Sunday, October 21, 2007

Review: Michael Clayton

A friend and I went to see Michael Clayton last week. I was supposed to go with two friends, but one was overtaken by the allure of an American League playoff game. Now while I take as much joy in watching the Red Sox and the Yankees of the world lose as much as the next red blooded non-east coast American male, it's still the American League, and that's inexcusable.

Moving on.

I anticipated a decent socially conscious suspense drama, as that's mostly what George Clooney does these days. Why wouldn't he? I don't think he needs more money. For some reason, I thought it was based on a true story, but apparently it's a complete work of fiction by Tony Gilroy. He wrote the screenplays for the Bourne Franchise (that should be the name of the next movie, by the way) as well as Armageddon and The Devil's Advocate. This was his first big screen original since The Cutting Edge, a figure skating drama (really) and also his directorial debut.

I mentioned that I anticipated a socially conscious suspense drama, and though that's what it was, the socially conscious part of it was not of the preachy variety, and likely wasn't even the purpose of the movie. It was, however, an excellent popcorn-eating flick.

Clooney convincingly plays the title character, a somewhat washed up attorney, part time father of one, and recovering poker addict (hey, I'm not an addict, so just get your mouse cursor off the Comment link). Tom Wilkinson is excellent as Michael's brilliant, yet clinically nutty attorney friend Arthur. Arthur stopped taking his meds, and some of his resulting behavior leaves a high-profile client feeling just a tad miffed. Michael's job is to clean things up and make everything better, which is apparently where he really excels. Tilda Swinton is chillingly realistic as Karen Crowder, who doesn't think much of the job Michael is doing.

The movie starts at a key point in what turns out to be near the end of the movie, chronologically. Don't worry, it all eventually makes perfect sense. Sit back and enjoy it. My imdb rating: 8/10.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Review: 3:10 To Yuma

I admit that I don't like westerns -- never have. They're dusty, full of drama I can't relate to, and the acting is just plan bad. Maybe this is a reflection on the crappy "B" westerns (in Technicolor!) that always played on the tube when I was a kid. Anyway, It's sort of a a rule, so I don't know why I went to this movie. I suppose it was because I was bored, wanted to see a movie, got indecisive, and just decided to see the highest ranked movie on showing in Des Moines. So there's that.

3:10 to Yuma is a remake of the original produced in 1957 starring Glenn Ford, who died shortly before filming began (the remake, not the one he starred in). Russell Crowe stepped into Glenn's shoes (acting shoes, not the ones he was buried in) as Ben Wade, the worldly bad man, yet charming, but need I remind you that he's very bad, yet good with women. Ben robs and kills people for a living, which isn't the worst job you could have in the 19th century desert southwest. I mean, it pays well and all, and it beats working for "the man".

Opposite Crowe is Christian Bale, who plays the apparent wuss named Dan Evans. He owes money to someone, who would apparently rather foreclose on Dan, because he keeps doing petty little things like burning down his barn and threatening his family. But is Dan that much of a wuss? And is Ben really all bad?

Rounding out the cast are Peter Fonda, as a gritty old bounty hunter, and Ben Foster, who previously played Claire's bisexual boyfriend Russell on Six feet Under. He serves quite well as Ben Wade's creepily lethal number two.

Okay, I admit I liked the movie, even if I found one turn in the plot a little unbelievable. There's good character development, rounded off off with decent action and suspense. The child actors don't make you want to puke or anything, which is another plus. And kudos for avoiding trite, predictable, and convenient endings. My imdb rating: 8/10.