Monday, September 26, 2011

Drive (2011)

I definitely wanted to see this movie for a while now and would have even paid to see it. Fortunately for me there happened to be a screener that leaked, so that was the end of that.

Drive (2011) is about a part-time movie stunt driver in L.A. who moonlights as a getaway driver. He meets the girl next door and somehow his bad luck lands him right in the middle of some pretty nasty stuff. He does anything and everything to protect the people he cares about.

I mean that summary doesn't give anything away but the plot of this movie is really very simple. The story isn't what is that great about this movie, to me it's the film style, the characters and the decently realistic gory violence. This movie has a nice mix of just about everything, (except for comedy, unless you're extremely desensitized to violence like me). This film is a great example of the neo-noir genre. Now I don't know much about specific film styles, I just watch them but it thought it would be cool to bring it up. I like the what is said about the genre, "Characters were often conflicted antiheroes, trapped in a difficult situation and making choices out of desperation or nihilistic moral systems." This is clearly from Wikipedia because I'm too lazy to actually find a reputable source for anything. In any case that statement pretty much sums up the whole movie, as I'm sure it would other neo-noir films....if I knew any others. This movie has a soundtrack that has a definite 80's feel to it. At some points, if you closed your eyes you could almost swear it was a John Hughes film. Well not quite but it's close enough.

Now the movie itself can be a little jerky with the tempo. It starts off rather slow but picks up quite suddenly around halfway through. The line that really made me think the movie was turning to a different direction was when the Driver calmly uttered the words, "How about this - shut your mouth or I'll kick your teeth down your throat and I'll shut it for you".

The movie gets really violent in a hurry. It's definitely not as much action as you'd see in mainstream action movies but it looks a lot more realistic. You can't really compare the gore to a lot of action movies because Hollywood likes to glam things up with gunshot blow back and blood spray from gunshots. If you have a weak stomach or are sensitive to violence and gore this is probably not the movie for you. Just imagine someone getting stabbed in the eye with a fork in real life; if you don't think you can handle that I would suggest watching something less intense. With that in mind I loved the violence, it wasn't over done and it was pretty believable.

This movie reminds me of the movie Faster (2010) except that it was actually good. Ryan Gosling in this movie is so much more badass than Dwayne Johnson is in Faster. In both movies the main character is aptly named 'The Driver' but the title definitely goes to Gosling on this one.


The Cast
The Driver (Ryan Gosling) - Ryan does a great job as the calm, straight forward, and more or less psychopathic driver. The driver rarely loses his composure and seems to be very motivated to get things done and put things right. The one thing I didn't like was that he was so quiet and mumbled pretty often which made it hard to understand him. Gosling is the main draw to the movie for those who think he's hot.

Irene (Carey Mulligan) - It's nothing too special from Mulligan but she does a decent job becoming a rather drab kind-of-single-mother while still looking as cute and charming as ever.

Shannon (Bryan Cranston) - Shannon is the owner of a garage and fixes up cars for movie stunts. He's kind of lame and I wish Cranston had a cooler role but alas someone had to play the loser. He kind of reminds me of Golden Leg in Shaolin Soccer if anyone knows what I'm talking about.

Bernie (Albert Brooks) - A mobster that is the backer for Shannon's scheme to win it big on the NASCAR circuit with the Driver at the wheel. Able to play the good guy and the bad guy all at the same time he's the contrasts the Driver very nicely.

Nino (Ron Perlman) - Bernie's business partner but considerably less careful than his counterpart. I don't really like Ron Perlman unless he's playing Hellboy. He plays a jackass in this movie so I don't fell too bad about it. Nothing noteworthy but an improvement on his performance in Season of the Witch, which I'm not even going to link to because it's not worth your time.

Blanche (Christina Hendricks) - Now this is an interesting character. She is in on a heist with the Driver but turns out to double cross him. Hendricks is a pretty big name nowadays, doing a great job in Mad Men. Unfortunately for those interested in seeing this voluptuous red head in this movie, she actually has less than 10 minutes of screen time.

So rating this movie is a bit tricky for me because I am definitely attuned to violence and gore in film unlike most of you, or so I would hope. I really enjoyed this movie but I could see where people would be put off. Also, I'm not sure how well people will like it after a few years, it seems audiences jump on the bandwagon of something that's gotten a lot of hype or hear good things from a film festival. So I'll have to give Drive a....

8.0/10

I would have loved to give it a higher score but it might not have the same impact on other people as it did on me. I most likely would have rated it higher if I saw it in theaters, so that's a factor too.

What Would Steve Do?
I would go see it. Seriously, it's a great movie and I did not do it justice because I have no real technical knowledge of film. I'd like to go see it in theaters, it's something that one would appreciate a lot more on the big screen. Bottom line is just go see it, unless you've got a thing with unnecessary violence and gore.

Random Facts
- The character Irene was written as a Hispanic woman before Carey Mulligan was cast
- Hugh Jackman was originally supposed to be the Driver (which my opinion wouldn't have been as good, although it would probably make more money)
- You might recognize Albert Brooks' voice from The Simpsons most notably as Hank Scorpio or Russ Cargill from The Simpsons Movie
- Ron Perlman shattered his kneecap while filming a scene on a beach (which I find hilarious, does that make me a bad person?.....Nah.)
- More of a general inquiry for a lot of people, or at least those who know who Christina Hendricks is. Her breasts are in fact natural despite being rather disproportionate to her body.
- I made some of the text for the characters in pink to go with the credits for the movie, which I found a little odd as compared to the overall feel of the movie.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Roman Holiday (1953)


I'm going old school with this one. A classic movie that I always wanted to see but didn't get around to watching until last night.

Roman Holiday (1953), starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, is a romantic comedy set in Italy's beautiful capital city. Ann (Hepburn) is a young princess who becomes fed up with her duties as a royal and decides to run away to spend some time about Rome. Her curiosity gets her into trouble and soon enough she finds herself in the company of a suave American news reporter Joe Bradley (Peck). Joe soon realizes this innocent young girl's identity and goes to all lengths to get an exclusive interview. This grand adventure leads them through Rome's great sites and closer to each others' hearts (Yeah it's cheesy, so what).

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I decided to watch this film. Some movies aren't able to stand the test of time but this nearly sixty year old rom-com seems to do just that.

I first have to admit I am an Audrey Hepburn fan, despite only having seen her in Breakfast At Tiffany's, a fantastic movie by the way. In my opinion Audrey is the epitome of true beauty; I could go on for a while talking about Audrey but I'll spare you for most of it. Suffice it to say I'd be crushing hard on her if I was born roughly 70 years earlier. It wasn't just her outer beauty that does it for me but the way she always has a sense of purity, curiosity and genuine care for others. Roman Holiday was actually Miss Hepburn's break out role in Hollywood leading to a career that would cement her legacy in film.

Paired with Hepburn in this one is Gregory Peck. I'm sure many of you remember watching the movie version of To Kill A Mockingbird in school, well Peck played the epic role of Atticus Finch. Peck has a great presence and command in his on-screen time and has great chemistry with Hepburn. Another great thing about Peck is his great voice. He has a voice that, for some reason reminds me of Patrick Stewart, not that they sound particularly similar. They both just have this voice that is calm and smooth yet commanding and authoritative.

Since this movie was made in an entirely different era of Hollywood entertainment, the only other person worth mentioning is Eddie Albert who was cast as Joe Bradley's close friend Irving Radovich. Although very few of us (that includes me) would know of any of his work, his performance in this movie is actually quite funny. He supplies or is involved in a lot of the comedy in this film and provides a nice contrast to Peck's straight-man type persona. 

Now finally onto the part where I talk about the film itself. The film was certainly cliche but in all the right ways. Also the fact that this movie was made in 1953, rom-com cliches were not quite so done to death as they are today so I'll let them slip for this one. Roman Holiday didn't heavily rely on too many cultural references at the time so most of the movie isn't lost to today's viewers. The film included many beautiful locations around Rome, which were only slightly stunted by the fact that it was in black and white. It is a solid film throughout and at a couple minutes shy of two hours long, it is longer than I had original thought. That being said it doesn't feel like a two hour movie. The only thing that annoyed me about the movie was that the character Joe Bradley was kind of a dick for most of the movie but was smooth enough to hide it.

I really enjoyed watching this movie and it definitely still stands up to today's entertainment, although much more wholesome (Let's face it, entertainment these days is pretty smutty). I give Roman Holiday ....

8.5/10

I can't really justify giving a romantic comedy any higher than that, no matter how much I wish my life was like one.

What Would Steve Do?
I'm not sure if there are any Blockbusters still in business but I'm sure you can find this movie somewhere. I would strongly recommend it to everyone. Someday I'll probably even buy it, and for all of those who know how cheap I am, that is saying quite a bit. If you can't buy it or rent it, just download it, it's definitely worth a watch.

Steve's Random Facts
- Both Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn are ranked amongst the American Film Institute's 50 greatest screen legends of American cinema (Gregory Peck: #12 Male Legend, Audrey Hepburn: #3 Female Legend)
- One of the only two women to outrank Audrey on AFI's list is the other Miss Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn at #1
- Roman Holiday was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning three, including Audrey Hepburn's Best Actress 
- Director William Wyler also directed Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959), for all of which he won an Oscar for Best Director.
- Although I've never known who Eddie Albert was (a little past my time), he did voice The Vulture in Spider-Man: The Animated Series in the 90's
- The story was originally option by Frank Capra and he had originally wanted to cast Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor
- The movie was shot in black and white so that the astonishing Roman scenery would not overpower the characters
- I'm not sure if you noticed but I used the present tense when talking about a lot of the people involved, just to avoid the sad reality that they are pretty much all dead now.
- There is one last thing that I hope you guys watch even if you don't watch the movie. It is an outtake from Audrey Hepburn's screen test for Roman Holiday. This footage was taken after the director had said "cut" but the cameraman was still rolling. It may not really seem that exciting but this was back in the early 50's and Audrey was only like 23 when filmed this movie. Audrey's screen test.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Season of the Witch (2011)

So I watched this movie during the summer but haven't gotten around to talking about it until now.

So to give you a quick summary Season of the Witch is set in the 14th century where two knights (Nicolas Cage & Ron Perlman) take part in a fictional crusade. They find out that the Holy Roman Empire is overtaken by the plague and are tasked in helping to end it. This task is to escort the alleged witch accused of causing the plague to a monastery where they can nullify her powers (if she has any).

So the concept of the movie seems pretty solid; a lot of the individual parts have been done to death but as a whole it's decently unique (at least to my knowledge). Sadly, the film didn't really pan out so well. The acting is terrible and the ending just makes you want to throw something at the television. Unfortunately, that wouldn't help it would just add to the insult to your soul that is this movie. Granted it is entertaining and humorous at times but laughter can only go so far.

I'm a fan of Nicolas Cage, I know a lot of people don't like him but he gets the job done most of the time. Cage got by in this one with what seemed like minimal effort. It's like the bird courses you take in school in order to boost your mark but only to get like a 60 because you don't care enough to actually go to class. You all know what I'm talking about. At least Cage tries to fake an accent unlike his inept co-star Perlman.

I didn't really know who Ron Perlman was until he was in Hellboy since he does mostly voice acting. He should stick with his day job because his performance in this movie was....actually it was exactly the same as his acting in Hellboy, which is the problem. You cannot use the same accent you used in Hellboy in a role as a knight crusading for Jerusalem. I'm not sure if it was on purpose in this movie but if it was it didn't really work for comic relief, it was just more issues to get hung up while watching it.

The action wasn't terrible but there really wasn't enough of it to enjoy as much as other crusade type movies like Kingdom of Heaven, which was decent despite starring Orlando Bloom.

At this point I would talk about the supporting cast and what they did to enhance or detract from the movie going experience but I don't really want to. They didn't do enough to catch my eye but weren't so awful as to outshine the turd of a duo that is Cage and Perlman.
 
So I will bestow upon this movie a rating of....

4.5/10

I was going to give it a 5.0 and perhaps I'm being unfair to this movie but it's a Monday so too bad.

What Would Steve Do?
I would never buy this movie, nor would I ever rent it. Seriously, don't even bother wasting bandwidth on streaming it. Just pick another movie. Almost any other movie would do. If you're set on another Nicolas Cage movie, go watch my personal favourites of his, Face/Off or The Rock.
  
Steve's Random Facts
There aren't any today. The only thing I can tell you is go watch better movies, but not Something Borrowed but I'll get to that later, maybe tonight.