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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Merritt Wever

12 and Holding (2005)

Small towns are way too weird.

Jacob and Rudy (Conor Donovan) are identical twins, in terms of the way they look and sound (sort of), but they are different in their own ways. Rudy is far more outgoing and considered “the golden child”, whereas Jacob, mostly due to a birthmark covering a large portion of his face, is forced to mostly stay indoors and keep to himself. However, they both get along well enough to where they spend as much time together and even build a tree-house, for them and all their friends to hang. But disaster strikes one night when, after messing with some bullies, the tree-house is lit on fire, with Rudy inside, trapping him and, as a result, killing him. Now, it’s up to Jacob to take most of the attention from his brother and he uses that attention to make a name for himself. Meanwhile, Leonard (Jesse Camacho), another friend, is overweight and trying to lose it all, while Malee (Zoe Weizenbaum) tries to befriend an adult named Gus (Jeremy Renner), who is in town and doesn’t quite know what to make of this new friendship, as inappropriate as it may be.

Uh, like step away?

12 and Holding is another odd movie from the likes of writer/director Michael Cuesta and I mean that in the best way possible. Granted, compared to his debut, L.I.E., 12 and Holding doesn’t quite hit the same emotional notes, but it’s still interesting in that it focuses on a small, core group of people, gives them some development, a sense of conflict, and allows their stories to just be told to us. Sure, the stories don’t always work, but at least Cuesta’s trying something, right?

Well, yes. And no. Sort of.

See, one of the issues with 12 and Holding is that it tries a lot harder to be an outright comedy this go around, unlike L.I.E., that was far more serious and disturbing. There’s still that sense of dirt and grit here, but not nearly as in-your-face as it was with Cuesta’s debut; this time around, the disturbing-features are played up more for cringe-inducing and awkward laughs. Occasionally, Cuesta will hit a high spot for comedy, but often times, it can feel as if he’s maybe trying a tad too hard, as if the material itself wasn’t, on the surface, funny enough.

Which is odd to say, I know, considering that in the first 15 minutes, a kid literally gets burned-to-death, but still, you can tell Cuesta is going for the darker-laughs this time around and he doesn’t always hit his mark. He does develop these characters and give them enough to work with, however, he also can’t help but give us the occasional quirk, too. It would have helped if these quirks were, at some point, funny, but they aren’t and because of that, it can feel straining.

“So, how’s the food?”

That said, the drama still works and had the movie just been with that, then yeah, it probably would have been a slam-dunk.

If there’s one thing that Cuesta gets right, is the small-town, suburban malaise that, in a way, American Beauty dealt with. Sure, that movie did it a whole lot better and effortlessly, but 12 and Holding does something interesting in that it shows how grief messes with each and everyone of us, regardless of if we are willing to accept it or not. Cuesta shows that we all deal with it on our own terms and because of that, we act out in somewhat rather outlandish and insane ways; we can’t really diagnose it, or even excuse it, as it’s just in our human nature.

If anything, 12 and Holding is much more sad and depressing than anything, and had the movie focused on this much more, it would have been better. However, it didn’t and it dealt with comedy a tad too much. Still, the ensemble is pretty great with nearly all of the child and adult-performers putting in solid work. Perhaps the most shining star in the whole thing is Zoe Weizenbaum as Malee, the incredibly curious and sexually vivacious teen that makes a good half of this movie pretty uncomfortable. However, she’s so charming and lovely to watch, with Renner’s Gus helping out, too, that it makes these scenes go down a lot easier.

Not like L.I.E., of course, Nothing can quite be as disturbing and as off-putting as that.

Consensus: Uneven to a fault, 12 and Holding tries to be way too funny, when it probably didn’t need to, but still works as a small, sad and thought-provoking indie about small-towns and grief.

6 / 10

Gonna grow up to be some awfully weird adults. Just like the rest of us.

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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Into the Wild (2007)

Run away. Far, far away. And piss off everyone you ever knew.

After graduating as a top student at Emory, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to, essentially, throw any idea of a career away. His very wealthy parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) cannot believe this, but they don’t have enough time to digest it all, what with Christopher literally being out on the road the next day, on his way to the Alaskan wilderness. Christopher doesn’t bring much with him, as he leaves mostly everything back in his house, with the exception of money, his backpack, and oh yeah, most importantly, his notebook. While on the road, Chris meets all sorts of wacky and wonderful characters, all of whom make some sort of a difference on Chris’s life, showing that he may truly have something to live for and above all else, may want to get back into society once he has completed his self-fulfilling mission. But, that may not happen for Chris, as he’s already risking life and death in the first place, while everyone back at home clamors wondering just when he’s going to come home, if ever again.

Be one with birds.

Into the Wild is probably the best film Sean Penn has, or ever will, make in his career. It’s the kind of movie that you don’t expect to work, especially not from an actor-turned-writer/director who has something of a shoddy, relatively fine filmography in the first place. There’s a certain bro-y attitude to Penn, the person, that makes him perfect for this material, but also not; to approach McCandless’ the right way, you sort of have to keep an objective view, never letting your own thoughts or opinions, as a storyteller, shine through.

And of course, it helps that the man himself wrote everything down while he was on this never ending trip of his, therefore, it appears as if we are literally watching him go from one adventure, to another. There’s no clear sign that Penn is trying to say how great it is that he got the chance to just let it all go and soak up the scenery, nor is there a clear sign in him saying that it was a terrible decision for the man to make in the first place, for all of those involved who weren’t him; in a way, Penn leaves it all up to us to decide, while he shows us both sides of the argument. Sure, it was great that he got to see the world and really couldn’t have given a crap about material things in life that waited for him back at home, but at the same time, he really did just get up and leave one day, without ever really telling anyone of where he was headed, when he’d be back, or what his reasons were.

In other words, he’s a bit of an a-hole.

But Into the Wild does work because it doesn’t always portray him as such, or if at all, during certain times. Mostly, McCandless remains something of a blank slate that has enough personality to matter to this story, but it’s really all about those that he meets on this wild and crazy adventure, mostly all of whom are exciting and charming to watch, bringing a little something extra to this journey. Vince Vaughn gets a chance to shed some dramatic-muscles as Wayne, a dude who gives Chris a job for a short time and may have something tricky up his sleeve; Catherine Keener is sweet as an older-gal who’s finding it hard to connect with her husband; Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt, despite playing types, also show some more heart and emotion to said types; Jena Malone plays the sister back at-home who knows and trusts her brother enough to take on this situation with a smile on her face; Kristen Stewart shows up late in the game as a possible love-interest for Chris and shows him that there truly is something beautiful to life; and Hal Hollbrook, in what has to be the most heartbreaking performance I’ve ever seen, plays an older fella who picks up Chris, instantly takes a liking to him, and surprisingly enough, sheds all for him, as well as us. It’s a rich, raw and surprisingly gritty performance from someone who, honestly, we didn’t think needed to prove anything more to us, but here he is, essentially, stealing the show.

Be one with the sky.

Which isn’t to say that all of these people steal the show from Hirsch, either. He’s quite good here, showing that there’s more to this character than just a wannabe-hippy who can’t deal, man. In a way, he’s a lot like most kids who are fresh out of school and desperately need something to do, somewhere to go, and some sort of option/goal in life to have them continue on to live and be happy. Could his decision have gone down better and more thought-out? Sure thing, but it still shows that there’s a reason for what he did, and not just because he wanted to.

Man.

Anyway, Penn deserves the most credit here, taking a very ambitious, long and sprawling tale of one dude discovering himself, as well as the world around him, and never making it seem like it’s wheels are spinning. It’s constantly moving, always touching on interesting characters and points, never harping on any of them too much, and overall, just making us feel closer to this guy and more invested in his journey. We know where he goes, we know how it ends up, and we know how his story ends, but for two-and-a-half hours, Penn allows for us to forget about this all and just revel in the scenery, the people, the vibes, and yeah, of course, the sweet, soulful tunes of Eddie Vedder, in what has to be one of the better soundtracks from a movie in the past decade.

Consensus: While it may not have been easy to take this tale and give it the deserving film treatment, Sean Penn is somehow able to do so with Into the Wild, showing a certain skill for storytelling and character detail that makes this journey all the more compelling and interesting, even if we know just how it all ends up.

9 / 10

And definitely be one with your impeding and foolish death.

Photos Courtesy of: The Mind Reels, Linkedin

Birdman (2014)

Val Kilmer, here’s your future, bud.

At one point in his career, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was on top of the movie-world. Not only was he selling movie tickets out the wahzoo by playing a superhero character by the name of “Birdman”, but his popularity was at its highest-peak where it wasn’t that fans knew exactly who he was and loved him, but because he was respected amongst his peers as well. However, that role for Riggan was quite some time ago and now, in the present-day, things aren’t going so fine for poor old Riggan. For starters, he’s washed-up and senses his popularity is waning so quickly that he could be considered practically nonexistent. He plans on changing this, though, by producing, directing and even starring in a stage-adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He’s got the cast in line and while there’s the occasional hiccup here and there, Riggan is feeling confident enough that this show will not only be a smash hit, but bring him back to the world wide hemisphere of pop-culture where everybody will know and adore him, just like they did before. Problem is, aside from the fact that the show runs into quite a few problems, is that Riggan has a voice inside of his head that not only pushes him to do certain things, but even bends the differences between fiction and reality.

Consider Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance, which is its full-title), the perfect Alejandro González Iñárritu film, for people who aren’t fans of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s work. Because see, while the impression is with all of Iñárritu’s films so far is that they are dark, depressing, and downright ugly in its depiction of human being’s lives, there’s something fairly different about Birdman. I mean, yeah, sure, it’s a meta-comedy that sometimes jumps right over that hoop into satire, making it a huge leap in terms of versatility for Iñárritu, but there’s still that sad feeling we get here with our main character, and the situation he’s thrown himself into here.

However, rather than making us ache from his pain and suffering, Iñárritu focuses most of his attention on just letting the movie itself run loose, without ever trying to hit us over the head with some random melodrama; he just lets his movie glide right along, at a perfect-pace. And considering that this movie is shot in a way to make it like one, long tracking-shot (courtesy of cinematography genius Emmanuel Lubezki), it’s a wonderful combo, albeit a very surprising one.

Batman vs. the Hulk? Fuck yeah!

Batman vs. the Hulk? My money’s definitely not on the character once played by Eric Bana.

Because yes, if anybody out there has ever seen either Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful, or all of them (like yours truly), then they’ll know Iñárritu is all about showing us that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and that, well, life can pretty much suck for everybody. But though I like most of his movies, I myself am even glad to see this change-of-pace for Iñárritu; not because it shows that he can do more than just make me want to leap off of a bridge, but because the guy’s got a perfect tendency here to just let his movie go on its own tangents, seeming as if it could practically fall apart at any moment.

Which, for a movie that’s about a Broadway play being produced and the people involved with it, seems perfectly fitting. It not only puts you on-edge practically the whole time, but gets you up, moving around, and constantly paying attention to what is happening, what is being said, and what a certain character is doing, and to whom. Which, yeah, I know, sounds incredibly obvious, but there’s something fun and vibrant about this movie that just keeps you awake here, even when it seems to go off into these strange places that I don’t even know if Iñárritu himself could fully describe in perfect, full-on detail.

You sort of just have to go with it and see where it takes you – which is a perfect summation of the whole experience I had while watching Birdman.

But even while Birdman is an exciting and rather fun movie, there’s also a couple of moments splashed throughout here where the hip b-bop score is turned off, the camera settles down (although, to be fair, it is constantly moving no matter what is going on), and Iñárritu allows us to focus in on these characters, their relationships to one another, and exactly what they should mean to us. Cause, trust me, this goes a long way for a movie as brutal and as a painstakingly honest as this.

Yes, earlier I alluded to the fact that Iñárritu has made Birdman as a comedy of sorts, but sometimes, it’s so harsh and on-point about who it’s poking its finger at, it’s almost like a horror movie. Everything and everyone from the actors to directors, assistants to lawyers, Hollywood to the stage, the Baby Boomer Generation to the current Generation Y, and hell, even from the fans to the critics – no one here is safe from the sharp-edge knife that Birdman is waving around. Which is, of course, hard to stomach at times, but incredibly hilarious that it feels like maybe Iñárritu has almost too much knowledge on the subject matters at hand and really has a grind to ax. But nonetheless, it’s a constantly hilarious that has more to say then just, “Yeah, people who act are usually pretentious dicks”. Instead, it’s more like “Yeah, people who act are usually pretentious dicks, but hey, they’re people, too.”

So yeah, it’s not all that mean.

Regardless though, where Birdman the movie really excels at, like I was getting to talk about early before is whenever Iñárritu just lets his cast do the talking for him. Sure, Iñárritu employs a directorial-style that’s, literally, all-over-the-place and constantly moving, but when he settles everything down to a low-volume and allows for his story to really tell itself, then it makes the whole experience of watching this movie all the more enjoyable, if incredibly emotional as well.

But still, if you look at the cast, there’s still some hilarity to be had; most especially with the character of Riggan Thomson. The reason being is because, well, think about this: Riggan Thomson is an aging, washed-up actor who hasn’t had a role to keep him relevant since the days of him playing a superhero-ish character back in the good old days. So yeah, it would seem pretty perfect to cast somebody like Michael Keaton in the role because, well, that’s practically his story. Which is to say that, yes, this is total stunt-casting at its most painfully obvious. But it’s stunt-casting that actually works.

This is mostly due to the fact that the role of Riggan Thomson is a rich one that finds Keaton (a favorite of mine ever since the early days of my childhood), showing all of the shades in his acting-ability; the guy can be funny, mean, nice, determined, sad, and most of all, angry as hell. It’s the kind of comeback role that so many older actors wish they had come their way, which makes it all the more of a joy to see Keaton relish in it and actually make us care for this Riggan Thomson guy, even if he is sort of distasteful dick at times. Because yeah, he treats his ex-wife and daughter like shit sometimes, but at the end of the day, you feel bad for him because he’s put so much work into making this play work that you sort of want him to succeed, while also learning a major life-lesson to hopefully turn things around for himself, as well as those who actually care about him.

I sincerely do hope that Keaton gets a nomination for his work here. Not just because it will put his name back on the map like it deserves to be, but because it’s a role that literally goes in all sorts of different directions, yet, never rings a false note.

How I imagine Emma Stone greets the day every morning. Except probably with that damn Brit next to her.

How I imagine Emma Stone greets the day every morning. Except probably with that damn Brit next to her.

And trust me, this could have been a big problem for everybody in the movie, had nobody been able to adapt well to Iñárritu’s style; because it’s all filmed in one shot (or at least, edited in a way to make it appear so), the camera is constantly on them, watching their every move, whether it be a physical one or a mental one. That’s to say that everybody here feels perfect for their roles and makes it seem like they actually are having real-life conversations with one another, giving us more of the impression that we are right there with them, along for the ride that is this play being made.

Another actor who gets away with stealing this movie a bit for his bit of stunt-casting too, is Edward Norton as the pretentious, Marlon Brando-ish thespian, Mike Shiner. Anybody who has ever worked with Norton, the person, will tell you that the guy’s a handful, which is why I found it incredibly fitting that he’d play the same kind of person that’s like that both on, and off the stage. Shiner’s a smug a-hole and is definitely all about himself, which allows for Norton to really just take the piss out of his image and play all of this up. But, like with Keaton’s Riggan Thomson, whenever there’s time for us to see more in Shiner than what’s originally presented to us, the movie makes sure to do this in an understandable way, with Norton’s dramatic-abilities coming into full play.

Most of these scenes come from when he’s around Emma Stone’s character, Sam, the ex-junkie daughter of Riggan. Stone’s charming here, as usual, but she’s got more of an edge to her here that makes it seem like she’s more than just about being sassy, she’s downright pissed-off and willing to let everybody know it. This side to her is exciting and it makes me wish she’d just step away from making movies with Spidey, and testing out her obviously capable abilities as one of today’s best-working actresses. And trust me, there’s plenty more where she came from – Zach Galifianakis is hilarious as Riggan’s co-producer that’s all about making sure the show does in fact go on, while also fearing that he may be out of job if this all goes South; Naomi Watts gets a rare chance to be funny playing an actress who wants to make it big with her first appearance on Broadway; Amy Ryan has a few sweet scenes as Riggan’s ex-wife; Andrea Riseborough deliciously plays Riggan’s co-star who he may, or may not be, having a child with; and Lindsay Duncan plays the New York Times critic that Riggan despises the hell out of, yet, wants nothing more than to impress the shorts off of, if only so that she can give him a good review and not have to worry about people dismissing his play.

Don’t have to worry about that here, Riggan. You’ve got me sold, man.

Consensus: Loose, wild, perfectly-acted, and altogether, fun, Birdman is a hilarious satire that takes a bite out of everybody involved with the entertainment-business, while also not forgetting about those said people and remembering that they all have feelings, too.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Fly away, Mikey. There's a better career ahead of ya. I promise.

Fly away, Mikey. There’s a better career ahead of ya. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Tiny Furniture (2010)

Does staying at-home and going to community college count as the same experience?

Lena Dunham plays a Aura, a twentysomething gal who just broke-up with her boyf, lost her inspiration of what to do in life, and is now living with her artist mother and little sister. Aura is finding it hard to make sense of the world that she’s living in, mostly because she feels like she should be doing more with her life, and just isn’t. It’s a whole bunch of post-collegiate problems that nobody cares about, except for white people. We eat that shit up.

Here’s the type of flick I automatically expected to hate going in, but had the exact-opposite feeling afterwards. Here I was thinking that this was just another mumblecore movie where a bunch of people say and do quirky things, all for the fun and entertainment of people that love this type of stuff and why? Oh, because it’s an “indie movie” and their allowed to get away with all of that junk. This movie isn’t one of those that I rant against, and that’s all thanks to Lena Dunham, who, as you all know by now, is pretty much “The Shit”.

Dunham not only starred in this flick, but she directed and wrote it, and that self-reliance of knowing one’s self is what shines through the brightest here. The direction is nothing new, flashy, or original that won’t have you going crazy over night, but the screenplay is exactly that. Actually, I wouldn’t even say that the screenplay itself is anything new, flashy, or original, it’s just simple. But it’s so simple that it works and feels like real-life, where real people speak to one another, in a sometimes quirky-fashion, but still works because you believe in everything and everybody in the movie. You could totally tell that whatever the hell Dunham went through once she got out of college, is all packed into this screenplay for us all to see and hear, and that brutal honesty is what resonated with me the most because sometimes I feel like Aura, or Dunham for that matter.

Hanging out in pipes: totally normal.

Hanging out in pipes: totally normal.

Granted, I’m not necessarily in the same position as Aura is where she has a post-college life and is just trying to get her foot on the ground, but still, if you have ever felt lonely, sad, or just not able to make sense of the things around you, then this is most likely the type of film that you want to see because it will feel real and honest to you, almost as much as it did to me. Aura isn’t a walking-stereotype of the person that can’t seem to get her shit together, shut the hell up, and move on with her life, but just a person who thought she had it all, and got it snatched-away from her in a single second, without an idea of what the hell to do. I’m sure that I speak for most of us out there and say that yes, we have all felt like that at least during one point of our lives. If not, you gotta start living, man!

As much as I may make this movie seem like a total debbie-downer, that isn’t what Dunham’s all about. She’s about showing us the crazy-situations we roll through in life, and just how we can get by them just by being ourselves. You can not only tell that Dunham is her original-self through the script and direction, but through her performance as well. There’s this certain essence of just being plain, original, and nothing but the truth that feels more realistic than anything else in this movie, and made me wonder how much of it she was acting. Dunham obviously isn’t the hottest bean in the soup, but I don’t think she cares about that and neither should we. She absolutely gets by on just being herself and telling others to shove it, which is what I always love in my women, especially my leading-actresses. Dunham’s “no-charm” act is what probably what makes her so charming in the first-place and I can’t wait to see what she has to do next for film, whenever she gets a break from Girls.

The rest of the cast is filled with a bunch of no-names, but each and everyone are just like Dunham in the way that they feel emotionally-honest and true, almost to the point of where it doesn’t seem like they’re acting. The fact that Dunham cast her real-life mommy and sissy was really smart and builds up a sweet-chemistry between them all that fits within the context of the story, and shows you that even if you do get in fights with your fam and have disagreements, at least you can always go back to them because no matter what; they love you underneath it all. I know I would never be able to make a movie with anybody from my fam, but hey, good for Lena. Sure she makes them all proud. Once again, nothing flashy, new, or original, but they all nail their roles and show what it’s like to be young, a bit wild, a bit nasty, a bit grumpy, a bit free, but always dumb with the things they do or say. As I said before, I think I speak for everybody else out there when I say, we all know exactly what that means.

Next time you get depressed, go play with small antiques of furniture. Always cheer ya back up!

Next time you get depressed, go play with small antiques of furniture. Always cheer ya back up!

The only problem that I actually felt with Dunham’s movie is that I feel like it goes on and on and on for so long (an hour and 39 minutes, okay), but never really has much of a point. Maybe I missed the point when I was laughing my ass off at the humor that Dunham has, but the overall-message of this movie seemed to be lost as soon as that wacky and surprising third-act comes into play, and we realize it’s a bit more serious than we expected. However, even if it is serious, I still never really felt like I knew quite where Dunham was getting at with this story or what she was trying to say. Being with family is great? Being with family sucks? Love your parents even if they piss you off? Don’t have unprotected sex? I don’t know what, but the main message of this movie seemed to be skewered out of nowhere, and it didn’t really hit me as hard as the rest of the movie. That being said, it was still a pretty good movie that just so happened to have the unfortunate problem of not knowing what to say, mean, or end.

Consensus: Tiny Furniture is one of those loose, simple, sweet, and to the point movies where the story happens right in front of your eyes where people act like people, things are done, and words are exchanged, but at the end of the day: that’s just life, yo.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

See! Not every dude and girl lying in bed needs to bang. Although it wouldn't be so bad if they did, just saying.

See! Not every dude and girl lying in bed needs to bang. Although it wouldn’t be so bad if they did, just saying.

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!!