I apologize for the two month hiatus. LaMarcable Productions is stringing me up by my pull strings. With Oscar season alive and well, I promise to come back from the dead. What a way to do it with my recent cinematic experiences.For the first time in many moons, I went to the movies five times in a row and saw five of the best movies of the year.
Drive - ****
An excellent American-crime drama about a Hollywood stuntman appropriately unnamed as just "Driver" (Ryan Gosling) who after performing his day-time job duties, uses his skills in a much darker sense. His motto is that he's a driver. You have five minutes with him. Anything before or after that five minutes, you're on your own. But for five minutes, he's yours. That's pretty much the underlying factor in the entire film. His boss Shannon (Bryan Cranston) borrows $300,000 from mobster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) who wants the driver to race for him after displaying his extraordinary skills. But things start spiraling out of control when the Driver's neighbor Irene (Carrey Mulligan) sees her husband come home from prison only to be in debt to someone that is threatening to kill him. The Driver helps him out because he cares for the family, but things turn for the worse after trying to pay off the debt. Everything becomes tangled in a web, as the movie (beautifully executed by Cannes Best Director winner Nicholas Winding Refn) becomes a violent poem of tragic action. Gosling is superb in the role, fully embodying the cold-soul of a man who is almost a mute voluntarily. When you simultaneously live your life along the edge, something in you must be bursting to come out. Drive takes that rush and turns into overdrive. An unpredictable and mind-blowing thriller.
Moneyball - **** stars
Sport dramas seem to be extinct. Hell, if it weren't for the masterful TV series Friday Night Lights, I'd say the genre has become irrelevant. But here comes Moneyball, a wonderful drama about the ups-and-downs of America's past time, the thrill of discovery something new about a century long tradition, and the integrity it takes to change the game forever. Brad Pitt is electric as Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane, who after a disappointing loss in the American League Divisional Series against the New York Yankees and with the help of his young partner in-crime Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), decides to try something new in the game of baseball. Even while coming off a 100 win season, he's not going to go the traditional route of going after all-stars. Instead, he is going to balance the budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.More specifically, Beane thinks that players like Scott Hattenberg, an average baseball player coming off injuries, have a better statistical chance of helping the team win games than an all-star would. It's a fascinating concept, one that eventually gave the team a 20-game win streak (the most in history), but collapses when things just don't work out. However, the Boston Red Sox took this strategy the following year and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. So as a Red Sox fan, it looks like we must give thanks to Billy Beane for helping to break the Bambino curse. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) makes it look easy as Moneyball, with its all-star cast (also including Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright) and scrappy energy, makes one satisfying trip to the movies.
Take Shelter - **** stars
Michael Shannon gives the performance of the year (so far) in this Shyamalan-esque thriller that delivers the thrills and chills about a rural-town construction worker who starts having visions that a horrible storm is coming and it's up to him to build a shelter to protect his family. Even if that means spending money he doesn't have and making everyone in the town believe he's gone insane. His wife, played flawlessly by this year's breakout actress Jessica Chastain, loves his husband dearly, but even she believes this the sign of something much worse to come. Is it his family's history of schizophrenia that's causing his madness? Is it a mental breakdown? Or is a storm actually coming and he is trying to save the people he loves the most? This is the best film so far this year, a stunning tour-de-force that has the patience and execution of a master. The final scene in this film is so mind-blowing it was as though I could feel the weather inside the theater. That's how much this film gets into your head. It's almost impossible to get out.
50/50 - **** stars
This comedy-drama from the Superbad team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg is the film of the Oscar season that perfectly blends its two genres. In fact, there really isn't anything not to like about this film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his tremendous success by playing Adam, a mid-20's New Yorker who one day after deciding to see his doctor about his intense back pain finds out he has cancer. The kind that shortens your life extensively. Imagine the cruelness of that day. He wakes up. Everything is normal. He goes to the doctor and his life changes in a matter of seconds. My heart aches for those who must go through this in real life. 50/50 honors this struggle with a story full of heart and humor, delivering trauma when it needs to and laughs when it has a right to. In this case, it's pretty much the entire movie.
The Ides of March - ***1/2 stars
It may not be perfect, but The Ides of March is a rocket-fueled thriller about the temptations of power and the realities of its inhibitors. Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, the man behind the next possible President of the United States, Governor Mike Norris (George Clooney, who also directed the feature). Meyers gets a crash course in dirty politics as he must learn how to balance the morals of his beliefs and the realities he must face in order to get his candidate elected. What we get is a fast-paced drama that reaps the benefits of its star-studded cast (the right kind, featuring Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Evan Rachel Wood) and creates tension through intimate conversations that eventually decide the fate of a nation. A great film to watch considering the relevance of the 2012 Presidential Election and the fragile tone of the people's trust in its process.