Friday Flicks: Will ‘The Ides of March’ Result in Oscars Next February?

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Grab some popcorn! NewsFeed’s Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.

The Ides of March

Tagline: Ambition Seduces. Power Corrupts.

At this particular point in time, is there anything that George Clooney can’t turn his hand to? He saved lives as a doctor on ER, opened movies on the strength of his name (yes, even Batman & Robin). He won an Oscar, even though nobody can remember what it was for (Syriana, and we couldn’t blame you). He has effortlessly graduated to writing and directing (Good Night, and Good Luck, for which he was Oscar-nominated, was great, Leatherheads, for which he was lucky if anyone called Oscar even saw it, not so much). And he can speak authoritatively on a whole raft of social issues. Heck, when he was profiled for the cover of our very own TIME magazine a few years ago, he fixed the writer Joel Stein’s alarm mid-interview! So what’s left? A crack at the presidency? Well, an election is nearly upon us.

And perhaps we’ll look back one day on his latest directorial/acting performance in The Ides of March as a calling card. He plays the Democratic Governor Mike Morris, who is hoping to win the Ohio primary that would more or less allow him to start sizing up the curtains at the White House. And the men only too eager to do the measuring are his back-room advisers. Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the weary veteran who is in charge of, but clearly no match for, Stephen (Ryan Gosling), a young man in a hurry to make his mark. But it’s not as easy as all that, which is quickly proved by Stephen’s dalliance with intern Holly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) and his taking a middle-of-the-night phone call.

Perhaps Clooney’s wisest move was to concentrate on his role behind the camera and allow the aforementioned plus the likes of Paul Giamatti (another spin doctor) and Maria Tomei (a New York Times journalist) to do their thing, though it would be remiss if we didn’t point out that a keen interest in politics is probably a prerequisite. The Ides of March is from a Howard Dean-inspired play by Beau Willimon. Dean could never figure out how to get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and while Clooney won’t be making more room on the shelf for Oscars for this movie, who would bank against him “doing” a Ronald Reagan and ending up in the most famous address in the world one day? Seeing how we’re suddenly living in the age of Gosling, Clooney will probably ask him to be his running mate. And when you consider that they’re using TIME magazine in the poster, rest assured that the Clooney-Gosling ticket already has our vote.

(LIST: TIME’s Top 10 Movies of 2010)

Real Steel

Tagline: If You Get One Shot, Make It Real

It. Does. Not. Get. Better. Than. This. In Real Steel, Hugh Jackman is Charlie Kenton, one of those washed-up fighters who, as you don’t see too often on HBO’s boxing coverage, stopped being a contender when those pesky 2000-pound, 8-foot robots took over the ring.

And so Charlie is forced to go underground and into the promoting game, putting robots together from scrap metal to make a living. (You’d never see Floyd Mayweather stooping to such lows.) “People wanted more carnage, more show,” Charlie explains, before yelling “Bring it!” In the interests of fairness, we’ll warn you of some spoiler alerts, though if you couldn’t see these coming, you should actually be forced to see Real Steel. Charlie will hit rock bottom, but he will somehow get one last crack at a comeback. Oh, and he also gets reconnected with his 11-year-old son, Max (Dakota Goyo) and their robot who offers redemption is called Atom, who’s an outdated sparring robot that soon becomes the talk of the fight circuit.

Much like this summer’s underwhelming Cowboys & Aliens, Real Steel has more executive producers than you can shake a stick (or should that be robot?) at, including, once again, Steven Spielberg as well as Robert Zemeckis. The director is Shawn Levy, best known for Night At the Museum, and he has but one concern: put the L in Loud wherever possible. It’s as if he’s in unofficial competition with Michael Bay, he of Transformers fame, but there can be no winners — the only losers are the audience. If Real Steel II: This Time It’s Even Louder (On the Dark of the Moon) ever gets the green light, we can only hope that it pits Levy against Bay, with the judges declaring a draw due to exhaustion (on their part) and that neither man is ever allowed to make a movie ever again.

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Irrespective of the month, The Ides of March is the overwhelming victor.

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Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.