What’s On: Ghostbusters (2016)

by Daniel Durand

Last night, I bit the bullet and went to the theater to see the movie that’s been causing everyone so much grief online and in social media—Scooby-Doo 2.

Kidding. I saw the Ghostbusters remake. But there were a lot of moments where I thought I was watching one of the live-action Scooby-Doo movies.

Full disclosure, I did not expect to like this movie. I have been a huge fan of the Ghosbusters franchise my whole life, from the movies, to the cartoons, to the comic books. I still remember walking down the road to the local movie rental store with my parents to pick up movies and snacks—Ghostbusters was one of the first movies to become part of that near-weekly ritual, and it was a big part of my childhood. Any movie would have a hard time trying to emulate those experiences.

But, my heart still wears a proton pack, and I had to see this movie, just to be sure.

What Sparked?

I’ll start with the positives, because there were a few. Some were expected, such as Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of Dr. Holtzmann, the quirky and possibly insane engineer of the new GB crew. Holtzmann seemed detached from reality in a fashion that seemed half Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, and half what Ed from Cowboy Bebop would be like as an adult. Here’s a video if you don’t know who that second character is:

Holtzmann was, to me, the only character that really stood up to any of the originals. I felt like she was less of a replacement for Egon Spengler, the original gadget guy, and more of a character of her own that could have just as easily strapped on a pack and gone toe-to-toe with Stay Puft. In a movie that felt watered down and bland, Holtzmann was what kept me watching, and Kate McKinnon had better get a damned award for this.

I also liked that the movie had a couple of original ideas that were not present in the older parts of the franchise.

In the original movie, no one believes that the Ghosbusters are really catching ghosts. The EPA tries to shut them down because, famously, Walter Peck has no dick, and the mayor is only willing to trust the weirdos in slime-covered jumpsuits when he has no other choice.

In Ghostbusters 2016, however, not only do the Ghostbusters not have to prove they aren’t frauds, but it turns out that the government has a special detachment to investigate the paranormal, and the mayor knows all about the existence of ghosts. The mayor still publicly pretends that the Ghostbusters are crazy publicity hounds, but by the end of the movie, the city is actively funding their work as a “just in case” countermeasure against future ghost attacks—pretty much the exact opposite of the mayor’s reaction from the first film.

Also, in the same scene where the new Ghostbusters crew is brought before the mayor, he mentions that one of the strange occurrences on the government investigators’ radar is a whole town being turned inside out—Holtzmann reacts to this news excitedly, much like I did. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would have loved to have seen that in a Ghostbusters movie.

The remake also introduced the concept of ley lines—geographic lines between major landmarks or sites of cultural or spiritual importance—to partly explain why ghosts were being drawn to New York.

A similar concept was used in the Ghostbusters video game that came out for PS3 a few years back, in which the same cult that built the apartment building in the original movie was explained to have also built a series of nodes that channeled ghosts into the city and drew from their power, which was ultimately lured the major baddies from the first and second movies.

Sadly, the ley lines were only mentioned once, and any hope of a larger construct or explanation of the Ghostbusters universe probably died there.

What Sputtered?

Product placement. Holtzmann carries Pringles, the secretary-savant shows us the 7-Eleven logo as a suggestion for the Ghostbusters crew to use, there’s a slew of logos smattered around the background shots, and references to Papa John’s, Cadillac, and more.

To be fair, the original had tons of product placement (Twinkie anyone?) but I just felt like they handled it better in execution. When Dr. Venkman opens Dana Barrett’s refrigerator to check for ghosts, it’s crammed full of Coke, Perrier, and Oscar Mayer—all things you would expect to find in a refrigerator. But when I watched the remake, and Holtzmann has a tube of Pringles under one arm while she’s filming the first ghost encounter, I just thought it was forced.

A major area that I think caused the overall movie to suffer was that it seemed to stretch on a little too long. You could have safely cut a half-hour from it and probably made the finished product flow better. I love Holtzmann, but did we really need four scenes where she shows off new gadgets, when even Q from the Bond franchise only gets one per movie?

Exacerbating this problem was a cast of redundant characters. The movie opens with an historian, played by Zach Woods, leading a tour of a spooky mansion, which soon becomes the site of the first ghost attack of the movie. But why have a separate character that is an historian knowledgeable about New York City, when Leslie Jones basically sells herself as a worthy member of the new team by talking up her historical chops (and having access to a car that would become the new Ecto-1)? You could have just made Leslie Jones the tour guide, which would have led to her encounter with the Ghostbusters, and cut about five minutes off the movie’s run time.

Even Bill Murray’s cameo as an academic skeptic of the paranormal was redundant—we’d already watched Kristen Wiig get fired from her job as a university physicist by her Ivory Tower asshole of a boss, and then another scene where the Ghostbusters are kicked out of their lab at a different academic institution. Why not just have Bill Murray play Wiig’s boss, and be done with it? Bam! I just cut another eight minutes off the movie!

But I think the main thing about this movie that left me feeling a little empty after the fact was not the poor cameos, or the fart/vagina jokes in the first 15 minutes, or even the goofy, Scooby-Doo special effects—no, it was the attitude of this movie, and knowing that nothing that anyone says will matter.

And no, I don’t mean the knowledge that my words don’t matter. I’m some nobody critic on the internet, and there are thousands like me that mean equally zero. I mean knowing that nobody mattered.

Proof of concept: on opening weekend, Rory Bruer of Sony said in an interview that there was no doubt in his mind that the new Ghostbusters would become a major Sony franchise and have a sequel.

So none of the controversy about this movie really mattered—in fact, even the people who like this movie don’t matter. It seems that the current model for the movie industry right now is to crank out as many reboots as they can, piggybacking off the success of the original, aimed at getting butts in chairs and cramming as many product endorsements in as possible. If you don’t like it, no one cares, have another shit sandwich and shut up.

Any pissed off fans who loved the originals for decades… well, they’re just eggshells to an omelet.

Parting Thoughts:

I’d give Ghostbusters 2016 a solid C. It’s passable, and not as bad as the harsher critics said, but it was basically stupid. It could never have stood up to the original with Paul Feig directing, and was too poorly written and cringe-worthy to stand on its own.

I might have given it a B if it were more condensed, or if they had tried more to pass the torch from the original cast, but as it stands, I wouldn’t even recommend it as a DVD purchase to keep your kids quiet for a couple hours. If that’s really all you’re after, buy the original—it’s funnier and will introduce your children to pop culture references that even a lot of 20-somethings don’t get anymore.

 

Daniel Durand is a writer based in Boise, Idaho, who may or may not be thinking about writing Ghostbusters fan fiction. He can be reached at ddurand.specialprojects@gmail.com.

.22 Caliber Independence Day

by Mitchell Bonds

Happy Fourth of July, patriots! Let’s talk about how much fun I had this last month putting together a deadly assault weapon with a half-dozen lethal features.

Here is a picture of it:

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This is “Druidia,” my shooting-range darling. Her name is both a pun and a Spaceballs reference and I apologize for neither.

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Isn’t she pretty? Custom paint job using leaves from my little brother’s garden.

I grew up in the state of Idaho, but have over the last few years become a soft city boy. I prefer my fast Internet and hot running water over the rough backcountry lifestyle, play an unreasonable amount of video games, and relegate my camping trips to “never.”

I still however have a healthy appreciation for firearms. Living in the backwoods where bears, ex-mafiosos, coyotes, and other dangerous wildlife often occupied our backyard, our dad taught my brother and I firearm safety from the day we were big enough to possibly get our grimy hands on one of his several guns.

We weren’t taught to fear guns as dangerous objects, but were taught the dangers of not treating them properly. From day 1, we learned never to point a gun at anything we didn’t intend to shoot, and that even if it’s not loaded, a gun is always loaded. We learned guns weren’t toys. We knew to keep our booger hooks off the bang buttons until we were ready to shoot.

There was even a great object lesson wherein he filled a milk jug with red Kool-aid and had me feel it, test how squishy it was, then feel my own torso to see it was about the same level of squishy. Then he put the jug on a stump a dozen yards away and put one load of buckshot through it with his 12-gauge.

The resulting spray stayed vividly in my memory, and in more than 20 years of handling firearms, I’ve had not one incident of stupid behavior with a real gun and never hurt myself, another, or even a single animal with one. Because I like my torso. There’s a bit too much of it, but I rather like it where it is.

These days I mostly tinker with weaponry in digital form. I have been modifying guns in the “Fallout” video game series since you had to install a mod on the game to be able to install mods on your guns. My favorite in “Fallout: New Vegas” is the Marksman Carbine, a semi-automatic rifle with a red-dot sight, with plentiful ammo.

My brother Alex, on the other hand, never lost the backcountry in his heart. Unlike the easily-lampooned “operator” — with their beer gut, NRA stickers, and Bruce Willis attitude — he’s law enforcement, and he knows his stuff. He rolls his eyes at those who “think they’re a badass and wear camouflage pants,” as he puts it.

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The pudgy one on the left is me. The other is Alex, who purchases gun parts and customizes real life firearms. Last I checked, he owns more firearms than he is years old. Our conversations about gun parts usually take place within arm’s reach of four guns that I know about — and apparently two that I didn’t until last Thursday. I know the whole “guns kill people” thing is overplayed, but the whole time I was there, not a single one of the six tried to kill me despite having every opportunity to catch me unawares.

Thanks to Alex, I own two guns myself. One is a simple revolver for personal defense (you only have to get attacked in your own home by a meth head ONCE to want something sturdier than a field hockey stick for defense). Last month, I finally broke down and let him build a custom gun for me. I decided I wanted a low-budget, real-life version of the Marksman Carbine, and he made it happen.

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This is a 10/22, which is semi-automatic and fires .22 Long Rifle bullets. This is not, despite its appearance, an actual “Assault Rifle.” An assault rifle has selectable firing modes and are already illegal for civilian use. Druidia does not: One squeeze of the trigger, one bullet, nothing more.

She does, however, have several cosmetic features that are being currently bandied by prominent members of the Democratic party as “Lethal Features.” I’m going to explain them and why I have them.

First of all, here is the same gun, before any of the customization we did to it.

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Hardly looks like the same machine, does it? But at its heart, this is the same firearm. It fires the same bullets at the same rate, one per trigger squeeze. One might sound a little silly trying to ban the second rifle, despite their identical nature, so the add-ons are what get targeted.

Here’s what the scary-looking “lethal features” do.

The body itself, the housing for the ‘gun’ part of this rifle, is Proudly Made in the USA by Tapco. It’s great for customization, but as Alex puts it, it looks “scarier to the uninformed.”

Up top is a cheap Chinese optic, a Phantom RT6L, which Alex and I picked because I wanted its red laser dot to run on a AAA battery instead of coin-cell or ‘watch’ batteries.

The red dot allows me precision aiming. Last time I used one of these, even my natural clumsiness wasn’t enough to harm my accuracy.

The same goes for the folding forward grip. With this I have immediate control over where the muzzle of the gun points, and combined with the red-dot optic, I reliably hit what I’m aiming at and nothing else.

These two are great features for a guy who doesn’t want to shoot anybody. If I wanted to commit mass murder, I wouldn’t care about collateral damage. These bits make the gun safer for the average Joe, not more dangerous.

The gizmo on the front is a pin-on flash-hider/compensator by NC Star. It reduces the “fireball that comes out the barrel” Alex tells the uninformed. But that’s not its reason to exist.

“It has one purpose: To create a greater perceived caliber on the business end,” Alex said.

If someone who meant me harm — remember the angry meth addict? — was confronted by this weapon, “it reduces the likelihood of having to pull the trigger. You’re less likely to actually have to use it. Nine times out of 10, when justifiable lethal force is presented, the presentation is enough to mitigate the threat.”

Yeah, he talks like a cop. He is one. And he’s right. I’d be more intimidated by a doom gun than a sissy pistol any day, especially if I was attacking the holder of said doom gun with something less doomy, like a knife or baseball bat.

The high-capacity magazine you hear so much about is attached to Druidia. That big banana clip is a Ruger BX-25 and holds a whopping 25 rounds, which coincidentally, is 5 rounds fewer than I thought it held given its size.

Alex wouldn’t get me a larger one since any magazine larger than 25 rounds has a tendency to jam and make the gun less reliable — and by ironic logic, less dangerous. I won’t be doing a Scarface impression with these magazines.

Sadly, mass shooters who didn’t have these just brought backpacks full of the 10-round magazines instead, so banning the sale of these doesn’t help.

The last two deadly features of this perilous weapon are its pistol grip and its telescoping stock. The first feature is touted as the most perilous feature of any ‘assault weapon.’ But there’s a problem.

“It does nothing for the actual shooting,” Alex said. Literally it’s designed to be “easier to hang onto with one hand,” ostensibly so you can do things like turn on a flashlight, take a sip of tea, or text “just shooting pumpkins lol” with the other without worrying about accidentally dropping the damn thing or pointing it an unsafe direction.

The telescoping stock allows the back to be resized to be comfortable for any person who wants to shoot it. Extend it all the way, and tall, long-armed people can use it. Collapse it, and a five-foot-nothing teenage girl can use it. Safely and comfortably. It does nothing for the shooting. Same number of bullets, same firing speed.

This gun’s cosmetics might look scary — it’s my own Marksman Carbine, just like I wanted. She was fun to build and customize to my personal preferences and requirements. But this is Druidia, a gun that will never kill a living thing.

Because I have the features I need to hit nothing but my targets, be they swiveling competition targets or just tin cans. Because I know how gun safety works. And because I keep my booger hook off the bang button.

Mitchell Bonds edits for a local newspaper as his day job, and elsewise spends too much time playing video games and writing about dragons. Beware of contacting him at fouryearquest@yahoo.com.