Coming soon...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

EASTERN PROMISES (2007) - David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen first teamed up with the excellent 2005 comic book adaptation, A History of Violence. Their follow up, Eastern Promises is very much a companion piece to the previous film. Both films are about morally ambiguous men. Both delve into the criminal underworld. And both feature sporadic, and quite graphic violence, that will make some viewers uncomfortable. And like A History of Violence, Eastern Promises is one of the top films of the year of it’s release.

Set at Christmas time in a dark, wet corner of London, Eastern Promises opens with a graphic murder that sets the dark tone of the film. We are then introduced to Anna, a midwife in a hospital who helps deliver the baby of a dying 14 year old girl. Anna discovers the girl’s diary, which is written in Russian and therefore unintelligible to Anna. In the diary, Anna finds a business card for a Russian restaurant. She meets with the restaurant’s owner, Semyon and requests he translates the diary. Unbeknownst to Anna, Semyon is one of the heads of a Russian crime family. His son, Kirill is a psychotic gangster who may be connected to the dead girl. Kirill’s driver and essentially, his keeper is Nikolai. Nikolai proves essential to the family, but is still an outsider. He and Anna form a bond, but through her search for the truth behind the death of the young girl, Anna finds herself getting too close to the dangerous family.

Eastern Promises is a superbly layered, brilliantly paced and impeccably performed piece of cinema. Cronenberg, known primarily for his horror movies, again tackles a film that deals with violent family drama, and the question of identity and masculinity. One of the central themes is addressed by tattoos. They are integral to those within the crime family, identifying who you are, not just within the crime organisation, but also as a person on the whole. But the tattoos are also plot devices that play an important part in key scenes.

The performances in the film are all fantastic. Naomi Watts’ performance as Anna is the audience’s door into the crime world, and she handles the role very well. In a film that deals with masculinity, it would be easy for her role to become secondary to the rest, but she brings a strength and vulnerability that is essential for the role. Armin Mueller-Stahl as the father figure and head of the mob family is also excellent, initially warm and fatherly, but hiding something darker and more dangerous. Vincent Cassel throws himself entirely at the role of Kirill. He’s a brilliant lunatic. It’s a difficult role, that of an alcoholic and closet homosexual, and it would too easy for an actor to fall into cliché, but Cassel is a good actor and avoids these traps.

However, the outstanding performance is from Viggo Mortensen. Mortensen’s known for immersing himself completely in his roles, and it’s clear from this performance he’s done it again. Nikolai is an incredibly complex character, and Mortensen is able to portray all the layers of this character, the darkness, the cynicism and the ability for violence without remorse, without having to overplay the character. Nikolai moves very methodically but with a lot of restraint. It’s to Mortensen’s credit that he carries across all the complexities of the character without overacting.

As mentioned, Cronenberg is known for his horror movies. And while both A History Of Violence and Eastern Promises are thrillers, they deal with horrors men can visit on each other. The film is sporadically violent, and very graphic when the violence appears. But it’s never gratuitous. It moves at a very deliberate and steady pace, gradually drawing you into the violent world of the gangsters. A film that deals with identity, masculinity, and twisted morality, it’s a film populated by monsters with human faces. Cronenberg has delivered the perfect companion piece for A History Of Violence. Unfortunately, like his previous film, Eastern Promises more than likely won’t do well come awards time. However, it’s a brilliantly crafted, superbly performed thriller, and probably the best of the year so far.


RENDITION (2007) - Gavin Hood

The second film tackling current affairs in two weeks arrives on our doorsteps in the form of Gavin Hood’s Rendition. The film is quite different to the previous issue film, The Kingdom. However, the quality of the film is little better. For a film that has quite a bit of rage about the issue it tackles, that being the secret kidnap and torture of men to gain information during the war on terror, for some reason the performances are incredibly lacklustre. It’s strange that with a subject as incendiary as this, the film fails on so many levels.

Rendition opens with a town in an unidentified African country. We are introduced to Douglas Freeman, a pen pusher working for the CIA. He is caught up in an explosion while briefing a fellow operative who dies in the blast. Freeman replaces his fellow agent in a job that will test his morality. He is witness to the torture of kidnapped Egyptian born US green-card holding man, Anwar El-Ibrahimi. The CIA believes El-Ibrahimi is involved with the terrorists behind the bomb blast. In the US, El-Ibrahimi’s wife, Isabella struggles to find out what has happened to her husband after he inexplicably disappears from his flight home from South Africa. Her search leads her to Corinne Whitman, the CIA chief responsible for El-Ibrahimi’s kidnap and rendition.

For a film as weighty as the likes of Traffic and Syriana, and featuring a cast of actors who are all very talented, Rendition fails to entertain or educate. We all know that torture happens. With a US president who pretty much issues carte blanche to everyone to do what’s necessary to carry out his will, you can pretty much be guaranteed that this kind of thing happens. So there’s nothing new in this film. In fact, as unrealistic is it is, TV’s 24 pretty much covers what’s been done in this film. And it is far more entertaining. The characterisations themselves are pretty ridiculous. Everything is split into stark black and white with no grey area. The bad guys are bad and the good guys are good. I’m afraid the human race doesn’t work that way, so on screen, unless it’s fantasy, it doesn’t work.

Rendition features three academy award winners, so by that rationale, they should be pretty decent actors. But you wouldn’t guess that from their performances. Two of the three leads, Jake Gyllenhaal as Freeman, and Reese Witherspoon as Isabella El-Ibrahimi both put in incredibly dull performances. For two people under incredible pressure, they don’t seem to be very fazed by it. Other than to rubbing their faces and occasionally letting out a yell, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were sleepwalking. Meryl Streep’s character is a ridiculous cartoon character villain, a sort of wicked witch of the CIA. She’s given a southern drawl, and at one point imitates South Park’s Mr. Mackay when she says ‘mmmkay.’ I’ve never been a fan of Streep’s, she is a good actor, but terrible here. In fact, only Peter Sarsgaard and Alan Arkin come out of the film with some sort of credibility.

Special mention must be made of the film’s ridiculously contrived plot twist. It’s absolutely unnecessary and while I did find myself going ‘ah!’ when it happened, that immediately turned to annoyance at how stupid it is. While Rendition isn’t as bad as The Kingdom, neither is it much better. If this trend in political inspired movies continues, things bode very badly for some up-coming movies!


Monday, October 29, 2007

CHINJEOLHAN GEUMJASSI (2005) - Chan-wook Park

Korea is producing some great films as of late. Films that cover many different genres. Films like Gwoemul (monster movie The Host) and Taegukgi Hwinalrimyeo (Brotherhood, a war film similar to Saving Private Ryan). One of the most famous filmmakers to come out of the Korean film industry in the last few years is Chan-wook Park. His film Oldboy made his name with western audiences, and since then, he has completed his ‘revenge trilogy’ with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and 2005’s Sympathy For Lady Vengeance.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance focuses on Geum-ja Lee, a woman who has just been released from prison after serving thirteen years. Geum-ja was sent to prison for the murder of a young boy. However, Geum-ja never actually killed the boy. She took the wrap for another man who kidnapped Geum-ja’s daughter, forcing her to take the fall. While in prison, Geum-ja makes plenty of connections, friends she develops by doing them favours, including murder. Once she is freed from prison, Geum-ja calls in these favours in order to help her exact her revenge on the man who forced her to go to prison. She also sets about tracking her daughter down and seeing if she can make amends for their lost years.

I’ll admit, I went into this film with preconceived notions of what it would be like. Having seen Oldboy (but not Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), I thought it was going to be a pretty violent, blood-soaked affair with a protagonist who cared not about consequences, only revenge. It was to my very pleasant surprise that the film proved to be quite deeper than I had first imagined. Instead of being a fast paced violent flick, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is instead quite a slow burner. We’re not immediately told what Geum-ja’s intentions and motives are. Instead, the film employs flashback to show how Guem-ja developed into the devious and determined woman she is when she leaves prison.

The film is excellently paced and directed by Chan-wook Park, and while I found myself thinking things were going to wrap up pretty abruptly as the second half of the film played out, the film takes a bit of a twist, as it enters the last act. In fact, it’s the last act that really elevates the film above what could have very easily been a run of the mill thriller. In this act, a few characters are introduced, and the film becomes somewhat of an ensemble piece with some terrific acting and scripting. The acting throughout is excellent, Yeong-ae Lee plays Geum-ja, manages to create a character who is absolutely sympathetic, but at the same time, has a side to her that is extremely dangerous. Oldboy himself, Min-Sik Choi plays Mr. Baek, the object of Geum-ja’s vengeance, and is brilliantly creepy and loathsome.

Chan-wook Park isn’t interested in showing the kind of violence that he displayed in Oldboy, and instead focuses on the psychology of revenge, and the consequences it has for those who seek it. And it’s in this that the film succeeds. Another great film from Chan-wook Park.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

THE KINGDOM (2007) - Peter Berg

Now that the western masses have gotten used to the fact that the middle east is the new ‘enemy,’ we’re going to see a whole slew of films that attempt to tackle the issues at the heart of this global conflict. Some of the films will actually make a concerted effort to explain and understand what’s going on in the world. Other films will attempt to cash in. And in between, there’ll be films like Peter Berg’s The Kingdom. The actor cum director’s film is an attempt to tell us that, ya know, the folks over there are just as normal and conflicted as us. But instead, the result is a boring, patronising and clichéd thriller.

The film opens with a montage that briefly explains how the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US has developed over the years. A montage that ends with a CGI plane crashing into a CGI World Trade Centre. Just so the audience is reminded what happened on that terrible day six years ago. It’s a rather stupid thing to put into the film, as it has little bearing on what follows other than to let us know that US-Saudi relations are well, strained. But we don’t need to be reminded of this. In Saudi Arabia, we see a heavily defended US compound that is home to the workers and families of an American oil company. They play softball, have barbeques and enjoy life. Two terrorists dressed as guards initiate an attack on the compound killing many. But this attack is only a precursor for a larger and more devastating attack on the people who try to help the injured and dying. In the US, the FBI is eager to investigate the attack. But due to the strained relations with the Saudis, they’re reluctant to send a team. After some political wrangling, four agents, led by Jamie Foxx jet off to Saudi Arabia to investigate. They team up with a colonel in the Saudi police force who also wants to find out who’s behind the attacks.

I’ve nothing against films with political subtexts. Films like that walk a VERY thin tightrope between uber-jingoistic shoot em ups like Rambo and preachy holier-than thou films. Sometimes these films can be very interesting and open the audience’s eyes to issues they might have only a scant knowledge of. However, The Kingdom, while not jingoistic, does pander to the lowest common denominator in it’s political subtext. The film breaks down into three distinct parts, which is the first problem. Instead of layering the screenplay, the film starts off getting the political part out of the way. The wrangling and red tape is dealt with, the agents find a way to work WITH the Saudis instead of against them. Next up is the CSI Middle East part, with the agents doing their parts to investigate who’s responsible for the attacks. And finally, the action part kicks into gear, where the rest of the film is entirely forgotten about and a ridiculous amount of bullets fly.

When the film does attempt to tackle US-Saudi relations, it does so in an extremely patronising manner. There is no subtlety about anything at all. Foxx and Ashraf Barhom, who plays the Saudi colonel bond over pop-culture. And then we have the breakdown in communication where the US characters use language that the Suadis misunderstand with ‘hilarious’ results. It’s the kind of thing that belongs in Brett Ratner movies and is neither funny nor appropriate in this movie. In fact, Barhom’s character himself is a rather shallow move. He’s absolutely dedicated to finding who’s responsible for the attack, but we don’t need him to tell us he feels that way for the whole time. It’s all too clear the filmmakers are determined to know that he’s a good guy too. Absolutely unnecessary.

As for the acting, the cast with includes Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Jeremy Piven and Danny Huston should all be on form. However, their characters are badly written clichés and therefore, they cant do very much with them. I don’t think their performances are their fault. Bateman, who was brilliant in Arrested Development is the ‘comedy relief,’ yet isn’t funny but incredibly annoying. Exactly the kind of person you wouldn’t want with you in the Middle East. Cooper, who is usually brilliant is the grizzled explosives expert that badly written films of this type always have. In fact, the only actor who is remotely interesting in the film is Ashraf Barhom as Col. Faris Al Ghazi. But again, it’s an incredibly shallow character and leave the actor with very little to do.

I’m sure there will be a good film that tackles the political situation with the Middle East. It’s a subject that has plenty of room for exploration. But The Kingdom is in no way, shape or form, that film. Badly written, paced, acted and directed, it’s a bad film.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Am... curious...

I'll admit it, I was a little annoyed when I found out I Am Legend was going to be a Will Smith movie. The screenplay for this film, adapted from the Richard Matheson book, had been floating around the net for years, stuck in development hell, with rumors springing up sporadically that the film was going ahead with everyone from The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger to Ridley Scott to Johnny Depp involved. But now it's a Smith movie, and after the debacle that was I, Robot, I dreaded another stinkfest. But this trailer looks interesting. It looks like it could be a good movie. Director Francis Lawrence didn't exactly set the world alight with his previous effort, Constantine (which, as it happens, I liked!), but Matheson is one of the great sci-fi writers of... any time, so if the film remains faithful to the book (despite it being set in modern day, and not the 1970's like the novel) it should, SHOULD be decent enough.

In relation to this-


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

RATATOUILLE (2007) - Brad Bird

Ever since Jeffrey Katzenberg parted ways with Disney and set up Dreamworks with Spielberg and David Geffen, the two studios have fought an unofficial war over the art form they dominate, CGI animated movies. Earlier this year, Dreamworks released the truly appalling Shrek The Third, a bland, uninspired third part in the previously great Shrek saga. Disney, meanwhile, have had the services of Pixar studios as their super weapon in the war. Pixar are pretty much industry leaders at this stage, creating animated features (and shorts) that have blazed a trail for all other studios to follow. This year, they released their latest offering, Ratatouille, directed by animation god, Brad Bird.

Ratatouille follows the tried and tested Pixar formula of taking a protagonist, removing him or her from their comfortable, recognisable world, and plonking them right in the middle of somewhere they don’t belong. This time, if you haven’t guessed, the protagonist (or for the more pedantic of you, one half of the two protagonists) is a rat. A rat by the name of Remy, who dreams of becoming a chef. He’s gifted with a talent for flavours and smells, and after being evicted (rather violently) from his home, and separated from his ratty brethren, finds himself in Paris with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. His imagination conjures an image of his hero, chef Auguste Gusteau, who leads him to Gusteau’s restaurant, which has declined in fortune since the death of it’s famous chef. Here, Remy finds himself in the company of Linguini, a garbage boy who dreams of being a chef, but is lacking the talent. The two form an alliance which will give Linguini the job he’s always wanted, but will allow Remy become the chef he could never dream of being otherwise.

Okay, there’s two ways I’m going to deal with this movie. Firstly, I’ll get the unpleasantness out of the way. There is one weakness to the film, and that’s the story. Now before some of you have aneurisms, let me say that there’s nothing particularly wrong with the story. It’s just that it’s not exactly new ground for Pixar movies. As mentioned before, it uses the formula that has proven to be successful for Pixar movies in the past. They take a character, take it out of his or her environment and place them somewhere unfamiliar. I guess this is the basis of all drama, a character’s world is disrupted and he or she must struggle to regain the equilibrium. But Pixar films do it so obviously that sometimes, SOMETIMES, it feels like the stories are just vehicles to show of technical skill. However, it’s a minor complaint. And while I’ve preferred some of Pixar’s other films story-wise, Ratatouille is perfectly fine and inoffensive.

So that’s the (very minor) badness out of the way. And now onto the part I’ve been looking forward to. Quite simply, Ratatouille looks astonishing. I must have spent the first twenty minutes of the film with my jaw on the floor. We all know Pixar are good. With each film, if nothing else, they prove that they are the industry leaders when it comes to CGI animation. The character designs, animation, cinematography, production design and texturing in this film are all stunning. It’s quite difficult to find a film that is so expertly and flawlessly made. Animation is incredibly overlooked as an art form. It’s seen as film’s little brother and as such suffers from being viewed as a medium for children. It’s something animation filmmakers have struggled to overcome. In most cases, far more work goes into animation than live action. I’m somewhat biased in this, as I’m an animator myself, but the point still stands.

Brad Bird’s direction is just about perfect. He’s one of those rare filmmakers who is somewhat unnoticed, but his contribution to the art form is immense. Taking a look at his CV, it’s clear to see that Bird has the Midas touch. He worked on the Simpson in it’s golden era (the series began a rapid decline after Bird finished up work on it in ’97). He directed the incredibly underrated Iron Giant, and at Pixar directed the wonderful Incredibles. He’s struck gold again with Ratatouille, not only directing a magnificent looking film, but also directing the brilliant cast of actors, delivering great voice performances. Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Janeane Garofalo and Will Arnett lead the cast. But special mention must be made of Peter O’Toole. The legendary actor provides the voice for ‘villain,’ food critic Anton Ego and his acting is perfect. It’s great to see (or hear) the actor still has it (haven’t seen Venus).

After the rubbish Shrek The Third, it’s great to see a brilliantly made animated film. I watched it with a certain amount of jealousy, seeing a piece of animation so perfectly put together, and working in the same industry. But at the same time, it’s a joy to see animation made so well. Films of this quality need to be made in an industry so obsessed with films that are made to make a quick buck. This is what film was created for. This is art.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What's better than Spielberg & Jackson working on the same series of movies?

How's about Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson co-directing the same movie?! Both directors recently announced they're collaborating on a series of films based on Herge's Tintin books. recently met up with Spielie to discuss Indy 4, Transformers and Tintin, and the man himself stated that Jackson will direct the first Tintin film, Spielberg will direct the second, and if they don't hire a third director, they'll co-direct the third. This is a pretty tasty prospect, as both directors are incredibly visual filmmakers and can shoot an action sequence pretty much as good if not better than anyone else. While these films will be mo-cap (see Zemeckis' The Polar Express and Beowulf for on this), I still think they'll deliver something special. Wont be for a while yet though!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

THE HEARTBREAK KID (2007) - Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly

Okay, look. I’ve enjoyed some of the Farrelly Brothers films before. Although with this, and Kingpin, you probably wouldn’t think so. I’ve enjoyed a few of Ben Stiller’s films. And when the two (or should that be three) came together in the past, the Farrellys and Stiller made a great film in There’s Something About Mary. So the collaborators must have hoped that lightning would strike twice when they made The Heartbreak Kid.

Stiller again plays the put-upon guy who’s a victim of circumstance and the crazy people who surround him. He’s a little bit crazy, but it takes someone even crazier to bring it out of him. Stiller plays Eddie Cantrow, a terminally single man, with no hopes of getting married. He (inexplicably) goes to his ex girlfriend’s wedding and realises he must do something if he doesn’t want to end up single for the rest of his life. Fate intervenes when Cantrow helps a girl, Lila, who’s just been mugged. Lila seems like the perfect catch. Smart, funny, caring and very attractive. She gets offered a job abroad. To avoid losing this perfect girl, Cantrow proposes. The couple get married and head off on their honeymoon. But Lila’s personality quickly changes and she proves to be a bit of a handful. Cantrow then meets Miranda, and realises SHE is the perfect woman. And so he begins a relationship with her, while trying to avoid his psychotic new wife.

The Farrelly brothers movies have evolved quite a bit since the balls to the wall craziness of Dumb And Dumber. With There’s Something About Mary, they found the perfect balance between the craziness and a certain sweetness to the love stories that are essentially the focus of their movies. But since Me, Myself And Irene (which is my personal favourite of their movies, since I’m a big Jim Carrey fan), the Farrelly brothers haven’t quite gotten it right. The Heartbreak Kid was the best chance they’ve had to regain some of that lost glory, since they’d be on familiar ground with Stiller. But this film just doesn’t cut it.

As I discovered after I’d seen the movie, The Heartbreak Kid is actually a remake of a 1972 film starring Charles Grodin and Cybil Shepherd. I’m quite sure the Farrellys have changed quite a bit of the source material since remaking the movie. They’ve injected their own brand of gross-out humour into the movie, and I must admit, I did laugh during these moments. But I was laughing out of shock more than hilarity. It’s just a shame that these moments are so few in the film. In between, we’re left with a bland, repetitive love story that quickly bores.

I used to like Ben Stiller. His earlier films were great. But somewhere along the way, his schtick just got repetitive and then quickly became annoying. And here, it’s toned down, but there are moments where it creeps back in. And I could have done without that. His performance in There’s Something About Mary was far more interesting, being a normal, dead-pan guy who suffered some horrible circumstances. The now trade-mark Stiller freak out has been done to death. So why do it again? Michelle Monaghan’s character is simply the girl from the average romantic comedy. She suffers little to no mishaps (this is after all, a wacky comedy) and gets off scot-free, which is all too easy. All the comedy is saved for Malin Akerman as Lila. And she gives it socks, fair dues to her. But when she’s not on screen, there are no laughs. And that includes when ‘comedian’ Carlos Mencia is on screen. His character, Uncle Tito seems to have gotten lost on the way to the set of the latest Adam Sandler crapfest and stumbled into this movie. Utterly pointless.

It’s a damn shame that the Farrellys can’t find their form again. They’ve made some very funny movies, and I sincerely hope they’ll pull it off again. But The Heartbreak Kid isn’t that movie. I must admit it’s not quite as bad as I’d dreaded when I went in. But considering it’s not a good movie, that shows just how low my expectations were.


Friday, October 5, 2007

Short, back and sides, please, guv'na!

It's been a while since Tim Burton really produced something worth getting a little bit excited over. Big Fish wasn't bad, I guess, and The Corpse Bride was no way near as good as The Nightmare Before Christmas. The less said about Planet of the Apes, the better. But Burton seems to be hitting his stride once again, now that the first trailer for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has been unleashed upon us.

Burton is back with long time collaborator, Johnny Depp, who'll hopefully have left that pirate git behind him and started acting again... although the accent seems to be clinging for dear life. Both Depp and Burton seem to be at their best when collaborating, so this looks like it could be something special. It seems to have all the twisted little elements that are Burton trademarks (dark, gothic imagery, twisted Helena Bonham Carter...), and with Alan Rickman and Sacha Baron Cohen thrown into the mix, this could be great! The US gets this in December, the rest of us have to wait 'til January 08.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

How NOT to forge a career in Hollywood.

You know, I'd love to get a job working as an extra on a major Hollywood production. It'd be great. Meeting actors, directors, seeing how a film comes together, and generally being immersed in the buzz of making a great film. Working on something like Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull would be a dream come true! Hell, even being allowed stand on set would be good enough for me. I'd literally put a gun to my head after as nothing in life would top that experience. What I WOULDN'T do afterward would be to blab to some small town rag newspaper all the details of the film and what people can expect.
Yet this is what this idiot had the stupidity to do recently. Ladies and gentleman, meet Tyler Nelson.

This clown had the incredible fortune to work on Indiana Jones 4 as 'Russian Dancing Soldier.' Quite the pivotal role, I'd imagine. Yet, despite having signed a non-disclosure agreement before shooting began, young Tyler ran to his home town newspaper and unleashed all the details he knew about the project. Understandably, Spieleberg and Lucas were incensed. This is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of, dare I say it, all time. And some idiot breaks ranks and unleashes all he knows, just for a little attention.

A spokesman for Senor Spielbergo, Martin Levy was quoted as saying- "Who knows whether that particular person will ever work in this town again?" Personally, I think any production stupid enough to hire this later day Benedict Arnold deserves to have it's plot details revealed.
Now, I know, in this digital age it's very difficult to keep spoilers away from awaiting fans. Details get leaked. Yet most of the people who leak information have the common sense to STAY ANONYMOUS. It doesn't take a genius to realize that this is the prudent course of action when releasing details.

As for Tyler, well, I doubt he's going to be lighting up the silver screen any time soon. Hopefully karma will do it's job and the closest this guy will ever get to another film production is to rent a DVD from his local video store. But spare a thought for the poor unfortunates who share scenes with this dick. Spieleberg has stated that he may cut the scenes featuring the blabbermouth. If any extra has the misfortune to share screen time with Nelson, that's them cut too. The best thing to do would be to reshoot the scenes. That way everybody, except motormouth, is happy.

Loose lips sink ships, moron.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007) - Tony Gilroy

George Clooney returns to the screens this month in a film that is miles apart from the other film he was in this year, Ocean’s 13. This time, Clooney goes serious in a film that attempts to tackle that oft-broached subject of the evils of big business. How it tramples on the little guy all for the sake of saving money for the evil, faceless members of the board of directors and investors. In Michael Clayton, Clooney plays the title character. Clayton works for one of the largest law firms in the world. He’s been with the company seventeen years, but because of his social class, where he came from, he has never been offered the position of partner.

Instead, Clayton has carved somewhat of a niche for himself as a fixer. He’s the guy the company calls when embarrassing situations arise that need to be handled discreetly. It’s not a job Clayton seems to enjoy, nor is it one that offers him financial security. Clayton co-owns a failing bar. He seeks out underground poker games and gambles his money away. His family life is far from ideal. It’s a role Clooney plays very well. You can see the fatigue on his face. Life really has run him down. It seems that Clooney is better at playing these types of characters than the likes of Danny Ocean, a role he’s pretty much become a star with. Yet with this, Syriana, and the films Clooney has directed himself, Clooney proves he has the talent to back up the superstar status.

Clayton is called in to clean up the mess made by Arthur Edens, one of the top lawyers in the company Clayton works for, and the primary lawyer in a large class-action suit between 450 farmers and chemical firm, U-North. Clayton thinks he knows how to handle the Edens situation, but there’s more to this problem than Clayton is aware of. Meanwhile, at U-North, the career of litigator Karen Crowder rests on the successful resolution of the class action suit. A race begins to fix the mess created by Edens. And with pressure mounting from his superiors, and threats on his life, Clayton finds himself buckling under the pressure.

Director Tony Gilroy previously wrote the screenplays for the excellent Bourne films. Michael Clayton, marks his debut as director. This film certainly has the same feel as the Bourne films when to comes to the talking. However, I wouldn’t rush to see it and expect the same type of film. There’s little to no action in this film. It’s a slow burner. And at two hours, it feels long. The success of the film rests with the actors. This is, after all, a character piece. Clooney, as I’ve mentioned is very good in the central role. Clayton is in no way a strong character. While talented at his job, almost every other aspect of his life is a failure. For such a successful actor to portray a role like this requires some degree of talent. And that talent is obvious here. Tom Wilkinson plays Arthur Edens. Wilkinson is a terrific character actor. He’s made quite the career since for himself since The Full Monty, and he plays the unhinged Edens very well. Tilda Swinton’s performance as Karen Crowder is the standout performance, however. She’s very much on the edge, almost having a nervous breakdown due to the fear she feels with her job. Yet at the same time, she’s remarkably cool when selling the lies about U-North. One scene intercuts her preparation for an interview with the interview itself. It’s very interesting to watch an actor switch between the two states of mind so successfully.

While the cast (which also includes Sydney Pollack) is excellent, and the message of the film is clear, it’s not really anything new. We’ve seen this kind of thing before in Syriana and Michael Mann’s The Insider. While the film isn’t terrible by an degree, it’s not something I’d be rushing to see in the cinema. It’s something that can wait for home viewing. Somewhere you know you’ll be more comfortable!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

30 Days of Night clip

So here's a clip from from the forthcoming adaptation of Steve Niles' comic book, 30 Days Of Night. Now, I'm no huge fan of vampires, especially the way Buffy made the undead bloodsuckers 'sexy.' But this comic is different, and a pretty good read (despite what I just wrote, I did read 30 Days of Night!). David Slade's (director of the excellent Hard Candy) film looks very good. And faithful to the source comic. Expect this in October in the US and November on this side of the Atlantic.