Movie Reviews

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Drive
FilmDistrict
In Theaters: 09.16.11
I will make this prediction: This film will be nominated for “Best Picture” in five months, because I wholeheartedly believe there will not be 10 films released capable of outshining this cinematic brilliance. However, if I am wrong and there are, then 2011 will have been one of the greatest years in the history of cinema. In the first ten minutes and with only a few words uttered, Nicolas Winding Refn immediately seats the audience in the backseat of Ryan Gosling’s getaway car and takes everyone on one of the most exhilarating car chase sequences ever. Your heart will pound, your fists will clench and you’ll be begging for more … and you’ll get it, too! The story itself is simple, and that’s all it needs to be. A Hollywood stunt driver (Gosling) who moonlights as a wheelman falls for a married mother (Carey Mulligan), but when her husband is released from prison, he brings with him a debt that puts the entire family in danger. In order to protect his newfound love, the mysterious driver places himself in the middle of a feud that involves a vicious crime family and disastrous results. There is not one element in this film that isn’t top notch. Refn uses everything from the minimalistic dialogue and artistic lighting to the striking set design and vintage ‘80s soundtrack to their fullest potential, never letting anything go to waste. Without a doubt, Refn has set the bar for filmmaking in 2011. Gosling is as charming as he is terrifying and his actions speak louder than words. Albert Brooks delivers a never-before-seen performance of villainy that sets the actor in an entirely new light. Capturing this modern day noir are the exquisite talents of Newton Thomas Sigel, whose crisp cinematography and attention to detail produced some of the most striking images to date. This is a tension-filled thriller that absolutely must be seen! –Jimmy Martin

Footloose
Paramount
In Theaters: 10.14
There are three elements of the state of Utah that are well known nationally: the quality of our snow, the presence of Mormons and the fact that the 1984 original Footloose was filmed here. Alright, maybe that last fact is more of a local appreciation, but it’s true nonetheless. With Hollywood now moving into the world of remaking 1980s classics, it’s no surprise the story of an outsider moving into a conservative, Southern small town where public dancing is prohibited due to a tragic accident would be the next on the slab, especially with the television ratings of “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars.” This time around, Ren McCormack (Kenny Wormald) moves in with his aunt and uncle in Bomont, Georgia after his mother succumbs to leukemia, but it doesn’t take long for the new kid in town to attract the judgmental eyes of Rev. Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) or those of his rebellious daughter, Ariel (Julianne Hough). With one offensive encounter after another from school officials and officers of the law, Ren realizes the time is now to rally together and stand up against the unlawful intrusions set against the town’s youth and restore the freedom of self-expression. While many may hate the onslaught of remakes making their way onto screens, some credit can be given to those filmmakers who see a previously told story and want to inject their own interpretation. However, this praise cannot be bestowed upon director Craig Brewer who has taken it upon himself to add nothing fresh to the teenage tale and simply replicates scenes shot for shot from the original. If anything has progressed in the past 27 years, it’s the complexities of dance, which Brewer has neglected to illustrate. Since Brewer refuses to take a unique approach in any fashion, there’s no reason why one shouldn’t just watch Kevin Bacon perform his sweaty punch dance over and over in the comfort of their own home. –Jimmy Martin

The Ides of March
Sony Pictures Entertainment
In Theaters: 10.07
George Clooney plops down in the director’s chair for his fourth feature with this political thriller adaptation of Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North” that stars Ryan Gosling as a campaign press secretary working for presidential hopeful Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) just as the Ohio Democratic Primary gets underway. As the campaign progresses, what was once thought to be a walk in the park is now compromised with backroom deals and unethical agreements. The moral standards of an idealistic team are pushed to the breaking point and loyalties between parties are put into question. The primary force of Clooney’s political punch comes from the powerful ensemble cast he has gathered, which include the sinister smugness of Paul Giamatti and the composed assertiveness of Philip Seymour Hoffman as two opposing and dedicated campaign managers. Watching these two political masterminds toy with Gosling as though he were a simple pawn in a skillful game of chess is engaging, but it is Gosling who takes charge of the film and fights back using their own dirty tactics to escalate the level of trepidation for all. The true fear that lies within the film is the level of plausibility with the actions transpiring on screen. We’re all aware the Washington political scene isn’t covered in rose petals, but to overhear one conceivable blackmailing conversation after another by those who desire to climb the political ladder is startling, especially since they’re most likely occurring as you read this sentence. –Jimmy Martin

Moneyball
Columbia Pictures
In Theaters: 09.23
For years, the NHL, NFL, MLS and NBA have incorporated the salary cap regulation within their sports’ guidelines so as to level the playing field amongst larger and smaller franchises. However, such is not the case when it comes to Major League Baseball, where, for example, the financial pockets of the New York Yankees are much deeper than those of the Oakland Athletics. Thus, the latter is unable to attract all-star players with multi-million dollar salaries. This is a fact Athletics’ general manager, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), has had to cope with at the end of every failing season. In an act of desperation and an attempt to alter the time-honored tradition in which teams are shaped, the once promising draft pick partners with young Yale graduate Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill) to enact an innovative strategy that utilizes undervalued players with a meticulously calculated equation. The potential result would allow a small-market team to remain competitive at a fraction of the cost, but the controversial journey to fame could bring Beane’s career to an end. Bennett Miller directs this sharp, behind-the-scenes sports dramedy with precision and perfected pacing, which allows Pitt and Hill to bounce off each other’s wittiness with impeccable rhythm. Pitt orchestrates player trades as though he was negotiating one hostage situation after another, and with his players positioned as the bargaining chips, it’s just as exciting. Yet, none of these successes could have occurred without the crafty rapid fire dialogue scripted by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, both of whom express their authentic love for the game both on and off the field in the humanizing of players and the financial business behind the game. –Jimmy Martin

Real Steel
Disney
In Theaters: 10.07
There’s a new wave of films on the horizon that have located a fresh source of previously established popularity. That’s right! Board game movies are on the way! Peter Berg has “Battleship,” McG is shopping a “Ouija” feature around and rumor has it Ridley Scott actually wants to helm a “Monopoly” epic. These certainly are odd times for Hollywood, but it’s Shawn Levy who kicks the door open with a futuristic robot boxing film that might as well have been titled “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.”  In the year 2027, the sport of boxing has become obsolete for a game of robotic brawling where the automated combatants can be torn limb from limb, giving the carnage-thirsty fans exactly what they crave. Attempting to profit from this mechanical mayhem is Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman), a petty promoter whose financial debts hinder every available personal and professional relationship. A glimmer of hope comes to the former contender with the partnership of his estranged son (Dakota Goyo) and a vintage sparring robot named Atom whose unnatural ability to take a punch and shadow human movements may give the underdog team a chance for the championship. Levy’s robot rumbles and special effects are as polished as they come, but the same cannot be said for the lackluster screenplay penned by John Gatins that offers nothing but exhausted dialogue and a routine storyline. Nevertheless, the utmost fault comes from the obnoxiousness of Goyo, who is without a doubt the worst child actor to star in a blockbuster since Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace. Why Levy allows the whiney prepubescent to overtake the screen with his unconvincing gusto and nauseating dance moves is beyond me. The true talent lies with Jackman, not Anakin Bieber. –Jimmy Martin