Tag Archives: Hellboy

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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Season of the Witch: Get Your Cage On

I'm liking this.

In the same vein as Black Death and watched only a few nights afterwards, I came to the realization as to why this movie didn’t work for me. It’s not Nic Cage or Ron Pearlman. It’s not the lackluster accents put on by the cast. It’s not the Rock ‘n’ Roll ahead approach to the plot. It’s the fact that I didn’t feel that any of these actors were ever meant to or destined to star in period pieces. As in Black Death, Sean Bean was specifically bred and born to play the role of a Medieval knight. In Nic Cage’s case, I’m not at all positive. Sure, Ron Pearlman has wielded a sword in In the Name of a King (come to think of it, even Jason Statham can’t play an English peasant…) but Pearlman’s body size is really only perfect for Hellboy and Blade II.

And, in this manner, I was removed from fully immersing myself and enjoying the plot presented in Season of the Witch. (Original title idea for Scorsese’s

Do you believe this wench to be a witch?

Mean Streets.) I had to watch this though. My goal in life is to watch the entire career of Nicholas Cage in full. All the way from Fast Times at Ridgemont High down to Ghost Rider 5 (I hope…). I’ll take all the good (The Cage Renaissance) all the way down to his money problems (National Treasure and onwards… for now…). Seeing as this Medieval film really fits this quota, let’s dissect it.

Nic Cage and his flowing locks of sultry power.

So Behmen (Nicholas Cage) and Felson (Ron Pearlman) are two ex-crusaders. And to say that, I mean that after many wars, these two decided all the killing wasn’t worth it anymore. And I gotta say, some pretty pimp-ass helmets as well. They look like cauldrons. Whatever floats your boat. So these two ruffians hustle it back to Germany just in time to find that the Black Plague has hit Europe. (Actually accurate that a lot of Crusaders missed that bit in history.) Discovered in some barn area that they are wanted by the Church, these two duel for a quick second and then are whisked off to meet with Cardinal D’Ambroise (Christopher Lee).

Haggard as ever and possessed by the plague, the Cardinal orders these two men to escort a suspected witch to a hidden monk’s shindig house in order to LIFT THE ENTIRE CURSE OF THE BLACK PLAGUE. All because of one girl?

Read, Deballsack!

Unlikely… But that’s beside the point. So the two agree to avoid jail/death, and they assemble their Super Squad. First up we got Debelzeq (Stephen Campbell Moore). This is pronounced De-ball-sack. Unfortunate, but an actual name. One of the more believable period piece actors, Moore brings a bit of the clergy to the screen. There’s Eckhart (Ulrich Thomsen), the soft-spoken man with a heart of gold. He obviously can’t last. And there’s Hagamar the thief (Stephen Graham). He’s really not worth mentioning.

Robert Sheehan, the last bastion of hope in this film.

And then there’s the star of the show. Young altar boy turned knight, Kay von Wollenbarth (Robert Sheehan). This new up and coming actor stars in one of my favorite shows in the U.K., Misfits. This show (which will be reviewed soon) is a wonderful breakout role for Sheehan, and he has proved his mettle since then in Killing Bono and Red Riding. He’s really not given a chance to shine in this film with the limited script, but you’d barely recognize him. If only his Irish accent could flow from those lips in every film.

So, on this whirlwind roller coaster adventure, in every twist and turn, lives are at stake. Is Anna (Claire Foy) truly a witch? Or something more? Will Behmen and Felson survive? Only watching this movie from start to finish in hopefully one sitting will tell…

There’s really not much to say about anything else in this film, so I’ll summarize. The acting is a period piece, without a sense of the period. English accents failed to veil whatever was going on at the time. If those were even accents… I love the Cage, but when you want some Cage action, you expect a bit better from him. This one was toned down and I commend him for that action, but some more terror and mania was necessary. This supernatural film came across as realistic at first, and moved towards the CGI graphics and buffoonery towards the end. It seemed as if the movie was going in two different directions from start to finish. I don’t blame the actors or what was attempted onscreen, I would say the flaws started from the writing/pre-production phase. So, cast and  crew of Season of the Witch, you gave it your all, but you let Nicholas Cage down. And for that, the Cage vehicle of dastardly deeds gets a measly 3.3 out of 10.

This haggardly crew must fight the witch in this touching film of evil.


Bunraku: Paper Punishing Dolls

Suck it, R.T...

Alright, first off, death to Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not really sure where this website gets off giving this film 16% (why the hell a percent?) “approval” rating or however they go about rating all films. I’m just assuming at this point that they shit all over action films and take no account of the true purpose of an action film. Action. That’s what the damn genre is called and that’s what I expect. So this critique websites that don’t really go too hard into giving the least bit of credit where credit is due, need to re-evaluate what’s going on. Maybe I should rename my blog “Reviews from the Silver Lining,” cause there’s rarely a film I can’t take something away from and appreciate it for that fact. Even if it’s horrible, there are a lot of people whose blood, sweat, and tears went into that film. And they deserve at least a worthwhile evaluation of, I would suppose, a life’s pursuit. Come off it.

And I found a damn lot right with this movie. The title of the film coming from the Japanese art of paper doll plays, this movie created a landscape in which the actions and scenarios displayed on film could be believed. From one

The Drifter (Hartnett) and Yoshi (Gackt). A dynamic duo.

direction of town comes The Drifter (Josh Hartnett). The other, a Samurai named Yoshi (not Nintendo related) without a sword or honor. In a world without guns, an all out brawler and sword expert come together to absolutely Tech Deck wreck a bunch of foolish thugs.

And why do they come to this town? They come to kill the Woodcutter, Nicola (Ron Pearlman). With a debt to repay and a talisman to recover, these two must join forces in order to conquer the evil

Word Ron Pearlman. Choke a Demi.

that has taken of the East. Without a specific location, this movie took on a whole new post-apocalyptic world in which, finally, sissy-ass guns have been laid to rest. The only movies I ever want to see guns in are The Matrix and Equilibrium. Enough said. Upon this landscape of raised paper houses, anything and all can happen when you can swing like a prizefighter and run house like Kurosawa.

For a half arthouse, half action packed punch, this movie brings out the action side with a lot of action stars. From Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and

I gotta say Hartnett worked shit in this one.

Lucky Number Slevin comes Josh Hartnett. His no talk, just rape (in whatever sick and twisted good way you can talk about utter destruction) this guy lays waste to those who would doubt him. Next up, and most notably, is Gackt, Japanese singing sensation and all around beautiful face. Among other talents, Gackt can speak English far more fluently and clearly than say, Ken Wantanabe in Inception (what happened between Last Samurai and that?). His sword skills are a bit jumpy at parts, but who wouldn’t expect that from a pretty boy singing prodigy? He is in his late 30’s…

Kevin McKidd as Assassin #2. What a character.

Throw in Ron Pearlman, face of Hellboy and a handful of other well known action films. There could have never been another soul alive who could have played Hellboy half as well as he did. And he wasn’t the worst at Nicola either. Give another little toss to Woody Harrelson of Natural Born Killers and more recently Zombieland. Not a big fan, but he did his part as The Bartender. He just never really stands out to me… Demi Moore for the old woman looks, and here’s the surprise. Kevin McKidd. This Scottish bastard had a cocky, yet strange way about him in this film that I found almost endearing. In quite a few period pieces and my favorite, Hannibal Rising, this is the first movie I think… (other than Trainspotting) that I knew this guy was from Scotland. A little bravo your way, McKidd.

Lovin' that background layout right there.

So we got the cast, the setting, and the situation. It’s all coming together. And what ties it up in a neat little bow? It for sure wasn’t the 2 hours this movie was allotted. It felt more like 3… It was the special effects. provided by Snoot FX, the locations and shooting styles felt action-y (?) and the fluidity of the fight scenes and the transitions (especially Hartnett’s fight scene in breaking out Yoshi from prison) was just top notch. It just gave such an interesting and non-retarded Sin City feel to it that I was hooked.

As Dennis Harvey of Varietysaid of the film about its fake flower feel, all color and no substance/life, I’d have to say he missed the point of the film. He was definitely batting from the ballpark of critical art film acclaim, when he should have been coming from what the essence of a Samurai/Western would be. Include the feeling of a theatrical Japanese paper doll show, and you have Bunraku. Not something tacky, but a whole new way to tell a story that I truly appreciate. That was its best part. A solid 7.6 out of 10.

Could it get better?