Archive for George Clooney

Flush thine integrity down the toilet all ye that enter politics.

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by JonH

Based on the 2008 play Farragut North by playwright Beau Willimon, The Ides of March is a political thriller that follows the tension developing between an idealistic deputy campaign manager, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), and the equally idealistic candidate for whom he works, Pennsylvania governor Mike Morris (George Clooney).

Morris is on the hunt to become the democratic presidential candidate and is leading the polls by a slim margin as he and his opponent Arkansas senator Ted Pullman head into Ohio. While campaigning to win the Buckeye state each man is also trying to enlist the support of North Carolina Democratic Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) and the 365 convention delegates that back him. An association with Thompson would all but seal a victory for whomever he sides with. The rub is that Thompson wants a backroom deal that guarantees him a plum seat in the new administration. The notion of Thompson selling his endorsement to the highest bidder rankles Morris, but nevertheless doesn’t dissuade Morris’s campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from encouraging him to strike an accord with Thompson.

As the campaign hits its full stride, Meyers gets a call from Pullman’s campaign manager Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) to meet. Meyers is well aware of the optics in meeting with the enemy camp, but curiosity (and hubris, Zara would later go on to say) gets the best of him. The meeting is a Machiavellian stroke of genius for Duffy as the meeting goes onto have much deeper implications for a number of people on Morris’s side.

Throw an intern into the political mix as Meyers becomes sexually involved with a young woman named Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and complicate it by making her father the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and things really start to unravel for the “good” guys. Through his relationship with Stearns, Meyers discovers a side of Morris that threatens to jeopardize each of their careers.

As both Meyers and Morris become embroiled in an ever deepening game of cat and mouse, which begins to erode all of the noble ideals that each man stood for at the beginning of the film, each must decide just how far they’re willing to go in order to maintain their tenuous hold on the prospects of power.

The film alludes to the day when Caesar was betrayed by his trusted aide Brutus, and much like that plot the film incorporates multiple characters and many threads of narrative. Unlike the death of Caesar, though, the film does not coalesce into a dramatic conclusion underscoring the death of a political man, but the death of man’s integrity when entering the political ring.

The Ides of March is a great story that provides a decent level of intrigue. The acting is believable and Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Stephen Meyers’ gradual evolution (or de-evolution, as some might say) is remarkably seamless. I do, however, find the movie a bit jaded. I prefer to believe that some politician out there is going to come along and really knock everyone’s socks off with a great mix of ideas and integrity. Someone who is willing to let go power if he or she is unable to execute their mandate. This person just hasn’t made it onto the scene yet.

If you like movies that are story driven, this is worth seeing.

If you like my opinion regarding this movie (aw heck, even if you don’t) why not share it with someone. That sure would be swell.

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Making Connections

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by JonH

You know those times when you’re expecting to see a particular movie, but for whatever reason you end up seeing a different one? In anticipation of what you think you’re going to see you build up all these internal feelings and expectations that you now have to diffuse because you’re not going to be seeing what you originally had in store. Well, sometimes that can be downright confusing.

It happened to me the other night, prior to the Oscars, when I thought my wife was going to rent the Hurt Locker. She got back from the movie store, dropped a few things off in the kitchen, came into the living room and proceeded to put the dvd in the machine, all the while not saying a word to me. She pushed ‘play’ and took her seat, putting the popcorn on her lap. Now that I think back, the music really should have been a giveaway, but I didn’t clue in. I did, however, figure it out as soon as the title appeared: Up in the Air. What the?!

Now romcoms (shorthand parlance for romantic comedies) is a genre I hardly adore. The fact I was under the impression that Up in the Air was an RC coupled with all the feelings I had built up in anticipation of things to come (feelings like, “seeing stuff get blown up will be cool”), I thought for sure I was going to be let down. Well, truth is, even though nothing blew up – besides George Clooney’s incipient desire to settle down, I wasn’t disappointed with this flick.

Up in the Air tells the story of Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a career transition counselor (euphemism for a guy who is hired to fire people) and fledgling motivational speaker that must come to terms with the fact that his much loved job, which affords him boundless opportunity to live the transient, unattached lifestyle he so loves, is in danger of becoming obsolete. A young upstart named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is pitching a new way of doing things to Bingham’s boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), which will effectively ground all of the transition counselors in favour of a more centralized method of doing things via computers and video cameras. Bingham reacts as anyone would when their livelihood is threatened, and urges Gregory to reconsider implementing the new system, in part, because of how cold and impersonal it is. Gregory concedes, for the time being, but sends Keener on the road with Bingham so she can learn the ropes. Bingham’s lifestyle is further complicated by the fact that he’s falling in love with Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), a woman he met in a hotel bar.

The movie has the usual twists and turns, but I can honestly say I didn’t expect it to end the way it did. It left me feeling a bit ambivalent. On one hand, I enjoyed how director Jason Reitman played with the themes of loneliness and loyalty, but on the other hand, the resolution left me emotionally unsatisfied.

The music in the movie is well done and reflects the emotion that the characters convey pretty well. There are also some little gems of dialogue, particularly Ryan’s conversation with Bob (J.K. Simmons) after Natalie comes off a little too ‘text-book’, as well as Alex’s discussion with Natalie about the nature of love and how settling for someone isn’t so bad.

Up in the Air isn’t the romantic comedy I thought it was going to be. It’s a smart and insightful look at how relationships with others can wound, as well as heal; but, that in the end, it’s the connections that help us to grow and understand ourselves better.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Posted in Review with tags , , , on December 1, 2009 by JonH

Usually date night for my wife and me consists of eating dinner (either take out or home cooked) and then some sort of nap time followed by a nice quiet evening of repose in front of the tube sitting in silence eating potato chips or bonbons, whichever are closer at hand. But this time that wasn’t to be. No sir, we needed romance. This time my wife decided that we were going to do something different. She woke me up from my post sup stupor and told me we were going to a movie.

Alright! I thought. I love movies. My taste runs from Midnight Meat Train to Sexy Beast; from Fried Green Tomatoes to Star Wars. I didn’t know what was playing, but I’m pretty open-minded, so I was pretty excited about the idea of going to see one . . . that is until we got to the theatre.

We scanned the marquee and tacitly scratched each movie off as we went down the list: New Moon – holding out ‘til I see the first one; Ninja Assassin, 2012 – grounds for divorce if suggested; Old Dogs – too young; The Road – not romantic enough; The Men Who Stare at Goats and Pirate Radio – both start in an hour and we didn’t want to see a movie that badly.

That left us with Precious, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

I hate to say it, but even though my wife said that the reviews for Precious were good, I couldn’t bring myself to go see a movie that starred Mariah Carey. There’s something about that woman that gets on my onions. So that left us with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. So be it, I thought to myself. I have no idea what this movie is about, but let the romance begin. We grabbed our popcorn, settled into our seats, and I honestly thought to myself, “as long as you hold her hand she won’t be mad if you fall asleep.”

But as soon as the movie started sleep was the furthest thing from my mind. I was absolutely entranced by The Fantastic Mr. Fox. From the stop motion photography (the digging and eating scenes are hilarious) and the beautiful set designs to the rich character development and dialogue (watch how he and his lawyer argue) everything pulled me in.

The movie tells the story of a very charming and dapper fox (George Clooney) that has a penchant for living on the . . .er . . . wild side. The movie starts out with Mr. Fox and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) sneaking, somewhat acrobatically, into a farmer’s chicken coop to steal some chickens. They get the chickens, but without revealing too much about the plot, his wife asks him to give up his wild ways and settle down, which he does.

For a while.

A few years pass and Mr. Fox decides on one final job. He enlists the services of his friend the opossum, Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky) to formulate and carry out the plan with him. They don their bandit hats and set out to steal from each one of the three farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean.

Suffice to say things get a bit out of hand.

The film has an all-star cast of voices – each perfect in helping to develop its character’s depth, but this is only a small part of the movie’s appeal. The movie’s appeal lies largely in the fact that it is a good story told well and at the end of the day what more can you ask of a movie? In the end, while it may not be exactly conducive to romance it is very entertaining and I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it to anyone regardless of age.