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Recent Movies: Boyhood; Edge of Tomorrow; The F Word / What If; Old Movies: Nashville; Cirque du Soleil: Kurios

October 4, 2014

Recent Movies

Boyhood

From 2002-2013, this film tells the trials and joys of a Texas family.  At the beginning, Mason (7 years old) and Samantha (9 years old) live with their single mother while having occasional visits from their father.  In the years that follow, there is a lot of moving, education choices, new relationships, and growing up.

This film is rightly praised for its very unique approach.  It was filmed in sequences once a year for each year of the story.  The same actors were used so we could see the effects of aging, especially in the children, with no need for special make-up or role replacements with older look-alike actors.  For this very unique approach, the kudos are rightly deserved.

But speaking of kudos, it is well known that this is one of the most critically acclaimed movies in a long time earning almost unanimously perfect ratings.  I found “Boyhood” to be a good film but not an excellent one.  It certainly does well to maintain interest constantly during its nearly three-hour run.  It also exposes the sides of life that challenge most of us especially during teen years when we are constantly being told to “buckle up” because “life is tough”.  During many interesting discussions, these attitudes are challenged.  These conversations are very engaging.

So while I don’t agree with all the average rating of this film, I still give it praise for its uniqueness.  There are also fine performances by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as the divorced parents, particularly Arquette.

RATING (out of four stars):   * * *

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Edge of Tomorrow

In the near future, aliens are taking over the planet Earth.  A recently demoted military officer (Tom Cruise) is forced into a mission to fight against the aliens.  After various failures and deaths, he is “reborn” at the point of joining the mission and this cycle is repeated with new knowledge.

Using this other-worldly plot device is often fun and fascinating.  It’s almost like the philosophy behind reincarnation – that we have to repeat the life-death cycle until we’ve learned all lessons.  Treating the live-die-repeat cycle with humour is also enjoyable.

For an action film, the most enjoyment is expected to come from the film’s conclusion and its build-up.  Sadly, this film’s climax is rather anti-climactic giving the movie an overall mixed result.

RATING:   * * 1/2

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“The F Word” aka “What If”

In Toronto, a young man and woman (Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan) meet at a party and seem to get along quite well except the young woman already has a boyfriend.  As the they get into a platonic friendship, the film constantly asks the question: will they or won’t they get it on?

Like many rom-coms, this one has its occasional share of predictability and bad moments.  But overall, this movie exudes with charm, wit, and a lively energy.  It also does a fine job in exposing how careerism affects relationships.

Radcliffe and Kazan lead a fine cast of characters who seem likeable and hilarious especially MacKenzie Davis in a scene as an nervous, sharp-tongued bride-to-be.  Occasionally, the crude humour crosses a line but the laughter throughout the film is well worth it.

RATING:   * * *

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Great Old Movies Seen Again

Nashville  (1975 – U.S.)

In a five day period, the lives of over twenty characters are exposed in the country music capital with various inter-related stories.  The music industry is used as a backdrop as is a populist presidential campaign that tries to enlist country music stars to endorse its campaign.

There is so much to praise in this film.  Most worthy is the lively yet organized directing by Robert Altman.  His ability to interchange simultaneous and related scenes, switching back and forth, was more than effective; it was invigorating.

While not all characters were as well developed as others (Shelley Duvall as a horribly-dressed, promiscuous groupie), most characters were fascinating.  Among the best examples:  Henry Gibson as a self-absorbed star and Barbara Baxley as his wife, a southern Catholic Democrat;  Ronnee Blakley as another star whose lack of balance shows the pressures of show business; Gwen Welles as a naive, aspiring singer who has no singing talent.  Also, Geraldine Chaplin provides much comic relief as a mediocre journalist who makes frequent ridiculous comments.

Probably, the most intriguing characters are played by Keith Carradine as a talented singer (who is also callous, promiscuous, and inconsiderate) and one of his pursuits (Lily Tomlin), a married gospel singer who is raising two deaf children.  Their final scene is among the movie’s best.

The quality of the music in “Nashville” varies.  This is probably deliberate as the different levels in quality would reflect the reality of the industry.  Approximately one hour of the film is musical numbers.  This seems somewhat long at times but some of the best moments are in the musical numbers.  Blakley has a stunning voice and her numbers are superb.  The grandest musical number (and possibly the best moment in the film) is Carradine’s brilliant performance of the rightfully award-winning song “I’m Easy” which he also wrote.

The liveliness and intelligence of “Nashville” make it worthy of its praise as one of the best movies of the 1970s and of all-time.

RATING:   * * * 1/2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT:   Directing by Robert Altman

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Circus Events

Cirque du Soleil:  “Kurios”  at the Port Lands, Toronto

The latest installment of this great company takes place around a time traveler who goes back to the late 19th century.

The acts in this show are all at least good but many of them were exceptional: the bicyclist in the air; a balancing act on various rollers; four contortionists dressed as electric eels; a chair balancing act that includes an optical illusion; two acrobat acts – one with a pair, another with about a dozen; a wide trampoline act; a clown who does a perfect imitation of a cat.

Some of these performers are so exceptional that they could be famous on their own yet they are truly dedicated as part of an ensemble.  The various daredevil acts were heart-pounding to watch;   I couldn’t imagine how it felt to do such things.  There were times I wanted give parental advice to these performers and say, “That’s very good.  Now stop that and get down from there or you’ll hurt yourself.”  Thankfully, there was no need for this.

Mixed with wonderful music and visuals, this production truly was a feast.

RATING:   * * * 1/2

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