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Richard Linklater's films have always been hit or miss with me, keep in mind I have yet to see the Before Sunset trilogy, simply because it's trailers don't interest me. But one day, when I am so incredibly lacking with my movie collection, I will pull the trilogy off my shelf and give it a watch. This is not a review of the Before Sunset trilogy however. This review is of one of the most unique films I've ever seen. Boyhood.
'We've seen this story being told before and hundreds of other times!' you say. That is true, this film possesses uniqueness in the way it's being told, as the title states it's about Boyhood, about the average boy's growth cycle. Us men, we've all been through these phases. The emo phase, the phase where we become ridiculously and laughably 'deep.' Ellar Coltrane as Mason is the little boy we follow through those said stages. The film made me regret a lot of things, such as when I would talk back to my mother, and clearly she was always right, so the film is about growth, physical and mental. Linklater throws in some freebies too. He says 'pfft, why watch a kid grow, when I can give you a whole family?' We see Mason's mother take one step forward and two steps back continuously, the different fathers Mason had to live through. His first father, who is played by the excellent Ethan Hawke, he's charming, funny, matured and flawed. Ethan Hawke is in that very small club of actors, who make excellent everymen. Ethan Hawke is probably the president of that club.
Mason starts off at the age of 5, and is followed till the age of 18. The film offers comedy along the way, one scene stealer involves Ethan Hawke having 'THE TALK.' With his kids in a bowling alley. What's baffling to me is, Ellar Coltrane transforms into a worse actor as he matures and grows. I don't know if I believe that fully, probably because the older Mason transformed into one of those annoying emo kids, and ended up looking a lot like Justin Bieber. So maybe it's the character, maybe it's Ellar, we'll find out in his next film whether it's him or his character.
One thing, the film could've added to it's edit would've been some timelapses and flashier transitions. I viewed the picture with a friend and he was scratching his head at moments, the film skips time and characters. He was asking me 'Wait, where'd that guy go?' The audience could've used a little help in filling up the blanks, a simple timelapse or a fade or specific insert could've made it much clearer, not that I had an issue with it, but I could see that as an improvement to the film.
Watching Boyhood, transported me to Max's house, it feels like I was walking and maturing with him. At times, I followed his parents, I made the same mistakes as Max, so I was reminded of some of my past embarrassments and mistakes. The film tells such a small story in such a grand way, while giving it kind of a big scale, we are transported from a small house, to a bowling alley and all the way to the forest. Richard Linklater has made a film that comes around once in a lifetime, I don't think I will ever be able to see a film this courageous.
Scott Cooper, who directed Jeff Bridges to his first Academy Award, returns with a powerhouse cast in Out of The Furnace. This time starring a mix of Oscar winners and nominees including Christian Bale and Forrest Whittaker, supported by Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck. Bale and Affleck star as Russell and Rodney Baze respectively. Brothers, born and bred in a small town in the northeast. The film tells a story of a struggling family, a blue collar family. Russell has worked at the steel mill for his entire life, his father did, and his grandfather did too. It runs in the family. His brother Rodney, played by an energetic Casey Affleck, desires a different life, he signs up for the war, performs multiple tours of Iraq, only to come back to the very thing he ran away from. Casey's performance is raw, his wide eyed rants and persistence are scene stealers. Nothing to complain about here with the performances here. Everyone is on top form, everyone receives a strong scene too, and they take advantage of it. Zoe Saldana as Bale's girlfriend gets an emotionally touching moment at a bridge midway through the film. Woody Harelson as Harlan (Classic Bad Guy Name) is a lot of fun, at his violent and psychotic best. Willem Dafoe and Whitaker are reserved, rightfully so. What is lacking however is chemistry between characters, the focal plot between Bale and Affleck is rather unbelievable, they don't look like brothers and are some emotionally disjointed that you don't feel the brotherhood, some edits which were made later on in the film, should have been moved up to the first act, to establish that. Cooper who wrote this, weaves in the commentary of underappreciated war veterans, and wrongful use of the government's money. Also, the outsourcing of jobs, taking away jobs from small towns. Rodney, feels betrayed and underappreciated by the country he bled and bruised over partakes in a bunch of fighting tournaments, and is instructed by his superiors to take a dive, obviously his pride stops him from doing that, and Harlan punishes him as he sees fit. When Russell discovers it, it becomes a typical revenge film. There in seems to be the fault, the conflict comes in too late, we see Rodney struggle with his pride for quite a bit, those scenes could be trimmed, Christian Bale and Saldana's relationship carries no real weight to the main plot. That is the film's, I would say only downfall. It's too simple, and the commentary Cooper tries to provide does not fit with the film's characters or story, it's almost as if Cooper is explaining the film, sitting right next to you. I had high hopes for this film, but then again, trailers have gotten ridiculously excellent nowadays. Plus it helps, Cooper's last film proved very touching. My high hopes weren't squashed completely, but Out of The Furnace felt just a bit above average, with a star cast and a promising director, I expect more.
Wow! Tom Cruise, disliked for all the wrong reasons, gives the naysayers to doubt themselves. This man can act. Cruise, the older he gets, the better his performances get, and here I sit thinking he would never top 2004's Collateral, I've been proved wrong over and over.
Directed by Doug Liman, who kickstarted the Bourne Franchise a long time ago, thrusts the same type of energy in this project. The rapid cuts, the shaky cam, the similar protagonist to Bourne. The film adapted off a manga, named All You Need is Kill, which used to be the film's title, until changed to Edge of Tomorrow, takes place in the future, where extra terrestrials named mimics have taken over a chunk of the planet, near their plans of world domination.
Tom Cruise as Major William Cage (Another name that will only exist in movies.) a soldier on the R&D side of fighting the war gets shoved into fighting on the field. Given no choice, he chooses to fight on the battlefield, and in doing so, he gains the ability to reset the day, the catch? In order to reset the day, he must die everyday. Yikes.
The film follows William Cage's progression from a joke to an absolute beast. The cool editing makes that possible and adds a grand energy and comedic timing. One scene in particular is when Cage is being trained by Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a badass seasoned soldier who used to have the ability to reset the day.
The aliens need their power to reset the day back from Cage, as that's how the aliens were absolutely ravaging humanity. To stop that, Cage and Vrataski need to destroy the central hub. To give humans a chance and send the mimics packing.
The supporting cast includes Bill Paxton in one of his best roles to date, he legitimately seems to be having fun, and a stern Brendan Gleeson as a general, he fits that mold well too, Gleeson looks like a pretty stern person.
Shaky Cam is employed throughout most of the film, at the right times though, unlike Bourne Ultimatum, where even the conversations are shaking, there are however scenes in the film when characters speak are shot in handheld. Whereas the camera was shaking uncontrollably in Bourne, this is more of a quivering motion. So all is well. The dominant color schemes are Blue and Washed up Brown. The interiors are blue and exteriors are brown, rightfully so, as most of the film takes place in a desert battlefield.
Doug Liman makes all the right choices, editing wise, musically and scale. There is no shortage of scale here, the film gets bigger with progression, it goes from desert, to the mountains all the way to the Louvre! It feels like a James Bond film mixed with Robocop. A true globetrotting adventure. Edge of Tomorrow, is the best film I have seen this year, and one of the best sci-fi adventures I have ever seen. Tom Cruise continues his awesome run of being an action here, after MI:4 and Jack Reacher. Emily Blunt continues to amaze with her versatility and for Doug Liman, the Splinter Cell film sounds perfect as a follow up to this.
Now, this is what I'm talking about. Another strike for sci-fi. In this follow up to Rupert Wyatt's Rise of The Planet of The Apes, Caesar continues building his community, away from humanity, after the virus which was released a a decade ago.
Where Caesar continues growing their race, the humans led by Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman, are looking to find their own in this post apocalyptic world. The production team does an absolutely excellent job of legitimizing the world. There are murals over the wall, cars have been left on the streets, underground routes are used by the survivors. Excellent stuff. Equally good for the Apes environment, who live in the forest, they even have their version of a hospital, a gigantic treehouse.
It all begins when the humans come searching for a power source which of course happens to be in Ape territory, Malcolm (Clarke) convinces Caesar that the humans mean no harm. Caesar reluctantly accepts.
The film works because unlike the first one, which differentiated between Apes and Humans, this one shows the similarities between us. Apart from our races, we are pretty similar. There's a male antagonist and an Ape antagonist. Both are extremely similar, prejudiced against the other race, for reasons which are valid but mostly personal. Both the human antagonist Carver, and ape antagonist who is named Koba, are both fighting personal wars, and that's when the film soars. Koba and Carver both set back the developments that each Caesar and Malcolm have facilitated for each race, in one fell swoop. Chaos breaks apart.
Koba is fighting to be the dominant species, Caesar is fighting for equality. The Transformers films should take a lesson from this, the humans stand out here, although they are cut outs of previous films, you can find these characters in Jurassic Park 1 and 2. Nothing new, but they're words are given weight it helps that the actors give it their all, Jason Clarke (who fits the everyman mold) is the Ian Malcolm or Dr.Grant of the film. Even Gary Oldman, as Dreyfus, the leader of the surviving humans, who sadly gets a minuscule amount of screen time, is powerful when reminiscing about his family.
The surprise of the film is in it's climax, as to how bombastic it is, it's cut between two conflicts, the humans resolving their issues and Caesar and Koba resolving their problems. Some awesome lines were written for Caesar and Koba. One of my favorites were when Koba approaches Caesar to mock him and tells him 'Caesar is weak.' to which the awesome Caesar replies 'Koba is weaker.' The theater including myself erupted in cheers at that moment. Where films nowadays get longer with every sequel (I'm looking at you Transformers.) The runtime, and finale are just perfect, it's not a 4th act, it all ends in the time it's supposed to. The scale, the explosions, the depth in the cinematography (Some excellent long lens photography) leaps of the screen.
Any praise for Andy Serkis seems like a travesty, he's absolutely excellent in giving Caesar emotion. Same for the CGI artists.
Dawn of The Planet of The Apes is proof that sci-fi can still be powerful, when done well, by giving weight to every single character, even Malcolm's son, get;s an arc and personality.
Seven years. The first Transformers hit theaters, seven years ago wowed the world, visually, at least. Although flawed, it provided some solid summer entertainment, and at the time, Michael Bay, seemed like the perfect fit for the franchise. Not so serious tone, the beautiful women, the orgasm resembling explosions, the offbeat humor. It fit, it wasn't the best film, nor the best blockbuster, it provided a lot of nostalgia and beautiful imagery. Then, Transformers:Revenge of The Fallen happened, then Transformers:Dark Of The Moon happened. The fine wine analogy, really can't be put to the equation here.
Michael Bay, is untouchable, he knows it, he has made the same film four times. Same set pieces shot from different angles, same locales, there is nothing different or fresh about this latest entry of Transformers. But the box office predictions were $100M opening, and boy were they right.
This new film, casts Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, feel free to search for ANYONE, who carries that last name by the way, I don't think it exists. Anywho, Cade Yeager lives in Texas, where he has no neighbors, but still somehow manages to steal electricity. Getting back to the plot, he finds a truck in a theater, and voila that truck is Optimus Prime, who by this time has become a total psycho. The autobots are hiding from humans, because for some reason, they're bad now. Humans for you everyone, the same beings that save us, are now bad, for oh I don't know SAVING US. Kelsey Grammer leads the charge on the villain's end, who happens to be working for another Transformer, Lockdown, who just happens to be in this film, with no backstory at all, he works for the creators of the Transformers (When we were clearly told in the opening of TF1, that the ALLSPARK makes them). Then we also have Stanley Tucci a Steve Jobs like Maverick who makes man made Transformers, from a metal called TRANSFORMIUM (Facepalm), who is working with Kelsey Grammer. So everyone works for everyone. Way too much going on, on the antagonist side. Plus Grammer and Tucci don't fit in this film, just like Frances McDormand and John Malkovich didn't in the third (Yeah that happened.) Tucci squeaks by, as his performance is over the top, whereas Grammer is stern and in autopilot mode.
Of course, the baddies want Optimus and Cade and his pointless daughter Tessa along with her pointless boyfriend, along with their pointless surfer dude friend have to stop the bad guys, who of course wear sunglasses and dress in black and only black, even in the temperatures today.
It's all noise, people die here and there, until the finale, which is why everyone including me goes to see these films, the final 30-40 minutes. Where Michael Bay is at his best. Blowing stuff up. It's hard to fault him for every mistake, characters and dialogue should be writer's duty. However, it's a lot of fun to fault Michael Bay for everything, and this time it's valid. As the finale creeps up (It's a 2 hour 45 minute film), you can't help but get the feeling of 'Been there, done that.' Nothing new, the final battle takes place in Chicago again, then for some reason in Hong Kong. Why isn't there a single battle in this quadrilogy of films, in space?! You put all four film finales together in a single edit, and you won't be able to point out which battle is from which film. It's all the same, nothing new. The dinobots are new, you say? Yeah, but get this, they're only there for the last 15 minutes, they don't talk, and do absolutely nothing to impact the story. They're scrubs.
Acting again, is off. Mark Wahlberg, ultimate cool dude, is miscast. These films need to be told from a soldier's perspective, that's where I think the story can benefit from. If you notice the third film had an awesome opening, with the whole moon landing stuff. The reason they really went to the moon, fun stuff, over the top, but fun. This films should have conspiracy angles. Marky Mark tries his best, but it comes off as a toned down Daniel Lugo.
Michael Bay and the Paramount team, strictly follow the mantra of 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' The problem is, this franchise is broken, and it needs fixing. It's sad as a sci fi film fanatic and a giant Transformers fan, to see some truly excellent source material go to crap. It's also sad, that audiences are blinded to go see the same film four times, where excellence such as Edge of Tomorrow can't even get an audience.
Michael Bay, your style was awesome and refreshing, in the 90's with classics such as The Rock and guilty pleasures such as Bad Boys and Armageddon. It's growing old man.