Tag: movie

Movie Review: Drive

 

Drive is a strange movie. As an action film it’s too slow. As a character piece it’s character isn’t super compelling. As a crime movie it focuses very little on the crimes. However, as a movie it’s really great. It is like Hanna in that the style propels the film more than any other element. It is like Hanna in that it does some things that you wouldn’t expect from a movie about a guy that drives really well. It is like Hanna in that it’s one of the best films of the year so far. In fact, only Hanna is better than this, from what I’ve seen.

Nicolas Winding Refn‘s first “American” movie is about Ryan Gosling‘s Driver, a guy that drives really well. Sometimes he does it on the racetrack, other times he does it on Hollywood sets, but he gets the real bucks being a getaway driver for various criminals as they crime their way through Los Angeles. As I looked through Gosling’s IMDb sheet I was shocked to find I’d only seen him in two other things: Remember the Titans and an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. And I don’t remember him in either. I don’t know how I missed most of his career, but he’s really good here. He doesn’t have much to say in terms of dialogue but the way he inhabits the Driver character is pretty great. You can tell all you need to know from the movement of his eyes or the way he puts on his driving gloves.

And the movie gives you enough time to study those performance elements. It’s not the crazy, non-stop, kinetic wonderland that Hanna is. It’s a slow, deliberate, methodical film. As you might expect from a movie called Drive, there’s a lot of time spent going from place to place. But this isn’t wasted time. It’s time for the Driver to think, and time for us to watch him process the world. The actual car chase scenes are few and far between, though done very well and in a way that I haven’t seen before. In an early scene we see the Driver lose the cops, then get spotted again, then lost, then spotted. It makes sense in a way that I haven’t seen on film before. He doesn’t go around destroying the police cars or anything, he just knows exactly what he’s doing and in doing so evades the cops eventually.

There’s also a few other people in the movie. I’ve always liked Carey Mulligan and she’s charming as ever in this film. She doesn’t have much to do other than fall in love and then find out who the Driver really is, but she plays those moments well. You understand what’s going on with her at all times, just like you do with the Driver. The other important character is the main crime boss, played by Albert Brooks. This isn’t the typical role for Brooks, a mostly serious and seriously screwed up bad guy. He does the role well, though, and it’s easy to see how he became such a big guy in the LA underworld.

The direction is phenomenal. The movie is very stylish, from the way the camera moves to the intensity of the lighting and the use of slo-mo everything is working overtime to bring you into the Driver’s world. There are a few scenes of violence that top most of movie-dom in terms of what you see and hear, though it’s interesting to note that after somebody gets their head blown off in all of it’s gory glory, the camera declines to show the next person’s death. It’s an interesting choice to stay on the Driver instead of cutting to his opponent’s bloody body and an effective one. Nothing would top the explosion of blood and brains so instead we see how the Driver deals with his first bloody act. The score, too, errs on the obvious side. Besides the pulsing electronic score by Cliff Martinez there are some songs that get right to the point of what the Driver is feeling at the moment. The lyrics can be a bit on the nose but in a movie called Drive which plays everything in an up-front and stylish way they fit right in.

Drive is a movie that only a few will truly love. People will be turned off by the pace or the violence or the style or the minimalist acting. If all of those things work for you, though, Drive will end up among your favorites of the year, as it does for me.

Top 100 Films: The _9’s

If you don’t understand the title here please check out this post and look there for the first part of the list, the _0’s. And now, the ten movies in the spots that end in the number 9.

99. Thirst (2009)

Directed by Park Chan-wook. Starring Song Kang-ho  and Kim Ok-bin

I don’t kill anyone, you know.

I like to call movies like this “messterpieces,” movies that are kind of crazy and out of control but still fascinating. The final scene is at once hilarious and sad. And beautiful. Like the rest of the movie.

89. Brick (2005)

Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lukas Haas

No more of these informal chats! If you have a diciplinary issue with me, write me up or suspend me and I’ll see you at the Parent-Teacher conference.

The opposite of a messterpiece, Brick is supremely well constructed and thought through to the tiniest detail. The combination of noir and high school shouldn’t work but it does. An amazing debut.

79. Once (2006)

Directed by John Carney. Starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

What’s the Czech for “Do you love him”?

A small little musical that has more heart than most films. The romance is so believable and the moment they first sing together gives me goosebumps. It feels more like a documentary than a typical musical.

69. Hot Fuzz (2007)

Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

You’re not seriously gonna believe this man, are you? Are you? HE ISN’T EVEN FROM ‘ROUND HERE!

Minutely constructed, this movie takes at least two viewings to get all the jokes because the punchline often comes before the setup. It also works really well as a buddy cop movie, thanks to those three guys up there. The chemistry and direction are spot on.

59. The Truman Show (1998)

Directed by Peter Weir. Starring Jim Carrey and Laura Linney

Somebody help me, I’m being spontaneous!

Either before its time or a harbinger of doom that we didn’t heed, The Truman Show is a wonderful film. I love the pathos and the clever little touches like the commercials and the man in the moon controlling Truman’s life like the moon controls the tides.

49. A History of Violence (2005)

Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello

You’re supposed to call me Dad. That’s what I am, your Dad.

Here I’ll declare that I don’t like gangster movies except for the ones that do something other than the rise-and-fall that you find in, say, Goodfellas. A History of Violence is one of those movies. Here’s a man escaped who gets dragged back into his old life, kicking and screaming. There’s even some of the good old-fashioned body horror that Cronenberg is known for in the action scenes and Viggo’s uncomfortable-ness in his own house and family.

39. My Darling Clementine (1946)

Directed by John Ford. Starring Henry Fonda and Victor Mature

Sure is a hard town for a fella to have a quiet game o’ poker in.

John Ford made a lot of westerns. This is the best of the straightforward examples. Henry Fonda is awesome as usual and Victor Mature is way cooler than Val Kilmer’s take on Doc Holliday. And there’s a fun bad guy role for Walter Brennan, who seems to be in every movie that John Ford ever made.

29. Hoop Dreams (1994)

Directed by Steve James. Featuring William Gates and Arthur Agee

That’s why when somebody say, “When you get to the NBA, don’t forget about me,” and that stuff. Well, I should’ve said to them, “If I don’t make it, don’t you forget about me.”

One of the saddest movies I’ve ever seen. You see these two boys go from thinking they’ll be the next NBA stars to an uncertain future. Whether it be medical or motivational, these problems are both universal and unfortunately specific.

19. His Girl Friday (1940)

Directed by Howard Hawks. Starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

Walter, you’re wonderful, in a loathsome sort of way.

The fastest dialogue I’ve ever heard keeps the energy going from start to end. Cary Grant is king of the screwball comedy and Rosalind Russell is up to the challenge of keeping up and even getting ahead of him. Consistently rewatchable.

9. Alien (1979)

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt

I can’t lie to you about your chances, but… you have my sympathies.

The ultimate haunted house movie… that’s also set in space. Sigourney Weaver faces off against a man in a big rubber suit, and it’s one of the scariest movies of all time. Ridley Scott understands the Jaws lesson of showing less monster to get more scares. With one great sequel (3), one horrible sequel (Aliens) and one crazy sequel (Resurrection), I can’t wait to see what Scott does in the prequel. The original is an astounding film.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section

Movie Review: Submarine (2010)

I’ve seen Richard Ayoade in a few things including The IT Crowd, a hilarious Britcom where he plays a socially awkward IT guy of the highest order. He is brilliant in the show but it didn’t prepare me for his superb directorial prowess. He directed the superb Pulp Fiction/My Dinner With Andre episode of Community earlier this year but even that didn’t let on just how good Ayoade is behind the camera. If there is one thing that Submarine has going for it, it’s the supreme technical craft of the film. Everything looks right, feels right, acts right. It’s a subjective film, we only see the events through the lens of Oliver Tate, and as such Ayoade is free to break reality as often as he wants. When Oliver mentions in an early voice over that this moment would be best suited to a rising crane shot but that the film of his life would only have the budget for a zoom out the frame predictably zooms out, even a bit awkwardly. People freeze while the camera moves and when his father talks about “being underwater” the next shot shows him hunched below the large fish tank previously hidden off-screen. But is that enough? Does the story work beyond the technical achievements?

Well, kinda. Mostly. Probably. Yes? The problem (or not) is that Oliver Tate needs a good slap in the face. He’s got a big ego with little to back it up. He’s the victim of bullying but bullies others in order to get the attention of a girl, Jordana Bevan. And she’s not immune to emotional problems. Their relationship seems to be based on doing as little as possible that could be perceived as actual fun. Or love. The practically torture each other, even though they both want to be with each other. It makes for difficult viewing. I just wanted to go into the screen and sit them down for a little heart to heart in the early goings. Tell them that they need to stop being so pretentious. Stop acting so uninterested in everything. Just enjoy things. Luckily, the film does that for me after the first section. With the reintroduction of Oliver’s mom’s old flame creating marital strife and Jordana’s mom having brain cancer these two teenagers are forced to deal with issues outside themselves. They’re kicked out of their own world and into reality, as much as they try to resist.

The acting in this film is phenomenal. Even if I didn’t care for the two romantic leads (Oliver and Jordana), their actors (Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige) perform them quite well. The adult actors play their roles well, too. Paddy Considine (pictured above rocking the silliest haircut I’ve seen outside a Coen brothers film) brings a kind of quiet humanity to a role that could have been over the top and silly, the spiritual new-age-y motivational speaker that used to date Sally Hawkins‘ Jill Tate (Oliver’s mom) before she married Noah Taylor‘s Lloyd Tate. This couple totally works. You can see why they were a good match for each other – the idea of Noah Taylor’s depressed, scraggly professor ripping his sweater vest off to woo Hawkins’ neurotic wannabe actress is one of the funniest images in the film, even though it’s not shown because they bring so much depth to such lifeless characters – and why they are drifting apart. This is where Oliver and Jordana could end up if they aren’t careful. So trapped in their own ways that seemingly nothing can break them out of their idiosyncrasies.

In fact, for all of my misgivings about the early parts of the film (which are spectacularly done, I must reiterate. I just couldn’t stand the characters), this story develops into something with real heart. It is, after all, a coming of age story – a bildungsroman, if you’ll allow me an English major word and let me justify the title of this blog – and Oliver and Jordana develop into better people. They understand that there is more than just their inner lives and that sometimes people screw up. They learn that relationships of any kind are hard to sustain and that the outcome is worth the effort. When the film ends you have hope that these two, and even the three adults, will be able to live with a little bit more compassion instead of the empty affectations they put on in the early goings. And it’s also quite funny. There are clever jokes and character moments and even filmmaking techniques that make the film flow with a quick wit and a quicker pace. Not since Edgar Wright‘s Hot Fuzz have I seen the kinds of filmic jokes found in this movie. It’s always good to see a joke whose punchline is a cut instead of an actual line. Ayoade’s technical and, more importantly, emotional awareness makes him a writer and director to watch out for.

Submarine (2010) – Written and directed by Richard Ayoade