Birdman

bdmFox Searchlight (2014) 119 min. R

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Screenplay: Armando Bo, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing: Douglas Crise & Stephen Mirrione

Production Design: Kevin Thompson; Set Decoration: George DeTitta Jr.

Costumes: Albert Wolsky; Score: Antonio Sánchez

Stars: Michael Keaton (Riggan Thomson), Emma Stone (Sam), Edward Norton (Mike Shiner), Naomi Watts (Lesley), Zach Galifianakis (Jake), Amy Ryan (Sylvia), Andrea Riseborough (Laura), Lindsay Duncan (Tabitha), Merritt Wever (Annie)

Given the advance word of mouth, award accolades and promising premise, with Michael Keaton as a has been superhero movie star trying to reestablish himself as a serious actor by staging a Broadway play, I was expecting to like Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s surreal satire far more than I was ultimately able to. Perhaps I set my sights too high, persuaded by critical consensus (“The only opinion that matters is the critic.”) which seems to have accepted the film’s artistic pretensions at face value. Given the movie’s brutal representation of their own breed, reviewers appear motivated by a desire to prove what good sports they are, but there is such a thing as being too tolerant.

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Admission

Admission posterFocus Features (2013) 107 min. PG-13

Director: Paul Weitz

Screenplay: Karen Croner; based on novel Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Cinematography: Declan Quinn; Editing: Joan Sobel

Production Design: Sarah Knowles; Set Decoration: Susan Perlman

Costumes: Aude Bronson-Howard; Score: Stephen Trask

Stars: Tina Fey (Portia Nathan), Paul Rudd (John Pressman), Michael Sheen (Mark), Lily Tomlin (Susannah), Wallace Shawn (Clarence), Nat Wolff (Jeremiah), Gloria Reuben (Corinne), Olek Krupa (Professor Polokov), Travaris Spears (Nelson)

The way I happened across this Tina Fey-Paul Rudd romantic comedy about a Princeton admissions officer whose life turns upside down after the baby she gave up for adoption nineteen years ago reappears as a flaky, alternative undergrad applicant, was by comic mishap itself. I had gone to the movies planning to see the 3D re-release of Jurassic Park, but was handed a ticket for the wrong theater. Rather than rudely walking out when the mistake became apparent, I figured I’d give it a few minutes and make my exit when Admission became too intolerable and the audience too absorbed in proceedings to notice the departure. But fate works in mysterious ways. Once the movie had wrapped I found myself not only having forgotten about T-Rex, but wishing Hollywood had been overrun by a herd of Tina Fey. Continue reading

The Artist

The Artist (279)The Weinstein Co. (2011) 100 min. PG-13

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius

Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman; Editing: Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius

Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould 

Costumes: Mark Bridges

Score: Ludovic Bource

Stars: Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller), John Goodman (Al Zimmer), James Cromwell (Clifton), Penelope Ann Miller (Doris), Missi Pyle (Constance), Uggie (The Dog), Malcolm McDowell (The Butler)

The Artist is a gentle, sincerely felt homage to silent movies blinded by its love of the art form. If this story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the fading silent star who falls in love with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), the new sound actress he helped groom for stardom only to find himself supplanted by her in the hearts of the public, seems unduly familiar it’s because director Michel Hazanavicius and his predominantly French cast and crew are showing their love not just for silent films but for golden age Hollywood in general, by saluting other iconic American classics along similar lines.

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Silver Linings Playbook

SLP posterThe Weinstein Co. (2012) 122 min. R

Director: David O. Russell

Screenplay: David O. Russell; based on The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Cinematography: Masanobu Takayanagi; Editing: Jay Cassidy & Crispin Struthers

Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Heather Loeffler

Costumes: Mark Bridges

Score: Danny Elfman

Stars: Bradley Cooper (Pat Solitano), Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany Maxwell), Robert De Niro (Pat Sr.), Jacki Weaver (Dolores), Chris Tucker (Danny), John Ortiz (Ronnie), Julia Stiles (Veronica), Anupam Kher (Dr. Patel), Brea Bee (Nikki)

If laughter is the best medicine, then Silver Linings Playbook is the panacea for what’s been ailing kitschy romantic comedy of late. A first for him as far as I‘m aware, director David O. Russell’s foray into untried turf actually returns him to the darker, more acerbic edge of such earlier comedies as I Heart Huckabees and Spanking the Monkey. Likewise populated by existential oddballs and emotionally troubled outsiders, Russell, who usually writes his own scenarios, has translated Matthew Quick’s novel into a non-conformist romantic comedy about non-conformity. By which I mean it marches to its own drummer rather than trying to fit itself into the pat conventions of the genre. This movie is  a square peg in a round hole. Continue reading

21 Jump Street


21JS posterColumbia/MGM (2012) 109 min. R

Directors: Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Screenplay: Michael Bacall; Story: Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill; based on 21 Jump Street (TV) created by Patrick Hasburgh and Stephen J. Cannell

Cinematography: Barry Peterson; Editing: Joel Negron

Production Design: Peter Wenham; Set Decoration: Bob Kensinger

Costumes; Leah Katznelson; Score: Mark Mothersbaugh

Stars: Jonah Hill (Morton Schmidt), Channing Tatum (Greg Jenko), Ice Cube (Cpt. Dickson), Brie Larson (Molly), Dave Franco (Eric), Ellie Kemper (Ms. Griggs), Rob Riggle (Mr. Walters)

Nostalgia seems to come in generational waves. In the self-indulgent 70’s, out of it audiences were nostalgic for the more straight-laced 50’s, with Grease lubricating box office coffers and Happy Days making viewers feel all warm and fuzzy toward The Fonze on TV. In the 90’s it was the 70’s (The Brady Bunch, Charlie’s Angels, Starsky and Hutch), and in the second decade of this brave new century we seem to have worked our way straight through the outer edges of the 80’s and to be standing on the cusp of a renaissance of interest in the early 90’s. 21 Jump Street joins the ranks of other big screen adaptations of 80’s ratings hits like The Dukes of Hazzard, Miami Vice and The A-Team and since it’s the only one of those mentioned whose series run bridged two decades, it may very well be in the vanguard of the next made-from-TV wave. Big screen parodies of TGIF titles for the Y2K generation seem imminent and inevitable. Continue reading