IO

Sam is a young scientist, writing to her boyfriend Elon who is worlds away, on a space station called IO, along with nearly all remaining humans. People fled Earth as it became uninhabitable. Now the IO colony has turned its sights toward another planet near Alpha Centauri, and they’re cutting ties with Earth in order to dedicate all resources to this new plan. Any humans still surviving on Earth have 4 days to catch the last of the shuttles, or forever be left behind.

mv5bmgzlyjc4yjutnjnhni00ytvhlwi3ztqtota1ody2ntkwngi0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq@._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,1364,1000_al_Sam (Margaret Qualley) has no way of making those shuttles until Micah (Anthony Mackie) shows up in a helium balloon. He’s heard the broadcasts from Sam’s father, a famous scientist who steadfastly remained behind in order to study Earth’s atmosphere and gauge whether life may once again be tenable on Earth. Micah is their only chance at escape, but he’s finding the last Earthlings to be pretty ambivalent about leaving rather than grateful for rescue.

IO is not breaking any new ground in terms of the apocalypse, or science fiction. Qualley and Mackie are totally lovely as the last people on Earth, but a story that keeps reminding us that human connection is the most important thing should remember that showing our heroes affectionately bonking gas masks is a little short on intimacy.

Truthfully, it’s a little short on story too. It’s retreading a very familiar path without engendering a single original idea. It was uninspiring enough that I felt myself embracing the apocalypse and actually wondering what the others were doing up on IO. It can’t possibly be as dull or as dusty as life on Earth.

The good news is, it’s on Netflix, streaming for “free” since you already have a subscription. So even a mild or passing interest can be indulged with no harm done. Temper those hot-air-balloon-sized expectations and instead anticipate something more akin to a birthday balloon, three days after the party.

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The Bill Murray Stories

Bill Murray is a unicorn among movie stars. No other person in the history of fame gives such good celebrity encounters. But he’s also sort of a recluse and an intensely private person. He doesn’t have an agent. He’s notoriously hard to get a hold of. Major directors have failed to cast him because he’s elusive as hell.

But the thing about Bill Murray is, SO many people have a story about him. He’s photo-bombing their wedding pictures, or playing tambourine in their band, or bar-tending at the local watering hole. He just spontaneously joins in and leaves joy in his wake. Because what other celebrity in the whole entire world is as beloved as Bill Murray? His 615x330_bill-murray-1.0energy is just so open and guileless that you can’t help but admire him. But he receives all this love and instead of it bloating him, he reflects it back at the world. He’s literally just having fun. I guarantee nobody else handles fame half as well as he does.

Anyway, you only have to type half his name into the Google search bar before these crazy Bill Murray stories start to pop up. Hundreds or thousands of them. So documentarian Tommy Avallone decides to tackle them in The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man. Bill Murray is our generation’s big foot. Sightings are legendary. Stringing together a bunch of Bill Murray encounters actually starts to feel really meaningful. It’s just a few moments from his life that makes one person’s day extra special. He lives a lot like some of our favourite characters of his: he just really throws himself at life, he lives in the moment. And shouldn’t we all? Is Bill Murray showing us how to live life?

Avallone is not a terribly good film-maker. He inserts himself into the story a little too much for my taste. But his subject is near and dear to my heart, so I watched, and I’m glad I did. Bill Murray is uniquely able to cut through this weird fame barrier, reach across it and just be a guy among guys. I particularly like a story about Bill at SXSW. In fact, Sean and I saw Bill at SXSW just last year, and heck yes, you bet it made our day.

Jonathan

Jonathan has a very ordered, very precise life. He runs, he works, he cooks, he sleeps. The only thing odd about his life are the videos he leaves for his brother. Jonathan (Ansel Elgort) is clearly the buttoned-down brother; the other one a little wild, a little loose. But they’re close. They’re very close because they have to be. The two brothers occupy the same body. Jonathan works it during the day while Jon (also Elgort, duh) takes the nighttime shift. It’s a “thing” apparently, according to Dr. Patricia Clarkson, and let’s face it, I WILL buy anything that lady’s selling.

mv5bnmq4ywe4nmetnzk5mi00zwnllwewm2utnmuzodbjm2qzyte2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndc2nzc5mta@._v1_There’s occasionally a little tension between the brothers because in order to make their arrangement work, they have to live by certain rules. And as you might guess, Jonathan’s a better rule follower than is Jon. When Jon breaks a cardinal rule, ie, gets a girlfriend, the two start to pull apart, and while distance between siblings is usually a normal thing, between these two it’s going to start to get very, very complicated.

There’s a dark filament running its electric current throughout the movie, and I have to say, I liked it. I like movies that are puzzles, and I’m always four steps ahead, or I think I am, trying to shoehorn pieces in to slots that are maybe not the right fit. The brothers are superclose, inhabiting the same body as they do, but at the same time, they’ve never technically met. How’s that for a concept? Now imagine the relationship you have with your own sibling. Do you fight sometimes? Give each other the silent treatment? The thing is, when Jon and Jonathan fight, they virtually disappear from each other’s lives, but at the same time their bodies are subject to whatever the other does during his shift. It’s crazy.

Ansel Elgort is commanding in dual roles, though this movie, as you can tell by the title, belongs to Jonathan. The story is told only through his side of the equation; glimpses of his brother come only through the videos, and the consequences to Jonathan’s waking life. I tend to like these bold, “big idea” movies and this one worked for me. Not in a big way. It doesn’t quite live up to Jonathan’s potential, or even Jon’s. But it cooks with some really interesting ingredients. It has a sci-fi premise but a character study feel. Jonathan can’t quite fill the big shoes of its own promise, but I like that it tried, and I like how it tried, and I like the twisty pretzel shapes my brain’s been doing trying to straighten it all out.

The Darjeeling Limited

Stream of conscious watching a Wes Anderson movie:

Already loving the quirky little score, borrowed heavily from Indian films, as the pedi-cab races toward the train station.

Less than 3 minutes into the film and we’ve already left poor Bill Murray behind. Why do I feel guilty though? Peter (Adrian Brody) races by him, hopping on the train right before it leaves the station. Stupid Adrian Brody.

Peter’s brother Jack (Jason Schwartzman) has at least 8 pieces of luggage. A lovely set of course, but for ease of travel, perhaps he should consider one larger case rather than a bunch of oddly shaped little ones?

Their third brother, Francis (Owen Wilson), arrives with a busted face and a very strict mv5bmtuzmtq2mjq4nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwodg1oty4na@@._v1_sy1000_cr0,0,1493,1000_al_schedule to find the path to spirituality, plus an unseen assistant with a laminating machine to keep things on course. The 3 brothers have not seen each other in a year.

The brothers exchange unprescribed but over-the-counter drugs. It is immediately obvious why they might have avoided one another for a year.

Is it really a think to walk barefoot on trains in India? That creeps me out. There must be a special kind of athlete’s foot you get from the stinky carpeting.

Francis has so many rules for his brother that I’m starting to feel vicariously oppressed.

No wonder their mother (Anjelica Huston) hasn’t joined them: who would willing submit to this road trip with the world’s most sulky, dopey, resentful brothers?

The train scenes are shot on an actual moving train, moving from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, through the Thar desert. They requisitioned 10 rain cars and a locomotive, which Wes Anderson redecorated to his aesthetic. Nothing could be attached to the ceiling, and equipment couldn’t hang more than a meter out the windows.

How can the train be lost? It’s on rails!

Francis has just revealed their secret destination: to visit their mother, who has become a nun and is living in a convent in the Himalayas. Their visit may or may not be welcome.

With such militant scheduling, it’s kind of miraculous that they remain late for the train every damn time.

Turns out there are 11 pieces of luggage; they were designed for the film by Marc Jacobs by Louis Vuitton.

Kicked off the train, the 3 brothers and their copious luggage are traveling along a path when they see a raft carrying 3 kids overturn. The brothers plunge into the waters to save them, but one is dashed against rocks and killed. The look on Adrian Brody’s face when he says “I didn’t save mine” – oof, that’s real acting right there.

I like this custom of the father washing his son’s body before the funeral. I think Western cultures are too detached from death. There’s a tragic tenderness to this scene, just a few seconds of film, actually, that really moves me.

Francis implies that his wounds are actually self-inflicted in a suicide attempt, which is particularly hard to bear since Owen Wilson was taken off the press tour for this movie after his own suicide attempt.

The Old Man & The Gun

Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is a charming old rascal. He meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek) on the side of the road in front of her broken down truck while still in the getaway portion of a bank heist. Would she believe him even if he told her?

Based on a true story, Forrest Tucker was a Texan bank robber who escaped San Quentin at the age of 70 and went on yet another crime spree in the early 80s. Well, his whole life, really, when he wasn’t in prison, which he often was. But then he always escaped and went straight back to the only thing that ever made him happy. His victims would often note how happy he looked, how polite he was. A real mv5bmta2odriy2utnzq1zi00zjzklwe4mwyty2u1odiznty2yzc2xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq@._v1_gentleman. John Hunt (Casey Affleck) is the cop who just happens to be making a deposit on the morning of one of Forrest’s robberies. He vows to chase him and his Over-The-Hill Gang (Danny Glover, Tom Waits).

The Old Man & The Gun isn’t just a tribute to a bygone era of movie-making; it looks and feels like it’s part of the period. It’s the slowest-moving heist movie you’ll see this century, and not just because Redford’s hips aren’t what they used to be. It’s just that director David Lowery isn’t so interesting in the cops and robbers part as he is in making a fitting tribute to Robert Redford. The camera lingers on his impish grin, still capable of commanding a scene after all these years. The film is an homage to him in many ways – to his past filmography, to his status as a living legend. If this is indeed Redford’s last role (he has announced his intention to retire from acting), you couldn’t have found a better one. Lowery reworked the script, molding it from true crime to something more of a love letter to one of his favourite actors.

Uncle Drew

If anyone was going to love Uncle Drew, it would have been me. After all, in the early 90s my bedroom walls were covered with posters of Shaquille O’Neal and Reggie Miller, among others (Michael Jordan’s posters covered the most real estate, of course). Also in the early 90s, I watched Chris Webber call a timeout he didn’t have (after travelling first) and cost his team a championship (which would have been lost either way since that team has been erased from the NCAA record books).

Many years later, I got to watch Kyrie Irving take on Russell Westbrook live in Oklahoma City, as Kyrie made everyone besides Russ look like they were standing still.

And like most basketball fans, I never sought out Nate Robertson or had any of his posters, though I am sure I saw him win a few dunk contests (somehow he won more of those than Jordan).

Kyrie Irving plays Uncle Drew, an old guy who’s still got game, and who gets recruited onto a streetball team by Get Out’s Lil Rey Howery in order to beat a team coached by Howery’s childhood nemesis, Nick Kroll. Uncle Drew has one condition: Howery has to help reunite Uncle Drew’s old team. Reluctant but out of options, Howery agrees and heads out on a road trip to search for a bunch of old guys made up to look slightly older (the three all-time greats I mentioned above, along with Robinson).

From L to R: Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, Reggie Miller and Kyrie Irving on the set of UNCLE DREW. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

Seeing Shaq, Reggie, and C-Webb team up with one of the most exciting players in today’s NBA should have been enough for me to somewhat enjoy this movie (with superdunker Aaron Gordon and WNBA/Team U.S.A. legend Lisa Leslie as added bonuses). But it wasn’t. The basketball scenes really weren’t exceptional, and with such a skilled roster, they should have been. They NEEDED to be, because as hard as Howery, Kroll and Tiffany Haddish try, the attempts at comedy in this movie fall flat. So all that’s left is the basketball, which is not even Blue Chips quality (at least Blue Chips features prime Shaq instead of Uncle Drew’s heart attack Shaq).

The Uncle Drew concept made for an entertaining Pepsi ad because Kyrie Irving made highlight-reel plays wearing several coats of old man makeup. Not surprisingly, that concept wears very, very thin when stretched to feature length. The old man gimmick and a bit of nostalgia are really all that Uncle Drew (the movie) has to offer, so it’s simply not strong enough for me to recommend, as much as I wish I could.

The Last Laugh

Al Hart (Chevy Chase) is a retired showbiz manager touring the local senior living facilities with his granddaughter and frankly, he’s just not feeling it. He’s not ready for death’s waiting room. So when his retirement home tour guide happens to be his first client, Buddy Green (Richard Dreyfuss), it seems kind of fortuitous. Buddy is a stand-up comedian who quit the business 50 years ago, just as he was about to break on Johnny Carson. He went into podiatry instead. But with nothing to lose, and nothing better to do, the two concoct a scheme to hit the road and work the comedy club circuit to see if they can mount a comeback that’s been 50 years in the making.

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The jokes are as old as the stars delivering them. The formula’s as stale as the butterscotch candies in their pockets. But Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss prove the point their characters are trying to make: there’s still some gas left in the tank. Chase is charming in a doddering kind of way, but Dreyfuss still has that killer zing. If Buddy’s stand-up isn’t exactly fresh, Dreyfuss at least delivers it with some salty panache. They’re the ones who sell the material. And since neither has had a notable starring role in a film this century, it’s kind of nice to see some friendly, if wrinkly, faces.

Still, no one’s going to mistake this for a great movie. It’s on the forgettable side even while you’re watching it, so if memory’s the first thing to go, we’re in trouble. But if you’re looking for some “easy watching” and you don’t mind an oldies station, this movie is the perfect antidote to loud, explody, VFX-heavy blockbusters. Plus it’s got Andie MacDowell, Chris Parnell, and Lewis Black in small doses, so you can’t go wrong exactly, you just wish for more right. But I guess past a certain age, we all take what we can get.