Get Low (April 10th, 2016)
Director: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Lucas Black, and Sissy Spacek
I thought this was gonna be a comedy. Don’t really know where that idea came from, but some thought in my head from around the release made it seem like it was a farce of some kind. An old hermit (Duvall) throws a funeral for himself while he’s alive so he can hear stories about himself. But while there is some humor and chuckles in the movie, this is actually a fairly dramatic movie about guilt and the haunting/unending nature of the past. Duvall’s scheme isn’t some joke, there’s some actual weight and pain to the choice he’s making. The movie is almost a mystery, with the past of Duvall being this big question that every is wondering about. Even the few people who knew him. People want/need to know what happened to him to make him this distanced man. We get the idea that he was a charming, brilliant and unique man that suddenly disappeared into the ether. So what gives? I won’t spoil it here, cause I’m not a god damn animal but it’s some real heartbreaking and masterfully delivered stuff. It truly makes the case that Duvall is a good man who may have made a sort of mistake who is punishing himself for that act for 40 plus years. Duvall, always an amazing actor with a unique and engrossing presence, gives what may very well be his best performance. It’s one that shows off the intelligence and heart hidden within the body of a hermit. There’s a sense of humor to the world around him. But there’s also the withholding nature, where it seems like it genuinely pains him to talk about his emotions or his past. The script of this movie is genuinely a work of art, pure perfection that allows everything to unfold perfectly, holding back information without it feeling like a gimmick or unnatural to keep the ending a “twist” of sorts. There’s a real sure hand guiding the proceedings, giving it a real sense of warmth and humanity, while still letting the sad and tragic eek through. The rest of the cast is great too, subverting some of the melodramatic stories that could have been in here. This is a movie I had high hopes for but was somehow pleasantly surprising at how genuinely honest it was. Some real emotion is packed into this movie and this is something special.
Ricki and The Flash (April 11th, 2016)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, and Rick Springfield
So this wasn’t a bad movie. It bombed and the reviews weren’t so great, added into being a movie written by Diablo Cody and directed by a not Silence of The Lambs era Demme. But there’s been some chatter around certain film circles, decidedly unpretentious circles, that this was a undervalued gem. So hey, I figured I’d give it a shot. And you know what, it’s a pretty good little movie. It has the skeleton of a typical indie movie, with a broken hero trying to reconnect with family. But it’s the little details in the script and Meryl Streep that elevate this movie above simple indie fare. Meryl is, as usual, great. She dedicates herself into the role, making herself as unglamorous as possible and not hiding the blemishes of a pretty shitty person. The titular Ricki is an immensely selfish person, someone who abandoned her family in pursuit of a rockstar dream that never panned out. Broke, working as a cashier at a supermarket, and playing some shitty bar for petty cash, she is a shell of what she wanted to be. When the opportunity arises to reconnect with her estranged family, she takes it. Her daughter (Gummer) is recently divorced and recovering from a suicide attempt. And the reconnecting doesn’t go too well. There’s too much anger and resentment in the family, too much guilt and regret from Ricki. Some inroads are made, but nothing is completely resolved. Even by the end of the movie, there’s no absolute cleansing of the slate. But Ricki has made a change. She has always been of the mind that you can’t focus on two things at once, so she choose music. But by the end of the movie, she realizes she can focus on both by sharing her music with her family. So while there isn’t necessarily a sense that everything is healed, but we have seen the steps that maybe things can be better. What hinders the movie is that it may be too subtle in it’s elements. It isn’t too funny, nor is it too heartbreaking or dramatic. It hums at a decent level in each, but never rises above good. And Demme honestly frames the movie like crap. His penchant for close ups and handheld really fucks this movie. It’s an almost aggressively unpretty movie. It’s weird that a man who made such a masterfully crafted movie like Silence of The Lambs could make something so amateurish looking. But a lot of the old guard has a hard time getting older. So I won’t hold it against him, but I will hold it against the movie. This isn’t some hidden masterpiece, but it is a fun little movie that shows off the talents of the cast involved.
Hush (April 12th, 2016)
Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Samantha Sloyan, and Michael Trucco
For more, click here.
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (April 15th, 2016)
Director: Colin Higgins
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Dom DeLuise, and Charles Durning
I will seemingly watch any kind of movie from the 70s or 80s if Burt Reynolds was in it. Because there is no real reason why this is a movie I would watch outside of Reynolds. A big, broad and goofy musical about a happy go lucky whorehouse in Texas doesn’t really ring my bells. But Burt got me in, and I can say that this isn’t the worst movie in the world. It ain’t even bad. It just is very much not my cup of tea. The story is one that does not interest me. The love story does not really connect me to these two. The songs and dance numbers just go on way too long and stretch this already bare bones story way too thin. And the actual dramatic arc of the movie is just ridiculous. Fighting for the soul of a whorehouse frankly does nothing for me. This isn’t a moral thing, since I couldn’t give less of a fuck about prostitution nor do I think it’s this horrific thing that society deals with. But just the absolute fantasy of the thing pushes me away. I don’t need it to be 100% realistic, with a scene of Dolly Parton pulling a straight razor out to cut up a john that’s beating on a girl. But maybe some sort of feeling that what is going on can attract some elements a little more dangerous than Dom DeLuise in a wig. There’s a sense of fun to it, but it didn’t really keep me entertained. This was just a weird movie for me. I know it’s a decent little movie and one that would attract a certain kind of audience that likes these kinda over the top musicals. But for me, it didn’t have much more than Burt Reynolds and his charming shitkicker ways to keep me hooked. Certainly wasn’t Parton and her weirdly childish speaking voice or obnoxiously large fake chest ornaments. But give me Burt and that smile, I can deal with most.
Everybody Wants Some!! (April 16th, 2016)
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, and Zoey Deutch
Richard Linklater is the man. I love this mans movies and the style he works in. This is not a man very much interested in histrionics or overblown emotions. He likes to settle down with a group of characters and just watch them exist and bounce off each other. Just people talking about life and going about their day is what interests him, as does the passage of time. Most famously he’s chased the theme of time in his Before Trilogy, as well as his coming of age opus Boyhood. This time out, it isn’t as obvious a theme as those previous movies, but it is one that is there. For this has been described by him as a spiritual sequel to his masterpiece, Dazed and Confused. And it really is, since it has the easy going tone to it and that hang out plotting. But also because it deals with a short amount of time involving school. In Dazed, it’s the last day of school/first day of summer when everyone is subconsciously realizing they have all the choices in the world for their future. This time, it’s the three days before College starts for out main character (Jenner), and the subtle realization that this is the perfect time to goof off and have fun, but also that the future is now and responsibility is knocking. But this is all very subtle in the movie, never stopping the movie in it’s tracks to preach these things. It’s Linklater, he isn’t gonna spell things out. He just takes all these different kinds of characters from different walks of life, bonded together by their inclusion on the baseball team, and sees how they live. And it’s fun. They are all goof balls, definitely jock Alpha males but never intimidating. No bullying going on, they don’t come off as hateful. Balls are busted within their group, but everyone gets some busted balls. There’s only one real asshole of the group, and even then things are semi patched up by the end. Linklater does a good deal of the work by crafting a charming and easy going script, and doing good work behind the camera to capture the 80s and the lifestyle of a baseball team in Austin during the time. But the cast should get a fair share of praise too, since this is some Dazed level perfection in the casting. Everyone is pitch perfect, getting into all the weird little details to craft someone truly unique, charming as hell despite some annoying tendencies these guys may have. There’s also been some rumblings amongst the more sensitive and frankly stupid audiences regarding this movie being sexist, but that’s garbage. This is a movie about a baseball team. Of all men. In college in the 80s. These aren’t gonna be sensitive, emotional guys. They have one night stands and thats it for the most part. No friends of the lady persuasion they just hang with. They don’t treat ladies like crap either. It’s just they aren’t a strong part of their world. Until Jenner comes in and finds a girl he may want to have a relationship with. He’s the only one that finds that connection, and that girl (Deutch) is a real character that goes beyond simple male fantasy. And for claims that Linklater is a misogynist or mean spirited is an outright fallacy, a fundamental misreading of the man and his work. This guy loves all his characters and never passes judgement. He just shows them for what they are, allowing us to make judgements. This is a great movie, one that is low key and filled to the brim with charm and laughs. This isn’t a rip roaring comedy designed to make you belly laugh. But it is one that you feel at home with, even if you didn’t take part in the athletic world these guys took part in. You see this and wish it was twice as long, just to spend more time with them. Highly fucking recommended.