Posts Tagged ‘ryan gosling’

Blade Runner 2049

In 2049, in Los Angeles, there’s an uneasy peace between the humans and the replicants, who the humans built to serve them and pleasure them.  There’s a rumor going around that a replicant gave birth to a half human child and that rumor is enough to set off fireworks in the tinderbox that Los Angeles has become.  Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) orders officer K, (Ryan Gosling) a current Blade Runner, to find out if there is a child ‘retire’ the child, and to report back to her.  The key to finding the child seems to be finding former Blade Runner Rick Deckert (Harrison Ford) and verifying if the child really exists.  K finds the remains of a replicant, and takes them to the Wallace Corporation where the replicant is identified as Rachel. (Sean Young)

Nander Wallace (Jared Leto) is himself a replicant and has a stake in finding the replicant baby.  If replicants can reproduce, Nander can raise a replicant army to overthrow human rulers forever .  He sends a homicidal replicant named Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to follow K, and find the child.   K is plagued by a persistent memory of a toy wooden horse that he had a child.  Is this a real memory, or has it been implanted?  Is this memory related to the replicant child?  Is there a replicant baby?  What does Deckart have to do with the baby?  Can K find Deckart?  Can he find the child, who’s now an adult?

I like the story of Blade Runner 2049, it’s simple and straightforward, which is more than I can say for the original Blade Runner film. But beneath its glossy surface, however, there are many flaws in the film, in character development, and plot development.  For example, Las Vegas seems to be utterly devastated and have only one resident, while nearby Los Angeles is relatively teeming with people.  The female characters appear to be decorative, except the one who is a homicidal android.  Why is she like that?  Why are strong women portrayed as murderous lunatics with no remorse?  Why are submissive women portrayed as desirable?  The black characters fare worse, one runs a sweatshop, and another is a clerk.  At a time when our demographic future will be much different than our current reality, Hollywood again chooses to largely whitewash.  The ending is left open for yet another sequel, perhaps featuring a reanimated version of cryogenically preserved Harrison Ford.  If producers wait another 35 years, that may be the only option left.

The acting is good in this film, probably better than this script deserves.  Ryan Gosling made a name for himself playing laconic humorless characters, so he should feel very comfortable playing K, and he is.  He’s more comfortable playing these emotionless characters like the driver in Driver, than he is playing a jobless jazzman in Lala Land.  Harrison Ford is also good at playing an irascible old crank, he does it in every role of late, and will continue to do it for as long as he can.  Robin Wright makes a brief but forceful appearance as K’s boss.  She is the strong feminine presence that this movie needed more of. Jared Leto overacts voraciously, as is his habit lately.

The direction is good, the pacing is quick and the action moves quickly, for a nearly 3 hour film.  The movie is visually striking, thanks to cinematography by Roger Deakins, who has done movies like The Shawshank Redemption, and Skyfall.  The direction is done by Denis Villeneuve, who has done excellent movies like Arrival or not so good movies like Prisoners.  He does well here, I don’t think this group needs any help with their acting skills, but he took a long and multifaceted story and laid it out very clearly.

Blade Runner 2049:  Cutting edge visuals with 1950’s plot.

la la land

An out of work actress named Mia (Emma Stone) keeps bumping into a soon to be out of work jazz pianist named Sebastian. (Ryan Gosling)  The first time they meet they give each other “the bird” in a traffic jam.  The next time they meet is shortly after Sebastian gets fired during Christmas.  The two meet again at a party when Mia requests a cheesy 80’s song and asks Sebastian to play the keyboard portion of it.  They meet again looking for their cars during a lovely sunset.  Later, Sebastian finds out that Mia has never seen Rebel Without A Cause and asks her to come see it, but she’s got a boyfriend, and she hates jazz, and he doesn’t want a girlfriend, especially one who doesn’t like jazz.  And they’ve both got big dreams.  She wants to be an actress, he wants to open a jazz club.  Does she go to the movie?  Or are their meetings just coincidental?

There are many good things about La La Land, but the writing is for most of the film is trite.  It follows all the conventions of every romantic comedy ever made including the man and woman hating each other at first sight.  Why does this always happen in the movies?  Nobody hates someone in real life and then, poof magic.  Nothing works that way.    There is a twist near the end, and the ending itself evolves into somewhat of a mystery, which belies the happy mood of the first hour, but is still better than a conventional Hollywood ending.

Ryan Gosling has made a living playing brooding, taciturn, characters, like in Driver, or Blue Valentine, so it was anyone’s guess how he would handle the lead in a musical romantic comedy.  He handles  the comedic part of the role well, but when the script turns more dramatic, his delivery is surprisingly flat. The same can be said for Emma Stone, she couldn’t really handle the more dramatic scenes, and even the comedic scenes, she would sometimes make a  silly face.  The two didn’t seem to have any chemistry, maybe it was the age difference.  Gosling is 8 years older than Stone, maybe that’s why they didn’t seem to have any sparks.   J.K. Simmons had a small role, I wish it was bigger, he is a heck of an actor.

There is a lot of good in this film, and most of it comes from  the director’s chair.  Damien Chazelle is a very talented director, and he realizes that film is a visual medium. This film pops with color, even the scenes filmed at night are brightly lit and look as if they were painted with a brush.  This is also a love letter to classic film, movie posters are strewn all over Mia’s apartment and the cameras catch all of it.  Even when the colors don’t pop, the camera is shooting from some interesting angle or other.  This is not Top Hat or Singin in The Rain, but that it aspires to be and tries to bring back the movie musical is a laudable aspiration.   The choreography is great, the songs are great, those two elements by  themselves make the movie worth watching. There are  portions of this this movie that are told without a word being spoken, that is an incredible achievement.

La La Land:  Mostly music to my  ears.



In 1977, in Los Angeles, an elderly woman named Mrs. Glenn, (Lois Smith) hires private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to find her niece, a porn star named Misty Mountains. (Murielle Telio) The police say Misty died in a car accident, but thinks that a missing girl named Amelia Kutner (Margaret Quailey) is somehow involved with Misty, but Amelia has hired an enforcer named Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to keep people away from her.  After beating March up, Healy realizes that they should team up to find Amelia, they try to find her at a protest against smog, but she isn’t there.  March and Healy get another tip that Amelia may be at a porn producer’s party.  They don’t find Amelia but they find the producer Sid Shatrack dead.  They also find March’s daughter that March’s daughter, Holly, (Angourie Rice) is also at the party trying to find Amelia.  There is yet another person looking for Amelia, that is her mother Judith Kutner (Kim Bassinger) who is a high ranking official at the Justice Department.  As they continue to look for Amelia, the dead bodies pile up.  Do March and Healy find Amelia?  Why can’t Amelia’s mother find her?  Why are all the people associated with Amelia and Misty ending up dead?

I didn’t like The Nice Guys.  The story just seems to meander all over the place. There is a lot of violence masquerading as action, the comedy is the same running gag, again and again, there is a lot of nudity, used as filler, and the writers seem to think that involving a 13 year old girl in the middle of murder and pornography storyline is somehow funny.  It is not. The lines the writers have kids saying in this film are generally just disturbing. There is a plot, and a subplot, and neither of them work very well.  Both March and Healy seem invincible, especially March, he repeatedly falls, down hills, through plate glass windows, into a pool, and nothing ever happens to him. It is a step below the average buddy cop movie.

Ryan Gosling, in this movie, is asked to play a broad comedic, almost slapstick role.  He is known for his quiet, brooding, smoldering characters.  It’s not that he can’t play this kind of role, in fact he’s quite good at the timing of the comedy, the problem lies with the material, which is more like Jerry Lewis level slapstick comedy.  And this is below Gosling’s skill as an actor. This is more of an Owen Wilson role than a Ryan Gosling role.  Russell Crowe has several problems in this movie, the first is his weight, I’d like to think that he was just method acting, playing a paunchy ex-cop who is now hired muscle, but I think Crowe just likes to eat and possibly drink to excess,, and his general lack of fitness gets in the way of him being a convincing enforcer.  The second problem is Crowe trying to cover his Aussie accent, with a bad New York accent, the dialogue coach in this movie should be fired.  Oddly, the best performance comes from Angourie Rice as Holly, she is put in embarrassing situation after embarrassing situation but handles her role well.  Kim Bassinger has a small role, and is not very memorable.

Shane Black is both the writer and director here.  He did the first two Lethal Weapon movies, so he knows his way around buddy cop films, but there’s nothing special here, lots of gun violence, lots of car chases, throw in too much sex, and you’ve got a formulaic Hollywood cop film. The pacing is slow and the running time is too long. Crowe and Gosling have no chemistry, and Black does not get a good performance from either. The cars and clothes are from the 70’s, but the cinematography doesn’t have that grainy 1970’s look to it.

The Nice Guys:  Gosling lays an egg.

The Big Short

Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is the founder of the Scion Hedge Fund.  He notices a trend in mortgage default rates,  based on the explosion of subprime mortgages written by banks. He predicts that subprime lending will cause the housing market to collapse in 2007, and finds a way to bet against the banks.  Burry goes to Goldman Saks and asks them to create a Credit Default Swap, which Burry used as a short selling tool against the impending mortgage crisis. Burry invests 1.3 billion of Scion’s money in shorting the banks. Trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) learns of Burry’s idea and runs against the grain of the rest of the traders in his company by thinking Burry is onto something.

Mark Baum (Steve Carell) becomes interested in the big short when Vennett mistakenly places a call to Baum’s hedge fund companies.  Baum had always been suspicious of the banks and their motives for lending, but the banks’ use of collateralized debt obligations as securities, exacerbates the risk of global financial collapse, and makes Baum eager to short the banks.  Newbie investors Charlie Gellar (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Witrock) pick up a flier from Vennett and are immediately interested in making this transaction, but their hedge fund falls short of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association fiduciary requirement for making such an investment, so they seek the help of Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) a trader, who’s given up the Wall Street rat race, but agrees to help the young investors.  As 2007 approaches, the housing market is still going strong, and the premiums paid by these three sets of investors for shorting the banks continue to mount as does the pressure to dump their short positions. Do they stay with their original positions or succumb to the pressure and sell their Credit Default Swaps?

This is a great film, funny and smart and sharply written.  Best of all, it simplifies the complex financial transactions in an entertaining way so that everyone can understand.  Unbelievably, it is able to find heroes in the carnage of the financial meltdown of 2007, people who had the courage to bet against the banks, and so viewers have someone to root for in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  The ending of the movie is depressing and anger-inducing at the same time, but that is the intent of this complex movie to pull viewers in and then to have them realize the disastrous impact of what will take place. The only quibble is the movie lasts a few scenes too long and should have ended sooner.

The acting is superb.  Bale is nominated for an Oscar as Michael Burry, I think he overdid the Asperger’s Syndrome a bit with Burry, but overall, it was a good performance.  Burry was perhaps the most sympathetic of all the characters, and Bale plays him with the right amount of sensitivity.  The best performance was given by Steve Carell as angry, guilt-ridden hedge fund manager Mark Baum, sporting a bad haircut, and a nasal twang, Carell seems like the antithesis of a hero, but he gives this complex character many sides, one of which is an everyman fighting against the colossus that is the banking industry.  It’s nice to see Ryan Gosling play a relevant role again, he is not exactly a hero, he is more a jerk than anything else, but Gosling makes Vennett likable.  The only clunky performance was Brad Pitt, he tries to disguise himself with weight and a scruffy beard, but he doesn’t put much emotion into the role.  Like 12 Years A Slave, thanks Brad for Producing, stop casting yourself. Nice cameos by Selena Gomez,  Margot Robbie, and Anthony Bourdain.

The director Adam McKay, is mostly known for directing Will Ferrell movies, but does an excellent job of directing this movie, the pacing is good, although it languishes a bit towards the end, and he gets good performances, even though it is not hard to get good performances from a cast like this. This isn’t even the best financial crisis movie made, that honor goes to Inside Job, a 2010 documentary narrated by Matt Damon.

The Big Short:  Long on entertainment.

the place between the pines

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcycle rider in a carnival, who has a one night stand with Romina, (Eva Mendes)  which results in a son, named Jason. (Anthony Pizza, Dane DeHaan) Romina has moved on, she’s seeing another man, named Kofi.  (Mahershala Ali)  Luke still feels a sense of responsibility to support his son, monetarily.  He quits the carnival, and meets a man named Robin, (Ben Mendelsohn) who convinces Luke to be a bank robber.  Luke would steal the cash, and drive his motorcycle to Robin’s awaiting truck.  They knock over a few banks, and Robin wants to call it quits, but Luke keeps going, by himself.  Soon Robin is tracked down and shot by a rookie cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper) who also has a one year old son named A.J (Travis Jackson Campbell,, Emory Cohen) What effect does Luke’s shooting have on Avery, Jason, and A.J.?

I liked the beginning of this story, but soon it loses the intensity and focus of the story.  The scope of the story is too sweeping, not only does it cover one generation, but two.  And by the time the second generation rolls around, the intensity fades away.  This movie tries too hard to be East of Eden, but Derek Cianfrace is not John Steinbeck, although I did like Blue Valentine.  And if this is what kids are like in the next generation,  taking oxycontin by the fistful and washing it down with booze, I weep for future generations. There are too many coincidences in the script tying one generation to the next, beginning with the fact that both criminal and cop have one year old sons, and there is a wholly unnecessary subplot about police corruption and overall the movie is too long.

The acting is really good, at least by the older generation. Ryan Gosling gives his patented laconic, intense, loner performance, and this time it works, unlike Only God Forgives and the Gangster Squad. Bradley Cooper gives a mostly good performance, with some lackadaisical scenes tucked in-between. Eva Mendes is good, despite some awful makeup to make her appear older, but the younger actors, Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen cannot match the intensity of their elders.  They have the elocution of bad rappers, and most of all, they really can’t act.

The direction is very good especially the scenes involving the motorcycle, but an overly long, complicated script derail what could have been a really good movie.

The Place Beyond the Pines.  Left me pining for a shorter film.

Movie Review: Only God Forgives (2013)

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Drama

Only God Forgives

Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a kick boxing manager in Bangkok, Thailand.  Julian’s brother Billy (Tom Burke) has brutally stabbed a 16-year–old prostitute.  A Thai policeman named Chang (Vithaya  Pansringarm) allows the father to exact revenge on Billy, and kill him.  Chang cuts off the father’s arm for letting his daughter become a prostitute.  Julian’s mother Crystal comes to Thailand demanding revenge for her son’s death. Crystal is a drug dealer, and no stranger to violence.   Suddenly the prostitute’s father is killed, but who did it?  Was it Julian, the Thai police, or did Crystal order the killing?

Only God Forgives  is an incomprehensible mess. I know Hollywood wants to attract the huge Asian market to watch its movies, but this is not the way to do it.  It tries very hard to be an arthouse movie, a great number of the scenes are bathed in, red or blue, scenes are shot in slow motion, many scenes are shot with no dialogue at all  But as much as it tries to put style over substance, it returns to an old and tired formula, bloody mind numbing violence and soft-core pornography.  The Thai women are all prostitutes and treated like the scum on the bottom of the filmmakers’ shoes to be flicked off and discarded like so much refuse. The woman in general are treated with such heinous brutality that the writer of this movie should really look into getting some psychological help.  As if that’s not bad enough, an incestuous relationship is hinted at between Crystal and one or both of her sons.  This is violence porn, wrapped in a revenge fantasy, with a heaping helping of Hollywood’s favorite profession, prostitutes, thrown in for bad measure.  This movie gives in to the worst and basest instincts that people have, and for no other reason than to make a buck.

Ryan Gosling whose quiet, distant, persona served him well in movies like Drive, and Blue Valentine might as well be starring in a silent movie here, he doesn’t say a word for the first 25 minutes, and the movie is only 90 minutes long.  When he does speak, he says inane things like “Do you want to fight?” to Chang, and “I want you to pretend to be my girlfriend.” to a prostitute he’s fixated on. He may not have done irreparable damage to his career, but it is damage nonetheless.  Kristen Scott Thomas may have very well ended her career with this role, the woman in The English Patient, The Horse Whisperer and Gosford Park, plays a woman so vile and reprehensible that it’s a performance that’s impossible to watch without cringing.

Nicolas Refn Winding wrote and directed this film he wrote and directed the infinitely better film Drive, but the wheels came off this film early and it mercifully slid to a stop in 90 long minutes. There is nothing even remotely watchable to this movie and I will think long and hard before I see another Nicolas Winding film.  Thank me later for stopping you from watching this film.

Bloody violence, ruthless exploitation of women,  not for children, adults or any other species of plant or animal life.

Only God Forgives. Unforgiveable.

gangster sqad

Mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) wants to take over post-World War II Los Angeles by controlling drugs, prostitution and most importantly controlling the flow of gambling money all the way from Chicago to L.A.  The gambling operation is code named Operation El Dorado. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) tasks Sergeant John O’ Mara (Josh Brolin) with bringing together a force of policemen to take apart Cohen’s burgeoning operation, and hunt down and kill Cohen.  Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) Officer Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena) Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) and Officer Conwell Keeler (Giovani Ribisi) make up what’s called the Gangster Squad, and they go about dismantling Cohen’s gang.  Keeler is the intelligence officer  who bugs Cohen’s house and provides the rest of the squad about what Cohen plans to do.  But Wooters, the rebel in the group falls for Cohen’s girlfriend, Grace Farraday. (Emma Stone)  Grace and Jerry know if their romance is discovered, it means death for both of them.  Do they end operation El Dorado, do they kill Cohen or does the romance between Wooters  and Grace Farraday get in the way?

I did not like Gangster Squad.  My displeasure starts with the voice over narration, don’t get me wrong classic movies like Sunset Boulevard and Citizen Kane, use voiceover narration to great effect, but it’s simply not necessary here.  The movie is a triumph of style over substance.  The movie looks great, it captures the art-deco style of 1940’s Los Angeles perfectly, the day-glo colors of the buildings and neon literally jump off the screen, the costumes are similarly spiffy, but the story is simply not compelling.  It’s like some of the best actors in America got together and decided to play cops and robbers.  What makes Cohen want to be a gangster? Is it his background as a fighter? Is it his ethnicity, being a Jew in a profession dominated by Sicilians? There is not enough character development for any of the characters, all the cops are perfect, except for Wooters and other than his relationship with Grace Farraday, this movie tells us nothing about him.

Sean Penn gets lost in the prosthetic makeup, and trying to create a distinctive voice for Cohen.  It really is not a good performance.  When Cagney played  Tom Powers in The Public Enemy, his anger as seething below the surface.  Sean Penn, sometimes plays Cohen as low-key, but sometimes screams just to show that he is acting. I found Ryan Gosling’s performance oddly uninteresting, and I usually like Gosling.  He had more chemistry with Stone in Crazy Stupid Love, and that’s not a good sign.  Stone does her best Veronica Lake (or was it Jessica Rabbit) style femme-fatale, but I never got the sense that she was in danger, or for that matter dangerous. Josh Brolin ‘s character was made perfect, flawless, and so he couldn’t really do much except be flawless.  Mackey and Pena were in the movie I suspect to appeal to a certain demographic, as Hollywood is known to do.

The writing is subpar, extreme violence fills the gaps for actual plot, and the story was much too long.  I saw nothing spectacular in the direction, but it’s the first time I actually noticed set design and costume design.

Gangster Squad:  A bloody mess.


Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) is the governor of Pennsylvania, and he’s running for President, he’s a shoo-in but he’s got to win the Democratic nomination first.  He’s got the brightest political help in town, his press secretary, Stephen Myers. (Ryan Gosling)  Stephen gets involved with a pretty young staffer, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) to ease the tension of the political campaign.   Steve is so talented that his main rival’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) wants him on his team.  Duffy and Stephen have a clandestine meeting, and Stephen rejects Duffy’s offer.  Stephen feels so guilty about meeting with Duffy that he tells Morris’ campaign manager Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Zara leaks the meeting to New York Times reporter Ida Horowicz (Marissa Tomei) and has Stephen fired.  Stephen learns of some damaging information about Governor Morris during the campaign.  Does he take it to Duffy?  Does he confront Morris with what he finds?

This is a pretty standard political movie, think Primary Colors. There is nothing even slightly politically thrilling about this movie.  Morris is a left of center candidate, who if he ran would lose badly.  I mention this only because Clooney’s character derisively calls his opponent a “liberal.” Also, this movie spends too much time with the political consultants, and not enough time with the candidates.  It doesn’t even identify Clooney’s opponent.  And the scandal is nothing revolutionary, in fact it’s downright ordinary.  So who’s to blame for this self congratulatory crapfest?  Since George Clooney wrote the screenplay, produced, directed and acted in this movie, it’s pretty easy to point the finger. Clooney is smart in one respect, he gives the lead role to Gosling, who does a pretty good job as the idealistic press secretary. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also quite good as is Paul Giamatti, but the movie is not all that dramatic, political consults get fired all the time no one bats an eye.  So why should anyone care here?  The fact is, no one should care.   Clooney will get credit, by those who know nothing about politics, for making a movie about the inner workings of politics.  He shouldn’t get credit, because it’s a bad movie about the inner workings of politics.  Watch The Candidate, with Robert Redford, it’s a much better movie.

The Ides of March.  Beware.

Movie Review: Drive (2011)

Posted: April 15, 2012 in Drama
Tags: ,


The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt driver by day, and a getaway driver for criminals at night.  He desperately wants out of the getaway driver business.  This feeling only intensifies when he realizes a cute girl named Irene (Carey Mulligan) lives next door, with her son.  The driver’s friend, Shannon, (Bryan Cranston) has already given the driver a job in his auto body shop, but wants the driver to become a NASCAR Driver. Shannon has some shady potential investors, Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) a quiet, small-time gangster who doesn’t have a problem killing people, and Nino (Ron Perlman) a loudmouthed stone-cold killer.  The driver finds himself getting closer to Irene and her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos) But then he finds out that Irene is married to a man named Standard (Oscar Isaac).  Standard may be a convict, but he genuinely loves his wife and son.  Irene is not so sure about Standard, she seems to have moved on.  But the Diver is impressed with Standard’s sincerity, so when Standard says he has one more job to do for another small-time gangster named Cook (James Bibieri) the Driver offers to drive Standard away from the job.  What happens with the job that both Standard and the Driver hope will be their last?

This is a great movie, it’s a very gritty, unflinching, look at small-time criminals, trying to get their hands on some big money for them.  The story of a man trying to get out of a life of crime after one last job is a bit of a cliché and some of the story seems contrived, but the idea of the Driver sacrificing his own happiness for the happiness of others, that is a new wrinkle in a gangster movie.  The acting raises the level of the movie even higher.  Ryan Gosling excels as a soft-spoken, nice guy driver.  He reminds me of a Gary Cooper type,  constantly trying to do the right thing in a world that is filled with wrong.  Carey Mulligan only had one complexity to her character, does she love the driver or does she love Standard?  She handles that complexity with subtlety, a look here, a smile there and it works.  Albert Brooks is unrecognizable for those of us who recognize him as a comedian.  He was tough, and seething with anger just below the surface .  The best acting job  in a movie full of great acting is by Oscar Isaac.  The viewer expects one type of character, but gets another altogether.  But again, the anger and jealousy is smoldering, right below the surface.  The direction is also noteworthy.  I have never heard of Nicholas Winding Refn before, but he has some amazing shots in this movie.  He has a totally unique way of getting a three  shot inside a car.  It was a beautifully shot film.  It’s violent, it’s bloody, it’s brutal, but it’s also a good story artistically told.

Drive:  Drive In.