[#2015oscardeathrace] Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

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Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Cast: Michael Keaton, Zack Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts

Screenplay: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

119 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence.

Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Director (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor (Michael Keaton) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone) (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Original Screenplay (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound Editing (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound Mixing (Awards Not Yet Announced)

Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography (Awards Not Yet Announced)

 

Wow. Birdman, like Interstellar, is a movie you just kind of have to let it settle in to get something out. This movie actually kept me in silent thought for hours after leaving the theater, but what an incredible journey.

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Riggan (Michael Keaton, Batman, Need for Speed) is an aging former star, known for his Birdman franchise of superhero films from some time ago. Now, he wants to reignite the flame of his career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” with the help of friend and lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover, Muppets Most Wanted). He has just fixed a casting problem by hiring wild card performer Mike (Edward Norton, Fight Club, The Grand Budapest Hotel) who has complicated production right before preview nights start. Now, Riggan’s entire world is crumbling around him as his career rides the line, his complex relationship with daughter and assistant Sam (Emma Stone, The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) melts away, and his cracked relationship with actress Laura (Andrea Riseborough, Oblivion, Welcome to the Punch) takes on startling new weight, all while being egged on by his ego in the latest film from visionary storyteller Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Biutiful).

This movie just melts the mind with its constant onslaught of problems for Riggan and his production. I love the cinematography here, playing out as if the entire film is one long sequential shot. It doesn’t let you pause for a moment, and that’s just the way I like it. As Riggan runs out of time to stop, so too do the audience as Inarritu throws issues at the screen. I loved being inside Riggan’s head and what Michael Keaton was able to do with this character who I’m sure he connected with in a big way as the fictional Birdman franchise becomes a critique of the entire superhero genre (of which Keaton should be very familiar with) as well as the entire canon of pop culture franchises that are spewing out of Hollywood right now.

The screenplay, a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece of its own, presents a warped view of fame and personal acceptance (or lack thereof) and sends up a lot of current filmmaking trends while skewering itself for the very same problems. This film has more levels than an onion and I loved the smell it reeked of as I peeled each layer away.

Michael Keaton’s work here is stunningly off-putting. He is a broken man who just wants the world to see him as he does. His interactions with fellow performers Lesley (Naomi Watts, King Kong, St. Vincent) and Laura present the feeling of walking on thousands of eggshells while his confrontations with the complexly inept Mike makes one shudder.

Even the visual effects, though few, add to its own narcissism. I love what this movie says about movies and the entire performing arts as a whole. This is the best parts of Cabin in the Woods and Black Swan rolled up.

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I can’t say enough about this movie but I can say that it sends out a rhythm of sadness and absurdity that I didn’t know Inarritu was capable of. See this movie, even if you don’t believe me. You will soon enough.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Happy 10th Birthday!] White Noise (2005)

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Director: Geoffrey Sax

Cast: Michael Keaton, Deborah Kara Unger, Mike Dopud, Ian McNeice, Chandra West, Keegan Connor Tracy

Screenplay: Niall Johnson

101 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and language.

 

White Noise was a big deal and a major success as far as January releases go back in 2005. I had to drive a ways to find a theater playing it, and when I did, I spent almost two hours just getting pissed off at the screen. Given that it is celebrating its tenth anniversary, I wanted to take a look back on it. While my hatred towards it has lessened, the film certainly hasn’t won me over.

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Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton, Batman, Birdman) has just lost his wife, Anna (Chandra West, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe) in a freak accident. Now, he is being followed by a man named Raymond Price (Ian McNeice, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Valkyrie) who claims that Anna is talking to him…through a phenomenon called EVP in which the dead speak to us through white noise transmissions in video and audio recordings.

Such a great premise wasted on turning Keaton’s character into a freaky messenger giving last wishes to people when he should be more interested in communicating with his wife and trying to solve the mystery surrounding her death. Also, are the cops at all concerned that this man is communicating with a lot of people who are in horrible accidents? Just saying.

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Looking back, White Noise could have been so much better, but what few scares that actually surface in the film do little to accompany the bad screenplay and the visual flaws of its dreary and uninteresting look. Do yourself a favor and realize that you can do better elsewhere, just certainly not from the sequel.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

RoboCop (2014)

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Director: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Joshua Zetumer, Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner

117 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material.

 

In order to make a solid remake, you need to analyze the areas where the original incarnation succeeded and also find avenues to bring something new to the table. RoboCop tried this, and for what it brought to the table, it worked just fine. The problem stems from the fact that this film could’ve worked so much better as a reboot than a remake. There were avenues laid out in the original series, and they could’ve been examined closer. The original RoboCop is not that far back.

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Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman, TV’s The Killing, Safe Haven) is a cop on the edge, and he has nothing but contempt and handcuffs for crooked cops. When an attempt is made on his life, Murphy is left horribly disfigured and limbless, essentially dead. But the folks over at OmniCorp, including CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton, Batman, Birdman) and lead science doctor Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) have new thoughts for Murphy. They turn him into RoboCop, a cyborg officer with a human heart.

RoboCop tries new things, but not enough of them. It comes off as a TV movie version of the original, a copy made with a poor printer. Kinnaman’s performance comes off as wooden, which doesn’t work since Alex Murphy is supposed to be struggling to find humanity in his new metal body. Gary Oldman gives us some batshit crazy work here, probably the best in the film. Michael Keaton plays up his villainy and reminds us why we love him. Then there is Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) who portrays Pat Novak, a television personality who essentially takes over the satirical commentary that the original film had. He was interesting but ultimately pulled me out of the film. This script just doesn’t differ or add enough to be worth the trouble.

Let’s talk about the violence. Where is the blood? I know that it shouldn’t be an issue, but this RoboCop is so tame that one can’t help but wish for the days of RoboCop being a badass. This Alex Murphy, a badass he is not.

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Maybe RoboCop is the beginning of a new franchise, and if so, it has a lot to learn about creating a world. As for now, RoboCop 2014 doesn’t have this.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

ps. I also miss the 1987 RoboCop score…

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