Movie round-up week ending September 29th 2013

Flight (2013)

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A plane narrowly avoids disaster, but what happens when everybody finds out the captain was drunk at the time? What starts off as a very spectacular, almost blockbuster-like experience soon scales itself down into being a portrait of alcoholism, as Denzel Washington’s hedonistic yet heroic, cocky yet hopelessly addicted pilot has to come to the terms of the effects of his drinking problem. The first half hour is extremely intense and very well directed – the special effects are remarkable and the tension very well handled. Then it changes tack (effectively, I must add) and we get a fine, solid character-based drama that doesn’t go for the easy clichés, doesn’t try and make its leading man a hero (in fact, Washington’s character is pretty loathsome on occasion, and he gives a great performance) and even riskily advocates cocaine as the lesser of two evils at one point. It’s no world-beater, but Robert Zemeckis’ return to live-action filmmaking has a confidence to it that makes for effective drama. Supporting performances from Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly and John Goodman are predictably great.

Plein Soleil (1960)

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Recently re-released in selected cinemas but already available as an earlier DVD edition, this was the first cinematic adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, the more famous Hollywood adaptation being made many decades later. This is a leaner film to be sure, and the moments that wracked the nerves in Anthony Minghella’s very good film turn out to have worked just as beautifully the first time round. Alain Delon makes for an enigmatic, compelling Ripley, who assumes the identity of the swish playboy whom he’s just murdered and who has to stay one step ahead of everybody else to avoid his cover being rumbled. For the most part, this is a deliciously dark treat – the gorgeous locations, the shock bursts of violence and the troubling likeability of the anti-hero make it a pleasure…if only the ending (which Highsmith apparently hated) wasn’t such a neat and tidy resolution, we’d have been talking about a major contender, but compared to the chilling finale of the remake, Plein Soleil doesn’t linger in the mind the way it looked it was going to for the most part. Still, a treat, nonetheless.

Rush (2013)

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Hollywood formula to be sure, but the best of its kind, Ron Howard’s thrilling Formula 1 biopic has a ball concentrating on the competitiveness between cocky, risk-taking and popular James Hunt and methodical, sensible and curt Niki Lauda during the 1976 World Championship. Sure, it’s sometimes sketchy, and a bit too obvious, but the two lead performances are fantastic – Chris Hemsworth has all the charm, swagger and magnetism that makes for a winning Hunt, while Daniel Bruhl is outstanding (and bloody funny too) as the occasionally rude, but no-nonsense and ultimately heroic Lauda. The racing scenes are phenomenally well directed, bordering on Michael Bay auto-porn, but whereas in Bay’s films they are an end in itself, for Howard it’s only the icing on the cake, a thrilling charge of sound, vision and editing that gives an extra charge to what is essentially a classic tale of rivalry and convincing depiction of why it is that racers race, despite the very dangerous risks involved. Obvious to say I know, but this really is a rush.

The Last American Virgin (1982)

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Recently re-released by Arrow Video, this surprising teen movie is two thirds pretty funny sex comedy and one third heartbreaking romance – although there are hints of the seriousness to come here and there, the eventual switch to a much darker tone is nevertheless quite a swerve, and a successful one at that. Awkward, shy Gary (Lawrence Monoson) is the eponymous young lad who falls instantly in love with Karen (Diane Franklin), the new girl in town, but she seems more interested in mutual friend Rick (Steve Antin), who’s got the confidence with the ladies shtick down cold. In the meantime, Gary, Rick and chubby third friend David (Joe Rubbo) get up to all manner of would-be sexual escapades involving passing off sugar as cocaine, an archetypal lonely housewife, a literal cock-measuring contest and the embarrassment of accidentally making out with your best friend’s mum. If this all sounds a bit like Porky’s, that’s because it is for the most part, although an encounter with a prostitute is surprisingly sordid and un-sanitised, leading to a case of the crabs for all three concerned. Then, when Karen realises she’s pregnant after a night with Rick, things get a lot more serious, leading to a stomach-punch of an ending that’s as painful as it is abrupt. So yeah, there’s tits, arse, crudity and farce, but there’s plenty of heart, and the final result is genuinely moving. Fantastic soundtrack too, featuring U2, The Police, Blondie and oh yes, REO Speedwagon.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

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The ultimate grimy horror of the seventies got a belated sequel twelve years later and offended the BBFC so much that they demanded twenty-plus minutes of cuts before a potential cinema release. Those cuts never happened, because in the end the film got shelved after that extreme ultimatum. You can see why the sexualised violence-phobic censors got into a panic – the most notorious moment in this wild and much more comedic follow-up involves Leatherface rubbing a failed chainsaw against the heroine’s crotch, but can’t ‘get it up’ so to speak because his actual penis is taking over rather than his substitute version. Tobe Hooper directs once more, and obviously the horror genre has changed substantially since the original, so self-parody, overt metaphors (the afore-mentioned crotch incident), extreme gore (remember, the original barely had enough blood to fill a shot glass) and cartoonish excess are on the menu. The result is not as unforgettable or immortal as the original, but this is a wild ride nonetheless – Dennis Hopper (who rated this as the worst thing he ever starred in) is top-billed but doesn’t get to do too much as the would-be hero, but Caroline Williams is a strong Final Girl, while the world’s most disgusting family get to have a lot of horrible fun, be it winning chili-cook offs (watch out for the stray human tooth in your meal), sawing the top of an obnoxious twat’s head off or, in a very, very twisted sequence, cutting off the face of one victim and draping over the face of another in order to disguise them. It’s all obviously horrific, but the excessive approach makes this a lot less disturbing than the original. Great Breakfast Club-riffing poster, too!

Sleepwalker (1984)

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This little-seen but recently re-discovered oddity was the semi-feature length debut of Lindsay Anderson protégé Saxon Logan, but despite a rapturous reception in Berlin was dismissed by any would-be distributors in Britain, which led to it being shelved and only reappraised around fifteen years later, after which it’s taken another decade-plus wait for it to finally get a home video release from the BFI (and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, who’s the chief instigator behind the label’s splendid Flip Side division of obscure Brit films). The film is a very atmospheric study of four people (two hosts, two guests) whose wildly oppositional political views make for a tense dinner before things take a turn for the outright horrific. A reflection of Thatcher’s Britain, Logan’s vicious script doesn’t let anyone off the hook – its repulsive right-leaning antagonist may be the film’s most overt villain, but even the liberal characters are taken down a notch as well. The build-up and atmosphere is palpable, while the vivid lighting and scary natural location of the guest house makes for great tension. Nevertheless, when the film does lurch into outright horror, the shift is quite surreal. Is it successful? I’m definitely more than willing to watch again to see how well the mish-mash of genres gel on a second viewing, but it’s obvious even the first time that this is a totally unique experience, and its failure to even get the chance to find an audience was a real shame. The BFI’s Blu-Ray is fantastic, compiling the main, 50-minute feature with Logan’s earlier short films, a fascinating interview with the man himself, and on a seemingly unrelated note, another British semi-feature called The Insomniac (directed by Rodney Giesler) which tells the tale of a man who may have just started dreaming a dream or who may have just woken up from one. The Insomniac is pretty alluring and extremely watchable, rounding up the features on a disc that’s one of the rarest examples of myself having watched absolutely everything on a DVD, right down to reading the great booklet that came with it.

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The Real Ghostbusters Episode 10: ‘Take Two’ (1986)

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I remember this episode really standing out when I was younger, and it was probably one of the first instances of post-modernism/self-awareness in popular culture that I had ever seen. Get this, the guys go to Hollywood to supervise the making of a movie of their life, and the movie turns out to be…Ghostbusters. To be honest, the majority of this episode is a straight-up, hugely enjoyable treat with plenty of humour and fun ideas that helps to contribute to the strength of the first season. But the epilogue was a real eye-opener for me – we actually see footage from the real film at the end. Not an animated adaptation of the film, but the real film. That’s right, real-life footage in an animated show. Okay, it’s only a few seconds of footage, and Bill Murray’s voice has been replaced by someone else (it could be Lorenzo Music, I’m not sure), but this was beyond weird when I was a little one. We’ll get to this ending, conveniently enough, at the end of my review, so let’s get back to the start.

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So, we kick off with a piece of music that’s usually used for moments in the show where everything’s glitzy or dripping with platinum, be it a game show, awards ceremony or, in this case, a celebrity appearance at an airport. In this case, it’s the Ghostbusters, who are due to arrive to leave New York for Hollywood on their chartered plane. Only problem is, they’re very late – the wired reporter who has to fill the dead air time and satiate the impatient crowd by regurgitating the life story of the guys is getting very frazzled indeed. The guys are out on a bust, and whilst it’s true that they’re trying to get the job done, it’s difficult to stress too much about hurrying back for a chartered plane that technically cannot leave without you. Ray’s behaviour during this brief sequence is manic to say the least. It’s almost like a precursor to the scene in Ghostbusters II where he gets possessed by Vigo and starts driving like a lunatic around New York. Okay, that scene never made it to the final cut, and I’ve never even seen it as a deleted scene, but I read it in the comic book version, so there you go. Still, even though they can afford to cruise it with their timekeeping, when the guys do make it to the airport, the crowd (bar one dedicated fan) have gone, and the reporter (who I must add, has appalling hair) is F-U-R-I-O-U-S. We get a couple of classic ‘furious’ shots, including a very impressive one where we see Ecto-1 reflected in the reporter’s eye. The guys couldn’t give less of a monkey’s if they tried, and proceed to board the plane. The reporter throws a wobbly and makes clear his hatred for showbusiness right there on camera. It looks like he’s getting the sack then. I have to say, the one remaining crowd member gets a great line (or should that be ‘word’) in response to this s**t-fit. If I quote it, it won’t be nearly as funny as it’s all in the delivery, so just watch the episode.

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So we join the guys on their flight, which Slimer has stowed away on (following a drive-by goodbye at the HQ) and we find out that Peter’s charm towards the flight crew has led to his luggage being chucked off the plane somewhere over Cleveland. There is a rather unnecessary shot of some cows draped in Peter’s clothes – the gag was funny enough as it was, there was no need for the cows. No cows. Slimer’s presence becomes all too apparent when everybody finds out who’s been nicking all the complementary peanuts – in fact, Slimer’s so annoying during their flight that he even manages to wind up the pilot, which is a rare case of Slimer’s habitual nuisance-making getting to somebody who isn’t a Ghostbuster. In fact, so enraged is the pilot that he doesn’t even realise he’s talking to a ghost. Peter asks the crew if they’d like to keep the little green spud. Delightfully, this is met with a simple closing of the cabin door.

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Hollywood beckons, and indeed, surf’s up. In fact, surf is so up that the huge wave that one surfer falls prey to looks more fearsome than the ‘one hundred year storm’ that Patrick Swayze faces at the end of Point Break, so I can only assume he’s a goner. We arrive at the set of the new Ghostbusters movie – so cavernous is the set that it even makes the non-diegetic music score echo, and we get some cute references to real life (‘Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis? What’s that, a law firm?’) and the revelation that the original screenplay for Ghostbusters looks as though it’s around 1000 pages thick, and as we all know, one page equals one minute of screen time, so we’re talking an epic of truly epic proportions. Amusingly, all suggestions from the guys regarding the script are great as long as the writers don’t have to change anything.

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After some predictably anarchic food swipage from Slimer, two hapless workers open an enormous trap door somewhere else on the set, awaking a big, ugly blue ghost. Bizarrely, the guys end up walking onto a closed set and confront a huge robot that seems to want to destroy them. They blast it, and of course, it’s just a monstrous special effect (from the movie Space Avengers of the Galaxy) that’s now been crippled by the proton accelerators. Cue a vicious rant from a not-at-all-stereotypical loudmouth director. His anger reaches boiling point (literally, his face turns a whole new colour and even makes sizzling noises, like fried bacon) and Peter decides, quite angrily himself, that no one talks that way to the Ghostbusters. They end up doing that thing where they’re both at each other’s faces, both shouting, but never at the same time. We’re talking very controlled, restrained fury here. Unfortunately we miss the ensuing scrap, from which Peter emerges with a black eye and a bruised mouth – at least he got a killer move, something we never see, but according to Egon, it’s something that he’s never seen done to a man’s pants before. Of course, this is American, so pants mean something else in the UK, where I’m from.

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Anyway, the proton packs are a liability, so the guys agree to have them stored in the prop room, although Egon seems very, very attached to his PKE meter, which he refuses to relinquish.  A comedy of errors ensues however when the proton packs are replaced with prop versions by some delivery men. Whoops. Egon thinks the heavy volume of electricity nearby is the reason he sees the blue ghost appear on his PKE meter for a split second – strange that, I didn’t think the meter actually showed the ghost they were tracking, and oddly enough, this never happens again for the rest of the season. Oh yeah, the blue ghost – while Peter and the director were having their bust-up, he sneaked into the wounded body of the movie robot, which has decided to go crazy because of all the noise that has woken him up. You see, this is a sleeping ghost, quite harmless really, unless of course, you wake them up. Any noise drives this ghost round the bend, so why exactly he’s decided to choose a huge, very loud, clunking robot as a host body is anyone’s guess, since he seems to be making more noise than anyone. The guys are confronted by this spectral hypocrite, and charge back to the prop room to get their proton packs. The weird thing is, they don’t notice the massive weight difference between their packs and the fake ones – even the delivery men worked that one out earlier on. Act 1 ends on a huge cliffhanger where the guys are face to face with a very annoyed ghost robot, armed only with their fear. Wow, how are they going to get out of this?

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The answer is….we don’t know. Yep, when Act 2 arrives, somehow they’ve managed to get away and are already hiding amongst a series of catwalks while the robot ghost loudly (sssshh) stomps around. This is pretty slack, I have to say. What happened, was there a missing reel or something? Oh well, let’s try and forget all of that. The guys try to figure out how to catch the ghost – Ray’s suggestion that all of his plans are null and void because they rely on the four of them being thousands of miles away results in a silent grin from Peter. Now I mention this because this non-verbal response really stands out for some reason  – I don’t know why, but it’s almost a subtle moment, this. Any other time we’d have got a quip, a snappy comeback, a verbal reaction – Peter’s appreciative smile is a nice little underplayed moment.

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Egon has the suggestion that they use the PKE meters which will help the ‘survivors’ a chance to escape. Peter’s the only one who seems to notice this somewhat pessimistic approach, and suggests this is the reason why Egon isn’t invited to more parties. Meanwhile, the ghost robot deals with a noisy car by making ten times more noise than it. Sigh. Slimer thinks he’s seen the guys but slams headfirst into a poster for the Ghostbusters film, which as we all know, features a shot of the guys. No sense of perspective, this one. Ray and Winston wander into the set of a Frankenstein knock off (referred to as the ‘Deadly Dr. Crowley’ movies, a nod to Aleister Crowley, maybe?) – Ray starts mucking about with the set, making lots of noise in the process, which really winds up the robot ghost, who loudly chases them off the set. At least they get reunited with Slimer in the process. Oh wait, that’s not a good thing. Peter and Egon find the trap door where the ghost was enjoying his kip, and it’s sussed out about his sleeping habits, and that noise is the enemy.

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Ray gets a good moment where he suggests that the fact that they don’t have any proton packs could be a good thing as it forces them to use their wits and their brains, the right stuff, you know? Right… both and Winston and Ray react with as much disgusted disdain as you could expect, and Ray backtracks with no shame whatsoever. Besides, the ghost is back on their trail – meanwhile the director (who is definitely due to a heart attack any minute thanks to his incessant anger levels) decides to take matters into his own hands, retrieving his beloved special effect without damaging it. ‘NOW LET’S GO!’ he brashly exclaims.  The ghost corners the guys back onto the Ghostbusters set, and with the real proton packs back on the scene, there follows an attempt to catch him, but it’s not easy with that decidedly non-supernatural robot armour. Egon cunningly suggests that they let the ghost make the next move. They get covered in dust. Oh well – Egon’s next plan is much better, and the fact that it works is pretty unlikely, but there you go. He uses sign language to communicate with the ghost – what were the odds that the ghost knew how to sign? He does though, and all looks well – the guys convince him that the Containment Unit will be the perfect resting place for him, but before they can peacefully trap him, that stupid director blunders his way on to the scene, making a right old racket, but luckily by now the ghost has freely left the robot and is now available for trapping, which is what happens. Lovely. Still, that director acted like an idiot, and clearly had no qualms about risking the lives of anyone else – his justification is that he needs to make a movie and the robot is essential, but it’s all in vain anyway as the robot, understandably knackered after all the action it’s been through, falls apart and is more or less destroyed. The look on the director’s face afterwards is utterly, unforgettably priceless.

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Flashforward what must be months later and we’re at the premiere of the Ghostbusters movie, and that poor (and, it must be said, annoying) reporter is stood up again by the guys, who show up at the last minute and rush into the screening without so much as an interview. Now this is where the episode shifts onto a whole new plateau. That’s right, we actually get to see Ghostbusters! Admittedly, about two seconds worth, but barriers were being broken, trust me. As this is a kids show, the shot of Peter’s office crops out the ‘Burn in Hell’ graffiti on the door, and we never see Peter himself, but this was a delightfully odd ending to a fun episode. And Peter, despite being dumped with some below-par lines earlier (the faux game show prize/safety procedure quips he’s given aren’t very funny), gets the best line in the episode with ‘he doesn’t sound a thing like me’, which is probably a nod to the fact that yes, Lorenzo Music didn’t sound a thing like Bill Murray, but bless him, he totally made the character his own, didn’t he? Respect! 🙂

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Film round-up: Week ending September 8th (You’re Next, Die Hard)

You’re Next (2013)

Trust me, you don’t have to be next. Simply by reading this little review, you have the chance to avoid watching this bafflingly overrated piece of slasher-fodder that brings nothing new to the table, with the possible exception of an unparalleled commitment to the nightmare that is SHAKY-CAM. Seriously, what is the point of shaky-cam? It’s not realistic, it doesn’t make you feel as though you are really there, it just gives off a pseudo-raw atmosphere that’s more nausea-inducing than the moments where various idiots are getting their throats slashed or their heads pierced by arrows. Not that you can really get a clear focus on all the gore, so manic is the camerawork. The first half hour, coincidentally the least shaky, is the best, as it looks as though the tension simmering under the surface of a family reunion could make for some (in a good way) cringe-inducing drama. Then everybody starts getting killed, people make stupid decisions, barely one-dimensional characters become walking plot twists and yes, that f-in’ camerawork makes it all impossible to watch, let alone care about, the increasingly wild carnage. Great soundtrack though, a blend of John Carpenter, Tangerine Dream and the Penderecki material from The Shining, while the opening sequence is a real killer. Interestingly, the role of the depressed matriarch is played by Eighties scream queen Barbara Crampton, who we all remember for the dodgiest reasons imaginable from the classic Re-Animator, while former mumblecore director/Dexter lookalike Joe Swanberg plays the most obnoxious sibling in cinema history since Bill Paxton in Weird Science.

Die Hard (1988)

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It’s been a pleasure to revisit John McTiernan and Bruce Willis on top form– along with Aliens, it represents the absolute peak of the action blockbuster. What really stands up about it after all these years is just how classy the editing, photography and direction is – sleek, slick and yet not showy or ostentatious, operating like the smoothest, most ruthless and high-powered thrill machine imaginable. Willis’ John McClane redfined the action hero in a way that was essentially inimitable, although many tried, including the man himself, reprising the character to increasingly unappealing effect in the many sequels, although such is the greatness of the role that Die Hard 2 and 3 still remain hugely enjoyable. Likewise, Alan Rickman made the cliché of the urbane, dry and clever Euro-villain a thing to treasure rather than roll your eyes to, and no one’s matched his approach either. Throw in a colourful and fun array of supporting characters, a hugely quotable script and the kind of raw, tough, high-impact violence that they don’t seem to deliver in Hollywood anymore (it’s either watered down or excessively gratutitous) and you’ve got something that never gets old and will always be a classic. Such is my love for this film that, after naively giving the very poor fourth instalment a chance, I cannot bring myself to have Die Hard further sullied by taking the time to watch the, by all accounts, dreadful fifth film.

The Real Ghostbusters Episode 9: ‘Look Homeward, Ray’ (1986)

‘I never thought it would end like this, fighting a flying cat from inside a shoe!’

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Ah, some use of punctuation after the grammatical nightmare of Episode 3, and that’s not all. This is the first episode of the series to have a big baddie who isn’t a ghost. Oh wait, we’ve had sandmen, boogiemen and such – what I meant was that the real monster here is a human. Oh granted, we have a winged puma to shake thing up to the max in the final act, but the chief bad guy is a petty, jealous shoe salesman who wants revenge against Ray.

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Back track to the start of the episode though, and Ray is boarding the train to his home town of Morrisville as he’s been given the honourable duty of Grand Marshal for the annual Winged Puma festivities, celebrating the fact that no one has seen the dreaded flying kitty for over a century – the rest of the team barely catch his train before it departs, with Peter committing a grand act of treachery by screaming ‘lobster on the track!’ in order to delay departure. Amazingly, this isn’t the first time this ruse has worked, according to Peter. While I presume the train staff check the rails for any aquatic life, the guys hand over some goodies for Ray to show off his ghostbusting credentials to the folks back home, and Slimer also shows up (despite being told to wait in the car) to offer his heartfelt goodbyes. And they are indeed heartfelt. Even Ray, the big baby of the group tells the little spud to cool it down after a massive case of the waterworks. Luckily Slimer, so distraught with sadness, flies smack into a wall whilst trying to catch up the leaving train.

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Ray’s home town looks pleasant enough, and his homecoming looks all set to be a success, even if the Mayor, who sounds like Mel Brooks, refers to him as Roy. Oh well, none of that matters when the lovely Elaine Furman, Ray’s schoolboy crush arrives on the scene (rather rudely it must be said, she pretty much barges her way through the crowd). Ray’s clearly got a thing for her, as his pupils literally turn into heart shapes right there on the stage. A more unwelcome presence arrives in the form of Alan Favish, a textbook jerk who, to be honest, does at least seem to be a half-decent sort at first when he self-deprecatingly says that Ray’s done well with his life whereas he himself owns a ‘two-bit shoe store’. Alan soon turns out to be a genuine scumbag though when he tricks Ray into suggesting he clears out the local haunted house (which Elaine has inherited) but uses a book of spells to transform the hitherto weakling spectre residents into oversized, invincible monsters. Ray tries to blast them but nothing seems to work, and the town gets trashed in the process. In the wake of all this chaos, Alan offers to pay the broke town the money to repair all the damage, and gets to be marshal of the parade instead of Ray. Ray thinks he’s lost his mojo as a Ghostbuster, and goes home on a real downer, poor bloke.

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The thing is, his aim is spot-on and Egon’s testing of the proton pack registers nothing out of the ordinary, so what’s the problem? Well, we know, but they don’t, and Ray goes back to the scene of the crime later that night for another showdown. Pure stupidity? Well, that’s what Ray thinks, but can you blame him, especially after Peter tries to cheer him up a moment before with ‘so you made a chump of yourself in front of the entire town, no sweat!’ I love Peter, I really do. Ray’s clearly still nervous though – as he approaches the house, Elaine surprises him with a flick of a torchlight and he’s so terrified he manages to warp himself to an overhead tree branch without even having to jump. Seriously, re-watch this moment – he can move quicker than Tom Cruise at the start of Interview with the Vampire. Anyway, despite that setback, Ray enters the house, only to be trounced again – that nefarious Alan is lurking outside all the while, ensuring his spells are giving the ghosts the edge. The thing is, when the guys show up to assist, Alan turns off the spell, changing the big bad ghosts into gentle losers and making Ray look hopelessly weak in the process. This is the last straw for the poor man, who quits his job as a Ghostbuster right there and then. Like Peter says at the end of act break, ‘say it isn’t so!’ Oh, by the way, just after the two ghosts have their power removed, the force that made them all mean and scary flies off and buries itself underneath the main street of Morrisville….

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Act 2 begins with the guys desperately trying to convince Ray to change his mind, and they have good, persuasive reasons – Egon brings up the valid point that Ray will lose his pension benefits. We’ve all been there, it’s true! Even more important is that the Ghostbusters’ Barbershop Quartet will be null and void with one member missing. Sealing the deal for Ray is the presence of Alan (attired in frankly hideous jogging gear), who offers him a job at his shoe store. Oh, how the tables have turned! Unfortunately, Ray’s new occupation involves him dressing up in a pink bunny outfit with cute floppy ears. Also, he has to lock up on his first day as Alan’s going to the parade – you know, the parade he’s marshalling. The parade Ray should be marshalling. What a tool. The guys, clearly upset at Ray’s new choice of vocation, nonetheless can’t resist making jabs at his ridiculous appearance, offering him some lettuce and whatnot. Ray wants the others to have his old proton pack, but Winston, in a clear act of health & safety ignorance, hangs up the nuclear accelerator on the coat rail where anyone, even an innocent child, could play with. Egon goes for reverse psychology and acts uncharacteristically harsh, insisting that they get on with the job and leave Ray to his. Peter, quite hypocritically given his usual insensitive approach, berates Egon for his lack of charity towards their former colleague. But yes, Egon is only doing this so that they can get Ray back through action, not words. Their plan involves Slimer posing as a ghost, causing chaos and also providing an easy target for Ray’s soon to be rekindled ghostbusting skills. The plan miraculously starts to work, with Slimer somehow managing to convincingly pose as a threat, but it all goes belly-up when an approaching ice cream van provides too tempting a distraction for the green spud. He blows his cover and Ray’s confidence plummets once more. Besides, shoes are his life now, so it’s back to the old 9-5 for him. Egon is very,very disappointed with Slimer, docking his allowance (?) for a month and sending him home crying. I’m not sure how far away Morrisville is from New York, but I’m guessing it’s a considerable distance, so Slimer’s got a long journey ahead of him, poor thing.

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Ray and a preposterously mini-skirted Elaine (who has skipped the parade because in her words, the main attraction is right here in the store) then find Alan’s book of spells in the back of the shop, and we find out that the reason the two ghosts were invincible was because they had been surrounded by negative energy. You see, the proton packs have been set to deal with positive energy. But, of course! We later find out that in order to set the proton packs to negative energy, you actually have to manually alter the settings with a screwdriver! What’s wrong with a switch? Anyway, back to the parade, where a huge lead balloon of Ray is bringing up the rear. A very melancholy lead balloon of Ray, if his eyes are anything to go by.

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The real star of the show is the last-minute new marshal, waving at the crowd from his oversized mobile shoe, the creep. However, remember the evil force lying in wait underneath the main street? Well, he’s decided to take action, and he emerges in the form of the fire-breathing WINGED PUMA!

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In reality, the puma looks like a mix of the Cheetos tiger and one-time antagonist The Inflamer from Thundercats. He lays waste to the parade, and Alan tries to save the day by snatching the book of spells from Ray, but unsurprisingly his efforts are utterly futile. The puma doesn’t kill Alan, only the book, but I’d like to think there’s an alternate ending out there where the jerk gets barbecued. The puma turns his attention to jumping on a building, but the guys blast him, unaware of the whole negative/positive energy thing, so it’s down to Ray to use the aforementioned screwdriver and deliver some proper pain. This action is scored by Tahiti’s appropriately named ‘Hometown Hero’, which was also used earlier on in the episode, but I haven’t mentioned it until now. The chorus goes something along the lines of ‘everybody wants to be my hero’, which essentially means the singer is loving the fact that every man and woman wants her to be their girlfriend. Well, I suppose if that really was the case, I too would be smug enough to sing a song about it. The puma flies away however, so the newly reformed quartet take after him in, I jest not, Alan’s parade shoe which has been made airborne thanks to the addition of the lead balloon of Ray. Crazy! It’s during this bit that Winston only just realises that Ray has a birthmark under his chin, something the creators of his lead balloon counterpart knew as they made it part of their design. After a spectacular battle amongst the clouds, the guys manage to incarcerate the dreaded Winged One, thanks to a stunningly well aimed trap. They even manage to land safely, with the newly punctured Ray balloon drifting gently onto a tree.

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Ray gets a well –deserved apology (and marshal duty re-instatement) from the town, and his new-found confidence gets the better of him when he gets a little bit too trigger-happy, destroying a harmless model of the winged puma, thinking it’s returned to destroy them. Well, to be honest, he doesn’t destroy it, just blasts his exo-skeleton off, leaving a flimsy frame underneath. Understandably embarrassed, he turns an even brighter shade of pink when he receives a kiss on the cheek from Elaine – the screen even circles itself shut and closes on a shot of the GB logo in a lovey-dovey pink background. Aww.

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PS: Ray never sees Elaine again.

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