Monday, July 14, 2014

Boyhood (2014) - Movie Review

Afterschool daydreaming. Mom says to pay more attention in class. Rock collections. Crumpled homework. Watching Pokemon on TV. Being six years old and having that friend that introduces you to 'boobs'. Gameboys. That terrible experience of bowling without bumpers. Harry Potter. Star Wars. Camping. Petty arguments with a sibling. Bunk beds. Wii boxing. Awkward middle school conversations with girls (actually just awkward middle school). Supporting Obama in 2008. Parties. The 'talk'. 'Photography. High school football games. Are these my experiences, or Mason's?

Answer: both. For three hours, I watched most of my life's experiences flow back to me through Ellar Coltrane's Mason, a cute young boy that grows into a bold young man. From the opening shot of drifting clouds to a conclusion in the canyons, Boyhood shuttled me through a life so familiar and fantastic, once the credits rolled, I knew with teary eyes that this movie was a masterpiece for the books.

Alongside the fantastic Ellar Coltrane is Patricia Arquette as Mason's flawed but strong mother, Ethan Hawke as his fun-loving father, and the director's daughter Lorelei Linklater as Mason's endearing older sister. All four parts are played like people you would know, and all of it is superb. The movie should've been titled Boyhood 3D, because the main people involved are so complex and multi-layered, and yes, three-dimensional.

Is the movie perfect? In my eyes, it is. No, it's not perfect perfect. It's a little overlong and some supporting characters weave in and out aimlessly (especially Mason's friends), but the movie is like someone you know and love: imperfect, but their imperfections make them quite the opposite. It's not really a movie, but a compilation of memories.

Let's talk a little about me. I'm fifteen years old, and most of the movie was stuff I remembered so well about my life. What is ahead of me in life, I have no idea. I'm afraid. But watching Boyhood showed me what to expect, how to live in the moment. Mason was an excellent tour guide to the future. I love the movie all the more for it.

Richard Linklater, director of last year's Before Midnight, has made the sum of his career, possibly the sum of cinema history.  If you are a parent with children or a child with parents, or none of the above, Boyhood is a movie to remind you of what you once were, and how much you changed, and how that change has changed others. When Boyhood unfolds, you will laugh, you will cry, and you will love.

Also, the soundtrack, featuring Gnarls Barkley, Phoenix, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, and Soulja Boy is delightful.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Birdman (2014) to open the Venice Film Festival!

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has landed a spot on the Lido with his new film, Birdman, starring Michael Keaton and a boatload of other great people. The film premiers on the 27th, and word on the street is that the movie is very, very good, and it is screening in competition. Is this possible our future Golden Lion winner?

Wild (2014) - Trailer and poster!

Reese Witherspoon seems to be working with better material than the baity The Good Lie. The movie looks visually strong. This movie might do wonders for Jean Marc Vallee's career, proving Dallas Buyers Club was no fluke.

Unbroken (2014) - Trailer!

Okay, the trailer looks baity. But coming from second-time director Angelina Jolie, it looks like she has an admirable three-act setup.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Life Itself (2014) - Movie Review

I really got into movies and reviewing them only three and a half years ago, and looking back, I see I have come a long way. Spider-Man 3 used to be my favorite movie of all time, but exposure to some of the greatest movies of all time has changed that. My top lists aren't very original now, including On the Waterfront, Vertigo, and Once Upon a Time in America, but it would be even worse without the help of Roger Ebert.

Roger Ebert lived an epic life of writing, seeing at least four movies on a workweek at a time. His reviews only took thirty minutes and were considered the best in the nation. Yet he suffered from alcoholism and potential loneliness. But that didn't stop him from changing as many lives as possible.

Steve James outdoes Hoop Dreams with a film about the man that made him big. Interviews with up-and-coming Ava Duvernay, Ramin Bahrani, and his widow Chaz Ebert are all very effective. The film is a little scattershot, but you're bound to be emotionally affected by the film. One of the year's best, for sure. I wholly expect to see this one nominated at the Oscars.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Judge (2014) Trailer and Poster

From the director of The Change-Up is an Oscar bait flick... I don't know what to think but it looks interesting, if not a little cliche.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

22 Jump Street (2014) - Movie Review by Sean Wu

'22 Jump Street' is a continuation of 2012's surprise smash comedy hit '21 Jump Street'. Ordinarily, sequels turn out much worse than the first film, but this isn't any ordinary sequel. This is by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the comedy geniuses behind the first film and 'The Lego Movie'.

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill return as Jenko and Schmidt, the brawn and brains of an undercover cop program in the fictional Metro City. In the first film, they busted a drug ring in high school, and in this one they attempt busting one in college. Even if Lord and Miller are doing an old trick, at least they improved on (already fantastic) it.

Hill and Tatum are to current day comedy as OutKast was to hip-hop: they work together superbly, and separately they hold their own just as well. The gags are extremely well done, and the pop culture references are great too ('White House Down', anyone?). Ice Cube, the scene stealer of the first film, gets more time in this one, and he holds his own extremely well.

The movie is incredibly lean too- after a TV-esque recap, the story starts immediately and not a minute is wasted. There are Tracy Morgan and Maya Angelou references, which is unfortunately timed, but the movie remains hilarious nonetheless. For my money, it might be the comedy of the summer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

First Poster for Birdman!

I'm gonna get Oscar predictions out soon, I swear. This is more than just a Birdman blog. But that teaser!

First trailer for Innaritu's Birdman.

Looks like everything it should be and then some. Michael Keaton is definitely a Best Actor competitor with Steve Carell. Awesome comedic cast, can't wait to see it. Expect it in TIFF and VIFF.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)- Movie Review by Sean Wu

What a joy! It's only March, but The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the most wholesome, funniest, and overall best movies of the year, a lock for my top ten. The film follows the escapades of the most valued concierge working at the Grand Budapest Hotel (the place, not the movie,), M. Gustave H., played in sublime fashion by the usually dramatic Ralph Finnes. In the process of training new lobby boy Zero, he is framed for murdering the extremely old and extremely wealthy Madame D., and goes on the run. 

This is director Wes Anderson's eighth film, and easily his best. He is regarded for his instantly recognizable style, a double-edged sword. He has the acclaim of cinephiles and hipsters around the world, but has the increased potential of retracing his own footsteps, doing what he has done in the past. Based on the trailer, it appeared Wes would rehash the subplot of kids on the run, a la Moonrise Kingdom. I say with great relief that his is Anderson's most original film to date, a murder-mystery with his largest cast and most gratuitous violence. There is a prison break scene in the movie that had me trembling in my seat, out of utter hilarity and superb suspense. From 1996 to now, Wes Anderson has evolved so much as a director, one that tried to be great by being unconventional, but is now great. It's utterly unique, a joy to watch.

Now that 'kids on the run' has been mentioned, it goes to show how dense of a plot the movie has. There are many stars in the movie, enough to make a new constellation, and many of them are underutilized, like the French maid Clotilde, played by Lea Seydoux, or the Author, played by Tom Wilkinson. It sounds horrible for a director to have so many people with unequal representation, but when you've got Ralph Finnes doing offbeat comedy, who needs anything else? I sure didn't.

Newcomer Tony Revolori is Zero, and he holds his own admirably. The film gives Adrien Brody his best part in a long time as Madame D.'s profane and spoiled descendant, and Jeff Goldblum is impossible funny as the oddly-speaking hotel curator. I can recycle sentences all day talking about how fun and great and perfect the movie is, but instead you have to see it for yourself. It's as sweet as a Mendl's pastry and as masterful as the painting 'Boy with Apple'.

Note: This is Wes Anderson's most emotional movie to date. It came as a surprise to have this goofy action comedy tug on the heartstrings, utilizing sentimentality in the best way possible. It's amazing that this movie was not released last year, for it would have been number three on my top ten and a definite Best Picture nominee. I hope there's Oscar glory for Wes and company.