Tag Archives: Michael Keaton

The Michael Keaton Revival

Now – I love me some Michael Keaton, he’s one of my favourite actors and has been for years. Sadly he has often been overlooked and underused particularly in the late 90s and early 2000s, but recently Keaton has been having a bit of a resurgence in his career – and I for one love it. So right here, I want to take a quick look at Keaton’s career so far and celebrate the return of one of cinema’s overlooked greats.

His real name is Michael Douglas, but he had to change it when he became an actor because of that other Michael Douglas fella. Exactly where Keaton took his stage name from – I’m not 100% sure as I’ve read two different sources. One stating he used the name after reading an article about Diane Keaton and another saying he took the name from Buster Keaton.

Keaton’s acting career began in the mid 70s on TV in shows like  Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, Maude and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. In 1982 he secured his first co-starring credit appearing alongside Henry ‘The Fonz’ Winkler in the comedy flick Night Shift. This role kick-started his early film career and Keaton became known as a comic actor when he starred in Mr. MomJohnny Dangerously and Gung Ho.

Johnny Dangerously

By the way, I recommend Johnny Dangerously if you want a stupidly funny parody flick in the same vein as Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Its a brilliant spoof of gangster films and often overlooked. ‘You fargin’ icehole!’

It was in 1988 when Keaton got his major breakthrough role. Tim Burton cast him in the horror/comedy picture Beetlejuice. Probably one of my favourite Tim Burton films and one of my favourite Keaton films too, even though he appears in less than 20% of the movie, Keaton stole the entire flick and cemented Betelgeuse (correct spelling of his name) as one of the most memorable film characters of the 80s. The much rumoured sequel is still – supposedly in the works.

Beetlejiuce

It was the following year in 1989 when Keaton would team up with Burton once more in one of the most controversial pieces of casting ever…

Batman Logo

Oh my goodness, the backlash both Burton and Keaton got for Batman is legendary. There were over 50,000 letters of complaint sent to the studio when it was announced that Keaton would be playing Batman in the (then) new movie… and this was the late 80s, pre-internet days too. Years later, Keaton spoke out about the outrage his casing caused.

“It baffled me that anyone was thinking about that. I heard about the outrage, and I couldn’t get it. I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. It made me feel bad that it was even in question.”

All this backlash steamed from the simple fact that Keaton was known for his comedic roles and the fans just refused to believe that this comedy actor could play a serious Batman. Of course both Burton and especially Keaton would prove their doubters wrong. In my humble opinion, I still feel that Keaton was the best live action Batman and Bruce Wayne.

Keaton Batman

The success of Batman catapulted Keaton into the limelight and he became a superstar. The film also began the more ‘adult’ superhero movie and a trend that still continues today where every other flick released now is a superhero one. This was followed by the sequel Batman Returns in 1992 where Burton and Keaton teamed up once more. This sequel was much darker and violent than the first. There was even a third Batman film in the pre-production stages, but when Burton left the project – so did Keaton and the franchise took a massive nosedive as it continued without either of the two people who made it the success it became.

Keaton was riding high in the late 80s and early 90s as he starred in more films including; Pacific HeightsMy Life, The Paper and Multiplicity – a return to his more comedic roots written and directed by the great Harold Ramis where Keaton’s character clones himself.

Multiplicity

After re-watching the film recently, I was pleasantly surprised to find it still holds up well and you get four times the Keaton too.

In the late 90s, he played the same character twice in two different movies based on novels from the same writer. He appeared as Agent Ray Nicolette in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown from 1997 and then again in Out of Sight from 1998. Both films based on the work of author Elmore Leonard. But by the time the 2000s rolled around, Keaton career was drying up. He still acted but never managed to reach the same success as the late 80s/early 90s and those heady Batman years. The 2000s were a very mixed bag for the actor and appearing in movies like Herbie: Fully Loaded hardly helped either. But here’s the thing about a bad Keaton film, the movie may be bad – but it still had Michael Keaton in it and he was always a joy to watch.

The big major starring roles were just not coming his way and I couldn’t understand why – he was still a damn good actor, he just wasn’t getting the job offers he deserved. In 2014 he was cast as the antagonist in the terrible remake of Robocop… and you know how I said before how a bad Keaton film is still worth watching just for him? Well this Robocop remake is a perfect example of exactly that. Despite the lacklustre career Keaton was experiencing by 2014, it was this very same year he starred in the movie that changed everything.

Birdman Poster

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a brilliant film that sees Keaton cast as a struggling actor who was once famous for playing a superhero decades ago… does any of this sound familiar? I really do not want to say too much about this one as going into it blind is the best way to experience this flick. But any and every Michael Keaton fan should watch Birdman. Keaton is on top form as actor Riggan Thomson who tries to put on a Broadway play in an attempt to reinvigorate his failing career all while being haunted by his iconic, titular superhero alter-ego Birdman… or is he?

Keaton even won a Golden Globe Award as well as earning a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role in Birdman. At last, he was back where he belonged and was getting the recognition he deserved as an actor. On the 28th of July, 2016 – Keaton was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and about damn time too.

Also in 2016, he starred as Ray Kroc in the movie The Founder which tells the true story of the man who created the McDonald’s fast food empire… all be it not very harmoniously.

The Founder

In fact the very reason I decided to write this article was because I just watched The Founder and thoroughly enjoyed it, highly recommended. Its just so great to see Michael Keaton not just getting acting jobs, but getting great ones and doing them justice too.

Most recently Keaton has returned to his superhero movie roles, only this time on the other side of the the coin when he played super-villain The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. No, I’ve not yet seen it as I’ve been a bit busy getting ready to welcome our first baby due in just a couple of days as of writing this. But I have heard great things about the flick and in particular Keaton himself. Plus you’ll also be seeing him soon-ish in Disney’s live action version of Dumbo, set to be directed by his old sparring partner Tim Burton in 2019… maybe Beetlejuice 2 after that?

Well it seems like Michael Keaton is back and I for one love it. I miss him when he’s not acting or acting in bad films and I always enjoy it whenever he is on screen (yes even in bad movies). His career, right now is going from strength to strength – I hope it continues for many years to come. If you know any film fans that are not aware of this man’s work – then, I want you to do me a favour. I want you to tell all your friends about him… He’s Keaton.’

Micheal Keaton 2

I’m just shocked and thankful that I’ve gotten away with everything – experimenting here, trying at this, failing at that, being good in some things, not so good in others. It’s kind of amazing that people are still sticking by me. When they come up to me in the street, I just want to write them all cheques. – Michael Keaton

Quentin Tarantino Part II

So here we are, now Quentin found his film-making “soul mate” with Robert Rodriguez and they join forces to make one hell of an overlooked picture.

FR

Four Rooms: An unusual film to say the least. This one was an anthology flick set in a hotel with four separate stories set in “Four Rooms” of the hotel, all connected via the bellboy played by Tim Roth.
Both Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed their own segments within this film.

Tarantino’s story was an absolutely brilliant re-telling of Roald Dahl’s classic short story, The Man From The South. Even if you are already familiar with this story, and you most probably are more aware than you think as the story has been told and re-told many times over the years. Including a version done by Alfred Hitchcock from his TV series as well as the story being the first one ever aired from the TV show, Tales of the Unexpected.
Still, even with an already famous and known story. Quentin Tarantino manages to pull off a unique take on the tale and even bring in a great and hilarious new twist.

Four Rooms is an under appreciated and under praised flick and well worth watching, even if only for Tarantino’s segment alone.

But the Quentin and Robert joining does not end here.

FDTD

From Dusk Till Dawn: Was a collaboration between Quentin and Robert Rodriguez, with Quentin Tarantino not only writing but also taking on a starring role. But this time, directing duties were held by Robert Rodriguez.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a film that if you have no idea what it is about…it’s the best way to watch the film. This is why I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, so much so that I’ll not even use a poster that gives away plot details.
It you have not yet seen From Dusk Till Dawn, just watch this film as blindly as you can, don’t look at the cover, don’t ask friends about it.
Just watch it, it’s awesome and best left unspoiled for you.

Quentin and Robert part ways…only temporarily. As Quentin tackles his next film solo.

JB

Jackie Brown: A throwback to “blaxploitation” cinema of the 70s starring the awesome Pam Grier in the title role.
The film also features Michael Keaton, cast at a time when people were forgetting how he was…but still proves just how much of a great actor he really is.

Jackie Brown is a return to Quentin Tarantino’s roots of films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Being very character based, with a plot that is not as straightforward as it first appears to be.

As the 90s are left behind, we catch up on the 2000s with Quentin Tarantino giving into his love for Kung-Fu/Samurai films.

KB

Kill Bill: Originally filmed as one picture, but split into two “volumes” during post-production.
Kill Bill was a tour de force of classic Kung-Fu/Samurai revenge films. This is Quentin’s “homage” to films like, Lady Snowblood.

Full of bloody, revenge fuelled violence. But also those interesting characters Quentin Tarantino is famous for. This is one of his very best films.

Us fans still await the long promised, Whole Bloody Affair. Which is both “volumes” edited together as originally intended. Quentin Tarantino has been saying is coming for over a decade now.
This cut of the film does exist and has done for many years now, as Quentin himself has shown it several times at film festivals. But still no home release.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up yet again next.

SC

Sin City: OK, I know this is not a film directed by Quentin…though he did direct one scene and does have a directing credit due to this (see poster above), so it’s being included.

The scene Quentin directed was the one involving Dwight and Jackie Boy.
Full of Hitchcock-esque paranoia and suspense, very much put me in mind of Marion driving in her car after stealing the money in Psycho.
The “voices in her head”, the added element of the police following her, etc.

While the scene is pretty much verbatim from the graphic novel the film is based on, it still maintains that Tarantino style. It was also the first time Quentin has shot digitally, as he’s an “old school” film-maker and had always shot on film previously.

Quentin my have only shot 1 scene…but it’s a hell of a great scene in a hell of a great movie.

Sticking with the partnership, Tarantino and Rodriguez indulge in their love for exploitation cinema.

GH

Grindhouse: This film was really more about Quentin and Robert pandering to their own fanboyism. As both directors are huge fans of exploitation cinema.
The whole “Grindhouse” sub genre, which for those not only the know, was a form of low budget films that were relased mainly in the 70s and always heavily used exploitation as it’s selling point. Whether that exploitation be gore, sex, violence, etc.
These films would often be shown in seedy, backstreet cinemas known as Grindhouses. Hence, Grindhouse cinema.

Quentin’s film, Death Proof, in this Grindhouse double bill was a 70s inspired stalker film where the killer used his car to stalk and kill his victims, his “Death Proof” car if you will.

Kurt Russell took on the lead role of Stuntman Mike. A mysterious yet charming man that loves nothing more than stalking young girls and murdering them using his car.
It’s not a complex plot, but as simple and seedy as this film is. It’s still has that unique QT polish.

Quentin flies solo for his next film.

IB

Inglourious Basterds: “This is probably my masterpiece.” Declares Lt. Aldo Raine at the end of this film, many people took that line as being Quentin Tarantino himself saying this film is his masterpiece.
To be fair, it’s hard not to agree. Inglourious Basterds is a genuine masterpiece of film-making.
Brilliant modern twist on the classic WW II action/thriller all wrapped up in Quentin’s own unique style.

An amazing cast lead by Brad Pitt and his “stunning” Italian accent.
Inglourious Basterds is a simply amazing film…and indeed a masterpiece.

DU

Django Unchained: This was Quentin Tarantino showing his love and passion for the classic Western genre, a genre he loves so much he considers The Good, The Bad and the Ugly the “best film ever made.”
Taking an already established character…yes, for those unaware, Django (the D is silent) had already been seen on screen before…over 30 times in fact, though only two were “official”. This was Quentin Tarantino’s take on the legend that is Django.
Even the original Django (Franco Nero) appears in this version in a cameo role.

This ends part II, but join me in part III where I’ll take a quick look at Quentin Tarantino’s up and coming new flick, The Hateful Eight and just offer my own personal views on his work so far and talk about what’s next for Tarantino after his new film.

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