Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Director: André Øvredal

Cast: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint

Screenplay: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Guillermo del Toro

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references.

 

I remember reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I had all three books, and I vividly recall the striking imagery. It was one of those first experiences that attributed to my love of horror, alongside watching Halloween with my mother when I was four and the Goosebumps book series from R.L. Stine. It was a pivotal part in shaping my fascination with fear and the macabre as ways of telling real stories, and they were damn entertaining too. Now, producer Guillermo del Toro, coming off his Oscar wins for The Shape of Water, is bringing us the film adaptation of this classic book trilogy with director André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) behind the camera.

The story begins on Halloween night 1968, with Stella (Zoe Colletti, Annie, Skin) and her friends, Auggie (Gabriel Rush, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Chuck, who discover an old book in the supposed haunted home of the Bellows family. This book contains several scary stories and a lot of empty pages too. Stella takes the book home and discovers that new stories are appearing in it. At the same time, each of the kids that stepped foot in the Bellows home is in a story being written, one that comes true. Now, Stella and her friends are running out of time to get the book back home and break the curse of Sarah Bellows and her book of scary stories before they become a part of it.

As with many anthology films, which Scary Stories loosely is, the individual stories are one piece, and the framing device another. Of the many scary stories featured in the film, I think they all work quite well. The creature design is pretty awesome, some visual treats I haven’t seen before, and I think they, for the most part, work really well.

The main problem with the movie is the framing device. The whole story of Sarah Bellows and the book of scary stories should work on the surface, and it adds a nice layer of tone and flavor to the 1960s setting. The problem is that the framing device isn’t as strongly written as the stories that appear within the film, and this main plot of Stella and her friends is given far too much of the runtime of the film. It easily could have been cut about 20 minutes to streamline the plot more.

I also didn’t connect with Stella very much. She is a little flatly-written, and I was far more interested in the secondary characters like Auggie and Chuck as well as archetypal bully Tommy (Austin Abrams, Paper Towns, Brad’s Status).

For the problems with the screenplay, Øvredal does a great job with direction, setting tone and mood down to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of reading the stories as a kid. The film reminded me of reading Goosebumps or watching the television series for Are You Afraid of the Dark? He crafted a creepy atmosphere oozing with unsettling imagery. Much like The House with a Clock in its Walls from last year, this is a kid’s horror film that doesn’t shy away from some truly haunting imagery. Whereas The House with a Clock is closer to a Hocus Pocus, Scary Stories almost aims for It or The Monster Squad, definitely something more adult than I expected. I would caution potential viewers by saying the film has some disturbing elements, but all the same, this is exactly the kind of movie experience that adolescent Kyle would have been all over.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a winning horror experience. While the film struggles in building new mythology and setting the framing device into play, it mostly wins with the actual scary stories. It was a hellishly fun viewing experience that perfectly sets up more stories to come. Hopefully the filmmakers can course-correct some of the problems of the film for a sequel should one arise. I still had a lot of fun and would urge filmgoers looking for a nostalgic horror throwback to check this one out.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Director: Dean DeBlois

Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrerra, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson

Screenplay: Dean DeBlois

104 mins. Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

 

2019 has been full of some amazing franchise cappers. It’s also had some stinker franchise enders. So how does this third and supposedly final installment in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise end up?

It’s been about a year since we last caught up with Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, Goon, TV’s Man Seeking Woman). In that time, he and the other dragon-riders have spent their time freeing captured dragons and growing Berk into a haven for both dragons and humans alike. They’ve been quite successful, and Berk is overpopulated with the winged beasts. Hiccup believes that he can solve this problem by finding The Hidden World, a legendary dragon utopia his father Stoick had told him about. Meanwhile, Toothless discovers a white dragon similar in appearance, called a Light Fury by Astrid (America Ferrera, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, TV’s Superstore). Toothless is clearly smitten, and Hiccup is unaware that the Light Fury may be a trap set by the dangerous dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham, The Grand Budapest Hotel, TV’s Homeland), who has his eyes set on Toothless.

The Hidden World is the lengthiest of the How to Train Your Dragon films, but it doesn’t feel that way. This movie cruises by, not taking time to reintroduce the audience to the characters, and just letting the story get moving. It has to move quick because the film feels a little stuffed with plot. There’s a lot more going on as Writer/Director Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch) tries to wrap up his trilogy nicely, and it mostly works. I really enjoyed Toothless’s plotline involving the Light Fury. Toothless has never been the focus of these movies like Hiccup, so it was nice to really focus on the needs of the dragon here. The Hiccup and Grimmel part of the story is where it feels a little too familiar. Again, we have another dragon hunter with an eye for Night Furies.

The story, this time around, does feel more epic in scale, and I didn’t laugh nearly as much as the other films. The Hidden World is more serious and action-laden than the others too. There’s a very noticeable and welcome tonal shift as the story packs on weight. I very much enjoyed where it went and how it ended. I also love that DeBlois and DreamWorks seemingly aimed at ending this series, and I appreciate that as a fan and viewer. Sure, there’s plenty of possible plot threads here to lay work for a fourth film, but it felt like the aim was to end it, and that’s a really special thing not all franchises get to do.

With that ending, the film and its audiences are awarded for hanging in there throughout the franchise. I teared up more than once as the film headed for its inevitable conclusion. This is a story so wrought with emotion, a boy-and-his-dog tale with strength and innovation, and this franchise capper sticks the landing quite well.

The voice work is always well done here, with specific credit to franchise newcomer F. Murray Abraham, who always kicks villainy up a notch. Bam! From a technical and visual sense, everything looks gorgeous in the film. I had previously watched the first two films a few nights before hitting up this final chapter, and I have to say, it’s astonishing how the animation has steadily improved on an already impressive-looking first film.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a pretty solid franchise capper, and it closes out a story that has beloved by many fans in a way that will elevate it to one of the best animated film trilogies of all time. If you are a fan of the first two films, you will find a lot to love in this finale. The Hidden World comes with a solid recommendation from this writer.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’s How to Train Your Dragon, click here.

For my review of Dean DeBlois’s How to Train Your Dragon 2, click here.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost

130 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.

IMDb Top 250: #207 (as of 12/22/2017)

 

I think I was one of the few people in the world who wasn’t worried a bit about Thor: Ragnarok. I just had a good feeling about the whole production, and considering that the original Thor is my favorite MCU film to date, I overall didn’t worry in the slightest. So I guess it comes down to it. Was I right not to worry?

Things haven’t been going well for Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman, Star Trek) lately. His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Kong: Skull Island, TV’s The Night Manager) is believed dead. His father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs, Transformers: The Last Knight) has seemingly gone off the deep end. But when Thor discovers that he has a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine, How to Train Your Dragon 2), who has broken free of her captivity, he finds himself zipped across the galaxy to a strange planet where he must fight for his life against intergalactic gladiators to appease the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park). Thor must band together with a ragtag group of friends and old foes to get back to Asgard and prevent Hela from unleashing Ragnarok, the Norse Armageddon.

I wanted to try and avoid some spoilers with Thor: Ragnarok, but they are inherently in the film’s plot. That being said, Ragnarok is by far the most unique MCU film to date and most definitely the best one of 2017. Bringing on Director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) was an absolutely inspired choice, one that set up this installment for success from the very beginning. It is the kind of space film that deserves the term “rollicking.”

As always, Hemsworth and Hiddleston have excellent chemistry, but it is the addition of all the new characters like Goldblum’s Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson (Creed, Dear White People) as the Valkyrie, Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Pete’s Dragon) as Skurge, Hela’s commander, and Waititi himself as the alien Korg that make the experience as tremendous as it is.

Thinking about faults in the film, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of concern about Ragnarok at all through the film. Sure, it’s the Flash Gordon of the MCU but I wasn’t really concerned for any of the players. Also, classic characters like the Warriors Three are tossed aside and mishandled. As for Lady Sif, she is nowhere to be found, and I think the film suffers by not addressing it.

Treating Thor: Ragnarok as a space road trip movie and teaming up Thor with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight, Now You See Me 2) is the crowning achievement of the film, and being the third in a tremendous group of 2017 MCU films only steepens excitement for where this franchise is going as a whole. Ragnarok falters a bit when addressing the overall momentum of the franchise but it stands by itself as a singularly enjoyable experience that rivals that of the first Thor film for entirely different reasons. It’s my favorite superhero film of the year.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, click here.

For my review of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, click here.

For my review of Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[St. Patrick’s Day] In Bruges (2008)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ciaran Hinds, Clemence Poesy, Jeremie Renier

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

107 mins. Rated R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Original Screenplay

 

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to take a look back at a favorite film of mine from an excellent Irish writer/director, Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths). The film is In Bruges.

Ray (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and his partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson, Edge of Tomorrow, Assassin’s Creed) are two hitmen hiding out in the small town of Bruges in Belgium after Ray accidentally shot and killed a child on the job. What’s wrong with Bruges? Seemingly nothing, but, as Ray points out, it’s fucking Bruges. The small peaceful town has a strange way about it, and Ray soon discovers that there is a larger reason they’ve been sent to Bruges by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The LEGO Batman Movie) in this charming bloodbath.

In Bruges is, simply put, spectacular. From the performances of its main cast (in particular, Colin Farrell puts out the best work of his career) to the man behind the camera, everything is spot on. Farrell and Gleeson share some truly wonderful dialogue-driven scenes and when Fiennes shows up, the film only gets better and better.

McDonagh has an eye for dialogue and a visual sense of beauty in darkness, and he shows it here in his first feature (I also recommend checking out the shit-crazy Seven Psychopaths from the director if you get a chance). His focus on characters and real comedy derived from interesting experiences and moments make the film a completely unique thrill-ride.

In Bruges is just damn incredible. My love for it extends back to a screenwriting study I did on the film some years back, and I find that I continue to admire its pitch-perfect writing and tone upon each viewing. The film’s one problem, if there has to be one, is that it slogs a tiny bit in the second act, but trust me when I say that it doesn’t really hurt the film at all. I highly recommend watching In Bruges today or, hell, any day.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

*** Just a side note, In Bruges registers 1.18 “fucks” per minutes. SO yeah, the film is rated R for language.

[#2016oscardeathrace] Brooklyn (2015)

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Director: John Crowley

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters

Screenplay: Nick Hornby

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role [Saoirse Ronan]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay

 

It seems that every Oscar season, a film comes along, usually with a Best Picture nomination, that I just don’t think will be any good. Some years, I get pleasantly surprised (thinking Philomena here) and other years, I get The Grand Budapest Hotel (which, I get it, many of you enjoyed, but I most certainly did not). This year, that film was Brooklyn. But do I have a winner here or more of the dreckish variety?

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Brooklyn features Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, Lost River) as Eilis, an Irish immigrant living in Brooklyn in the 1950s. The film follows her leaving of Ireland and learning to adapt to the American lifestyle. It also shows her finding love in Tony (Emory Cohen, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Gambler), a nice young Italian man she meets, and how their relationship is tested by her family, her situation, and her past. In comes Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as a more comfortable alternative to Tony and Eilis finds herself in a painful position where one heart is destined to be broken.

Brooklyn feels from the surface like a film we’ve seen before, and in fact, from the very beginning, I was doubting its ability to keep me interested. Indeed, it did take me about 10 minutes to be absolutely sucked in, and I was. The film’s pacing picked up almost immediately and didn’t drop off.

Saoirse Ronan commands the screen in her portrayal of Eilis, a young woman torn between the promises and duties she has been tasked in life. Eilis is a woman who doesn’t not own her life at the beginning, but she learns to take charge in order to survive.

Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson play two perfectly opposite sides of the coin, each presenting Eilis with an entirely different complete with pros on cons. Both actors seek to aid Nick Hornby’s (An Education, Wild) excellent screenplay.

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Lastly, the musical score is a beautiful bow to place on this film, which pollinates multiple genres without truly sticking with just one. Brooklyn is a wonderfully nuanced and performed film with a terrific script backing it up. Saoirse Ronan may not walk away with the trophy for her work here, but Brooklyn is another great showcase of the young actress’s multi-layered skills.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2016oscardeathrace] Spectre (2015)

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth

148 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Writing’s on the Wall”)

 

Well, let me assure you by saying that Spectre is the third best Bond film…featuring Daniel Craig (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Adventures of Tintin). Okay, I’m playing now.

Spectre opens with one of the single most impressive shots and sequences of the entire Bond franchise, due in large part to the masterful directing of Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Away We Go). Sadly, it is the film’s best moment, and while the rest of Bond 24 is exciting, it is missing something.

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James Bond has lost someone very close to him. In her place, he now has M (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman), who has bigger fish to fry when MI6 comes under political scrutiny. While M and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, 28 Days Later…, Southpaw) try to protect the organization, Bond is off to discover the mysterious plans of the criminal syndicate known as SPECTRE, and his connection to its apparent leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained, Big Eyes). There are a lot of spoilers to stay away from, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Sam Mendes described Bond’s dedication to uncovering SPECTRE as a more focused passion, and if that is the intention, I did not see it. Daniel Craig feels bored in this entry.

Christoph Waltz brings a healthy dose of fear to the villainous Oberhauser, and his henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) feels nicely reminiscent of Oddjob from the glory days of Goldfinger, a much better version of homage than the way Die Another Day beats you over the head with it.

Fiennes, Harris, and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, In the Heart of the Sea) as Q do their collective day’s work nicely, but the film rests far too much on a personal story for James, and Craig’s best work is when he is being tortured.

Director Mendes gives us a gorgeous Bond film, even after losing the incredible Roger Deakins to other projects. In his place, we get Hoyte van Hoytema, who does some better than expected work but fails to properly convey his visual medium to the story correctly. It isn’t easy, and he certainly tries.

In Bond girls, we get some of the most well-crafted Bond girling from Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and some of the most underutilized work from Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Revolutions, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

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Maybe that’s the problem with Spectre. It’s just so uneven. There are some truly incredible sequences, and there are some snoozy moments. It just didn’t keep me the way previous entries have. Not a bad Bond film, but a step down for the franchise, its director, and Craig (who gave us better work this year in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; oh, you didn’t know that?).

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Spectre? What’s your favorite James Bond movie? Let me know!

Mortdecai (2015)

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Director: David Koepp

Cast: Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Paul Bettany, Jeff Goldblum

Screenplay: Eric Aronson

107 mins. Rated R for some language and sexual material.

 

When Mortdecai’s first trailer was released, I was confused. I thought the movie looked horrible, but I couldn’t place why so many people would join this film. I thought to myself, “There has to be a reason” when it turned out that the film just plain isn’t good.

Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) und seine Frau Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) - Copyright: David Appleby

Mortdecai (Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, Into the Woods) is an art collector with a fascination with growing a perfect ‘stache. His relationship with wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow, Iron Man 3, Contagion) becomes strained when he is tasked with finding a missing rare piece of artwork by MI5 agent Martland (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting, Last Days in the Desert) who just happens to be in love with Johanna. Now, with the help of his personal handyman Jock (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind, Transcendence), Mortdecai has to track down the culprit who stole the missing painting.

This film looks so cheap that I’m sure it would have been a VOD release had it not been for the star-studded cast who just butchers these roles. Johnny Depp’s performance is so annoying I didn’t even bother listening to the dialogue after a while. Paltrow’s accent work flops around like a fish on dry land. I did rather enjoy Paul Bettany’s Jock and the extended cameo from Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but overall the performances are cringe-worthy to the extreme.

Director David Koepp (Premium Rush, Ghost Town) proves that maybe he should just sit behind a desk and write stuff for better filmmakers. Seriously, how did he think this was going to be any good? I laughed maybe twice and I think they both came from me guessing what would happen next.

I think the most interesting piece of style in the film comes from the wacky transitions as they traverse the globe and the problem with them is that they don’t exactly fit every time they are used.

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Mortdecai is an incredibly disappointing film that seeks to become the Johnny Depp Goofy Hour that actually lasts 107 minutes. Very few elements here even work and they work even less when smashed together. I didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. I’m fairly sure you won’t like it.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think about Mortdecai? Have you seen it? Did it steal your attention or was it artless? Let me know!

 

[#2015oscardeathrace] Selma (2014)

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Director: Ava DuVernay

Cast: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Giovanni Ribisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Stephen James, Wendell Pierce, Common, Alessandro Nivola, Keith Stanfield, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dylan Baker, Tim Roth, Oprah Winfrey

Screenplay: Paul Webb

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Motion Picture of the Year [Awards Not Yet Announced]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (“Glory” by Common, John Legend) [Awards Not Yet Announced]

 

Selma is the story of a key moment in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr (David Oyelowo, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year): the fight for the right to vote. King has tries to get help from President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, The Grand Budapest Hotel), but to no avail. His wife, Coretta (Carmen Ejogo, TV’s Zero Hour, The Purge: Anarchy), would hope to keep him out of harm’s way. But in Selma, Alabama, a woman named Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple, The Butler) can’t even get registered to vote. King takes his civil rights movement to Selma in hopes of swaying Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth, TV’s Lie to Me, Pulp Fiction) to let them vote.

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While the film Selma isn’t perfect, it does contain some of the more perfect casting and performance work of the past year. David Oyelowo is the spitting visage of the late Dr. King. He has the look, he has the voice, and he has the mannerisms down to a science. Tom Wilkinson plays the former President filled with self-doubt and delusion. Rapper Common (TV’s Hell on Wheels, Smokin’ Aces) gives one of his best roles as James Bevel, as does Wendell Pierce (TV’s The Wire, Parker) in the position of Reverand Hosea Williams. We also get some great turns from some major Hollywood players, like Martin Sheen and Dylan Baker (Spider-Man 2, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues), in small roles to elevate the craft of the other actors to something truly great.

Director Ava DuVernay’s camera is more stoic than static, offering what feels more like a live docu-drama than a sweeping picture, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did mess with the flow slightly.

I really enjoyed the song “Glory” from Common and John Legend that plays over the closing credits. It displays a plethora of African-American cultural music from the time of Dr. King to present day.

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Ava DuVernay’s Selma is a film that must be watched, if only for the powerful messages it conveys. I honestly did not know as much about this facet of the Civil Rights Movement, in particular the events in Selma, Alabama, and so I found the film engaging and shocking at times, and definitely worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#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

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