Tag Archives: bill murray

Bill Murray Shines as ‘St. Vincent’

St_Vincent_posterWelcome back, funny Bill Murray. After several years of making cameos and starring in indie dramas, Murray returns to his roots of comedy in “St. Vincent”, where he plays a cranky old drunk who is saddled with babysitting the son of his new neighbor, played by Melissa McCarthy. Hollywood rookie Theodore Melfi writes and directs.

It is a testament to a film when it can overcome all of its genre clichés and narrative familiarities and still be generally entertaining. “St. Vincent” is pretty standard, as we’ve seen the “grumpy guy bonds with the nerdy young kid and the two go on crazy adventures together” formula numerous times before (“Bad Santa” or “Bad Words”, for example). But in spite of all this, Murray shines in an honest, emotional and at times very funny performance.

Without Murray, chances are this movie would not work, and would have been stuck in the “schmaltzy and overdone” category. However Murray elevates the film with his dry wit, and it is a blast seeing him teach the young boy (played by Jaeden Lieberher) how to gamble on horses, mow dirt patches and stand up to bullies.

Melissa McCarthy, toning down her performance here, gives one of her best performances because she isn’t playing the swearing slob. She portrays a single mother who is simply trying to make a better life for her son, and in that he gets a few chuckles, but for the most part just displays true emotion and relatability.

The strongest points of the film are its opening act and its climax, for two very different reasons. The first scenes when we first meet Murray are genuinely funny and harken back to the golden days of his career. The final minutes of this scene are masterfully acted by the entire cast, especially Murray, who for much of the final scene speaks only with his facial expressions. The scene is very well done and will hit you right in the feels (seriously, I had a lump in my throat).

There is a point about halfway through “St. Vincent”, though, where the film seems to be aware that it is being too goofy and sentimental, and thinks it needs to fix this by adding extreme drama. This would have been fine, except the tone switch comes completely out of left field, and just doesn’t seem natural. Suddenly the movie becomes a dark, almost depressing drama, and it really just felt out of place. This likely falls on the shoulders of rookie director Melfi, but other than this one segment he does a great job mixing emotion and laughs, both with his direction and the script.

“St. Vincent” won’t win any awards for originality, but I really hope it wins something for Murray. He is the reason this film is as good and enjoyable as it is, and he alone is the reason to see this movie. It is an entertaining, multi-layered performance, and every scene he is not in, as few as there are, you notice his absence.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Budapest Hotel’ Is Good, Not Grand

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_PosterIt isn’t too often that you can walk into a movie and know exactly what it is you’re in store for, however you know exactly what you’re getting with a Wes Anderson flick: there will be quick cuts, colorful backdrops and quirky characters. And his newest film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is nothing different.

The film stars Ralph Fiennes as a concierge who teams up with the hotel’s lobby boy to prove his innocence after he is framed for murder. Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldblum also star, with Anderson directing and writing the script.

What makes “Budapest” so much fun is how charming and unique all of its characters are. Ralph Fiennes does a marvelous job as the flamboyant concierge, winning over everyone that he crosses paths with and giving blunt and humorous responses to even the most obscure situations.

While all the members of the cast do a good job, perhaps the best comes from newcomer Tony Revolori, who plays the lobby boy and Fiennes’ right hand man. Revolori has great chemistry and banter with Fiennes, and has a special screen-presence about him.

The film features some great writing by Anderson, and when paired with Fiennes’ performance the film delivers several big laughs. However there are times where there will be something shocking or grim, and the film expects you to laugh at the incident, but all you do is sit there somewhat awkwardly, unsure if it would be socially acceptable to laugh or not. For example a man throws a cat out a window for comedic effect, but you aren’t sure how to react because the characters are giving off different vibes. This happened a couple times and it took me out of the movie for a minute.

The film’s other flaw is the plot isn’t always on a straight line. It starts off in a memory and then goes into two flashbacks more before actually beginning the main story, and then goes off on several tangents that feel unnecessary before finally reaching a climax. Many of these sidetracks were just excuses for Anderson to include his friends in the film, and while it was fun seeing various cameos, it made the film feel a bit longer than it actually is.

In the end, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a good movie, not a grand one. It features numerous fun performances, especially those of Fiennes and Revolori, as well as some clever dialogue and intriguing backdrops. If you’re a casual moviegoer then I say give the film a chance. Sure it has some awkward and abstract features, but when you get down to it, it is a unique and original film, and those are hard to come by nowadays.

Critics Rating: 7/10

‘Monuments Men’ a Big Bowl of Meh



            I personally love historical movies, especially those set in the 1940’s. Seeing as “The Monuments Men” is set in the end of World War II, and boasts an impressive cast that includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Bill Murray, it had all the makings of a fantastic film. Unfortunately, it does not live up to its lofty ambitions.

Directed by and starring Clooney, “Monuments Men” is the true story of a team of artists and architects assigned to find and protect paintings and statues that have been stolen by the Nazis.

The film was originally slated to be released in December of last year; however, it was postponed until this February in order to finish editing the special effects. When a film willingly bows out of Oscar season, it is usually not a great sign. And after seeing the film, my suspicions and worries were justified.

The movie is not awful, but it just falls short on almost every level it was striving for. The trailers implied it was going to be a blend of comedy and drama; that was in fact one of the reasons the movie was delayed, to properly edit the two genres. Every attempt at humor falls flat, or the scenes are just plain unfunny. This is hard to blame on the actors, who feature established comedians such as Murray and Goodman. Instead, the fault lies on the screenplay (written by Clooney and his production partner Grant Heslov), for writing jokes and one-liners that are as stale as a week-old sandwich.

The pacing and narrative are also a large issue. Because there are so many characters in the film, it is hard to feel any real connection to them; it also makes the story arch a little stretched, and thus slow. There are quite a few dull moments in this movie, most of them coming whenever Cate Blanchett’s French art expert is on screen. Her side story however is uninteresting and, for the most part, unneeded.

The film does have some positives. The chemistry between the star studded cast is at times entertaining to watch, and all the actors do seem to try their hardest. The production value and scenery are also very well-done, and at times you are immersed in the ruins of a bombarded, war-torn European city. It was also interesting to see the pictures of the real life Monuments Men at the end of the film.

Its ambitions are large and its intentions are pure, but “The Monuments Men” fails to be anything more than a history lesson, and more often than not it is a pretty boring one. If you are a lover of historical art and monuments, then this may be worth checking out once it hits video. Otherwise this is an ever-so-slightly entertaining, albeit forgettable, George Clooney vehicle.

Critics Rating: 5/10