Reel Critics: 'Ides of March' thrills with backstabbing, betrayal

"Beware the Ides of March" is a famous line from Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," which foretold the Roman emperor's assassination by a group of conspirators.

In the deliciously sinister "Ides of March," there is plenty of backstabbing inside the modern-day political arena. George Clooney again shows real talent as both director and actor in this dark thriller that pits ideals against opportunities, and where ambition is king.

In the week before the Ohio Democratic presidential primary, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling, in another fine performance) is a "lean and hungry" aide to Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney). In spite of his shrewd abilities, Stephen is also convinced that Morris, with his reassuring logic, is the only man who can truly make a difference to the country.

Clooney is perfect as the smooth, earnest politician, and he has also brought out the best in his actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti are brilliant as opposing campaign managers, and Marisa Tomei as a reporter whose smiles are not to be trusted.

Evan Rachel Wood, as the stereotypical intern, is also not what she seems. She and Gosling share some sexy dialogue that inevitably leads to trouble, but not in ways you'd guess.

There are many betrayals in "Ides of March" that still have me wondering — just who suffered the unkindest cut of all?


Real Steel has real heart

"Real Steel" is rousing entertainment totally engineered to tug at the heartstrings, but it does it with style. It shamelessly borrows directly from "Rocky," "The Champ," and "Transformers" but it works thanks to the well-muscled charms of Hugh Jackman and a sweet-faced young boy.

Set in the future, Charlie (Jackman) is a broken-down fighter who rattles around the country with broken-down boxing robots, trying to make a buck. These giant rock 'em, sock 'em robots have replaced humans, but legions of rabid fans still love to see them pound each other to bits.

Through a lucrative twist of fate, Charlie takes on his estranged son, Max, who's an avid World Robot Boxing fan. Through another lucky twist of fate, Max salvages an old-model fighting machine called Atom, and the film turns into the classic story of a boy and his robot.

The robots and the fight sequences are ingeniously done, giving the machines great names like Noisy Boy, Twin Cities and Zeus with looks and personality to match.

All that clanging in the arena gets cartoonish, but it's the emotional drama between a loser dad and his resentful son that keeps it real. Jackman has at his core a grace and elegance that make it hard not to root for him. And as young Max, Dakota Goyo is a revelation and a delight.

I had to chuckle at the climactic big fight scene — it's like Rocky vs. Apollo Creed all over again only now they're 8-feet tall and weigh 2,000 pounds. All we need is someone running into the ring in a red beret. Yo, Adrian!

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine. JOHN DEPKO is off this week.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World