Tag Archives: great cinematography

Drive: New and Interesting Filmmaking

I had heard good things about Drive from my film major friends in college before I found this on Netflix. I was hesitant at first, (most kids at my college in the film department have very particular ideas of what good films are. I like what is considered not so good of a film.) but gave it a shot. My girlfriend fell asleep about 20 minutes in (she was tired from work) but I sat up enraptured in what unfolded before me in this film. In a whole new way, Nicolas Winding Refn created a film you wouldn’t normally see ever.

So there’s Ryan Gosling playing The Driver, a quiet and modest stunt driver who has grown up in L.A. on cars. (This is based on James Sallis’ novel, Drive.) Securing Hollywood stunt driver jobs through his friend Shannon (Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad), we see a film about Hollywood within L.A.’s

A reserved driver with pimpin gloves.

Hollywood. Directed by a Danish director, we gain this insight from a foreigner’s perspective in a unique way of directing and cinematography. But, more importantly, this film has got some major production value on it with all the researching and immersed creation that came with it between Refn and Gosling. I was impressed.

A tragically beautiful mother.

So The Driver meets Irene (Carey Mulligan) a tragic and beautiful single mother with a husband in jail. They have a solemn and quiet love affair (no sex or anything like that, Refn didn’t want to waste film time on showing anything related to love… I think…) the two connect. The Driver wants to protect Irene and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos). And then her husband Standard Gabriel (Oscar Isaac) comes back. Getting involved with the wrong people, gangsters on all sides, The Driver has to navigate a world he’s only seen in the movies. And, being a stunt actor in a movie, he’s prepared to make the leap. With a car.

I really liked all the characters in this movie. Plain and simple. I loved Oscar Isaac’s small role in the film. He comes off as this dangerous and irritated character that has a sneaking suspicion at all times. (He reminded me of his twisted

Gotta love Oscar Isaac.

performance in Sucker Punch.) Bryan Cranston played a great broken man in this film who’s trying to look out for others but becomes collateral damage. Ron Perlman was finally given a chance to do a spectacular movie that gave him great lines and a menacing character in this one as well. Looks like Hellboy’s becoming more devilish… And

All of the violence.

one of the standout performances, other than Ryan Gosling, comes from Albert Brooks, voice of Nemo’s dad in Finding Nemo. To hear that voice on such a wicked character was chilling.

But there were a lot of interesting elements in the creation of this movie. The script is about 80 pages, but most of it must have been camera direction and actions, because I would say there’s less than 5 to 10 typed pages of dialogue in the whole film. Ryan Gosling plays such a reserved and quiet character that he never really needs to speak, only act (just like a hired driver would). The first sequence in the film when Gosling is driving the two robbers to their destination was well planned out and quite poetic in its feel and delivery. No dialogue, no need for speech, only action.

Without much dialogue, the film had this feel of tension throughout. You feel tension in the relationships, in the way the business is conducted. And then you get the gunshots. Every once in a while in the film the action builds to this ridiculously tense crescendo where something has to happen. Almost like a jumpy

Spectacular.

scene in a horror movie. And wow, after that first gunshot in the movie, this film really pops off (pun intended). But then it returns to a tension filled lull (still not much dialogue) and you’re just waiting for the next powder keg laden with the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s agonizing at the same time that it’s so damn interesting!

You get great performances with a great premise delivered more with action than with speech. It’s a unique style you never really see, and I’m glad this did well at film festivals. This reminds me, and I don’t know why, but it makes me wanna watch Refn’s other work, most notably Val Halla Rising, which is now on Netflix. Next review here I come! But Drive is a wonderful film. Superb in all its unusual aspects. 9.5 out of 10.

 

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Oldboy: Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This

Based on the Japanese manga (where all good stories come from) written by Nobuaki Minegishi, what incredible things can I say about Oldboy? Considered the best in the Revenge trilogy, Oldboy comes from a very visceral place combining elements of all

Hammer time.

kinds of storytelling into one film. It’s got revenge and tragedy, theatrical protestations and all the heart and music of an opera. People have said (CNN has said) that it is one of the 10 best Asian films ever made. Let’s back that up and rephrase. There’s no need to include Asian in that statement. Ten best films ever made? Sounds good to me.

I’ve seen Oldboy twice now and I’ve been thoroughly entertained both times. The story is fresh and there’s just enough plot and action that keeps you captivated to the edge of your seat. Visually striking, poetic in the way it is formulated and the scenes are shot… Think about the snazziest guy you know that does things in such an elegant way and give him a beat-up haircut and a hammer. That’s this movie in a nutshell.

If you laugh, then the world laughs with you…

Revenge, as I’ve talked about in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is played with in this movie as well. Just when you think you have the good and bad guy figured out, it turns itself on its head. Sympathy is the keyword in all these films. You are meant to feel sympathetic towards all characters in this film. Nobody is spared a reason for doing what they do, and that makes it all the easier to see this as a truly brutally honest humanistic film.

Basic plot, shall we? Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) was kidnapped after a drunken night out around his daughter’s birthday. He vanishes from society for 15 years and we get to see a montaged version of that process. Through Oh Dae-su’s diaries, we see the tortured mind that has no idea of his crimes or who he wronged. He writes down every name he can remember in case he has to seek

I forgot to mention Ji-tae Yu, but he did some great work in this movie too.

revenge or beg forgiveness, it’s all up in the air at this point. But, with no reason or rhyme, Oh Dae-su is released after 15 long years of seeing no one and having no company other than a T.V. This leads him on a calculated and cold chase for the man who put him away for seemingly no reason.

Choi Min-sik is a theatrical master in this film. I’m pretty sure Park Chan-wook liked him so much that he brought him back for Lady Vengeance for that reason (different character, just as good). He has a great sense of theatrical, dramatic moments, and he takes his time in delivering lines. That’s what I found interesting about this movie (and Lady Vengeance). Choi Min-sik gathers his thoughts (as a person not on camera would) and says things as if he is choosing his words carefully (no script style). It’s a very unique and non-traditional way of acting, and I enjoy it every time I see him (i.e. watch I Saw The Devil).

The cinematography in this film is a bit more fluid, but you see the same basic ideas come across in this one that you saw in Sympathy for Mr. Revenge. Long shots, wide angles, an extreme focus on the bigger picture. This movie has a fight scene from a side angle that is about 5 minutes long and took 17 takes in 3 days to make. Uncut and visceral, it’s realistic fight scenes like this that make martial arts films being made today possible. (You can see a similar scene in Tony Jaa’s The Protector.)

The plot is fantastic and the cast is great as usual. It’s movies like this that only come around once in a lifetime that everything comes together perfectly to make a film that transcends genre, style, and overall movie like quality. You feel you are watching something more real and ethereal than you expected to see with something created by man. I can’t say anything bad about this movie and I feel, for all audiences (above 13, I’d say) this movie is worth watching again and

A strange sense of Korean comedy…

again. Moviemakers out there, if you don’t already have this for your collection, get it. This should change the movie industry (hopefully) for the next 20 years. And I really hope Spike Lee doesn’t remake it…

Anyways, 10 out of 10. Obviously.

 

 


Centurion: “I will not yield!”

Neil Marshall has done it again! As the director of one of my favorite horror movies, The Descent, I had to check out this director’s 5th attempt at directing. After taking a peek on IMDB at Marshall’s other directing attempts, I saw another two movies I found were right up Marshall’s alley when it comes to genre and style, Doomsday and Dog Soldiers. The movie posters alone look like movies I would gladly see. (I had heard of Doomsday before, it’s shown a lot on FX, definitely going to check it out now.) This movie doesn’t disappoint and it gives one of those quick in and out glimpses into the world of the Romans during a time of war. If I had to say it, which I will (I mean come on, there are 2 actors in this movie who were major players in 300) this movie is on some sort of level with Gerard Butler and his 300.

But what I liked about it? It wasn’t Gerard Butler. Come on, you have to give it up for how creatively mind bending 300 was. I love Zack Snyder. Plain and simple. 300 brought a new meal to the table. But yeah, this movie wasn’t quite 300 at all. It was almost a 300 meets Gladiator fusion. Quite spectacular. Instead of Butler, we have one of the new and upcoming British actors, Michael Fassbender. This guy is putting in the work and getting

Michael Fassbender

great results (and I’m not talking about his abs in 300). He’s done quite a few British T.V. shows and made his big break with 300. (He was that guy that cut off the emissary’s arm and told that fool they would fight in the shade.) Inglorious Basterds (I’ll give it to you Tarantino, this one time…) and Jane Eyre, this guy has range. And most excitingly, he will be playing Magneto in this summers sure to be masterful hit, X-Men: First Class. I expect good things from this guy.

Other notable appearances in this film? Dominic West, of course. Another 300 familiar, this guy was the traitor. But still, he was great. I loved his alter ego in Meet the Spartans, Traitoro. Dominic West has done some good work

Ah, Traitoro

as well, and I feel that as a fellow British actor to Michael Fassbender, he will go great things one day. He’s done wonderful things on The Wire, and he did one of my favorite guest appearances in my favorite part of the Hannibal Lecter series, Hannibal Rising as Inspector Popil. He has quite the list (Palace Guard in Phantom Menace???) and should keep strong for years to come.

Also, what I like about movies like this? Neil Marshall can get together a rag-tag group of virtually not well known actors, and still make a badass film. Noel Clarke (one of the Doctor’s helpers on Dr. Who) plays Macros, the slave turned athlete who really just runs the entire movie. JJ Feild (recurring British T.V. period piece actor) as Thax, one of my favorite characters in this film. David Morrissey (character actor who seems to switch between

A rag-tag, cantankerous crew

American and British film) as Bothos, the slightly obese centurion who’s that one loyal friend, but not that ridiculous. I mean, the list goes on. But that’s what really appealed to me about The Descent. It brought together a handful of unknown actresses and turned out to be a really well made film.

Complaints. Okay, there are quite a few archers in this film. And you know what happens? Everyone of them can aim for someone’s head and hit them directly, no hesitation, no mercy. This is a bit ridiculous. I find it hard to believe that every archer in this film is Robin Hood. But to each his own. It still made for pretty amazing gore throughout the film that was just nonstop. One whole scene about 20 minutes in is just literally unheard of. Another thing, I have never heard the “f” word so much in a period piece film like this. It is out of place. Distasteful right there.

Everything else about this movie? Great. It had great cinematography and looked like it took cues from The Lord of the Rings in its overhead helicopter shots of men dashing across snowy mountains. (Pretty sure this was shot in New Zealand.) The locales were quite spectacular although you couldn’t really place what was going on. If I related it in plot to any movie, it would’ve definitely been a mirror image of The Descent. Actually, the more I think about it, it’s like a cookie cutter version of The Descent, just different time and characters. Wow. If Neil Marshall does this again though, I might not be so forgiving. You can’t hope to make 3 identical plot movies and think people won’t notice. But taking Centurion as its own tour de force of mayhem and devastation in the time of the legion and Rome, it really does not yield. 7.7 out of 10.


A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I thought I’d come back since I’ve settled into classes (at college) and I just watched a fantastic foreign horror film. For my girlfriend’s birthday we sat in front of my computer and just watched A Tale of Two Sisters. First impression? Stylistically and theatrically terrifying. It’s something about the Asians, but their movies are at least 100 times more terrifying than ours. (Probably why we steal and remake all of them in a less horrifying way.)

Now I can’t get into specifics, but this story is about two sisters. Obvious. And a dad (sad), and a stepmom (evil, of course). The deaths of the past come back to haunt the family as they try to settle down into a normal rhythm in their elegantly Western beach house. (Strange.) My girlfriend Kim is a big fan of Asian horror movies, and I find myself intrigued in how foreign horror films seem to capture horror in a different way, but one not too far from our own concept of fear.

This movie, stylistically, was fantastic. Every shot seemed crafted for a purpose, for a reveal, for the ultimate experience in tension. Every shot, from the pans, to the turn around handhelds, to even the still shots, left me breathless in their scope of capturing the emotion on screen, without words. This, coupled with the seemingly wordless actions of the actors was literally phenomenal. You get a sense of the stepmother’s (Jung-ah Yum) anger and frustration with her new family, and the desperation of the daughters(Su-jeoung Lim & Geun-Young Moon), all beyond the control of the helpless father (Kap-su Kim). With every new scene, you are asked without words to figure out for yourself exactly what just happened and what it means in the bigger picture of the film. Some may find this style to be too confusing and frustrating, but the ambiguity should leave most viewers with their own interpretation, a nice way to end films for me.

All in all, this movie was quite a good film and I’d definitely recommend it for true vintage, thriller film buffs. The director is fantastic and his idea of story goes far beyond what you see on the screen. For another good Ji-woon Kim film, definitely check out The Good, the Bad, the Weird. (Great acting and action.) I might even review that one soon. And for A Tale of Two Sisters American, not so good counterpart, check of The Uninvited (2009) featuring Emily Browning and Elizabeth Banks. I give A Tale of Two Sisters a 9 out of 10.