This week’s home video releases are anchored by a much-hyped project from writer-director Richard Linklater.
3½ stars (out of four)
Rated R for language including sexual references, and for teen drug and alcohol use
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand
So much has been made of the fact that writer-director Richard Linklater shot “Boyhood” over a period of 12 years that the merits of the film are in danger of slipping to the background. Yes, it is a monumental and artistically compelling feat for a big-name director to commit time and resources to a picture that won’t see the light of day for more than a decade. Yes, it is interesting to watch a film with actors that age – really age, not slip into increasing layers of makeup – before our eyes. But neither of these facts speak to the question most people want answered: Is this little miracle of cinema actually good? The answer is, “Yes.”
Look beyond the production hype, the five Golden Globe nominations and the appearances on numerous top-10 film lists, and one finds an intimate relationship drama that follows a boy and girl from childhood to young adulthood. The primary focus is on Mason (Ellar Coltrane), but the movie also looks at the most important people in Mason’s life. They include his sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter); their mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette); and his father, Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). When viewers meet the characters, Mason Sr. and Olivia are already separated, meaning the film becomes a poignant portrayal of what it means to grow up in a broken household.
Olivia, although smart enough to teach psychology at the college level, has a knack for bringing the wrong guys home, meaning Mason and Samantha endure a number of “father figures.” Fortunately, Mason Sr. is about as stable as an absentee parent can be, so he also plays a considerable role in their development.
Linklater made the movie by shooting just a few days per year over the 12-year span, so viewers never get a long glance at any particular period. He also refuses to spell things out for his audience, and he simply cuts to new periods rather than noting the amount of time that has passed. This takes getting used to, but once a viewer is settled in, it’s quite wonderful.
Watching “Boyhood” is an active experience, where the audience must piece things together as the 165-minute feature unspools. Some sequences are awkward and others are brilliant, but the dichotomy adds to the charm.
Perhaps Linklater’s boldest move was committing to his star at such a young age. One never knows, after all, if that super-cute child actor is going to transition into a compelling leading man. Coltrane does just fine, as does Linklater’s daughter. Both actor’s turn in earthy, believable performances with the ability to convince viewers that they are watching “real” people.
Unlike most movies, the plotting isn’t as important as the characters. Important things happen during “Boyhood,” but the movie’s main interest is in the process of growing up, which means everyday experiences and conversations represent much of what is depicted on screen. This is unusual, but it’s also wonderful, and it’s also – ultimately – more important than the fact that the movie was 12 years in the making.
The DVD contains no extra features. The Blu-ray release has a making-of feature and a Q&A with Linklater and the cast.
Get On Up
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language and violent situations
Available on: Blu-ray, DVD, digital download and on demand
James Brown was – by most accounts – an abusive, drug-addled control freak, which makes any celebration of his life a bit bizarre. There is no question, however, that he was also one of the most influential musicians in history, making “Get On Up” a fascinating-if-imperfect ride.
The movie is arguably too nice to Brown, as the man was repeatedly arrested for assaulting his third wife, Adrienne Rodriguez, and accused of drastically underpaying the members of his band. These things are downplayed in “Get On Up,” but that may be for the best. As dramatic as Brown’s personal life was, the public knows him best as the Godfather of Soul, and Tate Taylor’s movie is primarily interested in depicting the drive and passion that propelled him to a unique place in R&B history. Plus, it would be bad form to bash a deceased legend anyhow.
Taylor, who also made the 2011 film “The Help,” is an apt man to tackle the project, although “Get On Up” seems lightweight by comparison. The movie is a relatively straightforward biopic about a youth who climbed from object poverty to the top of the music world without losing his street-wise swagger. Actor Chadwick Boseman (“Draft Day,” “42”) is compelling in the title role, although he often mumbles his words even more dramatically than the real singer did. That means it can be difficult to digest the dialogue. Fortunately the rest of the cast, including Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Lennie James and Octavia Spencer, enunciate just fine.
“Get On Up” is at its best when Boseman and company are strutting through Brown’s high-powered musical numbers, and Boseman does strut. Any points the actor loses for slurring his words are easily regained for his remarkable dance moves.
“Get On Up” reminds viewers what music used to be when radio stations and promoters were royalty and the Internet was unfathomable to the masses. Those were the days when a talented performer like Brown could shoot to the top of the charts and become a household name … as long as the right people embraced him.
Taylor’s movie, which weighs in at 139 minutes, could have been trimmed. There are slow moments and Brown’s narcissism is sometimes off-putting, but it would have been silly to candy coat the man’s legacy any further.
Brown was a troubled man but an incredible performer, and “Get On Up” offers a small glimpse into his world.
Blu-ray and DVD extras include several making-of featurettes and an audio commentary with Taylor.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“No Good Deed”: Idris Elba plays an escaped convict who terrorizes a young mother (Taraji P. Henson). Both Elba and Henson earned Image Award nominations for their work in the film. Directed by Aimee Lagos.
“The Guest”: Grieving parents (Leland Orser and Sheila Kelley) welcome a man (Dan Stevens) who claims to be a war buddy of their deceased son into their home. Then, strange things begin to happen. Written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard (“You’re Next”).
“Horns”: Daniel Radcliffe plays a young man who sprouts horns shortly after he is accused of his girlfriend’s mysterious rape and murder. Max Minghella, Joe Anderson and Juno Temple also star. Directed by Alexandra Aja (“Piranha 3D”).
“Black Sails” – The Complete First Season: First eight episodes of the Starz series that serves as a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
“Left Behind”: Film adaptation of the novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Nicolas Cage stars as a pilot who is left to face what seems to be the end of the world when much of the population mysteriously disappears.
“Atlas Shrugged Part III – Who is John Galt?”: Third and final chapter of the recent film adaptation of Ayn Rand’s famed novel. Kristoffer Polaha and Laura Regan star. Directed by James Manera.
“Looking” – The Complete First Season: Initial eight episodes of the HBO dramedy about several friends living in San Francisco. Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett star.
“The Sword of Doom”: Criterion Collection restoration of Kihachi Okamoto’s 1966 Japanese film about a ruthless samurai (Tatsuya Nakadai). Toshiro Mifune also stars.
“Finders Keepers”: Creepy things happen when a young girl becomes attached to a doll that was left behind in their new home. Steve Austin, Tobin Bell, Jaime Pressly and Mark DeCarlo star. Directed by Alexander Yellen.
“Glee” – The Complete Fifth Season: Twenty most-recent episodes of the TV show about youth who sing in a high school show choir. This season is particularly noteworthy because it contains “The Quarterback,” an episode dedicated to deceased star Cory Monteith.
“Girls” – The Complete Third Season: The fourth season of this HBO series debuts Jan. 12. That gives fans about a week to catch up on the 10 episodes contained in this set. The show was created by and stars Lena Dunham.
“Archer” – The Complete Fifth Season: Most recent episodes of the FX animated series about superspy Sterling Archer.
“The Cosby Show” – Seasons 5 & 6: Lately, Bill Cosby has been in the news for everything except his acting. Nevertheless, this 1980s and ’90s sitcom was a huge hit. Fans who want to remember simpler times can dip into this release.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.