Boyhood – 8

A charming passage through the growing-up years of one Mason Evans; our own youths may have been different, but we recognized the situations, with lots of nods and knowing smiles. Richard Linklater’s technique – filming the same actors over a 12-year period – gets all the attention, deservedly – but one shouldn’t overlook the performance of Patricia Arquette, the single mom who makes bad choices in men but holds her family together. The talkie nature is reminiscent of the Linklater’s series with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but it’s astonishing how much better this movie was than his latest, Before Midnight.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – 7

The fact that it struck me as unrealistic that Malcolm was able to revive a hydroelectric plant while the rest of the movie featured talking apes says how convincing was the overall illusion. The special effects were indeed special, but it was the humanity of Caesar and his cohort, as well as the performance of Jason Clarke and Keri Russell as the humans that carried the film. The story was predictable, but seeing it performed by apes gave it enough novelty; and the one philosophical thought – can one bad ape, like one bad human, ruin things for everybody? – gave it a modicum of depth. My major criticism: there seemed to be an infinite number of apes, no matter how many got shot and despite the finite resources of nature.

The Fault In Our Stars – 3

A young adult movie not recommended for anyone over 14 or under 12. Shailene Woodley is commendable as a teenage cancer sufferer, but her love interest is pretty insufferable and Sam Trammell as her father turns in the worst acting performance of the year. Laura Dern is good, as usual, although it’s hard to reconcile her scattery emotions with her daughter’s calm. Then again, there is hardly a scene that rings with any truth, capped by Hazel’s lugging her respirator up a ladder in the Anne Frank house. And I won’t even get into whatever Willem Dafoe is doing at Gus’s funeral. This all must have worked better in the book. If you’re 13.