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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Denis O’Hare

Novitiate (2017)

Trust in God. Not the nuns. They’re a little mean.

Once she turns 17, Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) decides that it’s time to leave her old life behind and join the Catholic Church to become a nun. It’s a decision that her mother (Julianne Nicholson), who is agnostic, doesn’t quite understand or fully support, but she doesn’t have much of a say in the matter – Cathleen believes that she’s had a calling from Jesus and has fallen in love with him. Cathleen enters a Catholic convent as a postulant under the tutelage of the Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), who is known for her passion and grace in the world of religion. While there, Cathleen meets fellow nuns who are doing their best to stick with it, even if the responsibilities and rules are quite demanding and not all that understandable. But specifically at this point in time, during the early-60’s, the Catholic Church itself was going through a bit of a change, what with the planned reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Church would show a much more open and accepting image to all those who wanted to have faith in God. Most within the Church got behind these rules right away, whereas Reverend Mother doesn’t, fearing that it may change the community forever and for the worst.

Still looks like Andie Macdowell, in a nun outfit.

Novitiate doesn’t necessarily come off as a scathing indictment on the Catholic Church, or even faith in general, and it’s much better off for that. Writer/director Maggie Betts, making her directorial debut, seems to understand and respect those who actually fall in love with God, or whoever they praise, are willing to throw their whole lives completely away, and devote everything to prayer, abstinence, and spreading the good word of the Lord. While it may sound like a boring life to a normal layman, to those who are involved with the Church, it’s the greatest honor they can bestow and Betts doesn’t seem to be making fun of these people, as much as she easily could have.

Instead, she shows a certain sweetness to these people who devote their lives to God. But then again, she also realizes that there are a few bad apples who either, misinterpret the word of God and act out in heinous ways, or can’t keep up with their sacred notions and never seem to give up. Betts seems to be saying that while having God in your life can be a good thing, having it run your each and everyday life, isn’t, and it can drive people to pure insanity.

And as we all know, living in the world that we live in, this isn’t much of a stretch for Betts to make.

That said, Novitiate is an overall smart movie that doesn’t necessarily have an agenda, but shows us the Catholic Church during a transnational period, that they don’t even know or understand is quite as severe as it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily a stylish, or fully exciting movie – there’s a lot of walking, praying, sitting in silence, crying, and hushed-tones – but the movie creates a certain uneasiness just by doing this, that it’s easy to get compelled by. The movie is deathly serious and understated, therefore, never quite goes overboard or as insane as you’d expect it to be with some of these religious types, and it feels a lot more realistic for that. It’s less of a sympathetic-portrait of the Catholic Church, and much more of a humane one, where we see all the good, as well as the bad, within it.

Uh oh. Someone’s talking during prayers.

The only pure instances in which the movie goes slightly a bit overboard is with Melissa Leo’s performance as Reverend Mother, but it still works. Leo’s presence here is a little shocking because you can always tell that she’s about to crack loose, but because she’s a nun and has to set a good example for the fellow nuns out there, she has to stay cool, calm, and collected. There are instances in which we see Leo lose all control and it’s scary, but not in the horror movie kind-of-way – it just seems like a person slowly losing grips with her own form of reality, and coming to terms with the all-too real one.

It’s a scary and powerful performance, and from Leo, I wouldn’t expect much different.

Everybody else is quite good in this supporting-cast, but really, it’s Margaret Qualley who remains the heart and soul of the whole project. As Cathleen, Qualley gives us a sad, somewhat scared character who keeps to herself, but is so in love with God and the Jesus, she can’t hold it all in. Through Cathleen, we see just how one can misinterpret The Word and it’s Qualley that keeps us on-edge, not knowing whether she’s going to crack and lose all control, or if she’s going to stay her meek and mild self. Through it all, we still sympathize with her; we know that she means well and even if she is throwing her life away, it’s her life to throw away. We just want her to realize that there’s more to life than the Church and to stand outside, in the real world, if only for a bit.

Consensus: Slow and a little languid, Novitiate surely follows its own pace, but is also a well-acted and compelling look at the Catholic Church, that’s neither judging, nor entirely sympathetic. Just honest and realistic.

7.5 / 10

“God? You spoke to Madonna. Why can’t you speak to me?”

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classic

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Rocket Science (2007)

Think of it as the younger-son of The King’s Speech. Minus all of the royalty.

Reece Thompson plays Hal Hefner, a 15-year-old high-school student with a minor yet socially alienating (and painful) disability: He stutters uncontrollably. He soon finds a light at the end of the tunnel with his disability when a brainy female classmate (Anna Kendrick) cons him into being apart of the debate-team. Hal accepts, but finds problems when these two actually hook-up and start to question that maybe there’s something more between them, or maybe not. It’s all confusion in a high-school setting.

Oh, teenagers.

Take with it what you will, I was actually apart of the Debate Club when I was in high-school for a good year or so. Then, I switched schools, and ultimately lost my love and passion of debating. I still do it from time-to-time when people want to have arguments like, “Avatar or Hurt Locker?“, “Social Network or King’s Speech?”, or my favorite, “Artist or not the Artist?” Yep, that’s about the only type of arguments/debates I seem to have nowadays, but I don’t think even mentioning this slice of my life has anything to do with this review or this movie, because this movie is as much about being part of the Debate Club as much as this blog is about food.

Although I do make some references here and there.

Most indies that play out in the same vein like this, all try too hard. They have a certain bit of quirks that they are way too pleased with, love to show off, and never stop reminding us of. It can get quite annoying after awhile and that’s what has usually come to plague such directors like Jared Hess, Wes Anderson, and even Quentin Tarantino so much in the years. The last subject I never have a problem with, but for those first two? Eh, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on the context of the story and what it brings to the table. That’s the problem that writer/director Jeffrey Blitz has here.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Too focused in on trying to hide that boner of his.

Blitz apparently took a lot of the material for this flick, from his own adolescence and it shows, because the movie rings very true to what the high school life is really all about. Granted, this isn’t really a movie that takes place in high school and shows you all of the cliques, relationships, friendships, clubs, teachers, lunch ladies, so on and so forth, but just shows the type of kids that go to it and what they think about, whether they are in class or not. Blitz nails down what it’s like to start growing-up, starting to realize that there is a world out there, larger than you even imagined, and start to question everything that you’ve believed in, prior to your next chapter in life. It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but it’s the type of idea that Blitz captures well.

However, where this movie loses itself in is trying way, way too hard to win you over with it’s crazy and wacky quirks. That’s bad because nobody likes when a person tries to show-off what they can do, how many times, and how well they can do it, but what’s even worse is that this movie was really winning me over. It’s not like I went into this movie, was totally taken aback by all of the quirky-humor and automatically made up my mind that this was going to be shit, but it was the exact opposite. I ultimately fell for it’s quirks and even realized that maybe I could get past it all with a sweet story, and an attention to character. But nope.

The film wanted to have it the other way.

Sometimes it’s clever, sometimes it’s not. But overall, it’s just bothersome to see in a movie like this, especially when you know the movie has so much more promise then what it’s actually giving us. Maybe a bit more drama would have narrowed things down for us, or maybe a teeny, tiny-bit more attention to the plot would have helped, but with a film like this that is so pleased with what it has to say or do, you kind of lose the point. And you can totally tell that this movie was trying to tell an important-fact of stuttering and how a person can get through it with time, patience, and determination, but they even sort of make that a joke by the end. It’s still sweet, but does make fun of the wrong things if you think about it. Okay, enough of this.

Back to the goods, baby.

Evil woman.

The determined eyes of a monster.

Newcomer Reece Thompson is really good as Hal Hefner, and does a magnificent job at keeping up his stutter the whole time. That may sound like a terrible thing to say about a character who has a real problem, that real people have to deal with, but it’s the truth: Keeping a consistent stutter must be a pretty hard job. That’s why it’s so great to see this kid pull it off with flying colors, but he’s not all about losing his train of thought, he’s actually more than that. Hal Hefner is a good character because he reminds all of us, a little bit ourselves. He’s young, rebellious, trying to make sense of the world, falling in-love for the first-time, and will stop at nothing to keep that feeling of love and tranquility in place.

Anna Kendrick is just about a household name by now, but people don’t remember when she was just a young, small girl, in a little indie where she got to not only show off her charm, but her comedic-timing as well. Kendrick is awesome at being able to show us how smart and perky a character like hers can be, but also how sinister underneath it all. You never know whether or not to trust this character and all of the hope that she gives to sweet, little old Hal, but you feel Kendrick’s a presence on-screen, and she keeps you watching the whole time.

Makes sense why she’s the star she is now.

Consensus: Rocket Science is maybe way too pleased with itself at times, but also benefits from smart, funny insights into growing up and high-school life.

7 / 10

Oh yeah, and he's a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Oh yeah, and he’s a nerd too. Just adding insult to injury there, kid.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

Baby Mama (2008)

Who doesn’t have baby mama drama?

Kate (Tina Fey) is a businesswoman who, for the most part, has been pleased with her life thus far. She has a good job, a nice apartment in Philadelphia, and generally considers her life simple and easygoing enough that she doesn’t have to worry about too much. Problem is, there’s one thing that she really wants to do with her life that sadly, she may not be able to do: Have a child. Due to her being infertile, Kate has not been able to, no matter how hard she has tried, to naturally have a child; so, she takes the next best step in the matter, which leads her to becoming apart of a surrogacy program. In the surrogacy program, for those who don’t know what that means, Kate’s baby will, through sperm injections and all sorts of other medical shenanigans, be conceived and born through some other woman. This other woman in question just so happens to be Angie (Amy Poehler), someone who is definitely not at all like Kate. Which is fine for Kate, so long as she can trust Angie to be smart about her body and realize that there is indeed a human growing inside of her. But after Angie runs into issues with her own husband (Dax Shepard), she begins to live with Kate, which is when the two begin to learn more about one another, even if they also have differences as well.

Tina doesn't need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she'll take him!

Tina doesn’t need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she’ll take him! And you know why? ‘Cause she can!

Of course, in Baby Mama, wacky hijinx ensue. That’s obvious from the very start, however, Baby Mama is a tad bit smarter than most of the other broad comedies out there that would have attacked this premise as dumb as possible. This isn’t, of course, to say that Baby Mama isn’t predictable, by-the-numbers, or at least, conventional, because it’s each and everyone of those things – but working behind all of those conventions and obvious story-structures is, for one, laughs, and also, a decent-sized heart that reminds you that you’re watching a female-lead comedy, that can appeal to basically everyone.

Sure, it may definitely help if you’re a woman or going through the same life event as the one depicted here, but regardless, it doesn’t matter.

Baby Mama is, first and foremost, a comedy. And a funny one at that. Most of that comes from the fact that both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have such great chemistry between one another, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in the fun and enjoyment they clearly have playing side-by-side. Even though their characters are, obviously, general opposites, not just in terms of personality, but also in social backgrounds, you still get the feeling that Fey and Poehler can’t wait for that moment in this film where their characters start to put all of their issues aside, take some shots, get wild together, and generally, have fun together.

To say that Fey and Poehler are both funny here, is doing them justice. However, there’s also another element to their performances that factor in well and that’s that their characters are actually well-written, despite initially seeming like stupid and dull caricatures from the beginning. Like, for instance, try Fey’s Kate: While she appears to be a stuck-up, way-too-serious businesswoman who is all about her job and not much else, eventually, the story goes on and we see that there’s actually a lot more fun and excitement to her life. Heck, the reasons for why she wants a baby to begin with, regardless of whether it’s naturally or through agencies, are understandable; she’s gotten to that point in her life where she wants one, she doesn’t need one, but wants one.

It's set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy!

It’s set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy! Gotta love my city!

That is, most of all, perhaps the greatest distinction this movie makes and is truly a smart piece of writing. It shows that woman like Kate, whether they be successful or not, don’t need to have babies to make their lives feel fulfilled. Does that mean that they’re not nice to have around? Of course not, but Baby Mama doesn’t believe that in order to make sure that your life is great and superb, it needs to be so with a baby by your side. It’s a small piece of writing, I know, but it’s what sets it apart from most other female-driven comedies out there that are all about getting married and having kids, because of some ill-conceived notion from many, many years ago, that says women need a certain amount of requirements to make their lives great.

But still, seriousness aside, Baby Mama is still a fine comedy.

Like what I said for Fey’s Kate, can be said the same for Poehler’s Angie: She may seem a bit white trash-y, but after awhile, the movie just shows her more off as a wild girl who not only likes to have some fun, but also wants to be a bit more serious in her own life as well. She doesn’t need to be serious, but she wants to be. There are others in this movie that show up in this movie that are funny, charming and welcome, but it’s really Poehler and Fey who make the movie work the most.

Even though the movie does admittedly get a bit syrupy and sentimental by the end, Poehler and Fey still feel fun and fresh, adding another sense of enjoyment to the proceedings. The plot does eventually get to be a bit too much and be about things happening, one after another, with random twists coming out left and right, but regardless, Baby Mama can still be funny and at times, relatively insightful. It may not be trying too hard, but in its own way, it sort of is; it’s taking the female-driven comedy and doing something with it that isn’t revolutionary or game-changing, but normal.

And hey, there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Consensus: Predictable and lightweight for sure, but regardless, Baby Mama still offers up plenty of laughs and enjoyment courtesy of Poehler and Fey’s lovely chemistry.

7 / 10

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Normal Heart (2014)

AIDS are bad, m’kay.

During the early 1980’s, numerous homosexual men were being infected with a certain disease that barely anybody knew anything about, except for that it was lethal and that many more people were dying from it, each and every day. Eventually, some homosexual men, whether they be closeted or as “out” as they come, decided to start up a group called the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which would bring attention to this deadly disease that would come to be known as AIDS, or HIV. One man in particular, former-journalist Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) took matters into his own hands on numerous occasions by publicly going on television, bad-mouthing the government for not paying close enough attention to this disease and doing whatever it is that they could to stop it from killing almost anyone and everyone it infects. However, as the group begins to get closer and closer to figuring out a deal with the government to increase funding for these studies/tests to be done, Ned finds himself in even more hot water with the rest of the group, as not all of them feel as if it’s their duty to be out there fighting and never giving up. Some just want to wait and see what happens next; something Ned doesn’t want to do, considering those closest to him are dying as each and every second goes by.

Though I myself am a straight-man, I have seen quite a number of AIDS-related documentaries high-lighting the troubles and tribulations that most homosexual men and women were, and still are, facing when it comes to getting what it is that they need to stay alive and beat the disease, if that’s even possible. By now, it’s almost become hammered into my head that, for those people who were apart of that movement and were in fear for their lives, it was a terrible time and one that most straight-men or women would have not a single clue knowing about. And that’s true, which is why I don’t pretend to act as if I know everything about what a homosexual goes through on a daily basis; it’s just not fair and personally, it doesn’t seem like it should matter.

Born in the U.S. and gay!

Born in the U.S. and gay!

We’re all humans, after all, regardless of who we like to go to bed with, right?

And while that’s definitely a stance that’s become more and more popular within our society as the generations change, it’s still not a notion that everybody feels comfortable with admitting to believe in, nor do they ever feel comfortable admitting just how truly scared they can be of the idea of homosexuals being all around them. For some people, it doesn’t matter whatsoever and is just another simple, walk-in-the-park; but for others, it’s absolute hell that makes people want to run away back into their safe, little hiding places where they can’t be a witness to any of those “un-Holy acts” being committed. I’m not one of those people, but there totally are plenty still out there and it should be noted that this will seemingly never go away.

Anyway, what brings me to this film is that with the Normal Heart, I felt like everything was a tad too familiar; not just that the story has been done before, but the total act of despair and loneliness that these homosexual men must have felt during this period. I’ve seen it documented in plenty of other films before, whether they be narratives or documentaries, and personally, seeing a movie in which many very-handsome, talented people had to act everything out, just seemed like it was going to be a trip down depressing-lane.

And for the most part, it was, but I think it needed to be in order to get its point across. You can’t have a story told like this that’s all bright, sunny and happy, when the idea is that thousands and thousands are dying, and nobody is doing a single thing about it. It’s a very sad story that needed to be told in the darkest way possible, without an ounce of any sentimentality; which is probably why it’s a good thing it was released on HBO and not on some channel like Lifetime or even Hallmark. For the most part, it would have all been watered-down as to not to offend anyone and it definitely wouldn’t be able to dig deep into some of its most disturbing, darkest moments when trying to get the point of its story across.

Which is definitely to pass all of that credit onto director Ryan Murphy, who definitely seems like he wants to tell this story straight from the heart, no strings attached. Sure, there’s a couple of moments that are a bit too stylized for its own good and sort of take away from the overall impact of this story, but you can clearly tell he wants to tell this tale and put all of his might into it. Better yet, it’s a way better movie than any of his past films to date (Running with Scissors, Eat Pray Love), so I have to congratulate on doing that.

However, there’s one thing about this movie that’s really keeping me away from praising it so damn highly, and that’s because a lot of it does feel like a long-winded, two-hour-plus preach after awhile. Which I guess makes sense when you consider the fact that this is adapted from a stage-play of the same name, but still made this whole thing feel a bit tacked-on whenever, say, a certain character or two would be exclaiming their feelings to others; rather than it feeling genuine and like how someone would actually speak to another person, it just seemed like a person ranting the best way possible. That makes sense too, considering that this movie is on the same side of homosexuals, but it soon made me think that there wasn’t a real story here, and instead, just a bunch of scenes in which people yelled about how they aren’t getting treated fairly and so desperately need to be.

For a better, more clearer example, I’d choose the character of Ned Weeks himself. Weeks is supposed to be this loud-mouth dude that loves to start trouble wherever he goes, because he sees it as him “fighting for what it is that he believes in”; not just pertaining to homosexual problems either, just anything with life in general. Weeks is all about fighting and never giving up, even when it seems like people are really tossing the mud in his face and screwing him over even more. This usually would make him an inspirational-figure in any movie, but here, he’s always constantly yelling, hollering and going off about how he’s fighting and nobody else doesn’t seem to.

The movie sees this as his down-fall, not just as a character, but as a person, and while it definitely gives Mark Ruffalo plenty of meat to chew on, it doesn’t really do wonders for his character. It seemed like whenever there was a time for us to learn a lesson, it was usually through Ruffalo and his lungs, without us ever having to dissect something for ourselves. Like I said before though, Ruffalo is good in the role, it’s just that he has a fairly one-note performance where all he has to do is holler at somebody and let us know that, “Guys, this AIDS stuff is some serious business.”

Got some marker on your right cheek there, bud.

Got some marker on your right cheek there, bud.

Julia Roberts’ hard-nosed, yet totally-determined doctor character goes through the same sort of motions as well, but not nearly as obvious as Ruffalo’s. Still though, it’s lovely to see her doing something different with her career that has her acting as mean as she could possibly be, but at the same time, still not letting us forget what makes her so charming in the first place. Same goes for Jim Parsons who gets to take a breath of fresh air for a bit from his Sheldon act and play everything a lot more serious than we’re so used to seeing him play. Yet, he’s also still funny and brings a lot of the more light-hearted moments to the screen, which is something this movie was clearly in desperate need of.

Matt Bomer is also great as Weeks’ boyfriend, Felix, who believably falls in love with him and sets up some very emotional-ground for the later-part of the movie when the AIDS epidemic gets even harsher; Taylor Kitsch shows us all that he’s back to actually “acting” once again and putting himself in some roles that challenge him, not only as a pretty-boy, but as an actor in general; the always great Alfred Molina plays Weeks’ brother and has to battle whether or not he considers himself an equal as his brother, or better-off because he isn’t “gay”; and Joe Mantello has a great scene that really hit me hard as one of the members of this group that just can’t help it anymore that he’s being looked at as the bad guy for continuing his day-job during the morning, and at night, still coming around to help out with the cause.

All of the performances are great and nobody here really tears down the whole ship, it’s just that with more-subtle writing, who knows what could have happened.

Consensus: While most of the Normal Heart feels like familiar-ground being covered again, the fine cast and Ryan Murphy’s stylistic-choices as director make it an emotional trip that still feels relevant in today’s society. Just wished it didn’t blatantly say the same thing, over a hundred times in a row.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Screw your male-on-female relationships! That's love right there!

Screw your male-on-female relationships! That’s love right there!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Should we blame the tax-payers for the war in Afghanistan? Wait a minute, that’s us!

Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is one hell of a wild guy. He loves his ladies, he loves his booze, he loves his blow, but most of all, he loves the one main thing that’s nearest and dearest to his heart: His money. Eventually though, all of those fun times and partying, soon catch-up with him when a scandal between him and two strippers gets leaked to the public-media. Miraculously somehow, he beat the rap. How? Well, let’s just say he got two very smart and powerful friends of his, Joanne Herring and Gust Avrakotos (Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman), to help him fund resistance fighters in Afghanistan as they fought with the Soviets. Seemed like a pretty good idea to Charlie at the time, but little did he know of the consequences.

Pretty sure most of you know exactly where this story goes and is most likely going to end-up, considering after about two decades of Charlie Wilson’s high-minded ideas, we are still feeling the effects. That’s obvious to us all now, but back then, not many people knew of what would happen down the road and thought that everything that this man Charlie was doing, was the act of a Saint-like creature. Maybe so at the same time, but look where we are now.

But I digress. Being that this a movie all about politics and most of it takes place in the rooms where most of our politicians duke-it-out in a “Whose Ego is Bigger” competition, it would only seem right that Aaron Sorkin be given the reigns to write this movie and given a chance to do everything that he does best: Write snippy, snappy screenplays. And that’s all pretty on-display here, but with a slight twist this time around. Being that is the true story of Charlie Wilson and how he single-handedly manipulated his way into a war, was way beyond me and something I just could not believe. However, I did some research, and surprise, surprise! Most of it as all true and it’s only Sorkin’s job to not only show us that, but to also keep us entertained as well.

They're soooo gonna bone.

They’re so gonna bone.

The script never loses steam, as you can just tell that Sorkin is firing on this story from all cylinders. Yeah, there were certain moments where this flick got a tad too serious and had to show us the true problems with Charlie and all of the people around him, but not too much of it is placed on them and instead, what we get to see a lot of is Charlie being a slick, charming and sometimes, conniving politician. It’s all fun to watch and if anything, is actually a bit insightful since we get to see him slime his way around the office, without ever really saying what it is that he’s all about, or what it is that he truly feels. We don’t even really know if he’s a good guy or not, but what we do know is that he’s a smart guy that is in the position that he’s in for a reason. Got to give major kudos to Sorkin for making another political story that’s apparently based on “fact”, and making me feel like I was right there from beginning to end to see it all go down.

The other-half of the kudos has to go to the cast, whom are all great, do what they do best and make this script seem legit, as if they could have really been speaking this lingo themselves. Tom Hanks in the role of Charlie Wilson may seem like a bit of a miscast, considering the guy we all know and love as our everyday type of dude that just so happens to be a movie star, is in his first scene drinking, doing blow and hanging out with strippers. It’s a bit of a surprise to see Hanks play this cad-like dude, but Hanks’ charm always shines through and makes Charlie Wilson a great person to watch. You can’t really assure yourself that you’re going to like him at all by the end of the movie, but to watch Hanks use that inexplicable likability to his advantage and make everybody else around him, fall in love with him as quick as we all do, is a true testament to the actor’s skills. We all know by now that Hanks is a great actor, but even for someone like him, it’s great to see him stretch his wings a bit.

Julia Roberts plays his “gal-pal” of sorts, Joanne Herring, and doesn’t stretch herself nearly as much as Hanks, but is still entertaining to watch. Roberts just feels like she’s one of these bad, naughty girls that knows what it is she wants, knows what she likes and knows how to get it, so what does she do? She does whatever is possible to acquire her needs and not only does it work because she is still smokin’, but because the girl has a look and feel to her that is so damn spicy. Sorry if this sounds like all I am doing is complimenting Julia Roberts on how mighty fine of a dime she is, but she did a nice job here and I’m just giving her credit where it’s definitely due.

The one out of this cast that really stood-out is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos. Hoffman’s first scene where we see him yelling and arguing with his boss, is exactly what we expect from this guy and the meshing of his skills as an actor, with Sorkin’s skills as a writer, is like a match-made-in-heaven. Hoffman is so slimy and sneaky, that you never quite know what the hell this guy is up to, whether or not it’s the right thing to do, or what he has up his sleeve next. However, at the end of the story, he ends up being the guy with the best conscience of all of these people, and will definitely surprise you. He cares about humanity and he sure as hell cares for his country, but he also cares about getting the job done and doing everything right. Hoffman is a perfection in this role and I don’t really see how they could have casted anybody different for a person like this. Whether or not the real Gust Avrakotos was actually like this, is beyond me, but Hoffman makes this guy the one you can’t wait to see show up, speak, make fun of somebody, and just be a dick, like we all know and love him as being.

"Bring up a 10-bag, A.S.A.P.!

“Bring up a dime-bag, ASAP!

Despite all of the great, wonderful and beautiful things I may be saying about this movie, there’s still something in the pit of my stomach that’s holding me back from liking it just a bit more. See, with this lightning-quick pace we get from both Sorkin and director Mike Nichols, there’s never a moment where we actually get some time to sit-down, relax and let it all sink in. We understand the how and the why what we are seeing is relevant, but it never fully hits us like it should, mostly due to the fact that Nichols’ direction definitely seems to be hiding behind the fact that his material may not be all that weighty to begin with, or just a bit messy.

And don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve already made it clear-enough that I absolutely adored Sorkin’s script, it’s just clear that there could have been a lot more development with this material and the political-point it was trying to make. I wasn’t asking for anything along the lines of a Michael Moore documentary, but a bit more of a high-light on what was coming down the bend would have gone a long way. That, and the movie’s overall balance of comedy and drama. However, when you have an Aaron Sorkin-scripted piece of material, you have to be happy and just embrace for what it is. I guess.

Consensus: Sorkin’s witty and snappy script, the ensemble cast and ideas made about current-day politics are all terrific and all, but that’s all Charlie Wilson’s War is content with being: An enjoyable time, with not much else added to the proceedings. Just a whole bunch of pretty, shiny and entertaining stuff to show us.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Ahhh! The beaming light off of Hoffman's increasingly-large forehead.

Ahhh! The beaming light off of Hoffman’s increasingly-large forehead!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

C.O.G. (2013)

If there’s no place like home, then don’t leave it!

After a supposed falling-out with his parents, David (Jonathan Groff), now going under the alias of “Samuel”, decides to leave his rich, stuck-up home life in Connecticut, and get some country in him. So, he arrives in Oregon where he becomes an apple-picker and sooner than later, finds himself to be quite good at the job, despite trying desperately to fit in and find something more to do than just pick apples for $40 a day. But eventually, his boss (Dean Stockwell) realizes that he’s of no use in the fields and therefore, sends him to work in the apple-factory where they practically do the same thing, but with less time and effort. Still though, David finds it hard to fit in or connect with anybody in that department, due solely to the fact that he’s just a bit too uppity for those bumble folk’s tastes. However though, David catches the eye of co-worker Curly (Corey Stoll) and they soon begin to start hanging around one another which starts as playful and friendly, only to take a strange turn for the worst. Also thrown into the mix is a local preacher by the name of Jon (Denis O’Hare) who may not be all that right in the head, but means well and tries to help David become a Child of God. Or so he says.

"Mommy? I want to come home. Apparently nobody hear has ever heard of Cat Power."

“Mommy? I want to come home. Apparently nobody here has ever heard of Cat Power.”

We’ve all seen the whole “young guy trying to figure it all out”-idea done a million, gazillion times and for the most part, they usually work. It mainly takes a fresh, vibrant and original voice out there to make it work and I think that known-author David Sedaris is definitely the right voice to make that happen. What Sedaris does well is that he hand-feeds you a plot that you expect to go from Destination-A, to Destination-B, in the most conventional way, with the most obvious jokes and practically little to no surprises when it comes to actual insight into these characters, as well as our protagonist who is actually the one that’s supposed to living and learning. But somehow, Sedaris changes things up and when you think you’re going to get a fish-out-of-water, dark comedy, we get something that is still quite dark, but not necessarily funny anymore.

Instead rather, the movie starts to take a dark-turn for the worst, but it’s done in such a subtle way that it doesn’t feel jarring. We mainly just as watch as this David guy, as unlikable as he may truly be, practically get shit on by everybody that’s around him, regardless as to whether or not he deserved it. Sometimes, however, he does. Sometimes the guy definitely uses his wise-cracks in conversation when he shouldn’t and he definitely doesn’t act the smartest when he’s trying to make a good impression on those around him. But usually, something unfortunate happens to him and it gets very hard-to-watch, mainly because it just feels wrong; but it always stays believable and I think that’s the fine-line this movie draws.

Most movies like this that try to capture what it’s like to live in the countryside where everybody has their own set of morals and/or sets of rules, which are usually so old-school, that they are easily picked-on, pointed at and scoffed at. This movie’s different in the way though that it doesn’t quite pass judgement on these locals, and more or less allows them to be themselves and have you be the judge on if they’re good people or not. Not everybody in this movie is exactly what they seem, and just when they do begin to show their true colors, you still don’t know whether that makes them a good, or a bad person. There’s a lot of thinking going on here, and although that makes there actually less to enjoy, the fact still remains that the movie kept me interested the whole way through; especially when it kept throwing surprises at me in terms of certain character’s-developments, as well as what it was trying to say about the whole “finding God” aspect of this story that it really does hit on the head plenty of times during the final-half.

Not to spoil too much, but the whole religious-angle this movie shows, is never done in a ham-handed or preachy way. Nor does it really hate on people who do hold religious-beliefs either. The movie just shows us that some people need a higher-power like God to make them feel special and worth living for, whereas for others, it just shows that some people don’t really care if there is a God or not. They just want to live, be happy and make others happy as well, even without all of the praying and crosses hanging around the rooms. The movie doesn’t get much deeper than that, but it’s a smart move considering how many movies trash overly-religious folks, rather than just showing how the idea of religion in their lives affects them and makes them who we see on the outside, much more than on the inside.

And I think that much attention and detail to what makes these characters, whom it is that we see, against who it is that they really are, is what keeps this flick moving, even at its most questionable-choices. Most importantly, David himself is a character that continued to interest me, even though I didn’t really like him as much. Hell, I actually couldn’t stand him at certain points either. It’s especially clear to us that this is definitely the type of kid that’s never heard “no” in his life, has always excelled in class, got into every Ivy League school he applied to and chalks up a “bad day” to getting a B+ on his latest Biology test. None of that makes him a bad person, per se, but it does make him a bit of a snob, especially considering how hard he tries to fit in here, despite saying and doing all of the wrong things to do so.

Office-romances rarely ever work out. But between two dudes? Nobody would even notice.

“Hey, hotstuff. Wanna be my lunch break?”

But it’s a real surprise that although we see this guy develop and learn more things about life over time, we never quite see him change. That frustrated me, but it also interested me as well and made me actually wonder if this guy is actually learning anything new about life at all. I can see why he would want to venture out to the countryside and start to live it up in a life that he’s only read of, but the fact that he goes about it in such a lazy way, made me sort of want to smack him in the face and send his ass back to Yale. Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan Groff is very good in this lead role and makes it seem like he’s a lot more fragile and scared than he what he actually shows people as being, but after awhile, it’s pretty clear that David gets shoved to the back of the story, and more of the supporting characters come in and give their own two cents about why they matter and why they should be the centerpiece of what this story means.

And with two great actors like Corey Stoll and Denis O’Hare, you honestly cannot complain about that. Stoll doesn’t get nearly as much to do as O’Hare does here, but as the co-worker-turned-buddy of David’s, Curly, Stoll is a charming, if odd presence that kept me wondering about what he was going to possibly say or do next on-screen. Mostly though, I expected him to just do a bunch of weird stuff and that’s usually what happened, but it wasn’t done in a dumb way. On the other hand though, O’Hare gets a huge-amount of material to work with as the very troubled, very unpredictable local preacher known as Jon that, for reasons I can’t necessarily give away, takes David under his wing in a professional, and spiritual-manner.

O’Hare’s great here and really gets to the inner-demons of just how mean and detestable this guy was back in the day, and how some of that is still left in him today. We know that he loves the Lord Almighty and although he may push it down David’s throat as that being the “answer to all of your problems”, we never feel like he’s annoying or over-bearing presence. He’s just the type of guy who loves God and needs some guidance in his life, and I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing so bad about that. Is there? Okay, maybe so, but not for him at least and that’s why watching O’Hare in this movie was great because of the way he surprised me with his character, showing us just how dark one man can get, despite showing-off this wonderful, beautiful and bright aura about him and what it is that he talks about.

Consensus: Not everything that C.O.G. tries to do with its story may work, but with a cast of wonderful performers and plenty of interesting characters that develop into being more than what we originally see them as being, there’s still plenty more to like here, than not like.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

It's like they say, "Over 300 apples a day will make somebody go freakin' crazy."

It’s like they say, “Over 300 apples a day will make somebody go freakin’ crazy.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Guess Advil and getting your recommended nine hours doesn’t cure everything.

The true story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a hard-partying rodeo-man that doesn’t take a single ounce of his life for granted, that is, until his life is about to be cut-short after he receives news of contracting the HIV virus. Woodroof is the type of good ole’ Southern boy that likes to party hide, with all sorts of women, drugs and booze, which is why he responds so violently and angrily thinking that only homosexuals contract the virus. Basically, he thinks it’s a mistake, until he realizes that his body is only deteriorating by the day, which is when he ultimately wakes up, smells the cauliflower and realizes that he has a life that’s worth living, and he will do whatever he has in his might to keep it going. Especially even if that means he has to get involved with illegal drug-trading with the rest of the gay community through local cross-dresser Rayon (Jared Leto). Especially then, even if he is a total homophobe that wants nothing to do with men, or their penises. He just wants to make some easy cash and just keep on living, man.

There have been plenty of movies in the past that have touched upon the HIV virus and for that, we have Philadelphia to thank. Now, I know that Philadelphia sure as hell wasn’t the first flick ever to discuss the HIV virus with such bluntness, but it was the first mainstream movie to do so, all in order to get people’s attention and wake them up to the real problems that people were facing on a daily-basis, the same type of problems that you may or may not have heard on the six o’clock news. That’s why it is only fitting that 20 years later, the HIV virus still continues to get the movie’s it deserves to have people look up, take notice of what’s happening and try to band together and find a cure, dammit!

Hey! Remember me from Ghosts of Girlfriend's Past? Yeah, neither does anybody else.

“Hey! Remember me from Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past? Yeah, neither does anybody else.”

What surprised me the most about this movie was, aside from the fact that it is awfully emotional when it wants to be, is how much of a light-hearted approach it takes to a very serious subject, yet, it isn’t out-of-place or in bad-taste at all, because the subject that this movie is basically all about, was that type of person: Fun, exciting, jumpy and always in a rush to get whatever he needed to get done, done. The movie gives us its story, gives us a reason why it all matters, why we should care and basically lets it all breeze-by right quick, where we see how this underground drug-trading may have been illegal as illegal can be, but yet, benefited those who needed it the most.

In a way, despite Woodroof being a very homophobic man that wants nothing to do with the gay community whatsoever, starts helping out that same community and becomes something of a savior to them. Granted, he still wants his money right up-front, and if he doesn’t get the known-amount, it’s your ass to the curb, but you can still feel like this guy wants to do right for the world and for people who need it the most, even if he is a bit of a prick that’s in it just for the money and to keep himself alive. So yeah, he’s not the most sensitive guy out there in the world, but the movie still has you on his side right away and begins to build up this whole “him vs. the rest of the world” argument that the flick takes a little too one-sided, but still utilizes effectively in getting you inside the minds of so many people that were. and probably still are, having the same exact thoughts as to why they weren’t getting the treatment they oh so desired, and if they were, why wasn’t it legally FDA approved?

Basically, what it all comes down to is that people want to make money, and that’s that. Or, at least that’s what I got from this movie which was a bit of a lame-ass way of telling both sides and giving them their story. I get it, the movie is more on the side of Woodroof who literally did all that he could for the same community he all but banished, but there could have been a bit more juggling in terms of view-points and sympathy. For instance, the strangest aspect behind this movie is that the only openly-gay actor in the whole movie (from what I know of) is Denis O’Hare who, believe it or not, plays the most detestable character in the whole movie as the main doctor who doesn’t really care much about Woodroof’s drug, only that it takes away his patients that he wants using his approved-drug, AZT, the same type of drug that also happens to be doing more harm, than actual good for those said patients.

What’s odd about O’Hare’s character is that you’d feel like since this man himself is part of the same community that his character is against, that you’d get more dimensions to him than just meets the eyes. But nope. Instead, he’s just a schmuck who is all about the money, getting the rewards benefits at the end of every year and doesn’t give a lick what actually benefits his patients. He’s not alone in those regards as the DEA agents who continuously crack down and grow suspicious of Woodroof’s “business” he is attending to, also seem like a bunch of cold, heartless a-holes that don’t give two shits about whether or not these homosexuals he’s helping actually live or die, they just want to prove that the law, no matter what, always prevails. Except for Steve Zahn’s character, but then again, he’s Steve Zahn. What? Did you actually expect him to play an unlikable dude? Come on!

Since the antagonists are such ever loving douchebags, this gives the protagonists plenty of leg-room to show their likable features which, in essence, also allows the actors themselves to strut their stuff and give some of the best performances any of them have had in a long, long, long while. The main person who is getting the most attention out of everything else that has to do with this flick is Matthew McConaughey, and for so many justifiable reasons. For starters, the cat lost close to 50 pounds here to give us the impression that yes, this man is dying; yes, his skin is all wrinkly; and yes, his clothes barely fit him. Not only does this add a huge sense of realism to his performance, so much so in a way that it’s uncomfortable to watch him much like Christian Bale was in the Machinist, but also makes you feel like the guy is literally dying right in front of our eyes, just as each and every day goes by.

Someone give him a burger already.

Someone give him a burger already.

McConaughey’s boyish charm comes into play many of times, giving Woodroof a playful, fun feel that works well for him when he practically becomes a small-time drug kingpin, but also gives us a man that feels like, despite all of his cracks and screws being shown to us on countless occasions, is all doing this for the right reasons. Like I said before, he’s not perfect, but he does eventually grow into becoming an receptive, nice, kind and generous man that knows when business becomes more than just business, and humanity begins to take over. Of course, this transition from bastard-to-good-guy never, not even for a second, rings false, because McConaughey always shows him as the type of hardened-soul that wants to keep on living on, just as for long as he can, with as many pleasures as he can, without having sex and infecting others around him. Plenty of buzz has been made about McConaughey here, and it’s all deserved because not only is this his most-demanding performance yet, but it’s also probably his richest, giving us the type of lovable, enthusiastic character we love seeing him play, and giving him a darker side that shows layers, upon layers, upon layers, just as his life-watch continues to keep on tick, tick, tickin’ away.

However, plenty of buzz is also being made about Jared Leto’s huge transformation as well, playing Rayon, the local crossdresser Woodroof starts business up with, and that’s definitely deserved too. And that’s a huge surprise coming from a person like me, especially considering that with every new album or song his shitastic band 30 Seconds to Mars releases, I continue to grow less and less fonder of him, not just as an artist, but as a person. Thankfully though, Leto comes back from shadows and gives us a performance that’s not only captivating in the way that he shows this Rayon character as being a saddened, rendered soul, but one that’s still strong and will find a way to end this epidemic, along with the homophobic Woodroof. Together, they form a nice bond that isn’t like buddy-buddy, but more that it’s business-partner relationship, that has some ties in friendship, but nothing too much that crosses boundaries; the way that Woodroof clearly likes it. I would not be the least bit surprised if Leto gets a nomination for his work here, not only because of what he does with his character, but how, now two, totally opposite times, he has done a full-on transformation, embodying his character’s soul anyway he can.

Let’s just hope this means that he’ll stick with movies from now on in, and keep away from making anymore crappy music. And no, I will not even throw a link in there. I refuse to.

Also, Jennifer Garner’s here trying to earn some street-cred playing a nurse that not only joins the cause that Woodroof is fighting for, but works as something as conduit that gets him bits and pieces of information in order to help him continue what it is that he’s doing to save these people. Garner is good, but in all honesty, her role is stretched-out a little further than it needs to be; and the only reason it feels like that is because it’s Jennifer Garner in that role, and not somebody like say, my sister, Siobhan, or my dog, Pearl. Either one of them, no attention whatsoever. What’s wrong the movie-business these days, dammit?!?!

Consensus: There may be a lot of emotional-baggage that it certainly can’t handle, but nonetheless, Dallas Buyers Club is still a heartfelt, poignant and somewhat inspiring take on a little-known, but very important story about Ron Woodroof, played to perfection by an Oscar-worthy, and nearly-starving Matthew McConaughey.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Out-method the other on the count of three. 1.....2....go!!"

“Out-method the other on the count of three. 1…..2….go!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Changeling (2008)

Maybe this should be a sign to you, Angie, that it’s time to stop adopting so many damn kids!

Christine Collins’ (Angelina Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever.

That plot-synopsis up there that this movie is based on, apparently is all true and surprisingly happened during the 20’s/30’s. But what I find so funny about that idea, is that the movie writes it as “A True Story”, rather than playing it safe and going with “based on a true story”, or “inspired by true events”. You can get away with so much more if you with the two former-options, but nooooo, Clint Eastwood is taking a stand and believes in what he sees. Sadly, it is Clint Eastwood were talking about here, and nothing is as realistic or as simple as it may look on paper.

The problem that Eastwood runs into with most of his films (this one especially), is that he never seems to really focus on one aspect of the whole story. Instead, the guy goes for everything that’s involved and feels the need to load his film up with exposition, random details, unheard of hints, and unnecessary subplots, just in hope that it will spice things up and keep the audiences attention up on-screen. This just becomes a total jumble of randomness that could have really worked, had it been taken-down a notch by about 3 or 4 story-lines. That’s why when he does dial it down, it works perfectly and helps the story guide a simpler-path than it had before. However, the times when he doesn’t and just feels the need to add and add some more layers to a story that’s already as simple as it can be, then it can be a bit bothersome and that’s the problem with this movie here. Too much, too little needed.

If this was France, he'd be the villain.

If this was France, he’d be the villain.

However, it isn’t always like this. For the first 30 minutes or so, the movie focuses on Collins as she looks for her son, finds him, realizes he’s a fake, and then decides to take matters into her own hands and bother the hell out of everybody involved with the investigation. Right here in the beginning is actually  compelling and kept me interested into where I could see it going, and especially when you realize that the way all of these cops are in this movie, are pretty much they were in real-life. It’s a shame that it’s a true-story but hey, I guess it had to happen. Now, after Collins runs into a big problem with the police department, then things go south for her real quick and ultimately, is where things go south for the movie as well. Instead of sticking to Collins’ story, we get a story about the corruption of the L.A. police department that ran rampant during the 20’s/30’s, then we get a story that’s about this serial killer that seems reasonable but also takes away from Collins’ own story, a story about the psychiatric ward and how all women who ‘effed with the cops got shipped off to there, and then another story about how Collins needs to move on. All of these stories seem like they serve a purpose to the big idea at-hand here, but still never mesh well together and only keep us further and further away from the actual story we started off with: Collins finding her son.

All of this piling-up of ideas and story-lines just creates a very long, drawn-out piece of work that never, ever needed to be 2 hours and 24-minutes long. I mean, I guess Eastwood didn’t want to leave out any details, but Christ man! At least give me the Spark Note version of everything that’s happening, rather than the College Textbook! I can’t rag on Clint’s case too much because the guy does have some nice-moments here and some important things to say, but he needed to buckle-down on that time-limit. Without this long-ass time-limit, I may not have been as bothered as I truly was.

However, where the story seems to fly-around wherever it sees fit, the one person keeping it all glued together is Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins. When Jolie isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster, she’s actually out there giving some understated, grounded performances that may shock some people considering she hasn’t really been known for doing that as of late. Jolie does an awesome job as Christine because she allows that sympathy and love we feel for her, shine through every-frame of the movie and you can really feel the utter sadness and depression coming from this problem in her life. Obviously losing a kid is no happy-thang, but instead of making it a non-stop problem that gets old, real quick, Jolie keeps us watching and having us wait to see more layers of her come pouring right out. It’s great to see Jolie like this and I can only hope that she continues to do more of it. You know, when she isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster

Changeling2

Even in the 20’s, the paparazzi still can’t get enough of Gina-feva.

Her main co-star, John Malkovich, is practically given a top-billing next to her name but yet, still isn’t in it as much as you would expect from a big-name like his. Malkovich plays Reverend Gustav Brigleb, one of the guys who first sticks up for Christine, and plays him very well but not as spirited or as energetic as we’ve seen this guy act before. It’s a nice performance, no doubt about that, but a bit of a disappointment considering we all know what he can bring to a movie. Maybe more time could have been given to him, his character, his emotions, and his motivations for helping-out Christine, rather than the 500 other stories Clint had on his plate.

The other people in this cast try their hardest, but all sort of fall by the waste-side once you see how they are all portrayed, especially the men of the police unit. The problem with how Eastwood portrays these police officers/detectives is as if they have no remorse, no souls, or no idea of being a good person at all. It seems as if they are all concerned with saving their own butts and don’t want to hear a single word about what it is that they’re doing, is wrong. Each and every one was portrayed as the stereotypical villain we usually see in one-sided movies like these. It’s not even that they’re just bad-guys either, they’re laughably bad. The dialogue for them is so obvious, so predictable, and so cliche, that you have to wonder just how the hell they let idiots like these actually have the authority to carry a gun and a badge. The one I remember the most was probably Jeffrey Donovan as the main police captain, who has a dated and forced accent that comes off as if he has a stick up his ass, or just can’t read his lines. Either way, the guy sucks and I don’t know how the hell he has a hit TV show on USA. Don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s been on there forever and with him as the lead, I don’t know.

Consensus: Though Changeling features a strong, central performance from Jolie and a sometimes-interesting “true story”, Clint Eastwood’s direction still gets in the way with his constant use of constantly adding on layers to a story, losing his central focus, and never really being able to make it all come together for an eventful and memorable ending. It just flops like a fish, and leaves your mind as soon as soon as the credits begin to roll.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Brad, Clint won't stop grunting. What do I do?"

“Brad, Clint won’t stop grunting. What do I do?”

Michael Clayton (2007)

It’s like the ‘Bourne’ trilogy, but with a lot more talking and yelling.

Michael Clayton (George Clooney) is an in-house “fixer” at one of the largest corporate law firms in New York. At U/North, the career of litigator Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) rests on the multi-million dollar settlement of a class action suit that Clayton’s firm is leading to a seemingly successful conclusion. But when Kenner Bach’s brilliant and guilt-ridden attorney Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) sabotages the U/North case, Clayton faces the biggest challenge of his career and his life.

Writer/director Tony Gilroy is a dude mostly known for writing all of the ‘Bourne’ flicks and instead of going with the fast action, chases, and cool stunts, he actually aims for talking to take place. Which surprisingly works wonders.

The one thing that Gilroy does perfectly with this flick is give us a good premise that keeps on getting better and better as the all of the details start to show up, as well as more and more layers begin to peel. There’s a lot of info and details being thrown at us but it’s not too much to the point of where we don’t know what’s happening. Gilroy actually allows us to take in all of what we know about this story/case/mystery and he continues to reward us as each and every plot twist comes out. The script is very good and even as much as talking as there is in this flick, it’s not boring by any means so for anyone going in expecting a Jason Bourne-like flick, won’t be terribly disappointed. Gilroy knows how to create tension just by having people revealing things and the tension just keeps on going and going and going, until eventually the credits pop-up and he releases you.

The film also does another great job with its script by being very subtle about everything. Right at the beginning of the flick we are just sort of popped right into the middle of this story and we don’t really know why or how these different stories and characters connect in anyway, but through the conversations we start to understand but it’s not as obvious. There’s also never a moment in this flick that seemed too melodramatic or corny for my sake because Gilroy makes it all feel real with these people explaining themselves through not only words, but actions as well. Yes, I know these people aren’t real but the film still made it seem so with everything that they do here.

My problem with this flick is that even the realism can be a down-side of the film as well, especially when it starts to dive into darker territory. One of the things I couldn’t believe in this flick was that it seems a little hard for a company to actually be able to tap somebody’s phone without anyone ever knowing, but it’s almost even harder to believe the fact that they could get away with murder successfully for such a long period of time. I will not say or state what actually happens in this flick that made me think this but it was a little too hard to believe at first and it’s kind of a shame that the flick revolves around it a lot.

Like most thrillers though, the flick also pays more attention to its plot and what its characters are doing, rather than what they feel and this was also what set me back a bit. I wasn’t looking for any real emotional connection with these characters to the point of where I could call them an inspiration but the film, except for the titled hero, never really allows us in the minds of the other characters. Since there is a lot of subtlety, we rarely get a full understanding of what these characters are feeling and even though it didn’t take me out of the film completley, it still set me back once I realized that there was a bit of emptiness to its emotional impact.

I think one of the main reasons to see this flick is mainly for the performances from everybody involved, especially George Clooney as Michael Clayton. Clayton is an ambiguous hero-like character that seems like one of those messed up and strained dudes that just want a break from all of the havoc that they have had in their lives, which is what actually allows us to watch him and cheer him on for the whole 2 hours of this flick. Clooney is great with this role here because he combines some great elements of self-loathing as well as being exhausted with determination and that look and attitude that he’s always one step ahead of the person he’s against. It’s nothing terribly new for Clooney, as usual, but it’s always great to see him in top-form no matter what it may be and he definitely makes it a whole lot easier to actually feel something for this guy Michael Clayton.

Clayton’s opponent is named Karen Crowder, who is played very well by Tilda Swinton as well. I’ve already stated that I haven’t been the biggest fan of her but she’s pretty good here in a villain role that isn’t the type of villainous role you would expect. She’s self-conscious, scared, and one of those hard-workers that do terribly bad things in order to cover their own asses. Swinton isn’t exactly the ideal villain for a flick like this where you would expect her going around shooting people left-and-right, but she’s very good at playing a role that asks a lot more strength and emotion from her and it worked not just for me, but also for the Academy as well because she ended up winning the film’s only Oscar.

Tom Wilkinson is also another great performance in this flick as he is basically hooting, hollering, and running all-over-the-place throughout the whole flick but he’s still very good and adds a lot more to the character he’s playing as well as the story. We rarely get to see Wilkinson in such a role that allows him to just be a loose cannon and it was pretty cool to see him actually pull that off and seem very believable rather than just seeming like he’s over-acting. Sydney Pollack is also great in this role as Clayton’s senior partner, Marty Bach, and he’s always good in everything he does so no change there either.

Consensus: Although it hits some problems with its emotional impact, Michael Clayton still features amazing performances from the whole cast, an tense direction from Tony Gilroy, and a story that gets better and better as it goes along and more mysteries are revealed.

8/10=Matinee!!