Ghostbusters – Movie Review
Rating: B+ (Very Good)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures
The Ghostbusters concept is such a brilliant one, it’s almost surprising there hasn’t been a new film in the franchise since 1989. In tackling this reboot, director/co-writer Paul Feig understands the appeal of what Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd created over thirty years ago. He does a more than suitable job of making a film for a new generation, while also pleasing most fans of the original. When Ray Parker, Jr.’s classic theme song plays at the beginning, it’s difficult not to smile. That smile stayed on my face through the entire runtime. This new team of Ghostbusters is worthy of the name and that infectiously catchy tune.
Feig has assembled a talented group of comedians to don the proton packs and all of them work marvelously together. Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert is given the most development as she goes from paranormal believer to skeptic to legit Ghostbuster and her back story adds a touching element to her motivation. Wiig’s delivery is on-point and she nails every piece of dialogue from small asides to the more broad humour. Melissa McCarthy takes a break from the usual loud, outspoken character she has played in previous Feig outings and more than handles the job of straight woman. Leslie Jones takes a character that easily could have been stereotypical and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to Patty, creating a lovable Ghostbuster in the process. The MVP of the quartet ends up being Kate McKinnon, who goes all out. Jillian Holtzmann is on the kooky side and she makes it work. There are times when she is merely in the background and yet still produces laughs.
Paul Feig and his co-writer Katie Dippold fill the screen with all sorts of creative ghosts. There’s the classic favourite Slimer, but the new batch are inventive and original, complete with back-stories. The ghosts are not merely sprinkled in, because the title demands it, but tie in nicely with the plot and the character progressions. The usage of the iconic Ghostbusters logo as a Godzilla-like beast is built up in a way that’s both funny and smart. The principal villain works as a legitimate threat as part of the storyline involves figuring out his motive and agenda. That mystery element becomes another great spin on the Ghostbusters concept. Cameos from the original cast members are utilised in a way that never feels obtrusive or winking towards the camera. The little nods to the original 1984 film does create some confusion and might necessitate the coining of a new film terminology. This is, in many ways, a reboot of Ghostbusters, but reboots normally don’t include references and cast members from earlier incarnations.
One consistency with Paul Feig’s work is his films tend to run a tad too long. Ghostbusters is a little under two hours and heading into the third act, one does start to feel the length a bit. Thankfully, the pacing picks up for the big climax and Feig pulls out all of the stops for a triumphant action scene. The proton packs are utilised perfectly, but the new gadgets constructed by Holtzmann are wonderful new additions to the Ghostbusters arsenal of ghost-catching machinery. If there are less successful jokes, they come from the more off-colour humour. There’s an unnecessary flatulence joke and a bit involving a college administrator flipping the Ghostbusters the bird never lands, but seems intent on overstaying its welcome. However, when most of the humour does work, these are minor quibbles.
Ghostbusters has a lot to live up to, thanks to the iconic status of Reitman’s original film. However, Feig more than answers the call, to quote the oddly placed tagline at the end of the film. It’s a spirited and lively affair led by four talented comedians. From the first time we see the four of them wear the uniforms, we know we’re looking at real Ghostbusters. It’s clear the amount of passion the filmmakers put into continuing the legacy of this franchise and making a worthy chapter. During the end credits, a tribute to Harold Ramis is included. It’s nice to know that the film series he helped launch is in good hands and one can imagine him smiling down at the creative team behind this movie.
What is this show exactly? Every Tuesday night, comedians Dean Young (Talkhole Podcast Network) and Mini Holmes (Just for Laughs) team up and host a night of live standup inside Cherry Cola’s Rock ’N Roll Cabaret & Lounge. A cult classic Rock bar in Toronto that normally plays host to a full menu of live Surf, Rockabilly, Grunge – you name it. It feels like a hybrid between the Korova Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange and a sexed up vampire lounge straight out of True Blood. With plush blood red splashed across every inch of the room, low lights, and Gothic mirrors and candles covering the walls. Toronto’s hippest of the hip and live music purists indulge in their seedy side inside these walls.
So why did we decide to bring comedy to a Rock bar? Maybe because we were sick of musicians hogging all the sex appeal. There is that old adage that comics are jealous of musicians – not true! But, the performers’ food chain does rank in their favour (Musicians>Comics>Musical Comedians>Clowns>Mimes) Or maybe we just dug the idea of telling jokes inside a swanky room that looks like it sprung to life right off the cover of a White Stripes album…
We kick off every Tuesday night by opening up the mic at Cherry Cola’s for Toronto’s amateurs, first time comedians, and comics looking for extra stage time. From 7-9pm it’s a wide open mic. With Mini and Dean switch-hitting hosting duties, the stage is open on a first come first serve basis.
Then at 9, the main event. 6 PRO comics on the bill every Tuesday night. The doors for the PRO show open at 8:30 (although audience is welcome to come in and grab a seat any time during the open mic). The comics you’ll find on the 9pm show every Tuesday are touring headliners from across Canada and Toronto’s top upcoming comics. Comics who have appeared at major festivals from Just For Laughs and JFL42 to Winnipeg, Hubcap, Halifax and beyond. Comics who can be seen and heard regularly on Much Music, MTV, Sirius XM, CBC, and radio networks across the dial. It’s a very carefully constructed show – the kind you don’t often get to see, and certainly not in a Toronto bar on Tuesday night. And definitely not for just $10 at the door.
And now, how about our hosts…
Mini Holmes is a Stand up Comedian, actor and writer. She was the the host of her own National Television Series SHE’S SO FUNNY on WTN for 4 seasons (which is about 20 seasons in Canadian television years). Mini has hosted a live televised Gala Fundraiser to raise money for women’s shelters. Her many television appearances include featured roles on STAR TV, OPEN MIKE, OUT THERE, GRUMPS, THE DISH SHOW, STUDIO 2, CANADA AM, OOH LA LA, FASHION TELEVISION, YTV BREAKFAST ZONE, WTN WEEKDAY BREAKFAST TELEVISION, VH1, MTV, and four episodes of COMICS.
Mini was a featured roster comedian at the famous LAUGH FACTOR in Los Angeles. She regularly tours in Canada and across the U.S (she has papers for both!) And has recently opened for friends Nate Bergatze and Rob Schneider at Just for Laughs in Montreal. She’s performed Fringe Festivals here in Toronto and in Edinburgh and is a regular on Festival and club stages.
Her most infamous role was when she duped JERRY SPRINGER by playing the role of a BABYSITTER who was sleeping with a married man. So convincing was her performance, Entertainment Weekly called it an OSCAR WINNING PERFORMANCE. It landed her in Cosmopolitan Magazine, Flare, 20/20, Talk Soup and a VH1 special WHEN JERRY SPRINGER RULED THE WORLD.
Later this year, her latest Film TALENT DRIVERS will be released
Canada’s own so-called “Podfather” (NOT a self-appointed name, but it has definitely stuck with him in Canada’s comedy community) Dean is the head honcho and founder of TALKHOLE comedy podcast network. The first network of it’s kind in Canada. He’s a contributing editor for The Scene Magazine and Toronto Guardian. And the “comedy correspondent” and producer of ‘Inside Jokes’ aired weekly on Toronto’s AM640
Dean is a regular guest host on Sirius XM, and appears regularly on network radio across the dial.
Dean has appeared on MTV, ichannel, and CBC Radio. His festival credits include NXNE, Comedy Bar’s “Best of 2014”, Streamfest, Dark Comedy Festival, The Border City Comedy Festival, and the Iceland Comedy Festival. He’s performed as far away as Reykjavik and Honolulu and is about to embark on a cross-Canada tour at the start of the new year.
The Secret Life of Pets – Movie Review
Rating: B (Good)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures
Since releasing their first animated feature six years ago, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment has established itself with films that can be best described as cute. The Secret Life of Pets is their latest film that falls into this category. It takes our perception of pets and crafts some funny scenarios for them. The story is fairly basic as the lead animals try to find their way home, but director Chris Renaud, co-director Yarrow Cheney, their trio of credited screenwriters and multiple storyboard artists fill the movie with a fun assortment of gags and action sequences. It definitely feels like a storyboard driven film where the artists threw their ideas on the board and saw what stuck. Thankfully, most of the material lands with success.
The filmmakers mine a lot of the little quirks pets have, whether it’s the dog waiting patiently for their master outside of the door or a cat’s confusion at a toy mouse. These gags are the most successful at eliciting laughter, even if one does not own an animal companion. Dogs wanting dominance of their territory drives the main conflict and it’s not difficult to see Max’s point of view upon the arrival of Duke in his domain. Their eventual friendship goes through the expected steps, but the routes the film takes do provide some funny detours. The Secret Life of Pets takes every opportunity to go full-on bonkers, including a delightfully trippy scene in a sausage factory. The concept of abandoned pets creating their own cult-like society in the sewer is also a clever one.
The film also takes full advantage of the various types of pets at their disposal. The dachshund will always remain the funniest of dogs, merely for its shape, and the team behind The Secret Life of Pets happily understand that. Thankfully, the ensemble of famous people hired to voice the animals never feel there merely for name value and they manage to slip into their characters quite nicely. Of all the pets, Jenny Slate’s hyperactive pampered pooch Gidget is the scene-stealer, a fluffy ball of energy whose determination to find Max is rather sweet with a touch of wish-fulfillment and her friendship with a vicious hawk is unexpectedly hilarious. Kevin Hart is similarly fitting casting as an energetic bunny with a vendetta against humans.
The film is peppered with a lot of high-octane action sequences that must have been a lot of fun to construct during the storyboarding stage. It’s a film that opts more for cartoon physics and that adds immensely to the fun of this production. Even the use of popular songs on the soundtrack feel well chosen and not merely there to help sell the album. All that’s missing is “Rhapsody in Blue” to complete the Manhattan setting, so lovingly crafted by production designer Eric Guillon. Where The Secret Life of Pets falls a little short is in the emotional department. The film attempts to create a response to Duke’s back story, but the necessary impact isn’t quite there and it quickly segues to the next action sequence.
The Secret Life of Pets doesn’t reinvent the wheel for animated features and it lacks some of the punch that made this year’s Finding Dory and Zootopia extra special. However, the characters are all likable, the story has its share of fun turns, the animation is professionally mounted and the screenplay consistently provides the necessary laughs. That is par for the course for Illumination’s input, which has made a name for itself in these sorts of cute storyboard-driven animated features. The audience most likely to find appeal in its antics are pet owners, who will recognise behaviour from at least one of the furry cast members. However, for others, there is enough charm and wit to make it a worthy summer escapade.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates – Movie Review
Rating: B- (Okay)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy 20th Century Fox
Once the Coen Brothers claimed Fargo to be a true story in the opening frame of the film, all bets were off over whether one could proclaim a movie “based/inspired by a true story.” Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates opens with such a disclaimer and while the two leads share the names of real people, it’s dubious how much of the events actually took place. Most of the film feels recycled from previous wedding comedies and while there are a good amount of laughs to be had, there are also frequent scenes that don’t register. The actors try their best to up the material, but this becomes more a series of mediocre sketches.
The biggest problem faced by Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is that the titular brothers aren’t given much personality. Mike is loud, while Dave is more down-to-earth and that’s the extent of how they are written. Their dates are similarly one-dimensional, though there is a bit of an attempt to flesh out Anna Kendrick’s Alice. The most developed character ends up being the bride, Mike and Dave’s sister, who has to deal with a big Hawaiian wedding, a husband with his own anxieties and her brothers’ antics. Former children’s television host Sugar Lyn Beard ends up stealing the show from the top billed players with her frequent attempts to keep her patience intact.
Adam Devine’s entire shtick primarily consists of shouting a good chunk of his lines, which gets old very quickly. Zac Efron mostly plays the role of the straight man and his character feels like somebody that could have been filled by anyone. Efron’s main asset is finding an excuse to take his shirt off, which almost feels like a contractual requirement in all of his films. Some of the humour really falls into whether the material in the various sequences work. Occasional moments manage to create some decent laughs, while others fall flat. A scene with a masseuse manages to take its absurdity to a humourous level as does Stephen Root’s annoyance at the idiocy of his sons. Some throwaway lines of dialogue also provide some genuine chuckles. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is definitely in the category of comedies that just allows its stars to riff and then the best lines are picked in the editing room.
Most of the film feels lifted from previous wedding comedies, with obvious parallels to Meet the Parents, American Wedding and Wedding Crashers. The characters even reference the latter, showing almost a self awareness from the screenwriters knowing similar territories have been plunged before. The comedy in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is of the diminishing returns variety. It starts out with decent laughs, which lessen as it goes on. By the end, the film has already outstayed its welcome and trying to find ways to prolong the plot. The attempts to create sentimentality don’t work, again partly due to the one-dimensionality of the characters.
There are some good laughs to be had within the raunchy comedy of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but there’s a lot of unsuccessful material and uninteresting plot points one has to sit through. The actors are given the responsibility of improving the material handed to them, but maybe the best ad-libs weren’t chosen while the film was in post-production. It mostly serves as the latest in a line of crude comedies trying to top each other in outlandishness and improv. It definitely owes a debt to not only the aforementioned Wedding Crashers, but the Neighbors series, which managed to find better improvisations within the hours of footage given to the filmmakers.
Two Finns, a Swede, a Dane and a Canadian actor with a lead role in a hit TV show ALL walk into a bar. That’s the basic idea behind THE FOUR NORSEMEN COMEDY SHOW. On Friday July 8th, this fearsome foursome of headlining comics take over Toronto’s Social Capital Theatre and we’re bringing in the big guns, er, Viking axes – with special guest host Kristian Bruun
And to clarify, no we won’t be performing this show in Finnish, Swedish, Danish or Icelandic, or any botched variation of Scandinavian dialects. The way this show came to be is that all of us on the bill found our way to Toronto from our own respective small cities across Canada. And as we started working together and became fast friends on the Toronto standup scene, we realized we had similarly Scandinavian ancestry. Calwyn Shurgold (hailing from Brantford, Ontario) is a second generation Finn. Lars Classington, while originally from London (yes, the Canadian one) might in fact be the last living Viking. Certainly on Canadian soil. Anna Gustafson (who shares mine and Calwyn’s Suomalainen roots also has Swedish origins and comes from a small fishing village on the West Coast that bares that in name – Lund, BC). And me, Dean – your intrepid comedy editor – I come from Finnish bloodlines on both sides. Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario (a small Northern city that shares a border with Minnesota where Scandinavian descent is almost the majority) Thunder Bay in fact has the most Finns in the world outside of Finland. I grew up eating the food, my family calls me by my Finnish name, and we even had Finn language class all through high school… It didn’t do me a lot of good when I’d skip French class growing up, and later move to Ottawa for a stint. But still, I’m proud enough to have the map of Finland tattoo’d on my forearm.
We got to talking, and last year originally planned some sort of comedy show/live podcast panel during “Finnfest” passing through Toronto in the summer of 2015. But a torrential downpour had other plans. So, we reunited. And here we are – we’re taking our Scandinavian-Canadian standup show on the road… well OK, up to the Danforth. This Friday July 8th at The Social Capital Theatre (upstairs at Toronto’s Black Swan Tavern)
So before you come rushing out to the show – how about a little background?
Our guest host Kristian Bruun is of Finnish descent, we’re told. And readers should definitely know him for his leading role as “Donny” on the hit Canadian sci-fi drama Orphan Black. A role where Bruun brings a great deal of comedy to the sometimes tense atmosphere of the show
Calwyn Shurgold is also currently appearing on Orphan Black, playing the part of Hellwizard! An all-around Renaissance man who can cross between standup and sketch, performing often in character – such as his Hip Hop alter ego “Whyte Wyne”. Calwyn has also appeared on Much Music, and has a diverse film & television resume as an actor
Anna Gustafson is a veteran Canadian comic, who’s been a touring club comic and headliner for over 20 years. She’s also one of the powerhouse producers behind Toronto’s HUGELY successful She Dot Festival An independent comedy festival that draws in headliners and performers from across North America.
Lars Classington is a standup comedian with electric amounts of mayhem energy on-stage. He’s also an actor, musician and all-around multi-talented performer who’s appeared on stage throughout Canada. On the big screen, small screen and on major Canadian networks like YTV and Comedy Network.
And then there’s me, Dean. Your comedy editor. And the manchild CEO behind Talkhole Podcast Network Canada’s comedy podcast network, which proudly presents and co-produces this Scandinavian flavoured night of standup. As a proud Canadian comic and a good old Suomalainen Poika, I’m proud to share the stage at the SoCap with these friends and brethren. With our shared bone structure and decidedly cheery outlook considering our heritage and our career choices.
And last but not least, you can reserve your tickets for this Friday online – and save $5! Book now for $10 advanced. Just give our fancy poster art a click and that link will magically whisk you away (through Icelandic elf magic) over to Lars Classington’s personal site, for a deal on tickets. Oh, and we should thank our friend Wojtek Arciszewski for the show art. He might not come from the land of the ice and snow, but he’s definitely a wizard in his own right.
Book now, and we’ll see you Friday at the SoCap!