The Film Gang

Boyhood

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and watch the trailer below.

Richard Linklater’s latest film, Boyhood, was a very risky venture. You’ve likely heard that it took over twelve years to make, and that he used the same cast throughout. That, in itself, was daring  – taking the chance that each of the cast members would be available for a twelve year shoot.

But, I think there was an even greater risk. Generally, movies succeed on the basis of disguising themselves as reality. We don’t want to enter the theatre and be reminded, over and over, that what we are watching is an assemblage of hundreds of hours of preparation and execution designed to fool us into believing that we’re witnessing a few seamless hours in the lives of the characters.

Linklater must have known that if he succeeded in getting to the finish line, the reality that he’d have created something never attempted in the annals of film history would likely ensure that most folks would be very aware that they were watching a movie. Which is to say – the desired outcome of ‘getting lost’ in the film might well be diminished.

Fortunately, sometimes great risks produce great outcomes, and I am happy to report that Boyhood is among them.

So, what is Boyhood about? Ostensibly, it’s about the childhood, pubescence,  adolescence, and early adulthood of a bright guy named Mason, and about the lives of his closest family members. But I think it’s also a film about time – about how humans negotiate it, use it, abuse it, and, especially, about its velocity.

That Boyhood is about time and its manifestations is no surprise. Prior to Boyhood, my favorite Linklater films were the ‘Before’ trio: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. Obviously, Linklater is artfully obsessed with time.

The film opens with six year old Mason lying on his back on a schoolyard lawn,

gazing pensively into the sky. His mom, Olivia, arrives to take him home. In the car, she asks him several questions generated by his teacher’s concerns. Mason’s simple answers establish immediately that he is a bright and unpretentious kid – a magnet for our attention and affections.

Next we are introduced to Mason’s precocious sister, Samantha. Samantha is played beautifully by Linklater’s daughter, Lorelei. And we fall in love with her, too.

We now are beginning to know three of the four major characters – sister, brother, and mom. And soon we will meet the estranged father of the family, Mason Sr., played with characteristic excellence by Ethan Hawke.

We discover that mother Olivia, played by Patricia Arquette, has a penchant for choosing partners with unhealthy habits. Mason Sr. is an inveterate smoker. He is followed in Olivia’s chain of love interests by an abusive alcoholic, who, in turn, is followed by a guy with an incipient drinking problem.

Boyhood is a powerful portrait of the all too familiar problems faced by many single parent families – divorces, frequent moves, financial difficulties, a disarming rootlessness. Linklater, the endearing Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason Jr., and the entire cast have made a memorable, perhaps even, a great film. Don’t miss it.

 

Begin Again

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above.
 

Snowpiercer

Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, or read it below.
  

Snowpiercer, a Film by Bong Joon-Ho

Summer is an acknowledged times for blockbusters. Snowpiercer the latest film by Korea’s Bong Joon Ho, is an apocalyptic dystopic entrant into that category. Bong Joon-Ho may be familiar to moviegoers as the director who brought us the creepy horror flick The Host (also known as Monster) and a poignant melodrama, Mother. Qualities in evidence in both these previous works recur in Snowpiercer: Bong’s penchant for the macabre and his ability to incite intense emotional responses from viewers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jersey Boys

Play

Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, and read it below.

 

Jersey Boys, A Film By Clint Eastwood.

If it’s challenging to try to bring a hit musical to the screen, it can be no less vexing to evaluate such an adaptation. Broadway smash hit Jersey Boys, based on a book co-authored by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and reconfigured as a Clint Eastwood film, has already made a big splash, as far as publicity goes. It needs no further hype or buzz. John Lloyd Young, who created a memorable stage version of real-life elfin doo-wop falsetto icon Frankie Valli, reprises his role for this motion picture.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ida

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, or read it below.

 

Ida, as we say in English, (the name is pronounced eeda in Polish) is a film that could as well be called Ida & Wanda, or so it seems to me.

I’ve watched Ida four times and each time I’ve been more touched, more moved. But I’m also convinced that it’s as much a portrait of Ida’s aunt, Wanda, as it is of Ida.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fed Up

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, or read it below.

For well over two decades I was in the natural foods business, so when I learned of the new documentary called Fed Up, I knew I’d watch it. And let me say, up front, that while much of the content is extremely disturbing – this is a vitally important film. I recommend it to everyone. I’ve misplaced my magic wand, but if it were handy, I’d require everyone to watch it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chef

Play

Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, or read it below.
 

 
The work of Jon Favreau has already made an impact on American popular film. He has been executive producer for the Iron Man franchise as well as for The Avengers and the quirky Cowboys and Aliens. Chef, his latest endeavor, is distinct from its predecessors; while categorized as a comedy it nonetheless addresses several very serious matters, the most central of which revolve around parenting, more specifically fathering.

Read the rest of this entry »

Belle

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, or read it below.

Race, bigotry, class, slavery, miscegenation, women as property …. these are a handful of the issues that the film Belle grapples with while disguised as what some are calling ‘a costume drama’.

The film opens in 1769 as John Lindsay, an officer in the British Royal Navy, arrives at an unnamed site to claim his daughter. Her mother, a former West Indian slave, and Lindsay’s lover, has recently died.

Lindsay’s intention is to convince his uncle, Lord Mansfield, who also happens to be the Chief Justice of Britain’s highest court, to care for his daughter while he, Lindsay, is away at sea.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden

Play

Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, or read it below.

Review by Dennis Morton:

Usually, the first thing that comes to mind when I see or hear the word Galapagos is Charles Darwin. But The Galapagos Affair, a very clever and imaginative documentary
put together by Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller may change that.

The film opens with these words:
“As I think back on it all, I see the way in which life can make a poor end of fine and admirable beginnings. Five years ago we came to make an Eden on these shores, and had things gone as we hoped I truly believe we’d have remained here happily – dying peacefully in old age.”

These words were written by Dore Strauch. Cate Blanchett, the great Australian actress, lends her voice to Dore’s writing. Not just Dore’s words, but Blanchett’s recitation have already let us know that we’re in for more than a run-of-the-mill documentary.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blue Ruin

Play

Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, or read it below.

Blue Ruin is a film by Jeremy Saulnier.

Blue Ruin follows a classic formula. It is billed as a revenge saga. A thriller, viewers get almost no transition time. Within moments we are plunged into a world of few words; sight and sound narrow as an unnamed bearded protagonist must confront news of the imminent release of a convicted double murderer whose case we learn dates from 1993. The action takes the form of stalking as the hirsute antihero stealthily closes in on his nemesis. Retribution proves swift and sanguinary. Having avenged himself, the protagonist steals the murderer’s sedan, finding a passenger inside. Stopping, the two men briefly converse, beginning with this terse exchange:

Query: Did you hurt Wade?
Reply: Yeah, Wade hurt my parents.

Read the rest of this entry »