Directed by: Derek Cianfrance. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel. Runtime: 1h 52 min. Released: December 29, 2010 (US limited release)
I had tweeted before watching this film that Blue Valentine is a first-time watch and I wasn’t sure if I was emotionally ready for it. That’s because I’ve heard that it’s a “feel-bad” movie. Truly, that’s why I haven’t seen this until now, but I thought it was about time I watched it because I like Derek Cianfrance as a director and this is apparently his best film.
However, I enjoy both The Place Beyond the Pines and even The Light Between Oceans better than this. This just isn’t a film that I was invested in. I find the concept intriguing as the film tells the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) as we see the start of their relationship and the process of them falling in love. These scenes are shown in flashbacks six years ago, as our characters are currently in the present where their current standing is further from a happy marriage.
The writing by Cianfrance and co-writers Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne is also seamless in its transitions for its flashbacks and it’s well-written in its contrast of scenes at the start of their relationship and where they currently stand. The dialogue is also strong in its realism and when the pair argues, it feels like a dance between Gosling and Williams. The best part of the film for me were the performances from Gosling and Williams. They’re raw and their performances near the end of the film is where they are at their most heartbreaking.
I think my big problem with this is just that the pacing is slow and I found it boring throughout. I liked the scenes of them falling in love and them in the past, but I just never fully clicked with the characters. They’re real, everyday people and while that makes the film feel realistic and allows for very raw performances. And while something like Marriage Storyworks for me for similar reasons, I thought that drama was captivating and I liked the characters. Here, I just didn’t connect to the characters as much as I wanted to and didn’t feel any emotional reactions to the story until 20 minutes left.
I’d like to talk a bit about what worked for me there, so spoiler alert.
The contrast of Dean trying to fight for their marriage edited with their wedding is great filmmaking. This is one of the points where it worked emotionally for me. Dean walking away and his daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) chasing after him is also crushing. I think my favourite moment was the heat of anger for Dean when Cindy asks for a divorce and he takes his wedding ring off and throws it away. He then immediately goes through the bush looking for it. This scene worked best for me because it’s a knee-jerk reaction to losing everything, throwing it away and then realizing just what he’s done.
End of spoilers.
The arguments and negativity in the film and its sad story left me exhausted, and I’d be more exhausted if I were invested in these characters. The story here works, and the look of the film does too (with cinematography by Andrij Parekh), but there’s just something about it that underwhelmed me. It’s well-directed, well-acted and well-written but I didn’t like how I felt during this and I didn’t like the characters. It’s an anti-romance film that I appreciated more than enjoyed. However, that end credit sequence with the fireworks exploding over stills of the film is one of the most creative end credit sequences I’ve seen, so kudos for that.
Hi everyone, this is my post for the movies I’m most anticipating this month. I’m going to leave out the ones I’m not anticipating (but will be seeing), because who wants to write a paragraph about a movie they’re not particularly passionate about? (I’m talking about you, GROWN UPS 2.) I’ll be writing reviews about those said movies, but that’s for another day – and I love writing reviews. So, that’s good, then. I’ll start with a few thoughts on the movies I can wait for, but I am looking forward to watching.
Plot: The true story of Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008.
I like a good bio pic and a good emotional drama, so I’m intrigued by this. It also has critics raving, so I’m hoping it’s good. I thought Michael B. Jordan is great in CHRONICLE, and I like Octavia Spencer in just about anything.
Plot: Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.
I can mostly wait for this one because I haven’t seen the first. I own it, so I’ll watch that this week or next or something, and then maybe I’ll be a bit more excited about this one. I love a good crime comedy, and the cast intrigues me.
Plot: A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him.
I don’t know if this will be a box office hit – but it does look very amusing. I love the first and third MIB movies, so I’m pretty intrigued by this. It looks fun, and Jeff Bridges has many great one-liners in the trailer.
Plot: Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Clark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall.
This looks like a predictable comedy, but it does look very funny. I like EASY A a lot, and this seems to have similar awkward humour. I’m curious to see how Aubrey Plaza will do in her first leading lady role. (I’ve seen a few episodes of TV’s PARKS AND RECREATION and it’s just hilarious.) There are some real laugh-out loud moments in the trailer, especially Clark Gregg’s thoughts on taking the back door.
Plot: A freak accident might just help an everyday garden snail achieve his biggest dream: winning the Indy 500.
I like the voice cast and the simple thought of Ken Jeong voicing a little Asian grandma makes me giggle. This looks like DreamWorks Animation’s answer to CARS and FAST & FURIOUS, and maybe even RATATOUILLE (instead of rats and cooking, it’s snails and racing). I think the idea’s just as silly as Stuart Little playing soccer, I mean, this little snail is probably going to get run over. I think I’ll enjoy the movie a lot, regardless.
Plot: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.
This looks pretty cool. I’m not huge on superhero movies, but I do enjoy the X-MEN movies. I’ll have to have a marathon soon to pump up for this one a bit more. It looks good, but it could be so much better if Darren Aronofsky really did end up directing it. I guess I’m really just hoping it’s better than X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.
Now these are the ones I’m really excited for.
Plot: When an alien attack threatens the Earth’s existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace.
I think this looks awesome. I haven’t seen any GODZILLA movies, but I like a good monster movie. And, this is monsters AND robots. Whoa. It sounds like it could be everything BATTLESHIP and TRANSFORMERS aspired to be. Lots of fun, and well-made. And Del Toro is at the helm! I might have to re-watch CLOVERFIELD and find a GODZILLA movie online this week to get a bit more excited. It seems action-packed, and frankly, I want to see the movie right now, and not just the trailer. But I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing Idris Elba shout, “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse!”
Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.
I love Ryan Gosling and the director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and DRIVE is one of my favourite movies of 2011. The story intrigues me, as well. While critics haven’t exactly been praising the movie, I think it could be pretty awesome. It might be wavering my expectations ever-so-slightly, but I’m still really looking forward to it.
Plot: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.
I think James Wan is a fantastic director. I’ll have to watch INSIDIOUS to get a vibe of his atmospheric haunting flicks, though. This looks absolutely terrifying, and while I’ll probably be watching the movie through the my fingers, I can hardly wait. Vera Farmiga is great, too. The trailer creeps the hell out of me, and I love it. The true story edge is even spookier – so, I just want it to be July 19 already. It would be great if this will birth a Warren files franchise.
Plot: 14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
I love a good coming-of-age tale. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is my second-favourite movie of 2012. And THE DESCENDANTS is one of my favourite movies of 2011. Two of the Oscar-winning writers from that movie (Nat Faxon, supporting actor in most of the Broken Lizard movies, and Jim Rash, the Dean on TV’s COMMUNITY) co-write and direct this one. I love the cast so much. Steve Carrell as a major jerk, Sam Rockwell, Rash in a supporting role, AnnaSophia Robb, and Rob Corddry, Toni Colette and Allison Janney. Suffice to say, it sounds amazing – and I can hardly wait for this to come to my city.
Plot: Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to help deal with a powerful new super criminal.
I love the original DESPICABLE ME 2. This sequel looks amazing and hilarious. I can hardly wait for it. I love Gru and the minions, and I think this will be a real winner with a lot of heart and some great action. And new villains, of course. This is not only my most anticipated movie of July – but it’s probably my most anticipated movie of the year. (But, I’ll have to make a list to see if that’s true. I might be a bit more excited for KICK-ASS 2.) I can’t wait to have a second helping of the minion madness, though. Anything under a score of 75 will be disappointing. I hope this is in the same league as the first.
When one thinks of an epic, they might think Titanic, Braveheart or maybe Avatar. Even though this doesn’t have huge sinking boats, large wars or stunning visual effects; this truly deserves to be called an epic.
Derek Cianfrance (of Blue Valentine fame) brings us an small-town epic called The Place Beyond the Pines; a thought-provoking and realistic tale of generational feuds, fathers and sons, and corruption. It’s set in the small town of Schenectady, New York, that follows two families over a period of fifteen years. It’s essentially a trilogy of tales, going from chapter to chapter.
Glanton is a stunt motorcycle rider who, after finding out he has a son named Jason, begins to rob banks as a way to provide for his son and his lover, Romina (Eva Mendes). He does with the assistance of his employer, an auto repair shop owner Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), and his superior motorcycle riding skills. His motivation for this is easy to understand as he wants to provide his son and he sees this as the best way fit. He’s a guy who has his priorities in order, even if it implies reckless behaviour and breaking the law time and time again.
Cross’s motivations are harder to comprehend. He’s an ambitious young cop who wants to make his way up in the police force in as little time as possible, as he’s following in his father’s footsteps. The corruption of the police force itself poses enticing decisions for the young rookie.
The strong third act is difficult to discuss without giving too much away, but there are a few things that can be said. It’s admirably carried by young, up and coming stars Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. Cohen plays a character that is an irritating kind-of Eminem-esque wannabe but he is portrayed adequately and his character is essential to the film.
The third tale explores the idea of legacies and how one split-second decision can send incidental shockwaves through generations. It also explores fatherly influences in a beautiful way; which is a theme that is also highlighted with Glanton and Cross, where Cross has a father figure, and Glanton is the opposite. Corruption and personal gain is best explored in the middle act involving Bradley Cooper’s haunted character. Finally, the bond between fathers and sons and the lengths they’d go to in order to protect their young is very well explored. One of the most prominent themes is, though, is there are (usually) consequences for your actions, admirably said in the movie’s most memorable quote, “If you ride like lightning; you’re gonna crash like thunder.”
The epic crime drama shifts focus a lot, and since it is a trilogy of intertwining stories, it really feels like it could end at any point. In this way, it might work better as a book – but the narrative feels fresh. It’s still one of the lengthy film’s main faults, that the film feels like it’s just coming around the bend to its climax. Thankfully, the ambiguous and hopeful ending at the place beyond the pines is more than pleasing. Some of the characters’ motivations can be also hard to comprehend, but despite the movie’s faults, it’s engaging and it packs a mighty, emotional one-two punch.
The large and talented cast carries the movie extremely well. Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Dane DeHaan (Am I the only one who thinks he’ll, at least, be an Oscar nominee someday?), Bruce Greenwood and Emory Cohen are among the cast, and they help carry the film and they make one heck of an ensemble. The tatted-up Gosling is by far the best of them all. The movie’s at its most booming and usually the most intense when he’s on-screen. He is most deserving of an Oscar nomination, and his powerful performance will remain one of the year’s most memorable. His character is as great and as mysterious as The Driver in Drive, and his performance is as good, if not better; he better not be overlooked by the Academy this time around. Even when he isn’t on-screen, his impact and legacy is felt. Other than Cooper and Gosling, DeHaan and Mendelsohn are the most notable. The score is also very memorable; with Mike Patton’s “The Snow Angel” playing in the background of some of the movie’s strongest and most emotionally sweeping scenes. Who woulda thunk one tune could be so haunting, but filled with such poignancy?
Gosling’s tale is by the far the strongest act of the three, Cooper’s sandwiched between in terms of quality, and DeHaan’s is the weakest, but saved by a fantastic ending. With an epic and beautiful drama like this, “weak” is used lightly – because it is by no means a bad act. They all just happen to pale in comparison to the act where Glanton is the focus. The intense crime drama is riddled with great performances, impressive writing, amazing emotional moments; and no matter how much the film may shift focus from story to story, all in a very lengthy flick, it all intertwines admirably in the end and Cianfrance never loses sight of his stunning and beautiful vision.
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston
Runtime: 100 min
Tagline: Some Heroes are Real
A mysterious Hollywood stuntman, mechanic and getaway driver lands himself in trouble when he helps out his neighbour.
Drive is a hard film to place into one basket. It’s filled with crime, drama, mystery, suspense, and even some romance. There’s a great soundtrack that gives it an awesome retro vibe, and it also makes it have a great atmosphere. The pacing is slower-than-usual, but it just builds great suspense all the way with talking, where it just turns from a cool love story into a crime-filled adrenaline rush.
There’s a lot of shock value within this film. The Driver is a really interesting character that is sort of the anti-hero, but he’s also just a man who’s trying to help out a few people at once. The viewer might really feel sympathy for the guy because he’s just trying his hardest to help out Mulligan’s character, and in quite a few scenes – the high amount of violence that is shown really expresses her innocence. One scene, her shock of this violence really mirrors what the audience may be feeling. He’s a man of little words, so that may make a minority of audiences not like him. Some people just prefer dialogue, I guess…
It really is a film that one may either love or hate. Some of the concepts within the film have been done before, so a lot are just homages. However, with the retro soundtrack and the amazing atmosphere, it feels really unique.
Drive offers one of the finest experiences, and atmospheres, of 2011. It’s a superb cinematic achievement that will be talked of for years.
This follows the true story of a crew of police officers who mean to take down a ruthless mob boss, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who runs 1949 Los Angeles.
This certain crew is comprised of: Its leader, Sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), knife-thrower Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie), the best gunslinger in L.A., Max Kennard (Robert Patrick), his mentee, Navidad Ramirez (Michael Peña) and the brain, Conway Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi). They’re all up against the big old Micky Cohen and collection of bought cops.
Mickey Cohen does not have a soul. He’s ruthless, and he would rip apart a man with two cars and then feed him to the dogs. He wears an ugly grimace and he has some ridiculous lines of dialogue that don’t make a lot of sense. That’s practically the job qualities someone must have to be a gangster.
He is well-acted by Sean Penn, and he is exactly as cartoonish and over-the-top as one would think a power-hungry gangster would be. That’s practically all the characterization done for him.
The other characters are only slightly characterized, but they are well-acted by the attractive and talented cast. Jerry is established as a man who will whatever he must, as long as he protects the people he loves. This is expressed for his caring for Grace Faraday (Emma Stone), a woman who wanted to be a star but ended up with Mickey Cohen. Jerry’s initial fuel to join the squad is the death of a young boy trying to make a dollar on the street when Cohen ordered his men to shoot an enemy of him. The only other really characterized characters are John O’Mara and Conway Keeler, and they are both established as family men. These are the only characters whose home lives get shown, the others might as well just kill people all the time.
There’s a fair deal of violence and exhilarating action but it isn’t non-stop. It takes a break to let us know what’s going on and build the storyline. This makes the film both dramatic, filled with crime and very fun. While the storyline does not challenge its audience on an intellectual level on any sort, it is present. It’s simply a group of cops who work both sides of the law against a ruthless mob boss. Their killings is necessary, however. Cohen’s empire is very strong, and they must collapse the metaphorical wall. Whilst it doesn’t make the audience think, it is an extremely entertaining and usually enthralling experience, nonetheless.
It is sort-of unrealistic at times, to a point where I had to remind myself this is a gangster film and not an episode of The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show where Wile E. Coyote tries to catch that pesky Roadrunner. This time Wile (multiplied by six) being the protagonist(s) and Roadrunner (Cohen) being the antagonist. It’s a fight of power between the two, in the great, stylized city of Los Angeles. However, only had to remind myself of this once or twice. Speaking of the style, this film very much expresses the glamour present in late 1940s L.A., where everyone danced, showed skin and had extravagent dresses for the ladies (and cross-dressers, I guess) and suave suits for the men. It is also highlighted by the people’s slang, and the usually funny humour that incorporates itself into the screenplay. When the jokes did show up, though, I had to question if it was intentional or unintentional. The attempt at juggling both a serious crime drama and a fun sort-of spoof is rarely a good end product.
This isn’t as great as everyone thought it would be, but it is fairly satisfying. However, as far as true stories go, it isn’t anything special to bite on. One must work with what they get, right?
In a nutshell: Gangster Squad is a violent, extremely entertaining gangster film that promises action and beauty, and it delivers. While this doesn’t challenge intellectually, it’s fun but is sometimes as unrealistic as a Looney Tunes cartoon. It isn’t amazing or extremely memorable, but it’s decent enough and I can forgive and forget Ruben Fleischer for his former sin of 30 Minutes or Less. Oh, and Emma, next time show more skin (please) because your legs and back just aren’t enough.
Wiig has been voice talents for the films Despicable Me as Miss Hattie and How to Train Your Dragon; and she also showed a decent dramatic side in her small role in the romance/crime film based on true events, All Good Things alongside Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. She was in the comedy/action British comedy Paul (the poorest film from the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy team), but Wiig is best known for her performance (as Annie) and writing for the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids. She was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for her work on Bridesmaids. I enjoy watching her perform, even in the little amount of titles I’ve actually seen her in. I do look forward to seeing more of her.