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Three university parapsychologists lose a research grant when their experiment methodology is proven to be bogus. The team decides to go into business for themselves as "Ghostbusters", a ghost removal service. After struggling to get on their feet, they are ummoned to investigate the strange happenings in a woman's Central Park West apartment. What they discover is that all Manhattan is being besieged by ghosts and other worldly demons through a portal in her building.
For more about Ghostbusters and the Ghostbusters Blu-ray release, see Ghostbusters Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis
Director: Ivan Reitman
» See full cast & crew
Ghostbusters Blu-ray Review
A stepping stone to a new era of movie watching at home.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 15, 2013
Why worry? Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.
Released both at the peak of the last great age of Comedy and featuring three of the funniest of all the funny men in the business, 1984's Ghostbusters delivers a deliciously over-the-top and completely inane movie experience that remains one of the greats of the genre. Molding the laughs in the context of a special effects-laden supernatural extravaganza, Ghostbusters earns its hearty hysterics through a unique incorporation of dialogue and visual gags that overpower the deadly-serious nature of a story that dabbles in Biblical prophecy and other assorted end-of-the-world pleasantries. Combined with absurd plot devices that work wonderfully in the spirit of the film and the conglomeration of zany one-liners, physical humor, and over-the-top performances, it's no wonder audiences time and again call on Ghostbusters for gut-busting entertainment.
On the verge of a breakthrough in their analysis of paranormal activity, university scientists Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray, Groundhog Day), Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd, Tommy Boy), and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis, Stripes) need only additional funding to finally lend credibility and validity to their studies. Unfortunately, Venkman is summarily dismissed from the university for his ineptitude as a "poor scientist." Never one to accept defeat, Venkman convinces his cohorts to form the Ghostbusters, a team of supernatural exterminators who hope to tap a wide-open market and rid the city of its unwanted specters. Though equipped with a refurbished fire station, a secretary, a car, and advanced ghost-catching technology, the team receives nary a phone call for their services until a New York urbanite, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver, Galaxy Quest), finds inside her refrigerator a door to another dimension. It turns out that her building is a hub for paranormal activity, and waiting there to be unleashed is Zuul, an ancient demigod with an 80s hairdo. With the number of paranormal occurrences increasing at an alarming rate, the team hires a fourth member, Winston Zeddmore, (Ernie Hudson, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle), in hopes of standing a fighting chance of keeping New York City free of ghosts, ghouls, demons, and other assorted entities that would cripple The City that Never Sleeps.
The humor of Ghostbusters works so incredibly well not because of a barrage of forced-in humor, but because of the subtle nature of the jokes. Most come straight out of the context of the scene, the film often enjoying a rapid-fire succession of jokes that tell the story and move the plot along. Many stem not from dialogue but rather through the subtle, nuanced performances of the lead actors. Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Moranis generate humor with a gesture, a glance, or a smile, though certainly their delivery of the scripted jokes solidifies the entirety of the film. The dialogue enjoys a subtle nature, the jokes rarely directly humorous but rather indirectly so, many of the lines irresistibly wry and infectiously clever. Likewise, the film revels in the absurdity of the entire production, and its unapologetic embrace of a string of events that become all the more ridiculous and unbelievable reflect the tongue-in-cheek nature of the film. Only through a stroke of pure comedic genius cold a film pull off both the presence of an ancient, reincarnated demigod and a 100-foot-tall humanoid creature made of marshmallows as the film's villains, the former looking like an 80's rock star straight out of a bubble bath, the latter putting a whole new spin on the Godzilla mystique. Ghostbusters dazzles with its offbeat brand of humor, the film certainly benefiting from the rock-solid chemistry between its lead characters as its primary source of humor.
Not to be outdone by the film's levity, a fine technical presentation completes the Ghostbusters experience. Reflective of the story line, Elmer Bernstein's (Meatballs) score plays with a subtle fabulousness to it, capturing the essence of the film with a lighthearted, comedic overtone but also offering up the occasional dreadful, foreboding notes that signify the film's (albeit minor) Horror elements. Also a special-effects heavy film, Ghostbusters serves up a plethora of cartoon-like creatures and weaponry, some of which withstand the test of time while others stick out like a sore thumb. Generally impressive for its time and adding a unique charm to the experience, many of the dated effects serve to enhance the absurdity of the picture. The "streams," the orange energy bands that flow from the "nuclear accelerator" backpacks worn by the team, look like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon, but nevertheless the effect holds up nicely even today, its simplicity and colorful appearance both at once charming and effective. The various ghosts, too, whether the elderly library patron or the famous hot dog eating Slimer, look great, but some of the shots featuring Zuul's canine-esque companions in pursuit of their prey don't wow the optical senses, particularly under the scrutiny of high definition imagery. Nevertheless, the film's hodgepodge of effects generally impress, as does Director Ivan Reitman's (Twins) steady, sure-handed direction that does little more than allow the primary characters to dazzle.
Ghostbusters Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony's commitment to releasing the finest Blu-ray products is evident with every spin of a Sony-branded disc. The consistency of product -- from the latest blockbusters to the most cherished classic titles from years gone by -- is arguably tops in the entire industry, and why shouldn't it be; Sony was a lead Blu-ray design and advocacy outfit, its PlayStation 3 console offered disc playback and instant wide format adoption, and the first wave of titles released back in 2006 bore the Sony label on the spine. Since then, and through a few growing pains and spurts -- a bloody format war, a misstep or two, the transition from Dolby TrueHD to DTS-HD Master Audio -- the studio has emerged as the most trustworthy in the industry when it comes to its Blu-ray product. When it says Sony, chances are extremely high that the movie is going to look (and sound) about as good as the format allows. Now, Sony is recalling the days of its "Superbit" DVD releases with the emergence of "Mastered in 4K" (*) Blu-ray discs. The initial wave consists of a handful of films, all of which have enjoyed previous, and largely very high quality, Blu-ray transfers. The new transfers are sourced from 4K masters but here's where the giant asterisk comes in: they're then downscaled to standard Blu-ray 1080p resolution. That means buyers can enjoy them on their regular old Blu-ray players and their regular old HDTVs -- no fancy new hardware required. The downside is that viewers aren't really seeing the material in 4K; even those who shell out the large sum of cash for a new 4K TV will be treated only to an upscaled presentation, much the same way today's regular old TV/playback 1080p device combos upscale standard definition DVDs.
Watching the "Mastered in 4K" transfer in 1080p does yield some benefits over the standard 1080p Blu-ray releases, even if it's not a true 4K experience. The discs take advantage of a significantly higher bitrate than regular old Blu-ray discs, meaning more muscle to produce the finest picture quality, revealing superior details and showcasing that perfect cinematic, pleasing grain texturing for pictures photographed on film and more accuracy for those photographed in the wholly digital realm. "Mastered in 4K" discs also promise superior color balance and accuracy, reproducing a more faithful-to-the-source palette that will reveal the sort of natural shading and subtle nuance even the best of 1080p Blu-ray cannot match. More, Sony promises enhanced viewing on its own line of 4K TVs thanks to a proprietary upscaling algorithm that's designed to squeeze the most out of the "Mastered in 4K" line of Sony discs, above and beyond what any competitor's display can offer. Makes sense considering some branch of Sony is at work along every step of the process. Unfortunately, one of Sony's shiny new 4K televisions was not available for review purposes, but suffice it to say that either of the launch displays -- the 55" and 65" XBR-labeled sets -- will undoubtedly offer the best consumer viewing picture to date, whether joined with a Sony "Mastered in 4K" disc or a regular old Blu-ray from any studio.
Of all the titles released in the first wave of the specifically branded "Mastered in 4K" label, it's Ghostbusters that rightly piques one's interest well above any other film on the list, with the possible exception of Glory. One of the most discussed and picked-apart Blu-ray releases, Ghostbusters lit up forums upon its release, and it still does today. It's back under the microscope for round two in its "4K/1080p" Blu-ray release. The good news is that it's a noticeable improvement over the previous title, which in its own right wasn't so bad, though certainly not perfect. The bad news is that this Ghostbusters still isn't perfect, but it comes close. Viewers will likely immediately note the reduction in both noise and grain; while both remain, the noise has been significantly lessened while the grain takes on a more stable, natural texture. Don't worry, less grain doesn't mean less detail or some unwanted scrubbing of the image; it simply takes on a more pure film-like appearance. Details aren't leaps and bounds better than the old Blu-ray, but there's certainly a slight uptick in clarity and sharpness, particularly evident in some of the wider city shots. Nevertheless, there's a bit of pastiness here and there, a hint of softness around a few edges, and a few odd shots that just don't line up with the others in terms of overall clarity and sharpness, but the vast majority of the movie looks fantastic. Viewers wanting a clean and slick image will be disappointed; those more interested in a transfer that closely approximates the look of film -- the movie's original, intended appearance -- will be satisfied. Colors do appear a bit deeper, whether bland uniform hues or bright special effects; Slimer and the blue/orange energy streams pop quite nicely. Brighter outdoor shots fare very well; the New York landscape offers a nice, diverse array of colors -- green leaves, urban grays, yellow cabs -- that take on a fantastic balance. Black crush is a slight issue, and warm flesh tones, too, creep in from time to time. Fortunately, blocking, banding, and other eyesores appear nonexistent. This is the current definitive Ghostbusters, an improvement over the previous release and a disc fans will want to buy, 4K television or no.
All screenshots have been sourced from the "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray disc. The first seventeen shots have been selected to match those found in the review of the old release. New screenshots have also been aded for perusal.
Ghostbusters Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sony's "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of Ghostbusters features what appears to be the same Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack found on the previous release. Though not particularly engaging in every scene, this one holds up rather nicely and the lossless soundtrack, while not a revelation, does bring out some subtleties that seemed lost in the shuffle of previous home video releases. Both the music and sound effects enjoy a nice boost here, some of the film's softer musical cues and more nuanced sound effects off to the sides of the action adding to a more distinct, lifelike environment, whether in the stacks of the library as seen at the beginning of the film or during the "Slimer hunt" sequence partway through. Dialogue occasionally sounds a bit low in volume at reference level, though sound effects and music never drown out the spoken word. Throughout the first act of the film, the track takes on a completely front-heavy tone with little in the way of atmospherics or rear channel activity. Once the action gets going, however, the track picks up in intensity. Surrounds enjoy more frequent usage with both music and sound effects, the low end rumbles when called upon, and the track seems to create a broader sense of space and depth. Whether the beams flowing from the proton packs or the rumbling of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man's heavy, sugary steps, the TrueHD soundtrack enhances the overall experience in a big way. Certainly not among the best pure soundtracks on the market, this one nevertheless easily bests all previous Ghostbusters releases and should satisfy the film's many longtime fans.
Ghostbusters Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Sony's 4K Blu-ray release of Ghostbusters contains no supplements.
Ghostbusters Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Smartly written and perfectly played, Ghostbusters remains a seminal work in the Comedy genre. Intertwining deadly-serious overtones with lighthearted fun, the film manages to take absurd material and craft it into an exciting and side-splitting Paranormal Comedy featuring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis at the very top of their games. Also enjoying fine performances from Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, and William Atherton, Ghostbusters hasn't aged a day in its quarter-century of existence, the material remaining as fresh and funny as the day it premiered in theaters. Sony's "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray release of Ghostbusters drops all the supplements of the old release, keeps the same lossless soundtrack, and outputs a superior 1080p picture sourced from a 4K master. It's a step up from the last release, not a perfect picture but certainly an example of the sort of improvement fans can expect of an older film given new life. It's not Lawrence of Arabia, but Sony's "4K" Ghostbusters is a treat. Highly recommend.
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