Reviews In Short is a semi-regular feature here on Thoughts On Film that basically consists of short, paragraph-long reviews of movies I have watched recently, old and new alike, which I didn’t get a chance to review in full. As always feel free to comment with your own thoughts and opinions on each of the films.

Boyhood

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Quite simply one of the best films released so far this year, Richard Linklater’s landmark coming-of-age movie was filmed over the course of 12 years. It chronicles the childhood of one boy which means we get to see him age naturally on-screen as opposed to the usual method of different actors being cast at different stages. This gives the film a naturalism and believability quite unlike any other coming-of-age movie. Linklater (previously known for the likes of the Before trilogy, Dazed and Confused and School of Rock) captures the nuances and details of growing up, with all the highs and lows that brings, and has delivered a beautiful and compelling film. So many movies these days go on longer than is needed but Boyhood earns every second of its huge 166 minute runtime. A truly special film that demands to be seen. 5/5

Chef

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Jon Favreau writes, directs and stars in this utterly charming food-themed comedy about a father and chef who, after he is fired from his prestigious job at a top restaurant, decides to start his own food truck with the help of his friend and young son, all so that he can continue cooking the type of food he wants to. You can easily read the film as one big metaphor for Favreau’s filmmaking career i.e. how the restaurant owner represents the movie studio execs telling him to cook the set menu/make the types of big bland movies people expect. However, putting that to one side it can still be enjoyed as a delightful and feel-good comedy that celebrates good food and family bonding, even if it does take things to generic places at times. Favreau and relative newcomer Emjay Anthony really sell the endearing father-son relationship and there’s fun supporting work from a star-studded cast that includes John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Scarlet Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. 3.5/5

Cold In July

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He might still be best known for playing Dexter (and David Fisher in Six Feet Under before that) on TV but Michael C. Hall is carving out a good film career for himself. He stars in this genre throwback as a good family man who late one night kills an intruder but unfortunately for him the intruder was a murderous ex-con and son of a recently paroled man who is gunning for revenge. From there it constantly morphs from genre-to-genre: one moment it’s a violent revenge thriller then it’s a horror then a police corruption flick and so forth. But it never feels like it’s lots of movies fighting for attention as director Jim Mickle (Stakeland, We Are What We Are) juggles the various genres with skill. Hall is terrific in the lead role and brilliantly supported by Sam Shepard and a cowboy hat-wearing Don Johnson. 4/5

Begin Again

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Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley star in this charming and inherently loveable music-themed romantic dramedy from the writer-director of the Irish film Once. Similar to that film this follows two musically-minded people who appear at first to be total opposites but bond over their love for music and, unsurprisingly, find their relationship blossoms along the way. It overcomes its somewhat generic foundations with a sharp script, endearing performances – who knew Knightley was so musically talented? – and a great soundtrack. To some extent it functions like a glossier Hollywood version of the aforementioned Once but there’s enough of a different vibe for it to feel like the director is reaching out rather than just retreading familiar ground. 4/5

Pudsey the Dog: The Movie

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Well this had to happen sooner or later. Britain’s Got Talent winner Pudsey the Dog now has his own movie and a cynical cash grab and ultimately rubbish it may be, it’s entirely innocous and good-hearted. The plot, what there is of it at any rate, follows the eponymous dog (voiced in pantomime fashion by Britain’s Got Talent judge David Walliams) as he joins a new family just as they’ve moved to the countryside. Once there we discover that there’s an evil businessman who wants to knock down the house to make way for a shopping centre. It sits somewhere between the live-action Charlotte’s Web movie and an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, cheap and cheerful with equal emphasis on both. It brings nothing in the way of artistry to the table – the acting is wooden, the jokes fall flat, the plot so thin you can barely notice it and so forth – but it’s harmless enough for the under 7s and should one day be added to the list of films put on to keep the young ‘uns quiet for 90 minutes. 2/5

 

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That’s it for Reviews In Short – until next time!

Some of this content was previously published at Scotcampus