Tag Archives: emma stone

Birdman (2014)

28 Nov

“Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige” remarks Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), a method actor recently hired to play a key part in Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance. Directed by veteran dramatic director Alejandro Inarritu (21 Grams, Amos Perros, Biutiful), Birdman follows a Broadway stage production over the course of several days, capturing the cynical characters of it’s production. The film’s titular character is actually the superhero alter ego of Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton), a washed-up, aging actor set on reclaiming his past glory by directing and starring in his own play called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. Riggan has faded from glory since his role in the blockbuster Birdman films, and though his influence in the artistic community is waning, Riggan is committed to becoming the Next Big Thing. Living partly in his fame-seeking fantasy world guided by the Birdman character from his films, Riggan’s desperate attempts at producing an authentic work of art collides with disillusionment with reality and increasing disconnect with those around him.

Despite Inarritu’s affinity for the bleak and somber, Birdman is incredibly upbeat and vibrant. Keaton is fantastic as the leading role, and gives a performance that is both inspiring, bizarre and desperately meta (Keaton himself was the star of Tim Burton‘s successful Batman films from the early 90’s). Norton’s performance of Mike Shiner is also fantastic as he is essentially playing a younger, more successful version of Riggan. The rest of the all-star cast is composed of Zach Galifianakis as Riggan’s lawyer/agent Jake, Emma Stone as Riggan’s daughter Sam, and the always-excellent Naomi Watts as Lesley, the actress and former lover of Mike.

Birdman is entirely shot in one simulated take, giving the audience a feel that we are watching a play-within-a-play unfold as characters come and go on set and in between acts. The camera acts as a sort of character itself, swooping in and out of scenes at will, sometimes tracking characters for 20 minutes or more. It’s absolutely mesmerizing to watch, and should make for a shoe-in Best Cinematography nominee come Oscar time.

Though Birdman makes a point to capture various points of view, most of the drama revolves around Riggan’s denial of reality and constant distance from those closest to him – namely, his daughter and ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan). Though I was expecting a bit more laughs in something billed as a “Dramedy Satire”, Birdman provides some incredibly thought-provoking commentary about fame, relationships, and staying relevant in an increasingly disconnected world.

Rarely is the existential crisis this cool.

Similar to: Adaptation (2002), Magnolia (1999), Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Rating: 8/10 

Advertisements

Gangster Squad (2013)

8 Jan

Gangster Squad is to films noir what The Avegners was to superhero flicks.

It is loud, explosive, fast paced and just good ol’ crime-fighting fun. Sure, it’s not the most intellectual piece of cinema, nor the most dramatic. But Gangster Squad gets it ferocity from it’s fast-paced, episodic action sequences, and a slew of great performances.

The casting here is remarkable and the drama is cleverly paced with welcome bouts of comedic timing. Sean Penn, as the ruthless crime leader Cohen, is at the top of his game. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are great together and Josh Brolin makes a whole-hearted likable good-guy (for once).

Added to the film’s style is a pitch-pefect retro look and beautiful Matrix-esc action scenes. The story is catered to meet modern audiences, but is still reminiscent of great films noir and gives heaping doses of thrills and emotion.  This film packs a violent punch and though not genre-defining, Gangster Squad is one of the best crime films I have seen in a long time.

rating 7/10 

gangster-squad-movie-image-sean-penn

5 Films I’m Looking Forward To In 2013

20 Dec

With a look ahead, 2013 is shaping up to be great. So far, it looks like there are a hearty amount of sci-fi epics planned including Oblivion, After Earth, Elysium,and Pacific Rim. There are also a good amount sequels in the works expanding franchises like Anchorman, 300, The Hunger Games, The Hobbit, Scary Movie, Star Trek, The Hangover, GI JoeDespicable Me and Monsters Inc.  And then of course we have the slew of remakes including The Evil Dead, Carrie, Robocob, and the superhero films The Wolverine, Thor 2, Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 all lined up for a 2013 release.

Below are my picks for the five movies I’m most excited about and why they made the list:

1-   Gangster Squad    Why? Originally planned for this year, WB decided to halt the release until after the new year in order to tone down some of the violent content.  If the all star cast (Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin) isn’t enough to reel you in, think of this as sort of the “L.A. Confidential” of the new Millennium.  The trailer looks stunning and with such great talent under a great director, you can’t go wrong. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about an upcoming neo-noir flick.  Release Date –  Jan 11th

2-  Stoker    Why? Mention psychological thriller and Chan-Wook Park in the same sentence and I’m sold.  Nicole Kidman practically guarantees a knock-out performance, but I’m interested in the supporting work from newcomers Mia Wichowski and Matthew Goode. Release Date – Feb 28th

3-  Untitled Terrence Malick Project    Why?  The mysterious director has kept tight wraps under this project – which apparently doesn’t even have a working title yet – but confirmed actors include Christian Bale, Cate Blanchet, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Benicio Del Toro, Holly Hunter, Rooney Mara and Florence Welch – WOW!!  Though Malick apparently has directed four films to come out next year, this one in particular has me overflowing with curiosity.  What we know is that the story is set around the Austin, TX music scene and involves some romantic drama of sorts. The rest is a mystery.  Release Date – Late Summer or Fall 2013

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2062700/

4-  Nymphomaniac    Why? Shia LaBeouf is leaving his Disney and family-friendly roots aside to work with one of the most well-respected art-house directors of our time: Lars Von Trier.  Expect full male nudity in the first installment of Von Trier’s three-part NC-17 project.   Release Date – Fall 2013

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1937390/

5-  A Good Day To Die Hard    Why?  Cause it’s Die Hard 5! When have we ever needed an excuse to see Bruce Willis kick some ass?  Release Date – Feb 14th