Posts Tagged ‘Bill Murray’

St. Vincent: Devishly Charming—Movie

October 28, 2014

St. Vincent” is Bill Murray at his absolute best (looking his very worst) in a story that enables him to showcase fully his comedic and dramatic acting skills. Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, “St. Vincent” is a dramedy revolving around a 60-something, down-on-his-luck war vet, Vincent (Bill Murray), and his newly arrived next-door neighbors, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). Melfi’s script is so well-written and delivered, that the film will have you laughing, blushing and, at times, near tears.

St.-Vincent-Poster

When we first meet Vincent he’s had one really bad day. He owes money to his bookie, Zucko (Terrence Howard), is overdrawn on his checking account, and his drinking has truly gotten out of control…to the point of him crashing his car into his house fence when he finally makes it home that evening. Into this chaos enters Maggie and Oliver, who meet Vincent the next morning, right after their movers smash into Vincent’s tree, doing further damage to his car and fence. To say their initial meeting goes badly is putting it mildly. We learn that Maggie is a recently divorced working mom who’s fighting for custody of her 12-year-old son. We see how harried she is as she drops Oliver off at the bus stop for his first day of parochial school and heads off for her new job…one with long hours…at a hospital. Oliver doesn’t fare much better at school. Outside of having the best teacher ever in Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd), he’s bullied and robbed of his cell phone, his pants and shirt, and perhaps most importantly, his house keys. He makes it back to his house, but finds himself seeking refuge in not the most welcoming of homes…Vincent’s. Maggie’s appalled at where Oliver ends up, but there’s not much she can do about it and she and Vincent come to an agreement that Vincent will be Oliver’s official babysitter…for a fee, of course. Although he shouldn’t, Vincent takes Oliver to places a child has no business being, but he also provides some male guidance that Oliver is lacking. In their own way, Vincent and Oliver make quite the pair and come to understand and help one another on a whole other level.

“St. Vincent’s” cast is absolutely terrific. Bill Murray is phenomenal as the ne’er do-well nanny/neighbor. His work with each and every actor is perfection, but never more so than with McCarthy and Jaeden Lieberher, together and separately. McCarthy finally gets to show that she is more than a manic mouth and pratfall diva. “St. Vincent” gives her the opportunity to portray both her feisty and soft sides and she shines. What can one say about Lieberher except ask, “where did he come from?” This year has given us a whole host of outstanding child actors who can really act and certainly Lieberher goes right to the top of that list. There’s nothing precocious or phony about him. His character is an old soul whose politeness grabs you right away. He delivers his lines in such an off the cuff manner, you can’t believe he is this young. It’s Oliver’s relationship with Vincent that really is the movie’s heart. In order for the movie to work, you have to believe in their friendship, and boy, do you ever. One can’t wait to see what the future hold in store for this young actor.

“St. Vincent’s” supporting cast is top-notch. Chris O’Dowd’s Brother Geraghty is the kind of teacher one can only wish for, but he’s not sickingly sweet. He has the right acerbic edge and O’Dowd manages that perfectly.  Naomi Watts has an interesting role as pregnant Russian prostitute/exotic dancer, Daka, who is Vincent’s “girlfriend,” even though he pays her for sex. Watts is very good, but her part isn’t truly necessary. On the plus side, however, her character does add another layer to the development of Vincent’s character. Is Vincent the baby’s father…it’s not clear, but not overly important either.

“St. Vincent” doesn’t always go where you think it’s going…it’s full of surprises throughout…for that matter, so is Bill Murray.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4

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The Monuments Men: Not Monumental Enough—Movie

February 10, 2014

With a top-notch cast of leading men and woman (oh, to be her on the set), the best character actors in the business, a terrific score and a very compelling story, “The Monuments Men” can’t be a complete failure…and it’s not. But it’s not as good as one might expect. Directed by George Clooney with screenplay by Clooney and Grant Heslov based on the book by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter, “The Monuments Men,” is the little-known, but true story of the attempted rescue at the end of WWII, of art stolen by the Nazis during the War, with the goal of returning the art to their respective owners.The Monuments Men poster

Clooney’s character, Frank Stokes, is the driving force behind the mission, who, under the direction of FDR, assembles a team  called the Monuments Men to go to Europe and track down the stolen art. The men are art historians, architects and artists, all pretty much past their fighting prime, but happy and eager to serve. When they get to Europe they find that not only are they trying to recover the stolen art, but they are faced with what has been called  the “Nero Decree”—in which Hitler ordered that if Germany fell, among other things, “All military transport and communication facilities, industrial establishments and supply depots, as well as anything else of value within Reich territory, which could in any way be used by the enemy immediately or within the foreseeable future for the prosecution of the war, will be destroyed.” This decree included the destruction of the stolen art. In addition, Stokes’ team learns that the Russians are keeping whatever art they discover. Thus, there is a sense of urgency to find and protect as much art as they can, including art known to be housed in churches across Europe, saving them from damage during air raids.

All of this sounds like the basis for a terrific film. The problem with “The Monuments Men” is it that it suffers from a wealth of possibilities. Is it a caper/heist film…a comedy…or an action flick? “Monuments Men” really doesn’t know what it wants to be and tries to be all things to all people and ultimately falls short on all levels…save for the acting. All of the actors are very good…we just don’t get enough of each…to care very much about them.

As all the men go through basic training, your first thought is, “oh, no, will this be “Stripes” all over again?” Funny as that film was, fear, not. That doesn’t happen and the film quickly moves on. “The Monuments Men” pairs the characters and follows their stories, with the cast coming together near the film’s conclusion. Bill Murray and Bob Balaban work surprisingly well together as the film’s “odd couple” and most of the film’s humor comes from their interactions. John Goodman works with Jean Dujardin and the two have an easy-going chemistry. Hugh Bonneville’s character is a tortured soul struggling with alcoholism, who views his service as a shot at redemption.  Finally, Matt Damon spends most of his time in France, working with a museum librarian, portrayed by Cate Blanchett, who is helping the Resistance.

What Clooney does capture perfectly are the details of the era and some of those details are horrific. T’hose gruesome details remind you of the war’s horrors. Additionally, the hair, clothing and most especially Alexandre Desplat’s score, couldn’t be better and give the film a very genuine feel.

The real Monuments Men recovered over five million pieces of art as well as a fortune in gold. It’s a story worth telling, but “The Monuments Men” doesn’t do the men justice. This might be one time that the subject is just too big for a movie and might have better served as an HBO series.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Hyde Park on Hudson: Oh, For What It Could Have Been–Movie

December 12, 2012

Hyde Park on HudsonHyde Park on Hudson,” starring Bill Murray as FDR and Laura Linney as his distant cousin, Margaret “Daisy” Stuckley, has some very good performances and what could be an interesting story to tell, but  ultimately falls short.

The film’s main flaws are two-fold—its story-telling technique and an extremely uninteresting main character. The unraveling of events through Daisy’s eyes as well as her voice-over put the audience off at a distance and thus one never really feels engaged or invested.

Directed by Roger Michell and written by Richard Nelson, “Hyde Park on Hudson” deals with two stories—the developing relationship between Daisy and FDR and the first visit to America by British royalty, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in 1939.

Even if you never heard of Daisy, but know of FDR’s predilections, you know where this story is going and it’s boring. Sorry.  Daisy is boring and as portrayed by the usually wonderful Laura Linney, she is even more boring than thought possible.  In real life Eleanor Roosevelt was no beauty, but she was smart and it’s easy to imagine Franklin and Eleanor having a lively conversation. Olivia Williams as Eleanor is striking, and given the spirit she shows in the film I had a hard time understanding the FDR/Daisy attraction.

“Hyde Park on Hudson” comes to life as soon as Samuel West and Olivia Colman as the King and Queen make their entrance. Their scenes together sparkle and are just plain fun to watch. It would be hard for anyone to follow Colin Firth’s footsteps as King George VI in “The King’s Speech,” but Samuel West comes very close. His work with Bill Murray is also wonderful. You can actually feel the relationship developing between the two statesmen, each with challenges of their own to overcome.

And what of Bill Murray as FDR? I didn’t know what to expect. After seeing two other actors take on the FDR role and doing what seemed to be the definitive work–Ralph Bellamy in “Sunrise at Campobello” and Edward Herrmann in “Eleanor and Franklin”—my hopes weren’t very high. But Murray is amazing. He may not have the heft of FDR, but he does capture the spirit about which most of us have read. In short, he is very believable.

Murray and West are so good, I wish “Hyde Park on Hudson” was equal to the task. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

Get Low: Well done—Movie

August 19, 2010

In the beginning of the movie, the term, “get low” is defined as “down to business” and that is what I’ll do. Get Low, directed by Aaron Schneider and written by Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell, is one of the richest movies on the screen today. Brilliant performances, great script, terrific photography and fabulous music, Get Low has it all.

Robert Duvall turns in a spectacular multi-dimensional performance as the mysterious hermit, Felix Bush, but his performance is matched by every person who utters a line in Get Low, including the baby (who may not speak, but has been coaxed to provide the perfect expressions).

In brief, Get Low is the story of Felix’s desire to hold his funeral before he actually dies so he can hear what people have to say about him. His request is spurned by the local minister (Gerald McRaney), but resonates with Frank Quinn (Bill Murray), the town’s undertaker and his ambitious assistant, Buddy Crane (Lucas Black). They turn his idea into a funeral party, where folks come to tell tales they’ve heard over the years about Felix. Not only does the “party” invigorate the town, but ironically, preparing for his funeral seems to give Felix a reason to live. The new spring in his step is also helped by the re-emergence of Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek ), a friend and possibly more, into his life.

This brief synopsis doesn’t do justice to this wonderful film. Scenes with Felix and his long-time friend, Reverend Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobb) are amazing and Murray, Black and Spacek are absolutely magnificent. They all have key scenes with Duvall, and boy, do they rise to his level of excellence. In an interview on Live with Regis and Kelly, Duvall remarked that Bill Murray was one of the few actors coming from Saturday Night Live who was a really good actor. That is evidenced in Murray’s wry, restrained performance.

Filmed primarily in Georgia, the state has never looked better. The original music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, with additional music composed by Jerry Douglas, adds immeasurably to the film.

Come Oscar time, Get Low is sure to be recognized in several categories and justifiably so.

4 nuggets out of 4


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