Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Drive: Silent, But Deadly!

By Stella Cole, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

Trust me. I look really, really cool when I’m in the car with my mom, windows down, tongue hangin’ out, ears blowin’ in the wind. But nobody, and I mean NOBODY, looks as cool as Ryan Gosling does in his new movie Drive. This totally rad, totally unexpected film is not your average action flick, and Gosling is not your average action star. He’s part Samurai, part Steve McQueen, part cute patootie, and 100% Cool Dude, from the opening credits in their hot pink Dirty Dancing font, all the way to the drive-off-into-the-sunset-with-guts-hangin’-out finale. He could give cool lessons to Spuds MacKenzie, and everyone knows Spuds is the world’s coolest dog.

This Cannes Film Festival favorite tells of the story of a lonely stuntman-slash-getaway driver who finds love and companionship with his neighbor lady and her young son. But when her no-good husband comes home from jail, our hero has to help him pull off one last heist in order to settle his debts from the clink and keep the family safe. Obviously, things don’t go according to plan, and they get mixed up with some real dangerous dudes. But no sweat! Ryan Gosling can just kick their heads in, no problemo, and if he has to kill the whole Hollywood mafia in order to keep his new friends safe, well then, so be it.

Do you like suspense? Drive has it in spades, featuring some of the nail-bitingist chase scenes of all time. The real-time driving effect makes you feel like you’re right there in the car, quietly maneuvering the streets of LA, avoiding the cops at all costs. The violence was pitch-perfect – well-timed, unexpected, and with consequences to boot. Gosling plays the strong, silent type with the kind of noble stoicism that is so hard to come by in Hollywood. He makes everything look easy, and everything feel important, all at the same time. Albert Brooks as head of the Hollywood Jewish mob scene was positively threatening, and Bryan Cranston seemed right at home the grease-monkey-turned-father-figure. Even Carey Mulligan was appropriately doe-eyed and not at all nauseating. Every studio in town should listen up and take some serious notes. This is how you make an action movie that people remember.

Summary: Put your driving gloves on, grab a toothpick and haul ass to your local theater. Drive is not to be missed!

Wags: 5/5

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Contagion Infects You...With Fun!

By Miss Tummy Cole, Top Critic
San Francisco, California

Would you like to watch Gwenyth Paltrow puke up some goop and die? Well, then Contagion is the movie for you! Half Outbreak and half Dawn of the Dead, Contagion marries the best parts of boring cellular science with the joyous delights of watching spoiled white ladies convulse and die. This is one bio-thriller will have you paws-ing the next time you go to drink out of the toilet.

This particular contagion begins with the unfortunate moment where a bat poops and a pig eats it. A supervirus is born. Fast forward to grocery store looting, neighbor-on-neighbor violence, and a government quagmire that promises a vaccine, but fails to deliver. The very future of the human race rests firmly in the hands of a diverse team of scientists & officials who try (and fail) to deal with the two key issues at hand: how to keep the virus from spreading, and how to keep information from trickling out into the public and causing mass hysteria, a problem almost as dangerous as the virus itself.

Boasting an all-star cast with Steven Soderbergh at the helm, Contagion did a decent job of exploring pretty much every angle of a global catastrophe. Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Lawrence Fishburn, John Hawkes and even ol’ Gwennie all earned their paychecks with believable performances. Jude Law & his fake tooth were passable as the unethical blogger trying to make a buck by claiming he was cured by a big fat placebo. Props to Soderbergh for showcasing the supremely talented Jennifer Ehle as CDC researcher Dr. Ally Hextall. Anyways, I’m still not sure what the moral of the whole story is, but in the event of a vaccine shortage, I now know that the best thing to do is to howl mercilessly, push your way to the front of the line, and bite anyone in the way. Or just run to Canada.

Summary: Worth $10 for the Gwenyth Paltrow autopsy alone.

3/5 Wags

Monday, September 12, 2011

Warrior Holds Its Own

By Karl Scarano-Schulze, Top Critic
Hollywood, California

I’m lucky to have a nice home where I don’t have to fight any big dogs to earn my kibble. Sure, sometimes I like to wrestle with my dad, but it’s all in good fun. But for some dogs I know, fighting is a way of life. They have to stay lean & mean, ready to throw down at any moment, if they want to be top dog. Those guys should go see Warrior.

Warrior is about two estranged brothers who grew up fighting in the mixed-martial arts style, and were both trained by their mean ol’ dad. But then they grow up, and even though their dad is a little better now, life in general has gotten a whole lot tougher. So even though Tommy and Brendan don’t even speak to each other anymore, they wind up as underdog competitors in the world’s most high-profile MMA tournament. Tommy, the nice one, just wants to win some money to save his family home. But Brendan has some much deeper anger issues that he’s trying to punch away. When the tournament winds down to its final two contenders, well, just guess who they are. It’s brother versus brother in the fight of a lifetime!

Much like The Wrestler and last year’s The Fighter, Warrior is mostly dysfunctional family dynamic with a redemptive boxing match at the very end. But unlike those other two, this time it’s the family stuff that falls flat, and the fight scenes that are much better than average. The last half actually does a pretty good job of making up for a tedious beginning, and the big climax is surprisingly emotional. The casting of Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte was positively inspired – these two look like just the grizzled, worn out, cauliflower-eared father/son combo that you’d expect. Tom Hardy turns in a respectable performance, but just looks a little to GQ to be perfectly believable. And he can’t hold a candle to Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dicky Ecklund. But I sure wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, either, so don’t tell him I said that!

Summary: Takes forever to get interesting, but the ending packs a punch.

Wags: 3/5
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