A Beaver Clever-era, suburbia-set take on the Fargo formula, Suburbicon manages to tack onto its strange plot plagiarism a tone deaf racial integration backdrop and a slew of characters unable to pass as either likable or interesting. It’s an oddly comfortless misfire from director George Clooney, one that seems promising on paper but never is able to click once the tape starts rolling. Snooze-inducing if stylish, Suburbicon takes a host of talent in front of and behind the camera and squanders it in on an effort that, while never outright stupid, is almost unbearably not as smart, clever or funny as it seems to think it is. Read More
From breaking out as a teenage prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s seminal Taxi Driver to becoming a household name to snatching a pair of Academy Awards to her semi-retirement from acting to focus on directing, Jodie Foster’s career has seen many evolutions. As a director, The Silence of the Lambs actress has sharpened her craft exponentially over the years, veering from such trite family-friendly material as Little Man Tate and Home for the Holidays to more adult-oriented material such as Mel Gibson-starring drama The Beaver, itself a horrendous victim of terrible timing. Her latest feature is another confident step forward, its incisive themes and hard-R sensibilities informed by her tenure as a guest director for Netflix’s two biggest and most mature hits: House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. With Money Monster, Foster finally sheds the skin of an actress experimenting with the format and actualizes as an genuine director of note. Read More
The Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! exists in some zany cinematic purgatory of indecisiveness. Their critique of 1950s Hollywood dwells in an occasionally bemusing middle ground; that is, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a skewering of or a love letter to the golden era of tinsel town. Those who’ve found solace in the bewilderingly esoteric arms of A Serious Man or the bombast of The Hudsucker Proxy will likely concede Hail, Caesar! as a new coming for the seriocomic duo but I like my Coen’s like I like my coffee and Hail, Caesar!’s semi-satirical goofball makeup couldn’t be further from the blackest of comedy that defines the brothers’ greatest ventures. Read More
Have you ever wondered what Channing Tatum would look like in a little sailors outfit? Wonder no more. The trailer for Hail, Caesar!, the newest comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, has arrived and it looks nothing short of glorious (and features Tatum dressed oh-so-preciously) . Hail, Caesar! tells the story of a tentpole movie production halted when its leading man (George Clooney) is kidnapped and held for ransom. The sure-to-be winning picture is brimming with talent; in addition to Tatum and Clooney, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand are set to star with cinematography provided by all-star DP Roger Deakins. Read More
Damon Lindelof is a dreamer. He cut his teeth writing cheap cop shows and second-tier medical dramas before embarking on the project that would define his career: Lost, network television’s most ambitious serial to ever exist. Though many jumped ship as later seasons got ballsier and whackier, those willing to afford Lindelof and Co. credit found a breed of nerdy, emotionally-driven internal logic just able to justify a spare polar bear here and there. Its raw sentimental baggage overtook the logical bumps in the road. Pathos trumped logos. Converting that distinctly Lindelof style to feature film has proved problematic. This is Lindelof’s flaw and why Tomorrowland fails: we don’t care nearly enough about the characters present to overlook the glaring litany of internal logic issues growing throughout the film like its many glimmering wheat fields. In short, the movie is very, very dumb. Read More
“The Monuments Men”
Directed by George Clooney
Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Winslet, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban
Action, Biography, Drama
George Clooney‘s The Monument’s Men is a monumess. A sloppily assembled patchwork of scenes, it’s a great story with no backbone that flops from event to event like a fish out of water. Without the propulsion of any kind of momentum, the tale sags, leaving us dulled to the story’s eventual important moments. With all the talent involved and Clooney behind the camera, we expect something with panache, wit and style and instead are served up this goofy slop of events thrown at the stage with all the disheveled precision of a pie-in-the-face. However intriguing the “true story” behind the film, it is apparently best left in books or relayed in insightful anecdotes as Clooney has all but snuffed the life out of what ought to be a monumental account. As Roger Ebert famously said, “Movies are not about what they are about, but how they are about it.” Here, Clooney’s how looks a lot like wingin’ it.
As mentioned above, the biggest problem holding The Monuments Men back from glory is how frumpily the series of events are organized. Scenes flow into each other like class five rapids, positively clashing and jarring any sense of time or place. Tacking a scene set in France onto one in Germany or America, we never have a foothold on where we are or when exactly anything is taking place. Clooney throws date on the screen but they will hop to another moment in time and another character whose location and significance we can only guess. Only when Clooney’s voiceover cuts through are we informed of the context of the content; a sure sign of narrative failure. When you’re tasked with explaining to the audience what they’re seeing, you know you’re taken a wrong turn off the successful storytelling highway.
So as the film crashes from one scene to another, we’re left trying to hold onto some semblence of structure and even the characters give us little to grasp onto. With the likes of Bill Murray, John Goodman, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin and Bob Balaban assembled, one would expect stirring ensemble work but, for the most part, Clooney shies away from satisfying character development or captivating ensemble work. The only time he stops to really try and delve into characters are when they face death. What he fails to understand is that we already need to be invested at that point. You can’t kill someone off and then try and make them important posthumously. These “oh wait” moments ring a clear signal of his inability to save the unfocused screenplay from itself and a blinding sign of his desperate attempts to course correct too late in the game.
Even with all these missteps, there are a number of intriguing and poignant scenes interspersed throughout but even they come across as too clunkily set and architecturally inorganic to propel the audience into a suspended state of caring. We want to know who these characters are but we rarely do. Goodman is just kind of there, Dujardin plays up his irresistible French charm and Balaban has some nice material to work his mousey persona on but none really amount to much more than appreciators of art. When Murray is given a dramatic moment to break down in the shower, he puts in some solid work but it makes no sense in the context surrounding that moment. It’s like watching wrestling at the nail salon. It just doesn’t gel.
Where Monuments Men’s biggest disappointment is its squandered use of a killer cast. I will give credit to Cate Winslet, who will soon likely be an Academy Award winner, for her work as a Parisian art aficionado as her work is more notable than any of the gentlemen with whom she shares the screen.
And if you thought War Horse was old-fashion wait until you get a load of this. From the hokey John Williams-wannabe score (courtesy of Alexandre Desplat) to the almost played-for-laughs Nazi presence, it’s just one long page in the book of cinematic taboo. While this may have worked better in 1965, it certainly doesn’t fit 2014. Clooney has been able to manipulate time periods to his liking in the past but his attempt to do a period piece told in dated fashion works about as well as telling the Rwanda Genocide as a rom-com.
One thing is abundantly clear at this junction, Clooney’s art junkie project was certainly not moved from its original release date to “fix up the effects.” Columbia must have know they had little more than a hodgepodge of scenes and didn’t know how to piece them together. The resulting papier mâchéd clunker of a wartime dramedy is a futile effort at grasping at straws. Worse yet, it’s boring.
Another one bites the dust as George Clooney‘s much anticipated WWII drama The Monuments Men will no longer make its December 18 release date, effectively slicing it out of next year’s Oscar consideration. Following today’s official announcement that The Wolf of Wall Street will now see a Christmas day release, it seems that big 2014 Oscar contenders are crumbling like dominoes. As for the reason for the move, Clooney has cited unsatisfactory progress within the special effects department.
“We just didn’t have enough time,” Clooney told the Los Angeles Times, “If any of the effects looked cheesy, the whole movie would look cheesy. We simply don’t have enough people to work enough hours to finish it.” While the reasoning is fair, it does seem like they have quite a bit of time in the nearly two months before that release. It makes me wonder if there isn’t more to the story than is being shared at this point. On the push to 2014 affecting the film’s Oscar odds, Clooney made it clear that Oscar attention was never his goal for the film. He added, “All we’ve ever said, from the very beginning, is that we wanted to make a commercial, non-cynical piece of entertainment.”
Although Clooney seems insistent that Oscars were never the hope, the move to an early 2014 date will most certainly lower any chances for an Oscar. Whether it will remain a player next year is impossible to say now but I would put my money on a steadfast “no”.
The Monuments Men is written, starring and directed by George Clooney. It also stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and John Goodman. It hits theaters in the thick of Oscar season on December 18.