Posts Tagged ‘George Clooney’

‘Money Monster’ explores what happens when terrorism, business journalism and live TV collide

June 15, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 15, 2016

Money Monster is a competent, modest thriller about a terrorist — sorry, a white man beset by financial difficulties and other troubles — who hijacks a live TV show. The show is called Money Monster; its host is the fatuous Lee Gates (George Clooney), who likes being on television but doesn’t trouble himself with any of the ethical issues that normally attend an enterprise with journalistic (or even quasi-journalistic) airs.

The story plays out almost in real time over the course of a few hours on a Friday afternoon. The plot is triggered by the abrupt crash of the stock of a company called Ibis; only a few days before the movie opens, it lost $800 million in value due to what executive Walt Camby (Dominic West) opaquely describes as a computer “glitch.” Shortly before Money Monster goes on the air, producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) learns that Camby has broken his promise to appear for a live in-studio interview about the situation.

But disgruntled — and now financially bereft — janitor cum amateur investor cum gunman Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connor) doesn’t know about this late cancellation. That’s why he shows up on set waving a gun and lugging two boxes, which he says contain suicide-bomber vests fitted for Gates and Camby. By threatening to shoot Gates, Budwell blackmails the network into airing the TV-jacking live and uncut. The New York Police Department shows up quickly, but the world is captivated by this life-and-death drama that threatens to go on indefinitely…

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In the symbolism-laden ‘Solaris,’ Steven Soderbergh explores a remote corner of space where the past is strangely present

July 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 22, 2015

Solaris is a work that I’ve engaged repeated over the course of my lifetime. The original book, by the great Polish author Stanislaw Lem, was penned in 1961. I’ve always held it in great regard, although my understanding of it is rather limited.

The premise is simple enough: Something has gone grievously wrong with a scientific expedition to the planet Solaris, an oceanic planet that manifests waves and weather patterns in ways that indicate the presence of some form of intelligence. A psychologist named Kelvin is dispatched to the research station to investigate why its communications have become erratic. While there, he becomes obsessed — some might say haunted — by a figure from his past, much like the surviving station crew members. To say too much more would be to give away part of the story’s mystery and power.

I first read Solaris as a young man, probably while I was in high school (if not even younger). Although I haven’t read it in many years, I remember the book being about the limits of human psychology and scientific inquiry. Lem ultimately positions Kelvin as neither a hero nor an expert — he is simply an average man baffled by, and at the mercy of, an immensely powerful force he can neither comprehend nor combat.

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Gunman for hire: George Clooney plays a man trapped by his vocation in ‘The American’

July 13, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 13, 2015

On a recent visit to a second-hand book-, CD- and DVD-store, I browsed the $2 DVD bin and noticed a movie called The American. It was from 2010 and it starred George Clooney, apparently playing a(n American) hit man on the run in Italy. I snapped it up.

The movie itself is somber and stripped down, as one might infer from the no-frills title and the two-tone movie poster, which was printed using only orange and black ink. (Or at least, the poster’s design suggests that it was made that way.)

Clooney plays an extremely reticent mercenary; he seems to be comprised of equal parts assassin, gunsmith and mystery. The character is known variously as Jack or Edward; I’ll refer to him by the first name, which the movie suggests is more genuine than the latter one.

As the film starts, Jack is enjoying a romantic interlude in a remote, snowy Swedish cabin. (“Enjoying” is a relative term — he seems reluctant even to smile at his companion.) About two minutes into the picture, someone shoots at Jack and his lover (Irina Björklund); two minutes further in, three people have been shot to death. It’s unclear why anyone wants to kill Jack, although presumably it has to do with his line of work. But one of the killings seems entirely unmotivated, and is therefore incredibly shocking, even though The American is relatively modest in its depiction of violence.

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Paradise and the apocalypse: Utopian visions in ‘Fury Road,’ ‘Tomorrowland’ and ‘Elysium’

June 8, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 8, 2015

After seeing Mad Max: Fury Road this week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of two other films that toy with the idea of utopia: Brad Bird’s recent movie, Tomorrowland, and Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 feature film, Elysium.

(Dear reader, please beware: There be spoilers ahead!)

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Brad Bird’s ‘Tomorrowland’ asks viewers to rally behind an optimistic, simplistic utopian concept

May 25, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 25, 2015

Brad Bird’s entertaining new movie, Tomorrowland, pits optimism vs. cynicism. Guess which wins?

Tomorrowland is a Hollywood movie, so the answer shouldn’t surprise you much. More specifically, it’s a Disney Studios movie based on a Disney theme park area, so the answer really shouldn’t surprise you.

When Frank Marshall (Thomas Robinson) was a child, a mysterious girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) spotted him at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Athena handed Marshall a pin and told him to covertly follow her and her sourpuss adult associate, Nix (Hugh Laurie), into the It’s a Small World ride. He did so and was transported into a fantastic futuristic city…

…which the audience won’t get to revisit at length until the end of the movie. In the meantime, we’re introduced to Casey Newton, an optimistic present-day Florida teenager (Britt Robinson, playing about a decade younger than her 25 years). Her dad, Eddie Newton (Tim McGraw) is a NASA engineer who’s helping to dismantle launch pads. (Mom is out of the picture, although it’s never specified whether this is due to divorce, death or something else; her younger brother, Nate, is played by Pierce Gagnon, who has a chubby-cheeked visage that, confusingly, resembles Robinson’s.) Casey is a brilliant budding engineer in her own right who has hoped to travel to space since she was a very young child. She’s single-handedly determined to try to delay the demolition project until society gets its priorities straight.

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Nobody knows his face, but everybody knows his name (and story): Revisiting Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’

December 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 6, 2014

Everyone knows the basic setup of the world of Batman, one of the great comic-book heroes. Heck, millions of people could recite it in their sleep. It goes like this:

Bruce Wayne, the only son of billionaires, was orphaned by a gunman at an early age and raised by Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family’s loyal butler. Determined to fight the endemic crime of his native Gotham, the so-called Dark Knight dons a cape and cowl and equips himself with a cornucopia of fantastic gadgets in order to help Jim Gordon, the city’s trustworthy police commissioner, apprehend bizarre and menacing villains.

In 1989, the quirky director Tim Burton launched a Batman film franchise, featuring an unlikely choice — mild-mannered comedic actor Michael Keaton, a.k.a. Mr. Mom — in the lead role. Burton’s quirky, sometimes over-the-top gothic realization of this noir-ish comic-book universe proved to be immensely popular. Batman garnered $40.5 million in its first weekend, dwarfing the previous best opening of a superhero movie (Superman II, which took in $14.1 million in 1982).

Burton’s quite excellent Batman went on to total earnings of more than $250 million and helped spawn a legion of superhero movies. They included Batman Returns, which saw Burton and Keaton reuniting for a decent 1992 feature, and two extremely cheesy, greatly inferior further sequels: Batman Forever (1995), directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Val Kilmer in the title role; and Batman & Robin (1997), again directed by Schumacher but this time starring George Clooney.

When, in 2005, Christopher Nolan came out with the insipidly named Batman Begins, a cinematic reboot of the Caped Crusader, I wondered why, exactly, the movie was necessary. What novelty could be mined from the genesis of Batman, whose origin story even the highest-browed of potential moviegoers knows by heart?

I never did see Batman Begins in the movie theater. But I did watch it, on a fiasco of a date, at a free outdoor screening in Raleigh’s Moore Square Park in the summer of 2005 or 2006 (if memory serves).

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George Clooney’s arty party can’t quite come together in tale of ‘The Monuments Men’ of World War II

February 8, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 8, 2014

A sequence in The Monuments Men captures the key problem with the new feature directed, co-written by and starring George Clooney.

As sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin) are questioning a clergyman about the fate of historic artwork stolen by the Nazis, a sniper begins shooting at them. Garfield and Clermont comically argue about which of them will provide suppressive fire and which will attempt to infiltrate the structure where the gunman is located. After that matter is settled, Clermont races toward a gutted building as Garfield covers him.

Once the Frenchman is inside, his fate comes down to whether he can outfox — and outshoot — the sniper. Clermont advances to the second floor, hugs a door frame and pivots, rifle-muzzle-first, into the space that he thinks contains the shooter. It’s empty.

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Astronauts in peril: ‘Gravity’ soars through danger above the Earth

October 8, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 8, 2013

As the new feature film Gravity opens —

Actually, before I complete that sentence, a caveat. I walked into the screening about 10 minutes after the scheduled start. I’m accustomed to the lights first going down 10 minutes after the ostensible start time, which is followed by one or two theater promotions and at least three movie trailers. Instead, when I entered the theater on Saturday night, Gravity had already begun. Based on the expository dialogue that I observed, I’m pretty sure I missed no more than five minutes of the film. But in fact, this write-up will be based upon a partial viewing.

As the new feature film Gravity opens, medical engineer Ryan Stone is adding a device to the Hubble Space Telescope. Matt Kowalski, commander of the space shuttle Explorer, observes. This is Kowalski’s last flight, and he restlessly circles the scientific satellite with his jetpack, tracking how much time remains until he breaks a record for space walks.

The equipment Stone is installing malfunctions. But moments later, the Explorer and its crew learn that they have much more serious issues. An incident involving a Russian satellite is spreading a vast array of deadly, fast-moving debris. NASA mission control orders the Explorer to break orbit immediately.

Seconds afterward, a zooming piece of wreckage knocks Stone loose from the space shuttle. She flies into the dark void, tumbling wildly. Kowalski maneuvers to intercept her.

What follows — the bulk of this intense 90-minute movie — is the story of the pair’s struggle to survive the swarms of debris that are wreaking havoc above the Earth. They must also contend with dwindling oxygen and fuel supplies as well as the naïveté and negativity of Stone, who is on her first trip into space.

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