Friday, December 26, 2014

Locke and Birdman

In Locke, Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a family man and building foreman who goes on a drive and has a few life changing telephone calls.  When I first heard about the premise of Locke, a movie featuring one actor who is driving and talking on the phone for the duration of the whole film, I was curious to see how it would play out.  It plays out fine and it's interesting enough that I was intrigued to see what would happen next the whole time.

A couple of things that really surprised me is how ordinary Ivan Locke is- the stuff that he has to deal with- projects at work and family aren't extraordinary circumstances, yet there is still a lot of story to be told there.  I was also surprised by how much I could get to know a character by just their voices.  You never get to see Donal, one of Ivan's colleagues from work or Katherine, his wife, but by the end of the movie, I was surprised by how much I knew or could infer about them just by their voices.

Overall, Locke is a decent film.  It's not a must see but if you find yourself intrigued in seeing how a movie featuring Tom Hardy talking on the phone in a car, it's worth checking out.  The only parts of the movie that seemed incongruous are when Ivan monologues to his dead father.  It takes you out of the realism of the film and away from the large amount of tension that builds just from the real time phone conversations on as Ivan drives on.


Now, Birdman is another movie that experiments with movie storytelling and does tremendously well with it.  Birdman might just be my favorite movie of 2014.   There's nothing too unique about Birdman from a plot perspective.  Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) is an aging movie star, who is about to open his play on Broadway, in which he stars and directs.  Riggan sees it as his last shot at greatness.  The aging movie star story has been told many times in many different ways- recently really well by BoJack Horseman on Netflix.  Now what makes Birdman a treat is really how the story is told.

Birdman is a bit jarring at first and it takes a while to get used to the camera following the characters around in real time.  In fact, Birdman is shot in a way that it looks like the whole movie is just one long single take and it works fantastically well to creating the mounting tension that Riggan feels as opening night draws closer and the escalating chaos backstage.  You really get pulled into the movie, with the thumping drumline and the characters flitting in and out - almost like a play, and grow to care about them, especially Riggan and his mental state of mind.  There're so many great scenes that are hard to describe without watching them first or spoiling the film.  One of my favorite scenes is when Riggan has to walk through Time Square during a dress rehearsal.
 There are a lot of big names in the cast including Emma Stone- Sam, Riggan's daughter who just got out of rehab, Edward Norton- Mike, a pompous, talented theater actor, Naomi Watts-Lesley, an actress in the play, and Zach Galifianakis-Jake, Riggan's long suffering producer.  Norton stands out as an apologetic jerk and features in many of the movie's funniest moments.      

Go see Birdman!  It's a fantastic ride.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

BoJack Horseman

BoJack Horseman is a pleasant surprise.  It starts off as an adult cartoon comedy and then somewhere along the way, without us realizing it, it turns into something darker, more serious, and ultimately very satisfying.  BoJack (Will Arnett) is about a washed up 90s family sitcom star who starts re-evaluating his life when Diane (Allison Brie- Annie from Community :D), a ghostwriter, pens his life story.  

The first three episodes are probably the weakest of the bunch but do stay with the show, the payoff is worth it.  In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the fourth season of Arrested Development in which each episode builds on each other and it's only when you're a few episodes in that things start making sense and you start getting the jokes.  BoJack is full of dark humor and has lots of zany anthropomorphic jokes.  One of my favorites are the bird paparazzi.  There's also a lot of jokes around Hollywood (Hollywoo') culture and some around internet culture a la Buzzfeed.

The characters, despite most of them being deeply flawed, are all immensely interesting and I was surprised by how much I grew to care for all of them.  Among the main characters, there's also Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris), BoJack's intense, overworked and underappreciated agent; Todd (Aaron Paul!), BoJack's loyal, slacker housemate; and the always sunny and optimistic Mr. Peanutbutter  (Paul Tompkins), BoJack's rival.  Among the more minor characters, there's the hilariously constantly panicked publisher Mr. Penguin (Patton Oswalt).

BoJack is really at its best when it upends traditional storytelling and has some of its best episodes towards the end of the season.  Some of my favorites are: Say Anything- in which we learn a lot more about Princess Carolyn, who goes from someone who's hard to care for to a fully developed, complicated character, The Telescope- in which BoJack visits an old friend and his past, and Downer Ending- which goes to emotional depths you'd never expect the show would be capable of early on.