OUT OF SIGHT pretty much struts onto the screen, David Holmes’ funky organ already jamming on “It’s Your Thing” as the Universal logo spins, George Clooney as Jack Foley storming out of a situation that we’ll only understand later, his frustrations underlined by freeze frames, when he spots a bank across the street. And he goes over unarmed, alone, winging it, and robs the place.
Clooney had already become a superstar on ER and proven himself big-screen-worthy in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, but it was Steven Soderbergh who taught him to cut down on his trademark head-bobbing and become a real movie star. Wearing a suit I thought I heard somewhere was inspired by Cary Grant’s from NORTH BY NORTHWEST, he manages to charm his poor bank teller victim enough that when he tells her to have a nice day as he’s leaving with the money she reflexively says “You too.”
It’s a small, funny moment, but it’s also important. We have to believe this guy is so damn charismatic that the federal marshal who witnesses him digging out of Lompoc and gets thrown in the trunk of a car with him will fall for him. And Clooney pulls it off. (read the rest of this shit…)
BATMAN & ROBIN is 20 years cold, and CHILLED TO PERFECTION!
“There’s nobody else to blame but me. I could have said, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ I just hope whenever I see a list of the worst movies ever made, we’re not on it. I didn’t do a good job. George did. Chris did. Uma is brilliant in it. Arnold is Arnold.” –Joel Schumacher to Variety, 2014
It was June 20, 1997, and I thought BATMAN & ROBIN was the stupidest, most tasteless, worst big budget movie ever made. After the wholesale awfulness of BATMAN FOREVER went over well with audiences willing to sanction its buffoonery, Warner Brothers allowed director Joel Schumacher to go full Schumacher for the next one. It’s the same admirable, director-friendly approach that led to Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS, and the bean counters would come to regret it once again. Schumacher’s purest artistic vision is like the aftermath of a rainbow sherbet fight in the costume storage warehouse for an ice skating troupe. He keeps the moody Elliot Goldenthal score and themes of mourning and vengeance, but buries them in a day-glo fantasia of overacting, bad puns, fetishistic rubber costumes and theme park stunt show style super hero battles. For me it became Exhibit A in any argument against the “It’s Not Supposed To Be Shakespeare/Check Your Brain At the Door” school of summer blockbuster permissiveness.
I wasn’t wrong. But twenty years later to the day, after many truly great summer movies, some of them even starring Batman, it’s easier for me to appreciate the uniqueness of BATMAN & ROBIN – the outrageously tacky designs, the subversively in-your-face homoeroticism, the laugh-out-loud ludicrousness of the plot and dialogue and settings and action, and especially the spectacle of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bulky metal costume and glittery blue makeup as Mr. Freeze, playing like a simultaneous parody of over-the-top Batman villains, blockbuster excess and his own penchant for groan-worthy one-liners. He makes more than two dozen ice or cold related cracks without losing his boyish, gap-toothed Arnold charm.
Today I am prepared to admit that I own BATMAN & ROBIN on Blu-Ray. And have watched it twice in that format. And on purpose.
Walt Disney himself is never seen or mentioned in TOMORROWLAND, but it’s a fantasy adventure based on his belief in the future as a place of infinite promise and wonder and shit. It’s a story about kids finding a secret hidden city founded by great visionaries of the past (Edison, Verne [not me, the other one], Tesla, the guy that invented the Etch-a-sketch I think) as a hope for a better world. It’s all glorious curvy buildings, flying monorails, friendly robots and floating swimming pools.
One kid named Frank (Thomas Robinson as the kid version of George Clooney) goes there to try out his home-made jetpack. Another named Casey (Britt Robertson, SCREAM 4) is intrigued by their space program. The crew she sees going on a spaceship are young enough to be dropped off by their parents. At least half of them are women and I think only one white kid. The movie’s dedication to diversity and internationalism seems very of-the-moment, but it also relates to one of Tomorrowland’s secret entrances: inside the original 1964 World’s Fair version of It’s a Small World. Wait a minute, It’s a Small World is in Fantasyland, not Tomorrowland. Get your fuckin geography straight, Hollywood. (read the rest of this shit…)
GRAVITY is the new one from Alfonso Cuaron, genius director who hasn’t done one since CHILDREN OF MEN seven years ago. You remember for that he and his criminally award-snubbed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (THE TREE OF LIFE, THE CAT IN THE HAT [!?]) devised several completely jaw-dropping long take shots where the protagonists run through these crazy battles and go through all kinds of shit without any visible edits. Remember that scene where the car is rolling down the hill and they get attacked by a band of marauders, or the one where he has to fight his way up the stairs looking for his elephant? Or actually I think one of those was TOM YUM-GOONG. But even so there were some great ones in CHILDREN OF MEN, and for GRAVITY they took that to the next level, doing most of the movie in long unbroken takes. You just stop thinking about it, but apparently the first shot lasts 17 minutes. And this is in an era when 17 seconds without a cut would seem like a long time.
Like AVATAR, this plays like a live action movie but actually has more animation onscreen than organic human flesh. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts who are out in their astronaut suits fixing a satellite or telescope or some scientifical type shit when debris from an exploded satellite wrecks the shuttle and kills the rest of their crew. They have no contact with earth, no space ship and limited resources they gotta try to use to get their ass to the International Space Station or whatever. One of those space joints they got up there. Stop me if I use too much technical jargon and what not. (read the rest of this shit…)
During my intense POLICE ACADEMY research I learned that 2 years after part 1, story writer Neal Israel directed a movie called COMBAT ACADEMY. I don’t know if you can tell by just glancing at that title, but according to my calculations POLICE ACADEMY and COMBAT ACADEMY share one word and have the same syllable count. The cover uses the same font from the POLICE ACADEMY posters (and internal documents within the movies – look for that) and also the same sort of Mad Magazine style realistic painting of characters cartoonishly crowded together doing wacky things. I’m not sure if it’s an actual Drew Struzan, but if not it’s obviously based on that style. And Robert Folk did the music. (read the rest of this shit…)
George Clooney is… THE AMERICAN. In Anton Corbijn’s Americanized remake of Soderbergh’s THE LIMEY, Clooney plays–
nah, that’s not true, it’s not a remake. That would be weird though, especially since Clooney knows Soderbergh pretty good. But I do think THE AMERICAN joins THE LIMEY in a modern genre that I think of as arthouse badass. These are movies that are too quiet and leisurely paced to show to a bunch of teens in a multiplex, but also got motherfuckers getting shot or punched. THE AMERICAN is much more basic and straightforward than THE LIMEY, LIMITS OF CONTROL or GHOST DOG, and admittedly less original. But there’s something powerful about its simplicity. Like a bullet. (read the rest of this shit…)
UP IN THE AIR looks like a good candidate for the LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE of the year – the one I like but I’m kind of baffled by how intense the praise is during Critic’s Christmastime, the Season of Bountiful Awards and Lists. If I didn’t foresee that possibility I might not even review it – after all I recently discovered I didn’t even do a writeup of SNIPER, why would I bother with this? But this way if I start resenting it I can read this and get some perspective. I’ll have a record that I thought it was a pretty good movie.
It’s the story of Ryan Bingham, a guy who flies around the country to lay people off. He works for a company hired by other companies too chickenshit to swing the ax themselves. He has a whole rap about how you weren’t meant to be stuck in this job and you need to take this opportunity to follow your dreams. He’s good but, come on, people aren’t really buying it, except out of desperation. (read the rest of this shit…)
Who the fuck is Michael Clayton and why is he so awesome that a movie is named after him? Well to answer your first question, Michael Clayton is a highly effective “fixer” played by George Clooney who cleans up messes for a big law firm, and to answer your second one I guess they figured coming up with some thriller type name like THE FIXER or DEADLY REVELATION or THE BREADWINNER would be corny so they just said I don’t know, fuck it, use the character’s name, I don’t give a shit. And MICHAEL CLAYTON was born.
The thing I cannot stress enough about this movie is that it’s really fuckin good. I wasn’t prepared for that. I heard it was good, I knew it was nominated for best picture, but I don’t know man. Nobody really properly conveyed it to me I guess. I didn’t expect to be blown away by it. But this is just a great thriller, one that works so well and talks down to you so little it’s hard to believe it was made in this day and age. (read the rest of this shit…)
It seemed like most of the world hated OCEAN’S 12. I always figured it was because it was too strange, but people say it was just too self-indulgent, they get mad watching all those guys having fun together and being cool. Which is weird because if that’s the case I’m not sure why they liked the first one. I mean what else are they supposed to do? Not have fun and wear cheap suits?
Anyway I felt lucky they were making a part 13, like they were doing it just for me and the elite few who still give a shit. But I was mistaken – actually they were making this for the other guys to make up for part 12. This is the same shit but dialed back a little, so they are having a little less fun and are not quite as cool because Matt Damon wears a fake nose in one part. It’s Steve Soderbergh’s most mainstream movie since ERIN BROCKOVICH, but not even as satisfying as that since it’s sequel number two and there’s no surprise factor at all. And you get a little sick of all their con man lingo and code words. For example, faking an earthquake is “an Irwin Allen.” I’m not sure what the name would be for making a fun but forgettable part 3, since most part 3s are widely hated except for Lord of the Rings or if it’s in 3-D. And they are in the problem of being a part 3 only I asked for (see the end of OCEAN’S 12 review above). (read the rest of this shit…)
SYRIANA is not the movie about the talking Jesus lion, that’s CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. CHRONICLES OF NARNIA is not the one where Vin Diesel says “I haven’t smelled beautiful in a long time,” that’s CHRONICLES OF RIDICK.
Sorry, my man Richard Pryor died this week, so the jokes are awkward. But seriously folks. “Syriana” and “Narnia” sound similar enough, and there are alot of people who space out on movie titles. There’s got to be somewhere in this great country of ours where some knucklehead mixed up the names and went into the wrong movie and hilarity ensued. Picture a guy sitting waiting for what he thinks is a political ensemble drama. Thinking, wow, I’m surprised this many kids are interested in global politics. Or vice versa. Get all the popcorn, load all the kids in, wait through the ads and the previews and make the people around you uncomfortable. Shhh, Gunnar, time to be quiet. Skyler, you too. Do you need a time out? And then all the sudden a chubby George Clooney is in the middle east somewhere trying to set up a deal to sell a missile launcher. (read the rest of this shit…)
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