Tag Archives: George Clooney

Great use of a pop culture reference

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Quick ‘n’ Dirty: February at the pictures

The last month has been mostly about Oscar nominated films… surprise, surprise! So without further ado here’s February selection of speedy reviews:

The Danish Girl: the life of Danish painter Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, pioneer transgender, and his wife Gerda, also a talented painter. I know that this is considered an Eddie Redmayne’s film, whose performance is both convincing and effective, but the one that truly shines is Alicia Vikander as Gerda. She embodied the role of loyal, supporting wife and her struggle to make sense of her life and her husband’s. I must say that she’s the one who really sold me the story and ended up making it convincing and gut-wrenching. Tom Hooper skillfully handles this dramatic tale and beautifully recreates both Copenhagen and Paris in the 1920s. Affecting —7/10

Danish-Girl

 

Carol: Todd Haynes gives us an artfully shot, intense period drama with two great actresses (Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett) at the top of their game. Therese, shop girl and aspiring photographer, meets and falls in love with the titular Carol, an older woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. Set in the fifties, this love story has all the complications that come with the social mores of the time and strongly reminds of Far From Heaven, however it’s a little more hopeful but less powerful. Cate Blanchett should always dress as a New Yorker in the 1950s, she’s spectacular. Kudos also go to Kyle Chandler for his solid performance as the abandoned husband and Sarah Paulson as Carol’s best friend. Interesting —7/10

Carol

 

Anomalisa: the quirky genius of Charlie Kaufman takes the viewer along for a ride in a weird world. Using stop-motion animation he tells a story of alienation and loneliness (which are recurrent themes in his films): a customer service guru, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), feels detached from everything but, on a business trip, meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his anomaly, and things suddenly change for the better…at least that’s what it seems. While the plot is rather straightforward, the storytelling is multi-layered as is Kaufman’s wont and the different media is meant to add an additional twist. Unfortunately, the latter completely backfires (at least for me) because I found the facial features of the puppets utterly distracting and not in a good way. Unexpected —6/10

anomalisa

 

Hail, Caesar!: Eddie Mannix’s (Josh Brolin) life as fixer for a major Hollywood studio is very complicated and demanding. He has to deal with a difficult director (Ralph Fiennes), a pregnant starlet (Scarlet Johansson), nosy gossip journalists (Tilda Swinton), the kidnapping of a movie star (George Clooney) and his inner demons. The Coens brings back the lights and shadows of Hollywood’s golden era with their usual humour and manage to coax great performances out of Clooney, Brolin, Ehrenreich and the rest of the cast. There’s a cornucopia of references to different film genres and their cliches as well as to the lives of celebrities, mostly what should be kept from the public. I particularly enjoyed the discussion about religion with a rabbi and representatives of the different christian confessions. Lighthearted —7.5/10

hail-caesar

 

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Great use of a pop culture reference

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The Monuments Men

Director: George Clooney, Main Cast: George ClooneyMatt DamonCate BlanchettBill MurrayJohn GoodmanJean DujardinHugh BonnevilleBob Balaban;

the-monuments-men

George Clooney as a director has an uneven record, it’s kind of one hit and one miss. This film is, unfortunately, a miss, stellar cast notwithstanding. It is a story set during the last true “good” war: between the ever righteous Americans (with some help from those nice English chaps) and the evil Nazis! It is about a group of men who are not soldiers but art experts (being museum curators, art historians, architects or artists) and whose mission is to rescue artistic masterpieces stolen by the Nazis from museums and churches around Europe and return them to their rightful owners. Strong of a mandate from FDR himself, Frank Stokes (Clooney) puts together a band of unlikely heros to rob three casinos in Las Vegas…oops no, sorry, that was another movie! They arrive in France, not long after D-Day and, with barely any training as soldiers, venture to the front and split in groups trying to reach precious artifacts before the Germans have time to smuggle them away. Naturally, they are too late! Nazis are not only evil but real devils when it comes to organisation and logistics. From this point on, it is a giant treasure hunt through Europe and a race against time, since the prime directive from the Fuhrer is to destroy everything if the Reich falls (and the Germans aren’t doing so well by the end of 1944). Instrumental in helping the Monument Men is Claire Simone (Blanchett), curator of the Jeu De Paume museum in Paris, who kept a detailed record of all the works of art that came to the museum and that were later moved to secret locations by the Germans. She is the most interesting character of the film because she is the only one the audience has the chance to know a little better, the others are just one-dimensional cardboard silhouettes, devoid of any character development, which is a great flaw in a movie that is supposed to be about these happy few men who chose to risk their lives for what they believed in. Yes, yes, the message is very uplifting (prevent the destruction of centuries of culture and history and save what really makes us human) but the delivery is rather clumsy. There are a few funny one-liners, some banter and witticism in a “brotherhood of men” kind of way, but it all feels flat and without pathos. It is not enough to cast Bill Murray, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville and Matt Damon, if the script is uneven, lacking a clear direction and credibility (none of these men of culture is fluent in a foreign language or two, really?!? Damon’s character pitiful attempt at speaking French doesn’t count!). It is a pity because this movie could have been quite something considering the cast. Unsatisfying and ineffective —5/10

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Gravity

Director:  Alfonso Cuarón, Main Cast: Sandra BullockGeorge ClooneyEd Harris;

The first thing that come to mind after seeing this film is: visually stunning! One of the reasons why cinema was invented. The second is: using 3D in a movie makes sense for a change and it doesn’t provoke kinetosis (yay!). The third is: NASA should hire Ed Harris as the official voice of mission control in Houston (since “Apollo 13“, he is the most reassuring voice in dire situations). The plot is pretty simple: something terrible and unpredictable (?!?, I’ll get back to this later) happens during a routine maintenance mission of the Space Shuttle to the Hubble Space Telescope and leaves our heroine (Sandra Bullock) stranded without contact with Earth in an environment rather hostile to life. Ok writers, I get that you needed to find a way for this man …well… woman versus nature scenario to unleash the special and visual effects departments, and I am almost willing to forgive you most of the scientific blunders but… someone has to defend the Russians and the aerospace engineers / astrophysicists of any nation. Unlike the United States and  China, Russia has never destroyed one of their decommissioned  satellites with a missile and their satellites are at an higher altitude than the Hubble. What happens in the film is a worst case scenario well known to space scientists called Kessler Syndrome, predicted by Don Kessler in a paper he  published in 1978 (!). The problem of debris in space is well monitored by all space agencies and there are several on-going projects to tackle it (check out what the Swiss are planning: Space Clean-Up). It’s also  important to note that the Hubble and the International Space Station are on orbits with different altitude and inclination, not exactly possible to be both hit by the same bunch of debris. Furthermore, all communication satellites are on geosynchronous orbits, 35000 km higher than the Hubble, so Sandra’s character should have had Ed’s warm, comforting voice in her ear for all the duration of the movie. Lastly, re-entering Earth’s atmosphere is a very tricky business : if the angle is too shallow you bounce back into space, too steep you burn to a crisp! Anyway, don’t mind too much my rant about scientific mistakes, just enjoy the view, Earth has never looked so beautiful! —8/10

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Oldies but goldies: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Director: Robert Rodriguez, Main Cast:  Harvey KeitelGeorge ClooneyJuliette LewisQuentin TarantinoSalma Hayek;

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First credited collaboration of Rodriguez with Tarantino (the first at the helm, the second at the writing desk) and a brilliant mash-up of genres: action/thriller and vampire splatter horror. In perfect Tarantino’s style the first part is extreme violence (the ordinary, “it’s a wolf eats wolf world” type) and verbal incontinence. The opening scene is a pearl, great introduction of characters! So the pace is set for a action/thriller and when you get comfortable and start to enjoy the ride..bam! Everything goes topsy-turvy and you are in a splatter horror with tons of vampires and an incredible body count. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, aficionados of the two genres might not like it but if you like Tarantino is a must-see movie. Suggested as an antidote to the excess of sugary films that will start to flood the cinemas but especially TV during the upcoming holiday season. —8/10

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Favorite quote of the moment

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