Paul McGuire Grimes, creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies, gives us his review of the new Ghostbusters movie, King Richard, and Tick, Tick…Boom.
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (in theaters)
The ghosts of the past come back to haunt in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It’s been 37 years since the Ghostbusters saved New York City back in 1984. Since then, the group has disbanded, and Egon Spengler left his family and moved to an old farm house in the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma. His daughter, Callie, and grandkids Phoebe and Trevor are left to take care of his rundown house. They learn he was quite the eccentric one who everyone referred to as “The Dirt Farmer” Phoebe follows in her grandfather’s footsteps as she’s wickedly smart and loves learning. She finds an old ghost trap hidden in the floorboards and curiosity gets the best of her, her new friend, and her new teacher when the three of them open it up unleashing a ghost onto this small quiet town.
This film can exist at a time when we can appreciate and cherish reboots of our childhood driving that nostalgic emotion. As the films opens, you hear familiar notes of the score which puts you right back into that frame of mind. It’s easy to spot Easter eggs and other callbacks, some of which work better than others. I never felt it get too distracted by cameos or classic lines being rehashed.
Jason Reitman blends his need for a new story while managing to keep it in the timeline and world we know as he returns to the story of Gozer, the Key Master, and the Gate Keeper. He wisely takes his time setting up these characters and the fractured relationship Callie had with her father before adding in the legacy characters we’re anticipating.
The ghostbusters in this story are the new kid characters as they’re the ones who believe in science and learn how to tinker with Egon’s old toys. They look the old props now weathered and rusted out due to lack of use. McKenna Grace is a riot as young Phoebe. She and Paul Rudd are perfect additions to the Ghostbusters universe.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
KING RICHARD (in theaters, HBO Max)
Will Smith gives the best performance of his career in King Richard. He stars as Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. He had a 78-page plan for his daughters to become the greatest tennis players of all time. This was all written up before they were even born. Richard, his wife Oracene, and their five girls lived in a small house in Compton until Venus was allowed to practice at a world-renown training facility. The strength and power of family is at the heart of King Richard
Director Reinaldo Marcus Green and screenwriter Zach Baylin take a focused approach at telling this story. This isn’t your typical sports biopic covering the life story of the Williams sisters. Instead, it’s a tribute to their father whose determination got them to the legendary status they hold today.
Venus Williams is only 14 years old by time we get to the film’s climax as we watch her take on her first big match. Most tennis fans are probably already familiar with their career, but they may not know how they got there.
It’s a beautiful story of perseverance in how the Williams family overcame struggles brought on by race, economy, and other hardships. Richard never let a “no” stop him or the family, and he fought for them to succeed every step of the way. It’s this angle that helps this film shine and become something more than your typically sports flick.
There’s a reoccurring reminder in manifesting your dreams into reality as Richard always told them “you’re going to win Wimbledon” Unlike other biopics, it takes its time to tell this story as director Reinaldo Marcus Green lets each scene breathe and play out the emotional intensity at hand. It never races through just to get to the next hurdle or volley in their journey on the courts.
King Richard is total crowd pleaser as it finds a new angle to tell a sports biopic. It’s hard not to root for the Williams family after hearing their story.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
TICK, TICK…BOOM! (Netflix, in theaters)
Lin-Manuel Miranda has proven to a master of the arts. We know him as a rapper, actor, and composer thanks to powerhouses like In the Heights, Hamilton and Moana. Now he’s proving himself as a director with the Jonathan Larson musical, tick, tick…BOOM! Years before Jonathan Larson changed Broadway with his musical, Rent, he wrote an autobiographical musical, tick, tick…BOOM! It was originally performed as a solo piece and later adapted for as a three-person musical. Miranda expands this story a bit opening it up for the medium of film. It’s 1990 with Andrew Garfield playing Jonathan Larson. He’s a broke, struggling artist trying to write the next big Broadway musical but feels time is ticking at a rapid pace as he’s about to turn 30 and is nowhere near where he wanted to be in his career. The rent is overdue and he’s watching his longtime friend and roommate Michael move on to success in the corporate world. Even girlfriend Susan has prospects that could take her out of state. Jonathan is desperate to get his musical produced but can’t quite seem to finish it in the days leading up to a reading.
Broadway fans know that Jonathan Larson passed away shortly before Rent opened. There’s a somber quality knowing we’re watching a film about inspiring genius who never got to understand the impact he had.
Director Lin-Manuel Miranda certainly understands the struggles of being a writer and composer trying to make it big in New York City. He’s mentioned in interviews how deeply personal this story is for him. He knows what it takes to craft this musical, and he infuses his big energetic self into the pacing and drive that this film has aptly mirroring the internal countdown and pressure Larson is feeling.
You can feel Miranda’s enthusiasm throughout never losing his own voice along the way to tell Larson’s story. He makes this a love letter to Broadway with cameo after cameo during the film’s incredible musical numbers with the likes of Bradley Whitford playing Stephen Sondheim and the always fabulous Judith Light playing Larson’s agent.
One of the strongest performances of the year comes from Andrew Garfield’s work as Jonathan Larson. Garfield completely throws himself into the headspace and physical energy of Larson who never stops moving and thinking. He knows we don’t have to like Larson the entire time and finds those flaws that held him back in life. He looks so natural and lived in with playing the piano and singing despite learning for the film. It didn’t come with that awkwardness that some actors have when they do musicals for the first time.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has another winner of a musical on his hands and it’s quite clear he has a vision as a director. This film should play well for anyone who loves Rent and knows their Broadway history. I’ll be curious if it still plays well for those outside the community.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS