Keanu Reeves may not be the greatest thespian of his generation, but you have to give the man points for doing the unexpected. After hits like Speed and The Matrix trilogy, he could easily have coasted by on name recognition, collecting big paydays and headlining spectacle level action tentpoles (okay, he tried on occasion, with films like Constantine and The Day the Earth Stood Still, but those are relatively few and far between). Instead, however, he’s chosen offbeat projects, like A Scanner Darky, and made his directorial debut with an old school martial arts film, Man of Tai Chi, where he plays against type as a villain. He’s even taking a turn on TV with the upcoming miniseries Rain. John Wick, a gritty, throwback revenge actioner, helmed by two stuntmen making their own directorial debut, is another unusual choice, and it may be my favorite movie of the year thus far. It’s definitely up there.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a big, bold movie, the kind that takes aesthetic and thematic risks, and that grabs you from frame one and practically screams at you to pay attention. It’s also very convinced of its own cleverness. The film made the rounds at all the prestigious fall festivals, garnering praise and adulation at every stop, and it’s become impossible for anyone to mention it without discussing awards possibilities. Surely this will figure into those races, in many respects justifiably so, but while Birdman is a very good film, even coming near greatness, it’s not necessarily the paradigm shifting, perception altering feature that some have made it out to be. There’s a fine line between genius and pretension, and Birdman walks on both sides. As much as there is to praise, there’s always a ‘but’ looming.
Like many of you, my introduction to Richard Linklater came in high school with his first feature, Slacker, which, to this day, is one of the first images that pops into my mind when I hear the phrase “independent film.” Made on the cheap, using non-professional actors, and told in an unusually structured, seemingly plotless way, it’s the kind of movie that, especially at the time, when the new wave of American independent cinema was quietly building steam on the down low, a 15- or 16-year-old kid might spend weekends getting high on a couch in a buddy’s basement and watching, dissecting the philosophical ramifications of each individual segment, as well as the movie as a whole. Linklater’s follow-up feature, Dazed and Confused, served a similar purpose, though in a very different way.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Initially, I wasn’t going to write about this because it was a leak, and while I won’t get into the legal or ethical explanations, I would have just felt like a dick doing it, so I didn’t. But now it’s official, so what the hell. Marvel was going to unveil your first look at Avengers: Age of Ultron next week during their regularly scheduled episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but since it got out, they decided to release it in an official capacity. So here it is.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Despite having drastic ups and downs over the course of the series, the last half of season 4 of AMC’s The Walking Dead was, by far, the best run in the series, giving me hope, guarded as it was, going into season 5. And thus far the young season hasn’t let me down. After starting with last week’s high-paced, action-centric season premiere, “No Sanctuary,” the massively popular zombie drama returns with “Strangers,” a quiet, moody, contemplative episode that continues to ratchet up the tension and build towards something even bigger.
If you haven’t watched the episode, stop reading now, because we’re going to talk about it, in depth, and this will include a great many SPOILERS.
When I was a kid I absolutely loved Leviathan. And just to be clear, we’re talking about the 1989 Alien knock off, not the Leviathan from this year, also known as Russia’s official entry into the foreign language Oscar race. They’re two very, very different movies.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
As far as animated kid’s movies go, Jorge R. Gutierrez’ The Book of Life is simultaneously wildly inventive and totally familiar, which are the film’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, respectively. Fortunately for the viewer, one totally supersedes the other, and the end result is a stunningly beautiful movie with a story that, while not particularly original, could be much, much worse, and has enough going on at the periphery that it is still interesting. And to be honest, there aren’t enough children’s movies about death, let alone ones that deal with it as positively as this one.