Friday, October 31, 2014

St. Vincent

While I certainly do not dislike Bill Murray, I have never been able to understand exactly why he is so universally loved. Sure, he is quite hilarious, but why does his humor bring so many people together?... Who knows!... Regardless, my hopes were very high, going in to St. Vincent, due mostly to the fact that Jaeden Lieberher absolutely cracked me up in the trailers. If there is one thing that I love more than a good dramedy, it is a funny, intelligent child actor! So, while Bill Murray was the draw for most viewers of St. Vincent, my main draw was 81 years (approximately) younger than Murray...

While I did expect St. Vincent to provide numerous laughs, I did not expect the film to have such a heart. There is no doubt that this was the most emotional that I have seen since Short Term 12, and, in case you don't know me, emotions aren't my strong suit! However, by the end of the film, I was struggling HARD to keep the tears from flowing! Most of the emotions were brought on by the relationship between Bill Murray's Vincent and Lieberher's Oliver, which was just perfect. The end of the film was a bit rushed, but, for the most part, St. Vincent did a great job of making me laugh and (almost) cry with nothing but a simple story about a little boy and his old, grumpy neighbor!

St. Vincent was anchored very well by Bill Murray, who was absolutely perfect for the role. However, I don't quite think he is worthy of the Oscar buzz that a few folks are throwing his way. Again, my lack of awe at Murray is showing, but I just don't quite get it!

One actor who was terribly under-utilized and awkward-looking was Terrence Howard, who played Zucko, a horse gambling friend of Vincent's. While Howard may not be the most respected actor in Hollywood, he isn't typically horrible. From a different angle, I did not really like what the film did with Oliver's school-enemy, Ocinski (played by Dario Barosso). Unfortunately, I can't say too much without giving away the plot, but I just thought the progression of his character was a bit under-utilized.

As expected, the child actor rules them all! Jaeden Lieberher was absolutely hilarious as Oliver, and I truly wanted him to be my child. The age and size of both the actor and his character were absolutely perfect for this film, and I can't wait to see what this youngster does in the future. Additionally, great performances were handed in by both Melissa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd. While McCarthy has (rightfully) taken a lot of heat for some of her recent roles, characters, like Maggie, allow her to show her range across the comedic and dramatic spectrum. O'Dowd, on the other hand, can always make me laugh, no matter what! His character of Brother Geraghty did a great job of poking fun at religion without tearing down its significance in both the film and his life. Great character!

Although the likelihood of another 2014 film topping The LEGO Movie is quite slim, St. Vincent certainly did a great job of sticking its foot in the door, as one of the best dramedies of 2014. With a great cast and an emotional storyline, St. Vincent had most of what I ask for in a film. The only thing it lacked was Jonah Hill! Anyway, I'm quite hopeful that this film starts a great career for Jaeden Lieberher and begins a new era in the comedy of Bill Murray (and maybe Melissa McCarthy, too!). Kudos to new director, Theodore Melfi and the entire cast for entertaining me and given me enough proof, for the next year or two, that I have emotions! I give St. Vincent 3.56 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Great Expectations: American Horror Story "Freak Show"

For three years of my four-year stint as an undergraduate, I had the fortune of rooming with the most dedicated student to have ever walked the earth--Robert Williamson. Many of my Hattiesburg-based readers might know Robert and his crazy antics, but, for the rest of you, I must explain...

In all of my life, I try to balance education, hard work, play, and faith. Robert, on the other hand is ALL education ALL of the time, and you better not get in his way... ever! Often times I would criticize him for what I viewed as his flawed approach to college, and, trust me, I am far from your stereotypical "college kid." I could tell story after story about our time as roommates, but, for now, let's focus on one.

In 2011 (our first year as roommates), Robert and I shared a dorm room on the university's campus, which basically meant that we were in each other's business all of the time. If someone was sick, the other endured. If someone had a guest over, the other endured. If someone was watching TV 24/7 (cough, cough... me), the other endured. And, in the fall of 2011, a new show was about to start on FX, called American Horror Story.

The trailers did intrigue me, but, honestly, I didn't think I was going to enjoy the show. I'm not a huge fan of horror flicks. I don't enjoy mindless killing. However, I was a huge fan of Nip/Tuck, which I used to watch well before I was old enough to truly understand the events therein, and I know, as well as the next guy, that it is good to find a director/showrunner/creator and stick with him. So, I decided to check out American Horror Story, solely because of Ryan Murphy, who unfortunately also created Glee (go figure). 

As the show began, on that plain October night, Robert was innocently doing his homework, as he tended to do every. single. night! Then, as the show progressed, Robert continued to inch closer and closer to the television. It was plain to see that he was totally mesmerized by the events unfolding on screen, and, when Jessica Lang uttered the words "Don't make me kill you again," Robert and I both began "oh snapping" joyously. Little did I know that this show would soon become our obsession, and, three years later, I would be telling this story.

In year two of our tenure as roommates, Robert and I gained a third roommate, who we forced to watch American Horror Story... He became obsessed.

In year three, we lost that roommate and gained another... who we forced to watch American Horror Story. He loved it, as well.

In May, both Robert and I graduated and moved out of our apartment. I stayed here in Hattiesburg to obtain my Masters in Economic Development, and Robert left for Florida State, where he is working toward his PhD in Political Science (that studying paid off). 

This fall, we will be forced to watch Freak Show in two separate locations, and there is no doubt that it will be a very different experience. Roommates may be annoying as heck, but they do impact your life! American Horror Story will always fit in my mind as the show that I found with Robert... that one hour when he wasn't studying...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Gone Girl

Oscar season is here, folks! No more mediocrity... No more superheroes... Not quite as much mindless movie-watching... The world is a better place! And, to start it all off, we get an exciting film from the great David Fincher... Gone Girl. Add the excitement for Gone Girl to the amazing MLB Playoff games and the insane College Football weekend, and the last few days have really been quite impressive (from an entertainment perspective). Not that entertainment is the answer to every world problem, but nobody needs to be thinking about ISIS all of the time. Although I knew very little about what would unfold in Gone Girl's thrilling plot, my expectations were relatively high, due to the praise that the film is receiving and the fact that David Fincher is an amazing filmmaker. If you've never seen The Social Network, I forbid you to watch another film until you have done so. Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about Gone Girl...

The complexity of the trickery used throughout Gone Girl was absolutely thrilling. While the whodunnit could have been guessed at any point, there is no doubt that uncertainty would have prevailed. But, looking back on how I felt during the film, the biggest problem was that I didn't know if I could actually trust the answer to the whodunnit. Unfortunately, I think that struggle took away a bit from the revelation. However, the events that followed were so complex and thrilling that I could care less. The direction of the unfolding of the story was great, and I think the story was meant to be visualized by David Fincher. If you've never truly appreciated a director and what he or she brings to the plate in the filmmaking world, just watch Gone Girl's thrilling murder scene (also note the amazing score). That's all I can give you without spoiling everything.

Well, let's just get down to business...

While Neil Patrick Harris's Desi Collings was a necessary and interesting character, I don't know that Harris was the perfect casting decision. He certainly played the character how it was meant to be played, but there was just something that wasn't quite satisfying about his performance, in my opinion. The only character that I thought was a bit misused was Emily Ratajkowski's Andie Hardy, who I cannot really discuss. Just think about it, once you figure out who she is...

Where to start?... How about with the lovely couple! Ben Affleck's Nick and Rosamund Pike's Amazing Amy were absolutely great characters, and each of their performances were spot-on. Unfortunately, I can't talk about them too much, but be sure to let me know what you think! On a much, much smaller scale, I was greatly impressed with Scoot McNairy's performance as Tommy O'Hara. This guy has huge star-potential. He will win an Oscar, one day... Just wait and see!

My absolute favorite character, however, was Kim Dickens' Detective Rhonda Boney, who I truly anticipated that I would HATE. Her attitude annoyed the crap out of me in the trailers, but she ended up being such an amazing example of sound justice. Add to that the fact that there were crazy people running all around her, and she may just look like the most sane character of 2014.

Well, if you want to quit worrying about the "problems of the world," I would suggest watching Gone Girl. Trust me, your worries will quickly refocus on your neighbors' home or maybe even YOUR VERY OWN BEDROOM! Honestly, I can't remember the last time I was so baffled at the psyche of one character. While the character in question is much different, the unbelievably real and frightening reactions of this character brought me back to the bafflement that overcame me while watching Theodore Twombly in Her. The likelihood that anybody else had that connection is minimal, but I thought it should be shared. Throughout the film, when I thought a silver lining was on its way, the clouds quickly darkened.  Of course, this review has been fairly vague, in order to avoid spoiling the film, but I will say that I was on the edge of my seat throughout. If you enjoy any of David Fincher's mystery thrillers, you are sure to enjoy Gone Girl. If you have somehow managed to avoid watching any of Fincher's mystery thrillers, Gone Girl would be a great place to start (only because The Social Network is not really a mystery). The last few months of 2014 are sure to be filled with exciting films, and I hope that many of them can measure up to this awesome, awesome film. I give Gone Girl 4.02 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Great Expectations: The One That Changed Everything

In September of 2011 (about three months into my blogging career), I decided to create a segment called "Great Expectations," which would give me an outlet to advertise films that I was excited about, each and every month. That month, said outlet was filled with trailers for Contagion, Moneyball, and 50/50, each of which ended up being quite good, if I might say so myself. Anywho, for those of you who follow my blog regularly, you've probably read a few of those monthly posts, and you might have even enjoyed them. Even more so, I hope that you didn't enjoy them too much, because I've decided to re-vamp Great Expectations into something a bit different.

At the time of its inception, Great Expectations was really just an easy way for me to increase the number of posts that I was able to get out each month. Eventually, though, I grew to enjoy having the chance to break the typical "review-mold," which can sometimes grow tiresome on the movie blogger soul. However, at this point, I've come to realize that there are ample ways to go about writing, without focusing solely on reviews. Also, the likelihood of me being able to keep my post-count high, over the next year, is quite low, considering how much time and effort is required in graduate school.

But, fear not! Great Expectations is still going to be around!

Instead of focusing on a monthly trailer list, the segment will give me an outlet to discuss pretty much anything that I am excited about, in the near or distant future of the entertainment-world. For instance, I might do an "Oscar Edition" or a "Summer Movie Edition" or a "Star Wars Episode XXXII Edition." The possibilities are just endless!

In my reviews, I always begin with my expectations for a film, because I truly believe that nothing influences a film's success more than its ability to meet expectations. Sure, there are other elements (which is why I don't stop my reviews at expectations), but nothing is more powerful than a film that exceeds expectations. Similarly, nothing is more aggravating than film that can't deliver on your high, high hopes. I say all that to show you how important expectations can be in film, but this lesson can also be applied to life... That was my Dr. Phil line for the day!

Before I move on, I would like to thank each and every reader for taking the time to check in and see what's going on in Tanner's world. If there is ever anything that I can do for any of you, be sure to let me know!

Now, let's create some expectations!