Saturday, February 19, 2022

Carrying on the Family Business

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021, directed by Jason Reitman) is two thirds of a good movie. That two thirds of a film are better than any comparable running time in any other Ghostbusters film, including the original item. This should not be a surprise. Jason Reitman is a better director than his father ever was, and is a better director than Paul Feig. He's better at blocking his scenes, better at writing dialogue, and better at working with actors, particularly young actors. Since the lead characters in the film (rather than in the credits) are kids, this gets value from its director that the other films never demanded. Better still, the first two acts of Ghostbusters: Afterlife don't play like any previous film in the series, either. Part of this comes from moving the film out of New York and out into the sticks. Part of it comes from a cast of characters who are drastically different character types than what you find in the other films. It's only when the film decides that a paying audience demands what the original item provided that the film gets itself into trouble. Big trouble.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

The Grant Mystique: The Last Outpost (1935)

The Last Outpost (1935)

I used to think that Cary Grant could do anything. Comedy? Drama? Action? There's a classic film in almost every category to make an argument. In more recent years, I've been discovering the limits of the Grant persona. Grant was not particularly suited to historical pieces like The Howards of Virginia or The Pride and the Passion (though he's not bad in the latter). Some registers of comedy don't work with the polished perfection of "Cary Grant," either. I've often thought that Grant was wasted in sitcoms in the 1950s. But the thing that Grant really couldn't pull off was facial hair. This is the problem with The Last Outpost (1935, directed by Charles Barton and Louis J. Gasner), which finds Grant sporting a 1930s-style pencil thin mustache and that mustache completely dims Grant's star power. I mean, he's barely recognizable, which is a shock given how small a change it is to his face. It's like Superman putting on a pair of glasses to become Clark Kent. It makes him ordinary.