Ghostbusters Blu-ray Review
An AVC MPEG-4 encode finds Ghostbusters with a transfer that does the film justice, rectifying a few issues that have dogged previous releases and revealing a picture that looks resolutely cinematic and, for the most part anyway, untinkered-with. Supposedly approved by the film's DOP, this transfer sorts out some of the colour issues that played havoc with earlier editions - but, with that said, there are still some elements that are going to have die-hard purists out there pursing their lips and leaping to their keyboards to vent their frustration on various forums.
Mind you, they can't go complaining about DNR having been applied to this transfer, though, that's for sure. Ghostbusters retains its natural grain and, if anything, there seems to be more of it than I have seen before. Of course, the higher definition seems to isolate and highlight the appearance of heavy grain fields on some discs and, for the first act of Ghostbusters at least, this certainly seems like one of them. But I would say that the grain integrity is faithful - well, I presume it is faithful, it has been a long time since I saw this at the flicks - and, although it can appear to festoon the image, it cannot be denied that it enables the movie to retain its all-important film-like quality.
Along with this authentic feel, detail has been greatly increased. Mid to long-shots, say, of Gozer standing tall and proud between her/his/its Terror Dogs amid spectral billowing fog, look substantially better than before, with much more detail exhibited of the costume, the steps and the light-show, edge delineation tighter and crisper and much more depth on show. That billowing fog, though, has caused consternation, with some people claiming that it is too bright and ramped-up, contrast-wise. Well, compared to previous transfers, yes it has been - but this doesn't actually detract from the level of information in the image and it could be argued that it also adds a more eerie, luminescent glow to the scene. However, I will concede that contrast has been blown-out a bit elsewhere, as well. But I think this is in-keeping with the now considerably cleaner-looking visual effects - which are extravagantly bright and vivid - and the contrast is certainly nowhere near as unnatural and damaging as seen in the 2005 re-release. Clothing material is clearly on show, hair has more definition, faces reveal marks, spots, crags and crevices - aye, that would be you, Mr. Murray - the sets offer up lots of nice new details, such as the books in the awesome library sequence, the nibbles and the pictures in Louis' apartment, the junk in Dana's fridge, the wonderfully sculpted architecture and the map on the Mayor's wall. Three-dimensionality isn't the grandest quality on show, and nor did I expect it to be, but it has still received a promotion with this transfer. Street scenes have more depth, aerial views of the buildings and the city, at large, are deeper, more visually pronounced and even the effects shots have a keener placement within the frame. Slimer scooting around the chandelier or just gadding-about in the hallway, and the ghost in the library, either just hovering there or roaring towards us, look more integral to the image now and, therefore, better positioned within the frame, depth-wise.
But Slimer has had some minor alteration done to him in order to blend his neon-lime hue down a bit from the blurry mess that once adorned his form. Colours, in fact, are considerably better than I've seen them on home video before. The FX shots are one thing - a mighty fine looking thing, I might add - but the overall palette is smoother, richer and more vivid, yet also much more natural-looking. Hues and shades are locked-in and there are no instances of bleeding or smearing. But those energy streams look simply gorgeous now - tremendously strong and consistent. There even appears to be more variation in the bolts of dazzling blue, yellow, orange and red, the image igniting the screen whenever the pyrotechnics are unleashed. The eyes on the Terror Dogs, the make-up on Gozer, the flames spewing from Mr. Staypuft and the sliding laser-lines of freed ghosts curling around the skyscrapers of New York have a wild and spectacular vibrancy about them now - which is entrancing.
Flesh-tones have a warm and surprisingly smooth sheen, yet they are still detailed and don't seem to have been overly-processed with any noise reduction although, at first glance, this is exactly what I'd thought had taken place. Black levels are very good too, yielding more shadow than the previous discs ever allowed. However, there are times when the grain seems more intense in these darker swathes which, to some eyes, may seem like some definition is being lost. Personally, I don't think that the blacks are crushing any detail and much prefer the more atmospheric appearance that this provides.
Finally, it has to be stated that the film has been cropped ever-so slightly from its original 2.35:1, but to be honest, I can't see this bothering anyone at all. In fact, I had to be told by somebody else that it had happened because I hadn't even noticed it, myself. But, quickly comparing the image to the previous SD reveals very little difference that I could see.
This is undoubtedly the best that Ghostbusters has ever looked on home video. It looks and feels film-like - expansive, deep and textured, and bright and colourful, too. You could hardly expect more.
Sony have given Ghostbusters a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that is certainly impressively mixed and presented. The film has a vibrant and highly charged feel and this lossless track embraces and embellishes it with style and vigour. It is true that I wasn't really expecting it to have as much strength and vigour as it does. The previous DD surround mix was hardly wowing, if memory serves me right, but this seems to have been engineered with keen attention paid to providing us with a wider soundscape, more energetic effects, richer sounding music and a much more enjoyable sense of all-round immersion.
Ray Parker Jnr's title track has plenty of energy and bass, really thumping its way across the environment. Elmer Bernstein's gloriously spooky and kooky score is also particularly well served, with lots of emphasis on shivery strings and riotous brass and that little piano jingle has plenty of clarity and warmth . Voices are well integrated within the mix but, out of all the audio elements on offer, they are possibly what gives away the age of the film as they have a tendency to sound slightly flat and lifeless. They are, however, always intelligible.
The film was always active with effects and now they are treated with lots more directionality and steerage. The positron-colliders unleash a mighty wallop now, the sizzling, undulating energy of their streams folding across the front soundstage with real vigour. Slimer's spectral rush past us feels more energetic and detailed. The crashing of silverware in the dining room of the hotel is more acute and the sound of it as heard from behind closed doors is convincing and natural. Ambience is limited, which is understandable, with the rears more concerned with overt effects-use like crashes, energy wallops and the like. Crowd noise during the final act, when everyone is going Ghostbuster-crazy (I hate that red-haired geek going OTT, don't you???) is hardly going to set the speakers alight. There is bleed-through of voices and screaming, but it is not exactly all that dynamic or convincing. Falling masonry and all-round ghostly trouble definitely carry more detail, depth and power though, so little things like subtlety in a movie that, arguably, never really had much anyway, can be easily overlooked.
Bass levels are good, too. There are much better examples of crunching impacts and devastation out there, of course, but Ghostbusters now possesses a lot more oomph than it ever has before. Explosions - be they doors coming apart as a Terror Dog leaps through or roofs being torn asunder by supernatural energy bolts - are great, although I will say that they lack detail in terms of whistling debris, the mix preferring simple power and aggression blurted out from the front. The big explosion at the end is dealt with strength and room-invading presence, but the one moment that I had always wished could have sounded better - Dana's balcony coming apart, especially after that buzzing, high-pitched build-up - still failed to ignite. Mind you, Gozer's throat-throttled voice and the Staypuft Marshmallow-man's guttural roar have a welcome heft.
The wailing siren of Ecto-1 is more amusingly shrill and warbley than previously heard and the sudden stinger-effects are a little more bombastic and impulsively knee-jerk, which is obviously nice. The thudding footsteps of the Marshmallow-man's distant approach are nicely done, too, sounding suitably large and ominous as they draw nearer with each stomp. The demonic cry of “Zuul!” is also much more pronounced.
The audio transfer takes the best elements of the film and amplifies them. It also adds a greater sense of immersion and surround. Thus, I think you will have little to complain about with lossless mix.
The supernatural leanings and technical know-how of Dan Ackroyd run through a lot of the extra features on this disc or, at least, they seem to. The guy keeps cropping up with his views on spooks, spectres, matter, anti-matter, black matter - does it matter? - and the feasibility of proton-colliders, containment devices and thermo-nuclear back-packs in the various features, and it is hard to know whether or not he actually does know all about such things, or if he is just having us on. I hope he does, because I love this freaky stuff, too! But, what is unquestionable, is that this long-awaited Sony release contains a lot of good material and makes great use of Blu-ray's interactive capability.
Sony have incorporated something called Cinechat, which is an application that allows viewers to chat with friends and family, or whoever, while watching the film. Handily, a tutorial is provided. Of course, what this should do is enable us to contact the dead - now that would have been really something! As it stands, I can't imagine many people actually bothering with this.
Then we have that fabled Blu-Wizard feature. This allows you to create something akin to a playlist out of all the special features on the disc, by selecting what you want to see and the order in which you want to see it from a big menu screen. Erm ... well, it's a neat idea. It shows the control that you now wield over your Blu-ray disc and player, but does it really make any difference? No. You can pick and choose what you want to see, and when you want to see it anyway ... can't you? Or am I missing something mega-cool here? Anyway, have a play and see what you think.
Now, on to the best feature to be found on this new release of Ghostbusters.
Slimer Mode - This is great stuff, folks. Basically, a PiP track that combines a pop-up trivia section that appears on one side of the screen and, the real meat of the matter, a terrific interview and behind-the-scenes box-out on the other. With the whole thing framed within an atmospherically grand Ghostbusters border, and the PiP box appearing within an Ecto-1 image, this comprehensive set of interviews and soundbites is exhaustive, amusing and always engaging. Most of the cast and crew seem to get involved with appreciably lots from the main players (barring Murray) who happily reminisce about the production, how it all came about and how they actually realised that they were making something “huge” before they were even halfway through the shoot. There are hardly any dry stretches and whilst the track isn't totally scene-specific, it does tend to follow a pattern and greets each new concept, character, effect and idea as they appear whilst still adhering to the overall retrospective view of the film in general. Personally, I loved this track and I just can't believe how Ernie Hudson simply refuses to age. Oh, and besides the pop-up trivia, that pesky Slimer appears from time to time, as well, imparting directions and info regarding some of the locations used in the film.
"Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car" (HD, 16 minutes) shows us what happened to the original vehicle and how, after years of storage had not been quite as respectful as they should have been, Sony were prompted to bring in the esteemed Cinema Vehicle Services to apply some tender loving care, and to restore it to its former glory in order to look its best on a grand tour of the States promoting the new video-game's release. Even with a few new additions on-board, Dan Ackroyd, who had been pivotal in the designing of it in the first place, seems pleased with the revamped 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance.
"Making of 'Ghostbusters': The Video Game" (HD, 11 minutes) is, as you no doubt suspect, just a promotional piece for the upcoming video game. But this is still quite enjoyable, as the returning cast, on-hand alongside the game's creators, give their opinions on the extension of the film's plot and how cool it is to return to their characters. We get to see some clips from the game - which make it look absolutely superb and the whole thing succeeds merrily in whetting the appetite.
"Ghostbusters Garage: Ecto-1 Gallery" (HD, 5 minutes) presents us with a assortment of photos taken during the restoration process of the classic movie car. With a couple of video-clips showing the mechanics and the refurbishers at work thrown in, this is neat little tribute to the lengths of cult adoration, all set to Bernstein's music.
Then we find the older material from previous editions.
There is the Audio Commentary, in which Director Ivan Reitman is joined by co-writer/actor Harold Ramis and associate producer Joe Medjuck for this return of the chat track that featured on the 1999 release of the film on DVD. This is a fine yakking session that offers plenty of anecdote and background information and, although still pretty amusing, is obviously short on the sort of humour that, say, the main trio, themselves, could have come up with. A lot of this stuff is covered again, or at least touched upon in the PiP track which, as far as I am concerned is far superior.
"Scene Cemetery" (SD, 9 minutes). There are ten deleted scenes to be found here - but nothing that fans haven't seen already - but they are a good assortment of what didn't make it into the finished movie. It is understandable why they were excised, the film is simply too tight for any superfluous stuff, and these additions and extensions would have slowed down the pace.
1984 Featurette (SD, 10 minutes) is a vintage promo-piece that just tells us the absolute bare minimum about the movie in typically grandiose fashion. Yep, it's nostalgic, but it really isn't very good, though.
"Cast and Crew Featurette" (SD, 11 minutes) has been carried over from the 1999 DVD release. This brief, but fun, featurette has interviews with Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as they chat about making the film and the impact that it had. Ackroyd's pseudo-intellectual spiel is becoming addictive.
"SFX Team Featurette " (SD, 15 minutes). Here, we get to meet the original F/X team as they sit in a panel and recall their contributions and ideas, the problems that they faced trying to bring such wacky visuals to the screen and the solutions that they came up with. A good-natured bunch, they provide some interesting background to the film.
"Multi-Angle Featurette" (SD, 6 minutes). This is one of those things that they really used to try to push at the outset of DVD - watching a scene play out in its raw footage and then being able to see it transform to its final, cleaned-up release version at the press of a button. It was a banal gimmick then, and it still is now. Broken into three sections - Spook Central Exploding, She's A Dog, and Crossing the Streams - there is little to savour here, folks.
"Storyboard Comparisons" (SD, 6 minutes). Here we have another 3-piece breakdown - Slimer, Dogs Drag, and Atop Spook Central - that we can view as the original hand-drawn storyboards alongside the finished sequences in the film. Again, this is now old-hat material. But, having said that, I'm sure I'd be kicking up a stink if this, along with the multi-angle feature, had been dropped off the BD's list.
All in all, this is a fairly decent array of extras. The PiP track is excellent, as is the commentary and the rest of the material runs the gamut from cute and fun, to dull and pure filler. But where is Bill Murray when you need him?
The cult title gets a respectable airing on Blu-ray. Sony invest it with a fine transfer, great sound and some pretty exciting format gubbins that max-out the disc's potential. The Blu-ray Wizard is a neat device for those people who like to feel in control but, to be honest, just being able to stack, pack and rack the order in which you view special features is nothing particularly useful - just something new to play with.
Ghostbusters is still an excellent comedy/fantasy the like of which is hard to come by, and it is also one that manages to rise above the era in which it was made, which is not something that many genre-movies from the 80's can lay claim to. Weaver does a fine supporting job, proving that she is game for a laugh, while the established troupe of improvisational geniuses make the absurd and the ridiculous perfectly palatable. Bernstein's score and Ray Parker Jnr.'s title song, naturally, bring the house down and the movie remains an engaging spectacle that pays as much tribute to New York's unique atmosphere as it does to the screwball anarchy of Murray, Ackroyd and Ramis.
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