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.

TV Review: Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009)

Also known as: Los Conchords (Spain)
Original Run: February 26th, 2016-current
Created by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Directed by: James Bobin, Taika Waititi, various
Written by: James Bobin, Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Taika Waititi, various
Music by: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie
Cast: Jemaine Clement, Bret McKenzie, Rhys Darby, Kristen Schaal, Arj Barker

Dakota Pictures, HBO, 22 Episodes, 26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Having just watched Jemaine Clement in the fantastic What We Do In the Shadows, I was inspired to revisit Flight of the Conchords, as I hadn’t watched it since it was last on HBO in 2009. Also, I had never seen it in its entirety and in the proper sequence. Now I have and I’m glad I did. By the way, both seasons are streaming for free on Amazon’s video-on-demand service, right now.

So, as much as I loved this show when it was current, I loved it even more revisiting it several years later and after seeing Clement’s career evolve. It was nice to get back to basics and see him and his crew at their best. I wouldn’t call this their creative peak but I would say that it was where they were the most in-tune to the versatility of their talents.

Following a New Zealand band, the Flight of the Conchords, and their lives trying to make it in New York City, is a unique experience. The show ties together entertaining stories, hilarious musical segments and great characters that are unlike any other. Being that everyone in this show is pretty much an exaggerated extension of themselves makes it feel authentic despite its absurdity.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie are a perfect duo and play off of each other so well, that there is nothing unnatural or forced about their relationship. Kristen Schaal and Rhys Darby are also great members of this show’s cast and are both believable and lovable. Arj Barker, who plays their best friend, is fantastic as Dave. In fact, if you have time, go to YouTube and search for “Dave’s Pearls of Wisdom”.

This is one of the best comedies HBO has ever aired and they have aired several comedies that are now classics. I wish that the show went on for more than two seasons but the quality of work was so strong, and the ending was pretty fitting. There are few shows that feel this satisfying throughout their entire run.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other films and shows created by this same group of guys: What We Do In the Shadows, Eagle Vs. Shark, etc.

Film Review: The Burden (2017)

Also known as: Min börda (original Swedish title)
Release Date: January 27th, 2017 (Göteborg Film Festival)
Directed by: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Written by: Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Music by: Hans Appelqvist
Cast: Sven Björklund, Carl Englén, Mattias Fransson, Olof Wretling

Film i Väst, 15 Minutes

Review:

I discovered a few of these short films by Niki Lindroth von Bahr on FilmStruck, which is a fantastic streaming service if you love classic film and want to watch every Criterion Collection release known to man. Okay, they don’t have all the Criterion stuff but they have a massive library and are the only service streaming them.

The Burden is a short musical comedy. The songs and dialogue are in Swedish, which makes it an even cooler experience. It is subtitled, so you don’t have to worry about that.

It’s fifteen minutes long but it flew by like it was five. It is sweet and heartwarming even if the subject matter seemed a bit sad and apocalyptic. It’s a film that sort of taps into certain insecurities but knows how to cope with it and leaves you with some hope.

The animation is nothing short of amazing and the style is beautiful.

It’s hard to really describe the film and it certainly won’t resonate with a lot of people but it actually made me laugh out loud a few times. It’s fresh, original and the songs are charming.

This is definitely the best short film I have seen from 2017.

Plus, the song is stuck in my head but not in a terrible way, in a fantastic and appreciative way.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Niki Lindroth von Bahr Tord and Tord.

Film Review: Road to Bali (1952)

Also known as: The Road to Hollywood (working title)
Release Date: November 19th, 1952 (premiere)
Directed by: Hal Walker
Written by: Frank Butler, Hal Kanter, William Morrow
Music by: Joseph J. Lilley
Cast: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Carolyn Jones, Humphrey Bogart (cameo), Jerry Lewis (cameo), Dean Martin (cameo), Jane Russell (cameo)

Paramount Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“He’s gonna sing, folks. Now’s the time to go out and get the popcorn.” – Harold Gridley

Bing Crosby and Bob Hope made seven Road to… movies. This was the sixth one and the only one filmed and released in Technicolor. It actually benefited from the process, as this is an incredibly exotic looking picture with a strong Tiki aesthetic in the height of the Tiki loving era in America.

I had seen bits and pieces of all these movies when I was a kid because my mum and granmum used to watch Bob Hope movies all the time. I always loved the look of this picture, mainly because I’ve always had a love for everything Tiki.

Crosby and Hope were always really fun together and by this point, they were so familiar with one another that everything they did was incredibly natural. They were a great and iconic duo and this film is one of the times that they were at their absolute best.

I don’t like musicals. I’m not a fan of musical numbers advancing plot. I don’t mind music heavy movies, typically I love them. Just musicals have never worked for my brain, I guess. Still, I like the musical numbers here and while some are used to advance plot, most of the numbers work organically. In the opening, the musical number is actually Crosby and Hope performing on stage. These stage sequences are better than the ones where the picture follows a more traditional musical style.

Road to Bali sees Crosby and Hope take a treasure diving job on a tropical island in the Pacific. They both fall for the same girl and spend the movie competing to try and win her heart. The movie is lighthearted and energetic and these two have a magnetic charisma. Dorothy Lamour also added a lot to the picture, as the apple of these boys’ eyes.

This a a beautiful but kitschy looking film that should make any Tikiphile smile.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other Road pictures with Hope and Crosby. For the Tiki aesthetic and also featuring Dorothy Lamour, check out Donovan’s Reef, which also features John Wayne, Lee Marvin and Cesar Romero.

Ranking the Films of Tim Burton

Tim Burton was one of my favorite directors in the ’80s and into the ’90s. Things went downhill once we got to the ’00s but there were still some gems after the turn of the new millennium.

He was the first director to really tackle Batman and he gave us beloved characters like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice. His style is unique and all its own, even if it has become a caricature of itself and a hindrance in recent years.

Here are all the films he directed, ranked. The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t here because although he created it, he didn’t direct it.

1. Ed Wood
2. Edward Scissorhands
3. Batman
4. Sleepy Hollow
5. Mars Attacks!
6. Beetlejuice
7. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
8. Batman Returns
9. Big Eyes
10. Corpse Bride
11. Big Fish
12. Frankenweenie (animated)
13. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
14. Planet of the Apes
15. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
16. Dark Shadows
17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
18. Alice In Wonderland

Film Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Release Date: August 14th, 1975
Directed by: Jim Sharman
Written by: Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman
Based on: The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien
Music by: Richard Hartley, Richard O’Brien (songs)
Cast: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Richard O’Brien, Patricia Quinn, Nell Campbell, Jonathan Adams, Peter Hinwood, Meat Loaf, Charles Gray

Michael White Productions, 20th Century Fox, 100 Minutes

Review:

“A mental mind fuck can be nice.” – Frank

The Rocky Horror Picture Show was not initially a good experience for me the first time I saw it. I was dating this girl that was obsessed with it and she took me to a midnight showing of the film. Little did I know that I was going to be in for an insane shitshow where the audience is jumping around and yelling the entire time. Not to mention everyone singing over the film in voices that ranged from Tiny Tim to an industrial shredder. This certainly was not the way to experience this movie for the first time. My girlfriend failed at showing me her greatest love so I then failed at making her mine.

Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at home and in private, is a much better way to see the film on a first viewing. While the theater experience is wild and nuts, it is hard to decipher what the hell you are watching with this bizarre picture.

I am not a fan of musicals but the music in this film is at least pretty good and thoroughly entertaining, even if every girl I’ve ever dated has played “Time Warp” a gazillion times to the point where it makes me want to shoot myself in the head.

This film works though. The main reason is because of how fun and weird it is. Plus, Tim Curry,who is already amazing, is on an otherworldly level as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Then again, Curry literally takes over ever single picture he is in. He has massive charm and is fully dedicated to everything he does. So seeing him as a transvestite mad scientist is pretty badass regardless of the narrative context or a film’s overall quality.

I also love the sets and the vibe of the picture. And the cinematography is impressive, especially in regards to the lighting and the use of vivid colors and shadowy contrasts.

While, to me, this isn’t a classic in the way it is for most of the girls I’ve dated since my teen years, it is still a motion picture that is one of a kind. It’s kind of baffling how this even got made and released by a major studio. It has a sort of grindhouse vibe to it and even reminds me of some of the cooler nudie cuties of the 1960s but with less boobies and better music.

But if I want to watch a horror themed sexual extravaganza, I’m more apt to watch Ed Wood’s Orgy of the Dead.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Destino (2003)

Release Date: June 2nd, 2003 (Annecy Animation Film Festival), originally began production in 1945
Directed by: Dominique Monféry
Written by: Salvador Dali, John Hench, Donald W. Ernst
Music by: Armando Dominiguez, Michael Starobin, Dora Luz

Walt Disney, 7 Minutes

Review:

In 1945, Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali and American animator Walt Disney started work on this collaborative effort. While it didn’t actually come out until 2003, 58 years since the project began, it is a perfect marriage of the two artists’ styles. Taking the surrealist style of Dali and bringing it to life via Disney animation.

From 1945 and into 1946, Dali and Disney studio artist John Hench worked together on storyboarding the project. Due to financial woes during the World War II era, Disney had to halt production. Hench put together a seventeen second animation test in an attempt to keep the company happy and on board with the project but it was put on hiatus for decades.

Roy E. Disney, Walt’s nephew, rediscovered the project in 1999 while he was working on Disney’s Fantasia 2000. He decided to resurrect the amazing collaboration and Walt Disney Studios worked on it until it was finally completed.

Twenty-five Disney animators fleshed out the project based off of Dali and Hench’s storyboards and notes. They also got help from Hench himself and delved into the journals of Dali’s wife, Gala Dali.

The final production uses the original Hench animation while the newly animated parts are a combination of traditional hand drawn animation and some computer animation. It all comes together beautifully, however, and is consistent with the originally conceived style.

The short film follows the story of the god Chronos and his love of a mortal woman. The woman dances through surreal imagery in the style of Dali’s paintings. All of this is brought further to life by the musical score of Mexican composer Armando Dominiguez and the vocals of Dora Luz.

If you are a fan of Dali and classic Disney animation, there is nothing not to like here. It blends the two styles together magnificently along with the fabulous score.

The public and critical consensus was very positive for the film and it even received an Academy Award nomination in 2004 for Best Animated Short Film.

Rating: 8.5/10