The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Film Review

Steven Zissou (Bill Murray) is a deep sea explorer who makes documentaries on his ridiculous ship with his intensely loyal crew. But when his partner is killed by a never-seen shark, plus his reputation is flagging, his next documentary is under high pressure to be a hit. Add into the mix a heavily pregnant journalist (Cate Blanchett) a long-lost son (Owen Wilson) and Zissou’s need to succeed regardless of the danger it poses to himself or his crew.

I loved this. It’s so beautiful, Anderson has such a distinct style, and I particularly love the shots of Murray leading the cast through the streets of, perhaps, Naples. While his absurd humour doesn’t appeal to all, it really tickles me. Plus, what a cast. Angelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor… the list goes on.

Rushmore (1998) Film Review

Max (Jason Schwartzman) is an odd kid – overachieving in many ways at the Rushmore Academy, he becomes friends with Herman Blume (Bill Murray) the father of a classmate, falls in love with Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a teacher, and is put out of the school by Dr Nelson Guggenheim (Brian Cox). Really, he’s just trying to find his place in the world – be it at Rushmore Academy or beyond.

This is Wes Anderson’s first feature film and it’s where we see many of the stylistic and story elements which define his work. I recently became quite cross about Anderson’s most recent film, Isle of Dogs, and was fearful about revisiting his previous films, but took the plunge. I think I’m still a fan. Mostly. It’s very strange seeing Jason Schwartzman so young, but I do really like the way Anderson creates weird characters who are so over confident. Many people struggle leaving high school success and moving to the real world, but it usually takes a while for them to realise it. In Rushmore, it almost happens before he finishes school.

St. Vincent (2014) Film Review


Vincent (Bill Murray) is a drunken misanthrope who has a mysterious relationship with a pregnant prostitute (played by Naomi Watts) and spends most of his time gambling, drinking or yelling at people. Then Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) moves in next door with her small child, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher). She’s going through a nasty divorce and has to work crazy hours to keep things together for them. Somehow, Vincent ends up looking after Oliver and Oliver sees a lot more in him than most.

It’s not a new idea – a kid being looked after by someone who is perhaps not the most traditional or appropriate fit but getting a lot of good out of it… but this is such a beautiful telling of it. Bill Murray, as always, is just wonderful, but it is the way they all work together that makes it work. And Melissa McCarthy – this is what you should always do. Yes, you are good at the over-the-top comedy and the crazy characters, but it is this heartfelt yet snippy character that has totally won me over to the McCarthy camp. So, so good.

St. Vincent was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (Bill Murray).

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Film Review


I had held of watching this film for two reasons: firstly, I didn’t love Wes Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, and was a bit concerned I wouldn’t love this, and I have truly loved many of his previous films; second, I saw a trailer early on and thought that I had seen most of it. I was wrong on both counts. I love it and the trailer actually gave very little away.

Essentially, the film tells the story (in a somewhat convoluted fashion) of a bell boy working at The Grand Budapest Hotel. No, that is not it. There is a lot more, there is theft and betrayal, sex and love, cakes and guns, prison and trains. But to attempt to tell it could give away too much, and it is a story that it is a delight to simply watch unfold. The typical, beautiful style of Wes Anderson is apparently in every shot, and his large cast of some of the most wonderful actors is great. (Although extremely male-heavy, with no really good female roles. Wes Anderson usually does better on this count… shame)

I think that if you do not like Wes Anderson films, you won’t like this one. If you haven’t seen one, perhaps this might be the best to introduce you to him.

The Grand Budapest Hotel won Oscars for Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Alexandre Desplat) and Best Achievement in Production Design. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Wes Anderson), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness).


Groundhog Day (1993) Film Review


When was the last time you saw a good ‘magic’ film? You know, those cheesy films of the eighties and nineties where a character swaps bodies or has a mannequin come to life or lives the same day over and over and over? I think they were a product of their time, and I challenge filmmakers to make a new one that I like anywhere near as much as a classic like Groundhog Day.

Phil (Bill Murray) is a cynical weatherman being sent by his network to Punxsutawney, a small town that holds a large ceremony each year to celebrate Groundhog Day. (For those who don’t know, on Feb 2, folklore states that when a groundhog emerges from its burrow, if it sees its own shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks) Rita (Andie MacDowell) is his new producer, a gentle and kind woman. Phil is desperate to get home, but they are trapped due to a blizzard. When he wakes the next day it is, in fact, the same day. And this continues for quite some time.

Bill Murray is just so great, he plays the really nasty grump who says awful things to people all of the time perfectly, though his transformation seems somewhat cynical. But Andie MacDowell as the love interest – she’s just so bland. I just re-watched Four Weddings and a Funeral and was so disappointed in her performance in that… I honestly used to think she was great. Ah well. I guess some things should not be revisited.

Get Low (2009) Film Review


Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is the local hermit in a small American town in the nineteen thirties. When another local hermit dies, she is inspired to hold his own funeral, only while he is still alive. He wants to hear what people have to say about him, but perhaps he has a more important story to tell.

I enjoyed a lot of this film – it’s one of those gentle films that just moseys along, dropping bits of information here and there. It does everything it should reliably and well, with strong performances, but without the spark that makes some stories amazing.


The Monuments Men (2014) Film Review

the monuments men

A group of art historians are brought into the army to save artwork that Hitler has had collected and plans to destroy if he loses power.

That is an interesting story in itself. Yet, watching the trailers, it looked terrible to me. It seemed very lighthearted and possibly too funny. IT didn’t matter that there is an excellent cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban. Or that it was directed by Clooney. It just looked average. But I went.

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a total hard-hitting war film. The humour was good and not too much of it, and it was nicely balanced with some heart wrenching moments. I believe it is not true to the original story, but it is not a documentary. I’m happy to forgive that. I’m happy to have just enjoyed it for what it was.

Zombieland (2009) Film Review


I always say that I can’t stand horror, but it seems I am developing a soft spot for horror/comedy. Not that I’ve seen too many films in this genre. 100 Bloody Acres, Sean of the Dead, I can’t think of any others. There must be more.

Zombieland takes place after something has happened – it’s unimportant exactly what – but America is overrun by Zombies. There are few survivors, and those that are alive may be more interested in saving themselves than working as a team.

Enter Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), a geeky college student who has quickly developed a series of rules to keep himself alive. When he comes across Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) they form an unlikely partnership who end up being challenged, hindered and assisted by sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).

The film is funny and violent. Possibly violently funny, although definitely hilariously violent. I’ve not been a huge fan of Eisenberg, but that’s mostly because I really couldn’t stand the character he played in The Social Network and have not really moved on from here. Columbus was the perfect role for him – geeky, a bit shy but not afraid to use a semi-automatic weapon. And then there’s Bill Murray. Ah, bless you, Bill Murray.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) Film Review



Franklin D Roosevelt was the US President from 1933-1945. This film takes place at his mother’s property(where Roosevelt was based when he was not working out of Washington) during the years leading up to the Second World War. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came for a visit to court US support should war break out.

After recently watching The King’s Speech, it was very interesting to see another representation of King George VI and his wife. In fact, it was the scene with these two on their own which were, by far, the most amusing. The rest of the film was totally boring. I wanted to like it. The general plot was interesting, and the cast was led by one of my favourites, Bill Murray. But I was so bored. What a huge disappointment.

Hyde Park on Hudson was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Bill Murray).

Get Smart (2008)Film Review


Like Fun With Dick and Jane, this was a film that I re-watched after disliking the first time, and was generally, pleasantly surprised. Having loved the television series Get Smart, I wondered how on earth it could be remade with any credibility at all. The answer? Steve Carell.

The premise is that Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is an analyst at CONTROL, a secret spy agency. He is desperate to get out into the field and be an agent, despite being quite physically incompetent. A break-in results in Maxwell being one of the only agents able to be deployed, sent out with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway).

It’s quite good, but certainly any weaknesses in the script are saved by the cast. Not only is there Carell and Hathaway, but Alan Arkin as the chief, Bill Murray in a delightful cameo as Agent 13, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (who I totally love playing comedy or action, but ideally both) as Agent 23 and Terence Stamp as Siegfried from KAOS. For me, I still didn’t like the last half hour or so. Perhaps it should have been a ninety minute film rather than a hundred-and-ten minute film. Or perhaps the last section just needed to be better.

If you are a massive Get Smart (the television show) fan, you may like the nods to the original that are in this, but overall, there was no way it was ever going capture the kitsch glamour of the original.