Posts Tagged ‘george clooney

30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Amusing? Yes. Fantastic? Not so much.

Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, and Brian Cox. Directed by Wes Anderson. Based on the characters and book created by Roald Dahl.

“Boggis and Bunce and Bean, One short, one fat, one lean. These horrible crooks, so different in looks, were nonetheless equally mean.”

So begins our tale of the Foxes; specifically, one Mr. Fox (Clooney). When the movie opens he’s doing stretches under a tree while listening to a radio playing the “Ballad of Davy Crockett.” When Felicity (Streep), a fellow fox, meets up with him he escorts her home but not before traveling an elaborately complex path through a farmhouse to steal some chickens. In a moment of weakness/curiosity, he trips the trap encaging them both. Felicity takes this time to tell him she’s pregnant and should they get out of the mess alive, he’s gonna have to find a new line of work.

Fast-forward twelve fox years. Mr. Fox and Felicity are now married, living in a hole in the ground and have a son named Ash (Schwartzman). Mr. Fox’s new line of work is newspaper columnist for the Gazette. Felicity cleans up around the home and helps raise Ash. Ash lives in his father’s shadow and seemingly can’t get out of it; he’s too short and in no way the athlete his father was.

Twelve years is a long time for any fox to stay the “straight and narrow,” and Mr. Fox is no exception. The first part of his “plan” is to move and against the advisement of his lawyer Badger (Murray), he moves to a tree within perfect view of the farms ran by Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Incidentally, his nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) shows up because his brother-in-law is in the hospital. Kristofferson is tall, thin, and athletic. He enjoys yoga meditations and has a want for moral accountability. The wheels begin to turn in Mr. Fox’s head…

Let me elaborate on B, B, and B. Boggis (Robin Hurlstone) is a medium-sized chicken farmer. Bunce (Hugo Guinness) is a shorter person who offers a little bit of everything but only eats duck liver. They are both trumped by Bean (Gambon): he farms turkeys and apples, as well as the best alcoholic cider ever made. Malcontent is putting it nicely for this guy; he drinks his apple cider and quietly smokes until Mr. Fox comes on the scene…

Which happens with the help of Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky), a possum friend (and the tree’s superintendent) that Mr. Fox proposes “one last job” to. They break into Boggis’s farm and steal a couple of chickens. With the sudden “rush” of thieving again, Mr. Fox suggests a “triple-header,” going for Bunce and Bean’s farms as well. The raid on Bunce’s is a success. With the help of Kristofferson they ransack Bean’s but run into a psychotic, knife-wielding Rat (Dafoe). Even though the burglary was a success, it didn’t come without consequence: Mrs. Fox finds out and she is not happy, threatening to leave if Mr. Fox doesn’t change his ways.

Bean gets Boggis and Bunce together and pools all their resources to exterminate Mr. Fox and company. Following a shoot-out, Bean takes Mr. Fox’s tail as a trophy and uses it as a necktie. They go after his tree and the family burrows even farther down into the ground. Bean continues to come up with ways to hurt Mr. Fox and the ones he loves and lives with. Meanwhile, Mr. Fox gathers his community together to fight against B, B, and B. When Ash and Kristofferson go to retrieve Mr. Fox’s tail, Kristofferson is captured by Bean and is held hostage. With the stakes raised, the animal community in peril, and his nephew captured, Mr. Fox has to come up with a plan that’s “fantastic,” and fast.

So I’ll take a moment to correct myself. I define fantastic in the sense of “awe-inspiring, magical, almost fantasy-like,” which while it does have elements of fantasy, there aren’t too many of them (animal personification barely counts). According to the dictionary it’s “unrestrainedly fanciful; extravagant” and “based on or existing only in fantasy; unreal,” which the movie does achieve, so I guess I we may both be right.

While Mr. Fox is eccentric, the story felt ho-hum. Things just happen. Maybe I’m looking too deeply into this one. The point in the movie where the “stakes are raised” up until the end was done really well. I had no problem with the stop-animation used; that’s what drew me to see the movie. I didn’t mind the soundtrack which featured The Beach Boys, Jarvis Cocker, Burl Ives, and the Rolling Stones. I thought it was “cute” how, instead of cussing, he used the word “cuss.” For example: “What the cuss?” (fill in your own word). For the most part, the movie just felt lackluster.

I do give credit to Wes Anderson for trying something new. This is his first feature stop-animation movie. Instead of dealing with the problems of people who have money (“Rushmore,” “Tenenbaums,” “Life Aquatic,”) he went the opposite direction. I’ll give him fair credit and due on these things.

If you have kids who have an attention span, you may want to check this one out. It’s not a bad movie but I was expecting more.

Watch/listen for Wes Anderson regular Owen Wilson as Ash’s coach.

My grade: B-

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08
Dec
09

Movie Review: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Keep staring.

Stars Ewan McGregor, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey. Directed by Grant Heslov.

It’s more of a “journey of life” movie than a statement on a Top Secret program on remote viewing, but here goes:

Bob Wilton (McGregor) is a reporter for a newspaper in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2002 he interviews a “crackpot” named Gus Lacey (Stephen Root) who does two things: shows him a videotape where he causes a hamster to pass out for a few minutes by staring at it and informs him that he was part of a Top Secret, government-funded program on remote viewing. For the metaphysics-challenged, remote viewing involves a person sitting in a room to be able to see where and what someone in another locale, possibly thousands of miles away, is doing and describe it all in detail. Wilton doesn’t believe in it and shelves the idea in the back of his head.

Some time later Wilton’s world falls apart: his wife leaves him for his editor who happens to have a mechanical arm. Feeling about an inch tall and wanting, nay needing, to prove something to the world he travels to Iraq to get in and cover a story. And he sits. And waits.

Calvinism and destiny intertwine and he meets Lyn Cassady (Clooney). Cassady was mentioned by Lacey as the Numbero Uno Psychic of the Top Secret Program called New Earth. “We prefer to call ourselves Jedi warriors,” he tells Wilton. It seems that New Earth was began by another man, Bill Django (Bridges). Django was on tour in VietNam when he took a bullet to his chest. He dies, crosses to the other side, and comes back. Seeing how the soldiers in the field weren’t wanting to kill for Uncle Sam he proposes a study which takes him on a quest of sex, drugs, and enlightenment. Upon return he releases an instruction manual on how peace can be attained without actual fighting but by using the powers of the mind. This is further helped by a Brigadier General Dean Hopgood (Stephen Lang) who wants to see the program created because the Russians supposedly have a program already in place to psychically screw with the minds of our country’s leadership. The program is set in motion and Django begins.

Cassady becomes the star of the group, being able to remote view better than everyone else with the exception of Larry Hooper(Spacey), another “Jedi warrior” that holds dominance over everyone but Cassady. Problems begin when the remote viewers have wrong conclusions (one says that Angela Lansbury knew the location of Manuel Noriega) and one of Hooper’s experiments lead to an officer taking his own life, the project is shut down. Cassady is currently in the Middle East on a secret mission that Wilton is never sure what it is.

Wilton never knows quite what to make or believe from Cassady who seems more Jedi reject than Jedi warrior with the exception that Cassady knows how to fight. The two become well-enough friends and go from situation to situation never sure of what’s coming next. Whatever Cassady is expecting to do or to find, Wilton is along for the ride.

I liked the movie. This is one of those difficult to sell because while it does mention psychic research programs I have heard of, the overall objective for the story is for the main character to achieve something with his life. If the movie were just about the programs it would’ve been one thing but this has the New Earth information in flashbacks while Cassady and Wilton are doing whatever they’re doing and that structure leaves something missing from the movie. I wished it was more straight-forward than the journey it really was, but that’s probably a minor gripe.

McGregor is believable but not as much as Clooney. The again Clooney is the variable and McGregor is the “everyman” constant, so it does work better that way. Bridges doesn’t channel The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” as much as he shows a variant of that personality. Spacey doesn’t do a lot for me to really expound upon.

Did this research really happen? I’m inclined to believe that it did but not entirely in the manner shown in the movie. With truth often being stranger than fiction, I could be completely wrong. With a culture that had 9 seasons hinged on the fact that The Truth Is Out There, why not? Can someone stare at a goat and make its heart stop? Can someone thousands of miles away read my To Do list just by imagining it? Interesting stuff to think about.

There’s a big “inside joke” with the whole “Jedi warrior” thing. Cassady has to explain to Wilton what one is, etc. This is a play on the fact that McGregor was in the “Star Wars” prequels. Also, his newspaper editor had a mechanical arm, which may also have been a “joke” on the series.

Do I recommend this one? I liked it and there were a few really funny parts. I suggest “rental.” Or matinée on a slow weekend afternoon. I did like it but not enough to watch it more than once a year.

If you go, watch for Robert Patrick as an American contractor. Great bit.

My grade: B-

01
Oct
08

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

 

 

No biggee.

 

Starring John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, J.K. Simmons and Frances McDormand. Directed by the Coen Bros.

 

The film kicks off with satellite imaging of the Earth, eventually settling on CIA Headquarters. The first of the cavalcade of characters is Osbourne Cox (Malkovich), a malcontent who is being fired for being an alcoholic. His wife is Katie, a woman pissed-off with her marriage to him and is secretly having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (Clooney), a guy who works for the Treasury Department and has such great stamina that after sex he goes on a 5-mile run. Harry is married to Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), an author of children’s books.

 

Osbourne decides to shovel it back to the CIA and begins writing a memoir. Trouble is, his wife plans on leaving him and downloads it, along with his finances, onto a CD. That CD is left at Hardbodies, a physical fitness center.

 

Meanwhile, at Hardbodies… the disc is found on the floor of the womens’ locker room. Chad (Pitt) is a fitness nut: California “young and hip” personality, bleached hair, and always needing to find a place to park is bike. Linda is a woman pushing 40 and feels that her body has taken her as far as it can go, and if only she can get enough money to pay for multiple plastic surgeries, she’ll find someone and quit being lonely. When Brad discovers CIA info on the disc, he scams with Linda (McDormand) to try and get a reward for the contents. When Cox refuses to be extorted and blackmailed, they try to sell the disc to the Russians.

 

Tragedy, comedy, and plot twists ensue.

 

For a Coen Bros’ movie, it’s alright. I liked it. I’m not quite sure how others will fathom it, but I enjoyed it. It’s not “No Country for Old Men,” it’s not “Fargo,” and it’s not “The Big Lebowski.” This one is a creature all to itself.

 

It’s hard to point out any one certain part in this film. Maybe I can mention Chad and Linda calling Osbourne early in the morning, trying to get a reward for the CD. Maybe I can mention what exactly Harry builds in his basement. And maybe I can mention how it all wraps up in an expository scene with J.K. Simmons. But hey, if you’re intrigued, catch the movie.

 

The Coen Bros. are masters at blending comedy and tragedy, with suspense being an electrical current running until the end. My only complaint is that this serving was lukewarm.

 

My Grade: B

07
Apr
08

Movie Review: Leatherheads

Leatherheads poster

 

Now with 100% pigskin footballs!

 

Starring George Clooney, Renee Zellweger, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, and Stephen Root. Directed by George Clooney

 

It was the kind of movie I needed a girlfriend for.

 

George Clooney is “Dodge” Connelly, an aging football player for the Duluth Bulldogs who has been playing “pro” football for the last 20 years. The year is 1925, and football is relegated more to the being a kids/high school sport than something grown men would partake in. When a game against Milwaukee gets cancelled and their own sponsorship gets pulled, the team goes back to their regular jobs (or trying to find one). Clooney then has an insight: try to sign Carter Rutherford (Krasinski).

 

Carter Rutherford is a former high school athlete and a war hero – he got a group of German soldiers to surrender without firing a shot (which is true, and a funny scene). This sounds too bogus for the Chicago Tribune, who send reporter Lexi Littleton to cozy up to Carter and find the real truth of what happened over there (“over there, over there…”) What follows is Carter’s celebrity taking over the Duluth Bulldogs, the love triangle between Lexi, Carter, and Connelly, and the eventual civilization of football.

 

What I enjoyed about this movie is the nostalgia/homage factor. Yeah, the movie felt like it leaned a bit on “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” but it never stopped believing it was what it was, a throwback to the comedies of the 20’s-40’s. I best describe it as a football comedy meets “His Girl Friday.” Some of the best scenes involve Zellweger and Clooney exchanging rapid-fire dialog with wit.

 

As for historical accuracy… I’m not quite sure how accurate it is. It does show pro-football changing from playing in dirt fields to becoming a legitimate game, complete with “new rules” (the scene were the referees have to check against the new rulebook is classic). And I think it shows how something that was considered fun became something more serious and in doing so, became boring (any football fans out there still with me?)

 

So, why should you check this one out? It’s probably the easiest “date movie” there is on the block. Also, it’s not a “cynical” movie; everyone is in on what’s going on, and they’re doing what they’re doing for fun. The cast looks like it really had fun making the movie.

 

You also may wanna see it because it’s that different from the usual “blow-em-up”/ murder mystery/ special effects laden movie that you popped into your DVD player this past weekend. And with the minute bit of language it has, it’s pretty safe to take your parents/grandparents to as well.

 

My grade: A (because it was different and made well)