Commentary

March 7, 2014

Fly Over: ‘Ghostbusters’, and ‘Young Adam’

movie-poster-ghostbusters

Available on Netflix:

‘Ghostbusters’

I was shocked and saddened to hear the news last week of the passing of Harold Ramis. He was, hands down, one of the great comedic minds of our time, having co-wrote, directed and starred in several comedy classics including “Animal House,” “Caddyshack,” “Stripes,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Groundhog Day.” This week, I’d like to review a personal favorite, a classic Harold Ramis/Ivan Reitman film I can watch a hundred times and never get tired of: “Ghostbusters.”
Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Ramis) are three parapsychologists who are kicked out of a New York university for their questionable research methods and findings. Venkman sees this as an opportunity for them to set up shop as the world’s first paranormal investigations and eliminations agency.
The three men acquire an old firehouse for their headquarters, a vehicle and a secretary, Janine (Annie Potts). Initially, business is slow for the Ghostbusters. In fact, business is nonexistent until their first customer walks in, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), a classical musician. She describes a strange event that took place in her apartment recently, one involving eggs jumping out of their shells and cooking on her countertop and her refrigerator serving as a portal to another realm. The only clue Dana can offer is hearing the word “Zuul.”
Peter quickly volunteers to investigate Dana’s apartment while Ray and Egon talk about researching the word “Zuul.”
Later that evening, as the Ghostbusters discuss their first client over dinner, they receive their first call, the superhero movie equivalent of the hero donning his costume for the first time and saving the day. The Ghostbusters head to the Sedgwick Hotel where they battle and capture their first ghost. And just like a superhero movie, the three are now established heroes in the city, capturing ghosts all over New York and gaining the attention of citizens and the media.
The Ghostbusters continue their research into Dana’s case and discover that Zuul is a minion of an ancient god of destruction, Gozer. The arrival of Gozer means the end of the world. Peter, Ray, Egon and their newly hired fourth Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) return to Dana’s apartment, which has been destroyed to reveal a stairway leading to a portal to another realm. Gozer arrives and the Ghostbusters use their combined wits to figure out a way to save Dana, the city and the world.
“Ghostbusters” combines several great elements to create a cinematic classic: good storytelling, great acting, a well-placed soundtrack and special effects worthy of its time.
Before “Ghostbusters,” director Ivan Reitman proved his ability to translate a screenplay into a visual story in the 1981 comedy “Stripes.” More Ivan Reitman movies followed “Ghostbusters” including “Dave” and “My Super Ex-Girlfriend.”
Composer Elmer Bernstein’s score captures the various moods of “Ghostbusters,” from the creepy opening scene in the basement of the New York Public Library to the Ghostbusters ascending the stairs to Dana’s apartment. His scores are simple but effective in adding mood to each scene without being overly produced. The soundtrack is also well-used to help tell the story rather than sell a few albums to promote unknown bands.
The special effects of “Ghostbusters” may seem cheesy by today’s standards, but back then they showed how the filmmakers made good use of the current technology of the early 1980s to show proton streams, mutating ghosts and a giant marshmallow man.
“Ghostbusters” is a classic movie filled with great comedic moments, memorable quotes, ‘80s music and characters we can identify with. It’s a lasting legacy of one of the great writers of comedy. We’ll miss you, Harold Ramis. Thanks for the laughs.
This film is rated PG for mild action, scary images, language and some sensuality.

Young-Adam-movie-poster

Available on DVD:

‘Young Adam’

Thunderbolt readers no doubt know Scottish-born actor Ewan McGregor from such movies as “I Love you Phillip Morris,” “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” and the 1996 cult classic “Trainspotting.” Those with a discerning taste in movies will also remember him from the 1994 black comedy “Shallow Grave,” his superb and only collaboration with director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”).
Readers with an appreciation for more esoteric Ewan McGregor fare should be sure not to miss him in the 2003 British film “Young Adam,” directed by David Mackenzie and based on the novel by Alexander Trocchi.
The movie is set in Scotland in 1954, which right off the bat means it’s not for everybody. There are no special effects, the period clothing comes mostly in various shades of brown, and the UK weather is predictably overcast. Give “Young Adam” a chance, though, and you’ll find an intriguing story and a shrewdly constructed film.
McGregor portrays Joe Taylor, a drifter in his early 30s who works on a barge which operates on the rivers between Glasgow and Edinburgh. He shares the cramped living quarters with his employers – Les Gault (Peter Mullan) and his wife, Ella (Tilda Swinton), and their young son.
At the beginning of the movie, Joe and Les pull the body of a young woman out of a canal. They call the police, who embark on an investigation into the woman’s death – or at least what passes for an investigation in that time period. The story, however, focuses on Joe and his relationship with Les and Ella. We also learn, through a series of flashbacks, that Joe knows more than he is letting on about his relationship with the dead woman.
The story at times requires more suspension of disbelief than I would be comfortable with in a drama, but then again Scotland in the mid-50s was a very different time and place. I don’t expect we’ll be seeing “CSI: Glasgow” debuted anytime soon.
A story that could be trite and predictable is not, thanks to the skilled hand of Mackenzie and the quality of the source material and acting. McGregor gives a riveting, nuanced performance as Taylor, and Tilda Swinton is outstanding in portraying the complex, shifting relationship between Ella and Joe.
While the version of “Young Adam” I got from Netflix was rated R, the film was originally rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America for graphic sexual content.
“In America, the word ‘adult’ has come to indicate fairly strong pornography, whereas elsewhere in the world it means mature and grownup themes,” the director has been quoted as saying in response to criticism from some quarters. “I like to think I’m helping to reclaim the notion of being an adult. In both ‘Asylum’ and ‘Young Adam,’ sexuality is not really romantic – it comes from an inner place or a need that has to be fulfilled. It’s not motivated by romance.”
So again, this film isn’t for everybody, but for those interested in a well-acted, well-directed Ewan McGregor gem: don’t miss it.
“Young Adam,” as discussed, is rated R.




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