I ordered this on a whim after seeing the clips during the Oscars and wanting to know what the heck was going on in them. I had no idea what the plot was except that George Clooney played a lawyer and things get tense. This is a complicated movie. We started watching it last night and the people upstairs were making all kinds of noise and we kept missing teensy bits of dialogue but it was enough to cause mass confusion for the first 40 minutes. I thought the pacing was really great. Usually I’m not big on lawyer movies but there is so much plot lying around in this movie that its hard to not be interested. Yeah, there were a few plot points from his personal life that felt extraneous, but when you think about it, the movie is called “Michael Clayton” and not “The U North Case” or something, telling the audience “Yep, its really all about this guy”. Tom Wilkinson stole the show, but I wasn’t surprised by that. He’s one of those British actors that is just always awesome. Doesn’t matter how the rest of the film is, any scene he is in is top quality. Tilda Swinton was very good too, especially with the very weird character she had to play (I think the Borg queen would have told her to loosen up!). I’m not sure I liked the beginning of the movie. Though it was a nice set up and it sucked me in, we’ve been getting so many movies that start with the end and then flash back. I could see if they shot it a bit differently, like they tried to trick the audience into thinking he was dead or that someone else had been killed. Definite rental. Quality flick. If you’re in the mood for a thriller with lawyers yet not full of typical courtroom drama, give it a try.
This is probably one of the simplest and sweetest movies I’ve ever seen. But not in a manipulative way, the way so many “touching” Hollywood films are, ‘Once’ is just beautiful. My friend recommended it to me and I checked it out on a whim, not really knowing what to expect. Like ‘Into the Wild’, it is not a normal “movie”. It is just a telling of a short time in two people’s lives. Not the epic rise or fall. Not a passionate love story. Not a story of anger or despair. He is a street musician. She is a Czech immigrant, making just enough to get by. They meet by chance. They share a love of music. They make music. The end. But it is beautiful music. The “movie” is more of a collection music videos, but since it is relatively short, you don’t really notice. It doesn’t pretend to be more than it is, which is what makes it so enjoyable.
I had not read the Jon Krakauer book about the life of Christopher McCandless prior to seeing this film, but I will tell you that I really want to read it now. I thought this movie was very well done for what it was trying to be. Sean Penn clearly did not want to deviate too much from the facts. It actually has a very documentary feel about it (“Alex” breaks the 4th wall a few times by staring directly into the camera, as though to say “this really happened but it wasn’t really me, I’m ACTING!”). It is also like a documentary in that it really doesn’t have a “story” like you would expect in a movie. The structure is a little bit looser, it meanders around, bouncing between the “Magic Bus” in Alaska in 1992 with the story of how Chris/Alex got there, and childhood events that shaped his personality and outlook on life. The narrator for the story is his younger sister. Usually narration is a bad idea for a movie, but it works for ‘Into the Wild’ because of the docu-drama production. What really made me curious about the real story was that the filmmakers actually thanked Krakauer and the McCandless family for their help making the movie, something they did not have to do. They could have taken the bestselling book and turned it into whatever kind of movie they wanted. I have the book checked out now. One of my co-workers had read it prior to seeing the film and she said that, of course, the book is better but that most of what was in the movie was from the book. I can tell you the opening scene of the movie is straight out of the book. My suggestion: Read the book first and if you still want to see the movie, then see the movie. Especially if you don’t know anything about the “story” of Chris McCandless. If you doubt you will read the book, then watch the movie (but you’ll want to read the book afterwards anyway…I sorta wish I’d read the book first now).
Well, now that I can SEE the box cover, I know why I was so shocked by the “intense footage” of Beowulf last night. Netflix sent me the Director’s Cut, which I was wary of having not seen the theatrical cut. I suppose, at its core, Beowulf was just an experiment, another chance for Zemeckis and co. to play with the motion capture fully animated film making. I’ll be honest – I’ve never read Beowulf. It wasn’t assigned reading in school. The closest I have come to the story is watching ‘Eaters of the Dead’, the film version of the MIchael Crichton novel that tried to imagine “what if Beowulf was actually a true story?”. I have to say, I found that a bit more interesting than the straight forward telling of the story. Yes, the animation and style were mesmerizing. In the end though, I was bored. There are really no twists or turns in Beowulf. It wasn’t going to catch me by surprise (though the amount of naked man-butt did! what the heck!). In the end, I was left with sort of a “eh?” feeling. The movie was just okay. It was a cool idea. I’m curious to see where this kind of movie making goes. I’m sure it looks gorgeous on HD. But just because you can bring the pretty does not mean you should slack on the characterization. And really, Beowulf is not a likable character. He’s kind of a moron. So, less disturbing than Polar Express, but it left no impression on me.