Archive | December, 2011

Movie Review: ‘Drive’

28 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

Ryan Gosling stars in “Drive,” Credit: “Drive" Facebook Page

 

Sometimes, an actor’s performance outshines a film as a whole. Such can be said of Ryan Gosling’s sharp, intense performance in “Drive,” a feature where not everything works, but where its finer qualities prove both excellent and effective.

Though “Drive” has its moments of predictability—there’s always a love story—and mostly solid, albeit quiet performances, the film is really an exercise in visual style, accompanied with grip-tight action and set to a fantastic Eighties-sounding synth score. The first half of “Drive” is the warm-up, plot-establishing period—the second half roars with compelling visuals, intensity and shockingly graphic violence. It’s the latter, in addition to another strong performance by Gosling, which triumphs the otherwise mediocre plot.

The locale is sunny California. That’s where we meet Driver (Gosling), a mechanic for his boss Shannon’s (Bryan Cranston) auto repair shop, and a professional stunt driver for the movie business. His life is centered on driving—it’s what he knows, and he knows it well. By night, though, he lives life on the edge as a getaway driver for criminals.

Driver follows through with a meticulous routine for each heist—he sets his watch and places it on the wheel of his car. All they get is five minutes. Driver, calm and confident, doesn’t carry a gun—he just gets criminals to where they need to go. Even before the opening credits roll, we see him in action, outrunning police with great speed and hiding under cover from the spotlights of helicopters. We see the risk of the job—we feel the danger.

But Driver finds himself traveling down an unexpected road when he comes to know Irene (a mellow Carey Mulligan), his neighbor who lives right down the hall of their apartment building. They go from acquaintances to something more after Irene’s faulty car breaks down, and Driver gives her and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), a lift home.

“What do you do?” Irene asks him in one scene.

“I drive,” he says.

“Is it dangerous?”

“It’s only part time.”

The truth is, driving is his life. It’s his identity. It’s all he has, until, with no surprise, he takes greater interest in Irene, and develops a friendly relationship with Benicio. The catch is that Irene has a husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac). He returns home after serving time in prison, and brings a major problem along with him: a debt he needs to pay off. Threats have been made against his family. Driver, who’s grown close to the family, offers to help Standard pull off a heist to protect Irene and Benicio. But after the heist goes terribly wrong, Driver becomes the target of crime bosses Bernie Rose (a blade-wielding, blood-thirsty Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman), and vies, despite heavy danger, to do everything he can do protect Irene and Benicio.

“Drive,” based on the James Sallis’ novel, operates on a familiar, yet lively plot. We’ve seen and experienced many a time the tale of a man who meets a woman, becomes romantically linked with her, and later finds himself rescuing her from a predicament. We’ve also seen far too many heist-gone-wrong pictures. These elements of the plot are really nothing new, nothing fresh.

But director Nicolas Winding Refn, who won the directing prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for the movie, provides us with a brilliant spectacle. His arsenal of camera shots and technical expertise result in a beautifully painted picture. And whether a car-chase scene, or the slowly unfolding romance between Driver and Irene, Refn has a specialty for creating an atmosphere of heightened suspense.  Where “Drive” also succeeds is in its shock value—The threat against those our lead character cares for very much brings to light a darker, more aggressive and brutal side of a man we thought we understood initially. It’s an astonishing twist that makes for some truly gripping scenes.

Gosling, the engine of the film, doesn’t just turn it up a notch—he turns the dial to its breaking point. It works. And much like in “The Ides of March,” Gosling maintains a strong screen presence, authority, and sincerity as an actor. Here, he turns in a vehement, volatile and slightly disturbing performance that’s not meant to be taken lightly. He gracefully shifts in personality and conveys the inner emotions of his character through his expressive eyes and emotive face. He allows us, as great actors do, to care for a character—one who is very much an enigma in this case—who we shouldn’t necessarily feel an iota of sympathy for.  Buckle up, “Drive,” though at times bumpy, is a hell of a ride. Grade: A-

(Article copy-edited by Tiffany Mesk Mattson for ChrisEngelhardt.com)

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Full-length ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ trailer hits the web

20 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

'The Dark Knight Rises' official poster. Credit: http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/

It’s finally here. The full-length trailer for “The Dark Knight Rises” officially hit the web today.

The film is director Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his Batman trilogy, and the new trailer suggests the series will end with a bang. The Dark Knight (Christian Bale) and new villain Bane (Tom Hardy) — best known in the DC Comics universe for breaking Batman’s back — go head-to-head. Gotham City is in complete chaos. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) mesmerizes, though not in perfect Catwoman attire. And we get glimpses of Alfred (Michael Caine), John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

“The Dark Knight Rises” hits theaters July 20, 2012.

Check out the trailer below:

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2012 inductees include Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers

18 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Credit:Red Hot Chili Peppers Facebook Page-Photo by Clara Balzary

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2012 inductees, which include the Beastie Boys, Guns N’ Roses, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Other inductees announced on Dec. 7 include late blues legend Freddie King, Laura Nyro, folk rocker Donovan, and the Faces/Small Faces.

Among this year’s snubs are the Cure, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Donna Summer, Rufus with Chaka Khan, Heart and Eric B and Rakim.

The induction ceremony is set for April 14 in Cleveland, Ohio.

Quiksilver Pro N.Y. not returning to Long Beach in 2012

18 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

The Quiksilver Pro New York listing board in September in Long Beach. Credit: Chris Engelhardt

The Quiksilver Pro N.Y.—one of the most historic surfing competitions ever held on the East Coast—will not return to Long Beach next year.

On Dec. 16, Quiksilver and the Association of Surfing Professionals announced that the Quik Pro N.Y. is not returning to the East Coast as part of the 2012 ASP World Title Series.

“The 2011 Quiksilver Pro New York event was a huge success for the surfers and fans with great conditions and incredible support from New Yorkers,” said Rob Colby, president of Quiksilver Americas. “Quiksilver is still very much committed to the ASP and the professional surfing tour in 2012 with the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast (Australia) and the Quiksilver Pro France.”

Back in November, the ASP International released its 2012 World Tour schedule, which included the Quiksilver Pro New York as one of 11 stops on the tour slated for September 2012. The tour commences in Australia on Feb. 25.

“It is unfortunate that we announce the cancellation of the 2012 Quiksilver Pro New York,” ASP International media spokesman Dave Prodan said in a statement. “The 2011 installment was a fantastic event with excellent waves, tremendous local support and some of the best surfing we enjoyed all season. That said, we understand the factors leading to Quiksilver’s withdrawal of the New York event from the 2012 schedule. We appreciate Quiksilver’s continued support of the world’s best surfers with the Australian and European elite level events in 2012.”

Robert Downey Jr. on ‘Iron Man 3’ script: ‘The best I’ve read in five years’

11 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. Credit: Iron Man Facebook Page

During an interview with Extra, Robert Downey Jr., amid discussions of his latest film, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” “The Avengers,” which is opening next May, and other projects, spoke about “Iron Man 3,” and how impressed he was with the film’s script.

“‘[Iron Man] 3’ is probably the best script I’ve read in five years, which is so funny,” he said. “I mean, things have come so full circle that, like, a genre superhero movie can actually be the most artistic bit of writing I read. . . .the third Iron Man to me is an opportunity to go back to the kind of storytelling and character exploration that made the first one good.”

“Iron Man 3” was written by Drew Pearce and director Shane Black, who also directed “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which starred Downey Jr. “Iron Man 3” is set to shoot next year.

 

Bradley Cooper: ‘The Hangover Part III’ is in the works

11 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

The gang is all set to return for “The Hangover Part III.” Credit: The Hangover Facebook Page

Actor Bradley Cooper has said that “The Hangover Part III” is in the works, and filming could possibly start next September.

During an appearance on England’s “Graham Norton Show” to promote the DVD release of “The Hangover Part II,” Cooper confirmed the project is a work in progress. MTV reported the news on Dec. 6.

“I hope we’re going to start shooting in September,” Cooper told Norton. “I know [Director] Todd Phillips is working on the script.”

Cooper also said that things “might be different” for the newest installment, specifically the structure and locale of the movie.

“We adhered to the formula in the second one, for those of you who’ve seen it,” he said, “and the third one, which would close the whole sort of trilogy, which now it would be a trilogy . . . . I think it will take place in Los Angeles and maybe not adhere to the structure. It might be different.”

What’s your take on “The Hangover Part III”? Overkill? Long overdue? Comment!

Michael Bay set to direct fourth ‘Transformers’ film

10 Dec

By Chris Engelhardt

Director Michael Bay. Credit: Facebook

Michael Bay is in final negotiations to direct a new “Transformers” film, according to New York Magazine.

Sources familiar with the situation told the magazine this week that details for the project are being kept under wraps, but that the movie is not a prequel and “will delve deeper into the Transformers canon to mine older characters and lore.”

What do you think? Should there be another “Transformers” movie? Share your thoughts and comment below!