WEEKEND ROUNDUP: Boys of Summer, The Story of Love and Equality, BlackStar Film Festival and More

Marriage Equality remains a controversial topic for folks on both sides of the issue. Because the battle is so heated, people rarely take time to actually hear arguments from the other side. Filmmaker Becca Roth set out, along with her girlfriend, to open a dialogue between both parties in this political and social war. The result? One: A Story of Love and Equality.

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Movie Meter: Guardians of the Galaxy Will Obliterate the Weekend Box Office—And Rightfully So

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Consider the summer movie season saved. What sounds like an unlikely sort of superhero action flick—seriously, two of the heroes in question are a giant, walking plant, and a feisty, weapons-expert raccoon (voiced by Philly’s Bradley Cooper)—in the hands of director James Gunn becomes more fun than you might believe. It’s equal parts funny, touching, and exhilarating in a most unexpected way. Scoff if you must, but you’ll be hearing a great deal about this one in the next couple weeks. A summer blockbuster triumph. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Get On Up: The Godfather of Soul gets the full bio-pic treatment at last, but can you imagine the number of auditions they had to go through to find a suitable James Brown? In the end, director Tate Taylor went with Chadwick Boseman (fresh off his turn as Jackie Robinson in 42), who has the unenviable task of trying to bring the energy and fearsome showmanship of the hardest-working man in show business. From the sound of things, the producers have gotten a lot of things right. Expect great things from Boseman amidst an absolutely devastating soundtrack. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

Code Black: You want a breathlessly interesting way to access the health care debate in this country? Ryan McGarry’s enthralling documentary about L.A. County’s fabled emergency room—one of the first in the country to utilize what would now be considered standard emergency care—follows the trials and tribulations of the dedicated doctors and interns of the hospital’s trauma bay, having to make life-saving decisions on the fly on a regular basis, even as their badly injured patients, by nature of their immediate need, bypass the existing health-care system in order to get care. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

WAIT FOR DVD

Alive Inside: A documentary about the power of music to overcome mental deterioration, this Sundance audience winner from director Michael Rossato-Bennett sounds like it crams a good deal of uplift in its short-running time (the film clocks in at 75 minutes.) It follows Dan Cohen, a social worker, as he criss-crosses the country speaking the gospel of music as a healing restorer of identity, memory and self to those afflicted souls in need of some kind of cognitive therapy. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%

SKIP IT

Magic in the Moonlight: A colossal misfire from Woody Allen, and a crashing bore to boot. Allen has assembled yet another top-notch cast—including Colin Firth and Emma Stone—and shoots in yet another picturesque part of Western Europe (this being the South of France.) But his script is so half-finished and shoddy, the whole enterprise collapses. The story involves a magician (Firth), who loves debunking self-described soothsayers and oracles as frauds, until he meets a fetching young woman (Stone), whom, to his shock, actually seems legit. I actually feel sorry for Firth, who is given the impossible task of trying to make his boorish character seem believable; and Stone, for having to fall in love as a result. Rotten Tomatoes Score:

Johnny Weir Shot Secret Gay Film at Sochi Winter Olympics

Apparently Olympic skater—and Quarryville, Pennsylvania native—Johnny Weir was doing more than moderating for NBC (and Instagramming his outlandish outfits) at this year’s Sochi Winter Olympics. Amid all the flack he took for being there in the first place, Weir was covertly working with a film crew to document what it was like being gay at the games.

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What to See at the BlackStar Film Festival

Michael K. Williams in "They Die By Dawn," screening Sunday during the BlackStar Film Festival.

Isaiah Washington in “They Die By Dawn,” screening Sunday during the BlackStar Film Festival.

The 3rd annual BlackStar Film Festival kicks off this Thursday, July 31st. The event comprises screenings of more than 40 feature and short films, and panels made up of filmmakers, artists, and other film-industry industry professionals.

BlackStar celebrates cinema by and about people of African descent, highlighting works from emerging filmmakers across the globe. The festival includes works from a range of genres—narrative, documentary, experimental, even music video—and seeks to cultivate an open space for dialogue on the varied landscape of black life.

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Movie-O-Meter: Our Take On Lucy, A Most Wanted Man, Happy Christmas, and More

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Lucy: Luc Besson’s bugnuts quasi-action-thriller-cum-time-and-space-meditation stars Scarlett as a student living in Taipei who gets embroiled in a nasty Asian drug cartel and accidentally ingests an enormous amount of a synthetic drug that allows her to access up to 100 percent of her brain capacity. It’s not a great action flick, and it’s pretty silly as anything more serious, but somehow his energy—and Johansson’s powerful performance—make it more than the idiotic sum of its parts. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%

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INTERVIEW: Boyhood Director Richard Linklater

Writer/Director Richard Linklater has released a steady stream of critically adored indie films since 1988′s It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, but it’s taken the Texan much longer to connect with larger audiences. He doesn’t move in grand plot schemes or subversive genre machinations, his films are content to spend their time exploring lengthy, engrossing philosophical discussions between protagonists—be they young, yet-to-be-lovers in Before Sunrise, an animated character exploring a dream world in Waking Life, or an undercover cop in the near future who tries a new drug and begins to unravel in A Scanner Darkly.

His new film, Boyhood, takes the idea of time passing (another frequent obsession in his work) and actually builds it into the fabric of the film. The result, shot over 12 years, begins with a 6-year-old protagonist and follows him through the day he leaves home for college. It is easily one of the best films of the year. He spoke with us about his body of work, his life outside filmmaking, and the female protagonist with whom he most identifies.

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Movie-O-Meter: Boyhood Shines, Sex Tape Fizzles + Our Take On Other New Releases

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Boyhood: Easily one of the most-anticipated films of the summer by film critics and indie fans since its debut at Sundance this past January. Richard Linklater’s concept film was shot over the course of some 12 years, chronicling the childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood of one boy, Mason (Eller Coltrane), as he navigates the difficult and confusing waters of growing up with two loving-but-divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette). Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

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Rapid-Fire Questions With a Grumpy Zach Braff

wish i was here zach braff

Zach Braff in “Wish I Was Here.”

Zach Braff is best known as the affable Dr. Dorian on the long-running TV comedy Scrubs, but the actor/writer/director has also made his own films, beginning with 2004′s Garden State. Making the press rounds in support of his newest effort, the grammatically questionable Wish I Was Here, the 39-year-old South Orange native has clearly grown in the decade between film releases: The film concerns a winsome father of two whose acting career and marriage are floundering as he finds out that his father, played by Mandy Patinkin, is dying of cancer.

We caught up with him on the phone from a Chicago hotel relatively early in the morning.

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Movie-O-Meter: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Could Be the Summer’s Best Blockbuster

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: The improbable rise of the apes continues, both in the film’s narrative and in the minds of critics, who continue to swoon over this series, written by husband and wife team Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver. The brilliant chimp Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), a decade after the events of the first film, remains a shockingly convincing and sympathetic hero, a mightily conflicted Shakespearian protagonist stuck amongst war-monger apes and humans, alike. The film takes its sweet time to build to its shattering climax, also an anomaly in a season where most films—action or otherwise—are all too quick to try and appeal to a jacked-up audience’s fast-twitch ADD tendencies. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

WAIT FOR DVD

Venus in Fur: A thoroughly striking film from the ever-controversial Roman Polanski, based on the Tony-winning Broadway play by David Ives. It concerns the extensive auditioning of a bedraggled actress (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s wife) by the director (Polanski doppelganger Mathieu Amalric) of a theatrical adaptation of the infamous Austrian S&M novel. The power dynamics between the couple—always a Polanski obsession—shift back and forth until the lines get sufficiently blurred to set up the film’s fascinating conclusive flourish. We suggest waiting for the DVD only because the nature of the production—two people in an empty theater, lashing out at one another—would likely play as well on a flat-screen as it would on a silver one. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

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