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The Hamptons Teens in Affluenza Are Here to Warn ... Somebody

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

It's hard to say exactly whom writer-director Kevin Asch is trying to warn with Affluenza, a teen drama about wealthy Hampton-ites that engages in more than a little virtuous tut-tutting. Is he cautioning a younger generation, in danger of taking their privilege for granted? Or, as suggested by a businessman who berates photographer and sometime weed dealer Fisher (Ben Rosenfield) in the opening scene, their laissez-faire parents? Or is the audience simply being warned away from types like Fisher’s host for the summer, a manic uncle played by Steve Guttenberg whose off-putting pencil mustache alone makes him a dubious role model? Whoever it’s aimed at, the film is more focused on lamenting American culture than correcting it. Affluenza is set in 2008 on »


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Richard Linklater Explains His Secret Movie Boyhood, Which He Shot Over 12 Years

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

"It's the secret films you have to watch out for," jokes Richard Linklater of his new movie Boyhood, a furtive experiment that he kept quiet for more than a decade. In 2002, he chose a first-grader named Ellar Coltrane, the 6-year-old son of two Texas artists; cast Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke as his divorced mom and dad; Linklater's own daughter, Lorelei, as his older sister; and committed to shooting 10 minutes of footage about this faux family every year until Coltrane graduated high school. The name frames the film as the boy's story, though in execution, every character owns a piece. "To me, Boyhood was a limited title," admits Linklater, who had wanted to call it 12 Years</ »


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Honour Puts a Social Issue Into a Thriller Framework

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Shan Khan’s London-set debut feature, Honour, attempts to combine a thriller framework with a social-issue concern -- "Honour killings," which, per the movie’s closing credits, are estimated by the United Nations to total well into the four figures on a yearly basis. Khan invites the possibility of having his political agenda override his filmmaking responsibilities; thankfully, though, he reveals a strong knack for constructing suspense, and the movie’s ultimate flaws are more narrative-based than message-related. Honour tackles its subject from the perspective of Mona (Aiysha Hart), a British-Pakistani real-estate agent who develops a relationship with a Punjabi man (Nikesh Patel). However, Mona’s strict family -- led by he »


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Linklater's Glorious Boyhood Captures Life in Bloom

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

The business of childhood is the business of waiting: waiting for Christmas, waiting for school to let out, waiting to be old enough to stay up past nine. No other movie I can think of captures the wistfulness of those days full of waiting than Richard Linklater's Boyhood, an ambitious and clever undertaking that could easily have turned into a filmmaking disaster. Instead, Linklater ends up with a quiet stunner of a movie that yields to time rather than try to bend it to its will. Boyhood had the curious effect of making me feel lost, uneasy, a little alone in the inexorable march forward — and also totally, emphatically alive.

See also: Our interview with »


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The Provocateur: Luis Bunuel Is Still Jabbing at Eyeballs

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

The observable universe is a million million million million miles large — that's one followed by 24 zeroes — and 13.8 billion years old. We know this. But when you're standing in a 400-square-foot coffee shop for 10 minutes, waiting for your venti decaf latte, that staggering cosmic breadth is dwarfed by the rage of the moment. If you gave it any thought, you would recognize how trivial your impatience is compared to, say, the 380,000 years it took the universe to cool enough for hydrogen atoms to form. Cosmological time has a funny way of making our lives seem insignificant. The only consolation is that humankind remains uniquely equipped to ignore the obvious and carry on caring about things anyway. You can't help it: The latte matters. We call this The Absurd.

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Art vs. State: Panahi's Closed Curtain Unveils Iran

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Sometimes, if not often enough, movies demand to be watched as something more than just expensive daydreams — they come festooned with real-world urgency and relevance, and the context of their existence kicks the shit out of how entertained we may or may not be at any given moment. No contemporary filmmaker possesses the hyper-context belonging to Jafar Panahi, who has become justly world famous for not only being under house arrest in Iran until 2016 and banned from filmmaking for 20 years (for anti-government "propaganda") but also for continuing to make films anyway.

Closed Curtain opens with a five-minute-long view through the security grate of Panahi's beach house, as a cab pulls up down by the Caspian beach and slowly disgorges a writer (Kambuzia Parto »


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Outlaw Saga Road to Paloma Moves Too Slowly

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Road to Paloma contains a junkyard fistfight in which one of the pugilists gets bludgeoned in the face with a rusty gasoline can (yes, we hear the bridge of his nose snap); a sex scene with the ravishing Lisa Bonet (who eerily doesn't seem to have aged since her tenure on The Cosby Show); and the longest, most balletic ashes-spreading sequence in film history. There's an aerobic lap dance, a gruesome rape, more beatings.

Yet for all that, this film is numbingly dull, an outlaw-on-the-run saga as laconic and slow-moving as its fierce, hirsute protagonist (Game of Thrones' Jason Momoa, who also debuts as director). Wolf (Momoa), a Mojave loner, is hiding out somewhere in the Southwest after avenging his mother's murder.

Told by a mechanic buddy that »


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The Empty Hours Is a Studied Coming-of-Age Narrative

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

At the risk of overextending a writing-workshop maxim, great cinema often proves that the tale is in the telling. The primacy of visuals necessitates that how a story is told weighs more heavily on the film's success than the nature of the story itself.

Such is the case with Aaron Fernandez's The Empty Hours, a studied, coming-of-age narrative that makes a familiar tale sing. Set at a by-the-hour seaside motel in Veracruz, the picture follows 17-year-old Sebastian (Kristyan Ferrer) as he starts managing the establishment. With little human contact and plenty of free time, Sebastian's curiosity gets the best of him, as he can't help but eavesdrop and spy upon the various lovers coming and going. Sebastian develops a friendship with beautiful Miranda (Adriana Paz), whose l »


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The Three Craziest Moments of Nic Cage's New Rage, Ranked

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

How has there not already been a Nicolas Cage movie called Rage? That title could fit many of the Drive Angry star's late-career time-wasters. Here it works best as an imperative rather than an announcement of theme: You may feel some anger if you pay to watch this. Or you may not, as Rage offers exactly what you think a Nic Cage movie called Rage would, except maybe for continually inspired lunacy. It's got the kidnapped daughter, the parade of tough-guy monologues, the scenes of Cage killing and looking anguished as he washes his hands, some pretty good knife fights, a not-bad car chase, a couple scenes of torture that director Paco Cabezas clearly isn't too invested in, and three moments of prime-Cage weirdness, each a readymade for future Wtf clip reels. »


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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Is Much Better Than Its Predecessor

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Who knows why, but the sight of apes sitting tall and proud on horseback is stirring in a primal way. That's one of the best images in Matt Reeves's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to the enormously successful 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (directed by Rupert Wyatt), in which a bunch of chimps, after breathing in a vaporized version of a special serum, become super-smart and break out of chimp jail, running roughshod over the Golden Gate Bridge and scurrying to eternal safety in the Redwood forest. If you've seen the first movie, or even if you haven't, you may wonder, as two fellow critics and I did, if a Rise shouldn't actually come after a Dawn. Or perhaps they should occur simultaneously? No matter: Dawn of the P »


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The Battered Bastards of Baseball, the Original Bad News Bears?

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

A mere 10 minutes of The Battered Bastards of Baseball will have you convinced that its namesake, a ragtag minor league team named the Portland Mavericks active in the '70s, must have served as the inspiration for the Bad News Bears.

A celebratory family affair to a fault, the film was directed by team owner Bing Russell's grandsons Chapman and Maclain Way. It also features interviews from his son Kurt, whom you may know as the star of such entertainments as Overboard and Sky High.

The result is true to the rough-around-the-edges spirit of the team itself — which is to say, vibrant, rebellious, and fun as all hell — if also utterly biased. The Brothers Way aren't as innovative behind the camera as their subjects were on the field, but t »


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Land Ho!, a Buddy Road Trip Through Iceland

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

Land Ho! is a How Grandpa Got His Groove Back for the geezer set, a buddy road trip through Iceland, starring two divorced men with a combined age of 150 years. The writer-directors, Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, are 30 and 34, respectively, young enough to be their leading men’s grandchildren but just old enough to empathize with their wrinkles. Ringleader Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) is a rich, reluctantly retired doctor who fancies himself the Joe Francis of septuagenarians. (And his taste in women doesn't skew much older.) As for the polite but prickly Colin (Paul Eenhoorn, the late-blooming talent of This is Martin Bonner), he’s aware that he’s merely a freeloading passenger in Mitch’s mission but quickly shakes off any guilt about his companions »


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Music Festival Doc Made in America Is a Feature-Length Commercial for the Jay-z Brand

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

There's no type of documentary as shallow as those covering modern music festivals, a fact reconfirmed by Made in America, a recap of the two-day 2012 Philadelphia fest sponsored by Budweiser and organized/headlined by Jay-z.

Directed by Ron Howard with his usual lack of personality, the film serviceably mixes performance footage and interviews with the performers, a wide range of hip-hop, soul, pop, and rock acts. That this diverse lineup speaks to the festival's overarching celebration of the "American dream" and the "melting pot" is not lost on Howard, but the dictates of his project — especially to give ample screen time to the event's bands, rappers and singers — hinders any investigation of such issues.

There are many sound bites about economic »


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A Story of Creative High School Engineers Told in Underwater Dreams

8 July 2014 9:00 PM, PDT

There's an inspiring short-feature doc buried in the sprawling 90 minutes of Underwater Dreams.

Perhaps the bright and creative high school engineers whose story Mazzio's film tells could give it a once-over and a working structure. In 2004 the robotics team from Phoenix's Carl Hayden Community High School (known as "the gang school") field-tripped to Santa Barbara to compete against the best colleges in an underwater robotics competition.

With an $800 robot rigged up from Pvc pipes and tampons, the Hayden squad — all Hispanic, all the children of undocumented workers — pulled off an upset, besting even those ringers from MIT. That story, told in interviews and restaged footage, takes up about half of Mazzio's sunny doc. The rest follows up a couple »


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