REVIEW: Lost River

1 05 2015

Lost RiverRyan Gosling’s directorial debut, “Lost River,” opens with a crooning Americana theme (“In the Still of the Night”) playing over alternating images of alternating suburban decency and urban decay in Detroit.  It might be the strongest sequence in the entire film – and definitely the most lucidly realized.

Gosling clearly aims for David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn (the DNA of disastrous “Only God Forgives” is obvious) but winds up in borderline nonsensical territory.  He has beautiful visuals and haunting soundscapes yet no discernible theme or thesis underlying the film.  “Incoherent” might be a little strong to describe the experience, but the images have the cohesion of a two-day-old bandage and the logical progression of a Tumblr feed.

“Lost River” also falters by introducing an aspect of magical realism into the proceedings.  Given that whatever semblance of a plot the film possesses takes place in a very real city of ruins, the ambience feels contradictory.  This reliance on mood becomes first obvious, then annoying, since it has to essentially replace story in the film.

The narrative is also rather fragmented, seemingly two short films layered over each other.  They have an obvious familial connection, as the protagonists are a mother and her son, but they go in wildly different directions.  Christina Hendrick’s matriarch Billy goes to work at a Club Silencio-esque joint to repay a loan, while young Bones (Ian de Caestecker) faces down a neighborhood criminal overlord Bully (Matt Smith) to protect his love interest, Rat (Saoirse Ronan).  Their struggles are supposedly illuminating the subconscious of the ghost town they inhabit, although I found them mostly illustrating the vacuous expanses of hipsterism.  C2stars

Advertisements




REVIEW: The Place Beyond the Pines

25 07 2013

If ever you wanted to see the film as novel, “The Place Beyond the Pines” is there to satisfy your cinematic-cum-literary hunger.  Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to the searing “Blue Valentine” moves from close-up to long shot, taking in multiple generations over the course of its two hour and 20 minute runtime.  It could even be argued that the film has not one, not two, but a whopping three protagonists.

Cianfrance’s story is peerless in terms of sheer ambition, and I give him great credit on those grounds.  I did feel, however, that he often sacrificed depth for breadth.  Rather than go fully into each of the three leading men of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” he cuts out a level too early in their development to squeeze each story into a film of bearable length.  While each have full and completely developed arcs, I could never totally get on board with the film because I didn’t feel that I knew the characters.

Even in spite of the sometimes slippery connection, something tells me I will forever be haunted by the eerie calm of the paralleled hovering shots of Ryan Gosling’s Luke Lanton, and then his son, Dane DeHaan’s Jason, riding their motorcycle down a twisting rural road.  Even from such a height, there’s a great deal of proximity and intimacy that Cianfrance manages to communicate in those brief interludes.

His film has the technical craftsmanship to match the epic scope of the story, particularly the eerie and somber photography of Sean Bobbitt (responsible for Steve McQueen’s immaculately shot “Hunger” and “Shame”).  Editors Jim Helton and Ron Patane take the chilling imagery and splice it poetically until it feels like cinematic Homeric verse.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: The Other Guys

6 08 2010

Will Ferrell made a name for himself playing in the movie industry by playing some crazy larger-than-life characters, such as Buddy the Elf and Ron Burgundy. Recently, he has been tarnishing that name by playing Will Ferrell, or at least how we have come to perceive Will Ferrell: a lazy, pathetic, and fairly eccentric bum. After a series of unintentionally humorless flops, it’s hard to have confidence that “The Other Guys” could end the slump.

The movie isn’t great, certainly nowhere near the likes of “Elf” or “Anchorman,” but it’s a definite improvement from “Step Brothers” and “Land of the Lost.” The story and the characters still aren’t quite back in full force, yet there’s some comfort in seeing the return of a crucial ingredient – laughter.  Fairly often, a joke will fall flat or just not work quite right. But more often than not, they manage to work, and we laugh more than we wince.

This isn’t the movie to break Will Ferrell’s slump; however, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully the beginning of an upward trend. It definitely helps that he’s not playing some ridiculous moron but rather a regular Joe Schmoe moron, someone who might actually exist out there. While we’ve been there done that with Ferrell’s one-note comedy of bizarre characters, there’s something refreshing and, dare I say, exciting about watching him go off the beaten path for a while.

But there’s more to this movie than just reporting that Will Ferrell can be decent again. We can’t forget Mark Wahlberg, who plays a cop that is a complete polar opposite of his Staff Sgt. Dignam from “The Departed.”  While he got to play the ultimate hard Boston police officer in the 2006 Best Picture winner, he’s tackling a decidedly different role as Holtz, the paper-pushing officer stuck working with Ferrell’s pitiful Gamble.  Wahlberg has never been in a comedic movie before, yet it’s amazing how he blends right in as if we’ve been seeing him do these types of movies for years.  I won’t go as far as to call he and Farrell a new “odd couple” (a new favorite critical comparison), but they certainly do play off each other well throughout the movie.

It’s the two marquee names that carry the movie.  They don’t get any help from Eva Mendes, who plays Gamble’s smoking hot wife, or Steve Coogan, the Brit who plays the Wall Street scumbag who is meant to remind us of Bernie Madoff.  Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, the Dignams so to speak of the movie, aren’t in the movie long enough to produce many laughs, and the ones that they do were ruined in the trailer.  There are some nice running jokes with Michael Keaton, the police chief who moonlights at Bed Bath and Beyond, that wind up being funny after a few tries.  But have no doubt about it – this is Mark Wahlberg’s movie and it is Will Ferrell’s movie, for better or for worse.  B- /