Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Movie Review: Birdman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the wildest, most dazzling piece of cinema you'll see all year. Director Alejandro G. Inarritu's film about a washed-up Hollywood star trying to forge a comeback on Broadway is equal parts hilarious, gripping, and for movie nerds, flat out exhilarating.

Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, a has-been celebrity who once ruled the box office as Birdman, the first true super hero blockbuster of the modern era. He's spent the past two decades living in the shadow of his past glories and is ready to kick start the next phase of his career, only this time he pines for validation and legitimacy as a serious stage actor. Of course things go awry shortly before Riggan's play is set to open and the madness that is Birdman starts to unfold. 

Inarritu's choice of casting is the first, obvious stroke of genius with his new film. Michael Keaton of Batman acclaim, starring as the once mighty Birdman? Check. Edward "Marvel's arch nemesis" Norton playing a notoriously eccentric and difficult actor? Check. Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough and Naomi Watts, they're all brilliant. The film's commentary on modern society's notions of fame, viral internet culture and critique of what truly constitutes "art" are done masterfully. Riggan may be a delusional old narcissistic hack, but as the film's extended title hints, there's something strangely likeable about that. Writing, directing and starring in his first Broadway show, the man is either overtly ambitious, or insane. When he's levitating and having existential shouting matches with his repressed Birdman alter ego, you assume it's the latter, but in Inarritu's dazzling cinematic magic carpet ride, you never can tell.

All the buzz behind Birdman stems from the film's manic energy. Inarritu and cinematographer/magician Emmanuel Lubezki [Gravity, Tree of Life, Children of Men] shot Birdman so that the entire film resembles one gargantuan extended take. This creates an unwavering sense of urgency that, coupled with the film's amazing jazz percussion score, gives the impression that the movie will fly off the rails at any moment...then of course, you know, it actually does. The way the camera maneuvers through the tight hallways and huge expanses of the theater's stage and captures the cast's unbroken diatribes in real time, it's like Christmas for film geeks, bored to death of the CGI crap fests we're subjected too every summer. Keaton's performance is so visceral and frenetic, while Inarritu's grip on the reigns is lax enough to feel both entertaining, and unnerving. When Riggan's dark alter ego starts to rear his head, when the percussive back beat transforms into a ticking time bomb, when the camera spins and reveals explosions littering the sky, I half expected Beetljuice to leap onscreen and shout, "C'mon!" like it was 1988 allover again. That's how wildly surreal and intense things get.

Go see Birdman if you're a fan of movies. Period. They'll be talking about and dissecting this one for years to come.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Movie Review: Fury

America's last "just" war, the most important and destructive event of the twentieth century, however you want to classify the Second World War, there's no denying that it was kind of a big deal. In the decades following  VJ Day, due in part to Soviet paranoia and atomic guilt, American culture has lionized the exploits of our "Greatest Generation" to mythic proportions. You can thank Hollywood for that one. The studios cranked out glowing propaganda films during the war, and dozens of heroic action flicks in the seventy years that followed. With that being said, it figures that a brazen filmmaker like David Ayer would craft a WWII film unlike any other.

Fury is the story of a grizzled American tank crew during the final days of the war in Europe. Brad Pitt stars as "Wardaddy," the unit's stoic leader who has led his men through bloody campaigns in Africa, France and now, Nazi Germany itself. With Berlin in their sights and the war's end imminent, both sides become desperate to accomplish their objectives. Atrocities are committed, morality is thrown out the window and save for the bonds of loyalty and brotherhood established within the cold world of their tank, humanity is a foreign concept to the boys fighting alongside Wardaddy. "Wait until you see it," Shia LaBeouf's Bible toting character warns, "What a man can do to another man."

And the shit they do in this film is gruesome.

Since bolting onto the scene with his script for Training Day, David Ayer has made a name for himself delivering poignant action thrillers. His movies are more than just dudes shooting guns and mindless violence. Fury is hands down, Ayer's best film yet. The emotionally charged chemistry between the cast, the film's hefty "War is Hell" narrative and the mind boggling levels of carnage depicted on camera delivers maximum, jaw dropping intensity. A woman sitting next to me in the theater literally jumped out of her seat during an unexpected sniper attack, and audible gasps where heard when flashes of mangled body parts and immolated soldiers appeared onscreen. This film doesn't mince words or images. There are no champions of virtue or bigger picture heroics in Fury, instead Ayer's film displays a jarring immediacy and gritty realism that highlights the genuine horrors of combat, and the frustrating futility of war itself. We won the battle? Great...too bad all my buddies are dead. What did they die for? A bridge? A road? Great. We're abandoning this spot and moving out in fifteen minutes. Mount up.

Imagine a film as unyiedlingly visceral as the Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, but without the eye glistening sentimentality attached to Spielberg's much acclaim epic. Instead, you're given a candid, almost intrusive, fly on the wall perspective that refrains from glorifying, or whitewashing the exploits of American soldiers during the brutal end days of the European theatre. Ayer's film is loaded with extraordinary performances, blazing action set pieces, and successfully hammers it's point across in spades. War is hell, no matter the era or circumstance. 


Facebook intellectuals
If you live in West Africa, Ebola is a real and terrifying threat. If you live in the United States, you're more likely to get struck by lightning, eaten by a shark or nail Jennifer Lawrence than catch the dreaded virus. Stop freaking out, stop propelling the heinous culture of fear and ignorance that is destroying our society, but most importantly...stop spamming my social media feeds with your asinine bullshit. The sanctity of our Facebook walls is meant for important things [like links to my blog].

Here is some helpful reading material for you Homer Simpson types, ready to barricade yourselves indoors due to your irrational fear of some Ebola toting boogeyman (or boogeymen).

link 1
link 2
link 3

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids. It's most contagious when victims show signs of infection aka; are projectile vomiting and shooting explosive diarrhea. Fetishes aside, if you refrain from drinking piss or maybe hold off on your regularly scheduled satanic blood sacrifice for the next month or so...you should be just fine.

Africa is scary. They have lions and pirates and AIDS [oh my] and they even tried to kill Tom Hanks! Now they've got the Ebola and they're gonna spread their apocalyptic cooties to the Heartland via airplanes. Quarantine the continent! Block all travel to and from and just close your eyes really hard until the danger passes. Sounds great...until you discover that would only make things WORSE.

Finally, you Conspiracy Nuts:
Governments do a lot of shady things [hai Iraq!], but unleashing biological nightmares like Ebola is probably not one of them. It goes back to the MAD doctrine. The idea of Mutually Assured Destruction is why no one actually uses nuclear weapons, because you fuck around with those things and everyone loses. Imperialistic wars w/ American canon fodder = good for business. Biological pandemic that kills humanity = bad.

Ebola is a serious and horrifying thing going on in Africa. This outbreak has more to do with the lack of healthcare infrastructure and education levels [washing the contaminated corpses cuz 'muh social/religious traditions'] in these Third World countries than the virus itself. More people will die from the flu in the USA then Ebola. Chill out. Educate yourselves and stop spamming my feeds!

I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from Fox News of all places. Fox "WAR ON EVERYTHING" News. Think about that one.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Movie Review: Gone Girl

Gone Girl is the latest in director David Fincher's long line of grim, who done it, procedural flicks and as of now, stands tall as one of the best films of the year. Adapted from Gillian Flynn's uber popular novel of the same name, Gone Girl is a dark and thoroughly engrossing nail bitter, loaded with stellar performances, gorgeous cinematography and tons of jaw dropping moments, stemming from both the film's roller coaster plot, and the sheer technical brilliance displayed by it's director.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as Nick and Amy, the most fucked up cinematic couple of recent memory. Things start off great for the pair; two young, hip urban professionals, gallivanting around New York City without a care in the world. They're kind of smarmy faux intellectuals, who seem to spend more time having sex in public than actually working for a living. The good times come to a screeching halt however when a series of Great Recession sized problems derails their sexy, yuppie dream life. They both lose their slick writing jobs, Amy's trust fund runs dry and Nick's mother comes down with stage four cancer back home in Missouri. The couple leave the city defeated and move down to the sticks to care for Nicks dying mother...and that's when the fun begins. By the time we catch up with them on their five year anniversary, the loving spark in their relationship has transformed into a five alarm blaze of spite and resentment. Amy suddenly goes missing and ol' Nick becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance.

Between Flynn's screenplay and Fincher's uncanny eye, Gone Girl is a veritable stimulation overload. Affleck and Pike bring their characters to life with intense passion, but Pike as "the Amazing Amy" walks away with the MVP trophy on this one. She rattles through Flynn's rapid fire dialogue with ease while giving off that patented, tortured Fincher-esque vibe that is utterly entrancing. Kim Dickens shines as the small town detective assigned the case, equal parts skeptic and hardass, while even Tyler Perry excels as Nick's celebrity defense attorney. Who'd have seen that one coming huh? Fincher's posse from The Social Network returns to help spruce Gone Girl up to Oscar frontrunner levels. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score is as unnerving as the film's characters just as Jeff Cronenweth's cinematography is stunning as usual. Really, I don't think you'll see a more beautiful murder scene than in Gone Girl. That's Fincher for you though. The man who brought strap-on knife dildos, orange juice laced napalm and frosty Swedish sodomy to the big screen has just done it again, with semen releasing box cutters.

Sound weird? Cause it is! This movie is literally one giant head trip. The film opens with a shot of Nick caressing the back of Amy's skull, wondering just what the hell is going on inside. Gone Girl's first act does sort of drag a bit, feeling like a lethargic version of last year's Prisoners and actually had me worried for a second, then the second act takes a hard left turn and launches the film into high gear. Forget everything you think you know about Amy and Nick, about traditional crime and noir flicks, even about Fincher because when Gone Girl goes off the rails there's no stopping this twisted psychological train wreck.  This is some of Fincher's spryest directing in years, it's wild, terrifying and in a weird way, channels the spirit of Tyler Durden with some of the most unreliable narration since the Project Mayhem days, guaranteed to leave you squirming on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Gone Girl, it's David Fincher doing what he does best...thoroughly fucking with his audience.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Fall 2014 Moive Guide

FALL 2014 Movie Guide
Hey Bloggers. It's been a while huh? This two month lapse in posting has been my longest absence...ever. I've been kinda busy this year, trying my hand at legit music journalism, writing for New Noise Magazine and recently, joining up with Metal Injection as well.

I've also added a link to my not so fancy tumblr profile, where ya'll can keep tabs on the concert photography (and other random stuff) I've been shooting lately.

This blog will still be my primary outlet for digesting films and ranting about entertainment, political and lolz-y stuff.  Things have been quiet around here mostly because there hasn't been any decent movies out lately. Of course it's Fall now, which means all the "good" movies are about to flood the theaters just in time for Oscar season. Here's a rundown on the flicks I'm the most hyped about for the end 2014. Some Oscar bait melodramas, some lowbrow action/comedies, and the usual weird stuff I love so much. Enjoy.