The Bill Murray Stories

billmurraystoryApparently there are lots of stories on the internet about Bill Murray doing some crazy spontaneous things where he crashes a party or a wedding picture session, comes behind someone in a public toilet and puts his hands on the person eyes saying “No one will ever believe you”, or ends up doing the dishes in some kid’s apartment. He just shows up out of the blue, acts like he is just a normal guy (not a celebrity) but in a way that touches people’s life. Could those stories be true? That’s the question which Tommy Avallone asked himself and decided to make a documentary about it. 

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man is a documentary that retells those stories and interviews the people who experienced them. It really seems that most stories — at least those told in the documentary — are true and there is pictorial or video evidences to prove it. Avallone then goes on asking himself: why? Why someone like Bill Murray would do such things? To goof around? As a publicity stunt? Not at all. It is just who Bill Murray is. It is part of an improv thing and part of a life philosophy (something like taoism or zen). He just like to live in the moment and make people happy.

Personally, I am just wondering what makes people wake up in the morning and decides to make a documentary about Bill Murray. You are in movie school and need to do one as an assignment? Or really want answers to those questions and decide to just films everything and try to make money out of it? Or you just have the “reporter” gene in your blood? I guess someone should make a documentary about that.

It’s not a very good documentary (it’s clumsy, particularly toward the end, and I dislike when someone makes a documentary about themselves looking for something) but I enjoyed it because I not only learned a lot about who is Bill Murray, but it was also quite entertaining (lots of funny anecdotes and movie excerpts). It reminds me of this book that I once saw in the library: The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment, and Party Crashing, by Gavin Edwards and R. Sikoryak, which was basically asking the same questions. [ Amazon / Goodreads / Library ]

Apparently, Bill Murray is quite an interesting person. But whether you are interested or not, whether you like documentaries or not, it doesn’t matter: if you just take the moment to watch this sixty-seven minutes movies you will certainly enjoy it. And maybe, maybe, you’ll take something out if it and wonder, like me, could I ever be that spontaneous and really live in the moment? stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonGoogleIMDbNetflixRotten TomatoesWikipedia ]

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Watership Down

watershipdownWhen I told one of my colleagues that I was watching a TV mini-series about a bunch of rabbits, she laugh at me saying “You’re watching a kid’s show on Netflix?” I replied that it was far from being a kid show. “Sure, it is about rabbits, but it is a very dark tale of survival”. 

This 2018 four-part TV mini-series tells the story of a group of rabbits who flee their warren and seek a new home. They are led by Hazel after his brother Fiver had a vision of destruction. Indeed, the sandy hill that was their home was invaded by bulldozers and backhoe excavators to create a new neighbourhood for humans. The journey is full of danger as rabbits in an open field can become prey to numerous predators (birds of prey, cats, dogs, foxes and… humans!). Before finding the ideal down (a gently rolling hill) to start anew, they will encounter two other rabbit communities which — having somehow lost their natural ways and surrendered their freedom in two opposite manners — will bring unimaginable perils to the group.

watership_down-movieposterI never read Richard Adams’ novel, but from what I’ve seen by browsing through it, the animated mini-series is a faithful adaptation. However, what I have seen, many years ago, it’s the 1978 animated movie adaptation by Martin Rosen (with John Hurt voicing Hazel). For the time it was a stunningly beautiful animation that was characterized by it’s strong graphic violence that made it clearly aimed at an adult audience. It became for me a sort of cult movie, proving that animation could be taken seriously by adults. Therefore, I was quite curious to see how this new TV series would fare in comparison and I was a little sceptical that it could be as good. In fact, after viewing the first episode of the mini-series, I was rather disappointed that none of the characters had died yet! However, after viewing the whole series, I am happy to see that it compares well with the movie. It even manages to update the adaptation for the twenty-first century (replacing traditional animation with 3D CGI and putting more emphasis on the ecological theme) while making the story more accessible to all audience by giving a more gentle version of it (with far less graphical violence).

watership-down-posterIf it is far from being perfect, the 3D animation is nonetheless excellent. The animation of the rabbits, of the landscapes and the movements is all nearly perfect. However, the animation of the humans and of other animals (cats & dogs notably) really needed more work and is quite disappointing.

The voice-acting is excellent and includes many great actors like James McAvoy (Hazel), Nicholas Hoult (Fiver), John Boyega (Bigwig), Ben Kingsley (General Woundwort), Tom Wilkinson (Threarah), Gemma Arterton (Clover), Peter Capaldi (Kehaar), Olivia Colman (Strawberry), Anne-Marie Duff (Hyzenthlay), Freddie Fox (Captain Holly), Miles Jupp (Blackberry), Daniel Kaluuya (Bluebell), Rosamund Pike (Black Rabbit), Daniel Rigby (Dandelion). However, it is not perfect. For example, as far as I remember, the voice of Kehaar (the seagull) sounded rather German in the movie whilst it was supposed to be Scandinavian. This time, it sounds Scottish (Capaldi)! It also feels strange that all rabbits from the same warren have different accents — but I guess it helps giving them different “personality”.

What I found interesting is that Adams created a culture for the rabbits, a mythology (or at least a creation myth, based around the Sun-god Frith, the folk hero El-ahrairah [the Prince with a Thousand Enemies], and the Black Rabbit as death-figure), and almost a language (the Lapine, or at least a vocabulary that sounds foreign). It is fascinating as it grounds the story in reality, but also gives it the mystical aura of legends.

Beside the very obvious ecological message (the Elils [rabbits’ natural enemies] kill by nature, by necessity and never more than needed, while men kill by pleasure, or simply because they can and will never stop “till they’ve spoil the earth”), to me Watership Down’s story feels like an allegory about the danger of totalitarianism (the later ’30s German fascism for example). However, Adams said that it was rather based on the theme of the classical hero inspired by the epics of Homer (Odyssey) or Virgil (Aeneid).

All in all, it is beautiful, rich, riveting and intelligent. Well worth watching and highly recommended. stars-4-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ GoogleIMDbOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

The mini-series’ trailer:

Now, compare with the 1978 movie trailer:

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Golden Globe: No Japanese winners

At the Golden Globe 2019, held on January 6th, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has awarded Bohemian Rhapsody for the Best Motion Picture (Drama), Green Book for the Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Glen Close for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama), Rami Malek for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), Olivia Colman for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Christian Bale for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), and Alfonso Cuarón for Best Director.

Surprisingly (or is it, really?), I have not seen any of the nominated TV series either for Drama (The Americans [the winner], Bodyguard, Homecoming, Killing Eve, or Pose) or for Musical/Comedy (Barry, The Good Place, Kidding, The Kominsky Method [the winner] or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). And I am not sure I am interested. Although, I’d like to see  Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite or Crazy Rich Asians (when they comes out on dvd)…

However, the categories that interest us the most are those where Japanese movies were in nomination. Unfortunately, no Japanese movie received any award this year.

The Best Animated Motion Picture award went to Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse. It is quite disappointing because I thought that Mirai had some chance. Even the heavily Japanese-inspired Isle of Dog [on which I commented] deserved the award better. That’s a shame.

The Best Foreign Language Motion Picture award went to the Mexican movie Roma. However I was really cheering for Shoplifters [the latest film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, which was shown at the FNC and commented by Claude R. BlouinAsianWiki / IMDb / Wikipedia]. It is just bad it didn’t win.

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RBG-covI just watched this CNN documentary about the life of judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is really a historical crash course about the other side of the fight for civil rights: the legal aspect of the women’s lib movement in which RBG played an essential role. The film is composed of extracts of hearing and court proceedings as well as interviews with RBG, friends, family and some legal or political experts. We first learn how she became a lawyer in 1959 (Harvard and then Columbia) but couldn’t find employment because she was a woman. She taught law at Rutgers. Within the ACLU she co-founded in 1972 the Women’s Rights Project which oversaw hundreds of gender discrimination cases, RBG personally arguing six of them before the Supreme Court (winning five). It is incredible how such a small and frail woman could be so dedicated and determined to fight gender discrimination in any way necessary in order to slowly build up precedents and find justice.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter nominated her as judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.. In 1993, Bill Clinton nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court where she played an iconic role. With the retirement of Justice O’Connor in 2006, she became the only woman on the court, until the nomination of Justice Sotomayor in 2009. First considered a moderate, she shifted toward the Left to preserve the balance as the court became more conservative. She is known for her dissenting opinion. She could be the last line of defence against the civil rights roll back by the Trump administration. Strangely, the appeal of her work and personality — through an Internet meme named Notorious R.B.G., which was comparing her to rapper Notorious B.I.G. — has given her great pop culture fame.

This is a great documentary that is fun to watch, but also very informative. I’ve learned a lot about American history. It is also a nice introduction to another movie about RBG’s life, this time a fictionalized account of her early days, titled On the Basis of Sex and which was just released this Christmas. RBG was well received as it earned a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.6 on IMDb. Therefore, it is highly recommended. I recorded it when it aired on CNN in September, but it is now available on Dvd (from Amazon or your local library) and can also be streamed on iTunes or Amazon Primestars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ Amazon PrimeGoogleIMDbOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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A place to call home S06

APlaceToCallHome-s06-covI just finished watching the sixth and final season of this Australian soap. It tells the story of the Blighs, a rich family of land owners from Inverness (New South Wales) whose life change forever after the chance encounter with a nurse on a cruise ship. Each member of the family will know love, grief and betrayal multiple times as they ride the wave of modernity emerging from the post-WW2 era (the Fifties). Some of them will have to come to term with the horrors of the war and they will all discover — and fight for, sometimes against their own prejudices — a large spectrum of human rights: gay rights, minority rights (Italians, Jews, Aboriginals) and women’s rights… It’s some sort of Australian’s Downton Abbey.

I am not a big fan of soaps (I watched them only with my wife) but this one is well written, endearing, it knows how to stir emotions and makes you reflects on our own society. It was very well received by the critics with a score of 100% (audience score of 85%) on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.3 on IMDb. I enjoyed it a lot myself, so I’d say it’s worth watching if you have the time (it has 67 episodes) and can find it (it plays on BBC Canada sometimes and the first five seasons are available on Dvd). stars-3-0

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoogleIMdBOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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Mars S02

Mars-TV-posterI just finished watching the second season (and the end) of Mars, a National Geographic docudrama about what the colonisation of the red planet could look like. It’s based on a book by Stephen Petranek, How We’ll Live on Mars Amazon / Biblio ]The series has 13 episodes (two seasons of six episodes, plus a prequel).

It offers a fictitious story intertwined with interviews of real scientists and personalities (such has Elon Musk, Susan Wise Bauer, Andy Weir, Antonia Juhasz, Neil deGrass Tyson, Adam Frank, Stephen Petranek, Bill Nye, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Zubrin, Ann Druyan, etc.) to discuss the feasibility and necessity of exploring and colonizing Mars. It shows not only the scientific aspects of such endeavour, but also its human side. It is filmed in a very realistic way and the acting is good (although there’s no known actors in this international cast). A companion book was created to go along the TV series: Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet [ Amazon / Biblio ].

It is really interesting, particularly if you like hard science-fiction (series like The Expanse), but I would rather see a TV series adaptation of Kim Stanley Robinson Mars trilogy… I am disappointed that it lasted only two seasons as it could have been so much more. The constant interruption of the storytelling with interviews can be annoying sometimes, but it gives the story more realism and makes the series not only entertaining but also educative. However, considering how slow space exploration is going right now, I think that starting the story in 2033 is a bit too optimistic. It was relatively well received by viewers and critics (ratings of 61% / 66% on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.5 on IMDb) and it is worth watching if you like space exploration. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonGoogleIMdBOfficialWikipediaYoutube ]

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Travelers S03

Travelers-s03This week-end I binge-watched the third season of the Canadian-American sci-fi TV series Travelers that was just released on Netflix (December 14th). 

A little similar to the older TV series Continuum (2012), this is a time-travel story where people from the future travel back in time to try preventing a dystopian future and possible civilization-ending events. Although, this time, the people themselves don’t travel in time, but it is rather their consciousness that “overwrites” the mind of present-day people who were about to die and of whom they assume the identity. Those well-trained travelers follow a strict set of rules (or protocols) and are executing missions that are given to them by the Director, an artificial intelligence that rules the future and monitors the timelines. 

The concept is quite interesting and it is cleverly written. Of course such stories are a basketful of paradoxes that are often confusing and not always credible so it is generally better not to scrutinize them too much. However, it is compelling and very entertaining. Despite all common sense telling me it should be bad, I liked it a lot.

The first season (12 episodes), which aired in late 2016 on Showcase and Netflix, introduced the characters and the setting of the story as the travelers main mission is to prevent an asteroid from destroying the northeastern seaboard. Each episode bring a minor mission and develops further the relationships between the travelers and their entourage. One of them, Marcy, has trouble with her host’s body. They all must battle a rebel group of travelers called the Faction, which want to save humanity from the control of the artificial intelligence.

With the second season (12 episodes), in 2017, the story concentrate around the fight against the Faction and their leader in present-day, known as Traveler 001. The third season (10 episodes), which was released only on Netflix, continues the Faction story arc. The travelers a battered and their cover story is blown — but their existence is known only to the top levels of governments. They are forced to work under the oversight of the actual FBI. As none of their missions seems to improve the future and as the Faction is gaining ground, the prospects are quite bleak for the travelers… 

No fourth season has been announced yet and the third season’s ending could very well also be considered the end of the series. However, it also leaves an opening for a sequel…

All in all, Travelers is a very good science-fiction TV series, well worth watching. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ GoogleIMDbNetflixRotten TomatoesShowcase  Wikipedia ]

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