The Weinstein Company
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking, mature themes and substance abuse
Misanthrope Rises To Role Model In Bittersweet Character Portrait
Almost nothing is right in Vincent MacKenna’s (Bill Murray) life. The aging, Vietnam War vet is still suffering from PTSD. Plus, he’s fighting a losing battle with booze, cigarettes and gambling, which has left him deeply indebted to a vicious loan shark (Terrence Howard).
In fact, Zucko is threatening to break Vincent’s kneecaps if he doesn’t come up with the cash in a couple weeks. Trouble is the miserable misanthrope doesn’t have a friend in the world, unless you count Daka (Naomi Watts), the pregnant prostitute he befriended at a neighborhood strip club. Unfortunately, Vincent can come up with no better solution to his money woes than wagering on long shots at his favorite haunt, Belmont race track.
Meanwhile, he’s also concerned about his wife, Sandy (Donna Mitchell), who’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past eight years. He still visits her regularly at the elderly care facility, despite the fact that she no longer recognizes him.
The last thing you’d think Vincent might need would be a new, next door neighbor who’s more of a burden than a help. But, that’s just what he gets in Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), a single mom desperate enough for a babysitter that she’s willing to let him babysit her latchkey kid.
Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) attends Catholic school where the pint-sized 12-year-old is picked on by bullies. This makes the boy a prime candidate for the sort of toughening Vincent has to offer, lessons on everything from boxing to betting.
Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, St. Vincent is a bittersweet, unlikely-buddies flick which works more in terms of comedy than drama. There’s something a tad unconvincing about the ambitious adventure’s sentimental side.
The film has one glaring flaw, a rushed feeling resulting from the introduction of more plotlines than it has time to develop fully. So, when it asks us to empathize with this or that character’s plight, or to buy into the heartwarming resolution, there’s simply not much of a wellspring of emotion forthcoming.
Nevertheless, St. Vincent does work when going for the joke, especially Bill Murray’s tongue-in-cheek brand of humor. He’s in rare form, here, as an irascible curmudgeon who exhibits an endearing vulnerability for the sake of an at-risk tween in need of a father figure.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 102 minutes
Plot For Peace
Revisionist History Chronicles Frenchman’s Secret Role In Toppling Apartheid
In 2009, I reviewed a movie called Endgame, a political potboiler which divulged, for the first time, the pivotal role a British professor named Will Esterhuyse played in the end of Apartheid. I remember feeling a little skeptical about the veracity of the alleged well-kept secret.
But here it is five years later, and we now have a Plot For Peace, a documentary staking a similar claim on behalf of another supposed critical figure who also ostensibly operated under the radar. This picture purportedly recounts how Jean-Yves Ollivier, a French businessman surreptitiously referred to as “Monsieur Jacques” in classified correspondence, orchestrated the dismantling of South Africa’s racist regime as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
Granted, Mr. Ollivier has many luminaries lining up to testify on his behalf, including Winnie Mandela, who says, “He never said one word about his contribution.” Then, there’s attorney and African National Congress activist Mathews Phosa who points out that Jean-Yves “wouldn’t have received a medal from Mandela if he hadn’t played a role.” Curiously, he’s the only person to be so honored by both the new and previous presidents.
What interested Ollivier in South Africa? He explains that he was a young expatriate living inAlgeriaduring that nation’s independence movement. So, he saw the outcome as inevitable when civil war erupted inSouth Africadespite efforts of theUnited Statesand other Western countries to delay the inevitable by advocating the dubious “policy of constructive engagement.”
My only complaint about “Johnny Come Lately” productions like this and Endgame is the way in which they subtly minimize the contributions made by the revolutionaries who put their lives on the line in a very bloody, freedom struggle. These versions of revisionist history tend to marginalize such sacrifices while suggesting that the true hero was a lone wolf in a suit safely negotiating a resolution of the conflict from half a world away.
Regardless, the grassroots’ rallying cry remained, “Amandla!”
Very Good (2.5 stars)
In English, French, Portuguese, Afrikaans and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 84 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening October 31, 2014
Nightcrawler (R for violence, profanity and graphic images) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the title role of this character-driven thriller as a freelance journalist caught in a cutthroat competition covering the crime beat inLos Angeles. With Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Ann Cusack (sister of John and Joan).
ABCs Of Death 2 (Unrated) Horror sequel featuring another 26 short comedies by 26 different directors, each titled for a different letter of the alphabet, from A is for Amateur to Z is for Zygote. Cast includes Martina Garcia, Tristan Risk, Beatrice Dalle and Andy Nyman. (In English, Hebrew, Japanese, French and Portuguese)
All You Need Is Love (Unrated) Sigourney Weaver narrates this inspirational documentary chronicling the daily lives, dreams and plight of Burmese children attending the Good Morning School in Mae Sot, Thailand, in defiance of the dictates of their own country’s repressive regime.
Before I Go To Sleep (R for profanity and graphic violence) Screen adaptation of the S.J. Watson best seller of the same name revolving around an amnesiac (Nicole Kidman) whose husband (Colin Firth) has to remind her every morning that her memory gets erased every time she falls asleep. With Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff and Adam Levy.
Bitter Honey (Unrated) Female empowerment documentary exposing the betrayal and violence visited upon abused Balinese women stuck in polygamous marriages. (In Indonesian with subtitles)
Braddock (Unrated) Cinematic tribute to a tiny town in Pennsylvania of historical significance as it tries to reinvent itself in order to remain relevant in the 21st century.
God The Father (R for violence) Mafia documentary in which former Colombo crime family mobster Michael Franzese recounts finding his faith and being born again after learning that his own father had taken out a contract on him.
The Hazda: Last Of The First (Unrated) Anthropological examination one of the world’s last remaining tribe of hunter-gatherers, the Hazda, who have lived in Africa’s Rift valley for the past 50,000 years. Narrated by Alfre Woodard, and featuring commentary by primatologist Jane Goodall and geneticist Spencer Wells.
Hit By Lightning (Unrated) Romantic comedy about an aspiring writer (Jon Cryer) who gets more than he bargained for when the passionate lover (Stephanie Szostak) he meets online suddenly announces she’s married and pressures him to murder her rabbi hubby (Jed Rees). With Will Sasso, Alexis Maitland and Sean Tucker.
Horns (R for sexuality, profanity, rape, disturbing violence, drug use and graphic nudity) Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe stars in this horror fantasy as the prime suspect in his girlfriend’s (Juno Temple) murder who wakes up with horns growing out of his head after a night of heavy drinking. Featuring Max Minghella, Joe Anderson and Kelli Garner.
Magical Universe (Unrated) Retrospective revisiting the final decade in the career of Al Carbee (1914-2005), an eccentric, Barbie-obsessed artist who worked with dolls as his medium.
Missionary (R for violence, profanity and sexuality) Romance drama about a struggling single mom (Dawn Olivieri) who embarks on a passionate affair with a Mormon (Mitch Ryan) only to watch him go berserk when she reconciles with her estranged husband (Kip Pardue). Support cast includes Connor Christie, Randy Molnar and Dushawn Moses.
Private Peaceful (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Devon, England, revolving around two brothers (Jack O’Connell and George MacKay) who fall in love with the same girl (Alexandra Roach) before enlisting in the army and being shipped off to fight in Flanders fields during World War I. With Maxine Peake, Frances de la Tour and the late Richard Griffiths.
Showrunners (Unrated) Behind-the-scenes documentary illustrating everything involved in the making of a TV series, from the creation of the concept, to the production, to the writing, to the casting, to the shooting, to the airing.
True Son (Unrated) Political documentary chronicling 22-year-old Stanford grad Michael Tubbs’ campaign for a seat on Stockton, California’s City Council.