Not a lot of Royals stories out there today. Fortunately, we’ve got 3000 words of OT, some of which is more than 5 years old. Wait, that’s not a great selling point. Scratch that last part. Crud, I already typed it. Well, it’s vintage!
KCUR tries to take a swing at the stadium situation:
While economists agree subsidizing stadiums isn’t worth it, taxpayers will face the brunt of future building costs for a stadium that’s all but guaranteed. According to Populous, it would cost $1.072 billion to renovate the K and $1.005 billion to build new — a difference of $67 million. That estimate does not include the billion dollar price tag of the surrounding entertainment district the Royals plan to build, or maintenance and infrastructure costs that a new stadium and district will incur.
How about some RP rumors? Because I’m all out of “official sources”. This one is from the Phillies’ Sports Illustrated site:
Sports Illustrated ranked its Top-50 free agents in baseball and predicted where each free agent would end up. In their rankings and predictions, Kimbrel didn’t end up back in Philadelphia. The landing spot SI predicted was a bit surprising — the Kansas City Royals.
Rany pines for Erick Fedde:
Yes please.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) November 7, 2023
I talked on the podcast about how the Royals never do what the Diamondbacks did with Merrill Kelly, or the Cardinals did with Miles Mikolas, and take a moderately-priced gamble on an American pitcher having figured things out in Japan or Korea. Now is their chance. https://t.co/1s0B8NOYoV
Listicles count, right? Dayn Perry at CBS Sports gives us the biggest offseason question for every MLB team:
Question: Have they finally bottomed out?
The 2023 Royals tied a franchise record with 106 losses, and they did that despite playing one of the weakest schedules in all of MLB. While Bobby Witt Jr. is very much a star in the present and a superstar in the future, the organization’s pitching outlook is as dismal as can be. More broadly, the Royals have been a terrible team for a long time. Following their World Series title of 2015, the Royals notched a pair of .500-ish seasons. Since then, however, they’ve lost 104, 103, 88, 97, and 106 games. At some point, this interminable rebuild needs to show progress.
David Lesky gave us his votes for Royals awards. Of course, he voted for, you guessed it, Frank Stallone. No, wait.
The special achievement award is kind of odd to me. But I get it. Sometimes a player needs to be recognized if they do something exceptional, even if they weren’t necessarily “the best” player or pitcher on the club.
While this year’s winner was Makiel Garcia, who played exceptional defense at third after moving off his natural position at short, I opted for Freddy Fermin.
Ultimately, I was impressed by Fermin’s overall contributions to the team. A backup catcher is generally a defense-first guy who is really an offensive liability. Not so with Fermin who brought solid defense and pitch framing along with a bat that provided production at a .281/.321/.409 clip, good for a 108 wRC+.
- Jacob Milham at KOK: 4 prospects the KC Royals must protect from the Rule 5 Draft and 3 who shouldn’t be
- Mike Gillespie at KOK: Grading the KC Royals: Vinnie Pasquantino’s short season
- Joe Summers at KC Kingdom: KC Royals Rumors: Reported Interest in Mark Canha Reveals Offseason Roster Plan
- Michael Farina at Fan First Sports: Top 5 Royals Trade Candidates (don’t know anything about this author or blog but saw the link on Reddit and figured I’d pass it along)
A little peek under the covers: I missed a couple of weeks last month and I’m going to miss the next two weeks. I knew that a couple of months ago so this OT part of this Rumblings has been sitting in the queue since then. As mentioned in yesterday’s Rumblings comments, it’s a coincidence that we’re running these a day after the new Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire teaser dropped. But if we want to pretend this was all part of the plan, go for it:
The 80s were a crazy time - stars burned so brightly and then burned out: Guns and Roses, the Gooden/Strawberry Mets, and, yes, the Ghostbusters franchise. Let’s take a look at all 4 movies today. A couple of caveats: the first three of these reviews were written back in 2017 when I watched the 2016 reboot so the voice sounds a little different that some of my other reviews. Also, these are a bit longer and more, I dunno, formal. They read more like a review for someone who has never seen or heard of the movies before. Like if you were trying to explain to an alien who just got to earth, who is Bill Murray and why was Ghostbusters a big deal nearly 40 years ago. So if the last one sounds a little different, it didn’t quite get the same treatment as I wrote it 6 years later after watching Afterlife.
After this umpteenth rewatch of the original movie, the conclusion that I keep coming back to is that the strength of the movie is the creativity of the idea, the polish and production values of the movie, and the self-promotion within and around the phenomenon of the movie. It’s still a fun watch, which says a lot 30 years later, but its strength is those ideas even moreso than the movie itself.
First off, let’s go at the plot idea. At its core, no one is going to accuse them of stealing the idea or not being original. One of the interviews I read said it was taking cues from Abbott and Costello. But to put that sort of plot in modern New York City with science instead of supernatural as a backdrop yet still make it a comedy, I think it’s homage at most and more tangential than anything. And, yes, it’s a giant love letter to New York City.
It’s also very 80s: there’s a card catalog, dated clothes, and smoking everywhere. The opening premise feels flimsy and quick, as so much does in the 80s, with them getting fired from university and then getting a break catching a ghost. It’s weird that at the time it was thought of as a blockbuster special effects movie with comedy as now you think of a high-budget comedy as being expensive because of having to afford the actors. Or how effects movies like action or sci-fi don’t have good comedy but this really melds both. One of the specials on the DVD talk about how the effects were state of the art at the time. The models like Stay Puft and NYC buildings hold up well but the special effects like Slimer are iffier.
Looping back to my central premise and, speaking of Slimer and Stay Puft, so much of it is slickly produced with an eye towards marketing. It’s made like a superhero movie with the city getting behind the underdogs: spinning newspapers, montage, and all. The climax has them being cheered as they go into a building, like a sporting event, and ending is like a curtain call with credits. And we haven’t even talked about the iconic theme song. When writing my review notes, I scribbled glibly that Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbuster’s theme was responsible for “at least 10% of the popularity of the film”. On Wikipedia, audience researcher Bruce A. Austin claimed the #1 hit added $20M (~8%) to the box office for the film.
But let’s get back to the meat of the matter: the cast and the comedy. This might be peak Bill Murray (and anyone arguing hipster Wes Anderson Bill Murray is peak is just wrong). His top 3 movies on his IMDB page (not exactly scientific): Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation, and Ghostbusters. This was the end of a 5-year string for him that also included Meatballs, Caddyshack, and Stripes. Some of his jokes don’t quite land and the rest of the funny cast has to mostly stay out of his way, but his Peter Venkman is a force. Dan Akroyd’s Raymond Stantz delivers the innocent humor, Harold Ramis’s Egon Spengler is a great straight man, Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddmore provides the everyman grounding presence, and Annie Potts’s Janine Melnitz delivers understated sarcasm. The cast is even rounded out with good performances from awkward Rick Moranis and plot device Sigourney Weaver. Their romance is frustrating and mean-spirted in an 80s sort of way while the Weaver and Murray romance plot is a bit grating. But these are reflective of the times: like most 80s romances, it feels forced; she was barely warming up to him and then we’re supposed to believe they are a couple suddenly at the end after there’s not a lot of chemistry leading up to it. Sadly, there’s a cute little thing between Janine and Egon that is left on the cutting room floor as a deleted scene. I had wondered if the William Atherton EPA plot was necessary, but it really served to give Murray another foil and set up the climactic showdown.
The movie is at its best when the cast is working together, though, with this build to a crescendo perhaps the best quote in the movie: (Akroyd) “What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.” (Murray) “Exactly.” (Akroyd) “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!” (Ramis) “Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...” (Hudson) “The dead rising from the grave!” (Murray) “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!”
I had never really looked at the resume of director Ivan Reitman. Over a 15-year period: Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Twins, Ghostbusters II, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, and Junior. Those aren’t all hits but they’re all high profile. He’s always been able to pull big name actors with his last 15 years: a Robin Williams/Billy Crystal comedy called Fathers’ Day, Harrison Ford in romantic comedy Six Days Seven Nights, David Duchovny making fun of The X-Files in Evolution, Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached, and Kevin Costner in Draft Day. So, he had a lot of hits early on and even if they are never quite perfect movies, studios trust him with their biggest comedy vehicles. He’s also a big name producer.
It’s so ridiculously polished and carried a lot by Bill Murray, a little too much even, as he can get awkward at time, as great at he is. Deferring to history’s judgement, I’ll keep with it being a classic. It’s a funny, enjoyable movie- it’s just very 80s. But if you ever sit down for a rewatch - not just think of the moments you like. But I mean really rewatch it - not just half-watch it while scrolling on your phone or cooking dinner - but actually sit down and watch the movie - it’s not quite as good as it thinks and promotes itself as.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Honestly, I didn’t really remember much about this one, other than, yeah, it ended the franchise for a good 20 years until the reboot came along. It was commercially successful but didn’t have the franchise legs or public appeal that the previous one did.
The setup is fine: Ghostbusters have no money and are doing birthday parties for money, Peter is hosting a fraud psychic show, and Dana has a kid but the husband left for a job. The intro of the movie is her baby carriage with baby going through New York streets where it’s almost hit repeatedly. Then cue Ray Parker Jr, the quintessential roller rink music for 80s kids.
From there, though, the first act falls off the rails when we get Ray trying to get together with Dana. After investigating Dana and her baby, Ray (Dan Aykroyd), Peter (Bill Murray), and Egon (Harold Ramis) cause a blackout and get arrested. The court case slows down the movie even more, even if there’s some token exposition about how they can’t legally fight ghosts anymore. But that all changes at the end of the case when the ooze they’ve been investigating reacts to the judge’s strong emotions, two ghosts escape, and then attack. The Ghostbusters save the day and they’re back in business. It’s messy, as is Dana’s reconciliation with Peter.
On the good side, Rick Moranis is shoehorned back in as their accountant-turned-bad-lawyer Luis Tully as is Annie Poots as Janine. They have a thing for each other and it’s cute and believable. The movie also boasts a ton of “I know that guy” character actors in other rules: Max von Sydow voicing villain Vigo the Carpathian, Kurt Fuller (Wayne’s World/Psych) as the mayor’s lackey, Harris Yulin (Clear and Present Danger/24) as the judge, Brian Doyle-Murray (Groundhog Day/Bill Murray’s brother) as a psychiatrist, and Kevin Dunn (Hot Shots) as a guest on Peter’s show. Cheech Marin, Ben Stein, and Bobby Brown have small rules, too.
For the negative, Ernie Hudson gets short shrift, yet again. In the first movie, he was a good everyman character while in this one, he often breaks up the manic pace of the rest of the movie, though he sometimes is in on the hijinks like when he falls into the slime river. The Dana (Sigourney Weaver) and Peter plot just drags the movie down every time it’s on screen – like we waste time having the slime river scene interrupt Peter’s date and it’s played off as an inconvenience to him. I also don’t really buy Sigourney Weaver’s motherhood turn and that drags things repeatedly, too – Weaver is a great actress but the script for her isn’t good. Like the original, the effects are decent, especially for the time, but they haven’t aged that well. And the soundtrack is a step down from the original.
After they, again, run afoul of the city after the slime river incident, the mayor’s fixer sends them to a mental hospital – but how many times do we need to see them get in lame political trouble with the city when we it doesn’t have the stakes of the ghost trouble? We get more pandering to New Yorkers, a movie pastime, and then there’s a boss fight with a half dozen endings. The first ending is really cheesy and bad. Then, we eventually land on a positively slimed Statue of Liberty fighting the Carpathian with positive feels from the crowd singing Auld Lang Syne. At one point Vigo possesses Ray… for reasons.
I mean, it’s not awful, but it’s definitely not great. I don’t know if I could really rank the four movies since they’re so different. The original is clearly head and shoulders above all the rest. Is this one the worst? Even with the original cast, it’s got an argument to be because everything else about it isn’t very good.
I know its reputation as a bomb, but I don’t quite see it. It’s not the classic of the original, but it was fun and much of the criticism seems unwarranted. It works pretty well for a modern comedy - not too cringy- and was a fast and enjoyable two hours. The all female cast didn’t seem to be a distraction to me and they even made light of it with Thor.
Erin Gilbert (Kristin Wiig) is a professor at Columbia who has walked away from her paranormal previous life for a regular career while Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) has continued their work with the help of new assistant, tech wizard Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon). Erin gets fired and joins Abby and Jillian, who are also fired. They start their scientific paranormal business and are joined by Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) and hire receptionist Kevin (Chris Hemsworth). For the five characters, McCarthy carries the movie forward while McKinnon plays a perfectly crazy Q branch. Wiig is the straight man and, frankly, many of the jokes that fall flat are on her watch. Jones is supposed to ground the group, but she’s often a bit too slap-sticky for that. Most of Hemsworth scenes are kindof funny but also taxing as he was written just too dumb, like an SNL joke that goes on too long. However, the biggest problem is that everyone else around them is trying to be funny, too, so it keeps breaking the fourth wall. The comedy doesn’t work if everyone is acting like it’s one big joke - you have to believe that the crazy paranormal stuff is real for the jokes to land.
It’s revealed there’s a (somewhat cliché) nerd who was picked on and he is trying to bring about the Fourth Cataclysm. After they stop a ghost at a concert, the mayor summons them to admit that it’s legitimate and that they know about it but they have to disavow knowledge of the issue to avoid panic. And that plays into the light movie this is: aside from the main villain and the ghosts, there’s no added villains. There’s not much cringe or blue humor with the worst being a gag about shooting a ghost in the privates or getting stuff caught down the shirt in a bra. It mostly plays light and airy, which is fine.
The fighting through the climax is a little extraneous but it mostly works with decent effects. I think there’s some generic falling out scene that was cut so the narrative between the two main characters is a little weird towards the end but it ends satisfyingly enough. There are a lot of nods to the original like having 3 of the 4 cast back (and a statue of the late Harold Ramis), secretary Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, and lots of calls back to the original theme song.
It’s certainly not deserving of all the misogynistic hate that was thrown at it, but knuckle-dragging reactionaries only have one default setting: to meet everything with a toddler-esque version of the Two Minutes Hate. The creative team deliberately tried to make sure it was paying homage and not just copying while also trying something new with the all-female cast. Its biggest sin was not living up to the oversized legacy of the original and being forgettable. Honestly, if these mouth-breathing man-children hadn’t made such a fuss, this movie would be forgotten rather than infamous.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
This is the hardest one of the sequels for me to rate. Sure, the charge that nothing is original and everything is just a remake has been thrown at stage and screen for literally millennia. However, it’s hard to deny just how many straight up remakes and shameless nostalgia porn cash grabs are out there right now. It’s one thing to blame a long-running Star Wars or Marvel or James Bond for going back to the well too many times. It’s another to dredge up something mildly popular from 20 or 30 years ago, repackage it slightly, and aim for the happy memory dopamine of a previous generation all grown up. Bonus points if you can get their kids. I enjoyed watching Bill & Ted Face the Music and Space Jam: A New Legacy, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you much about them a year after watching them. Somehow they’re even more ephemeral than Ant-Man 14 or Fast 22. Maybe calling this one nostalgia porn is unfair, but nostalgia mining is definitely a core part of the movie. And if that’s the case, how strong of a core do you really have?
The kids taking over as a next generation could have gone horribly wrong, but they cast it well. Mckenna Grace as an excellent Egon replacement in Phoebe Spengler; Finn Wolfhard brings some Stranger Things vibes as Trevor Spengler; Logan Kim as Podcast is a cross between Jacob Batalan and Zendaya’s characters in MCU Spider-Man; and Celeste O’Connor as Lucky Domingo rounds out a good, new team. Paul Rudd plays Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon is just kindof there.
The movie is better constructed than any other in the series, by virtue of being made now versus the messy 80s or even a decade ago. But it also feels slickly produced through-and-through, a product of focus groups, whiteboarding, and studio notes. Up against that backdrop, it feels like the creative team really tried to put some heart into a soullessly manufactured machine but it was fighting an uphill battle. The film revisits the greatest hits (Gozer), but does it in dirt farming Oklahoma. It serves as a coming of age film for a couple of the kids. It also has to be a light romcom for Rudd and Coon. Up until the end, it’s a modern movie with something to get everyone into the theater and maximize reach and a Ghostbusters logo slapped onto it.
However, the moment where Ray, Peter, and Winston show up is pure magic for people of a certain age. The digital use of Harold Ramis (mostly) feels appropriate and not exploitive. That ten-minute final battle in Afterlife is better than any scene in any of the sequels. But it took us a long way to get there.
That’s why I don’t know how to rank this one as a whole. It does the least wrong but also has the least substance to it. However, the climax is so good (also kudos for the credit cookie where Ernie Hudson finally gets his due). I think if I had to rank them, it would be Ghostbusters (1984) >>> Ghostbusters: Afterlife > Ghostbusters (2016) > Ghostbusters II.
Is there really any doubt about what today’s SotD is?