Friday, October 31, 2014

Birdman and Keaton fly high

I tried for four-on-four last weekend. But I only made it to three. These were Viktor (Philippe Martinez, 2014), starring uber garrulous Gérard Depardieu, he of the seven bottles a day wine habit (that’s my man!) and justifiably notorious tax refugee (I’ll second that!). That was followed by Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014) (picture left) starring Michael Keaton. Finally, there was Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent with Bill Murray. The fourth film that I wanted to get to, and am kicking myself that I didn’t, was Matthew Amalric’s The Blue Room (2014) starring the same. The AMC Lavonia 20 was the only cinema screening it. Wouldn’t you know, it’s gone this weekend….Which makes me want to comment on the threadbare audiences for critically acclaimed films in Detroit. Viktor, for example, had just one screening at Cinema Detroit in the old Burton International School on Cass Ave. I, dear readers, was the only person in attendance. There was a full human skeleton a few rows over in a seat but something tells me it didn’t pay…..In any case, here are a few capsule reviews: 

Viktor: Ah, the Russian Mafia. When I think of the Russian Mafia I think they’ve got to be just so many more times worse than their Italian kin. Depardieu as the redoubtable Viktor, just released from prison, seeks revenge for his son’s death. We’re taken on a tour of the Moscow underworld, which is great because it includes some stunning above world scenes of the contemporary city, along with Viktor’s solitary (of course) walk through Red Square. I’d pay to see Depardieu in just about anything. And in this picture he doesn’t much more than mumble and slowly amble along. That’s okay. Otherwise we’re treated to a slurry of mob clichés and a predictable story. 

Birdman: Here’s the first movie in a while I can say I was blown away by. (It helps if you haven’t read anything about the film.) This is a movie about the acting trade or more specifically one actor’s (Keaton as Riggan) attempt to redeem himself on the lofty stages of Broadway after selling out and becoming a schlock actor in Hollywood comic book adventure movies. Birdman can be a stand in for Keaton’s real life roles in the Batman franchise – yuck yuck. Not only does this film have a terrific cast (Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis) but as per its namesake it flies in terms of cinematography, plot and sheer top-of-form acting.  

St. Vincent: Leave it to me to conclude that this was an edgy-break-new-territory film about a nasty misanthrope. Murray as Vincent is a narcissistic people-hater alright. But this story about a Vietnam vet frozen in time travels a predictable path as he reluctantly befriends an elementary school kid (Jaeden Lieberher), son of his new next door neighbour Maggie (Melissa McCarthy). The movie ends up being pretty mainstream schmaltzy. 

As for The Blue Room, I’m doubly mad at myself for being so lackadaisical and missing it, especially after today re-reading the description: “Two adulterous lovers go from pillow talk to possible murder in this sexy, brain-teasing thriller. Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Grand Budapest Hotel) directs and stars as Julien…Based on a novel by celebrated crime writer Georges Simenon, this beguiling cinematic puzzle unfolds in an elliptical style that keeps the audience guessing every step of the way.”

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