(Photo by Touchstone/courtesy Everett Collection)
From tales of crashing bachelor parties and kickball games, to intimate fan pranks that he knows the public will never believe, to his unavailabity outside of a 1-800 number, the antics of lord of chaos Bill Murray could overshadow his actual job as an actor. But this decade alone has seen Certified Fresh hits like Moonrise Kingdom, The Jungle Book, Grand Budapest Hotel, and St. Vincent.
The output compares handsomely even to his ’80s heyday, which saw the likes of Ghostbusters, Stripes, Caddyshack, and Scrooged put into theaters. The ’90s not only had his lead-starring masterpiece Groundhog Day, but also the zany What About Bob?, and his first reinvention as the patron saint of comedic melancholia, Rushmore. All that paved the way for his towering 2000s output, featuring The Royal Tenenbaums, Lost in Translation, his Best Actor-nominated Broken Flowers, and Garfield…which we’re mentioning because it led directly to his inspired cameo in Zombieland.
Now, take a look at Bill Murray movies ranked by Tomatometer.
A Wrinkle in Time, adaptation of the Madeleine L’engle kids fantasy novel and Ava DuVernay’s sojourn into $100 million filmmaking, isn’t getting the best reviews. As the score settles in the lower-40s, Wrinkle would place somewhere in the middle of this week’s gallery: the 24 worst children’s book adaptations, each rated PG and ranked by Tomatometer.
Praise the sun! National Daylight Appreciation Day is here, inspiring this week’s gallery of 24 movies set under the blanket of night (or at least in rooms that could use a few windows) that will want you want to get grossly incandescent with some hot vitamin D.
Production Designer Martin Laing has worked with James Cameron on True Lies, Titanic and Ghosts of the Abyss and has served on films like The Haunting, City of Ember and the upcoming Clash of the Titans. Terminator Salvation, with its bleak view of the future, is easily his most ambitious project to date. On the eve of the film’s worldwide rollout, he sits down exclusively with RT to take us through concept art for the film and explain his approach…
“Our Terminator world is quite different from the films you’ve seen before. In the same way that Warner Bros. took the Batman movies and turned them on their head, in design terms as well as the story, and turned that world into something very dark and really really cool, we’re going to be doing the same thing with Terminator. But we’re obviously taking a lot of the history that’s already been laid down in the first three movies and growing with that. So our Terminators are black in colour, they’re very sort of machine orientated. We loved the T-800 which was the silver Arnold figure which you see in the first movie, but we’re before all that. We’re in a post-apocalyptic world, after the bombs have gone off. Obviously the T-800 is where we end up at the end of the movie, but prior to that we get to see the T-600 and the T-700.”
“We’ve tried to get the reality of these early machines. If you look at a wonderful old steam engine it’s black, it’s oily, it’s greasy. That’s the kind of world we’re trying to go with here. We’ve taken quite a few elements from the T-800 which we’ve already seen. The same shoulder joints, knees that pivot and all that stuff. But we’ve made him a little bit more brutal. I was with James Cameron for many many years doing Titanic and True Lies and Avatar, and I used to have to stick together the T-800 he had in his office because it was always breaking. So I know all the parts very very well!”
“The Hydrobot is a Terminator that actually goes through the water. Although it actually has the fluid movements of an eel or a fish and it has this ability to swim quite quickly we’ve tried to keep it real again. It’s all mechanical, with a rhyme and a reason behind each element of the design. We did the final design, blew it up to full size and then gave it to the guys at Stan Winston Studios who made it as a 3D model. It’s about eight and a half feet long. They puppeteered it on set a few days ago and it really looks very exciting. They move it around like a Jim Henson puppet with green sticks which we’ll remove digitally. That reality of actual mechanical parts, that really would work, is what we’ve been chasing with all the design. There’s no kind of science-fiction silliness that’s going on. We started with Mother Nature, really, looking at various aquatic life, eels and so on. Then we worked on several different designs, honing it down each time. We’re trying to establish a reality here. McG has been very clear about the fact that this is a real, grimy, dirty and dangerous world.”
“You’ve seen the Hunter-Killer before in the first three movies. So in the same way that we’re coming back as it were from the T-800 to the T-600, we’re doing the same thing with the Hunter-Killer. It’s a little bit more brutal in its shape. It still has the vertical take off and landing design that was established in the previous films. But the shape and the colouring is very different. We were really lucky to have so many great designs to start with in the original Terminator movies and then we’re working backwards to give it more of a brutal, basic feel. In the very early conversations I had with McG he was pushing an idea of a kind of cool silver look, then we came up with the idea of doing everything in black, and it all really started gelling.”
“Again this was very influenced by the original design of the Terminator. The spine of it is really taken from the spine of a Terminator and the struts are taken from a Terminator leg. We started with a Ducati, because Ducati gave us some bikes, and then we just built on top of them. So what we really wanted to communicate here is the idea that everything is made at the same factory — the same machines are building the Moto-Terminator as are building all the other Terminators. We have a very cool chase scene where two of these Moto-Terminators are shot out of a Harvester and have this spectacular cat and mouse chase.”
“What’s happening in this movie is that Terminators are going out and they’re either wiping out humans or they’re capturing them and bringing them back for their skin and their hair. If you listen to the dialogue in the first movie you can hear Kyle Reese say to Sarah Connor, while they’re in the car, that they’re harvesting humans. So we really are trying to stick to the mythology that’s been established before. The ultimate goal of Skynet is to create one of the T-800s that you see in the original movies. So we have a Transporter which is based very much on the way that cattle are transported on the freeways of the world. Those sort of very scary trucks where you can only see the eyes of the cattle as they go by. We’ve done the same kind of thing for humans, and ours fly. They’re designed to take humans to Skynet for processing.”
“This is a Harvester, and we also have the Aerostats which are a kind of medium-size Terminator. Again, we’ve gone for as much of a sense of realism in this really dark world as we can. Cameron said to me with Battle Angel that the important thing is that the designs always are able to do the jobs they’re designed for and it’s the same with this movie. The Aerostat’s job is to go out and they search for humans, they fly over the landscape, and when they spot humans they send out for one of the Harvesters who come in, very much like a big storm-trooping soldier, and load the living humans into the Transporters.”
“Marcus (played by Sam Worthington), is our hybrid. He is half-human and half-Terminator. He has the endoskeleton of all the other Terminators. But he also has the brain and heart of a human. The heart is simply left there to pump oxygen through his brain to keep it alive. The other guys have batteries at their centre he has a human heart. He bleeds and has nerve endings and so on. So he’s a true hybrid. Obviously we have several different designs because as he goes through the film he gets more and more battered and you see more of what’s underneath. He starts out pretty untouched in his black knickers, but then he gets roughed up quite a bit!”
Terminator Salvation is released in the US on 21st May, the UK on 3rd June and Australia on 4th June.
Mark Wahlberg brings maximum pain to DVD this week in the critically-punished Max Payne, although new horror titles Saw V and Repo! The Genetic Opera didn’t fare much better on the Tomatometer. DVD shoppers will also find intriguing options in the kid adventure City of Ember, William H. Macy’s Hollywood satire The Deal, a tenth-anniversary Powerpuff Girls box set, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong on Blu-ray!
Mark Wahlberg takes it to the streets in this adaptation of Rockstar Games’ third person shooter game, a cop on the hunt for those responsible for his family’s murder and bent on finding out who’s been putting a hallucinogenic drug on the market. Could they be one and the same? Director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines, The Omen) did himself no favors with Max Payne‘s over-stylized, yet dull direction; perhaps his biggest mistake was casting pint-sized actress Mila Kunis as a deadly femme fatale. The Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray include both the theatrical and an unrated cut, plus an animated graphic novel, filmmaker commentary, and an hour-long production featurette that dives into the making of Max Payne — in other words, more special features than you probably want.
Watch a clip from the making-of featurette below.
Next: Saw V
Saw V – Unrated Director’s Cut — 15%
At this point in the extremely popular Saw movie franchise, even diehard fans must recognize one fact; the torture-porn adventures of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and his minions are getting worse by each passing sequel. Saw V, out this week, is the worst-reviewed Saw film at 15 percent on the Tomatometer. (The first Saw, at 46 percent, remains the best of the bunch.) But if you’re inclined to pick up Saw V regardless, you’ll probably delight in the Unrated Director’s Cut; skip the lackluster commentary tracks by first time director David Hackl and the film’s four producers and go straight to the featurettes on the real stars of Saw V: the pendulum trap, the coffin trap, and the cube trap. Enjoy, sicko.
Next: Darren Bousman’s Repo! The Genetic Opera
3. Repo! The Genetic Opera — 33%
If you were wondering whatever happened to Saw II, III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman, here’s your answer: Repo! The Genetic Opera. Based on a play by Darren Smith and Terence Zdunich, the goth rock opera follows the saga of a teenager named Shiloh (Alexa Vega) who discovers her connections to a famous opera singer (Sarah Brightman), a shady corporation that finances — and repossesses — organ transplants, and even the head Repo Man of said company, who may or may not be her own father (Anthony Stewart Head). Lionsgate unceremoniously dumped Repo! into limited release last November; support Bousman and writer/co-star Zdunich by giving Repo! a go on DVD.
Next: City of Ember
As the subterranean denizens of the City of Ember fall under threat of permanent darkness — and, accordingly, death — two kids, Lina (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon (Harry Treadaway) must race against the clock to decipher age-old clues hidden within the city. In adapting Jeanne Duprau’s novel of the same name, director Gil Kenan (Monster House) delivers smart entertainment for family audiences (and doesn’t pander to kids, like many preteen flicks) but has trouble crafting exciting action sequences and navigating plot holes. Sadly, no additional City of Ember bonus features accompany the disc.
Next: The Express
As far as inspirational sports movies go, you could do much worse than The Express. Based on the true story of Ernie Davis, the first black athlete to win football’s Heisman Trophy, this period flick set in the 1950s and ’60s delivers a solid, touching tale — and a standout performance by Dennis Quaid as Syracuse University coach Ben Schwartzalder. A comprehensive bonus menu includes filmmaker commentary, making-of featurettes, and a look at the real-life legacy of Ernie Davis, who died tragically just before his NFL debut.
Despite boasting a stellar voice cast (John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Eddie Izzard, Molly Shannon), Igor came and went as one of the more forgettable animated films of 2008. Its premise was intriguing — a lowly scientists’ assistant named Igor (Cusack) realizes his dream of becoming a mad scientist himself — but, as many animated movies tend to do, failed to find balance between kid-pleasing animation and adult-engaging wit. Instead, you get an oddly dark adventure with quips that miss the mark. A few bonus features and commentary also come with the feature.
Next: The Deal
The excellent William H. Macy scripted and stars in The Deal, one of those inside-Hollywood indies that come of impassioned and/or struggling filmmakers (see The TV Set, The Player). Based on Peter Lefcourt’s novel of the same name, the satire follows suicidal film producer Charlie Berns (Macy) who takes one last stab at movie making by turning a sober biopic of Englishman Benjamin Disraeli into a Mid East actioner, filmed in South Africa. LL Cool J plays Berns’ star, a Jewish African-American rapper-turned-actor who gets kidnapped during filming; Meg Ryan shows up as a film exec who gets conned into Berns’ bed. .
Next: Moonlight The Complete Series
Since 2008 was the year of the vampire, why not add another romance-tinged vamp property to your Netflix queue? While it didn’t quite find the success of Twilight or HBO’s Golden Globe-winning series, True Blood, the CBS show Moonlight had a full season run before being cancelled last year. (Okay, reviews were pretty bad, but who doesn’t need more vampire romance in their life?)
Moonlight‘s first and only season introduces the viewer to Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin), a vampire/private eye ethically opposed to killing innocent humans. His love life is complicated by an attraction to human Beth Turner (Sophia Myles, playing an “internet reporter”) and his vampire ex-wife, Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon). Get all 16 episodes on four discs (but no additional extra features).
Next: Powerpuff Girls Complete Set
Celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Powerpuff Girls (AKA Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles) with a six-disc set containing all episodes from Craig McCracken’s super popular series. The trio of kindergarten superheroines have been fighting evil in the cutest ways possible since 1998, and Warner Home Video is celebrating by releasing this uber-set, which comes with a documentary about McCracken, music videos, and audio commentaries. Cartoon Network is also celebrating with a Powerpuff Girls marathon today, capped by an all new episode entitled “Powerpuff Girls Rule!!!”
Next: King Kong Comes to Blu-ray!
Peter Jackson’s 2005 fantasy remake King Kong has taken its sweet time getting to Blu-ray, but the wait’s been worth it. For fans of the theatrical cut and even those who already own it on DVD, watching this gorgeous CGI spectacle again on Blu-ray might just be like watching it for the first time. Both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film are included, as well as the extremely detailed extended cut commentary track with Jackson and writer Phillippa Boyens, Picture-in-Picture cast and crew interviews, breathtaking concept art and more.
This week at the movies, we’ve got suspicious spies (Body of Lies, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe), gridiron greats (The Express, starring Rob Brown and Dennis Quaid), underground empires (City of Ember, starring Bill Murray and Tim Robbins), and deadly outbreaks (Quarantine, starring Jennifer Carpenter). What do the critics have to say?
Troubled times inspire troubled movies, and critics say Ridley Scott‘s espionage thriller Body of Lies is brainier and politically sharper than your typical spy yarn. However, others say it gets too bogged down in action scenes to totally hit its mark. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Roger Ferris, a CIA operative who has tracked down a terrorist leader in Jordan; however, he must get approval from his boss, Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), as well as the head of the Jordanian Intelligence agency. Naturally, machinations and intrigue follow. The pundits say Body of Lies‘ impressive pedigree goes a long way toward redeeming the film; it’s well acted and expertly crafted. However, some critics feel the story is way too labyrinthine and scattershot to be emotionally involving. Body of Lies currently stands at 57 percent on the Tomatometer.
The inspirational, tragic life of Ernie Davis was ready-made for cinematic treatment: the first African American player to win college football’s Heisman Trophy, Davis set rushing records — and battled racial prejudice — before succumbing to leukemia on the eve of turning pro. Critics say The Express is a worthy big-screen tribute to one of pigskin’s greatest heroes, overcoming formulaic biopic tropes with sincerity and excellent performance. Rob Brown stars as Davis, an extremely talented but apolitical young man thrust into the harsh glare of history, and Dennis Quaid plays Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder, a man who changes as a result of his charge’s heroic perseverance. The pundits say The Express has plenty of solid gridiron action, and it exceeds typical inspirational sports movie fare with its heart and craft. At 65 percent on the Tomatometer, The Express sails through the uprights.
Set in a crumbling underground city that houses humanity after earth’s surface has become uninhabitable, City of Ember follows the exploits of two youngsters who find a magic box that provides clues on how to escape from the depths. The pundits say City of Ember has whimsy to spare, and should please younger viewers with its phantasmagorical imagery, but the plot is difficult to follow and character development is limited at best. At 46 percent on the Tomatometer, Ember doesn’t quite shine. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we take a closer look at the best-reviewed films of star Bill Murray‘s career.)
It seems that Keira Knightley stars in every other British period piece these days. And, as The Duchess demonstrates, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Knightley stars as Georgiana Spenser, an ancestor of Princess Di’s, who becomes an 18th century style icon while navigating the rough waters of palace life. The pundits say The Duchess is a visual treat, and Knightly and Ralph Fiennes turn in excellent performances. However, some feel The Duchess is too frothy and melodramatic, and forgoes the meaty parts of Spenser’s real-life contributions in favor of obsessing over her frippery and fashion. The Duchess is at 61 percent on the Tomatometer.
Apparently out of concern for critics’ physical well-being, Quarantine has been, ahem, quarantined, since reviews aren’t coming out until the day of its release. The film stars Jennifer Carpenter and Steve Harris as a television crew trapped in an apartment building where a strange outbreak of rabies is causing people to commit savage killings. Kids, guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in
Breakfast with Scot, a comedy about a closeted sportscaster and his flamboyant son, is at 57 percent.
Good Dick, a quirky indie comedy about a video store clerk’s strange relationship with one of the store’s customers, is at 55 percent.
Choose Connor, a thriller about a teenager who learns dark secrets about the congressman for whom he works, is at 38 percent.
Finally, we’d like to sing the praises of halose7en, who correctly guessed An American Carol‘s 14 percent Tomatometer.
Recent Leonardo DiCaprio Movies:
Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, two men that have on more than one occasion anchored blockbusters that have also won Oscars for Best Picture, team up for the anti-terrorism action flick Body of Lies which leads the new round of debuting titles. Also fighting for a finite number of screens in an overcrowded marketplace are the football drama The Express, the horror thriller Quarantine, and the sci-fi adventure City of Ember. With such variety, there should be little audience overlap between the new releases. Monday’s Columbus Day holiday will see many schools and businesses closing helping the Sunday box office post stronger sales than usual.
The War on Terror comes to a theater near you packaged as a star-driven spy thriller in Body of Lies. The Ridley Scott film brings together big-name stars DiCaprio and Crowe and is selling itself as an action picture. In the process, the marketing materials have done everything possible to hide the fact that the story takes place mostly across the Middle East and deals with the U.S. hunting down a major terrorist leader. You can’t blame Warner Bros. That subject matter just doesn’t sell and who really is in the mood for it? Instead, the names of the stars and director are being pushed to the forefront. Watch the trailer and TV spots and it’s hard to tell what exactly the story is about. Instead, the studio is hoping that audiences look at it as they would a JB flick (Bond or Bourne, you pick) – a globe-trotting espionage film with gritty action elements and a handsome hero in the lead.
Downplaying the subject matter and focusing all attention on the stars is a smart way to go. Both actors are well-respected and have been known to sell tickets – in the right film. Mature adults will make up the prime audience for this R-rated film with older teens and college students likely to pass. Last weekend’s top three films skewed heavily to the under-25 set so Body of Lies has an opportunity to score at this moment. Look for the film to appeal to the same crowds that came out for other fall action thrillers like The Kingdom ($17.1M), Righteous Kill ($16.3M), and The Departed ($26.9M). Since adult men will make up a big part of the audience, competition from football and the baseball playoffs this weekend will have an impact. Infiltrating 2,710 sites, Body of Lies might debut with about $20M this weekend.
Following films like Finding Forrester and Coach Carter, Rob Brown anchors the new inspirational football drama The Express telling the story of Ernie Davis, the first black man to win the Heisman Trophy. Dennis Quaid stars as the coach in this PG-rated title. Pigskin flicks generally do well at the box office as do stories of African American trailblazers in sports. A solid third place debut could result this weekend. Though not terribly strong on the starpower side, Express does have an uplifting feel-good true story on its side and that should resonate with moviegoers. Universal’s sneak previews last weekend helped to generate positive word-of-mouth and promotions during the current football season will allow it to connect directly with the target audience as a timely autumn film. Add in good reviews and appeal spreads across a wide age range. The studio scored a big hit this very weekend during the last presidential campaign with the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Friday Night Lights which bowed to $20.3M. The Express may not rush that far, but with 2,808 theaters it could debut with around $15M.
Sony unleashes the first true horror film of the Halloween season with Quarantine. The R-rated thriller about a group of people trapped inside an apartment building where a mysterious force of terror spreads will play to genre fans at a time when fright flicks are in demand. Two weeks clearance before the arrival of Saw V is all the time it needs to carve up the bulk of its business. With a TV news reporter filming the events, Quarantine has the look and feel of Cloverfield and is hoping to tap into that type of marketing. Starpower is not ample but scary trailers and commercials will be enough to pull in a solid number of older teens and young adults. Plus with no other horror films around, it will have its audience to itself. Locking itself into 2,461 theaters, Quarantine could deliver an opening of about $10M.
Two teens try to save the human race in the futuristic fantasy adventure City of Ember, the frame’s second PG-rated entry. The Fox release features Bill Murray and Tim Robbins as the most well-known cast members but is aimed at younger teens looking for some sci-fi action. Of course that combo didn’t work so well two years ago for the effects-heavy Zathura which starred Robbins and made just $28.2M overall. In fact, in the post-Hobbit world most fantasy films have struggled to find audiences in the U.S., even though results overseas have generally been much better. Even the latest Chronicles of Narnia film this summer ended up grossing less than half as much as its predecessor. Ember might connect with a core fan following, but overall it will be a tough sell. Plus the marketing push has not been too forceful. Entering the fewest locations among the new releases with 2,023 playdates, City of Ember could collect about $6M this weekend.
Disney is hoping to hold onto its box office crown with the second weekend of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The hit family pic has only mild competition this weekend and will have a better-than-usual Sunday thanks to many children having Columbus Day off. A 35% decline would leave the PG-rated entry with about $19M and a solid ten-day cume of $53M.
Eagle Eye has taken in a similar amount in its first ten days and looks to remain a relevant contender in its third session. The Paramount release may slip 35% to roughly $11.5M boosting the 17-day tally to $70M. Sony’s teen comedy Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist should fall harder and might drop by 45% this weekend. That would give the Michael Cera flick around $6M for a sum of $20M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: With a little help from Janet Jackson, Tyler Perry conquered the box office with his latest film Why Did I Get Married? which bowed to an impressive $21.4M and $10,618 average. The Lionsgate release went on to score $55.2M. Disney’s family comedy The Game Plan held up well after back-to-back weeks on top dropping 34% to $11M. Opening in third was Sony’s action drama We Own the Night which took in $10.8M followed closely by $10.4M for the nationwide expansion of George Clooney‘s Michael Clayton for Warner Bros. Final tallies reached $28.6M and $49M, respectively. Rounding out the top five was the Paramount comedy The Heartbreak Kid with $7.3M. Universal landed in sixth with the debut of its period sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age which opened with just $6.2M leading to a disappointing $16.4M final.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
He got his start on Saturday Night Live and made his big-screen bones on a succession of comedies that traded heavily on his easygoing, wisecracking charm — then kicked off the second phase of his film career by sublimating all that charm in a series of roles that took a less-is-more approach to exploring his dramatic side, and earned the best reviews of his career in the process. Most actors wouldn’t be able to pull off that kind of transition (see: Carrey, Jim), but then, most actors aren’t blessed with equal chops on either side of the funny line. Bill Murray, on the other hand, owns that line — and with his latest film, City of Ember, opening today, we here at RT thought there was no better time to take a look back at some of his best performances. After all, you never know when he’s going to take another prolonged break from filmmaking, right? Get ready to laugh, cry, and pretend Garfield never existed.
Ah, the summer camp movie. It’s a genre that’s long since been bled dry — and
it’s always provoked a gag reflex in critics — but once upon a time, comedies
about sex-starved teenagers running wild at camp were all the rage, and 1979’s
Meatballs was one of the first (and, not coincidentally, best). While
it certainly isn’t Murray’s finest 90 minutes, it does have plenty of solid
humor and light charm to go with all the hormonal antics, and it offers an
interesting early glimpse at the development of Murray, screenwriter Harold
Ramis, and director Ivan Reitman. (If you haven’t seen it in awhile, Meatballs
is especially fascinating as an example of what passed for raunchy in 1979.)
Although the franchise went on to suffer grevious misuse — Meatballs II
featured an alien, Meatballs III is something Patrick Dempsey would
probably dearly love to forget, and the fourth installment starred Corey
Feldman and was released direct to DVD — the original is, as Dennis Schwartz
of Ozus’ World Movie Reviews put it, “As easy to handle as drinking lemonade
under a shady tree.”
Mad Dog and Glory (1993)
Tomatometer: 72%One of Murray’s more unusual (and lesser-seen) roles came in this
love story/dramedy hybrid, which found both Murray and Robert De Niro playing
against type: Murray as a Mob boss (and aspiring stand-up comedian), and De
Niro as the meek, bottled-up police detective who saves his life and “earns”
the temporary, uh, use of a prostitute named Glory (played by Uma Thurman). As
you might imagine, Mad Dog and Glory had a bit of a balancing act to
pull off, and according to most critics, it wasn’t always successful. Although
many writers expressed pleasant surprise at the suddenly commercial turn from
director Richard McNaughton (then best known for his work on Henry:
Portrait of a Serial Killer), and praised the typically sharp dialogue in
Richard Price’s script, ultimately, most critics felt that Mad Dog‘s
many shifts in style and tone were too much to completely overcome. Still, its
stars earned high marks for their out-of-character performances; Time Out’s
Derek Adams, for one, noted that “De Niro seems committed to the part of the
sensitive loner, while Murray all but succeeds in mixing smooth and sinister,
heartfelt and hot-tempered.”
Tomatometer: 76%There are probably more eminently quotable movies from the early
’80s, but not many, and none of them boast the iconic performance of Bill
Murray as the mumbling, borderline psychotic groundskeeper/groundhog battler
Carl Spackler. Despite being only one member of a very funny ensemble cast
that includes Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and Ted Knight, Murray
essentially walked away with the movie, thanks in part to an oft-quoted (and
totally improvised) monologue involving the Dalai Lama and the immortal phrase
“So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.” Thanks to a hilarious script and
an impressive run at the box office, Caddyshack went on to become one
of the most influential films of the ’80s, at least in terms of inspiring
scores of similarly raunchy (but unfailingly inferior) teen comedies, but
critics mostly turned up their noses at the time — and although the film’s
stature has grown in the last 28 years, their slowly building respect is still
expressed grudgingly: DVDTown’s John J. Puccio spoke for many of his peers
when he said it has “very few saving graces,” but admitted that he harbors “a
guilty pleasure in watching it, at least in bits and pieces.”
Tomatometer: 80%What, you thought Rushmore was quirky? Sucker. With his next
movie, Wes Anderson proved that was just a warm-up act: The Royal
Tenenbaums takes offbeat character studies to a whole new level, making
the Coen brothers seem like staid conformists in comparison. Here, Anderson
takes an unwieldy cast — including Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben
Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Luke and Owen Wilson, and, of course,
Bill Murray — and wrangles them into a suitably convoluted plot involving the
scheming patriarch of the oddball Tenenbaum clan. As cuckolded neurologist
Raleigh St. Clair, Murray doesn’t carry a great deal of the film’s weight on
his shoulders, but one could argue that his typically subtle performance
(summed up beautifully in the scene where he learns of his wife’s various
marital transgressions) helps anchor a movie constantly in danger of floating
right off the rails. It wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, but like Rushmore,
it enjoyed largely positive reviews and has continued to build a following on
the home market. Although critics had their issues with Tenenbaums,
most of them agreed with the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum, who said
“Whatever my qualms, it’s still one of the funniest comedies around.”
What About Bob?
Tomatometer: 81%Bill Murray has always excelled at playing unflappable slackers,
while nobody can handle the role of an uptight fussbudget with quite the
aplomb of Richard Dreyfuss — which meant that pitting them against each other
in 1991’s What About Bob? was virtually a guarantee of critical and
commercial success. Fortunately for fans of progressively over-the-top comedy,
the movie basically delivered on that guarantee — although it’s perhaps not
as consistently hilarious as some of Murray’s truly classic comedies, it went
down as easily one of the funniest films of the year. What About Bob?
boasts some of Frank Oz’s lightest direction, which is truly saying something,
but it makes sense; all he had to do, really, was let the cameras — and
Murray and Dreyfuss — run with their characters. Murray’s Bob is a
well-meaning soul whose many phobias prevents him from living a normal life —
or from allowing his psychiatrist to take the vacation he’s been craving. As
that psychiatrist, Dreyfuss is at his sputtering, bug-eyed best, and together,
the duo transcends what was by then already a very tired plot (and, it must be
said, a patently ridiculous final act). What it boils down to is a very funny
film — one, in the words of FulvueDrive-in’s Chuck O’Leary, “made even more
amusing by the fact that Murray and Dreyfuss couldn’t stand each other in real
Quick Change (1990)
Tomatometer: 84%Bill Murray as a burned-out bureaucrat who disguises himself as a
clown to lead a motley crew on a bank robbery — only to find his escape
blocked by a seemingly endless series of mishaps delivered by the gridlock and
innumerable misfits of New York City. Even now, Quick Change‘s synopsis
sounds like a surefire recipe for box office success, but in spite of mostly
positive reviews, Murray’s (co-)directorial debut went down as one of 1990’s
highest-profile flops, grossing less than $16 million during its theatrical
run. It isn’t a particularly ambitious film (Steve Crum of Dispatch-Tribune
Newspapers summed it up as “funny fluff”), and most critics agreed that it
doesn’t boast one of Murray’s finest performances, but Quick Change has
held up well thanks to a stellar supporting cast that the filmmakers had the
good sense to highlight, including Jason Robards, Phil Hartman, Stanley Tucci,
and Tony Shalhoub (the latter two would go on to star together in the
critically acclaimed, and equally box office-starved, Big Night).
Murray stepped behind the camera for Quick Change after he and
screenwriter Howard Franklin, who worked from Jay Cronley’s book, decided they
were too close to the material to hand it over to anyone else — but it would
seem that what Murray really wants to do is not direct: this remains
his sole directorial credit.
Tomatometer: 86%The second act of Murray’s career, in which he pivots from playing
sleepy-eyed shysters into more finely nuanced dramatic roles, starts with this
film, which broke director Wes Anderson through to a larger audience,
essentially redefined the quirky high school movie for a new generation and
reaped scores of awards and nominations for its trouble. Though it was never
anything close to a box office hit — its gross stalled at just over $17
million, below its $20 million budget — Rushmore has grown into a
certified cult classic. The movie rests on Schwartzman’s shoulders, and a good
deal of the critical acclaim rightly centered on his turn as the troubled Max
Fischer — but for a not-inconsiderable number of critics, Murray’s
performance as the dissatisfied executive who befriends, then spars with
Schwartzman was a revelation. While lauding Schwartzman as “the best underdog
since Cusack in Better Off Dead,” eFilmCritic’s Brian McKay saved his
highest praise for Murray, deeming this “the finest, funniest, and most
deadpan performance of his career.”
Broken Flowers (2005)
Tomatometer: 86%By this point, Murray was becoming just as famous for his
hard-to-decipher real-life antics as he was for anything he did on screen —
at least partly because anyone who wanted to hire him had no agent or manager
to go through, and was forced to deal directly with Murray, supposedly through
an oft-neglected personal voicemail box. True to form, for Broken Flowers
— and a part which director Jim Jarmusch said he wrote more or less
specifically for his star — Murray agreed to sign on only if he could stay
within 60 miles of his home. Ironically, Flowers is a movie about
traveling — Murray’s character visits former flames in an effort to determine
which one sent him an anonymous letter informing him of the nearly 20-year-old
product of their relationship. As much as his character spent the film in
motion, Murray kept his performance close to home, delivering a quiet,
minimalistic turn not terribly dissimilar from his work in Lost in
Translation. The similarity was noted by more than one critic, and
although Flowers didn’t attract the same sort of attention as Translation,
but most scribes agreed with Sight and Sound’s Liese Spencer, who noted,
“After a career of deadpanning, Murray’s impassive performance is still fresh,
funny, sympathetic and restrained.”
Tomatometer: 87%It’s got Stephen Bishop on the soundtrack and it takes place during
an era in which soap opera stars had a somewhat realistic chance of appearing
on the cover of mainstream publications — but despite these anachronisms, Tootsie
remains largely as fresh and funny as it was in 1982. And although it would be
at best misguided to give Bill Murray a large portion of the credit for this,
his scene-stealing, unbilled turn as Dustin Hoffman’s playwright roommate did
give a terrific early indication of Murray’s willingness — eagerness, even —
to take on smaller roles in the right projects. It’s easy to see why Murray
might have wanted to show up and film a few days of Tootsie, too: with
Dustin Hoffman in the lead, Sydney Pollack behind the cameras, and a script
whose writers included Barry Levinson and Elaine May, it was a pretty sweet
gig whether or not your name ended up above the title. As an added bonus, the
movie’s examination of gender roles fit perfectly with the times, helping
propel Tootsie to nearly $175 million in receipts and plenty of glowing
reviews from critics like Emanuel Levy, who called it “one of the best and
most significant comedies of the 1980s.”
Tomatometer: 88%Anyone who’s ever struggled to get a film off the ground will read
this and weep: Ivan Reitman dreamed up the premise for Stripes — “Cheech
and Chong in the Army” — on the way to the premiere for Meatballs,
after which he pitched his idea to Paramount, where it was instantly greenlit.
Of course, it wasn’t all peaches and cream for Stripes — Cheech and
Chong bailed after being denied complete creative control — but once Bill
Murray and Harold Ramis were subbed in for the cheeba-loving duo (whose
personae were ultimately boiled down into Judge Reinhold’s character, Elmo),
the studio had an entirely different, but still quite profitable, movie on its
hands. As John Winger, the slacker who joins the Army to get fit and meet
chicks, Murray was essentially playing a finely tweaked version of his public
persona, and the script (by Ramis, Len Blum, and Daniel Goldberg) was filled
with zippy one-liners; as a result, although Stripes isn’t what you’d
call a filmmaking achievement, it’s classic early Murray, and it’s nothing but
entertaining. Roger Ebert agreed, calling it “a celebration of all that is
irreverent, reckless, foolhardy, undisciplined, and occasionally scatological”
— and “a lot of fun.”
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Tomatometer: 91%We like to think that turning movies into musicals — and then back
into movies — is a new trend, borne of the ever-dwindling capital in
Hollywood’s creative reserves, but Frank Oz’s 1986 cult classic followed the
same path as the recent big-screen revivals of The Producers and Hairspray.
Oz adapted the off-Broadway version of the story, as written by Alan Menken
and Howard Ashman, which was in turn inspired by the (low-budget, natch) 1960
Roger Corman film of the same name. Fittingly for a film that predated the
wave of screen-to-stage-to-screen projects, Little Shop of Horrors was
a movie ahead of its time: It arrived during a period when musicals were in
such short supply that moviegoers seemed not to know what to do with one, and
despite a funny, colorful ad campaign in support of the funny, colorful movie,
Little Shop ended up not doing much more than making back its budget.
Those who saw it, however, latched onto its inspired bits — including Bill
Murray’s turn as the masochistic patient of Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist —
and it’s gone on to build quite the devoted following in the two decades-plus
since its release. As TIME Magazine’s Richard Corliss noted upon its release,
Little Shop “sneaks up on you, about as subtly as Aubrey II.”
Ed Wood (1994)
Tomatometer: 91%It’s a biopic about one of the least talented filmmakers in history,
it was scripted by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the duo behind the Problem
Child movies, and director Michael Lehmann (Hudson Hawk) was
originally attached to direct. Yes, things could have turned out very
differently for Ed Wood, but when Tim Burton walked away from Mary
Reilly and took an interest in directing Alexander and Karaszewski’s
script, the project took another turn. (Lehmann, undaunted, went on to direct
Airheads.) The final product represented a departure for many of the
parties involved: Burton scaled back his signature visual style, filming in
black and white and letting the story do the talking, and much of the cast —
Sarah Jessica Parker, for example — found itself in uncharted territory.
Appearing as Bunny Breckinridge, the flamboyant star of Plan 9 from Outer
Space, Murray continued the string of smaller, occasionally offbeat roles
he’d occasionally sought out since taking a break from acting following the
failure of The Razor’s Edge in 1984. It also presaged a period in which
Murray would begin choosing scripts seemingly at random, but in Ed Wood
he picked a project that, in the words of Time Out’s Geoff Andrew, “certainly
succeeds as a funny, touching tribute to tenacity, energy, ambition and
Tomatometer: 93%No film makes it to the screen as it’s originally envisioned by its
writers, but Ghostbusters took a particularly circuitous journey:
Originally, Dan Aykroyd planned to assemble it as a project for himself and
John Belushi, with all sorts of big-budget shenanigans, and supporting roles
for Eddie Murphy and John Candy. It was only after a ground-up rewrite by
Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that Ghostbusters became the box office
behemoth it was destined to be, racking up an an astounding $238 million tally
throughout 1984 and 1985. Though it’s very much an ensemble comedy, many of
the film’s best lines are stolen by Murray, perhaps helping create the legend
that he didn’t really read the script, and improvised most of what his
character said onscreen. This story is probably apocryphal, but no matter who
put the words in his mouth, Murray’s deadpan delivery was perfect for the
role, and cemented his status as the thinking man’s preeminent smart-aleck of
the ’80s; it also helped sway begrudging critics like the Chicago Reader’s
Dave Kehr, who summed up Ghostbusters as “not at all a bad time, thanks
mainly to…Murray’s incredibly dry line readings.”
Tomatometer: 95%Thanks to her much-derided appearance in The Godfather III,
Sofia Coppola was still the butt of many film fans’ jokes when she helmed Lost
in Translation — but all that changed once the glowing reviews started
pouring in, capped off with her Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
But Coppola wasn’t the only one who earned praise for this quiet little
picture; Murray received some of the best reviews of his career (not to
mention a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award) for his softly melancholic portrayal
of a movie star whose crushing ennui has set him adrift in a sea of
unfulfilling relationships and paycheck projects. He’s oh-so-gently jolted
from his reverie by a fellow unhappy traveler played by Scarlett Johansson —
and who can blame him? — but that’s pretty much all that happens here,
something pointed out by the handful of critics who gave Lost in
Translation unfavorable ratings. For the 95 percent of critics who loved
it, though, Translation was something special; Variety’s David Rooney
spoke for many when he said its “balance of humor and poignancy makes it both
a pleasurable and melancholy experience.”
Groundhog Day (1993)
Tomatometer: 96%For a modest little comedy that failed to break $100 million at the
box office during its theatrical run, Groundhog Day has done pretty
well for itself in the 15 years since its release: It’s been added to the
United States Film Registry, ranked in the top 40 of the AFI and Bravo “100
Funniest Movies” lists, the top 10 of AFI’s fantasy list, and lauded by Roger
Ebert in his “Great Movies” series. The film catches Murray in transition,
navigating between the arch, manic style of his earlier films and the more
minimalistic, restrained humor of later projects — and he’s aided capably by
a smartly funny script from Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, the latter of whom
provides some of his best, lightest direction here. Much like the day Murray’s
misanthropic newscaster is forced to relive in the movie, Groundhog Day
benefits from repeated viewings, and this is largely due to Murray’s deft
performance; in the words of TIME’s Richard Corliss, he “makes the movie a
comic time warp that anyone should be happy to get stuck in.”