – if the filmmakers could have found a gig for Melissa McCarthy this could have been an un-official “Ghostbusters” sequel. But at least it’s funnier than the real “Ghostbusters 2.”

Top Five Things I’d Like to See in A Ghostbusters Sequel

There seems to be a whole lot of doubt swirling around a possible sequel to Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters. Sony came out of the gate proclaiming its green light but when the feature didn’t set the box office absolutely ablaze, detractors flocked to the numbers as validation for their months’ long rally against the very notion of the reboot, sight-unseen. Sony is still keeping mum on their plans, although they maintain the brand is strong with cross-platform opportunities. I’m not here to argue numbers, especially in a summer where other properties have had the privilege of quietly underperforming on a near-weekly basis from Independence Day: Resurgence to Star Trek Beyond.

All I’m saying is I have a feeling that once the paranormal dust settles and we head towards its home video release and secondary markets, the word will get out that Feig’s Ghostbusters is actually a damn good time. We’ll see this word spread by the enthusiastic little girls–oblivious to the internet furor– who saw new kinds of heroes in the unconventional quartet and take to ghostbusting on the playground. We’ll see it in the array of cosplayers inspired by the new looks of the franchise (McKinnon alone has a week’s worth of iconic outfits!) And we’ll see it when a sequel debuts to larger numbers than its predecessor because those girls will come back. And they’ll bring their friends.

Our own Mike Smith gave the film 4 stars, but my take on it briefly: The new characters, lead by Kate McKinnon’s standout weirdo Holtzmann, Leslie Jones’s NYC-history-savvy Patty and Chris Hemsworth’s much lauded comedic turn as dim receptionist Kevin, were a joy insofar as they weren’t even trying to step into the shoes of their forebears but bringing their own. Or in Kristin Wiig’s case, a pair of quirky turquoise wellies. Additionally the effects were cool, evoking the glowing spookiness of Disney’s Haunted Mansion rides–which is to say, just the right level for a Ghostbusters installment. And of course, seeing four women take up arms against a ghost army with brand new kick ass weaponry that Bill Murray and co’s point and shoot models could only dream of, was something I haven’t seen before and I need to again.

It’s with this blind hope in mind that I’m going to forge ahead with the following top five wishes for their sequel. Because I live in a world where there’s six Police Academies, four Sharknadoes and my Ecto-Cooler juice box is half full.

(Minor spoilers ahead)

1 – An equally stacked cast
The four female leads were front and center of the marketing, rightfully so, but Feig’s supporting cast was nothing to sneeze at either and one of its best surprises. “Silicon Valley” star Zach Woods’s haunted tour guide started it all off on the right foot, quickly joined by the likes of Ed Begley Jr, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia and Michael K Williams. Heck even the taxi driver from Deadpool (Karan Soni) got big laughs. Whoever cast this thing, stick around.

2 – Some better usage of NYC
The Ghostbusters are based in New York and their strong ties are upheld at their firehouse headquarters, Hook & Ladder 8, which displays the team’s logo on the sidewalk. However for budgetary reasons, the movie was mainly filmed in Boston. Nothing wrong with saving some money, but screening the movie in Manhattan, the fake 6-line subway station raised some eyebrows. And the greatest offense? The ladies dining on Papa John’s pizza. I can suspend my disbelief to hellmouths in the middle of Times Square, but native New Yorkers opting for Papa John’s is a bridge too far. Get those product placement dollars elsewhere. And rope in some more actual locations, if only so this obsessive fan can visit them.

3 – A more sinister villain
I really did enjoy Neil Casey in his minimal screen time as Rowan from a comedic stand point. Still, he wasn’t as menacing as the original’s demonic invasion of Dana’s (Sigourney Weaver) fridge or even the first specter featured here, Gertrude Aldridge (Bess Rous, below). Later when Rowan’s spirit wound up in a couple of our heroes’ bodies and finally a CGI giant, he became still less memorable. More to the point, the Ghostbusters franchise as a whole is now 100% saturated with finales featuring behemoth figures tromping through skyscrapers. Let’s be done with that. The most effective supernatural stuff whether it was the aforementioned Aldridge Mansion, green ghouls lurking behind glass waiting to be released onto our plane, or just a regular mannequin temporarily brought to life, were smaller in scale and creepier for it. A more intimate antagonist would be novel to the team and hey, bonus, also could cut down that budget again. Are you listening, Sony?

4 – A few more original cast cameos for the completists
Rick Moranis, please. Okay, I know this is pie in the sky stuff, especially seeing as he officially turned down a cameo in this first one (wishing them well in a 2015 Hollywood Reporter interview), but juice box half full right? I have a hope that Mr. Moranis checks Feig’s work out and supports the new team in the way that his fellow cast mates did this time around.(I may or may not have yelped when Annie Potts arrived.) Plus I’m a kid of the late 80s…I just super want to see him back in front of a camera and I feel like this is the best shot we’ve got. Failing that, Peter MacNichol would not be unwelcome. If I have a soft spot for Ghostbusters 2, it’s because of him.

5 – Let Kevin join the team!
Chris Hemsworth’s dumb puppy dog of a receptionist was so adorably eager to be a Ghostbuster that in a latter portion of the film, he’d made his own jumpsuit and outfitted a motorcycle with duct taped laser canons. Unfortunately apocalypses being the inconvenience that they are, he didn’t get to realize this dream. Seeing as Hemsworth’s scenes were serious highlights, I’d be happy to see what he would do when faced with the supernatural. It’s probably a safety hazard to the general public, so Holtzmann could start him off with a pimped out laser pointer and train him up from there. At the very least, I hear he’s good with a hammer.

Seriously how can you say no to that face?

I implore you Sony, Paul Feig, Katie Dippold, cast and all the ghostly powers that be to let this team take up proton packs again in the future!

Ghostbusters is still in theaters and is expected to arrive on Blu-ray/DVD in October, hopefully in time for Halloween.

Film Review: “Ghostbusters”

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Leslie Jones
Directed by: Paul Feig
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour 56 mins
Columbia

Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Film Review by: Mike Smith

OK, let me make this quick announcement. For those of you that went out of your way to note online that a female-led “Ghostbusters” would cause, in the words of Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria,” you can come back in off the ledge. The new installment is pretty damn funny and stands as tall as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

After leading his final group through a tour of a historic mansion, a tour guide finds himself lured into the basement of the dwelling and under attack from forces unknown. The building’s curator knows he needs help but who’s he gonna call?

One part funny, one part scary and completely enjoyable, this reboot of the popular 1984 film rests squarely on the shoulders of its cast. McCarthy and Wiig have made me laugh for years and I’m happy to say they do the same here. I don’t watch a lot of television so I wasn’t familiar with the other (2) “busters”, McKinnon and Jones. Both do fine work here, with McKinnon’s Jillian the standout. She’s a combination of the original film’s Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler. The film follows the original’s plot, as ghosts begin to appear seemingly out of nowhere in New York City. Not looking for bad publicity, the mayor (Andy Garcia) does his best to keep the lid on the situation. He also opens himself up for a great “Jaws” reference, which in itself gives this review an extra half-star.

Visually the film is heads above the original. I saw the 1984 film on the big screen a few years ago and I couldn’t help but notice how bad the special effects were. Here they are spectacularly presented and downright scary. But not everything is gloom and doom. You’ll be happy to learn that many of the original film’s cast show up in cameos here, which brought applause from the audience I was a part of, especially a sly nod to the late Harold Ramis. His son, Daniel, has a small part in the film, which is dedicated to his memory.