Tag Archives: Timothy Olyphant

Birdhouse in Your Soul

The Starling

by Hope Madden

A quick synopsis of The Starling, the new drama from Hidden Figures director Theodore Melfi, brims with potential, offers an appealingly messy notion.

Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) are suffering, silently and separately, about a year after the death of their baby girl. Jack waits out his grief in an institution while Lilly tries to tough it out on her own. Eventually she decides to plant a garden, but a territorial, dive-bombing starling makes that difficult. She turns to psychologist/veterinarian Larry (Kevin Kline) for help.

That’s a lot to unpack, but when the core theme is grief, complications are welcome. Hollywood tales of grief and relief tend to be too tidy, the metaphors too clean, while the unruly emotion being presented is rarely tidy or clean in real life. A good mess is called for.

Unfortunately, The Starling is not a good mess. Just a regular old mess.

Matt Harris’s script never digs below the surface — not even when Lilly is gardening. Melfi relies on the score to represent emotional weight rather than leaning on his more-than-capable cast to depict that grief. An anemic comic-relief subplot at Lilly’s gig managing a grocery store feels wildly out of place and wastes real talent. (Timothy Olyphant has four lines – funny lines delivered via a character that should be on a TV sitcom, not in this movie.)

O’Dowd — who was the absolute picture of grief in John Michael McDonagh’s masterful 2014 film Calvary – fares the best with the material. Even though his character’s resolution feels unearned, there is heft in the performance that allows human emotion to overcome a weakly written character.

McCarthy suffers most, though. Unable to ad lib her way toward elevating a drama, she sinks beneath the unrealistic banter between Lilly and Kline’s Dr. Larry. Kline is solid, strangely aided by Harris’s weak characterization, which allows the actor to find a groove that conveys more than what’s on the page.

Moments of genuine emotion punctuate the film and, while welcome, they mainly serve as a reminder of what The Starling had the potential to become.

Part Man, Part Monkey

Missing Link

by George Wolf

Like its titular character, Missing Link is a bit of a mixed breed. An animated family adventure, its humor is more dry than zany, with a stellar voice cast and an often sophisticated air to its snappy dialog that is centered around a lonely Sasquatch.

And it looks freaking gorgeous.

Hugh Jackman brings charming life to Sir Lionel Frost, an ambitious, self-centered 1800s explorer on the trail of any big discovery that can get him admitted to the prestigious adventurer’s club led by the aggressively pompous Lord Piggot-Dunceb (Stephen Fry).

A hot tip leads Frost to a face-to-face with the fabled missing link between man and monkey who, as it turns out, provided that hot tip.

See, “Mr. Link” (an endearing Zach Galifianakis) is lonely, and figures Sir Lionel is just the guide savvy enough to lead him to his people, the equally urban-legendary Yeti tribe of Shangri-La.

So our heroes set off across the globe, enlisting the help of Frost’s old paramour Adelina (Zoe Saldana) while they try to outwit Stenk (a perfectly villainous Timothy Olyphant), the assassin sent to stop them.

This is the latest animation wonder from Laika studios, and the follow-up to 2016’s amazing Kubo and the Two Strings. Even if Mr. Link’s adventure wasn’t as engaging as it is, the film would be worthy on visuals alone, as you’ve barely digested one “wow” moment when another is there to blow your hair back.

From the texture of Frost’s gloves to the ripples in a puddle, from a slow dissolve into a binocular lens to a wide, eye-popping set piece on an ice bridge and beyond, Missing Link serves up a hearty feast of cutting-edge stop motion technology.

And while the pace may leave the youngest viewers a tad restless, writer/director Chris Butler (Laika’s ParaNorman) crafts a heartwarming, witty and intelligent tale anchored in the layered relationship of Frost and Link.

Jackman and Galifianakis make them a wonderfully odd couple, and play off the indelible supporters around them (including a gloriously droll Emma Thompson) to keep all the globe-trotting character driven, leaving just enough room for the messages about inclusion and progress to be subtly effective.

The result is a film that’s confident but unassuming, fun without being silly, and satisfying from nearly every angle.

 





Halloween Countdown, Day 4

The Crazies (2010)

Breck Eisner’s The Crazies, retooled from George Romero’s little-seen 1973 gem, offers solid scares, inventive plotting, and far better performances than expected in a genre film.

Building a cumulative sense of entrapment and dread, the film relies on a storyline whisper-close to the overplayed zombie tale, but deviates in a powerful way. The slight alteration plumbs for a different kind of terror, and Eisner’s sense of timing provides a fine balance between fear of the unknown and horror of the inevitable.

The Crazies sometimes plays like a more languid 28 Days Later (a film that clearly found inspiration in Romero’s The Crazies). All three films begin by articulating humankind’s repulsion and fear of infection before introducing the greater threat – our own government. Eisner’s film never accomplishes the heights Boyle achieved in each area, but his slower pace builds dread and flirts more often with an effectively disturbing sense of compassion.

Eisner’s greatest strength is his cast. The eternally under-appreciated Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, unerringly realistic as husband and wife, carry most of the grisly weight, aided by solid support work from folks who are not afraid to be full-on nuts. They may not scare you silly, but they’ll keep you surprised and a little grossed out, which ain’t too bad, considering.

Eisner pulls Romero’s  most notorious punch, but he also knows how to examine individual insanity. Eisner is less interested in government conspiracy and irony and more interested in bloodthirsty lunacy, which is why his film is more fun to watch.

It’ll make you rethink the car wash, I’ll tell you what.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5d-apDoxyg





For Your Queue: Two that are…”Hemsworth” a look!

 

The needlessly underseen Rush – one of director Ron Howard’s very best films – gets a second chance at an audience today as it’s released to DVD and BluRay. So do yourself a favor and see it. Character driven without sacrificing sport spectacle, the film proves an engrossing drama and boasts an award-worthy performance by Daniel Bruhl. Plus you get to look at Chris Hemsworth, which is never a bad thing.

Speaking of non-Thor Hemsworth, we’d recommend pairing this with a fun and surprisingly well written if little seen 2009 thriller A Perfect Getaway. The film follows Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich on their Hawaiian honeymoon, where tourists are being murdered. It’s a slick, well-paced and fun flick with great turns from Zahn,  Hemsworth, and the always reliable Timothy Olyphant.