Tag: George Clooney

MOVIE REVIEW | ***CLOSING DOWN WEEK*** Leatherheads (2008)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I found myself wanting to like it more than I did, and wanting to be more engaged than I was.”

Leather 1
Recently, in my neighbourhood, I saw something that’s all too common these days. A video shop that was closing down. They had a big sign out the front, “4 movies for $10”. I looked in my wallet, saw $30 and decided I wasn’t leaving that shop until I found 12 movies I thought were worth having on my DVD shelf. Some were movies I’d seen before. Some were movies I had a vague idea about and thought would be worth the $2.50 gamble. Some were oddities I’d never even heard of, but they looked interesting enough. So, thank you, Network Video Brunswick West. I never rented anything from you or even had a membership, but I did find some cool, interesting and mysterious things on your almost empty shelves.

“Yeah, I kissed her! On the mouth, twice! And I liked it. A lot!”

As a director, George Clooney burst out of the gate and hit the ground running. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind seemed way too complicated, intricately filmed and confident to be the work of a first timer. And with Goodnight and Good Luck, Clooney even scored an Oscar nomination for his work behind the camera. But his more recent efforts haven’t been quite so well received. While I really liked it, the rest of the world was uick to dismiss The Monuments Men. And even having Ryan Gosling on the posters couldn’t get anyone to see The Ides of March. But the real oddity amongst his filmography of serious, prestige subject matter, is his third crack at directing. The throw away, screwball comedy, Leatherheads.


It’s 1925, and while college football games are attracting crowds in their thousands, the professional league plays in cow paddocks to audiences of next to no one. The poster boy for the college competition is Carter Rutherford (John Krasiniski), a World War I hero who’s about to graduate and leave football behind as he heads to law school. While the pros are represented by Dodge Connelly (Clooney), and his ragtag group of underdogs, the Chicago Bulldogs. When the Bulldogs lose their sponsorship, the team is disbanded, and they all go back to their jobs as miners, factory workers and laborers. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***REMAKE WEEK*** Solaris (2002)

Solaris (2002)

“And death shall have no dominion.”

As a directing and acting team, Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney have six team ups under their belt.  Of those that I’ve seen, they have one absolute clunker in Oceans 12, one that’s just OK with Oceans 13, then three really good to great movies.  That’s a pretty great strike rate.  So with one collaboration between these two left to see, did Solaris maintain their impressive average, or bring it down?


Psychologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) receives a video message from an old friend, Dr Gibarian (Ulrich Tukur).  Gibarian is currently working on a space station in orbit around the planet Solaris.  Some weird stuff is going down onboard and Gibarian believes his two other cremates need Chris’ professional help.  When he arrives on the station, Chris discovers Gibarian dead, and the remaining two crewmates at various levels of sanity.  There’s the creepy but weirdly honest and open Snow (Jeremy Davies), and the defensive, combative Gordon (Viola Davis). (more…)

***2014 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | The Monuments Men (2014)

the-monuments-men-uk-quad-poster
From TV hunk, to a pretty rocky beginning on the big screen, to legit super star, to respected director, George Clooney’s career has been pretty interesting to watch.  Confessions of Dangerous Mind is was the perfect directorial debut to show he was a real film maker with real ideas.  Goodnight and Good Luck was a deserved award winner that got plenty of attention at the time, but doesn’t seem to be all that talked about these days.  Leatherheads seemed like a bit of a tossed off dick around of Clooney having fun.  It was nothing to rave about, but it was perfectly fine.  The Ides of March was a return to trying something a little more important, along the lines of Goodnight and Good Luck, but it came and went without leaving much of an impression.  But now, Clooney gets his first chance at a big budget, big star cast, big everything kind of movie, with The Monuments Men.


The Second World War is coming to a close and Hitler is on the ropes.  But that hasn’t stopped him stealing and amassing the greatest pieces of art on offer as he makes his way through Europe.  Now, there are two possible outcomes.  Either the Nazis win the war and the art will all be shown in the planned Furher Museum, a massive literal building and even bigger figurative wank.  Or, the Nazis lose, and follow Hitler’s orders to destroy all these masterworks before the allies can get their hands on them. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SODERBERGH WEEK*** The Good German (2006)

the-good-german_1280x1024_(www.GdeFon.ru)
Steven Soderbergh was never predictable in the stories he chose to tell. He’s also a weird combination of classic Hollywood appreciator, lover and early adopter of all things technology. He was one of the first A-list directors to really embrace filming with digital cameras, yet he has no problem going the in the exact opposite direction in making something like The Good German. Not just an old Hollywood story, but filmed using old Hollywood technology and techniques.


It’s 1945, the war in the Pacific is still going strong, but the Germans are out for the count. The Americans and Russians descend on Germany to divide the spoils of war, and while the officials go about their diplomacy, the men on the ground are quietly looting the country for everything it has to offer. Men on the ground like Toby McGuire’s Tully. Working in the army motor pool, Tully is a big customer of and supplier to the black market. As every German is accused of being a Nazi and waits for seemingly inevitable persecution, Tully tries to secure papers to help is kraut whore girlfriend, Lena (Cate Blanchett), get the hell out of there.

It just so happens that during the war, Lena was the kraut whore girlfriend of George Clooney’s Jake, back in Berlin and stuck with Tully as his driver. Early on, Jake talks about moving on from the war with the Germans that only finished a few months earlier, and preparing for war with the Russians. When Tully shows up murdered in the Russian section of town, the cover ups, twists and double dealings start to pile up.

In true noir tradition, each solving of a crime simply leads to uncovering an even bigger one, and every character is a viable suspect. The twists and turns mount up until it’s almost impossible to keep track of everyone’s allegiances, alibies and motives. But it’s the kind of convolution that works to make The Good German better and richer as each new layer of complications is added.

The Good German opens with stock footage from Germany at the time and plenty is used throughout, but Soderbergh didn’t stop there in going for his authentic, period look. He strictly only used technology from the 40s in filming the movie. Things like camera lenses, lighting and sound recording gear were all from that time and it really does work to give the movie an authentic period feel.

With its wartime backdrop, black market dealings and talks of papers to travel across borders, The Good German has a real Casablanca feel and it’s obvious that’s no coincidence. The whole movie is a perfect example of what I love about Soderbergh. He seems to approach so many of his movies as an experiment in film making. A lot of his movies feel like he did it just to see if he could. And while that approach would feel indulgent or pretentious with most other directors, Soderbergh somehow pulls it off.

The Good German
Directed By – Steven Soderbergh
Written By – Paul Attanasio

 

MOVIE REVIEW | The Rape of Europa (2006)

the_rape_of_europa_movie_poster_collectors_edition
In George Clooney’s latest directorial effort, The Monuments Men, Hitler’s egomaniacal plan to steal the greatest pieces of art in Europe to populate his giant Furher Museum, is turned into a classic Hollywood adventure of everyday men becoming wartime heroes.  It’s a fun enough movie for the most part, but it’s still a movie.  And certain artistic licence is expected when any true story has to be bent to fit a neat, three act structure.  So while Clooney’s version of the story definitely has a deep love and respect for the art it’s chasing, it’s covered by an unavoidable Hollywood sheen of artificiality.  But it did make me want to know more about this story, which lead me to The Rape of Europa.


A straight forward, no frills, classic talking head documentary, The Rape of Europa uses it’s no nonsense approach to really cram in the info.  But it’s a good cram, the kind of cram that makes you feel smarter once it’s over.  It also covers more time and info by being split into two distinct parts.  The first hour focuses on the German theft, while the second looks at the allied attempts to track the pieces down, even interviewing a few of the actual Monuments Men.

It also digs deeper into the Russian Trophy Brigades, who openly took great works of art which they saw as reparations for the millions of people lost fighting the Germans.  Where The Monuments Men makes the ruskies moustache twirling villains, Europa goes to much greater lengths to let them tell their side of the story.

I watched The Rape of Europa within hours of seeing The Monuments Men, so it was impossible to not compare their different versions of the same story.  Clooney’s movie gives us plenty of shots of massive warehouses filled with paintings and impressive figures like “five million pieces of art recovered”, and it really did hit me at the time.  But watching Europa, these figures all of a sudden became a lot more real, a lot more devastating.

More than just the art, the documentary  gets more into the racial persecution of the time.  The Monuments Men addresses the issue too, but only in the way that it’s impossible for any WWII move to not get there at some point.  I can’t explain how, but Europa connects these works of art to the heritage of the culture how made them, better than The Monuments Men did.  More than just paintings or sculptures, they are a part of these people and their formation into the people and cultures they are.

“Art is what makes us human”.  This quote in the closing minutes of The Rape of Europa almost makes the combined four hours of this documentary and The Monuments Men seem like they pussy footed around the real heart of the issue.  In those six words, I think I got it more than the rest of the two movies in their entirety.

The Rape of Europa
Directed By – Richard Berge,  Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham
Written By – Richard Berge,  Bonni Cohen, Nicole Newnham

MOVIE REVIEW | The Monuments Men (2014)

the-monuments-men-uk-quad-poster
From TV hunk, to a pretty rocky beginning on the big screen, to legit super star, to respected director, George Clooney’s career has been pretty interesting to watch.  Confessions of Dangerous Mind is was the perfect directorial debut to show he was a real film maker with real ideas.  Goodnight and Good Luck was a deserved award winner that got plenty of attention at the time, but doesn’t seem to be all that talked about these days.  Leatherheads seemed like a bit of a tossed off dick around of Clooney having fun.  It was nothing to rave about, but it was perfectly fine.  The Ides of March was a return to trying something a little more important, along the lines of Goodnight and Good Luck, but it came and went without leaving much of an impression.  But now, Clooney gets his first chance at a big budget, big star cast, big everything kind of movie, with The Monuments Men.


The Second World War is coming to a close and Hitler is on the ropes.  But that hasn’t stopped him stealing and amassing the greatest pieces of art on offer as he makes his way through Europe.  Now, there are two possible outcomes.  Either the Nazis win the war and the art will all be shown in the planned Furher Museum, a massive literal building and even bigger figurative wank.  Or, the Nazis lose, and follow Hitler’s orders to destroy all these masterworks before the allies can get their hands on them.

Cue the Monuments Men, a group of art experts led by George Clooney’s Frank Stokes, and played by Mat Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Dimitri Leonidas.  After a brief stint in basic training, these candy assed New York intellectuals are soon landing in Normandy, just behind the D Day invasion, and on the hunt for some of the greatest pieces of art ever created.  Matt Damon’s James Granger is deployed to Paris where he meets Claire (Cate Blanchett), a former French resistance member who may know where the Germans have taken the stolen art.

It’s a great story that needs to be told, it’s made up of a great cast, and Clooney’s direction is, well, great.  The only problem is, for all its great aspects, The Monuments Men only adds up to be a good movie.  In no way bad, it just doesn’t reach the levels it really should.  And I put that down to its weird, sluggish pacing.

Almost immediately after arriving in Europe, the core group is split up into four or five little units, all heading to different countries on their own little missions.   Add to this the Russians not so well intentioned version of the Monuments Men, Blanchett’s story line and the odd German character, and it feels like Clooney’s biggest problems should have been finding time to fit everything in.  Yet somehow, every scene, every story, every event seems to be a little slower than should be, and go just a little longer than necessary.  It doesn’t quite ever get the momentum it needs.

When I first heard about The Monuments Men and saw trailers, I wondered how the movie would ever justify the loss of human life just for some paintings.  It’s obvious Clooney thought that too, because he shoehorns in three or four different conversations and monologues all addressing that very topic.  The only problem is, when the movie wasn’t talking about it directly, I kind of got on board with their mission and the huge risks they were talking, just for some paintings.  But whenever the story would stop dead in its tracks to address it, I was taken out of it.  Clooney really needed to have a little more faith in his movie and his audience.

After not so great reviews, I really, really, really wanted to prove them wrong and love The Monuments Men.  On paper, everything about it made it seem like a sure thing.  But ultimately I didn’t love it, I just liked it.  Which should be enough, but I just wanted more.

The Monuments Men
Directed By – George Clooney
Written By – George Clooney, Grant Heslov

***2013 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Gravity

Gravity-movie-spoilers-1 As soon as mass audiences got a look at the  trailer for Gravity and word started getting out about how amazing it looked, I decided I was going to try my best to avoid all teasers, trailers and promo clips if at all possible.  I’m not usually impressed by special effects, I don’t generally dig serious sci fi and I normally don’t think a big cinema screen ads that much to any movie.  But for some reason, with Gravity, I knew I shouldn’t have any of the impact ruined by seeing even a second of it on a computer (or worse, phone) screen.  And just a minute or two into experiencing it on the big screen, I knew I’d made the right choice.

George Clooney’s name might be just as prominent in the marketing for Gravity, but this is all Sandra Bullock’s movie.  The two are in space, working on the Hubble telescope.  Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, a rookie astronaut in her first week of living and working in space.  Clooney is Matt Kowalksi, a veteran of more than one tour of duty in orbit who’s getting ready to go home.

While on a space walk, debris from a Russian satellite (those pesky Ruskies, still the go to bad guys decades after the end of the Cold War) bombards their ship and all hell breaks lose.  Clooney and Bullock are separated from the ship and Clooney has to save Bullock from floating away into oblivion.  This first brush with death is nothing compared to what Bullock will go through in the next 90 or so minutes.  And she somehow manages to find new ways to amplify the terror, desperation and exhaustion convincingly the entire time.  Gravity is seriously relentless with what it puts Bullock’s character through.  Literally, right up until the last 60 seconds, the universe throws everything’s it got at Dr Ryan Stone to break her physically and emotionally.

I’ve read a few articles about Bullock deserving an Oscar nomination for Gravity and they’re not wrong.  She’s on screen for pretty much the entire movie, completely alone for the majority, and amazingly engaging every second of it.  I can’t see the Academy ever giving an acting Oscar to anything sci fi related, but in a year when Bullock delivers this performance, and kills it in a broad comedy like The Heat, she’s much more deserving of an Oscar than for some by the numbers, middle of the road, beige yawn like like The Blind Side.

Director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron deserves just as much of the credit though, for how compelling Gravity is.  The tension, suspense and lump in your throat anticipation he manages to build over the course of this movie are amazing.  After the initial incident that sees Bullock saved by Clooney, her first serious obstacle is a rapidly depleting oxygen supply.  Even when she’s down to 1%, there’s still an hour left in the movie, so you know she won’t die.  But that didn’t stop me holding my breath and anxiously squirming in my seat, wondering how she’d survive.

In a movie that is visually like nothing else I’ve ever seen before, one shot in particular stands out.  And I don’t know if that’s because I found particularly beautiful, deeply poignant or just noxiously on the nose, but at one stage, in zero gravity, Bullock slowly flats into the fetal position.  Is it a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey?  Is it saying something about the feeling of safety in the claustrophobic airlock she’s floating in?  Or is it akin to the rat at the end of The Departed, that made Homer Simpson declare, “The rat symbolizes obviousness”?  I really have no idea.

The only real downside to Gravity was that I had to see it in 3D.  Admittedly, I’ve only seen a handful of movies in 3D, but none of them have made me see the point if it yet.  The only thing 3D adds to a movie is a couple of bucks to the ticket price.  But if it’s the only way you can see this movie, it’s more than worth the inflated price, the dark, muddy screen images and the one or two hacky moments when some object gently floats, or violently careens, toward the camera.

Gravity
Directed by – Alfionso Cuaron
Written By – Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron

MOVIE REVIEW | ***DUD SEQUEL WEEK*** Batman and Robin (1997)

Batman and Robin (1997)
Few movies in the last couple of decades are the butt of more jokes than this one.  Few movies are more famous for more bad reasons than this one.  And I can’t imagine a single mainstream, family targeted movie that has more plastic nipples and gratuitous ass in tight leather shots than this one.  I made it almost 20 years, but I have now seen Batman and Robin and am now forever unclean.


I’ll start by saying this, every terrible thing you’ve heard about this movie is an understatement.  Director Joel Schumaker somehow took one of the darkest grittiest popular comic characters out there, and turned him into Mardi Gras float.

It’s hard to remember a time when George Clooney wasn’t a showbiz king, nominated for Oscars in acting and or directing categories most years, and making some of the most interesting mainstream movies on offer.  But in 1997, it still looked like he’d made a Caruso sized mistake, quitting ER to pursue a movie career that just wouldn’t take off.  So I guess taking the title roll in a massive budget superhero franchise seemed like a no brainer.  Unfortunately, absolutely everything about Batman and Robin is completely lacking in brains.

Clooney takes up the Bruce Wayne / Batman mantle, vacated by Val Kilmer.  Chris O’Donnell returns as Dick Grayson / Robin and the same old dudes who played Alfred and Commissioner Gordon are still hanging around, all those years after Tim Burton cast them in the 1988 franchise starter.  This time around, Alicia Silverstone arrives as Alfred’s niece who becomes Batgirl, and the bad guy roster is filled by Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr Freeze and Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.

There’s a story, I assume, I just never bothered to pay attention to any if it.  Why would I, when there was a perfectly good blank wall above the TV to stare at while I waited for Batman and Robin to end?

I did notice this much, I think Arnie’s dialogue consists entirely of terrible, terrible puns.

Of course, watching this in 2013, I have the hindsight of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy to compare it too.  But if you ignore the Nolan / Christian Bale lead series, even the Burton movies look dark, serious and gritty compared to Schumaker’s bullshit.

Batman and Robin is less like a movie and more like the biggest budget high school musical you’ve ever seen.  Even then, it’s like that musical was still written and directed by the school’s dodgy drama teacher, and they spent all the money on the sets and a designer from the local theme park.

Batman and Robin
Directed By – Joel Schumaker
Written By – Akiva Goldmsith

MOVIE REVIEW | Gravity (2013)

Gravity-movie-spoilers-1 As soon as mass audiences got a look at the  trailer for Gravity and word started getting out about how amazing it looked, I decided I was going to try my best to avoid all teasers, trailers and promo clips if at all possible.  I’m not usually impressed by special effects, I don’t generally dig serious sci fi and I normally don’t think a big cinema screen ads that much to any movie.  But for some reason, with Gravity, I knew I shouldn’t have any of the impact ruined by seeing even a second of it on a computer (or worse, phone) screen.  And just a minute or two into experiencing it on the big screen, I knew I’d made the right choice.

George Clooney’s name might be just as prominent in the marketing for Gravity, but this is all Sandra Bullock’s movie.  The two are in space, working on the Hubble telescope.  Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, a rookie astronaut in her first week of living and working in space.  Clooney is Matt Kowalksi, a veteran of more than one tour of duty in orbit who’s getting ready to go home.

While on a space walk, debris from a Russian satellite (those pesky Ruskies, still the go to bad guys decades after the end of the Cold War) bombards their ship and all hell breaks lose.  Clooney and Bullock are separated from the ship and Clooney has to save Bullock from floating away into oblivion.  This first brush with death is nothing compared to what Bullock will go through in the next 90 or so minutes.  And she somehow manages to find new ways to amplify the terror, desperation and exhaustion convincingly the entire time.  Gravity is seriously relentless with what it puts Bullock’s character through.  Literally, right up until the last 60 seconds, the universe throws everything’s it got at Dr Ryan Stone to break her physically and emotionally.

I’ve read a few articles about Bullock deserving an Oscar nomination for Gravity and they’re not wrong.  She’s on screen for pretty much the entire movie, completely alone for the majority, and amazingly engaging every second of it.  I can’t see the Academy ever giving an acting Oscar to anything sci fi related, but in a year when Bullock delivers this performance, and kills it in a broad comedy like The Heat, she’s much more deserving of an Oscar than for some by the numbers, middle of the road, beige yawn like like The Blind Side.

Director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron deserves just as much of the credit though, for how compelling Gravity is.  The tension, suspense and lump in your throat anticipation he manages to build over the course of this movie are amazing.  After the initial incident that sees Bullock saved by Clooney, her first serious obstacle is a rapidly depleting oxygen supply.  Even when she’s down to 1%, there’s still an hour left in the movie, so you know she won’t die.  But that didn’t stop me holding my breath and anxiously squirming in my seat, wondering how she’d survive.

In a movie that is visually like nothing else I’ve ever seen before, one shot in particular stands out.  And I don’t know if that’s because I found particularly beautiful, deeply poignant or just noxiously on the nose, but at one stage, in zero gravity, Bullock slowly flats into the fetal position.  Is it a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey?  Is it saying something about the feeling of safety in the claustrophobic airlock she’s floating in?  Or is it akin to the rat at the end of The Departed, that made Homer Simpson declare, “The rat symbolizes obviousness”?  I really have no idea.

The only real downside to Gravity was that I had to see it in 3D.  Admittedly, I’ve only seen a handful of movies in 3D, but none of them have made me see the point if it yet.  The only thing 3D adds to a movie is a couple of bucks to the ticket price.  But if it’s the only way you can see this movie, it’s more than worth the inflated price, the dark, muddy screen images and the one or two hacky moments when some object gently floats, or violently careens, toward the camera.

Gravity
Directed by – Alfionso Cuaron
Written By – Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron