Tag Archives: Demi Moore

A Few Good Men (1992) 4/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76
Genre: Drama
Duration: 138 mins
Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore

One of the most quoted movies in recent decades, Rob Reiner and Aaron Sorkin’s legal drama pits Tom Cruise’s talented young JAG Corps officer against Jack Nicholson’s tyrannical Marine Corps division commander. Cruise excels as the plucky lawyer faced with the task of defending two marines on trial for murder. However, this one will always be remembered for his co-star’s scenery-chewing turn as the defendants’ base commander and the man behind their illicit orders to “train” the soon-to-be victim. A host of top names fill out the rest of the bill with both Demi Moore and Kevin Pollak (as Cruiser’s legal team) playing more grounded roles than was typical of their careers at that point. Kevin Bacon is his usual safe pair of hands as the prosecutor while a nasty Kiefer Sutherland and the late great J.T. Walsh offer strong support as Nicholson’s underlings. Sorkin’s sharp script is best remembered for its relentless courtroom dialogue but it’s laced with subtleties that augment the drama from all angles. From its nods to the various character’s backgrounds to the unspoken enmity between the Marines and the Navy, they provide a rich subtext to the plot. From the director’s chair, Reiner generates a palpable tension and swift pace from the screenplay with much help from composer Marc Shaiman’s exciting score and, of course, his two leads. Though “Colonel Nathan Jessup” has probably gone down as Nicholson’s most famous role and though he certainly provides the lion’s share of the movie’s dramatic thump, it’s not the most nuanced piece of acting we’ve seen from the screen legend. Playing up to a caricature of his own celebrity, he never attempts to escape his “Big Jack” persona and is content to let his famous sneering delivery and scathing smile do most of the work. Not that it hurts the movie in the slightest but it seems a relevant footnote when discussing one of modern cinema’s most memorable characters.

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Mr. Brooks (2007) 3.43/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 71
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 120 mins
Director: Bruce A. Evans
Stars: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt

Okay, so the plot is way over the top but this quirky little movie about a wealthy serial killer (Kevin Costner) battling with his impulses to kill (personified in the form of alter ego William Hurt) is both an amusing black comedy and a very engaging thriller. Costner is as good as ever in the title role and his balancing of family man, business tycoon, tortured soul, and meticulous serial killer wasn’t an easy one to pull off particularly because of the story’s comedic artifice. But he actually nails it and makes for a charming lead who we root for throughout. Hurt is in giddy form as his twisted Id, a partner in crime, who nobody else can see or hear, while Demi Moore continues her recent revival with an equally charming turn as the detective on his trail. Where Mr. Brooks stalls is in the multitude of subplots it presents us with. Actually, four of them work quite effectively together but a fifth involving Moore’s pursuit of a second unrelated murderer is needless and distracting. But while it takes from the integrity of the story, writer director Bruce A. Evans and co-writer Raynold Evans’ irreverent approach to the subject matter softens the blow. Simply put, Mr. Brooks is just about the fun we get from following its twisted plot and seeing three of Hollywood’s old hands plying their trade with the charm and savvy that many of their recent counterparts are missing.

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The Joneses (2009) 3.57/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 68.9
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Duration: 96 mins
Director: Derrick Borte
Stars: Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard

Fresh drama with touches of genuine thoughtfulness. Duchovny and Moore play specialty salespeople who pose as husband and wife and together with their “children” form a showcase family in order to sell a particular lifestyle and the consumer products that go with it. Despite a predictable enough ending this is a film that hits all the right notes due to a clever script, some slick production values, an excellent on-screen chemistry between the two leads, and uniformly excellent acting. Duchovny is as watchable as ever in a role tailor made for someone as intuitively funny and dry as he is while Moore turns in her best performance in years. Glenda Headly and the always excellent Gary Cole are also on hand to add solid support.

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Disclosure (1994) 4/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 74.2
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 128 mins
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Michael Douglas, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland

Michael Douglas stars as an IT executive who struggles to keep his job when his new boss and former girlfriend (Demi Moore) accuses him of sexual harassment after he spurns her advances at a late night meeting. Barry Levinson’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel could’ve been dismissed as just another sexual thriller coming as it did on the back of Douglas’ controversial Basic Instinct, but thanks to some delicious plot and character construction, it becomes a cleverly gauged and robust investigation into sexual politics set against a colourful background of corporate intrigue.

Douglas was always a dab hand at playing the wounded cad but he puts a nice spin on the concept in this movie by playing a dedicated family man who, with the exception of partaking in a few risky water cooler jokes and some presumptive behaviour towards female colleagues, has put his wildcatting years behind him. As the splash of ice water from his past, Moore is impressively biting, and her character is used exquisitely to phase plot and commentary multiple times over. Some impressive acting talent rounds off the cast with Donald Sutherland and the always excellent Dylan Baker playing the ruthless head honcho and slimey lackey respectively and Roma Maffia weighing in as an expert sexual harassment attorney (“She’d change her name to “TV Listings” to get it into the paper”). Most importantly for a dramatic thriller, the cast and director are all working from the same page. A persistent yet delicate intertwining of the various subplots arises not just through their characters’ energetic dialogue but also their mannerisms and the way in which Levinson’s lens seems to nonchalantly capture them.

But what truly sets Disclosure apart from the standard thriller is the confidently skewed approach from its director. The palette of soft colours and generous lighting combine with eye catching production design to give the film a distinct personality which Ennio Morricone’s imaginative and low humming score keys in on. This furnishes the proceedings with a terrific sense of excitement in place of more traditional physical drama and prevents the 24 carat mind-games from setting too dry a tone. Enriching this context further is the 90’s tech boom, in the middle of which, the story is set. As usual, Crichton gauged the future of digital application with a certain degree of insight but more important than any such historical relevance is the manner in which it helps sets a modern “verge of the future” vibe and so augments the more updated conceptions of sexual harassment that the film presents us with. Disclosure has been unfairly pigeon holed over the years as everything from a run of the mill thriller to a piece of fluff. If anyone cares to inspect it, they will see it’s much more.

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Margin Call (2011) 4/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 78.4
Genre: Drama
Duration: 107 mins
Director: J.C. Chandor
Stars: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey

There have been a few attempts to depict the types of wheeling and dealings that underlay the catastrophic financial meltdown of 2008. Some have missed the mark such as Oliver Stone’s Money Never Sleeps while some have got closer like Curtis Hanson’s TV movie Too Big to Fail. However, all fall in the wake of J.C. Chandor’s elegant Margin Call. It won’t take long to guess the real life investment bank that the story focuses on even though it’s never named and the film plays carefully on the audience’s still raw nerves to augment the sense of impending doom.

Margin Call begins with a series of humiliating and utterly tactless firings by the corporation in question as they proceed with their most recent culling. As one of the higher profile victims of the purge (Stanley Tucci’s risk manager) is escorted out of the building, cardboard box in hand, he gives his protege (Zachary Quinto) a disk containing a risk analysis he was in the middle of completing. When the younger analyst stays late and completes the work, he discovers that the bank is chronically over extended and has somehow ended up with more potential dept on its books than the entire value of the company. The cavalry are scrambled and a series of panicked meetings are held proceeding up the echelons of the company until the head honchos, led by Jeremy Irons’ master of the universe, are choppered in to take drastic action.

What that action is we probably already know and it ain’t good for the rest of the world but Chandor’s great achievement here is that he nonetheless keeps us on tenterhooks. He also prevents this film from becoming a finger pointing exercise, thereby distracting from the overarching issue, the inherent fault within the system. There are no unequivocally bad guys here. They’re all human beings just trying to make the best of their situations. Yes, some are more ruthless than others within those parameters and all are guilty of looking after themselves without the smallest consideration for anyone else but there’s nothing that would reflect typical evil archetypes. As it happens, this approach also makes the film more engaging because each of the characters are allowed to grow into something more real than a caricature and so the crisis is continuously informed by their strengths and weaknesses. Everybody is extremely smart at their own job, egocentric enough to remain ignorant of the other’s, and reckless enough to ignore that problem.

If the story of the crisis describes a perfect storm of contributory factors, the film represents an almost perfect coming together of writing, acting, and directing. The script is often electric and pitched at just right level. The dialogue is technical but not so it loses the audience. It’s also articulate and infused with an escalating anxiety. But amazingly, it’s also very subjective. Every sentence uttered reveals more about the characters’ sentiments while assuredly driving the subtle emotional angles to story. There are moments towards the end of the film when the dialogue runs a little flat but thankfully the personality of the players fills the breach. Kevin Spacey is better than he has been in some time as the head trader whose personal life intersects with the emerging crisis in a manner that both steels him to pressure from above and makes him more sensitive to the implications it will have for the profession he still values. Quinto (who also produced the film) is the slightly incredulous number cruncher extraordinaire who is almost imperceptibly assimilated into the machinery of his company as the night rolls on.

Spacey and Quinto both put in interesting shifts as do Tucci and Demi Moore but it’s Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, and surprisingly Simon Baker who churn and burn through their lines. Bettany adds an important vigour to the slow pace of the film as the cocky trader. It could easily have veered towards just another too cool for school turn but he underlays it all with a nervous energy not to mention a curiously revealed moral compass. Baker makes for a terrific second in command who levels his well written character with an unscrupulous calm. But he still manages to sheen his unflappable exterior with the odd bead of sweat which again helps to emphasise the seriousness of the situation. The arch scene stealer himself, Jeremy Irons, after a tasty if not brilliant directorial buildup from Chandor, is introduced later than the rest but he owns the camera when he enters its frame. He is the very definition of commanding as is required of his character but he too finds all manner of near invisible ways to imbue his character with subtle desperation. But at all times, his delivery is suave and erudite and he makes for addictive viewing.

The final touch of class is Chandor’s polished stewardship. Okay, so there are a couple of coarse metaphors scattered about the film but, for the most part, Margin Call is wonderfully constructed. Feeding off his precisely structured script, Chandor paces the film immaculately so that the film glides forward under the invading tension. There are also some artfully sculpted interior and exterior shots which are adroitly complemented by Nathan Larson’s softly mechanical and very beautiful score. However, it’s Chandor’s general use of sound that adds perhaps the most depth to the drama. Whether it’s from the nervous, defensive, and/or accusatory back-and-forths of the protagonists or the diegetic sound of the offices during varying states of business, this film seems to exude a natural unease from the use of its sound. And during a stunning 120 second segment, those sounds come together with that score to produce the movie’s critical scene. With so much quality, Margin Call should have fared better at the box office but the financial drama remains a niche draw. However, if ever there was a representative to demonstrate how good it can get when done right, it’s Margin Call.

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