Time Moves Slowly (Boyhood review)

It can be tough to overcome a traumatic childhood. We are slow to realize when things have gone wrong and can even normalize recurring behaviour that we shouldn’t. Closure can be difficult, especially when we have to remember the past and our brains can easily alter our chemistry in order to “protect” us.

That said, the human brain and soul is resilient, and when we consider matters concerning love and emotion, those tragedies of life can become lessons and turn the ugly into something far more beautiful.

 

 

 

Boyhood (2014)

Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater
Director: Richard Linklater
released on blu-ray January 6, 2015
********** 10/10

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IMDB: 7.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 81%
The Guardian: *****/*****

 

I’ve already told you about Richard Linklater once before. He’s one of the greatest directors of all-time in my personal opinion and he has inspired my imagination in more than one instance. I had originally planned on writing about this new movie Don’t Think Twice this week, but then I found out that it wasn’t available on blu-ray, and I was super bummed. So I decided to pick up Boyhood instead, because I still hadn’t seen it, and boy am I glad that I did. I’ve yet to be disappointed by Linklater, and this movie is no exception.

I’m going to go over the plot as best I can, just to give you a taste for it, but please, please, please do me a solid dear readers, and check this movie out for yourselves. This is a unique movie in the scope of movies in that it takes place over a twelve year period inside the film and was literally filmed with the same actors over a twelve year period in oder to demonstrate the rate of change as one grows up.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited somewhat…

In 2002, eight-year-old Mason Evans, Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) live with their single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and watch her fight with her boyfriend. In 2003, Olivia moves the family to Houston, to get a degree and better job. Mason’s father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), visits them and promises to be more involved in their lives. Mason Sr. and Olivia argue about the kids. Olivia takes Mason to class, where Mason sees her flirt with professor Bill.

In 2004, Olivia and Bill have married and blended their two families, including Bill’s children from a previous marriage. They share experiences and learn to get along. In 2005, Mason and Samantha bond with their father. Olivia continues school and is initially supportive of Bill’s strict parenting style, up until the forced cutting of Mason’s long hair. Bill becomes an abusive alcoholic. In 2006, Bill assaults Olivia and endangers the kids, Olivia leaves him and takes her kids.

In 2007, Mason Sr. learns that Samantha has a boyfriend and talks to her and Mason about contraception. He and Mason go camping at Pedernales Falls State Park. In 2008, Mason is bullied by other students at school and teased on a camping trip but starts receiving attention from girls. Olivia teaches psychology at college and moves in with Jim, a student and Bosnian/Iraq War veteran.

By 2009, 15-year-old Mason has experimented with marijuana and alcohol. Mason Sr., who has remarried and now has a baby, takes Mason and Samantha to visit his wife’s parents. In 2010, Mason is lectured by his photography teacher, who sees his potential but a lack of ambition. Mason meets Sheena, who becomes his girlfriend. After a late night, a drunk Jim confronts Mason about partying. Olivia and Jim eventually split up.

In 2011, Mason and Sheena visit Samantha at the UofT, where they share their hopes and fears about college. Samantha’s roommate discovers them asleep together in her dorm room.

In 2012, Mason breaks up with Sheena, wins the silver medal in a state photography contest, and is awarded college scholarship money. Mason Sr. gives him advice about his breakup. In 2013, as Mason prepares to leave his mother’s new apartment for college, Olivia breaks down, disillusioned by how fast life’s milestones seem to have passed by.

At Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Mason moves into his dorm room and meets his new roommate Dalton, Dalton’s girlfriend Barb, and Barb’s roommate Nicole. Mason eats a marijuana brownie given to him by Barb and the group goes hiking at Big Bend Ranch State Park. Nicole shares with Mason her belief that, rather than people seizing moments, moments seize us, to which Mason agrees.

Pros: It is amazing to think that something which is a series of footage taken over a twelve year period has the ability to tell a cohesive story and resonate so strongly what it feels like to grow up. It is ambitious and successful in its aspirations.

Cons: You may struggle to find a tight narrative, and on that account you’d be right. Overall it functions as a series of reflective experiences, it’s only in the credits that we begin to see the connections. The runtime could also potentially take you out of it.

Runtime:  2 hours 45 minutes

Points of Interest: If Richard Linklater died at any point during the shoot, Ethan Hawke would have taken over the directorial duties. The film was shot over 45 days but because it happened between May 2002 and August 2013, it works out to over 4000 days. Each year of Mason’s life gets approximately 14 minutes of screen time.

It manages to capture several intersecting ideas all at once, the moments in time from the perspective of an estranged father, the string of stepfathers and odd relationships the children and mother endure as she struggles with her responsibilities, the half-remembered experiences of a youth looking back on his life, the highlights of childhood. The time-lapse method is incredibly well served here and could easily be applied to another other member of the family if you seriously spend the time with each character.

Boyhood is experienced predominantly from the perspective of Mason Jr. but I found myself observing MJ’s relationship with his mother and how they interacted with each other quite often as the film progressed. Suffice to say, I think that is intentional on the part of Linklater, asking us to consider the effect that we have on others in our lives no just our own impact upon the world at large. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!

Boys and Bikinis, Girls and Surfboards (The Lobster review)

Common to absurdist thought are elements of satire, agnosticism, and nihilism.

The art form rose up in the late nineteenth century, with philosopher types like Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Kurt Vonnegut leading the way.

Now if you are looking for some more memorable and mainstream examples of absurdist thought via film, then I’ll happily include some.

Wet Hot American Summer, Eraserhead, The Big Lebowski, all of the different Alice in Wonderland iterations, most Monty Python works, and Woody Allen movies are all great for a short list to help frame the conversation of today’s review.

 

 

 

The Lobster (2016)

Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Ben Wishaw, John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux, Angeliki Papoulia, Ashley Jensen
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
*technically released on blu-ray August 2, 2016
******* 7/10

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IMDB: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%, Audience Score 69%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Yorgos Lanthimos is a Greek film and theatre director. Known for his experimental projects, Lanthimos has directed five feature length films to date. And so we arrive at The Lobster.

The Lobster is a an absurdist drama with some comedy, set in a universe where single people have 45 days to find a romantic partner or be turned into an animal of their choosing.

Lanthimos does a fantastic job of setting us up within this universe almost immediately. David (Colin Farrell) is a newly-single man that has been dumped by his wife for another man. He is sent to a hotel with other single people to find a partner within a 45 day period. David brings his brother, who has been turned into a dog, with him. As he is checked in, the hotel clerk asks him questions about his history of sexual partners and explains the rules of the hotel.

He makes quick friends with a man with a lisp (John C. Reilly) and a man with a limp (Ben Wishaw), and we learn that the limping man gained his limp because his mother was turned into a wolf and he entered the zoo she lived in to visit but was mauled by other wolves. We also learn that partners must have a distinct trait in common, so the limping man eventually fakes a nosebleed condition so that he can partner up with a woman that regularly bleeds (Jessica Barden).

David decides to pursue the most cruel woman (Angeliki Papoulia) in the place, the one who regular tranquilizes the most single people who have escaped and hide in the forest. As a consequence another woman who loves biscuits (Ashley Jensen), decides to kill herself and David feigns cold aloofness though he is definitely disturbed. The cruel woman agrees he is a match after testing him, but ultimately he fails a second test when she kicks his dog brother to death and David cries.

As a consequence, David is turned in by the cruel woman and will be turned into a lobster for lying, but he escapes and instead turns the cruel woman into an animal which is never revealed to us.

Once in the forest, David stumbles upon the group of loners, headed by a female leader (Lea Seydoux). The loners also have a seriously odd set of rules, and they won’t let people couple up at all. Of course, this is where David meets the short sighted woman (Rachel Weisz) and starts to fall in love.

But I won’t reveal any more, because I think you should watch the movie to enjoy it proper.

ProsLanthimos has raised a scathing review of both coupling up and those who live a single life. It refuses to tell you what you should do, but expects you to feel uncomfortable about societal expectations on both ends.

Cons: The ultimate bleakness of the movie is difficult to stomach at first, and admittedly it falls a little flat on the comedy in it’s resolution.

Runtime1 hour 59 minutes

Points of InterestThe movie is filmed almost entirely with natural light and without make-up. Colin Farrell gained 40 pounds to portray David.

Overall, The Lobster is an excellent conceptual commentary, and it does a great job in the first two thirds to communicate it’s message of the absolutes of coupling vs singledom. For instance, the acknowledgement that faking character traits is wrong, and that masturbation can limit our sex drive to pursue a match is biologically a problem, do a great job of addressing the fallacies of the topic. But when we get to the forest, we aren’t offered humorous anecdotes as much as bitter stoicism.

It’s an interesting movie, but not fully cooked. I might recommend some salad to get a complete meal.

Now before I close out this post, I should make it clear while this movie isn’t perfect, Yorgos Lanthimos is in good company with hi oeuvre of work, and The Lobster is a fine example of his development and his ability to address that which many of us would rather ignore – either by going it alone or following the norm. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!

Ermahgerd Mershed Perderders (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies review)

Mashups can be fun, if you take the right mix of levity and appreciation for each facet, then you can make it work in your favour. Whether it is a song, a movie, a comic book, a video game, it doesn’t matter, as long you know your source material and come at it with fun, research, and actual passion, it’ll get through.

But when you dial it in, just for the property rights, then your mashup will suck. Period.

 

 

 

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (2014)

Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Lena Headey, Charles Dance, Sally Phillips, Matt Smith
Director: Burr Steers
released on blu-ray May 31, 2016
***** 5/10

P&P&Z

IMDB: 5.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%, Audience Score 47%
The Guardian: **/*****

Burr Steers is an American screenwriter, director, and sometimes actor. He has been involved in a few Tarantino movies as an actor, and has directed film like Igby Goes Down, 17 Again, and Charlie St. Cloud. Which is why I find it interesting that he decided to direct Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, henceforth known as PPZ in the rest of my review.

And I just might have an addiction to silly movie premises. I bought Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Wolfcop, and now PPZ mostly because I liked the idea of a good mashup, but the reality is that often these horror movie crossovers don’t pull the trigger, and leave you with powder in hand, so-to-speak.

Which is where PPZ ultimately ends up, and in the final third of the movie too.

Now, I have to decide if it is even worthwhile to explain the premise of the movie to you, given that it’s a mashup of an established and well known book with some zombie thrills.

So I’ve decided to sum it up rather easily for you, zombies are injected throughout the story in small portions, but it is not until Elizabeth spends some private time with Wickham, and before the reveal that he used Darcy’s family money and tried to squander it via eloping with Darcy’s sister that we see the story twist. But this is because this is a parody of Pride and Prejudice, and Wickham is also secretly a zombie himself, wanting to have treaty with the humans and set up a high position for himself and his fellow zombies who live off of animal parts.

Inevitably the movie ends up with Wickham on the side of bad, capturing Lydia, and Darcy coming in to the save the day. Then Elizabeth confesses her love for Darcy and there is a double wedding. Neat and tidy, and in line with the original.

The truth is that the story feels muddy, and the mythology is interesting but also confused and in some ways forced upon us. There will be gaps without zombies, and then the zombies come back in but with tremendous effort on the part of the characters to justify the zombies place in their world.

ProsDespite or because of the premise, the movie is full of cheese and fun, poking at the action genre and gender roles, both within the source material and in action films. And if you’re a horror fan it’ll make the original material less boring for you.

Cons: It never feels like it’s confident in what it is trying to sell us. The movie starts off interestingly enough, but the action grows stale and the twist is not alluring enough.

Runtime1 hour 47 minutes

Points of InterestNatalie Portman was originally cast as Elizabeth Bennet but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. All of the Bennet sisters did their own stunts for the movie.

The opening sequence promises us that the Georgian period we know so well is in fact one of nightmares. With the rich learning Eastern disciplines in combat so that they might fight off the zombie terror. But the problem is that we never get to see them sweat or earn their abilities, and so the combat immediately feels contrived. That and the already mentioned mythology make it a fun popcorn movie, but not much else.

PPZ is not the worst mashup I have ever come across, but it’s not the best either. It middles about and hopes to get away with it, on the premise that teenagers and fans of the ridiculous will take it in. You have to decide yourself it this movie was made out of pride or prejudice, but I’m pretty confident that it wasn’t made for zombies. But that’s just a theory.

Tim!