Ghostbusters II (1989)

Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II 4K UHD Review

Boy, this is strange. After years in the industry of creating special features for DVD and Blu-rays, I've never really done a review for one. But now that I'm no longer working in that field, and given that the folks in Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's publicity department were kind enough to send me review copies, here goes... my very first disc review of the Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II Ultra-HD 4K Blu-ray releases.

VIDEO QUALITY

Being only the second UHD disc that I've been able to take a look at (the other being the recent Deadpool release), it's tough to have a comparison for these older films in a 4K presentation. But as a fan of Ghostbusters, I loved every frame of what has been done here. In terms of the first film, the picture quality is very comparable to the "Mastered in 4K" release - I'd have to put freeze-frames side by side to get a good idea just where the differences occur in the jump in resolution. But this master is leaps and bounds better than the original pre-remastering Ghostbusters Blu-ray release... which was better than the previous DVD release, which had improved on the original DVD release. That's the good news, with ever release the picture quality continues to shine incrementally. Colors are deep and rich. Sharpness is good without any lines buzzing. I wish I had the ability to take screencaptures from the UHD discs because the picture presentation is absolutely astounding. Grain has been left in place to continue to give the feature presentation a filmic quality (and to mimic what audiences would have seen in theaters with a print projection) but the sharpness and the detail is wonderful. Sure, compared to the Deadpool UHD, there's a noticeable jump in the detail and fidelity of the image between the two, but make no mistake, this is the best that either film has looked in years let alone on a home video release. But chances are, if you purchased either the "Mastered in 4K" Blu-ray a year or two ago or that two-pack Digibook set and you're happy with the picture quality, you might not notice that large of a jump between the two releases.

AUDIO QUALITY

This is where the new release for both films really shines. My Dolby Atmos enabled system loved the brand-new mixes done for both of these films, even if they are a little scaled back when compared to the Deadpool UHD or the most recent Gravity Atmos release. Needless to say, the new mix is a massive upgrade from the stereo mix days, the surrounds get a pretty good workout with a lot of flybys and sound effects enveloping you on both films. It's still not as bombastic of a mix as a modern-era Atmos mix might provide, but for a film that's over 30 years old in the case of the original, it's still pretty darn impressive.

SPECIAL FEATURES

First off... hey! They listened and swapped Slimers so that the correct version of each is on their respective covers (initial versions of the box art solicited had Ghostbusters II Slimer on the original film's cover and vice-versa). It looks like they also nudged the (odd-choice) Fort Detmerring photo on the original films' cover so that the logo isn't chopping off poor Ernie Hudson's head. That said, man those covers are still ugly.

But why judge a book by its cover? Let's dive into what's contained inside...

The UHD discs lack any special features with the exception of an audio commentary, most likely to assure that the highest bit-rate is dedicated to the picture and audio presentation on these discs. But the standard 1080p Blu-ray discs include the same special features that were included on the Digibook two-pack set released in 2014. But hey, this is my first venture into a Blu-ray review, let's leave no stone left unturned and dive into what's here (and what's not). 

Included on the Blu-ray are:

"Who You Gonna Call: A Ghostbusters Retrospective" - called a "roundtable" discussion (though not at a table and is more of a Geoff Boucher moderated Q&A)

"Time is But a Window: Ghostbusters II and Beyond" - the second part of the Geoff Boucher "roundtable" that gives a little bit of a discussion on the production and response of the second film and talks about prospects for a third film at a time when Paul Feig's current July release was unannounced.

Deleted Scenes - 10 scenes from the original film (with several missing that were on the Criterion disc and for some reason still have never made it onto a SPHE release) and 7 very welcome deleted scenes from the second film are presented here... although there are several scenes from the second movie that aren't represented here for one reason or another including a cameo from Eugene Levy we've seen in production photography but never on celluloid. Deleted scenes, especially with actors cut from the film in entirety are always a tricky thing, but those are the types of things that fans would love to see. Maybe some day. Again, good fodder for another box set down the line.

Alternate TV Takes - These are a lot of fun, especially for those of us that grew up without a proper VHS release of the film and instead watched the ABC Sunday Night at the Movies recording we had over and over. A fun inclusion.

Audio Commentary by Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis and Joe Medjuk (on the first film). This is the same commentary from the 90s, it's fun and light-hearted but a little dated at this point. Dan Aykroyd had said he recorded new commentaries for both films at the time of the original Blu-ray release, neither of which strangely seem to have seen the light of day. Maybe an upcoming box set with the 2016 film?

Slimer Mode - the "BonusView" track over the film is fun, although a bit repetitive of materials elsewhere.

"Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car" - great 15 minute featurette from when the car was restored for the 25th anniversary. Sadly since that time, the Ecto-1A from the second film has been rotting and still sits in shambles.

Featurettes: Original 1984 featurette (cut from the EPK material, which is fantastic), cast and crew featurette, SFX Team featurette - these are all great though aren't given much time to breathe. There's also a multi-angle feature that is replicated from the original DVD release (and the Criterion Laserdisc before it) where you can see VFX/SFX shots before and after with the touch of a button.

Music Videos: Both the Ray Parker Jr. music video and the Bobby Brown "On Our Own" music video are represented on both discs. Glad to have them. Though there's several other music videos that could and should be included on a future release. The Bus Boys' "Cleanin' Up the Town", Mick Smiley's "Magic", Run DMC's "Ghostbusters" remix.

Trailers - yes. That same weird trailer is on the original film that was on the original Blu-ray release. Must have been a legal issue or something but it's... weird. Maybe they wanted to take advantage of the HD picture by overcutting footage from the film into the trailer with the audio bed, maybe there was a legal reason, but it's strange to hear cut lines of dialogue under the wrong shots (Venkman's cut line about being the "Chairman of the Largest Paranormal Removal Company" under the shot of the original Ghostbusters banner being hung outside the firehouse being the most egregious. Why not include the ORIGINAL original trailer? It's such a strange choice. I can understand not including the trailer on the Criterion disc that includes the unused Ghostbusters theme because of music legality issues, but this one is a head-scratcher to me still.

NOT included on the Blu-ray are: several of the deleted scenes seen on previous releases including the Criterion laserdisc release. There's a whole lot of key behind the scenes elements that have never been explored on a home video release (which hopefully the upcoming "Cleanin' Up the Town" documentary will take care of) but for reference, I did a full breakdown of what would be the ideal set of special features in an old Private Sector column that you can see here courtesy of Proton Charging.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Do you have a 4K TV and the latest Dolby Atmos home theater setup and are you a die-hard Ghostbusters fan? Then this release is for you. But if you purchased the lovely Digibook set no more than a year ago, and you don't have the latest tech setup then there's really no need for you to purchase this set. Much like the "Superbit" releases of old in the DVD days, this is really for the video and audio aficionados, and even then because it's an older movie many people won't be using it as reference for their home theater demos most likely. If you've already got the excellent Digibook Blu-ray set, you might want to hold out to see if another box set of the films is released down the line with more special features. That definitive "Alien Anthology" archival version of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II in box set is still elusive. Maybe some day, it'll come to pass.

CLASSIC GBHQ: Interview with Dylan Gross

Now well-known as a go-to aerial photographer throughout Hollywood, GBHQ interviewed Dylan Gross back in 2000 about his time spent as an assistant cameraman/loader on Ghostbusters II.

Here is the interview as it was presented back in 2000 with the original introduction as well.

What is a "camera loader?" What does "1st assistant camera" mean? All of these are terms you would hear on a movie set. After working on 45+ films, including Species, George of the Jungle, Bad Boys, and many others, Dylan Gross has had an extensive career and is still going strong today, working in aerial filming and commercial directing. However, one job stands out on his resume. It was actually the second film he ever worked on, he was 19 at the time, the film was Ghostbusters 2. 

Q: How did you get the job of working on Ghostbusters II? 

A: Maybe predictably, my father. Ghostbusters 2 was one of the first films that I worked on full-time, and I was 19 when I started. My father was the show's Executive Producer (Michael C. Gross), and my summer jobs for many years were on film sets. I was the (there is one on every set) producer's son who someone was told to give a job... in this case, it was a little more serious, a s I was part of the shooting crew. It was my first "real position" - and with the Camera Crew, which was generally considered the hardest part of the crew to become part of (of the below-the-line, working crew, that is). In fact, even with my father as one of the two Exec. Producers for the show, he was told at first that due to the tightness of the camera union (at the time, IATSE local 659), even he couldn't get me a job with them. For a couple of weeks during pre-production I helped out some of the physical special effects guys (the makers of the slime!). Then things worked out with the camera crew by the time that principal photography began. It was my first show in the union. My father would say that I didn't have to keep the union card, at least I had it. And my direct boss, Cameraman Michael Chapman, joked that it was a complete waste of time to get in the union... he was probably right, but here I am, doing camera work almost a dozen years later (my father moved out of the film business around six years ago). 

Q: Explain your job to our viewers if you would please. 

A: At the time, my job was pretty lowly. A couple of factors were there - first, there was quite a bit of responsibility in even the lowest camera department job, typically loading and unloading the film into the camera magazines. On any movie, the handling of the film takes a special importance - rightfully so - all of the days work is trusted at one moment to the person handling it. Second, the guys in the camera department wanted to send a message that I was very lucky to have gotten into the camera department so easily. Most, if not all of them, paid many more dues before they were allowed membership. So, for the first week, I wasn't even allowed on the set. They kept me on the camera truck, where all of the equipment was, building wooden shelves for the camera cases. I was finally allowed to hook up the video monitors that show what the film cameras were shooting (video assist). On today's sets, that is a separate job from the camera department, but being relatively new, the monitors and equipment were left for the camera crew to deal with. Most of my days were spent wiping Ghostbusters Slime off of piles of tangled fifty foot video cables. As far as my future camera work, eventually I got my hands on the film (film loader), and then the slates (second assistant camera) on the TV show Quantum Leap, as well as features like Kindergarten Cop, Heart and Souls, Point of No Return, and The River Wild. I was a focus puller (1st assistant camera) for a few years, and then ended up, through a friend, getting into aerial (helicopter) filming. Almost by mistake, that became my specialty as, at first, a technician, and then as a Cameraman myself, shooting. This has been my mainstay for several years, and has led to the beginning of a Commercial Directing career (I finished my last of three directing spots recently). 

Q: How much time was allowed for filming in N.Y. and L.A.? 

A: Honestly, I don't recall. I think that the N.Y. unit (which shot first, doing exteriors before the L.A. sound stage work) shot for maybe a couple of weeks. In L.A. I think that we went for around 60 days, or twelve weeks of five day shooting weeks. As I recall, for a large show, the film was relatively on schedule. Most of my energy was spent perfecting the removal of slime from cables, so the finer points of the schedule were lost on me. There were also some re-shoots and additional shots made after the principal photography was wrapped, I belive about a week's worth of work. 

Q: In your opinion, what was the hardest scene to film? 

A: When N.Y. starts to be enveloped in slime, the related scenes were a mess. There were many sets that became covered in the sticky mess, and keeping the cameras clean and safe was mostly janitorial work for the bottom end of the crew. The slime was everywhere, stuck to cases, cables, shoes - everything. Everywhere out of the shooting scene were hoses to pipe slime, things to trip over - it was a tiring environment with very long hours. 

Q: Who was the best to work with? 

A: My dad knew Bill Murray casually for many years, and he had seen me as a very young kid and breifly on a few occasions, growing over the years. He joked with me quite a bit and made it easier to be around the set. Somehow it evolved where I would have cigarettes for him with some of my camera stuff (in a pouch on a belt), so I would get these summons to the center of the set for a cigarette, often at times where the set was closed and just the actors and the director (Ivan Reitman) were rehearsing. Overall though, a film set is a bit like the circus, and there are amazing characters thoughout the whole crew. It is quite an environment to grow up in, and many people made it a memorable place to be. 

Q: Were you a fan of the original film before working on the sequel? 

A: I was in school full time on the first movie, which came out in the summer after the ninth grade for me. For a fourteen year old, it is a pretty huge movie. I think I got as sick of the Ghostbusters song that went to the top of the charts as anyone else did, but yeah, I really liked the original a lot. 

Q: What are some of your favorite stories from working on the film? 

A: Some of the smaller things are definitely lost to my memory... Like any good union member, I did spend a lot of time playing cards on set. There was a one-handed game that the sound guys played, that only involved one poker hand and could be played pretty discreetly during long setups. The sound crew was a three person crew - mixer, boom man, and cable man. The cable man was always running the games, and was incredibly good at starting rumors as a past time. He would plant one piece on information with one crew guy, and then another with someone else. He would be the catalist to some amazing rumors that I couldn't believe he could start. The film shot through January in L.A. and he started the rumor that the Superbowl has changed where it was going to be held that year. He had members of the crew (a lot of sports bettors) changing their wagers based on this rumor that he somehow started panic among the serious sports fans. Somehow, from spending many hours a day crawling under and behind things with those video cables, I became known as the Monitor Lizard. The office got word of this and thought it would be funny to credit me as that in the film. Because of the way things worked on a union film then, the legal department needed it cleared with my union to call me that. Amazingly, the office still made the request to my union, who found no humor in it and insisted that I take a normal credit.