Jeff Skoll

Jeff Skoll

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The Visitor Review


Very Good
The post-9/11 U.S. has always seemed like a grieving widow waiting for the other fatalistic shoe to drop. Part of this comes from a government selling fear as the foundation for its continued power. The other stems from the media's mindless grind of less-than-soothing imagery. Yet what many citizens fail to understand is that people more than politics are affected by our nervous kneejerk reactions. Such a sentiment forms the basis of Thomas McCarthy's intriguing new film, The Visitor.

For Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), existence is a stifled sleepwalk of commitments and complaints. He hates teaching. He hates faculty politics. He especially hates the lonely life he leads as a widower. His wife long dead, Vale just can't find a purpose. Forced to travel from his new home in Connecticut to his old apartment in New York City to present a paper, he discovers two strangers living there. As illegals, Arab Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and African Zainab (Danai Jekesai Gurira) have no real place to go, so Vale reluctantly lets them stay. When the Syrian Tarek is wrongfully arrested and detained, our quiet professor becomes his champion. The arrival of Tarek's mother (Hiam Abbass) from Michigan makes matters more complicated.

Continue reading: The Visitor Review

Syriana Review


Good
Never send a writer to do a director's job. That, more than the addictive evils of easy oil and cozy government/business corruption, is the true lesson of Syriana. When Steven Soderbergh took on Stephen Gaghan's byzantine script for Traffic, he utilized a few simple tricks to keep it all making sense, everything from grouping stories by color scheme to casting vivid character actors for minor roles so that they wouldn't get lost in the shuffle. Gaghan doesn't have these skills to bring to bear and though he beats his sprawling epic somewhat into shape, it leaves one wishing for the film that could have been, given a better director.

Like Traffic, Syriana is a messy Gordian knot of plot, only with no Soderbergh to slice it neatly open. Instead of drug trafficking, the subject this time is the nexus where oil corporations, the U.S. government, Islamic extremism, and Middle East dictatorships come together in an unholy fusion of polity and greed. The characters are introduced at a leisurely pace, Gaghan laying it all out with perhaps a little too much care. Once things start to cohere, the film shunts into a political thriller about an unnamed Gulf State where the ailing king's two sons are jockeying for control; one is a lazy playboy beloved by U.S. interests and the other is an educated reformer who wants to modernize his country and stop kowtowing to the west.

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Good Night, And Good Luck Review


Excellent
One doesn't need much more of a reason to go to the movies than this: Edward R. Murrow taking on Senator Joe McCarthy (at the height of his power), crisp black-and-white cinematography, the clink of ice cubes over scotch, voluptuous clouds of cigarette smoke hanging in the air, a nation's conscience dangling in the balance. So it is with George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, a film where the mood - just shy of too cool for its own good - sets the scene for Murrow, the patron saint of journalism, to cajole and castigate the audience in a time of complacency. It also has a great jazz soundtrack.

The story of the witch-hunt has endlessly retold, usually laden with the same self-satisfied 20/20 hindsight that afflicts stories of the civil rights movement, and fortunately Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov see no need to go through it all again. With admirable precision, they've sliced away most all the accoutrements often used to open up the era for the modern viewer, ala Quiz Show. This is a film that takes place almost entirely inside a CBS studio and newsroom, with occasional trips to hallways, elevators, and a network executive's wood-paneled office. Once, they all go out to a bar. It's best in the studio, because that's where we find Murrow - incarnated with almost indecent accuracy by David Strathairn - looking and sounding like as though Rod Serling had decided to rejoin the human race, his manner clipped and astringent, cigarette cocked in one hand like a talisman warding off evil.

Continue reading: Good Night, And Good Luck Review

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Jeff Skoll Movies

Syriana Movie Review

Syriana Movie Review

Never send a writer to do a director's job. That, more than the addictive evils...

Good Night, and Good Luck Movie Review

Good Night, and Good Luck Movie Review

One doesn't need much more of a reason to go to the movies than this:...

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