The Place Beyond the Pines
Ryan Gosling has matured from baby-face to the go-to actor for brooding, grimy independent cinema. And he's the biggest reason for the overall success of (the somewhat flawed) The Place Beyond the Pines.
Gosling's biker character Luke is a bad boy, with ripped clothes, a proclivity for cigarette smoking and a teardrop tattoo. He doesn't have much going on in his life until he goes to see an old flame (Eva Mendes) in Schenectady and realizes he's the father of her 1-year-old. He wants to provide for him, but he's broke.
His solution? Rob banks. Lots of them.
Director Derek Cianfrance (whose last movie, Blue Valentine, also starred Gosling) and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt stage some of the most thrilling long takes you've ever seen, some of which follow Luke from when he enters into a bank to when he zips out into traffic on his motorbike.
Gosling is the star of the show, able to convey the affectionate, melancholic and sociopathic qualities of a complex character with minimal dialogue. But he cedes his screen time in the second act to Bradley Cooper, who plays a young cop named Avery who chases Luke on one of his robberies. Avery's ambitious and naive, so naturally he finds himself in a crooked cop situation with Ray Liotta. The film's themes become clearer in the final act, when the familial effects of corruption and crime come full circle.
Pines isn't perfect. Each act, especially the latter two, goes on about 10 minutes too long. It's very male-centric and (some might say) over-ambitious. But better to be over-ambitious than under-ambitious. The film, whose individual scenes are more silent than action-packed, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Movie-goers these days deserve those kinds of risk. A little ambition never hurt anybody ... right?
Rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference.
Lacking the self-aware humor of the original Evil Dead series starring Bruce Campbell (stick around for the credits), the new remake more than makes up for it with enough blood to fill the Grand Canyon.
It stars Jane Levy as Mia, a drug addict who treks with her brother (Shiloh Fernandez) and some other expendable "characters" to a cabin deep in the woods to kick her habit. Her stupid, over-curious teacher friend (Lou Taylor Pucci) finds a book among a horde of dead animal corpses in the basement and decides, "Sure, I'll read this foreign incantation out loud from a book covered in curses and made out of human skin."
Director Fede Alvarez doesn't have the same tact for spatial ingenuity that Sam Raimi has, choosing instead to channel his creativity into imagining every possible way to produce a splattering wound. Chainsaws, shotguns, nail guns, knives, hot shower water -- if you see it somewhere in the cabin, it's probably going to impale a body part. Blood never drips like a leaky faucet -- it gushes, floods and even rains.
And when it rains, it pours.
Alvarez sustains the action with lots of classic loud music cues and shocking false endings. It's no horror classic -- but you still won't be able to sleep at night.
Rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content, and language.
Jurassic Park 3-D
In case you've been living in the Paleozoic Era, you'll remember Jurassic Park as Steven Spielberg's prehistoric blockbuster about a rich, skinny Santa Claus-looking guy (Richard Attenborough) who created a massive dino zoo/park by extracting DNA from mosquitos preserved in amber. He enlists the help of paleontologists Dr. Grant (Sam Neill) and Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern), as well as sarcastic chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), to give his park a passing grade.
But come on, he didn't expect this to all go according to plan, did he?
The effects hold up well for a 20-year-old movie, whose dinosaurs are as realistic as any other s that have attempted to scare us in the past two decades. All the individual moments still shock, even if you're ready for them (i.e. Dennis Nedry's (Wayne Knight) staring contest with that crazy-faced fire-breather).
The 3-D effect, aside from emphasizing depth in a few scenes, doesn't add much. But you're paying for the experience of seeing Jurassic Park on the big screen. So sit back, enjoy the ride and don't try to relax -- you won't be able to.
Rated PG-13 for intense science-fiction terror.