Aneesh Chaganty

Posts Tagged ‘ryan gosling’

The Place Beyond the Pines | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2013 at 8:40 PM


The Place Beyond the Pines

(2013, US, d. Derek Cianfrance)

A cross-generational epic far different from its trailers yet far better than any expectations I had, The Place Beyond the Pines is a moving, thrilling, and thought-provoking film from Blue Valentine writer/director Derek Cianfrance.

To give much of the plot away woud be a disservice to what Cianfrance tries to accomplish. Told through three separate, but intertwining stories, The Place Beyond the Pines chronicles the complex, violence-ridden personalities in the small town of Schenectady, New York as well as the consequences of those characters.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a motorcycle stunt rider who visits Schenectady on a carnival tour. To his surprise, he receives a visit from Romina (Eva Mendes) – a woman we’re led to assume Glanton had a fling with the last time he was in town. It’s unclear what Romina’s intentions are with the visit – especially considering that she has a new husband and a son – but Glanton can’t get her out of his mind.

The next day, Glanton quits the carnival business, his mind set on creating a stable life for Romina. Jealous of her husband’s ability to provide for her, and torn by Romina’s conflicting emotions, Glanton is swayed into a get-rich-quick scheme proposed by Robin (Barry Mendelsohn), a shady and highly amusing local: rob a bank. What follows are some of the most high-octane and heart-stopping action sequences even Hollywood pros would swoon over.

To get into more of Glanton’s story would be giving away too much; be wary of any reviews that do. From there on in the film, we’re introduced to Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious police officer forced to face the consequences of a police incident at the beginning of his story arc. As he tries to move on past the event, a series of obstacles – both internal and external – block his path to moving on.

There are a few other surprises here as well, but I don’t want to get into them as much. The most you’ll get out of this movie will only come from knowing the least about it, which sort of puts me into an uncomfortable position. But enough about the plot.

The Place Beyond the Pines is a touching, sobering, hypnotic and beautifully photographed experience, more lyrical than formulaic. Don’t let the marketing campaign fool you: this is a quiet picture, but it’s a picture with a lot to say. About guilt. About absence. About fatherhood. About love.

Derek Cianfrance seizes full control of the camera’s motion, taking overused tricks and employing them slowly and effectively to increase tension and illuminate character. His wide, repetitive sweeping shots capture immense arrays of emotion, underscore the mirror-relationships of the three stories, all the while still staying true to the heart of the constantly evolving picture. In fact, for as poetic as this film is, there are enough plot-twists to keep a popcorn audience coming back for more.

Powerfully acted, intimately told, and painfully moving, The Place Beyond the Pines marks a significant milestone for Derek Cianfrance’s career. Transitioning from the scale of Blue Valentine to this isn’t easy, but he makes it look that way. I guess that’s what happens when you spend 30 drafts and 5 years on a script. In any case: keep a keen eye out for this film. 

As early as it is, I have a strong feeling this may end up at on the higher side of my Top 10 of the year list. It’s just that good.


Gangster Squad | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2013 at 7:47 PM


Gangster Squad

(2013, US, d. Ruben Fleisher)

Winter break is over and I’m back to the movie reviews!

Kicking off the new year in film is the star-studded action-pic Gangster Squad. A film as much about Los Angeles as it is about its characters, Gangster Squad is another addition to the plethora of films that tackle the subject of the city during the 40’s and 50’s. Every few years, another filmmaker decides to take a swing at the raucous, violent, sex, drug, and gang culture of post-WWII Los Angeles. And while plenty of films have gotten it right (BugsyLA Confidential, The Black Dahlia, Mulholland Falls), Gangster Squad doesn’t.

Coming out of the movie, I was struck by just how lucky the filmmakers were able to assemble the incredibly talented cast they did. Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Nick Nolte, Michael Peña, and a horribly miscast Emma Stone give their all to the material that is never able to rise above the tropes and conventions of every film noir picture that precedes it. Even Sean Penn channels his best inner villian as Mickey Cohen, the cruel New York gangster who’s come to take over LA. 

Taking a page out of the “Tarantino Revisionist History Book”, Gangster Squad tells the story of how an undercover crime squad of misfit police officers is able to bring down Cohen and his organization. Of course, this is not what actually happened but for the duration of the film “Based on a True Story” holds its fair weight. In reality, Cohen – like Al Capone – was arrested for tax evasion.

The biggest problem with the film is that it’s never able to figure out whether it wants to pay homage to film noirs or actually be one. The dialogue and characters, for one, are straight out of black and white films. We have the tough cop with a baby on the way (Sergeant John O’Mara, played by Josh Brolin), the sleazy cop brought to action by the death of an innocent shoe-shiner (Sergeant Jerry Wooters, played by Ryan Gosling), the gun-slinger hero cop (Detective Max Kennard, played by Robert Patrick), and a femme fatale that’s playing both sides (Grace Farraday, played by Emma Stone).

On the other side, Ruben Fleisher’s camera never accepts the world written on the page, but tries to infuse a 21st century light in every camera swing, dolly, and pan. You can point to the heavy-handed dialogue, the naivety, the slick feel of the film, and even the violence as its downfall, but it’s the film’s schizophrenic tone that’s the real barrier between a good time and a mediocre one.

A talented up and coming director who’s helmed some worthy material (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less), Fleisher is never able to make a positive mark here. Every other element of the film would have worked if Fleisher had a stronger grasp of the tone of the film. In fact, the moments that really worked in Gangster Squad were the ones when he wasn’t trying to perform a balancing act. He was just being original with the material. 

Gangster Squad is a fun, action-packed and violent time-killer. But if you’re looking for something with a little more depth (and far better uses of incredible actors), check out L.A. Confidential

Movie #326 Drive

In Uncategorized on September 2, 2011 at 7:49 AM

Movie #326 Drive

(2011, US, d. Nicolas Winding Refn)

A lot of people will love this movie but a lot of people will hate it as well. And considering the number of rave reviews this film has gotten thus far, it’s easy to go in with the mentality you will love this movie. But it’s a very unique picture. And for the reasons that qualify it as such a unique film are the same reasons for me calling it one of the most powerful and tonally-consistent films of 2011. First of all, despite the R rating and trailers cut up to make it appear as if Drive is some sort of independent answer to the Fast and Furious campaign, this is not the case. Drive is a psychological film, a quiet film, and an existential film. It does not answer any questions. Hell it barely raises any. In fact, despite the regular script with a regular amount of dialogue, actors Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, and director Nicolas Winding Refn decided that dialogue goes completely against the core beings of some of the lead characters and let go with any real verbal interactions. What we have from there is more of a moody piece. Something that challenges us to read between the lines, study the eyes of Gosling (an incredible performer), and the smile of Mulligan. It is a complex film that brings into light some very serious issues, all the while raising the tension with a slowly boiling subplot that soon takes over the third act. This is where the violence kicks in. It may feel random and even excessive to some audience members, but it has always had to be this way. Refn creates such a unique and retro tone to this film, through use of music and truly inspired lighting, as well as the character of Driver (Gosling) – a stunt driver for movies by day, driver by night – that violence was the only answer to this film. But this extremely graphic violence serves a purpose. We don’t see a man’s head literally being crushed to create a cheap effect – it is for juxtaposition, it is for style, irony, and substance. Such is the case with Drive. One may make no sense out of it all. That’s valid: We never learn anything out of the main character. But there is incredible craft behind this film: a careful process of creativity and the most difficult task a film can accomplish – a consistent tone. Refn does this, and he does it with incredible flair. Drive is a film that will be looked back upon in a few years as raising a new voice and tone in filmmaking. It’s a wonderfully existential piece that challenges us to go along for a drive with the main character, thought we may never know who he is and what he really is up to.

Movie #276 I Love You Phillip Morris

In Uncategorized on August 20, 2011 at 1:13 AM

Movie #276 I Love You Phillip Morris

(2009, US, d. Glenn Ficarra, John Requa)

An earlier directorial effort from the filmmakers behind this summer’s incredible Crazy Stupid Love, I Love You Phillip Morris is a film that is boosted by a great cast that really commits itself to the various roles presented here. Especially remarkable is Ewan McGregor as Phillip Morris, who completely transforms himself into a weak, Southern gay man who totally falls for Jim Carrey’s character. The biggest problem though with this film is that it never really establishes its tone. Like a few other recent comedies, I couldn’t tell what it was trying to accomplish. Was it trying to tell a slapstick story about a gay conman? Was it trying to tell a con story? Was it just trying to tell a life story? Or was it supposed to make me laugh? There’s a lot to debate about this film, but again, the biggest problem is that no scene ever felt to be part of a cohesive whole that a movie is supposed to showcase. Instead, audiences are witness to a bunch of malleable tones – from comedy, to drama, to sexual, to slapstick, to strange and weird. It’s a film that not only asks the audience to just go with it, but also asks Jim Carrey to bring down his regular self for a more realistic character. Again, I can’t completely agree with that decision since parts of the film were slapstick in the first place. I don’t remember laughing out loud at any one part and I especially don’t remember being riveted to the screen. This is a showcase of actors who commit to a flimsy film and that, sadly, is the only reason to see it.

Movie #257 Crazy, Stupid, Love.

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2011 at 7:46 AM

Movie #257 Crazy, Stupid, Love. 

(2011, US, d. Glenn Ficara, John Requa)

Boasting an all-star cast that includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, and Kevin Bacon, this summer hit is one of the films of the season I recommend watching in theaters. With the high influx of recent romantic comedies, it would have seemed that would have all just melted in with one another. But surprisingly, that’s not the case here. The best part of this film is that it is based on character. Writer Dan Fogelman spends time and extended sequences devoted to falling in love with whichever lead he has us watching. Though not a new strategy in any way, Fogelman here does it with class and most of all, honesty. The biggest thing the modern romantic comedy has lost is honesty. They’re often so riled up in the raunchy and hilarity and formula that they forget what they are really about. Crazy, Stupid, Love. not once falls into that trap. Steve Carell plays Cal Weaver, who in the opening scenes of the film leaves his wife after listening to her confess about her recent affair with a co-worker. One night at a bar, the suave Jacob Palmer (played by Ryan Gosling, channeling a lot of what Will Smith did in Hitch) overhears his woes and promises to help him turn his life around. There are a lot of surprises in this film so I don’t want to delve further. And though the Carell/Moore storyline is much more interesting than that of their younger counterparts, Love still manages to be a laugh-out-loud film, filled to the brim with moments straight out of a Modern Family arc (one scene near the end of the film, involving nearly every character comes to mind). Fogelman captures a real honesty with the breaking of a marriage here. It is at once painful to watch but hilarious to observe and that is something even the best writers fail to capture. It doesn’t hurt to have the talent the film possesses, but something must be said of the material in the first place. Go see this film while it is still in theaters. Trust me.