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RED'S DREAM (1987) (***)

In their third CG animated short, Pixar started to go more ambitious. John Lasseter and his team had the lighting challenge of setting the story at night, expanded on the detail of the locations, attempt liquids (which are still difficult) and expanded the score of the story by doubling the running time. As for story, it's their first short that has a fully developed theme. However, some bad character design with their first organic character dates the film and serves to distract the audience from the more fleshed out plot.

It's a rainy night. Eben's Bikes is having a sale. Red, a lonely unicycle, sits in the corner with 50% off tag. He dreams of getting bought and performing in a circus act. In his dream, he works with the juggling clown Lumpy, and actually goes on to outshine his human operator.

Blogs

LUXO JR. (1986) (****)

Pixar's first Oscar nominated short film is also their first classic. John Lasseter was learning how to make CG models and decided to take inspiration from the architect's lamp on his desk. Still impressive for its detail, the early CG animation holds up very well. However, as what would become a staple of the Pixar way of making films, it's all about character.

The story is simple — Luxo Jr. is a young lamp who is learning to play with a rubber ball with his father. Lasseter is able to create amazing amounts of personality in his two inanimate stars. Luxo Jr. is an energetic and precocious little guy. He's full of curiosity like many young children are. His father is calm and patient. Like a good parent, he is tired by the boundless energy of his kid, but encouraging and sympathetic.

Blogs

THE ADVENTURES OF ANDRE & WALLY B (1984) (**1/2)

More of an experiment than a short film, THE ADVENTURES OF ANDRE & WALLY B was Pixar's first CG animated short. It was made when Pixar was still part of Lucasfilms. The short was first CG work for Pixar head and TOY STORY director John Lasseter, who was restricted by only being allowed to use geometric shapes to build his characters and sets. Alvy Ray Smith, who was a computer graphics artist on 1982's STAR TREK: WRATH OF KHAN, is credited as the film's writer.

As for the story, Andre is a wide-eyed fellow with a big black nose, who is just waking up from a nap in the forest. Wally, a bee, begins to taunt him. Andre distracts Wally and makes run for it. The 3D animation is dated by current standards and the sound design is awkwardly integrated. Much of the sound is standard cartoony sound effects. To their credit, even in this early example of CG, the Pixar artists were skilled in bringing personality to their characters. Andre clearly has a Bugs Bunny vibe. As a historical document it's amazing to see the advances that have been made in computer animation since 1984. Any true animation fan should check this out. Those just looking for entertainment will be disappointed.

Blogs

34th FLANDERS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

The 34thFlanders International Film Festival held in Gent, Belgium (October 9 – 20) primarily celebrates film music’s relation to the visual language of film. That said, it also includes some fine animation, including two of the thirteen short films nominated for the 2007 European Film Awards (PRIX UIP). Each of the 13 films in this competition had already won a PRIX UIP award of €2000.00 at one of the major European festivals, and the winner will be announced on 1 December in Berlin and awarded a €10,000.00 grand prize.

One of the two contenders is Joanna Quinn’s delightful Dreams and Desires – Family Ties, which has already garnered the Grand Prix at several festivals such as Annecy and Zagreb. It qualified for the PRIX UIP by capturing the prize at Tampere International Film Festival in Tampere, Finland. I have written extensively about Beryl, the heroine of the film, and her whimsical screwball adventures in several previous articles, so I won’t repeat myself, except to say that the film gets better with each viewing. Nik and I did get to spend a lovely afternoon with Joanna and her scriptwriter husband Les Mills while they were here for the Festival and my next article will be an interview that I did with these two very talented and fun people. Joanna and Les also were gracious enough to take time out from their busy festival schedule to give a short Saturday morning master class at KASK School for the advanced students

Blogs

BEE MOVIE (2007) (***)

Jerry Seinfeld's big return is a B- at best. It's like honey sweet, satisfying, but it's not something that goes to your head. Even more so than Pixar's RATATOUILLE, this is an animated film for adults, which is not a negative comment in the least. Visually the little ones might find some of the sillier or more brightly colored moments entertaining, but most of it will buzz right over their heads. Where the film really succeeds is in creating its world. The parallels between the bee world and the human world are at times ingenious.

Barry B. Benson (Seinfeld) has just graduated from college. Because of their short life span, bees only have to go for three days. Barry and his best friend Adam Flayman (Matthew Broderick, ELECTION) go off to their first day at the hive, where they have to choose one job to do for the rest of their lives. This idea scares Barry, who decides to head out into the outside world to see what is out there. Along his journey, he ends up almost swatted by the brutish Ken (Patrick Warburton, TV's THE TICK) if it were not for the pretty florist Vanessa (Renee Zellweger, BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY). Barry breaks bee law and talks to Vanessa to thank her for saving his life. Quickly, Barry is smitten by Vanessa, and on a trip to the grocery store, he discovers the truth about human's theft of honey. So with the help of Vanessa, Barry decides to sue the human race.

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates the Best Horror Films of the 21st Century (Thus Far)

In time for Halloween, horror films seem like the obvious choice for This Weekend's Film Festival. As I did earlier in the year when I picked the best five live-action family films of the past five years, this lineup will be dedicated to the best horror of the 21st century. And I'm using 2001 as the start date, because it's actually the real start of the 21st century. There has been a great deal of great horror in the last seven years. However, the five films I have selected are really good examples of the genre. Prepare to be thrilled, but there is some challenging cinema here as well. So let the countdown begin.

Coming in a #5 and starting off the lineup is SESSION 9. As I said in my original review from 2001, "This is one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen." The story follows five asbestos removers who are under a very tight deadline to clear out and old asylum. This truly frightening film is a psychological thriller. The creepy location is just a setting; it's the demons haunting the souls of the five men that bring horror to their lives. One of the workers becomes obsessed with recordings of an old patient in the mental institution, and as we get closer to hearing the session 9 tape the more tension we feel. This horror nail-biter features a great cast including Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas, David Caruso, Stephan Gevedon and Brendan Sexton III. Director/writer Brad Anderson makes a horror film where the threat of something terrible happening is far more frightening than ghosts popping up at every turn.

Blogs

BASIC INSTINCT 2 (2006) (**)

Okay, the original BASIC INSTINCT is a total guilty pleasure. It’s delectable trash. When the sequel was released, it was universally trashed. I wasn't going to rush out to theaters to see it or even rent it, but I awaited its arrival on cable. I was expecting grand camp, and received some of that, but for the most part this is a lame thriller that twists and turns down obvious or illogical roads.

We begin with crime writer Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone, CASINO) driving over 100 mph down the streets of London as footballer (soccer player for the Americans) Kevin Franks (footballer Stan Collymore) pleasures her. Her excitement is so great that she drives the car off a bridge and into the river, where drugged up Franks drowns. Detective Roy Washburn (David Thewlis, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN) believes she did it on purpose. So he enlists court psychiatrist Michael Glass (David Morrissey, HILARY AND JACKIE) to rule on her mental state. After he meets the sexually provocative Tramell, Glass believes that she is addicted to risk. As things go with Tramell, she tries to seduce everyone around her, working her way into Glass treating her. Then people start turning up dead and Glass is thrust into a murder mystery that involves newspaper reporter Adam Towers (Hugh Dancy, ELLA ENCHANTED), his ex-wife Denise (Indira Varma, KAMA SUTRA), his colleague Milena Gardosh (Charlotte Rampling, SWIMMING POOL) and famed psychoanalyst Jakob Gerst (Heathcote Williams, ORLANDO).

Blogs

THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967) (***1/2)

As the final film supervised by Walt Disney, THE JUNGLE BOOK stands a historical transition for the Mouse House. With star casting and character designs based on those actors, the film stands as the close of the golden age and the beginning of the modern age of Disney animation. For better or for worse, it served as a flagship for the way animated features would be made at the studio for decades to come. Despite its flaws or unwanted precedents, it is hard to deny the charms of the irresistible songs and loveable characters.

Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman, THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH) is a baby abandoned in the jungle and discovered by wise panther Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot, 1960's THE TIME MACHINE). Adopted by a wolf pack, the boy's life is put in danger when the stealthy killer tiger Shere Khan (George Sanders, ALL ABOUT EVE) returns to their part of the jungle. Bagheera volunteers to take the boy to a man village. When Mowgli learns where he is going, he isn't happy. So when he meets slacker bear Baloo (Phil Harris, 1973's ROBIN HOOD), he wishes to live with the lazy bear on the bare necessities. Along the way, Mowgli will meet a marching unit of elephants led by Colonel Hathi (J. Pat O'Malley, 1971's WILLARD), be kidnapped by the monkeys of the temple of King Louie (Louis Prima), get hypnotized by boa constrictor Kaa (Sterling Holloway, MEET JOHN DOE), encounter a foursome of mop-top vultures and come face-to-face with the deep-voice orange and black terror.

Blogs

AWAY FROM HER (2007) (****)

This heart-rending account of a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s disease from the point of view of both the afflicted and the helpless observer is an impressive feature-directing debut by actress Sarah Polley. The young filmmaker handles the heavy material with grace, subtly and maturity that is surprising for someone 28 years old. With this film, we not only have one of the best films of 2007, but the dawn of a truly talented filmmaker.

Grant (Gordon Pinsent, THE SHIPPING NEWS) becomes quietly worried when he begins to see the signs that his wife Fiona (Julie Christie, MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER) may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. When her condition worsens to the point when she is afraid to leave the house because she is unsure if she can find her way back, she decides to enter an assisted living facility. The policy of the home is that new patients cannot receive guests from the outside for 30 days so they can become accustomed to their new surroundings. Grant doesn’t like this rule, but Fiona can’t bare him staying too long because it is so sad. When Grant returns for his first visit, Fiona doesn’t remember him and has developed a very close relationship with fellow patient Aubrey (Michael Murphy, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND). Intercut with Fiona’s journey to the home are scenes of Grant meeting Aubrey’s wife Marian (Olympia Dukakis, MOONSTRUCK); the two have the same thing in common as Fiona and Aubrey do, only from the other side.

Blogs

Kiev Weekly Interview with Nik and Nancy

While Nik and I were in Kiev for the KROK International Festival of Animation we were interviewed by Dmytro Ivanov for the KIEV WEEKLY. The article can be read in either English and Ukrainian at the web address listed below. The photo was taken while our boat was docked in Yalta.

http://www.weekly.ua/?art=1192627589

Blogs

THE MEMORY OF A KILLER (2005) (***1/2)

This Belgium/Netherlands co-production was originally released in 2003. It finally made its way to the U.S. in 2005 as an art house release. What one might find surprising about the film is that it's not an art house film. This slickly stylized thriller has more in common with Hollywood blockbusters than European dramas. The central plot of "cops after a killer" is fairly standard, but what makes this film special is the beguiling performance from Jan Decleir as a highly skilled assassin who is beginning to show the signs of Alzheimer's.

We start with detective Eric Vincke (Koen DeBouw, EXIT) involved in a child prostitution sting with his juvenile-acting partner Freddy Verstuyft (Werner DeSmedt). Then Angelo Ledda (Decleir, ANTONIA'S LINE) comes to town. He's assigned to kill two people and retrieve a lockbox. When Angelo refuses to kill his second target for personal reasons, he becomes the target. As he discovers the details of his mission, he forms his own personal vendetta against his clients, toying with the police that he is cleaning the streets of the crooks they cannot catch. Vincke will get ensnared in a cat and mouse chase with the hired killer and learn that the affair could blow the lid off layers of government corruption.

Blogs

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON (2006) (***)

Some consider Daniel Johnston a genius. Director/writer Jeff Feuerzeig has created a film about the troubled musician and painter that believes so too. Johnston was a typical artistic teen, who made films, drew in notebooks and wrote songs. When he reached college, he started developing the first signs of manic depression, which would define the rest of his life.

Johnston believed at an early age that he was destined to become famous. In college, he became obsessed with a pretty girl named Laurie Allen. However, she was already dating a mortician student, who she would later marry. Two decades later, Johnston still writes songs about her today. Once his parents believed graduating from college was an impossible task for him, Johnston bounced from relative to relative, where he continued to write music. One day, Johnston ran away and joined the carnival. A bizarre incident would leave him stranded in Austin, where he quickly inserted himself into the local music scene. When MTV came to town, he inserted himself on the air too. He was on the rise, but his mental illness just knocked him down time and time again.

Blogs

PLANET TERROR: EXTENDED CUT (***1/2)

This review of the extended cut of Robert Rodriguez's PLANET TERROR, which was released in theaters as GRINDHOUSE along with Quentin Taratino's DEATH PROOF, will be brief. This is fitting because the extension from the original cut is brief. A short plot summary would be go-go dancer Cherry Darling (played by so-to-be Mrs. Rodriguez, Rose McGowan), along with a host of others, must contend with a chemical weapon, which is turning everyone into zombies. If you liked what you saw in theaters than you'll like this version as well — for the only addition that I could detect was some extra skin in the sex scene. Does this make the film better? Actually no. In extending the scene, it changes the pacing and ruins one of the film's best-timed jokes. Anyway, overall, it's still a phantasmal gross fest that revels in the excesses of the genres it's paying homage and spoofing at the same time.

Blogs

THE FOG (1980) (***)

I happened to see the remake of this film before the original. Often in context a flawed movie will seem much better when compared to a similar, but inferior, production. This is the case when viewing THE FOG of 1980 against the remake. The original has an E.C. Comics, Stephen King, campfire ghost tale vibe. The redux takes all the good elements of the original and abandons them for pseudo-slick scare moments. Cool effects don't make things naturally better.

The Northern California fishing town of Antonio Bay was founded on the plundered wealth of a rich leper sailor naked Blake. As the town celebrates its centennial, an eerie fog moves into town carrying with it the zombie-like specters of Blake's vessel the Elizabeth Dane. The ghosts have come looking for the descendants of the six original conspirators against them. Sucked into this otherworldly game of revenge are: Stevie Wayner (Adrienne Barbeau, CREEPSHOW), a DJ who works out of the town's lighthouse; Nick Castle (Tom Atkins, LETHAL WEAPON), a local fisherman, who picks up pretty, young hitchhiker Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis, PROM NIGHT); Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh, PSYCHO), an aging socialite, who is planning the town's celebrations; Sandy Fadel (Nancy Loomis, HALLOWEEN), Mrs. Williams' assistant; drunk Father Robert Malone (Hal Holbrook, WALL STREET); and Dan O'Bannon (Charles Cyphers, THE ONION FIELD), the weather station operator, who has a thing for Stevie.

Blogs

"How To" succeed in cartooning

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 10:40am

Snuck into Ron Diamond's 'Animation Show of Shows' at HBO's NY screening room the other night. (I told security I was Paulie Walnuts, or maybe Paulie's walnuts, I forget which. Oh, and I understand this blogateria I'm part of is part of Ron's entertainment empire - love ya', Mister D!)

A most intriguing assortment of short toons were screened. Some were horribly arty, others artfully heartfelt, but being an old-time Hollywood studio cartoon junkie (if you remember "Meeska, mooska, mouseketeer / mousecartoon time now is here," welcome to my decrepit demographic), I went completely bonkers over a nouveau/retro Goofy 'How To' short from Lassetter's Burbank boys - 'How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.'

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Contemplates Tragic Relationships

Last week saw the release of two good films on DVD. Because the PLANET TERROR centered lineup was a sequel of sorts, I decided to wait till this week to build a lineup around A MIGHTY HEART. But with the passing of Deborah Kerr, I wanted to honor her as well. Then I saw that new editions of BREATHLESS and THE SHINING were being released on DVD this week. So I saw a theme forming. Tragic relationships. Cinema has captured tragic relationships of varying types since its birth. Tragedy has been part of storytelling since the earliest ages. But why do we like tragedy? Why are we drawn to these kinds of stories? The five films of This Weekend's Film Festival are an eclectic mix, but it’s a lineup that I enjoy, because looking at them from the point of view of tragic relationships, one can see a connection between the films that wouldn't be noticeable otherwise. This could be the most thought provoking Fest thus far.

Blogs

C.S.A.: CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA (2006) (**1/2)

Many of the pieces of this satire work wonderfully. The look and feel is dead on. However, often, the humor is so opaque that at time it's non-existent. Smart people made this film; people who know history very well. On that level it plays perfectly. However as a comedy it rarely hits the mark.

The conceit is that the film is really a British documentary on the history of the Confederate States of America. It's an alternative history mockumentary that looks at how American history would have played out if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War. The film even includes fake commercial breaks with less than PC products for sale. After the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln goes on the run and flees to Canada, where he dies of old age. The "documentary" shows clips of old movies where Jefferson Davis figures out how to rebuild the North by giving slave owners a tax break. The CSA becomes a great aggressor colonizing South America. Later Asian immigrants are turned into slaves in the West. In the time leading up to World War II, the CSA president meets with Hitler and discusses the waste of killing the Jews when they could make wonderful slaves. The CSA attacks Japan instead of the other way around. Many of the accomplishments of blacks who would have been U.S. citizens, become Canadian landmarks like rock 'n roll, jazz and Olympic record breakers. In modern times, there is even a home shopping network for slaves.

Blogs

“What’s Cooking?”


I am in Switzerland, as a lecturer at Art & Design branch of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Hochschule Luzern, formerly HGK Lucerne School of Art and Design), staying in Zurich with my dear friend Rolf Bächler. This is the second time Rolf and I have taught a course together titled “What’s Cooking?” which we created last year for the newly introduced Design Management class. As the first instructors at the beginning of the studies, our task is team building while exposing the new group of students to a real-life management and design assignment.


In the process of this project, the group must define what needs to be done, break into small task groups to execute the duties and yet work as a total team to complete the task.In a morning lecture, Rolf and I outline the task, but after that we are only there to give advice when we are asked for it, and jump in if we see that anything is going terribly wrong. We want the students to set up their own structure, think and plan through the process and execute every task themselves.

Blogs

I'm not the only one with a dirty mind...

By Joe Strike | Monday, October 22, 2007 at 8:22am

Seems like someone outside the animation world finally picked up on Nala's "f*** me' look in "The Lion King:"

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/10/the_lion_king_the_only_walt_dis...

Even a friend of mine who's only a casual animation fan pointed the shot out to me long ago. I've been told that on the DVD (which I don't own myself) commentary track, one of the animators announces 'I can't believe they let us get away with that shot.'

The Guardian's columnist ends his piece with "I've got to check through Bambi for subliminal porn." He won't have to look very hard: the scene where Bambi, Flower and Thumper meet their girlfriends is pretty hot: Thumper starts thumpin' a mile a minute until he keels over in exhaustion (all she has to do is stroke his ear a bit to start him up again), Flower blushes bright red and stiffens like a board while Faline gives Bambi an unmistakable 'come hither' look of her own.
And let's not even go near the various Disney shorts that focus lovingly on punishment administered to various characters' backsides - like for instance the spanking machine put to liberal use in one of the 3 Little Pigs shorts...you're a naughty boy, Walt; naughty, naughty, naughty...

Blogs

BROTHERS (2005) (****)

After continually missing this Danish film that received solid reviews upon its release, I have now discovered a classic drama that is one of the premiere films from 2005. Since then, director Susanne Bier went on to receive an Oscar nomination last year for her film AFTER THE WEDDING. Now BROTHERS is set for an English language remake starring Natalie Portman, Toby Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. It will be very difficult to improve on the original.

Michael (Ulrich Thomsen, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN) is a soldier in the Danish Army. He is about to be sent to Afghanistan. His marriage with wife Sarah (Connie Nielsen, GLADIATOR) is good and his relationship with his two young girls is loving. Before he leaves he picks up his younger brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas, THE IDIOTS) from jail, where he has finished a sentence for assault and robbery. Jannik is a loose canon, who likes to spend a great deal of his time in bars. His father Henning (Bent Mejding, ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS) is an abstinent man who has no faith in his youngest son. The brothers' mother Else (Solbjorg Hojfeldt, THE KINGDOM) is a quiet peacemaker.

Blogs

THE SHINING (1980) (****)

One of the great horror films from one of the great filmmakers, THE SHINING is a simple horror tale, raised to another level by perfect tone and Stanley Kubrick's uncanny knowledge of the filmic language. Based on a Stephen King novel, Kubrick and Diane Johnson altered the story a great deal, boiling it down to its essence. Upon multiple viewings, the film still has the ability to create unsettling feelings and dread.

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson, THE DEPARTED) is a wannabe writer who takes a job as the caretaker for the long winter at the remote Overlook Hotel. Upon taking the job, the manager Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson, "Stopover in a Quiet Town" episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE) warns Jack that a previous caretaker went crazy during the winter season and murdered his family there. Jack doesn't seem phased, because he is looking forward to having months of time to write his first novel. Accompanying him is his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall, 3 WOMEN) and their young son Danny (Danny Lloyd, WILL: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF G. GORDON LIDDY), who has an imaginary friend named Tommy living in his mouth. At the Overlook, the head cook Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers, THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS) discusses the special abilities that he and Danny share. Both are telepaths who can see the past and future. And the future looks scary for the Torrances as Jack becomes increasingly unstable under the influence of the ghosts of the hotel.

Blogs

KROK 2007


The KROK 2007 International Animated Film Festival, held this year in the Ukraine, was a tribute to the brilliant Russian animator Alexander Tatarsky who died unexpectedly in July. Many of the festival attendees were still in a state of shock, so it was a bittersweet event. The opening night of the festival was highlighted by a special tribute to the great director. The second night the evening was devoted to a retrospective of his films, followed by “Recalling Sascha,” a memorial which gave friends and colleagues a chance to tell humorous and touching stories about the beloved filmmaker, and to laugh a lot, just as Tatarsky would have wanted since he loved to laugh, often pulling practical jokes and fond of playing with his beloved collection of toys and doll. The decision not to translate the events of the evening into English was completely correct because it would have broken the mood. I was lucky enough to have a translator sitting close by, filling me in, so that I did not have to miss out on the joy and sadness of the evening. On closing night the children’s film project, a film traditionally made by the young people on board the ship, was an homage to the much loved Tatarsky.

THE ADVENTURE


This year’s celebration of animation was held 25 September through 6 October aboard the cruise ship Taras Shevchenko, sailing from Odessa to Kiev on the Black Sea and the Dneiper River. Festival participants met the first evening at the KROK office in Kiev and took the night train to Odessa. As my frequent readers know, I love train travel, and so these overnight trips in Russia and the Ukraine are always a big treat for me. These train trips always involve food, plenty of drink and sometimes live music, giving us a chance to see old friends and to meet new animators in a more intimate setting than the boat, if such is possible. We held a party in our compartment and when I finally couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and succumbed to slumber, the party was still going on. When I awoke, I found the same folks sitting in the same places in our compartment. What a perfect beginning to another memorable trip!

Blogs

This Weekend's Film Festival Celebrates Flesh-Eaters

With the extended edition of PLANET TERROR hitting stores this week, I am centering another This Weekend's Film Festival around the theme of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's GRINDHOUSE. Unlike the past lineup, which featured road/chase flicks, this one focuses on flesh eating and embodies the essence of grindhouse films. This will be the bloodiest and most disturbing lineup thus far. Most of the films will be films I recommend, but two will be films I didn't recommend. One of those films is one of the most controversial films ever made. The second is one of the most ridiculous zombie movies ever made. The two better films in the lineup are an homage to grindhouse fare and an old school grindhouse production that has risen to the heights of a horror classic. This Weekend's Film Festival isn't for the weak at heart -- or the weak stomached either. Be warned, you might be offended... but that's part of the grindhouse experience.

Blogs

MICHAEL CLAYTON (2007) (***1/2)

Tony Gilroy moves from the writer of the BOURNE series to his first directing gig with this solid corporate thriller. With a fairly straight-forward visual style leaving the flare to the script structure, Gilroy is blessed with a cast filled with the likes of George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack. Each actor gives first-rate performances, driving this very believable tale of corporate greed and deception.

Clooney plays the title character, a fixer for a major law firm. He refers to himself as a janitor; the man who cleans up the dirty laundry of the firm's high paying clients. He is called in when, during a deposition in a billion dollar lawsuit, the firm's chief litigator Arthur Edens (Wilkinson, IN THE BEDROOM) strips down naked and professes his love for the young woman testifying in the 15-year-old contamination case. Chief legal advisor for uNorth, the company being sued in the class action suit, Karen Crowder (Swinton, DEEP END) is appalled when she sees the tape of Edens. When Clayton comes to her, he doesn't make her feel confident that the problem will be adequately taken care of, spurring her to take matters into her own hands.

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