Boyhood - Shot off-and-on over the span of 12 years, Richard Linklater’s incredible new movie centers on a young boy between the years of 6 to 18. Linklater’s naturalistic approach to performances and dialogue make each scene gradually build to a powerful cumulative effect. This is a rare movie that lets the audience place themselves into the same timeline as its characters. For some (myself included), the movie is bound to be an emotional experience that triggers deep, personal memories. Linklater, along with his gifted and committed cast, have made a memory piece that’s timeless in its relatable humanity.
Guardians of the Galaxy - An inventively off-kilter comic book space opera, Guardians greatest asset is in the camaraderie between its main characters. Director James Gunn is smart enough not to let the colorful CG landscapes or convoluted mayhem upstage its charismatic leads.
Most Wanted Man - Anton Corbjn's low-key and absorbing spy thriller features the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last screen performances. The story involves various Hamburg operatives who are closing in on a terrorist cell. Hoffman, looking more rumpled and bleary-eyed than ever, gives us a haunting portrait of a man collapsing under the weight of his past.
Lucy - Here’s an anomaly: an original, summer action movie with a female lead. Sounds impossible, but French movie mogul Luc Besson has delivered a rare bird in a summer filled with numbing and redundant 3D spectacles. The problem is that the movie, while watchable and well-crafted, makes virtually no sense on any logical level. The movie proposes that by merely using a higher percentage of our brain capacity, we can manipulate time, matter and access people’s memories. Writer/director Besson has skipped right past science-fiction fantasy and into the realm of magical superheroes. If you can roll with that, good luck sticking through the finale - which, spoiler alert; has Scarlett Johansson’s title character turning herself into a USB thumb drive. Yes, that actually happened.
Hercules - Proof that some filmmakers will never stop finding work, Brett Ratner directs this hollow and flavorless origin story, the SECOND Hercules movie released so far this year. In this case we have Dwayne Johnson, one of the most charismatic actors working today. Hercules is typically overwrought Hollywood myth-making, filled with weightless CGI creatures and spastic 3D battle scenes. Johnson, as always, cuts a formidably heroic figure, but the movie surrounding him lacks a point of view or sense of being.