REVIEW: 21 Years: Richard Linklater

5 04 2016

21 Years Richard LinklaterWhen the folks assembling the Criterion Collection edition of “Boyhood” go scouting for bonus features (and apparently this is happening), I hope they include Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood’s documentary “21 Years: Richard Linklater.” Such is really the best location for an anecdotal and borderline hagiographic tribute to the perennially underappreciated director.

The directors do not necessarily cast his work in a new light or uncover latent themes running through his filmography. “21 Years” is simply a magnificent feting of Linklater as told by the people who love him the most, both collaborators and contemporaries. Linklater is noticeably absent from the proceedings, talked about but never speaking for himself.

But even without a particularly revelatory angle, Dunaway and Wood still find ways to delight, amuse and enlighten with “21 Years.” Want to know how Linklater gets such natural sounding dialogue while also maintaining a high degree of precision? Let his actors tell you an amusing story about how they got cooly chided for veering off script. Curious about Linklater’s casting instincts? Listen to Anthony Rapp or Zac Efron recount how the director believed in them when they did not necessarily believe in themselves.

The portrait sketched is one of a gentle, unassuming yet visionary artist. So maybe with a little more vision, “21 Years: Richard Linklater” would be the celebratory toast he deserves. But even absent that, it’s a worthy explainer and salute that would be all too perfect directly before or after one of the director’s masterpieces. B2halfstars

What To Look Forward To: “Green Zone”

4 11 2009

A scant five days after the best movies of 2009 are crowned at the Academy Awards, a movie will be released that could have been among those.  “Green Zone” was slated for release this year, but the decision was made to push it back to 2010.  This was probably for financial reasons as so many great movies get lost in the heap during the month of December, and this year has taught us that a movie can make a nice chunk of change in the early months of the year.

“Green Zone” reunites the versatile Matt Damon, who at the time of release could be fresh off an Oscar win or nomination for either “The Informant!” or “Invictus,” with Paul Greengrass, director of the final two installments of the Bourne trilogy.  But Greengrass is capable of making something other than an epic action movie; he was nominated for Best Director at the Academy awards in 2006 for his work on “United 93.”  Damon’s character Roy Miller is a U.S. Army officer in the volatile Green Zone region, the center of international presence in Baghdad, who discovers that the CIA is working directly in opposition to his efforts to remove terrorist leaders.  In order to do what he feels is the greater good, he goes rogue.  Featuring an ensemble cast including Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, and Oscar nominees Greg Kinnear and Amy Ryan, “Green Zone” can hopefully provide awards-level entertainment in the fairly barren winter months.

However, the movie being set in Iraq could hamper the film’s receipts.  There has yet to be any bonanza made off a movie set in the Middle East, and only recently has their been a movie, “The Hurt Locker,” that has opened to widespread critical acclaim (although I loved “The Kingdom” … never have I felt so patriotic).  That movie focused more on characters and not on action, and if the same applies to “Green Zone,” it should do fine.  Universal put out two trailers for the movie this week.  The domestic trailer makes it look more like the “Bourne” movies with plenty of action, while the international trailer focuses more on the plot.  I embedded the international trailer here because if you have read this blog at all, you know my main concern is story.  A side note/quick pondering, does this mean that Universal thinks that Americans only want action and no plot?  Whatever the case may be for “Green Zone,” I’m sold.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 16, 2009)

16 10 2009

The “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) of this week does not precisely fit its billing.  It is not independent (in fact, it’s a studio movie), but unfortunately it is little-known.  Released just last September, “Ghost Town” is one of 2008’s hidden jewels.  It is a witty and wry comedy with a simple yet fantastical premise.  While undergoing a surgical procedure, Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) dies for seven minutes.  He walks out of the operation with a strange side effect – he can see and communicate with the souls of the dead.  While our natural inclination as skeptical moviegoers is to assume that we know the plot just by hearing the premise, “Ghost Town” defies the clichés.  The result is a sentimental movie that tickles the funny bone but warms the heart (and potentially rupturing the tear ducts).

As mentioned earlier, Pincus is unwillingly able to talk to dead people.  One such soul, Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), takes a special interest in Pincus.  Frank wants to use Pincus to tie up some loose ends from his former life.  His widow, the gorgeous paleontologist Gwen (Tea Leoni), is engaged to a man who doesn’t deserve her.  However, the misanthropic Pincus is hardly an ideal wooer, and it will take all that is in him to unleash something resembling charm.  As he grows to know Gwen, patches of sensitivity are revealed beneath his Scrooge-like coating.  But even more unexpectedly, through the ghost that follow him and bark demands incessantly, Pincus begins to discover what a tremendous impact his life could have on everyone around him.

I love a movie with a message, yet it is nearly impossible to find one that has good values without being overly preachy.  “Ghost Town” strikes just the right cord, pushing its message but not getting in your face with it.  The lessons that Pincus learns are applicable to our everyday lives, and they can be summed up in a quote from Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

I implore you to give “Ghost Town” a view sometime soon.  It plays all the time on HBO, so there’s no reason not to watch; resist the temptation to watch some other mindless movie.  If you want some light entertainment with a soul, this is your movie.