Poll: Which Films Are You Most Looking Forward To Seeing In November?


Last month, at this time, we asked you which four films you were most looking forward to seeing in the month of October.  The results are in and it appears that October is going to be all about The Thing, Footloose, The Rum Diary, The Skin I Live In, and The Ides of March.  Thank you to everyone who voted.

Here’s November’s poll.  As always, you can vote for up to four films and write-ins are accepted.  So, let us know — which films are you looking forward to seeing in November?

6 More Quickies With Lisa Marie: Beginners, Hall Pass, Horrible Bosses, Paul, Prom, and Terri


When I swore to myself that I would write a review of every new film I saw in 2011, I failed to take into consideration that 1) I see a lot of films, 2) I have a day job, and 3) I’m like Ms. ADHD.  So, as part of my effort to catch up, here’s 6 quickie reviews. 

Beginners (directed by Mike Mills)

Beginners opened with a lot of critical hype earlier this year and, though it’s not quite as great as it’s being made out to be, it still deserved the majority of that praise.  At the very least, I retain better memories of Beginners than I do this summer’s other similarly hyped film, A Better Life.  Ewan McGregor is an artist who struggles to come terms with the death of his gay father (Christopher Plummer) while falling in love with a French actress (Melanie Laurent).  The autobiographical film effortlessly shifts from flashbacks to Plummer’s life in-and-out of the closet to McGregor’s relationship with Laurent and the end result is a meditation on love, secrets, and life.  Most of the pre-release buzz dealt with Plummer’s performance but, honestly, Plummer is good but you never forget you’re watching Christopher Plummer and Goran Visnjic, who plays Plummer’s boyfriend, overacts.  The film really belongs to Ewan McGregor who gives one of his best performances in this film.  Seriously, does any actor fall in love as wonderfully as Ewan McGregor?

Hall Pass (directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly)

Best friends Owen Wilson and Jason Sudekis are given a “hall pass” (i.e., permission to cheat) by their spouses (Jenna Fischer and Cristina Applegate).  The film’s forgettable but seriously, guys, don’t go asking us for a hall pass, okay?  One interesting point is that this film was co-written by the guy who won the first season of Project Greenlight.  Remember that show? 

Horrible Bosses (directed by Set Gordon)

Jason Sudekis also appeared in another comedy this year and if Hall Pass is one of the year’s most forgettable comedies, than Horrible Bosses is one of the best.  Basically Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Sudekis are stuck working for horrible bosses (played by Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell, and Jennifer Aniston) and they decide that the only way to handle the situation is to commit mass murder.  There’s a lot I could say about this film but chances are, you’ve already seen it.  Therefore, you already know that this is a rare dark comedy that actually has the guts to be truly dark.  You also know that the entire cast brings an almost heroic sincerity to their often bizarre roles with Charlie Day’s misunderstood sex offender as an obvious stand-out.  Probably the best advice that I can give in this review is to enjoy and appreciate this film while you can before the inevitable sequel comes out and screws up all these good memories.

Paul (directed by Greg Mottola)

I didn’t see Paul when it was first released in theaters because the trailer really made it look kinda awful.  However, I did eventually give it a shot OnDemand and I was pleasantly surprised.  Two English sci-fi fanboys (played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) are taking a road trip to visit all of the major UFO sites in the U.S.  This leads to them meeting an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who is being pursued by the typical guys in black suits.  Anyway, this is a predictable film and the balance between the serious and comedic is often a bit awkward.  However, it’s still a likable film and how can’t you enjoy watching Pegg and Frost?  They can make even the lamest of jokes hilarious.  Kristen Wiig steals the film as a fundamentalist who, upon being enlightened about the nature of the universe by Paul, embraces blasphemy with endearing enthusiasm.

Prom (directed by Joe Nussbaum)

No, I did not force Jeff to take me to see this when it was first released in theaters back in April.  I tried, mostly be saying things like, “Wow, Prom looks like it would be a funny movie to see and spend the whole time making mean jokes about and making all the little tweens in the audience cry…” but he saw through my ruse and, if memory serves me correct, I ended up seeing the second worst film of 2011 (a.k.a. The Conspirator) instead.  Anyway, I ended up seeing Prom OnDemand last month and it’s not really that bad.  It’s not good either.  It’s just kinda there.  In other words, Prom is incredibly meh and that’s one thing prom night should never be.  (I loved my proms, by the way, and, whenever things seem overwhelming, I often think to myself, “If only every night could be Prom Night…”)  Prom is forgettable and inoffensive but come on, tweens deserve better films.  They are the future, after all.

Terri (directed by Azazel Jacobs)

Terri made me cry and cry and was one of my favorite movies of the summer.  It’s a surprisingly poignant film that worked wonders with material that, at first glance, seemed awfully conventional.  Terri (played by Jacob Wysocki) is a sensitive, obese teenager who is taken under the wing of an unconventional assistant principal (John C. Reilly).  It’s a familiar story but director Azazel Jacobs tells this story with care and sensitivity and Wysocki and Reilly bring their characters to life with such skill that you can’t help but get caught up in their story.  Terri’s loving but senile uncle is played by Creed Bratton, who proves here that he’s capable of doing a lot more than just parodying himself on The Office.  When I went to this movie, two old women sitting behind me went, “Awwww!” at a scene where Wysocki spontaneously hugs Reilly.  The film earns the sentiment.

Most of these films are available via OnDemand or are currently available on DVD.  Horrible Bosses and Terri are scheduled to be released in October while Beginners will come out in November.

Thoughts on the Battlefield 3 Beta


I received an email from Electronic Arts this week, letting me know that the Beta for Battlefield 3 was available to play about 48 hours from the main release. Everyone should be able to play it today, and from what I can tell, it’s well worth it for Battlefield Fans. This is just a quick synopsis of playing the game.

I feel like someone out there has been paying attention to the shortcomings of the Bad Company games, and it looks like it’s coming across nicely.

So far, the Beta works off of one huge map. As always, the battle is broken down into three areas within this map. The first of these is a large park. The second moves into a subway system and the third expands out to a city square. It almost feels larger than what was available in Bad Company 2, but is roughly the same size. It seems that a number of changes were implemented, particularly in the explosions in the game. A lot of changes have been implemented, particularly in some of the movements of your character. You now have the ability to go prone and vault over low obstacles. Going Prone has already proven effective in a number of game sessions as fireteams now lie in wait near the foliage close to the demolition targets. It’s become much harder to be able to see anyone when making your way into a situation. That’s a very nice touch, considering that in the past, the most one could do was kneel.

The game still works off of the Class system from previous BF games, but the graphics have been updated considerably. While it may not be very noticeable in the first part of the battle, once you reach the subway, it’s nice to see how large the world you’re in is and what you can do with it. When you throw down a package, it’s a very large box, compared to the small ones in Bad Company Two.

The guns in the game are interesting. The opening gun for the Assault Class remains the M16, but the Specialist class has the M4 as a starting rifle. Additionally, playthroughs on this map will allow you to unlock various attachments such as scopes and new weapons. Though I haven’t seen it first hand, the game explains that laser attachments and flashlights will actually blind a person when shined at them. The guns (the shotgun in particular) appear to be a little overpowered, though that could be my playing a little too much Gears of War before starting BF3. It’s tactical, as always.

One thing I would like to see (unless I missed it) was Night Vision. There is one area of the game, where it’s almost completely dark and is really almost impossible to see anything. You have to pause and look for where the shots are come from and just fire in that general direction. It would be nice to see, if it’s there.

Overall, Battlefield 3 is really shaping up to look like an intense game. I’m eager to see what other maps they’ll have in store later on.

Scenes I Love: Zombie


Lisa Marie picked her favorite scene from Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombie (aka Zombi, Zombie Flesh Eaters) and now I counter with my own favorite scene from this film.

This scene has a simple set-up. The wife of the doctor researching zombification on the island of Matool gets herself in a sort of a pickle. Zombies have laid siege to her island home and most of her servants have either fled into the night or have become zombie chow. She’s barricaded herself in a room as zombie begin to batter down doors to get to her. It’s in the sequence where she has thought herself safe as she’s barricaded the door to her room when the hand and arm of a zombie breaks through the door (for some reason quite flimsy and prone to splintering) and grabs her by the hair and begins to pull her out through the splintered hole in the door.

I could continue to describe the scene, but I think it’s better for people to see why this scene is the one I love from Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.

Scenes I Love: Zombie Vs. Shark


Okay, so I realize that this is a pretty familiar scene.  Along with being one of the highpoints of Lucio Fulci’s seminal Zombi 2, it was also used — out of context — in a television commercial a few years ago.  I can’t remember what the commercial was for but I do remember being ticked off whenever I was on twitter and I saw people who had probably never even heard of Lucio Fulci going, “Awww!  I love the Shark/Zombie makeout commercial!” 

(Oh!  Wait, I do remember — it was one of those “Windows So-and-So was my idea!” commercials.  God, I hated that advertising campaign.)

Anyway, here’s a scene I truly love, shown in its proper context — the Zombie/Shark fight from Lucio Fulci’s 1979 masterpiece Zombi 2.  One thing I always wondered was whether or not that the shark came back as a zombie shark.

I kinda hope it did.

What Lisa Watched Last Night: Terra Nova Episode 1.1 — “Genesis”


Last night, I actually put off watching Dancing With The Kinda Stars so that I could catch the first episode of Fox’s much-hyped sci-fi series, Terra Nova.  This show was produced by Mr. Mainstream himself, Steven Spielberg.

Why Was I Watching It?

I was beaten into submission by the nonstop commercials.  Now, I have to admit that the commercials seemed to represent everything that I traditionally dislike in my entertainment: political subtext, “inspiring” speeches, and Stephen Lang.  However, it also had dinosaurs and seriously, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?

What’s It About?

Okay, we’re several years into the future and the Earth looks a lot like Blade Runner.  Why?  It turns out that Al Gore was right and ManBearPig has basically messed up the entire planet.  However, there is hope!  There’s some sort of tear in the whole space-time continuum and stepping through it allows a few lucky citizens to go back to the Island from Lost.  However, since this is the FAR future, nobody remembers Lost so they think they’ve actually gone back to the prehistoric past.  In the prehistoric past, time travellers are living in a small community that is overseen by a vaguely menacing guy who we suspect might secretly be evil because he’s named Nathaniel and he’s played by Stephen Lang.

Anyway, there’s this family that has issues in the future and since Jeremy Kyle is long dead (we can only hope), they can’t go on TV to work it out.  So, they go through the time portal.  The father — who is a fugitive from future law — quickly becomes a part of Nathaniel’s security force.  Meanwhile, the teenage children get all rebellious and there’s these guerillas who live outside the compound and they’re led by a woman who might as well have been played by Michelle Rodriguez but wasn’t.

Oh!  And there are dinosaurs!  Yay!

What Worked?

The show is filmed in Australia and, as a result, it’s really pretty to look at. 

I make fun of Stephen Lang a lot because I honestly believe that he gave one of the worst performances in cinematic history in Avatar.  (Fortunately, he was acting opposite Sam Worthington, who can make anyone look like an Olivier by comparison.)  But, I have to admit, Lang is well-cast here and comes the closest to anyone in this episode to actually being memorable.

The dinosaurs are impressive and fun to watch.  Unfortunately, the fake dinosaurs often displayed more personality than the living actors but still, who doesn’t love dinosaurs?  Hopefully, in a future episode, the annoying and way too English talk show host Jeremy Kyle will come through the portal and get devoured (in slow-motion) by one of the dinosaurs.  I may start a letter-writing campaign.

What Doesn’t Work?

A lot.

My biggest complaint with the show was that this episode really put the sloth into the giant sloth.  Seriously.  Lost took its time as well but the show itself was never boring.  Terra Nova, at least in this episode, seems to feel that elaborate special effects are a proper substitute for interesting characters, witty dialogue, and anything else that might organically create narrative momentum.  I actually ended up falling asleep during the final 30 minutes of the show and had to watch the finale off of the DVR.

The dinosaurs were impressive but the rest of the show’s special effects were rather predictable and a little on the bleh side.  The time portal looked like every other time portal in the history of science fiction and the dystopian future looked a lot like Blade Runner but without any of the small details to make it feel like anything other than CGI. 

I am officially bored with shows that use global warming as a plot point.  Seriously, they’re always so smug about it. 

This show is being compared, by many people, to Lost.  Like Lost, the scenery is beautiful and the plot has the potential for a lot of secrets and mysteries to be uncovered.  However, Lost also had a lot of quirky, interesting characters and that’s something that Terra Nova, on the basis of this episode, is lacking.  The first episode of Terra Nova felt a lot like Lost if Lost had only focused on Jack Shepherd and Michael Dawson.  Terra Nova needs its own Sawyers, Hurleys, and John Lockes. 

Now, I want to make clear — my comments here are strictly based on seeing Genesis and a lot of my criticisms could be due to the fact that it’s just the first episode.  Hopefully, as a series, Terra Nova will — much like Lost and Fringe and other comparable shows — evolve beyond the strengths and flaws of the first episode.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Nathaniel’s rebellious daughter, I would also go a little stir crazy if I was stuck in that highly regimented, socialistic commune.  Seriously, the commune looked like a really bleh place to live.

Lessons Learned

Dinosaurs are neat and global warming is tedious.

Let’s Second Guess The Academy: 2006 Best Picture


Hi there and welcome to the latest, long-delayed edition of Let’s Second Guess The Academy.  Previously, we second-guessed the Academy’s choice for best picture of 1990, 1994, 1998, and 2002.  It seems only fitting that we now jump ahead another 4 years and reconsider the race for best picture of 2006.

The Academy nominated five films for best picture 0f 2006.  Those films were Babel, The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen.  They ultimately named The Departed the best film of 2006.  Were they right?

And now, here’s my favorite part of second guessing the Academy.  What if none of the five nominated films had been released in 2006?  Which other films would you have nominated?  Below is a list of some of 2006′s most acclaimed and memorable films.  You can vote for up to 10 replacement nominees and write-in votes are allowed.

As always, vote once, vote often, and have fun!

Trailer: Battlefield 3 “Above and Beyond the Call w/ Jay-Z”


(All video footage ACTUAL GAMEPLAY)

The time for the final push to hype up the upcoming first-person shooter from EA and DICE has begun.

Battlefield 3 gets a brand-new TV ad spot which touts the title’s actual gameplay and the strength of it’s new graphics engine with Frostbite 2.0. To better give the ad a particular hook it uses Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” track to some great effect. The video shows the three different gameplay choices a player can have during single-player and multiplayer gaming: foot soldier, helicopter gunship and fighter pilot and tank driver.

As the tv spot has pointed out — plus the video below showing some multiplayer gameplay — Battlefield 3 has been the consensus best shooter to be seen by industry people at all the gaming shows and conventions this year. Whether the title will knock Activision’s Call of Duty franchise off it’s lofty perch still has to be seen, but if there’s a game that could begin the process of doing it then Battlefield 3 may just be it.

Battlefield 3 slated for an October 25, 2011 release date for the Xbox 360, Windows PC and PS3.

Lisa Marie Compromises: Moneyball (dir. by Bennett Miller) and Warrior (dir. by Gavin O’Conner)


Here’s one thing I’ve learned about relationships – sometimes, you have to compromise.  Sometimes, you have to do things for your man that you’d rather not do and you have to pretend like you’re enjoying it and sometimes, you even have to do it several times before you get what it is that you want.  Case in point: I recently went to two sports films with Jeff. 

Now, I have to be honest.  I don’t know much about sports in general and quite frankly, I really have next to no desire to know.  Why am I so indifferent to this thing that most men appear to be incapable of living without?  Well,

1)      I have asthma and therefore, I never got to play any of the games that all the other kids were playing.  This led to me becoming bitter towards those who could actually breathe and have fun at the same time and,

2)      I’m a girl.

My indifference to sports tends to extend even to cinematic sports.  Seriously, most sports-related films either put me to sleep or lead to me making a lot of snarky comments under my breath.  However, I recently forced Jeff to accompany me to see One Day, which is one of the most girly movies ever made.  In fact, it was such a girly movie that I’ve had to see not one but two sports movies with Jeff.  The first was Warrior and the second (which we saw on Saturday) was Moneyball.

I don’t quite feel qualified to review Moneyball because, to be honest, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was going on during most of the film.  Normally, I would just say that this was a sign of failure on the film’s part but the audience around me really seemed to love this film and so did Jeff.  So, I’m going to refrain from judging Moneyball too harshly.  Instead, I’ll simply state that this film was not for me but if you’re a baseball fan (and you really love to get into the nitty gritty details of how a baseball team is put together), chances are that you’ll enjoy this film. 

Fortunately, there are a few things that help make Moneyball a tolerable experience even for a sport illiterate like me.  The film tells the story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s and how he turned the A’s into a winning team by revolutionizing the way that teams are put together.  I’m not really sure what he did that was revolutionary because the film itself really doesn’t spend too much time explaining how his method is different from the previous method.  It spends a lot of time telling us that his approach is different but Aaron Sorkin’s script seems to assume that everyone in the audience already knows how baseball works.  (That’s not necessarily a slam against the film, either.  It’s a baseball movie, after all.)  Luckily, Brad Pitt, who gives such a mature and multi-faceted performance here that you hope that Billy succeeds even if, like me, you’re not really sure what he’s talking about half the time, plays Billy Beane.  Seriously, this was the first time I’ve ever watched Brad Pitt and forgotten that I was watching Brad Pitt.  Pitt is ably supported by Jonah Hill, who plays his assistant and is largely responsible for introducing Pitt to the “new” system.  Hill plays his scenes with all the enthusiasm of a high school nerd who has finally forced the cool kids to acknowledge how much smarter he is than them.  It’s a truly endearing performance and again, you find yourself rooting for Hill even if you can’t quite understand what he’s going on about half the time.

Again, if you’re a sports fan or a fan of statistics (which I am not because seriously, math is just one big bleh to me), you’ll find a lot of to enjoy in Moneyball.  I wish the film had been a bit more accessible for someone like me but obviously, I’m not that target audience and, regardless of whether you’re a sports fan or not, director Bennett Miller keeps the action moving quickly and the performances of Pitt and Hill both hold your attention.

Warrior takes place in the world of “mixed martial arts,” which I assume is the new big sport.  I say assume because I actually know even less about the world of mixed martial arts than I do about baseball. Before going in to see Warrior, all I knew about MMA and the Ultimate Fighting Championship was that Russell – one of the most unlikable Big Brother houseguests ever – was apparently a UFC contender.  Or maybe it was Jesse.  I don’t know.  I have trouble keeping all the Big Brother houseguests straight, to be honest. 

Warrior is the story of two brothers.  One of them is a bitter, pill-popping ex-Marine who fights because he’s angry at the world.  Tom Hardy plays him.  The other is played by Joel Edgerton and is presented as a happily married teacher who is fighting because he’s flat broke and in danger of losing his home.  The two brothers haven’t spoken in years and about the only thing they have in common (beyond the fact that they’re both good at fighting) is a shared hatred for their father (a quite poignant Nick Nolte, doing wonders in a role that seems almost too perfect for him), a recovering alcoholic who sees his sons as his only hope for redemption.  Ultimately, the parallel fighting careers of the two brothers leads to a surprise family reunion in Atlantic City where they find themselves both competing in the same brutal, winner-take-all tournament.

Warrior tells a pretty familiar story and there are a few plot developments (such as Hardy’s AWOL status from the Marines) that feel undeveloped but the film still works about a hundred percent better than it has any right to.  Director Gavin O’Connor wisely takes a low-key approach to the film’s more melodramatic moments and brings a sense of gritty realism to the beginning of the film that provides quite a contrast to the later gaudiness of Atlantic City.  Nolte and Edgerton both give excellent performances and, after years of being best known for his mug shot, it’s nice to see what a strong and multifaceted actor Nick Nolte actually is.  However, the film truly belongs to Tom Hardy.  In this film, Hardy is a true force of nature and gives a performance that is both frightening and sympathetic at the same time.  You want to reach out and give the poor guy a hug even though you know he might end up killing you in response. 

Coming out of Warrior, I still didn’t know much about MMA but I did know that I had just seen a well-made, emotionally satisfying film.

Review: Drive (dir. by Nicolas Winding Refn)


Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has made just a handful of films with most staying under the radar of most of the general film-going public. He first caught the attention of indie film fans with his Pusher Trilogy over in Denmark, but he really caught the attention of these fans with his explosive collaboration with Tom Hardy on the Bronson biopic. He would follow that film with the violent existentialist Viking film Valhalla Rising. It would take another major collaboration with another rising star in Ryan Gosling for Winding Refn to finally have his major breakout film which has caught the attention of not just the indie film fans and cineaste crowd, but the general public at-large.

Drive was first screened over at this year’s 2011 Cannes Film Festival where it premiered “in competition” for the Palme d’Or. While the film didn’t win the top prize for best film at Cannes it didn’t garner Nicolas Winding Refn “Best Director” award and his work on this film more than merits such an accolade. The film would begin to screen at other major film festivals before landing at the Toronto International Film Festival before making it’s major public release in North America. Everywhere the film went the consensus reaction to the film has ranged from positive to calls for the film as one of 2011’s best.

So, it would seem most everyone has been quite positive with their reaction to Refn’s Drive. Is this film just another indie arthouse title which the elitist film fans have begun to hype up to levels that would border on cosmic? Or is this film actually as good as it has been talked up to be by such film fans and those of the general public who have seen it? I think the answer lies somewhere in-between.

Drive has been called an action-drama to crime-thriller to film noir and even an existentialist meditation of the film variety. Some have even called it a modern urban fairy tale from the many traditional tropes and themes inherent in fairy tales. The film actually seems to defy genre labels as it’s all those and even more. Nicolas Winding Refn has made a film with so much variety in its cinematic DNA from other classic films and storytelling styles that watching the film once is not enough to find them all.

The film makes a strong statement with it’s introduction of the character who remains nameless but could be called “The Driver” or “The Kid”. Ryan Gosling’s performance in this opening sequence will set the foundation for his character from beginning to end. His driver role is not much for chit-chat and unnecessary talking with those who have hired him to be their expert getaway driver. He’s meticulous with his equipment and intractable when it comes to the rules he has set down for his clients. He would be theirs for the five minutes they need him to drive them away from their criminal acts. Whatever they do before or after those five minutes doesn’t matter to him and he sticks to this rule explicitly. Another rule which he lays down is that he will not be carrying a firearm. These rules have had some audiences bring to mind Jason Statham’s Transporter character and they would not be totally wrong to say so. What Gosling’s driver has over Statham’s is the air of realism to the role. It’s a realism that borders on hyper-reality as the film moves on to it’s climactic conclusion, but real nonetheless. Gosling’s “driver” will not do extensive and elaborate fighting skills the way Statham’s would.

The film would move from it’s powerful introduction and into a much more calm and somewhat serene section as the nameless driver gradually gets to know his next door neighbor in the form of Irene as played by Carey Mulligan. Their relationship will form the core of the film’s narrative and it’s the driver’s growing affection not just for Irene but her young son that would dictate some of the decisions he would make right up to the end of the film. It’s a relationship built not on extensive dialogue banter but mostly on meaningful glances and silent understanding between two characters who seem to have found a kindred kinship between them. It’s this growing relationship between the two and Irene’s son which almost look like a familial unit forming until the return of Irene’s incarcerated and newly-released husband Standard. This is a character played by Oscar Isaac as a man desperate to take full advantage of his last chance at normalcy and redemption, but ultimately doomed to fail.

Standard doesn’t just become the only wrench in the happy life Gosling’s character seems to want to have with Irene and her son. Into the picture also happens to come in is his mentor and business partner Shannon (Bryan Cranston doing a great job as the good-natured, but opportunistic fool character many Shakespearean tragedies always seem to have) and Shannon’s even seedier acquaintances in Hollywood mogul-turned-mob boss Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks in a chilling performance) and his more boisterous, but not as smart partner in Nino (Ron Perlman).

The film seems to settle on the low gears for the first hour of the film, but it’s during a botched robbery attempt where the driver becomes embroiled in that Drive finally moves into the high gears and stays there until the very end. Refn’s decision to use the first hour to round out and build the characters in this film definitely pays off in the end. The audience becomes quite clear as to who the players are and what motivates them to do what they do the rest of the film. Even the most secondary and tertiary roles in this film has a part to play. Even Christina Hendricks in the role of a low-level moll to a gang of criminals gets to have her time to shine if just briefly.

Once the narrative shifts from character study to an almost Cronenbergian exercise in violence and brutality does the film finally able to hook in the last few audiences who may have still been iffy about Drive. Not to say that the final 45-minutes of the film was a non-stop action film, but it does move at a consistently higher gear pace than the first hour. We see the driver having to show to the audience that he’s not just an expert wheelman for Hollywood (stunt driver by day) and the criminal underground (getaway driver by night). It serves the film well that Gosling’s character has the barest minimum of lines of dialogue. We see all we need to know about this character through his behavior that brings to mind roles played by such past luminaries as Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood.

Most likely it would be in the second half of the film that should satisfy the action junkies. While the action scenes are not of the Michael Bay-type they do show that Refn has a fine grasp of what makes an action scene thrilling. Whether the scene calls for some of the most well-done car chase on film since Frankenheimer showed everyone how to properly do it in Ronin or scenes of sudden brutal violence which calls to mind similar scenes from Cronenberg’s last two films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises). Both types of action were done efficiently with little to no glamour to gloss over things. The burst of violence actually adds to the mystique of Gosling’s “Man With No Name” role. One particular scene in the apartment elevator where Gosling, Mulligan and a goon sent by the mob makes for one of the best scenes in the film and of 2011.

As much as these scenes of action and violence will be the ones to get the most attention from the general film-going public in the end it’s the excellent screenplay by Hossein Amini of the James Sallis’ novel of the same name which really holds everything together in conjunction with some top-notch performances from everyone involved. The film makes or breaks itself on Gosling’s performance as the driver and he delivers on all cylinders. His performance was quite reminiscent of past performances such as James Caan as Frank in Michael Mann’s Thief, Steve McQueen also as Frank in Bullitt, but in my opinion Gosling’s work in this film brings to mind young Clint Eastwood as “The Man With No Name” in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy. Both characters were the type to let their actions speak for them and were both full of quiet confidence not to mention restrained violence which would erupt when needed.

Much has been said about Albert Brooks’ turn as the mob boss Bernie Rose. how the role was quite the 180-degrees from people’s perception of the actor who usually did comedic roles. I say that Albert Brooks always had a dark side to his comedic talent. I mean he was and is megamaniacal villain Hank Scorpio from The Simpsons. In all seriousness, Brooks’ as the mob boss was the other pillar which held all the other performances focused. In fact, Gosling’s character and Brook’s Bernie Rose could almost be considered mirror-images of each other. They were characters who had found their place in the world and the role they would play and didn’t struggle against it. Everyone else in the film struggled against their lot in life. It was also these characters who had the bulk of the film’s dialogue.

Drive has been hyped (for some overhyped) since it first premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but it’s one of those rare films which has more than earned and surpassed the hype which has preceded it’s general release to the general public. It’s a film which bucks traditional genre labels by combining the themes, ideas and foundations from many different film and storytelling genres. For fans of action there’s enough thrilling action to sate them. For those who are fans of film noir this film definitely carries within it the DNA set down by the film noir of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. For some who wish to watch a film which explore existential themes then Refn’s film has that too. In the end, Drive manages to be a film which caters to so many different audiences without ever pandering to them or dumbing the story down. It’s a film made by a filmmaker who continues to impress and who has made his best film to date.

Drive is a film that is not for everyone, but it’s also a film that everyone should see and experience at least once. It is also one of the year’s best films and, so far, my top film of 2011.