Movie reviews: Ghostbusters, Men and Chicken, Summertime

Ghostbusters 4/5

Men and Chicken 5/5

Summertime 4/5

 

Much has been made of Paul Feig’s decision to cast women in the lead roles of his remake of the classic comedy Ghostbusters (12A), although two things need to be said about that. 

One, no amount of rose-tinted retrospection can render the original Ghostbusters (1984) a comedy classic; two, it matters not a whit to the tale whether the main characters are men or women. 

The basic storyline remains the same: paranormal enthusiasts Abby (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin (Kirsten Wiig) team up with nuclear physicist Jillian (Kate McKinnon) and subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones) to investigate what appear to be ghostly manifestations in Manhattan. 

When the quartet try to thwart a supernatural invasion, all hell — literally — breaks loose. 

It’s a little slow to get going as the team assembles, but once the story hits its stride it becomes a lively, fast-paced tale that blends over-the-top ghouls with laugh-out-loud moments. 

The comedy is pretty broad in places (there’s plenty here for fans of projectile gunge- vomiting, for example), but there’s also a terrific comic rapport between the four leading actors — McCarthy, who has had a tendency to overplay her hand in recent outings, is much subtler and thus far more effective here, while McKinnon turns in a terrifically offbeat turn as the team’s resident weirdo. 

Chris Hemsworth steals a few scenes as the ladies’ secretary, hamming it up as a male bimbo, and Feig also crams in a few neat cameos from some of the original movie’s stars (Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson). All told, it’s a solid summer blockbuster flick that delivers laughs and scares aplenty.

Men and Chicken (15A) stars Mads Mikkelsen and David Dencik as Elias and Gabriel, ‘brothers whom nature hadn’t dealt the best of cards’. 

Discovering on their father’s death that their father and mother weren’t their biological parents, the duo embark on a road-trip to the Danish island of Ork, where their father still lives. 

There they discover their half-brothers Franz (Søren Malling), Josef (Nicholas Bro), and Gregor (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), a feral brood who share their home — an abandoned sanatorium — with an alarming number of farm animals. 

Written and directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, Men and Chicken is a pitch-black gothic comedy that blends the farce of the brothers’ anarchic lifestyle with a fascinating investigation into nature versus nurture, as Gabriel and Elias discover that their father has been dabbling in the dark art of splicing animal and human genes for over half a century. 

Mikkelsen, playing the sex-obsessed Elias, is in truly hilarious form here, although it’s Dencik, who shoulders the burden of playing the straight man to an entire madhouse of violently anarchic brothers, who steals the show. 

Despite the brutal clowning, however, Men and Chicken is a film that is both tender and profound, employing a ludicrous scenario to explore the strength of family bonds (regardless of how deranged that family may be), and further works as a dark parable about diversity, tolerance, and acceptance. 

It won’t be to everyone’s taste, of course, but if you’ve ever wondered what a Marx Brothers movie scripted by Samuel Beckett might look like, Men and Chicken is the one for you.

Summertime (16s) opens in rural France in 1971, with Delphine (Izïa Higelin) longing to experience life away from her father’s farm. 

When she moves to Paris, Delphine finds herself caught up in a whirl of radical feminist politics and falling in love with Spanish teacher Carole (Cécile De France). 

But while a lesbian love affair might just be acceptable in a Paris still basking in the afterglow of the revolutionary 1960s, Delphine and Carole find their relationship much more difficult to maintain when the pair move to Delphine’s farm in the wake of her father’s stroke. 

Written by Catherine Corsini and Laurette Polmanss, and directed by Corsini, Summertime (aka La Belle Saison) is an engrossing drama that thrives on juxtaposition. 

The differences between the pair’s experience of urban and rural lifestyles are sharply observed, most particularly in terms of how Delphine and Carole respond as individuals to finding themselves in environments that are first liberal and then deeply conservative. 

Higelin and De France are excellent here, De France’s exuberance at the first flush of true love dovetailing neatly with Higelin’s subdued, cautious exploration of Delphine’s sexuality, with both actors combining to offer a range of nuanced and conflicting responses as the couple try to work out how life must — as opposed to how it should — be lived. 

A pragmatic, earthy love story, Summertime is a gorgeous feminist fable that transcends Carole and Delphine’s tragedy by virtue of its unabashedly defiant tone.


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