Whether it’s being haunted by the memory of one’s past and the fear of one’s future, or the likely horror of things we see in our present, there’s plenty at the movies to keep us awake at night!
We’ll start with one of cinema’s great achievements also known as “Birdman” and wrap it up with a silly slasher poof, followed by the cinematic real thing at the Alamo Drafthouse.
Check IMDB.com or your local listings for ticket information.
There’s something for everyone this weekend, and treats abound!
Birdman: Hilarious haunting by past and future
What could be more perfect: a script about two guys played by two guys who could actually be (actually are?) the two guys. An exploration of all that it means to be an actor, all that it takes to be an actor, all that it takes from one to be an actor.
In “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”, actor Riggan Thomson gave up his iconic status in playing a film superhero years ago, but now finds himself haunted by the decision and desperate to reclaim his former glory and relevance. Terrified of becoming a ghost of the past, he risks whatever feeble future may yet remain by mounting a Broadway play. Trouble is, he’s lost his lead actor in the 11th hour, and the one actor available is highly accomplished, yet creatively uncontrollable.
Even if you’re not familiar with the stories of some of the people behind the production you’ll enjoy it tremendously in its own right: “Birdman” is witty, superbly well crafted, heartrendingly poignant, and uproariously funny. Edward Norton called it the most creatively exciting experience of his career, and it shows. He, Keaton, and Stone are at the very top of their games, with the rest of the cast keeping right up with them.
“Birdman” is a love letter to every actor who balanced the popular with the challenging, seeking to balance the two over the course of a career (Keaton); to every actor who put the work first and fought to the creative death on behalf of the script and willingly sustained whatever label of “difficult” may result from it (Norton); to every artist who’s sacrificed without acknowledgement along the journey (“Why don’t I have any self-respect?!” “Because you’re an actress, honey.”); to every partner and family member forced to share their loved one’s attention, perhaps even affection, with The Business.
Its seamless blend with actual life combined with its masterful (and highly demanding) directorial approach earn “Birdman” a top spot for 2014. Best Director and Picture noms at the very least, please.
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Story: A slumped former film icon known for portraying a popular superhero makes a last gasp effort at restoring his legacy by mounting a Broadway play starring a superlative yet notoriously exasperating actor. (Comedy, Drama, Character Study)
5 Stars | Themes: Ambition, Authenticity, Competence, Creativity, Legacy, Man vs. Himself, Self-Confidence, Youth and Age
Rated R | 119 min. | Official Site | Full Review | View Trailer (Note: NSFW for Language)
Screened Oct 23 at the Edwards Grand Palace theater in Houston TX
Nightcrawler: Your low-key, regular-world psychopath
This guy won’t show up on the FBI’s most wanted list; he won’t show up as the crazed psycho terrorizing the cast of your favorite horror movie. No, Lou Bloom is the kind of crazy that walks among us. He’s at our local Chamber networking event… he hangs out at the water cooler… he’s in the grocery store… he brings us our evening news.
Criminy. Now I’m scared. (Has anyone seen Dexter?)
This movie just reiterates why I don’t watch television news. But hey – as a costume he’s pretty easy to carry off, and will scare the bejeebers out of anyone at the punchbowl. Lou starts out as an awkward guy just trying to get by; doing what’s necessary to keep ramen noodles in the pantry, he sustains himself by studying the likes of Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, and master sales trainer Tom Hopkins, et al. He’s strange and broke, but he’s got vision and knows what it takes set goals, get to yes, influence people, and create opportunity.
But once he comes into his calling, he starts using those powers for something a bit less than good.
Writer/director David Gilroy can sleep easy tonight knowing his film is out here. We, on the other hand…
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Story: An eccentric yet driven man finds his calling when he stumbles into the world of crime journalism… and begins to blur every line as he goes in search of excellence. (Suspense/Thriller, Character Study)
4 Stars | Themes: Ambition, Assertiveness, Balance, Boundaries, Competence, Ethics, Self-Confidence, Social Concern and Change
Rated R | 117 min. | Official Site | Official Facebook | View Trailer | Full Review
Screened Oct 28 at the Edwards Marq*E theater in Houston TX
Before I Go to Sleep: Perhaps ignorance really *is* bliss
There are no superheroes. No young adult post-apocalyptic dystopias. No artifices laying the groundwork for a franchise. Just good, old-fashioned, grown-up, self-contained suspense. How refreshing!
Here we meet a woman without context as she wakes up bewildered in a strange man’s bed, walks into a bathroom papered with wedding photos, and turns to find him sitting at the foot of the bed. He begins with a gentle, if eerily rote speech: your name is Christine, you’re forty years old, you sustained head injuries in a car crash years ago, I am your husband Ben… and so it goes. Explanations that she will store up memories today, which will be wiped while she sleeps… sticky notes and whiteboards to keep her oriented while he’s at work… have a good day, Sweetheart, I love you, I’ll see you this evening.
And thus begins another day in Christine’s island world.
Until the phone rings. And it becomes clear that Ben isn’t the only one with a prepared morning speech for Christine.
I give it three stars rather than four only because it took several of us several minutes to debrief some critical details afterward. All of them held, so I’m not sure whether it speaks ill of the script that we had to debrief, or well of the script that there was so much going on. I’m confident it’ll be clear on the second viewing, and in no way argues against seeing the film.
It’s “The Vow” meets “Memento” meets “Groundhog Day” meets “Gaslight”. Finish your popcorn early, and don’t chew gum.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Anne-Marie Duff
Directed by: Rowan Joffe
Story: An amnesiac finds a way to start piecing her life back together, but what she finds may be even more horrifying than the injury itself. (Suspense/Thriller)
High 3 Stars (out of 5) | Themes: Honesty, Illness or Disability, Loyalty, Man vs. Man, Trauma
Rated R | 92 min. | Official Site | Official Facebook | View Trailer | Full Review
Screened Oct 29 at the Edwards Grand Palace theater in Houston TX
Citizenfour: The weekend’s true chiller
This one may well be the most spectacularly scary film of them all.
The press screening came up on only hours notice and I was thus unable attend, but wanted to bring it to your attention anyway, as it’s likely to be quite the horror story.
From the studio:
“Citizenfour” is a real life thriller, unfolding by the minute, giving audiences unprecedented access to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Whatever one thinks of Edward Snowden’s actions (and if unfamiliar, all the more reason to see the film), “Citizenfour” is sure to make one think, even as it sends a chill down the spine.
Rated R | 114 min. | Official Site | Official Facebook | View Trailer
Horror movie hilarity courtesy of Geico Insurance
I’m just adding this at the end for a little Halloween hilarity. If you haven’t seen this commercial, you’re in for a treat. This is exactly why I don’t watch slasher films (this, and the fact that they offer nothing of any higher value), and exactly why I adore this ad – the homicidal maniac in particular.
It’s remarkable how much one actor can accomplish with two seconds. His name’s David Figlioli. Well done!
There’s also much Halloween goodness to be had at your local Alamo Drafthouse (including “Halloween” itself) – be sure also to explore your weekend options there.