Boyhood

Night Moves Movie

Superheroes rule the box office and the Guardians of the Galaxy have brought us the biggest film of the summer (which is about to dethrone Captain America to become the biggest film of the year). But talking about these big-budget behemoths with gigantic box office rewards (unless you’re the latest installment of the Expendables or Sin City brand) means talking about the same thing over and over again – a happy hour of strange creatures, diversified only by a couple comedies. Fortunately there’s a great mix of summer fare that kicked absolute ass on a very modest per-screen basis. One can’t exactly expect that a limited release in select big cities would fare as well if it expanded to thousands of theaters across the nation (averages generally shrink when/if they do), but it’s still great to see the “little guy” head into a release in a handful of theaters and earn a better average than the top summer film (Guardians had $23,118 on 4,080 screens). All of the following movies beat that average (save one that opened on only two screens), and offer everything from period dramas to modern comedy to films that took over a decade to capture. The men in tights, so to speak, may have won the box office, but I’m happy a selection of films like this still exists in this ever-mainstream movie world.

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Love Is Strange

Love Is Strange is a movie about, well, love. It’s about the love shared by its central couple, George (Alfred Molina) and Ben (John Lithgow), but there’s more to it than that. It’s about all of its varieties and inflections, and the way that it’s expressed by husbands, nieces-in-law and friends. Beautifully lit spaces, subtly crafted dialogue and open, naturalistic performances from the whole cast help director Ira Sachs play with the manifestations of this title concept. The MPAA ratings board, meanwhile, didn’t pay attention to any of this. Love Is Strange was given an R rating. There’s no sex in the film, nor any notable violence. The reason this family drama wasn’t considered family-friendly was “language,” that ever-vague, often ironically meaningless word. What exactly does that mean? Sometimes it means too many “fucks,” or some similar breach of the arbitrary mathematics of swear-word policing. Here, though, it seems to be something else. An entire script in which the humanity of gay people is taken for granted may have been too linguistically salacious for the MPAA.

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Radius-TWC

This will probably be difficult to believe for some of you, but we walk into every movie hoping it will be the best movie. We may criticize a trailer or point out early concerns, but once we sit down and the movie starts digitally unspooling before our eyes our hope every single time is to experience something fantastic. When a film succeeds on that front we shout it from the highest virtual rooftops, but that isn’t always the outcome. The pure flip-side of this of course are the movies we leave absolutely despising. Usually the films in this group aren’t exactly surprises — think Blended, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Sex Tape, Hercules — and while we hoped for better we ended up with pretty much what we expected. But sometimes the movies we expected more from end up being major disappointments too. A quick poll of the staff revealed a pretty varied list of films fitting this description, some of which are viewed as unqualified successes by the rest of us. Keep reading to see ten of the movies that left us unsatisfied, underwhelmed and ultimately disappointed.

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Get On Up

It is hard to believe summer is almost over, but as we look back on a season that gave us surprise hits (who knew Edge of Tomorrow would be so entertaining?) and surprise misses (Let’s Be Cops didn’t quite capture the buddy comedy magic it was looking for) the most interesting trend to emerge was how this summer’s soundtracks were all about the past. From 1920s jazz to 1960s funk to 1970s pop rock, this summer felt more like a music history lesson than the expected barrage of radio hits piped into every blockbuster looking to generate box office heat. (Granted those were there too – looking at you Transformers: Age of Extinction and Imagine Dragons.) And audiences were into this change of pace. So much so that a soundtrack full of songs from the 1970s made it to the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart.

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Marvel Studios

2014′s summer movie season comes to an end in a week or so, but while some folks will be editorializing about the box office being down 15-20% compared to last summer and others express surprise that a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy could be days away from becoming the year’s highest grossing domestic hit, we here at FSR have a different agenda. Simply put, we saw a lot of great movies this summer, and we hope you did too. The year’s best “big” movie (per me anyway), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, missed the summer cutoff as it opened in early April, but there were still some fantastic blockbuster-type flicks that entertained the hell out of us over the past four months. Of course, there were also some brilliant smaller films too. An informal staff survey revealed a mix of both to be our favorites of the summer. Keep reading to see which movies moved us the most from May through August.

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Boyhood

For the past four years, I’ve been in a long distance relationship. As of two weeks ago, the distance component of that relationship has thankfully come to a close, with my heart and my wallet eternally grateful. But the change is bittersweet, as I’ve also been in something of a long-distance relationship with a city that my person inhabited, having now arrived at the end of my routine round trip travels from my current home in southern Indiana to Austin, Texas. I only officially lived in Austin for slightly over a year, from 2009-2010. But in four subsequent years of visits ranging from a brief weekend to an entire summer, I developed something of a strange relationship with the city: I saw it through elliptical fractions of time. Each visit to this rapidly growing city required reorientation, as I was forced to understand the differences big and small that have taken place since my last visit. One day Rainey Street was a mostly empty lot with a few great food trailers. The next visit it became a caravan of bars. A few visits later, dreaded condos were being developed. For nearly anyone who has experienced the city of Austin through time, there is an Austin Then and an Austin Now, with Austin Then forever casting a shadow over the always inferior Austin Now. If any filmmaker has a claim to Austin Then, it’s Slacker director Richard Linklater. But as his recent output has shown – most evidently in the magnus […]

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Calvary Movie

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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American Promise still

The raves are flying thick around Boyhood, the long-time-in-the-making new film from director Richard Linklater which finally opens in theaters this weekend. Linklater and his crew shot the movie over the course of 12 years, so that they could capture the main character age in real time, from a young boy to a high school graduate. I can vouch for pretty much every good thing you’ve heard about the movie. It’s a fantastically moving, incredibly true-to-life piece of work, and an impressive accomplishment. It is not, however, a unique accomplishment, no matter how many critics may think it is. While the scope of Boyhood‘s production period may rival any completed fiction film, there are numerous documentary projects of equal or greater scale. An easy example is the Paradise Lost trilogy, which revisited the same legal case over a 17-year period. An even easier example is the Up series, which has been revisiting the same set of subjects every seven years for the last half century. But this week’s Doc Option is a film whose structure hews remarkably close to that of Boyhood. In fact, these two movies were trying to do almost the same thing – and with a significant overlap in the time during which they shot — but on opposite sides of the fiction/nonfiction coin. American Promise was shot over the course of 13 years instead of 12. It has two protagonists, not one (though with both movies, you can argue that the parents are just as important as the main characters are). And while Boyhood is concerned with a variety of subjects that have to do […]

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IFC Films

There’s a conceit at the center of Richard Linklater‘s new film Boyhood that imbues it with a unique and wonderful power absolutely absent from any other movie. It’s usually hyperbole to say a film is unlike anything you’ve seen before, but in this case it’s very true. In order to tell the story of a boy’s life from age six to eighteen, the writer/director assembled a cast willing to film for a week or so each year… for twelve years. The result is a coming-of-age tale where the usually accepted norm — child actors being replaced with older child actors as the character ages — is itself replaced with the smoothly subtle and unexpectedly touching effect of actually watching a boy (and his family) age before our eyes. We drop into Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) life at six years old to find him in a small bit of trouble at school. His mom (Patricia Arquette) shares his teacher’s concerns on the drive home with the predominant one being Mason’s penchant for letting his mind wander to the world beyond the classroom. His curious and warm eyes — his only features to remain constant as his face and body age and mature around them over the years to come — carry that same casual inquisitiveness up into his eighteenth year when we leave him and his life just as unceremoniously as we arrived. There’s no doubt or debate that Boyhood is an unparalleled achievement, and if you grew up in America (or possibly other Western countries) […]

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

June ended with a blockbuster that encapsulated everything wrong with most summer movies. Bloated, thin, self-indulgent, mean-spirited, and incomprehensible are a few ways to describe Michael Bay‘s Transformers: Age of Extinction. It’s not the worst film of the series, but it’ll definitely go down as one of the worst films of the summer. Still, audiences love Bay’s brand and the film made more money domestically in its opening weekend than Edge of Tomorrow has thus far stateside, which is just heartbreaking. Thankfully, we have summer movies like Edge of Tomorrow and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes to remind us not all blockbusters are run-of-the-mill studio products. Besides Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or another viewing of Edge of Tomorrow there’s plenty of other movies to check out this month. Here are the must see movies of July 2014:

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Moscow on the Hudson

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Jackie Sue Lynn - 49 UP

When Granada Television debuted the documentary special Seven Up! as an episode of World in Action on May 5, 1964, the primary point was to show a brief look at youth of varied social backgrounds around the UK. It was a study of sorts, but as original director Paul Almond told me last year, “All I wanted to do was to find out what little boys and little girls of different classes thought about. I didn’t have any intention other than trying to find out what in fact were the differences.” The show itself plainly states that the idea is to show viewers “the shop steward and the executive” of tomorrow, specifically that of the turn of the next century. Perhaps one follow-up in the year 2000 would have sufficed to update us on where those kids wound up. Instead, by that year there’d already been five installments, produced and released at seven-year intervals, and since then there have been two more. “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” says the Jesuit motto that inspired the program, and it implies that we don’t need to see anything beyond those kids at age 7. The men (and women) are all right there for us to know as children, apparently. That doesn’t mean we aren’t curious about and fascinated by the certainty of knowing more, of seeing how people turn out. We were the same species half a century ago as we are now in the age of “Where Are They Now” features all over the Internet.

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680x478

Filmmaker Richard Linklater’s relationship with the Sundance Film Festival has so far proven to be a very fruitful one – Linklater memorably premiered both his Before Sunrise and Before Midnight at the festival (Before Sunset, the middle film in the current trilogy, bowed at Berlin), his Slacker won the Grand Jury Prize at the festival back in 1991, and the festival even honored the film with a special anniversary screening back in 2010 (similarly, this year’s “From the Collection” screening will honor the twentieth anniversary of Hoop Dreams) – so it’s not surprising that the festival will be the one to debut one of Linklater’s most talked about features. It is, however, (pleasantly, to be sure) surprising that it will be his long-promised (and long-filmed) Boyhood. Honestly, we sort of didn’t think it was real.

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