Take your ass back to the trailer park – part 2

blue is the warmest colorWith Oscar season almost upon us, there’s a lot of films out now or soon that should have you racing to the cinema. From drama, action and horror to comedies and a compelling biopic, here’s my pick of marvellous movies you need on your radar.

The Monuments Men (Feb, 2014)
Based on a book of the same name, this film has caper written all over it. Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with Ocean’s Eleven, as Clooney and Damon again take centre stage. This, however, is based on a true story. Essentially it’s ‘art curators assemble!’, as an unlikely band of misfits team up to recover works of art stolen by the Nazis during the war.

Kill Your Darlings
(Dec, 2013)
Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan play Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr respectively; with the film focusing on the birth of the beat generation’s most well known writers: Ginsberg, Karouac and Burroughs. Despite putting in a respectable turn in The Woman in Black, Radcliffe is still – for some out there – trying to establish himself post Potter. From the looks of it he’s gone some way to achieve that. DeHaan, too, continues to establish himself as a growing talent.

(Nov, 2013)
Rival to Wes Anderson’s quirky crown comes in the form of Alexander Payne; the man behind Sideways and The Descendants and a director on the rise. Here he tells the tale – filmed in black and white – of Bruce Dern’s Woody Grant; a man who think he’s won a million dollars and sets off on a road trip to claim his prize. It’s already won a stack of awards and received lavish praise from critics. If you like quirky, human films it’s a must-see.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
(Dec, 2013)
Actor, producer, singer, rapper… Luther! Stringer Bell! Stacker Pentecost! Is there anything Idris Elba can’t do? Apparently not as he’s now playing Nelson Mandela in this epic portrayal of the great man’s life. The film’s red carpet release coincided, tragically, with his death. In terms of the film, it looks to be a stirring affair but has received mixed reviews.

(Nov, 2013)
Big cajones… that’s what you need if you’re going to remake a Brian De Palma classic. The 1976 original blew people away being universally praised and rightly so. So big cajones, in this case, comes in the form of Chloë Grace Moretz (fast developing as one of Hollywood’s best young female talents), Julianne Moore and director Kimberly Peirce – best known for her award winning debut Boys Don’t Cry (1999). As far as remakes go, it has promise but received mixed reviews. If you’re a fan of the original and/or Moretz, it’s worth checking out.

Her (Jan, 2014)
Here’s a brave move: take one of the most attractive women in Hollywood – one, Scarlett Johansson – and have her play a role where we only get to hear her voice. Brave or genius? Either way, it’s the sort of thing you expect from enigmatic director Spike Jonze. This film sees Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely writer develop a relationship with an operating system voiced by Scarlett. An intriguing idea – although puts me in mind Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, an episode called ‘Be Right Back‘ starring Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson.

The Raid 2: Berandal
(Mar, 2014)
Welsh director Gareth Evans and breakout star Iko Uwais are back with their sequel… Oh yes! The original film had a simple premise (bunch of cops get trapped in a drug lord’s tower block and have to fight their way out) and the sequel immediately picks up events from the first; with Uwais’s Rama going undercover with gangs to bust corrupt cops. Same old, same old you may say – just watch the trailer.

300: Rise of an Empire
(Mar, 2014)
THIS IS A SEQUEL! Sorry, couldn’t resist. Actually it’s a sequel, prequel and a sort of during-quel in some ways. Covering events before, during and after the 2007 original. Obviously we’ve got no Gerard Butler this time round. Filling the gap looks to be a heroine in the shape of the delicious and delectable Eva Green. What with this and Sin City 2, Eva’s star looks to be on the rise next year. A pleasing thing as she’s a mesmerising screen presence.

Blue Is The Warmest Color
(Nov, 2013)
This French romantic drama is the first film to win a Palme d’Or for both the director and lead actresses. Also the first film adapted from a graphic novel to win the award. Essentially it tells the tale of two female students who fall in and out of love. Critics have heaped praise on it with award winning director Pedro Almodovar naming it in his 12 best films of the year.

The Place Beyond The Pines…Schenectady

130412CutdownPines_7474218When mentioning that I was going to see The Place Beyond the Pines I referred to it as ‘the latest Ryan Gosling movie’, which is fair, given the trailer. However, it’s not an out-and-out Gosling movie, not entirely. I’ll explain, but first, the setup.

Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a motorcyle stunt rider who works for a travelling fairground. We start with the obligatory ‘Gosling torso shot’, then the camera follows him in one long tracking shot from his trailer through the fairground into the main tent, he then climbs onto his bike. The shot pans up to his face. He’s cool, he’s moody, he’s a modern-day Steve McQueen – a promising start.

Luke then pays a visit to old flame Romina (Eva Mendes) and learns she has a son and he’s the father. He vows to stick around and provide for them. Beyond-The-Pines1However fairground work doesn’t pay well, so he strikes up a friendship with mechanic Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), who suggests he robs banks using his motorcycle skills to get away.

Needless to say he gets in over his head and crosses paths with rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  The narrative then spins in another direction following Avery’s journey. Initially I thought the film was done with Glanton’s tale, however his character’s presence is felt throughout. As the trailer states, the film is ‘an exhilarating epic of fathers, sons and consequences’, which is apt. The film explores the legacy – for better or worse – that fathers leave behind for their sons and how it affects them.

After Avery’s tale, the film changes tack again, focusing on AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane Dehaan), the sons of Cross and Glanton respectively. place-beyond-the-pines-bradley-cooperBoth young lads put in strong performances, the former reminded me of a young Tom Hardy – an intense screen presence. The latter, Dehaan, delivered another mature performance, following his strong turn in one of the most impressive, yet underrated films of 2012, Chronicle.

Gosling can confidently add The Place Beyond the Pines to his ever-growing list of classically cool characters. Cooper, too, can hold his head high. After an exemplary performance in Silver Linings Playbook, this may be a career-high.

In terms of script and direction, Derek Cianfrance has been quite clever. You’re likely to discover more depth and meaning with a second viewing. That’s not to say those things aren’t present first time round, it’s just that, with the plot switching focus roughly each act to new characters, you spend your first viewing working things out. A second viewing should allow you to sit back and soak up the experience more thoroughly.

emorycohendanedehaanIn terms of cinematography, it looked quite beautiful. The landscape in and around the town of Schenectady (which literally means ‘the place beyond the pines’) was incredibly green, lush and fertile. Scenes were filmed in a sort of watery light and dreamlike manner, with a lot of handheld camerawork. I suppose to bring a sense of realism.

Whatever the motives, overall The Place Beyond the Pines came across as a tender, heartfelt, beautiful-looking tale with real depth – one that will mature with repeat viewings. Cianfrance coaxed sterling performances from the cast – particularly Cooper and Dehaan – and, with this and Blue Valentine to his name, I’m excited to see what he does next.