Movie Meter: Michael Keaton Makes a Comeback, John Wick Is Surprisingly Good

What to see (and skip) in local movie theaters this weekend.


Birdman: Despite the brilliant devastation of his film Biutiful, Alejandro González Iñárritu has not received quite the same level of fame as other Mexican directors of his generation, like Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. That likely ends now. His new film is a complex allegory concerning the nature of art, fame, and soulful pursuit, but it’s also just a hell of a lot of fun. Michael Keaton plays a former big-star superhero actor who, many years past his prime, yearns to produce something of significance on the Broadway stage. Edward Norton plays the actor just talented and/or uncontrollable enough to ensure his success or failure. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Whiplash: If you’re lucky, you’ve had a mentor who has pushed you beyond your own expectations. Let’s hope you’ve never encountered someone as perpetually demanding as J.K. Simmons’ Terence Fletcher, the maniacally perfectionist jazz teacher who terrorizes his students in Whiplash. Poor first-year drummer Andrew, played by Miles Teller, literally practices until he bleeds over his kit. Damien Chazelle’s film, which absolutely dominated Sundance this past year, is sort of the flip-side to the rah-rah positivism of FameRotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Dear White People: Winner of this year’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent at Sundance, Justin Simien’s sly satire concerns a group of black students at a mostly white college who have to deal with the racial and political implications of their matriculation. Critics suggest that it’s both funny and deeply provocative, a difficult combination to pull off. The credit must go entirely to writer/director Simien, who makes his feature film debut with a rousing bang. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

John Wick: Well, you can color me shocked that this Keanu Reeves action flick has apparently received such notice from critics, as I pegged it weeks ago as a dog with fleas. Filmmakers David Leitch and Chad Stahelski have somehow crafted a stylish and hard-hitting thriller with Reeves as a hitman who becomes so aggrieved at the gang-bangers who killed his dog, he comes out of retirement to lay waste to their asses. I had all sorts of brutal Keanu jokes lined up if this was a stinker, but now I pretty much have nothing else to add except my own shame at not having seen it this week when I had the chance. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%


23 Blast: As yet another inspirational true sports story for us to admire, this film involves a high school football star who wakes one morning to find his optic nerve has been destroyed, leaving him blind. Somehow undaunted, the lad continues to play football by switching to the offensive line, and helps lead his team to the Kentucky state playoffs. Directed by novice filmmaker Dylan Baker (better known for acting in shows like Damages and The Good Wife), with a script by novice writing team Bram and Toni Hoover, the well-intentioned film smacks of the neophyte nature of its production team. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 41%


Ouija: Okay, I won’t lie, that whole Keanu Reeves thing has really tilted the axis of my orbit and forced me to question a lot of things in my life. Fortunately, we can all still rely on a slew of really shitty horror flicks spewing out of the studio gates like so much projectile pea soup vomit come Halloween season. This film has something to do with a group of young friends who accidentally awaken the demonic spirit in their, er, game board. I believe this is one we can all safely take a pass on. Rotten Tomatoes Score: 9%