Reviews Roundup: Ghostbusters; The Julie Ruin

IN CINEMAS

Ghostbusters

official-ghostbusters-2016-poster.jpgI have absolutely no patience at all for the angry reception this film has received before its release, which is sadly just one more example of the hostility and bad-tempered fanboydom that the internet tends to inspire. Infamously, when the trailer was first released on Youtube, it inspired a malicious campaign to make it the most disliked video in history. This succeeded, inspiring a chorus of moronic, deeply prejudicial comments, normally prefaced with: ‘I’m not sexist, but…’ The trailer was not great, but it was far from the worst in history. As many could quickly tell, the main reason for this overwhelmingly toxic reaction was not nostalgia for the original, although this of course played a part, or any concerns about the quality of the upcoming film, but antagonism towards the idea that it was to be updated with an all-female lead cast.

No other recent remakes, and there have been plenty, have received anywhere near the same amount of public vitriol. The shock that a male-dominated buddy comedy could be replaced with a female-dominated buddy comedy seemed, absurdly, to inspire real horror in the hearts and minds of many of the worst people/trolls to exist online. It was impossible not to detect misogyny in the brutal decimation of this film taking place before it had even been released. Many of the best comic actors to have arisen in recent years are women (see the superb Bridesmaids, for instance), and it is far from a negative to give some of them a blockbuster showcase for their talents. That the blockbuster in question happens to be a remake of an 80s ‘classic’ is irrelevant: if there’s going to be a remake of a much-loved film, it had better be strikingly different, or else… what the hell’s the point? Electing to have female Ghostbusters was a smart move by director Paul Feig, a decision which, if carried off, could bring fresh life to an original that has aged not nearly so well as nostalgists might have hoped (compare its creaky inconsistency to the perennially entertaining E.T., Back to the Future or Who Framed Roger Rabbit, for example).

So it was with an open mind, as you all damn well should, that I entered the cinema, ready to judge this Ghostbusters on its merits alone. Luckily it has many: enthusiastic performances from the leading ladies, special effects that come across as both comical and nightmarish, a well-judged preference for comedy over extended action sequences, and a good-natured Chris Hemsworth in a wobbly yet frequently hilarious turn as the requisite sexy dumb blonde receptionist. The dialogue is snappy and pithy throughout, filled with sharp one-liners, even if some of them admittedly do miss the mark. And there are some great set pieces crafted with style: a heavy metal concert where the crowd cheer on and take selfies with a nefarious apparition that is attempting to terrorise them, the great Melissa McCarthy transforming into a ‘deflating balloon’, Kate McKinnon eating Pringles and Chris Hemsworth a sandwich as the world falls apart around them, and expertly judged and well-timed cameos – some of which are to be expected, but not all of them.

It’s hardly a masterpiece, but it’s consistently entertaining enough to warrant your money, and overall I think it has more spirit(s) than the original. I even prefer the theme tune this time around: Missy Elliott adds some funky pizzazz to that antiquated relic. Which is exactly what Paul Feig does with this fun and fresh production. Overall, I think it will date much better than the more revered, older version of Ghostbusters, even if its reputation is destined to be hijacked by those who simply cannot escape the ‘glory days’ of their childhood favourites.

I really do mean what I say: I prefer this to the 1984 Ghostbusters. I’m not sorry if that offends you. Because I ain’t ‘fraid of no trolls.

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ON SPOTIFY

Hit Reset – The Julie Ruin

‘I can play electric guitar/While shaving my legs in a moving car’ Kathleen Hanna boasts Hit-Reset-640x640.jpgon this album, a typically imaginative couplet that is a witty and explicit ‘fuck you’ to the men who dominate the guitar-shredding rock music industry. In commercial terms, at least: grrls have been dominating artistically for at least a quarter of a century, with bands such as Hole, The Breeders, Ex Hex, The Coathangers, and the monumental Sleater-Kinney carrying the baton on from the great male punk bands of the 70s, the American hardcore acts of the 80s, and the grunge icons of the early 90s. Hanna has been an integral part of this latter-day movement, establishing the first seminal riot grrrl band with Bikini Kill, before continuing her radical feminist preaching under a different moniker with the brilliant electronica-inspired Le Tigre. Then, tragically diagnosed with late stage Lyme disease, she went out of action for nine years, before returning reenergised with her new outfit The Julie Ruin in 2013, which combined the high-decibel mayhem of Bikini Kill with the considered keyboards and harmonies of Le Tigre.

No matter what band she’s been performing under, Kathleen Hanna has always been the undisputed star of the show, as one of the most compelling vocalists in the business: her voice is at once cute and ferocious, tender and brutal, honest and sarcastic, brittle and thunderous. It straddles contradictions, moving from a purr to a snarl to a howl to a screech with barely a warning, illuminating the meaning behind her lyrics at times with subtlety and at others with a deliberate lack of it. Hit Reset fully utilises this varied expressiveness: yelping on ‘I’m Done’, chatting on ‘I Decide’, murmuring on ‘Calverton’, cooing on ‘Let Me Go’, Hanna invigorates them all. Her vocals are the primary reason for tuning in, and indeed they retain their fascination after multiple listens. One of the exceptional singers of our time, she is greatly underappreciated by the general public, even if ‘Mr. So and So’ might tell us that that’s the way she likes it: ‘I love girl bands, how they take command/It’s a turn on you don’t need to know’ she sings, mocking a type of ‘fan’ that she would rather not be associated with.

The music makes a satisfying accompaniment to this vocal tour de force, albeit only intermittently outstanding. Ferocious yet brief uptempo onslaughts provide the meat, with surprising touches such as the surf guitar licks on ‘Hello Trust No One’ and the gently cascading pianos on ‘Calverton’ providing the substance. Hit Reset is satisfying and pushes the grrrl punk movement into new and frequently beautiful territory, which is encouraging for an artist over twenty years into her career. I expect great things to come, and will continue to follow her progression with enormous interest. I just wish more of you would do the same.

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One thought on “Reviews Roundup: Ghostbusters; The Julie Ruin

  1. Pingback: The Best Films and TV Shows of 2016 | oliver's twist

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