Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Video Review: "The Ides of March"

"The Ides of March" is an ambitious, well-executed political drama that loses points because if its utter lack of freshness. From the inspiring presidential candidate with secret dark spots, to the ambitious campaign insiders and journalists ready to cut throats to get ahead, to the naive young thing who gets caught up in the crossfire, there's virtually nothing in this movie that we haven't seen before.

George Clooney directed, co-wrote and has a supporting role in "Ides" as Mike Morris, a liberal governor who's the frontrunner for the race to the White House. Ryan Gosling stars as Stephen Myers, Morris' number-two man behind grizzled political veteran Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Paul Giamatti plays the campaign manager for Morris' main opponent, who's got an ace up his sleeve as they head into the Ohio primary. Rounding out the cast are Marisa Tomei as a sly New York Times reporter and Evan Rachel Wood as a 20-year-old campaign volunteer who catches Stephen's eye.

That's a killer cast, and Clooney knows exactly how to exploit it, resulting in many winning scenes of dueling repartee and clashing egos. It's during these times that the movie reminds one of other, better political flicks like "The Candidate" or "Primary Colors."

But the screenplay by Clooney, his longtime collaborator Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, based on a play by Willimon, continually goes down paths far too well-traveled. The audience knows almost everything that's going to happen long before it transpires.

Inevitability is a quality that may work when it comes to winning elections, but it turns otherwise promising films into cinematic also-rans.

Extra features aren't a landslide, but certainly make a solid showing that should please the electorate of video lovers.

The DVD version comes with a commentary track by Clooney and Heslov, plus two featurettes: "Believe: George Clooney" and "On the Campaign: The Cast of Ides of March."

Upgrade to Blu-ray, and you get two more featurettes: "Developing the Campaign: The Origin of Ides of March" and "What Does a Political Consultant Do?".

Movie: 2.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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