Birdman – Review #12

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I’ve always wanted to be in the movies. Ever since seeing Robin Williams in Jumanji, I’ve wanted to dabble into that world. Now, in recent years, my interests have turned from acting. I realized that I didn’t have the ‘look’, and thus decided to change it to directing, although that initial spark has not left. Birdman, I shall say as loud as the word will allow, has left me astounded as both an actor and director in the heart.

birdmanBirdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, tells the story of Riggan Thomson, a washed up has been of an actor who was known for playing a superhero called Birdman, but now struggles to keep his Broadway play up. He’s constantly bothered by the voice of Birdman, and may or may not be able to do superhuman feats. The rest of the film focuses on him trying to make the play work, his problems with his daughter, played by Emma Stone, and his internal struggle between himself and the character Birdman.

This movie deals with a lot of issues, mainly the relationship between actor and character. Can the actor, after doing a BIG role, truly steer himself from the repetition of sequels and do something new? One would say of course. All they need to do is sign a contract and there you are. But, is he truly away for good? Even after retiring the character, knowing he ‘made’ you, can it really leave? It still happens today: Chris Evans, for example. Captain America made him into the celebrity he is today, but thus completely overshadowed some of his arguably better work, like Snowpiercer. Am I condemning career-making films? God no. It’s the movie that raises this question, and that was simply my opinion on it.

The performances are downright amazing. The side characters, with Edward Norton as the asshole theater guy; Zach Galifianakis portraying Thomson’s producer and best friend; and even the citizens of New York, all do a great job. They have to step down though, for the unexpected brilliance of Michael Keaton. This may be completely false, but I think that this film was very personal to Keaton. Thomson is basically a exaggerated version of Keaton. Who knows? Maybe Alejandro wrote the part specifically for Keaton. The only person I can really see as Thomson besides Keaton is Christopher Reeve, but sadly he has gone to the big place above. Oh well.

On the directing side, the camerawork is exceptional. Making everything look like one shot is visually enthralling, albeit maybe a bit unnecessary. The music as well is somehow smooth and jumpy at the same time. The soundtrack is a must get for any fan of jazz, with the drum being the prominent instrument.

In conclusion, Birdman is an experience. It is, from a director’s point of view, ground-breaking and from an actor’s point of view, emotional and somewhat epiphanic, and I had the pleasure of feeling both sides.

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Frank – Review #11

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Was the mask supposed to be terrifying?

frank-2014-film-poster-one-sheetFrank, directed by Lenny Abrahamson tells the story of a man named Jon. He’s an aspiring songwriter, and one night he had the chance to play for a band called the Soronprfbs. There he meets the band leader Frank, who always wear a papier-mâché mask. After playing, Frank invites Jon with them to record their album. What follows is a strange tale of mental illness and indie music.

I went into this movie with no idea what the plot would be, but I heard that it was very good, so I had relatively high expectations. After watching it though, I can’t say I really liked it. Maybe that’s only because I’m not a fan of indie music in general, or maybe everyone besides Frank was so unlikable in this movie.

Michael Fassbender as Frank was very good, I’ll admit, but I could easily see someone else in the role. He doesn’t make it his own, and maybe that was the point, but I didn’t saw the amazing performance I was hearing.

The rest of the cast was extremely unlikable. Again, maybe that was supposed to be, but making a cast unlikable to spread a message doesn’t make the cast un-unlikable. Domhnall Gleeson as this popularity-hungry keyboardist left a bad taste in my mouth. My dislike for him is more on the personal side, so I won’t delve deep into that. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character also left a very negative impression on me, what with him hating Jon for no reason what-so-ever. He was just doing what he thought was right.

One last thing to note: the representation of Twitter. Not the Twitter community itself, although that comes into play, but the act of tweeting. When Jon tweets something, it’s shown on the screen with Jon speaking the text. I appreciate the director trying to do something new, but the quite constant appearance of narrated tweets taking up the screen quickly grew tedious.

All in all, I can’t say I enjoyed Frank. Yes, Fassbender was very good, the end song wasn’t that bad, and the message is very good, but the unlikable characters mixed with the weird music that they make drag the film down. I definitely see the appeal, and to those who liked it, all the power to you, but to me, weird doesn’t exactly equal to good.

Gone Girl – Review #10

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F**king hell, David Fincher, what did you do to me?

MV5BMTk0MDQ3MzAzOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzU1NzE3MjE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Gone Girl, directed by David Fincher, director of Se7en, The Social Network, and that film we don’t talk about, is the adaptation of the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn. It tells the story of Nick and Amy, two people that were perfect for each other, but after Amy goes missing, it’s up to Nick to find what happened to her, and the events and twists that follow.

David Fincher is a film-maker that has somehow gone under my radar for a long time. I have not watched any of his other works, and that statement will probably be the death of me. So, after dismissing the long running time and praise I’ve heard of Fincher, I delved into this film with criticism hot on my mind and bias out of the window, and here’s how I came back.

You know that feeling when your jaw just drops and you’re too transfixed in the movie to even care about it? That’s what I felt in several portions of this movie. I had the GREAT pleasure of not being spoiled of the plot twists this movie goes through, and I’llNOT be the devil and spoil it here. Let me just say that the ‘jaw-dropping-until-you-can’t-feel-it’ moments are all due to exceptional storytelling and not from character stupidity.

Speaking of the characters, let’s talk about Ben Affleck as Nick and Rosamund Pike as Amy. Their relationship is…picture perfect. Affleck’s in his best acting role yet, and as for Pike, her performance is stunning, to say the least. Honestly, you guys have no idea how hard is it to talk about the characters without spoiling them. Even Tyler Perry, who somehow pulls off a dramatic role. Yes, Tyler ‘Madea’ Perry is good in a movie. I must cleanse my fingers after this.

I wish I can talk about the directing more, but as I’ve said, this is my first Fincher movie, so I can’t make comparisons. I must say though, his directing makes dialogue interesting. I have no idea how he did it, but for two and a half hours, I did not move my eyes from the screen at all. Not one part of the movie felt boring to me.

One thing that might set people off of this movie is the long running time. What the viewer most understand though, is that for mystery films, longer times are generally better. Yes, it might seem as though it drags and slows to a crawl, but that’s the point. You can’t just skip character building and actual intense moments for a shorter running time.

This film was so close too being a 5-star rating, but one thing just brought that down: the ending. No, the ending is not so bad that it feels as though the whole film was for naught. Heck, some people might argue that the ending was the BEST part of the film, but I did not like it. I’ll say this: if you’re a fan of karma, the ending might not tick with you the right way.

In conclusion, Gone Girl is a very good mystery suspense film. David Fincher has grabbed my attention, and seeing that I have that film we don’t talk about in my collection, I think I’m due in correcting an error in my radar.

One last thing to note: Just because I didn’t like the ending doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it. It’s called an opinion, guys. And girls.

John Wick – Review #9

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Hey, if you kill my dog, I will go John Wick on your ass.

b0052254_54c69f9429acaJohn Wick, directed by David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, tells the story of John Wick, an ex-assassin who retired after getting married. Bu after his wife dies and some goons KILL HIS FUCKING DO-I apologize for that outburst. I just have a very soft spot for dogs. So, after some goons did…that, John promises vengeance and starts a bloody road of destruction.

Is this the movie that hopefully restarts Keanu Reeves’ career? I think that yes. Yes it is. He portrays the main character as a man trying to live a normal life with a not-so-normal past. He does his best, and his best is very good.

What I like is that this movie knows what it is: a action-based B movie. It doesn’t try to be something revolutionary or something like that. It knows its place and does its hardest to shine in that place, which it does.

The action scenes are spectacular. It’s obvious that Keanu put a lot of time and training to the action scenes, and David Leitch and Chad Stahelski directs fight scenes very well, one of the best I’ve seen for a while. It’s not all quick cuts and dark shadows; you can actually see what’s happening.

Speaking of quick cuts, one gripe I have is the first 20 minutes of the movie. The movie tells the backstory with flashbacks, but the flashback scenes and the ‘current’ scenes have the same lighting, with confused me for a bit,but after that it’s smooth sailing.

All in all, this movie is a very fun watch. I recommend it to Keanu Reeves fans and action movie fans. And besides, who doesn’t like seeing somebody who killed a dog getting his comeuppance?

The Big Lebowski – Review #8

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This film could be summarized in 3 words: Embracing of simplicity.

The Big LebowskiThe Big Lebowski, directed by the Coen Brothers, tells the story of Jeffery Lebowski, more commonly known as ‘The Dude’. He’s what the high society people call ‘a bum’ and what stoners call ‘an example’. One night, he is roughed up by two thugs demanding money, but realize that they attacked the wrong Lebowski, and leave, but not before one them pisses on The Dude’s carpet, which sucks. After meeting his bowling friends Donny and Walter to discuss on what to do, The Dude decides to meet the other Lebowski to pay for his ruined rug. There he meets said Lebowski’s wife, whose kidnapped after a few days. What follows is a mystery thriller mixed with off-beat humor, lead by the awesomeness that is Jeff Bridges.

Now, I’m sure that the people who’ve watched this film noticed that I left out quite a substantial amount characters, and that the plot is just grazed through. Well, that is because one of the main joys of watching The Big Lebowski is discovering those characters for the first time. And not just that too; Walter’s quirks, the group’s mid-bowling conversations, all those things should not be spoiled. That takes away the essence of the movie: the dialogue between those characters. And besides, no one likes a movie spoiler.

Of course, nobody can talk about The Big Lebowski without mentioning ‘The Dude’ himself, Jeff Bridges. His performance is one that will stand the test of time. Anthony Perkins will forever be Norman Bates; Malcolm McDowell is engraved in our minds as Alex DeLarge; Jeff Bridges will always be Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski. He plays this character who has embraced laziness as his lifestyle, who can give less than a f**k what other people think about him, and yet, he’s not this unlikable stoner. He doesn’t care what other people think of him, but he cares about other people. He’s like that homeless guy that you might meet whom everybody ignores but will still lends out a helping hand if you ask for it. The simple yet quite likable character and his ethics has been the subject of essays, books (I’m not kidding, Google it) and even a religion, Dudeism. It’s quite amusing actually.

And good Lord, is this film quotable. Almost everything that comes out of either Walter or The Dude’s mouth is usable in everyday life.

Well, this review turned out to be shorter than I expected, but everything I’ve wanted to say about it without revealing too much has been said, so I’ll just say this, you don’t need to watch this film while you’re high off your ass, it’s good enough as it is. And if you don’t agree with me, well…that’s just like…your opinion, man.

P.S. The second hallucination sequence alone makes it worth buying on Blu-ray at full price.

The Theory of Everything – Review #7

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This movie = (Stephen Hawking*Eddie Redmayne) + Felicity Jones

Oscar bait ~ Bio-pic – uniqueness

This movie ~ Oscar bait

poster-spacedotcom-theory-of-everythingThe Theory of Everything, directed by James Marsh, tells the story of Stephen Hawking, a student in Cambridge, who meets fellow Cambridge student Jane Wilde at a party. Stephen is basically a human maths and physics textbook, and so is ‘naturally’ awkward. They hit it off and everything seems to be going swell, but life takes a drastic turn as Stephen is diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS. Remember that ice bucket thing last year? Yeah, that was for this disease. The rest of the film focuses on their relationship through these obstacles and Stephen’s journey in trying to find his ‘Theory of Everything’.

I have only but the up-most respect for Mr. Stephen Hawking. Being I wanted to be a director, I was setting my sights at becoming a scientist. It still is my backup plan if my future career as a director doesn’t pull through, and all that came from him. His work astounded me when I was a kid, and it made me feel smarter than most kids. Arrogant, I know. His life is also something of an inspiration. Doctors told him that he had 2 years to live. That was 52 years ago. His desire to work, even when in his condition, is one that should be admired all around.

I’m sure some of you know that there already was a film which centered around Stephen Hawking back in 2004, and he was played by none other than the Batch of Cumber himself. I haven’t watched it in years, but I distinctly remember being astounded by the science and Benedict’s acting, so I admit that I entered this film with a fair bit of skepticism. After watching it though, I can see why Eddie Redmayne got the Oscar for Best Actor, even if I don’t agree (Praise be Michael Keaton). You can see that he gave it his all: the subtle movements that he had to learn, the various positions that he had to be in, the limbs that he had to learn toNOT use gradually, it’s obvious that he went through a lot of practice. And yes, he does look more like Stephen Hawking than Benedict.

Felicity Jones plays Jane Wilde, Stephen’s first girlfriend and wife, who actually wrote the book that this film was based on,Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen. She’s pretty good in this, as the Oscar nomination will tell you. She could’ve been made as the antagonist so easily, concerning the subject matter, but thankfully it wasn’t so, as Jane is shown as this loving woman who wants to have a normal family but ultimately has to face the fact that that’s not possible.

At the beginning, I wrote down an equation for the typical Oscar-bait movie. I shall stand by that equation as this film was boringly standard. Yes, the film puts more of a focus on Stephen and Jane’s relationship rather than his scientific achievements, and I’m fine with that, but man did this film follow the equation to a tee. That said, I am a sucker for bio-pics and British actors/actresses, so I don’t feel much hate for it.

In conclusion, The Theory of Everything is basically The King’s Speech all over again; bland as all hell, but it has British actors, so slightly forgiven, and even though this film has wonderful acting, we already had one 11 years ago. We don’t need another one to showcase Stephen Hawking’s legacy; it will live on forever, even if the movie is forgotten by the sands of time. And that, my friends, is not a theory, but a fact.

Whiplash – Review #6

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And people said J. K. Simmons would only be remembered for Spiderman.

timthumbWhiplash is directed by Damien Chazelle and is his second feature, with Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons as the main characters. The story centers around Andrew Neiman, a student in a music school who thrives to be the best. And I mean, the best. Like, he wants to out-Keith-Moon Keith Moon, if you know what I mean. Terence Fletcher, the conductor of the school’s studio band, decides to accept him into his band for drumming. What follows is a pulse-pounding tale of dedication, extremism and ‘never-give-up’-ism.

The editing in this movie is a masterwork. Quick cuts do not cause the sequence to feel jumpy and unbalanced, and in fact makes the movie feel more intense. And that’s what the movie is: intense. My heart has not pounded this hard in a movie for quite a while, and this is from the guy that just watched Face/Off a few days ago.

The acting is magnificent. Miles Teller plays Andrew, one of the main characters, and he does a splendid job. He portrays this person that is so dedicated to his music that it slowly eats at his life. Fun fact: Teller actually played drums when he was young, so he does have some moves.

And here we come to J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher. Oh, how I hated him. Then I loved to hate him. Then I hated myself for loving to hate him. And then I hated him again. It’s this circle of anger, pity and clever wordplay, much like Terence himself. He is the BIGGEST dick out of recent movie memory. I swear to the man above, I would do anything to see a verbal bashing between him and R. Lee Ermey. Simmons played his character to a tee, as if J. Jonah Jameson decided to teach music instead of managing the Daily Bugle. His kind words are sporadic, his insults flow like the Niagra Falls, and the fact that the Simmons is able to make us feel pity for him, is the sign of a great performance.

With a movie like this, the music comes into play like the jokes in a stand-up routine. It is VITAL. I do not consider myself a big jazz guy, although I do listen to the occasional tune (‘Tank!’ fromCowboy Bebop comes into mind), so I’m very happy to say that the music is excellent. The movie, with it’s brilliant directing and acting, could’ve Jenga-ed so easily if the sound was off, but it was not, and everything was right with the world.

In the end, Whiplash is a movie to behold. To music fans it is a must see; to acting fans it is a must see; to fans of movies in general, watch this movie. Just remember to get a pacemaker. Better safe than sorry.