Tag Archives: Dan Aykroyd

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

For many years, one of the most talked about subjects in the world of movie sequels was the prospect of a Ghostbusters 3. The original film was released back in 1984 and a cultural phenomenon was born. It was a huge hit for both its comedic acting and for the (at the time) incredible special effects. It blossomed from there into a franchise that appealed mainly to children via the DiC production The Real Ghostbusters. That was my introduction to the franchise as a little kid. I’d park myself in front of the TV every weekday for that cartoon. It was the last one of the day as usually my mom took over the TV soon after to watch the evening news. I can distinctly remember being seated on the carpet of my living room floor with our big, chunky, RCA console television with the keypad channel select in-front of me as the sun gradually went down and the house grew progressively darker. The light from the TV during the closing credits was often the only thing illuminating the room when the show concluded in the fall and winter months and the sounds and smells of my mom preparing dinner would filter in.

Ghostbusters was my first love when it came to a brand. I had a collection of action figures, vehicles, and the ever important fire house play set at my fingertips. And slime, lots of slime, which stained my clothes and ruined carpets. It’s smell is as familiar to me today as it was back then. Like all kids, I eventually drifted away as I was seduced by some reptiles who practiced ninjutsu, but of course I’ve held a fondness for the property my entire life. I would eventually be introduced to the original film, and when the sequel came out I was in prime Ghostbuster-loving form. As an adult, I certainly appreciate that original film more than I did as a kid and it’s rightly held up as a classic.

To best sell the Ghostbusters brand in 2021, the film wisely turned to the spirit of old Amblin films as well as modern interpretations such as Stranger Things. Finn Wolfhard being present in both is either smart casting or coincidence.

Still, when it came to the concept of a Ghostbusters 3, I was decidedly lukewarm. Over the years, it became apparent that not everyone wanted it to happen. Actor/writer Dan Aykroyd very much wanted to do a third film, and it certainly sounded like Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and director Ivan Reitman were onboard. The main holdout was Bill Murray, who seemed to have no desire to revisit the franchise either because it didn’t interest him or due to personal conflicts with some of the other parties involved, in particular, Ramis. I know a few fans who were angry and disappointed with Murray over his stance, but I personally never was. You can’t do Ghostbusters without Peter Venkman, and you can’t recast the role either. If his heart isn’t in it, then why force the issue? The existing sequel already wasn’t very good, so maybe the world didn’t need more Ghostbusters?

Murray’s reluctance didn’t stop the franchise from moving forward. Eventually, a compromise was reached in the form of the Ghostbusters video game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and other consoles. It featured the voice cast from the films and put players in the role of a new Ghostbuster. Some encounters from the films were rehashed and then the plot moved forward into a realm that the movies probably never would have gone. A reboot was also released in 2016, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, which featured cameos from the original cast in different roles. It received a mixed response, some of which was due to misogyny as millions of man-babies scoffed at the all-female cast, which is unfortunate. Sony declined to turn it into a bonafide franchise, despite it being a profitable film. Apparently, it didn’t make enough money or maybe the toy sales failed to meet expectations.

The film might also be looking to “Baby Yoda” for marketing as well.

What changed things was, unfortunately, the death of Harold Ramis in 2014. It was during that time that he and Murray apparently made-up and a new wave of nostalgia flowed from the property. It probably helped in getting everyone onboard for the reboot, but when that failed to become a franchise it seemed to put a third film back into focus. It ended up being Jason Reitman, son of director Ivan Reitman, who was able to come up with a script for a third film with his writing partner Gil Kenan, and get everyone onboard for a new film. It wouldn’t be a reboot, but a sequel with the aim of restarting the franchise with a new cast of Ghostbusters. It wouldn’t require the original characters and actors to do the heavy lifting, which is probably what interested Murray the most, and it would also give a new generation a chance to succeed as Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is the result of all of that. The film was originally slated for 2020, but COVID happened and the release was delayed until late 2021 as Sony likely expected this to do big numbers in theaters. Reitman would direct with his father on-hand as a producer. Adolescent characters are the focus of the film, so naturally Finn Wolfhard was imported from Stranger Things to play Trevor, McKenna Grace was cast as younger sister Phoebe, and Carrie Coons was cast as their mother, Callie. The three are evicted from their apartment at the start of the film and forced to move to the desolate town of Summerville where Carrie’s absent father lived most recently up until his passing. The film actually begins with her father, who is quite obviously a Ghostbuster (and it’s pretty obvious which, but I’ll refrain from spoiling it), and his final moments.

McKenna Grace steals the show as Phoebe.

The family is not particularly happy about their new home, but they adapt. It soon becomes obvious that something weird is going on in Summerville. Phoebe is the film’s center as she makes friends fast with a kid who calls himself Podcast (Logan Kim) and attracts the attention of her summer school instructor Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd), a seismologist just collecting a check while trying to figure out why a town positioned on no fault line has daily earthquakes. Phoebe soon has odd encounters with the paranormal in her new, spooky, house and this sets the kids on course to finding out who their grandfather was and what he was dealing with up until his death.

And Paul Rudd is here doing Paul Rudd stuff to the film’s benefit.

Because of its focus on the kids, Ghostbusters: Afterlife very much feels like Stranger Things meets Ghostbusters. The kids spend the bulk of the film investigating and uncovering the supernatural, and it’s a solid approach for this kind of film. It is a bit unrealistic that the kids are completely unfamiliar with the events of the first two Ghostbusters films, but the movie tries to offer a plausible explanation for that. Ultimately, it’s not that important as it’s more fun for the kids to be mostly unaware. Rudd is the stand-in for the older, male, audience likely flocking to see the film as, unlike the kids, he knows who the Ghostbusters are and he geeks out over the items Phoebe finds in her house. He’s a fanboy, and he remains in the picture partially because he takes a liking to Phoebe’s mom. He’s his usual, likable, self though with great comedic timing.

The Rudd/McKenna pairing is one of the few things from this film that left me looking forward to a sequel.

The young actors all do a terrific job, but it’s McKenna Grace as Phoebe who steals the show. The film asks a lot of her, but she’s up to the task of playing the brainy, socially awkward, pre-teen. She begins the film as a paranormal denier, but she’s also inquisitive and willing to investigate everything her new home throws at her without prejudice. Anyone even remotely familiar with the original film knows where her journey will take her, but she’s such a likable character that we’re onboard with following her and invested in her own journey.

Fan service is on the menu.

Because this film is designed primarily to appeal to those who grew up on Ghostbusters, it does contain a pretty sizable deal of fan service. There’s lots of easter eggs present in the film, some are tied into the plot and others are just for fun. There’s no real mystery where the film is going, but like an amusement park ride that’s on display for all to see, I think most are onboard with knowing the destination even if it’s plainly obvious. The film drip feeds the audience with the nostalgic moments, saving the big payoff for the final act, and it’s a satisfying ride. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, and yes, you will probably cry before it’s all over.

Special effects were a huge component of the original film, and they’re obviously a part of this one as well. The film doesn’t rely on them as much, since special effects are basically in everything, but they are done pretty well. The film incorporates practical effects where possible which helps in not making it look too far removed from the original film. There’s also still plenty of computer-aided visuals and they all look fine. The soundtrack very much invokes the memory of the first film, and yes, the classic theme song will make an appearance at some point. What’s perhaps even more successfully nostalgic are the recycled sound effects we all know and love. Proton packs, traps, the Ecto-1 itself all basically sound the same or near enough to fool me.

Almost 40 years later, and busting still makes me feel good. This guy probably can’t say the same.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is very much a fun, nostalgic, trip back through the franchise that offers a clear path forward as well. It’s not so focused on nostalgia that it can’t entertain someone unfamiliar with the franchise, but it likely won’t land as hard for them. This is the fan service reboot I think a lot of people wanted. It’s not exactly what some may have envisioned of a true Ghostbusters 3, but I think it’s the best possible sequel we could have got. I personally did not want to see a bunch of old guys running around New York again trapping ghosts and that’s partly why I was never personally hung-up on the prospect of a third film. This film approaches Ghostbusters as something to be revered, without taking itself too seriously. There’s plenty of heart and laughs and it does set itself up for a new round of films focused on a younger cast. There may be some who wanted to see more of Ray, Pete, and Winston, but I think the vast majority of people who sit down to watch this will enjoy it. It’s definitely more interested in serving those older fans, so even though Reitman clearly wants to continue with this new cast, I’m not sure the majority of fans will walk away eager for what’s next. Those stories can be figured out later though. For now, this is a wonderful tribute to the late Harold Ramis, and unfortunately has become one for the recently passed Ivan Reitman. I think it’s a film that everyone connected with the property can feel proud of, and it’s a sweet goodbye to these classic characters.


Lego Ghostbuster Firehouse

IMG_1125It’s been nearly two years since Lego unleashed its version of the famed Ecto-1 from the movie Ghostbusters. It’s been even longer since a concept for that vehicle,, as well as the firehouse appeared online. When Lego opted to only do the Ecto-1 set I thought that was it for the firehouse and Ghostbusters fans would have to make due with one very fine set. Imagine my surprise when an email showed up on my account from Lego advertising the new Ghostbuster Firehouse set. I don’t usually keep up to date with toy news so this came as a shock to me. I was quite delighted with what I saw, but a case of sticker shock tempered my enthusiasm some. I got past that though, and would end up making the most expensive toy purchase of my life.

How much is too much for a set of plastic building blocks? Especially when the purchaser is an adult. I don’t know, but it can’t be much more than the $349.99 MSRP for the Ghostbuster Firehouse. Set number 75827 is indeed a pricey one but it’s also an impressive one. Totaling over 4600 pieces, the iconic firehouse is a mighty 2 feet in height and just as long. Multiple hinges make it very accessible on the interior and the three-floor layout provides optimal space for the nine mini figures and three ghosts it comes with. The interior is surprisingly movie accurate, in particular the first floor with the placement of Janine and Venkman’s desks. Pretty much everything important from the films is present including the fire pole, “dancing” toaster, and containment unit. When compared with the layout of The Simpson house, it blows it away in terms of screen to brick accuracy, which is what many adult collectors care about most.

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A cut-away look at the completed house.

With such a large assortment of pieces, the build process is a slow one. Not being one who has extensive experience with Lego sets, it took me a solid week to complete the set basically spending a couple hours per night. I didn’t try to go too fast and wanted to savor the build as it’s what is most fun about these things. Lego sets are like puzzles but with way better results. Because the building is so large, some parts do get a bit tedious. In particular, the actual exterior of the building. Lego tries to break that process up as much as possible but it’s an unavoidable reality of such a set. Other limitations of the set include the lack of a basement, but Lego made the wise choice to tuck the containment unit in under the stairs. Ecto-1 fits inside, but not all the way without removing Janine’s desk, which is unfortunate, but understandable since the set is already pretty damn big. The bedroom layout is not exact to the film either, but sacrifices have to be made somewhere. Lego still managed to fit all three beds into the room without making it look ridiculous.

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Slimed Peter and possessed Dana.

The set includes nine mini figures and three ghosts, one of which is Slimer. Expectedly another set of Ghostbusters are included. For the most part, they’re the same as the four included with Ecto-1 but with a couple of differences. For one, each character now has the no ghosts logo on their sleeve which looks nice. Winston has a different, and better, hair piece so he looks less like Billy Dee Williams. Venkman is the only true variant though as he comes slimed from his first encounter with Slimer (he too sports a superior hair piece to the one that came with the Ecto-1 set). He looks great and I am particularly fond of his angry face. Janine is also included, as are possessed versions of Dana and Louis. Louis even comes with a second head that includes a chin-strap so he can wear a colander on his head to recreate the scene where Egon checks him out. The library ghost is featured and she has a second hair piece to go from calm book reader to screaming ghoul. The ghost from the taxi cab is also included. He looks good, but is kind of an odd choice since he doesn’t have his car and the set really misses Walter Peck. I suppose Peck is generic enough looking that one could find a decent substitute somewhere. Slimer looks great and has movable arms. The other two ghosts are suitable and kind of remind me of the generic ghosts that came with the old action figures. Three transparent stick-like pieces are included for each ghost to simulate flight. All in all, the set includes a nice assortment of mini figures.

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R.I.P. H.R.

The Ghostbusters come armed with proton packs that have to be assembled. They’re the same as the packs from the Ecto-1 set. They also have traps (which look better than the one that came with the Ecto-1 set) and walkie talkies and Egon has a PK Meter. Clutter abounds in the firehouse in the form of magazines, news papers, and cardboard boxes. They seem simple, but add a nice touch of authenticity. The best little nugget of the set though goes to the sticker on Venkman’s backboard which has a note on it that says “R.I.P. H.R.” for Harold Ramis. Way to make it dusty in here, Lego.

If you love the Ghostbusters and have the extra coin laying around, this is one hell of a set and a fun way to spend some free time. The end result makes for an impressive display and if you have kids that you trust, it’s probably pretty fun to play with too. It blows away that old firehouse toy I had when I was a kid (I love how the fire pole accessory here is basically the same concept as it feels like a callback to my old, beloved, toy) and it’s easily the finest Lego set I’ve ever purchased. I can’t think of another set that would make sense for Lego to produce based on the Ghostbusters. I suppose they could do a rooftop scene from the climax of the first film but I don’t think I’d be interested. A big Lego figure of Stay-Puft would be awesome though! I don’t know if this set is worth $350, but I did have fun with it and I don’t regret my purchase. A job well done, Lego!

 


The Ghostbusters Get the Lego Treatment

IMG_0052It’s been thirty years since Ghostbusters first hit the big screen ushering in a new era of special effects-laden blockbusters.The film made unlikely heroes out of middle-aged comedians Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis while lesser known Ernie Hudson got a taste of stardom. The film was immensely successful and soon a cartoon was spun-off from its success which lead to even more opportunities for merchandise. Lots and lots of merchandise.
Ghostbusters is one of those rare franchises that has a lot of appeal for both kids and adults. Many have tried to achieve the same thing, but aside from those that can lean heavily on nostalgia, most fail to achieve the same level of success. The adults had the films, which kids enjoyed as well, while the cartoon was aimed directly at adolescents. The personalities of the main characters were unique to whatever version was being watched with only the broader traits (such as Egon being the brainy Ghostbuster) carrying over.
I was introduced to the Ghostbusters via the cartoon, and as a child, probably assumed it came first. When Ghostbusters 2 arrived in theaters it was a pretty big deal. I liked the films, though my assortment of toys were obviously born from the cartoon. I can recall having at least three of the Ecto vehicles, the firehouse, and numerous action figures. I also remember a Transformers-inspired Volkswagon Beetle that turned into a grasshopper. Sadly, once the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arrived the Ghostbusters began to lose the battle for my attention, and my parents’ money. Most, if not all, of those old toys have been either sold, given away, or tossed, though my love for the original film (and to a lesser extant, its sequel) still exists.

The finished product.

The finished product.

This weekend, Ghostbusters is back in theaters for those who wish to see it on the big screen. If the lure of the theater isn’t your cup of tea, then might I suggest celebrating 30 years of ghost-busting goodness with Lego?
Earlier this year, as part of the 30 year anniversary celebration, Lego released the infamous Ecto-1 in Lego form along with mini figures of the four Ghostbusters: Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston. The set was the result of a fan vote on sets created by avid Lego builders. A firehouse was part of the original fan-set, but sadly Lego passed (with no indication the franchise would be revisited, but who knows?). The Ecto-1 is a solid overall set for Lego collectors and Ghostbusters fans. Its external likeness is nearly spot-on and likely only the most avid Ghostbusters fans can spot any shortcomings. This set is obviously of the Ecto-1 vehicle from the first film, and not the more flashy edition from Ghostbusters 2. It took me a full evening to assemble, and once completed I was more than satisfied with the end result.
The fours figures feature a reasonable likeness to the characters they’re meant to resemble. Lego figures are rather limited in what they can do, but little touches such as the lines on Venkman’s face and Egon’s hair do a solid job of giving these figures some character. I would have preferred to see Lego attempt a receding hairline on Pete, and Winston looks more like Billy Dee Williams than Ernie Hudson, but oh well. Their proton packs are a combination of several Lego pieces and have to be assembled. The end result looks pretty good and Lego’s approach proved accurate. The trap, on the other hand, is just so-so but clearly Lego didn’t want to spend extra cash on creating a unique piece of plastic for one lone set. There’s also a build-able stand to display the figures which is a nice touch considering the majority of those who purchase this will likely be adult collectors.

The fab four ready for some bustin'!

The fab four ready for some bustin’!

When it comes to the actual vehicle in the set, Lego surprises with numerous unique pieces. This means no stickers, which is always a welcomed trait for a Lego set. The doors for the Ecto-1 all have printed Ghostbuster logos on them and even the license plates are sticker-free. The general shape of the Ecto-1 is captured quite well, and the mass of junk on top seems accurate enough. There’s a hose piece that’s a little odd, but it was on the original so it’s here as well! There’s really very little to nitpick here as even the rear wheels are covered by the frame of the vehicle. The only real issue with the car is the scale. It’s slightly under scale to the figures and can only hold three figures, seated single file, at a time. Since most are likely to display the characters on their stand, this isn’t that big of an issue and probably the right move. A vehicle that could actually hold all four figures may have ended up being out of scale for the opposite reason.
All in all, this is a great little set. It will set you back around fifty bucks which is pretty much on par for similar Lego collections, though may be just a tad too pricey for impulse buyers. For those that want to see their beloved Ghostbusters in Lego form, this is damn near perfect. Hopefully Lego reconsiders and comes thru with a firehouse (that’s to scale with the Ecto-1) so I can finally replace the toy one I sold at a yard sale so long ago.


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