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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Julie White

A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

Murray1Hangin’ out with Bill Murray is the only Christmas gift a person needs.

Due to solely to the fact that his agent permits it, Bill Murray is forced to hold a Christmas show that’s supposed to broadcast live for the whole world to see. While none of this should be a problem for such a seasoned-pro like Murray, he’s incredibly uneasy about it because, well, nobody’s going to actually be there to participate. There’s a huge snowstorm going on in New York City that has closed all roads or forms of transportation, leaving Murray to handle the show all by himself. Then, as the night progresses, Murray soon realizes that maybe there’s more to Christmas than just being a miserable, annoying and sad Grinch; sometimes, it’s about making those around you feel better and happier about the time of the season. That’s why, despite being stuck inside of the Carlyle Hotel, Murray makes the best out of it, hanging around, drinking, singing, and meeting all sorts of people that he would have never expected to meet, had this been any other normal night. But because this is Christmas, anything is possible.

Phoenix + Paul Shaffer? Why not!

Phoenix and Paul Shaffer? Why not!

At under just an hour, A Very Murray Christmas is the kind of variety show that I love to see, yet, so rarely get. While most movies starring Bill Murray have been touted as being “more time to hang-out with Bill Murray”, A Very Murray Christmas is exactly that; we’re literally thrown into this one night of his life, forced to hang around him, and watch as he interacts with everyone he encounters during this one, fateful night. For those who despise Murray, obviously, this will not be their cup-of-tea. However, for those on the exact opposite side of the fence, it’s exactly the party you want.

It’s also the kind you don’t want to ever end, which is why the 56-minute run-time, feels almost too short.

Granted, Netflix and director Sofia Coppola have all been touting A Very Murray Christmas as nothing more than just a Christmas special and leaving it at that, but still, more time spent with Bill Murray being, well, Bill Murray, is time well-spent. So, why not spend as much of it as we can?

That’s why, despite it being odd that I’m reviewing something seen as “a special”, and not exactly “a movie”, I can sit right here and type away, saying that A Very Murray Christmas is not just a great Christmas special, but a great time altogether. It’s as if Coppola herself remembered how much of a great time it was to work with Murray on Lost in Translation, that to not just get a chance to hang with him again, but also allow for other people to see what she loves about him, she conned Netflix into giving her as much freedom and money as they possibly could to help her make this special and do whatever the hell she wanted to do with it.

Wanna throw Phoenix in there as musicians-disguised-as-chefs? Sure, why not! Hell, how about Dexter Poindexter as a bartender who sings and dances? Or, better yet, why not just have Jenny Lewis be here as a waitress who can do everything that Bill Murray can do? And heck, while we’re at it, why not just have a sort-of dream-sequence featuring George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, and tons of half-naked women who can’t wait to maul Bill Murray?

For the most part, as you can probably tell by now, A Very Murray Christmas was made to just have fun, throw stuff at the wall, and see just what sticks. And mostly, everything that Coppola throws at the wall, sticks; there’s a bit early-on concerning Michael Cera as a manager who wants Bill Murray that seems to come out of nowhere (even given the rest of the special), and is only around to poke jokes at the Monuments Men (which is, yeah, fine), and doesn’t really matter. All we want to see is where this special will go next, who is going to sing what song, and just what the hell Bill Murray is going to be up to.

I'll join in!

Rich people having fun makes me sad.

And well, because this is his special, first and foremost, it makes total sense that Bill Murray’s the best part of it all.

While I’m not sure how much of this special was scripted, it sure as hell just seems like Murray, being Murray, decided to throw it out the window and just do whatever he oh so pleased. There’s something absolutely joyous in watching this because, well, he brings out the best in those around him; the previously mentioned Phoenix have a nice duet with Murray that amounts to Murray just egging everyone on and teasing them. Phoenix is loving, Murray’s loving it, Coppola’s obviously loving it, and hell, for that matter, we’re loving it, too!

Everybody else who shows up in A Very Murray Christmas all seem like they signed-up just to have fun and hang around with a dear old pal of theirs, which makes the special feel all the more pleasant. Everyone who shows up either gets a chance or two to make their presences known, and add a little flavor to the whole special. Most of it’s funny and hardly ever disappoints, even if, occasionally, it does just feel like a bunch of attractive, insanely talented people getting together and doing whatever they want.

But you know what? It’s the holidays and I will never have a problem with that!

Just next time, please, invite me. I promise I’m a fun guy.

Consensus: A Very Murray Christmas may be short with hardly even hitting an hour, but is still filled with all sorts of joy, humor and unpredictable excitement that it’s more than worth the time you take out of your day to check it out. And if you don’t want to do it for me, then fine – just do it for Bill. He’ll be happy.

9 / 10

Seriously. Don't ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Seriously. Don’t ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Astronaut Farmer (2007)

AstronautposterThe moon landing never happened anyway. So keep on dreaming, bro.

For as long as he’s been alive, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has always wanted to travel to the moon. Although he was a NASA pilot for a little while, he had to step out due to personal issues at the time. Now, Charles is trying to create his own spaceship that he can launch into space. It seems like a pipe-dream, but Charles is inspired so much, that he won’t take “no” for an answer; even though friends, confidantes, and hell, even his wife (Virginia Madsen), tell him it’s impossible, he doesn’t listen. When Charles’ plans get leaked to the world wide web, eventually, as they tend to do, the FBI finds themselves getting involved. Though Charles is not, from what people know, a terrorist planning on nuking the entire Earth, the government still doesn’t want to take any chances and keeps track of Charles’ everyday comings and goings. And hell, even though Charles has got the rest of the world behind him and his journey, the government still does not want to budge. This is a challenge that Charles accepts and stands against, even if it risks his own life, as well as those that he loves and cares for so much.

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

The whole time while watching the Astronaut Farmer, I kept on waiting for the subscript to start/end the movie saying something along the lines of, “based on a true story”. Does a story about some small-town farmer creating his own rocket and trying to launch it into space sound plausible? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor that I’ve never heard about it before. Crazier things have happened in this land we call Earth, right?

But the subscript never shows up.

The Astronaut Farmer is literally an idea written by Michael and Mark Polish, which is interesting to say the least. Silly? Sure, but it’s obvious that they’re both trying to aim for that you-can-do-anything-that-you-put-your-mind-to sensibility that so many Disney films seem to rely on. Through Farmers’ own journey of trying to get into space and do what he’s always wanted us to do, the Polish bros. are trying to get us to think of our dreams and have the idea that we too can make them come true, so long as we have enough heart and inspiration deep down inside of our souls.

And this is all fine and good, but the movie never seems like it earns that feeling of absolute and divine inspiration. Instead, it’s just a really old-timey, almost-retro story that may have a heart to work with, but never seems to go any deeper than the surface. Which is kind of a shame considering that the Polish bros. debut (Twin Falls Idaho) also dealt with the same sort of strange premise in a mindful way, but also gave us more to the story than just what was presented.

Here, it just sort of feels like everything and everyone is one-note, without there being any gray area left for the audience to decipher themselves.

The only interesting aspect of this story where it seems like the Polish bros. themselves are conflicted of a certain character-trait is with Farmer himself. While the Polish bros. clearly love and adore the character of Charles Farmer, his ambition, his heart, and his never-say-never attitude, the idea that, if he isn’t successful with his trip to space and does end up dying in the process, what will he leave his family back on Earth with? Because he’s put so much gosh darn money into this spaceship, he’s already bled them dry, so what could they possibly do without him around to keep the money flowing in? Will they be left high, dry, and without a fork to use? Or will they get by just fine because, well, Charles Farmer always has a tricky plan up his sleeves?

Take a guess of which conclusion the Polish bros. come to.

"It's okay, honey. If you die, don't worry, cause we're all screwed."

“It’s okay, honey. If you die, don’t worry, cause we’re all screwed.”

Like I’ve said though, I don’t mind the simplicity of most tales, but this one in particular doesn’t seem to really concern itself with much else other than, “dude wants to travel to space and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve that”. While it would have been interesting to see a complex, almost flawed-figure presented, Charles himself is painted in such a lovely portrait, that it’s almost like they’ve could had him run for president at the end, win, create his own world where everybody and their grand-mothers are allowed to travel into space, and it would seem uplifting, smart and, above all else, believable. It’s painfully clear that the Polish bros. don’t have much of a narrative-drive to go any further and it hurts the characters so much, that even the ones who may have some sort of interesting plight to show, it just makes it seem like a waste.

For instance, Billy Bob Thornton, surprisingly playing a good-guy, does what he can as Charles, but because the dude is so blue-eyed and optimistic, it just becomes irritating. Virginia Madsen, despite her character seeming as if she initially has something interesting to say, doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t expect her to, except by her husband as he possibly kills himself in the process of living his life-long dream. And then, as her daddy, Bruce Dern shows up as the voice of reason who, you might expect to be against the idea of Charles going out into space and risking his own life, but is instead happy that he’s doing it because, as he says, “he shares the dreams with his family”.

Yawn.

The only people in this movie that I could identify with were the FBI themselves – which, for a movie such as this, is not what’s supposed to happen. The FBI, as written by the Polish bros., are painted to be these sort of big brother, negative Nancies that are always trying to get on Charles’ case and tarnish his dreams forever, but in all honesty, they have a point for thinking the way that they do. Though Charles may not be a huge threat to the government per se, there’s still something incredibly dangerous and crazy about his idea of going out into space with his own, homemade spaceship that makes it understandable why they wouldn’t want him up in the sky to begin with. This may seem like I’m thinking too hard, but honestly, the Polish bros. want us think of this as some sort of “could-happen” tale that, if someone puts their heart, mind, body and soul into an idea long enough, that it and the rest of their wildest dreams can all come true.

Yawn again.

Consensus: Though its heart may be in the right place, the Astronaut Farmer is too implausible and one-dimensional to really inspire the people that it wants to, but instead, make them feel happy that there aren’t more Charles Farmer’s trying to release DIY spaceships into the sky.

4 / 10

"Kids, don't be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can't possibly happen to anyone."

“Kids, don’t be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can’t possibly happen to anyone.”

Photos Courtesy of: Superior Pics