Archive for the ‘George Clooney’ Category

MOVIE: Gravity (2013)

December 10, 2013

gravityRemember way back in 2006, when Les Stroud and Bear Grylls were co-Boyfriends in Chief, and I shared with you guys the list I keep of places I never, ever want to go to due to the fact: gruesome, terrifying death?

Yeah, well, you can now add “OUTER SPACE” to the top of that list. Yes, put it in all caps. In fact, do it like this — huge and insanely, blindingly red:


I always thought I wanted to try space walking one day. Now I’m pretty sure I can never watch NASA TV ever again.


Highly recommended, just like everybody else has told you it was.  Don’t forget to breathe.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: HOLY SHIT, Science Fiction, Drama
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, that other astronaut guy whom: alas, we hardly knew ye.

(p.s. WordPress, why you gotta be so weird with the formatting?)

MOVIE: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

April 4, 2010

I’m going to start this review out by saying exactly the same thing I always say whenever I watch and then review an animated film:  “I don’t really like animated films all that much.  I mean, I like them okay, but I rarely seek them out specifically.”

Then, as usual, I will continue on by saying:  “The weird thing is, whenever I see one, I almost always LOVE IT.  Why am I so stupid?  Why don’t I seek these out?  When will I learn that I love them?  Will I learn this time?  Pfft, doubtful.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

I don’t know why I’m always so mean to myself about it.  Really?  “Stupid,” Meg?  That’s not very nice.  Just seeking.  Just learning.  Still learning.  Working on it.

And Fantastic Mr. Fox is an excellent lesson.  This movie is brilliant — strange, clever, engaging, and hilarious.  Perfectly so.  I can’t think of a single thing I did not love about it.  Not one.

Based on the Roald Dahl tale of the same name, it’s about a young fox named Ash (Jason Schwartzman) trying to earn the respect of his father, Mr. Fox (George Clooney), a newspaperman who is also “a wild animal” addicted to the thrill of stealing squab.  Ash is small and cerebral, and when his cousin, karate expert Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) shows up and starts getting all the praise from Mr. Fox that Ash wanted for himself, he is spurred into taking greater and greater risks.  Pushing himself.  Trying to find the Ash he wants to be.  Or, at least, the Ash he thinks his father wants him to be.  (Don’t worry, parents, he learns the right lesson about that in the end.)

It’s a great, classic story, and it’s translated to the big screen wonderfully here by Wes Anderson’s weird, awesome brain.  The animation is stop-motion, which is a format I’m not terribly familiar with and found extremely impressive (I couldn’t figure out how they did some of it, in fact, like when the characters do flips and there isn’t a single break in the motion — amazing!) and the dialogue is absolutely sharp as a cussin’ tack.

If you, like me, are sort of hum-dee-hum-hum about animated films, do yourself an enormous favor tonight and go rent this one.  Watch it with your kids (though, warning, there are a few scary scenes in this), watch it with your spouse, watch it with your neighbor who you barely know but wish you could be friends with.

I envy you — you’re about to have a perfectly splendid evening.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Kids, Animation
Cast:  George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Eric Anderson, Owen Wilson

MOVIE: Heartland (1980)

January 25, 2010

The other day at Scarecrow Video (my favorite local video rental shop), I found myself pressed for time and needed to find a second movie to rent fast (it was two-for-one day and what idiot only rents one on two-for-one day?).  So, you know what I did?  I went up to the Independent Drama section, closed my eyes, reached out, and picked a box off the shelf at random.  This is the movie I ended up with, and, I’ll confess, I almost put it back when I flipped it over to read the description.  I mean, really, how many times have I seen this EXACT movie?  A million times.  A million, at least.  The box described it as a film about a widow who takes her daughter to Wyoming in 1910 to work for an unmarried rancher who needs a housekeeper, and if you can’t predict exactly where this is headed, then you haven’t been paying attention.

Thing is, even though everything I expected to take place in this film did, in fact, take place in this film, I still ended up loving it.  For one thing, I have always adored Conchata Ferrell, though I confess I never knew that was her name until today.  Remember her as the pizza parlor owner in Mystic Pizza?  Or how about as the boisterous nurse in that 80’s sitcom with George Clooney, E/R?  Always loved her, and man, does she ever carry this whole movie on her shoulders too.  Ferrell plays Elinore Randall, a middle-aged widow with a 7 year-old daughter  who finds herself forced to move from Denver to Wyoming when she loses her job and needs another one.  Rancher Clyde Stewart (Rip Torn) pays her way, under the contract she’ll stay a full year, and their first encounter is when she gets off the train after a long, long journey and he hands her a shopping list and walks off.  Friendly, that guy.

At first, the relationship between Randall and Stewart is an awkward one.  He’s not much of a talker, she’s pretty no-nonsense, and, man, can you imagine having to live that closely with someone you don’t even know?  It’s a two-room ranch house — it’s close quarters.  But as time passes, Randall and Stewart begin to slip comfortably into a routine.  It’s not love at first sight, but it’s functional.  It works.  It’ll do.

Only Randall’s not one to sit still anywhere in life, and the more of Wyoming she sees, the more she begins to love the land and long for her own place, having “worked for others all [her] life.”  When she puts a claim down on the land abutting Stewart’s ranch, he sits her down and gives her the straight talk about how hard it is to make it alone as a rancher in Wyoming, especially in the winters, which are long and brutal.  The conversation ends with a dose of practicality — why don’t we just get married?

So, they do.  And then they have a son.  And then their son dies during their first hard, hard winter together, and so does a lot of their cattle, taken by snow, taken by starvation, taken by disease.  But when spring rolls around and their grief begins to settle, Randall and Stewart emerge as a strong, loving unit, and life goes forward.  Life goes well.  Life has hope and companionship and peace at last.  It’s hard, that life.  But now — now — it can be done.

So yes, you see?  It’s just like every other movie you’ve ever seen about this — hardscrabble people in a hardscrabble land coming together to make things just a little less hardscrabble.  But this one is filmed well, written well, acted well, and features a lady who has, hands down, the greatest laugh in the history of laughs (oh, Conchatta, I love you, keep laughing, never stop).

Definitely recommended, and hey, you know what?  I think I’ll do that blind-selection thing again this Wednesday at Scarecrow too.  So far, so good.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Western
Cast:  Rip Torn, Conchata Ferrell, Lilia Skala, Barry Primus

MOVIE: Burn After Reading (2008)

February 2, 2009


(Shortest movie review ever?)

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Comedy
Cast:  Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Francis McDormand,  Tilda Swinton, J.K. Simmons, Richard Jenkins

MOVIE: Michael Clayton (2007)

November 26, 2007

It’s been a couple of weeks since I saw this movie (in a theater!  I saw a movie in a theater!  Yay me!), but it’s been hard coming up with what to say in this review because this film sort of defies tidy description.  At its core is a class-action lawsuit — a group of sick people versus an agricultural corporation that (knowingly, we later discover) treated crops with a chemical that ended up being toxic.  The corporation’s head counsel (Karen Crowder, played brilliantly by Tilda Swinton) has called in a private law firm to help with their defense, and that firm has assigned their greatest class-action lawyer to the case, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson). 

Things get a little nutty, however, when, one afternoon during a deposition, Arthur stands up, declares his undying love for one of the citizens suing the corporation (a teenaged girl whose parents had died from the chemical exposure, or some-such), and then strips buck naked and runs through the parking lot.  His colleagues knew he was bipolar, and he’s clearly gone off his meds.  So, they do what they always do in situations that get out of control — they call in their fixer, a lawyer named Michael Clayton (Clooney) who primarily works below the radar and spends most of his time trying to get people out of messes, usually by stretching the law almost all the way to its breaking point.  Clayton has known Arthur for years and is a close friend, so it only makes sense he ought to be the one brought in to get him back under control. 

Unfortunately, before Michael can do much good, Arthur is found dead in his bathroom, ostensibly from an accidental overdose or suicide, though we in the audience know better (we watch him be murdered in a death scene I found astonishingly original if only because it was so matter-of-factly neat — there’s something very sinister and terrifying about “tidy” murders, in my opinion).  Clayton begins trying to figure out what really was going on with his pal and it’s then he discovers something that explains everything.  I won’t tell you what that is, though it has to do with the lawsuit and, ultimately, is what leads first Arthur and then Michael to question everything they’ve been doing in their lives and careers up to this point.

What I loved about this movie — and my husband and I both described this movie as “brilliant” when we walked out of the theater, all aswoon from how SMART it was — was the way it was just like all those other class-action lawyer movies and yet, absolutely nothing like them at all.  The lawsuit itself is pretty standard stuff — we’ve seen that part of this movie a bazillion times already (Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action, e.g.).  But though the lawsuit is the whole reason for this story, it actually plays a brilliantly tiny role.  Instead, this is a film about characters — two men who have spent their careers doing things that were morally dubious who suddenly can’t stand that dubiousness a moment longer, and a woman who started out with firm beliefs in right and wrong and slides frighteningly quickly into self-serving evil faster than you can say, “Tilda Swinton’s love handles.”  The final scene of this movie is, in a word, delicious, thanks in no small part to the amazing acting chops of both Swinton and Clooney.  If Swinton isn’t nominated for an Academy Award for this role, I’ll be bitter.

All in all, this is one of the most fascinating, original, and thoroughly riveting films I’ve seen all year.  It’s also visually stunning — just the LOOK of the scene with the horses on the hill has really stayed with me, with its eerie, cold fog and crisp silence.  It was a surprising, and thus quite powerful, moment of stillness in an otherwise fairly frenetic movie. And I found the colors used in this movie striking as well.  Of course, also visually stunning is George Clooney himself — that man looks absolutely fantastic in suits and trench-coats, and I hope he never, ever colors the gray out of his hair.  Great acting, smart writing, gorgeous filming — seriously, my friends, don’t miss this one!

[Pre-Queue me at Netflix]

Genre:  Drama
Cast:  George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Michael O’Keefe, Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Van Dyck

Everest Climbers and Clothing Designers: Crazy People Are Right On

November 15, 2007

I’m heading out of town on Saturday for a week, so there probably won’t be any new posts until I get back (though when I DO get back, expect a flurry of movie reviews, since I’m heading down for a long visit with the parents that will definitely involve major vegging out — it’s my first real vacation in a YEAR, so I’m looking forward to a whole heck of a lot of nuthin’).  I’m hoping to get at least one more movie review (of George Clooney’s Michael Clayton) posted before I leave, but we’ll see how I do.

Far more important, I felt, was giving you guys a heads-up on some great TV shows that recently returned, as well as a couple of things coming up in the next few weeks you may not have heard about.  So, let’s do that first, and we’ll talk Clooney later.

Everest: Beyond the Limit (Season Two).  Tuesdays, 10pm, Discovery Channel.  I had no idea this series was planning a second season, so I was completely surprised when I heard from a friend that it was back.  Thrilled, I quickly downloaded the first episode  from iTunes just in time to catch the second one live (you’ve missed three now, folks, but they’re only $1.99 at iTunes and it’s well worth the $6 to get caught up if you like this sort of thing). 

Man, this show is just plain AWESOME.   Mountain climbers enthrall me for the same reason paranoid schizophrenics do — they’re crazy, and crazy people are absolutely fascinating. 

Disagree that climbing mountains is nuts?  Take off your crampons and let me tell you a story:  Back when I used to work in a biochemistry lab, one of the researchers I worked with was a Russian scientist named Oleg who spent all his vacations out scaling peaks.   I once asked him what it was like to get to the top of a mountain, and he replied, “Heh, well, once you get up near the top, you can’t breathe, you feel like you’re hacking up a lung every time you cough (which is constantly), you start puking, and you feel like total hell.  It’s AWESOME.”  And boy, that seems to be a pretty fair description of what the Everest guys all go through, too, except that once you get closer to the top of THAT mountain, you also have to contend with a variety of deadly threats, not limited to stumbles that can cost you life and/or limb, but also involving things like cerebral edema and a combination of other horrific ailments they call “mountain sickness.” 

And for what?  For a really nice view and the feeling that you’ve just bested a big pile of rocks?  For that you pay $50,000 and risk your life? Dude, I rest my case!  Cr-a-hay-zee!

Season Two of this totally terrific series brings back a bunch of the same climbers from last year’s series, including team leader Russell Brice (so dashing!), asthmatic Mogens Jensen (still refusing to climb with oxygen, despite the fact he’s getting worse every year he tries doing this), and metal-man Tim Medvetz, an enormous bull of a fella’ who was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident several years ago and now has metal pins and braces all through his back, leg, and foot.  I can’t recommend this series highly enough — it’s one of the most entertaining (and educational!) outdoorsy-type shows I’ve ever seen.  Catch up on the eps you missed and then tune in next week for episode 4.

Project Runway — Wednesdays, 10pm, Bravo.  “One of you will be the winner, and one of you will be out.”  Damn, I love this show.  I can’t wait for this year’s group to start getting to know each other better, too, because after seeing the first episode this week, I can feel the insanity roiling already, and it’s only going to get more fun once the cattiness is unleashed in full.  They’re so off, they’re on.  So, let the battle of the pinking shears begin!  Who will be the next one to be auf’d?  (I vote for this guy — he’s already getting on my nerves and we’ve barely begun!  Shut up, Christian!)

Battlestar Galactica: Razor— November 24th, 9pm, Sci-Fi.  This two-hour BG movie airs a week from Saturday, so set your DVRs!  It’s going to serve as the “backdrop” for the final season of the show, and will focus on Lee’s first mission as the commander of the Pegasus.  If you do manage to miss it, it looks like it will be out on DVD the first week of December, so better stick that in your Netflix queueASAP.  The one thing I’m a bit disappointed about is that it looks like there won’t be any Starbuck (ex-Boyfriend Katee Sackhoff), but since I’m enjoying her on Bionic Woman these days anyway, I suppose I can deal.  For now.

The Closer— December 3, 8pm, TNT.  A special (new!) two-hour episode of this terrific series is coming to TNT on Monday, December 3rd, so while you’re setting the DVR for BG:Razor, add this one in there too.  The Closer is one of the few crime shows I think gets better with each passing season instead of worse (and yes, I speak of thee, Law & Order:SVU, CSI, Cold Case, and Without a Trace) . The last season was one of the best seasons of (American) television I’ve ever seen — I thought almost every single episode was brilliant, and that is a rare treat in the world of TV today.  Cable is where it’s AT, my peeps. 

Did I miss anything that’s coming up in the next few weeks?  If so, post in comments!

MOVIE: The Reaping (2007)

October 20, 2007

Here’s how this movie goes:

Bad — wow, BAD — baaaaad — huh, interesting — good — good — goooooood — good — wait, what? — okay, I suppose that makes. . . — no, stop, I was wrong, that makes no sense whatsoever — come on, seriously? — bad — bad — baaaaaad — oh for pity’s sake — bad — you’ve got to be kidding me — hilariously bad — I am now dying from the hilarious badness — bad — WOW, bad.

Now, THAT’s more like it, people!

As you can see from the above timeline, this movie starts off bad, improves somewhat, and then rapidly spirals into a total pit of ridiculousness. It’s about an ordained minister named Katherine (Hilary Swank) who several years ago decided God wanted her to take her husband and young daughter to the Sudan so she could help the starving, dying Sudanese find religion and be saved. After a year of drought, the Sudanese became desperate, as the starving and dying are wont to do, and when sacrificing goats didn’t save their crops, they decided to sacrifice Katherine’s husband and daughter instead. Horrified, Katherine “turned her back on God,” and has in the interim years rededicated her life to traveling around debunking “miracles” using scientific facts.

Already, this gets me off on the wrong foot with this flick, because within ten minutes, I have already decided Katherine is an insufferable solipsist — she’s fine with God as long as he only kills OTHER people’s families and children, but when he kills HER kid, he crosses a serious line? Now y’all understand why I’m a Pastafarian.

Nevertheless, once the movie got into the main part of the story, I confess I began getting a little intrigued. One day, while giving a lecture, a man approaches her and begs her to come to his small Southern town, Haven, to help them figure out what is happening there. A little girl has been accused of working for Satan and unleashing the infamous Biblical “ten plagues” on the town, beginning with the local river’s conversion from water to blood. Spoooooky. And also, gross. Good combo!

Kate and her partner agree to go check it out and, at first, seem to think the town’s plagues really can be explained with science (there’s a scene in which Kate runs through all ten ancient Egyptian plagues and provides a scientifically-logical hypothesis to explain each one of them in succession — and, incidentally, there is also an interesting little documentary about this very thing in the Special Features section that is worth checking out). This, I felt, was a somewhat intriguing concept, and I settled in for the ride and stopped snarking for a good twenty or thirty minutes.

But once the lice hit, things started to go downhill. Suddenly, there’s a Satanic cult cropping up, and Kate’s old Catholic priest friend is calling her to tell her only someone who TRULY believes in God can stop the devil from blah blah blah. There’s a cheesy scene that made me groan with agony in which the little girl every one thought was the devil was revealed to be something else entirely. And then there was the final duke-out between good and evil — a scene that made me start laughing uncontrollably.

It was at that point my husband came into the room and asked if this was REALLY how the whole weekend was going to go (screams emanating from the TV coupled with hysterical laughter emanating from me), and couldn’t we go see Michael Clayton this weekend in the theater to try to get a little balance?

Whatever, man.

In any case, this movie is of the genre I would describe as “watchably bad.” That is, it is not bad-bad (“unwatchably bad”), and yet it is also not “good bad.” It takes itself far too seriously for “good bad” status, but at the same time, it wasn’t so utterly awful I was sorry I’d sat through the whole thing.

How’s THAT for dubious praise?

In any case, the movie primarily left me in awe of the fact that multiple Academy Awards doesn’t seem to impact in any way an actress’s sense of what makes a good film. Because, unless Swank took this role just because she’s always WANTED to be in a “watchably bad” horror movie, I’m not sure how to explain her presence in this. I thought that girl had a solid head on her shoulders — was I wrong about that, Hills?

Then again, it’s always the big budget horror movies with the famous actors that turn out to be the most entertainingly bad, in my experience. Something about watching the big stars make fools of themselves just never gets old for me. Which is why I have three more such movies sitting in a pile by my right elbow at this very moment.

So, stay tuned for more bad horror movies, featuring John Cusack, Emily Blunt, and Michael Chiklis, coming soon. Oh, and also a good (I hear, anyway), non-horror movie, George Clooney’s Michael Clayton, which I have reluctantly agreed to go see at some point this weekend for the sake of my spouse’s sanity.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre: Watchably bad horror

Cast: Hilary Swank, David Morrissey, Stephen Rea, Lara Grice, Idrice Elba