Michael Clayton B+
Starring George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Wilkinson
Directed by Tony Gilroy
Rated R for language, including some sexual dialogue
Appropriate for ages 17+
The Story: Michael Clayton is a “fixer” at one of the most powerful law firms in New York City. He takes care of the dirty work better than any attorney in the business. With job burn-out, a divorce, a failed restaurant, and a gambling addiction to contend with, he must put his life together long enough to survive a controversial and dangerous case his firm is litigating.
The Good: This is a smart, witty, suspenseful little flick that will leave many audiences very satisfied. Saying it feels like a John Grisham movie is a compliment to the film. Dirty lawyers with a conscious and a big character arc usually always make for good entertainment. It doesn’t hurt that the performances are terrific. Clooney gives you a huge portal into his soul and Wilkinson steals every scene he appears in.
The Bad: This isn’t that original of a story. The case being worked on smells too much like Erin Brokavich and Clooney makes a poor replacement for Julia Roberts. Clayton is an interesting character, and worth a two-hour film, but the ground here has been tread before, many, many times.
The Summary: While not innovative in the least, Michael Clayton still serves up an entertaining yarn.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age C
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, and Geoffrey Rush
Directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth)
Rated PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and nudity
Appropriate for ages 13+
The Story: Many years after the events of the first Elizabeth film, Queen Elizabeth is still entrenched in a battle of religion between the Catholics and the Protestants. Spain, being the most powerful country in Europe, launches a crusade to dethrone the Queen and convert England into a Catholic state again.
The Good: As a history lesson, I’ve seen worse. There is a lot of fiction here, much revolving around Sir Walter Raleigh (Owen), but it’s not enough to make you hate the film. The performances, especially Blanchett’s, are solid throughout. The film is beautifully shot and the costumes are a sight to behold. Also, the music by Craig Armstrong provides for a moving score, although it, and the film, are a little too playful at times.
The Bad: What worked so well for the first Elizabeth was it’s complex and dark tone, full of violence and sexuality. Much like you would picture England was at that time. This new pic is very toned down by comparison. Making this film PG-13 might be great for the kids, but it does nothing for it’s integrity. Imagine The Sopranos made by NBC. Imagine Braveheart brought to you by The History Channel. Imagine Disney’s South Park. That’s what a PG-13 Elizabeth is like. It’s a sell-out to make more dough – and I predict it will backfire horribly. Sure there are other little problems like a painfully long second act, and a frightfully shortened and unexplained third act, but the tone of the film is what brings it down.
The Summary: The Queen has gotten soft and slow.
The War – A Ken Burns Film
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Ken Burns is famous for his hard-hitting documentaries, but never before has he put together such a remarkable piece of film making as his new picture The War. This seven-part PBS series takes a never-before-seen look at the Second World War and the effect it had on American lives. This six disc set contains all fifteen hours of unbelievably impressive footage, much of which has been newly discovered. With narration by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the intellectual community and music by famed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, this film will go down as the crowning achievement of Burns, as well as the defining archive of information about the war. As an added note, Burns will be speaking at the Lutcher theater in Orange on October 17, 2007 at 6:30 PM.