Birdman: Review by Kenneth Buff

Like most people I know, my interest in Birdman came from the obvious parallels between Michael Keaton's real career and that of the character he is playing. In Birdman Keaton plays Riggan Thomson. A Hollywood actor who's last great role was in the 1990's when he stared as the title character in Birdman 3. Keaton of course will always be most well known for playing Batman in the first two (serious) Batman films. But that's where the comparisons between Keaton and Riggan Thomson stop. Keaton's real life persona, and Riggan Thomson's couldn't be any further from each other, and the plot of the film is definitely nothing like what you would see in a summer superhero block buster. All of which is good news for the audience.

The film is mostly about the fate of a play Riggan has adapted, is directing, and starring in—this of course rubs some Broadway diehards the wrong way, such as Edward Norton's character, a beloved Broadway actor named Mike Shiner, and a New York Times critic played by Lindsay Duncan—but it's also about the insatiable attention artists crave, and what lengths they're willing to go to get it; to stay relevant in today's lightning speed culture. The film hits all the right beats, but it delivers them in that strange way that only an independent film can dare to do. Now don't let that last statement turn you off, this isn't a head scratching movie (well, except for maybe the ending), it is grounded in a realism that's sorely missing from the majority of todays films, and is a welcome addition to Keaton's filmography. 

Interstellar: Review by Kenneth Buff

I have to say, I had pretty heightened hopes going into seeing this film. Those hopes were there for many reasons. Here are a few:

  • It's the first big sci-fi film to hit theaters since Elysium, and that was several years ago.
  • It's a Christopher Nolan film.
  • It's the next film in the Matthew McConaughey McConaissance, following Mud, Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective and The Wolf of Wall Street. All of which were great, and you should check them out if you haven't had a chance to yet.
  • The cast in general. Not only do you have McConaughey, but there's also Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, and the creepy guy from American Beauty (the boyfriend who video taped the plastic bag blowing in the wind).

So, as you can see, I had pretty high expectations going in. This film was going to change sci-fi cinema for me. Well, the question you're probably asking yourself right now is: "Did it?" And the answer to that is: "Well, yeah. I think it did."

Now before you go saying that I said Interstellar is the best movie ever, let me go a little more into detail in what I mean when I say "I think it kinda changed sci-fi cinema," what I'm really saying is, "it might change sci-fi cinema." Or more accurately, it might renew an appreciation for a long lost genre. Because when viewed by anyone who's seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Sphere, or Sunshine, or The Thirteenth Floor or Dark City, it becomes clear that this film is following the classic conventions of sci-fi, and it's doing a great job. There's scientist on a mission to save a dying planet, there's robots with personalities, there's dangerous foreign environments, there's science talk of black holes and relativity--which Neil deGrasse Tyson has said the film "Let's you experience [it] like no film has before." (in the movie relativity works as a  sort of unwanted time travel, people on Earth age faster than the people on the ship when they embark on certain planets in another galaxy). So all the things we want in an epic sci-fi film are here, and the best part is, Nolan makes it feel believable. He grounds the film in the father-daughter relationship, it's what becomes the heart of this movie.

My hope is that Interstellar will inspire other writers and directors to tackle the sci-fi genre with more vigor than just another post apocalyptic film starring 20 somethings as 17 somethings. After all, the working world is populated by adults, we deserve some adult movies, and this my friends, I am happy to report, is an adult movie. It's a must see. Get out there and get your ticket. But stay home if you hate robots and space ships. You'll find Katniss next door.