I ain't afraid of no ( female ) ghosts
The storm of controversy that has broken over the heads of the filmmakers and cast of the remake of Ghostbusterswhich opens Friday, July 15would seem to be the proverbial tempest in a teapot. Having encountered the original in 1984 and on a few occasions since, I haven't quite been able to fathom the depth of the vitriol being flogged at the director of the remake Paul Feig ( Spy, Bridesmaids and TV's Freaks and Geeks ) and others connected with it.
Sure, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Bill Murraywho make up the trio of spirit-finders in the movie ( and who are later joined by a fourth, played by Ernie Hudson )are the essence of comedic ease ( especially Murray ). And, yes, each character is so perfectly shaped to the unique talents of the actor assigned them that it's a nonstop pleasure to watch these funny guys amble through the movie. The supporting parts played by Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis and Annie Potts are equally well-cast. The plota mixture of comedy, horror and romancealso seems to have something for everyone.
But really, as enjoyable as the movie is, we're not dealing with a classic, right? And even if we were, sooner or later almost every financially successful movie gets remade in one form or another for a new generation of moviegoers. It's that last variationrecasting the male parts with female actorsthat has enraged so many internet posters, the majority of them male. The trailer wasn't enough of a laugh riot to silence the doubters and, in fact, seems to have had the opposite effect. The misogyny inherent in all this grousing is impossible to ignore an,d at this late date in our cultural evolution, is frankly disgusting and more than a little bit disappointing and sad.
As for me, I love that Ghostbusters has been reimagined to showcase the insanely funny talents of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and out actor Kate McKinnon. Even if the movie is only half goodand it wasn't shown to critics before Windy City Times deadlinesit will be a refreshing change from the usual summer fare filled with testosterone-driven superhero flicks. That's reason enough.
Update: Advance reviews from top criticsmale and femalesurveyed via Rotten Tomatoes are skewing toward the positive.
Welcome to the doghouse
Ever since writer-director Todd Solondz broke through to audiences in 1995 with the black comedy sensation Welcome to the Dollhouse, I've been waiting for him to do something equally as compelling. The filmthe story of an ugly duckling teenage girl whose life is one disappointment after anothercaptured that elusive something that made Solondz a filmmaker to watch. I have gamely followed him in the ensuing years as his dyspeptic view of life and sour opinion of human behavior have increased tenfold, hoping for another Dollhouse.
Although nothing has ever lived up to his debut, Solondz's unique vision is never less than arresting. Many of his characters and situations are frankly repulsive and the same holds true for Wiener-Dog, his new film. But there's also the patented, absurdist black comedy that is a hallmark of all his movies.
This one follows a series of indignities a dachshund suffers as it's passed from family to family. ( Dog lovers are warned to stay far, far away from the movie ). The typical summing-up of a Solondz film applies to Wiener-Dog, which features a stellar line-up of actorsJulie Delphy, Danny DeVito and Ellyn Burstyn, among them. You either get Solondz or you don't.
The film opens at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., on Friday, July 15. Solondz will be there in person for a Q&A on Saturday, July 16. http://www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/wiener-dog-featuring-a-qampa-with-director-todd-solondz-2016-jul-16-sat-0700pm
Upcoming movie calendar
Highlights from films ( alphabetized by date ) opening in Chicago, July 15 and 22 ( some descriptions come from studio press materials ).
Ghostbusters ( July 15 ): See details above.
Wiener-Dog ( July 15 ): See details above.
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie ( July 22 ): Patsy and Edinathose two hard-partying London-based "sweetie, sweetie, darlings" who took the world ( and just about every gay bar's TV set ) by storm in the early '90sare back in this large-screen romp. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley return as Pats and Eddy, respectively, and the wisecracks, zingers and sight gags are sure to flow faster than the "champers." The plot springs from the accidental drowning by Eddy of supermodel Kate Moss in the Thames. Comic mayhem, no doubt, ensues.
Cafe Society ( July 22 )Looking for an exciting career, young Bobby Dorfman leaves New York for the glitz and glamour of 1930s Hollywood. After landing a job with his uncle, Bobby falls for Vonnie, a charming woman who happens to be his employer's mistress. Settling for friendship but ultimately heartbroken, Bobby returns to the Bronx and begins working in a nightclub. Everything falls into place when he finds romance with a beautiful socialite, until Vonnie walks back into his life and captures his heart once again. The latest from Woody Allen stars Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Steve Carell and Corey Stoll.
Equals ( July 22 )Two Kristen Stewart movies in one week! In this one, Nia ( Kristen Stewart ) and Silas ( played by super-hottie Nicholas Hoult ) begin a forbidden and passionate romance in a futuristic society where emotions have been outlawed, leading them to attempt a dangerous escape.
Star Trek Beyond ( July 22 )The Star Trek movie franchise reboot returns with a third edition that looks to be pretty darn snazzy. Captain Kirk ( Chris Pine ) and his logical number two, Spock ( out actor Zachary Quinto ), along with the rest of the crew of the SS Enterprise, find themselves facing a deadly alien threat when they are stranded on a hostile planet.
The big news, of course, is that Sulu's character is not only gay but he's got a husband and a child, presumably awaiting back on earth. Although actor/LGBT-rights activist George Takei, the original Sulu, has gone on record that he would have preferred a new character of the queer persuasion, Simon Pegg, who co-wrote the screenplay and returns as crew member Scotty, respectfully disagrees. Either way, I'm now even more psyched to go Trekking. The movie also co-stars the late young actor Anton Yelchin.
The Witness ( July 22 )You may think that you know the story, until this powerful, multilayered documentary reveals the stories behind the story.
The original story is the emblematic, oft-repeated 1964 incident in which 28-year-old Kitty Genovese, a lesbian, was stabbed to death outside a Queens, New York, apartment building while 38 witnesses sat by and did nothing. There is also the story of Genovese herself, whose life was overshadowed by her death andcentral to this filmthere is the story of her brother Bill, whose life was profoundly affected by his sister's death and whose obsessive quest for the truth knits together the film's various layers into a compelling narrative. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/thewitness
Looking: The Movie ( July 23 )The end is here for out writer/director Andrew Haigh's HBO series about a group of gay men in San Franciscothe sweet but commitment-shy Patrick ( the criminally talented gay actor Jonathan Groff ), drug-addled best friend Augustin ( Frankie J. Alvarez ) and Dom ( Murray Bartlett ), the muscular, bearish elder statesman of the trio. Haigh's naturalistic approachwhich found critical favor in his sublime gay romantic film Weekendcaught the fancy of many viewers ( this one included ) but bored many more to tears, hence the series cancellation after two seasons. So now, with the film, all the loose ends are going to be wrapped up in this 85-minute film finale. www.hbo.com/movies/looking-the-movie