Cinematographer László Kovács purposely shot the original Ghostbusters like a drama, avoiding the bright tones that usually signal comedy, so every element would feel credible. This is why the movie’s frights are so frightening and why so many people today view Ghostbusters not as a comedy but as a supernatural adventure with a handful of jokes.
The marketing for forthcoming third chapter Ghostbusters: Afterlife is playing to that crowd by emphasizing a solemn cadence. A new trailer debuted last week that reiterates the narrative threads we’ve been given about wayward teenagers slowly unearthing the truth about what is now an unspoken legend of yore, the Ghostbusters. It’s very Force Awakens. Well, why not? The Force Awakens made $2 billion worldwide in 2015, revitalizing Star Wars after a generation in the weeds. Not a bad template to copy.
Whatever Ghostbusters: Afterlife actually is (laugh riot? creep show? rural youth dramedy with paranormal elements?) the commercials make it look interesting. I’d like to see it. My enthusiasm is tempered by the fact Afterlife has become an avatar for our impatience with COVID.
Experts were saying pretty early on that even in the best of circumstances the pandemic might last until 2025. Everyone else wanted to measure this crisis in monthly increments. Afterlife’s release has been delayed three times in the past year and a half. The filmmakers insist it must be experienced on the big screen. Of course; a strictly theatrical release generates the most profit. Will life “return to normal” by November? Skimming headlines about the Delta variant and all the children who are getting sick now because half the country still believes wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is a matter of personal liberty, I’d say no.
Maybe if everything had shut down last year until our daily COVID infection and death rates dropped down to zero, we would have seen Ghostbusters: Afterlife already. Can you imagine a world where we’re already intimately familiar with Muncher?
I read an interview with Joe Dante the other day where he said the Looney Tunes should have been retired after 1960. I can’t argue with the man. In my lifetime, they’ve only been impressive in Roger Rabbit and that’s because Disney had the final vote on quality control. The original Space Jam is okay but Shawn Bradley is funnier in it than any of the Looney Tunes. You could remove the Looney Tunes entirely and still have a decent movie about NBA players fighting aliens. The animation is just a gimmick. And to paraphrase Chuck Jones, the real Bugs Bunny wouldn’t need Michael Jordan’s help to win a basketball game.
Now we have Space Jam: A New Legacy, which is more of a remake than a direct sequel. If you’re the type of person who can spend hours staring at that poster where Kermit The Frog is dressed like Garth Brooks, this movie will be your Star Wars. Everything you’ve read is correct — A New Legacy is just a commercial for Warner Bros. IP. Would you believe they’re treating most of this stuff as poorly as the Looney Tunes? Scooby Doo, Fred Flinstone, and Space Ghost make brief cameos that are visually on par with the Patterson Bigfoot clip. Meanwhile, the camera lingers on several real life human extras in screamingly awful Batman costumes. They’re on the sidelines of the big showdown, practically rubbing elbows with the main characters, even though they should be on house arrest at a Spirit Halloween.
If you’ve never seen the Looney Tunes before, Space Jam: A New Legacy will give you zero insight into their personalities. You might literally believe that Elmer Fudd is just a short guy from Austin Powers. That’s all they give him in this movie; they animate Fudd over the Verne Troyer reveal from The Spy Who Shagged Me. The premise here is that an evil computer algorithm has convinced the Looney Tunes they should be involved with more exciting franchises, so they’ve all left Looney Tune Land for stuff like The Matrix and Mad Max. See? The movie told the Looney Tunes they were boring and they agreed! And they don’t return to Looney Tune Land because they miss it. They return because the story necessitates that they partner with LeBron James to defeat Don Cheadle and his ragtag crew of NBA mutants.
There is a “serious” death scene for one of the characters in A New Legacy — “th-that’s all, folks!” they sputter melodramatically — but it doesn’t mean anything because the whole thing is reversed two minutes later. So not even a movie this big and dumb and critic-proof can escape the Marvel influence. Death is meaningless, life is meaningless, let’s smash our toys together. On the other hand, if they made 25 more Space Jams perhaps they’d eventually land on something interesting.
Space Jam: A New Legacy made me laugh once, when they dress Foghorn Leghorn up like Khaleesi from “Game of Thrones” so he can soar by on a dragon and throw out some catchphrase. I think that’s the most meaningless thing I’ve ever seen in my life. It deeply amused me.
CORRECTION: Bunsen Honeydew is the Muppet who dressed like Garth Brooks. I can’t believe I misremembered that thing I only saw once.
Hello, friends. Since 2019 I’ve been working on a book that is an in-depth history of the Ghostbusters films. It’s titled A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever and it will be published by Lyons Press in the Fall of 2022. Originally the book was scheduled for this year; the goal posts moved to keep up with the forthcoming entry Ghostbusters: Afterlife. I’ve always felt very strongly that I can’t complete this book without seeing Afterlife. I am very thankful my publisher agrees.
A Convenient Parallel Dimension will be the most thorough Ghostbusters history ever written, one that covers all the movies and will include a wealth of information previous volumes have omitted. It’s a story about art, people, comedy, commerce, evolution, “Hollywood,” and, to some extent, America. Myths will be shattered, truths revealed. The cartoons, video games, and comics will also be discussed and yes, there will be pictures.
I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life and I can’t wait for everyone to read this thing. Thank you for your continued support. I love you all.
— I deleted my substack after it came to light that the company was giving money to anti-trans voices; eventually I will repost much of that content here as I attempt to relaunch jg2land; only recently have I accepted the fact that throughout the history of my freelance career this blog has been the only truly reliable structure
— my latest book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever will be published by Lyons Press in the Fall of 2022; I think it’s going to be the best thing I’ve ever done and I hope you will agree
— they changed the interface on the wordpress post editor and I don’t know how to make that image of Muncher smaller but honestly every image of Muncher should be the size of a highway billboard
— I blog here now: jamesgreenejr.substack.com
— my latest book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever will be published late next year by Lyons Press
— I keep talking about how much I’ve learned working on A Convenient Parallel Dimension and to that degree I’ve removed some articles from this blog that contained factual errors about our very famous ghost smashers
— I love you all
I considered myself a pretty serious student of Ghostbusters before I started work on this book and now I can’t believe how much I’m learning. There’s still a year of labor to be done but I think the end result will really be something special. My fingers are crossed that all the ghost heads will agree.
By the way, I’m still trying to get to Manhattan to complete a leg of research. If you’d like to help, check out my GoFundMe. Donate enough scratch and you’ll receive a signed copy of this yet-to-be-titled volume when it’s complete. Thanks for even considering; there are more worthy causes for sure.
My zine Idiot Time is on hiatus for the moment while I focus on the book. If you’re thirsty for new writings, I’ve started penning the occasional article for Hard Noise. It’s a nonfiction offshoot of The Hard Times. Here’s one I wrote about the Reagan Youth song in Airheads. Here’s an interview I did with a former Dead Kennedy. And this one’s about Wendy O. Williams and Kiss.
I’m getting married in December. My heart is full of love and I can’t wait to be a wife guy. For my bachelor party I will go to a deli and eat a sandwich.
Until the next update, stay fresh, stay funky.
Well, here’s some news.
Lyons Press has contracted me to write a book about the long, storied history of the Ghostbusters films. All of ’em — the old ones, the new ones, the ones they never even made. It probably won’t be published until 2021. Friends of the blog know I tried to get this off the ground a few years ago. The fact that it’s a reality now…well, my back teeth are swimming in excitement. I can’t wait for everyone to read it.
Speaking of junk you can read, I do a zine now about bizarre tv. It’s called Idiot Time and you can subscribe for the low low price of just two dollars a month at patreon.com/idiot_time. Seven issues so far. The most recent is a tribute to Ted Knight. Hi, guy.
Also, I live in Texas now. The grocery stores are enormous.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill
Directed by Rian Johnson
Accepting reality is one of life’s most difficult challenges. Answers elude burning questions, or arrive with baggage you couldn’t expect. The wrong decision feels one hundred percent right; the right decision leaves everyone feeling wrong. These ideas form the core of The Last Jedi, an entry in the Star Wars saga that blurs the good versus evil / black against white mythos that’s been cemented in this entertainment monolith for decades. The results are dream-like, surreal, mostly captivating, occasionally bonkers—yet you witness a growth, not just with the characters but the franchise itself.
The Last Jedi picks up right where 2015’s The Force Awakens left off; Rey (Daisy Ridley) has located the hermit Luke Skywalker, whom she hopes will join the Resistance against the First Order while training her in the ways of the Force. Luke, still reeling from events in his recent past, is wary of this young newcomer and the trouble she may bring to his doorstep. Meanwhile, a power struggle is coming to light within the First Order as Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) openly doubts the abilities of Darth Vader’s grandson, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren is battling his own demons and is not in fact very present in mind for what the First Order believes will be the final push against General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and her Resistance. There’s internal distress on that side, too, as spicy boy pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) bristle under Resistance leadership and ultimately go rogue.
Ideas that the Star Wars prequels fumbled to infamy are presented here with grace and wonder. There are also moments in The Last Jedi where they roll the space dice and come up with droid eyes. Of course, this echoes the film’s aforementioned themes—you can’t always get what you want, reality can be a bitch. Director Rian Johnson has broken away from the formulaic feel that many believe hampers The Force Awakens; at the same time, Johnson (who also authored the script) deepens the chemistry between the leads, bringing resonance to the fact this war for the galaxy’s heart is extremely personal.
And yes, the rumors are true: this might be the Star Wars with the most jokes. One liners, visual gags, even bits reminiscent of Monty Python. The levity is appreciated as it bridges the gap between emotional set pieces. Don’t forget, The Last Jedi is two hours plus. A little editing may not have hurt, but perhaps that would decrease the perfectly feverish ambience.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half porgs (out of four).
– Hulu recently added “Perfect Strangers” to its streaming stable; my first question after spinning the episode wheel for about a week straight is, since Bronson Pinchot’s Balki is just a sanitized version of the brief but memorable role he plays in Beverly Hills Cop, do you think “Perfect Strangers” ever tried to get Eddie Murphy to make a guest appearance? Also, do you think anyone from Beverly Hills Cop chagrins Bronson Pinchot for spinning this character into television, even though legend tells us Pinchot himself improvised it while filming Beverly Hills Cop? Do you think they ever asked Judge Reinhold to be on “Perfect Strangers?”
– the chemistry between Pinchot’s affable, earnest Balki and Mark Linn-Baker’s cynical, beleaguered Cousin Larry is often utterly crackerjack; when the writing plays to their strengths the laughs flow like water and you can see how this goddamn thing ran for eight seasons; this is probably how “Perfect Strangers” survived so many supporting cast hiccups (the actress who plays Twinkacetti’s wife in the first two seasons returns in the third as an unrelated newspaper gossip columnist; very confusing if you’re watching “PS” totally out of order on a Tuesday night, face deep in kung pow chicken)
– yes, there is an episode of this program in which Balki is accidentally hypnotized into believing he is Elvis Presley the night before his tax audit; this is in season four, so it is plausible by this point that Balki might be paying some kind of income tax on his earnings from the newspaper’s mail room
– yes, there is an episode of this program in which Larry brings home 58 live turkeys just a few days before Thanksgiving because he’s convinced he can make a buck off last minute shoppers; there’s nothing funnier than imagining Larry and Balki succumbing to the will of 58 live turkeys in their kitchen and living room, and imagine it is what you have to do—the budget apparently only allotted for two to three birds at a time
– yes, there’s an episode where Balki claims to have met and befriended Carl Lewis after a showing of Benji: The Hunted; Balki’s enthusiasm for this film is very endearing
– over the course of “Perfect Strangers” Larry and Balki meet, awkwardly date, and fall in sitcom love with their upstairs neighbors, Jennifer and Mary Ann (their partners respectively); these parallel romances remains chaste for the most part, even when they all wind up living together, although every once in a while something truly ribald slips by—like the time Balki admits Mary Ann really knows how to “toss his salad”; this occurs in a much later season when all the Friday night heat was ostensibly on Urkel
– people forget “Family Matters,” the show which begat Urkel, is a spinoff of “Perfect Strangers” (before she was mother to Laura and Eddie, wife to Carl, Harriet Winslow was elevator operator to Larry and Balki at their newspaper job); though he pops up on several other ABC TGIF entries of this era, Urkel never came to pay his respects to the cousins, which is fucking nuts because “Perfect Strangers” is the only TGIF show that takes place in the same city as “Family Matters”; even stranger, Mark Linn-Baker crossed over to “Family Matters” in one of its later seasons, but not as Larry, as some other guy
– the episode where Balki takes on the persona of hip hop star Fresh Young Balki B is less incredible than memory; the several minute applause break I recalled for the introduction of Larry as MC Cousin does not occur
– in the seventh season the King of Mypos (Balki’s fictitious homeland) comes to visit and of course dies unexpectedly; this turns into a Weekend at Bernie’s type deal but you’ll be more amused by how many times the dead guy thinks he’s off camera and starts moving his face around
– the final season of “Perfect Strangers” is inexplicably only six episodes, but don’t worry, they cram in pregnancy, a sporting good store, a Myposian death curse, a game show, and a two parter in a hot air balloon
– the only reason they should reboot this show is so we can learn if Bronson and Mark can still execute the Dance of Joy; it was foretold they would not be able to at this advanced age in the season three episode “Future Shock”; surely this is one of the top betting pools in Vegas