Saturday, November 29, 2014


A has been movie mega-star (Michael Keaton), haunted by the spirit of his onscreen superhero alter ego, is mounting a comeback in the form of a theatrical presentation of a Raymond Carver short story which he is ambitiously adapting, directing and starring in. In addition to the burdens these tasks carry, he must also contend with his critical daughter/assistant (Emma Stone), a wound tight stage manager and best friend (Zach Galifianakis), an insecure star (Naomi Watts), a needy girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), a concerned ex-wife (Amy Ryan), a Times journalist bent on trashing him, and a highly regarded, egotistical, last minute acting replacement (Ed Norton) who holds the ex-matinee idol in low esteem. Birdman is an acute change of pace for director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu from the weighty, multi-plot converging films for which he's become known (Babel, Amores Perros) and features a bravura, self-deprecating performance from Keaton. Unfortunately, the rest of the production comes off as unfunny and sanctimonious with competent actors putting their best foot forward with an inept and unworthy script (by Inarritu and three others). Additionally, the fantasy sequences offer little, wither proving ineffective or strange for strange's sake and Emmanuel Lubezki's camerawork, which is designed to make over 95% of the movie seem like one continuous take, sadly comes off as little more than a gimmick.
** out of ****

Saturday, November 22, 2014


As a modern day Dust Bowl threatens to starve and suffocate the human race, an ex-fighter pilot, first-rate engineer, and discontented farmer (Matthew McConaughey) stumbles upon and is swiftly commissioned to lead a deadly, top secret NASA mission that aims to journey through a wormhole in search of a new home for the species. Christopher Nolan's Interstellar plays as intriguing science fiction and a palpable family drama for roughly half its running time before succumbing to constant and inane scientific conjecture, egregiously overt references to 2001, and its sheer length which could have easily been pared down. McConaughey is strong, Anne Hathaway is mercifully dialed down, and several late arriving big named cameos serve merely as distractions.
** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Ruling Class

Following the unfortunate role-playing related death of a prominent British Lord, his considerate estate is passed to his mentally disturbed progeny (Peter O'Toole) who thinks himself the second coming of Jesus Christ, all to the chagrin of his stodgy family who schemes to see his inheritance reappropriated. From Peter Barnes play, The Ruling Class is bizarre, outlandish fun to a point, boasting a virtuoso O'Toole performance, but is overlong, stagy, and even obnoxious as it eventually outstays its welcome.
** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, November 15, 2014


A rough-hewn tank crew, together since the beginning of World War II and now in its final days, loses their spotter in battle and reigns in his greenhorn replacement (Logan Lerman) who is soon taken under the wing of their stoic commander (Brad Pitt) and eventually by the rest of the tight-kit lot. When their vehicle breaks down with a German brigade steadily bearing down upon them, the brothers-in-arms face the ultimate scenario of fight or flight. Fury is intense and brutal filmmaking from David Ayer, who departs his familiar streets of Los Angeles for the blood soaked and mud caked battlefields of the European front and crafts an intelligent, powerful war film from material which could easily have come off as hackneyed and timeworn. Pitt, save for a few scenes that strain for effect be it for drama or shock value, delivers a visceral performance, one of his finestand the rest of the actors comprising his tank crew range from entertaining (Jon Bernthal, Michael Pena) to surprisingly commanding (Shia LaBeouf, Lerman).
*** 1/2 out of ****

Sunday, November 9, 2014


A creepy, business minded sociopath (Jake Gyllenhaal) stumbles upon the scene of an accident on the L.A. freeway, is taken by the freelance "nightcrawlers" who sell their filmed bloody wares to the local TV news station, and decides to try his hand at the trade, quickly finding success as he tampers with the various crime scenes and develops a relationship with an ex-news anchor (Rene Russo) currently overseeing the city's lowest rated news program. Dan Gilroy's directorial debut is a wry, darkly disturbing, and unique film sporting an odd and finely tuned performance from Gyllenhaal. It's also nice to see Russo back in a distinctly commanding turn with both actors receiving fine support from Bill Paxton, as one of Jake's slimy rivals and Riz Ahmed as his reluctant assistant.
*** 1/2 out of ****

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Phantom of the Opera

The deed to the illustrious Paris Opera House has just changed hands with a key piece of knowledge going undisclosed: the menacing presence of the titular character (Lon Chaney), who resides in the building's catacombs where he once was tortured and disfigured and patronizes the career of his beloved understudy (Mary Philbin) from his reserved and undisturbed balcony seat. For me, Carl Laemmle's presentation of Victor Hugo's often recycled novel is all about the Phantom's unmasking, both the protracted tension leading up to the moment and the moment itself, an abrupt, jarring closeup of Chaney's hideous, contorted, and heavily made up visage. Chaney's performing highlights the film, especially during a floridly colored ballroom scene followed by a rooftop sequence where he watches over his adored and her ineffectual lover. The Phantom of the Opera isn't necessarily chilling or scary but it provides a nice throwback alternative to those only familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical interpretation. 
*** 1/2 out of ****