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?
– the first half of this doc (covering Cobain’s frenetic childhood and rise to pop culture ubiquity) is more engaging and interesting than the latter, though the back end helps humanize the Kurt who descended into tragedy (not to mention his widow Courtney Love, an immensely likable figure throughout Heck, even when discussing drug use during her pregnancy [and she was right, her kid turned out fine])
– the Scanner Darkly style animated segments, while very richly detailed and atmospheric, ultimately feel too clean (read: too Hollywood) for the rest of the film’s aesthetic (read: notebook scrawled punk rock anarchy)
– there are no revelations here concerning Kurt’s personality or approach to life; it all just reinforces how difficult the world can be for ultra altruistic and/or ultra idealistic figures, especially when they have major aspirations
– I’m enormously satisfied this prestige work includes that hilarious circa ’91 footage of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic videotaping himself in the rest room of an airplane, joking about “this bird [goin’] down”
– it was cool at the end when they credited every person who ever passed through Nirvana equally
– the worst thing you can say about Montage Of Heck is that it gets a little repetitive and ends abruptly—of course, this simply mirrors Kurt’s final years, so maybe this entire exercise is perfectly honest and unflinching
– as sad a figure as Kurt Cobain seems this documentary does a great job proving he could be just as funny and light-hearted as anyone else; in fact, his wit seemed so quick I could easily see him holding his own on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” next to Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles; I for one would have lovingly embraced Kurt Cobain, Improv Comic
– it’s inevitable another doc on Kurt or Nirvana will be produced someday, but after Heck it shouldn’t be (Obama can secure his legacy by making this an executive order or constitutional amendment or whatever process this country uses to legislate movies about grunge)
So what’s the most shocking aspect of Black Flag’s sudden reunion album, the appropriately titled What The…? The simple fact it exists after two decades of minimal stirring? The shiteous cover art that I think we all want to believe is awful on purpose? My vote goes to the astounding truth that the music within sounds like it’s being played by the real Black Flag, the tank-like ’80s outfit we all hoped would magically appear at our high school and start a police riot with their unique brand of disturbed, violent punk rock.
Not only is What The… better than it has any right to be twenty-eight years after the fact, it comes offensively close to being great in various pockets. Raw, nutty, heavy—these guys roll over the gate like they’ve been locked in a storage closet since In My Head. Founding guitarist Greg Ginn can still warp your mind with his playing, be it with gobs of gluey riffage or pointedly fractured soloing (Ginn also handled the gut-slapping bass lines that lay the foundation for What The…). Similarly, returning Flag singer Ron Reyes can still summon up that angry wayward teen who splattered his vocals across several of the band’s early lynchpin releases.
Unfortunately (you knew that was coming), What The… dampens its fire by handing out too much of a good thing. Forgetting that brevity is the soul of punk, Ginn and Reyes force us through twenty-two angry noodles when an offering a third that length could have comprised one of this year’s more invigorating EPs. It’s never a good sign when the listener needs to take a lunch break midway through an album. It’s even worse when the listener wants to. The contents of your refrigerator are sure to excite on a James Bond level once you’ve been confronted with the malaise that hangs over backend What The… cuts like “Lies” and “Give Me All Your Dough.”
As of this writing, Reyes is already out of the reformed Flag, having been ousted in favor of professional skateboarder Mike Vallely (who can also sing, apparently). Based on the meandering, circular nature of What The…, Black Flag doesn’t need a new singer so much as they need an editor. Of course, this is the band (the punk rock band) that released four albums in one year during their heyday, so I guess in a certain light we were spared the true onslaught. Twenty-two songs—can you imagine how much shit might be cluttering the cutting room floor?
FINAL SCORE: Two pastrami sandwiches on honey wheat (out of four).
Below are some lyrics I wrote for YouTube parody I was planning of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” that would have covered everything from where he left off (1990) until now. I gave up just before Y2K because I realized I didn’t have a table I could light on fire for the video.
As you read along, imagine Billy singing in that über-serious monotone style (the same one he used in the first song to make us believe the cultural events he was listing were the only ones that mattered) as an arsenal of keyboards echo around him.
D.C. mayor cokehead sleaze
Moscow gets a Mickey Ds
Gulf War, Jordan scores
Greta Garbo lives no more
The Muppet guy also bails
Iron Mike goes to jail
Rodney King, Bart Simpson sings
New York Giants get a ring
Jeffrey Dahmer, Kurt Cobain
Hypercolor super lame
Bill Clinton, Al Gore
Total Recall three tit whore
Magic’s got HIV
France hates EuroDisney
Amy Fisher, “Murphy Brown”
Chris Farley funny clown
Wayans Brothers, “X Files”
Stussy’s got the hot styles
Internet, you’ve got mail
Tim McVeigh epic fail
Tupac, Biggie, & Death Row
“Dawson’s Creek,” what a show
Wonder Bra, instant tan
Clooney sucks as Batman
Cuban kid nowhere to go
Jon Stewart, Lilith Fair
Ted Danson’s got grey hair
[This next part replaces the original’s JFK line]
“MELROSE PLACE,” OFF THE AIR
WHAT THE HELL DO YOU CARE????
1941: Spielberg’s big comedy bomb from 1979 about life on the California coast immediately following the Pearl Harbor attack. Disjointed and broad, yes, but also very funny in places. Don’t go in expecting Dr. Strangelove and you’ll probably have a lot of fun. Also, the music here is the best John Williams ever produced.
2012: Cliché-ridden disaster epic that culminates in some goofy boat nonsense. John Cuask has never worked harder for a paycheck. You will become intimately familiar with the back of your skull from all the eye-rolling if you watch this one until the bitter end.
Hot Tub Time Machine: I hate the phrase “it is what it is,” but this comedy is a great example of those five words. Complaining about the one or two plot holes/character flaws seems irrelevant because, you know, the movie’s called Hot Tub Time Machine. It brings the LULZ, so who cares about the science or attention to detail? Still, it’s hard to swallow some of the Crispin Glover stuff. He didn’t recognize these guys twenty years later or whatever?
Shutter Island: Lea-NAHD-oh D and MAHK RA-f’lo play Masshole feds investigating an escaped mental patient in Scorsese’s latest effort. Despite a thin, predictable story, Marty keeps you enthralled and wondering just how things will play out until the final frame. One of the first flicks I’ve seen where the CGI integrates seamlessly with the real three-dimensional junk. Way to go, old dog.
The Dream Team: Dennis Boutsikaris sports a pretty impressive beard in this ’89 flick. It’s almost as good as the one Matt McCoy wore in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle four years later. I’d love to see a live beard-off between those two (my money’s on McCoy should that ever happen). Anyway, The Dream Team finds Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd, Peter Boyle, and Stephen Furst hamming it up ’80s-style as escaped mental patients in New York City (Shutter Island would have been ten times better had Leo & Mark been chasing these four goofballs). Light-hearted yuks perfect for a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
Sex Drive: Seth Green’s finest acting work. Plot? Horny kids drive a zillion miles to try and have sex with the blonde assistant from “30 Rock” only to realize A) life isn’t entirely about the slizz and B) people on the Internet aren’t always what they appear to be. Funny enough not to shut off once you get rolling, but seriously, the Fallout Boy cameo was pushing it. Dropped a whole letter grade in my book because of that scene’s implausibility/stupidity/easiness.
I had a bowl of Chocolate Lucky Charms for breakfast this morning, and the sugary cocoa concoction reminded me that my favorite cereal of all-time is Count Chocula. Count Chocula’s a little hard to come by in Brooklyn, surprisingly. I’ve only seen it in one grocery store here. Have I mentioned this before? I feel like I have. At any rate, the only supplier of Count Chocula I know of in Kings County is too far away from my current residence for regular visits.
I suppose the main reason I cite Chocula as my favorite is the vampire motif. I love classic movie monsters, especially Bela Lugosi’s defining 1931 turn as Dracula. All the black and white Universal monsters are great. I also like the concept that by the 1970s these monsters had perhaps fallen on hard times. People just weren’t lining up to see them anymore, so they were forced to license their images to more kid-friendly fare. Hence, the arrival of sugar-loaded monster-themed cereals.
It should come as no surprise that Dracula snapped up the chocolate recipe for his cereal. Nothing’s more popular than chocolate. The Count knew this going in. You see, Dracula’s always had an academic edge over his monster brethren just by virtue of time. He’s been alive since the 1400s. Can you imagine how many books a person can read or how many lectures a person can attend in that time? Dracula had literal centuries to enrich his Transylvanian mind in all sorts of diverse fields (including basic marketing and consumer trends). You could send Frankenstein to Harvard AND Yale and it wouldn’t even be enough to match a fraction of Dracula’s smarts.
Count Chocula is also personally preferred over the other monster cereals due to the marshmallows. I don’t know about you, but I have an easier time pretending to eat bats than I do Frankenberry’s disembodied heads or Boo Berry’s chunks of blue ghost poo. Consuming a bat seems at least somewhere in the neighborhood of normal. If you were presented with those three items in real life—a dead bat, a severed human head, and ectoplasm—which would you be most likely to eat? I don’t imagine there’s too much meat on a person’s head, and ectoplasm probably tastes like snot.
Of course, the short-lived Fruit Brute cereal, whose mascot was the Wolfman, boasted lime-flavored marshmallows, and I think I’d much rather eat a lime than a bat. Fruit Brute was discontinued in 1983 when I was four; alas, I have never tasted its bounty. I suppose I should put an asterisk at the end of every written statement I make championing Count Chocula as my favorite cereal, noting that I’m still a Fruit Brute virgin.
You know who’s a Fruit Brute fan? Quentin Tarrantino. This is why I need to get famous – so I can meet him, befriend him, and get a few boxes I know he has stashed away somewhere. Quentin, I have a great idea for a Pulp Fiction sequel. It involves Rip Taylor, a wise-cracking bagel, and time travel. Call me.
Dear Top Hat,
Hello there, how are you? I am okay. It doesn’t really feel like Independence Day this year. That’s probably because it’s been raining so much. Do you hang out with God or Jesus ever? If you do, you should ask them to let us have some sunshine sometime before Halloween this year. That would be nice.
I have tried to be a very good boy this year and not say anything bad about America. I took very good care of my flag and blew kisses to the President every time he came on TV. Once or twice I forgot to say the Pledge of Allegiance, but only because I was sick or because a Lady GaGa song came on the radio.
For Independence Day this year, I would like lots of fireworks and John Phillips Sousa and a little bulldog dressed up like you. I would also like you to give Donny Osmond a hit record, force Megan Fox to stop talking, find the people who killed O.J. Simpson’s wife, make the Star Wars prequels better, and bring Doug Henning back from the dead for one day so he can do more magic.
Here is a picture of Franklin Roosevelt I drew for you. I hope you like it.
Have fun and be careful visiting all the picnics and barbeques today. I LOVE YOU, UNCLE SAM!!!!
P.S. – My mommy said a swear yesterday, so don’t give her any war bonds.