Boyhood Review – Live Long & Prosper


Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Richard Linklater

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

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Release date: July 11, 2014

Distributor: IFC Films 

Country: USA

Running time: 165 minutes


 

5/5

Best part: Coltrane’s naturalistic performance.

Worst part: The antagonistic husband characters.

The film production process takes a helluva lot out of the directors, writers, actors etc. involved. Usually, these important people plan and execute a major Hollywood feature within roughly 7-13 months. Following this, the stars sit in chairs for extended periods as film journos ask them the same questions over and over again. However, in the case of coming-of-age experiment Boyhood, the process went a little differently. This dramedy sports one of cinema history’s most fascinating and exhaustive production schedules.

Ellar Coltrane & Lorelei Linklater.

Documentaries like the Up series develop time capsules marked by iconic moments and interesting subjects. Beyond Boyhood‘s behind-the-scenes allure, the movie itself suggests, then proves, that the journey is far more important than the destination. As per the Hollywood code, this dramedy is easy to understand so as to attract a larger audience. However, the movie’s development goes beyond the words of this or any other review. This is an experiment of monumental proportions. As you can tell from my manic hyperbole, I mark Boyhood as a game-changer for filmmaking, modern entertainment, and pop-culture. So, what is this movie about? Well, it’s difficult to explain within such a short space. Going beyond belief, the art of storytelling is flipped and switched here. The narrative chronicles the uneasy life and times of two youngsters. Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane) is a child fascinated by everything and everyone on Earth. As a child, his lifestyle revolves around causing trouble and discovering the world. On the other side of the coin, his sister Samantha strives to fit in with the pack. Their story hits several snags, as their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is forced to shift and turn to suit everyone’s needs and desires. Living in a single-parent household, Mason Jr. and Samantha are forced to put up with a slew of drunken step-dads, empathetic step-children, and dramatic events. Despite the obstacles, they’re fuelled by their infatuation with Olivia and biological father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke).

Patricia Arquette.

Over this extensive timeline, the narrative points to, and fires at, everything the title suggests. The journey from childhood to adolescence, despite delivering a wondrous sense of freedom, is defined by major downsides and punishing conflicts. Surprisingly, for humans between 6 and 16, questions far outweigh answers. Boyhood extensively, and sensitively, examines this particular period. Director Richard Linklater (School of Rock, The Before trilogy) is America’s most invigorating indie-drama director. Covering the 1990s and 2000s, his succinct style and note-worthy agenda bolster everything he produces, writes, and directs. Putting his head and heart in the right place, this 12-year project is his most prescient and gripping creation. Intending to tell history’s most relatable narrative, Linklater’s latest effort marks specific moments and ideas. As the years collide, Linklater hurls us into this pacy and sumptuous 3-hour experience. Focusing on Coltrane and his own daughter, the acclaimed filmmaker’s style speaks wonders for the cinematic dreamscape and all its benefits. His goals and viewpoints, though unsubtle, elevate a potentially tedious story. With realism defeating fantasy here, Boyhood covers two people’s worlds and life’s tiniest details. Thanks to the poignant narrative, each character’s triumphs and tribulations hit home. Transitioning between milestones and significant others, our leads stay connected to one another despite the momentous hurdles.

“You don’t want the bumpers. Life doesn’t give you bumpers.” (Mason, Sr. (Ethan Hawke), Boyhood).

Ethan Hawke.

Of course, like with his previous efforts, Linklater’s agenda is pushed upon us unlike any other filmmaker’s. Set during and after the George W. Bush era, our democratic characters face off against a Republican-fuelled Middle America. Stepping into Mason Sr.’s shoes, several monologues are reserved for Linklater’s ultra-ambitious political beliefs to take flight. However, these viewpoints never become tiresome. Touching upon Barrack Obama’s pre-election promises, the movie even takes the time to point out the country’s most ecstatic and misjudged democrats. In addition, this family flick pays homage to Linklater’s immense, 12-year learning curve. Touching upon Dazed and Confused‘s subject matter in the third act, Boyhood chronicles this director’s ascension from indie sweetheart to determined professional. As the years go by, we see Linklater’s style adapt to its surroundings and improve immensely. From the School of Rock era to the Bernie period, the movie depicts his interests and pet peeves across an epic timeline. In addition, his idiosyncratic camerawork and pitch-perfect soundtrack choices develop a world of possibilities for the movie’s courageous narrative. Most importantly, Coltrane’s performance, by mimicking normalcy, soars above and beyond expectations. Tapping into his own identity, this effort examines this man’s mind, personality, and heart.

Most of the time, indie-dramas slip through the cracks to be left for elite cinephiles to lap up. With big-budget features casting a gigantic shadow over the industry, we’ve made a habit of complaining about these issues. However, every so often, breakout hits like Boyhood shine a light on the problem and bring people back to the theatre. These movies, delivering joyous surprises and winning stories, give us a warm, refreshing feeling every time. This achievement, blitzing filmmaking’s varying restraints, is the work of people in love with cinema.

Verdict: Linklater’s coming-of-age masterpiece. 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review – Goin’ Apesh*t!


Director: Matt Reeves 

Writers: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Stars: Jason Clarke, Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell

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Release date: July 11th, 2014

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Country: USA

Running time: 131 minutes


4/5

Best part: Serkis’ fascinating performance.

Worst part: The irritating supporting characters.

1968, with new issues sprouting unexpectedly as the decade drew to a close, was certainly a revelatory and thought-provoking year for Hollywood cinema. Bolstering the decade’s taste in celluloid entertainment, sci-fi and action won out over the attention-hungry pack. 2001: A Space Odyssey proved Stanley Kubrick to be Hollywood’s greatest genre filmmaker, while Night of the Living Dead and Bullitt were dead-set box-office winners. However, one post-apocalyptic adventure flick dared to mix the zeitgeist with wild thrills. I’ll give you a hint: “You maniacs! You blew it up!”.

Jason Clarke, Kerri Russell, and Kodi Smit-McPhee

No, I’m not yelling at my readers. I’m, of course, talking about Planet of the Apes. Sadly, however, this type of blockbuster cinema has been left out in the forbidden zone to wallow in a slow, painful death. Nowadays, genres and styles are pushed and prodded to fit certain desires. Thanks to a hit-and-miss crop, 2014 was in line to become the touchstone for blockbuster fatigue. With this in mind, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes swings into our line of sight to save us all. Despite the lugubrious title, this sci-fi action thriller succeeds at being taut, relevant, and poignant at appropriate moments. Like the original, the outlandish premise is met with delicate minds. Following on from 2011 series jumpstart Rise of the Planet of the Apes, DOTPOTA begins by re-capping valuable information about this invigorating franchise. Using news reports and inventive graphics, the opening credits sequence charts man’s war against Simian Flu and complete anarchy. Our story then picks up 10 years later, as our favourite cinematic primates learn the ways of a once-thriving world. The ape’s leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis), runs an intricate, hunter-gatherer system within San Francisco’s Muir Woods. Despite an uneasy alliance with scarred compatriot Koba (Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s hyper-intelligence and reasonable motives make for the tribe’s best chance of survival.

Gary Oldman.

At the same time, a pocket of human survivors, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), move into downtown San Francisco. From there, our ape and human populations spark brutal confrontations. Here’s the thing about DOTPOTA – despite the noticeable flaws, the positives elevate it above most blockbusters of its type. The movie, moving out of the ’68 original’s shadow, lives up to our overwhelming expectations. With ROTPOTA  being 2011’s most surprising blockbuster, many fans and foes walked into this instalment with trepidatious movements. How do you reinvent an already reinvented franchise? Would it dilute the series the way Tim Burton’s ill-advised remake did? Thankfully, director Matt Reeves chose to take this silly franchise to blockbuster angst’s darkest possible depths. Despite the recent spate of apocalyptic popcorn-chomping extravaganzas, this sequel stands out from the pack whist sticking to a set list of reasonable goals. Like with Avatar, the narrative explores the inner-workings of a civilisation’s highest quarters and lowest troughs. Communicating through sign language and phonetic dialogue, the ape interactions deliver emotionally resonant peaks. In several instances, Caesar, his family, their allies, and Koba share moments that amplify Hollywood’s true potential. The opening sequence, in which our apes chase down deer and kill a Grizzly bear, is a masterclass in CGI storytelling. The first third, delivering key sequences designed to change to the narrative’s trajectory, lures us in before the gut-punches come flying. Sadly, the ape characters are far more intelligent and reasonable than their human counterparts.

“Apes! Together, strong!” (Caesar (Andy Serkis), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes).

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Andy Serkis as Caesar!

Unfortunately, as the narrative reaches emotional peaks and enthralling set-pieces, cracks begin to occur in DOTPODA‘s stunning veneer. Throughout this simple tale of primates and humans going ape-sh*it, plot-holes and trite twists become unwarranted obstacles in this otherwise compelling story. Linking vital scenes to major action sequences and character beats, some moments are far more stimulating than others. Eclipsing these minor quibbles, this instalment examines, and delivers answers to, some of modern civilisation’s most confronting issues. With an arms race forming between our two stead-fast factions, Reeves and co. never succumb to corny speeches or obvious symbolism. In addition, with good and bad warriors on both sides, this post-war conflict exclaims profound viewpoints about man’s treatment of his fellow man. With peace coming second to firepower, the narrative clings onto Malcolm and Caesar’s quest for diplomacy. Fortunately, the visuals and attention to detail are the movie’s standout qualities. Thanks to Reeves’ atmospheric camerawork and stark tonal shifts, his unique direction keeps the audience on edge throughout the appropriate run-time. Extended takes, including a look at human/ape warfare from a tank’s perspective, deliver wondrous flourishes within an otherwise gloomy experience. Surprisingly, San Francisco’s breath-taking vistas are honoured with a post-apocalyptic aura. Of course, Caesar is this series’ most enlightening character. With Serkis at the helm, he and the SFX department deliver one of modern entertainment’s more meaningful creations.

Despite the hit-and-miss human characters and baffling conveniences, DOTPOTA is far-and-away one of 2014’s most intriguing blockbusters. With viewpoints and allegiances pushed to breaking point, the sombre tone and moral ambiguity hit hard during some of this year’s most heart-breaking scenes. With Serkis’ purposeful mannerisms and startling commitment shining through, his work may inspire others to revolt against Hollywood’s lack of respect for motion-capture performance.

Verdict: An entertaining and ambitious sequel.