Saturday, November 15, 2014

Movie Review: ‘Dumb and Dumber To’

*** 1/2 out of 5
110 minutes
Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, partial nudity, language and some drug references
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ on Blogcritics.

Back in their heyday, the Farrelly brothers,Peter and Bobby, were household names when it came to raunchy comedy. Filling their movies with down-on-their-luck characters surrounded by wacky weirdos, they were on a huge winning streak. From their smash debut Dumb & Dumber to the cult favorite Kingpin to their biggest hit, There’s Something About Mary, the trio of hits were inarguable successes. Even Shallow Hal and Stuck on You have a sweetness to make the sick jokes go down easy.

Dumb and Dumber To, Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob RiggleConsidering they made a second Jim Carrey vehicle was no surprise and Me, Myself & Irene showed their relationship with the plastic-faced funnyman worked. However, not everyone can keep pumping out the hits. Eventually came the underrated Fever Pitch, but then all they had in them were  a remake of The Heartbreak Kid, Hall Pass, and their worst film to date: The Three Stooges. Thankfully, the Farrelly brothers have gone back to the drawing board and delivered Dumb and Dumber To — their first sequel — but does it live up to the 20-year-in-the-making hype? Mostly.

Two decades have passed and we catch up with Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Carrey) as dumb and lovable as ever. Harry has been visiting Lloyd in a psychiatric hospital all these years with Lloyd in a coma-like state after Mary turned out to be married at the end of the first film. Turns out, it was all a big gag. Harry takes Lloyd home to their old apartment where Harry has taken in a roommate to pay Lloyd’s half of the rent. Here, Harry spills the beans that he’s in need of a kidney transplant so they visit his parents. Only to find out he’s adopted.

But wouldn’t you know it, Harry finds a 22-year-old postcard from his old flame Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) saying that she’s pregnant. Sadly, Fraida gave her daughter up, but Penny (Rachel Melvin) was adopted by the wealthy Dr. Pinchelow (Steve Tom). Our bumbling heroes try to visit Penny, but she has already taken off to a Ken Conference in El Paso, Texas. Now, Harry and Lloyd are on another cross-country trip to deliver a package for the doctor with his groundskeeper Travis (Rob Riggle) in tow, who has a nefarious plan with Pinchelow’s wife Adele (Laurie Holden) to kill them and steal the package claimed to be worth billions.

If Dumb and Dumber To has one thing going for it, it’s seeing Carrey and Daniels on screen together again. The two have a manic glee that’s infectious and, if you’re a fan of the first film, you should find a lot to love here. Is it a perfect movie? Of course not. Is it about what you’d expect from a Dumb sequel, even if 20 years late? Absolutely. Rob Riggle is just about the only other person in the cast who drums up laughs — and we get a twofer out of him with him playing Travis’ twin brother Captain Lippincott. Everyone else pretty much gets to play it straight, which is no surprise because we came to see the Harry and Lloyd show anyway.

There are plenty of nods to the first film — with an extended bit involving the blind, wheelchair-bound Billy (Brady Bluhm) who now has a rare bird collection in his apartment. This is definitely not one of those dreaded sequels that simply remakes the original. I wish the cameos listed on IMDB had made it into the finished film, but I won’t spoil them here as there’s bound to be an unrated Blu-ray edition. Which brings up the amount of lowbrow humor. The Farrelly brothers have never shied away from making audiences uncomfortable, but also for making you feel guilty you laughed at something, and this is no different.

Dumb and Dumber To feeds your inner child with huge doses of hilarious wordplay and childish antics. With Daniels and Carrey back in the lead, we can finally put that horrendous prequel behind us. This is as good of sequel we’re likely to get, and fans will be pleased. I should feel bad for admitting it, but as a Dumb man once said, “I like it a lot.”

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Vanishing’ (1988) - The Criterion Collection

Movie: **** out of 5
Video: **** 1/2
Audio: *** 1/2
Extras: ***

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘The Vanishing’ (1988) - The Criterion Collection on Blogcritics.

Not all horror movies rely on blood and guts. While those may be what’s most associated with the genre, remember there’s also films like The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, The Shining, The Changeling (with George C. Scott, not Angelina Jolie), even Poltergeist and The Blair Witch Project were more interested in messing with your head than throwing another dead body on the barbie. Which brings us to the latest horror offering from The Criterion Collection: The Vanishing (Spoorloos).

The Vanishing, George Sluizer, Raymond-Pierre Donnadieu, Johanna ter Steege, Gene Bervoets, The Criterion CollectionDirector George Sluizer snuck under the radar with his creepfest back in 1988, five years before he proved lightning couldn’t strike twice with his own awful American remake. Sometimes it’s the unknown and implied that’s far more effective than a man in a mask wielding a big knife, especially when the villain could be your average next door neighbor who loves his wife and kids. As they say: “It’s always the quiet ones.”

Rex (Gene Bervoets) and Saskia (Johanna ter Steege) are on vacation and seem to have an underlying disquiet to their relationship. When their car runs out of gas in the middle of a tunnel, Rex leaves her in the dark to go back and get gas. Saskia is terrified that he would leave her alone in such distress, but on the road to the next service station, they warm back up to each other. At said station, Saskia goes missing with absolutely no signs left behind. Rex goes on a three year crusade to find his missing girlfriend, which is when we are introduced to her abductor Raymond (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) who starts sending Rex anonymous letters, taunting him with the whereabouts to his beloved Saskia, leading him on a most dangerous journey.

As with all Criterion Blu-rays, the 4K scan of this now 26-year-old low budget French production looks amazing. Framed in its original Encoded onto a 50GB disc with few special features and only one audio track, The Vanishing is given plenty of room to breathe. Colors pop without bleeding and skin tones are natural, if a little on the pale side. Detail is ever present, whether it’s actor closeups, costumes, or building facades, and foliage never appear as green globs, which definitely helps considering there’s so much. Grain is ever present but never gives way to noise in even the darkest scenes; any amount of crush is clearly intentional. As for the audio, the single French/Dutch LPCM Mono track keeps the dialogue intelligible, without any annoying hissing or pops. English subtitles are of course included.

The Vanishing, George Sluizer, Raymond-Pierre Donnadieu, Johanna ter Steege, Gene Bervoets, The Criterion CollectionThe special features are on the scant side, but are worth a look. Brand new interviews with George Sluizer (19 minutes) and Johanna ter Steege (14 minutes), reminiscing about the casting, adapting, and filming of The Vanishing. Sluizer still is weary of Stanley Kubrick declaring it scarier than The Shining, but Sluizer is definitely as proud of his original film as he should be. Also included is the theatrical trailer and a leaflet featuring an essay by Variety writer Scott Foundas.

What makes The Vanishing work as well as it does is it’s leanness. There’s never any scenes that feel like exposition or unnecessary. Taken as a whole, this is one tight production. Even the finale moves along at a fast quip, taking us to places we would rather not go. If you don’t know how this ends yet, brace yourself. Back in 1988, The Vanishing wound up being a pretty big art house hit and now Criterion has provided a phenomenal upgrade from their original DVD. If you’re in the mood for something on the creepy side, or if you prefer your horror bloodless, then The Vanishing makes for the perfect purchase. Especially with such a fantastic video upgrade. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6’

**** out of 5
102 minutes
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements
Walt Disney Animation Studios

Article first published as Movie Review: Disney’s ‘Big Hero 6’ on Blogcritics.

It was only a matter of time before we finally got a big screen computer-animated superhero movie. And is it even slightly surprising that Disney was the first out of the gate? The biggest surprise may come to unknowing audience members who don’t know that Big Hero 6 is based on a Marvel comicbook. I’m sure they had a feeling it was based on some kind of comicbook, but Marvel’s name was never mentioned in any of the promotional material until recently. It’s a good thing they started association with the Marvel brand, because Big Hero 6 fits right in their wheelhouse. Full of heart and action-packed, directors Don Hall and Chris Williams have crafted one of the best animated features of the year.

Big Hero 6, Disney, Marvel, Stan Lee, T.J. Miller, Scott Adsit, Baymax, Jamie Chung, Ryan Potter, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

In Big Hero 6, we’re introduced to the young,  brilliant Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter), living in the futuristic San Fransokyo, with a penchant for robot fighting. His older brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney) wishes he’d use his brain for a higher power, so one night he takes him to his “nerd school” (aka university) and introduces him to his friends: GoGo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and Fred (T.J. Miller). While there, he also gets a look at Tadashi’s personal healthcare robot named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit) and Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) who is immediately impressed with Hiro’s microbots.

Tadashi convinces Hiro to enter a science convention showing off his microbots – telephathically controlled with a neural-cranial transmitter – to gain him admittance to Callaghan’s school. Here, a fire breaks out and Tadashi is killed in an explosion trying to save Callaghan. Hiro is sent into a bout of depression and becomes anti-social until one day he accidentally activates Baymax who informs him that his sole nanobot is trying to go somewhere. The two are lead to an abandoned warehouse where they are attacked by his own creation, controlled by a man in a kabuki mask. With the local authorities failing to believe his story, Hiro decides to upgrade Baymax into an armored karate-enhanced super machine, and together with Tadashi’s schoolmates, ban together to find the masked villain and save the city.

Whatever Big Hero 6 lacks in the originality department – it is afterall, yet another superhero origin story (hilariously pointed out by Fred every time a new plot point comes to light) – it more than makes up for in its own unique take on the subject. The hybrid city of San Fransokyo alone is a brilliant meshing of east/west cultures. The voice cast are having a ball and the action looks spectacular, especially in 3D. Screenwriters Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and Jordan Roberts have taken a few liberties with Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle’s original material, but there’s no denying the amount of fun in Big Hero 6.

While it may not be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it has all the same amount of adventure they can get away with at a PG rating. This is almost Marvel-lite, but is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not. Big Hero 6 is one of the last animated films of the year – the only remaining offering is DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar – but isn’t quite the best. I’d still give that title to both The LEGO Movie and The Boxtrolls. But if you’re looking for something more family-friendly in your action films – something you never see these days – Big Hero 6 delivers in spades.
Also be sure to be on time so you don’t miss the fantastic short Feast and stay through the credits for a hilarious cameo.

Photos courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios

Friday, November 7, 2014

Movie Review: ‘Interstellar’

 ***** out of 5
169 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language
Paramount Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Interstellar’ on Blogcritics.

Well all right, all right, all right. Just when uber-director Christopher Nolan seemed like he had nowhere left to go, he just goes up. And in Interstellar, literally. With his Dark Knight trilogy laid to rest, it’s time for him to set his sights on continuing with original work, and Interstellar is no small step. While featuring a few cast members from previous endeavors, he’s now joined forces with Matthew McConaughey to take us to the stars and back.
Interstellar, Christopher Nolan, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Wes Bentley,Bill IrwinIn a not-so-distant future, Earth has it in for us. Smothering the planet with dust, humankind is nearing the end of its reign. Cooper (McConaughey) is a good-old-boy farmer, living with  his father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow) and two kids, Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Tom is destined to follow in his father’s footsteps, but Murph shows signs of rebellion, getting into fights after bringing in old school books contradicting the corrected  versions which include details such as the Apollo missions having never happened.

One day, Murph makes a discovery leading her and Cooper on to coordinates in the secret mountainside location of NASA. Everyone thought it shut down to keep running without the public from throwing a fit over wasted tax dollars. Here, Professor Brand (Michael Caine) talks Cooper into leading a mission to find humankind a new home, along with Brand’s daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), and a robot named TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin).

As if his films weren’t already full of the “wow factor,” Nolan still shows no signs of slowing down. Interstellar is packed with breathtaking imagery, exhilarating intensity, and heartbreaking storytelling. This is definitely his most intimate film yet. Along with his brother Jonathan, the Brothers Nolan make no bones about their inspiration with plenty of homages to previous space ventures like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Contact, while still keeping the film’s vision unique. From wormholes to a whole new galaxy, there’s plenty of space exploration to keep the most hardened sci-fi buff happy.

The cast brings enough emotional weight to make the plight bigger than simply trying to find a new home for the human race. McConaughey in particular crushes your heart as he watches transmissions from home and sees his family grow up, while nearly no time passes on the  mission. Hathaway keeps the thought-provoking monologues from feeling overbearing and never false. Jessica Chastain even gets to shine as the grown up version of Murph trying to solve her own personal riddle back on Earth to figure out a way to get her dad back home.

There’s even a nice twist, but you’d be a bonafide a-hole to give it away. Let’s just say there’s a reason it wasn’t screened for the public. Seriously, this whole review is basically hyperbole because the film speaks for itself, even with the gargantuan 169 minute runtime. Just make sure you check your bladders at the door. Ultimately, you’re not going to want to miss one minute. Interstellar is another notch in Christopher Nolan’s résumé of never-ending cinematic accomplishments and one of the best films of the year.

Photos courtesy Paramount Pictures

Friday, October 31, 2014

Movie Review: ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’

**** out of 5
119 minutes
Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence
Fox Searchlight

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ on Blogcritics.

The word masterpiece gets thrown around a lot but do most of them really deserve that high of regard? Even if a film is an outstanding filmmaking accomplishment, it doesn’t necessarily mean it deserves the title “masterpiece.” Time is the one thing that can really decipher the difference between say, a masterpiece versus a genre classic. In the case of Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s Birdman, I don’t want to step on the artsy fartsy crowd’s toes, or rain on the director’s parade, but while Birdman is a technical marvel, it is far from a masterpiece. Make no mistake, this is a film you need to see, but I will probably never watch it again.

Birdman, Michael Keeton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Alejandro González IñárrituRiggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed-up, former superhero actor, staging what he hopes will be the comeback of his career with the staging of a Broadway play. As if being surrounded by egotistical, self-absorbed actors isn’t enough, Riggan is also dealing with an alter-ego in a physical incantation of his Birdman character. Riggan also appears to be able to move things with his mind.

When an actor is injured during rehearsal by a stage light, Riggan forces his lawyer/best friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis) to recruit Mike (Edward Norton), a brilliant method actor who already knows Riggan’s play inside and out possibly better than he does himself. On top of getting the play ready, Riggan is starting to come unnerved over New York Times critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) aiming to get his production shut down, and his girlfriend/actress Laura (Andrea Riseborough) informing him she’s pregnant. Riggan is left trying to keep all his balls in the air and make it through opening night, but his id may have other plans in store.

Anyone who includes Birdman spoilers in their reviews, or at least gives more information than I just did, should be ashamed of destroying the ride Iñárritu takes his audience on. Filmed to appear to be staged all in one take, Iñárritu has delivered a visual knockout – in more ways than one. While this may sound like opposite opinion of what I said before, make no mistake, this is, at least, a technical masterpiece. Keeton gives the best performance of his career, and most of the rest of the cast manage to keep up. The only person who starts to become an irritant is Naomi Watts. She always come across as way more awkward in her role, never sure whether to underplay or overplay and usually winds up doing both in the same scene. Emma Stone and Amy Ryan meanwhile, are underused.

Birdman, Michael Keeton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Alejandro González IñárrituThankfully, the finale makes up for any sort of storytelling blunders after it starts to suffer from too many cooks in the kitchen. It took four writers (Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., and Armando Bo) to stretch this to a two hour breaking point, but the final act more than makes up for it. My main complaint is that watching a film of this length for this long with no cuts really starts to take its toll on your eyes. Imagine not blinking for two hours and that’s almost what it feels like by the time the credits roll. Birdman is definitely one of the most cinematic experiences in years and does demand to be seen in a movie theater, you just may want to bring along some eye drops. But make no mistake, we will be seeing this come Oscar time.

Photo courtesy Fox Searchlight

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Following: The Complete Second Season’

Program: **** out of 5
Video: **** 1/2
Audio: ****
Extras: *** 1/2

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: ‘The Following: The Complete Second Season’ on Blogcritics.

After making an overnight name for himself back in 1996 with a little movie called Scream, The Following creator Kevin Williamson was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Everyone wanted a piece of the action, begging him to write something for them. And for better and worse, the Weinstein Brothers (Bob and Harvey) had him in the palm of their hands. With the 1997 double whammy of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Scream 2, Williamson was the master the until-then flailing teen horror. Soon enough, TV came calling and he created the hugely successful Dawson’s Creek.

The Following, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Williamson, Shawn Ashmore, Valorie Curry, James PurefoyAfter six seasons of teen drama, he took another swing at the Scream-formula only with werewolves, and let’s just say studio heads prevailed in neutering what should have wound up being a modern American Werewolf in London. Needless to say, Williamson needed a hit, and turned his sights on the L.J. Smith book series The Vampire Diaries. Another smash show was born. But it didn’t take Williamson to return to his roots in a sense, with the serial killer procedural The Following. With another hit on his hands, Williamson returns with even more twists and turns – regardless of how preposterous it can getthis season of The Following is even more fun – with The Following: The Complete Second Season, available on Blu-ray in a DVD/UltraViolet combo pack from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Catching up with FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) one year after almost catching serial killer/cult leader Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), Ryan is trying to get his life back in order. Attending AA meetings and teaching classes at the New York College of Criminal Justice, Ryan is called back into action after a subway attack by a new cult lead by Lily Gray (Connie Nielson) and her twin sons Mark and Luke (both played by Sam Underwood). The subway massacre is only the beginning as Ryan is entangled into a whole new world of terror as Lily tries to lure Joe out of hiding – something Ryan is obsessed with also, much to the chagrin of his niece Max (Jessica Stroup) and former partner Mike Weston (Shawn Ashmore). But we all know Ryan won’t stop until he finds piece of mind trying to put Carroll back in his final resting place, if he’s still alive.

The Following, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Williamson, Shawn Ashmore, Valorie Curry, James PurefoyThe video presentation of The Complete Second Season slashes its way onto Blu-ray in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, nearly flawlessly. Were it not for a very few blink and you’d miss them instances of noise in the darkest of areas, this is a top-notch presentation. Using plenty of natural lighting to keep the audience as in the dark as its characters, black levels are top notch with no crush in sight. At least not by way of the encode. If the director doesn’t want you to see something, it’s wholly intentional. With the 15 episodes spread out across three 50GB discs, compression errors are fleeting. No aliasing or banding here. Skin tones are completely natural, if a little on the anemic side, but blood is as bright as it should be in a show coated with it. As for the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, bass is the best part, keeping the tone as menacing as it should be. Surrounds could use a little more activity to envelope the viewer, but it gets the job done. Music and action never drowns out any of the dialogue either. Also available are French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks, along with English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.

For a TV series Blu-ray release, The Complete Second Season comes with a huge array of features. 14 “Inside The Following” behind-the-scenes featurettes are episode specific – which means they are spoiler heavy.  Because of this I am only including the names of the episodes: “Resurrection” (1:44), “For Joe” (1:29), “Trust Me” (1:34), “Family Affair” (1:42), “Reflection” (1:39), “Fly Away” (1:54), “Sacrifice” (1:59), “The Messenger” (2:04), “Unmasked” (1:49), “Teacher’s Pet” (1:49), “Freedom” (1:44), “Betrayal” (1:43), “The Reaping” (1:58), and “Forgive” (2:05). The cast and crew take the time to prove how hard they work to bring the show out every week and make sure they keep the stakes high enough that you forget you’re watching network programming.

The Following, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Williamson, Shawn Ashmore, Valorie Curry, James PurefoyA collection of “Unaired Scenes” (called “Severed Scenes” on the case) also are spoiler heavy and are episode specific as well: “For Joe” (1:21), “Family Affair” (2:12), “Reflection” (2:33), “Sacrifice” (5:36), “The Messenger” (1:48), “Teacher’s Pet” (2:03), “Betrayal” (2:41), “The Reaping” (3:34), and “Silence” (3:59) – which also gets it’s own “Sneak Peek” (1:03) which you really should avoid watching if going into the season fresh.

The first disc contains the best feature: the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con panel featuring stars Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Shawn Ashmore, and Valorie Curry. Also on hand is Williamson along with executive producer/director Marcos Siega. Purefoy’s introduction alone is worth watching, fun stuff. The rest of the special features are all on the third disc: “Follow Marcos Siega” (18:12) is an in-depth look at juggling his producing duties while directing half the season’s episodes. “The Religion of Joe Carroll” (9:20) explores Joe’s grander aspirations, “Bound By a Common Foe” (6:34) focuses on Ryan and Mike’s relationship. A “Season 2 Alternate Ending” (4:37) shows a drastically different ending, which honestly would have closed the door on a lot of opportunities for season three. And finally, “The Joe Mask” (4:37) shows the evolution of the Joe Carroll mask worn by the new cult.

The Following never tries to be ground-breaking, but it does manage to put some fun new twists into the serial killer genre – even within the confines of network television. Williamson continues to put his cast through the wringer, and let’s just say that this season is even more kill-heavy than the first. There are of course some eye-roll inducing moments and characters are never above making a personal choice to serve the plot mechanics than rational thought, but with Bacon keeping Purefoy on his toes through an even bigger season, I can only imagine how season three will manage to better The Complete Second Season. Featuring stellar picture, and a plethora of extras, this season of The Following is even more fun and I can’t wait to see what Williamson has in store for poor Ryan Hardy next season.

Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Movie Review: ‘St. Vincent’

**** out of 5
102 minutes
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
The Weinstein Company

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘St. Vincent’ on Blogcritics.

In the world of comedy, is there anyone more reliable than Bill Murray? Not really. The man can make anything funny, rising above even some rather mediocre films. And Murray has never simply played himself. From his gopher-obsessed groundskeeper in Caddyshack to Scrooged’s narcissistic Frank Cross to his most popular character Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, there’s no role too small — even his cameo in Zombieland was brilliant. And now he gets to play yet another neurotic character, this time a crotchety old war veteran in Theodore Melfi’s hilarious writing/directing debut: St. Vincent.

Vincent (Murray) is a scruffy old-timer who loves his alcohol, gambling, and pregnant Russian stripper/prostitute Daka (Naomi Watts). His life doesn’t get any better when his new neighbor Maggie’s (Melissa McCarthy) moving van snaps off a tree branch that crashes onto his car. He also blames them for his ruined fence, something he did the night before driving home drunk. Maggie’s son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) is having a rough time adjusting to his new school dealing with his Catholic teacher Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd) and the class bully Robert Ocinski (Dario Barosso). One day, Oliver needs a place to stay after school thanks to Robert stealing his phone and house key. So Vincent lets him stay next door. Seizing the opportunity of extra money, Vincent takes Oliver in and starts babysitting him, and let’s just say hilarity ensues.

Melfi makes a fantastic debut making a film that would do the Sundance Film Festival proud. Considering it premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, this is not a Hollywood affair and it’s all the better for it. Murray may be playing a grumpy old man, but he’s always sympathetic and while his babysitting techniques may include horse racing and hanging out at the bar, Vincent never puts Oliver in danger — he has the wherewithal to take a cab home after drinking. McCarthy shines as we have hoped she would when she’s not playing outrageous characters like she did in Tammy and is great as a hard-working mother dealing with her ex-husbands adultery. Lieberher plays off Murray with ease, which says a lot about a child actor making his big screen debut. Lessons are learned as they always are, but St. Vincent has tons of heart to go along with the laughs. St. Vincent continues to prove Murray is one of our most treasured comedians with no signs of slowing down.

Photo courtesy The Weinstein Company