Monday, August 12, 2013

My drafts section is clogged up with half-written pieces and reviews. So in an attempt to de-clutter I'm throwing out some quick reviews.

Drive (2011)

The city at night, the car as a means of escape, Taxi Driver (Albert Brooks), History of Violence, that jacket, Carey Mulligan's perfect face. The loneliness of the existential hero. A fairy-tale, found innocence and the violence required to protect it. He's doomed, like Mitchum in Out of the Past, he even works in a garage. His past is violence, he can't escape it, can't drive fast enough, can't resist the urge to risk, to be a driver of crimes. Gosling's monotone, reigned in, from a distance cool, up close wary, in control of situations, in control of himself even more. Then a woman comes into his life and he starts to make wrong decisions. It's noir, a sleek rethread of old themes, moody and gorgeous with LA light.

Date Night (2010)

Middle-aged married couple in a rut, the Fosters, decide to treat themselves to a night in the big city. Unable to get a table at a swanky restaurant they pretend to be another couple and take their table. Big mistake. The other couple are wanted by gun-wielding thugs and soon the Fosters are on the run. It has the feel of a reheated 1980s plot (the idea of New York at night as a dangerous place). Steve Carell and Tina Fey make it work even as the plot is insultingly unconvincing (the cops and baddies don't exist in any reality), the great Ray Liotta is wasted and the ending is lame. On the other hand it captures mundane married life well, there are several funny scenes and good support from a shirtless Mark Wahlberg and especially James Franco and Mila Kunis as a bickering criminal couple who nearly steal the film in one scene. You come away thinking that, given better material, Carell and Fey could be a great screwball couple. Fey in particular has a Diane Keaton meets Irene Dunne thing going on that could be, should be, great.

Bride Wars (2009)

I don't know why I watch these things. Sometimes the brain just wants to wallow in the shallows for awhile. And so, this. Predictable, tiresomely glossy and aspirational, full of product-placement and godawful music. It's barely film-making in any real sense. The only use it serves is to confirm what a brittlely sour actress Anne Hathaway is. The trick to making your character a selfish bitch in a rom-com is to cast an actress who can make us forget all the bad stuff by the end because underneath they're really nice. Hathaway displays no such ability here.

Knight and Day (2010)
Low expectations can be a film's best friend. This was a case in point. I'd heard nothing but bad things of this film or, to be more precise, I'd sensed an overwhelming wave of meh emanating from its general direction. It came out at a particularly low point in Cruise's public reputation and the lack of hype or interest seemed to portent the end of his career as a top action movie draw. Plus it was called Knight and Day. This didn't help. So imagine my surprise to discover that it was (at least for the first half hour) a fast-paced hoot, as June Havens (Diaz) gets caught up with spy Roy Miller (Cruise), an apparently unhinged, homicidal lunatic she does her best to escape from. This is the best part of the film because they don't have to explain the plot, just rush headlong into action, spouting funny lines. Unfortunately they have to bring the plot in, although, a say plot, I mean whatever nonsense someone wrote on the back of a cigarette packet and got paid an obscene amount of money for. It doesn't warrant any attention, the plot, just an excuse for bringing June and Roy together in various exotic locations. Cruise and Diaz have real chemistry together and James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line) directs it with easy charm but too much dodgy CGI, especially towards the end. It isn't anything special, but it's way better than its reputation. Likeable, throwaway nonsense.

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