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Non-Review Review: The Founder

The Founder is a reasonably solid drama, anchored in a strong central performance and a timely narrative.

In form, The Founder plays like a very old fashioned piece of prestige cinema. It is a grand and sweeping character-driving historical drama that spans a seven-year period from Dick and Mac McDonald’s first encounter with Ray Kroc to his eventual purchase of the family and business name. Unlike many contemporary historical dramas, there is no tight focus on a singular significant historical event. The Founder does not attempt to illuminate its central character through intense scrutiny of one big moment. Instead, it tries to tell the whole story.

Foundation myth.

Foundation myth.

The Founder hits all of the expected beats from a film like this. Although it is obvious rooted in a true story, the movie tracing an arc as smooth as that iconic golden “m.” This not necessarily a bad thing. The Founder knows what it is doing, and it sets out about doing it in an efficient manner. In its own strange way, this feels appropriate. The Founder is as precisely constructed as the “swift service” engine that Ray Kroc elevates from a local quirk to a national franchise. The Founder never falters too badly, never meanders unforgivably.

More than that, The Founder has the luxury of a fantastic central performance from Michael Keaton as the huckster salesman who attaches himself to a small family business and manoeuvres himself to the head of an international empire.

He only wants his cut.

He only wants his cut.

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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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Non-Review Review: RoboCop (2014)

José Padilha’s RoboCop reboot is much better than the lame duck attempt to adapt Total Recall a few years back. It’s a functional action film, structured well enough to stand on its own two feet as a science-fiction thriller. There are the obligatory explosions and CGI, but there’s also a clear enough story populated by reasonably well-drawn characters with just the faintest hint of social commentary at the core. It is solid and functional on its own terms, even if it suffers in comparison to its source material.

Robocop 2.0...

Robocop 2.0…

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A Look Back at Burton and Keaton’s Batman (and Bruce Wayne)…

To celebrate the release of The Dark Knight Rises, July is “Batman month” here at the m0vie blog. Check back daily for comics, movies and television reviews and discussion of the Caped Crusader.

With the release of The Dark Knight Rises just around the corner, it seems like Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman is getting a lot of attention and generating a lot of reflection. I have to admit, I think that the director’s take on the character presents the best live action interpretation ever, and probably the single best take on the character since Batman: The Animated Series during the nineties. However, I can’t help but feel that Tim Burton’s take on the character gets brushed aside a little too easily, dismissed from consideration far too quickly. In particular, I’m especially fond of Michael Keaton’s superb central performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman. While I wouldn’t necessarily rank his performance as better than Christian Bale or Kevin Conroy, I do think that Keaton’s Batman (and especially his Bruce Wayne) get unfairly overlooked.

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Non-Review Review: The Resident

While I was watching The Resident, I couldn’t help but think of Pacific Heights. Maybe it was the fact that I had just watched Jackie Brown and Michael Keaton was fresh in my head, but I really couldn’t get the comparison out of my head. Both movies have a rather fascinating central premise, and a fertile ground for horror – the notion that we know next-to-nothing about the people we finding ourselves living with – but both also fail to follow through on some truly great potential. There are moments when The Resident seems to be working, but they’re all too briefly brushed aside in a movie that doesn’t seem willing to build or develop its unsettling undertones.

This relationship is suffocating her...

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Non-Review Review: Batman

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s Batman. I mean, I hate what the series became with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but I think that Burton managed to craft a unique and yet suitable visual and design aesthetic for the character and his world, while Keaton managed to embody a tragic Batman who really seems quite distinct from most iterations either before or since. While I wouldn’t argue this take on Batman should be “definitive”, or that it fits as comfortably as Nolan’s Batman Begins or even Batman: The Animated Series, I do think it’s a valid and intriguing exploration of one of pop culture’s most enduring and evolving characters.

Full moon…

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Non-Review Review: Batman Returns

I adore Batman Returns. It tends to be a rather polarising film, and certainly a polarising Batman adaptation. It was famously too dark and too weird for mainstream audiences, with too much creepy and freaky stuff serving to distress the parents of children who gobbled up Batman-themed Happy Meals. I think it holds up the best of the four Burton and Schumacher Batman films, because it finds a way to balance Burton’s unique approach and style with that of the Caped Crusader. While Burton’s Batman occasionally struggled to balance the director’s vision with a relatively conventional plot (to the point where Vicki Vale stuck out like a sore thumb, and the movie wasn’t the most coherently plotted of films), here there’s a much greater sense of balance at play, and a feeling that Burton isn’t compromising, and yet is working with the characters.

Shine a light…

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