moneyball-march

The Ides of March and Moneyball are two relatively recent films in which Philip Seymour Hoffman did not star, but rather provided crucial, essential and, as always, very strong supporting performances.

The Ides of March is a film that George Clooney not only stars in but that he also co-wrote and directed. And, really, he’s not the star here. Like Hoffman, Clooney is just a supporting player here. At the heart of The Ides of March is the Ryan Gosling character, Stephen Meyers. Stephen is the crux of this story. He is the pivot which all of the other action and characters revolve around. Stephen is a deputy campaign manager for a presidential candidate (Clooney) who at first seems untouchable. But soon, skeletons appear peeking out of the closets. Stephen finds himself caught in the middle of a potential scandal that could bring down both the campaign and his own career. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the candidate’s senior campaign manager. His time on screen is limited, but as always with Hoffman, his performance is larger than life and full of passion and vigor.

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monu-men

I wanted to like The Monuments Men. Actually, I wanted to love it. I mean, off the bat, what’s not to love. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Need I go on? But, we also have Hugh Bonneville, who I love from TV’s Downton Abbey. And then also Jean Dujardin, the sexy Oscar-winner from The Artist. Add in favorites Bill Murray and John Goodman for comic relief and you have a dynamite cast that could rival the cast of Clooney and Damon’s Ocean’s movies.

Alas, I should have just watched this one on mute and looked at the pretty scenery (and also the French countryside). But, I did not. And while it’s not a horrible movie, it sure does not live up to the full potential of its illustrious cast.

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George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a paid “hatchet” man whose job is to fire people for corporate executives who don’t have the guts to do it themselves. Touted as a “transition specialist”, he spends 322 days a year flying from one city to the next while living out of a one-room rental at a place that looks like the Hampton Inn.

His goal: To achieve membership in the 1,000,000 mile club and receive the airlines club card that identifies him as only the 7th man in the world to reach this milestone.

Bingham loves his work and he truly believes he is a performing a positive service. This, however, is not an upbeat movie. It is a timely and very poignant look at getting downsized in the worst job market in decades. Director Jason Reitman has chosen to cast real people who have been recently fired for the roles of the employees that Bingham meets.

Bingham has no relationships, even with his family, and no commitments. He finds this very satisfying. So too, does the female “road warrior” Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) he meets in a hotel bar, naturally.

His boss, played by Justin Bateman, brings in a new whiz kid Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who has found a way to cut expenses by firing people through videoconferencing. Kendrick is energetic, smart and likable. Bingham takes her on the road to show the hotshot how he does it, and then to attempt the changeover. Clooney is at his best in these scenes. He is smooth and warm and engaging.

We follow Bingham to Wisconsin to attend his sister’s wedding who he hasn’t seen in years. There we get another glimpse of the character’s bravado while really seeing that he is just a lonely guy.

A late scene with Alex is, thankfully, not your “Harry Met Sally” happy ending. It is also unexpected and it is in this scene that you witness the great actor Clooney has become.

Kendrick and Farmiga are good additions to the cast and this is Clooney’s best role. Academy Award nominations for sure for the movie and possibly Clooney.

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A decent action movie with solid action throughout. Sure, the action and the plot are not all realistic, but this IS an action flick. And at least George Clooney is convincing as the Army officer sent in to help Nicole Kidman’s scientist track down some stolen nuclear weapons. The car scene in Vienna is really top notch and the chase in Manhattan (near the UN) is also one of the best in recent years. If you’re an action fan, you really cannot go wrong with this one. If you like fine art, you might want to find something a little more plausible.

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The structure of Out of Sight is anything but conventional. There are more flashbacks here than in any movie I can think of. But, somehow, it works. It is not overly confusing. It is not disturbing to the plot. And the way director Steven Soderbergh compiles the shifts in time, it all makes perfect sense. The plot deals with a prison escapee Jack Foley (played by George Clooney) who meets a US Marshal (Jennifer Lopez) while escaping and after a clean getaway, cannot stop thinking about her…and vice versa. Jack continuously puts himself in situations where Karen, the Marshal, could take him in. But, Jack just cannot help himself. And neither can she. He calls her at home. She fantasizes about him. If they do get together, Karen knows that at the end of the day, he’s a wanted man and she’s a member of the US government. Just as Jack knows that if he takes the risk of seeing Karen, it could backfire and she could arrest him. Or it might not…. Regardless, these continual dilemmas make a very satisfying film…with equal elements of comedy, crime and the all-important romance.

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For those of us who have fallen in love with Danny Ocean and his crew through the first installment, 2001′s Ocean’s Eleven and with the harder-to-love second in the series, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), this film is a must! Where Ocean’s Eleven was glitzy and stylish and Ocean’s Twelve was more convoluted and mysterious, this one is a mesh of the two. Admittedly, even the cast and crew says that Twelve did not live up to the high entertainment standards set by Eleven. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but I can say that Eleven and Twelve do seem like completely separate movies…both with different agendas. Thirteen was their way of rectifying the public dismay with Twelve so when it came to glitz and glamour and entertainment, they held absolutely nothing back. The plot (does plot really matter in these films?) revolves around Vegas developer Willie Bank (played with lots of zip by Al Pacino) who fleeces Reuben (Elliot Gould as one of the “eleven”) out of his share in Bank’s new casino. Enter the rest of the “eleven” to right Reuben’s wrong and get even with Bank. The plot, though, is overshadowed by good looking people, good looking sets, and snappy, witty dialogue that Eleven did with perfection. Apparently, this will be the last in the series, but who knows since, at the end of this one, there seemed to be the perfect entree for a number 14.

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Where the first one was slick, this one is stylized. Where the first one was clever, this one is intellectual. Where the first one is glitz, this one is glamour. Basically, Ocean’s Twelve is for adults…not only for action movie-crazed adults but for adults who need more plot, structure, and development. The look of this film is almost a night and day difference from the first, mostly because there is no “Vegas” in the second film. (I use Vegas here as a noun because in the first film, Las Vegas became an entity onto itself by contributing highly to the slickness and glitziness of the first film.) Amsterdam, Rome, Naples…where the second film is set…lend to more of an old world sophistication that Vegas can’t touch. Vegas is a playground and looks the part. Europe is cultural and classic and looks that part. Director Steven Soderbergh does many of his same tricks with the camera here to try and pump up the pace and plot. But, again, taking Vegas out of the equation brings the movie out of the realm of the fantastic and into the world of the real. Concerning the plot in this second film…well even that seems to lack some of the “Vegas” feel to it. The first one seemed faster and filled with more vigor. Tricks happened right until the every end and the audience enjoyed the ride. The characters looked good and moved quick to keep up with the Vegas scene. In Europe, there seems to be a more laid-back feel to the characters. The film starts off with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict character (who was the victim – if you can call him that – in the first film) giving each of Ocean’s men two weeks to return his money. Two weeks!!! They should all be running around frantic. But, they are not. They act like they have all the time in the world. Does the European setting have that much to do with the pace? Maybe or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to make a film that was more intellectual than eye candy. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eye candy. But, I also like a good movie. Both of these are good films in their own unique ways, but keep in mind that one is more the kid in you and one is for your adult side trying to break through.

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OK—I know. It’s not the BEST movie ever made. But, it’s just plain fun to watch…in more ways than one. It’s a highly entertaining action caper. You will not be bored at all during this one, trust me. Also, the entire cast is just a pleasure to look at (you can trust me on that one, too). Basically, it’s just two hours of good times and enjoyment. The plot revolves around ringleader George Clooney’s decision to rob three casinos owned by power-monger Andy Garcia. Clooney takes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould and six others along for the ride, including ex-wife Julia Roberts. Based on the 1960 Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack film of the same title, this 2001 movie takes little from the original other than the basic premise (casino theft), the number of players, and the name of the man in charge (Danny Ocean). By adding style, class, glitz, high-tech gizmos, and a lot of good looking people, this Ocean’s Eleven will certainly satisfy your craving for entertainment.

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