The Jungle Book Capsule Review: Bill as Baloo is Boffo

THe Jungle book

The one outstanding reason to see this film is just to hear the voice of Bill Murray in the classic role of Baloo the Bear. The voice-over’s are remarkable. For  film insiders, the cinematography and graphic capture of the jungle setting is worth the trip. CGI comes to the jungle in this tale, and there’s a nice moment for Women Power when Mowgli’s adopted Mom Raksha (Voice of Lupita Nyong’o) asserts herself to save the pack.

This is basically a children’s story. It’s one of the most simple of tales, with man facing off against nature. Lately, we’ve had a slew of these, culminating in DiCaprio’s Oscar-worthy performance in The Revenant.

There’s not much there there, in this re-telling of the Disney classic. The songs and the upgrades are impressive for Hollywood insiders, but the core of the story remains the same. A child is raised by wolves in the jungle and is protected from the evil tiger by his jungle friends, including Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) the Leopard and Baloo the Bear.

Small children may be intimidated by some of the scenes, but frankly, I doubt it in today’s television and small screen climate. This is a children’s movie that has received a lot of hype.  And there are some impressive elements to it. The cinematography and the casting of stars in the lead roles give this film “legs”.

The other stand-outs in leading voice-overs include Christopher Walken as Louie, the Ape-King, Scarlett Johansson in a brief role as the seductive python Kaa, and the talented Idris Elba as the voice of the malevolent tiger Shere Khan. But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that this is, in the end, a children’s classic with the most basic of plots.

If you are a huge Bill Murray fan (as I am), then you won’t be disappointed. But some of the hype and spin may lead one to believe this is an updated version of The Jungle Book that leads down a road similar to Apocalypse Now. And it just ain’t so. There’s not enough there there. As the song says, “Look for the Bare Necessities.”

6 Degrees: Notes from the Global Village


The Fall season is a wonderful time of the year for movie buffs. Fall brings some of the best films of the year out just in time to become eligible for the never-ending Awards Season! Hollywood has had another split year, where the blockbuster summer films have produced several hits but nothing to really be excited about in terms of innovative art or injection of excitement into the existing Cinematic Universe.

Here are some of the notes collected from 6 Degrees-some from articles and long reads in August, and some from my own demented mind…
*Ridiculous & Overly complex plots-in blockbusters…the trend? Here’s a quote from a long-winded complaint in an article bemoaning the overly complex plots in recent super-hero movies:
Labyrinthine machinations to desperately weave in character motivation, geography and the practical aspects of getting from one scene to another
Apparently, it has come to someone’s attention that Hollywood has a problem with story “density”. Is that what they call crappy movies now? For action-packed super-hero stories that contain “teasers” and origin stories, there’s only so much information the audience needs.

Older audiences all know who Superman and Batman are. We’ve read comic books from the fifties through the eighties. And now, thanks to the wonderful newly coined phrase, “The Cinematic Universe”, which is perhaps a euphemism for the billions of dollars that Hollywood envisions when imagining the mileage they can squeeze out of an entire cast of super-heroes, each with his own movie debut and story of origin, we are all treated to some of the worst aspects of the comic book genre, including clumsy plot points weaving through the endless reems of origin stories and desperate attempts to inject original thought into the storyline along with character motivation.

Although I have not been a huge fan of the comic-book genre, I do see the impact that the stories have on a younger generation of fans. And not to be close-minded about this, I’ve conceded that even Shakespeare used a lot of re-hashed plots, and was able to influence generations with his unmatched ability as a wordsmith and his sheer genius as a playwright.

Perhaps there will come a time where some innovative director will take one of these origin stories and craft the equivalent of a Shakespearean play out of the original material. So far, there has been no evidence this has occurred.


**Actors have spoken: A list of their favorite films includes all the usual suspects (not that particular film though!). But a surprising Number One appears: Tootsie!

The list of films that actors chose is not that surprising. And it’s not a far cry from most of the movie-going publics list of great movies. Boogie Nights, The Red Shoes, and A Woman under the Influence are definitely films that actors might choose over any other group.

But the rest of the films seem to be pretty much in line with standard movie “Best of” lists. Tootsie as the favorite film is a surprise. It’s a great comedy, with a superb supporting cast and many memorable lines. Director Sydney Pollack is wonderful in a small part as Hoffman’s agent. Jessica Lange won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role. And Bill Murray was memorable as the befuddled room-mate of Dustin Hoffman’s Dorothy character, and had some of the best “zingers” in the film.

But Dustin Hoffman’s energetic portrayal of an actor who is desperate for a part to the point of risking everything, and laying it all on the line, is more of a statement about the actor’s existential state of being than any real film portrayal. That compels me to the conclusion that the actor’s perpetual state of angst is portrayed to the point that most fellow thespians that saw this film must have simply been saying “Yes!” through the entire film.

*Actors compilation of Greatest Movies includes:

*Taxi Driver
*The Red Shoes
*Boogie Nights
*Annie Hall
*Godfather Part II
&To Kill a Mock
*Cinema Paradiso
*A Woman under the influence
*The Godfather
*# 1 is Tootsie

RIcki and teh flash

**Strong women & Fem Flicks: Women are speaking out more and more concerning the inequality they see in Hollywood and throughout the film industry. Stars such as Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman, Emma Thompson & Emma Watson have all spoken out against the glaring inequalities for women in the film industry. The Death of the Bond Girl is another subject for feminists everywhere to cheer about.
It seems that the highest-paid actress in Hollywood (Jennifer Lawrence) is paid significantly less than the highest paid male star (Robert Downey Jr.) Granted, we’re talking about millions of dollars, but the principle is universal. Women are still paid less than men for doing the same job!

*Another list has popped up. Now that we are in the middle of the second decade of the 21st Century, the need to list all the categories and best of films is overwhelming for critics and news organizations. Here’s one that compiled all the best action films. Although this list is edited to include only the top six, two of these are from the year 2000-15 years ago-and one is a recent addition-Mad Max.

Mad Max Fury Road

**The List of 21st Century Best-Action films-includes:

*John Wick-2014
*Bourne Ultimatum
*Casino Royale-2006
*Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon =2000
*Mad Max: Fury Road-2015
There were more films listed, but none that deserved the accolade of Best-Action film!

Frank Sinatra

**Frank Sinatra on Film: In this celebration year of Sinatra’s 100th birthday, a list emerges of some of his best work on film. The famous crooner starred in hits like From Here to Eternity, On the Town, Guys and Dolls, The Manchurian Candidate, Pal Joey and High Society. He started making films in 1943 with Higher and Higher and ended in 1984 with Cannonball Run II.

**Dustin Hoffman is the latest to take aim and criticize the film industry. He said in an interview recently that TV is the best it’s ever been, and movies are the worst they’ve ever been.

**Upcoming: The Heart of the Sea from Ron Howard, Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks, and Legend with Tom Hardy are all coming this fall. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are teaming up in a comedy, A Walk in the Woods that may actually be as funny as the previews.

Star wars logo

**Another list emerged recently. These are some of the best movies aboutSpace”. This list included some of my favorites, and of course, it’s edited to include Honorable Mentions but not the ”Don’t bother to Mentions”!

I would simply add that the list lost a lot of credibility when it included The Day the Earth Stood Still and Blade Runner in Honorable Mentions…And if 2001: A Space Odyssey is not included, there’s nothing more to add.

**The Best of “Space” films include:

 Star Wars-1977

Capricorn One-1977

Close Encounters-1977

Apollo 13-1995



The Right Stuff-1983




Honorable Mentions were: Solaris-Planet of the Apes; Wall-E; Blade Runner!; The Day the Earth Stood Still; War of the Worlds; Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; Flight of the Navigator and E.T

*There seems to be an upcoming debate between the two rival comic universes, DC vs Marvel. With the idea that some of the superheroes are going to be expanding again to include even more tales of origin. As was pointed out recently, “Superhero tales are about extraordinary super beings bashing each other with ridiculous powers. Origin stories are about ordinary people suffering some sort of transformative trauma” With the underlying meaning being that one set of stories is exciting and adventurous, and the other has the potential to be deadly dull.

Bill Murray Ghostbusters

Bill Murray does have an announced cameo in the new Ghostbusters film. If the film has any notion to receive its due in the Cinematic Pantheon, Murray must appear as a Ghostbuster.

*Influence of Star Wars on Film…There’s an article from 6 Degrees Flipboard recently that seemed interesting enough, regarding the influence of Star Wars on film. Naturally, I was interested, as I devoted a good portion of my book, 6 Degrees of Film, to the theory that Star Wars has shaped our culture and definitely our films for the past quarter of a century and more.

Specifically, George Lucas and his company, ILM-Industrial Light & Magic, have transformed the nature of cinema with the emphasis on special effects and CGI-Computer Graphic Imaging. The assertion was made that there would have been no Blade Runner without Star Wars. I’m not sure that is so, because Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner and made some innovative and creative decisions that were not connected with ILM.

*Christopher Guest will premiere his next mockumentary on Netflix-furthering Spielberg’s assertion that more and more original and creative projects will flow through Cable Networks rather than the big screen.

• The company that made Masterminds, the new Zach Galifianakis/Kristen Wiig comedy, is bankrupt and can’t afford to market the movie. Relativity Media filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which puts the October release on hold and the movie in limbo. Too bad because it looked funny, with lots of former SNL players on board for the comedy.

Oscar Selfie pix

*The Director of Crash recently admitted it shouldn’t have won Best Picture! I wanted  Munich or Capote to win that year, so this wasn’t shocking news. Almost every year, I root for a film to win Best Picture that eventually loses. And for that matter, it shows in the long run with so many forgettable films earning the nod. In the past 10 years, there have been few memorable winners for the Best Picture Oscar.

The under 30 Hollywood Set: The list of actors and actresses who are “up and comers” include these A-Listers in the 30 and under crowd: Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne; Michael B Jordan, J Lawrence, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Stone, Zoe Kravitz, Nicholas Hault, Dakota Johnson, Miles Teller, Eliz Olsen, Alicia Vikander, Liam Hemsworth, and Elle Fanning.

**The Reviews are in:

*Fantastic Four bombs at the box office

*Monster Hunt was the biggest Chinese box-office film ever. And that is the largest market in the world now, so it’s definitely making some people in Hollywood sit up and take notice. The movie looks fairly simple, about a couple that “adopt” a small monster baby. It doesn’t sound like great news for those who root for more complex stories and adult plots.

The Lion King

*The Animated movie pick of all time is…The Lion King.  The Best selling VHS of all time was The Lion King; the top selling DVD is Finding Nemo and now, the best selling Blu-Ray film is…Frozen.


What’s Coming Next:
*Scorsese is teaming with DiCaprio again for a movie about a serial killer from the best-selling book: “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson.

**Trailers: Some of the trailers for upcoming films that look promising include: Learning to Drive with Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley; A Walk in the Woods with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte and Sicario with Benicio Del Toro.

Far from madding 2015

**On Demand:
Movies on demand now include Child 44-reviewed in 6 Degrees, The Age of Adaline, Ex Machina, and Far from the Madding Crowd-all recommended for viewing

On the making of Caddyshack and the definition of Gonzo


Here in Tampa, the Tampa Theatre Summer Film series continues this weekend with a showing on Sunday, June 21st, of Caddyshack at 3:00 p.m. One of my favorite comedies, I was surprised to uncover a few factoids I didn’t know about the making of Caddyshack. Here they are:

1) Harold Ramis co-wrote Animal House and due to the strength of that hit movie, he was given the go-ahead for Caddyshack. Bill Murray’s brother, Brian Doyle Murray, also co-wrote the script. Brian was a caddy at one time, as was Bill Murray.
2) Don Rickles was the first choice for the Rodney Dangerfield role of businessman Al Czervik. Dangerfield had never had a major role in a film until Caddyshack and reportedly, he was nervous throughout the shoot.
3) Caddyshack was Ramis’ directorial debut in 1980. Harold Ramis, who died in 2014, went on to direct many hit comedies such as National Lampoon’s Vacation with Chevy Chase and Groundhog Day with Bill Murray.
4) Caddyshack was filmed in Davie, Fl at Rolling Hills Country Club. Rolling Hills was one of the few clubs to allow movie production on the grounds.
5) Bill Murray’s role of groundskeeper Carl Spackler was planned as a quick cameo appearance, but he stole the show improvising his scenes! His famous lines, the Dalai Lama speech and the Cinderella story speech were improvised on the spot. The Cinderella speech was written as “Carl cuts the tops of flowers with a grass whip”.
6) Caddyshack quickly evolved from a coming-of-age story featuring actor Michael O’Keefe as Danny Noonan into a Marx Brothers style ensemble film. According to director Ramis, he thought of Dangerfield as Groucho, Murray as Harpo and Chevy Chase as Chico.
7) The Caddyshack Gopher was an after-thought. It was expanded to tie the sequences together and bring some cohesion to the plot. Star Wars veteran special-effects master John Dykstra created the gopher imaging after principal photography ended. The Gopher’s voice was supplied by the same sound-effects used for Flipper in the TV series!
8) The New York Times called the film Caddyshack “immediately forgettable”.
9) About Bill Murray: After leaving SNL, where he replaced Chevy Chase in Season 2, Bill Murray went on to become a huge star with hits in Stripes, Ghostbusters 1 & 2, What about Bob?, & Groundhog Day. He’s known in Hollywood for his eccentric behavior.
Murray has no agent, only a phone number where you must leave a message for him to get in touch.
In 2003, Murray scored a hit with Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and subsequently transitioned into a career appearing in “Indie” films. Since then, he has collaborated with independent director Wes Anderson in the past decade, appearing in some capacity in most of Anderson’s films.
His latest films of note include Hyde Park on Hudson, in which he played President FDR, the critically acclaimed St. Vincent from 2014, and the highly anticipated upcoming  Rock the Kasbah.

B murray cartoon

10) Many have described Bill Murray as a “Gonzo Comedian”. The definition of Gonzo states it is “a strange or unusual quality-bizarre; freewheeling or unconventional, to the point of outrageousness”.

St Vincent- The Dark side of Murray

St vincent Fall 2014Bill Murray’s Vincent doesn’t want to know his neighbors. And when Melissa McCarthy, his neighbor, finally becomes laden with pain and misery, she knows better than to tell her crabby neighbor Vincent. “It’s a long story” is all she volunteers, knowing he couldn’t be bothered with the details of her sorrow. Yet he reaches out to her in the most telling and cursory way. It’s a pivotal moment, yet a quiet one in an uneven film. “What’s the punch line?” he asks. For this character to even ask is a major breakthrough.
The film, St Vincent, is a dramatic one with occasional touches of the signature comic relief we’ve come to expect from Bill Murray. The showstopper is the child that binds the curmudgeonly character to the rest of the plot. Without him, the film becomes unworkable. The knocks on this plot come from critics pointing out the fable elements of the story which are introduced late in the film. But there’s not enough saccharine sweetness to throw off the rhythm of the basic premise-St. Vincent is no saint. However, looking beneath the dark surface, there is also light. That is the point. This is Murray’s film, and he plays the part well. No one else would attempt this unique role, or be able to pull it off as Bill Murray does.
The dark side of Murray has always been on display. It took St. Vincent to shine the light on a gifted actor born to play the role of this particular curmudgeon with a heart of gold buried deep inside. There are some 6 degree elements when you consider Jack Nicholson’s take on the funny miser in “As Good as it Gets”. But for the most part, this is simply Bill Murray, warts and all, on display as we’ve never seen him. There were some hints of the dark side in “Scrooged”, but Murray was simply too young to play a full blown bore. And we’ve always known he’s had it in him to play this darker version of himself. Without holding back, he is spot on, hitting all his marks with humor and bad grace.
If you love Bill Murray, you should complete the circle and see this film. We’ve known him as the wise guy, the talk show persona, his Saturday Night Live characters, the comic hero & legend, and then there’s the dark side of Murray. Here is the maverick who doesn’t give a damn, but we like and admire the honesty on display. The wit is still there, without the charm. Don’t be fooled by the previews, this is not one of the early Murray comedies. This is more a dramedy, perhaps. But it’s well worth the effort for those who’ve loved the characters that Bill Murray has portrayed through the years. St. Vincent is one that completes the circle.

6 Degrees Fall Film Newsletter


6degreesLogogif (2)

After an extremely disappointing summer of box office, Hollywood rolls out some of the big movies of the year. These are a few on the list that look most promising. They include big names like Brad Pitt, Bill Murray, Denzel Washington and Matthew McConaughey, plus some of the most interesting new actors working today-Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. The women in film this season include Nicole Kidman, back in a thriller, and Melissa McCarthy, reportedly getting great reviews in St. Vincent. McCarthy is one actress that has been over-exposed yet under-utilized in most of her former comic vehicles. This one may turn the tide for her…
Robert Downey is in a dramatic role opposite Robert Duvall. It’s a nice change from wearing a costume and letting the special-effects do the heavy lifting. Liam Neeson should be called out for repeating the same formulaic bit of type-casting, but this film-A Walk among the Tombstones– has a feel of a noir about it. He’s back in the re-make mold soon enough when Taken 3 comes out next year.
Nicholas Cage, a renowned Oscar-winning actor, is doing a re-make of Left Behind. It’s an interesting enough idea to sit up and take notice. Or at least to ask, “Why?” And Michael Keaton, another costume-burdened actor, stars in a complete turn-around from the action hero mold with the dark comedy, Birdman.
Many more Oscar-winning actors are returning to the screen this Fall. Back in the saddle is Tommy Lee Jones, directing and starring in a Western, The Homesman, with another Academy-Award winner, Hilary Swank. Another re-match is Dumb and Dumber 2. This could be really funny or really bad. The reviews are still out, but I thought the first one was fun.
All together, the season looks infinitely promising… comparatively speaking. That is, after a terrible summer with no real stand-outs, the fall films include a mix of interesting biographic pieces, with a few comedies and less science-fiction (which is a good thing). The buzz around town should be: “We’ll see…let the public be the judge!”


The Drop 2014 Fall

Release Date: 9/12: The Drop; Tom Hardy stars as a Brooklyn bartender caught between mobsters and the cops. James Gandolfini co-stars in his final film. This looks promising.
Walk among the Tombstones L Neeson Fall 2014
Release Date: 9/12: Liam Neeson in A Walk among the Tombstones-Liam Neeson stars in another thriller about kidnapping. This time, he plays a private detective in recovery who’s hired by a drug dealer to find those responsible for murdering his wife. Said to be more noir-like than Taken, the film is adapted from Lawrence Block’s 1992 novel. Could be good…

Equalizer 2014 Fall
Release Date: 9/26: The Equalizer-Denzel Washington: Director Antoine Fuqua teams with Denzel again, (after 2001’s Training Day). Not a true spin-off of the popular TV series of the 80’s, this intensely violent story has McCall (Washington), seeking justice by rescuing a young girl from Russian mobsters. Denzel Washington is intensely physical and notoriously self-disciplined-he could make this work.

left behind 2014
Release Date: 10/3: Left Behind: For some reason, Oscar-winning actor Nicholas Cage has decided to star in another version of this take on the Rapture. Cage plays the pilot of a jumbo jet who is one of those “left behind”.


The Judge 2014 Fall
Release Date: 10/10: The Judge: This father-son legal drama stars Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall, two Hollywood heavyweights. The plot has Downey as a big-time criminal defense attorney who returns to his home town for his mother’s funeral. He is estranged from his father (Duvall),but they come together after the old man is accused of a crime.

Birdmn 2014
Release Date: 10/17-Birdman: A different kind of dark comedy. Michael Keaton plays an actor trying to make his comeback, only to suffer a nervous breakdown in the process. Edward Norton also stars.


Dracula untold 2014
Release Date: 10/17: Dracula Untold: Around Halloween in Hollywood, the goblins start to come out. In this version of Dracula, we meet the man behind the fangs. Turns out that before he was Dracula, Vlad was a Family Guy.


St vincent Fall 2014
Release Date: 10/24: St Vincent-Bill Murray plays the title role in this indie comedy. Murray is the curmudgeonly neighbor of a single woman, played by Melissa McCarthy, with a 12 year old son. St. Vincent becomes the unlikely baby-sitter for the young boy, and merriment ensues.

Interstellar 2014
Release Date: 11/7: InterstellarMatthew McConaughey stars in this sci-fi piece about a future Earth that cannot produce enough food to feed the masses. The solution? An interstellar space journey to find an answer, if not a new home for Earth’s inhabitants.

Theory of everything 2014
Release Date: 11/7: The Theory of Everything: A bio-pic about the amazingly gifted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and his struggle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.


Better angels 2014
Release Date: 11/7: The Better Angels-A Lincoln bio-pic about the Great Man’s boyhood.


the Homesman Fall 2014
Release Date: 11/7: The Homesman: Tommy Lee Jones directed this Western where he stars as a claim jumper who helps a pioneer woman (Hilary Swank) transport three women across the prairie.


dumb & dumber 2 2014
Release Date: 11/14: Dumb and Dumber 2: Some would find it completely moronic, I happened to think the first one was hilariously funny. Let’s hope this one captures the humor, and leaves the moronic behind.


Fury 2014
Release Date: 11/14: Fury: Brad Pitt stars in another World War II film about the power of the Sherman tank, the Fury.

the imitation game Fall 2014
Release Date: 11/21: The Imitation Game-Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who helped to break the Nazi’s Enigma code during World War II. The true story also focuses on the real life trials of a homosexual facing prosecution in the 1950’s.

”There’s nothing new under the sun. Critics frequently complain about the lack of originality in film. Another high-profile superstar that constantly used reworked material . ..William Shakespeare

-Raffaella Bonaldi