St. Vincent (December 21st, 2015)
Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, and Jaeden Lieberher
The internet has made my relationship with Bill Murray into a bittersweet thing. I always liked Bill. Ghostbusters and it’s sequel and the cartoon were omnipresent in my household when I was growing up. Groundhog Day was too. Then you see Caddyshack and Scrooged and Kingpin and Space Jam, the man becomes a favorite. But the internet has turned him into this unflappable genius who can do no wrong and is the idol for life And with that, I can’t abide and makes me knee jerk react in a negative way when his name is brought up. Especially learning that he is more likely than not a drunk woman beater. And the fact that he makes a surprising amount of crap that outweighs the good recently by double, I get confused at the free pass he gets. Sure, he’ll show up in a Wes Anderson movie and do good work. But the movie he was the main star off with Wes, Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, was an abortion. This is all a long preamble to me saying that I don’t automatically jump for joy whenever a movie is announced with Bill at the center of it. Even if it sounds good, I proceed with wariness. Especially when this movie was announced and it sounded like a typical movie about a grouch learning some life lessons from an upbeat kid. This sounded really cliche, but word was good. So having seen it, I’m happy to say it’s not another in a line of bad movies from Bill. It’s pretty solid. It doesn’t overcome the cliches or anything, but it has enough humor and heart to make it not a slog to get through. Bill is good for the most part, even if he has a weird accent in it. Melissa McCarthy is good, showing she has talent when she’s not being an over the top cartoon character of an obnoxious asshole. The kid is good too, bouncing off Murray well. The only real negatives of the movie is there’s too much side plot in it. He’s a gambling addict in debt to Terrence Howard that doesn’t really go anywhere. He has a stroke and the recovery time zips by really quick in the movie, making it seem pretty easy to get over. The only side thing that works is his wife being in a home because she’s got Alzheimers is good and helps to humanize Murray without ruining the character. But then she dies in the midst of all this side plot nonsense crashing on top of Bill at once and it feels like too much. You can feel the writers manipulating things. And the end is not completely earned in my opinion, if only because there’s just too much busywork before it and it feels rushed. Not broken or anything. It still works as an ending to this movie, which could essentially be retitled as Bad Babysitter. There’s good stuff in here and I would definitely recommend it to folks. It’s just not strong enough to pimp the movie out.
Hearts of Darkness (December 22nd, 2015)
Directors: Fax Bahr and Eleanor Coppola
Starring: Francis Ford Coppola, Eleanor Coppola, Martin Sheen, and John Milius
Apocalypse Now is the best movie about insanity. At the very least, it’s the best movie about the insanity of war. No movie perfectly conveys the hellscape that war can be in such a way that the movie does, in an abstract way while still working as a straight ahead war flick. We all know they repurposed Heart of Darkness to fit the Vietnam War, but they also added The Odyssey to it as well. And as this documentary goes to show us, the madness projected onto the screen only came about because of the madness that occurred behind the camera. Francis Ford Coppola went to insane lengths to try to make this movie and it all blew up in his face, stretching the filming time to 280 days or so. A war was going on just off set. Actors were going crazy or having heart attacks or doing drugs or just not doing what the script calls for, ie reading the damn thing. Coppola tried to sort of intuit the movie as he went along without an ending he liked and all of the other elements forcing him to improvise even more on set, basically driving him to madness. It’s a fascinating look into the making of a troubled production. Especially when there’s all kinds of talk in the marketing push for the upcoming The Revenant, this can be a little appetizer before a movie that suffered an overlong shoot with geographic problems, if of a different sort than Apocalypse Now did.
The Hateful Eight (December 25th, 2015)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, and Jennifer Jason Leigh
For a more in depth review, click here.