Who appears on the cast of an ensemble feature is just as much a reason to view as the plot or those in the directing chair are reasons. It sounds unreasonable, but it is true. Many have suffered through the slog of catching up with the unknown, shadowy parts of their favourite filmographies. There is a reason, naturally, that people have watched Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Whether that is because their father marks it as their favourite film or because it is a feature that J.K. Simmons featured in is beyond the reasoning. Take refuge in the ensemble feature, good or bad. Burn After Reading happens to be good. Just good, mind. Not more than that.
Someone would have done it eventually. Gus Van Sant adapted Psycho. The Coen Brothers tried their hand at The Ladykillers. Naturally, someone, somehow, would try Solaris. A classic space-going arthouse piece from Andrei Tarkovsky is not exactly easy to adapt. Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney take one for the team, in much the same shape as Vince Vaughn did back when he brought Norman Bateman to life for Van Sant. Not every remake has to be dreadful. As long as the story is intact and the message is still reciprocated by audiences, then Solaris could coast through its Hollywood lifespan. That is what it needs to do, and it succeeds where so many other remakes have failed. Those simple moments are done well. Simple is simple.
Many a pun can be derived from the title of this Jason Reitman-directed piece. Maybe that was the point. As these characters trundle through their airport-bound lives, their love is, indeed, up in the air. Groan at the pun, it’ll be the same reaction to maintain for Up in the Air, which stars George Clooney as the hapless charmer, Ryan Bingham. Of course, he is the charming lead, had he been a charmless man then our time in his company would be an uncomfortable blur. That being said, he always is. What he brings to Up in the Air, he brings to every other moment and leading performance he finds himself in.
Survival in film is often presented to audiences as a human struggle. One that people like you or me can relate to or find hobbies and interests to revel in. Anthropomorphic components to foxes, badgers and rats are the comfortably strange middle ground between exceptional stories and cutesy cannon fodder. Such is the appeal of Fantastic Mr. Fox and the craft Wes Anderson presents. Conjuring up the emotive, colourful flair for writing Roald Dahl had, Anderson works tirelessly to bring it to the big screen in all of its animated glory. His first foray into animation is an interesting piece, not just because it is engrossing to see how his directing style stays the same in stop motion as it does in live-action, but also to see how the film fares over a decade later.
Whenever George Clooney finally directs a film worth engaging with, peace will be brought to Earth. Across the globe, people will lay down their rifles, flock to cinemas and finally see what Clooney has been trying to say for the best part of a decade. “Buy my coffee pods”, his words of wisdom echo through the speakers and the crowd nod in agreement. Good Night, and Good Luck is the closest Clooney will ever come to fulfilling his fleeting, failing desire to direct something of note or merit. Far exceeding the quality found later in his career, but even then, not amounting to anything more than passionless mediocrity, the star-studded cast and filmmaking techniques employed throughout this mid-2000s piece is extraordinarily muted and tired.
My personal dislike for the latter-day efforts of director Steven Soderbergh comes from a part of me that can’t shake the feeling that his stories are often empty. A burst of interest in Contagion (for obvious reasons), led me to the conclusion that he can certainly make some interesting premises but following through on those ideas to create interesting conclusions or depth is something I don’t believe his direction can bring. Ocean’s Eleven is perhaps his most famous piece of work, and if not it’s by far his most famous trilogy (solely because this is his only trilogy). Although littered with the tropes that I dislike from his direction, I find Ocean’s Eleven to be a completely amicable heist movie.