China Diary

Day 6 – Troubleshooting

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Today was a whole new story with the VFX company presentations. We visited another big one, Singapore-based VHQ, where we were greeted by the owners and the main coordinators of the company, served with tea and coffees and were taken on a tour around the facility, finishing off at a showreel presentation at their state-of-the-art theatre. Being an asian VFX company, much of the work focused on big Chinese fantasy films, but you could tell they knew their stuff.

On the way back, we started to discuss with Max the producer the script. It all started by bringing out few little details that didn’t seem to add up, but as the day progressed, we found ourselves facing a problem that was blowing up like a balloon.

We found ourselves sitting for hours at Max’s office, debating the possible solutions and eventually landed with something, but apparently, it was not quite yet there. I had to leave for a meeting elsewhere, so we agreed to continue our talks tomorrow.

Later in the evening, when I arrived back home I realised my mind was really working with the script. At first I thought I felt too tired to try anything, but decided to pop open my laptop and try out few solutions, just to see how they would look on paper.

* * *

It was 5:12 AM when I finished my work. I had typed away seven-eight hours straight, going through the whole script and reworking details and the big picture, and I must say I was pretty damn happy with the end result. I had no idea how the producers would like it, but at least I knew I had done my best. I shot the email to everyone and tried to sleep – but alas, after writing full speed for hours, it’s impossible to set the mind at ease. It took me nearly two hours of tossing, turning and Hearthstoning before I finally dozed off.

China Diary

Day 5 – Squatting issues

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So, I have two issues here: the food doesn’t sit well with my stomach, and I don’t understand how the squat toilets. work.

You do the math.

The other day we started off by visiting one of the VFX companies here. We were greeted not by the owners, or any of the artists, but two guys who appeared to be more salesmen. They showed us a comprehensive reel of their works and workflow, but unfortunately, we were left rather unimpressed. It’s the problem when the visual effects are being presented by people who sell them, but have no actual understanding on quality – I’m sure they would’ve had much better stuff to show us, the company is big and prominent, but they were more interested int he way their hair looked than how the hairs of the CG lion acted.

Later in the evening, we casted another new face to Iron Sky: The Ark. It’s one of those open-the-door-and-cast-instantly -cases, we needed to cast a girl to play the role of a very famous internet star, so what better solution than cast an actual Internet celebrity. And the celebrities here in China are a whole different world. She’s the daughter of a very well-known Chinese actor, arrived with a private plane and is 19 years of age… But so adult already, I never for a second felt I was talking to a person half my age. I guess becoming a star at young age forces you to grow up earlier – in both good and bad.

Hello, do you have a minute to talk about the Great Cthulhu?

We ended the long day to a fantastic seafood restaurant. Like I said, I had had my stomach in a pretty bad shape more or less right from when I arrived, so I was a bit shy to eat everything on the plate, but it was so good I couldn’t resist myself, and ended up chugging plates full of octopi, crabs and shrimps with half a bottle of beautiful sake.

At home, I chatted with Annika for good three-four hours. It’s funny, I just can’t get used or bored to her thoughts, her way of thinking, her sense of humour. Being apart from her feels bad, but thank the great Cthulhu for Skype, VPN and all the means of modern communication. Well, guess that’s why I married her – it’s a good idea to pick someone you’d happily spend the rest of your life in a deserted island with, just in case North Korea decides to go crazy and throws us into a full-fletched nuclear war.

China Diary

Day 4: A Tour Around The Office

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The office building where Iron Sky: The Ark is being produced is located in the heart of the old international business district in Beijing, Saite. In this area, the first foreign companies built their offices, and many main roads pass the area, serving loads of traffic and business.


The office is owned by the main investor of the film, the Jiabo Cultural Development Group, a media company doing films and TV-shows. Located in the spot of an old Banana night club, and fully renovated for its’ use as a production company office, the building serves several different functions in its’ four floors. Our production offices are located in the third and fourth floor.

Yu Hongyang the screenwriter, Maxine Zhang the 2nd AD, Alain Ming the 3rd AD and Lei Tsao the first AD discussing script details around my desk.

The director’s office is a small but efficient one. Here, our first, second and third ADs work in scheduling the film and planning the details of the execution of the actual shoot. On the walls we have spread the production schedule, concept artwork and of course, our posters for earlier Iron Sky films. This is where my office is, as well.

Cheng Cheng, the production assistant, Crystal the bilingual coordinator, Da Fang the behind-the-scenes -guy chatting away at the production office.

Next to the director’s office lies the production team. Consisting of production workers dealing with agreements and money, and their assistants, this team makes sure the whole process flows smoothly.

Zhang Chuhan, the costume designer (on the right) and her team presenting some costume plans.

On the second floor, the costume department has overtaken a chunk of tables. Slowly the walls will be lined with designs for the main cast, secondary cast and the extras. A team of six people work currently at the costume department, but when they start to actually sew the costumes and put them together, they’ll need much more and much bigger space.

Wang Rui, the art director, giving guidance to the team producing concept designs for the sets that will be built or made with VFX.

Next to it, the art department, manned by some ten to fifteen people, vigorously work concepting, drawing, planning and creating the world, sets and VFX environments of the film. New concept art gets lifted on the walls every day, and artists create everything from props to big constructions right here. We also have another team, led by the production designer Gordon Lee, working further away from the offices at his own place.

Next to me on my right is mr. Max Wang, the producer. On his right, the production designer Gordon Lee. On my left, there’s Mika Orasmaa, my DOP and on left of him is Jan Heinze from Pixomondo China.

Finally, producer Max Wang’s office is the place where they key decisions are being made. Whether its’ meeting the main members of the cast, or talking with VFX team (as in the picture here) or just discussing the script, here’s where we can always find producer Max, whose thunderstorm of ideas sweeps over the production team in an instant, leaving everyone scrambling to make sure things progress quickly and efficiently towards the production.

I myself live in an apartment few blocks away. Going back from work in the evening with my skateboard is nice, passing ancient Chinese medicine store, restaurants, McDonalds’ and bunch of banks, the area is great to live in and as its’ not as busy here, few streets in from the main streets, it’s also nicely secluded from the buzz of the downtown, which still can be seen from where we live.


China Diary

Day 3 – List Of Demands

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Wake up at 3am.

Watch some Netflix.

Go to gym at 7am.

Eat breakfast at 9am.

Go to sleep at 10am.

Wake up at 1pm.

Go to office. Meeting one: stunts. Very detailed.

Eat a Chinese sandwich. Very good.

Meeting two: Meet producer. Talk casting and have few laughs. Very fun.

Meeting three: WeChat call to German stunt team. Very detailed. Try to discuss their budget down. Crossing fingers.

Eat Indian delivery food.

Meeting four: Watch through casting tapes. Some shitty, some OK, some amazing. Choose five actors for callback, cast one straight off the bat.

Back home. Play Skyrim.

Talk with wife. Life good.

Meeting six: talk to DOP Mika, who’s coming next week.

Fall asleep at midnight. Wake up 1,5h hours later.

China Diary

Day 2: Impenentrable Language Walls

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The sleeping schedule here goes as follows: I get back from work at 8pm, go to bed at 9pm, wake up at 1:30AM and stay up watching Netflix, films, playing Hearthstone and catching up with whoever is awake back in Finland (wife for sure, maybe my son on his way to bed and some friends). Then, at 7am I head to the gym, then make some breakfast and then take a nap waking up around 12 noon.

This usually gets normalized over the course of 7-10 days, so that every day I go to bed a bit later and wake up a bit later until I’m in normal rhythm again.

Yesterday was exactly this. Today, the weather was beautiful. The sun was shining bright and the pollution clouds had drifted away. As I finally cruised my way to the office around noon, there were tons of meetings waiting for me. First, costume department wanted to go through in detail several costume designs. Then, we met with production design team who presented me a set of ideas for some of the key locations. It seems we will be shooting a big portion of the movie in Qingdao instead of Beijing, which suits me well.

The language wall is unfortunately impenetrable with so many people here. Since there is no common language, there’s no way to enjoy the camaraderie of filmmaking family with each other. Since they don’t really understand me, they are mildly afraid of me(maybe also because I’m a fucking giant here..) and treat me gently, always smiling and never understanding what I want. On the other hand, I don’t really know how to make them feel any easier since we just can’t share the inside jokes, the glances and the eyerolls or the victories easily with them. When people talk to me, they rarely look in my eyes, they talk to my 1st AD who does the translating. Of course, the jokes never get translated, only the business. So very quickly I start to feel pretty lonely, all business and no fun makes Jack a dull boy…

But the business, the business is good.

China Diary

Day 1: Moist landings

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Seven hours had gone flying past as the plane touched down on Beijing Capital International Airport. I was greeted with a dreary, gray and damp morning of Beijing with a heavy layer of smog floating over the city. Breathing in, I felt my lungs filling with particulate matters, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds and of course, good old carbon monoxide. Welcome home, I sighed, for this was to be my base of operations for the next half a year.

I hadn’t slept on the plane, so I was grumpy and tired with a nice headache building up, but meeting with our new translator turned the tide: it’s hard to remain grumpy when there’s a someone waiting at the airport holding a sign with your name written on it (correctly), and speaking fluent English.

I was whisked away on a car to my new apartment through the Beijing traffic. Watching the endless streams of cars and the pollution-darkened skies, I started feeling hopeless, and climbing to my apartment, which was probably top notch in the early 80’s but now slightly outdated, the realization that I’ll be here, mostly by myself thousands of kilometers away from my beloved wife and my son and my parents, stroke me like a ten ton hammer.

At the office, the production is in full swing. Not everything is in place yet, but everyone is really pushing these last two months before the shoot, so I have a good trust there is enough time. I read the latest script and was relieved, the little tinkering we had done had made it better, and we also had a chance to discuss with the producer for the first time the world we actually are building here. Few adjustments were needed, but we’re pretty well down the right path.

I had requested a welcome dinner, a huge hot pot meal and meeting the production family I’m starting to get to know slowly. There’s Max, the producer. He’s positively crazy, a whirlwind of thousands of things happening simultaneously, but very clear on what he wants, and not a very patient guy for waiting. Lei is the first AD, a Chinese who has worked a lot in the USA, so his English is flawless, and a top notch first AD, probably the best I’ve worked with. There’s the only-Chinese-speaking line producer who looks strangely amazed at everything constantly, whom I bet is a hilarious guy based on reactions people have for his stories. Maxine is the sharp second AD, and then there’s May, the executive producer from Canada, and her son Jonathan, who both are also in my field of communications, speaking perfect English as well. With this rowdy group we’re about to kick off Iron Sky: The Ark, and I couldn’t think of a better posse to do that with. Oh, and Mika will join me in few days as well, he’s still busy finishing Unknown Soldier’s grading back in Finland.

The only really sad piece of news was that since we’re pushing the start date a bit, it seems I’m going to have to spend Christmas here. I was really, really, really looking forward being home by Christmas to see my family, but right now it seems it might be right in the middle of the last shooting week.


We lost, by the way, you know…

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Well, the one thing everyone will remember from the Oscars is that… Moment.

So, as expected, La La Land gets the best picture Oscar… almost. Then, things turn weird. There’s a bit of a commotion on the stage as the producers are giving the final thank you -speeches, red envelopes are flicked back and forth, then the reality hits everyone: those giving their acceptance speech actually were not the rightful winners. It was not La La Land, but Moonlight that had won. They had given the announcers Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope.

Suddenly, the whole stage is full of confused people holding Oscars, Warren Beatty giving a staggering explanation, host Jimmy Kimmel sort of hanging on the edge of things and the producers of La La Land taking charge of, and handling the extremely awkward situation with as much grace as possible, saving what’s left to be saved.

Americans sure know how to entertain.

But, really looking back at the Oscars, the award ceremony was actually a pretty damn good one. The true winners were the African-Americans, gays and the muslims. From Mahershala Ali‘s win as the first muslim to pick the prestigious golden statue for best Supporting Actor to Viola Davis‘ best Supporting Actress award, from White Helmets’ winning the best short documentary (the cinematographer not being allowed into the country) and absent Asghar Farhadi‘s win for best Foreign Picture with The Salesman, and finally Moonlight picking best script and -picture statues – the picks of the Academy were this time surprisingly heavy topics.

This means the Oscars are becoming a better representation of actually good movies. The fact that Moonlight, a film made with under two million USD on a topic that’s rarely even discussed about – gays in black community – won already speaks books about the search for the best film, not just the most enamouring one. Also, the diversity is becoming a norm, not just in theory but in actuality. The days of all-white winners, subjects and stories are in the past, and will be for quite some time.

Now, it’s time for the film community to stand up against what Trump is trying to make the new normal – the racism and the fear.

All in all, the ceremony was great fun, mainly thanks to Jimmy Kimmel’s extraordinarily cool handling of the whole show. While Justin Timberlake’s performance in the beginning was a bit dull, the Hollywood Tour Bus stunt was good fun. The speeches were nice – Viola Davis was strong and gripping, while Casey Affleck was relatively lame (in the fashion of the characters he likes to play). Trump and his politics had a full load of all kind of shit dumped on them, and while Kimmel and the winners were preaching to the choir, I’m sure the word got out: fuck you, Trump.

For me, the best moment was Kimmel’s note about Sweden, after La La Land’s cinematographer Linus Sandgren walked off stage with an Oscar. He said he was sorry to hear what was going on in Sweden just last week, hoping Sandgren’s family and friends are OK, in reference to Trump’s ridiculous statement “look at what’s going on in Sweden”. The bickering between Matt Damon and Jimmy Kimmel was also fun to watch, although I had no idea what it all was about and why.

Obviously, the biggest winner was La La Land, with 6 Oscars, but the real, true winner of the evening was Moonlight, of course because of the Best Picture Oscar, but also because of the cock-up. But the way La La Land’s producers handled the situation was really cool, so big props to them, too. And of course to Damien Chazelle, who, at 32, became the youngest ever Oscar-winning director.

Well, it surely wasn’t a dull show, and mostly great films won the awards – save Suicide Squad, which I think was a dumb film and a shit call from the Academy.

Here are my predictions and what I got right and wrong. Next year better, I guess!



The 2017 Oscar Winners Are…

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Well, La La Land – it goes without saying – is going to win everything. I honestly think, though, that the film sucks. It’s a film about white people and nothing in particular. It’s a soothing, numbing experience that takes us away from the world’s horrors for a moment and gives us a chance to dance into the galaxy like there’s nothing to worry about in the world. Like there wasn’t a war in Syria, a Nazi regime in America shaping up, immigrants drowning trying to get to Europe and inequality and racism becoming a norm again everywhere in the world. To top that, it’s also a musical. Some people love them, but not me.

But let’s, for  just a short, passing minute think that Oscar voters wouldn’t be so obsessed with the good old days of Hollywood, and would actually be interested in contemporary films that have the balls to discuss the current topics, have great, unforgettable performances in them, directed by daring directors who fear not go where directors haven’t gone before, written by writers who care about the world around them and dare to speak their mind, and films that look, sound and feel like nothing you’ve ever seen, felt or heard before.

I know, this is not what Oscars are for, but if it was, the list of winners would be quite different.

The best picture would probably go to Moonlight, a film that discusses homosexuality in black communities. Casey Affleck would grab the best male performance from his extremely precise work on Manchester By Sea, and Emma Stone‘s amazing audition scene in La La Land would stand above all when choosing the best female performance.

Supporting roles would go to Jeff Bridges at Hell or High Water – or even, if the Academy was really daring, to Michael Shannon from Nocturnal Animals – and Viola Davis for her fucking amazing work in Fences.


Barry Jenkins would grab the best director’s golden statue, and writing Oscars would go to Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea.

But, like I said, it won’t go down like this, unfortunately. La La Land will grab all the important ones it’s being nominated for, save maybe Ryan Gosling, who is merely a thin shadow of what Casey Affleck is a master in – you know, staring and doing nothing. Let’s not even get started with the craft Oscars, all going to La La for sure.

The actual competition this year will most likely be in Foreign Language film, to see whether The Academy fell in love with the German comedy Toni Erdmann more than with the Iranian drama The Salesman, and Documentary Feature, where they either go for the black history at 13th, or shed some tears to the poor souls of Fire At Sea, trying to escape the Middle-Eastern and African horrors to Europe.


Nevertheless, because Oscars are not about who should get it, but a game of trying to guess what The Academy prefers – here’s my gritty Oscar ballot, left here with a unsatisfied frown on my face. (Note 24.2.2017 – I’m still about to watch few of the contenders, so this might change, but I’ll update latest when the actual broadcast begins.)


Oh – and if you ask me, the best picture of 2017 was Manchester By The Sea, and the best actor and actress were Casey Affleck and Emma Stone.

Top Films

Top 10 Films of 2016

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The year 2016 was a terrible year, one that won’t be easily forgotten. We lost so many important figures – from Lemmy to David Bowie, Prince to Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman to Carrie Fisher and so many others. Not only that, but the people, events and movements that gained power and notoriety made it even worse: Trump, Brexit and multiple terrorist attacks across the globe. Personally, it was a devastation as well – my brother Ville sadly passed away suddenly in December.

All this put together, it’s not a surprise the year wasn’t great in film, either. I actually had trouble picking 10 films I thoroughly enjoyed, but here it is nevertheless. Note, I haven’t seen films like La La Land and Manchester By The Sea yet, so it might turn out a bit different in the end.



The story of two society’s outcasts teaming up together to fight the world has never been this bleak, sad or frustrating. Rarely do I stop to really think the challenges the modern world poses on those not signed up for the digital revolution, but Ken Loach rubs it in our faces so hard it’s hard to miss. Terrific performances from Dave Johns and Hayley Squires, both relatively unknown faces, brought the gritty world of UK bureaucratic wasteland alive.



Another us-versus-the-world film, but with much brighter and positive, Captain Fantastic brought Arago… I mean, Viggo Mortensen to herd a hippie family who just lost their mother. Basically, it’s a road trip movie to the funeral, to be arranged by a stiff upper-class family of the deceased. Lively, sparkling and fun, yet guaranteed to squeeze bucketful of tears, Captain Fantastic left me happily smiling.



The world has truly gone mad: Trump is the president of USA, UK is no more in EU and the Germans make the best comedy of the year. Disconnect with his daughter leads Winfried to a desperate offensive into her personal life and to the invention of a fake persona with fake teeth, Toni Erdmann. The extremely long film, Toni Erdmann takes advantage of the time available and spends it with the main characters and the crazy events that take place in the world, and carefully convinces us that it’s OK to like, even to laugh at a German comedy.


A supplementary film to the 2014 Oscar-winning documentary Citizenfour is a dramatised account on events that took place, peppered with fictitious characters and scenes, but Oliver Stone‘s tough directing and  Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s eerily Snowden-like performance make up for them. A solid techno thriller about one of the most important people alive today.


Looking for an absolution of the Hollywood, Mel Gibson makes an American war hero movie, but finds a twist never seen before: about a man who never shoots a bullet. Based on true story of Desmond Doss who wanted badly to become a medic but refused to carry a weapon is a cruel, rough WWII portrayal the next film, but with a bit bigger heart and message to carry around.


Olli Mäki is a legend I never heard of before the movie got made, but fell in love with quickly as portrayal of his personality, brought alive by Jarkko Lahti, made its’ way in the big screen. The under-stated boxing film is an exact antonym of American boxing films like Rocky, but the twist is brilliant: a boxer who falls in love. Shot in black and white, the film has been appraised for its’ humane qualities.

7: 13TH

Selma director Ava DuVernay continues her work on the black history, this time digging into the big, gaping hole in the US legal system that is the prison system, a legalised form of slavery. While made in a very American style with all the bells and whistles clanking and tooting to keep the the attention of the kids, the film reminds us that while US is so concentrated on fighting the racism by condemning the “N”-word, it’s actually not doing anything to the very problem itself.



While Ghostbusters is definitely not worthy of its’ predecessor in 1984, it’s a really fun and quite original, but definitely not without flaws. It remains to be seen whether the film makes enough dough to deliver a sequel, it’s not really looking like that, but there is much gas in the ladies still left. What resonates the most in the film is that it’s being made with loads of love and fun, real trust in the end result. It’d be shame if they weren’t given another chance just because Internet trolls did what they do best, bash women, and marketing team failed to swing the hatred to their advantage.


Star Trek (2009) was a great start new start for the beloved Star Trek franchise, but stumbled with the second part Into Darkness. Picking up the pieces left by Abrams as he jumped the ship to the Star Wars world, director Justin Lin managed to pull off a completely decent Star Trek movie, not a masterpiece but not among the worst ones out there. The “every second Star Trek movie works” -rule still applies.


Happy to be able to bring in a two mentions of a Finnish movie this year, Bodom managed to surpass all the expectations by being just a very well made teen slasher film with a script that actually worked. Fresh faces on the screen (Nelly Hirst-Gee is going to be a star!) and fresh energy behind the camera, Bodom was a good, original and damn beautiful horrorish, mildly slashery piece of entertainment.





Ghostbusters (2016) Review

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The stars have always been aligned wrong to the new Ghostbusters movie. Replacing the beloved classic’s all-male cast with all-female sounded like an unestablished gimmick rather than a properly-balanced decision. The first trailer gained several tonnages of shit from the Internet, and while the second did a bit better, the damage was already done. It unearthed the holy wrath of the fanboys and -girls, misogynists and Internet trolls – and although even the original cast was supporting the film, the marketing team failed to turn the tide on the expectations: Ghostbusters never had a chance of success.


But honestly, the only thing the film fails in dramatically is in not being the film we all love to hate – because actually, it’s quite good.

When remakes are made they are usually quite soulless VFX extravaganzas that have lost both the originality and the heart in the process of trying to update them to the audience of 2010’s. I’m looking at you, Robocop and Total Recall. Ghostbusters dares to go further, trying to find the new soul to the film in where the soul usually relies: director and cast. Choosing Paul Feig, truly the Ivan Reitman of the new millennium, as the director and going all-female allows the update to really bravely go where remakes rarely get to go.

Having said that, the film is very, very, very American-audience oriented – and that’s one of its’ downfalls. The super-americanized comedy will lose in translation in any other languages, and dubbing will be nearly impossible task to reach the same level of banter and dialogue, which marks so much of today’s style of comedy anyway, which will mean it won’t have a lot of chances outside its’ core market. Having being banned in China, even the Eastern money won’t save the fact that Ghostbusters is a film made for Americans and all the business it’s going to make will have to happen mostly in America.

One of the topics raised also on the Internet discussions are that it’s counter-sexist – in this case, meaning sexism against men. That is acknowledgeable, yes, but the funny thing about sexism is that it’s a door that swings both ways, and it’s refreshing to see a film where men are dumb, or cute, or helpless and in need of a damsel to save them from distress.

The main strength of the Ghostbusters is the quintet, and it works really well: Melissa McCarthy is stellar and really carries the movie in her shoulders and when it stumbles she refuses to let it fall, while Kristen Wiig takes the main role of the most relatable character. Leslie Jones is plain crazy and quite fun, but much-praised Kate McKinnon‘s character Holtzmann doesn’t really do the trick for me. Maybe she’s trying to weird out too much and comes across mainly annoying, or maybe I’ve seen that role being played much better by other actors in the past… Nevertheless, the only man in the Ghostbusters group is the dumb blonde Chris Hemsworth, who is on the verge of exploding to a supernova of his own charisma, but Feig has toned and dumbed him down enough to make him not necessarily likeable, but a good social commentary if nothing else – this is how female characters are usually in movies of this kind, and now the tables have turned. The only thing really missing are relationships: there’s no believable love interests or relationships being born in the film, and even the McCarthy-McKinnon lesbian couple tingle has been toned down too much to really deliver.

Cameos are mostly redundant, but blissfully quick. There’ Ozzy and three original Ghostbusters (yes, Bill Murray is there, but he’s not really that good…) and Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Slimer.

While Ghostbusters is definitely not worthy of its’ predecessor in 1984 (yes, it’s better than part 2, though), it’s a really fun and quite original, but definitely not without flaws. It remains to be seen whether the film makes enough dough to deliver a sequel, it’s not really looking like that, but there is much gas in the ladies still left. What resonates the most in the film is that it’s being made with loads of love and fun, real trust in the end result. It’d be shame if they weren’t given another chance just because Internet trolls did what they do best, bash women, and marketing team failed to swing the hatred to their advantage.