Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Spacey’

This week’s releases include: a modern-day gladiator; an old school horror movie; a family torn apart; a cheery musical; a revenge fantasy come true; a set of tragic stories; a period drama; a comedic hunt for evil; an existential look at life; a sinister abuse of the Internet; and a talking animals picture. (more…)

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This week’s releases include: the true story of world famous fraud and corruption; the tale of a young woman’s search for love and freedom; a documentary about the impact of a miracle; and a thriller about the ultimate intrusion. (more…)


Moon is an ambitious first outing but director Duncan Jones manages to pull it off. It’s the first feature-length effort from Jones, formerly and more widely-known as Zowie Bowie, rock star David Bowie’s son.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the sole astronaut on a moon-based space station. Machines collect Helium 3, which now powers 70% of the Earth, and it’s Sam’s job to rocket launch the full tanks back home. After three years, his tour is nearly complete and Sam expects his replacement to arrive soon for training. He exchanges video messages with his wife and watches his daughter grow via a monitor. Sam’s only direct communication is with GERTY (Kevin Spacey), an artificially intelligent computer that shows basic emotions by displaying emoticons. An accident and curiosity eventually lead to some surprising discoveries and tough decisions.

Moon is definitely channelling Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its minimalist science fiction vessel. Without revealing too much, the story’s Outer Limits-style twist is less shocking than intriguing to watch unfold once it’s revealed. It poses questions regarding morality and science and the emotional capacity of humans versus machines.

Rockwell is exceptional in every aspect of the emotional funhouse in which the story is set. Spacey’s voice is largely recognizable, but it also carries an uncanny ability to be nearly monotone yet capable of emitting profound feeling. Combined with the emoticons, the illusion that the computer feels is wholly realized. Recent sci-fi has been so reliant on epic destruction and CGI characters that this return to the basics and a good story is long-awaited.

The special features include: commentary with Jones, director of photography Gary Shaw, concept designer Gavin Rothery and production designer Tony Noble; commentary with Jones and producer Stuart Fenegan; the making of Moon; creating the visual effects; science centre Q&A with Jones; Q&A at the Sundance Film Festival; and Whistle, a short film by Jones.


There have been numerous serious movies made over the last few years about the Iraq war, many of which have not been very good (with at least one exception being The Hurt Locker released earlier this year). The Men Who Stare at Goats takes a satirical approach to the situation instead and does so quite successfully.

Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is a down on his luck reporter looking for a story that will put him back in the good graces of the wife that just left him. His early lead is on a secret government project that sought to harness the power of psychics for peaceful resolutions to war. Although Bob’s contact sounded somewhat outside of reality, he did reveal the name of the “Jedi project’s” top operative: Lyn Cassady. Having hit a dead end, Bob goes to Iraq in the hopes of displaying the courage of a war correspondent. Stuck in Kuwait awaiting approval, Bob strikes up a conversation with a stranger who turns out to be Cassady (George Clooney). The two embark on a strange adventure while Cassady reveals how the “Jedi warriors” were trained and his real purpose for his trip to Iraq.

The movie opens with: “More of this is true than you would believe.” The fun is in deciding which elements are truths versus fiction. The title comes from an experiment in which a psychic was told to concentrate on a goat in an attempt to stop its heart. The army slogan “Be all you can be” was given a whole new meaning the moment these super soldiers were recruited for the top secret project.

The strong male cast consists of McGregor, Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges. McGregor shows his usual enthusiasm at this new world he is uncovering; his disbelief is quickly replaced by an eager desire to learn the methods of the psychic army. Clooney takes on another peculiar character with Cassady, a man who steadfastly believes in his abilities, which makes him appear slightly crazy most of the time. Spacey is a play by the rules type of soldier that joins a unit that doesn’t have rules, creating tension in the once happy hippie ranks. Bridges is the commanding officer within Project Jedi. He was assigned to explore methods of meditation and the power of the mind, returning a hippie ready for non-combative engagement.

The Men Who Stare at Goats is an offbeat comedy about the side of the war we really didn’t know about. The “New Earth Army Manual” is a bizarre set of instructions that makes references to both Jesus and Disney; and the subliminal message advising soldiers not to use their weapons while intoxicated is hidden in the song “Wishin’ and Hopin’.” This is a movie about the war that is sure to get audiences thinking, but in a totally different way.


Moon is the first feature-length effort of Duncan Jones, formerly and more widely-known as Zowie Bowie, rock star David Bowie’s son. It’s an ambitious first outing but Jones manages to pull it off.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the sole astronaut on a moon-based space station. Machines collect Helium 3, which now powers 70% of the Earth, and it’s Sam’s job to rocket launch the full tanks back home. After three years, his tour is nearly complete and Sam expects his replacement to arrive soon for training. He exchanges video messages with his wife and watches his daughter grow via a monitor. Sam’s only direct communication is with GERTY (Kevin Spacey), an artificially intelligent computer that shows basic emotions by displaying emoticons. An accident and curiosity eventually lead to some surprising discoveries and tough decisions.

Moon is definitely channelling Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its minimalist science fiction vessel. Without revealing too much, the story’s Outer Limits-style twist is less shocking than intriguing to watch unfold once it’s revealed. It poses questions regarding morality and science and the emotional capacity of humans versus machines.

Rockwell is exceptional in every aspect of the emotional fun house in which the story is set. Spacey’s voice is largely recognizable, but it also carries an uncanny ability to be nearly monotone yet capable of emitting profound feeling. Combined with the emoticons, the illusion that the computer feels is wholly realized.

Recent sci-fi has been so reliant on epic destruction and CGI characters that this return to the basics and a good story is long-awaited.

Outside the highlights on the evening news and the amusing commentary provided by Jon Stewart and company, in-depth political analysis is usually rather dull. It is, therefore, surprising how Recount plays like a thriller despite the fact we already know the outcome.

The film chronicles the events that took place over 36 days following the 2000 Presidential elections. It was Al Gore versus George W. Bush and the results in Florida came back too close to call. Legal teams and campaign strategists from both sides then engaged in a political street fight to determine the winner, i.e. the 43rd president of the United States. The only answer was a statewide recount but it never took place. In the end, the truth would never be known.

The all-star cast includes Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary, Tom Wilkinson, Bob Balaban, John Hurt and Laura Dern. It’s easy to see why these talents were attracted to the project, as the script is compelling and relevant. Furthermore, while the credits roll, images of the people upon which the characters are based are shown and the similarity between most of them and the actors that portrayed them is remarkable.

Writer Danny Strong did extensive research to deliver a story as close to the real events as possible and still manages to wholly engage the viewer. The mix of recreation and archival news footage is a constant reminder the events are true, despite how ludicrous they may sometimes seem. The documentary footage is also employed to illustrate the finer points that are at issue and how it was portrayed by the media.

The special features focus on the reality of the people and situations. Spacey and Balaban each interview their real-life counterparts while authorities on the subject testify to the film’s correctness. In addition, the feature commentary by Strong and director Jay Roach elaborates on the filming process, sources and accuracy.

WINNER, WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!: Kate Bosworth and Jim Sturgess in a scene from 21 (Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures).A blur of neon lights, hip clubs, and thousands of dollars in cash and chips – that is the simplest summary of Robert Luketic’s 21.

The film is based on the true story of a group of math elite M.I.T. students that took Las Vegas casinos for millions in the mid-1990s by counting cards and ‘crushing’ blackjack tables. The team’s big player and basis for Jim Sturgess’ character was Jeff Ma. But if you want to know what really happened, you should pick up Ben Mezrich’s book, Bringing Down the House.

Ben Campbell (Sturgess) lives out the archetypal rags-to-riches-to-trouble story seen in most gambling movies. Ben works in a men’s clothing store to pay his way but sees no hope when he discovers his dream to attend Harvard Med will run $300,000. When he’s approached by a classmate and invited into the fold by Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey), his life changes and doors open. Spending weekends in Vegas, the team makes their wages then parties like rock stars. The only thing in their way is “loss prevention” specialist, Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne), whose biggest threat is more painful than banishment.

Within a culture obsessed with gambling, filmmakers seem to have hoped the contagiousness of counting cards and the idea of beating the house would be enough to keep audiences engaged. Unfortunately, despite the use of dramatic license to add a love interest (Kate Bosworth) and increase the danger, the story is weak and the novelty fades.

Luckily, Sturgess has an inherent charm that leaps off the screen, dominating scenes (even with Spacey), and his task of carrying the film is helped by Aaron Yoo’s joker Choi.

21 never really explores the seedy underbelly, devious tactics or helpless addiction that actually shapes Las Vegas. Instead, it is a flashy ride whose sole purpose is to entertain – just as a casino would have you believe is the purpose of its existence – and in that it mostly succeeds.