Ghostbusters

  • Title:  Ghostbusters
  • Director:  Ivan Reitman
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Columbia Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Comedy
  • Cast:  Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Annie Potts, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Back off man, I’m a scientist!” — Dr. Peter Venkman

“Yes, of course, they’re serious.” –Janine

“If there’s a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.”  — Winston Zeddemore

Ghostbusters was a favorite film of mine when I first saw it when it came out, and it remains a favorite.  It’s one of those movies where I can quote most of the dialogue.  I also enjoy and own the complete The Real Ghostbusters animated series.

But what seems hard to imagine now was just how revolutionary the film was at the time it was made.  Prior to Ghostbusters, most science fiction movies were deadly serious or even depressing (think 2001, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, etc).  Ghostbusters is funny — and works as a comedy as equally well as a SF/Fantasy film.  Second, the film used real newscasters and television personalities in it’s montage sequence in the middle (including Larry King and Casey Kasem), as well as real newspapers and magazines with obviously created headlines about the Ghostbusters — this placed a fantasy/SF film in a real context.  Also, the special effects were state of the art for the time, and included model work, matte paintings, and hand animation — this would have been a bit early for CGI.  In many ways, Ghostbusters, as a film is the grandfather of a lot of today’s popular films.

The film also has an almost vignette style to it — though the vignettes build on and support each other, building to the big confrontation on the top of Dana Barrett’s apartment building with Gozer.  Drs. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stanz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spangler (Harold Ramis), are paranormal researchers at Columbia University but are fired for wasting department resources and poor skills at research and publishing.  However, having just actually encountered their first real ghost at the New York Public Library, Peter comes up with the idea of opening their own paranormal elimination and storage business.  At first, they aren’t getting anywhere.  Then one client, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) arrives, and Peter immediately takes a shine to her.  Peter’s initial investigation doesn’t really turn up much, but Dana and her neighbor Lewis Tully (Rick Moranis) will prove to be at the center of  the paranormal happenings.  Meanwhile, EPA Agent Walter Peck, whom Peter’s irritated once, shows up at Ghostbuster Central and shuts down the protection grid for the ghost containment system.  It blows sky high, as does the building.  The Ghostbusters are arrested, but as ghosts take over the city, and Dana’s apartment is obviously the center of it all, the mayor gets them out of jail and Peter convinces him to allow them to try to stop Gozer.  They do, of course, in a thrilling and exciting sequence.

Overall, Ghostbusters is a really good film.  It’s funny, clever, intelligent, and has a fair amount of action, as well as good special effects.  I do highly recommend it.

Recommendation:  See It
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Goldeneye

Galaxy Quest

  • Title:  Galaxy Quest
  • Director:  Dean Parisot
  • Date:  1999
  • Studio:  Dreamworks Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Comedy
  • Cast:  Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Robin Sachs
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“For the past one hundred years our society had fallen into disarray, our goals, our values had become scattered, but since the transmission we have modeled every aspect of our society from your example and it has saved us.  Your courage, and teamwork, and friendship through adversity.  In fact, all you see around you has been taken from the lessons garnered from the historical documents.”  — Mathezar

“Jason, we’re actors, not astronauts.” –Gwen

“Did you guys ever watch the show?” –Guy

“Ducts? Why is it always ducts?” –Gwen

Galaxy Quest is a great movie — it’s funny, it has an original plot, and the special effects and make-up still stand up twelve years later.  Galaxy Quest is the story of a group of actors from a science fiction television series who suddenly find themselves on a real spaceship created by a group of aliens after watching their tv series, or “historical documents”.  The film begins at a convention for the “Galaxy Quest” TV show which is filled with the cliches about costume-wearing fans.  The actors don’t really like each other but are there because they are desperate for work.  Jason Naismith (Allen) even over-hears a group of guys in the men’s room poking fun at him.  He goes home, gets drunk, and the next morning goes to what he thinks is a gig with the Thurmians.

Later he discovers he really was on an alien ship – and he and his crew end up on the ship too.  Before long they are involved in a war between the Thurmians and Sarris a bug-like alien who has been destroying their civilization because he can.  Jason attacks Sarris’s ship but it’s a disaster, and the Protector is damaged.  They go to an alien planet to get a replacement Beryllium sphere (engine part), and Jason fights a pig monster and a rock monster.  But soon Sarris has the upper hand again, capturing Mathezar, the Thurmian leader, and trying to kill everyone on the ship.  Jason explains about being actors, and Galaxy Quest being a tv show – then creates a distraction while the guards are taking them away.  Everyone splits up with different tasks to do to rescue the dying Thurmians and get Sarris’s crew off  the ship.

Finally, Jason has his third space battle with Sarris, and succeeds.  But is it too easy?

After something I’m not going to spoil, because I loved it so — the Protector returns to Earth, and our “actors” make a triumphant appearance at the Galaxy Quest convention.  Jason rescues the crowd from another of Sarris’ men – which the crowd assumes is a great special effect.

Jason also works with three of  the Galaxy Quest fans via a transmitter – when he needs help sneaking around the ship.

Galaxy Quest, in a way, is a complex movie.  Each of the actors, playing actors, had three roles to play – their characters in the 1982 TV show, themselves as typecast actors in the 1990s making ends meet by convention appearances and opening electronics stores, and the characters the Thurmians think they are – as all of the “actors” try to work things out in the science fiction plot of being on a space ship and fighting a war.  It’s a bit to wrap your head around — but the film works well because everything in it feels real and true to the story.  It’s not a nod-nod wink-wink breaking the fourth wall type of comedy at all – the story itself  is a good science fiction story with a lot of action and a lot of comedy.  There are also serious parts – such as the torturing of Mathezar, the death of Qualleg, and Jason’s growing realization that the entire mess is his fault – that are handled well.

The other question in this film is:  “Who are the real fans?”  And actually, the fans in the film aren’t the convention guests — but the Thurmians.  These are a people who, first, are very innocent, child-like, and naive.  Yet, at the same time, they had the vision and scientific skills to look at something on a TV show and actually build it and make it work.  They also more or less abandoned their own culture to adapt that they saw in the “historical documents” – sort of  anthropologists gone native to the extreme.

However, it is interesting that the fans at the convention are shown as stereotypical fans, buying tons of merchandise, wearing costumes, asking technical questions of the actors, or if “Commander Taggart and Lt. Madison had a thing.”  But when the movie returns to the convention at the end — the fans in the audience are for the most part wearing T-shirts and jeans, in other words, dressed “normally”, and waiting for Jason and his crew to appear and speak.  In the end, the film isn’t poking fun of  science fiction and media fans – it’s celebrating them.

Recommendation:  See it and own it!
Rating:  5 Stars
Next Film:  Gaslight (1944)