July 01, 2016

Tag Archives: george clooney

Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster” is a populist thrill ride

To this day, it still bugs me that more people didn’t give Jodie Foster’s previous directorial outing The Beaver a chance. I can understand why it was shunned, having had the misfortune of being released at the height of star Mel Gibson’s unpopularity, but still. Foster and the film deserved better. Now, she seeks at the very least some box office redemption with Money Monster, a high profile thriller. Debuting earlier today at the Cannes Film Festival, I’ve already seen the movie and can vouch for it as a solid outing by Foster. It doesn’t really break any new ground, but it’s entertaining, which certainly counts for something. You’ll see what I mean later this week, when the flick hits theaters.
The movie is a financial thriller of sorts, set within the world of a hostage situation. Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the host of a stock market tip show called Money Monster. There, he preens for the camera while expounding on sure bets. Then one day, a man named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) comes on set with a gun and a bomb, taking the production hostage. Kyle lost his life savings listening to Lee and now he wants answers. Initially, Lee and his producer Patty (Julia Roberts) are just trying to stay alive, but Kyle’s questions lead them to questions of their own. Soon, they find that they might just have stumbled upon a conspiracy. Foster directs from a script credited to the trio of John DiFiore, Jim Kouf, and Jamie Linden. In addition to the main trio, the cast includes Caitriona Balfe, Christopher Denham, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Meade, Lenny Venito, Dominic West, and more. Cinematography is by Matthew Libatique.
At its best, Money Monster evokes the Occupy Wall Street movement and gives both Clooney and O’Connell some strong material to work with. Foster also emphasizes some of the satirical elements of the script, though she also goes all in on some of the unneeded comedic elements as well. Still, when it’s Clooney doing his thing or O’Connell having understandable rage, things are genuinely compelling. The story itself works, sometimes in spite of the filmmaking choices at hand. That just keeps this from being a great movie, instead just settling for being a good one. It likely will be a crowd pleaser though, so there’s certainly that. Personally, I greatly prefer The Beaver, but that’s me. This one just plays it a […]

George Clooney: His best performances to date

When it comes to movie stars, few actors in Hollywood better encapsulate what you want out of a veteran A-lister than George Clooney. Not only is he an accomplished actor with an Academy Award on his mantle, he’s a highly regarded writer and director, with an Oscar for producing under his belt as well. He’s a jack of all trades, and with a new star vehicle out on Friday in Money Monster (which I actually see tomorrow), I thought it was high time to go over his best performances to date. There’s no shortage of quality on Clooney’s permanent record, so finding his top works so far won’t be hard, on top of being a pleasure. He’s had a great career that’s only about at the midway point, so there’s not only tons to look at, but plenty more to come as well!
Below you will find a list of what Clooney has done so far that I consider to be his top tier of work. Without overtly spoiling things, the ten spots will include all of his Oscar nominated performances, as well as the one that actually won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Also included are performances within a few of the films he wrote/directed as well. Without question, Clooney is talented in multiple realms, so it wasn’t easy to figure out which movies go in which slots here. I even had to include an honorable mention category as well as a bonus list, which you’ll see momentarily. It’s a tribute to the man’s body of work so far that there’s so much to choose from, without even factoring in Money Monster, which seems very promising…
Here now are what I find to be Clooney’s ten best performances so far:
10. Syriana
9. Out of Sight
8. Michael Clayton
7. The American
6. Solaris
5. Three Kings
4. The Descendants
3. Good Night, and Good Luck
2. The Ides of March
1. Up in the Air
Honorable Mention – Burn After Reading, Gravity, The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Monuments Men, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Perfect Storm
Special Citation – Fantastic Mr. Fox (voice acting)

Basically, Clooney has been consistently impressing for some time now, and there’s lots more to look forward to. I really hope that he chooses keep up the pace of directing every few years while taking interesting acting jobs in between. Clearly, I find Up in the Air to be his crowning achievement so far, but […]

The Coen Brothers are back with “Hail, Caesar!”

Just about every other year, more or less like clockwork, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen unleash another film on audiences across the world. Fans of their work will probably be delighted by Hail, Caesar!, which opens this weekend and really resembles some of the most overtly comedic work from the Coens. It’s got an A list cast and an Old Hollywood setting, which will make some folks assume this is a prestige picture. In reality though, this is more of a romp and an example of the filmmaking brothers just having a grand old time. It didn’t thrill me like it will thrill others, but I suspect this won’t be another big Oscar player of theirs, regardless.
The film is a look at the day in the life of a Hollywood fixer. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) works at a big studio in the early 1950’s, making sure that all of the stars stay out of trouble, and more importantly…stay out of the papers. When top star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, Eddie is given his toughest assignment yet. For the most part, this movie is largely plotless, checking in on the Baird situation from time to time, but by and large just following around Eddie as he interacts with stars like Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), starlets like DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), and filmmakers like Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes). Obviously, Joel and Ethan Coen direct, with the rest of the cast including Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, and many more. Behind the camera, the legend that is Roger Deakins does the cinematography.
What works for me here with Hail, Caesar! is the feel for what the movie industry used to be like. In many ways, this has the tone and feel of a number of other funny flicks from the Coen Brothers, so if you’re down with something like The Big Lebowski, I suspect this will work for you as well. Those aren’t my favorites, so I can be hit or miss with the brothers Coen, but that shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying. Certain members of the cast, like Johansson and Tatum, steal the show too, so there’s that as well. It’s a mixed bag, but not without its charms.
Awards wise, I think this will have a hard road ahead, though one or two categories might be promising. Still, with a decent box office haul, I have no doubt […]

Sandra Bullock looks like a contender in the Trailer for “Our Brand is Crisis”

Yesterday, a Trailer dropped for Our Brand is Crisis, the political drama/satire hybrid that I’ve been predicting for Oscar attention all year. With it, we got our first real look at a film that could certainly liven up the impending awards season. David Gordon Green’s movie is getting a premiere shortly at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, and assuming reviews are strong, this will quickly become more than just a Sandra Bullock vehicle, but a legitimate Academy Award contender as well. We’ll know soon enough, but this very solid Trailer is a hint that this is something to be excited about, especially if you’re looking for another contender to enter the race.
Here’s a quick refresher on the movie. Basically, it’s based on the documentary of the same name (Our Brand Is Crisis, of course), which focused on the use of American political campaign strategies in South American elections. Specifically, it was a Bolivian politician named Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada hiring James Carville’s political consulting firm to help him win the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. Carville works to use American political campaign strategies, leading to a different outcome than might otherwise have been. For the film, Bullock will play ‘Calamity’ Jane Bodine, basically a stand in for Carville, I believe, though Billy Bob Thornton as a rival consultant with a bald head makes me wonder if he’s actually the Carville stand in. Regardless, aside from Bullock and Thornton, also in the cast are Ann Dowd, Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy, and more. Green directs, as mentioned before, with the script penned by Peter Straughan. The potential for something special is certainly there, it seems.
I’d always considered this a player more so than most, and the Trailer that you’ll be seeing below seems to indicate that I might be on to something. Not only does it look to showcase Bullock in a great leading role, it appears to be Green’s largest scale filmmaking to date. It’s easy to look at Our Brand is Crisis and think that it’s a cousin to Ben Affleck’s Argo, which also was produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov. I’m sure all involved here would be thrilled if this one came even close to what that one did, but there’s certainly a chance.
If there’s one thing the Trailer for this movie really showed us, it’s that we’ve got a showcase for Bullock’s talents on our hands. […]

What were the Ten Best summer releases of 2015?

We’re in the final days of August, which means that the summer movie season has basically come to an end. As is the case when things wrap up, I like to rank them, and this is no exception. September is right around the corner, so it’s a perfect time too. Below you will see what I feel were the ten best releases during the summer, which I’ve extended to potentially include April and May releases as well, since that’s part of the now expanded season, cinematically speaking. Take a gander, remember that it’s just my opinion here, and as always…I hope you enjoy my list!
Here now are what I feel were the best that the summer of 2015 had to offer us:
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Perhaps a disappointment to some, this mega sequel still delivered what it promised and was rather satisfying, so it deserves a spot on the list. Joss Whedon and his superhero team know how to entertain, so even if it wasn’t the second coming, it did do its job, so credit where credit is due. Marvel does this sort of thing like no other.
9. Spy – A bit of a pleasant surprise, though by now the team of Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy is basically a sure sign of comedic gold. As effective a an action flick as it is a parody of spy movies, this is a comedy that does just about everything right. Could it have been slightly funnier? Sure, but now we’re just splitting hairs. It was a hit and deservedly so.
8. Ant-Man – One of the summer’s riskier blockbusters (and certainly a gamble for Marvel, to say the least) was also one of its more troubled productions, yet when push came to shove…it was another very solid comic book movie. An origin story for a second tier character, Peyton Reed took what Edgar Wright developed, and along with Paul Rudd, made it something a bit different. It wasn’t always as neat as it could have been, but it certainly worked.
7. Tomorrowland – I know folks were pretty mixed on this one, but I really appreciated the ambition on display here. Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof made a summer sci-fi epic that dares to encourage creativity, hope, and optimism for the future, and that’s a rare breed indeed. It probably was always going to be too expensive to be financially successful, […]

George Clooney Seeks to Expose Those Who Finance/Profit From Wars in Africa

The Enough Project announced the launch of THE SENTRY, a new investigative initiative that seeks to dismantle the networks of perpetrators, facilitators, and enablers who fund and profit from Africa’s deadliest conflicts. The Sentry’s arrival comes as President Obama prepares for an historic trip to Africa later this week.
Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, building on lessons learned from their earlier Satellite Sentinel Project initiative, The Sentry uses open source data collection, field research, and state-of-the-art network analysis technology to track and analyze how conflict is financed, sustained, and monetized. The new website for The Sentry, www.TheSentry.org, also features a secure portal for the confidential and anonymous submission of tips, leaks, and information.
John Prendergast, co-founder of TheSentry.org, said: “Conventional tools of diplomacy usually have not helped end conflicts because they don’t alter the calculations of those fueling war and committing atrocities. Given the current profitability of conflict, new efforts must center on how to make war more costly than peace. The objective of The Sentry is to follow the money and deny those war profiteers the proceeds from their crimes.”
George Clooney, co-founder of The Sentry, said: “Real leverage for peace and human rights will come when the people who benefit from war will pay a price for the damage they cause.”

The Sentry today also published four Country Briefs detailing the nexus of conflict, corruption, and violent kleptocracy in South Sudan, Sudan, Central Africa Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Sentry Analyst Akshaya Kumar pointed out, “The points of convergence where illicit schemes rely on legitimate global financial and transport infrastructure, at times represent the most profitable links in the conflict value chain, and also those most vulnerable to disruption. Direct perpetrators of mass atrocities may be relatively insulated from international pressure, but their facilitators are certainly not.”
Omer Ismail, Sentry Analyst, said: “Without countering systematic looting by governments and rebel groups, peace and protection efforts stand little chance of success. The good news story that Africa has become, and which in the next days the President will appropriately highlight, in many parts of the continent will continue to be undermined by these hijacked states and their long-running, predatory civil wars. A new framework must be developed to adapt, implement, and enforce the tools of financial crimes enforcement to give these countries back to the people.”
Sentry Co-Founder John Prendergast elaborated: “The Sentry’s ultimate objective is to alter the incentives for funding […]

“Tomorrowland” starring George Clooney is an ambitious family friendly blockbuster

I love ambition. When you’re a filmmaker with some measure of clout, it always makes sense to really shoot for the stars, as it were. Not everyone does it, but director Brad Bird sure does. On Friday, Bird’s new flight of fancy Tomorrowland opens in theaters, hoping to capture the imaginations of families throughout the world. After the wild successes of The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Bird could basically do whatever he wanted, so he teamed up with scribe Damon Lindelof in order to make this unique tale happen. Not everyone agrees with me, but on my end, I’m thrilled that they did. Tomorrowland is something very singular and enjoyable.
In short, Tomorrowland is about imagination fueling the future. Without giving too much away, there is an actual place called Tomorrowland that basically features the world’s best and brightest. George Clooney plays an inventor who was once a visitor to the land as a boy. Now, he’s tracked down by Britt Robertson’s teen girl, someone who has been invited to the land, though this time it’s so she can essentially save the world. To say more would be to spoil the fun, but it’s got plenty on its mind, trust me there. The aforementioned Bird directs and co-writes with Lindelof and Jeff Jensen, while the cast besides Clooney and Robertson includes Raffey Cassidy, Pierce Gagnon, Judy Greer, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Thomas Robinson, and more. Clooney, Laurie, and Robertson are the main attractions, though Cassidy has a surprisingly big part to play.
What works best here is the look and feel of the film. From Michael Giacchino’s score to Claudio Miranda’s cinematography, it all works towards Bird’s vision. You mix that with how ambitious and big hearted the story is, and there’s a lot going on. It’s not perfect, mind you, but any blockbuster that has a moral centered around hope, imagination, and optimism is something with a message worth spreading. Miranda and Giacchino help out Bird on the technical front, while Jensen and Lindelof are assisting on the scripting front. Throw in the cast, particularly Clooney and Robertson, and you have a team all racing towards the same admirable goal. It’s family friendly while never talking down to its audience.
I have my doubts that this will do much with the Academy, but there is a small amount of Oscar potential here. You can count […]

TOMORROWLAND in these new featurettes starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Director Brad Bird!

From Disney comes two-time Oscar® winner Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland,” a riveting mystery adventure starring Academy Award® winner George Clooney. Bound by a shared destiny, former boy-genius Frank (Clooney), jaded by disillusionment, and Casey (Britt Robertson), a bright, optimistic teen bursting with scientific curiosity, embark on a danger-filled mission to unearth the secrets of an enigmatic place somewhere in time and space known only as “Tomorrowland.” What they must do there changes the world—and them—forever.
Featuring a screenplay by “Lost” writer and co-creator Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird, from a story by Lindelof & Bird & Jeff Jensen, “Tomorrowland” promises to take audiences on a thrill ride of nonstop adventures through new dimensions that have only been dreamed of.
The film also stars Hugh Laurie as brilliant scientist David Nix, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key and Thomas Robinson.
“Tomorrowland” is produced by Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird and Jeffrey Chernov and directed by Brad Bird, with John Walker, Bernard Bellew, Jeff Jensen and Brigham Taylor serving as executive producers. “Tomorrowland” opens in U.S. theaters on May 22, 2015.

Oscar Predictions for the month of May, 2015

Almost five full months into the 2015 movie season and I’m happy to report that we know zilch about the Oscar race. Why happy? Well, it means there’s plenty of fun guesswork to be done, and I’m all about that. The Cannes Film Festival has gotten underway and that can be used for a hint or two, but right now, it’s only eliminated one film (The Sea of Trees, which seems to be out of it entirely, outside of perhaps Matthew McConaughey) and made another a question mark (Woody Allen’s Irrational Man), with some other contenders like Carol still to screen. As such, your guess is as good as mine, which is part of the early year fun, at least in my book.
The one thing of note that I want to make mention of for this latest Oscar prediction update is that I expanded the fields a bit. The Best Picture lineup I’ve bumped up to 30, actually, with 15 for the other seven remaining categories that make up the “Big Eight”. As a bonus, I even went with ten for Best Animated Feature, just to have things as open as possible, which is what things are like right now, no question about it. My winners are still largely the same, including Steven Spielberg and his film Bridge of Spies, while something like Brooklyn or Carol is making its way up my rankings, slowly but surely. It’ll be a few months still until we have some semblance of an idea about the Oscar race, but right now, it’s a ton of fun to speculate…

Here now are my newest set of Academy Award predictions:
BEST PICTURE
1. Bridge of Spies
2. Our Brand is Crisis
3. Carol
4. The Light Between Oceans
5. Joy
6. The Martian
7. The Hateful Eight
8. Steve Jobs
9. The Revenant
10. Brooklyn
Next in line: 11. The End of the Tour 12. Ricki and the Flash 13. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 14. Lion 15. MacBeth 16. Black Mass 17. By the Sea 18. Demolition 19. Freehold 20. Trainwreck 21. The Danish Girl 22. The Walk 23. Southpaw 24. In the Heart of the Sea 25. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 26. Bleed for This 27. Sicario 28. Irrational Man 29. Suffragette 30. Ex Machina
BEST DIRECTOR
1. Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies
2. David Gordon Green – Our Brand is Crisis
3. David O. Russell – Joy
4. Todd Haynes – Carol
5. Derek Cianfrance – The […]

“Mad Max: Fury Road”: Ten Films to Look Forward to in May

With the end of April upon us next week, I wanted to turn our attention to May and the cinematic treats that might be held there. It’s essentially the start of the summer movie season, so there’s a slight turn that takes place in terms of what comes out. There are a few less notable indies, while the mainstream titles veer towards blockbuster status. In fact, a nice grouping of the biggest Hollywood smash hit hopefuls are hitting in May. You’ll see the ones below, clearly, but I tried to mix it up, going from tiny indie horror to massive comic book franchise sequel, with plenty in between. Enjoy!
Here are ten May releases to anticipate…
10. The Ladies of the House – A small independent horror film from John Stuart Wildman and Justina Walford, it offers a welcome throwback to the days of exploitation. I feel like Russ Meyer and Eli Roth would appreciate this in equal measure. It’s genre fare and not for everyone, but those who have a stomach for this sort of thing will likely enjoy discovering some new filmmaking voices. Look for it on May 1st.
9. San Andreas – Dwayne Johnson vs an Earthquake? I’m sure that’s enough to sell a ticket for many of you. I haven’t heard much buzz about this one, but on May 29th we can watch all hell break loose. It’s fair to say that this one could wind up being really entertaining, if likely in a dumb sort of way. We’ll find out on May 29th.
8. Good Kill – I saw this drama at the Tribeca Film Festival (after it came there following a debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier on in 2015) and on May 15th, you can too. It offers up Ethan Hawke as a drone pilot, which is timely, if nothing else. The movie is solid too, so I can recommend it on its merits as well.
7. Pitch Perfect 2 – The sequel to the surprise hit from a few years ago, this is basically fan service, but we rarely get that in the form of a girl power mid level dance comedy, so you can’t take issue with it at all. Anna Kendrick and company are all back, so if you dug the first one, you can see it on May 15th.
6. Welcome to Me – Kristen Wiig wins the lottery and gets own talk show. […]

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