Screening Room: ‘The Midnight Sky’

George Clooney’s adaptation of the Lily Brooks-Dalton novel Good Morning, Midnight is a beautiful but bleak look at the end of the world.

The Midnight Sky lands on Netflix December 23. My review is at The Playlist:

Knowing that what we imagine is more terrifying than what we see, “The Midnight Sky” plays the end of the world pretty close to the vest, with nary a devastated cityscape to be seen. It is a canny move for a movie that pivots around an apocalyptic disaster, and one that pays off at times by refocusing the story from the spectacle of loss to its rending emotional reality. But while less-is-more tends to be a smart play when trying for awards season credibility, there are times when George Clooney’s latest directorial effort trips up on its own earnestness…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Hail, Caesar!’

Channing Tatum in 'Hail, Caesar!' (Universal Pictures)
Channing Tatum in ‘Hail, Caesar!’ (Universal Pictures)

For their latest fullbore farce, the Coens return to the Los Angeles of yesteryear, only it’s a brighter concoction than the murderous landscape of Barton Fink, and stares a veritable Woody Allen posse of stars goofing around like stars of old.

Hail, Caesar! opens today. My review is at PopMatters:

[The] livelier moments include Tilda Swinton’s quivery and predatory presence as twin sisters who are also rival gossip columnists, Channing Tatum deftly cutting a rug during a big On the Town-like dance number with a not-so-subtle gay subtext, and Ralph Fiennes, as a sleek European exile director trying to coax a taciturn and nearly pre-verbal cowboy star through a scene of Lubitschian complexity. But as each one of these scenes nears a crescendo, the Coens either cut away or otherwise leave it stranded in a film that seems as lost as its protagonist…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Monuments Men’

Matt Damon and George Clooney in 'The Monuments Men'
Matt Damon and George Clooney in ‘The Monuments Men’

monumentsmenposter1During the latter part of World War II, as the Allies were advancing across Western Europe, special detachments of experts known as the Monuments Men fanned out with lists and a mandate to keep their own soldiers from demolishing cultural artifacts and finding those works that the Nazis had tried to keep for themselves. George Clooney’s attempt at turning that sliver of history into a cool, guys-on-a-mission film sadly falls apart almost before the opening credits begin.

The Monuments Men is playing now. My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

The film assembles a dream assemble and then abandons them without a story to work from. Clooney’s lack of control over his material is evident from the beginning. Playing team leader Frank Stokes, Clooney gets his presidential assignment (a bungled, laughable scene with one of the more comical FDR impressions seen on film since Annie) and starts getting the band together. Chicago architect Richard Campbell (Bill Murray), art restorer James Granger (Matt Damon), sculptor Walter Garfield (John Goodman), and the just generally artsy Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban). (Later on, Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin join the gang for some Continental color.) This should be basic stuff, a few character-establishing moments and team-building quips, plus the easy comedy of watching the academics struggle through basic training before their mission. But Clooney muffs almost everything from the start…

A couple of the actual Monuments Men with a stolen Rembrandt found in a German salt mine.
A couple of the actual Monuments Men with a stolen Rembrandt found in a German salt mine.

The trailer is here:

New in Theaters: ‘Gravity’

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in 'Gravity'
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in ‘Gravity’

Gravity-posterThere are a lot of things to say about Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, but here’s what it boils down to: Go see it, in the theater, and make sure it’s 3D. Amazing film regardless but this is one experience it’s worth forking over the extra dollars for those big glasses; The Avengers 3D, it ain’t.

My review is at Short Ends & Leader:

Even with all the James Cameron-level technical virtuosity on display in Alfonso Cuaron’s elegantly suspenseful lost-astronaut drama Gravity, it retains a welcome element of austerity. The story boils things down to basics. After all, floating hundreds of miles above the Earth helps a character reduce their worries to the essentials: Oxygen, shelter, getting back on the ground without becoming a meteoric cinder. Of course, resolving those worries in this situation is more complex; it’s akin to solving a Rubik’s Cube while blind and in freefall…

Here’s the trailer: