Friday, September 30, 2011

10 Best Things of September 2011

1. Chikara in NYC, "Martyr Yourself to Caution"

This was my first trip to see the Chikara Pro Wrestling promotion in person. A thrilling but still weird experience to have, meeting some of your most respected wrestlers only two feet away. Everyone was on all cylinders, including the great main event between Eddie Kingston and Fire Ant.

2. Drive

A real human being and a real hero. This critically acclaimed film, the first of my top five anticipated films of the fall season, lived to its expectations. I'm now a big fan of Ryan Gosling and that soundtrack, oh man, has ear wormed me severely. Too bad my frequent searches for it and its constant delays prevented it from being included this month.

3. Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour

"I want ALL the ham!". Oh Oswalt, why are you so funny?

4 - 6. DC Comics' New 52

DC Comics premiered their biggest gamble with 52 new comic book series to bring in new readers. Aside from the low points and disgusting displays of sexism, I had a blast and enjoyed all of my buys. The absolute best were Wonder Woman, Action Comics, and Demon Knights, which were all surprisingly fantastic with unique storytelling and beautiful art.

7 - 8. NBC on September 29, 2011

Community and Parks and Recreations, both in their second episodes since returning, had great gags, particularly Parks with its Ron Swanson-centric storyline and a hilarious turn by Patricia Clarkson.

9. Adventure Time, "Fionna and Cake"

This highly anticipated episode pulled off a great satire of why fan fiction and fan scripts should never be animated.

10. The Tommy Wi-Show

I know Tommy Wiseau, auteur of the cult classic The Room, simply is exploiting videogame culture and web humor with his new viral series but watching him befuddled with Mortal Kombat was a guilty pleasure treat.

My Tops of 2011 - September

COLUMBIANA is highly forgettable brain dead action film despite the appeal of Zoe Saldana. It really could have made my Worst Films list if not for Saldana.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK works as a creepy old-school haunted house film with some good performances but its third act is filled with constantly screamed out names and annoying plot conveniences.

FRIGHT NIGHT was really impressive and overcame the fears of the original fans. Colin Farrell and David Tennant had excellent supporting roles, the cinematography was always striking, and it had great horror-comedy script, excluding the JUNO-like introduction.

DRIVE is simply a masterpiece. Just everything blew me away and it has become the top film to beat for myself this fall season.

WARRIOR had the required the feel-good sport tropes but it brought in too many tropes and expectations. Fantastic acting though, especially Tom Hardy.

Best Films of 2011

1. Drive

2. Bridesmaids

3. Rango

4. The Tree of Life

5. Source Code

6. Super 8

7. X-Men: First Class

8. The Green Hornet

9. Paul

10. Thor

11. Fright Night

Worst Films of 2011

1. Passion Play

2. Waiting For Forever

3. Mars Needs Moms

4. Battle: Los Angeles

5. Atlas Shrugged

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

7. Scream 4

8. Gnomeo and Juliet

Friday, September 16, 2011

Drive - Review

The character of The Driver is cool incarnate and a true walking nightmare. There is a reason he achieves some clarity and calmness once he's behind the wheel. Those four tires separate him from the Earth, allowing him to fly like a graceful angel. Cross him or attack the ride and you'll have to contend with a devil, wielding a hammer or an engined-fuel bullet respectively. Choose wisely because this bloodthirsty avenger with a pretty face will leave carnage in his wake.

DRIVE engulfs two of America's most vivid fascinations, automobiles and criminal violence, and with a heavy hand from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn becomes a beautiful masterpiece of terror. It takes your expectations, whether low or high, and gleefully plays and juggles around with them like a mischievous jester. The film hands you an exciting car chase at the start, moves to a slow crawl with quieter moments before exploding at random intervals with undiluted mayhem. It is one of absolute greatest films this year.

Los Angeles, a city ruled by the commerce and entertainment of sports and filmmaking, once again becomes a cesspool of crime of facades. A nameless and often emotionless inhuman being, played expertly by Ryan Gosling, has decided to dip into all of these aspects only if it includes an automobile. He does the car stunts in films, works at a car shop with his mentor/father figure, and is about to get into stock car racing. However, his true obsession is moonlighting as a wheelman, willing to grant various underlings an easy getaway only if they make it back before five minutes are up.

Like all crime stories, a dame comes along but this time with a child. The Driver enters into a blossoming relationship with his neighbor, a struggling mother (Carey Mulligan) with a husband in the joint. This sense of true joy and bliss for him is then grounded and further stomped upon when the husband is released and back in the grasps of his criminal handlers. A chance to rescue him leads to a botched job, massive double-crosses, and a bag full of money. The guardian angel for the scum of the earth now becomes its grim reaper.

Daring is the keyword for this film. All of the players in front and behind the camera bring their truly best work to make a gory art film. Ryan Gosling deserves the best attention with his unbelievably engrossing performance. I often joked that Gosling is our generation's Marlon Brando with his critically acclaimed roles and the immense lust of his female fans. With this film, the joke has come true. He plays up his character's unpredictable behavior to a hilt with his conflicted facials but the audience can interpret what's to come with his silent hand gestures. All of his very talented co-stars can handle the challenge of Gosling, most notably Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman as menacing crime bosses. Even Christina Hendricks, one of the most stunning and talented workers on television today, steals some spotlight in her unglamorous but interesting brief role as a femme fatale.

The artsy cinematography is never pretentious, even during the sun-coated playful scenes. It is able to easily avoid simply being a giant spotfest of glorious framed shots and mise en scene thanks to muted lighting and clever editing. The ugliness of fluorescent lights is everywhere in L.A., amplifying both the immense despair and the brief moments of love. Several scenes are long takes and go on for awhile, almost to the point of parody. However, others are married with the exceptional sound design and music. From the low hums of an engine and a watch to the Tangerine Dream inspired film score and songs, the audio pushes the film to breathtaking proportions.

DRIVE completely moves so far forward and ahead over the rest of this year's releases. It handles both being an art and entertainment driven film and then pummels them harder and further into the viewer's eyes and ears. Truly exciting, truly brilliant.