Tag Archives: michael keaton

‘Spotlight’ a Well-Acted, Infuriating True Story

Spotlight_(film)_posterMichael Keaton probably should’ve started this whole “drama acting” thing a while ago. He could have a lot more Oscar nominations.

“Spotlight” tells the true story of the Boston Globe team of journalists (Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) that worked to uncover the child abuse by Catholic priests, and the extents the church went through to cover it up. Tom McCarthy directs and co-writes.

Keaton earned his first career Oscar nomination for last year’s “Birdman,” and many think he could score another nomination for his work here. Keaton, along with pretty much the entire cast, does solid and nuanced work in “Spotlight,” a film that is more about the little moment and aftertaste it leaves in your mouth than the wide scope.

The story told in “Spotlight” is something many people may have heard of, but few likely know the extents the journalists went through in order to uncover the conspiracy involving the Catholic Church. As a journalism major, I appreciate a film that shows the work newspapers go through to break a story and the inner-conflicts they have on how and when to run them.

Director McCarthy does a very good job subtly showing the power and influence the Church has over the institutions and families of Boston, by doing things like showing churches in the background of many establishing shots. The script, which he co-wrote with Josh Singer, has some nice interplay between the characters, and gives each actor an individual scene to shine.

The real stars of the show to me, however, are Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci. Ruffalo is arguably the lead of the ensemble cast, given the character with most emotional weight. He has one scene that will likely be used as his “For Your Consideration” reel, and the scenes that he and a small but effective Tucci share are when the film is at its best.

The film does take a little while to get going (the team kicks the story around before they realize the magnitude it could have), and at times people throwing out names of so many priests, lawyers, and victims, half of which never get a face placed to them, can get confusing in-the-moment.

The film will make you angry that so little was done to stop and punish the priests who abused so many children, but that is just good filmmaking. At the end of the film is lists cities that have since had sex abuse scandals brought up against the Church, and it’s enormous.

“Spotlight” isn’t groundbreaking cinema, and it isn’t intense throughout the entire runtime as it is in some individual moments, but those moments that do excel are as effective and entertaining as anything at the movies this year.

Critics Rating: 8/10



2015 Oscar Predictions

Well, it’s almost that time of year. Time for the King Daddy of all award shows, the Oscars. Here I will go over who I think SHOULD win (subjective) that pretty golden statue, and who I think WILL win (objective), on Sunday, February 22.

Best Picture

This is pretty much a two horse race, with two other films having a longshot of playing spoiler. The only film with practically no shot of winning is “Selma”, which only has one other nomination (Best Song, which it will win). Other films like “Whiplash”, “Imitation Game” and “Theory of Everything” were solid, but pretty much it will come down to “Boyhood” vs “Birdman”. “American Sniper” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” have picked up immense momentum since January, so they have the best shot of being a dark horse. Of the films nominated I personally found “Imitation Game” the best, but I think the final award of the night will go to “Boyhood” due to all that went in to making the film. Plus the theme song of the film, “Hero”, is fantastic.

SHOULD WIN: The Imitation Game

WILL WIN: Boyhood



Best Director

Probably the most interesting competition of this year. It will likely come down to Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman”), but it goes deeper than that. Both men created projects that defied what we knew about film, with Linklater using the same cast to film “Boyhood” over 12 years, and Iñárritu shooting “Birdman” is continuous, sometimes 15 minute long takes. Whoever loses this award will likely take home Best Original Screenplay, so they shouldn’t hang their head for too long. I think Linklater wins because of his dedication and control of such a monumentally unique film. Other nominees include Wes Anderson (chance to win here or Original Screenplay for “Budapest”), Bennett Miller (who was nominated for his work on “Foxcatcher”, yet the film did not receive a Best Picture nod) and Morten Tyldum (“Imitation Game” was driven more by Cumberbatch and the script so this one somewhat baffled me).

SHOULD WIN: Richard Linklater

WILL WIN: Richard Linklater



Best Actor

Pretty much the same story as Best Picture, this award will likely go to one of two nominees. I love Steve Carell to death and his performance in “Foxcatcher” was amazing, but he and Benedict Cumberbatch both should just be happy to have earned their first Oscar nod. Like his “American Sniper” vehicle, Bradley Cooper has a small chance of pulling the upset, but it will come down to Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Eddie Redmayne (“Theory of Everything”), and Redmayne has won all the precursor awards needed to imply a victory. The Academy may give Keaton the edge because he is the older, more well-known actor; however Redmayne’s role was so demanding both physically and emotionally, I think he’ll win it.

SHOULD WIN: Steve Carell

WILL WIN: Eddie Redmayne



Best Supporting Actor

Well this paragraph could be as short as “it’s going to be J.K Simmons” because it’s going to be J.K Simmons. Most people know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the original Spider-Man trilogy, however he gave a fantastic performance in “Whiplash”, and it is good to see him finally winning awards. Edward Norton was equally amazing in “Birdman”, and he would get my vote, but Simmons has near swept everything else. Ethan Hawke got his 4th nomination, Mark Ruffalo got his second and Robert Duvall somehow got one for “The Judge” (my mouth hit the floor when it was announced). It’ll be Simmons, with 1% chance Norton comes in for the steal.

SHOULD WIN: Edward Norton

WILL WIN: J.K. Simmons



Best Actress

If you thought Best Supporting Actor was a lock, then this is a steel cage. Julianne Moore will win. Like, 100%. Not too many non-critics saw her work in “Still Alice”, but like Simmons she has swept the board. The women who will stand and clap when Moore’s name is called include former Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Reese Witherspoon, as well as first-timers Felicity Jones and Rosamund Pike.

SHOULD WIN: Julianne Moore

WILL WIN: Julianne Moore



Best Supporting Actress

The Oscars aren’t very fun this year. The front runner is Patricia Arquette for her 12-year-long role in “Boyhood”, and deservingly so. Laura Dern earned a nomination, as did Emma Stone, so that’s kind of cool. I loved “The Imitation Game” but have no real idea why Keira Knightley was nominated, and I threw up when Meryl Streep got her obligatory nomination (all she has to do is appear in a movie and the Academy will nominate her). Arquette did the best and most dedicated work, and she deserves the trophy she will likely take home.

SHOULD WIN: Patricia Arquette

WILL WIN: Patricia Arquette



Keaton and Norton are Perfect in ‘Birdman’

Birdman_posterSometimes a film has a large scope and just isn’t able to fill it. Whether it is the visual ambitions or just from a technical standpoint, a director’s goals just sometimes don’t pan out on screen. “Birdman” is absolutely not one of those films.

“Birdman” stars Michael Keaton as a washed up actor who is known for formally portraying a superhero in movies (kind of ironic). To try and remain relevant and prove he is capable of being a true actor, he mounts a Broadway play while at the same time battling his family, his costars and himself. Edward Norton and Emma Stone costar and Alejandro González Iñárritu writes and directs.

“Birdman” does something I’ve never seen before: it shoots the entire film as if it is one continuous take, with each scene seemingly transitioning to the next with no edits. While obviously the entire movie was not shot in 120 straight minutes, each scene seems to be one take. This is not only is impressive from a filmmaking standpoint, but also becomes mind-blowing when you think of the pressure that put on the actors to not screw up; and is even more amazing when you see the results.

Michael Keaton and Edward Norton give two of 2014’s best performances, if not two of the better acting jobs in recent years. Keaton plays a man trying to remain relevant well past his prime, but “mocks Twitter and won’t even get a Facebook page” as his daughter (Stone) says. He has moments of dark humor, the entire film does, but it is the scenes that show him fighting his inner demon (in the form of the voice of a man in a bird costume) that are the best.

Norton may be even better playing a Broadway actor who thinks his he is God’s gift to the stage, and when someone does something to ruin his techniques, he voices his distaste, even if it’s in the middle of a live performance. There is one scene between Norton and Stone (who is fantastic in her own right) that is just insanely fun and pretty damn well-executed, and if Norton gets the Oscar nomination that he deserves then that scene will likely be used as his submission tape.

As near-perfect as the acting in “Birdman” is, the messages it sends are just as good. One is all about the differences between actors and celebrities, and how many actors have traded in genuine craft for capes, and judge their career on weekend box office totals. Another underlying message is that critics are just those who failed at the craft themselves; like they say, those who can’t do, teach (ouch).

The score of the film is also amazing, and it seemed that on numerous occasions it was the transition between scenes with its drums and symbols.

“Birdman” is nearly perfectly executed on near all fronts. The acting and score are phenomenal, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s direction and screenplay are infectious, and the continuous shot gimmick is anything but (next movie I see the edits and different angles are going to be painfully glaring). The third’s final act gets a little out there, and the ending in particular is a bit ambiguous, but these don’t ruin the film. Much like Keaton hearing the voice of Birdman, I can’t get Norton and Keaton out of my head, and I’m sure this won’t be the last that I, or you, hear about their performances for a long time.

Critics Rating: 9/10

‘RoboCop’ Remake Needs Some Touch Ups


Another day, another Hollywood remake. It almost never ends well, with remakes like “Total Recall” and “Friday the 13th” receiving critical panning. However occasionally a remake is better than the original, such as “Dredd” and “3:10 to Yuma”.

This time around the film being remade is “RoboCop”, the 1987 movie that was well-received due to its over-the-top violence and satire of American society. And how does its remake fare? Well, it is honestly in between pass and fail.

Starring Joel Kinnaman in the titular role, this 2014 adaption is a retelling of the original film about Alex Murphy, a cop who is nearly killed but manages to be saved by being put inside a cyborg’s body. Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Samuel L. Jackson all co-star. Brazilian director José Padilha helms the film.

In a lot of ways, this new version of RoboCop is like “The Amazing Spider-Man” or “Man of Steel”. It is a movie retelling the origins of a character which features some great ideas and lofty ambitions, and while it hits some of them, it falls flat on others.

The strengths of the film are mainly its supporting cast. Keaton is great fun as the sinister CEO of the company that creates RoboCop. Oldman gives it his all as the doctor who tries to get Alex back into the line of duty after his accident. And Samuel L. Jackson has some entertaining monologues as the host of a talk show, which also serves to explain the movie’s plot narrative.

Another strong point is director Padilha’s ability to shoot entertaining PG-13 action scenes. Yes, in an effort to put more butts in chairs this RoboCop is PG-13 and not hard R like the original. But the styles of violence that are used, such as seeing a lot of the gunfights through RoboCop’s helmet vision, makes us see a high body count without all that close-up, shaky cam that normally accompanies a PG-13 film.

The film’s largest problem lies with RoboCop himself, Joel Kinnaman. It is not that Kinnaman is a bad actor I just believe he is horribly miscast here. His performance is, for lack of a better word, robotic. Even before his accident he shows no emotion or real likable traits, so when he becomes almost all robot and is struggling to regain his human emotional side, we don’t know or care if he succeeds. Unless Kinnaman gets some coaching from Peter Weller, the original RoboCop, this could spell huge trouble if the filmmakers want to make this into a new franchise.

The film’s climax is also somewhat rushed, as there are no real stakes until the very last minute. If there was a better villain or a tighter script, then this really may have been able to be one of those films that were able to brag that it was better than the original. Instead, it falls into generic PG-13 action film territory; but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t worth your time.

People who were alive at the time of the original may get a kick out of seeing how 27 years and $100 million can change a movie, and teenage boys will like seeing robots punch and shoot things. The RoboCop remake is nowhere near as bad as it could have been, but it also is not as much fun as it should have been.

Critics Rating: 6/10