Tag Archives: Bill Murray

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day has recently been resurrected as a Broadway musical, and Bill Murray went to see it on Tuesday. And Bill Murray went to see it on Wednesday. Is Bill Murray fucking with us?

By all accounts he enjoyed the show, laughing and pumping his fist during musical numbers. Not all of us are destined for NYC this summer, but the good news is, you can catch Groundhog Day pretty much any old time, and here are but a few reasons why you should revisit this classic over and over again.

  1. Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role but realized Hanks was “too nice” and went knocking elsewhere. Michael Keaton turned it down. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Howie Mandel, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and John Travolta were also considered before Bill Murray was cast.
  2. Harold Ramis has a cameo in the film as Phil’s neurologist. Also appearing, if you shannon-groundhog-day.jpgwatch dedicatedly enough: Michael Shannon in his big screen debut – he’s Fred, one of half of the young couple who’s supposed to get married that day.
  3. Although a family of groundhogs was raised specifically for this movie, when Bill Murray was severely bitten not once, but twice, he had to receive rabies treatment, which are rather painful injections.
  4. Although set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the film was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just 50 miles from Murray’s hometown, Wilmette. Tourism in Punxsutawney spiked after the film’s release, but it’s in Wilmette where you’ll find a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Phil continually steps in a puddle, and another marked “Ned’s Corner” where Phil perpetually meets Ned the insurance salesman (Stephen Tobolowsky).
  5. There are 38 days depicted partially or in full in the movie. Ramis said originally he wanted about 10 000 years worth of days and ended up with what he considers to be a decade’s worth which is still a really, really, sad, lonely long time to be reliving the same day.
  6. Bill Murray was offered a “spit bucket” for the scene in which he gorges on pastries. That was a terrifically bad idea on his part…guess who got a tummy ache?
  7. In one scene, Phil throws the alarm clock, destroying it. In real life, Murray’s throw did little to damage the thing so the crew took baseball bats to it to smash it up. And yes, it really did keep playing that stupid song, just like in the movie.
  8. Murray was going through a divorce at the time and compensated by becoming obsessed with the movie, calling up Ramis with all kinds of questions. Ramis tired of it and sent the writer (Danny Rubin) to sit down with him and iron out all the wrinkles. This caused a rift in their friendship – Murray didn’t speak to Ramis for many years.
  9. When Phil is at the piano teacher’s house, it’s actually Bill Murray playing. He can’t read music but plays by ear, and learned that passage by heart to play it in the movie. [It’s Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini, fyi]
  10. Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky have all served as honourary Grand Marshals in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  11. In Swedish, the movie’s title is translated as “Monday Every Day” – although in 1993, when the movie came out, Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday. The specific day of the week is not mentioned in the film.
  12. In once scene, Phil throws himself from a bell tower. The building is actually the opera house in Woodstock, Illinois, where local legend has it that the ghost of a young girl haunts the building ever since she fell off a balcony section and died.
  13. uxyA34o.gifThe famous line “Don’t drive angry!” was improvised by Murray when the groundhog in his lap was aggressively trying to escape by climbing over the steering wheel. [Yes, this was one of the times when Bill got bit]
  14. In the final shot, we see Phil carry Rita over the gate before climbing over it himself. This may seem romantic but was unscripted: in real life, the gate was simply frozen shut.
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Stripes

Stripes came out before I was born, but it’s still a good source of inspired team work between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. 10 fun facts about a classic comedy:

 

  1. Ivan Reitman and Dan Goldberg wrote the movie specifically for Cheech and Chong. When their manager demanded way too much money, they took out (most) of the pot humour, found the script got smarter, and flagged down Bill Murray to star. Judge Reinhold, in his first film appearance, gets what little remained of the weed jokes.
  2. Bill Murray only came aboard about 2 weeks before filming began. He didn’t show up to set until the 3rd day of filming because he’d been following his precious Chicago Cubs around the country. In the very first scene shot, in which he grabs LxxsQSI.gifheavy luggage out of a trunk, he genuinely injured himself and his exclamation “Oh my balls!” is the real deal.
  3. Bill Murray insisted that Harold Ramis should be tapped to play his best bud. They were friends in real life of course, but Murray also wanted Ramis’s help in re-writing dialogue, the better to improvise with. Dennis Quaid was auditioned by the studio to play Ramis’s part. He was married to P.J. Soles at the time. If you squint hard, you can spot him as an extra in the graduation scene.
  4. Soles’ part was meant to have been played by Kim Basinger but she too wanted too much money, so the part went to Soles who had just finished shooting Private Benjamin in which she wore the exact same uniform.
  5. The department of defense for some reason approved of the film. They not only let them film at Fort Knox, they allowed soldiers to be extras. A real army barber buzzed all the men, who had not been told how short their haircuts would be. John Candy was particularly depressed. Murray and Ramis being the “stars” got to keep theirs a little longer.
  6. The cast and crew had a 2-week drinking binge when they found out John Lennon had died.
  7. John Larroquette ad-libbed the line “I wish I was a loofah” and then had to explain to director Ivan Reitman what a loofah was.
  8. A 9-minute scene in which they drop acid and parachute out of a plane was filmed but cut – BUT is included on the DVD extras.
  9. John Candy wasn’t well known; he bonded with the cast by inviting them over for spaghetti and to watch the Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight.
  10. When Bill Murray shouts  “But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re ten and one!” – the last is a thinly-veiled reference to Vietnam, written by Ramis.

The Jungle Book

I hate being right.

Haha, okay, no I don’t. I love it. I knew I’d hate this movie, I avoided it like I feared it might give me Zika, and when I finally did break down and watch (because it was the fare being offered on the first night of drive-in season), I hated it even more than I’d anticipated. That uptick is maybe partially your The-Jungle-book5fault. It’s received some fairly positive reviews so I had hope that it wasn’t as bad as my gut was telling me. But now I know the truth: either the movie-going public are idiots, or they talk up a bad movie in order to trick others into paying to see it too, thus assuaging their guilt and annoyance at having sat through it themselves.

Self-righteous, much? Yes, I enjoy being that too. But I truly did loathe this movie. I had little to no interest in seeing this movie and was relieved when Matt said he’d cover it for us (being a boy scout, he felt he had some personal connection to the material). But guess what? Matt never saw it, the chump, and he’s left it to me to attack people’s childhoods. I can only assume that’s what it’s about. I don’t have any warm fuzzy feelings attached to the 1967 animated version of this one. I could have hummed some of the bars of the more popular songs, but couldn’t have told you the plot. But the minute  I heard it was live-action, I was out. Forget it. Realistic-looking animals that still for some reason talk? I couldn’t fathom how this would be done well.

Neither could Jon Favreau, as it turns out. And the thing about realistic-lookingThe-Jungle-Book-Special-Shoot_SHERE-KHAN_max-620x600 animals is that they’re still cartoons. They’re very accurate, very expensive cartoons, but it’s just some fancy animation that makes it harder for me to anthropomorphize but doesn’t stop them from breaking out into song. The tiger is so menacing looking you can practically smell the rotting meat caught between his yellowed 3-inch teeth, yet he has the velvety smooth voice of Idris Elba. Bill Murray was a nice choice for the more playful Baloo, but let’s remember that Baloo is still a bear. A sloth bear, sure, but a bear’s a bear. Sloth bears are usually known to be docile for a bear, but they’ll still attack humans who encroach upon their living space, and Mowgli doesn’t just encroach, he fucking rides him! And thejunglebook56b918f52fcee+%25281%2529then there’s King Louie, the big-ass scary mother fucking ape. Modeled after Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz, King Louie is a gigantopithecus, an ancestor of the orangutan, who in real life would have been about 10 feet tall and over 1000lbs. He’s hostile AF but he’s oddly voiced by Christopher Walken. Now, I love Walken almost as much as his mother does, but it was a weird and jarring choice. King Louie is scary, but Walken’s voice is far from it. He’s got the voice of a stand-up comedian or a jazz band leader, it’s one of the most recognizable voices out there, and it didn’t belong to this ape. And then he breaks out into a show tune, which is NOT something Colonel Kurtz would be caught dead doing, so the tone of the movie just falls apart like the chain falling off of a bicycle, and the whole thing just stinks. Stinks! And not just because it’s a temple full of monkeys.

So why bother making a “live-action” version of the movie when there’s only a single live thing about it? Neel Sethi as little Mowgli is pretty charming, but he never met a single animal during the filming of The Jungle Book – which is a good thing, because seeing a small boy in the arms of how-the-beautiful-visual-reality-of-the-jungle-book-was-made-on-an-la-sound-stage-954479a black panther makes most adults want to scream “Run you little idiot!” In fact,  Jim Henson’s Creature Shop was brought in to make puppets for Sethi to act against, but those were completely replaced with CGI versions later. And as for the lush Indian landscape, it’s 100% phony too. The whole thing was filmed on a back lot in smoggy Los Angeles with a blue screen and some Styrofoam painted to look like jungle.

Tonnes of people loved this movie and I’m not one of them. If you’re going to maxresdefaultgive me talking animals, that’s fine, but they’d better also have careers and pants and fart jokes. If an animal looks real and normally eats people, I don’t want to see him dancing around with a man-cub. I have zero tolerance for this movie and as far as I’m concerned, King Louie can kiss my ass.

A Very Murray Christmas

AVeryMurrayChristmas_posterLet’s get one thing straight: this isn’t Scrooged, the redux. It’s a plotless variety show without a lot of variety, but it’s got Bill Goddamned Fucking Murray, so what else do you want?

It’s Christmas Eve and Murray is contractually obligated to put on a Christmas special live from the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. He’s in no position to be doing such a thing and the show is doomed to hell, but so what? His piano accompanist is Paul Shaffer, for crying out loud. How bad could it be?

Well, as Amy Poehler and Julie White come bustling into his room to assuage his pre-show jitters\brow-beat him into meeting his obligations, it would seem that they are worried too. There’s a blizzard blanketing NYC, and none of the celebrity guests have shown up. No guests at all, actually, except for Michael Cera, playing a slimy talent agent desperate to sign Murray (who is famous in real life from being unrepresented).

Murray starts off singing dejectedly but can’t even finish his first song. NEN1NCNECeZIRU_1_bThe special’s a disaster! But wait! Who’s that sight for sore eyes revolving through the door? Why it’s none other than Chris Rock, here mistakenly, but here nonetheless, and despite his vehement refusals, he gets emotionally manipulating into joining the live broadcast. Singing ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ as a duet, Murray and Rock are one of the highlights of the show. In a special that’s not even an hour long, Chris Rock proves he may not be a singer but he is indeed an actor; the reluctance to join in spackled across his slowly turns into Christmas cheer as the joy of the song spreads to his heart…until the power goes out, and he takes the opportunity to make his escape.

“Force Majeure!” cry his cheeky producers. The contract taken care of by an act of god, White and Poehler hoof it out of there too, leaving Murray to mope around a nearly-deserted hotel where he comes across a sobbing bride (Rashida Jones) and her wobbly wedding cake. Dream wedding ruined, no guests in sight, no preacher to marry them, and a 90bunch of lobsters going bad, she and her groom (Jason Schwartzman) have fought.

Never fear: when not hosting Christmas specials, Bill Murray also proffers marital counselling, and so in he goes to save the day, and spark up some more “impromptu” holiday tunes. Jenny Lewis playing a waitress is on hand to do the lady part of ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’, everyone’s favourite date-rape carol, and the band Phoenix is conveniently on hand pretending to be kitchen staff to back up several more ditties, so that Jason Schwartzman can prove there is a worse singer in this thing than Chris Rock.

And then Maya Rudolph shows up playing a washed up lounge singer, and holy hell, she just puts them all to shame. She belts out a ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ so good that even Darlene Love would approve (she sang that song on Letterman every Christmas since 1986 except for the writer’s strike in 2007 – this will be her first year without, since Dave is retired). It’s not surprising that Rudolph is amazing: she is, after all, daughter to soul singer Minnie Riperton and composer-songwriter Richard Rudolph. Oh, and granddaughter of Teena Marie. She’s got chops, plus extra credentials for often impersonating Beyonce on SNL, and for playing in a Prince cover band called Princess. And I’ve got a huge crush on her.

Then the action mysteriously leaves the Carlyle Hotel for a decked-out maxresdefaultsoundstage in New Jersey, where two new guest stars join the festivities: Miley Cyrus, cheating on her own cameo in The Night Before, and George Clooney to mix the martinis. An unlikely pair? If you say so!

I wish I could find something to be grumpy about with Miley’s performance, but the truth is, she sounds good. Perched atop Shaffer’s bill-murray-miley-cyrus-george-clooney-netflix-christmas-specialpiano, Silent Night is rendered faithfully, although there’s probably a little too much leg for the holy parts. The real surprise, and delight, is when Clooney pipes up during ‘Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin.’ Is the world ready for this side of George Clooney? Unfortunately he flashes a lot less leg, but he does look awfully dapper in his suit.

Anyway, director Sofia Coppola did quite a job of rounding up a slew of stars and dipping them in Christmas coating. You can play a real game of celebrity bingo, as you’ll see in the comments. There’s no plot, no story, no moral: just a lot of the ever-charming Bill Murray. It’s available on Netflix and it’s the kind of thing you can easily just put on in the background while you do some holiday baking or cleaning or wrapping, or better yet – some imbibing.

Cheers.

 

 

 

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

rockthekasbah_review_article32BC796E300000578-0-image-a-1_1440879836035Rock The Kasbah: a has-been (never was?) agent (Billy Murray) decides to cash in on his one remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) and have her tour the USO circuit in Afghanistan. A panic attack has her taking off with his cash and passport, which means he’s stuck in the middle east with his thumb up his ass. He meets a number of expats – Scott Caan and Danny McBride are war profiteers, Kate Hudson is a very profitable hooker, and Bruce Willis is “Bombay Brian” – but none are overly helpful (unless you count being hog-tied in a Marilyn Monroe wig, which I don’t) and some are down right exploitative. But then he comes across big talent (Leem Lubany) in a small cave in Kabul, and convinces her to seek fame and fortune on Afghan Star (their American Idol). The Rock-the-Kasbah-review-Billonly problem: women in her culture are forbidden to sing, or to even remove the face covering that would allow her to do so. Critics are savaging this as a one-note performance and I suppose they’re right. I kinda loved it though. I love Bill Murray, and I liked Kate Hudson very much in this too. I wish we could have seen more of Deschanel but Lubany was such an interesting discovery I couldn’t help but root for her.

Zooey Deschanel interviews Palestinian co-star Leem Lubany here.

Our Brand is Crisis: Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton play fictionalized versions of American political analysts brought in to our-brand-is-crisishelp rival parties during a Bolivian presidential election (based on a true story and a documentary of the same name). This movie goes straight to a cynic’s heart, not even bothering to pretend that politics are remotely about doing good or making change, or that elections are the will of the people. They have no respect for the electorate they manipulate so easily. I’m not always crazy about Bullock but she’s better in this than I’ve seen her before. Her talents are harnessed effectively, her comedic timing not wasted on idiotic movies nobody would ever watch if it wasn’t for cross-Atlantic flights (and this role was converted for her – it was originally intended for  man). That said, there’s a little something lacking in Our Brand is Crisis. It’s not biting enough. You can’t make a political satire and then go limp.

Burnt: the Assholes were busy dancing with Dan Aykroyd so we passed our screener tickets along to a couple of conscripted assholes, Justin and Ben.  When I asked Justin what he thought 01-bradley-cooper-burnt-kitchen-in-movieabout the movie, about a nasty chef played by Bradley Cooper, he said “It was good.” So what do you think? Does he have what it takes to become a permanent Asshole? When prodded for further detail, he called it “decent”, which in a way is a win because half of all of Justin’s movie reviews consist of him making the retching throw up sound, but it’s also a loss because what he means is: it’s fine. If you’re curious to see Cooper play an asshole, then rent it when it comes out on DVD, but don’t waste your money on this one.

A little light incest

hyde-park-on-hudson-MOVIE-reviewI just watched Hyde Park on Hudson, in which the fabulous Bill Murray plays president Franklin Roosevelt, who engaged in an affair with his cousin Daisy (Laura Linney), among many others (women, not cousins. as far as I know).

FDR was a powerful man and president and Bill Murray manages to show his loneliness and sadness without giving up his strength. Linney and Murray embrace the occasional absurdity of their situation, Daisy realizing, while giving ole FDR a handie in the car, that they are not just 5th cousins “but also really good friends.” Ahem.

During this time period, FDR is visited at his vacation estate not just by the many women he’s hyde-park-on-hudson-movie-clip-screenshot-king-eats-hotdog_largefucking, but also by King George and his wife. A “social” rather than official visit, the royals hope the USA will commit to helping them in the war against Germany. In turn, the Roosevelts feed them hotdogs, and created a scandal with bigger headlines than Hitler was currently enjoying.

Although rooted in fact, this isn’t Lincoln. It’s a comedy. Murray shows a lot of range and gives us a very interesting portrait of a man who is historically significant but also just a man. The performances are good but I’m not sure the movie really conveys anything fair or enlightening about the events. But who cares, it’s Bill Murray!

daa46d65a1e5004f284bf0681b3a7e57What’s your absolute favourite Bill Murray movie?

 

 

 

What About Bob

5b1d9c22c932a39e5ba226ef24166eadBob (Bill Murray), a needy neurotic and narcissist, is thrown for a loop when his therapist (Richard Dreyfuss) goes on vacation. Unable and unwilling to take no for an answer, Bob tracks Dr. Leo to his lakeside cottage and imposes himself the family.

Sean and I are off to the cottage this weekend and we intend to have a lot more relaxation and a lot less surprise guests. Of course, if a client of mine did show up unexpectedly, it wouldn’t go quite like it does in the movie. Bob is not charismatic, he’s obnoxious and self-centered. And sure Dr. Leo’s a dick, but Bob could be dangerous and has already proven himself to be a liar and a stalker. Not only is it inappropriate for Bob to show up, it’s also strictly against the rules. I would be calling the cops. Sean would not be bonding with him under any circumstance. This movie really riles me up in between bouts of cracking me up.

While I find this movie professionally disturbing, I also find it hilarious, because: Bill Murray. I love Bill Murray. He’s kind of an ass, and impenetrable, and yet somehow I adore him. He has weird methods on-set, rewriting lines and improv-ing, which tends to get the goats of a lot of his co-stars (Richard Dreyfuss famously included, plus Chevy Case, Richard Donner, Lucy Liu, and McG, who claims Murray head-butted him; Dan Aykroyd would nickname him The Murricane for such behaviour). He took a circuitous path to comedy, attending college for pre-med but then billmurraydropping out after being arrested for marijuana possession. He then ended up doing National Lampoon Radio Hour with Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi, and eventually met back up with them on SNL as well. He was a bankable comedy star throughout the 80s and 90s, and then reinvented his career more recently as a dramatic actor, taking on roles where he’s often cynical or depressed (or both!) rather than the flat-out nuts of What About Bob.

Bill Murray is a Hollywood Luddite – he has no agent, and no business manager. Pete Docter wanted him for the voice of Sulley in Monsters, Inc. but had no way of contacting him and had to move on. Murray went on to voice Garfield instead because he was anxious to work with the Coen brothers. Sound fishy? You’re right. The script is co-written by a Joel Cohen, but not that Joel Coen. A business manager may have sussed that out. He’s also missed out on roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Squid and the Whale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Little Miss Sunshine – the latter being the only one he regrets.

mrmurrayBill Murray is an icon with legendary status among his many fans. An entire website is dedicated to telling the best Bill Murray stories. He’s elusive but if you catch him on the right day, he can be surprisingly engaging. He has inspired all kinds of tributes, from the Bill Murray colouring book my sister sent me for Christmas, to Cook Your Own Food – A Bill Murray Scratch And Sniff  , which depicts the sights and smells of various Murray movies.

So while I’d freak out of Bob showed up at the cottage, Bill I’d welcome with a glass of scotch and open arms. Wouldn’t you?

 

Weekend Round-Up

Project_Almanac_posterProject Almanac – I have mixed feelings about this one. I wasn’t bored by it, but the story is thin. I like the championing of the inventor, but I disliked the very trite time-travel routine, where the same costs and benefits are explored here as have been elsewhere a thousand times before. The kids are likeable enough but you know what? Enough with the “found footage” thing. It’s done. Let’s drop it.

colin-firth-alan-rickman-and-a-lion-feature-in-first-posters-for-gambitGambit – A movie with Colin Firth and Alan Rickman AND Stanley Tucci you want to like. But can you? It’s a remake, written by the Coen brothers, about an art thief who recruits ditzy Cameron Diaz to pull  a fast one on his boss – and then dares to be surprised when it doesn’t quite get pulled off as planned. Firth is solid and has great comic timing but Diaz exists on a level so far beneath him it’s not fair to either. I have the feeling Firth was hoping for The Big Lebowski but ended up in The Ladykillers. Better luck next time, y’all.

San Andreas – The three Assholes who went to see this together are also the same three Assholes planning a trip to shitty, shaky San Francisco next month. Oh sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. Lots of wine, we heard, those weird, slopy streets, and just a beautiful coastal drive away from LA. San Andreas is not exactly a boon to tourism. Made it seem a little sanandreasreckless to travel there (let alone live there), in fact. But we survived the movie and as of this time have not cancelled our plane tickets, mostly because Sean couldn’t find the number. I watched this movie totally stressed out, from start to finish. Is there a plot to this thing? I have no idea. WATCH OUT FOR THAT FIRE! Is there good acting in this thing? I don’t know, does dodging debris count? WATCH OUT FOR THAT FLYING CRUISE SHIP! It was a disaster movie so jam-packed with disaster that some leaked out the sides. It keeps you so busy racing from one near-death experience to another that you never have time to question the holes in the movie, because every hole is filled with exploding glass – in 3D!

Dear Zachary: A Letter to his Son About his Father – In 2001, Andrew Bagby was brutally dearzacharymurdered. Soon after, his girlfriend, the prime suspect, announces she’s pregnant and Bagby’s bereaved parents have to interact with their son’s killer in order to gain any visitation with the grandson who looks just like him. This is a documentary Kurt Kuenne who isn’t a particularly talented documentarian, but who was Bagby’s best friend. This is a tribute to his friend, and also to the parents who went to great lengths to make a life for a grandchild born out of tragedy. I was prepared for this one to hurt my heart, but I wasn’t quite as prepared as I needed to be. Check it out on Netflix.

Aloha – Cameron Crowe’s greatest offense is being too successful too early in his career. Does this stand up to Almost Famous? No, it doesn’t. And not many movies would. But would people be giving Aloha as hard a time if it were written and directed by anyone else? This film is imperfect. It drags in places (but has flashes of brilliance to prop things up) and it tries to involve too many, which takes away from the central story, which is the one we’ve put our butts in the ALOHA-Movie-Reviewseats to see. Emma Stone plays Jennifer Lawrence opposite Bradley Cooper (what is it about Bradley Cooper, by the way, that his characters are constantly romancing women he could have fathered?). Anyway, he plays this deeply flawed individual and she plays so pert and perfect you want to punch her right in the googly eyes. But you’re supposed to root for them I think, even though Rachel McAdams makes a tantalizing (and age appropriate, while still being younger) alternative. They exchange some witty banter, some banal banter, look at an atrocious toe, and induce Billy Murray into a dance scene. It’s not a cohesive movie by a long shot, but nor is it as bad as the critics will tell you.  The story wants to be more than it is. The movie is beautiful but straight-forward. There’s very little art here. What we have in abundance is white people, puzzlingly, since it’s set in Hawaii, where the census tells us they’re relatively rare and Hollywood tells if you squint hard enough, George Clooney passes for Hawaiian.

goingclearGoing Clear – The more I learn, the less I understand. I didn’t learn anything new (in fact, nothing that’s not on the Wikipedia page), and I think they went a little soft on the former members they interviewed. Has anyone else seen this?

Just off the Top of O-Ren Ishii’s Head: 10 Death Scenes I Will Never Forget

I’m not really a Final Destination kind of guy but with stock dwindling at my favourite video store just two weeks before it closes, I settled on a movie that my friend had been trying to get me to watch for months. Final Destination 2- so far left on the shelves by eager shoppers looking to take advantage of the store’s Everything Must Go policy- has a death scene that apparently I just had to watch.

Watching the movie, I couldn’t be sure which scene she meant. There were a lot. Could it be the lottery winner who slipped on some spaghetti and got his head smashed in by a falling fire escape? Or the grieving mother who was decaptiated when she got her head caught in an elevator door? Turns out I should have been watching for the teenager who was crushed to death by something- what esxactly I can’t be sure, things happen fast in this movie- while chasing away some pigeons. Apparently, if you watch closely, he explodes long before anything falls on him. How does she know? She’s watched it in slow motion. Several times.

final destination

While I may not have even been temptedc to check the tape on that one, it got me thinking of my favourite on-screen passings. After all, we just saw some real beauts in Mad Max: Fury Road on Friday. Here’s my attempt at a Top Ten. I left out a lot out, I know. How about you? What are some of your favourite scenes that I might have missed?

10. Count Laszlo de Almásy  The English Patient (1996)

English Patient

One of the movies that I am most likely to meditate on the finality of death after watching. Once we’re gone, everything we’ve felt, everything we’ve feared, everything we’ve loved die with us. It’s painful to watch Ralph Fiennes suffer from his burns throughout the movie and when Juliette Binoche’s Hana agrees to help him end his agony once and for all, I could almost feel his last breath. Even though, technically, the scene ends before Laszlo does. Before this act of mercy, Hana reads him this.

“We die rich with lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have entered and swum up like rivers, fears we’ve hidden in like this wretched cave. I want all this marked on my body. We’re the real counttries. Not the boundaries drawn on maps, the names of powerful men”.

9. Phil Groundhog Day (1993)

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Condemned to live a bad day over and over until he gets it right, Phil (Bill Murray) uses this opportunity to try new things without having to wake up with any consequences. He makes a move on the girl he likes and punches the guy he doesn’t. He runs around town playing hero. He even gives dying a try. His suicidal phase is one of the funniest and darkest parts of the movie. (I haven’t seen the movie in awhile so I can’t remember if it’s made clear to us whether Phil is counting on waking up the next morning or hoping not to).

Before my favourite of said suicide “attempts”, Phil calmly walks into the lobby ignoring the pleasantries of the hotel staff and steals their toaster. Phil calmly prepares himself a nice hot bath and takes the toaster in with him. This scene would also make my list of Top Ten Reasons I Love Bill Murray.

8. Captain Frye The Rock (1996)

the rock

Ed Harris’ General Hummell is a madman but he really does think he’s doing the right thing. It’s the mercenaries he brings with him to sieze Alcatraz Island that make me nervous, especially Captain Frye. Played with his usual sneer by character actor Gregory Sporleder, there’s just something not quite right about this guy. He always seems to be wishing he was pushing an old lady down a flight of stairs.

A lot of these guys die for their cause in spectacular fashion but director Michael Bay saves the best for last when chemistry geek/action hero Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) shoves a vial of sarin gas in his mouth and smashes it with his fist. Neither Bay or Cage have gotten much right since but they did good here. This guy had it coming.

7. Sydney Barringer Magnolia (1999)

Magnolia

P. T. Anderson gets our attention right from the start and manages to hold it for Magnolia’s entire three-hour running time. Seventeen year-old Sydney Barringer jumps from the roof of his nine-story apartment building only to have his suicide attempt interrupted both by a safety net installed by some window washers and by a shotgun blast from a sixth floor window that killed him instantly. His unsuccessful suicide became a successful homicide when his own mother accidentally fired a shot while threatening his father during a heated argument.

Anderson didn’t come up with this story on his own. It’s an adaptation of a sort of urban legend that had been circulating for years but it sets up the strange events that follow perfectly.

6. Guy in elevator Drive (2011)

Drive

Ryan Gosling is a charmer. He swept Rachel McAdams off her feet both on and off screen and even taught Steve Carrell how to be a smooth talker. Just don’t get on his bad side. This guy’s not fucking around. He understands the golden rule of action movies. When someone’s giving you trouble, sometimes you’ve just got to stomp on their face until they’re dead. He doesn’t carry a gun much in Drive but why would he? He’s got his boot.

5. Edward Bloom Big Fish (2003)

Big Fish

The deathbed scene in The English Patient inspires me to meditate on death. Big Fish inspires me to reflect on life. Will Bloom (Billy Crodup) finally understands the value of myth and the key to good storytelling while seeing his father (Albert Finney) through his final moments. For most of his adult life, Will stubbornly told stories with “all of the facts, none of the flavour” but, when his father asks him to tell him “how he goes”, Will ad-libs a fantastical story fit for Ed’s remarkable life- one that undoubtedly touched so many others, even if the details are a little embellished. I still get chills when I watch it.

4. Cecilia Shepard Zodiac (2007)

zodiac

I feel crass talking about an on-screen depiction of something that actually happened in the same post as the twisted thrills of Drive but there aren’t many scenes in 21st century American film that are more effective. All the recreations of the Zodiac killings in this movie are almost impossible to watch without some temptation to look away but this one at the beach is the most chilling. I felt a wave of anxiety every time I found myself anywhere secluded for weeks after watching this movie. The Zodiac killer was never caught or named but this faceless killer- now probably long gone- still haunts me.

3. Elle Driver Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

kill bill

I only allowed myself one Quentin Tarantino entry on this post and I could have easily done one just on the Top Ten Tarantino Death Scenes. He’s the guy that knows how to do it, whose mind seems to take him to to places most of us wouldn’t dare. Daryl Hannah’s Elle puts up quite a fight against the Bride but the fight’s pretty much over when Uma Thurman’s antihero plucks out her only good eye. Adding insult to injury beyond anything I can imagine, poor Elle hears a sound that can only be Uma crushing it beneath her feet. Good and pissed but with nothing much she can do about it, Elle thrashes about unitl a poisonous Black Mamba finishes her off.

Elle Driver was an assassin and a bit of a sadist but I can’t help but feel just a little bad. What a way to go.

2. Spider Goodfellas (1990)

spider

Everyone has a favourite scene here and I could have probably done a Top Ten just on this one movie but Spider (Michael Imperioli) really gets a raw deal. After finally being able to get back to work after being shot in the foot by Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci), the poor waiter finally stands up for himself and tells Tommy to fuck off. Tommy’s gangster buddy love it and tease Tommy until he loses it and empties his clip into the poor guy, shocking his buddies. “What the fuck, Tommy?goodfellas We were just kidding around”.

Tommy’s a funny guy (yes, sort of like a clown) and I sure did miss him after he gets whacked. But he really was a mad dog. It’s probably for the best that he never got made.

1. Lester Burnham American Beauty (1999)

american beauty

This also made my list of Movie Moments That Took My Breath Away. Lester makes it very clear from the start that he won’t survive the movie and the final moments are filled with tension as we wait for something to happen. Writer Alan Ball presents us with three suspects and we’re not sure until after the killing shot is fired who murdered Lester Burnham.

The murder is beside the point anyway. The tragedy is that Lester dies in pretty much the instant that he finds inner peace. His life flashes before his eyes as he reflects on all the beauty  in the world. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry. You will someday”.

 

 

City of Ember \ Stardust

Once upon a time it was movies based on Young Adult Fiction week, and I watched some stuff that I would normally never watch. Some of it was bad, some of it was not bad, and some of it was so bad it was almost good. In the end I was so glad to put it behind me I never got around to talking about the stuff that didn’t fit in either category – not good enough to endorse, but not bad enough to make fun of.  So here it is, the middle of the road:

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen or heard of City of Ember because I didn’t know there was a Billy Murray movie I hadn’t already smothered in love.  He plays the mayor of a town built deep City-Of-Ember-Movie-Review-Bill-Murrayunderground by a team of scientists just as the world was ending. They buried instructions on how to return to the surface after 200 years too, but stupidly entrusted them to politicians, who predictably bungled the thing and lost the instructions and now their city is crumbling, the power supply is failing and food is running out. Things are dire: teenagers to the rescue! Two “young adults” (Saoirse Ronan & Harry Treadaway) take it upon themselves to do the thing countless older, smarter, more intrepid people (including their parents) failed to do.

The visuals are stunning. I loved the sets of this underground world, everything just a little off-kilter, labyrinthine without being claustrophobic. But the story never quite lives up to what our eyes suggest. The plot is modest, maybe even thin. Writers of this young adult genre seem to 2601-3follow a pretty strict guide when it comes to their dystopian adventures: the founders, vague as they are, have decreed that people be assigned specific jobs and these jobs are ceremoniously given out and then life is spent labouring away at whatever “very important” job you’ve been given. There is little in the way of joy, but if you keep toiling away then your life is well-spent. BUT then there’s always some young upstart who questions the system. Sound familiar? City of Ember is basically Subterranean Divergent, although really I should say it the other way around since City of Ember came first.

The adventuring is pretty tame, the action mild, and the denouement predictable. This is post-apocalyptic-lite. Martin Landau gives a small performance worth seeing, and Tim Robbins isn’t half bad either. Bill Murray is, of course, always fun to watch, but otherwise this film is blander than you might think possible, though of course that was also Matt’s verdict on Insurgent.

Stardust came out in 2007, just a year before City of Ember, and it also passed me by. I haven’t been a “young adult” in at least a decade and haven’t been a typical consumer of this genre ever, so I guess it’s not so surprising.

I’m not remotely sure that I or alone else can really distill this story, but here’s my attempt:

Tristan is the young adult in question, a lad living in a quiet English village, madly in love with the town’s most beautiful girl who doesn’t give him the time of day because of course she’s way out stardustdeniroof his league. Throwing him a bone, she agrees to consider him if only he will catch her a star, and so of course he follows a fallen star over the breach in the wall surrounding his village and into a fantasy kingdom called Stormhold where the star turns out to be Claire Danes. Everyone following? Fallen stars that look remarkably like Claire Danes are quite popular – she’s also being pursued by a witch (Michelle Pfieffer) who wants to eat her heart to make her young, and a bunch of princes (let by Rupert Everett) who believe a ruby she carries will inherit them the throne. So now poor Tristan’s saddled with this star who’s pretty high maintenance, and the only help he gets is from his mother, who’s unfortunately bound by a spell, and a transvestite pirate (played with MUCH enthusiasm by Robert DeNiro- and no, I’m not kidding).

The story didn’t speak to me whatsoever (sorry Neil Gaiman, I’m still you’re girl!), but hello, with a great pop-up role by De Niro and another by Ricky Gervais, it’s pretty much worth watching onstarlamia3 that basis alone, and those moments felt more like the trademark oddball Gaiman humour I’m used to. The special effects are pretty awesome (Michelle Pfieffer uses a sword designed for but never used by Magneto in Matthew Vaughn’s 2006 X-Men movie) but the action-adventure really gets bogged down by a sluggish pace. This movie drags on. It’s a string of fun moments but didn’t quite work for me as a cohesive whole.