Saturday, September 24, 2011

2 Movie Reviews: Drive (2011) and Moneyball (2011)

Drive (2011)
Director - Nicolas Refn
100 Min; R
Ryan Gosling - Driver
Carrie Mulligan - Irene
Ron Perlman - Nino
Bryan Cranston - Shannon
Albert Brooks - Bernie

I did so much reading from professional and amateur critics after seeing the movie Drive that I don't really feel up to trying to write my own thoughts about it now.  Maybe if I waited a week I could sort it all out and put something together, but for now I'm going to post this because the movie is newly out and it is getting some very interesting responses.

4 people walked out of a half-full theater and one person actually said to his significant other that "It was the worst movie I ever saw" - to which she replied "It certainly isn't what you usually like."  I love actually hearing comments like that because it simply reaffirms my belief that films are a wonderful and magic part of life, with no way to accurately predict who will appreciate what or for what reasons.  One person's love of Citizen Kane or On The Waterfront or The Godfather do not always translate to someone else's view of the exact same films, yet there they are, black and white (or color) in front of us all to see in the exact same way, yet so many differing views emerge.

This film is awesome.  I use that term because it simply was, to me, an awesome experience to watch something different for a change (albeit the material and way it was shot is anything but different - drawn on decades of similar themes and spliced together.)  I completely understand why someone wouldn't enjoy it - there is obscene violence that many aren't used to, nor did they expect at the time, and the minimalist theme of the Driver and the woman just won't sit well with some.

I think Gosling is incredible as a man with no past, a man we only get to know through mannerisms and actions, but even then, what drives him?  The film entices us early with a very well done car chase scene which introduces us to the world of the driver, but quickly moves away from a film that will be action filled to a film that will be character driven, and then again it is the supporting cast of criminals that really drive the action - the driver must react to his surroundings.

I've listed two really nice links below from Jim Emerson's blog Scanners that everyone should read after seeing the film - he doesn't write conventional reviews anymore, he simply makes observations about very specific aspects of films he sees.

Tough for me to give a rating to a film like this because, well, I don't know who in the world will and will not enjoy the experience.

5 stars out of 5? Thumbs Up? See It? Not sure what else to say, but for me, this is a clear winner for a great movie going experience.

Moneyball (2011)
Director - Bennett Miller
133 Min; PG-13
Brad Pitt - Billy Beane
Jonah Hill - Peter Brand
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Art Howe

This is going to be a lazy write up that doesn't do justice to a really good film.  Based on the true story of the Oakland A's baseball team trying to do something new in a sport that prides itself on traditions.  You can look up all the original source items such as the book or the life profiles of the characters portrayed, etc, but this movie isn't trying to be a documentary, it is trying to be a successful movie and it does a good job of succeeding.

I'm sure this film would have been decent with other actors (the script alone is damn good), but it really is the use of Pitt, Hill and Hoffman that make the engine turn over so smoothly.  I never would have thought this going in, but Brad Pitt for Best Actor Oscar? I wouldn't be surprised at all.  He portrays Billy Beane in a nuanced way that leaves us empathising, sympathizing, and at times, not liking the kind of person he is... pretty good range.  Together with Hill's character (a fabricated person who takes the place of multiple real life people who stuck to the same theories) the two of them work to use the numbers and data of Major League Baseball to predict future success in a way never done before.  These two work great together on screen and Hill turns in a nice performance of his own.  Throw in the always great Hoffman as the unhappy manager of the team and you've got great acting to watch.

I honestly don't think you have to care about baseball at all to like this movie.  The story is not about baseball, it is about a man and a mission and how he is going to get there.  Hard-nosed baseball fans and purists will surely find some fault in certain scenes and theories, but the casual movie goer is not going to care.  The directing and cinematography are awesome.  There is a major league flaw in the film, in my opinion, which keeps it from being a best of the year, and that comes near the end when the film decides to pull something like the ending to Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and drag on past the correct ending for at least 20 minutes.  I honestly wanted to just stand up and leave when I thought the movie was over and was going to say 5/5 no doubt, but they really did a disservice to the actors and the film by holding the conversation at Fenway Park - not sure if everyone agrees with me, but cutting from the end of the playoffs to the final scene would have been perfect.

**** and 1/2 out of 5


clarke colon said...

They had to link his relationship with his daughter to the reason he decided to stay in Oakland. Thats why they needed the scene with John Henry and the extra 20 minutes. Otherwise the daughter did not even need to be in the movie.

Matt said...

Yes. Sure. Uh huh. Still a long scene that cut into the pacing. Enjoyable film overall.