Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jurassic World review; a marvelous reboot


As a boy, I vividly remember being mesmerized by dinosaurs.  I remember reading one book after the other about dinosaurs; wondering to myself, what it would be like to actually see a dinosaur.  Like so many other young kids, the Tyrannosaurus Rex was my favorite.  Big, strong and ferocious.  Before the 1993 classic, Jurassic Park, it was all in my head.  Then I remember going to the movie theater with my younger brother and being absolutely floored by what I was seeing.  The movie was 'so astounding that it captured the imagination of the entire planet.'  22 years later, THIS, is Jurassic World.  Let's go!


What I liked about the film:
The Wonder / Special Effects
There's a lot of things I liked about this movie.  But ultimately, for me, it was about recapturing the wonder of my childhood, and the feeling I got 22 years ago when I left the theater after the first film.  I'll get to the story in a moment, but really, the build up at the beginning of the film, leads us to our re-introduction of the park, set to the amazing original score by John Williams.  The park is stunning!

The special effects used to create, not only the dinosaurs, but the park as well, are amazing.  I say it all the time, that we've come to expect superb special effects in these big tent pole films, but the effects used in this movie are so good.  The animators gave each dinosaur a personality of sorts.  It's difficult to explain, but the movement of the dinosaurs is much more fluid than it was in the original trilogy.  Amazing stuff.

The Cast
Chris Pratt is a freakin' awesome action star!  He plays a former Navy solider, turned dinosaur trainer at Jurassic World.  As you'd expect, Pratt plays the character with just the right blend of charm and humor; but at the same time, he shows us he's a force to be reckon with, when he needs to be.  I thought Pratt was just the perfect actor to play this part.  I can't wait to see what he does next.

Dallas Bryce Howard is wonderful in the film.  She has a great story arc and gets to flex her acting muscles in a variety of ways in the movie.  There are also a lot of notable supporting actors in the movie.  Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson round out the main characters, as two young boys visiting their aunt that runs the park, played by Howard.  They have nice story arcs as well and sell the audience on the fact that they could be brothers, doing whatever it takes to keep each other alive.

Irrfan Khan, Vincent D'Onofrio and Jake Johnson round out the cast with some really great supporting roles.  They could have gone to unknown actors, but rather, they went to these great actors that added a lot to the film.  I'd also like to note that Johnson adds some terrific comedic moments in the film, that helped balance the seriousness of everything else going on in the film.

Easter Eggs / Call Backs
I'm a sucker for Easter eggs in movies.  This is a bonafide reboot, with new characters and all.  But it's a direct sequel as well.  The events of the original trilogy matter, they've all lead to the events in this film.  I don't want to get into specifics, but there literally dozens of Easter eggs and call backs to the original three films.  If you'd like, check out this great article over at SlashFilm about all the Easter eggs in Jurassic World.  So clever!

Score
One would think that nothing could ever match the incredible score written by John Williams.  I mean seriously, the Jurassic Park tune is engraved in our minds.  Academy Award winner, Michael Giacchino, not only pays tribute to the work done before him by Williams, but adds his own flavor to the movie.  There are subtle nods to the original films in the music, but again, it's created a sound all its own.  I really enjoyed the score in this film.

Money Shot
The cinematography is crucial to a film like this, and John Schwartzman kills it.  Schwartzman is also an Oscar winner that knows how to shoot action.  The fight scenes, the chase scenes, the dinosaur fight scenes, are all shot with a very clear view of the action.  I HATE the Hollywood trend of using shaky cams and all that nonsense.  The camera captures everything in a very clean palate that doesn't have us wondering what's happening on screen.  I loved this aspect of the film, ESPECIALLY the flying dinosaur scene.  Don't worry, I didn't give anything away, the trailer already did that for me.

Director
Most of the pluses I have mentioned here are on the technical side of things.  Well, they all came together because of director Colin Trevorrow.  This is someone with no big budget experience, who hit a home run out the gate.  This is a guy that took over the franchise from arguably the best Director in cinematic history, Steven Spielberg and the great Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park 3) as well.  Spielberg and Johnston went on to have great careers, after their days of directing dinosaurs.  I have no doubt the same will be said about Trevorrow.  I can't wait to see what he does next.


What I didn't like about the film:
The Story
This is a tough subject to criticize.  I mean what else could the writers come up with to give us a reason to re-visit the park?  Nonetheless, in the interest of being unbiased, the story is not original and you could have swapped out the dinosaurs for any 'monster' type of creature in this film.  There as just nothing new.  It's almost uncomfortably close to the plot of the first film.  Jurassic World still manages to tell its own story, but it is just not a great one.


The Verdict:
A Marvelous Reboot
I was a huge fan of this film.  It was just the right mix of summer fun, excitement, humor and action.  The little boy inside of me kept remembering what it was like to read about dinosaurs in books, and what it was like seeing them come alive in Jurassic Park, 22 years ago.  The dinosaurs in Jurassic World really are a marvel.  The movie now owns the title of most successful opening weekend in the history of film.  Wow.  That's an unbelievable achievement at just over 208 million dollars in revenue.  Something tells me that this is not the last we've seen of the Jurassic franchise.  And I'm more than OK with that!

Spy review


At this point we know two things for certain... 1.) Director Paul Feig knows how to direct woman in some hilarious comedies.  And 2.) Melissa McCarthy is one funny lady!  Feig and McCarthy first worked together on the modern classic, Bridesmaids.  They re-teamed for The Heat, co-starring Sandra Bullock.  Spy marks their third film together.  I have mixed feelings about this movie.  Let's go!


What I liked about the film:
Feig and McCarthy
As I noted in my intro, I am a big fan of the films Feig and McCarthy have done together.  Feig knows how to direct funny ladies, and McCarthy's physical style of comedy has been a hit with fans across the globe for the past few years.  Both director and star are do a great job with this film.  Feig's use of the camera, pacing, and tone are all spot on.  He has a really good sense of timing, which is pretty much what makes a comedy successful.  You can also tell when he lets the actors, just go.  He allows improv and it really adds to the film.

McCarthy is just flat out funny.  I love how she was able to play various characters, under the disguise of multiple aliases.  She makes a big lady falling over just as funny as an f-bomb laden tirade.  McCarthy really gets to flex her softer side as well.  Her character has a friend in the film, and you get the sense that these ladies go way back and would do anything for one another.  I really loved McCarthy in this after a few of her films fell flat for me.

The Supporting Cast
It's not just the star of the show that steps up her game in this movie, so does the rest of the case.  Jason Statham plays a character so different from anything else we've ever seen him in, you can't help but laugh!  We're so used to seeing Statham as the always in control action star.  It was so fun to see him as a neurotic odd-ball spy who may just be crazy.  So good.

Jude Law plays a suave secret spy, and he does so perfectly.  Law is charming, funny, handsome and an all around stud.  He's very sincere in his portrayal of this spy, and I enjoyed every scene he was in.  Finally, there is the lovely Rose Byrne.  She plays the villain and she is wonderful in this movie!  We've seen Byrne play the 'villain' in Bridesmaids, but it was nothing compared to this.  I love how far Byrne was willing to go for her director and co-stars.  She did and said some crazy stuff in this movie, and it was all to make the movie better.  Nicely done!


What I didn't like about the film:
The Story
Unfortunately, this will go down as a cookie-cutter, save the world from a nuke being auctioned off, type of film.  We've seen it all before and there is really nothing new brought to the genre.  Coincidentally I just watched Kingsman: The Secret Service, and that movie brought a completely new spin to the spy, action-comedy genre.  Where this film, Spy, did not.  The performances were enough to keep us laughing, but the story was unoriginal and not very engaging.

Character Arcs
Outside of the McCarthy character, there is no real growth when it comes to the rest of the characters in the film.  I understand it's a comedy, but everyone is pretty much the same person at the end of the film, as they were at the beginning of the film.  If we're going to be vested in these characters, we have to see some sort of growth, or change, and that doesn't happen here.


The Verdict:
Wait for the Rental
I hate to even say that; but after having a few days to think about it, I think the movie is only worth a rental.  I loved Feig, McCarthy and company; but ultimately I go to the movies to see a compelling story, with interesting characters; and I didn't get that with this film.  I still laughed my butt off at pretty much every McCarthy and Statham did; but I would have paid a lot less to laugh my butt off at home than at the theater.  Let me know what you all thought!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Marion Cotillard joins Michael Fassbender's Assassin's Creed film

It's been some time since we've heard anything about the video game adaptation of Assassin's Creed.  Well, this week we got two great updates.  The first is... that the movie finally moved into production!  It's actually being made, Woo-hoo!  It's literally been years since this movie was greenlit, and it's released date has been set for December 21, 2016!  As originally reported, Michael Fassbender will produce, and star in the film.

The second update involves the casting of an Oscar winning actress.  Marion Cotillard has joined the cast of the film.  I thoroughly enjoy Cotillard's work, and think she can do no wrong.  She's even nominated for an Oscar for next week's Academy Awards.

It's way too early to tell; but this film might, maybe, hopefully, break the trend of horrible video game adaptations?  Only time will tell.  Until then, I look forward to a glimpse into the world director Justin Kurzel is creating.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Whiplash review; an intense portrait of perfection


Whiplash is a film Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle, and stars J.K. Simmons as an intense music instructor, and Miles Teller as his young protege.  The movie is actually inspired by a short film of the same name, that Chazelle wrote and directed a few years ago.  Don't be fooled by this simple premise.  Simmons and Teller are electric in this film.  Let's go like a jazz band on Bourbon Street!


What I liked about the film:
The Acting
Holy crap the acting in this film is ridiculously good.  I considered J.K. Simmons to be one of the most versatile actors today, before this film.  Now?  Now I think he's one of the best.  Simmons owns the screen from the first frame we see him in.  The way he carries himself, the way he speaks, the way he screams; all lead you to believe he IS the character.  This is NOT the Farmers Insurance guy, ladies and gents.  Simmons' character is obsessed with perfection.  He feels that the worst thing a mentor can do, is to 'baby' a student, and say something as damaging as 'good job'.  I've seen most of the performances nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and I'd have to give it to Simmons if I had a vote.  His involvement alone is worth the price of admission.

Miles Teller is turning out to be a great actor.  This is not your average teen heartthrob.  He has the ability to go toe to toe with some of the best in the business.  And that is certainly evident in this film.  Teller plays a young man who works tirelessly to impress the Simmons character, with his incredible drumming skills.  He practices his hands to the bone... literally.  The determination Teller portrays makes you want to do better at your job!  He was able to make me care about him, and cheer for him, with very little dialogue in the film.  The two main actors are incredible and certainly carry the film.

The Music/Cinematography
It's not really fair to clump these two categories into one, but for the sake of time, I must.  I'm not a fan of jazz music at all, but this movie had me tapping my foot like a mad man.  The music pieces chosen for the film, and the way they're shot, takes us into a world we really don't know much about.  I mean really, how often are jazz bands the subject of Oscar nominated films?  The incredibly fast paced filming, cinematography and pacing, make the movie feel like it's flying by.  The music was written by Justin Hurwitz and the Director of Photography was Sharone Meir.  Awesome!

The Ending
I'll be vague here, and still try to explain.  There is a musical number at the end of the film that lasts close to 5 minutes and it is one of the most impressive things I've seen in a movie in a long time.  You see some of the best filming, acting, directing, of this year.  Just watch the eyes of the actors as you enjoy the ending.  You will appreciate their art on a whole different level!


What I didn't like about the film:
The 'Twist'
Oh the stupid twist in this film.  The movie is OUTSTANDING... 90% of its runtime.  Then Chazelle writes a twist scene that simply does not fit.  It tonally didn't work for me, and it definitely didn't make any sense within the context of the plot.  I'm obviously being careful how I word this, but you'll know exactly what I'm saying when you see the film.  I had a true 'what the hell' moment during the film, and could barely regroup before that stellar ending.


The Verdict:
An Intense Portrait of Perfection
The movie is outstanding in so many different ways.  Chazelle has put together a stellar cast, wrote a riveting script, and directed the hell out of this movie.  I can look past the silly plot, because so many other great things happen during the film.  Please go see this movie, and tell me you don't see J.K. Simmons taking home the gold, at this year's Oscars.  I'll be

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Grand Budapest Hotel review; A Wes Anderson Triumph


FULL DISCLOSURE... I am not a fan of Wes Anderson films.  I'm not.  I simply do not understand his sense of humor, or have any interest in the subject matter explored in his films.  But... BUT.. The Grand Budapest Hotel was an absolute delight!  Let me tell you more about it.

What I liked about the film:
The Acting
The star of this show is Ralph Fiennes.  He is so good in this movie!  He plays a concierge in the film, and is such a unique character.  Charming, deceiving, witty, demeaning, smart, blundering.  Contradictory traits I know, but the Fiennes character embodies of all them.  I loved what he was able to do with the character of Gustave.  I truly believe, that in any other year, Fiennes would have been nominated for Oscar for his performance in this film.  The field is just too crowded this year.

As I mentioned above, there are a slew of a-list actors in supporting roles.  For the sake of time, and because I'm incredibly tired right now, I'll be brief.  Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel play characters unlike anything I've ever seen them do before.  Jeff Goldblum and Jude Law make the most of their bit parts, as do Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Tom Wilkinson.  What an all star cast!

The Writing (The Dialogue/Story) 
The film is smart, it's fast, and it's witty.  Wes Anderson wrote the script and it really is different from his other films.  I know I keep saying that like it's a good thing, and I mean it to be!  I love how how the film reminds us of a much more elegant time.  The 1930's are brought to life with some great language spoken onscreen by some very interesting characters.  

The story is also a great part of the writing.  It's unique, it's different, and it's not like any of the other films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year.  When I started the movie, I had no idea it would feature a quasi-heist story.  And it juuuuust teeters on the side of weird.  

The Set Design
Adam Stockhausen's production design in the film is spot on.  His work was recognized by the Academy Awards last year, for his work on 12 Years a Slave, and again this year for 'Budapest Hotel'.  The 1930's is brought to life in what could easily be mistaken for a Broadway production.  Anderson and Stockhausen fool us into believing the movie is of a much larger scale that it really is.  In a matter of seconds, we see numerous sets flash before our eyes, as if the actors were running in front of a green screen.  This was one of my favorite aspects of the film.   

The Pacing
The movie is fast and swift, and doesn't waste any time with 'filler' scenes.  Every bit of information is important to the story, and we don't have time to get bored.  


What I didn't like about the film:
The Comedy
For as smart and witty as the movie is, the comedy doesn't hit every note.  Yes, it's meant to be dry and deadpan, but it felt like a sketch comedy at times.  This goes back to the multiple set pieces during a chase scene if you will.  It felt like a Saturday Night Live sketch at times.  Not really even a bad thing, so much as me being picky.  


The Verdict:
A Wes Anderson Triumph
I have to give credit to Wes Anderson.  He wrote and directed such a unique and interesting film.  I like that it is receiving Oscar nominations, but doubt it will pull off any upsets in the major categories.  I don't want to be cynical though, I really think the movie is great.  Fiennes' performance is so damn underrated, and that's too bad.  The movie is different in so many ways, and that can be refreshing when all I do is complain about Hollywood's lack of creativity.  I highly recommend you stream the film, as soon as you can!

The Theory of Everything review; A One of a Kind Love Story


Stephen Hawking is undoubtedly the most famous scientist in the world.  The work he's done in his field has changed the way people view time and space.  While his findings may be too complex for this blogger to truly understand, I can still very much appreciate what he's contributed to the world of science.  That being said, before watching The Theory of Everything, I knew nothing about this man.  There's a reason biopics are such Oscar favorites; because they tell incredible true stories.  This is no different.  Let's go!


What I liked about the film:
The Acting
Eddie Redmayne received a lot of attention for his work in 2012's Les Misérables.  But nothing could have prepared us for his performance here.  Redmayne transforms into Hawking; not only does he captured Hawking's speech, but his mannerisms as well.  Redmayne plays the character with such a boyish charm, wonderful sense of humor, and quick wit... you can't help but fall in love with him.  And as Hawking's debilitating condition worsens throughout the film, our heart breaks for him.  From every slip and fall, to every near death experience, we take the journey alongside Redmayne.  He's sweeping up every award under the sun, leading up to the big show; and I have no doubt he'll take home the Best Actor Academy Award.

Felicity Jones plays Jane Hawking, Stephen's wife.  From everything that I've read, Jane Hawking was not just some trophy wife that Mr. Hawking could flaunt at Cambridge.  By all accounts, she was smart, sophisticated and confident.  The way Jones carries herself on screen is really hypnotic.  You cheer for her successes, down to every smart ass playful remark she has for her husband.  And our heart aches for what she endures to try and make the marriage work.  Jones is so good in this film; I truly believe this is her story being told.  Phenomenal work!

The Writing (The Love Story)
Not only are Redmayne and Jones terrific in the film, their chemistry is obvious.  They play off one another so well, the two actors could very well have been married for all we know.  That helps, but the writing in the film is what really brings the story to live.  Anthony McCarten wrote a beautiful script, that could easily have gone in a whole different direction.  The script could have been all about Professor Hawking and his scientific achievements, but it wasn't.  It's about this beautiful couple, that fought the odds for so long, with such a passionate love, that we WANT them to make it.  We want them to live happily ever after.

The Score
The music in the film told the story.  Jóhann Jóhannsson wrote a beautiful score that toyed with every one of my emotions.  You know what it felt like?  Like a symphony was playing behind a movie with no film score.  It was simply... perfect.

The Director
James Marsh is an Academy Award winner for his documentary, Man on Wire (which is being made into a feature film).  So the man knows how to tell a story; we should not be surprised at the result of this film.  Marsh makes so many great decisions that I must give him credit for.  The set design, the costumes, the cinematography; all of these were vital to telling this story.  Nicely done by Marsh; I hope we see more of his work in the future.


The Verdict:
A One of a Kind Love Story
Who would have thought, that the world's most famous scientist had such an amazing love story to tell?  Stephen Hawking has gone out of his way to praise the film, and specifically, Redmayne's performance.  It's a great script, telling a beautiful story, with perfect performances.  You see how I keep using the word beautiful?  It's because that's exactly what this movie was to me.  Beautiful.  Enjoy everyone!


Ps.. Check out this terrific documentary based on Professor Hawking's life.  Click here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Selma review; oh, Selma how you've been wronged


You often hear people talk about how important a film is.  Or how a film has the ability to raise awareness about a certain subject matter.  A film can even remind us about of the wrongs that took place in our country.  A film can be more that just entertainment, and that's exactly what Selma is.  Directed by an incredibly talented African-American young woman named Ava DuVernay; the film stars David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo as Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King.  I can't wait to tell you more about this film.  Let's go.

What I liked about the film:
The Incredible Story/The Writing
The script was written by Paul Webb, and it is terrific.  Selma takes us inside Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement.  There is a very apparent story being told on the surface of this film; and I enjoyed that story very much.  But it is what takes place behind the scenes that will make you think, it will make you ask questions.  The film dives into the relationship between MLK and President Johnson, and his role in the civil rights movement.  The story also examines the different ideals set forth by MLK and Malcolm X.  The movie does a great job at showing what a non-violent movement has the capability of becoming.  

The relationship between MLK and his wife is prominent in the movie, and it is a compelling relationship.  Just imagine what MLK's wife Coretta must have gone through.  This woman had to become accustom to death threats, on a daily basis.  She must have feared for her life, every time she stepped foot out the door.  Yet, she understood that what her and her husband were trying to accomplish was too important to stop.  I loved watching this relationship, and all it's ups and downs.  

Talk about how tight knit the script is and how there is no waste.  Every scene matters and every words spoken matters.  I really appreciate this type of writing, the older I get.  By the way, this is Paul Webb's first screenplay!


The Acting
I've been a fan of David Oyelowo, the actor who plays MLK for a long time.  He is poised, in control, and demands attention everytime he is on screen.  Oyelowo goes through so many emotions throughout the film; anger, frustration, sadness, happiness.  And Oyelowo plays them all beautifully.  The film very well could have been a documentary about leadership, considering we see just how MLK got the best out of people.  Oyelowo played a great leader.

Carmen Ejogo is terrific.  She plays MLK's wife as a smart, loving, supportive woman, who is not afraid to voice her opinion if she does not agree with what she sees.  I thought that was important in a film like this.  How could we appreciate a film about civil rights, if woman are nothing more than arm candy in the film.

Tom Wilkinson plays President Johnson and does a fine job.  At this point, what else would you expect out of the great Wilkinson?  There are other bit roles that flushed out the cast, most notably that of Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth and Giovanni Ribisi.  For no reason other than time, I will not go into more detail.  But trust me, they all give top notch performances in the film.   

Snubbed.  Period.  (The Director)
It wasn't until I got out of the theater that I understood what all the fuss surrounding the film, was all about.  And by fuss, I mean the sheer lack of Oscar nominations Selma received.  Ava DuVernay directed a fantastic film.  And this film is more than just entertainment; yet the movie could only muster up two Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Song).  It's a shame.  DuVernay makes so many great choices.  The set design, the costumes, the cinematography, the editing/pacing, the music, the songs... all these departments of course have someone in charge, but they all made DuVernay's vision a reality.  Now I understand what all the fuss is about.


What I didn't like about the film:
Who Was this Man?
What kind of family man was MLK?  The relationship with his wife is explored, but not much if any with his kids.  While I dislike 3+ hour biopics, it would have been nice to learn more about the man in which the film is about.  Some minor flaws in his character are explored, but no one is perfect.  

The Ending
The ending was too abrupt for me.  I felt like it needed another scene or two to really drive the message home.  I felt as if there was a plan for more, and the filmmakers simply ran out of money.  I can't speak intelligently as to whether or not that was the case, that's just what it felt like.  And the entire movie, we're shown glimpses of the FBI surveillance on MLK; but then what?  Why show us all that if it leads to nothing?  I really wanted just a bit more pay off for the amazing build up.   


The Verdict:
Oh, Selma How You've Been Wronged
I need movies like this.  WE need movies like this.  Selma is more than a MLK biopic.  Selma reminds us, that while we've made great strides towards civil liberties, we still have a long way to go.  We need not look further than the past 18 months, to see how important the message of this film is.  Ferguson, Missouri, Trayvon Martin, and so many other horrific stories are a constant reminder of how much more work there is to do.  I for one was incredibly moved by this film, and hope you all have an opportunity to see it.  As of today, it is my favorite film of the year.  

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birdman review; an unexpected Oscar frontrunner


When I first heard about Birdman, I was a bit skeptical.  If one were to read nothing more than the synopsis of the film; you'd think it was just about an actor who was once famous for playing a superhero, but is now diving into insanity as he puts together a play.  The film is much more than that!  Writer/Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has made a film that is too difficult to describe with just a synopsis.  So let's see if I can do the film justice.  Let's go!


What I liked about the film:
The Actors
Michael Keaton plays the lead in the film.  Keaton's character used to play a superhero in the fictional blockbusters, appropriately titled, Birdman 1-3.  But Keaton's character has aged, matured, and is ready to try something different.  So he writes, directs and stars in a play, with a much more serious subject.  Keaton is the best I've ever seen him in the movie.  He plays the character so well, I honestly believe he had to have got lost in the character.  Watching the character devolve into complete insanity; all the while performing the best he ever has in the play, was a sight to be seen.  I've said this before; but some of the best actors in the world can convey an emotion with nothing more than their eyes, and Keaton does that here.  Brilliant performance and he deserves to be one of the Best Actor Oscar nominees.

Also terrific in the film is Edward Norton.  He plays a man who is multi-layered, and has his own bit of crazy.  Watching him perform, you get a feeling Norton was enjoying playing up the kind of character Hollywood has stereotyped him as.  The perception is that Norton is a difficult actor to work with, and so too is his character in the film.  Loved it.  Emma Stone plays Keaton's mysterious daughter; who has a great character arch throughout the film.  Both Norton and Stone have been nominated for Oscars this year as well.

There is some great comic relief from Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts.  Although bit parts, they are significant to the story.  I really enjoyed both of the actors in this film, especially Galifianakis.

The Cinematography 
Emmanuel Lubezki is nominated for Oscar this year for his work on this film; and actually won the award last year for his work in Gravity.  The cinematography in the film is simply too good to ignore.  The entire film appears to be one continuous shot.  You may think it plays as a novelty, or a gimmick, but I assure you, it does not.  It helps to push the story forward in such a way, that you can't tell how much time has passed between scenes.  This is to the benefit of other aspects of the film as well; the pacing, set design, and music, all feels cohesive because of Lubezki's work.  I loved it, and can't wait to see the movie again, just to try and find the cuts.

The Set Design
The majority of the film takes place in the theater, where the fictional play is being produced.  Set Designer, Kevin Thompson, with Lubeski's help, puts us inside the theater, to experience the events onscreen with the characters.  By the end of the film, you have a visual schematic of the theater that is multiple stories and spans across a huge space.  Great stuff hear.


What I didn't like about the film:
Birdman's Relationships
This may not be so much a negative, as it is me wanting more... but I wanted to learn more about the Keaton character's relationships with the other characters.  We barely scratch the surface of whether or not he was a good husband to his ex-wife.  What was he like when his films were making millions and millions of dollars?  How did his romance with a co-star in the play come about?  Why is the Galifianakis character his only friend?  These could only be answered if the movie inched towards 3 hours, and we wouldn't want that!  But something to think about.


The Verdict:
An Unexpected Oscar Frontrunner
I would venture to guess that no one saw Birdman as an Oscar frontrunner, prior to its release.  The film has been nominated for 9 Oscars and is the early favorite for several categories.  I really enjoyed the film; but not as much as some of the other Oscar hopefuls I've seen.  I'd strongly suggest you go see the movie, as it is a unique story, about unique characters; told in a style that will surely be copied for years to come.

Boyhood review; a film for the ages... literally


It's easy to get caught up in the 'making-of' a movie like Boyhood.  As you've most likely heard by now, the movie took 12 years to produce, and it utilizes the same actors, throughout that 12 year journey.  Every year, Writer/Director Richard Linklater would gather the cast and film a few additional scenes.  Before he knew it, he had completed something so rare, it could have been written off as nothing more than an experiment in filmmaking.  Luckily for us, it turned out to be much more than that.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Characters
The film centers around a boy named Mason; played by Ellar Coltrane.  Mason is a sweet young boy; quiet and mostly introverted.  And it's fascinating to watch the young actor become an adult onscreen.   We quickly fall in love with Mason as we remember back to our childhood innocence.  Whether you are a boy or girl, man or woman, you will see Mason go through things that will harken back to our own experiences.  And not to get off topic, but that's why I think the movie is doing so well.  It's connecting to its audience on so many levels; and I've always felt that is the sign of a great movie.  It's a film I connected with on so many levels.

Mason's parents are played by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, and they are phenomenal.  Both actors have been nominated for an Academy Award this year for their performances in the film.  Hawke's character has a very interesting character arc throughout the almost 3 hour runtime.  He is a father who genuinely loves his children; but is a childish man who somehow refuses to grow up.  There are some great moments between Mason and his father, that will most definitely resonate with men of all ages that go see the movie.  Hawke plays the character as a fragile young man, who grows up, just like Mason.

The real 'center' of the film is Patricia Arquette's character.  She is a single mom who is lost in the world.  She's going back to school to finish her education, while trying to find love.  Arquette plays the character so honestly, that you genuinely feel for her.  We go through a range of emotions with the character.  We're happy for her when she finishes college, and we weep for her when she enters one abusive relationship after another.  While Arquette's performance is a stand out in the film; the movie really focuses on her relationship with the Mason character.  As a man who is very close to his mother, I really appreciated these timeless moments we see between the two characters.

There are other great characters scattered throughout the film; but really this is Mason's story.  I do want to mention Director Linklater's daughter, Lorelei; she plays Mason's sister Samantha and also captures our attention as she grows up onscreen.

The Moments
Life really is just a series of moments we string together to tell our story.  Not everything in our lives has a beginning, middle and end.  Boyhood goes against the grain, and doesn't worry about telling a traditional, narrative, story.  Instead, it explores important moments in Mason's life.  I've ready a lot about the film, and much of Mason's story is inspired by Director Richard Linklater's.  So many things I went through in my life, I saw onscreen.  Maybe it wasn't an abusive father, but I could relate to a tension filled dinner where no one said a word.  I could relate to a teacher who believed I was capable of more than what I was producing.  Or a sibling I trust to tell anything.  Again, movies we can relate to on some level, are usually the best kind!

The Director
The movie could have turned out to be nothing more than a novelty; the culmination of a talented director's crazy idea.  But it is so much more.  The first time I saw the young actor age before my eyes on the screen, I was a bit taken back.  Linklater seamlessly moves the story along, and does not slow down to acknowledge the passing of time.  The term 'movie magic' is quite literal in this film.  The idea was so crazy, it actually worked.  I've seen, and been a fan of several of Linklater's films; but after Boyhood, he's cemented himself as a visionary director with the ability to tell an engaging story.


What I didn't like about the film:
The Pacing
Even with a tightly knit script, the pacing is a bit off.  It was inevitable, considering the way in which the film was made.  This is really a minor complaint; but when you consider the movie is almost 3 hours, it's a bit of an emotional roller coaster to get through everything that happens with these characters.  There are really intense moments between the characters that will get your anxiety up; followed by tender moments of love that get us to relax.  I guess this is yet another metaphor for life.


The Verdict:
A Film for the Ages
It really is a movie that only comes along once in a generation.  A great story, with great characters is the foundation for a great movie.  The fact that it was filmed over 12 years was crucial to THIS story.  I don't know if it would have had the same effect as using the same actors, instead of three different actors at various stages in the characters' lives.  But, we shouldn't use the mechanics of the film to define it.  The method in which it was made are just the icing on this amazing cake.  Go see Boyhood!