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The Ides of March with George Clooney and Real Steel with Hugh Jackman

Ryan Gosling is part of the George Clooney campaign in the fictional but realistic new film, The Ides of March

Only two films evaluated this week and they’re both good ones. But if George Clooney and Hugh Jackman aren’t enough for you, take note that tickets are already on sale for the next Twilight movie. Breaking Dawn’s  first showtime isn’t until 10 p.m. Thursday November 17 and yet the websites for all the Cineplex Theatres are trumpeting that you can buy now.

 

This week you’ve got:

The Ides of March  4 stars

Real Steel    3 ½

1911  --

 

THE IDES OF MARCH: You can’t avoid the feeling as you’re watching this that the people behind it know exactly how politics works. Back there in those rooms, in the limos and the campaign planes. How idealistic aides dip and sway with the machinations of the higher ups, and how carefully the candidates’ policy pronouncements are sculpted. And how idealism doesn’t last.

The story comes from a play that went on stage just before the last U.S. presidential race. Ryan Gosling is the aide here, the press secretary to George Clooney’s candidate, a governor trying to win a primary as an early step towards the White House. Philip Seymour Hoffman is his wily chief of staff and Paul Giamatti does the same job much the same way over on the rival side. Clooney is downright Obamaesque, pushing a platform of change and optimism. In the early going there’s discussion of the exact issue that Obama slammed into. Can one person actually bring about change within the American political system? Fat chance you might conclude as the film watches the operatives at work. They play the news media, court a senator to get his support and fret over the impact of every word their candidate utters.

All this turns into high drama when Giamatti invites Gosling to come over to his side. There’s no deal, but it evolves and grows anyway, like a subtle chess move that sets in motion some big repercussions later on. Gosling’s idealism is the casualty. Then, when he hooks up with a young intern on the campaign (Evan Rachel Wood), the story, like a lot of politics these days, brings in a sex scandal. There’s a big lode of cynicism running through this film, but also terrific acting by all involved, smart writing and a sprightly pace set by Clooney, the director. (The Park, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

 

REAL STEEL: This is for the 7-year old boy in all of us. Get down on the floor with those toy robots and get them boxing. That’s what Hugh Jackman does. He plays a two-bit hustler on the fringes of the sport of robot boxing. It’s the year 2020 and machines now do the fisticuffs but Hugh’s robot gets wrecked battling a bull (a real one) at a county fair. Since he also has big debts and thugs on his tail, he needs help. Cue the kid. It seems Hugh fathered a son 12 years earlier and now, through the convenience of scriptwriting, has to spend a summer with him.

The boy, played resilient and clever by Dakota Goyo from Toronto, is a big fan of the sport, can cite the key contests and pushes Hugh to get another robot on its feet and into the ring. Of course they bond, father and son. They coach enough wins in the boxing dives to make it up to the big ring and are obliged eventually to work out their differences. Movies are like that and this one is so much fun, with so much heart you’re bound to have a good time.

Evangeline Lilly, a former UBC student, provides the love interest and considerable robot knowledge and Shawn Levy, also a Canadian, directed. He delivers it loud and plausible, with robots that move, punch and take punches as if they were real, living beings. The action was choreographed by Sugar Ray Leonard. (Oakridge, Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)

3 1/2 out of 5

 

1911: Jackie Chan is the director and the star but not in the usual way. No comic martial arts here. This is a history lesson about the revolution that toppled the last of the imperial dynasties in China 100 years ago. Chan plays a general who led the rebel army and, in the bigger role, Winston Chao  plays Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the political head of the revolt. He spends a lot of time hitting up overseas Chinese for money and  urging overseas banks to stop sending money to the emperor’s government. I’m told the talk is turgid but the battle scenes are grand. The film wasn’t available for me to preview. Interesting though, Joan Chen who played the wife of the last emperor in the famous Bernardo Bertolucci film, here plays his mother. And Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee has a small role. The film is subtitled. (International Village and two suburban theatres)

 

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