Posts Tagged ‘clint eastwood


Movie Review: Invictus

Go rugby!

Starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Based on the book “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation,” by John Carlin

1995. A man trying to keep a country united during change. A rugby team given the charge of going all the way to the World Cup. Adversity. Perseverance. And yet, there was something missing.

Story (and history for those not in the know): Nelson Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist who was released from prison after 27 years in 1990. He began campaigning for reconciliation, trying to achieve a balance between races. He ran for election and governed as President of South Africa from 1994-1999. To this day he offers his opinions on political topics and is a celebrated elder statesman.

The movie begins –roughly- with Mandela (Freeman) taking power. With blacks in South Africa able to vote alongside whites for the first time, Mandela has been chosen President. Several of the whites, fearing for themselves and/or their jobs, start to leave the Presidential office when Mandela has a meeting and tells them that if they want to leave they can go but if they want to stay and help, it would be a great service to their country.

Rugby is the national sport and the current team, the South African Springboks, leave something to be desired in terms of winning. Team Captain Francois Pienaar (Damon) has come under a lot of heat for not winning and the local community votes to change the team name, colors, etc. Mandela intervenes and persuades them to reverse the decision.

Mandela calls for a meeting with Pienaar and instills in him the idea of taking the Springboks all the way to the World Cup. With the whole country, if not the world, watching South Africa and its rugby team, will Mandela’s hopes pay off?

Director Clint Eastwood softens the line between politics and sports in tackling the subject matter. The movie is as much about a man fighting the effects of apartheid and unifying a racially torn nation as it is places hope in a team that blacks and whites don’t want to root for, but both sides need to. The country focuses on this one team which no one believes has a shot of going all the way.

What I just described sounds great on paper, even compelling, and the book may be great (I’ve not read it) but the movie seems to feel flat. Maybe it’s out sense of “film programming” in the way that we want our heroes, our teams, to overcome adversity in terms that we can relate to, or for them to go through the ups and downs as they reach the prize. Here the most confrontational anything gets is when Mandela’s bodyguards have white Presidential bodyguards that they have to accept and work with. Aside from stares and shrugs, that’s it. As for the Springboks it’s more about media scrutiny and the fact that they are given the task of winning for South Africa, which no one seems to have a big problem with; again, more short scenes but no one character feels drowned or over-burdened with the responsibility of answering the call.

And maybe Eastwood wasn’t going for that; maybe he just wanted to tell the simple, yet incredible, story of a team that brought a country together. He did just that but it didn’t feel incredible, just something that was going to happen anyway.

I also had problems with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. Both are iconic in their respective fields, entertainment and politics, but should one icon be played by another? I read that the only person Mandela saw as able to play him was Freeman and that’s the first person who signed-on to the movie but… it’s difficult to see Freeman as humble. He’s played cops/detectives, God, a Civil War soldier, etc. but I just had problems seeing past the actor as the being the public figure.

Lack of character development may have been the culprit. Pienaar, the team’s captain, comes from a well-to-do white South African family that has a live-in maid and has a beautiful girlfriend (Marguerite Wheatley). The only thing the guy has to do is show up and get his team into shape for the World Cup. No esteem issues, no drugs, no otherwise erroneous or law-breaking behavior or flaws; just rugby.

As for what the title has to do with anything: while in prison Mandela found a poem called “Invictus,” which was originally written by William Ernest Henley in 1875. Invictus means “unconquerable” in Latin. Briefly, I’ll post the last of the poem:

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

Otherwise it’s a good movie. Not great but an interesting “snapshot” of a certain time and place.

My grade: B-


Movie Review: Gran Torino



Not exactly the best endorsement for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America…


Starring Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Christopher Carley, and John Carroll Lynch. Directed by Clint Eastwood.


Walt Kowalski (Eatswood) is a Korean War vet and retired Ford plant worker that, as of the beginning of the film, has lost his wife. He’s the kind of guy steeped in the Old World and Old School values. As he stands beside his wife’s casket in church he grits his teeth and stares down a granddaughter who has a nose ring and belly-button piercing. If that wasn’t enough he’s forced to be around people he doesn’t like and for the moment, they’re forced to be around him. Aside from that he smokes, chews tobacco, and drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon while sitting on his front porch staring at a suburb he’s lived in a majority of his life which has became an object of “white flight.” Most of his neighbors are now Asian/Hmong (pronounced “mung”) and the eldest woman next door wonders why he’s still around. The one true pride and joy of his life is his car, a green 1972 Gran Torino (which he proudly states that he put the wheel column in while it was still on the line).


Enter Thao (Vang), a young Hmong kid who lives next door to Kowalski. Thao has low self-esteem from growing up without a father and having his older sister Su (Her), mother, and whoever else berate him. When Thao is confronted by his gang-leader cousin, he bends under peer-pressure and tries stealing the GT. Kowalski thwarts his attempt and Thao returns home in shame. When his cousin causes a fight on the family’s front lawn it spills over into Kowalski’s. Kowalski busts out his M1 Garand and breaks up the fight, saving Thao’s life. The next day Kowalski is the neighborhood hero when he just wants to be left alone.


One afternoon he drives home in his truck and sees Su and a friend being accosted by a few black kids. He pulls up, talks with the them, pulls out a 9mm, saves her, tells the friend to get lost, and gives her a ride back to the neighborhood. A friendship is forged as they talk and she is his tour guide through the world of the Hmong (“We’re hill people not jungle people.”)


The film’s main theme is personal worth. Kowalski is a racist guy who doesn’t want anything to do with anyone. His own grown-up kids don’t like dealing with him and don’t know how to. Whenever he greets someone, he announces their background: “Hey, you Mick.” “Hey, you Polack.” With his wife dead and few friends, he lives in a sea of regret, bad memories, and worse nightmares. As for Thao, he doesn’t have any personal worth to speak of. As Kowalski “takes him under his wing,” Thao develops a sense of pride and accomplishment with himself. Both are seemingly heading for redemption.


What I liked about this movie was that it was better than I expected it to be, and not what I thought it was at all. If Eastwood wasn’t who he was, I could entirely imagine him being this guy. Think “Dirty Harry” Callahan one step away from the nursing home. He’s old, retired, pissed-off, and is watching a world going to waste. It’s this attitude that makes the story believable, the comic moments funny, and the reality tragic.


Also, I liked the fact that the setting of the story was a section of a city where “white flight” had occurred. I’ve wondered why I haven’t seen that subject brought up in other films and give kudos for the fact that it’s been one of the first that I know of to address the issue.


Last note: the ending. While I won’t say what happens, I will say that it was incredibly smart. Good job, guys.


But, how is the movie? Probably one of the best matinees I’ve caught in a long time. It’s funny, sad, poignant, but most of all, well-made. Eastwood has said that this is the last movie he’ll act in. If that’s the case, I couldn’t think of a better one.


My grade: A





Movie News and Views Nov. 24, 2008 Poster Edition


–          Warner Bros. Studios is pushing for a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger.

         Clint Eastwood has now retired from acting at the age of 78. His upcoming movie, “Gran Turino,” will be the last time he will be seen acting. However, he has no plans on quitting directing.

         And Clint Eastwood isn’t the actor “throwing in the towel.” Joaquin Phoenix has quit acting in order to pursue music. Possibly joining him are Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie.

         A sequel to this past weekend’s vampire chick-flick cash-cow “Twilight” is currently under development.

         “Ace Ventura 3” has gone straight-to-DVD.

         Fox Searchlight has picked up the rights for an “Arrested Development” movie.

         “Get Smart 2” will start shooting next year.

         Universal Pictures has bought the rights to all future “Bourne” novels. I wonder how “The Bourne Ad Nauseum” will do.

         “Kung Fu Panda” director is helmed to direct a “He-Man” movie. By the power of Grayskull!

         “Tremors 5.” How many of you have been waiting for that?

         “The Nutty Professor 3” currently in development. No word on Eddie Murphy being involved.

         An addition to the “Meet the Parents/Fockers” franchise, called “Little Fockers,” is currently in development.

         Watch out for a “RoboTech” movie.

         The third “Narnia” film has NOT been greenlit. What’s up?

         Michael Moore’s next movie will be about the economy.

         Brett Ratner will be working on a “Conan the Barbarian” movie, but not before “Beverly Hills Cop 4.”

         Ridley Scott is rumored to produce/ direct the new “Monopoly” movie. I wonder if he passes “Go,” will he collect $200 million?

         “Deep Throat” porn director Gerard Damiano died on October 25th at the age of 80.

         Speaking of porn, GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin was offered $2 million to appear in a porn movie. She is also the “subject” of the film, “Nailin’ Palin.”

         Simon Pegg and Nick Frost will be re-teaming for the comedy, “Paul,” about two British slackers who go to Comic Con and take a trip out to Area 51 where they meet the title alien and have to help him get home.

         Broken Lizards and the Counting Crows are teaming up on a movie called “Freeloaders.”

         Chevy Chase will be in a movie about spoofing spoof movies called, “Not Another Not Another Movie.”

         Animated TV show “King of the Hill” is looking to be courted by ABC.