Friday, February 29, 2008

Michael Clayton - Movie Review

Michael Clayton

Michael Clayton the directorial debut of Tony Gilroy is not your typical legal thriller, it falls more in the visceral thriller movies like “Network” and “Constant Gardener”. The film manages to grab our attention immediately and without the normal recipe for a thriller movie. Michael Clayton isn’t a revelatory film, but it is a smart one that deals in
the grey world that we all live in, not the black and white one legal film are usually about.

The movie starts off with a fantastic monologue from Tom Wilkinson, some unexplained shots of characters in a degree of stress and an explosion to cap it all off, your attention is gripped. Michael Clayton (George Clooney), a "fixer" at a major Manhattan law firm. His job profile is that of cleaning up other’s messes, not litigating
in a court room, He calls himself a “Janitor”. Things are not looking good for him right now : his addict brother has run a business venture that Michael was a partner in into the ground, leaving Michael with thousands of dollars in debt; his relationship with his ex-wife is on the rocks, He hates the work, but the senior partner at the firm, Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack), wants him to stay and assigns Michael to restrain Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), who is a lead attorney for a major case for the firm involving U/North, a huge, multifaceted corporation, has discovered startling evidence and begins plotting to publicly expose U/North, something that U/North’s lead corporate attorney, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton) cannot allow and begins looking at far more dangerous methods of containment. This is all I can say without spoiling the movie.

Michael Clayton is a thriller that works at a slower pace, but still manages to enthrall with its developments. Critical to the film’s success is its performances. George Clooney gives us a Michael who feels many aspects of his world closing around him and tries to keep all the balls in the air. Finally, Tilda Swinton’s Karen Crowder is a woman who is all about appearance and ensuring that no one rocks the boat of U/North. She has sold her soul to the devil and will do anything to keep the company intact.
For me, the one actor in this movie who comes close to a scene-stealing performance is Tom Wilkinson, who does a fantastic job at delivering Gilroy’s sharply-written
and very particular dialogue while portraying his character’s bi-polar disorder.

Michael Clayton is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires a strong attention span and does not spoon-feed the audience. If you can handle that, then it is a film experience that will provide some rewards

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ratatouille - Movie Review

It's pretty easy to make little rodents charming and fun characters (just ask Disney himself, to a clich├ęd extent), but it's even harder to make them work in such a way that's original and exciting as comedy in conventional ways for today's audiences. I remember the first time I ever saw a teaser for this movie. I thought it looked silly and I had to wonder just what Pixar and Disney were thinking. A rat wanting to get fancy Frency food. Please.But Brad Bird shouldn't be lumped into the group of today's CGI animators.Brad Bird's "Ratatouille" is a rich, textured film that explores several important themes while sustaining a strong moral core

To Put the story in brief, Ratatouille follows Remy (Patton Oswalt), a rat who wants to become a good cook instead of a good food thief (like his father and co.) and will attempt to do so with his special smelling abilities. After a mishap where he lives, he winds up underneath Paris, close to the restaurant of his mentor, the recently deceased Gusteau (Brad Garrett). Using the garbage boy of the ex-5-star restaurant Linguini (Lou Romano), he attempts to spread his talent of cooking. Conflicts arise when the head chef Skinner (Ian Holm) suspects the sudden rise of fame in Linguini's cooking and realizes his true worth. More conflicts arise when the only female chef becomes romantically involved with Linguini; Remy is having trouble returning to the lifestyle of a rat, and a well-known yet stern critic Ego (Peter O'Toole) decides to make a return into the spotlight.

All the actors are in fine form for their voice parts.But it is the reliable Peter O'Toole who really enjoys the part as the dark, brooding critic,and does the best voice work of all, outdoing all the rats.

The animation, is brilliant. There is no other word to describe it. Just the one scene where Remy realizes that he is in Paris, and overlooks the entire Parisian skyline, is enough reason to see the film. It looks fantastic in every scene, and never does the beautifully rendered scenery or characters look any less amazing than they did in the scene before. Pixar has really fine-tuned their style over the years, and it shows in how astonishing these characters look, even down to the minuscule little details like a few stubbly hairs on Linguini's chin. It just looks that realistic

Bottom Line: You can only raise the bar higher so many times before not even yourself can reach it. This is what happened with Cars and Monster's Inc., and movies like Ratatouille are the reasons why. While the pacing and running time may be a turnoff for some, the excellent visuals and flawless storytelling more than make up for it. Like a full course meal, Ratatouille has a little bit of everything and much more. In a summer of pretty sad sequels, a charming story about a rat with a crazy dream rises to the top of the quality heap.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum - Review

"The Bourne Ultimatum" has much in common with this summer's earlier "Live Free or Die Hard," in that both movies are essentially one long chase sequence involving a protagonist whose ingenuity and grace under pressure are surpassed only by his seeming indestructibility.

Part three begins exactly where part two left off. In fact, as complicated as it may sound, some events in Ultimatum actually coincide with events that were seen in Supremacy. The chronology of the two films overlap in places, which I found quite a remarkable achievement for the writers and continuity people on the crew. For example, the very last scene of Supremacy shows up about 3/4 of the way into Ultimatum, and yet the two stories are completely different.

Matt Damon again reprises his role as the infamous forgetful assassin, Jason Bourne - the product of a top secret CIA behavioral moderation program. But the memories of his past still prove elusive and he still yearns to put all the pieces together. His hope of uncovering the past lies with a British journalist, Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) who has a source within the CIA who holds the answers. As Bourne picks up the trail to find this informant, top CIA man Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) and his team work tirelessly to keep the lid on tight. And if that means killing Bourne in the process - so be it.

The action of this film starts at the very onset and doesn't let up. The viewer is taken to locales all over the world, including Turin, Italy; Tangier, Morocco; Madrid, Spain, and New York City. Once again Bourne proves to be a smart operative, dodging the CIA's hit squad and staying once step ahead of the guys in Langley. The entire film is hip, intelligent, and clever, without being overly-complicated. The plot is easy enough to follow, but is similar in places to The Bourne Identity. The story doesn't quite separate itself from the original as Supremacy managed to do.

Paul Greengrass, who helmed Supremacy, once again takes on the chores of directing. His documentary style of shooting puts the audience right in the action, with enough subjective hand-held shots and shaky camera work to make anyone nauseous. Greengrass would have done well to pull out on some of these fight scenes and car chases to give us more establishing shots. It's very disorienting to the point of distracting. Often it's difficult to tell just exactly what's going on.

Matt Damon fills the role of Jason Bourne nicely, blending cold intensity with a sense of vulnerability. However, more attention was placed on characterization in The Bourne Identity than in The Bourne Ultimatum. It seemed to be all action with no depth of character. The fault here lies with Greengrass, who apparently didn't want to take the time to flesh out the characters and their motivations. What comes across is a cast of so-so performances, when (with a little attention) they could have been just as explosive as the action.

In all, The Bourne Ultimatum is raw and intense with a ton of action - spectacular fight scenes, car chases, and gun battles. Bourne is the new Bond.