St. Vincent (Movie Review)

Seen here: The physical representation of awesomeness.

So, because the Golden Globes are unclear on what exactly a comedy is, St. Vincent got nominated for Best Musical or Comedy instead of, say, Top Five, and I have to review it. Ah, well, once they nominate The Tourist, I suppose every other complaint looks nitpicky by comparison.

St. Vincent

Directed by: Theodore Melfi

Produced by: Fred Roos, Jenno Topping, Peter Chernin, Theodore Melfi

Written by: Theodore Melfi

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher

Music by: Theodore Shapiro

Plot: Oliver Bronstein (Jaeden Lieberher) is not having the best of times. His parents have separated, and he has had to move away with his mom (Melissa McCarthy) to Sheepshead Bay, New York, and tries to fit into his new school, always a tough thing to do for a kid. It’s no real cakewalk for his mom either, obviously, who is swamped with her job. So, to help lighten the workload, she hires her retiree neighbour, Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) to babysit him after school. Problem is, Vincent isn’t exactly the best example of a good role model for a 12-year old, being a drunken gambler who seems perpetually grouchy about something or other.

 I really wish I had more to say about St. Vincent, because it is a good movie, but aside from some very good performances from Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy, it’s just that. Good. Not great. Not extraordinary in any way, and certainly not original. Just good.

I guess I should start out by complimenting the actors, who seem to be the focus of the majority of the praise directed at this movie, and it’s hard to see why not. The child actor is fine, and heads or tails above most child actors, but he’s not about to pull a Quvenzhané Wallis, as there were some slip-ups from him in the delivery of his lines, but that’s to be expected. You can’t really ask for much more from child actors.

Not every movie can have St. Macauley.

Bill Murray was ideal casting, and he plays his part perfectly in this movie, and I can totally see why he was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Comedic Lead Actor, because he was just the embodiment of this cranky, cantankerous, yet sympathetic old man, even if, again, his character isn’t the most original. However, there is a point in the movie when his character undergoes a very drastic change that Murray performed excellently, and which may have ended up as one of his better performances.

Melissa McCarthy makes up for at least part of Tammy with a solid performance that was much, much more dramatic than one would expect from the lady who helped bring us Bridesmaids. Fine performance, but again, nothing particularly special, although it does give me hope that she can do better stuff than do her worst Will Ferrell impersonation for an hour and a half.

At least I had some semblance of an expectation for The Identity Thief.

Naomi Watts is fine as well, playing Vincent’s Russian prostitute buddy, but it was surprising to me that she got so much critical acclaim, even a nomination for a SAG award for Best Supporting Actress. That’s really stupid. I mean, she was good, yeah, but award-worthy? They couldn’t have maybe given it to Jessica Chastain? Carmen Ejogo?

Skeletor/Margaret Thatcher?

Also, I appreciate that the filmmakers decided against the tiresome trope of having Oliver’s Catholic school be the big baddie through all this. It’s not that I’m Catholic or even religious, it’s just that “Evil orthodox religious schools” are tied with “The government”, the “monolithic, evil corporation” and “environment-destroying, non-redeemable humans” as my least favourite clichéd movie villains.

 Murray’s performance is phenomenal, obviously, but the main beef I have with this movie is that we’ve seen this story before. It’s the black sheep with a heart of gold, of course he’s gonna meet up with a nice yet pitiful kid and teach him something about himself, and of course the little kid is gonna return the favour and get him to open up to human kindness. Even when what I thought would be an earth-shattering event in the story occurred, it didn’t, really. It just kind of kept moving forward in the auto piloted fashion it had started off on.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just been done a million times before, and it’s been done much better. I dunno, it was a good movie, it’s not like I was expecting another Lost in Translation, but it also wasn’t particularly gripping or interesting for me. I can’t think of anything offhand that I disliked about the movie. I like the characters, I like the performances, it was funny when it needed to be, sad when it needed to be. It does everything right, just not particularly well enough to itself particularly memorable, especially among all the other awards contenders. It’s a solid, feel-good movie. Just not necessarily a special one.

Overall: Look, St. Vincent is a good movie. It’s just not a particularly original or exceptional one, apart from Bill Murray’s performance. Will I hold this movie close to my heart? No, but it’s a nice movie to put on if you just need a warm, fuzzy feeling in the cockles of your heart.

These are cockles, by the way. What a stupid expression.

Rating: 7/10

Birdman (Movie Review)

Pffft. Whatever man. This is Tuesday for me.

If you read my review of Boyhood, the presumptive favourite for the Best Picture award at the next Academy Awards, you know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie (It’s great, just not the best movie of the year, in my opinion). Knowing this, you may be itching to think what movies I think are good enough to displace what some are calling the best movie of this current decade?

I’d say Birdman is a pretty solid bet (And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America…).

Oh fuck, it’s Mothman!!!

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Produced by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher,  Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone,  Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo

Genre: Black comedy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Music by: Antonio Sánchez

Plot: Birdman revolves around a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The play is being written and directed by Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who is also starring in the lead role. Riggan used to be one of the biggest actors on the planet, back when he was the star of the crowd-pleasing Birdman franchise, which he left after the third movie, languishing in obscurity ever since. His bid for newfound relevance is being threatened by prima donna actors (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts), his temperamental daughter (Emma Stone) and his own overblown ego.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has made a name for himself in Hollywood, directing weird, dark foreign movies that are nonetheless accessible for mainstream audiences, such as Amores Perros and 21 GramsBirdman is Gonzalez’s first entirely English-language movie, and has gained quite a bit of publicity since debuting at the Venice International Film Festival in August. In many ways, this is a turn towards more conventional storytelling for the director, as he sacrifices his trademark epic, non-linear. intertwining  storylines for what is essentially a frequently darkly comic character study of Michael Keaton (Kinda).

That doesn’t mean Gonzalez doesn’t try to put his own personal fingerprint on this movie, because it has his heavily stylized fingerprint all over it. The usual orchestral score music one would find in most award-bait movies is replaced by some maniac frantically playing the shit out of his drums, even making several appearances throughout the movie itself. Instead of conventional film editing, that is, carefully selecting shots and arranging them into sequences to create a finished movie (Like a loser) Gonzalez decided to go the really strange route of, through extremely clever editing, making the entire movie look like it was filmed in one continuous take, with no noticeable separation between scenes. It’s weird. It’s unconventional. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.

I FUCKING LOVE IT. 

The preceding sentence should always be read like Christian Bale’s Batman, for full effect.

The frantic pace of the music, editing (And the movie as a whole, really) really compliments the rest of the, relatively short, film perfectly. It’s very rare that the fact that a movie felt longer than its runtime is a compliment to the movie, but in this case, it absolutely is. This movie throws SO much stuff at you in its two hour runtime, which would get boring and/or exhausting if every. Single. Goddamn. Thing that happened on screen wasn’t so visually captivating, or if damn near every line of dialogue spouted by the fascinating characters wasn’t so interesting and/or intellectually stimulating.

I do mean that last sentence, by the way. As I was leaving the theatre, so many themes from the movie were swirling through my mind, and none of those themes felt tacked-on for dramatic effect. The dilemma of fame is brought up. The idea of staying relevant and the human desire for immortality is referenced abundantly. Blockbuster movies versus “high art” mediums too. Hell, even the usual theme of a parent-child relationship gone sour is fitted in among all this other stuff. And you know what? It’s all done fucking beautifully. As much as I loved 12 Years a Slave last year, and it was my favourite movie of 2013, and as much interesting things it had to say about the human condition, I can watch it maybe once every six months or so without getting horribly depressed and angry at humanity in general. What I’m getting at is: As great as 12 Years a Slave is, it doesn’t have very much immediate replay value. In fact, more often than not, I just want to put it out of my mind after watching it.

Right after watching the matinee showing of Birdman, I was fully prepared to pay full price for an evening ticket, just so I could analyze the movie’s themes again. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was the fact that I had already spent all my money on comic books by the time evening rolled around.

I guess what i’m trying to say is that I think that a movie about the harrowing conditions that slaves faced in the United States before the civil war wasn’t as interesting to me as a movie where this happens:

I think I’ll just go ahead and let the majesty of this image sink in.

Admit it, you can’t take your eyes off of Edward Norton’s bulge either. It’s okay, none of us can.

Good storytelling can go to shit without good characters, though. Thankfully, this movie delivers on that front as well. All of these main characters are written so well that by the end of the movie, I genuinely like each of them, and want to see everything go well for them, even when they’re being the biggest collection of dickbags on the planet (Which is often). Zach Galifianakis erases my memory of his crappy turn in Are You Here with a great performance as Riggan’s lawyer and best friend, while Naomi Watts is also great as a first-time Broadway actress trying desperately to make something of herself.

The three performances that seem to be attracting the most Oscar buzz, however, are those of Keaton as Riggan Thomson, Norton as a superbly talented, yet pompous asshole of a method actor who could make or break the play and Emma Stone. As much as I hate mindlessly conforming the the general consensus, I’ve gotta say that I agree with everybody else. They’re all fantastic, and I would be more than happy to see them nominated come January.

However, while Norton and Stone seem to be facing some very stiff competition from their peers, Michael Keaton is straight up eating the competition alive. It’s great to see Keaton back doing prominent work again (Not that he was dead in the water or anything, it’s just he wasn’t as big of a name as he was back when he was doing Batman), and even better to see him totally owning a role that is pretty obviously meant to be portrayed by him, even if it’s not always a portrayal that most would consider flattering. Needless to say, he absolutely kills it in this movie. Even if I do joke that it’s basically Michael Keaton playing Michael Keaton, he still disappears into the role and breathes life into what could have easily been a pretty phoned in performance. The only real competition that I’ve seen so far that can really stand toe-to-toe with him is Eddie Redmayne, but more on him later.

Overall: Watch this movie. Do it. Drop whatever you’re doing, drive to whatever independent theatre is showing it in your hometown, pay full price, and plunk your ass down in the theatre seat to watch it. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Rating: 10/10

The Norton-Bulge commands it!!!

Razzie Movie Review: Movie 43 and my Golden Raspberry Award Picks

And to think that before today, I had to really think about it before deciding what was the worst movie I’d ever seen.

 Movie 43

Directed by: Sadistic hacks who should have known better.

Produced by: Sadistic hacks who should have known better.

Written by: Sadistic hacks who should have known better.

Genres: Sketch “Comedy”,  Gross-Out “Comedy”

Starring: Oh, my God, you guys didn’t have to do this. For fuck’s sake, some of you guys have  Oscar nominations. Hell, Halle Berry HAS a goddamn Oscar!

Razzie Nominations: Worst Screen Combo (Entire Cast), Worst Screenplay, Worst Actress (Berry), Worst Actress (Watts), Worst Director (All 13 Directors) Worst Picture

Plot: The different sketches that comprise this movie are part of a plot that involves a group of teenagers’ internet search for the fabled “Movie 43”, which is supposedly the most outrageous movie ever made. I understand that there’s another version of this sketch that stars Common and Dennis Quaid, but I’m sure I’m not missing that much.

The Catch: Beth (Kate Winslet) is a single businesswoman going on a blind date with Davis (Hugh Jackman), who is supposedly the city’s most high-profile bachelor. Everything seems to be going well until Davis takes off his scarf to reveal the pair of testicles hanging from his chin! And get this: Beth is the only one who seems to notice the testicles!

Improbably, this isn’t even the stupidest sketch in the whole fucking movie. I really wish it had just ended here, but alas…

Homeschooled: A newly moved-in couple (Alex Cranmer and Julie Ann Emery) have coffee with their new neighbours, Robert (Liev Schreiber) and Samantha (Naomi Watts). Rob and Samantha describe in detail their program of homeschooling their son (Jeremy Allen White). Bullying, hazing, detentions, and possible incest ensue.

The Proposition: Julie and Doug (Real-life married couple Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, respectively) have been in a happy relationship for over a year. However, when Doug is about to propose to her, she reveals that she wants him to poop on her. With the help of his friend (J.B. Smoove), Doug sets out to shit on his girl in the most romantic way possible.

At this point in the movie, I was seriously considering suicide. There would be many more suicidal thoughts over the next hour or so.

Veronica: Grocery store cashier Nate (Macaulay Culkin’s younger brother, Kieran) meets his ex-girlfrien Veronica (Emma Stone) at his job. Disturbing conversations ensue.

iBabe: Richard Gere discusses how to market the iBabe, which is like an iPod, but it’s a full-grown naked woman, and which is mangling the dicks of the teenage boys who inevitably try to fuck it, with his workers (Kate Bosworth, Aasif Mandvi, Jack McBrayer). It’s kind of hard to argue with the whole “Teenage boys fucking things they shouldn’t be fucking” theme, but this is still one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.

Superhero Speed Dating: I’m just gonna skip this one. Any problems with that? Cool.

Middleschool Date: Nathan (Jimmy Bennett) and Amanda (Chloe Grace Moretz) are having a (Admittedly, pretty realistic) date at Nathan’s place when Amanda has her first period. I will never again watch Kick-Ass with the same sense of wonder.

Happy Birthday, Truth or Dare, Victory’s Glory: These are all garbage. Every single fucking one. Every fucking second of these pieces of shit.

Beezel: Whoever thought that this segment would be funny deserves to be dragged out into the street and shot. 

Acting: I usually like talking shit about movies, but this movie is just the most painful thing to dwell on. All the actors are atrocious, because most of them just don’t give a shit about this film.

Weirdly enough, the character I most identified was Chloe Grace Moretz’s character. Not because I’m a teenage girl having her first period, but because of her line “WILL YOU IDIOTS JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!”, which is a line that I wish was screamed at the people who pitched this goddamn movie.

In short, there is nothing even remotely good about this movie. So, this piece of shit has the distinction of being the first movie to which I award the following rating.

Overall Rating: 0/10

***

So, I’m pleased to say that, for the first time ever, I’ve managed to watch all the Oscar-(And Razzie-) nominated money before their rating. Problem is, I haven’t had time to post a review in between school, homework, my job bitching about the Blue Jays, and, you know, actually watching the goddamn movies. So, while I’ve watched all the movies, the reviews are still gonna run a little late. I’m sure this would piss me off, but I’m getting pretty sick of these reviews.

Now, don’t worry loyal readers, the reviews are still. coming, and I’m gonna put ’em out as quick as possible. It’s just that I’m also gonna go back to also writing about baseball, music, and whatever else is on my mind.

Anyways, here are my picks for the 2014 Golden Raspberry Awards, from my first pick to my third pick (Any category that has an asterisk next to it is a category in which I didn’t watch most of the movies because they weren’t “Worst Picture” nominees. However, if one of the movies I didn’t see wins an award, I’ll make a point to add it to my upcoming reviews).

Worst Screenplay: 

  1.  Movie 43. I judge comedy scripts on how funny they are (Obviously). This movie…. Was not funny.
  2. After Earth. “Danger is real…Fear is a choice….” That about says it all.
  3. Grown Ups 2. It’s post-Funny People Adam Sandler, so that should tell you all you need to know.

Worst Director:

  1. The 13 People who who directed Movie 13. Brett Ratner is one of them, which seems about right.
  2. M. Night Shyamalan (After Earth). Holy shit, it really has been 15 years since The Sixth Sense, huh?
  3. Dennis Dugan (Grown Ups 2). Dennis, just stop. Please…Just..Stop.

 Worst Prequel, Rip-Off or Sequel*:

  1. Grown Ups 2: It’s not like the original one was good, but it’s a bad sign when getting rid of Rob Schneider isn’t addition via subtraction.
  2. The Lone Ranger: I dunno if it really sullied the original’s proud reputation of racism, but it still sucked.

Worst Screen Combo: 

  1. Jaden and Will Smith (After Earth): You’d think a father/son combo would have a little more chemistry, but you’d be wrong.
  2. The entire cast of Movie 43. I feel sorry for them, but they were still awful.
  3. The entire cast of Grown Ups 2. Honestly, Nick Swardson drags this cast through the mud even more.

Worst Supporting Actress*: 

  1. Salma Hayek (Grown Ups 2): She’s the only nominee I’ve seen, but she was still atrocious.

Worst Supporting Actor:

  1. Nick Swardson (Grown Ups 2 and A Haunted House): I hate, hate, hate Nick Swardson. He’s a lock for a Razzie in whatever he’s in.
  2. Will Smith (After Earth): I expect more from the Fresh Prince.
  3. Taylor Lautner (Grown Ups 2): Though, if I must be honest, his karate moves were pretty badass.

Worst Actress*: 

  1.  Naomi Watts (Movie 43 and Diana): Honestly, though, they could have picked any actress in that movie.
  2. Tyler Perry (A Madea Christmas): What did I just see? What the FUCK did I just see?!?!

Worst Actor*:

  1. Jaden Smith (After Earth): Holy shit Jaden, just stick to your terrible rap songs, okay?
  2. Adam Sandler (Grown Ups 2) He wasn’t the worst actor in this movie, but still…

Worst Picture:

  1. Movie 43
  2. After Earth
  3. Grown Ups 2