St. VincentThirty-seven years ago, a young comedian named Bill Murray debuted on the second season of the TV show "Saturday Night Live" to replace original cast member Chevy Chase. Three short years later and with an Emmy Award clutched in his hand, the 30-year old Murray followed Chase's lead and also departed "SNL" for the big-screen. As quickly as Murray had succeeded in television, his success in movies was even more staggering by comparison. Less than five years after making his transition from award-winning TV to a film career, he landed a trio of iconic '80s comedies that people can still quote Murray's money lines from: "Caddyshack" (1980), "Stripes" (1981) and "Ghostbusters" (1984). Bill Murray showed us how the world of comedy worked and made it look effortless.

Fast-forward thirty years and we find Bill Murray's character in "St. Vincent" proclaiming to the mother of a 12-year old boy named Oliver; "I'm showing him how the world works" as he smokes, drinks and gambles his life and money away. Murray plays the cranky, old neighbor Vincent McKenna, who is asked by the single mom (Melissa McCarthy) living next door if he'll babysit the youngster while she desperately works long hours trying to make ends meet. Murray admirably attempts to fill the parenting and mentorship void in the sixth grader's life (brilliantly portrayed by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) leading to hilarious scenes and one-liners throughout the film. All the same funny trademarks we've become accustomed to getting from the popular comedian, shine though in this movie...and more.

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During his nearly four decades of entertaining us--the smirking and wisecracking comic has repeatedly provided audiences with laughs over and over again, like he did in the mega-hit "Groundhog Day" in 1993. That's the Bill Murray we've grown to love and expect since his days of chasing paranormal activity and busting ghosts as Doctor Peter Venkman. What I didn't expect in this film, though, was the phenomenal, and touching performance given by Murray.

First-time director Theodore Melfi wisely allowed Murray to be the face and voice of the movie, resulting in the "SNL" veteran nailing every debauchery scene and lewd line perfectly. But more importantly, Melfi, didn't settle for a movie only filled with gag lines to bring smiles to viewers' faces. Instead, he added several compassionate, heartwarming aspects to Murray's cat-loving, Vincent persona. The film combines comedy and drama, often within the same conversation. Murray and McCarthy are both equally remarkable as they put their serious acting prowess on display, enduring each bump from along their characters' difficult road in a believable story. "St. Vincent" shows everyone's personal warts, unabashedly, through a constant mix of anxiety, humor, strength and vulnerability. That combination of feelings, coupled with Murray's creative talent to pull them off, easily makes this his finest performance ever in film.

We've seen notable glimpses of Murray's dramatic side before in movies like 2003's "Lost in Translation", where he earned an Academy Award nomination in the Best Actor category. His ability to not only grasp, but truly master, serious roles is just as impressive today as his comedic skills were back in Murray's old "SNL" days. For this reason, look for Bill Murray's sensational performance in "St. Vincent" to spark chatter of a possible Oscar nomination in his future. In the end, he may not win an Academy Award for his portrayal of the angry, old neighbor with a kind heart. But he deserves to be included on the list for consideration.

Grade: A-

"St. Vincent" is rated PG-13 with a running time of 1 hour and 43 minutes.

Enjoy.

For those needing to drill down into the weeds on this commercial - The Lincoln Lawyer...a film worth checking out.

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Photo: by Keith Bernstein, Warner Bros. Pictures

** UPDATE #2 **

A recent USA Today article provides us with some intel background on this highly anticipated Dec. 25 movie release.  We already knew that the film's star, Bradley Cooper, gained 40 pounds to play The Legend--U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.  What we didn't know until now is that Cooper had one--only one--conversation with Kyle prior to making the film and before Chris was murdered at a Texas shooting range in February of last year:

"Thank God I got to talk to him once on the phone,'' says Cooper, who is a producer and plays Kyle in the film. "It was a very quick conversation. But I did tell him how serious I was about making this movie. And he should just know that whatever fears he had about Hollywood, to just put them aside and trust me. That I was going to do everything I could to tell this story."

Anyone concerned about Hollywood tainting the real-life story of Chris Kyle or our U.S. military should rest assured knowing that Cooper and director Clint Eastwood will get it right in "American Sniper":

Cooper felt like he was on a mission to complete the vow for the sake of Kyle, his family and all veterans.

"I had to do right by him and his family, there was really no choice," says Cooper. "You're sitting across the dining-room table talking to this person's father and mother. And his children and wife are there. And he's passed away. Knowing that they are putting all of their stories in your hands and the responsibly of that, it's actually unique."

You can read the entire USA Today article here.

** END OF UPDATE **

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Bradley Cooper (Left) plays the late U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Right)

** UPDATE #1 **

Trailer for the "American Sniper" movie coming out on Christmas Day has just been released. Wow.  Keep your head down and take a look for yourself....

 ** END OF UPDATE **

It's been announced that the movie version of the book "American Sniper" by the late U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, has been set for release in limited theaters on Christmas Day of this year.  The move by the studio appears to be an attempt to get the movie into consideration for 2014 award nominations.  "American Sniper" will be widely released to U.S. theaters on January 16, 2015.

Two-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood ("Unforgiven", 1992 and "Million Dollar Baby", 2004) will direct "American Sniper", which is based off the bestselling autobiography by Kyle--the most lethal sniper in American history--and his 4 tours of duty in Iraq.

Chris Kyle will be played by Bradley Cooper (Academy Award nominated for "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle").  Sienna Miller will portray Kyle's wife, Taya Renae Kyle in the movie.

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Cooper with the 84-year old director, Clint Eastwood, on the movie set.

It's apparent that Bradley Cooper is taking his SEAL role serious--bulking up for the film.

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Kyle was shot and killed at a shooting range on February 2, 2013, in Texas.  You can purchase the book "American Sniper" at Amazon.com here - along with his other novel, "American Gun: A History of the U.S. in 10 Firearms".

Proceeds will go to his wife to help defend herself from this Scruff Face assclown. Additionally, here are some cool shirts you can order too.

American Sniper book

Only 2 weeks until this one hits theaters. My money is on Matthew McConaughey's spaceship returning to Earth only to find a planet of apes--and it'll be them driving Lincolns aimlessly, talking to themselves.

Here's the latest trailer...

"Interstellar" is directed by Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight") and also stars Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway ("Les Miserables"), Oscar nominated Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty") and Academy Award winner Michael Caine ("The Cider House Rules").  The movie is rated PG-13 with a whopping running time of 2 hours and 49 minutes!

It hits theaters on November 7.

Million Dollar Arm

This feel-good story of 2014 follows the search for the first Indian to sign a professional sports contract in the United States. A struggling American sports agent, JB Bernstein, is brilliantly played by TV’s “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm.

The brightest stars of this film are the boys attached to the “Arm”. Their youth, exuberance and simple pleasures, all provide for an uplifting and deeply rewarding movie experience for the entire family.

Based upon real events, "Million Dollar Arm" spans more than just the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate. It captures India’s customs and traditions, as much as it portrays America’s pastime. The incredible cast, particularly Jon Hamm’s performance, delivers something for all to enjoy: romance, comedy, cultural diversity and baseball. And for that, “Million Dollar Arm” delivers a perfect, 94-mph fastball.

This new DVD release is available to rent or buy from Amazon, Flixster, iTunes, Redbox, and Netflix.

"Million Dollar Arm" is rated PG with a running time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

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Five-time Academy Award nominee Brad Pitt delivers another gritty performance in this intense, gripping World War II thriller. The 50-year old actor more than holds his own as the very capable and confident Army sergeant leading a 5-man tank crew against Nazis in 1945 Germany. Pitt, along with the other well cast soldiers in the movie, poignantly demonstrate the horrors found on the battlefield while showcasing the courage to stand up for each other even when their situation turns dire.

Moviegoers hoping that “Fury” resembles the 1998 Oscar-winning “Saving Private Ryan” (11 Academy Award nominations) will be mildly disappointed. Some similarities, however, do exist between the two war stories. The highpoint in “Fury” is marked by exceptional cinematography with very realistic, but gruesome, battle scenes. In fact, the final thirty-minutes of “Fury” are extremely captivating and will make audience members feel almost as though its them fighting the Germans from inside an American tank. In several scenes, it’s easy to draw connections to Tom Hanks’ squad pinned down by enemy fire throughout France during “Saving Private Ryan”.

“Fury” departs, though, from any likeness to the most successful war movies due to its blandly written script and the lack of any meaningful investment in the film’s characters--including Pitt’s—from the audience. For most of the actors we’re never even told their names; instead only given a nickname…like the movie’s title for their armored ride and the real star of the film. Between the fascinating battle engagements, none of the characters or their actions becomes particularly endearing to viewers or noteworthy. We care for these guys because of their vital mission and the extremely dangerous circumstances they find themselves, but the film doesn’t afford us much more than that on a personal level to the soldiers.

Fury

The bottom line is that “Fury” is a violent war movie that graphically illustrates the heavy burden America carried to stop fascism and Adolf Hitler in Europe. Rightfully, the movie pulls no punches on the violence of war and the high price paid by our nation and her greatest generation. While “Fury” may have sold the military storytelling a bit short in detailing the bigger picture, it gets the small stuff spot-on. It exhibits the many superstitions and silly slogans of those wearing the uniform, along with the foxhole bonding found only in men under deadly fire. “Fury” offers a grisly, unvarnished look inside one Sherman tank and her courageous men battling evil. It honors all those who have ever served our country and found themselves fighting long odds for survival. For that reason alone, “Fury” is a worth seeing and remembering.

Grade: B+

"Fury" is rated R with a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Well deserved Oscar talk for this upcoming film, based upon the true story of two Olympic wrestlers--who also happen to be brothers--and how a bizarre relationship turns their lives upside down.

Riveting performances--like we've never seen them before--from both Steve Carell and Channing Tatum.  Mark Ruffalo ('Begin Again' 2014) is nearly unrecognizable. Carell and Tatum should make everyone's short-list for an Academy Award nomination.

'Foxcatcher' hits theaters on November 14.

Edge of Tomorrow

Let’s be honest, Tom Cruise’s last entertaining part was in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder” as Les Grossman. The young man, who introduced himself to us in the 1980s with films like “Taps” and “Risky Business”, has grown up right before our eyes, both physically and professionally. By 1986, he reached the highest watermark any Hollywood movie star could aspire to, flying F-14 Tomcats in the mega-blockbuster hit “Top Gun”. As an established box office sensation, Cruise then cemented himself to dramatic roles in such films as “Rain Man,” “Born on the Fourth of July” and “A Few Good Men”—diversifying his acting portfolio with meatier leading roles.

It wasn’t until the inaugural “Mission: Impossible” film in 1996, that Cruise really began to jump at the opportunity to play action-packed heroes in Hollywood, perhaps attempting to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. The “Mission: Impossible” franchise forever linked Cruise to action movies, effortlessly discarding his many other acting talents to the side in a heaping ball of flames.

The truth is that Cruise is too good of an actor for directors to hide his theatric skills in action-packed thrillers. Cruise’s best films are when he’s the most vulnerable with a compelling story to tell. His efforts in “Magnolia”, “Jerry Maguire” or “The Last Samurai” all prove that. But his lackadaisical “Collateral” (2004) and “War of the Worlds” (2005) played like mid-life crisis films, desperate productions that only highlighted Cruise’s pigeonholed genre of mindless action thrillers.

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In “Edge of Tomorrow”, Cruise regains his lost film mojo and delivers his best leading actor performance in over a decade. He plays Major William Cage, a public affairs desk warrior assigned to the front lines to fight an alien species. Costarring, and perhaps most responsible for Cruise’s outstanding work in this film, is the talented and well-cast Emily Blunt as Cruise’s Special Forces sidekick. Together, they make a formidable force in this sci-fi thriller—with Blunt easily the deadlier of the two.

Director Doug Liman (“Swingers”, 1996) creates a time loop saga that will have audiences making the easy comparison to “Groundhog Day” (1993) for its repeated reliving of the day’s events over and over. Likewise, “Edge of Tomorrow” garners quick resemblance to the alien battles in 1997’s “Starship Troopers”, with the fate of the planet resting on the outcome of the war. Liman’s “Edge of Tomorrow” narrowly avoids replaying the opening scene one too many times. It’s obvious that all his efforts in the film were focused on these repeated, yet compelling, time shenanigans versus developing a thoughtful movie conclusion.

The good acting in “Edge of Tomorrow” by Cruise and Blunt overcomes a weak script and an anticlimactic finish. In fact, the relationship between Cruise and Blunt holds this film together long enough for viewers to give it a solid grade and come away satisfied. The first hour of the movie is fascinating with the use of the time loop and affords Cruise many opportunities to appear vulnerable, weak and timid…showcasing several layers to his evolving character. The second half of the film, unfortunately, dissolves into a less thought-out finale prompted by a lack of investment and caring from moviegoers into the outcome of the battle. Once the time loop is closed and Cruise’s work over with Blunt’s deadly Rita Vrataski, viewers will be thankful the ordeal and film have concluded. But not before realizing that the Tom Cruise of old is back. And that’s good news.

"Edge of Tomorrow" is available to rent or buy at Amazon, Flixster, iTunes, Redbox and VUDU.  It is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 1 hour and 53 minutes.

1.  Robert Downey Jr., has decided that venturing out into normal movie roles can be dangerous to your box office tally.  Thus, Marvel has announced today that RDJ will return as Iron Man for "Captain America 3".  According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR);

The move, which THR has confirmed, is a stunner since at this stage Marvel has no plans to make a fourth Iron Man movie and by many accounts, the actor was to be done with the character of appearances in the second and third installments of the Avengers franchise.

2.  Prepare to be slimmed...."Ghostbusters 3" is now a go!  Marking the 30th anniversary of the original, this remake about 4 jumpsuit-wearing souls chasing paranormal activity is set to begin filming sometime next year.  However, no release date has been set.  As for who will be starring in this classic remake--who ya gonna call?  Rumors are that it'll be an all-girl squad issued jumpsuits in "Ghostbusters 3".  Here's one strong volunteer.

GB3

3.  Mark your calendars for notable upcoming movie releases, all of which are gaining Oscar buzz;

Brad Pitt's "Fury" and Michael Keaton's "Birdman" get released this weekend.

"Whiplash" hits theaters on October 31st.

Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway's "Interstellar" by Christopher Nolan comes out November 7th.

"Foxcatcher" with Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo debuts on November 14th.

And like anyone needs reminding, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1" comes out November 21st with Jennifer Lawrence.

Timely.

The already crowded movie releases hitting Christmas Day just got even more crowded.  Joining "The Interview" in theaters on Dec. 25 are "Unbroken", "Into the Woods", "Paddington" and "American Sniper" (limited showings).

Probably save this one to watch it on DVD during the next Chuseok holiday in 2015.