Tag: George Clooney (41-46 of 46)
'Machete,' 'The American,' and 'Going the Distance': Did you agree with me? And which one did you like best?
And I’m especially curious about what people thought of Machete. In a strange way, Robert Rodriguez’s gory-witty badass-illegal-immigrant revenge thriller is two movies bundled in one. If you loved the now-classic, super-sly trailer for it in Grindhouse (“He just f—ed with the wrong Mexican!”), then you may well have gone in seeking out a rush of smart/dumb pulp-movie action that dances on the knife blade of parody. In a sense, though, the whole inside joke of Machete becoming a feature-length, wide-release movie is that a trailer conceived as knowing trash could now be expanded, a touch subversively, into a meat-and-potatoes lunkhead action movie for the same crowd that flocked to The Expendables — in other words, for a lot of people who might never dream of watching a movie like Grindhouse. I hope that we can at least agree on one thing: Danny Trejo (pictured above), as the brooding, monosyllabic slasher-stud Machete, rocks, rules, and does everything else that is awesome.
So who liked which movie? And why? And who disgrees with me about Going the Distance? Did it open soft because it didn’t fill the romantic-comedy bill, or because Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, charming as I think they are, still don’t pack the star power of a George Clooney?
Noah Baumbach’s bracingly dyspeptic psychological tragicomedy Greenberg. In this case, Ben Stiller does the honors with the title role, playing a man in midlife who is incapable — despite his best efforts at sustaining a low-stress mellowness — of not leaving his personal stink mark of dissatisfaction on everyone in his wake. But I don’t want to make the movie sound like (too much of) a downer, because it’s not — not with Stiller embracing Roger Greenberg’s prickly nature so earnestly. True, Stiller has tailored a successful career for himself playing guys so full of themselves that they’re hilarious in great, self-absorbed-peacock stuff like Zoolander and Tropic Thunder (one of my big-time favorites). But Greenberg strips Stiller of the familiar, air-quote irony with which he usually builds his outrageous characters. And in his energetic seriousness, the actor shows new dramatic depth.Sometimes the sweetest thing a famous actor can do for his career is play a sourpuss. That’s my theory, anyway, presented in conjunction with the release of
Same thing goes for Adam Sandler, a popular, characteristically lovable funny guy whose big performance breakthrough into unsweetened territory in Paul Thomas Anderson’s jolt-to-the-system “romantic comedy” Punch-Drunk Love led to the fascinating, risky, complex projects he has taken on since, including Anger Management and Funny People. Then there’s Tom Cruise, who winked smartly at his own fame with excellent SOB roles in Magnolia and Tropic Thunder. And George Clooney who, in Up In the Air, found just the right way to mess with his own suave movie-star persona by playing a character with serious (rather than cartoony) deficiencies of soul.
Meanwhile, here’s a complementary theory to go along with my theme: While “nice” male actors improve their standing by playing men who are the bitter opposite of nice, “nice” female actors enhance their cred by playing women who aren’t as pretty as the actresses playing them. Or who are at least dumpier. At one far extreme, there’s Charlize Theron in Monster; closer to home there’s, yes, Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl.
Hit me with your own best example to bolster — or disprove — my brilliant thesis.
The standard joke to make about a movie with a very low budget is that its entire cost could have provided the catering budget for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen/2012/fill-in-your-famously- overpriced-blockbuster-here. (In the case of Paranormal Activity, you could refine the joke to: Its budget would barely cover the cost of one of those movies’ craft-services tables, minus the food.) I’m not sure if the joke quite works with Up in the Air. It might be a bit of an exaggeration to claim that its entire budget would have covered, say, the catering costs for Avatar. Nevertheless, Up in the Air was made for a shockingly small amount of money: just $25 million. It’s no great stretch to say that within the values of today’s movie industry, that’s less than cheap. That’s chump change.
Forget the usual, bloated, golden-price-tag summer-movie decadence; Up in the Air barely even qualifies as a mid-budget movie. (That range would be closer to $40-60 million.) When you consider the A-list talent involved — Jason Reitman, director of the indie mega-smash Juno, and George Clooney, one of the last true movie stars in Hollywood — that makes the film, financially speaking, a rather astonishing feat. The reason I dote on the budget is that Up in the Air is such an exquisitely conceived and executed dramatic comedy that it stands as a shining example of something: At a time when Hollywood, for all its profit, is quaking in its economic boots over The Future (the transition to digital, the competition from rival media, the siphoning off of home viewers), the movie demonstrates, loudly and clearly, what can be done for a relatively minor, almost throwaway amount of money. What can be done? In a word, miracles. READ FULL STORY »
Here are a few of the kinds of movies I wish that Hollywood made a lot more often (or maybe even two or three times a year): a romantic comedy that’s not just about situations but behavior, with two flawed and fascinating adults trying to figure out how to act around each other; a movie that connects to a large audience because it taps, in a rich and bold and immediate way, into the fears and anxieties of our time; a comedy in which the dialogue pings with wit and imagination and verve, yet without calling too much attention to itself (so that it doesn’t make your teeth hurt the way that Duplicity did); a movie that keeps surprising you because its characters keep surprising themselves.
The beauty of Up in the Air, the new film directed by Jason Reitman (Juno), is that it’s all those things at once. It’s also an indelibly personal movie. Adapted from a novel by Walter Kirn, Up in the Air nevertheless carries a pronounced link to Reitman’s first film, Thank You For Smoking (which premiered at Toronto in 2005), with its prankishly subversive tobacco-lobbyist hero. Only now Reitman is working with the polish of a master. In this new one, George Clooney plays a very similar kind of scoundrel, an executive efficiency expert whose entire job consists of jetting from one city to the next, planting himself in offices, and doing the dirty work of downsizing employees, telling each one, face to face, with a kind of eerie empathic dispassion, that they’re being let go, and that opportunities await, it’s really a beginning not an ending, here’s your severence packet, and blah blah blah. (He’s also a part-time motivational speaker, pepping up the very sorts of people he fires.) READ FULL STORY »
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