Best Movies: Indie, Action and Drama

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James Brown in 1973
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James Brown in 1973
James Brown in 1973 | Source
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Four Must-See Films

At least four movies in close sequence during the summer of 2014 are successful in quality and box office earnings, and I think they will become often-viewed classics.

My choices for recommendation, in no particular order, are:

Boyhood - Rated R, but parents might want to take their middle and high school kids to see it. This is the first and only movie of its kind thus far.

Guardians of the Galaxy - PG-13. Sci-Fi, Comic Book, Action fun.

Get on Up - PG-13. Chadwick Boseman (successful in the movie 42) does so well with the James Brown moves and lip synch work, you'd think he was actually singing. He should be winning an Academy Award sometime soon.

A Most Wanted Man - R. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last big role and probably his best portrayed.

Boyhood

This movie is probably like no other in American cinema and perhaps worldwide. The film about a changing family was slowly shot over the span of 12 years, shooting for a total of fewer than 40 days at a rate of just a few days annually.

Released at 2 hours 46 minutes, the transitions of a Texas boy and his family from his first grade year through his high school graduation are smooth. The actors change and mature through the decade-plus, though not jarringly.

Shown in limited releases beginning July 11 through August 1, 2014, the film received the highest rating from Rotten Tomatoes (99% Fresh) and Metacritic (100%). With a budget of $2.4 million, the movie grossed over $4.1 million by July 15. it won awards at several film festivals: Berlin, SXSW, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Mason Jr. (portrayed by Texan Ellar Coltrane) is the center of this film and we watch him age year by year through changing haircuts and different friends, even different cities and unfortunately, different stepfathers.

The boy changes through time, but he anchors himself and becomes his own person, smiling politely as adults belittle or unfairly criticize him. This is the familiarity we find in Mason Jr. inside the natural physical changes. His voice changing in one scene is probably the most disruptive thing in his growth. By the end of the film, some shots of him look very much like his on screen dad, Ethan Hawke.

The boy's mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette), is a divorced single mother of two and tired of having been "only" someone's daughter and then someone's wife and mother. She fights out of her trench to become a respected professional, but must survive alcoholics, abusive men, an unruly daughter, and finally, an empty next. This is one of Patricia Arquette's best played roles.

Boyhood: Music From the Motion Picture
Boyhood: Music From the Motion Picture

This soundtrack spans the years of Mason Jr.'s life from Coldplay's "Yellow" to Arcade Fire's "Deep Blue."

 

More Cast and Crew

Writer and Director: Richard Linklater, Independent Film Maker

  • Also directed Slacker, Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Fast Food Nation, Bad News Bears, Bernie, and others.

Mason Jr.'s sister Samantha (determinedly obnoxious) - Lorelei Linklater

Professor Bill Welbrock (alcoholic) - Marco Perella

Bill's friend, the Liquor Store Owner - David Blackwell

Olivia's mom - Libby Villari (Mayor Lucy Rodell on Friday Night Lights)

Olivia's third husband Jim (drinks a lot) - Brad Hawkins, actor and musician.

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Cosplay Rocket Raccoon and Groot at Dragon Con 2013Cosplay Moondragon and Groot in 2013.
Cosplay Rocket Raccoon and Groot at Dragon Con 2013
Cosplay Rocket Raccoon and Groot at Dragon Con 2013 | Source
Cosplay Moondragon and Groot in 2013.
Cosplay Moondragon and Groot in 2013. | Source
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Guardians of the Galaxy

During the early release of this film on Thursday July 31, the movie earned $11.2 million. It was expected to amass $95 million to $100 million or more by end-of-business on Sunday August 1, 2014.

One critic called it "maniacally entertaining" and not knowing what to expect when I went to see it, I have to agree. It's huge fun, with lots of action, lots of humor, and some amount of tragedy - but mostly fun.

This film will enjoy more viewers and more multiple-time viewers, because media news reported on star Chris Pratt and his wife Anna Faris's healthy son, who was born 9 weeks premature in 2013. Pratt also lost 60 or 70 pounds for his part and people want to see that result as well.

Director James Gunn spoke about releasing an extended version of the film on DVD and Blu-ray. Definite plans are set for sequels and suggestions for individual spin-off movies have been rumored (Reference here).

The Guardians:

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) - Abducted by a UFO full of pirates in childhood, this thief insists on being called "Star-Lord."

Gamora (Zoe Saldana). This is an attractive green woman who wins nearly every fight she's in. Saldana now has at least three exceptional parts that are ongoing: Gamora, Uhuru in the reboot universe of Star Trek, and Neytiri in the Avatar films.

Drax the Destroyer (WWE wrestler Dave Bautista). Tattooed in red and green from bald head to waist, he is fun to watch and fun to hear, but he is out to avenge his family.

Rocket Racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper). If you remember Rocky and Bullwinkle, the name recalls that of Rocket J. Squirrel, but the raccoon carries high powered space weapons. Bullwinkle does look a little like the raccoon's bodyguard Groot, though. The animated raccoon is so well done that he looks real and nothing like a cartoon.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel). This is a fantastic character! Vin Diesel made each utterance of "I am Groot", the humanoid tree's only words, convey the intonation associated with actual English sentences. Deisel did the voice in other languages for the international market as well and he did the motion capture work for Groot.

Scores of different alien races appear in this film and some famous actors voice a few of them. Skin tones range from African and Caucasian hues to blue, green, red, chalk white, and multicolor stripes. This makes watching the film interesting and even more fun, because it is impossible to tell the ethnicity of many actors - it's awesome!

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Guardians of the Galaxy cast at 2013 ComicConCosplay Guardians at DragonCon in 2013.
Guardians of the Galaxy cast at 2013 ComicCon
Guardians of the Galaxy cast at 2013 ComicCon | Source
Cosplay Guardians at DragonCon in 2013.
Cosplay Guardians at DragonCon in 2013. | Source
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Madame Tussaud Wax Museum, Amsterdam
Madame Tussaud Wax Museum, Amsterdam | Source

Get on Up

Many of my friends and associates have witnessed James Brown in concert, but I've only seen him on television.

After seeing Chadwick Boseman's portrayal of this influential musician, I doubly berate myself for not taking more of an interest in Brown before his Christmas Day death in 2006.

The film minutely changes some facts in the life of James Brown, but thee changes do not disrupt the story. Unlike in some films, the flash forwards and flashbacks fully reinforce each other to deepen the audience's understanding of the story.

Even more so than Elvis Presley, James Brown struggled up from poverty to become a strongly influential man in music (and civil rights). James overcame poverty through an abused childhood that Presley did not endure. Both had heartache and hard times, but the story in Get On Up is incredible.

The film is doing well in urban theaters, but people of all ethnicity like it. The audience where I saw the picture contained a wide range of nationalities and ethnicity and many of each were, cheering, whistling, and applauding at the end of the film.

First week earning were estimated at about "only" $15 million, but this is one I will see again, and I think many other people will as well.

The film also stars Nelsan Ellis (HBO's True Blood and films The Butler and The Help), Dan Aykroyd (I still love Dr. Detroit), Viola Davis (Why has she not yet been awarded an Oscar?), Keith Robinson (Dreamgirls), Octavia Spencer (many awards for The Help and Fruitvale Station), and well known singer Jill Scott (Did you like HBO's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency?).

Twins Jordan and Jamarion Scott from Natchez, MIssissippi play James Brown as a young boy and they do a jaw dropping job of it. They reported that they both like to sing and dance and Jordan says he dances in his dreams (Reference here). Now is the time to recruit them for parts in a new Michael Jackson biopic.

Get On Up is directed by Tate Taylor, who directed The Help. He acted in the wonderful Winter's Bone with Jennifer Lawrence.

Winter's Bone [Blu-ray]
Winter's Bone [Blu-ray]

Director Tate Taylor of Natchez, Mississippi acted in the wonderful Winter's Bone with Jennifer Lawrence.

 
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A Most Wanted Man

Philip Seymour Hoffman did not know that his German spy leader in A Man Most Wanted would be his last role, but he portrayed the character as if this film and role were his last crusade.

Hoffman's role in this picture is the tired out Gunther Bachmann, head of anti-terrorism in Hamburg, Germany. He smokes in every scene, drinks whenever he can, and does not trust American spies. The performance is more subtle than most of his previous turns and it is fascinating.

This actor has annoyed me in some films, but in this one, I was riveted by the subtlety and convincing portrayal.

I now imagine mid-life spies as rumpled stalwarts who are obstructed at every turn when they plan to do good things. Imagine Richard Vaughn of The Man From Uncle or Don Adams of Get Smart in such a mid-life - or a combination of the two.

The Hoffman portrayal is a more believable version, at least in appearance, of a Columbo. Bachmann, his associates, and his informants are increasingly irritated by the pestering of American, British, and French spies, rather than the reverse. He does not trust them, with good reason.

I do not know why people are not rushing in great numbers to see this independent film that is earning a small box office. It needs to be released into many more theaters and, in fact, has not yet been released in the UK at this writing.

The cast includes Rachel McAdams as an attorney, Willem Dafoe as a banker, Daniel Brühl, Nina Hoss, and Robin Wright as an American spy.

The movie's director is Anton Corbijn, known for his work in film, music video with top recording artists, and photography.

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