The Monuments Men-A Movie Review

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Jun 042014

We watched this from Redbox on May 24.

Yet another movie I was really looking forward to seeing, but was disappointed. It wasn’t terrible, but it was like an attempt at a noble documentary. I think it would have been better as a documentary.

As far as the storyline, I had no idea that Hitler amassed such a monumental collection of the world’s masterpieces while conquering Europe. When I initially saw the trailer for the movie, I thought it would be an interesting flick of war intrigue. To my horror, about half way through I kept fiddling with the stop button on my TV wanting to escape.

I cannot put my finger on any one thing as to why this movie doesn’t work. Since George Clooney and Matt Damon star in the film, maybe I was hoping for a WWII version of Oceans 11 where the gang steals back valuable artwork from the bad guys. All the actors are people who’s work I enjoy. These are great actors, but mediocre performances, likely because the screenplay just didn’t give anyone any great scenes. But that could be cause the work itself, while vitally important, just wasn’t that exciting. Continue reading »

Gravity – A Movie Review

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Oct 182013

Gravity Movie PosterDr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone – tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness.

In Theaters: October 4, 2013; MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.); Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thriller

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón

Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen, Paul Sharma, Amy Warren

Let me start by saying we did not see this in 3D, so I include that disclaimer. I am certain it had an impact on my feelings about this movie, as one can clearly see there are aspects of the cinematography that were designed to be enhanced by the 3D and IMAX capabilities. The effects and cinematography are outstanding, but I’m always a sucker for space visuals. On the whole though, Gravity lacked gravitas…to be more blunt, it sucked. Continue reading »

The American – A Movie Review

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Sep 062010

As an assassin, Jack is constantly on the move and always alone. After a job in Sweden ends more harshly than expected for this American abroad, Jack retreats to the Italian countryside. He relishes being away from death for a spell as he holes up in a small medieval town. While there, Jack takes an assignment to construct a weapon for a mysterious contact, Mathilde. Savoring the peaceful quietude he finds in the mountains of Abruzzo, Jack accepts the friendship of local priest Father Benedetto and pursues a torrid liaison with a beautiful woman, Clara. Jack and Clara’s time together evolves into a romance, one seemingly free of danger. But by stepping out of the shadows, Jack may be tempting fate.

Genres: Romance, Thriller and Adaptation; Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.; Release Date: September 1st, 2010 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content and nudity.

Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Violante Placido, Irina Bjorklund

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Do not let the trailers fool you, there is about 10mins total of action in this film. The bulk of this film is long shots of Clooney, coming to grasp with his life and going about completing his last job. Most “one last job” movies are high-energy action flicks driven by a veteran actor playing a character with a troubled history, but Anton Corbijn’s “The American” operates as a character-driven mood piece, a precise and quiet visual portrayal of a man trying to quit his dangerous profession who is constantly haunted and pervasively paranoid.

Way different from the Clooney-led thrillers of the ’90s, “The American” broods under the Corbijn’s precise visual style. Those expecting Clooney’s return to suave criminal mastery will find themselves waiting and waiting for this film to pop. It doesn’t. There is no mêlée of Bourne-style assassin-chasing amid the hillside towns of the Italian countryside, so for many, shots of Clooney doing push-ups and putting together a rifle will become tedious. In fact, I would have taken his rifle from him and used on myself if I’d had to watch one more scene of him driving out of the village through the country-side.

I couldn’t make any sense out of this film. I swear there is no story whatsoever. The George Clooney character appears. He is involved in something shady. He is very quick on the trigger, both with his concealed snub-nosed automatic and with his lovely female companions. But why he does what he does remained a mystery to me. He seems to be working with an organization and he speaks over the phone from time to time with someone who might be his boss, or might not. There is some lovely photography, and lord knows there is nobody more photogenic than the star here, but if you can figure out what is going on and why, then you’re way ahead of me.

The landscapes are breathtaking. The action is sparse with more of a dread sense than any real kind of action. But then again, this film presents the life of an assassin more the way it probably is. Not a lot of flash, just a lot of looking over your shoulder, day-to-day mundane mixed in with an occasional beat of action.

In regards to the performances, they are solid. George Clooney proves his worth as an actor yet again with his portrayal of this tormented, cynical man of few words. Violante Placido is also very effective as the girl. Thekla Reuton is icy and more than scenic in her performance as the in-between person working with Clooney. Paolo Bonacelli is compelling as the priest whom Clooney befriends, and Johan Leysen is chilling in his moments as the mysterious person who always answer his phone with a gruff “Yeah?”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 10)

Men Who Stare at Goats, The – A Movie Review

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Nov 132009

Men Who Stare at GoatsReporter Bob Wilton is in search of his next big story when he encounters Lyn Cassady, a shadowy figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit. According to Cassady, the New Earth Army is changing the way wars are fought. A legion of “Warrior Monks” with unparalleled psychic powers can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it. Now, the program’s founder, Bill Django, has gone missing and Cassady’s mission is to find him. Intrigued by his new acquaintance’s far-fetched stories, Bob impulsively decides to tag along. When the pair tracks Django to a clandestine training camp run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper, the reporter is trapped in the middle of a grudge match between the forces of Django’s New Earth Army and Hooper’s personal militia of super soldiers. In order to survive this wild adventure, Bob will have to outwit an enemy he never thought possible.

Genres: Comedy, Thriller, Adaptation and War; Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.; Release Date: November 6th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.

Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Rebecca Mader, Stephen Lang and Robert Patrick

Directed by: Grant Heslov

Lay and I went to see this last weekend. The movie is supposed to be based on fact (from Jon Ronson’s book) but the concept is so silly that director Grant Heslov and George Clooney  really can’t help but make fun of it, and there are some good laughs here. Just no real story.

Ewan McGregor plays journalist Bob Wilton, a jilted husband who goes to find a big journalistic adventure to provide his masculinity to his backstabbing wife. But he winds up stuck in Kuwait waiting to get into Iraq. One night he meets Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), a familiar name to him from a previous interview he did years before about psychic-spies. Lyn was the best in what was called the “New Earth Army”, started by Vietnam-Vet Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) in the 80’s to create soldiers with super-powers who could prevent conflict. The Army was later dismantled and used for evil purposes by the movie’s antagonist Hooper (Kevin Spacey) but Lyn tells Bob he’s been re-activated, and has a secret mission to do in Iraq. Bob, thinking Lyn crazy but interesting at the same time, decides to ride along with him and go where the action is. Along the way, Lyn tells him stories of others dubbed, “Jedi Warriors.”

Most of the movie is flashbacks, beginning with Iraq War 2003 and chronicling all the way back to the beginning of New Age warfare. There are weird and crazy laughs. The lines are good too. “We tried invisibility but then worked it down to just not being seen”, Lyn tells Bob during on of their discussions. Clooney is perfectly eccentric as a guy who lives by the mindfulness-over-warfare principal and McGregor is a whiny, but solid straight-man. Bridges is also terrific as this free-spirited hippie. Only the laughs and flashbacks (which feel like a series of sketches) aren’t enough to distract from the fact that “Goats” really has no compelling narrative. The forward-moving story in Iraq 2003 has very little momentum. Spacey appears later on again as the villain but the conflict is weak and the movie has more than over-stayed its welcome.

All-in-all, it’s probably worth seeing, but I’d wait to rent the DVD.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Burn After Reading – A Movie Review

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Jan 032009

burnafterreading_poster2.jpgAn ousted CIA official’s memoir accidentally falls into the hands of two unwise gym employees intent on exploiting their find.

Genres: Comedy and Crime/Gangster; Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.; Release Date: September 12th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence.

Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt
Written, Produced and Directed: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

I wasn’t sure it would be as good as he thought/ In the end I am so glad we went. This is a very good dark comedy. The story is all over the place, yet the Coen brothers find a way to bring it all together at the end. This movie contains great acting including superb performances by Brad Pitt and John Malkovich. Viewers that do not enjoy dark comedies or movies that do not follow linear plots will not enjoy this movie.I thought the acting was excellent and the storyline was unexpected and fresh! I would even go see this one again!

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leatherheads – A Movie Review

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Nov 232008

Leatherheads Movie PosterIn 1925, Dodge Connelly is a charming, brash football hero who is determined to guide his team from bar brawls to packed stadiums. But after the players lose their sponsor and the entire league faces certain collapse, Dodge convinces a college football star to join his ragtag ranks. The captain hopes his latest move will help the struggling sport finally capture the country’s attention. Welcome to the team Carter Rutherford, America’s favorite son. A golden-boy war hero who single-handedly forced multiple German soldiers to surrender in WWI, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed on the field. This new champ is almost too good to be true, and Lexie Littleton aims to prove that’s the case. A cub journalist playing in the big leagues, Lexie is a spitfire newswoman who suspects there are holes in Carter’s war story. But while she digs, the two teammates start to become serious off-field rivals for her fickle affections. As the new game of pro-football becomes less like the freewheeling sport he knew and loved, Dodge must both fight to keep his guys together and to get the girl of his dreams. Finding that love and football have a surprisingly similar playbook, however, he has one maneuver he will save just for the fourth quarter.

Genres: Comedy and Sports; Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.; Release Date: April 4th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language.

Starring: George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Pryce

Directed by: George Clooney

Lay and I watched this movie on TV Saturday evening as an download. There was great chemistry between Clooney and Zellweger. The movie had some funny moments, and would be OK for a family to see. That gags were reasonably funny. Clooney did  a great job recreating what I take to be the period.


 Corruption, Culture, Movies, Politics, War  Comments Off on Syriana
Dec 122005

Syriana (2005)

A politically-charged epic about the state of the oil industry in the hands of those personally involved and affected by it.

Directed by
Stephen Gaghan

Drama, Thriller

Kayvan Novak, George Clooney, Amr Waked, Christopher Plummer, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, Robert Foxworth, Nicky Henson, Nicholas Art, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet, Steven Hinkle, Daisy Torm?, Peter Gerety, Richard Lintern

This is a complex film that tries to get the audience to connect the dots –to see that control of the Middle Eastern oil fields is the goal that is at the heart of so much of the political process, both in the Middle East and in the West, and that it is also the catalyst for much of what we call terrorism. I was hoping for a lot from this movie, but was somewhat disappointed.

The film introduces a number of characters and a number of seemingly separate story lines in the beginning, then tries to weave them all together by the end. That makes for a challenging first hour or so, in which the film jumps back and forth from one storyline to another. It can be confusing.

The movie finally does weave most of them together in the last half hour, but it does not completely tie everything up, so the payoff just isn’t there. The conclusion it reaches is not a happy one for many Americans, for what the movie seems to say is American oil companies use any means necessary, including double crosses and outright murder, to protect their access to Middle Eastern oil.

Well enough, for the political message. But does it work as a movie? The answer, in my view, is “kind of.”

The plot centers around the merger of two American oil companies, one a industry giant, which has just lost a big contract in Saudi Arabia to the Chinese, the other a small, independent Texas outfit, that has just won a lucrative contract in a smaller Mideast nation and is now going to be very cash rich. But there’s a hitch. Did the Texas outfit bribe foreign officials, violating the US Corrupt Practices act. Fearing a Justice Department investigation that could block the merger, it hires a high priced Washington law firm to conduct its own investigation, to see what Justice might dig up against it.

At the same time, the Emir of a Persian Gulf oil kingdom is about to retire to Europe and has to pick between two sons to succeed him. One is a pool shooting playboy, the other a serious, reform minded idealist. Problem is, the idealist might not be so anxious to allow US troops to continue to garrison on his soil, while his fun loving brother wants nothing more than to have the Americans there to protect his privileged lifestyle from Islamic radicals. And as all this unfolds, a young Palestinian refugee, thrown out of work by a shift in control of the oil fields, is recruited by al-Qaida or something like it, and becomes involved in a terrorist bombing plot, using a weapon originally delivered by a CIA covert op to the Middle East.

But where the movie falls down is that it fails in someways to weave a human story into this and human stories, after all, are what the movies are all about. George Clooney does a fine job as a sort of world weary CIA agent caught up in the skullduggery. Although not particularly introspective, he does on occasion give you the impression that he’s trying to figure out if he works for the US government or the Houston Petroleum Club. Matt Damon plays an oil industry analyst who is an adviser to the idealist candidate for emir and he is given the task of adding the human element to the story, after his young son drowns in a swimming pool. Unfortunately, Damon falls completely flat, registering almost zero emotion in his role as an exasperated advocate of democracy and reform or even as grieving dad.

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Good Night, and Good Luck.

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Nov 112005

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

Broadcast journalist Edward Murrow looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Directed by
George Clooney

Drama, History

David Strathairn, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Ray Wise, Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels, George Clooney, Tate Donovan, Thomas McCarthy, Matt Ross, Reed Diamond, Robert John Burke, Grant Heslov, Alex Borstein, Rose Abdoo

I was a little disappointed with this film, but that might be the result of having extremely high hopes. “Good Night, and Good Luck,” tells the story of CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow’s courageous fight against Senator Joseph McCarthy. As a student of both history and journalism, I have viewed Murrow as a hero and was very excited to see this film. Overall, David Strathairn’s performance is impeccable, capturing Murrow’s nuances, genius, and even the cigarette addiction that eventually killed him.

George Clooney directed this film and plays Fred Friendly, who produced Murrow’s broadcasts. Clooney also is credited with co-writing the screenplay, and that’s where the problem arises. Aside for the lengthy film footage of actual Senate sub-committee testimony, and the genuine, on-screen words of Murrow and others, the screenplay is sparse. There just wasn’t much tension in the film, and it showed little of the struggles taking place around the stories.

This story was clearly as a warning that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it…unfortunately, I think it might have come out too late.

We get very little insight into the characters of Murrow, Friendly, and CBS President William Paley (played by Frank Langella). In addition, Clooney wastes a superb supporting cast including Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr., and Jeff Daniels.

Clearly, George Clooney has made a noble film that captures the spirit of the time and the words of those involved, and if there was ever any doubt that McCarthy was a self-serving hypocrite, it is erased by this film. But the director failed to develop characters that were interesting in their own right. As such, the film is only slightly more involving than a documentary on the subject might have been.

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