Wednesday, December 31, 2014

St. Vincent

St. Vincent - 102min - PG13

This year’s films seem to be missing the emotional spark that lets you dive deep into the story. This movie should have been exactly what I needed. It's a very warm story that gives us a reminder that we need to not judge people. This move has all the elements for a green light film but falls sort of making a connection. They get a yellow light for the effort.

Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and his mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) move next door to the world’s largest curmudgeon, Vincent (Bill Murray). Being tight on options, Maggie asks if Vincent can watch Oliver after school as she is a single mom with a job that keeps her late. He agrees and takes care of Oliver. Hummm, that’s a stretch. Better to say he takes Oliver around with him everywhere he goes.

They go to the track and to the nursing home where Vincent’s wife lives and to the strip club where he visits his “girlfriend” Daka (Naomi Watts). They go everywhere really. Their exploits are documented by Maggie’s husband, David (Scott Adsit) and used against her to gain joint custody of Oliver. During their journey, Oliver gets an assignment to find someone who has the qualities of a saint, and he picks Vincent

Some movies you can tell are going to be aiming for the heart strings. This is one of them. As I have stated before and if you follow me you know I am a sap when it comes to movies. I am an easy cry. I never had an emotional connection to the characters. It was a really great show with the right characters and with some really good performances but lacked spirit.

There seemed to be a lot of elements that bogged down the story. I think the subplot where Vincent had a stroke really was almost too much to add with the gambling debts. The other problem was the neatness of how everything was wrapped up. I was thinking through the film that there is not going to be an easy way out of this mess. It felt like the ending was forced and wasn't a natural resolution to his problems.

The underlying message not to judge others is solid. We are never fully understanding a person’s journey so we shouldn't make assumptions about people. In the story, Vincent plays a completely unlikable character, but he is a product of the choices and events in his life. Oliver is forced to spend time with him so he gets to see him in a different light. Oliver gives us the fresh perspective that we need to see past the gruff nasty exterior.

It's hard to give this movie a lower than green light because it is was defiantly trying very hard. The failures of the story were just too much to cram into the amount of time. They were trying way too hard to make the differences in Vincent noticeable. The only real connection is between Vincent and Oliver.

Chris O’Dowd needs to get more work. He is absolutely hilarious in this role as an unflappable Priest who assigned the class the task of finding Saints among us. The interaction between him and Maggie is outstanding. Overall the Director/ Writer / Producer (Theodore Melfi) did a good job of making a clean movie, He just needs to eliminate some of the distractors and he could have a really great product. He did an interview and said he doesn’t like to get his stink on a film. It is a stink free film, but it does need a stronger voice.

What movie have you seen that was just short of making a connection? 

Monday, December 22, 2014


Nightcrawler – 117 min – R

This extremely creepy character is a great tool for commentary on the news media. I had the same affection for the character as I had for Dexter. The main character is not a good person but he is completely hypnotic. This movie gets a green light from me for excellent storytelling on an unsavory subject. I wanted to take a shower after watching it.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a common thief who stumbles on a car accident. An independent news videographer, Joe (Bill Paxton), is filming and Lou overhears that you can make money by showing up at these horrific accidents and violent crimes. He quickly gets a camera and starts shoving his way into this industry. He hires an Intern, Rick (Riz Ahmed), to help park the car and get some second camera footage. As Lou becomes more successful, he starts to switch from filming the news to choreographing the footage to make a better product that sells better.

Lou's driven nature is one of his biggest character traits but it’s not tempered by any sort of ethics. He talks a great game of high moral standard but it really is only to better his own standing, which I think makes his connection with the news network perfect. Often I feel that they use sensationalism to blow news stories out of proportion to better their ratings. Really liked how Lou is the embodiment of that mindset.

Another good relationship in the film is between Nina (ReneRusso) and Frank (Kevin Rahm). Nina is an aging news person who really relies on the sensationalism to keep her job. Frank is there as a moral or ethical compass. The film uses him to show how far out of the desperation is to drive ratings and at what cost those ratings come.

Sometimes when a writer directs their own film, the movie suffers. This film is an exception. Most of writer/director Dan Gilroy's experience is in writing but this film is an excellent movie to start off a great future in the director’s chair.

This movie can be fit into the category of news drama and joins movies like Network or Natural Born Killers. All of them speak to the evils of sensationalistic news but this one does it in a new way that is more elegant than others in this category. Take a look at this film and get up close and personal to the car collision that is our network news.

What other movie character has made your skin crawl but you were unable to stop watching? 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don Jon Posted on Web Wombat

Don Jon - 90min - R

I took a look at this film for Web Wombat see it here, It's on Netflix for the time being, A stroke of genius. Mr. JGL does it all, writes, directs and stars in, and he beats it off. No I mean pulls it  out, OFF, pulls it off. 

This just goes to  show you he does know jack about film. 

Monday, December 15, 2014


Birdman - 119min - R

This movie has me in conflict on how to review it. My film student brain loves the way it was filmed and appreciates the artistry of the scenes and the performances. The regular viewer brain finds it hard to connect with the characters. If I can draw from an automotive analogy, this is a really nice car that has a dark and depressing destination. The fight in my head--very much like the one in Michael Keaton's head--makes me land on a solid yellow light.

Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) starred in the series Birdman twenty years ago. He hasnt done much with his life so he tries to jumpstart his career by directing and starring in a Broadway play. His daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), is a production assistant who is just out of rehab. His girlfriend, Laura (Andrea Riseboriugh), and Broadway newcomer Lesley (Naomi Watts) need a stand in for a recently vacated role. Lesley gets her friend Mike (EdwardNorton) to fill in but he causes problems as he is hard to get along with though he is brilliant on stage. The story focuses on the stress Riggan is under because he has poured everything into this production.

Not everyone will appreciate the labor that went into filming this picture. The film was shot to make it look like we are flying through the picture in one long take. There are obvious cut points in the film but they blend them together masterfully. The difficulty with filming in this fashion is the actors need to be spot on. If you have a six min take and one of the performers misses a cue or flubs a line, the crew has to set up from square one, especially if its a moving scene across the set and through another room. That is an incredibly challenging feat of filmmaking. The best part is they pulled it off. It was something the film geeks will Sqeeee over but its done subtly enough to not make it a distraction.  

The performances were really good but I didn't make a connection with any of them. I realize that the whole point of the film was to take a closer look at people in a rough time and place in their lives and how they are all struggling to keep afloat but it was hard to watch the level of anxiety portrayed. I walked out of the theater in a funk. As I think about it maybe it did connect with me emotionally, I was feeling their desperation and it made me depressed.

As a viewer I wasn't entertained and that is the bottom line. There were choices with the end that made me question what I was watching. I have stated before that the quickest way to lose me is to not play by the rules you set up for me. If you set the rules I will follow your story to the other end of the galaxy and different dimensions. The end made me shrug and say "Huh" and walked out.

To sum up I appreciate the film but didn't care for the ride. The best part of the journey is the going but the destination also needs to be worth the trip. What films have impacted you in such a way as to make you blue?