Sunday, September 18, 2011


This weeks offerings seemed a bit weak to me, nothing really stood out for me, but I was intrigued by the trailer for Drive. I couldn't tell if it was just another action flick like the Transporter or was there something more to it than that. The score for the trailer seemed to be a bit odd but the film felt like they were going for a solid high-brow action thriller. The other choices was a brutal re-make of the already controversial and brutal film from the 70's, Straw Dogs. Some really obnoxious flick about Power Moms with the very annoying Sarah Jessica Parker and the re-release of Lion 3D!! I took the youngster to see Lion King yesterday in, thankfully, non-3D. He really loved it and it still looked pretty good up there on the big screen. I had heard that the 3D-ification didn't go over as well with audiences although you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the box office. It looks like it's on its way to 30 million or so. So that's all your going to get out of me about the Lion King, no review needed for that one. As for Drive, I'm still not sure what to think of the film. It wasn't terrible but I didn't really love it all that much. Again that score just baffled me, it felt like opening a time capsule and pulling out some rejected 80's score from flicks like Manhunter or Thief or something. I'm not so sure if it worked.
They seem to be going for a Clint Eastwood western motif with this guy, I honestly couldn't remember his name but IMDB calls him Driver so I guess he's the Driver with no name. Anyway Driver (Ryan Gosling), is a man of many parts. He's a stunt-driver, a mechanic and in his off-hours he acts as a getaway driver for anyone who can pay. All of his jobs, legal and illegal, are provided by his loser mentor, Shannon (Bryan Cranston). Shannon lines up a job for him with some shady dudes in the Jewish Mafia; Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks, yes that Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman). Honestly I would have never believed that Albert Brooks could pull off a tough guy but he holds his own pretty well here. He isn't inherently a tough guy but he whacks a few guys convincingly enough. So our Driver also is trying to get to know his pretty neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio. He finds out she's got a loser husband (Oscar Isaac) who just got out of the clink and is in trouble already. The guy owes some heavy hitters a butt load of cash which of course he cannot pay. They threaten his wife and kid and this is where the Driver decides to get involved. He tries to help the young couple by doing a job to get the husband out of debt but things go south, of course, and the Driver has to steer the ship before they all careen off a cliff.
There were some good performances here, but I swear the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, was way too determined to make this one-note action thriller into some kind of masterpiece. Unfortunately it wasn't, not even close. The cinematography was gorgeous they got a lot of mileage out of that for sure. But that score, oh man, that score was something dreadful. It totally took me out of it. It completely reminded me of those terribly shitty 80's synth tracks. Just really awful. Also I'm really getting sick of these films that are considering themselves "Art house" films with the long annoying pauses and the long stares as if were supposed to get that these characters have some kind of connection that unfortunately doesn't exist. Just stop it, this isn't the 70's anymore, there were only a few filmmakers who could make that shit work and this Refn guy is not one of them. Gosling was ok, but he seemed a bit out of his element, and I just didn't understand his motivation for anything we don't know anything about the guy when it starts and we barely know much about him when it ends. He cares a lot about Irene and her son but I'm still not 100% sure why. He can also apparently be extremely brutal when he needs to be and he seems to know his way around firearms and knives. They never say if he was some former special forces guy or has some dark past, nothing. He's just apparently a really good Driver who, if you cross him, can fuck you up with whatever weapon is lying around.
I would say see this film at your own risk. If your looking for explosions and a fun slick script. This isn't it and you are going to be seriously disappointed. Its actually more like a souped up Indie film with some pretty graphic action scenes and a lot of awkward pauses.

Grade: 2 Buckets

Friday, September 16, 2011


UFC Fans rejoice!! This was your movie, why did you not embrace it? I saw this flick last week but I didn't get a chance to get my review in on time. I'm not sure it would have made much of a difference. It stunk at the box office making only a weak 5 million. I thought this was a multi-billion dollar business with die-hard fans? Fans who have been screaming for a movie that reveals the honor and prestige of their craft while proving once again they are the real deal and the WWE is a laughable clownish fake. I guess the filmmakers didn't pander enough to that crowd, or maybe it was just too close in plot to the Fighter from last year. I don't know, but personally I really enjoyed the movie. It did have similar themes to the Fighter but overall it felt like a really good post-9/11 recession fueled flick, with fleshed out real characters.
Estranged brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) sign up for a UFC contest in Atlantic City to fight for the 5 million dollar purse. Tommy is a hard drinking former Marine who appears to be bottling up so much anger and resentment that he could explode at any time. His brother Brendan is a school teacher and former UFC fighter who is finding the recession is taking its toll on his family. He's looking at an eviction notice if he can't pay his bills his family is out on the street. Both of them seem to be holding grudges against one another but they both seem to have one thing in common, the mutual hatred of their formally drunk and abusive father Paddy (Nick Nolte). Tommy tries to put his feelings aside as he asks his old man to train him for the contest but finds that almost impossible to do.
This was a much better movie than I thought it was going to be. There are many worn out themes here but the director and the actors take a so-so script and make it much better than it probably should be. Tom Hardy hasn't steered me wrong yet, everything I've seen him in proves time and time again what a fantastic actor he is. It was nice seeing Nick Nolte in something worthy again too. The man is a train wreck personally but he's still a great actor. The fight scenes were really intense and they didn't feel staged. It really did feel like an updated Rocky. It was hard to root against either brother. And as much as I enjoyed the contestants battle it out I really was annoyed with the in-movie commentators. I felt like they were tacked on for that elusive UFC audience that ironically didn't show up for this movie. They gave them way too much air-time and it made it feel more like a cheap spectacle rather than a heavy weight match-up. No offense to those UFC fans out there but it reminded me of the WWE announcers. The thing that aggravated me the most was the one thing the film could not control. In the trailers, they hype up the fight between the two brothers the problem is they don't fight till the end. Which means all of the really intense fighting they have to do up to that point is lost because the audience already knows they are going to meet each other in the final round. It's really sad to because there was one fight that Brendan had that had me at the edge of my seat even when I knew he was going to win. They shot the hell out of it to great effect. If I were the filmmakers I would have been pissed about those trailers.
This is really an entertaining flick and you may get a little choked up at the end especially if you have a brother, like Bryan's Song, Rudy and even 61*, it does a great job of sucking you into these characters and really feeling something genuine for them. Which makes it all the more sad when one of them falls. Don't waste your time on some of the gunk out there, you've got Moneyball coming out in a week but if you have to see a movie before that, especially if you are feeling the sports movie, then you won't be disappointed.

Grade: 3 and a half Buckets