REVIEW: FRED CLAUS

 

CAST

Vince Vaughn (Delivery Man)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Kevin Spacey (L.A. Confidential)
Kathy Bates (Bad Santa 2)
John Michael Higgins (Couples Retreat)
Elizabeth Banks (Power Rangers)
Ludacris (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Stephen Baldwin (8 Seconds)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen)
Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)

A baby is born, and within a few minutes of his birth, he starts saying: “Ho, ho, ho!”. Mother Claus calls her son, Frederick, over to meet his new brother, whom she has decided to name Nicholas. Mother Claus lovingly refers to the new baby as her little Saint Nick. During Christmas, when Nick opens his gifts including Fred’s, he decides to give them away to orphans which makes Fred angry. Mother Claus advises Fred to be a better person by stating he should be more like his brother; this in turn causes Fred to resent Nick. Feeling isolated, Fred often climbs a tree to confide his problems in a bird. On one occasion, Nick cuts down the tree, saying that now Fred can bring it inside since he liked it so much. However, the birdhouse Fred’s confidant lived in is smashed, causing the bird to leave; this causes a permanent rift between Fred and Nick.In the present day, it is revealed that when Nick becomes a saint due to all his good deeds, he, Fred, and Mother and Father Claus become frozen in time, never to age. Nick has become the modern-day Santa Claus, giving gifts to people and Fred works as a repossession agent in Chicago to take them away. His girlfriend, Wanda, gets mad at him for forgetting that her birthday was the next day. Wanda refers to a previous birthday where Fred promised to take her to France. When Fred gets back to his own apartment, he watches TV when a young orphan boy named Samuel “Slam” Gibbons comes in. Slam talks about wanting a puppy named Macaroni for Christmas. Fred is attacked by countless men dressed up as Santa and after he gets arrested, he calls his brother for $5,000 bail money. He also asks for an additional $50,000 for a get rich quick scheme. Nick agrees to give him the bail money, but tells him that if he wants the $50,000, he has to come to the North Pole and work for it.Soon after, an elf named Willie shows up to take Fred to the North Pole. He is the head elf and has a crush on Santa’s Little Helper, Charlene. Once Fred and Willie arrive at the North Pole, Nick welcomes Fred and shows him around the North Pole. There is a snow globe in the main area of the workshop, where you can say any person’s name and see if they are being naughty or nice. While Fred starts working, Nick introduces Clyde Northcut, an efficiency expert who has come to evaluate the North Pole. Clyde takes Nick to the workshop and on the way tells Nick that he has three strikes. If Nick gets three strikes, the workshop will be shut down for good. Meanwhile, the workshop is in a state of chaos because of Fred, and Clyde says that Nick’s inability to control his work staff is strike one. That night at dinnertime, Nick convinces Fred to come to dinner with Mother and Father Claus and Clyde. Sitting down at the dinner table, Mother Claus continues to praise Nick, while Fred storms out and heads to Frosty’s Tavern, an elf bar, where he meets Willie, who discusses his lack of self-confidence regarding Charlene. Fred teaches Willie to dance, and Willie then falls down in front of Charlene, embarrassing himself. A pep talk by Fred later lifts his spirits.Meanwhile, Clyde deliberately sabotages the mail sorting department by shredding countless children’s letters, which later gives Nick a second strike. Believing that Fred is putting Nick under stress, a family meeting is called (which Fred was tied up and taken to) with Wanda present, and Fred leaves by saying that therapy is for families who want to be together, and their family does not have that problem. When Slam is placed at the top of the most naughty list, Fred understands that Slam has just had it hard and is not naughty. He then stamps every kids’ description as nice.Furious at what Fred has done wrong, Nick ends up fighting with him, in which Nick injures his back. Angry with Nick, Fred leaves the North Pole with his $50,000, but Nick gives Fred a present to take with him. Fred waits until he returns home to open the gift, which is a birdhouse, a replacement for the one on the tree, and a note from Nick which says, “I’m sorry for cutting down your tree. Love, Nick.” Fred is confused and enters a Siblings Anonymous meeting. At the end, Bill Clinton’s younger half-brother, Roger Clinton Jr, makes a speech about his brother’s success. Back at the North Pole, it looks like Christmas is lost. Nick is in bed and cannot make his Christmas Eve journey of delivering presents.Willie reminds Fred that, according to a long-standing rule, only a member of the Claus family can deliver the presents and Fred qualifies. Fred begins delivering presents to children around the world and Willie joins him to assist with the flying of the sleigh and the navigation. Meanwhile, Clyde sabotages their efforts at midnight by shutting off the power, which was the only way for the North Pole to communicate to Fred and Willie, helping them navigate. While Fred and Willie attempt to finish delivering the gifts for the children, Nick talks to Clyde by realizing that when he was a boy, Clyde did not get what he wanted from Nick because he would act up due to bullying, which resulted in him growing up to be the man he is. Nick realizes, thanks to Fred, that his definition of naughty was flawed. Nick makes peace with him by giving Clyde the Superman cape he wanted as a kid but never got.Fred stops by the foster home to visit Slam and bring him the puppy (Macaroni) he wanted. Fred faces away from Slam to hide his identity and explains to Slam that he should become a better person. As the rest of the elves anxiously wait in the tavern, Willie marches in and, with newfound confidence, he walks up to Charlene, grabs a chair to stand on, and kisses her. After Fred announces that Christmas has been saved, everyone gathers around the giant snow globe to watch the children of the world open their presents. Nick tells Fred that he is the best big brother anybody could ever ask for, and they finally make amends.Fred returns to Wanda’s house and she is initially upset to see him and tells him to leave. He refuses and states that he is moving in with her. He gives her a present. Wanda opens it to find a teddy bear holding a French flag. That night, Fred takes Wanda to France in Santa’s sleigh, and they circle around the Eiffel Tower (“It’s a company car. It’s one of the perks.” says Fred). The two continue dating, and Charlene and Willie are now happy together. By next Christmas, Slam is adopted, but Fred never stops watching out for him – even becoming the coach of his Little League Baseball team. As for Clyde, Nick hires him as an efficiency consultant and he teaches the elves how to use a spreadsheet. Nick and Mrs. Claus, as well as Nick and Fred’s parents visit Fred’s and Wanda’s house for Christmas. It is evident that Fred and his mom have grown closer. Fred has also become a true Claus; while Nick has lost a bit of weight, Fred has gained some. The movie ends by showing the bird house hung up outside Fred’s window, and a bird, who looks like the one Fred befriended, perched on it.I do not recall the last time I have seen such entertaining Christmas movie. “Fred Claus” is funny and has many hilarious moments. The message that there is no naughty child and consequently every child deserves a Christmas gift is great. The cast leaded by Vince Vaughn is fantastic and I really loved this movie. A great film for the Christmas holidays.

REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

CAST

Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Emma Stone (Easy A)
Jamie Foxx (Ray)
Dane DeHaan (Life After beth)
Colm Feore (Thor)
Felicity Jones (Rogue One)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)
Campbell Scott (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Marton Csokas (The Equalizer)
Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold)
Skyler Gisondo (Vacation)
Stan Lee (Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Denis Leary (Rescue Me)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Michael Massee (Flashforward)
Max Charles (American Sniper)
B.J. Novak (Saving Mr. Banks)
J.D. Walsh (Two and a Half Men)

In 2000, Oscorp scientist Richard Parker records a video message to explain his disappearance. Later, he and his wife, Mary, are aboard a private jet hijacked by a man sent to assassinate Richard. The plane crashes, killing both Richard and Mary, after he uploads the video.Fourteen years later, Richard’s son Peter continues to fight crime as Spider-Man. He pursues and apprehends Aleksei Sytsevich. Later, Peter meets with Gwen at their high school graduation ceremony and, insisting he keep his vow to her father, ends their relationship. Peter’s childhood friend, Harry Osborn, returns to Manhattan to see his terminally-ill father, Norman, CEO of OsCorp. Norman explains his illness is genetic, and Harry is at the age where it first develops. Norman gives Harry a small device he claims contains his life’s work. The next day, Norman dies and Harry is appointed the new OsCorp CEO.While working in an OsCorp laboratory, electrical engineer Max Dillon shocks himself by accident and falls into a tank of genetically-engineered electric eels. They attack him, and he mutates into a living electric generator. Meanwhile, Peter attempts to maintain a friendship with Gwen, but she reveals that she may move to England for schooling. Before they can discuss it, Dillon wanders into Times Square, accidentally causing a blackout, and is stopped by Peter after a battle. Dillon is taken to Ravencroft Institute, where he is studied by German scientist Dr. Kafka. Meanwhile, the first symptoms of Harry’s illness are showing, and he uses the device Norman gave him to deduce that Spider-Man’s blood could help save him. He asks Peter, who has been selling photos of Spider-Man to the Daily Bugle, to aid him in finding Spider-Man. Peter refuses, unsure of what effects the transfusion would have. Although he later comes to Harry as Spider-Man, he still refuses, and Harry develops an intense hatred towards Spider-Man. The OsCorp board-members, in particular the vice-president, Donald Menken, frame Harry for covering up Dillon’s accident, remove him as CEO, overthrow him and take control of Oscorp. Harry’s assistant, Felicia Hardy, informs him of equipment that could help him, so he makes a deal with Dillon, who now calls himself “Electro,” to get him back inside the OsCorp building. There he finds a suit of armour and other equipment made by Norman, as well as venom from the now-destroyed genetically-altered spiders. The venom accelerates Harry’s illness and transforms him into a goblin-like creature, but the suit’s built-in emergency protocol restores his health and cures his disease.Peter uses information left by his father to locate the video message in an abandoned subway station’s hidden lab. Richard explains he had to leave because he refused to cooperate with Norman’s biogenetic weaponization plans. Peter then hears a voicemail from Gwen, telling him she was offered the British scholarship and is heading to the airport earlier than expected. He manages to catch her and professes his love for her, and, vowing to go wherever she goes, they agree to go to England together. Electro causes another blackout, and Peter heads off to fight him as Spider-Man. Gwen follows, and together they restore power and overload Electro’s body, killing him.The transformed Harry, who now calls himself “Green Goblin”, arrives equipped with Norman’s armor and weaponry. Upon seeing Gwen, he deduces Spider-Man’s secret identity and, swearing revenge for being refused the blood transfusion, kidnaps her and takes her to the top of a clock tower. Peter manages to defeat the Green Goblin, but his webbing breaks during the battle and Gwen falls to her death. Peter, depressed and distraught, mourns over Gwen’s death and ends his career as Spider-Man. Five months later, Harry is coping with the aftereffects of his transformation while incarcerated at Ravencroft. His associate, Gustav Fiers, visits Harry and the pair discuss forming their own team. Harry orders Fiers to start with Sytsevich. Later an unknown team of men break Sytsevich out of prison. Equipped with electromechanical suit armor, Sytsevich calls himself the Rhino and rampages through the streets. Peter, inspired by Gwen’s graduation speech, resumes his role as Spider-Man and confronts him.The Amazing Spider-Man 2 nearly earns an honest emotional response over this pairing. The writing could be better, but Garfield and Stone do an excellent job selling their roles and this movie. I am a big fan of Stone, and she elevates Garfield’s already solid performance. Webb does not quite find the balance between this drama and spectacle, and the film understandably includes a number of rollicking action sequences. The visual effects are strong, but the bullet-time slow motion feels a bit stale. There is a lot of flash to these bits, but not much substance. This is an entertaining film that could be better.

REVIEW: THE HANGOVER – PART II

 

CAST

Bradley Cooper (Ameircan Sniper_
Ed Helms (Cedar Rapids)
Zach Galifianakis (Up In The Air)
Justin Bartha (Gigli)
Jeffrey Tambor (Dr. Dolittle)
Ken Jeong (Couples Retreat)
Jamie Chung (Sucker Punch)
Mason Lee (Super Express)
Bryan Callen (Ride Along)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Sasha Barrese (Let Me In)
Sondra Currie (Alien Nation: Dark Horizon)
Gillian Vigman (Deck The Halls)
Yasmin Lee (Red Ice)
Mike Tyson (Mike Tyson Mysteries)
Andrew Howard (The Outpost)
Channon Roe (Boogie Nights)

Two years after the events of the first movie in Las Vegas, Stu Price, Phil Wenneck, Alan Garner and Doug Billings travel to Thailand to celebrate Stu’s upcoming wedding to Lauren. Much to Alan’s dismay, they are joined by Lauren’s younger brother, Teddy. At the rehearsal dinner, Lauren’s father’s reveals his disapproval of Stu during a toast. Later that night, Stu hesitantly joins Phil, Doug, Alan and Teddy for a beer. Sitting at a campfire and roasting marshmallows, the group toast to Stu and Lauren’s future happiness.The next morning, Phil, Stu and Alan, along with gangster Leslie Chow – whom Alan befriended after Las Vegas – and a chain-smoking capuchin monkey, awaken in a dirty hotel room in Bangkok. Stu has a face tattoo (a replica of Mike Tyson’s) and Alan’s head is completely shaved. They cannot find Teddy, and discover only his severed finger. Chow begins to relay the events of the prior night, but he seemingly dies after snorting a line of cocaine. Panicked, the trio dispose of Chow’s body in an ice box.Through a tip from Doug who is still at the resort (he left the campfire earlier than the others), they go to a police station to pick up Teddy but are given a wheelchair-bound elderly Buddhist monk, who knows more about what happened; however, he refuses to reveal anything, having taken a vow of silence. After finding a business card, they travel to the smoldering ruins of the business. They enter a nearby tattoo parlor where Stu got his tattoo, and they learn that they started a fight that escalated into a riot. The trio returns the monk to his Buddhist temple, where they are encouraged by the head monk to meditate. Alan is able to recall that they had been at the White Lion strip club, where they learn that Stu was sodomized by a kathoey prostitute named Kimmy. Upon exiting, the trio are attacked by two Russian mobsters who steal the monkey, and one shoots Phil in his arm.After Phil is treated at a clinic, Alan confesses that he had drugged some of the marshmallows from the previous night with muscle relaxers and ADHD medication in order to sedate Teddy but accidentally mixed up the bags. Phil and Stu become furious that Alan drugged them again. Stu blames Alan for ruining his life and attacks him. Phil breaks it up and tells them that they have to stick together. They notice something on Alan’s stomach: an address and a time for a meeting. They meet a gangster named Kingsley, who demands Chow’s bank account password by the next morning in exchange for Teddy. They return to the hotel to try to find Chow’s password, only to discover that he is still alive. They steal the monkey (who had the code given to him and put inside his jacket for safe-keeping by Chow) back from the Russian mobsters through a violent car chase, during which the monkey is shot and injured. After taking the code and leaving the monkey at a veterinary clinic, the group completes the deal with Kingsley. Suddenly, Interpol agents appear and arrest Chow. Kingsley turns out to be an undercover agent, who tells the trio that the police had used the information that Teddy had disappeared to arrest Chow and Kingsley actually does not know where Teddy is.Desperate and out of clues, Phil calls Doug’s wife Tracy to tell her they can’t find Teddy. Stu decides to call off the wedding and live in Bangkok and say that Teddy died. While Alan is playing a game of PAC-MAN the power goes out again. Stu suddenly realizes where Teddy is. The trio rushes back to the hotel to find Teddy who is in the elevator unharmed (albeit still missing a finger). Teddy had woken up in the middle of the night to get more ice for his severed finger (after the first bucket of ice had melted) but became trapped after the power went out. The four use Chow’s speedboat, the Perfect Life, the keys for which were in Teddy’s pocket, to travel back to the wedding reception.Arriving on land just as Lauren’s father is about to cancel the wedding, Stu makes a defiant speech where he rejects being boring and instead states that he is in fact quite wild. Impressed, Lauren’s father gives the couple his blessing. After they exchange their vows, Alan presents Stu with a special gift at the post-reception dance: a musical guest performance by Mike Tyson. Teddy later discovers that he had taken many pictures during the night on his cell phone. The group, along with Tyson, agree to look at the pictures together once (some of which reveal Teddy lost his finger playing the knife game) before erasing the evidence of their exploits once again.Since The Hangover Part II is basically a repeat of the first film, it ups the R-rated humor to get a leg up. The jokes are dirtier, and the nudity is less shocking than tedious. The Hangover Part II  is funny. At least some of it is, thanks to Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis, who have a damn good thing going.

REVIEW: LADY IN THE WATER

 CAST

Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic world)
Bob Balaban (Ghost World)
Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games 2, 3 & 4)
Sarita Choudhury (Gloria)
Freddy Rodriguez (Planet Terror)
Bill Irwin (Interstellar)
Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes 2)
Noah Gray-Cabey (Heroes)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
David Ogden Stiers (Two Guys and a Girl)
John Boyd (Bones)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight)

hqdefaultThe woman of the title isn’t a lady so much as a sea nymph, otherwise known as a “narf” in the fairytale parlance dreamed up by Shyamalan. And the waterlogged universe she inhabits is a swimming pool at a dingy Philadelphia apartment complex called The Cove. But the poor narf, named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), is in dire straits. She needs the help of humans to return to her magical universe, and so Story gleans hope one night when she is discovered in the pool by The Cove’s sad-sack handyman, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti).

Cleveland, who keeps to himself in a tiny cottage adjacent to the apartment building, suffers the scars of a tragic past that he keeps under wraps. Story’s plight suddenly gives purpose to this lonesome man; in no time at all, he is helping protect the narf from a vicious creature known as a “scrunt,” which lurks in the woods surrounding The Cove. Moreover, Cleveland sets out to deduce which of the apartments’ tenants have preordained roles in Story’s rescue.MV5BOTcwMjQ2MTA1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzA4NzkyMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Randomness does not exist is the hermetically sealed world of M. Night Shyamalan. As Cleveland learns that Story is part of a fairytale brought to life, Lady in the Water takes on the risible everything-has-a-purpose theme that turned the filmmaker’s Signs into dross. Still, the neatly constructed order induces fewer eye rolls this time around, since Shyamalan can simply hide behind the kitchen-sink dynamic of fairytales. All the silliness Shyamalan tosses in about guardians, healers, a guild and the like reminds me of the Rob Lowe character in Thank You for Smoking, who notes that movies can remedy any inconsistency with “one line of dialogue: ‘Thank God we invented the … whatever device.'”MV5BMzMzNzM4ODY5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDU3NzkyMw@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_A lot of whatever devices turn up in Lady in the Water, a film that shamelessly displays the seams of its bedtime-story origins. Cleveland learns about Story’s magical world, and what must be done to return the narf to her kingdom, from an elderly Asian woman (June Kyoto Lu) with an unnerving command of the mighty obscure fable. Neither the woman nor her Americanized granddaughter (Cindy Cheung) gives it a second thought that Mr. Heep, who quickly accepts Story’s story, keeps popping up with hypothetical questions about the world of narfs and scrunts. Another resident reads magical messages on cereal boxes.

The cast tries to jumpstart things, albeit with mixed results. Howard, who was perhaps the best thing about The Village, is well-cast as the pale, ethereal sea nymph, but she is given precious little to do. Giamatti is also a gifted actor, but he isn’t asked to do much more than stutter and project melancholy. Some very good character actors — including Jeffrey Wright, Freddy Rodriguez, Mary Beth Hurt and Bill Irwin — are wasted in one-dimensional roles as The Cove’s apartment dwellers.

And then there is the director himself. Shyamalan has appeared in his films before, but Lady in the Water marks his first significant acting part. Here he portrays a struggling writer whose manuscript, “The Cookbook,” might just be pretty darned important. As a filmmaker, Shyamalan is a bona fide original. As an actor, he is merely insipid. Then again, maybe Shyamalan’s casting of himself as the unappreciated, world-changing artist just fills some deeply rooted narcissistic need of his.

REVIEW: CONFIDENCE

CAST

Edward Burns (One Missed Call)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Andy Garcia (The Unsaid)
Morris Chesnut (Kick-Ass 2)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Leland Orser (Daredevil)
Robert Forster (Dragon Wars)
Louis Lombardi (24)
Brian Van Holt (House of Wax)
Donal Logue (Gotham)
Luis Guzman (Waiting)
Tommy Lister (The Dark Knight)
Abdoulaye NGom (My Name Is Earl)
Robert Pine (Jobs)

An electric con artist caper that was completely overlooked at the box office (despite well-done trailers and posters), “Confidence” isn’t anything groundbreaking in the genre, but it’s still an intelligent picture that’s a lot better than most of what’s in theaters today. The latest from “Glengarry Glen Ross” director James Foley, “Confidence” stars Ed Burns (“Life or Something Like It”), as Jake Vig, a professional con artist whose team has been working Los Angeles. His problem: the latest scam that took money from an accountant also took money from the accountant’s client: a mob boss called “The King” (Dustin Hoffman).

In order to try and pay back the King, Jake and his team – including a new addition, Lily (Rachel Weisz) – attempt to scam a mob-connected banker named Morgan Price (Robert Forster). Problems – of course – happen: an FBI agent named Gunther (Andy Garcia) arrives and starts rounding up those in the know in order to try and catch Jake in the act. There’s also Price’s lieutenant Travis (Morris Chestnut) to worry about. Of course, double and triple crosses ensueRachel Weisz in Confidence (2003)“Confidence” isn’t as much about the plot as the parts and pieces of the thing. Juan Ruiz Anchia’s cinematography is ridiculously beautiful, with deeply saturated neon tones washing over the night streets and rich, crisp colors and interesting, unusual perspectives during the daylight scenes. Unusual flash-forwards and talking to the audience on occasion in the picture work surprisingly well, too; the film’s editing, pacing and atmosphere all click into place perfectly and it proceeds with confidence. Hoffman’s high-speed performance is superb,  it’s impressive that he can make himself convincingly intimidating. The attractive Weisz also has good chemistry with Burns. There’s also good supporting efforts from Paul Giamatti, Andy Garcia and others. They all handle Doug Jung’s rather Mamet-esque dialogue and characters well.Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz in Confidence (2003)Again, “Confidence” isn’t anything new at its core, but it’s one of those movies where the plot isn’t original, but everything around it clicks into place so well that the movie becomes an awfully fun ride anyways.

REVIEW: THE IDES OF MARCH

CAST

George Clooney (Out of Sight)
Ryan Gosling (Gangster Squad)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Paul Giamatti (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen)
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)
Jeffrey Wright (Source Code)
Max Minghella (The Internship)
Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty)
Gregory Itzin (Adaptation.)
Michael Mantell (Secretary)

MV5BMTkxMTU3MTY4Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTMwODQ3Ng@@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_Clooney’s story  is set during the week of the Ohio primary race for the Democratic presidential candidate, which has basically come down to a two-man contest between Senator Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell), whose campaign is run by shrewd Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), and Governor Morris (Clooney). Morris’s campaign manager is longtime operative Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman); Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is his number two man. The decisive race in Ohio is close, which much riding on who will get the endorsement (and delegates) of Senator Franklin Thompson, who is angling for a cabinet post. In the midst of all of this, Stephen begins a campaign trail romance with intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who turns out to be the daughter of the head of the DNC. And then things get complicated.The film’s early scenes are its best. The script talks plain and names names, throwing around smart political talk; Meyers and Duffy’s conversation about learning to how to play the game from Republicans is sharp and lucid, while Morris’s comments from the stump about taxation and “socialism” (as well as Zara’s crack that the Republicans “can’t find a nominee that’s not a world-class fuck-up”) are tartly timely. Though some of the details of the campaign stretch credibility (no candidate could proclaim himself as indifferent to religion as Morris does and actually survive a primary for either party), its portrayl of primary politics and their backstage byplay feel authentic;  Gosling and Wood’s two-scenes have a nice zing to them (reminsicent of the screwball comedy homages in his underrated Leatherheads), Clooney’s offhand sense of humor is disarming–see Hoffman and Gosling’s offstage compliments after the first debate, or the business with Wood and Gosling’s tie the morning after their first date–and he draws out some nice directorial flourishes, like the way he handles a late scene with Hoffman going into an SUV.Every member of the cast is utterly convincing. Clooney’s smooth persona has rarely been better employed–both his playful charm and his steely directness. Gosling gets a good, hard arc to play, and he wails on it; the speed which his idealism loop-the-loops into cynicism is dazzling . It’s a memorable turn, even if he calls up a wide-eyed, manic look that will make Drive viewers fear he’s about to break out the hammer. Hoffman gets a showcase scene in his hotel room, a footlights monologue that betrays the film’s stage roots, but he’s so compelling you don’t notice the scaffolding; the way he pivots from cool contempt to utter rage is what good screen acting is all about. Wright is underused, but Clooney juggles the rest of the ensemble cast with ease.