Posts Tagged ‘coming of age’

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I’m tickled by Taika Waititi’s sense of humor. Yes, tickled.

After watching Boy, I didn’t need to be sold on Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

But a grumpy, bearded Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) as a gruff outdoorsman was enough to make me ecstatic before the movie even started. As with Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is about an eccentric youth in New Zealand, which is yet another fabulous opportunity to show off that stunningly beautiful landscape. While Taika makes a cameo in this movie as well, he doesn’t get near the screen time or juicy role that he gave himself in Boy.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the story of Ricky Baker—a troubled foster youth in New Zealand.

Oh, and Ricky is a wannabe gangster. Hilariously so. He keeps it gangsta.

bella

The movie starts with Ricky being dropped off at the doorstep of Bella (played by Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (played by Sam Neill). Once Ricky takes a look at this backwoods hole in the wall, he turns right back around to the Child Services vehicle. Ricky gives no fucks—even though this is his last stop before juvy.

Rima Te Wiata is an incredibly endearing presence as Bella, who just loves Ricky unconditionally from the start. Ol’ “Uncle” Hec isn’t quite as caring and nurturing as Bella. Hec is much more comfortable in the bush than he is around other people. His interests don’t exactly align with Ricky Baker.

Sam Neill is an actor with surprising range. Of course, everyone recognizes him for his role as Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. However, Sam Neill was spectacular in Seasons 1 and 2 of Peaky Blinders—where he plays a corrupt and menacing authority figure with misguided morals and a grudge against Cillian Murphy. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Sam Neill shows off his comedic chops as Hec.

ricky-and-hec

While the life of a kid in foster care isn’t exactly uplifting material, that’s the brilliance of Taika Waititi. With his outlandish, sometimes twisted sense of humor, Waititi’s exuberance finds the silver lining to turn a negative into a positive. I truly can’t wait to see more of Taika Waititi’s work.

Julian Dennison holds his own as Ricky Baker. He’s not in the same stratosphere as James Rolleston’s performance as Alamein in Boy. But there are some similarities between those characters. Instead of an adoration of Michael Jackson, Taika Waititi has the young male character infatuated with Tupac—naming his dog after the infamous rapper. Although Julian embodies this particular character well, I’d be surprised to ever see him again. I think it’s a credit to Taika that he’s capable of getting such great acting from young kids.

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How can you not feel relaxed and comfortable around that guy?

If you are one of the few who has watched Boy, then Hunt for the Wilderpeople is more of the same. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Boy was a superior film. Each movie shows off a different aspect of New Zealand and their sense of community. The audience is given a glimpse into what life can be like with the support of family or friends on that beautiful, sprawling expanse of wilderness.

It’s pretty majestical.

baker-dance

4 out of 5 stars

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An ode to mopey suburbia, Boyhood is a boring, bland movie made for boring, bland white people.

Boyhood is ungood and it should fade away into mediocrity forever. Please, everyone shut up about this movie. Can we all agree that Boyhood is only mildly interesting because it was filmed over 12 years? Does it truly enhance your experience by seeing the actors and actresses age on-screen?

It’s a gimmick, nothing more. It’s a joke that Boyhood was nominated for Best Picture.

The question you should ask yourself is would you watch this movie if it were just different actors or old-age makeup? There shouldn’t be anyone out there who wants to see this smelly, stinky turd again. Let me be crass for a bit: Boyhood is the result of Richard Linklater’s 12-year bout of constipation. Every year for 12 years, he sat on the toilet for a few minutes and pushed before letting it brew for another year. I’m happy that Linklater finally had a bowel movement, but I didn’t need to experience it.

Nothing happens in this movie. Not a fucking thing. Nothing at all.

Patricia Arquette

Boyhood is a wretched experience. Even if you watch at home, you will squirm in your seat and check the clock repeatedly throughout the nearly 3-hour runtime. Don’t expect the pace to whisk you away either and make you forget you’re trapped for 3 hours with utterly unlikable characters.

If you’re going to make a movie based on a boy’s childhood, you might want to invest money in some acting classes to be certain he can actually act. Alas, there was no such luck with Ellar Coltrane—who plays the role of Mason. Even his name sounds douchey. Most children are terrible actors so I was willing to give him a pass when the movie started. But every scene becomes more and more excruciating.

By the time he becomes a teenager, I was openly rooting for him to die.

Coltrane’s delivery when he reaches high school age is brutal. Meanwhile, the director’s daughter Lorelei Linklater was surprisingly good as Samantha—Mason’s sister. Boyhood would have benefitted from killing off Mason and focusing on Samantha because Lorelei Linklater actually had talent and charisma. Ellar Coltrane is a complete and total bore. His performance is a fatal flaw for the film.

When the boy in Boyhood cannot captivate the audience’s interest in any scene, it tends to put a damper on enjoying the experience of him growing up before your eyes. I groaned with progressively more frustration as Coltrane continued to flounder. He was hopelessly flopping around like a dead fish.

Ethan Hawke

Maybe it’s just me, but the gimmick didn’t work. Watching Patricia Arquette go from a blonde bombshell to sad old lady with saggy boobs is just sad and depressing. Ethan Hawke does an admirable job, and his cluelessness as an absentee father probably makes him the most entertaining character in the movie. But there’s not enough of Ethan Hawke or anything else for the audience to enjoy in Boyhood.

During many moments, Richard Linklater thinks his script is professing something deep and philosophical. Incorrect, it’s merely stupid existential rambling from the eyes of a character who has never truly experienced anything. This bullshit is a hallmark of people who believe they’re smart.

If you identify with this character, it’s a sign you might be an idiot.

Boyhood doesn’t provide any obstacles to overcome or any lessons to be learned. From my perspective, this is a sloppy mess of mostly fluff and pointless pandering. Congratulations, it worked well enough to fool people into a few Oscar nominations. Everyone should ignore this movie.

As a society, we shouldn’t reward such awful writing. Seize a garbage can to throw up in afterwards.

Seize the Moment

Other Way Around

Moment Seizes Us

1.5 out of 5 stars

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I may have been late to the game regarding The Spectacular Now, but I’m making up for it with unbridled enthusiasm. After watching Her, I immediately declared it both my favorite and the best movie of 2013.

But then along came The Spectacular Now.

Bolstered by its great writing, The Spectacular Now is a slow burn character study of Sutter Keely (played in phenomenal fashion by Miles Teller). Miles Teller hasn’t blown up as an actor just yet, but this movie is a prime example of why it’s just a matter of time. Thanks to Miles Teller’s performance, the character of Sutter comes to life as an extremely likable yet alcoholic high school senior.

We all know this person in some form or another. Maybe you even went to high school with someone who has a hint of Sutter—though they probably were more dickish than charming, which is an accomplishment here for Miles Teller since Sutter has several apparent character flaws. Sutter is fun-loving but already seemingly stuck in the addict’s cycle of drowning his emotions with the bottle.

The Spectacular Now opens with Sutter trying to write his personal statement for a college application while he’s casually sipping a beer. A Pabst Blue Ribbon, nonetheless. No one should casually sip that piss water PBR. Despite the blue ribbon, Pabst is meant to be chugged continuously at a shitty party so you can get drunk as fast as possible and forget about all the shitty people you’re getting drunk around.

But this serves as a nice hint as to where Sutter is already at with his alcoholism.

Miles

Lamenting on losing his girlfriend (who wants to be with someone that has a direction in life), we see Sutter attempting to maintain that “king of the world” high that a teenager feels when they think they’re invincible. He drinks and drives and passes out in a stranger’s yard. Remarkably, he hasn’t killed anyone.

Sutter is woken up from his lawn nap by Aimee Finecky (played by Shailene Woodley) early in the morning. They go to the same high school and have even been in the same class before, but of course Sutter doesn’t recognize her at all. Aimee isn’t coming home from a party. She’s not that kind of girl, and this movie makes sure we know that. Instead, she is up at the crack of dawn delivering newspapers for her mom’s route without receiving any real compensation. Responsibility is a bitch—and so is Aimee’s mom.

Since Sutter has no idea where the fuck his car is from that night’s drunken stupor, he hitches a ride helping Aimee deliver newspapers while keeping an eye out for his abandoned ride. Meanwhile, their friendship is building and a romance is budding. You think you know where this is going.

Director James Ponsoldt performs an impressive balancing act in this angst-ridden love story fueled by teenage alcoholism. Although the main character Sutter is drifting through his high school life, the direction of The Spectacular Now does not drift. This movie is not afraid to let scenes breathe and it is not concerned with beating you over the head with an onslaught of jokes or physical comedy.

This is not a typical romantic comedy. And that is a good thing.

Flask Clank

Despite some very slow moments, I was always interested and never bored. The direction that The Spectacular Now goes with the story is notexactly what I imagined, but it helps generate genuine characters (specifically Sutter) that deserve empathy. It also helps that Bob Odenkirk as Dan (Sutter’s boss) and Kyle Chandler as Tommy (Sutter’s dad) are perfect performances in supporting roles.

A minor stumbling block for me with this movie is Shailene Woodley. I don’t understand the love fest.

With the success of Divergent, Shailene Woodley is apparently on the cusp of breaking out and becoming a true movie star. My introduction to Shailene was as Amy on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which was an awful television show on ABC Family that my wife used to watch. Her acting was atrocious in every scene of that show (her first real gig), and her acting is only incrementally better in this movie.

Fortunately for The Spectacular Now, Shailene Woodley isn’t asked to do too much and the rest of the movie more than makes up for her mediocre performance. All of the individual pieces and the whole make this is an exceedingly enjoyable movie. Thanks in large part to Miles Teller’s impeccable performance, I didn’t want to let this movie or the character of Sutter leave my mind.

As long as I didn’t write this down, the movie stuck in my head.

I am fully onboard now with the career of Miles Teller. I even endured that tepid throwaway comedy with Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan, and it’s not a surprise that Teller stole the movie. I couldn’t even remember the name of that piece of shit, but it was stupidly named That Awkward Moment.

Hopefully, Teller gets even better with age because he can already toggle spot-on comedic timing with gut-wrenching emotional scenes. There are a few of those sprinkled through The Spectacular Now. As a textured romantic dramedy, The Spectacular Now leaped Her as my favorite and the best movie I saw in 2013. With a handful of viewings under my belt, I’m sure there will be more on the horizon.

I’ve embraced this movie with open arms and you should too.

Embrace That Shit

“The best thing about now, is that there’s another one tomorrow.” – Sutter

5 out of 5 stars