Boyhood (2014)

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Director: Richard Linklater

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke

Screenplay: Richard Linklater

165 mins. Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Patricia Arquette)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Ethan Hawke)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Directing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing

 

In 2002, director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Bernie) began shooting a film, one that would keep him busy for the next twelve years. That film was Boyhood, a tale surrounding the adolescence of Mason (Ellar Coltrane, Fast Food Nation, Lone Star State of Mind), his mother (Patricia Arquette, TV’s Medium, Holes), his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and his absent father (Ethan Hawke, Gattaca, Predestination). It covers the hurdles that young people encounter in their lives and the many challenged in adjusting to the world. It may appear simple, but this isn’t a simple film by any means. Its assembly, too, was a difficult one, as Linklater gathered his cast and crew together every year for twelve years to film sections of the movie as the actors aged alongside it.

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What a film! Boyhood constantly flips back and forth in my mind for the best film of 2014 (the other possibility being Birdman). I love how the film analyzes those major steps on the way to adulthood. Mason’s journey, aided by powerhouse performances by Arquette and Hawke, is a heartfelt one, one that many others have been on and can completely connect to. Coltrane’s performance improves as the film moves on, but it isn’t anything to mess up the film.

Linklater’s perfectly helmed camera gives us some gorgeous (and somehow unaged) cinematography. His camera elevates the vision to a true art form.

Linklater understood his audience would want to place the film on the timeline. He placed clues to guide the film, like song choices and events like discussions about a seventh Star Wars film.

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Boyhood is a visually stunning, emotionally resonant film that continues to impress and overwhelm each viewing. Linklater’s careful planning (he was to sign over directorial duties to Ethan Hawke if he died during production) led to an incredible film that will be known for its uniqueness as much as for its universality.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] Sin City (2005)

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Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood

Screenplay: Frank Miller

124 mins. Rated R for sustained strong stylized violence, nudity, and sexual content including dialogue.

 

It’s pretty insane that no one decided to completely adapt a graphic novel until 2005, when co-directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez released Sin City, an adaptation of the series of the same name.

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Sin City tells three main stories. In “The Hard Goodbye”, we meet Marv (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Immortals), a beast of a man who has just enjoyed the best night of his life due to a beautiful blonde named Goldie. When he wakes up, she’s not breathing and he’s out for vengeance. In “The Big Fat Kill”, Dwight (Clive Owen, TV’s The Knick, Children of Men) is out to stop the dangerous drunk Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro, Snatch, Inherent Vice) and his friends who are on a bender in old town, where the women are in charge and the cops stay out of the way. In “That Yellow Bastard”, police officer John Hartigan (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense, Vice) has been paying for a crime he didn’t commit for far too long, but he has just one last mission: to protect Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba, Fantastic Four, Stretch) from the vicious hands of a murdering, raping psychopath.

The look of this film is one-of-a-kind (or was, it has since been reproduced in several other stylized films), filmed practically frame-for-frame from the source material. For a film mostly on green screen, the film just oozes noir. Rodriguez took some extreme risks to get the film he wanted, including creating a scene on his dime to prove that it could be done. He even brought Frank Miller in as a co-director along with colleague and frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino as a special guest director (he helped with the score to Kill Bill in exchange).

The performances are exactly where they need to be. They are gritty and goofy with a slight hint of madness, exactly what this film needed. The whole movie just works when it really shouldn’t, and it is that accidental (or genius) combination that makes this movie just perfect.

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Sin City is a film that is exactly what it needs to be, and it has survived and only looked better in the ten years since its release. The performances and visual beauty of the film could not have existed so flawlessly under a lesser director, but Robert Rodriguez had a vision, one that he shared with original creator Frank Miller, and it shines through here.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)

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Director: Isao Takahata

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Darren Criss, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen

Screenplay: Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi

137 mins. Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent action and partial nudity.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

In the latest release from Studio Ghibli, an elderly Bamboo Cutter (James Caan, The Godfather, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2) finds a small girl inside a bamboo shoot. He and his wife (Mary Steenburgen, Back to the Future Part III, Last Vegas) name the girl Princess (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass, The Equalizer) and care for her as their own. As Princess Kaguya entices everyone around her, she comes closer and closer to paying for an indiscretion she doesn’t remember making.

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Based on The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, this Studio Ghibli film continues the tradition of excellent looking animation that pushes the boundaries of hand-drawn, even today. But for all the visual delight of the film, it still lacks a punch in its bulky slow new addition. This film drags on much longer than it needs to. Pushing the two-and-a-half-hour mark, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya showcases some great voice work, but just can’t get over its pace. Other than that, the film is stunningly beautiful.

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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya isn’t the worst of the Studio Ghibli films, but it is far away from being the best. It’s English voice cast it great and it boasts some of the most interesting and challenging animation being used today, but it just doesn’t end, and sadly, that is its downfall.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Finding Vivian Maier (2013)

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Director: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel

Cast: John Maloof, Phil Donahue, Mary Ellen Mark, Joel Meyerowitz, Tim Roth

Screenplay: John Maloof, Charlie Siskel

83 mins. Not Rated.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Documentary, Feature

 

Each year, I find at least one strange documentary that really pulls me in. As a film nominated for this past Academy Awards, Finding Vivian Maier was that documentary. It tells the story of John Maloof who comes across cases of film negatives at an auction and discovers they belonged to an incredibly inspired photographer named Vivian Maier. As Maloof searches through her past, he discovers that Maier’s photos are almost as mysterious as her life was.

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This documentary reminded me a lot of Searching for Sugar Man from a few years back. It is the story of a fan and his search to uncover the truth of an unknown artist. As layers are peeled back from Maier’s life, I was confused and yet still more intrigued. This is an excellent documentary on multiple levels. My one complaint is that I still don’t know if I know Vivian Maier by the end, or if I ever knew her. Perhaps that is the point of the film.

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Finding Vivian Maier is a strange film. It pulled me in, messed with my perceptions, and dropped me off with a lot more questions than answered, and yet, I enjoyed every minute of it, from Maloof’s inciting curiosity to the art show he organizes.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Boxtrolls (2014)

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Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi

Cast: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, Elle Fanning, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Jared Harris, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, Tracy Morgan

Screenplay: Irena Brignull, Adam Pava

96 mins. Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

 

Today, I have the pleasure of talking about the seventh-best film featuring Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, The World’s End) and Nick Frost (Paul, Cuban Fury). This is the kindest I’m going to be on this.

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In The Boxtrolls, we get to meet…well, the Boxtrolls, a group of creatures similar to the Borrowers or the Underpants Gnomes in that they sneak up to the surface and steal objects from the humans. Also, they wear boxes. It is also the story of Eggs (Isaac Hempstead-Wright, TV’s Game of Thrones, The Awakening), a boy left in their care as a baby and raised by the creatures. Eggs heads up to where the humans reside in an attempt to keep his family safe from the diabolical Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley, Schindler’s List, Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse). In doing so, he meets Winnie (Elle Fanning, Maleficent, We Bought a Zoo) and the two team up to save the Boxtrolls.

I struggled through this film. It was tough. I kept telling myself it must get better; it was nominated for an Oscar. It didn’t get better though. The only scene that blew me away was the end credits in which Mr. Pickles (Richard Ayoade, TV’s The IT Crowd, The Watch) and Mr. Gristle (Tracy Morgan, TV’s 30 Rock, Accidental Love) discuss the meaning of life as the filmmakers construct the scene around them. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication by the animation team, and that part I will agree comes through. The animation is amazing. The technology has improved even upon the impressive ParaNorman.

Beyond the animation and visual look of the film, there really is nothing left in this casket of a movie. The voice work is fine enough to get by, but this story just goes nowhere. It feels like someone threw several plot pieces onto the screenplay just to see if it would come off as quirky. Quirky it is. Good it is not.

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The Boxtrolls is a technical marvel indeed, yet it isn’t an animated film worthy of the statue or even really the nomination. It looks good, but like an aged cheese, it leaves an odd taste in the mouth.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 95th Birthday!] Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

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Director: John S. Robertson

Cast: John Barrymore, Martha Mansfield, Charles Lane, Nita Naldi

Screenplay: Clara Beranger

49 mins. Not Rated.

 

Today we are going to step way back in time to a silent film that is now a part of public domain as it celebrates 95 years of viewings. That film is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one of dozens of adaptations from the original story by Robert Louis Stevenson. This version stars John Barrymore (Grand Hotel, Twentieth Century) in the iconic role as Dr. Henry Jekyll, a scientist who experiments with bringing forth a new personality that dwells within him, a monster of a man named Edward Hyde.

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There are a few versions of this silent picture floating around the world of public domain, but I prefer the one that resides on Netflix. It is a slightly longer version of the tale, but the pictures looks as crisp as it can and the horrific transformation between Jekyll’s dual personalities shine through.

Like many of the early silent pictures, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sticks to the crib-notes and tells the basic story so I can’t really tell you that the screenplay is unforgettable, but the story does provide elements reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which has often been compared to Stevenson’s story in the past.

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The beauty of this 1920 classic is in its simplicity. It tells the tale of a man who wants what many of us want: to see another side of ourselves. Its morality play works well under the guidance of director John S. Robertson and lead Barrymore, and it has indeed stood the test of time (a lot more that its 1951 sequel The Son of Dr. Jekyll, but we’ll get to that another time).

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

American Sniper (2014)

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Director: Clint Eastwood

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Screenplay: Jason Hall

132 mins. Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Achievement in Sound Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Film Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

 

American Sniper is the true story of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook, Serena), the most lethal sniper in US military history and the effect his fame, and sometimes infamy, has on his life in the states with the woman he loves, Taya (Sienna Miller, Foxcatcher, Unfinished Business).

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I enjoyed the film immensely, although I did have one major fault. I believe that this film spends too much time out of the country when the real heart of the film lies in the problematic yet loving relationship he has with Taya. I enjoyed Cooper’s character arc in the film, but there were sequences that could’ve been trimmed down to streamline Kyle’s story to something slightly more engaging, especially under the powerful work, both physically and emotionally, given by Bradley Cooper.

The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic, and director Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Jersey Boys) presents his audience with a completely engrossing near-masterpiece on the effects of PTSD on the armed forces. His cinematography is exquisite, the score is engaging and simple, and the sets are so real that I got lost in them. This film is an expertly crafted piece of moviemaking.

Now, many have described American Sniper as a pandering film, but I feel it provides an unbiased look at a man’s life. This was a man who was serving his country. This was a man with morals who gave his all to protect the people he loved. I personally didn’t agree with the decision to go to war with the amount of intelligence we had, but that doesn’t mean that I have a problem with the decisions that Chris Kyle made in defense of his country. No matter how you feel about the subject matter presented, this is an epic tale of what we pay to keep others safe.

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Bradley Cooper definitely does justice to the late Kyle, and he gives perhaps the most engaging performance of his career, proving yet again that the funny man can continue to surprise. Under the expert eye of seasoned director Eastwood, American Sniper is a slightly flawed but certainly engaging film. Definitely worth the time, no matter your thoughts on the man.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Inherent Vice (2014)

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short

Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson

148 mins. Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design

 

Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, The Master) is known for making strange movies. That isn’t a bad thing. His films always feel like a director throwing paint on the wall and turning it into a work of art. Oftentimes, he dazzles with flair and style, which complements the acid trip well.

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Anderson’s newest film, Inherent Vice, follows Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator, Her) as he investigates the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston, Michael Clayton, Being Flynn). This journey takes him through a series of strange encounters with people like Lieutenant Detective Christian F. “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin, W., Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, No Escape), and Dr. Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short, Frankenweenie, The Wind Rises). Doc, an out of place hippie in the evolving 1970s, must make his way through the web of convolution and find out the truth involving several missing persons and a few Nazis to boot in this adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel.

Joaquin Phoenix dominates here as Doc Sportello, a role seemingly made for him. His chemistry or lack thereof, is pretty perfect with Brolin, Waterston, Short, and Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), who portrays Sportello’s occasional squeeze Penny, a Deputy D.A.

Brolin plays the hardass cop card so well that I love seeing him onscreen. He offers slight nuance as Bigfoot Bjornsen, a relatively unlikable but totally watchable antihero. Benicio del Toro (Snatch, Guardians of the Galaxy) also appears at Sauncho Smilax, Doc’s attorney, and he is underseen and wonderful. And can I just say how awesome it is to have Martin Short on the big screen as Blatnoyd?

While the acting performances are top notch, the flaws with this film come from a much-too-convoluted plotline anchored by a screenplay more adaptation than actual screenplay. This tactic can and has worked in the past, but here it comes off as a story that belongs on the page. Anderson’s screenplay is missing the stylistic touches that would make it great.

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A lot of this film looks and sounds great, but that screenplay proves that it can kill a movie, and it winds up doing just that here. This movie is somewhat unwatchable and feels more like a director throwing a lot of paint at the wall and creating property damage. Sadly, I had hopes.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Friday the 13th] Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

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Director: Steve Miner

Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Marta Kober, Tom McBride, Bill Randolph, Lauren-Marie Taylor, Russell Todd

Screenplay: Ron Kurz

87 mins. Rated R.

 

Films like Friday the 13th don’t ever really get sequels. It is a horror film, so nothing is truly out of the question, but rarely does a sequel happen when the killer is [SPOILER ALERT] beheaded at the end. That didn’t happen for the Friday the 13th franchise, when a small tie at the end of the film involving Mrs. Voohees’ deceased son attacking a frail and fatigued Alice (Adrienne King, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming) led to the first sequel in this highly-successful horror franchise.

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It has been five long years since Alice survived that fateful Friday and now, the camp is to be opened again and a group of new men and women have gathered to learn the trade of the camp counselor. What is required of camp counselors? Drugs, sex, and death, obviously. Plain and simple. But who is killing these teens? Mrs. Voorhees is long dead, and no one has ever found the body of her son, Jason.

The problem with Friday the 13th Part 2 is the fact that it is essentially Friday the 13th all over again. The film provides very little in terms of really progressing the plot, other than the introduction of a new killer. Pulling off the killer switcheroo isn’t an easy thing to accomplish. Several other franchises have tried and failed to complete the change, but Friday is lucky enough to have completed this change very early in the franchise. This is a transitional period for the series and it happens to transition nicely, in part due to its simplicity.

The strengths of this sequel come from the colorful group of likable leads who provide slightly cookie-cutter characters though still enjoyable ones. Ginny (Amy Steel, TV’s All My Children, April Fool’s Day) and Paul (John Furey, The Galinez File, Flight 93) have a solid amount of chemistry if somewhat underused. It is interesting to note the level of danger who two leads carry in the film is less than sufficient, but is a stylistic choice popular to the 1970s and 80s. Director Steve Miner (Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, Day of the Dead) utilized the style of several Italian horror films to influence the rainbow of deaths in the film. I’m not one to discuss how interesting the death is in horror films. That was younger Kyle. I prefer to believe that the way the person dies bears little when compared to the emotions I feel for him or her. In that way, the ways our killer dispenses with them is disturbing with a sizable amount of cheese (not exactly a bad thing in this way).

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Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2 has enough potential to keep the series alive past what already seemed like a death knell. Likable characters in disturbing danger and an unknown assassin keep the tension high enough to enjoy this sequel all the through the 14th. Happy Holidays.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

Tron: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski to helm third installment Tron 3!

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Well, here it is. I really didn’t think I would ever report on a third Tron film, but I am very pleased to announce that, while not yet officially green-lit by Disney, Joseph Kosinski of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, is expected to return in the sequel continuing Sam Flynn and Quorra’s adventure after exiting the Grid.

Garrett Hedlund is also likely to return with Jeff Bridges and Olivia Wilde up in the air.

My thoughts: I’m stoked. Very happy to hear this. Tron, was so incredibly important and underappreciated for its time, and Tron: Legacy continued and expanded the world created in the original film while questioning it and our dependence of artificial intelligence. I loved seeing Bridges on the screen again in a role that helped make him famous and I liked that he put himself into the role. I also loved Daft Punk’s work in the film.

So what do you think? Tron 3? Or is it TR3N? Joseph Kosinski coming back? Let me know your thoughts and will you be in line for the third installment?