Monthly Archives: February 2015

Boyhood (2014)

From Richard Linklater, the director of the Before Trilogy and School of Rock, Boyhood was shot sporadically over 12 years with the same cast and crew.  It was the front-runner for this year’s Best Picture Oscar but ended up losing out to Birdman. Was the Academy right to snub Boyhood?

From the age of six to eighteen we see Mason Evans Jnr (Ellar Coltrane) over 12 years of his life. We see him deal with his mum’s (Patricia Arquette in her Oscar-winning performance) destructive relationships, his annoying but sometimes loving sister (Lorelei Linklater) and trying to maintain a relationship with his dad (Ethan Hawkes) who has been distant for some of his childhood. Over the course of the movie we watch him grow up as he learns about life, first love and family.

Boyhood is essentially a very simple story and it would be easy to dismiss its process as simple. Except Richard Linklater painstakingly shot this over 12 years using the same cast. So many things could have gone wrong between filming or Linklater could have lost interest in his subject matter over the long periods of filming. However Boyhood is made with such passion and love from all involved that it ends up becoming far from ordinary despite its universal story of childhood.

No doubt some people may leave Boyhood thinking that not much happens, it’s not an overly dramatic film in the traditional sense but as you watch these characters over the years you become emotionally involved with them. You want Oliva to find some kind of happiness, you hope Mason Snr will turn into the father he hopes to be. Special praise must also be given to Coltrane who has to film his awkward years on-screen for everyone to see. He is in practically every scene and as the centre of the film he is a natural, holding it together well with strong support from the more experienced actors playing his parents. You believe their relationships and their development over the years. Nothing feels forced or crass it all plays out rather naturally.

It is Richard Linklater that shines most in this movie. This film was plainly a labour of love and that is what comes across in this movie. It may not be as flashy as Birdman with its seemingly one shot take but considering the work that went behind the scenes and the result on the screen you do wonder if Linklater’s seemingly simple tale was unwisely overlooked by the Academy last weekend? Maybe Birdman‘s take on the acting world also helped nudge its way to the Oscars. Not that Birdman wasn’t a great film, it was. But I can’t help feel a little sad that Linklater’s phenomenal film wasn’t recognised instead (or the even more brilliant Whiplash).

Considering it is 165 mins long (and regular readers know how I feel about loooong movies) it only started to drag a little towards the end. It’s quite impressive that it managed to hold my attention for so long without me complaining too much. Perhaps this was because every scene felt important to the script and not just added for superficial reasons. I actually enjoyed spending time with Mason and his family and wouldn’t mind revisiting them again some day.

Rating 4.5/5 – it may not have won the Best Picture/Best Director Oscars but I have no doubt Boyhood will last long in audience’s minds

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And The Oscar Goes to…My Predictions for the Oscars 2015

Every newspaper, blog and tv show seem to be giving their opinions on tonight Oscar results. So here’s mine! Granted as with most years some of these results are bound to be a bit predictable, but you never know when someone may come along and cause an upset.

Best Picture:

American Sniper, Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, Selma,The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

My prediction:

I’m still annoyed Nightcrawler has not been included on the list, but then considering the dark and disturbing nature of the film it was always going to be an outside shot. Whiplash would be my personal favourite, but having just seen Boyhood (review to come later this week), it’s hard to imagine anyone else walking away with the Best Picture gong.

Possible upset: Birdman could sneak in and grab the win

Best Actor:

Steve Carrell, “Foxcatcher”, Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”, Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”, Michael Keaton, “Birdman”, Eddie Redmayne, “The Theory of Everything”

My prediction: Again, I’m annoyed that Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler was not recognised but out of all the above bookie’s favourite Eddie Redmayne does deserve to win on the night.

Possible upset: Michael Keaton might swoop in and snatch the gong from Redmayne’s hands.

Best Actress:

Marion Cotillard, “Two Days, One Night”, Felicity Jones, “The Theory of Everything”, Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”, Rosamund Pike, “Gone Girl”, Reese Witherspoon, “Wild”

My prediction: I have only seen two of the above movies, and I loved Brits Pike and Jones performances. I would love Jones to walk away with the award but it seems to be Julianne Moore‘s year so expect her to give the winner’s speech.

Possible Upset: Moore seems like a dead cert but could Marion Cotillard surprise everyone and steal Moore’s thunder?

Best Supporting Actor:

Robert Duvall, “The Judge”, Edward Norton, “Birdman”, Ethan Hawke, “Boyhood”, Mark Ruffalo, “Foxcatcher”, J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”

My prediction: J.K Simmons. Nothing further.

Possible upset: Edward Norton was hilarious in Birdman so maybe the Academy will vote his way?

Best Supporting Actress:

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”, Laura Dern, “Wild”, Keira Knightley, “The Imitation Game”, Emma Stone, “Birdman”, Meryl Streep, “Into the Woods”

My prediction: Patricia Arquette is the favourite and it’s easy to see why. Its unlikely anyone else is in with a shot.

Possible Upset: Could the voters decide to spread the love and give Wild’s Laura Dern an award to take home?

Best Director:

Alejando G. Inarritu, “Birdman”, Richard Linklater, “Boyhood”, Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”, Wes Anderson, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Morton Tyldum, “The Imitation Game”

My prediction: The hype has been building for a while now and Richard Linklater‘s stirling direction work in Boyhood looks set to bring home another award.

Possible upset: Alejando G. Inarritu showed off his fancy skills in Birdman and is the most likely to steal awards away from Boyhood on the night.

Not long now until the results are in and we can see if the Academy got it right this year. Let me know your predictions and opinions in the comments below.

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Vampire Academy (2014)

Sometimes I wish vampires would just stay dead and buried. At least then we wouldn’t be overrun by loads of rubbish vampire movies. Mixing vampires and teenage drama is nothing new, but this adaptation of the popular Vampire Academy Young Adult novels attempts to put their own spin on the genre. But will this have any real bite or just plain suck (sorry it’s hard to do a vampire movie review without a few puns).

Best friends Rose (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa (Lucy Fry) have more problems than your average teenagers. First Rose is a Dhampir (half human half vampire) and Lissa is a royal Moroi (peaceful vampires). Having been on the run from their boarding school for a year due to threats against Lissa, they are now being dragged back to the Academy. As they re-integrate back into school life they soon find the threats against Lissa are starting again and are worse than before. But who is threatening Lissa and why?

I can’t say Vampire Academy is a good film exactly but it is enjoyably naff. It looks so embarrassingly cheap you wonder a) where did the $30 million budget go? b) did they really think there would be a sequel as the ending suggest? Considering it flopped at the box office a follow-up movie seems unlikely.

For all its flaws-and there are many- Vampire Academy wasn’t boring. Mostly because I was trying to remember my Dhampirs from my Moroi to my Strigoi (evil vamps), what powers the Moroi had and laughing at the cheap fight scenes. Some of the exposition are so randomly dropped in it feels like the story was being rushed. But I have to say it’s nice to watch a vampire teen movie where the main focus is on the friendship between the girls than on their relationships with the boys they fancy -of course there’s still plenty of that dull nonsense. At least Lissa’s love interest Christian (Dominic Sherwood) was better than Rose’s dull mentor Dimitri (Danila Kozlovsky) who comes across too old and creepy for Rose.

You also wonder how Gabriel Byrne, Joley Richardson and Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko got roped into being in this film. Did someone have a conservatory to pay off?

While this isn’t a film I would necessarily recommend, if you did find yourself watching it on TV one night and your remote is lost/too far away, you may find it fun in a so bad its good way.

Rating 2/5 – an amusing but failed attempt to cash in on the current YA trend

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In Your Eyes (2014)

Joss Whedon may be busy with a new Avengers movie on the way and Marvel’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D due to return to our screens soon but he still managed to find the time to write this supernatural romance.

Dylan (Michael Stahl-Davies) and Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) live on opposites sides of the country but have sporadically been able to see through each others eyes since they were kids. They are also able to experience and feel what the other is going through. One day they realise they are able to communicate with each other, and relieved that they are not going crazy, strike up an odd friendship which grows into something more deeper.

The words supernatural romance may conjure up images of a Twilight type movie-fear not though, as this is a sweet little film about two people with an amazing connection. While it is unashamedly romantic, the film also has a good sense of humour, especially when Dylan and Rebecca first start communicating openly with each other. The direction by Brin Hill also bring a dreamlike quality to the couple’s interactions making their encounters more intimate.

Stahl-Davies and Kazan have a lovely chemistry with each other that doesn’t feel forced. Its even more impressive when you realise they hardly share the screen with each other, yet you are convinced by their growing relationship.

It is perhaps a slightly cheesy affair, and the plot is predictable. The outside forces stopping Dylan and Rebecca being together are underwhelming and clichéd. These villains are also more two-dimensional than the well-rounded protagonists, with Rebecca’s husband being particularly underdeveloped and there mainly to bully poor Rebecca. Its to Kazan’s credit that Rebecca doesn’t comes across as a weak damsel in distress but just a vulnerable young woman who finds strength in her friendship with Dylan.

In Your Eyes was co-produced by Whedon and his wife Kai Cole’s production studio Bellwether Pictures. Having previous released Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, I look forward to seeing their next project.

Rating 3.5/5 – romantic and cute feel-good fare

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The Guest (2014)

Brits are all the rage in Hollywood at the moment. For a brief time they were dominating the Superhero genre with Brits all playing Superman, Spiderman and Batman at one point. Now hoping to make an impact across the pond is former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens, but instead of playing the hero Stevens is going to the dark side in thriller The Guest. But can he escape the ghost of Matthew Crawley?

As the Peterson family struggle to cope after the death of their eldest son Caleb, a stranger named David (Dan Stevens) turns up on their door claiming he was a fellow soldier and friend of Caleb. As he charms the family into letting him stay he soon integrates himself firmly into their home and their lives. But it soon becomes apparent that David is not all that he seems.

I loved director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett’s previous work You’re Next, and The Guest proves that the former was no fluke. While The Guest isn’t as good as You’re Next, it’s still for the most part a fun and thrilling film. The build up is great as you wonder what exactly David is up to and what he’ll do next as he ‘helps’ the Peterson family. The movie is a bit of a throwback to horror/thrillers of the 70/80’s, complete with a seemingly unstoppable villain. I also liked the movie’s soundtrack a lot.

Dan Stevens clearly enjoys playing a role that has little resemblance to Matthew Crawley and Downton Abbey. It has to be said he is much more attractive playing an American Psychopath than a posh Brit (what that says about me may have to be analysed in another post). His is clearly the stand out role as the charming and dangerous David, manipulating those around him with a smile then wiping the floor with those who dare cross him or the Petersons. Maika Monroe also shines as Anna Peterson, who is the only person slightly suspicious of David’s motives.

The movie starts off so well it’s a shame that its final act lets it down. The answers we get about David aren’t satisfying and the big chase sequence is a bit too clichéd. It’s a shame as you feel the movie could have been something really special instead of just a fun thriller.

Still on the basis of You’re Next and The Guest, it will be interesting to see what Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett get up to in the future.

Rating 3.5/5 – a disappointing final act aside this is perfect for some Friday night thrills

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As Above So Below (2014)

Remember when the found footage genre seemed new and exciting? No, me neither. But that doesn’t stop them coming.

Scarlett (Perdita  Weeks) is a young alchemy student in Paris trying to complete her late father’s work to find the Philosopher’s Stone. Her research takes her under the streets of Paris. Along with her friend George (Ben Feldman), cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge), and guides Papillon (Francois Civil), Souxie (Marion Lambert), and Zed (Ali Marhyar), they search the hidden depths of the Catacombs. However they soon discover much more than they bargained for.

Considering how bloated and uninspired the found footage genre is, it comes as a surprise that As Above So Below isn’t a complete disaster. The claustrophobic setting of the film  is a plus, especially as it was filmed within the actual Catacombs of Paris and had the cast filming a lot of the footage themselves. The scariest scenes are the ones where Scarlett and co have to walk and crawl their way through the remains of the millions of bones buried beneath the city of Paris. Like with The Descent the most nerve-wracking parts are in the beginning before the more supernatural occur. There are also some effective jump scares in the film, although eventually the film does become over reliant on them. The ending was also a bit confusing. I had to do a quick search afterwards to get all the references and explain the climax. Perhaps a bit of knowledge of alchemy and the works of Dante may come in handy.

Most of the characters are barely two-dimensional, although at least George is sympathetic, as the one person in the whole of the group who does not want to enter the Catacombs – due to a tragic childhood experience – until he is forced by outside forces to follow his friends. Scarlett is irritating, and basically to blame for everyone being in danger although that’s more to do with the writing than the actress herself.

As Above So Below doesn’t bring anything fresh to the Found Footage Horror genre but for anyone looking for a serviceable horror with a creepy atmosphere may enjoy whats on offer.

Rating 3/5 – claustrophobic and fun while it lasts but does nothing to rejuvenate this worn out genre

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