Boy’s Life: Adolescence Unfolds Before Our Eyes In ‘Boyhood’

boyhood-ellar-coltrane-teenMovies entertain in different ways. Many are meant as mere diversions; some aim to bemuse, fewer aim to bewitch. One typically considers independent films less ambitious than their studio-made counterparts, at least on a technical level. But that’s not always the case.

Take Boyhood for example — it’s the latest film from Richard Linklater, director of the Before Sunrise series, though its inception actually pre-dates the latest two films in that series. While there are no obvious CGI effects, expensive sets, or massive scenes with thousands of extras in Boyhood, one can hardly imagine a more ambitious cinematic undertaking than this. It’s hard to imagine a blockbuster director like the ADD-addled Michael Bay being up to the challenge. But Linklater, perhaps moreso than any other working filmmaker, has displayed a cinematic virtue so many of his peers are sorely lacking: patience.

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Roger & Us: The Critic Becomes The Star In ‘Life Itself’

roger-ebert-life-itselfThe story of Roger Ebert is a curious one. The man didn’t set out to be a film critic, but he ended up being the film critic. He’s still best known as the owner of one of two fateful thumbs from his days on TV, and if you know him only as the crotchety critic who so often sparred with Siskel, you don’t really know him at all.

On TV, it was always obvious that Ebert was a smart guy, and obviously passionate about movies, but what never came through there was his soul. Roger Ebert was an extremely gifted writer and an incredibly observant man; he had as much to say about life itself as he did about movies, and that’s perhaps why the fact that he titled his memoir Life Itself didn’t feel even slightly pretentious coming from a man who spent most of his working years debating the merits of Anaconda and Cop And A Half.

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Doppelgangland: ‘Coherence’ Doubles Down On Disorientation

coherence-emily-foxlerThey say there are no small parts, only small actors. So I guess it’s also true that there are no small movies, only small budgets.

Coherence is a movie that plays with some very big ideas — so big that you may not even notice that it was shot on a micro-budget. Most of the film takes place inside the same house (well, kind of). The cast is an ensemble of eight actors playing eight characters (again, kind of). It all centers on a dinner party featuring four couples with a few complicated relationships between them, some of which are known, some of which will be revealed. The dialogue is mostly improvised; the actors did not know what the film was about when they signed on. And though it starts off like a mumblecore-style talky relationship drama, the fact that a comet is passing by overhead eventually casts a dark pall over the wine-drinking and gabbing.

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The Best Revenge: ‘Blue Ruin,’ ‘Grand Piano,’ & ‘Neighbors’

blue-ruin_ending-macon-blair-gun Here’s the sad fact: the more $200 million blockbusters make their money back, the less we see studios willing to spend $20 million, or $10 million, or even a lousy $1 million on a smarter movie that’s aimed at a smaller audience.

Thus, the independent’s revenge. If smaller, smarter movies want to be made, they essentially have to make themselves, without an assist from the billion-dollar conglomerates that will greenlight Transformers and Avengers movies until giant robots from space really do come down and annihilate the human race. It’s summer now, which means Godzilla and Ninja Turtles and X-Men; but it also means indies that tempt the more selective of us with shrewd counter-programming, pulling those Sundance darlings out of the freezer to cool us off in these creatively dry summer months.

My revenge? To see most of these smaller movies, and not many of the big ones. It’s not much, but it’s all I can do.

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Certifiable Copy: A ‘Double’ Dose Of Deranged Doppelgangers

the-double-jesse-eisenberg-twinsAntz and A Bug’s Life. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Infamous and Capote. Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down.

It happens all the time — movies with eerily similar subject matter doubling up in the same year. As if there’s just something in the air causing different filmmakers to suddenly think alike, releasing movies that might as well be carbon copies of each other. (Though one is usually the clear superior — Dante’s Peak, take a bow; Volcano, you’re drunk, go home.)

Of course, there’s a special irony to it when the movies are about doppelgangers. Earlier this year, Jake Gyllenhaal played both a nebbishy professor and the cucumber-cool actor he discovers wearing his face in Enemy, and now Jesse Eisenberg is working double-time in Richard Ayoade’s The Double. Both movies feature the central actor as both an impotent, meek version of himself as well as a suaver, more confident twin; in both, an enigmatic blonde features prominently; in both, the doubles decide to switch places, with disastrous results; both are pretty open to interpretation as to what the hell is going on.

So which film is superior? Well, for once, these doppelgangers are equally good.

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OMGzilla: The Latest Lizard Epic Has That ‘Jurassic’ Spark

t-rex-godzilla-jurassic-parkSummer movie season is officially underway, everybody, and you know what that means: I’ll be writing weekly reviews of each and every blockbuster that Hollywood throws our way.

Just kidding! What am I, made of money? I sure don’t have the funds to shell out sixteen bucks for all of the mindless crap the studios hope teenage boys and Chinese people will like enough to put them in the black for the year.

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Riding In Cars With Boys: Scarlett Sheds Clothes & ‘Skin’

under-the-skin-scarlett-johansson-man-vanThe people of Scotland need a refresher on “stranger danger,” at least according to the events depicted in Under The Skin. The lesson: even if someone looks as comely as Scarlett Johansson, that does not mean it is safe to get in a creepy van with her, return to her rural dungeon-like homestead “about a half an hour away,” and skinny dip in her icky black pool.

Just say no and walk away.

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The Five Best Fucking Songs Right Now* (Volume 4)

* based on absolutely no criteria whatsoever

crazy-something-normal-video-donkeyboy

It’s almost summer again (here in Los Angeles, anyway — the rest of you may have another month or two before it’s good and sunny out). And that means it’s time to listen to some good fucking songs. Because the best fucking songs sound the very best when it’s nice out, and you’re laying by the pool or at the beach or driving around in a convertible.

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