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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Ryan Gosling

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blad

It’s many, many years into the future and for some reason, the old Replicants of yesteryear aren’t being used anymore. Now though, there’s some new and improved ones out there that are working for the LAPD, hunting down the old ones, to ensure that no more problems can come of them. One such blade runner is Officer K (Ryan Gosling) who isn’t quite happy about his existence. Mostly, he spends his time hunting and eliminating old Replicants, then, coming home to Joi (Ana de Armas), a hologram that he has as a companion, despite the two actually never being able to touch one another. On one mission, K unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos, which eventually leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years and may hold all of the answers that K’s looking for. But he may also offer the same hope and ambition that K himself wants, but doesn’t quite know it just yet. 

With the way this world’s looking, that may be Vegas in the near-future. Almost too near.

Was the original Blade Runner all that great of a movie to garner as much of a following as it has? For me, I’m still not sure. It’s a bold, ambitious and creatively original movie, even for 1982, but it also feels like it deals with a lot of ideas and doesn’t have the opportunity to flesh them out completely and/or fully. Some of that probably had to do with Ridley Scott trying his best to combat with a budget, or some of it may have to do with the fact that the studios just didn’t know what to do with this truly dark and complex material. That said, here we are, many, many years later, and now we have a sequel. Did we really need one?

Actually, it turns out, yes.

What’s perhaps most interesting about Blade Runner 2049 and what, ultimately, turns out to work in its favor, is that it didn’t call for Scott to come back and sit directly behind the camera again. Nope, this time, it’s Denis Villeneuve who is much more of an auteur and has proved himself more than worthy of a big-budgeted, blockbuster in the past and gets the chance to really let loose here. But what’s most interesting about Villeneuve’s direction is that he doesn’t seem to be in any kind of a rush; with most of these kinds of sequels, especially the ones financed by a huge studio, there’s a want for there to be constant action, constant story, and constant stuff just happening.

In Blade Runner 2049, things are a lot slower and more languid than ever before and it does work for the movie. Villeneuve is clearly having a ball working with this huge-budget, with all of the toys and crafts at his disposal, and it allows us to join in on the fun, too. Even at 164 minutes (including credits), the movie doesn’t feel like it’s all that long-winding because there’s so much beauty on-display, from the cinematography, to the clothes, to the dystopian-details, and to the whole universe etched out, it’s hard not to find something to be compelled, or entertained by. After all, it’s a huge blockbuster and it’s meant to make us entertained, even if it doesn’t always have explosions at every single second.

That said, could it afford to lose at least 20 minutes? Yeah, probably.

But really, it actually goes by pretty smoothly. The story itself is a tad conventional and feels like it could have been way more deep than it actually is, but still, Villeneuve is using this as a way to show the major-studios that they can entrust him in a franchise, no matter how much money is being invested. He knows how to keep the story interesting, even if we’re never truly sure just what’s going on, and when it comes to the action, the movie is quick and exhilarating with it all. There’s a lot of floating, driving, and wandering around this barren-wasteland, but it all feels deserved and welcomed in a universe that’s not all that forgiving – Villeneuve doesn’t let us forget that and it’s hard not to want to stay in this universe for as long as we get the opportunity to.

And with this ensemble, can we be blamed? Ryan Gosling fits perfectly into this role as K, because although he has to play all stern, serious and a little dull, there are these small and shining moments of heart and humanity that show through and have us hope for a little something more. Gosling is such a charismatic actor, that even when he’s supposed to be a bore, he can’t help but light-up the screen. Same goes for Harrison Ford who, after many years of not playing Deckard, fits back into the role like a glove that never came off, while also showing a great deal of age and wisdom, giving us fond memories of the character he once was, and all of the tragedy and horror that he must have seen in the years since we left him.

That said, my praise for this movie ends here and especially with these two.

“Dad? Just kidding. You’re way too cranky.”

For one, it’s really hard to dig in deep into this movie without saying more than I would like to, but also, most of my issues with this movie comes from the possible spoilers I could offer. To put it as simple as I humanly can: The movie suffers from problems of, I don’t know, leaving way too much open in the air.

Wait. Did I say too much?

Let me explain a bit further. The one problem with Blade Runner 2049 is that it does feel the need to give us a bunch of characters, subplots, ideas, themes, and possible conflicts, yet, when all is said and done, not really explore them any further. A part of me feels like this is the movie trying to tell us to stick around and wait for me Blade Runner movies, but another part of me feels like this was something that could have been easily avoided, had the writing and direction been leaner, meaner and most of all, tighter.

Don’t get me wrong, all that’s brought to the table, in terms of the main-plot, is pretty great. Everyone in the ensemble, including a lovely and delightful Ana de Armas, put in great work and even the conflicts brought to our attention, have all sorts of promise. But then, they just sit there. The movie ends and we’re left wondering, “Uh, wait. What? That’s it.”

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’ve said too much. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll just shut up now.

Okay, no. I definitely will. Just see it so I don’t have to type anymore.

Consensus: Big, bloated, bold, beautiful, and ridiculously compelling, Blade Runner 2049 is the rare many-years-later sequel that does a solid job expanding on its universe and ideas, but doesn’t quite know how to wrap things up in a tiny little bow that it possibly deserved.

8 / 10

Holograms in the real world really do have a long way to go.

Photos Courtesy of: aceshowbiz

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Song to Song (2017)

Music rocks. Until it doesn’t.

Set in/around the Austin, Texas music scene follows the story of four different people who are all in some way, shape, or form connected to one another. There’s BV (Ryan Gosling) a struggling lyricist who has chances of becoming the next best thing since Bowie, but for some reason, doesn’t know if he wants to fully commit to this dream just yet. His buddy/co-writer/co-producer Cook (Michael Fassbender) is on a much different playing-field; he’s already established, rich, wild and happy as can be, but also a bit of a nut-case, which leads him to making some pretty rash, awful decisions. Then, there’s his former assistant, Faye (Rooney Mara), who now spends her time taking up odd-jobs, whenever she isn’t flirting with the idea of music. And then, there’s waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman) who meets Cook and ends up not just falling for him, but the world he represents. The same thing happens when BV and Faye meet one another, too, however, their relationship becomes more and more toxic as certain secrets begin to come up into the air.

Look out, Rooney. This is how Baby Goose gets all the ladies.

Song to Song is a lot like every other Terrence Malick film released since the Tree of Life: Rambling, ambitious, meandering, random, and oh yeah, absolutely beautiful. And normally, as was the case in both Knight of Cups and To the Wonder, I would be annoyed, baffled and oh yeah, utterly disappointed; after all, this is the one director who every person in Hollywood wants to work with, drops everything to be around, and do so, without ever even being promised that they’ll be in the final-cut. It’s surprising, actually, because Malick, while no doubt having made some classics in his film-maker career, has more “mehs”, than actually “wows”.

Consider Song to Song in the category of the later, although, with some obvious mild reservations.

Of course, it deserves to be said that, at times, Song to Song can’t help but be incoherent; the editing is so dazzling and jumpy that it doesn’t take long to realize that every scene will probably be on the screen for upwards of five seconds, only to then be switched back to another. The editing is impressive and considering how much footage was probably there to be waded through, time and time again, cut-and-cut, it’s all the more surprising how much of it actually seems to make sense, when put together, but man oh man, the shots can tend to be repetitive.

I mean, yes, I get it: It’s a Malick film. So of course we have to have a bunch of scenes of people frolicking in nature, looking towards the sky, running around exotic locations, and trying not to kiss, but yeah, it happens way too many times here. A part of me wants to learn and accept that as Malick’s thing, and move on, but a part of me can’t help but think it’s just pure laziness, where rather than having to actually write a script, where people speak to one another and profess certain things, they can just run around, glance at each other, and appreciate nature. Once or twice is fine, okay, whatever, but it happens way too often here to where I was beginning to wonder if certain shots were re-used, just so that Malick could hit his frolicking-cue.

And on that note, let me just switch gears by saying, despite these reservations, this movie is quite the watch.

And I mean that in the best way possible.

Sure, it’s Terrence Malick, so the narrative isn’t always the strongest, but in a way, there’s more cohesion here, than there’s been in anything of his since the Tree of Life. Seemingly, they’re two love stories, all taking place around the Texas music scene, and while the movie does ramble on to other places, it’s easy to understand that it is about these four characters and leaving it at that. It’s easy to get confused and well, bored, in Malick’s other flicks, but here, it seems like he knows the kind of story he wants to tell and doesn’t try to go for anything else.

That said, there’s an energy to this thing that just keeps on kicking throughout the whole two hours. It’s honestly what kept me watching, even when it seemed the movie was going to lose its way. But surprisingly, it never does seem to; even in those parts where the movie slows down and focuses on, hey, get this, the actual characters and their lives, there’s still a rambunctious feeling in the air that Malick, believe it or not, just wants to kick out the jams.

Every waitress’ dream: One day, an alcoholic, drug-fueled, crazy and rather insane music-mogul will come in and sweep you off your feet.

And well, he sort of does.

If there’s one complaint that I’ve been seeing around is how Song to Song isn’t really as much about the music, as much as it’s about these characters that make and live around the music, which is an okay complaint, I guess. Except that well, that’s what the movie’s about. Malick doesn’t seem to set out and create some sort of conventional, crowd-pleasing musical in the same vein of La La Land or Chicago, but much more of a narrative-based movie that surrounds itself with loud guitars, amps, drums, and singers, like Nashville, for lack of a better complaint. Sure, we get brief glimpses of Florence and the Machine, Patti Smith, and the Black Lips, but the movie isn’t trying to make this the ultimate Woodstock experience for those who wanted to experience, but more or less, use it as an interesting backdrop for all of these wildly contained lives.

In a way, it’s incredibly smart on Malick’s part, because he not only makes us feel like we’re watching a documentary the whole way through, but a very interesting one at that. Which is to say that yes, Song to Song is beautiful, but you probably already knew that; Emmanuel Lubezki touches something and it automatically turns to art. But there’s something more beyond the prettiness and glossiness of the whole thing that makes it feel much more about the heart, other than the style.

Which is also why Malick does a smart thing in actually allowing his cast to aid him in telling the story, for once.

And with Gosling, Portman, Mara, and especially, Fassbender, Malick’s found some real treats. Granted, a good portion of their performances ultimately come down to narration, but when they are captured on-screen, in the moment, all of them are captivating and enthralling. Fassbender’s probably the stand-out here, showing a loose and wild man in Cook who, despite having all of the money and power in the world, still shows a great deal of darkness, lying underneath. While most of the performance seems improvised, it’s still a true testament to the kind of talent that Fassbender is, where he can play this sometimes over-the-top character and still, somewhat, make him seem real and honest.

Then again, it is a Terrence Malick film, so how real or honest you can get, totally depends on him.

Consensus: Though it does have the ability to ramble at certain points, the exciting energy, utter beauty, and interesting performances of Song to Song are what keep it, at best, compelling and a lively experience. Sort of like, hey, get this, going to a concert. Except with, of course, less music.

8 / 10

Alright, Rooney. Stop being Sia. Be you, girl.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

La La Land (2016)

Tap dance the pain away.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an actress living in Hollywood waiting for that one big break. She constantly goes to auditions, but never seems to get the part. The closest she ever gets to achieving actual stardom is by serving celebrities coffee at the place she works at on a studio film-lot. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist who dreams of one day owning and running his own club where everyone can listen to and play whatever jazz that they want to. However, the times have changed and unfortunately for Sebastian, who spends most of his time playing conventional tunes at a local restaurant for tips, nobody really cares for that old school version of jazz. Late one night, though, Sebastian catches the eyes and ears of Mia and the two suddenly fall for one another, dancing, singing and acting more creatively than they ever had before. But both Mia and Sebastian long and live for something bigger and brighter than what they have now, and the longer they stay together, the more and more their careers begin to go in separate directions.

Though I never got around to reviewing it (tragic, right?), writer/director Damien Chazzelle’s debut, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, feels like every person’s first movie. It’s scrappy, it looks cheap, it’s brimming with ideas, and yet, the execution doesn’t entirely work. It’s the kind of movie where you can tell that Chazzelle was just so damn happy that he got together just enough money to make a movie and do his musical-thing, that he didn’t care too much about certain important elements that matter to a movie, like plot, or character-development, or other things like that. It’s a movie that features a handful of lovely, dizzy song-and-dance numbers, that are more than able to get you smiling, but whenever they are over and we’re forced to actually listen to these characters talk to one another and well, just be, it starts to lose all sorts of fun and excitement.

"Is this love that I'm feeling?"

“Is this love that I’m feeling?”

That’s why La La Land is such a huge, dramatic leap forward and feels like the movie Chazzelle may have been trying to make after all.

It just feels like seven years late.

That’s all fine, though, because La La Land is one of the best movies of the year. It’s the kind of musical that has great, swirly, fun, exciting, and memorable song-and-dance numbers, but when the music stops and the people start talking, guess what? It’s still just as exciting and interesting! So often do we get musicals where it feels like all of the music was written first, and everything else came second – imagine a landscape painting where all of the shapes and sizes were finished, but not the actual colors and objects themselves.

However, La La Land gets all of that right, and then some. Chazzelle’s script is smart, though, because while he does get wrapped-up in his love and admiration for jazz, what it represents, and what it does for those sorts of people who will never let it go, he also doesn’t forget that jazz is definitely a dying form. And in its death, lies a new form of jazz that’s poppy, mass-produced and more mechanical-sounding than a Marvel fight scene, as illustrated by John Legend and his character’s band (who are believably bad). Chazzelle does see this changing form and is sad, admittedly, but he also realizes that the movie’s not just about jazz, as much as it’s about art and artists, and what the later can do when they are inspired, happy and ready to show the world what they can do.

But it’s not nearly as nauseating as I may make it sound.

Despite all of its doe-eyed wisdom and love about the arts, about L.A. and about the Hollywood business, it’s also smart and understanding that sometimes, the world doesn’t quite work out the way you want it, especially for artists. Through Mia and Sebastain, Chazzelle shows that providing art and entertainment for the world around you, sometimes, isn’t enough – what really matters most is being able to actually wake up each and every day, happy with what you do, and feeling as if you’re ready to take on the world around you. This isn’t just for artists, or people involved with the entertainment-industry – this is for anyone, with any sort of trade. What La La Land shows is that when you have the ambition and you feel inspired, you can make wonders happen – not just for those around, but for your own self.

Look out, Hollywood! Here come your starlets!

Look out, Hollywood! Here come your starlets!

Once again, I know this sounds so melodramatic and cheesy, but La La Land stays so far away from any of that, that it’s absolutely magical, even when people aren’t singing, and dancing, and emoting. In fact, the song-and-dance numbers, oddly enough, feel as if they were written second to the actual story and character-development, as opposed to it being the other way around; it doesn’t mean that the songs themselves are weak in the slightest, but it does show that more care and effort was put into giving the audience a good, emotional and relevant story, rather than just a dog-and-pony show that seems to only fulfill the needs and desires of the creators themselves.

That said, La La Land will make you feel all sorts of happy, pleasant and joy-filled thoughts and emotions, but it’s still kind of raw, sad and emotional.

How?

Well, Chazzelle does a perfect job in casting both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in his lead roles, because not only do they share a perfect chemistry, but they are also so beautiful to watch on the screen, that it’s actually kind of hard to take your eyes off of them. Stone’s Mia, when the camera isn’t molesting her face, is actually a very depressed character who wants to make a name for herself, but keeps on flubbing it at auditions and not getting the roles that she wants, whereas Gosling’s Sebastian wants to preserve jazz by opening-up his own club, but by doing so, he still has to be successful and possibly “sell-out”. Sure, attacking this idea of being true to yourself, while still bringing in tons of bucks, isn’t exactly anything new or ground-breaking, but La Land Land does it in such a smart, believable way, that it still feels fresh.

The movie shows us that these two don’t just come together and fall in love because they’re the two most attractive people they know (even though it’s definitely one of the reasons), it’s because they both have a love and appreciation for the arts and what it is that they do. It’s interesting, too, because Mia doesn’t even like jazz, making her and Sebastian’s connection stronger – something that so few couples in real life like to admit to keeping them together for so long. But together, they feel like the kind of tragic couple at the center of a fable like Beauty and the Beast, or Romeo & Juliet – they may be perfect for one another, but there’s still something holding them back from fully giving it their all and staying as dedicated as they can be.

Regardless of all this mumbo jumbo, yeah, La La Land is a terrific movie.

It will probably get nominated for heaps of Oscars and it might win them all. Will it be deserved wins? Does it really matter? Not really, but please, whatever you do, see it. You’ll be walking out with a smile on your face and in desperate need of wanting to sing and dance with every person you see.

And if you don’t, I’m sorry, but cheer up.

Consensus: Sweet, delicate, magical and downright beautiful, La La Land is the rare musical in which every song-and-dance number is exciting and lovely, but everything else surrounding it, works even better.

9.5 / 10

Man, why can't we just watch them have sex?

Watching them sing, dance and love one another is fine and all, but man, why can’t we just watch them bang? Talk about a true gift for the holidays.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Nice Guys (2016)

Who ya gonna call? Two studs!

It’s 1977 in Los Angeles, and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a bit down-on-his-luck. His wife has just died, he’s left to care for his teenage daughter all by himself, and he’s got a job as a private investigator that sometimes pays the bills, and sometimes doesn’t. However, there’s a new case that comes his way when a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. While Holland is sure enough that he can solve the case on his own, a local enforcer, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), comes into the picture, vowing to find Amelia as well. The two don’t get along fully well, but hey, they’re willing to push aside differences to solve the case and make a few bit of dollars in the process as well. What the two run into while in the case, though, is probably more than they bargained for, what with shady government agencies, hitmen, and the porn community, all involved in one way, or another.

He doesn't drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

He doesn’t drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

The best thing that Shane Black has ever done for himself and his career is become a director. Once he was able to do that, he didn’t have to worry about any director messing-up, or misinterpreting his vision, but instead, just know that what he wanted to see, was what he was going to get. Case closed. All of his movies have all been pretty great, but with the Nice Guys, it feels as if he’s finally found that sweet spot in cinema that may make or break him.

Meaning, if people don’t go out to the Nice Guys, Hollywood may stop allowing for Shane Black to work carelessly on his own projects and just keep him to name-brands. However, if people do go out to the Nice Guys, which they totally should, Hollywood will not only reward originality and creativity in the biz, but reward Black himself.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter because whichever way you put it, there’s no denying the Nice Guys is just a fun time from beginning to end, and Black is all to thank for that.

Clearly, it’s a buddy action-comedy, given the fact that this is a Shane Black movie, but it doesn’t feel like a well-worn thread; instead, Black himself finds new and interesting ways to not only surprise us, but himself as well. You think you have a clear-cut idea of where this story is going to go, what with the convention and all that, but nope, Black will take a step to the right or left and beat away from the path we’ve all seen before. I can’t go into great detail about what I’m going on and on about, but if you’ve ever seen a Shane Black movie, you get where I’m going; the dude follows the beat to his drum and that’s great. He does it better than anyone else, mostly because he created the damn drum in the first place.

And this is all to say that the Nice Guys is the perfect kind of summer blockbuster you’d want to see. It’s pace is breezy, its sunny-set location is relaxing, it’s jokes deliver, it’s action is exciting and unpredictable, and most of all, the characters themselves are so great and well-written, that it’s hard to find a stand-out here. Black brings in a lot of colorful beings, but mostly all of them are better than the last and after awhile, you start to wonder if he’s got any more in him.

Then, you soon find out that yes. Yes he does.

With Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, Shane Black has found his perfect odd-buddies. Crowe is the rough, tough and ragged figure that loves to solve every problem/argument with a fist and a gun, whereas Gosling is the kind of cowardly figure who definitely uses his brain to get by, but has no capability in fighting or kicking ass. The two obviously clash, but to watch Crowe and Gosling bicker and banter with one another, is an absolute joy. The two really seemed to have get along during filming and even if they didn’t, they do a great job at hiding it.

Cheer up, Russ! You're in a Shane Black flick!

Cheer up, Russ! You’re in a Shane Black flick!

But it isn’t just about the joking around and busting-of-balls that makes these two characters such a blast to watch. Over time, as the movie rolls on and the case that they’re following gets more and more deadly, we get to find out more about these guys, their pasts and how, in ways that they don’t even know, are pretty similar. A lot of this can be attributed to Black’s script, but really, it’s Gosling and Crowe who do a lot of heavy-lifting and make the smaller, more quieter moments in between all of the guns, blood and cars, much more meaningful than you’d expect with a movie like this. Sure, Black keeps them funny, but there’s a heart and soul deep inside of these characters and it keeps the adventure worth sitting through.

It also helps that there’s so many others in the cast that are fun to watch, too.

Angourie Rice plays Gosling’s daughter and while she could have easily been another annoying, precocious child character, she shows that she’s smart, but also still very immature and can’t always handle every situation perfectly, just like any kid would act; Matt Bomer shows up briefly as a scary, vindictive hitman who makes his presence known in an awesome shoot-out; and Kim Basinger, in some limited screen-time, shows up as a shadowy figure, reminds the boys that she’s around to play as well and won’t let the screen get stolen from her.

That’s Basinger for ya. Always stealing that spotlight.

So yeah. I guess the real question is should you see the Nice Guys? The answer is yes. However, I feel like not many people will. Neither Gosling, Black, or Crowe are the box-office draws that they once were, but to me, that doesn’t matter. The Nice Guys is a great time; it isn’t perfect, but then again, what is?

“A lot of stuff,” you could say, but who cares? Just see the movie, dammit!

Consensus: With Black’s well-written script and smart direction, the Nice Guys is a laugh-out-loud, thrill-ride from beginning to end that benefits from a wonderful bit of chemistry between Crowe and Gosling.

8.5 / 10

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Big Short (2015)

Now I literally have no clue what to do with my money.

The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 will always and forever be considered one of the most heart-breaking, tragic moments in recent memory. But even though it may have came as a shock to most normal, everyday working people whose lives were affected the most, a few within the financial world saw it coming from a mile away and tried to do whatever it is that they could do to fix it all and stop it from happening in the first place. There’s Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager who is definitely an odd person, but knows of the issue right away. Then, there’s Mark Baum (Steve Carell), another hedge fund manager who, along with his trusted band of confidantes, are trying to figure out what the problem is. And last, but certainly not least, Charlie Ledley (John Magaro) and Jamie Mai (Finn Wittrock), two friends and business partners who are risking all that they’ve got by going out there and making these issues open to generally anyone who will listen. But as they, as well as everyone else here finds out, it doesn’t matter how right you are about what’s set to happen, rich people won’t listen because they don’t want to think of losing their money, for whatever reasons.

Yeah. Just give up already.

Yeah. Just give up already.

One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of the Big Short is that it’s dealing with some very challenging and dry topics. While I’m sure that everybody knows about the financial crisis of 2008 and has a general idea of what went down and why, nobody really knows for sure and that’s exactly what the Big Short sets out to do, which is already enough reason to run for cover, hold up one’s arms, wave that white flag, and give up all hope on ever being informed about anything ever again. After all, you, just like many other average citizens in this world, probably don’t have a single clue what yield curve, or synthetic CDO actually is – instead, you just know what you’re having for dinner, who the President of the United States is, and well, maybe, how many days are in a year. The housing market, banks, mortgages, and all of that other serious, financial stuff isn’t needed in everyday life, so why bother with hearing it at all?

Well, that’s why there’s something brilliant about the Big Short in that it understands all of these issues it may face with appealing to a bigger audience out there and does something totally out of the ordinary: It explains it all.

And by “explains it all”, I mean exactly that; rather than having the movie try its hardest to find a way to finagle in meanings of certain definitions through needless exposition, characters in the film will literally turn towards the camera, or use their narration, and tell you what something means, or have someone else who is perhaps more appealing to do the same. Yet, none of these people ever matter to the actual movie itself and more or less, just seem like glorified cameos, which is fine because, well, they absolutely are! That’s why, when seemingly out of nowhere, we get a scene of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, telling us about subprime mortgage lenders, it’s definitely, but necessary and much-needed, so instead of throwing it away, you just learn to accept it, learn a few things in the process, and move right on along.

By the way, random celebrities showing up in the movie to explain something happens about three times in the movie, but it works each and every time because, well, it perfectly explains what we need to know about what happens to the housing market and why the U.S. economy was hit so hard. Co-writer and director Adam McKay is very smart allowing for the bulk of the film to just be about what’s going to happen and give us a general idea of why, and then allow for us to watch once all of the cards fall into place and how all of the people who notice it first, act and try to fix it all before it’s too late. Clearly, we know the ending, so the film’s spin on “based on a true story”, is actually quite funny, but that doesn’t take away from any of the tragedy, either.

Still, at the same time, McKay being a director with a heavy background in comedy (Anchorman, Step Brothers), understands that the best way to cope with a tragedy of any kind, is still add an element of funny, sometimes hard-hitting comedy, that makes the pill go down smoother. But whereas with McKay’s other films where it seemed like a lot of the comedy was just about how far certain actors could go to ad-lib without breaking a sweat, here, each and every actor spouts colorful and fiery line of dialogue as if Aaron Sorkin had written the script after he did a few lines. So this isn’t all to say that the Big Short’s funny, but it’s also quite hilarious and smart in that it’s created this all-too-real universe where people talk fast, walk fast, are fast with their comebacks and generally prefer to be harsh to one another because well, they have a lot of money and they can.

But once these people start to realize that all of their money, as well as a lot of other people’s, is going down the drain, they realize that there’s no more playing around and it’s time to knuckle up or shut up. Sad thing is, we know how the story ends and McKay does, too.

That’s why, he never allows for us to forget about it.

Some men, just want to watch the housing market burn.

Some men, just want to watch the housing market burn.

If anything, the Big Short shows who is to blame for the financial crisis, but at the same time, still doesn’t give any closure onto why those responsible let it go on for so long, nor does it resolve the issue of whether they knew about it forever and didn’t care, or if they were just too stupid to realize? Either way, the movie definitely points its long and hard finger directly at the shooter and it helps give a sense of satisfaction even if, you know, those same said baddies are the ones who ended-up getting away with it all. Still though, when watching all of this unravel, you almost forget about that fact and just allow for the story, as well as the characters, to tell itself.

That’s why it helps that the Big Short has such a talented ensemble who, even when it seems like they’re just speaking like my Economics professor, still add enough fun and flair to the proceedings, that they make it a little more compelling. Christian Bale’s Dr. Michael Burry is perhaps the only character who hardly ever moves from one location, but because Burry’s persona is based on weird tics and traits, Bale runs wild with the role and seems to be enjoying himself. Though he’s still enraged by what he’s seeing, there’s still a sense that Bale wants to be light enough to where it helps us get through this pain and sadness.

Same goes for Steve Carell as Mark Baum, someone who seems to live a lovely life inside this financial world, but at the same time, doesn’t want to sit so idly by, that he forgets about it all, either. Carell’s really enjoying this role here and it should be noted that, even despite all of the names and characters popping-up, he’s the clear star of the show and with good reason; not only is his character given the most backstory out of everybody else here, he’s also the most humane one out of the bunch. Though the whole dead-brother angle goes on a bit too long and is an obvious arc capable of being seen from a mile away, Carell still shoulders through it to where it’s okay – we just want to see him be more pissed-off and curse because Carell’s pretty good at that.

And well, for the matter, so is Ryan Gosling.

Gosling’s character, despite not being the meatiest of the bunch, is still probably the most memorable because he’s exactly what every young, rich and vain hotshot in the financial world probably is like. Gosling not only looks the part because he’s Ryan Gosling, but he’s also got the smooth charm and tongue to make him work all the more; while we’re never too sure if he’s a good or bad guy in this equation, we know that he definitely knows a whole lot about money and is capable of being trusted. That said, every scene he’s in, he steals and just about every line he delivers, is hilarious; even the scene where he describes the housing market with a Jenga set, while smart and interesting, is still funny because Gosling’s character is so in love with himself, you just know that he thinks it’s the most simple thing to ever explain. Even though we all know, for sure, it isn’t.

Brad Pitt shows up, too, as Ben Ricket, but doesn’t have a whole lot to do, except just serve Finn Wittrock and John Magaro’s characters bits of info that they need to make this story move more. Wittrock and Magaro are both great here and definitely give us a nice, small-time view of what this financial world looks like from the ground-up; because even though they don’t know it’s all going to crash just yet, we still wait and wonder to how they’re going to react and just how exactly it’s all going to affect them.

Because we know what happens to everybody else on the face of the planet, but what about these two schmucks?

Eh, who cares? The economy’s in the crapper and that’s all worth caring about.

Consensus: For all its difficult financial babble, the Big Short is, surprisingly, easy-to-comprehend in ways, well-acted by its huge ensemble, funny, and most of all, insightful into how this world works and why it all matters to what happened over seven years ago.

8 / 10

Get it yet?

Got it?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Lost River (2015)

Working with Nicolas Winding Refn can do quite a number on a person.

Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother who has no job, no money, and hardly even a house, decides that it’s time for her to get employed so that she can support her and her boys, before the big, bad Bully (Matt Smith) comes around and does some seriously bad things to all of them. She takes up a job in a sleazy, nightmarish night club, where people simulate murdering one another for the love and cheers of the crowd. Think stripping, but instead of a pole, you have blood-squibs. While Billy is off getting fit into her new job, her oldest son (Iain De Caestecker) is left to fend for himself and his little brother, which isn’t easy, considering where they live is practically in shambles, where every native seems to be hitting the high road as soon as humanly possible. Eventually though, he finds much solace with a local girl named Rat (Saoirse Ronan) who looks after her grandmother, but is also being sought out by Bully, and might have to stop him, using any force necessary.

A part of me that wants to think Ryan Gosling meant to make this movie. Somehow, I feel as if Gosling is so smart and charismatic that he knew he wanted to make a total mind-fuck of a movie that, while may not be perfectly accessible to the mainstream crowd who usually ushers out to see his movies, would please him and his own creative tendencies. Maybe this is the movie he’s been clamoring to make for the past couple years or so, but just didn’t have the time, nor the resources to do so. But now that he does, he’s throwing it all out on the line, seeing what sticks, what doesn’t, and not giving a single crap because, at the end of the day, he’s the one who feels creatively wasted and also, gets to go to home to this.

Wait, why is she in this?

Wait, why is she in this……?

But sadly, another part of me, feels as if Lost River is just a jumbled-up, over-the-top, Lynchian-wannabe that makes no sense, doesn’t want to make any sense and isn’t really worth bothering to see, even despite the talent it features both in front of, as well as behind the camera.

Which is to say that there’s something inherently intriguing about Lost River – it’s the kind of movie that has no real point, yet, still features something resembling a plot and a whole bunch of crazy, off-putting happenings that can hardly be explained other than with a confused-expression on one’s face. If there’s one thing you have to give Gosling credit for, above all else, is that he didn’t settle for the easy project to make for his directorial debut. Instead, the movie is challenging, unique, and chock full of all sorts of beautiful camera-work that gets by being any one thing in particular, but also, is hardly about anything to begin with.

Instead, Gosling seems more interested in just allowing for certain scenes to take us off-guard and get more and more increasingly stranger by the minute. It’s sort of like Lynch, but whereas Lynch draws on real aspects of life that most people can relate to, even if doing so is a complicated task in and of itself, Gosling seems like he’s just showing us weird stuff because, well, he can. That may help stimulate himself, as well as our eyes, but when it comes down to doing something for the story, it doesn’t work.

So, in that case, it’s obvious that this is Gosling’s first rodeo as a director. He doesn’t yet have the creative skills to make a film like this work, nor does he know how to get a point across, if there is even one to begin with. That isn’t to say that every movie made needs to have a message at the end of it, telling us all that we’re supposed to think about and leave with in our heads, but to have some reason for telling a story is better than nothing at all; if you have nothing at all to say, then what’s the point? To have some fun?

Sure. I guess. But Lost River isn’t fun.

It's like a metaphor for like loss of innocence, or something.

It’s like a metaphor for like loss of innocence, or something.

In fact, it’s actually kind of boring. Once you realize that it doesn’t really have a direction and is sort of just making itself up as it goes along, then any sort of anticipation or excitement goes away. Say what you will about Lynch, Winding Refn, or even Lars von Trier for that matter – while they aren’t everybody’s cup-of-tea and sure as hell don’t always make sense with every decision that they make, they at least try to give us a plot that keeps things speeding along at a rapid pace, even while they’re continuously messing with their audiences’ minds. This is more like a Terence Malick film in that there’s no plot, no character-development, and barely any discernible dialogue; it’s just a lot of pretty, swooping images that may be pretty to look at, don’t make a movie, well, good.

Is this to say that Ryan Gosling doesn’t have a good film to be found in his handsomely-detailed body? Absolutely not. In fact, something as unpredictable as this, only has me look forward more to what’s next on the horizon for this guy. While I do hope that he gets some more skill behind the camera and the typewriter before he decides to take up another project, I can still see Baby Goose making a good movie, hell, maybe even a great movie. When that time will come, is totally up in the air. But for now, we’ll just lean on Lost River to be our example of what R-Gos has to bring to the table in terms of being a director.

And while that may not sound promising, for someone who is able to go from this, to this, in the span of maybe a decade or so, it’s to show that nearly anything is possible.

Both good, as well as bad.

Consensus: Incomprehensible, weird, wild, and random, Lost River shows signs that Ryan Gosling may make for a smart, inspired director in the future, but for right now, that will remain to be seen.

4 / 10

I don't know. Don't ask.

I don’t know. Don’t ask.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire, GeekTyrant

Only God Forgives (2013)

Aka, “The Staring Game“.

Despite him apparently being a Muay Thai fight club operator, Julian (Ryan Gosling) operates mainly as a drug-pusher that finds himself in a bit of a pickle when his big brother acts like an ass, and gets killed for being one. The man that killed his older brother, Lt. Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), isn’t the type of person you want to mess with but don’t tell that to Julian, or his recently-visiting mother (Kristin Scott Thomas). Since the death of her oldest son, she’s been a wreck and she wants revenge, at any cost or any way possible. That means Julian, and if not him, than anybody else she can find to do the dirty deed will do.

After Drive stormed the theaters and took mostly everybody by storm (with the exception of a few), many people were not only wondering who the hell this Nicolas Winding Refn guy was, but what he had up his sleeve next. Well, suffice to say, after about 2 years of planning, rumors, and divisive receptions at Cannes, here it is, Refn’s next flick that will most likely piss more people off than ever. And yes: That does mean you, artsy, fartsy Drive fans.

Refn’s style is anything but mainstream; rather than being all about giving us a comprehensive plot filled with intelligible characters, a cohesive plot-structure, and a reasoning for certain scenes placed in a rhythm that makes understandable sense, we get a flick that will probably have more and more people scratching their heads. Not just by the story-structure either, but mainly by how little Refn makes sense of this story. It does seem pretty conventional right from the start, and actually continues to do so, even at it’s craziest moments, but where most will be lost with this flick is that it finds itself in some weird territory. And I’m not just talking about weird territory in the sense that people say and do weird things, because that’s what the plot calls on for them to do in a way that connects to their sense of setting, but more in the sense of how David Lynch has been able to make a career off of so far. Yup, the dreaded “Lynch-word” had to have eventually come out, and that’s more than enough of a reason to scare the utter crap out of people from seeing this movie.

"Watch what you say to Eva."

“Watch what you say to Eva.”

However, my not being a general fan of Lynch’s style and works over the years, I have to say that somebody who can capture a style like his, but add more cohesion to it is all fine and dandy with me, and that is exactly what Refn was able to do. There’s plenty of shots of long, dark hallways, people staring into mid-space, as if they want to say something but decide to shut their traps anyway, Asian men singing karaoke late at night, blood-flavored corn syrup splattered all over, and moments/scenes that feel and look like they are dreams, but because Refn has a style that is so melodic and tense, you are never quite sure. It really hit me though, and it got more involved and interested by the material, despite most of it seeming “overly-pretentious” and “artsy”, which are the key words anytime you’ll find from most critics to describe this movie. Can’t say I blame them for believing so, but I can’t help but also feel like I was compelled by what I saw and felt. You sort of just have to roll with what Refn gives and throws at you, and if you can’t, then you might be a lost cause for this movie. However though, I knew what I was getting myself into and I didn’t back down from a single bit of it, even if I do sense there is some problems along the way that even the most hardcore, Refn fan will have to admit to noticing.

First of all, the movie does suffer from an over-abundance of sure randomness that seems to be done for the sake of being so. I don’t know where the hell Refn was trying to go with this story and what he was trying to convey, but whatever it was, did not come out so well on film. Of course there’s a bunch of talk about “God”, “the devil”, “paying for your sins”, and all of that annoying, religious crap, but it never seems to go anywhere or make much sense. Drive never really had much of a reasoning for most of the shite that it pulled off in it’s story, but it didn’t need to. It was just a downright, straight-up crime flick, that maybe had a couple of poignant moments of human-interaction, but wasn’t about anything life-changing or altering to begin with. This movie is far, far different from that one and it makes you wonder just what Refn was trying to say underneath this material. “Material” that, mind you, will throw you for a couple of curve-balls at times by just how violent and gruesome it really gets.

Though the infamous, “head-stomping scene” in Drive will forever remain Refn’s bloodiest couple of minutes on the big screen, there are plenty of scenes here that battle it out with that one, and come pretty damn close to making us gag or possibly even yack-up the day’s breakfast. Or lunch, all depends on when you watch it really. Though I don’t want to give away too much of what sort of violence happens, and the hows, and the whys, and the wheres, I will say that there are a couple of scenes that will cause you to look away, and others that will actually surprise with what level of violence they actually escalate to. In fact, one scene that everybody’s been hyping-up for the longest time ever since that first trailer popped-up, is probably the most memorable part of the whole movie, but for the sole fact that it surprises you with where it goes. I’m going to leave it at that, but just know that Refn isn’t too keen on giving the audience what they want to see, and if he is keen on it, be sure to expect something twisted on it’s side with that view-point of his. Just a fair warning, that’s all.

Another fair warning that I can’t forget to mention and feel pleased about doing so is that most people will be disappointed with Ryan Gosling here as Julian, the drug-pusher/fight club owner. Many won’t be pissed with Gosling’s performance because it’s bad or anything, it’s actually the farthest thing from, it’s just that all of the wit, the energy, and the charm that he’s featured so much, and so well in the past, is pretty much absent here. That said, the guy’s still great playing that soft-spoken, brooding-type that doesn’t need to say much, or anything at all, just to get his point across. The guy’s got presence and it’s nice to see him shown that in a movie that challenges him as much as this one does, but it’s been like the 3rd or 4th role in-a-row of this type that we’ve seen him do. Time to mix it up just a little bit, Ry. Please don’t kick my ass though.

The one in this cast who actually gets more to work with, and probably more screen-time is a relatively unknown, Thai actor by the name of Vithaya Pansringarm. I have never, not for a single second of my life seen this guy in anything before, but what good I do hope comes from this movie is that that all changes and I see more of him everywhere and anywhere I can. Pansringarm’s physical-presence is what throws most people off here because he’s a small, middle-aged man that seems like he would be helping you get a spare tire on, rather than chopping your ass off in half, but looks can be quite deceiving, as Refn and Pansringarm both prove more times than one here with this character. Like Gosling, the man’s got presence, but uses it in a way that scares you to high heavens, even when he’s just showing up, staring at a person, and asking interrogating them in anyway that he can. And I do mean, “ANYWAY THAT HE CAN.”

Mommies aren't THAT trashy, right?

Mother’s Day must have been an international holiday in that house. Woo-wee!

Together, the two form a pretty worthwhile feud that isn’t all about proving who has the bigger dick, or who’s the better fighter, but more of who has the bigger heart and who cares more. That’s the type of rivalries I like to see in my movies, even if they are between a little, middle-aged Asian man, and a young, hunk-of-heaven known as Ryan Gosling. Never thought I’d see that coming, ever, but damn does Refn love to surprise us.

Last, but sure as hell not least in this cast is Kristin Scott Thomas as Julien’s mother, Crystal, the trashy, gangster-wife who seems like she came straight from a Jersey Shore audition, didn’t get the part, and decided to piss everybody off around her because of it. Scott Thomas has always been a marvelous actress, but she’s never really blown me away with anything as of late, but she totally took me by surprise here, not only by commanding the screen with every ounce of energy that she had, but also proving that she’s the biggest hard-ass of them all. There’s some weird shit going on with this character about her sometimes incestuous relationship with her two sons, but it doesn’t get past the fact that this woman is mean, ugly, and always ready for a good fight, even if it’s through words and not through the fist-a-cuffs. Even though many of have been crapping on this flick for being too stylish for it’s own good, many have been loving and praising Scott Thomas’ performance and with good reason: She keeps the energy of the movie going, even if Refn does lend a helping-hand, every once a few whiles.

Consensus: Only God Forgives is Nicolas Winding Refn at his most stylish and odd-ballish, but if you are able to take it all in as it is, not think too much about it’s material, and realize that it’s not going to be Drive in any way, then it might just work for you and your art-sensibilities.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Round 1: Fight!

Round 1: Fight!

Pusher (1996)

I’m going to assume that drugs are bad?

During a couple of days, middle-man drug-dealer Frank (Kim Bodnia) is living the life he wants to have. He’s got money, he’s got drugs, he’s got a girl (Laura Drasbæk), he’s got a best friend (Mads Mikkelsen), and he’s got some protection on his side, just in case anything ever goes wrong. However, that said protection has been getting a little antsy in the panties lately since Frank has owed money to them. For a long time too, so I might add. But that doesn’t matter because Frank cuts a deal with the kingpin of the mob, Milo (Zlatko Burić), and come together on a deal that will make both sides happy and clear. Then the actual “deal” happens, and not everything goes so according to plan as Frank, Milo and everybody else had hoped.

After Drive hit the cinemas and everybody realized that Ryan Gosling could still be the hottest thing known to man, without uttering a single word and just staring, a new name was brought to the Hollywood-crowd: Nicolas Winding Refn. And yes, it all started back in ’96 with this little gem, that not only put his name on the map, but Danish cinema altogether. Then again though, it was a crime movie made for a total of $15 and a couple of Big Macs, so obviously any type of exposure or audience would have made this flick a “success” to say the least, but I digress.

Don't mess with a man who has two guns in his hands. That's if he can actually control 'em.

Don’t mess with a man who has two guns in his hands. That is if he knows how to fire them simultaneously.

I’ll give credit where credit’s due, for being just 26 at the time and not having any experience whatsoever in a film school or any type of tutelage for that matter; Refn makes for a very impressive-debut because the guy tells the story in a straight-forward way, without any added schlock or strings. Obviously that simplicity would change very drastically over the years, but for his first flick, he made the smart decision in keeping things cool and straight-forward, which altogether made it a very tense, jittery flick that will have you feel as if you’re right there, if not in as much danger as Frank gets over the movies hour-and-a-half. Everything about the film seems like a documentary here, and even though it’s obvious when and where Refn added his own workings to have it gel in a way that’s at least cohesive, it still seems like Refn got together with his buddies, pressed “record” on his tape-recorder, and let loose with whatever story/script he was working with.

I also wonder just how much of a script was used here considering not a single person really seems to be acting. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, as much as it’s just noticeable by how grainy and unprofessional the film seems to be. Obviously everybody here starred in flicks before and had their own type of exposure, but being a Yankee and only leaving my country once (does Niagara Falls count?), I didn’t catch on to what these actors were before the movie. After the movie, I had a pretty clear image in my head since most of them still continue to pop-up in stuff nowadays, which shows that Refn had a good handle on who he was casting, and for what role.

Everybody here gets their roles down to a T, even if most of them feel like they’re just saying shit, just to do so. Well, that is with the exception of Kim Bodnia as Frank, our frantic drug-dealer for the hour-and-a-half. What works so well with Bodnia here is that he doesn’t make Frank really all that sympathetic, but still allows us to root for him, hoping that he eventually escapes the shitty luck he’s been having as of late. He’s not a good guy in the sense that he isn’t moral, per se: He deals drugs, commits crimes, runs from the cops, makes girls do dirty, sexual things to him, and even go so far as to beg his mommy-wommy for a heaping-amount of money, even when it’s pretty clear to us that this is the first time he’s talked to her, or vice versa, in a very long time. In that sense, the guy’s not “likeable”, but once you see him try to go to Point-A-to-Point-B, only to have it all screwed up because of one unlucky coincidence; then you eventually have to open up the arms and just tell him to give you a big one. Bodnia’s great in this role and keeps the movie moving at a nice pace, even when everything and everyone else around him seems to be so relatively regular and ordinary.

And if there was a huge problem I had with this movie, it was that after all of the buzz and hooplah I had heard about this movie (and the two sequels that followed), I was left sort of disappointed. Not because I wanted more bits of gun-toting, violence, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, but because I expected it to be more than just your ordinary, crime thriller that focused on a drug-dealer who needed to get a certain amount of money before the ticking-clock hit zero. That whole approach provides plenty of tension and a general sense of unease in the air, but it doesn’t bring anything new to a genre that was already hitting it’s high-marks of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, right at around the time this movie hit the streets.

"Don't make promises you can't fulfill. Like this knife to your throat."

“Don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. Like this knife to your throat.”

Yeah, maybe it’s a little too cheap to compare those cinematic classics to anything, anything at all, but with this type of movie, I would have felt like Refn would have had his work cut-out for him and know what to do to make this a bit more unique than your average, forgettable crime-thriller in the same vein as Tarantino’s. Other than the naturalistic-approach, that gives it the grimmest-look I’ve seen of a movie in a long while, there’s not much else to this story. It’s just a guy who needs his drugs, needs his money and needs his safety, so that he can live the life that he wants to live, as bland as it may be. Definitely an idea this movie could have explored more, maybe in a way to separate itself from the rest of the pack, but nope, Refn decided to follow the leader and along the ride, hoping that people will notice something “different” or “unique” to the approach.

I found nothing, but I’m just a dick.

Then again, being a the self-establish film critic that I am, I have to take in each and every flick as they are, and not what they could have been and I could see you doing plenty of other bad crap with your life, other than watching a movie about a bunch of people who do. It has plenty of style to-boot and will probably make you feel more for Refn as a director, especially since you’ll know about his back-story behind this flick and how he decided to turn down the offer from a local film school, just so he could make this movie. Sounds to me like somebody’s making a bit more money now, than half of those fellow-graduates probably made in their whole lifetime. Lesson is: Screw film school! Get out there and make a movie of your own!

Consensus: Despite not being anything criminally new or ground-breaking that hasn’t been done to death by now, Pusher still shows us a force to be reckoned with in the form of Refn, a name who has become synonymous with “artsy”, but shows barely any of that here and to good effect as well.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, "no" to the booty-call?"

“So, “no” to the booty-call? What about the drugs at least?”

Tabloid (2011)

Mormons ruin everything! Except for Ryan Gosling. He is incapable of ruining anything.

The tale of Miss Wyoming Joyce McKinney is a very strange one. She started out a simple, sweet girl who grew up on a farm, fell in love with her boy-toy in high school, then found him in England, kidnapped him, and forced him to have sex with her until he eventually got used to it all. Sound strange at all, yet? Well, what’s even stranger is how the UK press had a field-day with this and went crazy with this, well, crazy woman, making her a star and adding more head-space to her ego as it is. However, Joyce McKinney is not done with her 15 minutes of fame and comes back to the spotlight in some strange, unexpected ways.

If you’ve never, ever heard of Joyce McKinney, don’t worry, because by the end of this flick you will have all but enough of her. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, it’s just something you are going to be a witness to since this whole documentary isn’t just about the crazy shit she did for love with a Mormon named Kirk Anderson, but it’s about her as a person. Whether or not she’s crazy, is totally up to you, even though this movie and the events that occurred to her life after the movie was made, may have you make up your mind.

Errol Morris is one of the greatest documentarians of our time, so when he makes a movie about whatever the hell fascinates him, most likely, it’s going to fascinate the hell out of you as well. What once begins as a simple tale of a girl who falls in love with a dude, does whatever she can to keep that love, and how she gets in trouble for doing so, soon becomes more and more complicated as it’s more about this chick and how the British press went insane with her story. I don’t want to give away anything that might spark up some debates about spoilers, but what you are going to see with this movie and story is very odd and very surreal, but unlike Catfish and I’m Not There where it simply plays with the toys and mechanics of your mind as well as a documentary; it’s all real. A little too real, some may say, but it’s the facts of life that make it well worth living. Even if nuts like Joyce McKinney do roam about it.

Life starts out promising....

Life starts out promising….

However, what I say about McKinney is useless, because Morris never seems to ever be frowning-upon, or even judging her. He just lets her tell her story in a straight-forward way, with no frills or strings attached. Now, of course there is the idea that some of the shit she says may be a bit too cuckoo for Coco Puffs, but it’s just who she is. In a way, you learn to accept her story for what it is, and you learn to accept her as hard as it may be. But after awhile, you do start to feel sympathy for her story, what it is that she’s talking about, and just where the hell she has gone with her life. Sure, she  may be a tad bit nutso, but at least she’s entertaining to watch and listen to, whether she’s talking about kissing Keith Moon or dressing-up as a nun to escape the press. Whatever the topic of choice may be, this chick loves talking about and holds a certain type of energy to it that’s almost contagious.

Hell, not almost, it is!

That’s what makes this documentary actually a fun one to watch, that isn’t heavy, doesn’t make you contemplate where the world has gone to these days, and doesn’t leave you with a dour-attitude towards life. It’s a bit weird, a bit of fun, a bit manic, and a bit happy, and coming from Morris (aka, the dude who’s known for getting a wrongfully-convicted man out of jail, mind you); it’s a nice surprise. Morris tackles the ideas of what it takes to be a celebrity, or somebody that is indeed considered “news-worthy”, but it doesn’t go any further than that. Can’t say I’m too disappointed with that fact, but at the same time, can’t say that it doesn’t show either.

There comes a point in this flick, once all is said and done, the wackiness is gone, and Joyce herself has all cooled down a bit, that the flick seems to sort of lose some steam and in a way, not know where the hell to go with itself. Morris seemed to get a little frantic at this stage of the movie because where he had, at once, had a whole story about a random chick who all of a sudden got big for kidnapping some dude, all of a sudden found itself at barely anything where nobody seemed to care about her, and nothing special was really happening in her life. And I’m not saying that her life isn’t special at all, but it’s that at a point, her life seems to lose the interest-factor that seemed to have been working for the movie so darn well the hour beforehand. I don’t know if Joyce McKinney’s story was all that worth a full, hour-and-twenty-minute documentary, but I do know that Morris finds himself in a bit of a sticky-situation where he’s so pleased and ecstatic about this material, but it begins to loosen-up after awhile.

...then it gets a little crazy....

…then it gets a little crazy….

That said, you can definitely see this movie to understand what a documentary can do if it takes something real, but also bizarre, and make it into a movie that plays out almost better than any fictional, Hollywood-produced movie. All flaws of the movie’s last half-hour or so, Morris obviously shows the love and joy he has with what a human-life can be all about, and isn’t afraid to show it for all of it’s craziness or originality. I can definitely say that Joyce McKinney is an original in the way that she took her fame, went with it, ended it, and then came back to it out of nowhere (in the strangest way, as well). Best aspect of it all too, is that it’s all REAL. Don’t get to see too much of that nowadays, now do you?

Consensus: Tabloid is nowhere near being Errol Morris’ best documentary, but there is still the unabashed feeling for fun, energy, weirdness, and originality that is present with this story, as well as the man’s direction of how he presents it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

...and then it just ends.

…and then it just ends.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

All you need is a little hug and support from daddy, and you won’t start robbing banks.

Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist at the circus who returns to an upstate town where he meets up with a former fling of his (Eva Mendes), only to find that she has a baby of his. In need to support his child and soon-to-be family, Luke decides to start robbing banks and pulling off heists with a buddy of his (Ben Mendelsohn). After this, we see the cop who runs into a problem with Luke, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), and how he deals with the corrupt cops in his jurisdiction, while also keeping his head afloat. And we also see two kids, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), meet up together in high school, develop a friendship, and realize that there may be more between them that they never thought was possible.

Not only is this movie hard to describe with it’s synopsis, but it’s also even harder than hell to review it. Why? Well, it’s one of those flicks that just so happens to be built on the idea of it’s twists, it’s turns, and it’s surprises, which therefore means, any type of spoiling of those said twists, turns, or surprises, would not only be a crime against me as a critic, but a crime against you as readers. Also, it’s pretty damn hard to review, because I still don’t know how or what I still feel about it all.

What made me think this flick was going to be close to the second-coming of Christ, was not just the kick-ass trailer or the wonderful reviews it’s been getting so far, but was because of it’s director: Derek Cianfrance. Many people know the dude from his directorial-debut, the perfect date movie, Blue Valentine, and know that the guy has a knack and flair for telling an effective, compelling story just by using characters, plot, details, and dialogue. That’s it, and it’s nothing more. That’s why when it came to him tackling a flick that was like a mixture of the Godfather and the Town, I had no problem with it all, mainly because the guy seems like he knows what he’s doing and seems like he’d do anything that’s far from being deemed “conventional” or “predictable”. Granted, we’ve only seen him do one movie so far, but if that’s the consensus the guy has to work on: it’s pretty damn solid, I”d have to say so for myself. Sadly, this movie doesn’t come close to hitting his last. Sadly indeed.

Ryan Gosling: stackin' his money, layin' low, and chillin'.

Ryan Gosling: stackin’ his money, layin’ low, and chillin’.

But without jumping down it’s neck about the bad, let’s get into the good that will most likely lead into the bad. Rather than jumping back-and-forth from story-to-story without ever making it clear as to what the hell’s going on or how are these peeps’ paths going to cross next, we get three stories, that are told in their own, separate formats, without barely any interruptions at all. The first story is about Luke and how he handles being a daddy, but also a bank robber at the same time. Not only is this the most exciting story out of the three, but it’s also the best. The main reason being because it’s filled with so much energy, entertainment, tension, suspense, and emotional heart, that it gets you ready for what you think you’re about to witness. You automatically think that this whole movie is going to play-out like this first story where we all get all the action and flair, but still some grounded-sense of reality and depth, but that’s not how it all plays out.

Instead of doing the smart thing and keeping up with this sense of intensity, Cianfrance takes the film down a notch and keeps it grounded in the sense that we are watching a movie, and a tad predictable one at that. After we switch gears over to Cross’s story, we start to see the movie delve more into the conventional-side of itself where we see police corruption, people with badges doing mean things, and worst of all, Ray Liotta playing a sincerely, despicable human-being. He’s good at it, but can’t we put Tommy Vercetti up to something else nowadays. How about a role as an inspirational father-figure that does sensible acts for the rest of society? Huh? Not buying it? Oh well, at least I tried.

Anyway, where this flick takes a turn for the worse is not just because it begins to get, dare I say it, generic, but because it seems so obvious. Without telling you exactly what happens or how, there are certain elements of the plot that seem to be so predictable, that it gets to the time of where I could literally pin-point exactly who knew who, how they knew them, and how they were going to tell each other how they knew one another. It got to be a bit of annoyance and seemed more like Cianfrance took the idea of conveniences between two characters, as a way to show us that there’s a twist coming up, or something that we don’t seem to expect, but yet; we do.

That’s not to say that the whole film is like this, because as a matter of fact, most of it is damn good I have to say. There are moments where I was literally on-the-edge-of-my-seat without any other thought or idea that would take me away from this movie, anywhere near my head, and it completely compelled me. And that’s not just the Gosling parts, that’s the whole movie and it surprised me with what Cianfrance was able to bring up next, and how. The guy doesn’t depend on his dialogue here as much as he did with his last flick, but the atmosphere and mood is still there to mess with you and because of that, I have to still give the guy kudos for always allowing us to set our sights on something worth watching here. Can’t say that about many film makers who churn-out a movie a year, but thankfully, I can say it about this dude.

Same one from Hangover?

Same car from Hangover?

The problem is, after two hours and thirty minutes (yes, that’s how long it is), I was still left with an idea in my head: what the hell was that all about? The ideas and themes of there being issues between a father and a son, how we all look out for one another, and how hard it is to stay true to yourself in a world of evil and hate, are abundantly clear and here, and hit us in the face as much as beers to an alcoholic, but never seem to be worth the wait for. Honestly, when all of these stories do finally get the chance to come together, make some sense, and have us make up our minds on what to think of, it feels like a bit of a waste, mostly because nobody really solves anything. Gosling’s story ends a bit too quickly for us to feel like his life’s problems are solved, Cooper’s goes on and on without any clear happiness in sight, and the final story seems like it was all made for us to see how tension still arises, even as the new generations come alive.

It made no sense to me as to why this flick was named the way it was. The Pines definitely serve some sort of metaphor for each of these characters and the way they go about their business, but it didn’t seem reasonable. Certain things are said, and are left unsaid, but they never felt right. As the film continued to go on and on, these characters begin to pull off acts and stunts that not only seem unreasonable, but almost stupid. I get that people can deal with grief and sadness in all sorts of ways, but there comes a point in this flick where it just doesn’t make sense any more and feels like instead of dealing with real human-beings that have feelings, emotions, and a sense of right and wrong, we are dealing with a bunch of wacked-out peeps that act solely on a gut-feeling of anger and violence, without rhyme or reason. There are people out there who live like this, but in a flick like this, it didn’t seem right and didn’t make sense when you take the whole ending into actual consideration. If none of this makes sense to you now, please, go and see this movie and realize that there is a message to what I’m saying, as confusing and as bum-fucked as I may sound.

Thankfully, the ones that hold this flick together is the more-than-able cast of heavy-hitters that do what they do best: be compelling, no matter who it is that they are playing. The person from this cast that I think of the most when I say that, is without a doubt Ryan Gosling as Handsome Luke. Gosling not only uses that innate-likeability to his favor here, but also shows us that he still has the able chance to still scare the sheets off of us, and never know whether we can root for him, or boo him. Gosling has what it takes to make this character work and makes him the most fascinating out of them all, mostly because he strives to be more than just a convention: he actually has a beating-heart that doesn’t always make the right decision every step of the way, but at least tries to make up for them.

Eva Mendes plays his sugar-bunny that’s good, in probably the most-dramatic and compelling role we have ever seen her play before. Not only does Mendes do a perfect job at being able to not look hot or sexy, as hard as that may be for her, she also never forgets to remind us that this is a troubled and lonely woman, that we never lose sympathy for. Ben Mendelsohn is also a butt-load of fun and joy to watch as his buddy, a former-robber who helps him out nowadays, but don’t be fooled: this guy has a mean-streak to him that shows in a despicable-way.

Reminds me of the type of kids I'd hang out with in school. Except they didn't look like Leo DiCap. I did....

Reminds me of the type of kids I’d hang out with in school. Except they didn’t look like Leo DiCap. I did….

Bradley Cooper is great as Avery Cross, the cop with a heart. Cooper really does well at being the type of guy we can feel for and trust, even when he doesn’t seem to do the right thing, and makes you understand why the guy has such a hard problem to think for himself, or take matters into his own hands. He gets to be a bit of a self-righteous dick by the end of this thing, but no matter what, he always stayed true to his character, his motivations, and what he strives for in life. Rose Byrne plays his wife, that I wouldn’t say is still in dullsville here, but doesn’t seem to have much to do other be a chick that never stops complaining about how he’s a cop and always has the chance of dying on the job. You did marry him, didn’t you? So why the ‘eff you bitchin’ at him?!? Let a guy do his job and get that money, money!

Lastly, the performances from Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen as the two kids that meet-up in school, is good in the way that it paints an interesting portrait of what it’s like to meet someone, and not have any idea what to expect from them, but that’s about as much as I can tell you right there. Just know this, DeHaan is great and definitely uses that angst-fueled look to his advantage, and know that Cohen tries to do the same, but his character is too much of a dick for us to really care about him at all. Okay, I think you know enough by now. Time for me to shut up and just go the hell home.

Consensus: With a more-than-reliable cast, suspenseful mood, well-written characters, and interesting plot-changes, The Place Beyond the Pines never loses focus on it’s story or what it’s trying to convey about it’s character, but loses grip with reality and begins to get more and more theatrical and obvious as it goes along. No matter what, you will feel compelled by this, but it starts to shy-away sooner than later.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lucky-ass baby.

Lucky-ass baby.

Gangster Squad (2013)

The most violent game of Cops and Robbers I’ve ever seen played.

Sean Penn plays mob king Mickey Cohen, a ruthless gangster who runs the entire city of Los Angeles, including the cops and politicians under his control. Determined to bring him down is a small, secret task-force spearheaded by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling).

After the Aurora shootings occurred over last Summer, I was pretty bummed to see that this flick would be pushed-back, due to the fact that it actually featured a movie theater shooting itself. It looked like a nice mixture between L.A. Confidential and The Untouchables, with just a dash of present-day, digital-era filmmaking, and to top that, it boosted a pretty solid cast. However, it doesn’t matter when I saw this flick, all that matters is that I did see it and it’s nothing special. Yep, now I’m sort of glad it waited til now.

It’s pretty strange to see that director Ruben Fleischer would actually take this material, considering it’s not really something he has done in the past. This is the same guy who brought us Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, which are both movies that feature a crap-ton of action and humor, but yet, never made me feel like I was watching the work of a guy that could be the next De Palma or Lumet. I was right. It’s not that Fleischer doesn’t hold his own when it comes to the action, because he definitely does and make it as bloody as can be, it’s more or less that there’s nothing else more to it. It’s pretty cool to see a bunch of crooks get their asses beat to a bloody pulp and watch all of the new, sadistic ways it can happen, but after awhile, it just seems like that is all this flick has going for itself.

Meet me in the paaaaark, it's going down.

Meet me in the paaaaark, it’s going down.

Hell, even at one-point during the movie, somebody actually begs the question, “why?. Why is this violence happening?” Well, the answer to that is simple: Hollywood and making money, baby! I never expected this flick to ever bring-up a point that I was thinking the whole time, and that’s that these police officers are doing just as much dirty work as these crooks are doing, but yet, are being applauded and praised for it, all because they have a gun and a badge. It definitely brings up a great question as to why should they be allowed and who’s right and who’s wrong. However, those points are a little too smart for a movie like this where people get their heads drilled in and eaten by dogs. Both of which, actually happen, and all due to the excitement and glee of it’s audience.

But, that excitement and glee, isn’t all that bad when it’s done right. Yeah, Fleischer really does drop the ball on providing more of a moral important/emphasis on all of the violence and ass-kicking, but for the most part, he keeps things alive and well with just enough action to have us cured for whenever this story feels the need to take a nap, here and there. You get the blood, you get the guns, you get the punches, and you get the explosions. What else could ya ask for? And if there is something else could you ask for, why the hell would you? Seriously, it’s the dead of Winter and if this is the best we are going to get, then hey, I’ll get a piece of popcorn, soda, my nice jammies, sit-down, relax, and freakin’ revel in it. You can’t ask for much else, so you might as well just enjoy it.

If there was a big disappointment with this movie, it’s the fact that the cast is so stacked and so filled to the brim with A-listers that are usually hitters, more than missers, that it’s really disappointing to see them work with a lame-o script like this. Josh Brolin is the leader of the Gangster Squad, and of the movie, if you think about it, and does a serviceable job as a pretty tough-guy that can do his work, wants to do what is right, but yet, go back home to his lovely wife and be the husband that she wants. Brolin is always a likable presence to watch on-screen and even though I felt like this character could have had more done to him to make us feel like we really know him from the inside and out, it’s still a lot more development than anybody else in this damn movie.

Well, him and Ryan Gosling, of course. Gosling is great as the sly, but charming cop that doesn’t even originally plan to be apart of this gang, but actually does and thank the high heavens for that, because the guy not only makes the gang better, but the movie in-return. Gosling just has this look to him that not only makes him the coolest guy in the room, but also the nicest guy, too, and you feel as if no matter what crazy shite gets thrown his way, he will still always end-up doing the right thing. The little “romance” he has with Emma Stone feels like it could have really sparked, like it did so well in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but just doesn’t. Instead, most of their scenes are them just having melodramatic-argument-after-melodramatic-argument, almost to the point of where it doesn’t matter as to whether or not they stay together, because it won’t be for long.

I'd take that drink.

I’d take that drink.

The reason they do argue so much, is because Stone’s character is with Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn in his most entertaining-role in the longest-time. When this movie was originally supposed to come out, I thought that it would give Penn a nice Oscar-push for Supporting Actor since he was playing a person so evil, so malicious, and so bad, that he could have easily gotten a nomination. However, since his flick doesn’t even come close to qualifying and now that I’ve seen it, I can say that he doesn’t even come close, but that’s still not a bad thing. This isn’t as much of an Oscar-caliber performance, as much as it is just a fun performance that seemed like Penn wanted to do for the longest-time, just so he could get away from the heavier stuff in his career. Is it perfect? No, not really, because the guy is still over-the-top and cartoonish, but at least he is always entertaining to watch and that was more than I could really say about him, when he was impersonating another famous figure; Robert Smith. Yeah, I guess people want to forget about that movie now.

The rest of the cast has a bunch of big names that have all been amazing in the past, and hell, maybe even the past year, but yet, aren’t given all that much to do. Nick Nolte is absolutely wasted as the head of the L.A. police department and shows up for about 10 minutes, tells Brolin what to do, and sounds like he’s still looking for that lung after all of these years. He’s alright, but damn, is it a weak role for an actor that always gives 110%, with everything he’s given. The rest of the Gangster Squad features the likes of Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, and Robert Patrick, all of which do their best with what they can but in the end, sort of feel like they should have been given a lot more to do. Especially Mackie, of all people, who really feels like he should have been a big star by now, he just hasn’t found the right juices to get it flowing.

Consensus: Though it is nothing more than a movie about bad guys and good guys facing-off, against one another, Gangster Squad is still a bunch of fun that has a retro-vibe and feel, even if it feels like it should be more with the load of talent it has in-front of and behind the camera.

6.5/10=Rental!!

"Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!"

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”

Taken 2 (2012)

Dude, just stay away from foreign countries.

He came, he saw, he kicked-ass, and took his daughter back (Maggie Grace), and basically lived a life he thought was all fine and dandy, until now. That’s right, this time around, it’s Neeson’s wife (Famke Janssen) who is kidnapped and instead of Paris, it’s going to be Istanbul, and it’s all by the man (Rade Sherbedgia) who wants revenge on Neeson for what he did to his family.

In all honesty, I was very surprised by how much of a success Taken was when it was released way back when in 2009. It did feature a pretty cool trailer, but for what was essentially a pretty lame thriller idea, with a big-name that hasn’t really been big since the first Star Wars prequel, and to top it all off, a film that was released in the dead-heart of January, aka a time nobody goes to see movies cause they’re all pooped-out from seeing the same crap, drunk on egg nog for the past 2 weeks. So, that’s basically why I never understood how the hell it was numero uno at the box-office for about 3 weeks, boosted Qui-Gon Jinn’s career back-up to “action hero” stardom, and made itself destine for a sequel, and possibly more. However, despite all my angry ranting and rambling, I can’t say I hate the idea of a sequel to that film, especially when this is the type of stuff we get.

Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the original, Taken still had it’s moments of fun that made the final-product all the more enjoyable. The problem I had with that story was how it would always start-and-stop and always kill the momentum it had going for itself, by focusing too much on the whole internal-crisis that was going on with Neeson and the thought of his daughter going out there and bangin’ dudes under the influence of drugs. I’m not saying he’s wrong to be upset about that, but come on man, go out there and start shootin’ some fuckers and get revenge. That’s exactly what this film is from the 25-minute mark to the end of the whole movie. Need I remind you, that the whole movie itself runs a steady and swift 91 minutes, so that’s basically about an hour of pure mayhem, fun, action, and Oskar Schindler looking as bad-ass as he can look.

Director Olivier Megaton obviously knows the type of movie he’s making here, and you know what? He doesn’t care what you think about it or how you want to look at, he’s having fun and that’s all that matters to him, as it should because it had an extremely positive effect on a group of a d-bags like my friend and I who went to go see this. What’s so exciting and fun about this action is that there is never a dull moment in it to where you think, “Oh great, they’re slowing things down to focus on character-development.” Nope, there’s none of that at all here because we already know who these characters are, what purpose they serve to the story, and why they are motivated to save each other’s lives. We don’t need any freakin’ back-story, we need some freakin’ action and that’s exactly what Megaton delivers on.

However, this is obviously the case where you may have to not only leave your brain at the door, but also have it delivered to you when you’re sleeping in the middle of the night so you sure as hell don’t remember half of the crap you see here because the more you think of it, the more you’re going to ask yourself, “What in the fuck did I just watch?”. Seriously, this movie is one of the dumber ones I have seen the whole year so far and in ways, that’s a compliment, and in others, it’s too distracting to even be considered anything. It’s just there and never seems to go away.

For instance, one of the only subplots that make a difference in this “story” is how Neeson’s daughter is finally learning how to drive with a permit. Now, anybody that ever remembers having a permit, sure as hell remembers how hard it was to go 5 mph down a long-road without falling to the side of the road at least once. I sure as hell do, and if that’s not the exact type of example that has happened to you, something along those lines definitely have and it just goes to show you that when you’re driving a car with your permit, shit is pretty stressful. That’s what really took me by surprise here as the daughter not only goes over 80 mph in very tight and narrow side-streets, but does it all without barely hitting anything, and/or crashing it in the first five-seconds of being behind the wheel. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been so bad either, if it hadn’t been going on for 5 minutes where it was just her driving as if she was taking over Ryan Gosling’s job from Drive, when in reality, the girl still doesn’t know how to master the art of parallel parking, if there ever was one (you city people know what I’m talking about). This example is just one of the many, I do repeat, many of times that this movie just comes off as downright stupid and if you don’t like that with you’re action movies, then stay the hell away and go off and wait for The Avengers 2 to come out in 2014, or whenever the hell Joss Whedon has that planned.

Once again, much to my douchy surprise, Liam Neeson is the big-draw with this flick and as so he should be, the guy still has the talent to pull a character like Bryan Mills, off perfectly. Neeson just has this certain amount of likability and warmth to him that makes you sympathize with his over-protective ways and also make you believe that he’s got everything under-control, when half of the time he’s got a gun pointing straight at his dome. But Neeson is also able to totally switch that off in a heartbeat and make him, your worst nightmare by pulling out all of the stops to succeed in the end and do everything in his power, to kick the ever-loving shit out of you. Neeson does that so well here, but I think it’s his time to eventually hang-it up after this, at least with action anyway. It’s not that Neeson isn’t good nor believable with these roles, because he surprisingly is, it’s just that he seems to old (60) for a role that has the guy moving around, shooting guns, beating the tar out of dudes half his age, and still not be able to break a bone of get a hernia. I love you and all, Liam, but maybe it’s time to go back to drama and see if you got one, last Oscar-push left in ya. That’s all I’m saying, though.

Maggie Grace, despite her out-of-nowhere expertise of driving, does a nice job as the sweet but determined daughter of Bryan, but also seems a bit hard to believe as a girl that is still 17 and going for her learner’s permit. It also surprised me that the first-shot of her that we get is her getting groped by her boy-toy, when in reality, I would think that someone who just got drugged-up and raped by a bunch of Russian mobsters, would still feel a little dramatized and not allow anyone to touch her in that way and to just take it slow. Basically, any girl that’s like that with me would be tossed-out as quick as 1-week old pie, but since it’s Maggie Grace, ehh, I think can withstand the wait. Rade Sherbedgia is here in his 100,000th anniversary appearance as playing the stereotypical, Russian villain that never seems to do a nice thing throughout the whole movie, and is still pretty good at it, even if his character does seem a bit overly-dicky with what he’s doing. I mean honestly, if this guy was a real Russian mobster, wouldn’t he at least understand that family-values are family-values and shouldn’t really blame Bryan for going out there and killing his son, considering his son attacked, drugged-up, and captured Bryan’s daughter? I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking about it too much but doesn’t sound like a real mobster to me. Where’s Don Corleone when you need him?

Consensus: Taken 2 is your typical unneeded, stupid, and unintentionally sequel that seems to get pushed-out every couple of times a year, but for this time, it’s actually fun and keeps your eyes moving along with the quick-fire pace at 91 minutes of pure adrenaline fun, and Liam Neeson bad-assery.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Bullitt (1968)

Mustangs are hawt.

Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen, who serves as the prototype for every movie cop who refuses to play by the book) must babysit a gangster for 48 hours. But when hit men snuff the witness, Bullitt won’t be stopped in his quest for vengeance.

All I have been hearing about this movie for the past year is that the car chase is awesome. Hell, anytime you mention the flick itself, the car chase is always brought up. It is brought up with good reason but maybe that’s just to escape the rest of the flick.

Director Peter Yates does gain some points by making this a very simple but fun thriller. There isn’t really anything new to be seen here other than two or three murders, a car chase, and a whole bunch of other crazy and mysterious ish going on but Yates isn’t trying to blow our minds. Yates has a very cold tone to this film that makes a whole lot more tension then there really is beneath the surface.

Where this film sort of lost me was that it’s a crime thriller where there is barely any thrilling aspects at all. Yes of course we get a couple of shootings and that car chase scene, but other than that we get a bunch of scenes dedicated to dudes waiting around for something to happen like another piece of evidence to pop up or for the main politician dude to show up so he can bother the hell more out of Bullitt. It’s a simple story, which I liked, but Yates doesn’t really find anything fun or exciting to do with it other than just meander along at a very snailish-like pace. I know I’m going to piss off a lot of peeps out there when I say this but this film actually had me a bit bored at times and even though I really tried my hardest to stop my mind from wandering off, it kept on going back to the thoughts in my head of ‘Drive’ and Ryan Gosling, and just how cool he was in that movie.

What also was a bit annoying was how the film tried to dive a bit deeper into this main character by showing plenty of scenes with his lady friend that nobody, not even him, really cared about in the first place. It’s always good to have a little bit of development to your character so that they can actually feel more human than anybody else in the film, but here, they keep on showing his squeeze trying to bring his thoughts out of him and hear what he’s thinking. It was annoying every time she was on-screen, which is why I didn’t even understand why she was around in the first place, but it was also lame considering that Bullitt was obviously a character that didn’t have any time for that play-time shit. Bullitt. He’s a man amongst men.

Instead of avoiding it this whole review, I think it’s pretty safe to come clear and say that the car chase is pretty damn awesome. This is definitely one of the most iconic car chases of all-time and with good reason because it’s so simple and realistic, but yet so damn cool at the same time. The cool thing about this scene is that it’s filmed in only the sounds the car makes whether it’s accelerating, stopping, or hitting the edge of something it’s not supposed to in the first place. That means there’s no slow-mo affect, no bass-bumping soundtrack that makes it seem like your speakers are about to blow out, and no lame-o side talk from characters just in order to sound witty and hip with it. It’s a pretty straight-forward car chase that relies on cool camera placement and realistic fun, which worked for me and it’s a real surprise that the death rate in car races didn’t increase back in 1968 when the flick first came out. Definitely one of the biggest high-lights of this whole film and worth the wait if you ask me.

The reason why this car chase is as good as it is, is also because of the man who was doing all of the stunts himself, none other than Mr. Steve McQueen himself as Bullitt. McQueen is a cool as hell actor that makes it seem like he could be one of those dudes you can share a nice couple of brewskies with, but then also seems like the kind of dude that would also kick your ass in a second if you said anything weird to him. The whole film he carries this cool, calm, and very cold expression to his face and commands just about every scene with his presence, which makes this very shrill and mysterious character even cooler. Gotta check out more Steve McQueen flicks in the future, that’s for damn sure. I also have to give some little brownie points to this flick for also including a small role from a much younger Robert Duvall and Robert Vaughn who’s a huge dick that I just wanted to see get his face knocked in by Bullitt himself.

Consensus: The car chase is iconic and McQueen definitely provides a lot more coolness to his character than expected, but Bullitt is just a very overrated flick that has its moments, but is also very slow, if at times, boring, with it’s very simple premise that goes exactly where you think it would, with barely any real surprises. Please don’t hate me people, please don’t!

7/10=Rental!!

The Lucky One (2012)

It’s a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. There’s nothing else that needs to be known.

The story centers on Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron), a US Marine who finds a photograph of an unknown woman Beth (Taylor Schilling) in Iraq and credits it for saving his life in combat. He vows to find her once he returns to America and eventually does nothing less than stalk her while taking a job at her family-run local kennel. Great way to get the babes.

Basically everybody knows what to expect here that can be seen in plenty of other Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that have come out in recent years such as ‘Message in a Bottle’, ‘The Notebook’, ‘Dear John’, ‘The Last Song’, and plenty others. All of those (with the exception of one, I’ll let you guess which one) are very bad and pretty much the same exact thing. This is another one that can be added to that stupid list that needs to go away and go now!

Women and young, teenage girls who have probably read this novel about 20 times will probably love this movie to death because that’s the audience it’s mainly for. However, I am not that audience and that was the biggest problem here. Every single character in a Sparks novel are about as one-dimensional as a piece of paper but are still treated like as if they can do no wrong, with barely any flaws whatsoever.

Logan starts off in the movie suffering from post-traumatic stress, but after the first 10 minutes, they act as if it was never there in the first place once he gets to the cozy countryside. Then when he actually gets to this countryside and has starts to woo over Beth, we see how he really is which is even worse. He’s humble, nice, strong, in touch with his emotional side, starts to tear up a bit when he’s playing piano as if it was his last time ever playing piano again, checks out classics like Moby Dick whenever he feels like it, and can play chess so well that he actually lets her young son win against him just to boost up his self-esteem. The film treats him as if he was the second coming of Christ that pretty much walks around with a halo around his head the whole time making everybody’s lives a whole lot better, which annoyed the hell out of me within the first 20 minutes because they just kept on constantly shoving it down our throats just how perfect and amazing this guy was. And to be honest, I didn’t care one bit. Oh yeah, need I forget to mention that this guy walks from Colorado all the way to North Carolina with his doggy. However I feel like if I got into that rant, we’d be here so much longer.

Aside from the characterization, this film is also laughably bad in many aspects where I don’t even think it intended to be. The melodrama gets kicked up to about 100 here and at times, almost feels like it’s making fun of itself but that’s the thing, it’s dead serious. There are so many corny scenes where these characters start to have realizations about one another and how beautiful that other person is and the sweeping score just comes in booming right in your ears and it just gets even worse as the film starts to dive deeper and deeper into this schmaltzy material.

This film also has one of the worst “sex” scenes I have seen in the longest time where Logan is blatantly shaking Beth’s left butt cheek and the film makes it seem like it’s some sort of cute showing of love and companionship but just came off as really lame and definitely a little too detailed for a PG-13 movie. I mean they show both of them moaning at one point and even though I’m no prude to this kind of stuff (hell, I saw ‘Shame’ for Christ’s sakes), I still don’t think that many parents will appreciate Ms. Schilling hitting a full-on orgasm with Mr. Efron.

Speaking of Mr. Zac Efron, I can’t really say anything bad about him here because he is obviously trying but he better be careful with the types of roles he’s getting. Yeah, ‘The Notebook’ put Ryan Gosling on the map but ever since then he has barely done anything close to that and even Channing Tatum is starting to find himself farther and farther away from this stuff with edgier flicks coming out in the upcoming future, but Efron is still building up his star and he better make sure that he doesn’t make any more shit films like this or else we may just get a ‘High School Musical 4’ just so he can get a quick paycheck. As for Taylor Schilling, her character is pretty paper-thin as well so she at least tries with what she’s given but the material really does end up bringing her down. Hopefully this movie gets her face out there and maybe we’ll see her in more upcoming flicks and check out what real talents she has as an actress other than showing how passionate getting boned by Zac Efron can be.

I think it would be safe to say that the best performance out of this whole film, and probably the best thing about this flick really is Blythe Danner here as Nana. Danner is that wise, funny, and always witty old lady that has something to say and made me laugh just about every time. And with a film like this, you need any type of humor just get you through. It’s a small compliment but it’s a compliment to this film none the less and this film needs all of that it can get.

Consensus: The Lucky One is what you would expect from a Nicholas Sparks adaptation: corny, schmaltzy, full of one-dimensional characters, and writing that will make you laugh even though they may not be laughing with you.

1/10=Crap!!

Shocker, right?

The Vow (2012)

First Ryan Gosling saves her, now Channing Tatum does. Lucky ass chick!

Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum star as Paige and Leo, a recently married couple whose lives are devastated by a tragic car accident. When Paige loses all memory of her relationship with her husband, Leo vows to do whatever it takes to make her fall in love with him all over again.

Ever since ‘The Notebook’ came out, studios have been gunning for that one flick that can make as many chicks and dudes (yes, admit it, guys) cry as that one did. Sadly, none of them have even came close. But I guess it took one-half of that film and a dude that can shake his ass off to come the closest to surpassing.

Director Michael Sucsy doesn’t really bring much new to this whole weepy and romantic drama genre that we all have seen done for the past 6 years, but it’s the writing and premise that makes it work. The premise is definitely something that seems like it was adapted right from a Nicholas Sparks novel, but it’s actually based on a true-story and it’s that genuine feel that made me believe in some of the more melodramatic moments. But then for all we know ‘Dear John’ and even ‘The Last Song’ could have been based on real stories, but then again, those films don’t quite have as much as this flick does.

The writers obviously aren’t doing too much to this premise to change it up and make it all of a sudden become something like a cross between ‘Memento’ and ’50 First Dates’ but it still has its cute moments that are always backed up by some funny ones as well. The film takes itself seriously but never too seriously to the point of where I wanted there to actually be some sort of fun here. There is a little playful and joking feel to it which made it a lot more easier to actually stay in this film and laugh every once and awhile, rather than cringe at all the cliches. And woahhhhh crap, did I mention the cliches!??!

The film is very predictable, corny, and cheesy which may sound kind of weird considering I just got done praising elements of it but there are still those eye-rolling moments that started taking over the flick. There was a pretty good amount of time where this film seemed to actually be working well for me but then when the started getting into the more weepier montages/moments than the film started to lose my interest. Then again, this is the sort of stuff that many, many ladies will swoon over and the guys will sort of just be left in the dust, but that’s usually expected with these types of films.

One of my biggest problems with this film was that with a premise like this, there could have been so many different themes and messages that this film could have explored on its own but instead, just talked about briefly and left up in the air. One of the most important themes of this film was how people change over time which is evident in how Paige first started off as this yuppie, rich-girl then changed to this hip, and funky fresh Chi-town gal. This was pretty cool to see in a film that showed a person in two different ways since this happens in real-life but instead of actually giving that topic any type of insight whatsoever, the flick just skates over it and leaves it hanging. Pretty disappointing but I guess I was just expecting a little bit too much from a Tatum-McAdams love flick.

Rachel McAdams is given a lot more of the showy things to do in this flick as Paige, but she does a good job with it all. She goes throughout the film all confused and whatnot, so when she starts to actually show two different sides of her, it seems believable but then again she is sort of playing the same character that she did in ‘The Notebook’, except she’s forgetting things at an earlier age. Since McAdams is basically trying to piece together her whole life, it’s up to Channing Tatum as Leo to pick the slack up and give a good enough performance to actually have us follow his character, which he does. Tatum does a good job at keeping this performance believable, subtle, and very relaxed to where he didn’t have to do anything all that emotional but even when he does, it seems realistic. Both of them also have a good chemistry which is another reason why this romance, as well as this flick works in more ways than I expected.

The supporting cast is also pretty good. Sam Neill is great at playing that sinister and smarmy character he usually plays as Paige’s daddy; Jessica Lange plays her mommy and doesn’t do much until this little, dramatic monologue where she lets her true emotions out and it’s a really good scene mainly because Lange is able to pull off scenes like this; and Scott Speedman is good as the ex-fiancé of Paige, but damn does he need to lay off the hair gel!

Consensus: The Vow features plenty of those predictable, cheesy, and utterly sappy moments that occur in these types of romance flicks but with a fun script, good performances, and some nice touches to the whole formula itself, there’s a lot more to keep your mind off of this stuff and just focus on the romance at-hand.

5/10=Rental!!

The Ides of March (2011)

I think everybody knows that they would vote for George Clooney to be the next president.

An up-and-coming campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s (George Clooney) shot at the presidency.

Director George Clooney is behind the camera again for the fourth time and compared to ones such as Leatherheads, Good Night and Good Luck, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he doesn’t have much of a problem doing whatever it is that he does.

Clooney shows that he really can keep an interesting story going even if it doesn’t seem like anything new or ground-breaking. From the beginning, I thought I was going to get another behind-the-scenes look at a political race like in Primary Colors, however, Clooney keeps it entertaining with sharp dialogue that actually made me laugh at times surprisingly, while still giving me a lot to see with all these bad-ass politicians.

However, the story goes through a very odd twist right through the middle where it sort of switches the tone from political thriller to melodrama of sorts. Without giving the twist away too much, I still felt like this was a pretty cool twist on the film and actually kind of tied in with what happens with the last 30 minutes of the film.

This is where I think Clooney started to fall though because he doesn’t really do a very good job of keeping both of these story-lines together and still almost meaning the same thing. What I mean is that the film’s twist is good and for the most part, features some very good scenes for the latter part of the film but there are still scenes about the other part of the film that had to do with the actual political race that didn’t seem like they belonged together with the twist in the same film. I noticed this and it kind of bothered me because even though I felt like both “story-lines” were interesting as hell and kept me interested, they still felt like two different kinds of films.

There isn’t also anything new that Clooney has to say about all of these politicians that hasn’t already been said or shown before. I think Clooney’s script is a little too moral for this material where it shows everybody basically being a bunch of evil and conniving sons-of-bitches towards one another. Clooney just wanted us to really see just how much all of these people manipulate each other when it comes to a presidential race such as this and although it was really cool to see all of that play out, I still didn’t need all the moralizing of these characters.

When it comes to the cast though, Clooney really does know how to do a great job with picking a near-perfect ensemble. Ryan Gosling is just all-over-the-place this year and is perfect as Stephen Myers. Gosling is a commanding presence on screen and demands your attention every time he’s up there. He seems believable and looks like a guy that knows all the right things to do and how to do them but after he is thrown a curve-ball, really doesn’t know how to handle it all too well.

Clooney is also good as Governor Mike Morris, and he surprisingly plays up that very dirty-politician act well which is something I wasn’t really expecting to see from him, especially in his own film. The scenes he has with Gosling are awesome and couldn’t have been any better with any other two actors. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman play two opposing campaign managers and are cast perfectly because both roles get to show just how damn good they are. Both of them are amazing in this film showing how cool and calm one minute they can be, but then the next minute totally mad and crazy as hell, so you don’t know which one to trust the most and who’s the good manager or the bad one.

Evan Rachel Wood is surprisingly very good in a juicy role as Molly, that allows to show her being sexy and a little bit mysterious but also emotional and vulnerable. She shows some great range and has an even more believable character arc. Marisa Tomei and Jeffrey Wright aren’t in here as much as the film may make you think, but they’re also very good as well and round out the cast to perfect effect.

Consensus: Though there are a lot of messy things about The Ides of March, Clooney makes up for it with a very interesting story that gets better as the film goes along, and a cast full of great star that bring so much to each of their characters.

7/10=Rental!!

Drive (2011)

This guy would make a killing at delivering pizzas.

Driver (Ryan Gosling), a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, is lured from his isolated life by a lovely neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her young son. His newfound peace is shattered, however, when her violent husband is released from prison.

The weird thing about Drive is how this is being advertised as a slam-bang, action thriller with a Fast & Furious look of cars. But that is far from the truth.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson) has a great knack for making incredibly bloody films, seem so beautiful. The film reminded me of an 80’s noir with it’s synth-crazy score, the hot pink title cards, and even the colorful as well as gritty look of the under-belly of LA that had me reminded of a Michael Mann film. There are some real great scenes where Refn brings out this very dark mood within the material with the way he films and the way he makes it all sound.

The problem with his direction is that I feel like too many times he doesn’t let the story tell itself at all, and just wants to basically remind people that he’s the one directing here and every shot is shot with his artsy-fartsy trademark. This didn’t bother me that much but when you have a script like this it really does get annoying after awhile.

I thought that the script had its moments where it truly wreaked in awesomeness but then other times, I just felt bored and bothered by what this film was doing. Almost every scene where these characters talk to each other is just filled with some awkward pauses and very slow responses that would have any person trying to leave the conversation as soon as possible. About the third time that I heard Gosling breath and Mulligan sigh, I just about had it about up to here with it, and relied on the action for my entertainment.

Oh wait, there’s barely any of that either. The action here is very short but done so well because of the way Refn creates the tension and keeps the bloodiness packing on up. He also adds this extra colorful flair to every scene, so when some guy is getting his head smashed in, not only is it bloody, but it’s also bright and colorful. This I liked and even though there’s only 2, that’s right, 2 car chases, I still liked them.

However, my problem lies within the fact that I just wish they actually gave us more of the awesome action rather than focus on these boring and awkward conversations that didn’t make me laugh, or really feel any more of an emotional connection to the story, it just annoyed me. I can see why Refn wanted to focus more on the story and visual flair rather than the action but when you got some writing that’s as boring as this is, you start to get pretty annoyed.

The real reason to see this film though is indeed, Ryan Gosling, aka one of my top man-crushes. Gosling plays The Driver and is quiet, calm, and relaxed throughout the majority of the film, but when it comes to him flipping shit, I was totally scared in all the right ways. Gosling plays both sides of this character believably well so you believe the subtlety that he has and the physical anger he projects from his character. I mean I was intimidated by Gosling here and every scene he is in, he uses that look on his face and his body language to convey a sense that his character is feeling every scene and it works so well. My man is on a roll!

The rest of the cast is also pretty good too. Carey Mulligan is good as the sweet Irene, although I think her and Gosling could have really projected some great screen chemistry given the right material; Bryan Cranston is gritty in his role as Shannon, the guy who brings Gosling into the world of crime; Ron Perlman is entertaining to watch as Nino the Jew, and I know this because they call him the name about 12 times; and Oscar Issac and Christina Hendricks have some pretty good “blink or you miss em” performances here as well. Albert Brooks as Bernie Ross is probably the most surprising of the whole cast because he has a presence that’s so powerful and ruthless that you actually can believe him as this violent mobster, rather than the voice of Marlon.

Consensus: Drive has moments where it absolutely works with it’s stylish direction from Nicolas Winding Refn, great performances from the cast, especially Gosling, and some bloody and thrilling flashes of violence, but too much of it feels slow and features conversations that are more boring than one you would have with a wall.

7/10=Rental!!

The Extra Man (2010)

Gives me hope of one day being a gigolo myself.

It seems like this BoomTron shindig is becoming a Friday thanggg now. Well, anywhoo, go on out and check out the review of this little indie-flick. As always, leave some love, say hey, or just read it and let me know what ya think in the comments section.

Check out the link here:

http://www.boomtron.com/2011/09/the-extra-man-review/

Thanks ya’ll! Happy Friday! Try to check out the new cool action thriller Drive, with my man-crush in it. And also don’t forget about an unneeded Straw Dogs remake, and Sara Jessica Parker doing some raaaaaaange.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)

A lot of stupid, a lotta love, and some craziness ain’t so bad.

When Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) discovers that his wife (Julianne Moore) wants to end their marriage, he reluctantly faces the unwelcome prospect of single life with the counsel of the younger and smoother super-bachelor Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling). However, Gosling’s character starts to question his playboy ways when he meets Anna (Emma Stone) and falls in love.

Ever since the trailer first came out for this way back when, I couldn’t wait to see it, but waiting 2 weeks after it already came out to see it was a good idea.

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris) know how to balance out comedy and drama very well here. There are times where I laughed and a lot of the times felt very moved by a lot of the interactions between these characters and wanted to see more of it as the film progressed.

The problem with the film is that the script itself is just moving along a slick pace but with way too many subplots to actually fit it’s two hour time-limit. When you have all these different characters, it’s sometimes very hard to make all their stories fit before the end is over and this film doesn’t know how to actually wrap it up all too well really which is kind of a shame because there is many comedies within the past year that have been able to do that very same thing well.

In certain scenes, there is that great sign of insight within the script that talks about two people think when it’s not just about sex which I liked because it showed that this was a sort of smart and intelligent romantic comedy that was so based in reality. However, there are so many moments here that are almost cringe-worthy by how sappy and contrived they are. This film is very knowing about certain things and then very up-lifting and sentimental about others which kind of bummed me out considering that there could have been so much here that actually spoke a lot about relationships and love, when in the end, it just turns out to be another rom-com with too much sweetness.

When I kept wondering if I liked this film or not, I kept on coming back to the cast and that’s when I knew, I actually did like this film a lot more. Steve Carell is basically playing the same guy he always plays here as Cal Weaver, but he does it so well that you can actually connect to his character and sympathize with him. There’s a lot of problems that this character runs into but Carell makes it all seem believable and truly has that comedic and dramatic depth to all of his characters.

The real revelation of this film is actually Ryan Gosling who is amazing as Jacob Palmer. Gosling has always had that charm that people know and love him for but he’s never been able to fully throw out his comedic chops until now and I have to say that he really does know exactly what he’s doing. This guy is the exact persona of what every guy in the world thinks they are and what they look like, however, Gosling actually is and with the rock-hard abs, to the fresh-to-def looking vests and to the combed-over hair, Gosling just fits this role so perfectly and shows that he has great comedic timing as well as the dramatic depth to his character to make Jacob Palmer work in the end.

Julianne Moore is also very good as as Cal’s wife, Emily, who has a lot of problems as a character, but somehow Moore is able to over-shadow them with her amazing screen presence and Emma Stone is a lot of fun to watch as Hanna, and creates this great chemistry with Gosling that at first may seem hard to believe in, but by the end you may start to actually wish the film was more on them. Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are actually kind of in cameo roles but they both play each role amazingly well, given the time they both have on screen.

Consensus: There are moments here that seem incredibly intelligent while others just have you shake your head at the predictable cheesy moments that take so much away from Crazy, Stupid, Love. despite an amazing cast and good moments of being smarter than other rom-com’s out there.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Blue Valentine (2010)

Love is sometimes a beautiful thing.

Once crazy about each other, Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) have now grown apart. Cindy is bored and disenchanted with her life while Dean languishes in the emotional emptyness of their sexless, routine life in rural Pennsylvania. As they muddle through their marriage, they hearken back to the golden days when life was filled with possibility and romance.

I have been practically on this film’s ass ever since I first heard mouth of it last year. Now that’s it out & about, but even barely out, I drove about 30 miles to actually see this, since it was the only place that was showing it in my area. Needless to say, it was worth the mileage.

Writer/Director Derek Cianfrance really does know what love is like when it’s beautiful, and he also knows when its horrible. This film shows the brutally honest side of love, to where at first, it starts off all perfect with the love at first sight, and all the other cheesy rom-com cliches. But then, it starts to turn into something old, something annoying, and nothing changes at all. Instead it almost gets worse, and the person you once loved, you see your having a battle with everyday, over probably nothing half of the time. Cianfrance captures the happy side of love perfectly, but when it comes to showing the true, raw emotions that come out of it when it’s ugly, are also perfect. These are human emotions displayed at its finest, and not all of this film is basically a downer, there are some light moments that get you cheery, but those are then taken away by the unpleasant scenes that take over.

Right here is some pretty dark stuff too. The supposed “sex scenes” that this film got an NC-17 for back in October, really are nothing graphic. I can see why the MPAA would get all hyped up about certain sex scenes here, but in all honesty, it’s nothing different or shocking really. Just a little bit more graphic than what the usual, mainstream audience is used to seeing. I also liked how the film goes back and forth through their relationship, rather than just showing us the beginning through the end. It kind of gives us a feeling like what was once, all awesome beautiful, has turned into something boring, and ugly. I guess that’s just how love is really, and probably one of my biggest fears of all, getting so bored with a person to the point of where you have lost all love for them. I don’t know if it will ever happen to me, but if so, I guess that’s just how life is, no matter how sad it is. This film isn’t the feel-good film of the year, so be warned everybody.

My only complaint with this film has to be the aging mistake I think this film was going for. From what it looked like, these two were about 40, or older, when they show them “settled in”. But the problem is, that the kid they have is about 6 years old or younger, which is odd because why would these people look so old, when it’s only been like 10 years or so. I don’t know that was just me, and although not everybody will have an exact idea of what I’m saying, it still kind of bugged me.

The real showcase for this film is the talent that is shown by that beautiful couple up top. Ryan Gosling really is one of the biggest, brightest stars of today, that is showing just how great he really is. He is perfect in this role as Dean, who is so charming and likable, that every scene he is on he commands your attention, and you can’t help but give it to him. But it’s when that charm is turned off that really hits you, and you see a broken down, sad, sad man. Gosling delivers on the painful emotions you feel when love is going sour, and he does a perfect job with every scene he is in. I still don’t know if it’s better than his Half Nelson performance, but still, he is becoming one of my favorite actors of all-time, and I really do mean that. Michelle Williams is also not a force to be reckoned with, as she is also perfect here as Cindy, the nice, little, sweetheart that becomes the apple of Dean’s eye. The performance she gives off is a more quiet one than Gosling, which works very well, cause without even saying anything half of the time, you can feel the pain within her character, and when she snaps, she doesn’t let you forget about it.

Cianfrance best idea for this whole film really is just to let the actors tell the story, and that is probably my favorite part of this film, cause everything feels so real. You follow these two as if it is almost a documentary-like feel, and you can’t take your eyes off the screen at all, cause everything just feels so legit, no matter how disturbing, or distraught it may be. There’s no second-meanings to everything that goes on, or symbolism, it’s basically what you see is what you get. These two do feel like a real couple. Whether they fight, flirt, bone, sing, dance, or just sit there in silence it doesn’t matter cause it all feels real, especially with these two stars acting. Their chemistry is perfect, and you feel like when they are angry at each other, they really are, but when they love each other, they really do. Right here, you have a lot of improv but they do so well, creating so many powerful, and sometimes even suspenseful scenes.

Consensus: As emotionally raw as you can get, Blue Valentine portrays the dark side of love, with an impressive direction from Cianfrance, and heart-wrenching performances from Gosling, and Williams.

9/10=Full Pricee!!