Out on Friday 15 July
Feig invites you to do the slime warp again. Key and Peele have a most excellent adventure. The Scrat pack return. Mads explores his family roots.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Keanu, Ice Age: Collision Course, Men & Chicken, Summertime, The Hard Stop, Baskin, and Precious Cargo.
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Already famous for its YouTube ‘Most Disliked Trailer Ever’ status, Paul Feig’s energetic, unapologetic reboot gets its troll-teasing in early. The paranormal posse have barely survived their first sliming when their uploaded ghoul-sighting videos are attracting screeds of crazed online hate: “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts!”
Oh yes they are – and with slick and solid style too, as Kristin Wiig’s timid physicist Erin Gilbert teams up reluctantly with bossy ex-bestie Abby (Melissa McCarthy), wacky engineer Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon) and sassy subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones) to form a group of supernatural pest-controllers. Understanding that horror-comedy needs proper hair-raising thrills for the inexperienced girl-gang, the film doesn’t stint on the jump scares for us either, right from the museum-rattling opener, which gives a tour guide some brown-trouser-inducing torment.
Lovers of the original 1984 Ghostbusters can rest assured that there’s a whole lot of affection for the illustrious predecessor here. For starters, there’s a respectful retention of much of the original story, though it’s tweaked to allow Neil Casey’s swivel-eyed nerd villain to spring a shower of vengeance-seeking ghouls into New York’s streets.
However, female friendship has been the motor driving Feig’s female-driven comedies since Bridesmaids (opens in new tab). So it’s the bonding of these misfits as well as the ‘busting’ that interests screenwriter Katie Dippold, as the awkward quartet unite against academia, a sceptical media, Andy Garcia’s PR-obsessed mayor and a contemptuous paranormal debunker (played by… no spoilers!).
Unlike the 1984 film, which was arranged deftly around Bill Murray’s shameless science scams and dry, deadpan reactions, this is very much an ensemble piece. The comedy is warm and sharp-eyed, and the laughs are rooted in the relationships and the women’s learning curve, from clueless amateurs to proton-gun-wielding pros. Watching the foursome pat Chris Hemsworth’s dumb-blond receptionist Kevin about like a cat toy makes for stereotype-flipping fun. But the laughs are on the wry and gentle side, rather than a yuck fest, since our heroine is meek Erin, battered by life and looking for pals and professional validation.
Before long, you’re starting to wish guiltily that McCarthy had taken centre stage, using the crazy vitality and brash improv skills that made The Heat (opens in new tab) and Spy (opens in new tab) crackle. Here she’s the cosy squad leader, only getting to unleash her talent for physical comedy in a ‘demonic possession’ catfight featuring an alarming Exorcist-style 360-degree head turn.
And though Leslie Jones garners a lot of laughs as straight-talking amateur NYC historian Patty, it feels a bit retrograde to have her as the one non-scientist in the crew. Nonetheless, the film’s stealth weapon (appropriately as she’s the armourer) is Kate McKinnon’s swaggering steampunk, serving up a bewildering range of death-dealing gizmos (there’s a lot more nuclear-powered kit this time around) with cute quips.
Getting medieval on some spectral ass with her proton pistols in a Times Square showdown, she delivers the pulse-quickening action that the film needs, but doesn’t always deliver. Despite a delightfully creepy confrontation with giant Thanksgiving balloon ghosts (look out for Mr Stay Puft), Feig can’t always maintain the needed visual variety or dramatic tension in the Big Apple battles that the film finally unleashes.
There’s marvellously sheeny if over-egged CGI ghost-work throughout, with Slimer and crew on the cuddly side of blood-curdling for the kid audience. But for all its warm-hearted fun, well-crafted thrills, careful nostalgia and girl-powered gadgetry, this fast-paced family film doesn’t always feel like a natural fit for Hollywood’s favourite genre-bender.
THE VERDICT: Haters will have to work hard to be horrified by Paul Feig’s deft thrills-chills-and-giggles remake, though it’s not McCarthy’s finest hour.
Director: Paul Feig; Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth; Theatrical release: July 11, 2016
American TV comics Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele bring their partnership to the big screen for the first time in Keanu, a whip-smart, wildly funny tale of gangstas, George Michael and the cutest kitten you’ve ever seen. They play middle-class LA cousins – heartbroken, just-dumped Rell (Peele) and hen-pecked family man Clarence (Key), whose wife and daughter are conveniently out of town.
When a fluffy kitty belonging to a drug lord escapes a shoot-out and arrives on Rell’s doorstep, he’s instantly smitten, naming him ‘Keanu’. But a break-in leads to the cat’s disappearance, sending these two suburbanites into the city’s criminal underworld, where they come up against drug dealer Cheddar (Method Man), who has the cat as his new “gangsta pet”. Think John Wick with a very different Keanu.
Masquerading as ‘homies’ Tectonic and Shark Tank, our heroes treat us to some hilarious posturing - not least when Clarence tutors Cheddar’s gang in the lyrics of his favourite Wham! singer. Keanu is full of leftfield moments, including a couple of starry cameos. It’s also a spot-on takedown of gangsta cinema à la New Jack City. Pity, then, that the third act runs out of steam, featuring too many shoot-outs and not enough gags.
THE VERDICT: Side-splitting stuff from Key and Peele, and little Keanu’s a star. But the finale is by no means purr-fect.
Director: Peter Atencio; Starring Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016
ICE AGE-COLLISION COURSE
Scrat the squirrel has gone into outer space. It’s as good (and as daft) a direction as any to take for the ’toon series that’s now celebrating its fifth go-around. Each instalment gets more crowded and less plausible; thankfully, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in the company of characters that some of the 2002 original’s audience may now be introducing to their own kids.
Sticking his acorn in the wrong planet, Scrat accidentally sends a giant asteroid hurtling towards Earth – just as Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary) start settling into middle age. Simon Pegg’s pirate weasel convinces everyone they can avert the apocalypse, and the herd heads off on an adventure filled with flying dinosaurs, pooing possums and Jessie J’s distractingly British accent.
A lot of the plot and gags hinge on an understanding of astrophysics that’ll likely go over most little heads, and the film feels a long way from the sweetly stripped-back original. But it mostly moves quickly and slickly enough for viewers to laugh it off and look forward to part six.
THE VERDICT: It may be grasping at plot straws, but it’s still funny, still sweet and still starring your favourite squirrel-rat thing.
Directors: Mike Thurmeier, Galen T. Chu; Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016
MEN & CHICKEN
Sinister yet hilarious, Anders Thomas Jensen’s film sees brothers Mads Mikkelsen and David Dencik heading to a remote island to discover the truth about their twisted family tree. A unique cross-breed of The League of Gentlemen and Lord of the Flies, this wickedly oblique dark comedy befuddles, delights and disturbs in equal measure. Go with an open mind, you’ll find it surprisingly emotive, too.
Director: Anders Thomas Jensen; Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, David Dencik; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016
Country girl Delphine (Izïa Higelin) and effervescent women’s-lib activist Carole (Cécile De France) fall in love in this nuanced drama. Set in ’71, Catherine Corsini’s film highlights the successes of second-wave feminism, but it’s when the lovers move to the countryside that the film really finds its theme: the difficulties of growing up gay in a conservative community.
Director: Catherine Corsini; Starring: Izïa Higelin, Cécile De France; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016
THE HARD STOP
Context and empathy drive a robust corrective to mainstream bias in George Amponsah’s doc about the police shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011. With rich detail, the director explores a history of racism and heavy-handed policing on a London estate. Crucially, he earns the trust of two of Duggan’s friends. Amponsah’s lines of inquiry could be sharper, but he successfully humanises the people behind the headlines.
Director: George Amponsah; Starring: Marcus Knox Hooke, Kurtis Henville; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016
Cops are called to an abandoned building on the wrong side of town only to find themselves trapped in an obscene otherworld overseen by a demonic figure. Director/co-writer Can Evrenol’s debut is short on plot but genuinely nightmarish, a mesmerising Hellraiser (opens in new tab)/Hostel (opens in new tab) mish-mash that’s all Cenobites and no sense. It’s like switching on late-night TV to see a lost video-nasty straining through the static.
Director: Can Evrenol; Starring: Mehmet Cerrahoglu, Gorkem Kasal, Ergun Kuyucu, Muharrem Bayrak; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016
In this contender for blandest heist movie ever made, Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack from Saved by the Bell) is a thief planning to steal from another thief (Bruce Willis). Writer/director Max Adams (who wrote 2015’s masterpiece-by-comparison Heist) lays it all on: embarrassing banter, forgettable shoot-outs, misogyny, crap boat chase. Plus chess as a metaphor for life. Incredible, in a non-poster-quote way.
Director: Max Adams; Starring: Bruce Willis, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Claire Forlani; Theatrical release: July 15, 2016