Michael Keaton Strikes Back

birdman-posterIt’s been long time since I was excited about seeing a Michael Keaton movie. Probably since Batman Returns, which came out 22 years ago. (At some point, I remember wanting to see Multiplicity, but I don’t think I ever did; I was excited to see Out of Sight and Jackie Brown, but those are merely movies with a small bit of Michael Keaton.)

On the other hand, I usually get excited by a new film by Alejandro González Iñárritu, even if the results don’t always meet my expectations. There’s a lot I’ve liked about 21 GramsBabel, and Biutiful, but Inarritu often piles the drama on too heavy on top of scrawny plots & characters.

All that said, I never expected to see Inarritu and Keaton in a movie together, but that’s what we get with Birdman, and it looks fascinating. Michael Keaton’s been middle-of-the-road for so long, it’s easy to forget he made some great dark comedies in the 80s – Night Shift and Beetlejuice in particular – and also did some solid dramatic work in Pacific Heights and Much Ado About Nothing. 

Birdman obviously acknowledges the conceit that, yes, Keaton used to play Batman, then appears to take that in a crazy Black Swan kind of direction.

Game of Thrones has nothing to say about rape, continues to say it very badly & loudly

There are many choices that need to be made when adapting a book into a TV show or movie. Some things work on the page but not on the screen, and some things simply need to be cut for time. This goes quadruple for a series of books as massive as Game of Thrones – the sheer volume of characters and subplots would render any adaptation a confusing mess. For the most part, HBO’s Game of Thrones has made a lot of smart choices, paring down the cast of characters and streamlining some of the stories. We can quibble about what has or hasn’t worked – someone like Shae gets more character development, while poor Melisandre is stripped of her complexity – but we can agree that some changes are necessary.

Having said all that, it’s hard to imagine that someone would read George R.R. Martins’ books and come to the conclusion that the audience needs to see even more rape and cruelty.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier – the only problem is that Captain America & The Winter Soldier are in it

Captain America Winter SoldierThe worst thing about Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that Captain America is in it.

I can’t lie: I’ve never liked the star spangled avenger. Most of that can be attributed to me being Canadian, and being fairly disinterested in a superhero wrapped in someone else’s flag. (Lest you think it’s entirely about nationalism, I have always maintained that Alpha Flight is pretty stupid.)

The first Captain America movie because it put the character in his proper context: As a piece of WWII propaganda. I don’t even mean that in a derogatory sense: It was a fun, pulpy bit of entertainment that played with the character’s origins and created a scenario where it was (almost) credible to dress a man up in a costume and send him to Germany to fight Nazis with a shield.

But while the modern Captain America narrative tends to be a “fish out of water” story, Winter Soldier takes Captain America too far out of the character’s comfort zone, and doesn’t do much with the resulting juxtaposition.

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Stop taking pictures with Rob Ford

It’s not just about being a fat stupid drunk.

We all know Rob Ford is ridiculous. At his best, he mixes simplistic catch phrases with incoherent bluster until he turns red in the face. One might think he was drunk or high most of the time, until he shows up in public demonstrating what a drunk Rob Ford really looks like. There was also that time he got so drunk he accidentally smoked crack.

And so we have the Crack Mayor, the godsend to late-night talk show hosts, who says and does things that politicians simply don’t do. He appears on Jimmy Kimmel, and people crowd around him to take his picture wherever he goes. Some people even take pictures of their kids with Rob Ford. Some of those people are probably true supporters, while others are doing it out of irony or celebrity spotting. Either way, they should stop.

If he were merely a buffoon, if he were only a stupid rich man pretending to be mayor, then it might be okay. But there’s so much more to Rob Ford than the crack mayor who has plenty to eat at home.  Continue reading →

Friday Music: EMA, Boris, Nothing, Mogwai

Erika M Andersons’ previous album, Past Life Martyred Saints, was one of those albums I liked & admired, but didn’t love. It was dark, moody, and emotional, and something I should have adored, but it just didn’t click for reasons I can’t fully explain.

There are no such problems with Future Void*, which is one of the best things I’ve listened to in 2014. It’s noisy (opener Satellites) fun (grungey pop So Blonde), and emotional (3jane, which is almost certainly going to appear on some soundtracks.)

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Karen Stintz runs for mayor, announces she has no idea how to identify a mayor

“We thought we were getting a responsible leader.”

That’s what newly-registered Mayoral candidate Karen Stintz had to say about electing Rob Ford at the Toronto Board of Trade.

It’s safe to say that Rob Ford has surprised a lot of people during his time as mayor. No one expected him to be videotaped smoking crack, hanging out with convicted criminals in parking lots late at night, or waging a public relations war with the chief of police.

But let’s not pretend there weren’t any signs pointing to the possibility Ford might not be entirely mayoral.

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American Hustle has style, but can’t back up its ambition

American HustleAmerican Hustle opens with a balding and pot-bellied Christian Bale performing the intricate ritual of arranging his combover. There’s some obvious symbolism in his character, Irving Rosenfeld, pretending to be someone he’s not: He’s a con man, leading desperate people on with the promise of loans that will never materialize in exchange for some very real fees. As his partner and lover, Amy Adams masquerades as an English noblewoman with ties to British banks.

But the scene, full of glue and merkins and hairspray, also hints at one of the film’s weaknesses: It is very concerned with how it looks. The film is set in the late 1970s in New Jersey and Long Island, and director David O. Russell wants to make sure you know it. This was clear from the earliest promotional posters, which showed off the clothes, hairstyles, and, in the case of the female cast members, cleavage of the era. Continue reading →