The One I Love

5/5 stars
the-one-i-loveThis movie was on every banner before my eyes every time I’d log on to IMDB, Netflix, Rotten Tomatoes, or movie phone. Clearly the gods of matching meta data were in its favor. Every time I clicked on it I just saw a boring, wanna be romance that said in the synopsis it was about a couple at the end of their marriage trying to rekindle things. It just didn’t excite me but I kept it on my list just in case nothing else was on. I highly recommend not giving up on movies because this one ended up being the opposite of boring. It is indeed about a failing relationship but the steps they take to make it better are partly science fiction. That’s right, I said that genre. It’s sort of a Twilight Zone meets a couple in therapy. I know my wife and I related with some of the humor and the sci fi. More than anything, it got me thinking about the many sides to our partner and how we can fall in love with one and not the other. In the end, which will we choose to live with? More importantly, which will we not. Continue reading The One I Love

Flight

flightDenzel Washington is a great actor, not many people will argue against that. When you see his name on a movie you can know it was at least well thought out and that you’ll get a great performance from him. I knew that going into Flight and was not disappointed. The screenplay wove in and out like a plane in mayday and some of the characters didn’t seem correctly placed but the entire ride is energetic full of powerful acting. The story centers on alcoholism with pilots. Like surgeons, they have the public trust as they play the role of god. Those who abuse the public trust must answer to a court of law. Continue reading Flight

The Grand Seduction

5/5 stars
the-grand-seductionNetflix, like so many movie search engines out there, makes suggestions based on your watching history. Usually they are very standard and not particularly enlightening but sometimes they bring out a gem. That’s what happened to me with The Grand Seduction. Check this one out, if you have Netflix you can get it streaming currently. It’s a sleepy, measured movie at the beginning but if you can wait it out, it become comedic, charming, and pleasant like a bowl of hot clam chowder on a rainy day. The movie was produced by Brendan Gleasson who most will remember as “mad eye” from the Harry Potter movies. He’s been in many other notable movies but he’s usually not the star. In this he’s the guy turning the wheels both in front of and behind the camera. Continue reading The Grand Seduction

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

5/5 stars
IMG_3328.JPGThis is a sometimes graphic, emotionally gripping and surprisingly inspirational film. I’m so glad I saw it because I feel more educated and empathetic toward those in poverty as a result. It shines a light on a world that most middle and upper class movie goers won’t go in knowing. We are at a camera’s length from life in the projects, in Brooklyn. The 14 year old black protagonist’s name is Mister and he is questioned about it a few times. He is forced out on his home and onto the streets with a younger friend Pete. They have adventures no child should have to endure. They are fighters and will not accept defeat. Don’t forget the title however, it holds some meaning.

While the film does include a lot of profanity and drug use, it portrays the survival of these two boys in the city. Once out of food, they learn to get by. As Mister says to Pete, “People do what they have to survive out here.” It’s a black struggle picture for sure but it highlights the struggle of all people who are in poverty. As I was watching it I found myself finding more compassion for some of my black students who live at a comparable poverty level. It felt like school was a higher place to be when the streets were illustrated with raw and jagged detail. At least you get free lunch in school. Of course, the struggle isn’t just black. Pete is Asian and there are Hispanic characters down and out. I recall there were at least 2 white people who were in the middle class or at least a class above poverty. Both are sympathetic to Mister’s plight. I had that same sort of sympathy as a teacher and white male in society. With all the money in the world, why s there any inevitable defeat? Movies like this shed a light on the modern African struggle and they help defeat stereotypes. I’ve long believed that the black struggle should be illuminated in film more, it is a credit to mankind what blacks have overcome and continue to. Executive producer was Alicia Keyes. It was the delight of my day to see this film. I actually watched it a second time with my wife and she agreed it was amazing. This film is now streaming on Netflix. I give it my highest recommendation.

 

Birdman

4/5 stars
birdman-01I’ve made an attempt to avoid any sort of spoilers in my review. I simply explain its strengths at a distance and, in my opinion, its one major weakness. Having said that, I recommend you see this movie with no presuppositions. Even the few small things I mention here should be seen as simply one critic’s opinion. See it with an open mind. To begin: this is not a superhero movie. I purposely did not use a mock Birdman as an image for my post. Instead I used Michael Keaton in his underwear because metaphorically, this is what you get. I feel bad for the kids that may pay to go see this expecting a gritty sort of superhero that mimics the likes of Batman. This is not a lower Batman, this is a lower person and the anatomy of his breakdown. It just so happens that in this man’s life, he played a “Birdman” in a set of sequels. It doesn’t matter to the point. Birdman is a firing of brain cells in the mind of an actor who has wasted his life living for appearances and not for reality. In his words, he “has not been present” for his life. We can all get some good lessons from this movie. It portrays men as egotistical and highly capable of getting what they want at any cost. It portrays women as victims who men fail to support time and time again. The male brain is sinister at times and women find this sad. In fact, the audience is meant to find it sad. At the bottom right of Riggan’s (character played by Michael Keaton) mirror he has a quote taped on that reads: “The thing is the thing, not what is said about the thing.” Could there be an application to social media? To “getting off the grid?” Maybe. You as a viewer decide to what degree.

There is also a dream element that has already been touched on all over the internet so I won’t get too into it. There is a lot about the brain but not in the way you might think. Some see the film as a death bed reflection, others see it as part dream and part brain firing. I do not feel that this movie was meant to be understood. It was meant to be enjoyed and talked about but never fully understood. One thing I noticed that didn’t seem real was when Riggan pulled a cocktail napkin out of his wallet, showing his daughter Sam (Emma Stome) it’s significance to the play. Raymond Carver had signed it for his while he was in a bar with his dad. I din’t know about you, but receipts in my wallet start to disintegrate after a few months. I thought it was bad writing at the time but now I see it could be part of a dream or trick of the brain at time of death. Perhaos the whole movie is that.

You keep waiting throughout the film for it to make sense but it really isn’t until you’ve seen the entirety of it that you can start to form opinions on what just happened. Hallucinations permeate the film so it’s hard to see what’s really going on. I think in the end, the psychiatrists will have the best read of this film. Go see Birdman if you want to see a creative and beautifully filmed movie. It might also appeal to you that Michael Keaton, Zach Galafinakis, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Emma Stone are in it. The acting drew me in like a moth to a light. It was a highly enjoyable movie experience but you have to be willing to fill in the mortar between the bricks. Once again, don’t assume it’s about a superhero. The title is extremely misleading. There is a man in a suit but he is the voice in Keaton’s head that tells him things. He isn’t real. He is, in fact, in the movie only about 10 minutes total. Ok, I’ve said enough about that. This is not a superhero film. I feel it leaves too much up to the imagination. It reminded me of the acclaimed Enemy movie that way. Perhaps the director got to close to the material and forgot the audience couldn’t get the ending. It needed to be explained more. For that reason I think a lot of people will be frustrated with this movie. I know I was. It could have said so much more about “being present” in ones life and social media and art and theater. Instead, it tries too hard to be spooky and vague and achieves it, which is also fun when you’re out at the movies. This is at the cost of a star. I give it 4/5.