The Place Beyond The Pines: Review

The Place Beyond the Pines is a movie about the decisions you make and how they may have far reaching implications. The story encompasses the lives of several characters . Derek Cianfrance’s most ambitious film has arrived and he is proving himself to be quite the filmmaker. Derek applies the same intimate approach to this film as he did with Blue Valentine and expands it into a Babel of crime dramas in a sense.

As if the screaming masses needed another reason to watch a film starring the actor/musician/ entertainment connoisseur Ryan Gosling. It’s becoming abundantly clear that he is not just a fad. He is a legitimately good actor and he shows it film after film; this time being no different. Gosling plays a somewhat famous motorcycle stuntman turned bank robber, Luke Glanton. His outlook on life changes in an instant when he learns of a son that was kept away from him byhis ex. Ryan’s character is easy to sympathize with. We get a performance we have come to expect from Gosling. Gosling is easy to sympathize with even though his actions may be flawed, we still feel as though they are justified.

Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross; a police officer who finds himself doubting his decisions and full of remorse. Cooper who has received his first nod at the Academy Awards for his work in Silver Linings Playbook is showing that he can portray characters with more depth then he is usually associated with. Eva Mendez has a notable performance as the conflicted mother of the infamous bank robber/stuntman. If you just watch her films in anticipation of the inevitable semi nude scenes, most of the time you won’t be disappointed. You won’t be getting We Own the Night levels of eroticism but we do get one particular scene with some intense shirt nipple. Fortunately, for the most part her character is too broken to be viewed as eye candy. She shows that she is more than just a pretty face

The segment of the plot with the most impact in my opinion came from the examination of Dane DeHaan who played Luke Glanton’s son and Emory Cohen who portrayed Avery’s son. Everything that transpired weighed on their characters if they knew it or not. Emory Cohen in particular had a very good performance. The young actor portrays a misunderstood kid who has fallen into a culture of drugs and partying with great effect. Even with all the slang and cool kid vernacular being thrown around it still felt genuine and natural.

>The film has an ensemble cast with strong performances, the choices that were made become theirlegacy. The film has some great cinematography. The film also sports a compelling score that surprised me. The only downside that I can think of is the somewhat erratic pacing of the last 2/3 or half of the movie. The film was essentially a three part story/epic. It would have been interesting to see some of aspects of the story being more explored. Through and through I was satisfied and I recommend it! I’m looking forward to more of Cianfrance’s work.

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Pacific Rim Review

Guillermo del Toro’s robot vs. monster blockbuster crashed into theaters this weekend. Toro is known for a variety of of films, ranging from animated family movies, to horror, and fantasy. It’s really interesting that he can have his hands on such varied material. One year he is directing Hellboy, the next Pans Labyrinth. His offering to theater goers this summer from his latest film delivers for mech and science fiction fans.

A portal in the bottom of the pacific ocean opens and giant monsters (Kaiju) emerge and wreak havoc on mankind. The world truly comes together for the first time to combat the invaders. The world’s most talented engineers and minds collaborate to invent colossal human shaped mechs. These mechs are controlled by humans in real time. To alleviate the mental strain of this connection to the Jaeger, two pilots sync their minds together and share the load.

The story is cheerful and generally upbeat. The film goer is presented with some amazing action sequences and fights. I didn’t watch the film in 3-D but I was thoroughly entertained by the action. It was fast but not too fast that I couldn’t keep up with it. Plot and character developments come at a generally acceptable pace. The story never becomes too gloomy or have too many highs or lows.

The visual aspect of this film was one of its highlights. The movie felt grounded despite it’s large use of computer generated imagery. The backdrops never felt too green-screeny and there were actually some very cool sets. The ambient lighting in Hong Kong in particular was superb.

Idris Elba brought some good acting to the film in a role he is becoming known for; The Zen-Master like authority figure/leader. And we get his british voice –a nice change from the norm. Some of the comedic relief from Charlie Day(Always Sunny in Philadelphia) seems a bit too much at times but it works in most cases. The best performance in my opinon came from Rinko Kikuchi. Her character Mako is quirky, shy, demanding, and full of vengeance;all at once. How she pulls it off?, I’m not so sure but its really entertaining to see her interact with the other cast members. And of course we get a cameo from Ron Pearlman as a black market vendor for Kaiju parts— a sort of signature addition to the cast from Guillermo del Toro, that got plenty of laughs from his fans.The dialogue of the characters wasn’t revolutionary or exceptional in anyway but it was just so fun to let go and watch the story unfold.

In many ways this experience felt like I was watching a live action anime movie. The inner geek in me took hold. Mechs? Check. Monsters? Check. Akward romances? Check. Bizarre and at times stereotypical personalities? Check. The film was exciting and managed to keep me entertained for 2+ hours. Go to see it. It’s surprisingly satisfying and has the potential to be del Toro’s new big franchise.

Review: The Purge

The year is 2022 and unemployment and crime is virtually gone. This is achieved by an event called The Purge. For one night a year all crime is legal. A fantastic premise for a horror movie in a stagnating genre. The film stars Ethan Hawke  an actor who is having a bit of resurgence especially in this genre.  He is the highlight of the film when it comes to the acting with Lena Headey(Cersei Game of Thrones) coming in a close second. Their family in the film are trapped in the house on the day of The Purge.  After their son feels sympathy and lets a man looking for refuge into their home, a group of hunters vow to break in if they do not release him.

The setting of the film is unique. A possible sci-fi like future where the poor are seemingly eradicated because they do not have the means to protect themselves. It’s a good thing this film skates over the socioeconomical implications of the Purge. It probably would have somehow led to a race fueled controversy. It’s an interesting topic and it certainly caused me to debate what would happen to my neighborhood if that did happen.

Some of the dialogue from the leader of the hunters was jarringly flat. Maybe he should have just kept his mask on for a creepier effect. It felt very forced at times. The actual events that transpired after  him  and his lackeys breached the house were very satisfying. The film did have to suffer from the typical horror tropes. We have the usual heads peeping out at the edge of screens in the background, clumsily falling in chase scenes, hiding under beds, sneaking around in the dark, and the suspense even hits a rock bottom low when an extremely predictable kid hiding in the dark behind an object in the basement forgets his flashlight is shining out of his hiding spot.

There’s a reason I usually don’t watch horror/thriller movies by myself. Horror movies generally just don’t work.  They are usually way to similar and all follow the same formulaic plots and devices. Yet we still go to watch them with friends. There’s something about that horror movie audience atmosphere that is just special. There’s nothing particularly good about the movie The Purge but its still fun to watch. That’s pretty much all that matters for horror movies. I generally don’t go into horror films with high expectations.  If you file this under a category I like to refer to as popcorn flick then you’ll be fine. It’s mindless fun. A film you go to watch and laugh at, especially at the moments that are suppose to be serious.