Rating: The Good – 68.4 Genre: Drama, Sport Duration: 110 mins Director: Ivan Reitman Stars: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella
Kevin Costner is certainly an actor to keep your eye on. He may have dropped out of the A-List in the mid-90’s but he has remained an astute reader of scripts and, not infrequently, pops up with a very good movie that flies under most people’s radar. Draft Day is one of the more recent examples and perhaps the most surprising given the cloying sentiment the movie embraces from the opening scene. Costner is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, desperate to make his mark on the team by using his number seven pick in the NFL Draft pick to acquire a prodigious defensive prospect in the face of pressure from his owner to go for the quarterback everyone wants. Bowing to the pressure, he makes a deal for the number one spot that his entire staff balk at only to change his mind and try something even more bold.
The drama unfolds over the course of “Draft Day” and sweeps us around the country as one franchise after another attempt to make some magic happen for their teams. But with Costner and his Browns at the centre of it all. Whether it’s the quick pacing or the fascination with team strategy or just the quality of the drama, director Ivan Reitman manages to build a wholly engaging tension that peaks several times across the final act. Opting bravely to mirror the theatre of the event itself, he shoots shiny graphics across the screen, splits it, and litters it with brand advertisement.
Thankfully, a cast full of good pros, either making telling cameos or playing more substantial roles, adds a touch of solidity to the all these bells and whistles. Costner is in fine form as the decent football man just trying to get the team he wants, Jennifer Gardner is fantastic as Costner’s younger girlfriend who announces the morning of that she is pregnant and wants more from their relationship, Dennis Leary is the mouthy coach beleaguered at his manager’s impulsive manoeuvres, Frank Langella is the charming yet power-happy owner monitoring everything, while Sam Elliot, Kevin Dunne, Tom Welling, Josh Pence, and many, many others fill out the rest of universally entertaining roster. Among the benefits to a cast like this isn’t just some great chemistry but plenty of well timed and delivered comic moments. But it’s the drama of the strategising and last minute negotiations that drives the ball home and makes this piece of fluff as thrilling as it is.
Rating: The Good – 73.8 Genre: Thriller Duration: 108 mins Director: Damian Harris Stars: Laurence Fishburne, Ellen Barkin, Frank Langella, Michael Beach
Lawrence Fishburn stars as a disgraced former CIA agent who moves to the world of corporate espionage where he immediately becomes embroiled in a double cross involving his devious new partner Ellen Barkin and a host of other nefarious individuals each with their own agendas. The plot may be as mad as a box of frogs but there’s much to recommend in the manner of this thriller’s execution. It’s an eminently slick and determined piece of intrigue that panders little to an impatient audience. A psychological homage to the murky combination of intelligence and greed shot in the soft glow of 90’s lighting and set against a emphatically sinister Carter Burwell score. Ross Thomas adapted his own novel and didn’t compromise an inch in how he depicted the ambiguity of this dark world and while Damian Harris repeatedly spills the tension of his expositional scenes, he crafts his key moments with some real finesse and proper power. So much so that the bleak rawness of the emotional landscape can become quite repelling towards the end. The acting is for the most part as competent as you’d expect from a cast as good as this but it’s their ability to see the hidden qualities in their characters that hooks the audience and keeps us guessing. Fishburn in particular gives us a colder more unsettling anti-hero than we are typically used to and Michael Beach treats us yet another seriously intimidating 1990’s villain. Where the movie falls down quite significantly is in its progression. Too many crucial sequences are omitted or rushed through so that the plot loses cohesion as it twists and turns to avoid our expectations. Bad Company is more than worth a watch but one suspects this could’ve been a genuine classic in more capable and/or artistic hands.
George Clooney proves he has all the discipline and courage of the great directors in this subtle, slow burning, thought provoking depiction of Edward R. Murrow’s (played by David Strathairn) crusade against Senator McCarthy’s communist witch-hunts of the 40′s & 50′s. Clooney even had the modesty and good sense to play second fiddle on the acting front to the great Strathairn who perfectly embodies the values and sincerity of the aforementioned broadcaster. Shot on a grey-scaled set on colour film which was then corrected into black and white, Good Night and Good Luck is a treat to look at. The resolution that the correction process creates is extremely clear and Clooney uses every bit of it in his staging particularly in those sumptuous hallway shots. He also uses the black and white to cleverly switch between real life footage of McCarthy and the dramatic shots which quite ingeniously sets the former senator alongside the actors as if he were playing himself. This adds tremendously to the authenticity of the film. The supporting cast is near perfect with everyone from Robert Downey Jr., Ray Wise, Jeff Daniels, Patricia Clarkson, Frank Langella, to Clooney himself (as Fred Friendly) hitting all the right notes.
Rating: The Good – 70.3 Genre: Drama Duration: 122 mins Director: Ron Howard Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell
Quietly gripping dramatisation of the famous Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977, in which the former achieved what no other journalist, investigator, or politician could: – an admission of wrong-doing from Richard Nixon. In adapting Peter Morgan’s play, director Ron Howard could’ve chosen to give this feature all the trappings of a stage production and still tell the story effectively and in entertaining fashion. Such is the power of the dialogue and acting. However, he chose to make a film out of it and a film this is. Frost/Nixon is extraordinarily well dramatised, and the story is never allowed to stagnate or bore due to impeccable structuring, pacing, and the many tension relieving comedic moments which cushion the more dialogue-centred scenes. Hans Zimmer’s soft but strong score deserves special mention in that regard too as it helps Howard greatly in moving the film forward as swiftly as he does.
Michael Sheen puts in an attractive performance as the fast living Frost, populating his character with all the idiosyncrasies of the real life journalist and a few more thrown in for good measure. Whether or not an impersonation runs a different track to acting is a valid question and, at times, it feels like the former is what Sheen is all about. But then at other more crucial moments he leaves the safer confines of mimicry and stretches himself admirably. Frank Langella turns in a powerhouse performance as the disgraced president and it captures all of the man’s arrogance, his hidden humanity, and much of his obscure charm. The two central performances are orbited by a collection of pitch perfect turns from some seriously good actors. Sam Rockwell is fantastic as the pent-up bookworm James Reston Jr., who’ll accept nothing short of a Nixon apology. Oliver Platt is also in top form as Bob Zelnick, the second of Frost’s research team while he and Rockwell are matched blow for blow on the other side by Kevin Bacon who imbues his character with a wholly believable austerity which is befitting of the career soldier and devoted Nixon aid he’s playing.
All in all, Frost/Nixon is a worthy successor to the legacy left by films such as All the President’s Men. Films which embrace the feel for those classics and favour brains over action. In this respect, it belongs to a small group of interesting and bravely made modern movies like Michael Clayton and Zodiac.