Film Notes: Michael Keaton to wing it as 'Birdman'


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Michael Keaton is about to fly back into the media spotlight in a very good way. 

He stars in Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” which will open the Venice Film Festival in late August. Earlier in the week, the Film Society of Lincoln Center said the feature would close the New York Film Festival in October.

In addition to the onetime Batman, the black comedy stars Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts. The Fox Searchlight Pictures and New Regency release is slated to open in select theaters on Oct. 17. That probably means Pittsburgh will get it on Oct. 24 or 31.

In an emailed press release, Kent Jones, New York Film Festival director and selection committee chair, said: “ ‘Birdman’ is a knockout. It’s consistently surprising and inventive — you think the movie is going in one direction and then Inarritu shifts gears and takes you somewhere else completely unexpected: The movie is like an intricate machine generating greater and greater amounts of beautiful radiant energy.

“The entire cast is amazing and they mesh perfectly, but I have to say that Michael Keaton is astonishing. He’s always been a terrific and, in my opinion, underrated actor. Here he gets the role he deserves, and he makes the most of it. And, it’s a great Broadway movie.”

In the movie, a onetime action hero named Riggan Thomson (Mr. Keaton) is trying to be taken seriously as an artist. He stages his own adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

As Thomson tries to get his perilous undertaking in shape for the opening, he has to cope with a resentful daughter (Ms. Stone), a scene-hogging narcissist (Mr. Norton), a vulnerable actress (Ms. Watts) and an unhinged girlfriend (Ms. Riseborough) for co-stars, a manager who’s about to come undone (Mr. Galifianakis), and the inner demon of the superhero that made him famous, Birdman. 

Pittsburgh ties to TIFF 

Antoine Fuqua’s “The Equalizer,” reuniting him with Denzel Washington, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Mr. Fuqua is back in his hometown of Pittsburgh making “Southpaw,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams and others. 

“The Equalizer” stars Mr. Washington as a man who believes he has put his past behind him and dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But then he meets a girl under the control of violent Russian gangsters, comes out of self-imposed retirement and finds his thirst for justice is back. 

It also features Marton Csokas, Chloe Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo.

In other festival news, “Foxcatcher” will have its Canadian premiere at the event. It was filmed in Western Pennsylvania but is set elsewhere.

The Bennett Miller film dramatizes the tragic relationship between an eccentric multimillionaire, John du Pont, and two champion wrestlers. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Michael Hall, Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller star. 

The Toronto festival, Sept. 4-14, this week announced 13 galas including “Black and White,” “Haemoo,” “The Judge,” “A Little Chaos” (closing night film), “Maps to the Stars,” “The New Girlfriend,” “Pawn Sacrifice,” “The Riot Club,” “Samba,” “This Is Where I Leave You” and “Wild.”

Forty-six special presentations include “Nightcrawler,” starring Mr. Gyllenhaal as a driven man who discovers the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. He joins a group of freelance camera crews who film marketable mayhem for TV news. The cast also includes Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton. 

TCM’s Garner lineup

Turner Classic Movies will salute actor James Garner on Monday with a movie marathon that will include his favorite, “The Americanization of Emily.” Mr. Garner, also a TV fixture thanks to “Maverick” and “The Rockford Files,” died Saturday at age 86.

The cable channel plans to show on Monday: 6 a.m., “Toward the Unknown” with William Holden, Lloyd Nolan and Virginia Leith; 8 a.m., “Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend,” starring Randolph Scott, James Craig and Angie Dickinson; 9:30 a.m., “Grand Prix,” featuring Eva Marie Saint, Brian Bedford and Yves Montand; and 12:30 p.m., “Cash McCall,” starring Natalie Wood, Nina Foch and Dean Jagger. 

Also: 2:15 p.m., “The Wheeler Dealers,” with Lee Remick, Phil Harris and Chill Wills; 4 p.m., “Darby’s Rangers,” starring Etchika Choureau and Jack Warden; 6:15 p.m., “Mister Buddwing,” with Jean Simmons, Angela Lansbury and Suzanne Pleshette; and 8 p.m., “The Thrill of It All,” starring Doris Day and Arlene Francis.

At 10 p.m., “The Americanization of Emily” with Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas and James Coburn; midnight, “The Children’s Hour,” starring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and Miriam Hopkins; 2 a.m. Tuesday, “Victor/Victoria,” with Ms. Andrews, Robert Preston and Lesley Ann Warren; and 4:30 a.m., “Marlowe,” featuring Rita Moreno, Sharon Farrell and Bruce Lee.

In brief 

• Variety reports that Oscar-winning actor Michael Caine is joining “The Last Witch Hunter,” which will start shooting here by late August with Vin Diesel and Rose Leslie. Mr. Diesel stars as an immortal witch hunter who partners with his natural enemy — a female witch — to stop the covens of New York City from unleashing a plague on humanity.

• “Pirates of the Caribbean 5,” returning Johnny Depp to his signature role as Capt. Jack Sparrow, will be released in theaters July 7, 2017. Onetime Pittsburgher Rob Marshall will hand the directing chores to Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg from “Kon Tiki.” The franchise has made more than $3.7 billion worldwide.  

• If you don‘‍t know what the fuss over “The Planet of the Apes” is all about — or, conversely, you can remember where you saw the movie in 1968 — it will be shown at 11:15 a.m. Sunday at the Parkway Theater, 644 Broadway Ave., Stowe. Cost of $4 covers coffee, doughnuts, “Apes” and discussion afterward. 

• Pittsburgh’s 48 Hour Film Project will hold its best-of screening and hand out awards at 7 p.m. Monday at the Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave. in Dormont. Admission: $8, or $6 for students or seniors.

Required elements for all films this year were a character named Victor or Victoria Carr, a live mannequin/human statue, a ticket as a prop and the line, “I’m not at all surprised.” For more information, www.48hourfilm.com and then click on the 2014 Tour and Northeast.

• The Battle of Homestead Foundation will show the documentary “Inequality for All” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pump House, 880 East Waterfront Drive in Munhall. It’s free and open to the public.

Robert Reich, professor, best-selling author and Clinton Cabinet member, demonstrates how the widening income gap has a devastating impact on the American economy in this documentary.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies. First Published July 24, 2014 8:00 PM

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