Tuesday, April 27, 2021

When Bill Murray’s Brother Played The Bill Murray Part In A Forgotten ‘80s Comedy

John Murray in the 1985 comedy MOVING VIOLATIONS
International superstar, and the most beloved SNL veteran ever, Bill Murray has five brothers, some of whom you may know of. Firstly, there’s Brian Doyle Murray, who also had a stint on SNL, and appeared with his brother in several movies including CADDYSHACK, SCROOGED, and GROUNDHOG DAY. Then there’s Joel Murray, who has appeared on many TV shows including Mad Men, Shameless, and Dharma & Greg, and in many films including ONE CRAZY SUMMER, GOD BLESS AMERICA, and THE ARTIST.

Thirdly, there’s the late Ed Murray, who while not an actor is cited as the inspiration for CADDYSHACK, and appeared in a 2009 documentary about the classic film. Fourth, there’s Andy Murray, a chef who co-founded and runs Murray Brothers Caddyshack sports bar and grill, which has locations in St. Augustine and Rosemount.

But while his siblings have ridden on Bill’s coattails to varying degrees, only one brother has imitated the comic actor’s presence so blatantly. That would be his fifth brother, John Murray, who in 1985 starred in a long forgotten comedy entitled MOVING VIOLATIONS, in which he aped nearly all of his older brothers’ moves.

The film was directed by Neal Israel, who has the given the world such crappy comedies as AMERICATHON, BACHELOR PARTY, and COMBAT ACADEMY. Israel co-wrote it with Pat Proft, also a beacon of quality, who co-wrote POLICE ACADEMY, HIGH SCHOOL HIGH, MR. MAGOO, and WRONGFULLY ACCUSED (his lone directorial effort), but at least did contribute to some decent comic work such as the NAKED GUN series.

The premise of MOVING VIOLATIONS is pretty typical for an ‘80s us-versus-them scenario in which a group of misfits go up against the evil establishment, or more accurately one particular individual, in this case a cold, corrupt cop played by James Keach (acting legend Stacy’s brother – hmm, a theme?). 

Keach presides over a Los Angeles traffic school classroom of goofballs, whove all had their licenses revoked, led by John Murray’s (will just call him John from now on) wisecracking character, whose every single utterance, facial expression, and display of physical energy summons the spirit of his brother, Bill.

I can imagine Director Israel saying “That last take was great, John, but can you really Bill it up on the next one?”

Many scenes feel like slight re-writes of scenes from MEATBALLS, STRIPES, and GHOSTBUSTERS, which came out the previous year, most likely when MOVING VIOLATIONS was in production. John’s co-opting of his brothers’ showbiz speak, his smarmy charm, and penchant for mock inspirational speeches is shameless, but what’s funny (even if the film largely isn’t) is that often his shtick works. John does look and sound a lot like Bill, and when he says such lines like “You guys are nutty!” one can almost buy the conceit. Almost.

MOVING VIOLATIONS, which also featured Jennifer Tilly, Sally Kellerman, Fred Willard, Wendi Jo Sperber, and a cameo by Clara Peller (at the height of “Where’s the Beef” mania!), unsurprisingly flopped, and after a brief run on cable (that’s where I first saw it) disappeared and was never mentioned again until this blog post. Okay, that’s not true - I’m sure Bill brings it up to needle his brother at family gatherings.

John never headlined a movie again. He has a fair amount of credits on his IMDb page, but they are mostly small parts with no character names – for example, he appears in ELF as “Man in Elevator” (he doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page!) 

His first role after MOVING VIOLATIONS was in SCROOGED, which, in a primo case of typecasting, he played his brother Bill’s brother (John also had a miniscule part in CADDYSHACK, so it wasn’t the first time his brother threw him a bone).

Putting aside all this brotherly love, the icing on the cake that is MOVING VIOLATIONS is that it features the big screen debut of Don Cheadle, credited as “Juicy Burgers Worker.”

Or maybe that was his brother.

BTW: MOVING VIOLATIONS isnt available streaming (that I could find anyway), but the whole movie is on YouTube for free. Youre welcome.

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Monday, April 26, 2021

Oscars 2021: “Tonight, you are all forgiven”

For over 90 minutes of the Steven Soderbergh-produced 93rd Academy Awards broadcast last night, I was crushing every category. Then, I believe when it came to Documentary Short Subject, I got one wrong, and my winning streak was over. In the end, I still did pretty good with a score of 18 out of 23 (last year I had 19 out of 24 - they combined two categories this time). It’s not my best score, but far from my worst.

So here’s what I got wrong from the very different feeling event that mostly took place at Union Station with a much smaller audience (largely just the nominees and the one guest they were allowed to bring).

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: My prediction: Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers’ A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION / What won: Anthony Giacchino’s COLLETTE

CINEMATOGRAPHY: My prediction: Joshua James Richards for NOMADLAND / Who won: Erik Messerschmidt for MANK - I really didn't think this film would win more than one Oscar.

ORIGINAL SONG: My prediction: “Speak Now” from ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI / What won: “Fight for You” from JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH

BEST ACTRESS: My prediction: Carey Mulligan for PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN / Who won: Frances McDormand for NOMADLAND – In my post where I made these predictions, I said that Mulligan was a wild card as I figured she might have the edge since McDormand had already won twice before. I should’ve known better because this won wasn’t really a surprise.

BEST ACTOR: My prediction: Chadwick Boseman for MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM / Who won: Anthony Hopkins for THE FATHER – Now this one really was a surprise because seemingly every critic or showbiz writer out there was predicting that Academy voters would pay tribute to the late Boseman, and not give a second Oscar to Hopkins. Especially since fewer people have not seen THE FATHER (it’s in a very limited theatrical release, and only available streaming as a pricey rental). Even Hopkins didn’t expect to win.

As for the show itself, I’m seeing a lot of folks bash the ceremony online, but while it wasn’t the best Oscars (doubt I could pick which is) it was one of the better recent ones. I liked the intimacy and lighting of the smaller venue, and enjoyed such moments as Yuh-Jung Youn’s speech for her MINARI (the headline quote at the top of this post is her’s). Youn, the first Korean woman in Oscar history to win Best Supporting Actress, was gracious and funny, and provided relief from some of the political pretentiousness of the evening.

Jon Baptiste (SOUL) also gave a genuinely touching acceptance speech, as did Daniel Kaluuya (JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH), although his embarrassed his mother, who was in attendance: “You got to celebrate life, man! We’re breathing, walking, it’s incredible. It’s incredible. Like, it’s incredible. My mom met dad, they had sex. It’s amazing.”

Glenn Close’s dance to “Da Butt” was also a bit embarrassing, but it was funny enough to make up for that. The fact that Close has been nominated eight times now with no wins is disgraceful, but her go for broke demeanor last night made it look like she really doesn’t care.

Another iconic actress, McDormand also seemed like she didn’t care, but for a very different reason as she howled like a wolf, as her husband, filmmaker Joel Coen, didn’t look amused sitting at their table in the audience. I learned later that this wasn’t the case as McDormand was paying tribute to Michael Wolf Snyder, NOMADLAND’s sound designer, and production sound mixer, who took his life back in early March.

The things I didn’t care for were the lack of clips and musical performances, the way the In Memorium montage went so fast it was hard to keep up (and of course, had many omissions), and the choice of not ending with the Best Picture announcement, but with the categories of Best Actress and Best Actor instead. There was speculation that this was because the producers thought Chadwick would win at the end and they could go out on that. This makes sense, especially since Hopkins wasn’t even in attendance, but who knows?

So that’s Oscars 2021. Obviously it’s going to be interesting to see what the next movie year looks like because as Regina King said in her opening monologue about the pandemic, “we are still smack dab in the middle of it.” But we’ll make it through, and one day be able to casually walk into a theater again. Right?

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Friday, April 23, 2021

Hey Kids! Funtime 2021 Oscar® Predictions!

On Sunday night, April 25, the 93rd Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre and Union Station in Los Angeles, but, you know, mostly on Zoom. Obviously this ceremony was delayed until much later in the year than usual because of the pandemic, and that same factor is what may mean even a smaller audience. The ratings for last year’s Oscars, which took place on February 9, 2020, hit an all-time low, and it seems like fewer people are even aware of the upcoming event.

There’s also the factor that a lot of folks haven’t seen or even know about many of the nominees. Sometimes the quarantine binge-watching of some show on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, to name but a few streaming platforms is more appealing than watching some possibly depressing indie film. Still, there were some fine films that were released in the last year, and some of them got nominations.

Here are my predictions for the winners, a few of which I feel confident with, but most are definitive examples of “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”



3. BEST ACTOR: Chadwick Boseman (MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM) Looks like everyone is in agreement on this one.

4. BEST ACTRESS: Carey Mulligan (PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN) There’s buzz aplenty that Frances McDormand is going to win for NOMADLAND, but she’s won twice before, and I have a feeling that Mulligan’s stunning performance in PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN will get more votes. Consider it this year’s wild card.



7. PRODUCTION DESIGN: Donald Graham Burt, Jan Pascale for MANK

8. CINEMATOGRAPHY: Joshua James Richards for NOMADLAND



Kris Bowers, Ben Proudfoot)


13. MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (Mia Neal, Sergio Lopez-Rivera, Jamika Wilson)

14. VISUAL EFFECTS: TENET (Andrew Jackson, David Lee, Andrew Lockley, Santiago Colomo Martinez)

15. ORIGINAL SCORE: SOUL (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Jon Batiste)

16. ORIGINAL SONG: “Speak Now” from ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (Leslie Odom Jr.)



19. SOUND: SOUND OF METAL – I’m so happy that they combined the BEST SOUND EDITING and SOUND MIXES categories into this one, as I hated trying to figure what deserved what, and also the same film would often win both awards.


21. ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller for THE FATHER



As I always say, tune in Monday to see how many I got wrong.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

That Time James Bond’s Kid Brother Had His Own Adventure

In the ‘60s, the wildly successful James Bond series starring Sean Connery as the super spy became one of the most copied and parodied franchises in film history. There were the FLYNT films, the Matt Helm films, something called SUPER AGENT SUPER DRAGON, LICENSED TO KILL (decades before the Bond series used the same title), THE IPCRESS FILE (produced by Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman), DEADLIER THAN THE MALE, and the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Get Smart, for starters (much too many to keep listing).

But the most curious of these knock-offs is Alberto De Martino’s 1967 action comedy entitled OPERATION KID BROTHER, or its original title, O.K. CONNERY, or its later video release titles OPERATION DOUBLE 007, or SECRET AGENT 00 (none of these are good titles). This Italian flick’s big gimmick is that it stars Sean Connery’s younger brother, Neil. 

Neil, who had more than a passing resemblance to his famous brother, played a cosmetic surgeon whose chief skills are hypnotism and lip-reading. But what’s really comically notable is that his name is his own, Neil Connery, and his brother, whose name is never mentioned, is described as the Secret Service's top agent, is obviously 007, and whose name is likely Sean in this film’s wacky world.

So they couldn’t use the name, James Bond, and when someone mentions his code number “00…” someone interrupts then, so they apparently can’t use that either.

Then there’s the rest of the cast, which is brimming with cast members from the Bond series including Bernard Lee who played Bond’s superior M, Lois Maxwell who played secretary Moneypenny (she’s named Miss Maxwell, which is really unimaginative, but I guess is keeping with the theme), Adolfi Celi from THUNDERBALL, Yee-Wah-Yang from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, Daniela Bianchi from FROM RUSSIA FROM LOVE, and Anthony Dawson from DR. NO.

The effect here is that the filmmakers wanted to trick moviegoers into thinking that this film is part of the official Bond canon. The soundtrack, written by Ennio Morricone (!) and Bruno Nicolai, buttresses this conceit with its convincing variations on the Bond theme, and comparable incidental music.

A strange element here is that Neil’s voice is dubbed by an American actor and it doesn’t seem to fit. One of the reasons that he was cast was because along with his looks, his voice sounded like his brother’s. From what I’ve read, this was for some sort of medical reasons, but, man, was it bad timing for him to not have his voice for his film debut. There was also the matter that he refused to shave off his goatee, which is even mentioned in the movie (“I’m attached to it”).

OPERATION KID BROTHER (that’s the title I’m going with) is billed as a comedy, but it’s not very funny, nor does it try to be for most of its running time. When a character says “You read too much Fleming,” it’s obviously an attempt to be an inside joke but it’s more a groaner. The plot is a typical one about thwarting world domination (of course), which ends in a big battle at the villain’s castle base in Munich. The gray metal interiors look like half finished sets from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE – consider it Bond on a budget.

It’s hard to fault Neil for this not-so-craft cash grab. Who can blame him for attempting to step into the shoes of his international super star brother. Trouble is, he didn’t get to walk in them very far as he was only in two other movies: the 1969 schlocky sci-fi thriller THE BODY STEALERS (also known as THIN AIR, or INVASION OF THE BODY STEALERS - jeez, can’t these film stick with one title?), and the 1984 action comedy ACES GO PLACES 3, in which he had a cameo as Mr. Bond. After that it has been reported that his career as a plasterer ended in the mid ‘80s, and he went on to run a company in Glasgow, but besides that nothing much is known about Neil’s life in the decades since.

OPERATION KID BROTHER got something of a second life as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993, though I don’t think it’s one of their better ones. The original film, under the OKB title is currently available streaming on Amazon Prime, which is where I watched it. Can’t say I’d recommend it, but those who are curious about this curio may get a kick by checking it out.

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Monday, April 12, 2021

Star Trek + The Monkees = GALAXY QUEST

Since the sci-fi comedy GALAXY QUEST was released around Christmas 1999, it has become a cult favorite loved by fans of the property it skewers, Star Trek, and satire aficionados alike. The Dean Parisot-directed parody has spawned comic books, Deluxe Edition DVD and Blu rays, a documentary, and there’s talk of a sequel or TV series resurrection.

But let’s set the Wayback Machine for September 1966 in which two shows premiered on NBC during the first all-color television season: Star Trek and The Monkees. Star Trek (it feels weird to describe as everyone knows the premise) was about the crew of a starship in the future on a five-year mission though the program only ran for three years; while The Monkees was about a fictional four-piece rock band trying to make it in show business in the midst of their wacky adventures.

Now while The Monkees started out as a made-for-TV group, the major popularity of their music resulted in the members learning how to play their instruments (well, two of them, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, were already musicians) so that they could perform on their records, and tour unaccompanied.

Later, the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz remarked “The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.”

Dolenz made this analogy so many times that Tork once replied, “This Vulcan line, Mickey, give it up for God’s sake!”

Another Star Trek connection is that when Walter Koenig was hired to play Anton Chekov in season three of the space opera, the character was added for two reasons: to appease criticisms from Russians that they weren’t represented in the cast, and, more importantly to cash in on Monkee-mania. It was hoped that Koenig’s youth, and reasonable resemblance to Davy Jones would attract younger fans. Koenig even wore a moptop wig to complete the effect.

Now let’s go back to the future. After a successful run of movies, Star Trek was such an established franchise that it was endlessly parodied. But the writers of GALAXY QUEST, David Howard and Robert Gordon, came up with a different angle. The movie was as much a satire of Trek as it was Trekkies, dealing with the cast of a long defunct space series depressingly attending conventions and having to exploit their characters. Tim Allen portrayed the William Shatner/Captain Kirk lead, alongside a hilarious ensemble including Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell.

The premise was that aliens have mistaken the show’s reruns for documentaries and have come to seek help from the crew to defeat an evil alien race. So obviously Allen and his cohorts have to actually become the Federation (or whatever they call it) heroes that they’ve been pretending to be.

Screenwriter Howard has said that he got the idea for the plot of GALAXY QUEST while watching a IMAX documentary that featured narration by Nimoy. While this may be true, it’s difficult to believe that the Monkees’ influence wasn’t part of the equation. Especially considering that Allen’s character is named Jason Nesmith. Boom!

Ignoring Tork’s “give it a rest” request, Dolenz has continued to make his analogy but has amended it somewhat replacing Star Trek with GALAXY QUEST:

“Have you seen GALAXY QUEST, the movie about fictitious sci-fi characters visited by real aliens to save their planet? That’s what happened to The Monkees! It started out with fictitious people and all of a sudden we were made into a real pop band. And we weren’t just actors playing the fool. We were cast in the same way as you would a West End musical - you had to sing, dance, move, act, improvise and play an instrument. The closest thing I could describe it as is a stage musical on television.”

Whatever the case, from Chekov’s Davy Jones-styled wig to the premise of actors morphing into their roles, Star Trek, The Monkees, and GALAXY QUEST are forever entwined. I hope they do produce more GALAXY QUEST in some form of other as long as they never should give up, and never surrender (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Live long and prosper.

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Thursday, April 01, 2021

Finally! Film Babble Blog’s 2020 In Review

I know, I know – it’s April and I am only now getting around to look back at some of the most notable films of last year. Honestly, as 2020 was so compromised by the pandemic, and films were a lot fewer (many were delayed until this year); I decided against doing a ‘best of’ this time around. So I am going to do it differently as I’m not going to give the movies numbers in order to rank them. I’m going to just babble about a handful of titles, five to be exact, that stood out to me over this weird, sad year.

The last movie I saw on the big screen before the pandemic hit was Leigh Wannell’s THE INVISIBLE MAN, starring Elizabeth Moss. Sadly the theater I attended the film at, Six Forks Cinema, permanently closed not long ago. 

The film, which was originally supposed to be part of Universal’s Monsters Cinematic Universe (not to be confused with Legendary’s MonsterVerse or is it?), but after THE MUMMY flopped that franchise appears to be dead in the water. No matter, the film stands on its own largely due to the performance by Moss as a woman who is being stalked by an abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) - a scientist who has discovered the formula for invisibility. This loose adaptation of H.G. Wells classic 1897 novel is a stylishly suspenseful treat that comes equipped with a number of genuine scares, and fiercely clever moments.

While under quarantine, I mostly caught up with TV series which I wrote about here, and watched older films, but I did catch some new releases like Christopher Nolan’s TENET. A new release Blu ray I should say. I almost braved the Covid 19 scare to see it at one of the few open theaters, but I chickened out and waited for home video. 

Nolan’s latest attempt at visionary filmmaking is certainly entertaining but I had difficulty understanding what I was watching. A great, gripping John David Washington, and Robert Pattinson, whose work keeps getting better, star as undercover CIA operatives travel backwards and forwards in time in order to prevent World War III. Got it? It’s hard to outright recommend as it’s so baffling, and purposely convoluted, but Nolan fans should dig it. I’ll give TENET this – it totally deserves its Oscar nomination for Best Production Design.

If I was posting a list with numbers, I probably would pick Aaron Sorkin’s THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 for #1. This great historical drama features a well-chosen ensemble including Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Panther Bobby Seale, Sacha Baron Cohen as hippy (or yippie) activist Abbie Hoffman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as prosecutor Richard Schultz, Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman, Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden, Mark Rylance as defense attorney William Kunstler, and Michael Keaton as U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. That barely scratches the surface of the actors involved as it’s a big-ass cast, and I don’t want it to take up the bulk of this paragraph. Sorkin’s screenplay may be his best yet. The dialogue is devoid of his weakness for cutesy wordplay, and each character is more compellingly drawn than some of his past endeavors, and I say that as a fan. If you don’t know anything about the Chicago 7, this is a recommended place to begin. I’ll be pulling for it to get some Oscar gold, which it should since it got six nominations including Best Picture.

Another fine film I enjoyed was Darius Marder’s SOUND OF METAL, which concerns a heavy metal drummer who has to cope with losing his hearing. The rightly Oscar-nominated Riz Ahmed portrays the deaf musician, who you really feel for as his life is emotionally upended, and he suffers through a stint at a rehab for the deaf run by a Vietnam vet (Paul Raci). Ahmed does warm up to his fellow residents, but his girlfriend (Olivia Cooke) disappears from his life. The authentic feeling movie is outfitted with a stirring sound mix that effectively depicts the sounds of deafness, which may seem impossible, but Marder and crew pull it off and received an Oscar nomination for their efforts (like TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7, SOUND OF METAL scored six well-deserved noms). The last bit and the ending may be rushed, but this film’s gritty realness, and lack of pretension make it a major must see.

Paul Greengrass’ NEWS OF THE WORLD is maybe the most stone-cold entertaining of the five films in this round-up. Based on the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, this western, set in 1870 follows Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an ex-Civil War confederate soldier who makes his money by reading select newspapers to captive audiences as he travels through Texas. One day on a road through the woods, he comes across a 10-year old girl (Helena Zengell) who either goes by Johanna or Cicada hiding out in an overturned wagon. Before long the duo are saddled together as Hanks takes the girl, who identifies as a Kiowa Indian, on the long trek to her supposed home in Castroville, Texas.

They get into a rocky mountainside gun fight, encounter a massive dust storm, endure a devastating wagon accident, and have to figure out how to get away from a rag-tag army of renegades ruled by evil land baron Farley (Thomas Francis Murphy). Now these elements may sound like frontier clichés, but Director Greengrass handles the material confidently, never needing to reach into his catalogue of BOURNE-isms. Hanks’ Kidd is a familiar persona – the everyman that he’s honed for decades – but he inhabits the character with the likability we expect from the two-time Oscar winner. As Hanks’ travelling companion, Zengall is the real stand-out with her driven, naturalistic performance. I’m betting we’ll be seeing a lot of her in years to come. NEWS OF THE WORLD received four Oscar noms, but with its competition I’m thinking it might not win any of the categories. If it does score at least one Academy Award, I would bet on Dariusz Wolski for Best Cinematography as his landscape imagery is ginormously gorgeous.

As I usually have spillover on these Best of entries, Here’s some other films I enjoyed in 2020: Lee Isaac Chung’s MINARI, Regina King’s ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI…, Thomas Vinterberg’s ANOTHER ROUND, Kelly Reichardt’s FIRST COW, Kitty Green’s THE ASSISTANT (excellent Julia Garner performance), George C. Wolfe’s MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM, Chloé Zhao’s NOMADLAND, and Charlie Kaufman’s weird, unwieldy I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS.

Also these documentaries: Alexander Nanau’s COLLECTIVE, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s ATHELETE A, Jeff Orlowski’s THE SOCIAL DILEMMA, Garrett Bradley’s TIME, Bryan Fogel’s THE DISSIDENT, Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III’s CLASS ACTION PARK, and the Spike Lee Joint, DAVID BYRNE’S AMERICAN UTOPIA, which is more of a concert film than a doc but they often reside in the same category.

Alright, so I finally tackled 2020 in review. With hope, I'll be back on my game next year.

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