‘A Very Murray Christmas’
Bill Murray has nothing left to prove, except that he does. This October he did the unthinkable: he was actually actively annoying in a movie, namely the supremely misjudged “Rock the Kasbah.” A semi-tongue-in-cheek Christmas special, with him warbling through X-mas songs with the likes of Miley Cyrus and George Clooney, doesn’t sound much better. But that very dodginess is part of what makes “A Very Murray Christmas” oddly charming. Murray has been riding the sadsack part of his shtick since “Rushmore,” but “Christmas” returns to his how-committed-is-he routine. As he plows through a diverse batch of numbers — from holiday standards to a Todd Rundgren sing-a-long — he’s perched somewhere between sarcasm and sincerity, no less because his only real musical bona fide is his classic, “Star Wars” theme-crooning lounge singer on “SNL.” Oh, and it’s been directed by Sofia Coppola, who adds an extra layer of formal weirdness to what does and doesn’t work as straight-up holiday cheer.
‘Eyes Wide Shut’
Speaking of Christmas, as far as holiday movies that are decidedly un-holiday-like, Stanley Kubrick’s hypnotic, brutally honest dissection of marriage and infidelity and insecurity ranks way up there with “Gremlins” and “Die Hard.” Has the tide finally, officially turned in favor of the god-filmmaker’s swan song? People snickered at it back in 1999, despite his passing only months prior. But Kubrick films are usually underliked at first then get reclaimed as untouchable classics later. Hopefully that’s happened here, especially given the excellence of not only Nicole Kidman, but also Tom Cruise, who’s arguably never more entertaining when his confidence has been deflated. (Note: Looks like this is the unrated, international cut, which doesn't include CGI figures obscuring the sex acts at the orgy stretch. So there's that.)
‘Neil Young: Heart of Gold’
Jonathan Demme has made three separate concert movies with Neil Young, and it’s amazing how different they are. Where 2009’s “Trunk Show” was intimate and 2012’s “Journeys” reflective, their first, from 2006, is downright garish. Young performs on a stage with a gaudy, yellow backdrop, playing through a mix of newbs and classics that blend into each other surprisingly well. The tone is melancholic and autumnal, which makes it more touching than the two films that followed showed him newly energized, soldiering on into the future. He got the sadness out of the way, and now he can keep rocking (in the free world — sorry).
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