There are two really good movies in theaters that I think people should see before they are no longer playing. You could say that you could see these films on DVD, but some films are meant to be seen on the silver screen and the TV in your house just doesn’t do the movie justice.The first movie I decided to review is currently #4 at the box office, and has grossed in roughly $49 million.
Directed By: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Rating: *** ½
In order to prepare for this movie, I had to get over my personal stigma against the Oakland A’s. I don’t know why I dislike this team so much. Maybe it’s because they came here in 1955 only to walk out on us in 1967 (at least that’s how I’ve perceived it when I heard that story as a kid). Maybe it’s because of the fact that they play in the same city as the Raiders. Whatever the reason I got over it and found “Moneyball” to be a very enjoyable movie.One that is watching live watch movies of sports that focuses mostly on gameplay should look elsewhere. “Moneyball” is about more of the business side of baseball. What we see on the field is only part of what goes into winning games. Of course, with concepts such as fantasy football, we as the sports fans understand this a little more than we did many years ago.
The film tells the true story of former baseball player Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), who is now the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics. His team made it to the 2001 Major League Baseball playoffs, but lost in the first round to the New York Yankees (who lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series). Losing in the first round of the playoffs is bad enough, but now the A’s three biggest players are heading off to richer teams (these players, shown in stock footage, are Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen, and former Kansas City Royals outfielder Johnny Damon). While trying to work out a trade deal with the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale graduate working for the Indians in their statistics department. Brand relays a revolutionary idea of building a baseball team to Beane: Instead of simply looking at how a player performs on the field, use mathematics to predict how productive he will be in following years. After hiring Brand to be the A’s assistant GM, Beane uses this method and gathers various undervalued players in the league, since the team can’t afford any heavy hitters.
Directed by: Nicholas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Ron Pearlman, Bryan Cranston
“Drive” is a fine example of how a film can be artistic, and yet still keep an audience’s attention. It is one of those independent films produced by no name studios that somehow convince big name actors into signing onto these movies. The stars that probably took up most of the film’s budget include, rising star Ryan Gosling (who has certainly come a long way from Nickelodeon’s “Are you Afraid of the Dark?”), his earliest role according to IMDB), Ron Pearlman, and Bryan Cranston (star of AMC’s “Breaking Bad”).
Ryan Gosling has the lead role, and he plays a professional getaway driver for robbers and various other shady folks who will pay him the right price. That’s his night job of course, by day he’s a stunt driver for movies and works as a mechanic. The driver meets his neighbor, Irene (played by Carey Mulligan) in the parking lot of a grocery store after seeing that her car has broken down. After helping her out, the driver becomes quite fond of Irene and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos in his first movie) and the two become quite fond of him. There’s just one problem; Irene is already married and her husband is getting out of jail soon. When the husband does come back, he decides he’s going to work to turn a new leaf. However, doing this is going to be hard as we later see that he’s beat up by some men that he owes money to. The driver decides he should help Irene’s husband (Oscar Isaac) to pull off one more job to buy his way out of the world of organized crime.
I fear going any further into the story would give way too much away, I’ve probably explained too much as it is. But each moment you’re watching this movie, you’re itching to know what happens next. It is a slow paced movie, but it’s slow paced with a purpose. The method of each scene is to set up the atmosphere for the scene, let the audience take in the atmosphere, and once the audience has had enough time to relax with the scene pull the trigger. In that way, some scenes can become extremely suspenseful with the way this movie drags.
A great way the movie builds suspense is during the heist scenes. Gosling’s character (whose name is never mentioned, and IMDB simply calls the character ‘Driver’) has 5 minute policy. He’ll drive the robbers to their location, set his watch and wait five minutes. If the robbers are not back within five minutes he’ll simply drive away. Gosling has one of those old wind-up watches that tics very loudly. Instead of going in with the robbers the movie stays with Gosling as we listen to this watch tic away in real time, wondering if the robbers will make it back in time.
Arguably the best thing about this movie is the musical score by Cliff Martinez. Martinez gives the movie a very 80′s feel with heavy use of synthesizers. These mood setting pieces he writes range from enthralling dance beats, to soothing ballads. This brings a fresh uniqueness to the film by using an old trick that nobody has used in a while. This movie even has an opening and a closing theme, how long has it been since we’ve heard that in a movie.
All performances are good, but I think the one that deserves special attention is Ron Pearlman. Pearlman plays a high ranking member of the mob who owns a pizza parlor. He plays it the way he has played the rest of his characters (I swear you see a little Hellboy come through in this performance) but he plays it so well. Every time Pearlman walks on screen, it’s like he owns the movie. I’m beginning to think that Pearlman is one of the most underrated actors of our time if he can evoke that kind of presence on the movie screen.
If there’s anything I didn’t like about this movie, it’s probably the fact that the film makers seem to think that the audience won’t pay attention very much. I may have forgotten to tell you in this review that this film’s setting is Los Angeles. How do I know it’s Los Angeles? Because there are about 7 helicopter shots of Los Angeles throughout the movie, and by the time they show you the 3rd one, I began to get quite sick of it.
There’s also a little bit of awkward editing. Some cuts were made for style, but they just don’t work. Other cuts are just weird. It is not so bad that it will ruin the movie, but a little annoying and noticeable.
A few things that everyone should know about this movie before going in, is that it is rated “R” and it lives up to that rating. It is extremely violent, blood is spilled everywhere in the very few scenes where it is spilled. There’s also a nude scene that I really believe the movie could have done without.
Overall, “Drive” is not style over substance, nor is it substance over style. It is a perfect balance of the two, and I for one am glad a movie such as this is getting mainstream exposure. It is a great opportunity for general film audience to get a taste of what the independent scene can offer.