...or the amazing chronicles of everything that I like and stuff.
I had completely forgotten that we’re getting a new Jason Reitman movie in December! YAAAAY!
AAAAAND it’s written by Diablo Cody!!!!
AAAAAND it has the always great Patton Oswalt in it!!!!!!!!
My friend Sam got us tickets to this movie by doing an internet thing. It’s coming out on September 16th. I’m going to spend a couple of paragraphs trying to get you to go see it. You’ve been warned.
The movie is called DRIVE. It is directed by a guy named Nicolas Winding Refn. He made a name for himself by doing three short films known as The Pusher Trilogy. He also did a couple of other shorts and two feature lenghts, Bronson and Valhalla Rising. I just want to come clean and let you know I’ve seen none of these (but I’ve heard great things about the Pusher trilogy and about Bronson). No, I came into this movie having only seen the fantastic trailer and knowing that Refn walked out of the Cannes festival with a Best Director prize for calling the shots on this. So DRIVE, if nothing else, was going to be directed aptly.
The movie stars Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver with no name and very few words. I haven’t seen a lot of Gosling’s work, in fact I know him more as one half of Dead Man’s Bones, his pretty great musical project, than as an actor. In this movie, though, Gosling is sublime. I like movies that give you very little exposition, only the bare essential that you need to know and nothing else. The Driver clearly has a past but you’ll never know it. He’s here, he drives. He works in a garage and occasionaly as a stunt driver for Hollywood pictures. But here’s the hook: he also moonlight’s as a driver for shadier purposes. If you’re going to commit a robbery you can call on his services and he’ll assist you, never leaving his car but making sure you get a clean getaway. As demonstrated in a fantasticly put together opening seuqence, the Driver is very good at what he does.
Enter the mesmerising Carey Mulligan. She plays (heartbreakingly well) his neighbor. She’s a single mother raising a son and soon enough he becomes a part of their life. It’s a role that on the surface doesn’t have much meat but, in her capable hands, resonated with me quite strongly. I was, in fact, pretty much incapacitated by her. Her face says so much. She feels like a young Meryl Streep. You need to believe that bond that developes between them and I completely did. The plot for the movie is deceivingly simple and pretty much laid bare in the trailer: her husband, a flawed man but by no means evil, is in trouble and The Driver decides to help. Things turn to shit.
If you have problems with slow paced movies this will not be your cup of tea. This is a film that lingers on moments and takes time to set up characters very carefully. And, again, often with very little dialog. But it’s just so perfect that way. The chemistry between all the characters is key, so that when the shit really hits the fan (and it seriously does) the stakes are high. The sporatic bursts of violence in the movie (sometimes shockingly graphic) hit you right where it hurts specifically because they ponctuate long meditative moments that set up tone and tension to perfection.
I can see why the Cannes film festival would deem this movie worthy of a best director prize. The film is shot perfectly and every decision makes sense. I loved all the choices the director made in terms of what to show and when to allow the camera to linger on someone’s face or on a detail, and when to only show a glimpse of something. For exemple: Even though the violence gets pretty extreme at times, the camera rarely lingers on blood or gore. That would trivialize it. Refn understands that those moments work much better with a little restraint. He’s much more interested in his actors and specifically their faces, which say so much more than words ever could.
I came out of the movie raving about the soundtrack, which I bought as soon as I got home (and am listening to as I write this). I don’t know if you can tell by all the character posters I’ve included throughout this peice but the movie is drenched in 80s esthetic and it’s music is no exception. It almost feels like you’re watching Miami Vice, judging by the soundtrack, but I mean that in the best way possible. The movie juggles atmospheric drones with 80s electronica and even some very good 80s influenced synth-pop (used sparingly but always to great, emotionally resonating effect).
Okay, this has gone on long enough. In summation: DRIVE is going to be very high on my year’s best list come December, and with reason. If you like extremely well put together genre cinema that is both daring and unrelentingly efficient in it’s direction, this movie is not to be missed. Bravo…
This is the new trailer for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and that flick looks amazing! It’s directed by Tomas Alfredson, the man who gave us Let The Right One In, the very greatest horror movie I’ve seen in at least ten years. To see this man tackle an old school british spy flick fills me with anticipation, and if the final result is anything half as good as this trailer indicates, we’re in for something special…
(Also, will you look at that unbelievable cast!!!)
I always wonder why there aren’t more bicycle action films. You remember the opening chase in Enemy Of The State? With Jason Lee? That was a good chase… There’s something extremely kinetic about a good bike chase, the vulnerability of a cyclist, and the speed… I dunno, Quick Silver was a long time ago, I’m just happy someone decided to make a new bike-centric action flic. So, all rambling aside, here’s the trailer for Premium Rush, in which you’ll enjoy Joseph Gordon-Levitt going very fast on a bike, amongst other things.
Through no fault of my own, I arrived late to this dance. The reason is simple: if you had a region 1 DVD (or region A Bluray) player, you couldn’t purchase a copy of this movie with English subs (believe me, I looked). And when it first came out in 2005, well, maybe it played Montreal, maybe at cinema du parc or at that year’s Fantasia, but I missed it. I didn’t know who Jee-Woon Kim was (that cat went on to direct the unbelievably awesome The Good The Bad The Weird as well as the revenge movie triumph and absolute nerve-twister I Saw The Devil). He already had a couple of movies under his belt by then, most notably A Tale Of Two Sisters (which I still haven’t seen - Tartan’s Asia Extreme line has a dvd of the film but I’m kind of hoping it’ll one day see the bluray release I’m sure it deserves, so I’m patiently waiting).
So anyway, I saw A Bittersweet Life for the first time tonight.
After years of waiting, I realized I wasn’t sure what to expect, I kind of thought this was a crime drama. Maybe that’s true, in the end, but I watched it as a badass film noir. Our protagonist is a mob henchman who, for a woman, goes on a journey through hell and, during that journey, his entire life turns to absolute bloody shit. But, like all good film noir heros (if you wanna call them that), he stubbornly sees it through to the bitter end.
And fellas, it is pure cinema magic.
I was watching some of those shots unravel before my eyes and I wondered maybe that’s what it would look like if late 80s Coen brothers had directed an action film. The way the camera was gracefully moving, always interestingly and always to service the movie and tell the story in the most appropriate way (at times meditatively, poetically, and at times with bold, almost superhumanly kinetic moves). One original and beautifully composed shot right after the other. Really exciting cinema.
But camera isn’t everything. What about the script? I’m glad you asked. In three words: Magnificient (repeat it two more times if you hold the math that dearly). Seriously, what’s better than when a movie surprises you? When it doesn’t give you what you want but what you needed to see and didn’t know it. And then gives you what you want, but more awesome. There were moments in the movie when I was sure I knew what would happen and I called it and I was wrong and those are the best times to be wrong. The film is packed with some expertly written and planned out scenes of tension and the director milks those moments to the last drop like a master filmmaker, a man in complete control of his art, until you have no idea how things will go, and then he gives you the right thing. He goes in the perfect direction and doesn’t cop out but gives you the great film scene. The one you were afraid to dare hoping for, without really knowing what it was. I feel like everyone envolved with the film had something to prove. Well guys, consider a thing proven, tenfolds.
Acting-wise, this is Byung-Hun Lee’s show through and through. He carries the movie on his shoulders and is in almost every scene. Let me tell you this man is growing on me. He was great as The Bad in The Good The Bad The Weird and was downright haunting (hell, scary) as a man out to avenge his wife’s gruesome murder in I Saw The Devil. But of his three collaborations with director Jee-Woon Kim, I think his mob henchman might be my favorite. I love this character. I love why he does what he does in the movie. For something he’ll never have. (That, by the way, is possibly a super cryptic spoiler. Sorry.) I love how resourceful he is, how driven he is. And I loooove that he isn’t an amazing shot with a gun. Too many heros are amazing shots while bad guys always miss. This guy is not a marksman, I’ll tell you that. Most of all though, I just love that, like all great film noir protagonists with the great lines and the cool stance and the willingness to commit badass violence upon other men, beneath it all he is a real human being, and that glimmers through in the performance, at just the right moments.
A Bittersweet Life is sensational. Contemplative, exciting, scary, badass filmmaking.
Now, the good news: You can see that movie too!!!!! It’s available at YESASIA (go ahead, click that) to order. It’s not cheap but that’s because I linked the limited edition that I ordered (pictured below), there’s also a cheaper regular edition. Those are blurays, btw, DVDs orderable HERE (at like $18 for the 2 disk edition it’s a damn steal).
If you want to rent it I respect that. Got to your local videostore and pressure them into ordering it. Demand it! Scream it! Cry it out! Punch people about it! Or, alternately: If they already have it tell them that Simon says you’re a pretty great videostore.
There needs to be a sequel to the movie WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (Because it will be called WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER 2?)
These are either movies I have seen once at Fantasia and fell head over heels in love with, or movies I have heard about and am absolutely dying to see…
None of them seem findable with English subs on region 1 DVD or region A Bluray. My heart is broken and I am sharing my pain with you. Click on the movie titles for trailers…
I’m sure there’s plenty more Asian unmissables, but these five are what’s coming to mind right now…
EDIT: Victory! I have found FISH STORY! It’s available HERE for us proud Canadians! YAY!
I saw 50/50 last saturday night.
Let me tell you about it.
If you don’t know, without spoiling too much, it’s about a guy (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who gets diagnosed with cancer. It was written by a guy named Will Reiser who himself got diagnosed with cancer a couple of years back. That guy, Will, is best friends with Seth Rogen (who plays Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character’s best friend in the flick) and when he told Rogen about his disease, Rogen suggested Reiser try to write a comedy about it. Reiser did just that, and it got into the hands of Jonathan Levine (who directed, amongst others, the wonderful The Wackness). Cut to a couple years later and here we are, with a cancer comedy hitting the big screen.
Think about that. A cancer comedy.
I’ll tell you what: I’m not sure if it’s actually a comedy or if it’s a drama with a lot of really funny moments in it. Because make no mistake: I cried. More than once. AND I went with a friend who is a guy so I had to camouflage-cry (which I am a master at) because guy friends don’t let their guy friends see them cry. It’s a rule. All this to say that there’s some truly moving stuff going on in there. And yet it never gets manipulative, which sooooo many big disease movies tend to go for. I could say the same for the comedy moments too: it never goes over board or gets too broad. There is a fine line that you have to walk if you’re going to mix drama and comedy while addressing what is a very serious subject matter, and 50/50 walks that line like Philippe Petit.
I think what keeps the movie working throughout is how real the characters feel. None of them are perfect, all of them are clearly in over their heads trying to deal with the horrible situation. All of them deal with it differently but no less believably than the next. There is a very moving little reveal in the third act regarding Seth Rogen’s character that makes you forgive the way he’s been acting (he sees his friends cancer as a way to get pussy) (I know, it’s super horrible) since he’s heard the news. I don’t know how I would deal with learning someone I love had cancer. I’m pretty sure I would do no better than anyone of these characters, none of them perfect and all of them unprepared for the situation.
Of course at the end of the day it all comes down to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and how fantastic he is in the movie. Nothing ever feels forced in how he plays this guy, and given the circumstances that’s kind of a miracle. He’s just a guy trying to keep it together while everyone around him is slightly losing their shit because of what happened to him. And he plays it just right.
I don’t know that 50/50 is a masterpiece, that I’ll remember it in ten years, but it was a daring gamble and everyone who took part in it can walk away with their heads held high: they made a cancer comedy that feels real, respectful to it’s subject matter, poignant and, goddammit, it’s pretty fucking funny.
I love a good Christmas movie, and that sure looks like one…
You can check out a fresh new trailer for the latest Spielberg movie in glorious quicktime right HERE. I love it! It’s sweeping, emotional, gorgeously shot, pure Spielberg. I can’t believe we’re getting not one but TWO films by The Beard this Christmas! (The other, of course, being Tintin). I’m in filmgeek heaven.
New TINTIN trailer is absolutely amazing! (But heartbreakingly not yet available in oh-so-glorious HD Quicktime).
Here’s a trailer for the Diablo Cody (Juno, Jennifer’s body) scripted, Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank you for smoking, Up in the air) directed new film YOUNG ADULT.
My attitude towards movie going is usually to see the big spectacle movies in the theater and to keep the talky pictures for rentals in my living room. Let’s be honest here: going to the movies is expensive so saving big scope movies for the giant silver screen makes sense, right? The other ones, the ones that just have dialogue and performance going for them, they can wait and be seen on my flat screen TV, right? Right?
People: sometimes I’m a dumb ass.
I was watching The Idles Of March earlier this evening. I was in a dark, packed movie theater, watching a movie about people talking, a movie without space ships or robots or car chases or damsels in distress, and I was in awe. This was thrilling, it was electrifying. I was winning this moment. Being here with my friend and all of these people I don’t know, being here, being told this story with these strangers around me and gasping at the right moments and laughing and being surprised and having that magical sense of community that you can only be privy to when the lights dim and the screen lights up and a story begins to unfold and everything is perfect in it, that my friends is a thing of beauty.
The Idles of March is thrilling. As a film lover something that I learn as fast as I forget is that a great dialog scene, powerful characters clashing or coming together, intelligent points being debated on screen, all of that isn’t one iota less powerful than a well put together action scene. I’ll go farther: there isn’t a moment in Transformer 3 that is more electrifying than Ryan Gosling and George Clooney sharing a scene in the kitchen of a pub after closing hour. Nothing. Micheal Bay can suck it.
But I digress, this is me writing about The Idles Of March, right? This isn’t about the power of a great theater going experience, even though that’s not a thing to sneer at. I guess I’d rather you see this in cinemas, send Hollywood the message that you want intelligent movies that don’t talk down to you, that you aren’t satisfied with most of the product they keep churning out. I’m digressing again. I’m a digresser, a digress master. I digress like a motherfucker, I’ll tell ya.
The Idles Of March is a movie directed by George Clooney. Did you know that? He also acts in it, he plays a politician that is a viable candidate for presidency, with great views on the energy crisis, the economy, gay rights, the whole nine yards. This is a guy I would vote for in the blink of an eye. Ryan Gosling plays his media in-charge-of guy. A wide eyed, idealistic fella who completely believes in Clooney‘s politician and feels that getting him to the presidency isn’t just a good move professionally speaking, but it’s actually the only thing that can possibly save this country of his. He’s a believer.
Of course, things happen and other things happen and before you can say “possible scandal” everything turns to shit.
It is riveting. There is no weak link here. No scene you wish ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s a little over an hour and a half of absolutely perfect political drama. The dialogue is sharp, the acting (the cast is rounded out by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marissa Tomei and Paul Giamatti to name but a few) is top notch all around, the cinematography is never showy but proves a very clear understanding of how this story should be shown, all in all this is masterful cinema.
To me, nine times out of ten script is king. The script for this, or whatever amount of it ended up on the screen, is amazing. I haven’t read the script, obviously, but basically this is a fantastic story told extremely well by people, both behind the camera and in front of it, who are in complete control of what the fuck they’re doing. And the road map they’re following, this script, is amazing. Not one explosion, not one pair of tits, not one cape or man in tights, just riveting dialogue and great performances and a story that is worth telling.
Treat yourself, check out The Idles Of March.
If you don’t like it I’ll pay you back. In macaroni.