Tag Archives: Bill Murray

Who You Gonna Call?

New gender-flipping ‘Ghostbusters’ confronts critics—then gets down to funny business

1271033 - THE WALK

Ghostbusters
Starring Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon & Leslie Jones
Directed by Paul Feig
PG-13

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

The Ghostbusters, of course! But which ones? The latest, if you haven’t heard, are an all-female crew headed by Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, with Saturday Night Live cast mates Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

Months before the new Ghostbusters movie was finished, some people didn’t like the idea of anybody futzing with the iconic 1984 original, starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis—and especially, apparently, changing the gender roles. The first trailer for the film ignited a firestorm of online trolling and ugly sexist criticism, mostly about bringing women into an all-boy’s club.

The new movie confronts its critics head-on, in a scene where the new Ghostbusters see the doubtful—and hateful—comments underneath online clips of the first spooks they’ve ever captured on video.

“You’re shouldn’t even be reading this,” Abby (McCartney) tells her colleague Erin (Wiig). “You’re not supposed to listen to what crazy people write in the middle of the night.”

Melissa McCarthy;Kristen Wiig;Kate McKinnon;Leslie JonesThen it’s back to funny business—and girls busting ghosts.

Mixing fresh new gags with respectful retro riffs, director and co-writer Paul Feig lets his funny bone point the way, as he demonstrated in BridesmaidsThe Heat and Spy. And he’s working with a cast of comedic dynamos. Wiig’s delightfully dry, droll wit is a perfect complement to McCartney’s bigger, brasher, bawdy physical bravura. They haven’t teamed up for a project since Bridesmaids, and it’s great to see them collaborating again.

Chris Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth

Leslie Jones gets plenty of laughs as Patty, a subway worker with a knack for Big Apple history who becomes the fourth Ghostbuster. Chris “Thor” Hemsworth seems to be having a ball as the gals’ office “himbo” receptionist, perhaps relishing the opportunity to parody his own macho movie image and the film’s flip of gender roles in general.

But it’s Kate McKinnon who practically steals the show. Her wacky, tech-crazy, live-wire lab-nut weapons wonk feels somewhat of a nod to Dan Aykryod’s character in the original, but she takes it to a totally new place in a unique role that may break her out beyond her hilarious SNL skits.

The plot: Yes, there is one, but it’s hardly worth mentioning. There are fleeting cameos by former Ghostbusters stars and other folks too, including Ozzy Osborne, who shows up at a heavy metal concert. So does a big, bad winged ghost demon. The audience loves it—rock and roll!

It all rises to a screaming crescendo, wobbles and then kind of falls apart, when all the ghosts come out to wreck havoc on the streets and there’s a big, swirling special-effects vortex, a bunch of goop and goo, a parade of giant ghost balloons and appearances by Ghostbusters Hall-of-Fame specters.

Definitely stay for the credits, though, and beyond, because this is one movie that’s not over until it’s over—completely over. And when it is, as the final version of the familiar theme music (this time by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliot) plays out and makes your toes tap, the message is clear: For good, ghostly summertime fun with a strong dose of freewheeling 2016 girl power, who you gonna call? You know who!

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Jungle Love

Disney scores again with spectacular retool of Rudyard Kipling classic

THE JUNGLE BOOK

The Jungle Book

Starring Neel Sethi

Directed by Jon Favreau

PG

British author Rudyard Kipling wrote the stories that came to be know collectively as The Jungle Book more than a century ago, setting the best-known of the tales in India, where he’d spent his early childhood. It entered the pop-cultural mainstream in 1967 when Walt Disney turned The Jungle Book into a full-length animated musical children’s comedy.

Things have certainly changed in the world—and in the world of filmmaking—since then. Director Jon Favreau has steered steely summer blockbusters (the Iron Man franchise) as well as fluffier family fare (Elf), so he was a wise choice—by Disney, again, 40 years down the road—to retool Kipling’s ripping, roaring allegorical fable for a new generation of moviegoers weaned on spectacle as well as sentiment.

THE JUNGLE BOOKThe Jungle Book is the tale of a young boy, Mowgli, raised by a pack of wolves. All is well until a fearsome tiger—bearing horrific scars that remind him of what humans can do—catches the scent of the “man cub.” With his life in danger, and knowing that his very presence is a threat to the other creatures, Mowgli begins a journey to rejoin human civilization.

But the trip isn’t an easy one, as Mowgli learns more about himself and the meaning of friends, family and the “law of the jungle.”

The biggest spectacle the new Jungle Book is the sight of Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi, the only human, flesh-and-blood actor onscreen for the entire film, except for a fleeting flashback) in a jungle teeming with wild animals. But none of them are real—they’re all digital effects, down to the last bit of fur, fang and feather.

THE JUNGLE BOOKAnd not only do they look, move and “behave” like real animals, they also talk—constantly. Remember the computer-generated tiger in Life of Pi? Well, imagine it conversing with Pi, and with every other living thing it encounters. Around The Jungle Book’s watering hole, the DirectTV horse, Smokey Bear, the GEICO gecko and Tony the Tiger would feel right at home.

The effects in The Jungle Book are so casually spectacular, you even forget they’re effects. You become so completely, convincingly immersed in the realistic, storybook world, just like Mowgli, it doesn’t seem unnatural that a menagerie of creatures can speak—or sing—just as easily as they can growl, prowl, crawl or climb.

THE JUNGLE BOOKThe all-star animal voices belong to Bill Murray (the slothful bear Baloo), Scarlett Johannson (the seductive snake Kaa), Lupita Nynog’o (the nurturing wolf Rakasa), Idris Elba (the vengeful tiger Shere Khan), Christopher Walken (the monstrous ape King Louie) Ben Kingsley (the protective panther Bagherra) and the late Gary Shandling (a comically possessive porcupine). Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Sidney Glass in TV’s Once Upon a Time, provides the voice of alpha wolf Akela.

It’s rated PG, but there are periods of action, peril and intensity that might be a bit much for very young viewers—especially if their parents, or grandparents, bring them into this Jungle with sugarplum visions of the candy-coated, song-and-dance Disney version. This isn’t that movie; it’s darker, more dangerous—and far superior, in almost every way.

It’s the same jungle Rudyard Kipling described 120 years ago, and it’s even got a trio of familiar soundtrack tunes (“Trust in Me,” “The Bare Necessities” and a reworked “I Wanna Be Like You”) from 1967. But it’s come to life in remarkable, resounding new technological, 21st century leaps and bounds. With this outstanding upgrade to yet another childhood classic, Kipling still gets a writing credit, but Disney—as it usually does—again gets the final word.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Saints Alive

Bill Murray shines as a grumpy-golden coot-next-door

ST. VINCENT

St. Vincent

Starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts and Jaeden Lieberher

Directed by Theodore Melfi

PG-13

Bill Murray has carved out a comfortable three-decade movie niche playing sweet-natured troublemakers, loveable oafs and world-weary wiseasses. So the grumpy old coot-next-door he now portrays, at age 64, in St. Vincent seems like a perfect fit, a natural progression.

Murray’s character, Vincent, becomes the caretaker of a 10-year-old boy, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), after Oliver and his stressed-out single mom, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) become his new neighbors—Vincent is strapped for cash and Maggie’s in a bind. Not knowing anyone else, she enlists Vincent to watch Oliver after school and evenings while she works.

“He’s sort of cool, in a grouchy sort of way,” Oliver tells his mother after a few afternoons in Vincent’s care. “Too old to be dangerous, but not too old to be too dangerous.”

ST. VINCENT

Melissa McCarthy, Jaeden Lieberher & Naomi Watts

Vincent is hardly any mom’s dream babysitter; he drinks, he smokes, he gambles, and he takes Oliver along to the bar and the racetrack. He teaches Oliver to fight and to stand up to the bully at school. It’s no real surprise when Vincent becomes a surrogate father figure to the scrawny, sensitive lad, whose own dad, we learn, is contesting his mother for Oliver’s custody.

It’s a familiar, often sitcom-ish setup, one that most viewers will recognize from a long parade of TV and movie characters who’ve marched before, from W.C. Fields to Uncle Buck. But Murray and his fellow cast members elevate the material far above the basics, giving the story a rich, lived-in texture with grit, laughter, warmth and an easygoing dramatic groove that cuts through the script’s clichés.

We learn why Vincent seems to have given up on almost everything, why he’s out of money, and why he’s willing to gamble away what little he has left. We watch Oliver emerge from his shell, moreST. VINCENT enabled and emboldened to take on the world. And we understand the connection between Oliver’s school assignment about saints, the title of the movie, and a school assembly where everything comes together.

Murray is a gem, the scruffy, gruff-y glue that holds it all together and keeps it from flecking off into granules of sugary-sweet cuteness. It’s a treat to see McCarthy in a role where she gets to play it straight, freed from comedic slapstick and shenanigans. Watts is a hoot—and seems to be having one, too—as Vincent’s pregnant Russian stripper girlfriend. And Lieberher, as Oliver, is a natural in front of the camera who can hold his own, even when sharing the frame with the formidable funnyman.

St. Vincent, in limited release but gaining in popularity, may not be playing “in a theater near you.” But it’s well worth going the extra mile if you have to seek it out; you’ve probably heard Bill Murray’s name cropping up for some awards at the end of this movie year. And by all means, stay until the end—the very end. The extended sequence that plays under the credits, with Murray (as Vincent) singing along to Bob Dylan’s “Shelter From the Storm”—the whole song—as he blithely waters a forlorn-looking potted plant with an uncooperative garden hose, is a sublime bit of blissed-out backyard karaoke that is itself almost worth the price of your ticket.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Grand Getaway

All-star cast scrambles in quirky romp against storybook backdrop

Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Blu-ray $39.99, DVD $29.98 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

 

Director Wes Anderson’s latest quirky romp, set against the storybook-like backdrop of a once-grand Eastern European resort hotel, sends its all-star cast of F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton and Saoirse Ronan scrambling after a priceless stolen painting, trying to solve a puzzling murder mystery, and skittering across the snowy landscape on sleds, skis, trains, and motorcycles. Blu-ray bonus content includes several behind-the-scenes and making-of features, including an on-location guided tour with Bill Murray, who has appeared in every movie the director has ever made.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Clooney & Co.

WWII ‘mission’ movie has a modern-day message

Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

Blu-ray $40.99, DVD $30.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

 

Co-writer, director and star George Clooney’s tribute to the real-life men and women who put their lives on the line to recover and return the cultural treasures stolen by Nazis during World War II is a rollicking, Hollywood actor-packed mash-up of old-fashioned combat “mission” movie crossed with a modern-day message about the casualties of war that extend far beyond the battlefield. Based on a book of the same name by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter, it comes with behind-the-scenes featurettes on the making of the film, the real Monuments Men, and the cast, which also includes Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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A Great Escape

Wes Anderson’s latest romp is a quirky, colorful movie getaway

Digital Fusion Image Library TIFF File

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Starring Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori and Willem Dafoe

Directed by Wes Anderson

R, 100 min.

 

With director Wes Anderson, you either “get him” and his oddball characters, quirky plots and distinctive, whimsical visual style, or you don’t. A whole lot of people do, however, in his movies including The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums.

Now The Grand Budapest Hotel offers a bustling movie getaway most Wes Anderson fans will find irresistible.

GHB_7195 20130213.CR2

Tony Revolori & Saoirse Ronan

A wild romp set in a 1930s Eastern European mountain resort, it features a colorful assortment of players and a story within a story within a story that keeps burrowing deeper into its own silly seriousness. As with most Anderson projects, he works with cavernous open spaces as well as delicate, meticulously detailed miniatures.

His sights, like scenes carefully colored with pastel crayons from a storybook, are often sumptuous, and his actors move, and speak, with a clockwork cadence that adds to the sense of comedic orchestration.

The plot unfolds backwards, as unspooled by the owner of the hotel (F. Murray Abraham) to one of its guests (Jude Law), relating his beginnings as the establishment’s bellboy, Zero (played by newcomer Tony Revolori in his first starring role). Zero and his mentor, the hotel’s longtime, ladies-man concierge, the ultra-dapper Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Feinnes), become friends and co-conspirators in a spiraling, sprawling misadventure that includes a murder, a missing will, a purloined painting, an outlandish prison break, and the outbreak of something that resembles World War II.

Along the way, they encounter a spectrum of characters, played by actors including many who’ve cropped up in previous Anderson movies (Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray—who’s appeared in every Wes Anderson film—Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Bob Balaban, Harvey Keitel), as well as Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson.

Digital Fusion Image Library TIFF File

Bill Murray

Everyone seems to be having a big old time in the big old hotel, and everywhere else, and several scenes are real hoots, like the scampering prison escape—which feels like a live-action re-enactment of something from the stop-motion animation antics of The Fantastic Mr. Fox—and an extended sequence in which a secret cadre of other concierges drop everything to help one of their own out of a jam.

The story is based on a book by little-remembered Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Sweig, who was actually one of Europe’s most popular writers of the 1920s and ’30s. Anderson gives Sweig an “inspired by” credit at the end of the film.

Anderson’s detractors often think his movies are contrived, pretentious, gimmicky, too indy/arty or simply not nearly as funny as Mr. Anderson must think they are. OK, fair enough. But if you’re looking for a kooky, slightly off-kilter stopover in a place that can offer you an exhilarating, completely unique experience like nothing else at the multiplex, then I recommend you check in for a couple of free-wheeling hours—at The Grand Budapest Hotel.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

 

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The Clooney Platoon

Director, star, producer & writer brings true WWII tale to life

George Clooney;Matt Damon;Bill Murray;Bob Balaban;John Goodman

The Monuments Men

Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray & Cate Blanchett

Directed by George Clooney

Rated PG-13, 118 min.

 

This tale of WWII treasure hunters is “monumental” in more ways than one for George Clooney.

To begin with, he’s the star, the director, the writer and the producer. If the movie flies or if it flops, he’ll take the bows—or the boos. And he’s obviously big on the story, based on a 2009 nonfiction book of the same name by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter.

Historically, the Monuments Men were a group of artists, art historians and museum curators commissioned by the American and British armies during World War II to help protect the historic monuments of Europe from Allied bombing. After the war, they fanned out on an even more daunting five-year mission: to recover, catalog and return millions of precious artifacts—paintings, sculptures, tapestries and religious relics—that had been stolen by the Nazis.

The movie takes a few creative liberties with the facts, but it’s mostly true, and the characters are mostly based on, or inspired by, real people. Clooney and his cast mates (Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin) make a fine-looking international ensemble, even if sometimes the movie’s star power, combined with overly familiar war-movie scenes, sometimes feels like Oceans 11 plus Saving Private Ryan divided by Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Matt Damon;Cate Blanchett

Matt Damon & Cate Blanchett

The bigger problem, though, is how ironically, in the midst of its “bigness,” so much of the movie seems small. Its series of disjointed, scattered moments never really come together into a larger, dramatic whole. The large cast is confined to playing strictly on the surface—we never really learn anything about any of the characters. The humor is flat, the emotion sappy and the drama tepid; although the Monuments Men are supposed to be on the war’s front lines, they rarely seem to be, or behave like, they’re in any real danger.

The film also treads lightly—too lightly, perhaps—on the terrible human toll of the Holocaust, like in a scene in which the men examine the smoldering frame of a Picasso painting that the Nazis destroyed, then turn to find a barrel filled with gold teeth extracted from slaughtered concentration camp prisoners.

Oh…teeth. Now, back to paintings.

The Monuments Men isn’t going to win any awards, but it does shine a high-profile Hollywood light on a little-known chapter of history—and a fact of wartime looting and cultural pillaging that still happens today.

George Clooney

“Was it worth it?” Clooney’s character is asked at the end of the movie. Thirty years from now, his superiors wonder, will people remember, or appreciate, all that went into recovering some 5 million pieces of priceless European civilization?

Thanks to George Clooney’s big, ambitious movie, perhaps now they—we—will. It’s just too bad that, given such a great group of actors and such a monumental story, it doesn’t do a bit of a better job of it.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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