TV Review: A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

Original Run: December 4th, 2015
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Written by: Sofia Coppola, Mitch Glazer, Bill Murray
Music by: Paul Shaffer, various
Cast: Bill Murray, Michael Cera, George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, David Johansen, Jenny Lewis, Dimitri Dimitrov, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Shaffer, Julie White, Phoenix

American Zoetrope, Departed Productions, Jax Media, South Beach Productions, Netflix, 1 Episodes, 56 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Who doesn’t love Bill Murray? And who doesn’t love Christmas? Well, terrorists… probably.

I was really excited when Netflix dropped the first trailer for A Very Murray Christmas. It looked interesting enough and featured a comedic legend that might as well be a god, as far as I am concerned. It also featured a slew of other talented people and Miley Cyrus. I kid, Miley doesn’t bother me like she bothers lame people.

I had hopes that this would be great and maybe start a new annual tradition with future installments to the series each Christmas. But to be frank, I’m fine with just the one special.

It wasn’t anything great or that spectacular. Murray is in a depressed mood for much of the special and only seems to come alive for a few seconds at a time. While some scenes, like the ones with Chris Rock, played really well, most just didn’t hit their mark.

This special, like all Christmas specials, is about finding that Christmas spirit and enjoying the day and the things that you hold dear. The execution just seemed half-assed and the sequences weren’t all that interesting.

Murray didn’t look like he was enjoying himself and everything just felt thrown together.

Although it was nice seeing him onscreen with David Johansen again. He was the lead singer of the protopunk band The New York Dolls, also the pop artist Buster Poindexter and starred alongside Murray in Scrooged as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: Scrooged and that’s about it but Scrooged is much better and a lot less depressing.

Film Review: Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016)

Also known as: Ghostbusters (original title), Ghostbusters 3 (working title), Flapjack (fake working title)
Release Date: July 9th, 2016 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig
Based on: Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis
Music by: Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr., Michael McDonald, Zach Woods, Toby Huss, Bill Murray (cameo), Dan Aykroyd (cameo), Ernie Hudson (cameo), Sigourney Weaver (cameo), Annie Potts (cameo), Ivan Reitman (cameo), Ozzy Osbourne (cameo), Al Roker (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, The Montecito Picture Company, Feigco Entertainment, Pascal Pictures, Ghost Corps, Sony Pictures Releasing, 116 Minutes

Review:

“I will not let the 12-year reputation of this fine institution be besmirched by you!” – The Dean

I was a massive fan of the original Ghostbusters movies. However, even with rumors of a Ghostbusters 3 for years, I never really wanted a follow up. It had been such a long time since the second film and franchise movies that go on multiple decade hiatuses never seem to recapture the magic. The sequel idea was eventually abandoned in favor of this reboot, however. But still, I didn’t want it.

The only way that I thought a modern Ghostbusters could work is if it was to introduce a new generation and for it to exist in the same universe with the original guys passing the torch so that they could finally retire. Instead, this was just a flat out reboot with no continuity shared with the original two films.

But then there was also the gender twist element to this film. It seemed to be the latest Hollywood franchise to do a full gender swap for the sake of just swapping gender. Do I care that these four characters are women? No. But Hollywood (and all of entertainment, really) is sort of forcing diversity on the masses just because they can and apparently we’re all sexist, racist, homophobes if we don’t just accept what they are making the new normal.

In any event, this film came out with a lot of backlash because people are sick of the forced diversity shtick. Was that fair to the actresses in the film? Probably not. I felt that it should stand on its own merits but I also wanted to separate myself from all the social and political commentary for a long while before giving it a fair shot.

Let me first say that this sequel was unnecessary. Had it been made to build off of the already existing mythos and served to enrich it, then that would have made this more worthwhile and given it a point beyond just appearing like Hollywood attempting to gender swap fan favorite characters.

The thing is, I like most of the people in this film and that’s the main reason why I wanted to finally check it out. That being said, I enjoyed these women, their characters and I also thought that most of the supporting cast were better than decent. I also enjoyed the cameos from the original Ghostbusters cast members.

In the end, this film worked for me. There are several reasons for this but the biggest positive was that the writers didn’t try to just rehash what the first film was. This movie had it’s own original story with some cool ideas that served the narrative well. I liked the story, I thought it was pretty creative and even if the villain was weak when compared to Gozer and Vigo, his plan was still interesting and worthy of a first outing for this team of Ghostbusters.

Additionally, this film had a lot of fan service moments. They weren’t necessary or even really expected but the studio did a good job of not using these elements to sell the film in trailers. These surprises weren’t spoiled ahead of time for me and I was glad to see them worked into the movie, especially that major homage to The REAL Ghostbusters cartoon series.

I also loved the special effects and the whole visual style of the movie. The ghosts looked cool and there was a great variety of ghost styles. While the “ghosts unleashed on Manhattan” segment from the original film is one of the best moments in film history, I felt that this film’s take on that beloved moment was executed spectacularly.

The only ghost I really wasn’t a fan of was the demon dragon thing and the whole segment trying to capture it at the rock concert was one of the film’s lower points. But surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of other low points.

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t hate this like many people seem to. But I also didn’t expect to like it all that much either. I was lukewarm to this film and didn’t have the biggest urge to see it. I’m glad that I did though. It was entertaining enough, made me laugh a few times and I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel even though they probably won’t make one and will most likely just reboot the film series again, sometime down the road. That one will probably star four overweight paraplegic lesbian Fijians, one of which will be Muslim too.

But seriously, social political agenda aside, this made me laugh and had some good positives.

Also, Andy Garcia’s mayor character was damn good.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Just about any other Melissa McCarthy movie, as well as GhostbustersGhostbusters II and Bridesmaids.

Film Review: St. Vincent (2014)

Release Date: September 5th, 2014 (TIFF)
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Written by: Theodore Melfi
Music by: Theodore Shapiro
Cast: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard

Chernin Entertainment, Crescendo Productions, The Weinstein Company, 102 Minutes

Review:

“You need to defend yourself, or you get mowed down.” – Vincent, “I’m small, if you haven’t noticed.” – Oliver, “Yeah, so was Hitler.” – Vincent, “That’s a horrible comparison.” – Oliver, “Indeed. Making a point, though.” – Vincent

*Written in 2014.

I finally got around to catching this film.

I’m a huge Bill Murray fan but then again, who isn’t? I’m not a fan of Melissa McCarthy though, so I found going into this to be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Well, as expected, Murray was pretty damn awesome. This is one of my favorite dramatic roles that he has played and he still brought the comedy where it was needed. His character was also a bit of a departure from what one is used to in a Murray performance.

In modern years, Bill Murray has essentially played Bill Murray. In this film, as Vincent, he was a pretty complex character that was more than just another Bill Murray caricature. He was a hard edged Vietnam veteran with a strong Brooklyn accent and a backstory that was heartbreaking and heartwarming as it unfolded throughout the movie.

Melissa McCarthy also impressed me in this film. I have to give her props on her mostly dramatic performance and I hope to see more acting from her like this. My issue with her in the past, is that she came off as the female Chris Farley. Everything about her career revolved around comedy based off of her weight. I just find that to be a low form of comedy and not that funny. Additionally, where she isn’t a walking fat joke, she fills the void with lewdness and crassness that has become the norm in modern comedy but just goes to show how shitty modern comedy has become.

Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the boy in the film, acted really well for a kid with a pretty small filmography thus far. His character befriends the grumpy and mean Vincent and it is the relationship between these two that propels this film.

Chris O’Dowd plays a teacher/priest that goes on to expand his acting chops and gives us another great and witty character. Vincent’s pregnant Russian hooker girlfriend is played by Naomi Watts and she is pretty hilarious here. I didn’t even realize it was her until about halfway through the film. Terrence Howard plays an asshole bookie but is almost a forgettable and unnecessary character.

This is a really good picture for Theodore Melfi, a first time feature film director. It’ll be interesting to see what he does next, as this was a stellar first effort. Melfi, with the help of this great cast, gave us one of the best films of the year, in my honest opinion.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Some of Bill Murray’s other films like The Life AquaticBroken Flowers and Lost In Translation.

Film Review: Zombieland (2009)

Release Date: September 25th, 2009 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Music by: David Sardy
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray, Amber Heard

Relativity Media, Pariah, Columbia Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Are you fucking with me?” – Tallahassee, “Uh, no. You should actually limber up as well. Especially if we’re going down that hill. It is very important.” – Columbus, “I don’t believe in it. You ever see a lion limber up before it takes down a gazelle?” – Tallahassee

I know that a lot of people absolutely love this film. I like it too but I wouldn’t say that I love it. In fact, I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters. I just never really felt like watching it again until now.

To start, the cast is great and I like the chemistry between all of them. But let’s be honest, Woody Harrelson is the scene stealer and the real star of the picture, even though this boasts the talents of three young stars who would all have great careers beyond this movie: Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. But even when the legendary Bill Murray shows up for a cameo, Harrelson steals that scene as well.

But it is the characters that make this movie work so well. They all just gel and you genuinely care about them, even though you just get to scratch the surface with this quartet at only an 88 minute running time.

I guess the only really big negative about this film is the finale. The girls decide to go to an amusement park for fun, albeit when it’s dark out in a world that is plagued by zombies and no security guards. Somehow, the park has power, the girls turn all the lights and rides on and are suddenly shocked when they are immediately overwhelmed by zombies.

Before this idiotic outing, the film spent an hour showing that these girls were smart and cunning con artists. So their complete stupidity to set up the big final battle is just baffling as all hell. And while I can suspend disbelief, I can’t ignore blatant and colossal idiocy.

And how the hell did they control the rides while riding them? Carnival rides aren’t automated, they have operators that hit buttons on a control panel to start and stop the ride. In the real world, one would have to ride while the other one had to hit the buttons on the control panel. I mean, despite the cool fact that we got to see zombie mayhem in a theme park, the set up and reasoning behind the sequence is asinine and ludicrous.

But the movie is supposed to be fun and I get that but I can never accept the rampant stupidity of the characters in the last twenty minutes.

All that being said, there isn’t a whole lot here that’s unique. There are zombies and you have to survive. There really isn’t anything about this movie to make it special and there isn’t an original twist that allows it to be its own thing in a genre that ran its course a long, long time ago. I mean, you could say that comedy is the twist but this is far from being the first zombie comedy.

I guess the only thing that works is that I like the characters and the actors. Well, I’m not a big Eisenberg fan but he was fine in this role, as it’s sort of the type of character I imagine him being. Woody Harrelson is, by far, the real highlight and the Bill Murray cameo is a lot of fun.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Shaun of the DeadCoootiesScouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Top 25 Roles of Bill Murray

*written in 2015.

Bill Murray is a god.

He has gone from being the best talent in Saturday Night Live history, to being the focal point of some of the greatest comedies of all-time, to being nominated for an Academy Award and constantly giving us great performances.

In fact, I would consider him to be my favorite living actor at this point.

Plus, he’s a serious Cubs fan and loves the Blackhawks as well.

This list is comprised of not necessarily my favorite films with him in it but of my favorite roles that he has played.

And here we go!

1. Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters II
2. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
3. Scrooged
4. Ed Wood
5. Where the Buffalo Roam
6. What About Bob?
7. Coffee & Cigarettes
8. Rushmore
9. Groundhog Day
10. Lost In Translation
11. The Royal Tenenbaums
12. Caddyshack
13. Stripes
14. Zombieland
15. St. Vincent
16. Meatballs
17. Moonrise Kingdom
18. Tootsie
19. Mad Dog and Glory
20. The Grand Budapest Hotel
21. The Monuments Men
22. Kingpin
23. Broken Flowers
24. Quick Change
25. City of Ember

Film Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

Release Date: April 4th, 2016 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Written by: Justin Marks
Based on: The Jungle Book by Rudlyard Kipling, Disney’s The Jungle Book
Music by: John Debney, George Bruns (original Jungle Book themes)
Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi

Walt Disney, Fairview Entertainment, 106 Minutes

Review:

*written in 2016.

My mum wanted to see The Jungle Book for her birthday. It wasn’t a film I had planned on seeing in the theater even though I thought it looked pretty decent. The thing is, live action Disney films just haven’t hit their mark for me. So is this one any different?

Well, in all honesty, I would say that this is the best of the live action Disney remakes of their classics. That doesn’t mean it is a perfect film, far from it, but it is an exciting adventure and pretty enjoyable all around.

The voice cast is the highlight of this film. Idris Elba is chilling as the killer tiger Shere Khan and he is nothing but evil in this film. There are no bits where Shere Khan is not taken seriously, unlike the original animated version. Ben Kingsley is majestic as the good panther Bagheera. Bill Murray is perfect as Baloo the bear and his physical mannerisms add to the performance. Scarlett Johansson was good as Kaa and Christopher Walken was solid as King Louie, especially during his rendition of “I Wan’na Be Like You”.

Neel Sethi, the young boy who plays Mowgli, was spot on. In most films, child actors are a distraction and can either overact or underact and just don’t feel natural. Therefore, there is cause for concern when the bulk of a film has to be carried on the shoulders of a child. This kid deserves props. He nailed the role, he wasn’t annoying and you truly felt for him. Director, Jon Favreau did a good job casting the young Sethi.

The visual style of the film is striking and effective and Disney made magic happen once again. Also, it feels a lot more realistic than their previous live action remakes. It wasn’t overly stylized. It felt natural, lush and authentic.

The Jungle Book is a quality film and all involved should be proud of the finished product. As I said, I wasn’t planning on seeing it in the theater but I am glad I did.

Documentary Review: Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

Release Date: January 20th, 2008 (Sundance)
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Music by: David Schwartz
Narrated by: Johnny Depp

BBC Storyville, Diverse Productions, HDNet Films, 118 Minutes

Review:

There have been a lot of documentaries made about Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. In my estimation, this one is the best. None of them are bad, per se, but this one really delves into the man and gives real insight to his life and career.

Additionally, this film talks to his ex-wife, his widow and his son, as well as close friends and colleagues. The cast of interviewees is much more intimate than any other Hunter S. Thompson documentary out there.

Johnny Depp gives us the narration and he does a more than fantastic job. In fact, Depp gives it a sense of authenticity being that he played Thompson in the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And frankly, I can’t think of anyone more perfect than Depp for this task – except maybe Bill Murray, who also played Thompson.

If you are a fan of Thompson’s work but don’t know his story and really how insane and eccentric he was, this film is a must view. Luckily for you Netflix subscribers, it is usually streaming on there. Sometimes it disappears but it always seems to come back. So go watch this and then watch Where The Buffalo Roam with Bill Murray. Have yourselves a Gonzo day.