Thursday, May 7, 2009

Movie Review: State of Play & Nothing But The Truth


State of Play

Featuring: Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman, Jeff Daniels

Genre: thriller, drama

Plot: The death of a politician’s mistress investigated by a tenacious journalist leads to the unveiling of an entire plot.

Acting: Good as far as the lead players are concerned.

Drama: Politics, mistress, love triangle not involving the said mistress, office competition, security, rogue soldiers.

Action: there are a few action scenes full of tension.

Funny: come to think of it Crowe has the most part of the funny lines and he delivers them nicely.

Visuals: Let’s see, Rachel McAdams looks quite good and so does Robin Wright Penn even as thin as she is, and of course Helen Mirren looks great for her age. Ben Affleck is still at a age when top shape is not in danger to be lost and since he basically always looks the same it’s only a matter of taste whether you like him or not. Russell Crowe though, now he could use some CGI to remove the extra pounds and long, and for once not greasy, hair. I don’t care if he and the director thought this is the image that would best portray his character, if I have to stare for two full hours at Crowe then I’d rather stare at a Crowe in his prime thank you very much.

Soundtrack: a little odd in places but alright I guess.

Official website:

Comments: This movie looks like it was inspired from the 90s political thriller novels. Plot is well done with many twists and turns, but the pacing is off, too rushed to get to the next scene and the next scoop, which is in the detriment of the characters. There’s a lot of dialogue easy to follow and necessary to the plot, still this movie ain’t A Few Good Men, not by far.

We’re treated with good acting all around, even Ben Affleck delivers a decent, believable, and not flat performance, which is a rare thing in his case. Of course, you can see it from miles that this is Crowe’s gig, he even does a bit of singing in the beginning of the movie. He’s good as usual, not a surprise there, and if not better than in American Gangster or Body of Lies he’s definitely more enjoyable. Rachel McAdams draws the short end of the stick here, while she holds her own with what she’s given her character being down-played being a pale shadow of the hungry, witty, wannabe reporter, and looking more like a scared little mouse. Being only in a few scenes, Helen Mirren makes more of an impression than she does. No need to say Mirren deserved to have more screen time.

With the focus on the plot, that leaves little room for character development or even portraying them fully. The relationships are strained and more like sketched than fleshed out. We don’t really get a feel of them, just the idea of a stereotype.

There are also a couple of things that don’t quite work realistically speaking. The politician and the journalist are supposed to have been roommates in college when it’s obvious the physical age difference would have made it very unlikely for them to go to college in the same time, especially with Crowe looking older than his real age. Furthermore, everyone seems to be aware of the journalist’s crush on the politician’s wife and their affair, but the three of them have strange, unfit reactions regarding the matter and around each other.

Some clumsiness in the plot could be mentioned, Crowe’s reckless driving through the rain while making several phone calls in the absence of a hands-free device, the young journalist/blogger who never finds a pen and also doesn’t seem to have a mini-laptop, blackberry or cell phone to take notes or short messages, the new owners of the paper who are putting pressure on the redaction and so on.

Other than that it was an entertaining movie and not a waste of time as a whole.

Rating: 8/10

Nothing But The Truth

Featuring: Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Alan Alda, Vera Farmiga, David Schwimmer, Noah Wyle

Genre: drama

Plot: There is a fine line between what is right and what is right for a certain person.
Acting: Alright, although awkward in places.

Drama: Woman goes to jail, loses her family and has to live with a death on her conscience.

Action: Chick fight in jail

Funny: Not at all.

Visuals: Nicely shot, bland and depressing at times.

Soundtrack: depressing

Official website:

Comments: After the alert State of Play this feels like dragging. It has an oddly put together cast of characters. We have the reporter who would protect the identity of her sources and go with it to her grave even it that destroys her family and she loses her child. And we get to see all that. While starting as a so-so youngster, Kate Beckinsale has turned out into a beautiful woman; unfortunately, just like Nicole Kidman, she cannot connect with the audience. One tries acting it and the other ones tries faking it but they both fails. That’s why the general public can’t really sympathize with her character. Sure, we understand her dilemma and feel bad for her, but we don’t “feel” her. Compared to her, Vera Farmiga’s character feels much more alive.

David Schwimmer as the reporter’s husband seemed an unexpected choice and totally down played in the second half of the movie, but he managed to play his part and look less silly and annoying than he did in Friends. It took me a moment to recognize him actually. Matt Dillon as the prosecutor attorney was an odd display and potentially wasted cast. He claimed he didn’t want to play the character as a bad guy, he wanted to play it as a good guy. Well, either way he failed. The attorney is not good or bad, he’s just someone who only cares about his work and has no human empathy for others. He’s like a terminator who once he’s got a mission just wouldn’t stop. There is no charisma whatsoever, and we all know Matt Dillon can do charisma damn well.

To this group Alan Alda is added as the lawyer defending the reporter. Another odd character, with a reputation based on fame and obsession for fine clothes and expensive items, who in the end turns out to be more human than we would expect. Angela Basset gives a hell of a lot of class to the scenes she’s in, as little time as that is. Not sure what Noah Wyle was doing in there, with his odd reactions, and I can not notice how badly he aged.

Of course, the moral question remains. Should have the reported divulged her source? Given the nature of her source we incline to believe that she should have. Just think about the money wasted with the investigation and all she’s been put through. There would have been no serious repercussions for the source, the CIA agent maybe wouldn’t have resigned losing her protection and therefore would have been still alive. Some people’s reputations would have been questioned, but that was a small price to pay. The way it is the ending is disappointing, and I’m not referring to the twist at the end. It sends the wrong message to the audience, saying basically ‘do not mess with the government because you will lose’. And that is just not right.

Rating: 7/10

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