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Scrooged

            Bill Murray gets the Ebenezer Scrooge treatment in this 1988 Christmas Comedy. Scrooged tells the tale of Frank Cross, a power-obsessed TV executive who has chosen work over friends and family. He’s in charge of a live Christmas Eve broadcast of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the classic story of a grumpy guy who gets visited by ghosts and learns the true meaning of Christmas. Life begins to imitate art, and Frank gets visited by the ghost of his old mentor who warns him that he will be visited by three other ghosts.

Over the course of the evening and throughout his live broadcast, Frank gets visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. He becomes increasingly jumpy and disturbed, but comes to realize the error of his ways by the end of his final visit. He celebrates by rekindling his relationship with the love of his life and leading the cast and crew in a rousing rendition of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” as the credits roll.

This is a darker version of A Christmas Carol. The humor is edgy and more cynical than other Bill Murray comedies. The Christmas Ghosts are kind of scary, especially for kids. It’s distinctly ‘80s and doesn’t hold up very well. It’s kind of dated. They have product placements for prehistoric products like VCRs. There are a lot of cameos from people who used to be famous. You probably wouldn’t like it if you saw it today for the first time. But it’s necessary holiday viewing if you grew up watching it like I did. It makes you nostalgic. It makes you remember happy memories. And isn’t that what holiday films are all about?

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Zombieland

There are two major classifications of zombie movies. They are either horror films or parody films. Zombieland is one of the latter. That mean’s it’s funny. Ruben Fleischer makes his directorial debut and Jesse Eisenberg stars as a college kid struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. He teams up with a few other survivors, played by Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Bill Murray makes a cameo as himself.

The movie begins with Columbus (Eisenberg) explaining how the world has gone to shit and become infested with zombies. He has a list of rules (like cardio, limber up, check the back seat, enjoy the little things) that he follows religiously to stay alive. He meets another survivor going by the name Tallahassee (Harrelson).  Tallahassee is a badass with a knack for killing zombies and a soft spot for Twinkies. They form an unlikely partnership and soon come across sisters/con artists Wichita and Little Rock (Stone and Breslin). Despite the sisters stealing their guns a few times, the four of them team up and start heading to Pacific Playland, which is supposedly free of zombies.

Along the way they start bonding and getting to know each other. They hang out with Bill Murray for a little bit. Then there’s a conflict and the group separates. The sisters go to Pacific Playland and attract a horde of zombies, but Columbus mans up and rescues them with some help from Tallahassee. The girls are saved, Columbus gets the girl, and Tallahassee gets a Twinkie.

Zombieland is a good movie. It has an interesting premise, it’s funny, it has a great cast, and a distinctive look. It’s not the best zombie parody (Shaun of the Dead was funnier and smarter), but it’s definitely entertaining and worth watching. Jesse Eisenberg carries the film. He plays shy, nerdy guys better than anyone else in Hollywood. He’s like a suave, un-annoying Michael Cera. Woody Harrelson’s always fun to watch but his character is kind of one-dimensional, even with the revelation that he can’t cope with the death of his son. Emma Stone looks as lovely as ever. And you can’t go wrong with Bill Murray in one of the best cameos of all time.

Zombies are in right now. You should have seen this movie by now. You’re slacking if you haven’t. It’s been out for a few years now. You better get on that shit.

Critically Rated at 14/17

Written, Rated and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Groundhog Day (film not the day)

Bill Murray is awesome. Totally fucking awesome. And sometimes he makes movies. Some people think that Ghostbusters is his best film. Some people are wrong. His best movie is actually Groundhog Day. Harold Ramis (Egon from Ghostbusters) directs this fantasy about a weatherman who gets trapped in time, doomed to relive his least favorite day of the year: Groundhog Day.

Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a cynical weatherman who dreams of moving forward career wise but finds himself stuck in a rut. He goes to Punxsutawney, PA to report on the yearly Groundhog Day festivities with his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott).

Phil is miserable. He complains about everyone and everything. He finds himself on assignment in Punxsutawney, PA reporting on a rodent with the same name as him. You know the routine, if Phil the Groundhog sees or doesn’t see his shadow then winter will or wont happen. Whatever. Somehow Phil the Weatherman finds himself repeating the same day. Over and over again.

At first he slowly pieces together the fact that he’s not going crazy. Everyone keeps doing the same thing, and he realizes that he’s not experiencing an extreme case of déjà vu.

He does what you would do if you find yourself reliving the same day over and over again. He explores all the possibilities the day has to offer. He tries to kill himself to no avail. He hits on the random girls around time. He hits on Rita. Eventually he falls in love with Rita. He uses his time loop to learn as much about Rita as he can. He learns to play the piano, he teaches himself French poetry, and he tries to make himself her ideal man.

Phil starts to explore every aspect of the day. He meets all the citizens of Punxsutawney and uses his knowledge for good and evil. He saves lives and he steals money. He manipulates people some days and helps them the next day, even though it’s always the same day. At one point he declares himself a God. But he eventually learns his place… he has to do things the right way for the right reasons before he’s allowed to escape his prison.

Groundhog Day is a perfect film. It’s a comedy, but it has an interesting philosophical message. It’s deep. It’s layered. It has Bill Murray in his prime. If you were trapped repeating the same day over and over again, this is what it would be like. It’s a fantastical, pseudo-documentary. It’s about life. You have hopes, dreams, despair, doubts, schemes, plans, backfires, monotonous repetitions and spontaneous miracles.

Groundhog Day is a universal film. Everyone knows what it’s like to be stuck somewhere that you don’t want to be. You want to escape, you can’t always succeed but sometimes you can. And that’s why you try. If you could only repeat the same day forever you might realize what life is all about.

At one point Phil is intent on saving an old homeless guy who seems doomed to die. A nurse tries to explain “Sometimes, people just die.” Phil replies, “Not today.” He can’t avoid the old man’s fate, but he keeps trying to save his life. You can’t control what happens, but you can control what you do, and that’s what matters.

Groundhog Day is a movie that you can watch with anybody. With your friends, with your family, with a girlfriend or casual acquaintance. There’s something for everybody. If you haven’t seen it, I feel sorry for you. Watch it now and I won’t judge you.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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Ghostbusters II

If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! I’m not trying to be clever, who else would you call? Who else is even a possibility? Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and Bill Murray are the Ghostbusters, and they’re back in their second film, again directed by Ivan Reitman. The first film is a classic; there is no denying that. But this is a great sequel, and I know a lot of people consider this blasphemy, but I think it is on par, or maybe even better than the original. That doesn’t mean it’s better, it means it’s more Ghostbustery.

The first film of a franchise generally spends a lot of time introducing and establishing characters. In sequels, you already know the main characters, so you can just jump right into the story. That’s how Ghostbusters II starts. It begins five years after the events of the first movie, and the Ghostbusters are no more. But this is a sequel, and the stakes have to be higher. Right of the bat, pink slime is creeping out of cracks in the sidewalk and Dana Barrett’s baby goes for a wild ride in his carriage. She goes to Egon and Ray for help, and the Ghostbusters reunite to find out what is going on.

What is going on is that the soul of a 17th Century tyrant is slowly regaining power and is threatening to take on a physical form and take over the world. That’s pretty shady. Vigo the Carpathian is a much more formidable opponent than a giant marshmallow man. I think that a scary painting that comes to life (who also controls a river of slime) is a little bit scarier than a demon that lives in a refrigerator and a giant candy mascot. Vigo uses Dana Barrett’s boss, Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol), to try to kidnap Dana’s baby, Oscar. Oscar is going to the vessel, the body that Vigo will take over.

Naturally the Ghostbusters have a problem with this, and since Dana Barrett is a paying customer, they have to take him down. They discover a river of slime running underneath New York. They find out that the slime is a psyscho-reactive substance, a manifestation of negative emotions, and that it feeds off of angry, surly New Yorkers. The more pissed off and negative they are, the more powerful Vigo and his slime gets, and that in turn releases more and more ghosts. The Ghostbusters find out a way to use happy, positive emotions to control the slime, and use technology to animate the Statue of Liberty in order to fight the ghosts, because that makes total sense. Janosz successfully kidnaps Oscar, and the Ghostbusters have until 12:00 on New Year’s Eve to save the world.

There are a few reasons why this sequel is as good or better than the original. First off, everybody likes Slimer. And Slimer had a decent intro in the first movie, but he is actually helpful in this movie. He drives Louis to the museum, which was pretty important to advancing the plot. Slimer is the ghost mascot of the Ghostbusters, he was hardly in the first movie, but was featured prominently in the cartoon show and this sequel. There are better and more elaborate ghost-catching montages. Rick Moranis is awesome. And his character, Louis Tully, is expanded and has a lot more lines and scenes. He even gets some loving from Janine, the Ghostbuster’s secretary (who also has a bigger and better role to play). Even Ernie Hudson gets more screen time as Winston. Remember that there are four Ghostbusters, and Winston only showed up halfway through the first movie and didn’t do anything really. Winston is there from the get-go and has a cool first scene with Ray as they work a birthday party, establishing that they are now failures. He’s still not quite a lead, but his character actually involved in the plot now.

Vigo the Carpathian is a terrifying villain. He’s a creepy painting that slowly becomes more and more powerful throughout the film. The first movie uses demons named Zuul and Gozer, but you hardly see them. The destructor arrives in the form of the gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I know it’s comedy, but that shit’s absurd even for the ‘80s. Vigo is scary. He even turns the comical Janosz into a disturbing henchman for the underworld… the scene were his eyes become headlights will forever be etched into my memory.

The first movie had great moments. It will always be a classic. But I think that this sequel did more to establish Ghostbusters as a franchise. There are a lot of iconic Ghostbusters moments in this one…. The Statue of Liberty, Slimer the Bus Driver, more Winston, more Louis, the river of slime, the courthouse ghosts, baby-eating bathtubs… the list goes on and on.

Ghostbusters is a great movie. Ghostbusters II is a great sequel and a great movie. They celebrate that they are back, and you are glad they are. And Bill Murray is reason enough to watch this movie. So watch it.

Critically Rated at 13/17

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