Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

I kind of had high hopes for The Place Beyond the Pines. I like director Derek Cianfrance, despite only really directing Blue Valentine before this, but there were a few things that didn't quite fit in my opinion. Firstly, I have to describe it as a mix between Blue Valentine, Drive, and The Departed. Although maybe I'm being influenced by the fact that Ryan Gosling is in two of the three movies listed. Before I get too into my spiel, I'll give you a quick synopsis or teaser if you will.  

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a daredevil motorcyclist traveling with a fair when he runs into Romina (Eva Mendes), an ex-lover, and he soon discovers he has a newborn son, Jason. He decides to stick around and try and provide for his family but he only has one real skill. He proceeds to rob banks using his motorcycle for a quick getaway. Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is a rookie cop who gets tangled up with all of this as well as the seedy underbelly of the Schenectady Police Department. 

I don't want to get too into the plot because I don't want to ruin it but I was a little disappointed in the lack of screen time between Ryan and Bradley. You just have to watch it to know what I'm talking about.

The music was a bit hit or miss. The ominous score was blatant in many scenes and was often overbearing, most scenes didn't really warrant it. I would have loved softer, more simplistic music during the suspenseful moments. I did however very much enjoy the song Snow Angel by Mike Patton that played a couple times throughout the film. It is a very soothing instrumental that came up mainly when someone was peacefully riding a bike down an empty road. 

The two males leads put out great performances but by no means their best. Ray Liotta had a small part and nailed it because he is so suited to play the perfect scumbag. Ben Mendelsohn played Robin, Luke's accomplice in the robberies, but his character didn't amount to much. He was just a means to keep the plot moving but not to add anything to it. I thought Eva Mendes fell a little flat in some parts and most other characters (and actors) seemed to fall by the wayside. However, I do want to talk about young actors Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. I liked DeHaan's performance as teenaged Jason and I definitely thought it believable he was Luke's son. He had a brooding reserved darkness to him. On the other hand Cohen, who played AJ Cross (Avery's son), was a huge douche bag who seemed nothing like either of his parents. All I could see is that he was a jackass from New York. I'm not sure why he was written this way, but I digress.

I thought most of the movie was well done and entertaining but a little rough around the edges. It is also pretty long at 140 minutes, especially since it is paced rather slowly. If you want to watch a film similar to The Departed but a bit slower, a little dirtier, and more family oriented (and no I do not mean that it's for kids), then I would very much suggest seeing it while it's still in theaters. Otherwise, I'd wait until it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray and watch it then.


  • Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
  • Filmed in Schenectady, New York
  • The name "Schenectady" loosely comes from a Mohawk word that means "place beyond the pine plains"
  • For those out of the loop, Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have been dating since late 2011
  • Just because I didn't feel like putting it in the main part of the post, Bruce Greenwood sports a rather distracting moustache that I did not approve of. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

10 Movies for Exam Relief

Now these movies won't necessarily be about school or exams but I have all student kind in mind when I construct this list. Basically, these are movies I'm enjoying right now and that will help me get through exams, so I hope you enjoy them too.

Across the Universe (2007) 

Some people don't like the movie because it messes with the classics. I think it was well written and paints a pretty good story when you consider it's pieced together from songs. It's all about love, war, and the 60s. There are always going to be problems and struggles but love helps us through. Whether it's love of family, friends, lovers, or simply the love and passion for something you do, it helps every day be a little easier. I like the renditions of Beatles classics in this film. They may not be as good as the originals but they inspire me to go on a Beatles tear each time I watch the movie.

Another musical entry, not much singing from the actors though. A tribute to rock in the 60s, with a notable exclusion of all things Beatles (which the latter definitely makes up for). A rag tag group of misfits live on a boat doing what they love, spreading the music to the masses. We see a lot of great British (plus 1 Kiwi and  1 American) actors in this film that come together to give you a blast from the past. If you want to update your current playlist with some great oldies, check out the soundtrack for the film.

One of the most recent Studio Ghibli films, takes it's story from the novel The Borrowers. A young girl, Arriety, along with her parents, Homily and Pod, are little people living beneath a house. They survive by borrowing supplies from humans. Things start going awry when they are spotted and the adventure really begins. Another great Ghibli film that was simple but endearing. I would opt for the UK dubbed version because I have an celebrity crush on Saoirse Ronan. Not in a creepy way but she is an amazing actress and she seems so real and grounded. She voices Arriety by the way, I guess I forgot to mention that.

It teaches our youth the great lesson that school doesn't always have to be about grades; it can be about sex too. Possibly a new generation's classic teen movie, but for now just a solid comedy that helped propel the genre of crude college humor in movies. Just some stupid comedy to fill the time. Watching anything else requires too much attention when you're trying to multitask.
In my top 3 Pixar movies, which is saying something. Much of Generation Y grew up watching Toy Story and the adventures and mishaps Andy's toys got themselves into. It basically reinforces the importance and power of friendship. With friends you can get through most anything together. Whether it be studying for a final or getting through life's other hardships, great friends can make the journey worth it.

I am aware that the Toy Story image has Jessie and Bullseye in it, who didn't appear until the second movie. I'm just too lazy to change it.

Jurassic Park (1993)

An amazing classic that shows the powerful combination of computer graphics and animatronics. I don't need to say much else but this John Williams scored masterpiece is playing in theatres right now and in 3D no less. While I do not particularly like or endorse 3D movies, it is dinosaurs popping out at you so it can't be that bad. Go with some friends and take a break if you can.

Forrest Gump (1994)

You have to work with what you have. You have to remember to just keep on running forward and you'll get there. This movie just makes me happy, it gives me hope. There are hard times but Forrest naively keeps seeing the bright side of things and that simple happy attitude is what gets him through things. Hanks' performance is bolstered by the great duo of director Bob Zemeckis and composer Alan Silvestri. Both of whom also made Back to the Future one of my favourites. 

Okay so not a movie but still very worthy of watching. It has no connections with school but watching Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day is a great treat in itself. It's a Whedon fan's dream and is a well crafted musical miniseries that is just a shade over 40 minutes. Being rather short I'm sure you can find time to slot it in somewhere in your busy schedule, you won't regret it.

The great John Hughes makes an appearance again in one of my posts, what a shocker. If you have the luxury of having a few days off between exams just take a day and relax. Going into an exam stressed doesn't help things. Although there is some argument that being a little stressed is better than no stress at all but you can look up the research on that and decide for yourself. Anyway, it's Matthew Broderick at his finest. Sadly he peaked a little early in his career. He's still a great actor but most people will always see him as Ferris. Seriously though, just kick back a little if you can, twist and shout, and your mind and body will say Danke Schoen.

Exam (2009)

A low budget British indie-film that I quite enjoyed. It's shot in a single room and only has a handful of actors. Most, if not all, you won't recognize. The plot has it's ups and downs but I think is pretty solid and deserves a little credit. Some of it is smart, some of it is predictable, and some of it is just weird, but sometimes that makes a decent combination. Just know that no matter how hard your exams are, they won't be as tough as the one they have in this film. 

Wishing everyone the best this exam period!
Good luck! 

- Most poster images obtained from www.impawards.com
- The rest of the were obtained from random sources via Google images
- The Secret World of Arriety is the only Ghibli feature film to have separate voice actors for releases in the US and the UK
- One method of exam relief is to purge information after your finals are over. This list is great for that. If you choose to do so following your last exam, I challenge you to pick any 3 (at least) and marathon them back-to-back-to-back.