Tuesday, September 20, 2011


DRIVE - 100min - R

Drive is a perfect example of great execution in filmmaking. The precision in timing, pacing, cinematography and storytelling are testaments to the creator’s talent. From the first scene you are plunged into a dark noire view of LA and its characters. This is movie making at its finest. But I have to be honest and say that I was not very entertained. Let’s sum up by saying I appreciate the art of this film, but I won’t be seeing it again. I give this movie a green light because of the exquisite film making, but because I didn’t enjoy the journey, I will have to default it down to a yellow.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and at night he works at a garage. He is also a part time wheelman -- no questions asked. He is a god behind the wheel. The Driver gets involved with the family next door. Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), are awaiting the return of her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac). The Driver helps them out and gets caught up in their problems when the father’s past comes back to threaten their new beginning. The acting was terrific. The one that stands out is Albert Brooks who shocked me as a cold-blooded killer. I can’t remember him doing a role like this. He was chilling. Ron Pearlman is doing his bad guy routine and that is something he does well. Ryan Gosling’s character was very stoic and laconic through the entire picture. His performance reminded me of the gunslinger played by Yul Brynner in The Magnificent Seven. It’s harder to get the feeling of a character through when you have almost no dialog to work with. It’s a testament to his skill as a performer that he could relay so much emotion with so few lines.

The director Nicolas Winding Refn did an awesome job of captaining this picture. I have not seen anything else from him but I am going to be looking to correct that. I wonder what elements form this film will be used in other films. I look forward to more movies from him. The screenwriter was Hossein Amini another new one for me, I am going to have to keep an eye out for them in the future. His story had elements that were caked in subtext and alternate meanings. I liked the choices that his characters had to make.

DRIVE PAST HERE!!! Spoiler Warning!!!!!

I really love one part of the elevator scene, when he has to make a choice to be with the woman he loves or turning into the monster that she needs to protect her. In doing so he realizes that he can never be with her. And the way that the scene was framed in the elevator was great work. The door closing between him and her is great symbolism.

Carey Mulligan is a wonderful actress. Her performance in this film is great. Love the torn expressions of a woman who has to do the right thing for her family but loves this new person in their lives. The burgeoning relationship between them is well done.

The kicking a person’s head flat was one that could have been shortened. Ryan Goslings rage was a bit too long and it did not play well. There were chuckles from the audience when I went to see it. I wonder if they were caught in not knowing what emotion to relay? I think he is too much a hero type to dabble in the dark vigilantly story elements. But I could be wrong. I would have never picked Albert Brooks as the mob boss either.

Christina Hendricks was also in the film but her role was a small one with very little to work with. She needs to do more movies. I have enjoyed her body of work on the small screen, but Hollywood needs to give her a role with some substance.

I have had long conversations about the movie Crash with my sister. She and I had two views on the film, she did not like it and I did. I understand her point of view now. I know this was a really well done film, but I did not get enjoyment from the journey it took me on. What movies have you had the same feeling about?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Debt

The Debt – 113Min – R

This one is going to be hard for me. This move has some great story elements that I do not want to spoil it for you. Let me give you this much, it was a great espionage film that had the all the right elements. The stars did a wonderful job of making the movie entertaining and the story had you on the edge of my seat a few times. The overarching subplots are quite involved and they do a decent job of keeping the past and the present characters inline. I would say that the best part of the film is the dynamic between the characters. For overall entertainment value I give it a green light.

The movie starts off with a blending of flashback and current time. The story starts to come into focus as we see a party for a book release. The book follows the actions of Rachel (Helen Mirren) Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) and David (Ciaran Hinds) when they were younger. These three Mossad agents were on a mission to capture a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin. The younger versions were played by Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Marton Coskas, respectively. The mission brings the three together in close quarters and under stress, they bond. The movie captures how events in the past come back to haunt the present. Everything we do has a price and sometime we must make amends

Director John Madden did a great job of taking the elements and blending the story together in an entertaining way. His films in the past, such as Shakespeare in Love to Proof, have focused more on human relationships. That experience shows in this film. This is defiantly more action-oriented than his previous films but he pulls it off.

The writing team that worked on this film’s screenplay also has an eclectic resume. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman have worked on films like Kick Ass, X-men: First class and Stardust. Peter Straughan has worked on Men Who Stare at Goats, and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. This list does not really ring as one that could make a leap to espionage thriller, but they do good work in this film. I do think the end of the movie has a softer climax than it should, which you can see more about under the spoiler heading, but overall the whole movie was entertaining.

I have been very pleased with the work that Focus Features has done. Many of the films I have enjoyed have come from them. Now that I have started to look at the people who make the movies, I have a new perspective. Production companies that have done a great job in movie making keep popping up. I am going to have to keep my eye out for their next projects.

Warning: Spoilers!! Top Secret!!!

One of the most gripping scenes was when they were trying to get the doctor out of Germany. I was completely nervous on that scene. it was well times and everything was paced marvelously. They paced it like a heist movie, making sure that things had to hit right or everything was going to be lost.

I like Sam Worthington He is a fine actor, but throughout the film his accent was muddled and inconsistent. He did a great job showing the emotion and delivering the suffering, but the accent made me look like the RCA victor Dog. The casting on the older version of him was a bit off as well. His older self and younger self did not play convincingly enough.

I thought that the fight with the very old Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) and older Rachel was the failing in the ending. It is just not exciting to see them fight. I was much more concerned with her sneaking in to the news room and into the Hospital than I was with the fight. Perhaps have her meet the reporter and give him an interview after they find the Nazi dead would have been a better ending.

What is one movie that was told out of order that really entertained you? Tell me about it.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. – 118min – PG-13

It has been a while since I have seen a good comedy that layers story elements as finely as this movie did. This film has an excellent sense of comedic timing and was enjoyable to watch. There are three sets of couples all working on finding and defending love. The cast was well chosen and I felt each did a stupendous job in bringing these everyday struggles to light. I really love the humor in this film. I can’t remember the last film that made me laugh out loud. The writing was so well done I was completely taken over by the story and taken in with the journey of these characters. This movie gets a green light from me.

Cal (Steve Carell) and his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) open the movie by getting a divorce. This is a heavy topic to start a comedy with. They really worried me about setting a tone of a dark comedy but this is not the case. We also see Hannah (Emma Stone) get approached by a pickup artist by the name of Jacob (Ryan Gosling) who gives her the full court press but she refuses his advances. Lastly we have Robbie (Jonah Bobo) a kid who is in Middle school who is in love with his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton) a high school student. All of these couples carefully contend with the same elements of love, relationships and self discovery. The journey that is life takes them all for a spin and we see real character growth.

There are several enjoyable aspect to this movie but one that stands out for me is Cal’s journey toward rediscovering himself. Jacob sees Cal in the bar and has a soft spot for him and in a Mr. Miyagi fashion gives him a makeover he desperately needs. The main focus of the film is Cal and how he deals with getting his life back on track, and how he approaches relationships. One thing this movie does well is keep the focus on hope and not give in to the easy joke or the canned Hollywood elements when it delivers its message.

I have to hand it to writer Dan Fogelman: he does do an entertaining story. I have to say I did not recognize his name until I looked him up. His writing credits include Cars, Tangled and Bolt. I have enjoyed the stories that he has done in the past so unbeknownst to me I am a fan of his work. This is something a little different than his normal film milieu but it’s defiantly one of his better films. The co-directors, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, did a great job of translating this script into live action. They have worked on other films but I have not seen them and it looks like they have only directed one other film. They collaborated on I Love You Phillip Morris as directors.

Spoiler Warning!!!! Do not look beyond this point!!! Unless you want to.

Ok the timing of the surprises in this film took me in and I had absolutely no idea they were going to cross paths as much as they did. I loved how they added the complexity to the funny moments. I am thinking of the back yard scene when everything comes to a head. As fun as that was, I really loved how it was a realization moment that nothing is going to be the same ever again.

Another scene was the end. Typically the average American viewer wants to have everything tied up neat and tidy at the end. I loved how they ended the story with a hopeful message one that really says that nothing ever gets completely resolved but all of the characters had a better perspective of how things were going to change from there. It left them and me hopeful.

One of the better moments is when Cal realizes that being a ladies’ man is not for him. I love how characters grow in this movie. Film makers seem to not give that as much attention as they should. The line I really liked from this discovery is “It was not about showing you, it was about getting on with my life.” Good stuff.

I forgot to mention that Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei were wonderful in this film, I completely spaced they were in this, I was so taken by the main players. I do want to say that Marisa Tomei hit it out of the park Kevin Bacon was excellent as the office love that is awkwardly trying to fit in.

What is one movie that took you in a direction you were not expecting? What was it and how were you surprised.