Weekly film review by: Vincent Camilleri
HEAVEN IS NOT A PLACE ON EARTH
George Clooney Matt King
Shailene Woodley Alexandra King
Amara Miller Scottie King
Nick Crause Sid
Directed by Alexander Payne
Running time 115 minutes
Cinema lovers are in for a treat this week with the release of two great films starring two of the biggest stars of the moment; this film under review starring George Clooney and J. Edgar with Leonardo DiCaprio. Last Monday The Descendants earned Academy Award nominations for Alexander Payne as Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, Kevin Tent for Best Editing, George Clooney for Best Actor in a Leading Role and as Best Motion Picture of the Year.
George Clooney, whose Academy Award nomination comes back to back with his Golden Globe win a week ago, opens the film with a voice over telling us that, contrary to popular belief, Hawaii, where he lives with his family is not heaven on earth. It is definitely not a story made in heaven for George Clooney’s character Matt King, a successful attorney of Hawaiian royal lineage who we find working from a hospital room where he keeps vigil over his wife Elizabeth lying in an irreversible coma after a powerboat accident. He is left alone to care for their precocious 10 year old daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) a child very troubled and confused by her mother’s situation. To calm the young girl he takes her on a flight to a neighbouring island for a surprise visit to her 17 year old sister Alexandra (Shailene Woodley), a boarder student at an exclusive high-priced college. They find Alex out of the dorm, drunk or stoned on the beach in the middle of the night. Matt needs Alex with him to take care of her sister while he is busy coping with their mother’s condition and discussing the sale of a piece of beautiful pristine land worth half a billion dollars that belonged to the King family for five generations. His penniless cousins are pressing for the sale but his is not so sure. Matt is in for a bigger shock. Back home with her father and sister, Alex, in spite of the tragic accident, reveals a bitter resentment for her mother caused when she caught her cheating on her father. Alex tells Matt that when she confronted her mother with what she knew she admitted the affair. Overwhelmed by the shocking revelation Matt runs to his neighbour’s house to ask if they knew anything about his wife’s infidelity. They confirm Alex’s story but can only tell him the name of his wife’s lover.
Matt King’s plate is more than full. He must accept the fact that there is no hope for Elizabeth and decide when to take her off life support and let her go. He has to inform his in-laws and family friends that his wife had only a few days to live but, most important of all, he must trace her lover, face him and break the same news to him too. Alexander Payne reveals Matt King’s story layer by layer building up the drama with the insertion of light humour in the right places of a very poignant and touching film. He succeeds in this thanks to an extraordinary performance by George Clooney –unshaved and in Hawaiian shirts, shorts and sandals most of the time - as the embattled man next door who brings out a smile when he runs like crazy to his friends’ house to confirm the news of his wife’s secret affair as much as he touches our heart when he screams at his comatose wife to vent the pain caused by her betrayal. Mr Clooney’s contribution to the success of this film is complimented by the excellent performances of his two young supporting stars. Twenty year old Shailene Woodley in her major film debut got a well earned Golden Globe Award nomination as best supporting actress for breathing life into the difficult character of a teenager passing through dramatic family situations. For Amara Miller who plays 10 year old Scottie this is her first film experience and she comes out very strong particularly in the scene when she comes to terms with the fact that her mother shall never wake up.
Alexander Payne’s film shot against the lush Hawaiian landscape and backed with an exotic soundtrack to complete the atmosphere deserves all the accolades it is receiving and those yet to come its way.
Watch trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi4144471577/
THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Leonardo DiCaprio J. Edgar Hoover
Armie Hammer Clyde Tolson
Judi Dench Anne Marie Hoover
Naomi Watts Helen Gandy
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Running time: 137 minutes
In 1958, J. Edgar Hoover published his book “Masters of Deceit – The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It.” He wrote this book 34 years after his appointment as the first director of the Bureau of Investigation – later known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) He started with the words: “Many Americans have not stopped to realize what a “Soviet America” would mean. The Communists however have no doubts.” Mr Hoover’s origins of his obsession with communist infiltration in the US dated back to 1919 when he witnessed a ‘Bolshevik’ bomb attack that devastated the family home of his boss the Attorney General. Hoover’s moral support after this was paid back with an appointment as head of a section within the Justice Department to monitor aliens who threatened the security of the United States. Clint Eastwood begins opens his film with this episode as told by J. Edgar Hoover, an old man a few years before his death who dictates his biographic notes to a faithful FBI agent sworn to secrecy so that history shall have his own version of his life and achievements.
Clint Eastwood, who will turn 82 come next May, traces the career of one of America’s –if not the world’s – most powerful and feared man in a series of flashbacks revealing all of J. Edgar Hoover’s strengths and weaknesses; his organizational skills, his manipulative character and his ability to wield power by compiling and keeping secret files on 420,000 Americans including Presidents - JFK, President’s wives – Eleanor Roosevelt – politicians and civil rights activists – Martin Luther King whom he tried to frame with an anonymous letter just before he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This priceless information in his possession gave him incredible power and guaranteed his survival at the top of the FBI for nearly fifty years under six Presidents. Nobody dared touch Mr. Hoover. He knew too much. Clint Eastwood presents a very complex character, a control freak to the extent of deciding what goes in Hollywood’s gangster movies. He insisted that the bad guys always died in the end and that FBI agents were played by actors of certain repute like James Stewart. J. Edgar is shown also as a publicity seeking megalomaniac obsessed with image who showed himself as the man who solved the Lindbergh kidnapping case, the one who killed Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly fuelling the heroic FBI super agent myth.
Dealing with J. Edgar Hoover’s complicated private life very delicately; Mr. Eastwood explores Hoover’s relationship with his mother, his secretary and his right hand man and secret lover. Judi Dench plays the domineering mother who was a big influence on his life until the day she died. In a flashback we see that she had sensed her son’s ambiguous sexuality when when she tells him “I would rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son.” Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) was the only other important woman in his life. He had picked Helen as his secretary and encouraged by his mother he had asked her out on a date straight away. Clumsily he fell on his knees and proposed marriage after spending just a few hours with her watching a gangster movie at the cinema and giving her a tour of the Bureau’s library. She was flustered by the brash clumsiness and told him she did not have marriage on her mind but she remained his most trusted secretary and confidante until his death. His soul mate was Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) the gay agent he chose to be to be his right hand man and companion.
Clint Eastwood re-creates the exact atmosphere of the times lived by Hoover – from the 20’s thtough to the late sixties and uses a good amount of documentary footage for added authenticity. He had a very difficult character and a highly controversial subject to deal with in this film, but with great sensitivity and the performances that he managed to get out of his cast, particularly from Leonardo DiCaprio who grows from strength to strength with every role he plays, he lays bare the secret life of a man who, Richard Nixon cursed when he was informed of his death in 1972 and hypocritically paid tribute on national television to the service J. Edgar Hoover rendered to the nation. One month later, Richard Nixon who tried without success to obtain Hoover’s secret files, was neck deep in trouble over the Watergate affair.
Watch trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3162218009/
THE HIGH PRICE OF VENGEANCE
Nicholas Cage Will Gerard
January Jones Laura Gerard
Guy Pearce Simon
Directed by: Roger Donaldson
Running time 105 minutes
Popular high school teacher Will Gerard (NICOLAS CAGE) lives a life of content domesticity with his beautiful musician wife Laura (JANUARY JONES). Until one night’s horrific events, turns their world upside down.
After Laura is violently attacked and left traumatised in hospital, Will is approached by a well-dressed stranger(GUY PEARCE) offering to dispense immediate justice to the attacker and save the couple from an emotionally traumatic trial. Distraught, Will accepts the proposal but soon learns justice comes at a price.
A visceral action thriller with unexpected twists, JUSTICE questions the lengths a man will go to seek his vengeance.
In JUSTICE one fateful decision made in the throes of grief and anguish sets in motion a spiral of intrigue, manipulation, fear and paranoia. In choosing opportunistic vengeance over institutional justice, a devoted husband and teacher finds himself on the run from authorities and the self-righteous leader of a secretive vigilante group.
“This is a story about a distressed man who accepts an offer of retribution and soon realizes he’s made a pact with the devil,” says director Roger Donaldson, helmer of such acclaimed suspense thrillers as NO WAY OUT and THE BANK JOB. “He stumbles into something much larger than what he thought he was getting into.”
Cage says he was attracted to the story because of its philosophical examination of human nature, “which is why I came on board. I’m hoping we get to the place where we see how Simon is deconstructing Will to expose his cave man roots.”
Watch trailer: http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi716611353/
Top Ten Films in Malta
18 - 22 January 2012
1. WAR HORSE
2. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCL
3. PUSS IN BOOTS
4. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
5. SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS
6. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED
7. THE DARKEST HOUR
8. MONTE CARLO
With acknowledgemnts to KRS Film Distributors Ltd