BiRDMAN or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Review

birdman_w300GRADE: A

RATED: R (language throughout, some sexual content and brief violence)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

BiRDMAN is smart, outstandingly acted, well directed, and at times funny. The film is edited in a way so that it looks like it was shot in one continuous take. Rather than limiting the film, it makes it something different than what everyone’s become accustomed to. It gives the film a more real and interesting look. The cinematography is great, since the film is seemingly continuous, the camera follows whomever is the subject everywhere they go. The camera does several close ups of faces, showing every kind of emotion that is in the character’s face. This is also why the acting is so great, for everyone in the cast, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts. Every member of the cast was outstanding, showing equal amounts of emotion through their voices, faces and body language. Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, a once-was blockbuster star, who ever since he denied being in a sequel, has been failing. He’s broke, has family troubles and he’s depressed, now he’s adapting, directing, and starring in his own play on Broadway in attempt to come back while still being haunted by his movie star self. The film is heavy and it plays with your brain much more than you’d expect. At times, the film was you wondering if something’s real or if its Riggan’s imagination. Zach Galifianakis and Naomi Watts both gave strong performances, but were minor characters. Michael Keaton easily gave his best performance yet, and was very charismatic, Emma Stone was outstanding as Thompson’s daughter who just came back from rehab. Edward Norton was amazing as a method stage actor, who was also a total jerk. One of the things that the film does best is having everything in such a small space and always being so close up without the film feeling too claustrophobic. The score is also great, a jazzy drum beat that comes up every once in a while. Birdman is an outstanding film that plays with your mind and has amazing performances. The film is also gloriously guided by director Alejandro G. Iñarritu and is a must watch for fans of good movies. BiRDMAN was released on October 17th, but I never saw it until yesterday. It is nominated for 9 Oscars, tied for most nominations with Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

Selma Review

realrealselma_w300GRADE: B+

RATED: PG-13(disturbing thematic material including violence, a suggestive moment, and brief strong language)

NOT IN RPX

NOT IN 3D

Selma is a great movie with an outstanding starring performance, but has several historical inaccuracies. The film is well directed by Ava DuVernay and the cinematography is spot-on. David Oyelowo’s performance as MLK Jr is one of the greatest performances of the year. Oyelowo was able to make MLK Jr’s words (well, close to them, DuVernay had to slightly change them because another studio had the rights to MLK’s speeches) sound like they were his own. For those who have watched MLK speak, which you can find online, Oyelowo sounds just like him, it truly is an outstanding performance. DuVernay’s direction is slick, perfectly capturing both the time and the feel of the film. The cinematography works well in every scene, be it a wide shot or a close up of a face. The reason why DuVernay wasn’t nominated for best director is speculated by many, the popular guess is because of the amount of historical inaccuracies. The most major being the film’s portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson, the film antagonized him, where in reality, he was the most pro civil rights president to date. The film made him reluctant to assist MLK. This was seemingly done to add another obstacle for MLK, which was an odd choice to make. There were also some inaccuracies that were there for faster dramatic effect and I was completely unaware of until reading about them. However, once again the film was very well done. After the film’s opening scene, I was hooked. The film has several sad and powerful moments and rarely abandons its perfect pacing. The film was very “Hollywood” in parts, but during the scene when the African Americans march on the bridge, the film abandons that. The scene is raw and easily the hardest to watch scene from a movie all year. The film could have easily overdone the scene, but it stayed true and brutal. Selma should be the number one choice today (MLK Jr day) and it is for anyone who wants to learn about the time, wants to watch all of the Oscar nominated films, or just wants to watch a great movie. Selma went into limited release on Christmas and opened nationwide on January 9th.

Into The Woods Review

IntoTheWoods_w300GRADE: C+

RATED: PG (thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material)

NOT IN RPX

NOT IN 3D

Into The Woods is an example of something that could have been great, but failed to be so somewhere along the way. The film had several elements that could have led to greatness, it had an outstanding cast with stars such as Meryl Streep as the Witch, Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife, James Corden as the Baker, Chris Pine as Cinderella’s Prince, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Johnny Depp as the Wolf and even more stars. The film also had a unique premise, which was mashing together several Brothers Grimm tales, but at times even the smart premise made the film feel sloppy and tangled. The all-star cast also delivered, especially Emily Blunt. Meryl Streep was excellent, Corden was great, Pine was hilarious, and the rest of the cast did an outstanding job as well. So, you’re probably wondering, “Why did it fall apart?” and I believe that the answer to that question is Rob Marshall’s direction, especially in the ending. Walking in I had read some reviews and I knew that nobody could appreciate the ending, some described it as uncharacteristically dark for Disney, but I didn’t find it to be so. However, I did find it to be the most rushed and poorly thought out ending to any film I’ve seen in a long time. The ending just happened in the blink of an eye, even though it was foreshadowed early on. The foreshadowing was an example of Marshall’s poor direction, because it made the ending too obvious, and although the end was predictable, it still had me wondering “What were the writer and director thinking?” The film also felt incredibly long, I recall checking my watch and sighing because the film was only half way over, that’s a bad sign. The film also took ridiculous parts from the Brothers Grimm tales and used them for what I hope was poorly done satire on the stories, it certainly didn’t feel that way though. I understand that those odd parts were in the Broadway version, but Marshall could’ve taken some creative liberties, it wouldn’t be a big deal if he used his own ideas for the film. Now, most of you are probably wondering how the music was. The music was about as good as the film, at times it was catchy and fun, but at other times it felt out of place or just annoyingly bad. I also had trouble liking the characters, while well acted, they felt one sided and underdeveloped, the film even changed them completely to further the script and blamed their absurd behavior on The Woods. That would’ve worked had the film actually mentioned the fact that The Woods have some sort of supernatural power, it was only mentioned when crazy things were happening, but in phrases such as, “Its The Woods, that’s why we’re this way!” it truly is a bummer, since that could have been such a successful idea. One thing Into The Woods does right is humor, the film is funny when it tries to be, I even laughed out loud at some points. Particularly one musical number with Pine’s prince and the Other Prince (actually the character’s name) had me laughing. Overall, Into The Woods is an ok family musical blockbuster with outstanding performances, but poor direction and writing. It might have been better if Into The Woods had just stayed on Broadway, but the film did have its moments.
Into The Woods is playing in theaters nationwide and has been out since December 25.

The Interview Review

interview_w300GRADE: B+

RATED: R (pervasive language, crude and sexual humor, nudity, some drug use and bloody violence)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

On practically every website there’s something about The Interview, be it a review, or just some sort of article with news on its release or controversy. The film, for those who don’t know, is the latest film written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Its an action comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco who are tasked with killing North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong Un. The film was forced out of release after North Korea threatened any theater that showed it. The film was aired on VOD the day before its preset release and later put into select theaters. Many people criticized the film, expecting a smart satire on North Korea, which is definitely not what The Interview is.  Many probably expected a different film than Seth Rogen’s standard film had it not been canceled for a few days. I enjoyed The Interview, I knew what to expect, its a low brow comedy, it uses low IQ characters to do stupid things and make the audience laugh, and it does a great job of doing so. Seth Rogen and James Franco both gave hilarious performances. The one thing that really stood out the film was Randall Park’s performance, Park played Un. The film mocked Un by making him a man child wishing for his dead father’s approval. It really worked for the character and made for some hilarious moments. The film’s jokes were good, for the most part, but some didn’t work at all and some came off as dumb filler content. The jokes worked most of the time though, and considering the amount of jokes, it succeeded on that front. The Interview is funny, I’d say its just as good as This Is The End, but it won’t be appealing to those who don’t find low brow humor funny, but there is also some political satire to mix it up. The Interview is playing in select theaters and is on VOD services such as iTunes, YouTube, GooglePlay, XBox video, and will soon be on Time Warner Cable, Playstation Network, and Comcast.

Big Eyes Review

bigeyes_w300GRADE: A

RATED: PG-13 (thematic elements and brief strong language)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

Big Eyes is a triumph in many ways. Tim Burton’s direction is outstanding, the performances are appropriately quirky and strong and the pacing is spot on. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz both gave performances that were perfect for their characters. The film tells the story of painter Margaret Keane, who was famous for painting sad little children with massive eyes. The film focuses on when her husband, Walter Keane (Waltz) took the credit for her paintings, and became rich and famous for them. The narrative is smart and makes sure that the audience is on Adams’ side.Amy Adams does an excellent job of capturing the quiet and strong Margaret Keane, you can see the skepticism in her eyes, fear and anger. Christoph Waltz also gave a strong performance as Walter Keane. He had all of the charisma, but the darkness was still seen in him. There is one particular scene where Walter is extremely drunk that shows off the two lead’s performances. Showing fear, darkness, desperation and terror. Tim Burton’s direction was also very strong. He was able to take a story about quirky paintings and make an entire quirky world surrounding it, with charming characters and environments alike. There is one particular scene where Adams begins hallucinating and seeing big eyes on everyone where Burton’s direction truly shines. This film certainly was a great choice for Burton and I can’t imagine it being directed by anyone else. The supporting cast was also very strong featuring Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, and many others. Jason Schwartzman’s performance was a great source of comic relief and an outstanding way to make the world even quirkier. He played the owner of the modern art gallery and he despised Walter Keane. Whenever he was on he would make some remark about Keane paintings and the entire audience would laugh in response. Big Eyes is definitely worth watching for fans of Tim Burton, Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, or even just quirky movies. Big Eyes is playing nationwide and has been since Christmas.

The Imitation Game Review

imitationgame_w300GRADE: A-

RATED: PG-13 (some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking)

NOT IN 3D

NOT IN RPX

The Imitation Game is one of the best films I have seen this year. The film does an excellent job of telling the story of the people who cracked the Enigma Code. For those who don’t know, the Enigma Code was a seemingly indecipherable code devised by the Nazis to communicate about upcoming attacks.The film features outstanding performances, especially from Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Cumberbatch’s performance is one of the best (and possibly THE best) performances from a male lead this year. I was able to tell if his character was lying or his mood simply by looking in his eyes. Many performances fail to capture the character’s emotions on a deeper level, most only show emotion for what’s being said, if that makes sense. Keira Knightley’s performance was also like this, and due to performances that strong, the film succeeds. The rest of the cast also delivered, consisting of Allen Leach, Matthew Goode and many others. The film was also driven by strong writing. The script does an outstanding job of connecting the audience to the characters as well as the task at hand. The dialogue worked, the relationships were believable and I always felt like cracking Enigma was the number one thing to do while watching it. The film, while spectacular also has its flaws. While minor the film had three different decades being followed and it would cycle between them at random times. That might not seem like much of an issue, but when switching from cracking Enigma to several years later, it was difficult to understand which time was being watched. In one scene in particular, I found myself very confused until I figured out which part of the story was being watched. This flaw caused my comprehension to stumble, but only for a moment. The Imitation Game is definitely a film that should be seen, especially by those who are unfamiliar with the story or just want to watch some of the year’s best performances. The film is now in nationwide release and has been since Christmas.