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Posts Tagged ‘George Clooney’

George Clooney, Caoilinn Springall

“THE MIDNIGHT SKY” My rating: B (Netflix)

122 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

End-of-the-world movies are invariably downers.

“The Midnight Sky” is “The Road” and “Melancholia”-level depressing.

So it’s a testament to the directing and acting chops of George Clooney that this long slow journey to extinction not only hooks us early but keeps us on the line as things just keep getting worse.

Clooney’s achievement is doubly impressive when you consider that “Midnight Sky” relies on a “Six Sense”-ish last-reel revelation that may leave some viewers feeling just a tad violated.

Mark L. Smith’s screenplay (adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel Good Morning, Midnight)  begins in 2049 with the evacuation of a polar observatory.  The 200 or so residents of this snowbound outpost are being helicoptered out because of “The Event,” an unexplained phenomenon that is spreading a cloud of death around the planet.

Just one man, the grizzled Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney), will remain behind. He’ll have enough food and fuel to last for months, but probably won’t need them. He’s undergoing chemotherapy; what he’s got isn’t going away.

Augustine has a mission. He’s determined to contact a manned spacecraft returning from one of Jupiter’s moons.  Decades earlier the young Augustine (played in flashbacks by Ethan Peck) identified said moon as likely to sustain human life. He was right; the five astronauts returning to Earth found a welcome environment on that distant orb.

These interstellar travelers must be warned of Earth’s fate so that they can return to Jupiter orbit and, hopefully, start the human race all over again.

Problem is, the crew (Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Tiffany Boone) are been unable to hail their contacts on Earth.  We know it’s because of The Event, but the astronauts assume their communication equipment has a glitch.

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George Clooney

George Clooney

“HAIL, CAESAR!” My rating: C+ 

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” isn’t much of a movie, but as an affectionate (mostly) valentine to the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking, it’s a generally enjoyable goof.

The threadbare plot devised by Joel and Ethan Coen provides the siblings with multiple opportunities to go behind the scenes at the massive (and fictional) Capitol Movies studio in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.

We get to watch as America’s fantasies are brought to life. But as with sausages and laws, sometimes it’s best not to know how they’re made.

Kicking the yarn into motion is the kidnapping of stiffly handsome matinee idol Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), whose current assignment is to play a Roman centurion in the biblical epic “Hail, Caesar!”

The studio’s production chief, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) gets to work recovering his ransomed movie star.

That’s about it for story.

The pleasures of “Hail, Caesar!” (the Cohen Brothers movie, not the “tale of the Christ” being filmed on the Capitol lot) are to be found in its satire/celebration of iconic Hollywood personalities and situations.

Early on Eddie must convene a meeting of faith leaders who have been asked to comment on the screenplay for “Hail, Caesar!” — it’s the movie’s funniest scene and a wickedly barbed sendup of institutionalized religion.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum

Eddie must contend with the potty-mouthed Esther Williams-type star of aquatic musicals (Scarlett Johansson) whose mermaid outfit now won’t fit because of pregnancy (she’s unmarried).

He drops off the ransom money on a soundstage where a Gene Kelly-ish song and dance man (Channing Tatum) is shooting a big production number about a crew of sailors dismayed at the prospect of eight months at sea without women.  Not only are Tatum’s acrobatic musical comedy skills first rate, but the slyly homoerotic elements of the dance routine suggests that these Navy swabs will find ways to let off steam during their voyage.

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monuments_men“THE MONUMENTS MEN” My rating: C+ (Opening wide on Feb. 7)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Most of  the films George Clooney has directed  — “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Ides of March” — have found him stretching himself, developing a style that was part indie edgy and part Hollywood classic, with a choice in topics that skewed liberal and humanistic.

His latest, “Monuments Men,” based on the real-life exploits of art experts who recovered masterpieces stolen by the Nazis, hits the Hollywood classic part perfectly. In fact it feels exactly as if it could have been made by a big studio in the early 1960s.

It’s been lushly produced, carefully scripted, tastefully shot. But edgy it isn’t…there’s hardly a moment here that doesn’t seem to have been painstakingly  weighed and thought out in advance.

Clooney — with a trim ‘stache and graying temples that make him look remarkably like a mature Clark Gable — portrays Frank Stokes, an art expert who creates a unit within the U.S. Army with the sole purpose of tracking down and saving art masterpieces looted by  the Germans.

He recruits a decidedly un-military bunch of art specialists, most of them pushing 60, who must undergo the rigors of basic training before they can be deployed to recently-liberated Normandy to begin their search.

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“THE DESCENDANTS” My rating: B+ 

115 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Alexander Payne doesn’t make movie about big ideas.

He makes movies about small people, then makes us care about them, flaws and all.

In fact, it’s hard to name another contemporary director who has so successfully found the comedy in tragedy and the tragedy in comedy.

Matt King, the clueless Honolulu lawyer at the center of  “The Descendants,” is a near cousin of “Sideways’” Miles, “Election’s” Jim McAllister and “About Schmidt’s” Warren Schmidt. He’s a not-particularly-nice guy thrown into circumstances that force him to face himself.

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“THE IDES OF MARCH” My rating: B+ (Opening wide on Oct. 7)

101 minutes | MPAA rating: R

George Clooney, viewed by many as a liberal white knight who really ought to run for office, sends an answer of sorts with “The Ides of March.”

In this political thriller — directed and co-written by Clooney — the charismatic movie star plays a charismatic state governor who has thrown himself into Ohio’s presidential primary in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Watching Clooney’s Mike Morris gracefully glide through debates, press conferences and stump speeches is a bit weird…it’s like a preview of what a genuine Clooney candidacy would be like. The Morris campaign even has a poster depicting the candidate in the same pop art/street graffiti visual language of that famous Obama image from ’08. Lefties will be swooning.

But this candy apple has a razor blade hidden inside.

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