Posts Tagged ‘bill murray

21
Jul
16

Phone’s Ringin’: Ghostbusters Review

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I ain’t afraid of no Class Four apparitions…

Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. Directed by Paul Feig

There are three tiers to remakes. Tier One consists of the ambivalent – remakes that someone at the studio green-lit because they were cheap to do. Very few people went to see the original movie and even fewer went to see the remake (or even KNEW it was a remake). Tier Two consists of the Endeared – those remakes that quite a few people saw Round One and who may or may not go to see the remake. Did “X” actor who starred in the original show up as the cabbie/old neighbor/guy at the bar/person espousing a quote? How much did it differ from the original? Do I like it better than the other(s)? These questions surround the production of the remake whether it’s “Gone In 60 Seconds,” “Sorcerer,” “Crimson Tide,” “Conan the Barbarian,” “Total Recall,” “Judge Dredd,” etc. These are give/take movies and some prefer the remakes to the original and vice-versa. Finally, Tier Three – the Sacred. These are films which are slated for remake that the viewing public has put on a pedestal or elevated to such a height that no matter what the act of remaking the story is heresy. While I have not (presently) heard of any proposed remakes of “Green Mile” or “Shawshank Redemption” the viewing public has such a reverence for them that the jury has already decided before the trial has begun. Such is/was the case with the new “Ghostbusters” film. A collected confabulation makes us forget “Ghostbusters 2.” Or the animated series. Or Dan Akyroyd showing up in “Casper.” Or the video game. Like being delivered a gift from the top of the mountain fanboys have set the original as not the bar, but the rule with no exceptions. I am here to tell you this:

It was a fun movie. Get over it.

If you already hate the movie without seeing it there’s no way you’re going to have your opinion swayed. Here’s the rundown (*Spoilers ahead*)

Erin (Kristen Wiig) is a college professor working on achieving her tenure when the owner of a historical house (Ed Begley, Jr.) confronts her about her past. Specifically, that Erin co-wrote a book about ghosts with her then-friend/college roomie Abby (Melissa McCarthy). Peeved that Abbie broke her promise to never release the book to the public Erin pays her a visit.

We find Abby as part McCarthy schtick/part-Akyroyd and Ramis. She knows the science and believes in what she’s doing. Her cohort in crime in Jillian (McKinnon) is equal parts Akyroyd, Ramis, and Jeff Goldblum; she’s the engineering geek counterpart. Erin mentions the haunted historic house and all three are well on their way to experiencing their first ghost. After Erin’s professional reputation is destroyed via YouTube the three decide to form a ghost-searching alliance making their office in the floor above a Chinese restaurant (they couldn’t afford the firehouse). Along the way they hire on secretary/clerk Kevin (Hemsworth) and MTA worker Patty (Jones) who “knows New York.” Meanwhile, a hotel deskhop named Rowan (Neil Casey) is using Abby and Erin’s research to create a vortex of malevolent spirits to enslave the Big Apple.

Love it or hate it is the simplicity of the story. There are no real sub-stories; no love interests, no ulterior motives. What I enjoyed about the movie was that, as one reviewer put it, “it’s everything a blockbuster movie should be,” and that is completely true. Nevermind the seemingly thin plot; it’s about having fun at the movies and this movie, above others I have seen this year (with the exception of “Deadpool”) was the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in a while. The scene where the “Ghostbusters” go full action-movie slaying of ghosts is well warranted and worth it. In fact, McKinnon’s comically ambiguous character (and trust me, she’s pretty damn ambiguous) nearly steals the show. Nearly. Props go to Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor, Captain Kirk’s dad, etc.) who takes the stereotypical “dumb guy” seen in every-other female led film and plays it to the hilt; his interview scene alone is one of the funniest comedic interchanges I’ve ever watched. Doing this may allow more roles to open for him pending downtime from the Marvel movies. Wiig does a good enough job, McCarthy has toned-down her McCarthyism, and Leslie Jones doesn’t do too bad.

The main issue that plagues this movie, aside from the vitriol of purist fanboys, is the stigma “Ghostbusters” has attached to it. Had this been labeled anything else it would be the go-to movie of the summer. Sure, they do a few nods to the original but treat it with respect. Other than that the movie is cut-and-dried and as lean as possible which isn’t necessarily bad. Do I feel that this movie will have cinematic gravitas; ergo, that future generations will look at this film and raise it to the same pedestal as the original? No, but the sequel never hit that level either. And what of the fact that it may lead to more female-led remakes of other properties? Well, “Dracula” eventually had a black/African-American version called “Blacula.” “Barb Wire” was basically a remake of “Casablanca.” The Wayans Brothers even did their full-length remake of a Warner Brothers cartoon. Get over it; get a life.

Lastly, I will mention the spoiler of spoilers – yes, most of the cast from the original (sans Rick Moranis) make cameos ranging from a bust in a hallway to a noted parapsychologist trying to debunk their work, a cab driver, a hotel desk clerk, a funeral home owner and a mentoring scientist. I’ll let you figure out who is who.

My grade: C+/B-. It’s fun for the whole family.

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30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Amusing? Yes. Fantastic? Not so much.

Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and Brian Cox. Directed by Wes Anderson. Based on the characters and book created by Roald Dahl.

“Boggis and Bunce and Bean, One short, one fat, one lean. These horrible crooks, so different in looks, were nonetheless equally mean.”

So begins our tale of the Foxes; specifically, one Mr. Fox (Clooney). When the movie opens he’s doing stretches under a tree while listening to a radio playing the “Ballad of Davy Crockett.” When Felicity (Streep), a fellow fox, meets up with him he escorts her home but not before traveling an elaborately complex path through a farmhouse to steal some chickens. In a moment of weakness/curiosity, he trips the trap encaging them both. Felicity takes this time to tell him she’s pregnant and should they get out of the mess alive, he’s gonna have to find a new line of work.

Fast-forward twelve fox years. Mr. Fox and Felicity are now married, living in a hole in the ground and have a son named Ash (Schwartzman). Mr. Fox’s new line of work is newspaper columnist for the Gazette. Felicity cleans up around the home and helps raise Ash. Ash lives in his father’s shadow and seemingly can’t get out of it; he’s too short and in no way the athlete his father was.

Twelve years is a long time for any fox to stay the “straight and narrow,” and Mr. Fox is no exception. The first part of his “plan” is to move and against the advisement of his lawyer Badger (Murray), he moves to a tree within perfect view of the farms ran by Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Incidentally, his nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) shows up because his brother-in-law is in the hospital. Kristofferson is tall, thin, and athletic. He enjoys yoga meditations and has a want for moral accountability. The wheels begin to turn in Mr. Fox’s head…

Let me elaborate on B, B, and B. Boggis (Robin Hurlstone) is a medium-sized chicken farmer. Bunce (Hugo Guinness) is a shorter person who offers a little bit of everything but only eats duck liver. They are both trumped by Bean (Gambon): he farms turkeys and apples, as well as the best alcoholic cider ever made. Malcontent is putting it nicely for this guy; he drinks his apple cider and quietly smokes until Mr. Fox comes on the scene…

Which happens with the help of Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky), a possum friend (and the tree’s superintendent) that Mr. Fox proposes “one last job” to. They break into Boggis’s farm and steal a couple of chickens. With the sudden “rush” of thieving again, Mr. Fox suggests a “triple-header,” going for Bunce and Bean’s farms as well. The raid on Bunce’s is a success. With the help of Kristofferson they ransack Bean’s but run into a psychotic, knife-wielding Rat (Dafoe). Even though the burglary was a success, it didn’t come without consequence: Mrs. Fox finds out and she is not happy, threatening to leave if Mr. Fox doesn’t change his ways.

Bean gets Boggis and Bunce together and pools all their resources to exterminate Mr. Fox and company. Following a shoot-out, Bean takes Mr. Fox’s tail as a trophy and uses it as a necktie. They go after his tree and the family burrows even farther down into the ground. Bean continues to come up with ways to hurt Mr. Fox and the ones he loves and lives with. Meanwhile, Mr. Fox gathers his community together to fight against B, B, and B. When Ash and Kristofferson go to retrieve Mr. Fox’s tail, Kristofferson is captured by Bean and is held hostage. With the stakes raised, the animal community in peril, and his nephew captured, Mr. Fox has to come up with a plan that’s “fantastic,” and fast.

So I’ll take a moment to correct myself. I define fantastic in the sense of “awe-inspiring, magical, almost fantasy-like,” which while it does have elements of fantasy, there aren’t too many of them (animal personification barely counts). According to the dictionary it’s “unrestrainedly fanciful; extravagant” and “based on or existing only in fantasy; unreal,” which the movie does achieve, so I guess I we may both be right.

While Mr. Fox is eccentric, the story felt ho-hum. Things just happen. Maybe I’m looking too deeply into this one. The point in the movie where the “stakes are raised” up until the end was done really well. I had no problem with the stop-animation used; that’s what drew me to see the movie. I didn’t mind the soundtrack which featured The Beach Boys, Jarvis Cocker, Burl Ives, and the Rolling Stones. I thought it was “cute” how, instead of cussing, he used the word “cuss.” For example: “What the cuss?” (fill in your own word). For the most part, the movie just felt lackluster.

I do give credit to Wes Anderson for trying something new. This is his first feature stop-animation movie. Instead of dealing with the problems of people who have money (“Rushmore,” “Tenenbaums,” “Life Aquatic,”) he went the opposite direction. I’ll give him fair credit and due on these things.

If you have kids who have an attention span, you may want to check this one out. It’s not a bad movie but I was expecting more.

Watch/listen for Wes Anderson regular Owen Wilson as Ash’s coach.

My grade: B-

26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Zombieland

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Call it an American “Shaun of the Dead.”

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray. Directed by Ruben Fleischer

Sometimes going into a movie with low expectations is the best way to see it. I walked in hating the idea of the movie and walked out loving it.

Welcome to the United States of Zombieland; what’s left after a virus begins turning people into zombies (nothing new there). The narrator of this tale is “Columbus” (Eisenberg), an Austin college student from Ohio. He’s your standard post-Generation X nebbish, sensitive, shut-in “World of Warcraft”-playing collegiate that didn’t find out about the virus until his next door neighbor in 406 (Amber Heard) is bitten by a homeless guy and he offers a sympathetic shoulder. Unfortunately when he wakes she doesn’t want just his shoulder to cry on.

After the incident he ventures out into the world creating a list of rules as he goes along (up to 31 when the movie opens). The Rules for dealing with zombies include Cardio (being able to out run them), Double Tap (shooting the zombie twice, at least once in the head), Don’t Be a Hero, Check the Back Seat, Beware of Bathrooms, etc. It’s by these rules that Columbus survives.

On a highway with cars and trucks strewn everywhere (and a few burnt to a crisp) he meets Tallahassee (Harrelson), a shoot-from-the-hip zombie-killing badass. Tallahassee is 180 degrees different than Columbus: he’s brazen, redneck, macho, and says exactly what he thinks. His mission: killing zombies and the quixotic quest for Twinkies. His advice leads to Rule 32: Enjoy the little things.

This pair begin heading east and a stop at a grocery store leads to meeting sisters Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin). Columbus and Tallahassee soon find that Wichita and Little Rock are more than just sisters; they’re con artists. This is found out multiple times after being taken for their weapons and vehicles (which they lose twice). Wichita and Little Rock are on a mission: Pacific Playland, an amusement park which supposedly has no zombies.

Before going in I wasn’t a big fan of zombie movies. I’m as done with zombies as I am with vampires. Yes, I loved “Shaun of the Dead. Who, except my brother, didn’t? I thought “28 Days Later,” was great. That’s it. I don’t fawn over every zombie survival guide or movie that’s released. This movie is something different.

The movie keeps a consistency: cynical narration from Columbus. We see and hear his internal thoughts, fears, wants, and desires. He thinks tough but can’t always pull it off. Add to that creative CG titling that brings to mind David Fincher movie intros. The initial opening sequence that shows the progression of zombies in the world and feels more than inspired from the intro to “Watchmen.” In fact Fleischer does a great job in doing what he wants with the zombie genre without making you feel like “we’ve seen this all before.” The world of “Zombieland” becomes a backdrop for a road movie where the characters are looking for illusory security.

Paying homage to “Watchmen”/David Finch intros is the most direct homage the movie pays to any other film. There is a scene at Pacific Playland where Tallahassee fortifies himself inside one of the booths where you throw a ball in the futile attempt to win a giant plush animal prize. Wearing a snakeskin jacket he blasts away at the oncoming zombies with a pair of gold-plated 9mms (“Face/Off” anyone?) He ejects the empty clips and reloads by slamming the cartridges standing on the table into the them (“Tomb Raider”-ish?) Speaking of video games the coup de grace scene where all parties involved have to defend themselves against the gigantic group of zombies reminded me of the days when I played “Doom,” while blasting hard rock music in the background. I’m just saying…

Is it gory? Yes. It’s also funny, witty, cynical, brazen, redneck, and a little romantic. Harrelson definitely carries the movie, but the cast looks like they were having film filming it. Eisenberg is good, but Michael Cera could’ve done just as well. Emma Stone works, and I’m becoming really impressed with Abigail Breslin; she’s more than just the kid you remember from “Little Miss Sunshine.”

So I’ve been saving Bill Murray for last. The group make it into Hollywood and after stealing a Map of the Stars they head to the home of the actor Tallahassee considers the top of the A-list: Bill Murray. Murray’s huge, lavish mansion is a little more than self-indulgent with various paintings of Murray. They almost mistake Murray for a zombie because he wears makeup to look like one (“It’s easier to blend in as a zombie.”) After an altercation Little Rock asks if he has any regrets to which he responds: “’Garfield,’ maybe.”

That’s as much as I’ll say about that. If this review can’t convince you to go see it, I don’t know what will.

My grade: A

28
Oct
08

Movie Review: City of Ember

 

 

A post-apocalyptic kids movie.

 

Starring Harry Treadaway, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Toby Jones, Tim Robbins and Martin Landau. Directed by Gil Kenan. Based on the book “City of Ember,” by Jeanne Duprau.

 

The story: in a world on the throes of Armageddon, a group of scientists create a city underground (City of Ember) that will last 200 years. The Mayor of the City is instructed to keep a box that counts down the 200 years and gives explicit instructions on how to evacuate Ember and return to the (hopefully) restored Earth above. Problems ensue when the 7th Mayor of Ember has a heart attack and the box is hidden away.

 

Doon (Treadaway) and Lina (Ronan) are school friends. When the power outages become longer and more frequent, Doon and Lina decide to do something about it while others blindly wait for the Builders to return and fix everything. Doon searches through the Pipeworks and finds secret doors and passages. Lina meets with Mayor Cole (Murray) and fins how corrupt he really is. When Doon finds that his father, Loris, and others tried to escape Ember and Lina finds the instructions to leave, they become suspected of treason. They’re only hope is to find the way out of Ember.

 

“City of Ember” could have easily been darker and grittier, but it wasn’t. I would say that’s akin to “The Black Cauldron,” or more serious childrens’ fare. My only real complaint about the movie is that I felt it took a while to get to the heart of the mystery, but that’s pittance compared to what the movie delivered. The overall movie was entertaining, engrossing, fun, and it held my attention the entire way.

 

Most impressive to me had to be the set designs. Ember looked like it had been designed somewhere between the 1940’s and 1950’s. And with the fact that the city would be limited in resources, especially after 200 years, it only seemed right that the characters would be wearing hand-me-down-to-the-nth-generation clothing. The city existed in the basement of the Earth, and thus so had small inventions scrapped together from bits and pieces of other objects. The entire civilization was well thought-out.

 

There’s no doubt that Bill Murray ate-up his role as the corrupt “everything is just fine” Mayor Cole. Tim Robbins stood in as Doon’s father, and did pretty well. Most surprising was Martin Landau as Sul, the narcoleptic engineer at the Pipe Works. He provides comic relief and effectively “saves the day.”

 

Do I recommend this movie? Sure. There’s no language and relatively no violence. The story is engaging enough to keep the attention of kids and adults. As for what ages should see it, I suggest 6 and up.

 

My grade: B+

26
May
08

Movie News and Views Memorial Day Edition

 

 

 

“The Promotion” – Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly are supermarket managers vying for a managerial position at a new location. Will this inspire other like-wise films? Maybe competition among Wal-Mart employees? Whatever. Opens June 6, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/the-promotion/33211/video/trailer-no-1/2120893

 

“Quid Pro Quo” – Nick Stahl is a guy who is paralyzed and is investigating a world where people get their kicks from becoming disabled. He’s led into this world by none other than Vera Farmiga. It could be worse… Opens June 13, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/quid-pro-quo/32557/video/trailer-no-1/2124402

 

“Finding Amanda” – Matthew Broderick is a compulsive gambler sent to Las Vegas to find his 20-year-old niece Amanda (Britney Snow), who is now a hooker, and take her to rehab. No, no, no. Opens June 27, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/finding-amanda/33831/video/trailer-no-1/2124401

 

“The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” – It’s been years since “Mummy 2” and now Alex O’Connell is grown up and having an adventure, facing a cursed Chinese Emperor named Qin, who had his enemies turned into statues and can use that at his will at any time. This probably sounds cooler than it will end up being. Opens August 1, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=748&item=0

 

“Eagle Eye” – Michelle Monaghan is a single mother and Shia LeBeouf is a slacker. Both are framed as terrorists and are on the run. Opens September 26, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=1001&item=0

 

“City of Ember” – 200 years ago a city was built underground with a limited amount of power and resources. Time’s up. Stars Tim Robbins and Bill Murray. Opens October 10, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/city-of-ember/30240/video/trailer-no-1/2128415

 

“Australia” – Word War II period piece with Nicole Kidman inheriting a ranch the size of Maryland and Hugh Jackman as the guy she reluctantly gets to help her drive 2,000 head of cattle across the country. Hugh’s not the only one who would do that for her… Opens November 14, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://www.worstpreviews.com/headline.php?id=8684

 

“Twilight” – The new MTV-produced vampire movie. Stars Kristen Stewart. Opens December 12, 2008. View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/twilight-2008/31347/video/trailer-no-1/2123869

 

“Bigger, Stronger, Faster” – A new documentary about America’s addiction to being the best, which just so happens to have a little side-effect called Steroid Abuse. Really? That’s what I get for wanting to get “pumped up” like Hans and Franz. Coming soon! View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/bigger-stronger-faster/32516/video/trailer-no-1/2122790

 

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” – From director David Fincher (“Seven,” “The Game,” “Fight Club,” “Zodiac”) is a movie based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, where a man is born whose outside age regresses while he grows up and old. The title character is played by Brad Pitt. Coming soon! View the trailer at:

http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=168&item=0

 

“Noise” – Tim Robbins is an angered-minded citizen by day. By night he’s the Rectifier: a man damaging every car that has its alarm go-off. Also stars Bridget Moynahan and William Hurt. Coming soon! View the trailer at:

http://movies.aol.com//movie/noise-2008/31558/video/trailer-no-1/2123236