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Non-Review Review: Birdman (or, The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman is a staggeringly cynical piece of work.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s showbusiness satire has its knives out from the opening sequence, and never puts them away. It is a movie that is relentlessly snarky and bitter about just about any facet of the artistic process. The movie seldom pulls its punches, lawing into its targets with a vengeance. There are points where it almost seems too much, where it feels like Iñárritu might be better served to pull back or ease off for a moment as the film becomes just a little bit too much.

Showtime!

Showtime!

Then again, Iñárritu turns the film’s relentlessness into a visual motif, structuring Birdman as one long unbroken take. This structure is only slightly disingenuous. While there are any number of “cheats” that allow Birdman to stitch together multiple takes, the end result is still a hugely ambitious and impressive piece of work. Even viewers as cynical as the film itself may find themselves marvelling at some of the incredibly fluid transitions and extended sequences. Birdman‘s anger might occasionally come close to suffocating, but its energy is infectious.

That is to say nothing of the performance at the centre of the film, with Michael Keaton playing a washed-up has-been celebrity desperately (and pathetically) fighting for artistic credibility after a career spent in blockbuster cinema. One of the more interesting aspects of Birdman is that it seems just as dismissive of the attempts at artistic rehabilitation as it does of the original “sell out” work. Birdman is a wry, clever and vicious piece of work. It is also a phenomenal accomplishment.

You wouldn't like him when he's angry...

You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry…

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New Bourne Legacy Trailer

Hey, here’s the new trailer for The Bourne Legacy. It’s the latest film in the Bourne series (the original trilogy consisting of The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremecy and The Bourne Ultimatum). Matt Damon isn’t returning, but the new film will focus on Jeremy Renner, who seems to be having quite a year. The supporting cast is suitably impressive, with David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Albert Finney and Scott Glenn all returning – while adding Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac. (Personally, I’m also actually quite geeked to see Stacey Keach, Željko Ivanek and Corey Stoll playing supporting roles as well.)

Hope you enjoy.

I have to say, I’m intrigued at the approach they’re taking – it looks like this film is being structured as a sort of a “side-quel” to the Bourne series, exploring events from another angle. While it’s very clearly an attempt to get the “Bourne” brand out there, I think it’s a pretty cool way of playing with narrative – it seems structured more intricately than a simple reboot, sequel, prequel or remake.

One of the things I’ve found really fascinating about 2012 as a year in mainstream cinema is the way that the studios have been playing with narrative links. Prometheus wasn’t a direct prequel to Alien, more like a spiritual predecessor. The Avengers isn’t a direct sequel to any of the Marvel films, but rather a composite of story threads flowing from each one. I know people decry the rise of franchise cinema (as if that’s something new), but I thing there’s some interesting stuff going on here. I don’t know quite how it’ll work out, but I am intrigued by the approach.

Carrying the Banner: Why Ed Norton Remains the Best Bruce Banner…

I had the pleasure of seeing The Avengers last week. It’s a solid film, and Whedon does a great job tying it all together. What Whedon does especially well is presenting us with a live-action version of the Hulk that really works. Whedon’s green goliath is treated like an actual character rather than a special effect or a plot point, and it looks absolutely incredible, appropriately enough. However, I can’t help but feel like the movie still struggles with the Bruce Banner aspect of the character, and that Mark Ruffalo isn’t a convincing replacement for Ed Norton, who was as perfect a fit for the rage-managing monster as Robert Downey Jr. was for the redeemable Tony Stark.

Distilled Banner?

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Non-Review Review: Stone

Stone began its life as a play. You get a sense of that watching the film – the only points during which it seems to come especially alive is when its two leads, Robert deNiro and Edward Norton, are playing off against each other. Both actors are genuinely great performers who have faded from the spotlight in recent years and, while the film isn’t consistent enough to put either back on the map, it does demonstrate some of the talent involved.

A Stone-cold killer?

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Non-Review Review: Red Dragon

I have a confession to make: I don’t much care for Manhunter. I know I love the work of Michael Mann, but the film just left me cold. Maybe it’s Brian Cox’s stale performance as Hannibal, or the final action sequence choreographed to Inna Gadda Vida, but I don’t react well to the film. I loved the original book – I’d argue that Harris’ Red Dragon surpasses even The Silence of the Lambs as the greatest forensic thriller ever written – and, I have to confess, I certainly quite enjoyed Red Dragon.

Guess whose back...

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In Defense of Edward Norton as the Hulk…

News broke over the weekend that Edward Norton will not be returning as the not-so-jolly green giant for Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. This is after Whedon and Norton had a meeting, and Whedon reportedly blew Norton’s mind so badly that Norton (who had been iffy) cleared his schedule to work on the project – and Whedon seemed pretty cool about it as well. And then Marvel announced from on high that Edward Norton would not be returning as Bruce Banner for the big crossover superhero epic that is going to be the tentpole of 2012. And, with due respect to Marvel, that is pants. Purple, stretchy, non-ripping-when-I-turn-into-a-green-goliath pants.

You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

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Calvin v. Hobbes – An Alternative Interpretation of Fight Club…

I am a sucker for a crazy movie conspiracy theory. Be it the possible identities of Keyser Soze or the fact that The Shining is about Native Americans or even whether Anton Chigurh (the unstoppable killing machine from No Country for Old Men) is actually an angel. I stumbled across a somewhat similar one a little while ago which has been out there a while (and I imagine most of you are familiar with). But, for those who aren’t, I thought I’d pass on my own favourite crazy movie theory of the moment: Fight Club is a sequel to the iconic comic strip Calvin & Hobbes. Edward Norton’s narrator is Calvin and Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is Hobbes. It actually makes sense.

"I am Jack's abandoned childhood friend..."

Note: In case that opening paragraph hasn’t given the game away, there are spoilers in here for the rather excellent Fight Club. I’m assuming anyone reading a detailed article on the movie has seen it (you’ve had ten years!), but – if not – consider yourselves warned that here there be spoilers.
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