On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 6, 2015

As Richard Linklater's twelve-year journey to document the human experience in our most formative of years comes to a close its main subject literally stares into an indeterminable distance and metaphorically across a horizon of endless possibilities. There is something serene about this final note, something not so much uplifting as it is promising though I suppose the promise of possibilities could stimulate such optimistic feelings. To be honest, it feels somewhat intimidating to even try and craft a response or essay around the epic that is Boyhood. There is a distinct looseness to the project that doesn't adhere it to the serious, more prestigious films that have been straddled with the title of epic, yet it is most definitely that. Filmed over the course of twelve years using the same actors Linklater has pieced this unique project together as he went along, letting it develop naturally and in this organic sense of what life is, where it's going and what it becomes Boyhood feels wholly unique in a way no other film can touch. The question though was always going to be if whether or not the final product of what the film turned out to be might ever match the ambition of the idea behind it. As much as I feel intimidated by the film and everything it represents that I in no possible way could hope to capture in a few short paragraphs was still worried it wouldn't be all it was built up to be. There was such praise, such interest, such unanimous passion for this film that it felt it would be a crime to take any issue with it. As the film began to roll and the groove became recognizable though I could only hope it proved in some way to surpass what I thought might unfold, that it might take me by storm and bring me into what everyone else was seeing. Needless to say, I think I understand where they are all coming from. As that aforementioned final scene is let loose upon us and we know the end is near it all begins to sink in, what we have just experienced. There isn't a particularly significant story at play here, but it is meaningful in that every person in the audience can in some way relate to one of the characters, situations or emotions that unfold through the life of Mason and in turn we feel a part of this film. A transcendent experience, more than any numbing or even thought-provoking entertainment could provide. Full review here. A

When it comes to biopics of famous musicians they are a tough act to pull off these days. The formula is well known by now: the drive as a young artist, the obtaining of fame, the inevitable fall and the career redemption and life reflection in the final act. We can see the beats coming from a mile away and so it was with caution that I approached the story of James Brown in Get On Up from the director of The Help, Tate Taylor. While being cautious it is difficult for me to not get caught up in these types of films and especially this one as I'm a big fan of funk music and was looking forward to how Taylor might encapsulate the full span of a life as tumultuous as Brown's. There was a manic energy to the entertainer that he seemed to carry with him everywhere that he clearly poured into his stage show, a place where he arguably felt more at home than anywhere else. I draw attention to this characteristic because it is an important quality in any entertainer and yet in the majority of these biopics there seems to be little focus on their passion for the music, but rather on the drama of their personal lives. No, this film is being made about this person because they became significant enough in their field for an entire film to be centered around them and so why don't we focus on what pushed them to such significance? With a nickname like "The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz" it would have been difficult for a James Brown film to avoid the mans drive and passion which was purely the music and the performance that came along with it. There are scenes wholly dedicated to Brown's interpretation of a rhythm, his thought process on where it could go and his imagining of what he needs to feel in order to get himself and his audience on their feet. It is a testament to screenwriters Jez and John Henry Butterworth as well as director Taylor that they have not delivered a vanilla film in the vein of what we have seen before from this genre, but more something that skips through time highlighting the scope of Brown's varied life in non-linear fashion that culminates in an experience that feels it may actually justify the real man. Full review here. A-

First things first: I pretty much loved every single aspect of director Adam Wingard's The Guest and only give it a less than perfect score because while I love and revel in it, it certainly isn't something to be regarded as exceptional. It's not exceptional because it isn't necessarily innovative, but it is still highly entertaining and well-constructed because it knowingly draws from very specific inspirations. Horror movies of the late 70's and early 80's as well as the thrillers of the same decade infuse every angle of Wingard's tale of uncertainty. He plows over every moment in the film with his unabashed soundtrack fueled by synthesizers and one note tones that dispel any notion we should take this seriously. Instead, seasoned moviegoers will acknowledge this as an exercise in form, of style and take note of how every story, even the most generic of ones, can be made fresh and interesting with a unique directorial approach. The same was true of Wingard's previous effort, last years You're Next, in that it was a self-aware, goofy riff on the home invasion thriller. With The Guest though, Wingard has stepped up his intent in not confining himself to a single genre, but rather expanding the story possibilities to afford him endless opportunities while keeping the tone in check with those films that clearly inspired his childhood ambition to be a filmmaker. As the film begins we are introduced to David (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey) and with only the 80's inspired soundtrack to overstate his subdued line readings we are immediately entranced into the world of who this man is and what his purpose might be. His surroundings are minimal, but his presence is immediately worthy of note and Wingard knows what he has both in terms of technique and in Stevens as a performer and with that he mines them to their full potential. Again, The Guest isn't anything that should necessarily be celebrated as a triumph or as wholly original, especially in the wake of Drive a few years ago (which this film could easily draw comparisons to) but nonetheless it is a hell of a lot of fun and well worth ones time. Full review here. B+

In the opening moments of Horns, Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple lay in a green meadow fawning over one another and exchanging hip yet still cheesy dialogue about being horny and then loving one another for the rest of their lives. It is a short scene that quickly moves us forward to after the major incident that defines the narrative of the film, but is an exchange that makes you wonder. Wonder in the sense that these two intelligent and clearly ambitious actors who want to make art that is substantial and means something have this opening that works contrary to all of that. Radcliffe has been picking projects in hopes of distancing himself from his Harry Potter counterpart for a few years now, but as he and Temple exchange this obvious exposition dialogue clearly intended to tell us these two are in love and doomed because of it (while ironically forcing it to counter-intuitively feel effortless) I wondered what they saw in this script. What about these opening moments made them think this was a good idea? What spoke to them? From that point out the challenge was for the film to make me feel more weight to this exchange that I openly chuckled and slightly cringed at for its seeming contrivances. In short, mission accomplished. In only his fourth big screen appearance after retiring the scar and glasses Radcliffe has made a horror picture, a romantic comedy of sorts and a historical drama where he played poet Allen Ginsberg. I have yet to see that rom-com, now titiled What If with Zoe Kazan which I think might be the most radically different thing he's done to date. With Horns though Radcliffe has done more than I would have ever given him credit for based on the trailers in making strides to be an actor the public actually sees as an actor and not just representative of a single role. The supernatural is somewhat of a comfort zone for him and while I appreciated the aesthetic and throwback style that comprised The Woman in Black, Horns is a much deeper-minded film with more on its mind than giving audiences the creeps or gutting them with dark humor. Instead, it is a rather insightful study of who we are as a race and who we desire to be as human beings and how tough it can be to discern the difference. Full review here. B-

I actually kind of wanted to see No Good Deed until I recently read a review describing it as a Tyler Perry-type version of the aforementioned The Guest. I like both Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson and they both deserve solid material to work with, but the 10% RT rating leaves little to compel one to check out this film. With so much else out there to consume I doubt I'll ever make it around to this standard thriller that some will see as perfectly fine "Friday night on the couch" entertainment and there's nothing wrong with that either.

What's worse than a 10% RT rating? A 2% RT rating for a movie starring Nicholas Cage as he tries to pay off some bills with a remake of a Kirk Cameron film. With what has been described as bringing new meaning to the phrase "holy shit" Left Behind bombed hard at the box office and I can't imagine it doing more than quickly and quietly disappearing on home video.

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