“Michael Clayton” is a slow burn, with an ending that delivers quite a punch. It’s the type of film that many love but doesn’t fit neatly into the modern economics of Hollywood. Studios rarely make dramas like this for broad theatrical release anymore.
George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a middle-aged lawyer who works for a large law firm as its fixer. He cleans up messes for clients who get into trouble – stuff like accidents, domestic issues, etc. He’s also having his own problems as he tries to dig out of debt from a restaurant venture gone bad due to his alcoholic brother.
Clayton gets pulled into a crisis when the firm’s top litigator Arthur (Tom Wilkinson), threatens to blow up the firm’s largest case by exposing how the client chemical company (fictional U-North) knew its product was killing people. Arthur is a brilliant but troubled lawyer with mental health issues, He strips naked during a deposition while declaring his love for the lead plaintiff, a young, pretty woman from a farm in the Midwest.
The cast in this legal thriller is excellent. Clooney delivers one of his best performances as Michael, playing it straight and leaving aside the playful attitude we see in so many of his popular performances. He’s right out of central casting as the middle aged, big firm lawyer who is doing his best to remain calm as he deals with Arthur and his own issues.
Wilkinson, on the other hand, is brilliant as the manic Arthur who feels liberated by his decision to finally come clean about his client’s misconduct after grinding on the class-action lawsuit for years. He gives us some of the most memorable scenes of the film.
I’m taking a brief hiatus from my hiatus to present the first trailer for one of the most widely discussed upcoming films on the ‘net. First impression: no surprise that Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry’s “The Green Hornet” appears to be another slacker superhero flick, but take a look for yourself.
The performances from Rogen and highly skilled costar Jay Chou look reasonably okay. (You probably also noticed that we get a very brief look at Tom Wilkinson, Cameron Diaz, and villain Christoph Waltz, who I’m sure will be fun.) Still, I can’t get over my vague disappointment that it’s not a period piece, even though I probably already knew that it wasn’t and forgot.
Even though the sixties TV show was set in the same out-of-time contemporary time period as the “Batman” TV show, I’ll always associate the Green Hornet with the thirties and forties, the era in which the original radio show was made and set. There’s just something very old fashioned about the entire character and concept — Britt Reid is actually supposed to be the great nephew of the Lone Ranger, which was created by the same team of writers — but since I’m one of the very few people whose ever even listened to more than one classic-era radio broadcast of any sort, I don’t imagine that will be a commercial problem. There may be others, however.
It’s been 10 years since the release of Jonathan Glazer’s “Sexy Beast,” and yet the movie remains one of the most unforgettable crime thrillers ever made. Much of the film’s success was thanks to Sir Ben Kingsley’s electrifying performance as the venomous Don Logan, so it’s not surprising that the latest expletive-laced thriller from writers Louis Mellis and David Scinto is highlighted by the same kind of scene-chewing roles. “44 Inch Chest” assembles a cast of some of the best British actors working today, including Ray Winstone as Colin Diamond, a gangster contemplating murder after his wife informs him that she’s fallen in love with another man. After his friends kidnap her secret lover and take him back to their secret hideout to exact revenge, the heartbroken Colin must decide between killing in the name of love and walking away the better man.
Though “44 Inch Chest” is filled with lots of clever dialogue between Colin and his friends (an entertaining Tom Wilkinson, Ian McShane, John Hurt and Stephen Dillane), the story leaves much to be desired. There simply isn’t enough going on to fill an entire movie, and the fact that it’s structured more like a play (with a majority of the action taking place in a single room) only makes you wonder why it wasn’t conceived as one. If you can make it through the sluggish 95-minute runtime, “44 Inch Chest” is worth watching for the performances. Just don’t expect to be blown away.
Historical dramas are a dodgy proposition to pitch to the mainstream. True, Showtime has been doing all right with “The Tudors,” but let’s face it: the success of that series has ultimately been as much to do with audiences eating up the soap-opera aspects of the storyline as it is to do with the actual historical events contained within. Since HBO’s new 7-part miniseries, “John Adams,” can’t possibly compete on the same level (nor would its producers have any interest in attempting to do so), it’s evident why the network has felt obliged to promote the work everywhere possible, up to and including every single Netflix envelope that’s gone out in the past few weeks. The good news, however, is that if people actually take a chance and tune in, what they’ll find is an enthralling program which will, fingers crossed, inspire Americans to sit up and take proper notice of their history.
Paul Giamatti and David McCullough
at the Virginia premiere of “John Adams”
Based on David McCullough’s 2002 biography, “John Adams” provides a detailed examination of the life of America’s second President, with the title character played by…Paul Giamatti? Giamatti might seem on the surface to be an odd choice for the role of John Adams, since he’s known more for the comedic rather than the dramatic and hasn’t done all that many period pieces; the only ones that leap immediately to mind are “The Illusionist” and “Cinderella Man,” and both of those take place in the 20th century, so they’re not really stepping that far back in time. You’d never know of his lack of his experience from his performance here, however. The phrase “acting tour de force” doesn’t begin to describe how substantially Giamatti owns the role of John Adams; it’s a measured performance, showing a man who loves his wife and family but struggles to find a way to keep them close while building a new nation.