Posts Tagged ‘George Clooney’

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Gravity (d. Alfonso Cuaron, w. Alfonso & Jonas Cuaron)

Grade:  A+

You’ve seen the commercials.  You couldn’t avoid them.  They were everywhere leading up to the release of the film.  You know the stars, they’re only two of the biggest names in Hollywood.  Maybe you’re familiar with the director.  Alfonso Cuaron is the man who directed the most enjoyable of the Harry Potter films, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  He also directed one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years, Children of Men.

But with his latest, and almost certainly his greatest, Cuaron has cemented his reputation as one of the best filmmakers of his era.

Two astronauts, veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), are on a routine spacewalk to install new hardware on the Hubble telescope.  A missile strike by the Russians on one of their own satellites starts a chain reaction with devastating effect.  They soon find themselves in an impossible situation with no clear course for escape.  Their only certainty is that another wave of destruction will be speeding its way through orbit at catastrophic speed.

In a brief 90 minutes (a refreshing change from the overwrought, overdone blockbusters of the summer,) Cuaron delivers what is basically a two person stage production set in space.  It features some of, if not THE, most impressive visual effects I’ve ever seen.  The films opens with what appears to be a seamless 15-20 minute shot of the shuttle crew as they complete their mission, blissfully unaware of what is to come.  They exchange in small talk and banter with mission control (voiced by Ed Harris in what is perhaps a nod to the similar role he played in Apollo 13.)  It is here where we first see the steely, professional swagger of Clooney’s Kowalski on his last mission before retirement.  Bullock’s Stone is nervous and overwhelmed when faced with the infinite void of all of creation.  The two really carry the film and provide the emotional depth beyond the visual splendor.  Beyond the visuals and the acting, the subject matter  resonates with the viewer because we know something like this could happen.  I’m old to remember the Challenger disaster.  And I certainly remember the Colombia disaster of 2003.  I recall seeing the footage of the shuttle breaking up as it entered our atmosphere.  That imagery is reflected in shots in this film and it is sobering.

This is a movie worth seeing as big and loud as you possibly can.  Of course there is no sound in space (a fact the film reasserts in a brief written intro) but here there is a propulsive score by Steven Price that heightens the ever-increasing jeopardy of the astronauts.  Hell, I’ve already bought the soundtrack.  It’s wonderful.  On the presentation side of things, It’s rare for me to recommend 3D or Imax but this is a film one should see in its intended format.  The larger screen conveys the vastness of space and shows just how small we are in the grand scope of things.

Big, bold and beautiful, Cuaron reaffirms the power of cinema.  He reminds us that movies can still be magical.  The least anyone can do is take an hour and a half to appreciate what he’s done.  I highly recommend you do.

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The internet exploded on the evening of Thursday, August 22, 2013 with the official press release that Warner Bros had picked Academy Award-winning director/screenwriter/actor Ben Affleck to portray Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 2015 sequel to this year’s Man of Steel.  I was in a screening of the home invasion flick You’re Next (it’s really good, go see it) when the news broke but upon seeing mention of the casting on my Twitter feed I immediately started scrolling through my history to gauge the reaction of those I follow.  I’d love to say I was surprised by the unfettered negativity to which I was exposed but as this was the internet (let’s be honest about this) it seemed par for the course.

Speculation had run rampant as to who would portray the Dark Knight since Comic-Con in San Diego where Warner’s announced plans to introduce the Caped Crusader into the Superman universe in the follow-up to the worldwide smash.  I love Man of Steel and felt it was a great reintroduction to the character.  However, there was much fanboy outcry as to certain decisions the filmmakers made.  A sequel was certain but there was most likely some behind-the-scenes concern about the overall reaction to the film.  Execs were speculating prior to its release that it might end up being the biggest money-maker in the studio’s history surpassing even the huge performances of Christopher Nolan’s  Dark Knight films.  It failed to reach those lofty heights domestically, grossing just under $300 million dollars which combined with worldwide grosses made for a hefty total of $650 mill.  That’s a lot of skrilla but when compared to the $1 billion worldwide Marvel’s Iron Man 3 made earlier in the summer it was almost certainly disappointing.

Marvel, owned by Disney, has set up their own studio and made a series of interconnected movies starring characters that were probably unfamiliar to anyone who didn’t have at least a casual history of reading comics.  Beginning with the inspired casting of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man and ending with the dream team-up of all their heroes in the fun (but overrated) Avengers, the first phase of their movie universe was an unqualified success.  Some of the flicks were better than others but overall it was a job very well done.  Marvel has begun the second phase of their film saga which will ultimately lead to a second Avengers film.  These films include the already released third Downey flick, sequels to Captain America & Thor flicks, and the untested Guardians of the Galaxy, a little known property of the Marvel Universe which is easy pickings for reinterpretation.  It’s the only crap shoot in the lot and the only one I’m looking forward to.  They are already planning a third phase of films rumored to feature a whole bunch of B-list characters.  The majority of the world’s population has never heard of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther.  I’ll be very curious to see the box office numbers on THOSE characters.

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And that brings us back to Warner’s and the biggest problem facing a studio desperate to bite off some of that box office pie that’s being hogged by the house that Walt built.  Because let us never forget that studios are in the business of making money and making as much money as they can.   To compete with Marvel/Disney on this battlefield, DC/Warner’s needs to jump-start their universe filling it with the likes of a Flash, a Wonder Woman and (another?) Green Lantern.  But no one’s going to watch a Justice League movie for those characters alone.  You need a Superman and you most definitely need a Batman because THEY are the icons.  If you show their symbol to some kid in Baghdad, there’s  good chance that kid’s going to know what it means.  So, of course, there will be insane scrutiny where matters of casting these characters are concerned.

The studio went the Christopher Reeve route when casting the latest Kal-El by choosing a relative unknown to anyone who hadn’t seen Showtime’s The Tudors.  I felt Henry Cavill did a very good job (with some obvious room for improvement) and I look forward to his future work as the character.  If the film had done even better, they MIGHT have let him have another movie all to his own to further his story.  But that didn’t happen.  So how do you generate excitement for a sequel?  You give the fans what they want.  You give them something they’ve been promised for many, many years.  You give them Superman AND Batman.

Supposedly, Christian Bale was offered fat stacks of cash to once more reprise his role as the world’s angriest orphan.  He turned them down.  So what next?  Do you go for another unknown a la Supes?  Do you go old or young?  What the hell do you do?  Because, as has become all too apparent, whatever you do someone (most likely a lot of someones) is going to be pissed.  And why do we get pissed?  Why do we care so much?  Because, as I said earlier, they are ICONS.  We’ve all done our dream casting.  We all have our ideal.  Those who care have been casting this movie for decades.  Sure I would’ve loved to see Clint Eastwood portraying a grizzled Bruce Wayne once more donning the cowl to fight an insane Joker and a fascist Superman.  Twenty years ago.  Never happened.  Never will.  Time to move on.  And so the studio does some testing, has actors read, God knows what.  And they make a decision.  And the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins…with a fury.  Because, this is Batman and we all have our own Batman.  And, I guess for many of you, Affleck ain’t him.

And that’s okay.  You’re entitled to your opinion.  I bet you go see it though if for no other reason than to hate watch it and talk about it on whatever social media service is popular in 2 years. It’s what we do.  We’re geeks.

I’m old enough to remember the negative reaction to Michael Keaton’s casting in the titular Tim Burton film.  No one, it seemed, was thrilled at the notion.  The movie came out and, as it turns out, Keaton did a good job.  He might be my favorite modern Batman.  So, if Mr. Mom can do it why not Chris Knight (yes, that’s a Real Genius reference and I’m damn proud of it)?  How about that one guy who was in The Facts of LIfe?  Ooh, I know…let’s get that kid from Empire of the Sun!  You mean the one who grew up to be Patrick Bateman?  Yeah, that guy!

Seriously, take a look at these dweebs.  Do any of them scream Bruce Wayne?  Can you see any of them under the cowl?

You gave them a chance.  To the tune of $1,895,000,000. And some loose change.  So if you’re willing to support them, why not this guy?

Settle down Nerds and give O’Bannion a chance!