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George Clooney

Review: Out of Sight

[Originally written for Mr. Showbiz, August 7, 1998]

Set the wayback machine to 1998. Parallax View presents reviews of films released 20 years ago, written by our contributors for various papers and websites. Most of these have not been available for years.

After years of mishandling by Hollywood, crime novelist Elmore Leonard has been on a roll. Get Shorty, Barry Sonnenfeld’s larky look behind the scenes of Tinseltown itself, reaffirmed the second coming of John Travolta and also, by the novelist’s own testimony, made Leonard aware that his books are funny. (He writes them straight, which is how his characters live them.) Quentin Tarantino turned Rum Punch into Jackie Brown and enhanced both Tarantino and Leonard in the process. Now comes Out of Sight—for sheer snap, verve, and professionalism, arguably the best of the bunch.

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‘The Monuments Men’: George Clooney Versus the Nazi Art Thieves

Cate Blanchett

Start reading about the Allied military unit charged with finding and securing the stolen artworks of World War II, and you will happily disappear into fascinating stories of heroism in the face of Nazi treachery. The 2006 documentary The Rape of Europa stirringly recounts part of the saga, and is a good starting point for further inquiry. George Clooney’s movie, inspired by the unit, is a sincere if unwieldy plea for art as a vital human resource, but The Monuments Men can’t quite do justice to the tale.

Clooney first appears as Danny Ocean with professorial beard: Frank Stokes, a museum curator with FDR’s approval to assemble a crack team of art experts for active duty. As a filmmaker (he co-wrote with frequent partner Grant Heslov), Clooney knows he can’t entirely escape the air of the Ocean’s Eleven pictures, so he doesn’t try; the all-star assembly this time returns Matt Damon to the ranks, with new enlistees Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin (the Oscar winner for The Artist), Bob Balaban, and John Goodman.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

‘Gravity’: Suspense in space sends you into orbit

At first glance, the title Gravity sounds like a useful, if generic, handle for a suspense movie about astronauts who become stranded in orbit when disaster strikes. If you see this movie — and you should see this astonishing movie — you’ll understand that “gravity” suggests an idea that goes beyond the subject of space travel.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in ‘Gravity’

The film begins during a routine spacewalk, as we meet a veteran astronaut, Matt (George Clooney), and a medical expert, Ryan (Sandra Bullock). She’s on her first mission, a newbie who needs his wisecracking reassurance.

This dreamy opening (you might want to sit in the back rows if you’re prone to motion sickness) is invaded by news of dangerously fast-moving debris in orbit, and the film kicks into an eye-filling suspense picture for the remainder of its incredibly tense running time.

It’s a survival story, like many set at sea or in the desert. The difference is there’s no solid ground, or even a horizon: just the stars hanging in space and the Earth — in oddly close proximity — below.

Continue reading at The Herald

Meet the Americans: John Doe and George Clooney – DVDs of the Week

Meet John Doe: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (VCI)

Frank Capra’s last feature before leaving Hollywood to contribute his filmmaking talents to the war effort is his most populist piece of social commentary, a cynical satire of a publicity stunt that turns into a popular political movement.

Hashing out the politics of John Doe

Barbara Stanwyck is equal parts street-smart spunk and ferocious ambition as Ann Mitchell, a newspaper columnist swept out with the rest of the staff when a new owner takes over and leaves a kiss-off piece that starts a ruckus, drives sales and puts her in a prime position to negotiate a new contract, providing she keeps delivering her voice-of-the-people. Gary Cooper is at his laconic, everyman best as former minor league pitcher Long John Willoughby, now a homeless, unemployed drifter hired to play the role of Ann’s fictional John Doe, the voice of the people whose “letters” she writes for the paper. He becomes the public voice, his lazy delivery, lanky body language and homespun spirit giving her words an authenticity that raises the depressed spirits of struggling Americans and sparks a spontaneous grass roots movement.

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