Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

Plot: Luke (Ryan Gosling) finds out he has a boy in Schenectady, so he moves to town, and robs banks for money. He gets caught by local cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), and unexpectedly the movie starts following the cop -- who has a son the same age. After a subplot involving police corruption, suddenly we start following the now high school aged boys Avery's son Jason (Dane DeHaane) and Luke's son AJ (Emory Cohen), who unexpectedly become friends in school. Avery finds newspaper stories about the fathers, and reenacts the drama between the fathers. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: The Place Beyond the Pines is three related stories, and like Cloud Atlas each story is in a different style. The first story is about outlaw Luke, who is colorful and dynamic even if he makes bad choices about risk-taking. Luke meets his friend Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) riding his motorcycle beyond the pines. 

The second story is a cop drama with police corruption and threats of getting snuffed out by cops in the woods beyond the pines. It feels cold, calculating and political.

In the third story, the two boys meet and talk with well-written dialog, and they get in various kinds of trouble. Without giving too much away, AJ forces a final confrontation out beyond the pines too.

At the very end, a final scene wraps the three stories together. 

Beyond the Pines is always interesting and keeps you watching with a fast moving, plot-intensive story. There is a good chase segment at the end of the 1st story with a jerky motion that seemed artificial and little distracting, but increased the energy and tenseness too.

The photography is gritty, grainy and conveyed the mood well; however there is little spectacle. The soundtrack is unexceptional, and the closing credit song was singularly awful and made me want jump up and leave the theater so I could avoid it.

I liked Ryan Gosling's acting -- he made a bigger than life character believable. Eva Mendes has a pivotal role in the story, but the movie would have been stronger with bigger parts for the female characters.

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaane, Emory Cohen

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance, who is also credited as a writer.

Rating: 2.5 stars: Like a page-turner novel. You need to keep watching to see what happens. 

More: I did not like the ending for Avery and Jason, although the ending for AJ seemed appropriate. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013


Gray. The movie poster is all gray. Look at
the plastic rifle. 
Plot: In a post-apocalyptic world, aliens have invaded, and earth has been evacuated. Jack (Tom Cruise) repairs robots including killer robots that hunt down the enemy called Scavs, aided by fellow service member and bed-mate Victoria (Andrea Reiseborough.) The rebels have been shooting down a lot of robots while Tom and Olga try to last just 2 more weeks until they evacuate to the Tet -- a giant tetrahedral satellite in the sky where humans go for evacuation to a new planet.  After Jack meets mysterious survivor Julia (Olga Kurylenko) and rebel chief Beech (Morgan Freeman,) everything is not what it seems, but Jack finds his core values to push through to the heroic conclusion. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Not Fun. Empty with work-a-day doggedness. Colorless scenery with colorless dialog and a soundtrack that is too quiet.  Yes, all the special effects must have been expensive, and there is something cool about their base on a tower in the clouds, but there are too many scenes of Jack working in solitude.

Writer-Director Kosinski probably thought the aseptic coolness and frigid relationship between Jack and Victoria was foreshadowing the conclusion. However Beech with his fat cigar, and Julia in her flying casket were just as emotionless as Victoria. The only homey place was Jack's earthy hideout on a lake where he listened to 1960's rock on vinyl and stared at the lake.  Why and where was the barren earthscape hiding this idealic paradise? Somehow this is tied in to their mantra, 'Another Day in Paradise,' but I can't figure out how.

This movie could have used a better villain -- one evil mastermind would have helped a lot. Fighting robot villains makes blowing them up less morally offensive, but where is the drama? Jack could have used a better sidekick than his bobblehead doll.

This movie needed more drama, more fun -- less glass & shiny plastic.

Cast: Tom Cruise, Andrea Reiseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman

Directed by: Joseph Kosinski, based on the comic book by Joseph Kosinski and Arvid Nelson

Rating:  1.5 stars: not very fun. Boring characters. Personality-free villain

More: I liked the visual allusions to older Sci-Fi movies. Inside the Tet was like V'ger from Star Trek TMP. The flying robots looked like Darth Vader's fighters in Star Wars. 

Even more: Why is the movie called Oblivion?  Try a Google search on Oblivion -- there are a zillion comic books with Oblivion in the name or characters called Oblivion. This goes to the lack of creativity in the film.