Friday Movie Roundup: 'Ides of March' edition

Oct 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm

George Clooney's The Ides of March opens today. Given the avalanche of local press its already received (mostly by the endlessly smitten Enquirer, but also via hordes of social-media geeks), need much more be said about the behind-the-scenes aspects of Clooney's political thriller? (If you answered “yes” to that question, read my interview with Ides of March actor Max Minghella here.)

The burning question now is whether The Ides of March is any good. —- Well, I didn't officially review the movie myself (I try to stay impartial when I'm also writing a feature/interview piece on a given film), but I did write about Clooney's fourth directorial effort after catching it at the Toronto Film Festival last month: “Ides is no Good Night, and Good Luck. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its pleasures — it’s a taut, well-acted political thriller of Alan J. Pakula vintage (specifically All the President’s Men in terms of style and tone). There are also a number of crisp, well-written scenes that are likely to get rise out of David Mamet. But Ides’ story … doesn’t quite have enough dramatic meat on its bones to transcend genre. And for a film with the pedigree of this thing, that might be considered a letdown.”

Scott Renshaw's review below mostly agrees with my mixed-to-positive take. But will the hordes of local Clooney fans agree with or even care about our opinions? I doubt it. They'll probably be too preoccupied with Ides' shots of the various Cincinnati landmarks — not to mention its impressive, swoon-worthy cast — to care.

Elsewhere on the new movie landscape, Gus Van Sant follows up the Oscar-approved Milk with a curious little film about a doom-laden teen couple's burgeoning romance (think a quirkier, less sentimental version of Love Story); Gerard Butler stars in a true story about a machine-gun toting preacher; and Hugh Jackman headlines an odd family film about boxing robots.

In other movie news, the “sick” new poster for Human Centipede 2 was unveiled today. For those curious, the sequel — which recently gained notoriety after it was banned by the British equivalent of the MPAA — to the shamelessly crass cult hit is getting limited U.S. distribution starting today via IFC (Cincinnati didn't make the cut), which will also make Human Centipede 2 available via video on demand starting Oct. 14.

Opening films:

THE IDES OF MARCH — In the abstract, director/co-writer George Clooney has an intriguing variation on “surrendering principles to the dirty game of politics” narratives like The Candidate: What if the hero has very few principles to begin with? But it’s no small trick to bring an audience along on that kind of character arc, and The Ides of March can’t quite navigate the narrow channel between “calculating bastard” and “even more calculating bastard.” (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated R.) Grade: B-

MACHINE GUN PREACHERMachine Gun Preacher succeeds as well as it does because we can see beyond the carefully worn edges of the narrative, to the ragged reality, the ambiguities of a situation that breeds orphans and child soldiers and must be fought by any means necessary. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tts (Rated R.) Grade: C+

REAL STEEL — Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is a former journeyman boxer who attempts to regain his self-respect and that of the son (Dakota Goyo) he abandoned years ago through the sport of robot boxing (think Rock-Em, Sock-Em Robots for the virtual age). The cute, Rocky-meets-The Transformers vibe inadequately hides the fact that the story is loosely based on a piece from author Richard Matheson. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D+

RESTLESS — At his best, Gus Van Sant strikes the core of human emotion, especially the disaffected (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho) that most indie purveyors wouldn’t know anything about if it weren’t for his work. Yet Restless isn’t one of those films. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-