~Upstairs at the Savoy~
Starts Friday, August 8
Rated R; 164 minutes
Dan Mecca, The Film Stage (excerpted)
Writer-director Richard Linklater (Waking Life, the Before trilogy) returns with Boyhood, a film 12 years in the making and worth every minute of the wait. Shot one week at a time over the course of a decade, Linklater explores the formative years of a young man named Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane. Born into separated parents, played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (doing some of the best work in their careers), Mason represents some part of a childhood all of us have known. This is a film of many small moments, all added together to make something quite wonderful.
Arquette is a single mom struggling to pay the rent while Hawke’s dad character is somewhere in Alaska, popping in when it suits him. When Mom makes the decision to move to Houston to save some money and be closer to her own mother, Mason’s older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) throws a temper-tantrum. Mason looks a bit more confused, barely catching a glimpse of his best friend as their car drives away forever. These are the scenes that make up a lifetime.
As Mason grows from young child to budding teenager to young adult, his development seamlessly reflects our own. We watch him study lingerie catalogs with his friends when he’s 12, brag about sexual experiences he hasn’t had at 14 and get his heart broken in the years that follow. Within a two-and-a-half-hour runtime (which soars by), Mason is everything from a cute, precocious child to a long-haired, attitude-riddled teenager. We sympathize with him because we’ve lived with him, as Linklater has, over these last 12 years.
~Upstairs at the Savoy~
Magic in the Moonlight
Starts Friday, August 15
Rated PG-13; 98 minutes
Andrea Chase, Killer Movie Reviews (excerpted)
Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight is a sharp, sophisticated consideration of the limits of certitude and the seduction of illusion, masquerading as a comedy of manners that evokes the best of Noel Coward and George Bernard Shaw. Allen takes us to 1928, and the French Riviera, where Stanley (Colin Firth) a brilliant, but misanthropic, magician has been brought in to expose Sophie (Emma Stone), a charming medium of purportedly astounding gifts. Stanley is a man of science, but as scientific explanations for Sophie’s gifts dematerialize under his scrutiny, he is forced to confront the fact that he may not know everything, but not necessarily for the worse.
Firth, effortlessly charming even as he is spewing bile on an unfortunate assistant, and Stone with her open, frank manner and complete self-possession are perfect foils. No matter how caustic Stanley becomes, Firth is still eminently sympathetic, particularly as he sees his world-view crumbling and he becomes a picture of increasingly desperate bemusement. No matter what Sophie may or may not be up to, she is just an eminently like-able. It creates a subtle, delicious tension for us in the audience as we are put in the position of wanting them both to be right. Plus, Allen gives them superb dialogue that crackles with wit and sophistication. There is also a dissection of Stanley by a psychiatrist that will be studied by film historians for decades to come for the way it encapsulates what (we think) we know about Allen himself.
Ultimately, and this is where Allen is at his best, Magic in the Moonlight forces us to ponder our own choices about what to believe, and what to dismiss, and what the consequences of those choices might be. It can’t be a coincidence that he has set the action in 1928, when Fascism was on the rise in a world that wasn’t paying attention, and his first scene in Berlin, where decadence was the order of the day as the seeds of the Holocaust were taking root. Take it as a effervescent trifle if you will, but there’s more than just fol-de-rol and tomfoolery going on here.
~Upstairs at the Savoy~
Rated R; 100 minutes
Matthew Turner, View London (excerpted)
Writer-director John Michael McDonagh's Calvary is a superbly written, darkly funny and powerfully moving mystery with a terrific supporting cast and a magnificent central performance from Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson stars as Father James, a parish priest in a coastal village in County Sligo, Ireland, who receives a death sentence from one of his parishioners during confession. The man in question gives Father James a week to get his house in order, telling him that he will meet and kill him on the beach, a week on Sunday.
Though Father James apparently knows the identity of his would-be murderer, he nonetheless calmly goes about his weekly rounds, encountering a number of potential suspects. Gleeson is magnificent, delivering an eminently compassionate performance that is genuinely moving to watch, as each of his parishioners attempts to undermine, denigrate or challenge his faith. His interactions with Fiona (Kelly Reilly), his troubled daughter from his marriage before he joined the priesthood after his wife's death, are particularly touching, as he struggles with the knowledge that his decision to join the priesthood has meant that he has, paradoxically, swapped being a father for being a Father.
The superbly written script keeps you guessing throughout as to the would-be killer's identity, unfolding less as a whodunnit than a who's-gonna-do-it, while providing a contemplative portrait of faith and guilt that is ultimately deeply moving, regardless of your own personal convictions. The dialogue is packed full of delicious lines and McDonagh orchestrates a number of powerfully memorable scenes that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.