Posts Tagged ‘bill murray’

isle of dogs

In the Japanese archipelago, 20 years from now, a vicious strain of the Dog Flu has broken out, in order to protect the humans from the flu, the Mayor  of the Prefecture, Mayor Kobayashi , (Kunichi Nomura) has deported all the dogs to Trash Island.  Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) a 12 year old distant relative of the mayor, flies a plane to Trash Island, in search of his dog, Spots. (Liev Schreiber)  The plane crash lands on the island.  The leader of the dogs on Trash Island, Chief (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t trust humans, but decides to rescue Atari.  Atari then sets out to find Spots.

At the prefecture, Professor Watanabe  (Akira Ito) thinks he has come up with a cure to the Dog Flu, but something happens to Watanabe after he eats some sushi.  At the same time, the Mayor finds out that Atari is alive on Trash Island, and he sends his men to find him.  Mayor Takashi easily wins re-election, but exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) suspects a rigged election.  Does Atari find Spots?  Do the Mayor’s men find Atari?  What’s happened to Professor Watanabe?  Is the election on the up and up?

It’s impossible to watch this movie and not draw parallels to the political situation in America over the past two years.  A power hungry politician deports dogs to a distant place in the name of national security.  The election of the politician is called into question, as the politician faces dissension from the populace.  At the heart of it, Isle of Dogs is a story about a boy and his dog,   it’s also story of possible redemption for a jaded dog, who doesn’t like humans very much, and has become something of a recluse.  It’s interesting to see how all the different elements of the story come together in the end of the film.

The acting is very good and it has to be because all the emotions have to be conveyed through the voice.  Kunichi Namora is very good as the corrupt politician, he wants to stay in power at all costs.  Bryan Cranston is excellent as the lead dog, tough on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, yearning for someone to love him.  Koyu Rankin is also good as Atari, vulnerable but determined.  Greta Gerwig was funny as the angry exchange student.

Wes Anderson did a great job directing and co-writing this movie.  The stop motion animation was terrific, the ha;; where Mayor Kobayashi gave the speech reminded me of the scene from Citizen Kane,  where Kane gave a speech, Trash Island was suitably grungy, and the use of symbolism, Atari wearing white, his dog being a white dog, Chief becoming a white dog after Atari gives him a bath, it was all very well done.  The pacing was fast, the performances were good, I don’t know how much of a role Anderson played in that, these are all skilled veteran actors, except for the boy who played Atari. This film and Moonrise Kingdom are his best work to date.

Isle of Dogs:  Biting satire.



st vincent

Vincent (Bill Murray) is a crotchety old man, whose life is taking a downward spiral. He’s an inveterate drinker and gambler, and he’s sleeping with a pregnant Russian prostitute named Daka. (Naomi Watts) Vincent meets his new neighbor, Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) when movers she hired knocks over a tree branch.  Maggie is a medical technician who is also a single mother with a 12 year old son named Oliver. (Jaeden Lieberher) Oliver goes to a Catholic school despite being Jewish, and he’s being bullied by a boy named Ocinski. (Dario Barosso)  During an emergency Maggie asks Vincent to babysit Oliver.  Is Vincent a bad influence on Oliver, or is Oliver a good influence on Vincent?

I didn’t like St Vincent at all.  What I liked least about this movie is that the story was so damn predictable that I knew from the first minute what was going to happen, no suspense, no surprises, the screenplay was basic connect the dots.  There was some phony baloney pathos thrown in for all the characters, but nothing real enough to draw the audience in or make them care.  Why make a Jewish kid go to a Catholic school, except to justify the title of the movie.  It makes no sense.

The acting is just plain awful. Murray plays a grumpy old iconoclast, who the audience is supposed to feel sorry for once the movie unfolds.  But he seems so bored with the screenplay that he can only feign interest in a character not grounded in reality.  Murray has a little trouble with his accent, at first he sounds like he’s from Chicago, then Boston, but I think the story is set in New York.  Poor Naomi Watts, saddled with an awfully written Russian character, forced to do a lousy Russian accent, playing Hollywood’s favorite female character, sadly, that’s a prostitute.  The good news is that Melissa McCarthy has toned down her angry, raging loudmouthed character, the bad news is it doesn’t help the movie at all. The kid who plays Oliver is cute and precocious, but what 12 year old gives an adult life advice?  Not many.

The director, who has  mostly directed short films before this got a restrained performance from McCarthy, which is an improvement, but he gets a comatose performance from Murray, which was not great.  And he uses a montage in the firm, one of my least favorite movie techniques.

St Vincent:  Murray doesn’t deserve top Bill-ing anymore.


Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is a Harvard art conservationist, who sees the great art of the world being stolen by the Nazis in World War II.  Germany wants to build a museum if the Fuhrer, filled with the stolen artwork from the Louvre.  He brings the story of the art theft to FDR, (Michael Dalton) who in turn asks Stokes to go into Europe, and recover the stolen art.  Stokes puts together a team of older art experts, James Granger (Matt Damon) Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) Walter Garfield (John Goodman) Preston Savitz, (Bob Balaban)  a Frenchman, Jean Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and an Englishman, Donald Jeffries. (Hugh Bonneville) The group must join the army and follow patrols into German cities as they fall.  Granger has to find Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) who probably knows more about the stolen art than anyone in France, but Claire is not talking, because she has been jailed by the French for being a collaborator and doesn’t trust anyone.  The mission takes place with the Nazis in retreat in 1944, but the mission is still fraught with danger.  Jeffries loses his life guarding the Bruges Madonna in Belgium, and what starts as a mission to save the greatest artwork in history, becomes a mission of life and death. Stokes think he knows where the art is kept, but when he gets to the first city in Germany where he thinks the art is kept, there are no art pieces to be found.  Where in Germany is the art being kept?  Can James Granger get any information from Claire Simone?

I have mixed feelings about The Monuments Men, it is an interesting story, one that I knew nothing about, but there doesn’t seem to be enough of a story to sustain two hours of filmmaking, so there are points where the movie drags.  The cast tries to fill the slow spots with comedy, but World War II is still a very serious topic, so there is a limit to how much comedy they can put in a movie like this.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of conflict in the film, the Monuments Men seemingly cruised through Germany with little resistance or hardship of any kind.  With no conflict, there’s no real emotional hook to this movie, it’s a hybrid, it tries to be a movie about art and culture, but it also tries to be a war movie.  But it’s not Schindler’s List, or Saving Private Ryan, or the Great Escape or Stalag 17, it’s not even Inglorious Basterds.

The story is not cohesive, that is both the writer and director’s fault, and since both are George Clooney, he has to shoulder the blame for it. The story skips from the hunt for the art to the subplot between Claire and James, which features a clumsy attempt at romance, which detracts from the main plot, which is not that strong in the first place.

The cast is excellent, they make the material better than it is.  I don’t like Clooney’s dull monotone delivery, but even he has a good scene interrogating a Nazi officer about the lost art, and the officer’s participation in concentration camps.  Matt Damon is very good as Granger, the man trying to cajole information from Claire. Cate Blanchett is good, as Claire, a sweet, librarian type, who has lost her ability to trust.  John Goodman, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and Jean Dujardin all add comedic flourishes, and make the movie more enjoyable than the material.

I would say this is a good movie to rent, but not good enough for a trip to the theater.

The Monuments Men.  Not Monumental.


Movie Review: Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

Posted: September 7, 2013 in Drama

hyde park on hudson

In 1939,Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) prepares to host the British King George (Samuel West) and his wife Elizabeth (Olivia Colman)  to Hyde Park for a mini summit about the state of the world in wartime.  Edward wants the US to help England and join the war, FDR has many isolationists that he must convince in America, before he can get involved in WW II.  FDR invites his fifth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney) to join him in Hyde Park, and soon they are constant companions.  Is there more to their relationship than meets the eye?  Does Edward convince FDR that entering WWII is a worthwhile pursuit?

I did not like Hyde Park on Hudson at all.  This movie only seems intent on defaming FDR, as a serial philanderer, and feckless husband who has to deal not only with an overbearing wife, but also an overbearing mother as well.  Roosevelt happens to be a political hero of mine for many reasons.  He won WWII as Commander in Chief, got the economy out of the Great Depression, and did all this while suffering from polio, which he had to hide from the press and public.  Social Security, a cornerstone of Roosevelt’s New Deal, is still with us today.  Like him or not, he fundamentally changed America, and he doesn’t deserve that tabloid hatchet job that this movie turns out to be. Whatever they do to FDR, they treat Eleanor even worse.  The movie makers treat Mrs. Roosevelt with disdain because she wanted to be inclusive of people who had been left out of the political process, and because she is a strong-minded independent woman with opinions of her own.  She should be lauded for her outspokenness and inclusiveness, not condemned for it.  The trailer made it seem like it would be a light-hearted comedic film about a meeting between the king and President, it was anything but, the characters are anything but likeable and the movie on the whole left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

The acting is horrendous.  I like Bill Murray, in both his dramatic and comedic roles, but Roosevelt had an upstate New York patriarchal voice, and whatever Murray was trying to do with his voice, it didn’t work, and proved to be more of a distraction than anything else.  Olivia Williams, who plays Eleanor is a Brit, and her accent seeped through her delivery a couple of times.  So there was the battle of the accents, Murray trying to put one on, Williams trying to take one off, it was troublesome.  Samuel West brings some much needed levity to the proceedings, but really overemphasizes the stuttering.   See The King’s Speech if you want to see the definitive movie about King George.   Olivia Colman plays Elizabeth as a relentless nag, and that gets old fast.  Laura Linney plays Daisy as a doormat, a wet dishrag that doesn’t inspire much interest.

The direction yields a few interesting shots of FDR and Daisy in the countryside, among the wildflowers, but overall the pacing is slow and ponderous.

Hyde Park On Hudson:  The only thing you have to fear is…watching this film.