Tag Archives: George Clooney

“Money Monster” had such great potential, but it was an entertaining mess. Trump on Hillary from 2012, he loved her! And a very-cool softball leap onto home plate

george-clooney-money-monster

It is exceedingly rare that the wife and I see a movie the first weekend it comes out.

But owing to a long-planned “date night,” the fact we’re going to be vacationing with our almost 2-year-old for the next two weeks (more on that in Wednesday’s post), and the fact that “Money Monster” looked so damn good in the trailers we’ve been seeing, we went out Saturday night to see how good a Julia Roberts-George Clooney movie about a hot-shot money maven and the troubled investor who takes him hostage live on TV could be.

Man, I had such high hopes for this flick. Jodie Foster directed, the premise (how the financial markets are all rigged and only a few people are in on the con) is timely, and it seemed like it couldn’t miss.

But boy, was I wrong. Such wasted potential, “Money Monster” turned out to be. Let me start by saying that while it was a mess of a film, it was an entertaining mess. In that, even as I was watching it and getting annoyed/mad at the turns it was taking, I had to admit it was fun to watch.

So what was wrong? Lots of things. First, the tone of the movie shifted every five minutes. First it was a snappy comedy with great banter even in tense situations between Clooney’s Lee Gates,  his director Patti (Roberts) and others. Then it gets serious when troubled and now broke Kyle Rudwell (Jack O’Connell) takes Gates hostage live on the air.

And for a few minutes, the movie really sparkled, as Kyle raged at the unfairness of the system, and we slowly got to see Gates reveal himself as a human being and not just a TV character who loves money.

But the movie shifted tones four or five more times after that, for no apparent reason. It was like Foster couldn’t decide which movie she wanted to make, a drama or a comedy, so she made both.

There were also, of course, huge gaps in logic and plot, leading to an “action scene” and “feel good”resolution at the end that almost but didn’t quite work, since they rushed through the important details over how the movie’s villain Walter Camby (Domenic West) managed to lose his investors so much money.

Clooney was good, and Roberts was stellar like always, and the movie looked great visually. But with this caliber of acting and directing talent, this movie could’ve been so, so much more.

What a shame.

So every day, several times a day now, there emerge more ridiculous and in any other election, disqualifying facts, stories and pieces of video about Donald Trump. Honestly I try to ignore them and not waste time and effort blogging about 99 percent of them, because there’s just so much. But two pieces of Trump-analia  I found interesting over the weekend: first, I saw this clip (above) from March, 2012, with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, of The Donald talking about his huge respect, admiration and personal like toward the woman he’s going to spend the next five months trashing and calling every name in the book.

Sadly, this guy above is revealing his true feelings about Hillary Clinton; the cartoon showman we’re watching now in 2016 is merely a character. If I were a Democratic Super PAC I’d be running that clip as an ad in all 50 states, every week.

The other “big reveal” over the weekend was the wholly unsurprising but still pathetic fact that in the 1980s and ’90s, Trump used an alias named “John Miller” to call magazine and newspaper editors and pretended to be a publicist urging positive coverage of Trump.

When, in reality, it was Trump, calling and bragging about his friend Trump.

If you were to create this “Donald Trump” person in fiction, nobody would believe he was real.

**Finally today, Army softball player Kasey McCravey had maybe the athletic feat of the weekend on Saturday in a game against Lehigh.

Watch this creative and awesome way to avoid getting tagged out at home plate.

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The Coen Brothers new movie is a total mess. Kendrick Lamar and “Hamilton” rock the Grammys. And a fascinating profile of the guy who knows Obama better than anyone

HailCaesar

Here’s what I feel about Coen Brothers movies: They have the widest range of quality of any filmmakers I’ve ever seen.

When their movies are good, they’re great, tremendous, classics: I’m talking about “Fargo,” and “No Country for Old Men,” and “True Grit,” and of course “The Big Lebowski.”

But when their movies are bad… man, they are more putrid than my son’s diaper Genie. I cannot tell you how much I hated “A Serious Man,” and “Intolerable Cruelty,” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” I walked out of those flicks wondering “how could the same people who gave us “Fargo” also do this?”

With all that in my head, I went to see “Hail Caesar” on Tuesday, their newest flick. It has an all-star cast, with George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, and Scarlett Johannson.

I had high hopes. The trailer looked fabulous.

And … it was awful. Really, really bad.

The plot, such as it was, was barely fleshed out. The acting was meh. Even the production numbers were so-so.

The basic “story” was this: It’s 1950s Hollywood, and Eddie Mannix (Brolin) runs Capitol Pictures, a big movie studio. During filming of a big picture, his star Baird Whitlock (Clooney) is kidnapped by some Communists, who then spend a long time convincing Whitlock their philosophies about the world are correct. There are a few other subplots, featuring a dumb-as-rocks country boy actor being forced to be a dramatic leading man, and Mannix having a career crisis, but mostly it’s Clooney in a room with Communists.

I nearly fell asleep during the movie, and I never do that. There were maybe three laughs the whole film, and it wasn’t dramatic enough to be a drama.

So disappointing. Joel and Ethan Coen are like Dave Kingman now, either they hit a massive home run or strike out feebly.

Sadly, this was a big strikeout.

**Next up today, I experienced my annual shame and confusion viewing of the Grammy Awards Monday night, the one night where I try to catch up on all the “current” music that I’ve ignored for the past year, so I can sound partly intelligent should I ever get into a music discussion.

And while, of course, my favorite performance of the night was Jackson Browne jamming with the remaining members of The Eagles (Jackson Browne is phenomenal, always), I thought these two songs brought the house down.

First, Kendrick Lamar, who I first took notice of at the Grammys two years ago, was blazing during his set (above):

Then, the cast of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton” performed the opening scene of their show live. Getting tickets to this show is only slightly more difficult than a Super Bowl ticket; somehow, someway, I gotta get myself to see this.

**Finally today, this was a very cool “behind the scenes” story I really enjoyed. For the past seven years, Brian Mosteller has been the closest person to President Barack Obama, literally being with him for almost every meeting, speech and plane ride. He’s part body man, part “fixer,” and he basically just makes the President’s life easier (think Gary on “Veep” but nowhere near as nutty).

The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz wrote a terrific profile on the anonymous Mosteller. Here’s a quick excerpt; I highly recommend reading the whole story:

Mosteller’s official title is director of Oval Office operations, although a more apt name might be anticipator in chief. When Obama is in Washington, every move the president makes, every person he meets and every meeting he attends has been carefully orchestrated by Mosteller.

He knows where Obama likes his water glass placed on the table at meetings and whom he’d want to sit beside. He knows how he prefers the height of a lectern. He researches a head of state’s favorite drink so that the president can offer it. He readies Obama’s remarks and sets them, open to the first page, wherever the president will be speaking. He tells Obama when a sock is bunched at his ankle or his shirt is wrinkled, before an interview…

Mosteller “knows the president very well. He pays attention to everything,” said Valerie Jarrett, the president’s longtime senior adviser. “The president knows how much Brian cares about him and that it isn’t ‘I care about you from afar,’ it’s ‘I’m going to ensure the nitty-gritty details of your life from large to small are attended to.’ The president trusts him completely.”

 

The Oscar nominees bring some surprises. Obama’s State of the Union leaves me uninspired. And Federer-Nadal at the Aussie Open, set your DVR.

Tuesday was almost a national holiday for me, with two of my favorite topics (movies and politics) taking center stage.
First, the Oscar nominations came out. Was a little surprised “Bridesmaids” didn’t get a Best Picture nod. Was more than a little surprised the excellent Leo DiCaprio didn’t get a nomination for Best Actor for “J. Edgar.” He was phenomenal in that.
Happy to see “Midnight in Paris,” do well for Woody Allen, though I don’t see it winning anything. Would love to see Melissa McCarthy win just so someone from “Gilmore Girls” wins an Oscar. (I bet Michel is somewhere quietly fuming).

Overall, I think the Academy did a pretty good job. I’ve got some movies to see between now and Feb. 26. First up: “Moneyball.”

**Watched the State of the Union with great anticipation Tuesday night. I was ready for some fire and brimstone out of Mr. Barack Obama.
And what I got was … meh. A so-so speech, I thought, with enough tax credit proposals to choke a horse and very few of what I thought are “do-able” this year in Congress.
A couple things I didn’t like, followed by a couple things I liked:
— Really got rubbed the wrong way by all of Obama’s “America is awesome, yeah!” rhetoric. Reminded me WAY too much of the last guy we had in office, some fella named W. Why do our presidents have to treat us like we’re high school kids at a pep rally?
— A couple of Obama’s challenges really puzzled me. Requiring states to make kids stay in high school until they’re 18? I know I’m new in the education game but I can guarantee 99 percent of high school teachers out there would groan at that proposal. Because as I saw this fall while quasi-student teaching, there are quite a few 17-year-0ld freshmen out there with no interest in doing anything but being disruptive.
And Obama threatening colleges to keep tuition low? How, exactly, is he going to get them to do that?

— I did like his proposal to have AG Eric Holder investigate illegal lending and packaging of risky mortgages that helped get us into the housing crisis. Course, I’m still pissed he didn’t let Holder investigate John Yoo and Dick Cheney, among others, for war crimes a few years ago, but hey, I’m not one to hold a grudge.
— I’m glad Obama started and ended with bin Laden and how much he’s gotten accomplished overseas. He did end the war in Iraq, as promised.
— And I really liked Obama’s combative tone toward Republicans. Enough of this stalling and delaying bullshit, he seemed to say. I’m going to keep reminding Americans for the next nine months that’s it’s you guys who are stopping my bills and ideas that could help Americans get jobs and pay lower taxes.
My man Pearlman had the line of the night, I thought:  “John Boehner: Has any man who has done less for the rights of minorities done more to intentionally darken his own skin?”
Still, I wanted more from Obama. I’m sure a lot of my liberal friends (like my Mom, who loved the speech) will disagree with me. But it felt like a lot of Obama pandering to everyone he could in the speech, and that’s not the guy I voted for.

**Finally, the greatest individual rivalry in sports resumes in the wee hours of the morning tonight, about 3:30 a.m.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer play in the semifinals of the Australian Open.I don’t expect you to stay up and watch, even a hardcore tennis lunatic like me is going to watch it on DVR.
Like a rare delicacy or a trip to your favorite city, every Federer-Nadal match should be treasured and warmly embraced, since we may not have many of them left. These two class acts, whose primes have almost overlapped, have battled through some of the most classic matches in tennis history.
I have no idea who’ll win this one. Federer is playing outstandingly well so far this tournament, and seems completely relaxed. Rafa has had to work hard in his last couple of matches and, as usual, is battling injuries.

I of course am pulling for my man Federer, but I hope it’s a five-set classic.  When Federer and Nadal meet, that’s not usually too much to ask for.

Newt Gingrich is about to blow up the Republican party. “The Descendants” is well worth your time. And a few final words on Joe Paterno

Newt, Newt, Newt. So much to say, so much time to say it, now that the biggest windbag this side of George Steinbrenner has won the South Carolina primary, and once again looks like he might, improbably, be the GOP nominee for President.
I’ve had a few days to digest the Rise of Newt, and a few quick thoughts on the last week of his rise:
— There’s no possible way Newt can sustain this; the man has nine eruptions a week, from his past and his present. Then again, nobody likes Mitt Romney. That’s been proven over and over again. So there’s that.
— Andrew Sullivan and other conservatives keep saying this: There’s no way Newt can win a general election. He’d be paying Delta hundreds of dollars in baggage fees, put it that way. So do the Florida voters, and the other primary states, feel so strongly about beating Obama that they’d hold their nose and vote for Mitt? Or are they so Tea Party-infused and blinded that they actually think Newt can beat that “black fella” in the Oval Office?
— Putting politics aside, it is wildly entertaining watching Gingrich at these debates. He’s just SO pompous and so disdainful of everyone else on stage, it’s hilarious.
— Finally, I’ll let a Twitterer named Jesse Taylor have the last word; he filed this right after Saturday’s debate.
“Given what South Carolina did tonight to keep a black man in office, I think they’ve atoned for any previous racism.”

**And now, as a palette-cleanser from King Newt, the beautiful farewell from Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, who is resigning from Congress one year after her near-fatal shooting.

**Finally saw “The Descendants” last weekend. Every good thing I’d heard about it was true. George Clooney, who I see having a Paul Newman-like acting career (meaning he gets better and better with age; I could totally see Clooney starring in movies in his 70’s) was terrific as a father and a husband dealing with an unfaithful wife, a mouthy and unhappy teenage daughter, and an extended family counting on him to make a sound financial decision.

The cinematography is gorgeous (hey, it’s Hawaii, how ugly could they make it?), the acting is top-notch (Clooney’s teenage daughter, Shailene Woodley, is superb), and the movie never treats its audience with anything else than charm, wit, and emotion.

Go see “The Descendants.” It’ll be up for lots of Oscars, and will deserve more than a few.

**Finally today, think about this: What if Joe Paterno had died four months ago? What if the legendary Penn State football coach, maybe the greatest college coach of all time, passed away in mid-October, during another outstanding Nittany Lions season?
The obits that flowed like wins to Paterno’s program over the last four decades would’ve been universally positive. “Great coach, great man, philanthropic, stoic, won the right way,” etc.
But because this 85-year-old man didn’t die then, but after four months of absolutely image-shattering headlines, his obits all had caveats and references to his unspeakable silence while an assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, molested boy after boy.

It’s a very complicated legacy, Joe Pa leaves. Too many will vilify him and all the good work he did in his life (read this beautiful story for a small slice of what Paterno was like) for what he didn’t do in the Sandusky case. And I don’t in any way absolve him of his sins in that matter.

But he was a giant among football coaches, maybe one of the greatest of all time. He gave so much money and time, and shaped so many men’s lives, and I’d hate to think any of that will be forgotten now.

One final thought: It’s incredible how fast Paterno’s life went downhill. From being fired, to the lung cancer diagnosis, to breaking his pelvis, to death, all in a little more than three months.

I know the wounds are still fresh over his inaction with Jerry Sandusky. But Paterno’s is a life that should be mourned, and (mostly) celebrated.

Clooney and Gosling make a great movie. Another senseless death in auto racing. And Betty White raps

Fully expected to love “The Ides of March,” the new political thriller starring Ryan Gosling and directed by Mr. George Clooney.
And when I saw it Saturday night, I did love it. It was just a really, really good movie.
Not as good a political thriller as the vastly underrated “Primary Colors,” but “The Ides of March” was still quite solid.
Ryan Gosling, who I had never seen in a movie before, was excellent as Stephen, a political operative working for Clooney’s presidential candidate, Governor Mike Morris.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was, as always, awesome as Gosling’s boss, and Paul Giamatti was terrific, too, as a rival campaign manager.
And Clooney just keeps making better and better movies. It’s funny; I never liked the guy as an actor for most of his career; I thought he played everything too smug and cool. But since he’s started directing, and taking so much better roles (he was fabulous in “Up in the Air”), I’ve really liked him a whole lot more.
It’s like he’s grown on me.
Now, the movie wasn’t perfect; Marisa Tomei was wasted as N.Y. Times reporter Ida Horowicz, and there were some pretty big gaps in reality in the movie (here’s one, without giving away the plot: You’re going to tell me that not only was Evan Rachel Wood’s character an intern, but she was in all those high-level meetings, and Clooney and Gosling didn’t know who she was, and who she was related to, when they hired her? Impossible to believe).

But if you love politics like I do, and a good morality tale with some interesting twists and great acting, I’d definitely go see this flick.

**Who didn’t watch “Golden Girls” in the 1980s and wonder what it would be like if Betty White rocked the mic and tried rapping?
Oh yeah, nobody.  And yet, here she is.
Take it away, Grand Master Rose Nylund…

** It happens just about every year, or every other year.
Men and women in race cars going more than 130 miles per hour, round and round a track, for a few hours every weekend, and once in a while there’s a huge wreck and someone dies.
And what’s most amazing? We just chalk it up as part of the sport. This insane, ridiculously dangerous “sport” of auto racing is sanctioned and approved by the millions who promote it, watch it, and take part in it.
It’s disgusting and despicable and I’m amazed that boxing and MMA fighting get so much abuse for being so barbaric, yet car racing is cheered.

A man named Dan Wheldon, a champion on the Indy Car circuit and a former winner of the Indy 500 (there he is, above, after winning the 500 a few years ago) was killed in a crash during a race in Las Vegas Sunday.
It was awful and terrible and involved 15 cars.  (If you want to see the crash that killed Dan Wheldon, you can watch it here. Don’t worry, there’s nothing graphic in the video.)
This happens again and again, and yet racing is allowed to continue.
I just don’t get it.

The beginning of the end for DADT. And Oscar nominees are out. Yay!

“I can not escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy that forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens” — Admiral Mike Mullen

It’s a rare day when I can look at Congress and say “Well OK then, today they made a difference, and today they matter.”

But as I watched and read about the brave and honest testimony of the highest-ranking member of the U.S. military command, talk about the foolishness and just plain wrongness of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I realized that today was such a huge day in our country.

Here we have a man who’s spent his whole career with soldiers, saying that is indefensible for America to keep hard-working gay and lesbian men and women out of the military.

All those Republican bigots and homophobes, all these years, have been saying that we should leave such a matter “to the generals,” because they know what’s best.

Well today, we had the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Secretary, unveil a plan to finally repeal the hideous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.

It may not happen overnight (and I think it’s crap that it’ll take a year-long “study” before the law is killed), but pretty soon, and not a moment too soon, gay Americans, who love this country as much as anyone else, will be allowed to help defend it.

That, my friends, is progress.

**Big Academy Awards fan here. Huge. Unlike the Grammys, where I have no interest and hardly have heard of most of the nominees, I love movies and try to see a lot of them ever year.

So I was excited the Oscar nominees came out today, and it seems like the voters did a pretty good job. I was very excited to see four movies I saw this year and loved (“Up,” “Inglorious Basterds,” “Avatar,” and “Up in the Air, my pick for best picture) nominated for the top award. I’d love it for “Basterds” to win, just to hear Tarantino make a crazy speech. I love that guy.

I think if Christoph Waltz, the SS military officer in “Basterds” doesn’t win supporting actor, there should be a criminal investigation. I’m stunned that an actress as limited as Sandra Bullock was nominated for best actress, but I hear she’s great in “The Blind Side.” (And hey, the other Michael Lewis wrote the book it was based on).

I think best actor has to be George Clooney or Jeff Bridges; best actress is wide-open; Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep are always worthy picks, but maybe Bullock or Gabby Sidibe (the woman from “Precious”) has a chance.

Finally, was thrilled to see Anna Kendrick get picked for best supporting actress; she was outstanding in “Up in the Air.”

Overall, I don’t see any major screwups with the nominees, but what do I know? I’m a guy who still loves “Side Out.”