Movie Review: “Eye in the Sky”

Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Iain Glen
Gavin Hood

Director Gavin Hood treats war and violence very seriously in his work. Even in his adaptation of the young adult novel, “Ender’s Game,” the director stayed true to the source material’s sense of pain and loss. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” will forever remain an oddity in Hood’s work, because that film’s violence is beyond cartoonish, while the rest of his films, including “Eye in the Sky,” take their stakes seriously.

The movie opens with Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman) shopping for a doll for his daughter. He becomes increasingly annoyed, unable to find the right one. After requesting an assistant to take care of it for him, the Lieutenant General couldn’t be more confident and in control when pushing for a drone strike that could possibly kill a child as part of collateral damage. It’s not an entirely subtle transition, but it is very effective, which is a good way of describing “Eye in the Sky.”

Initially planned as a “capture” mission between the U.K. and U.S., the operation is amended when an on-the-ground agent (Barkhad Abdi) sees one of the targets, Aisha Al Hady (Lex King), preparing for a suicide bombing. Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) immediately calls for a strike, but when two drone pilots in Las Vegas, Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) and Carrie Gershon (Phoebe Fox), spot a child in the vicinity of the target, it changes everything.

While we’ve seen drone warfare covered plenty of times lately (like Andrew Niccol’s “Good Kill”), screenwriter Guy Hibbert and Hood present it in a new light. For a movie that’s fairly small in scale, and one that takes place over the course of only a few hours, it’s often sprawling in nature. Hood and Hibbert show the nuts and bolts involved in calling for a drone strike, and it’s suspenseful, inherently dramatic and sometimes terrifying to watch unfold. Every little thing matters in this story, both for the characters and audience.

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Movie Review: “RED 2”

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough
Dean Parisot

Though it featured a veritable who’s who of some of Hollywood’s greatest veteran actors, 2010’s “RED” was a bit of a surprise hit, earning $200 million worldwide during the doldrums of October. You’d forgive Summit Entertainment for wanting to fast-track a sequel then, even if the source material on which it’s based (Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer’s three-issue comic book series of the same name) was completely exhausted in the first film. Of course, that hasn’t stopped series writers Jon and Erich Hoeber from continuing their story of retired, extremely dangerous CIA agent Frank Martin, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, “RED 2” is still a good deal of fun thanks almost entirely to its star-studded cast.

Following the events of the last movie, Frank (Bruce Willis) has been trying to lead a quiet, domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but she yearns for another adventure. And her wish is granted when Marvin (John Malkovich) tracks Frank down to warn him that they’ve been framed as domestic terrorists involved in a top secret operation known as Nightshade, a ludicrous Cold War plot to sneak a portable WMD into Moscow, only for it to go missing. But the Russian nuke is very much real, and the only person who knows of its whereabouts is Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the physicist responsible for building it, who’s been locked away in a British insane asylum for over 30 years, despite being believed dead. So when the U.S. government hires a deadly assassin (Byung-hun Lee) to take Frank out, he must team up with his fellow operatives to recover the bomb and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Giving HBO’s “Phil Spector” a spin

When it was announced that Al Pacino and David Mamet, who proved to be a formidable combination of actor and writer/director on 1992’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” would be reteaming for HBO’s original movie about Phil Spector, reactions of giddiness and uncertainty seemed to be in equal measure. Sure, Mamet’s awesome, and he’s obviously proven that he can get a great performance out of Pacino, but surely there’s substantial chasm between the fiction of Ricky Roma and the reality of Phil Spector, isn’t there?

Actually, you might be surprised.


If you haven’t seen “Glengarry Glen Ross” recently, maybe you should see how Roma’s described on Wikipedia:

Although Roma seems to think of himself as a latter day cowboy and regards his ability to make a sale as a sign of his virility, he admits only to himself that it is all luck. He is ruthless, dishonest and immoral, but succeeds because he has a talent for figuring out a client’s weaknesses and crafting a pitch that will exploit those weaknesses. He is a smooth talker and often speaks in grand, poetic soliloquies.

Those who’ve read about Spector’s brusque, often downright crazed interactions with musicians in the studio, his turbulent relationship with ex-wife Ronnie Spector, and a notorious obsession with firearms which—no matter how you spin the story of the night a woman named Lana Clarkson ended up dead in his home—was directly responsible for his eventual incarceration will certainly see some immediate similarities between him and Roma. After seeing HBO’s “Phil Spector,” you will see even more of them. What you will not see, however, is a movie that matches “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

But, then, you probably didn’t expect that, anyway.

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