Tag Archives: bill murray

The Jungle Book – Review

23 Apr

My childhood, along with most I would assume, was spent watching classic Disney movies on VHS. I’m sure you can remember the ones that opened like a book and had the white lining. Ahhh, the sweet smell of nostalgia. I’m all for a good, heaping dose of nostalgia from time to time, but I feel like we’ve become a generation where a large percent of the box office leans on that very same idea of hearkening back to our childhood. That’s why I was skeptical of Disney’s live action remake of The Jungle Book. It may be one of the most beloved children’s cartoons of all time, which made me think this was just another cash grab. When I say I couldn’t have been more wrong, I mean that it may be the wrongest I’ve ever been in my life. So far, I’m considering The Jungle Book one of the best movies of 2016.

The_Jungle_Book_(2016)

Deep in the jungle, a young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by a pack of noble wolves while also being trained in the ways of the jungle by the wise black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). During a time of peace, the vengeful tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) discovers Mowgli living with the wolves and vows that when the time of peace is over he will kill the young man cub in retaliation for the burns he received to his face by man. This forces the wolves, Bagheera, and Mowgli to decide it would be safest for Mowgli to leave the jungle and return to the human village. While on their journey Mowgli meets a lovable, but scheming bear named Baloo (Bill Murray), who joins the quest to bring Mowgli to the village. Dangers lurk around every corner though as Mowgli is threatened by elements such as the snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the megalomaniacal King Louie (Christopher Walken), and the ever lurking presence of Shere Khan.

While The Jungle Book tells a classic story that has been told time and time again, this version, directed by the great Jon Favreau, focuses mainly on retelling the 1967 animated Disney film. That makes sense, really, since this is also made by Disney. This version of the film, however, immerses you into the story, the characters, and the environment like no other telling. The CGI in this movie is mind blowing which makes it hard for me to say that this isn’t a live action movie. It feels so much like watching a completely live action film, even though 95% of it was shot over a green screen and edited into the movie. The jungle in this movie lives and breathes and becomes an essential character all its own. Meanwhile, characters we’ve known since our childhood come to life like they never have before.

jungle-book-2016-kaa-mowgli-johansson

While the CGI is fantastic and the characters all look great, they wouldn’t be nearly as life like if it wasn’t for the excellent voice work. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Bill Murray as Baloo are so accurately casted and work very well together as two opposites working very hard towards the same goal. They have great banter and read the lines very well. The scene stealer, unsurprisingly, is Idris Elba as the terrifying Shere Khan. There were a few kids in my theater who didn’t last ten minutes once Shere Khan went onscreen, and I can’t really blame them. Elba is just fantastic. Neel Sethi is a great find to play Mowgli, and Christopher Walken sounds like he’s having the time of his life playing King Louie. The only person who I feel was underutilized was Scarlett Johansson as Kaa. She only had one scene to really do anything, and while she played the part very well she just wasn’t in it enough.

What really drives The Jungle Book into the realm of greatness is the feeling of adventure that’s present throughout the entire film. This is a story of growth and learning, heroes and villains, and most importantly it’s a whole lot of fun. There wasn’t a frame in this movie that bored me. Even if the story was slowing down a little bit, there was always something gorgeous to look at onscreen. It’s important to note that while this is a festival of CGI, the film uses the effects to tell the story instead of making the movie about the effects.

The Jungle Book is the first movie of 2016 that made me just feel really excited. This is one of those movies that reminded me why I love film so much in the first place. The effects are out of this world, and speaking of out of this world, so is the cast of voice actors. I never thought in a million years I would love this movie as much as I did, but as of right now it’s my favorite movie of 2016. Do not miss this one.

Advertisements

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Review

20 Mar

Personally, I believe that Wes Anderson is a genius when it comes to film, although I’m sure many would disagree with me. The way he writes, builds characters, and composes shots are just some of the most brilliant examples of film making as an art that I have ever seen. From Bottle Rocket to Moonrise Kingdom, there has not been one film of Anderson’s that I have disliked. Now there’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that shows Anderson’s growth as a film maker and can and will be labeled as his masterpiece.

the-grand-budapest-hotel-poster-2

 

In the fictional European region of Zubrowka lies the Grand Budapest Hotel that is run by the oddball concierge Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), who spends most of his free time giving sermons to the employees during dinner and sleeping with the old women who come to the hotel, with a special relationship that forms with Madame D. (Tilda Swinton in some ridiculous makeup). When Madame D. turns up dead, Gustave enlists the help of his new friend and lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) to go to her estate to hear her will. When it is revealed that an extraordinarily valuable painting is left to him, her son Dmitri (Adrian Brody) and his assassin friend J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe) start a quest to reclaim the painting, while Gustave and Zero have to work to clear the concierge’s name after he is accused of Madame D.’s murder.

This was one of the most difficult summaries I’ve had to write because so many characters do so many things over the course of the film. This films shows Anderson stepping completely outside his comfort zone and making a much bigger story, all while keeping his trademark visual style. One of the most interesting aspects of The Grand Budapest Hotel are the constant allusions and allegories to the start of Nazism and the early invasions that sparked World War II. Wes Anderson does this in such a way that is humorous in his own quirky way. The Nazis aren’t Nazis (aptly being called the “Zig Zag Party”), but we all know who they really represent.

grandbudapesthotel-2

 

The cast in this movie could be described as remarkable, but that would truly be an understatement. Ralph Fiennes shows true comedic timing that was only briefly seen in his small, villainous role in In Bruges. Now he gets to show it off in it’s full potential. Newcomer Tony Revolori seems to have been made to be in a Wes Anderson film, and I’m excited to see where his career goes. Brody and Dafoe are comically evil and provide some of the funniest scenes in the movie. I could go on and on about this cast, but there isn’t enough time to talk about everyone. Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Harvey Keitel and others all bring their A-game here, and while their roles may be small, they use whatever screen time they have to help make The Grand Budapest Hotel as memorable as it is.

How could I not mention how beautiful this movie looks. Every one of Anderson’s movies surprise me somehow. The awesome viewpoint of seeing every room of the boat in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou to his stop motion landscapes in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson has one of the best eyes in modern day film making, and is part of why he really is a genius. The Grand Budapest Hotel shows some of the best examples of his obsessive mise-en-scène. The perfect camera swivels and the blocking of its various different characters in relation to each other makes this one of the most picturesque films I’ve ever seen. Some shots look like they could have come out of a post card or a painting.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is nothing short of a masterpiece, and pretty much the ultimate Wes Anderson movie in terms of dialogue, character, themes, and visuals. I hope in the deepest parts of my hearts that this movie will still be remembered long enough for nods at next year’s Academy Awards. This is a beautiful movie that is well worth a trip to the theaters. I’d say two trips to the theaters. Maybe eight…

Moonrise Kingdom – Review

30 Oct

Wes Anderson is one of those film makers that I trust will always make a good movie. His style inspires my own style of writing. I didn’t get a chance to see Moonrise Kingdom in theaters, but I have to say that it was worth the wait. This is the best movie he has made since The Royal Tenenbaums, and one that will stay with you for a long time.

 

In the summer of 1965, the small New England island of New Penzance is thrown through a loop when two young children in love Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), run away together. Now it’s up to the eccentric townsfolk to find them before the worst storm to ever hit New Penzance hits. Sam and Suzy give them a run for their money showing the adults that love, no matter how young, is still strong.

This is kind of a bad summary because this isn’t a very easy move to explain in just a few sentences. There’s the main plot with the two children running away, but the story of everyone on the island is just as interesting. Each and every character has their own sets of personal problems that make them eccentric and unforgettable. For a Wes Anderson movie, I had very little trouble connecting with these characters and feeling the dysfunction.

 

Part of me being able to connect with the characters has a lot to do with the performances. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand have the exact brand of awkward chemistry that is needed for a couple growing further and further apart. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are the scene stealers as the two authority figures who just don’t have the ability to keep everything under control. Finally, in a small but worthwhile role, Jason Schwartzman rounds up the laughs as a Khaki Scout who knows exactly how the system works. It’s a motley of characters that mesh very well. Even Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward do a fine job, if not a bit too deadpan.

And of course, there’s no way I can talk about any Wes Anderson movie and not talk about the impeccable composition of the shots. Every shot is so symmetrical. Even if a character is placed at the left side of the screen, the use of empty space is experimented with so well that nothing seems uneven. Along with the composition are the colors and costume design. This all fits into the idiosyncratic style of Wes Anderson that makes all of his movies special.

 

I’m not quite sure if I can call Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson’s best movie, but it definitely ranks in the top tier. It’s a surprisingly hopeful movie amongst all the melancholy, which is a bit of a change for this director. It’s a great conglomeration of characters, stories, and messages that are both funny and tragic. I don’t just like Moonrise Kingdom, I love Moonrise Kingdom.

Ghostbusters & Ghostbusters 2 – Review

16 Oct

We all know who to call if something strange ever happens in your neighborhood, thank goodness. The Ghostbusters movies are iconic when it comes to comedy, and for good reason, too. They are a perfect blend of quick humor and special effects driven story telling. Is one better than the other? Absolutely right, but make no mistake, you can’t go wrong with either one.

 

Doctors Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Akroyd), and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) are scientists working in the parapsychology department at Columbia University. After their funding is cut, they decide to go freelance as the Ghostbusters. Their job is to hunt down specters who are giving people a hard time, trap them, and detain them.  When cellist Dana Barrett (Sigourny Weaver) finds out that her fridge is also a portal used by an inter dimensional demigod called Zuul, it is up to the Ghostbusters to stop Zuul and the god Gozer from entering our world and destroying it.

Something that is really great about this movie is that, yes, it is a comedy but it also takes itself very seriously as a supernatural movie. The plot line behind Gozer, Zuul, and the portal in Barrett’s fridge is actually very well written and has cool mythology behind it. I would have no problem sitting down with someone and talking about Gozerians. I would have just as much fun talking about that as I would talking about Middle Earth.

 

Murray, I think, steals the show when it comes to the performances. His whip sharp delivery and dry speaking voice will steal laughter from the coldest of souls. Harold Ramis and Dan Akroyd, who also wrote the screenplay, have great chemistry as the true believers of this science and it’s so much fun to listen to them talk in their paranormal jargon. Another performance I’d like to mention is Slavitza Jovan’s as Gozer. She’s only in it for a very short amount of time, but she looks menacing as hell and her androgynous appearance makes her a villain to be remembered.

The original Ghostbusters can easily be put on anyone’s best comedies list. The story and dialogue are equally strong, while the special effects look great but never get in the way of the story. I’ve loved this movie for as long as I can remember, and it’s clearly present why I do. Missing this movie is a crime.

In 1989, Ghostbusters 2 was released with all of the major casts returning to reprise their beloved roles from the first film. What could go wrong? Evidently a fair amount of things, but this is still a good movie.

 

Five years after the events of the first film, the Ghostbusters have long since been put out of business. Venkman runs a show about psychics, Egon is a scientist at Columbia once again, Stantz owns a paranormal shop, and Winston (Ernie Hudson)  works with Stantz appearing as an act at parties. The group has to once again reassemble when the spirit of a seventeenth century Carpathian tyrant, Lord Vigo, haunts a painting at the Manhattan Museum of Art. On top of that there is a river of slime flowing through the depths of the city and Dana Barrett’s baby is in danger of possession by Lord Vigo.

The movie starts off strong with a paranormal occurrence involving Dana’s baby, and the disbanding of the Ghostbusters makes us even more excited to see them get back together. When they do, they come out with proton packs blazing and as exciting as ever. Still, I felt like something was missing from this installment. The plot with Gozer was interesting, while I wasn’t too involved with Vigo. The slime under the city is much more interesting as it feeds off the positive and negative moods that New York City radiates. That’s cool.

 

The comedy is definitely not as sharp as it was in the original. My favorite part was when the Ghostbusters are imitating New York City construction workers. That was an excellent lampoon that makes me laugh every time. Bill Murray isn’t as sarcastic in this one and the other guys don’t really get many funny lines. They all seem to be more focused on Murray, which sort of makes sense, but I’d rather see everyone get big laughs.

There are some parts of this movie that seem like they’re jut rehashing the same things they did in the first one. The Statue of Liberty is pretty much the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Strangely enough, this film has also aged much worse than the first. The classic theme song has been replaced with a rap remix that just screams 80s cheese. Stick to the normal song, please.

This isn’t a bad movie. Don’t get me wrong. It could’ve just been better. There wasn’t enough ghost busting and things seemed recycled. Rick Moranis, who plays my favorite character, gets some more screen time and a potential relationship that could have been played out more. This is still a worthwhile movie if you’re a fan of the first and is still part of the films’ narrative canon.

In summation, you got to love the Ghostbusters. These movies are classic comedy films that have, for the most part, stood the test of time. If you haven’t seen these movies, check them out. They can be enjoyed by kids, teens, and adults. They’re a lot of fun and I can’t wait for Ghostbusters 3.