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George Clooney

The Descendants - Not My Favorite Payne Movie

As the critics are just dying to tell you, "The Descendants" is an Oscar contender. George Clooney is fantastic. Shailene Woodley a starlet in the making. That may be, but I was not blown away by this movie. Alexander Payne is a smart guy - he uses words like "archipelago" and "reportage" to confirm as much - and all of his movies are better than your average big studio fare. But this one, about a lawyer trying to connect with his daughters after his wife goes into a coma due to a tragic accident, just kinda sat there on the screen for me. Certainly there are things to admire in "The Descendants": Woodley's scene stealing intensity, Payne's unique pictorial study of Honolulu, and George Clooney's understated yet effective performance. Payne's leisurely pacing is also enjoyable, and I was never fidgeting. But this film just felt insular and cold. I guess I couldn't relate to it. However, that's never stopped me from liking a film before if it is told in a moving and interesting way (see "Margin Call"). On the plus side, the legal phrase "rule against perpetuities" was used in this flick. I hadn't heard that since first year law school. Like I said, that Payne is a smart guy.


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Ides of March - Entertaining Politcal Thriller

When did everyone get so cynical? Repeatedly in reviews of this movie, you see critics say something like, "Not a bad movie, but tell us something we didn't already know about American politics." If this is what we already know - if it really is this down and dirty - then we might as well just all give up and stop voting now. Personally, I found The Ides of March highly entertaining and unpredictable. George Clooney is especially appealing as an all-the-right-answers presidential candidate, as is Evan Rachel Woods as the sexy intern at his headquarters. (Woods really steals the show.) Ryan Gosling continues to be underwhelming to me in movies (see "Drive"), but it was particularly unwise to put his brand of blandness right there beside the blinding star wattage of Clooney. Not a good move at all. Oh, and while Philip Seymour Hoffman does that thing he always does in movies where he's really emphatic and his hair flops around during his colloquies, this movie just affirms he's one of the best actors in the business (same goes for Paul Giamatti).

There are a number of smart, good beats in The Ides of March (pay attention to the cell phone snafu between Woods and Gosling in the hotel room), so it's almost certain you will walk out of the theater with a feeling of satisfaction in having chosen something intelligent. The only thing I didn't care for was the last couple scenes where Clooney attempts to drive home the tragic unraveling of Gosling's moral center. It felt too heavy handed, like Clooney was screaming at us "This is an important movie!" which, of course, has the opposite effect.

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The Amercian - Virtuoso Filmmaking


At the heart of this stark tale lies the axiom "live by the sword, die by the sword."

Beautifully shot by Anton Corbijn, The American so definitively places you in Italy you'll feel you need a passport to see it.

The film has a slow pacing; no quick cuts or cinematic gimmicks. Instead what you get are precise and beautifully framed panoramas and tight shots of Clooney et al.

One scene that stands out in particular is when George Clooney takes Thekla Reuten's character to his secret hiding place to test a custom-made rifle he's built for her. A fellow assassin, Reuten just feels untrustworthy and dangerous. Maybe it's her piercing blue eyes, strong nose and flared nostrils. Whatever the case, that scene is a testament to Corbjin's virtuosity and ability to set up a tense scene without overly relying on a heavy score.

This is not a feel good movie by any stretch, but in this age of "look ma, I shot this on a camcorder," The American stands apart as a true-to-form cinematic experience. This film was crafted by industry professionals and there's no faking that.

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The Fantastic Mr. Fox

I saw this movie this week. As with most Wes Anderson films, and most notably Rushmore, this film does not disappoint. It has a very warm color palette and the settings are pastoral and visually appealing and engender a sense of coziness. A sense of being ensconced in the (largely) underground and make believe world of Mr. Fox and his unusual collection of pals. But I had the same feeling of wanting to rewind and more closely review many scenes for details that I did with Coraline, although that film ultimately has more heart and was more polished and technically amazing than Fox. Coraline was a classic; Fox is just a really good stop motion animation movie.

Rat is played by Willem Dafoe and that is probably the funniest role in the movie. Just listen to that slow, southern drawl when he tells Mr. Fox "It's my jaw-ob (job)"

The part of the movie I wasn't so crazy about was the second half, when the farmers really become focused on trying to capture and kill Mr. Fox. While never overtly violent, the tension and sense of imminent danger is in stark contrast to the cozy, relaxed feeling in the beginning of the film.

All in all, a very enjoyable movie going experience, like most Wes Anderson movies.


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