Taking in the Small Screen this week, a trip to Europe with a gun-slinging George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey’s new cable network, an Australian outback love story, a rehashing of Vietnam, and Joel Schumacher’s Upper West Side mess are this week’s top picks on indieWIRE’s column looking at entertainment off the silver screen.
1. George Clooney’s 2010 Entry “The American” (criticWIRE rating: B-)
Anton Corbijn’s international thriller “The American” didn’t succeed quite as much as hoped at the box office, but several critics liked the film enough. An American assassin decides he must quit his role as an incomparable talent as a killer. As he heads to idyllic European landscapes in small towns to live a “normal” life, he must deal with his past as it disrupts his attempts at normalcy. Writing in Newsweek, Caryn James commented on Clooney’s role in the film, “With someone else in the role it might have been an even smaller, artier film. Or it might never have been done at all. One of the great aspects of Clooney’s career is that he takes risks; you never know which persona is going to turn up. The American offers a rare glimpse at Nice-Try George.”
2. Oprah’s OWN Network Debuts Jan. 1
The biggest news on the tube this week is the debut of Queen Oprah’s television network. As Winfrey wraps up her long-running talk show’s final season, she is expanding her television presence with her new television network, which takes over the television dial from Discovery Health January 1. Slated for OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, are shows with Gayle King, Cristina Ferrare, the Judd’s (Naomi and Wynona), the O’Neal’s (Ryan and Tatum), and former Queer Eye Carson Kressley. How long until Winfrey gives herself another talk show?
3. Love & Loss in the Outback: Warwick Thornton’s “Samson & Delilah” (criticWIRE rating: B+)
Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson), a young couple, live in the same village in the Outback. Spurred on by the death of her grandmother, the two decide to leave their humdrum lives in the Australian desert. indieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn summarizes his laudatory review, saying, “With its isolated aboriginal characters, expansive desert backdrop, and startling critique of exploitative Australian authorities, “Samson and Delilah” appears to have a lot going on. But Warwick Thornton’s expressive directorial debut is also a knowingly simplistic love story that goes down much easier than its heavy themes. Despite the darkness, it has a cumulative effect that’s agreeably gentle.”
4. Revisiting Vietnam: Jamey Sheridan in “Handsome Harry” (criticWIRE rating: B+)
As Thomas Kelly (Steve Buscemi) is on his deathbed, his Vietnam buddy Harry Sweeney (Jamey Sheridan) visits him. It is Kelly’s wish that Sweeney apologize for participating in a fight that crushed their friend Dave Kagan (Campbell Scott) hand, forbidding Kagan from becoming the concert pianist he aspired to be. As Harry makes good on this promise, he rehashes deeply buried Vietnam memories. Stephen Holden of the New York Times said of the film, “Every time the movie begins to go overboard, Mr. Sheridan’s measured, sorrowful performance tries (not always successfully) to pull it back from the brink. If “Handsome Harry” doesn’t forgive its title character, it understands him and acknowledges that he can never forgive himself. That is punishment enough.” “Handsome Harry” hits the shelves on DVD today.
5. Looking for Schadenfreude? Look No Further than “Twelve” (criticWIRE rating: C-)
With a melange of actors and a plot that didn’t exactly fit its debut venue, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, Joel Schumacher’s “Twelve” comes home to DVD this week. Chace Crawford and Emma Roberts star in the film, which also features 50 Cent, Rory Culkin, and Emily Meadows. At Hitfix, Gregory Ellwood calls “Twelve” “by far the most unintentionally campy piece of moviemaking to hit Park City in years.” The film follows a bunch of upper-class Upper West Side kids who get into drug dealing to make money. Ellwood ends his review saying, “The picture will be compared to the CW TV series ‘Gossip Girl,’ but it’s sadly not as self-aware or fun as that soap opera. You almost wish you could describe it as ‘Showgirls’ meets ‘Gossip Girl,’ but that would be a riot and that’s certainly not ‘Twelve.'”