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The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines

About thirty minutes into The Place Beyond The Pines, my wife was perusing facebook on her phone and I was out of excuses to keep us engaged in watching the film. Not to say the plot was dull or that the acting was bad, in fact, both were interesting, but the pacing was so slow, it was hard not to drift.

Then, without warning, the movie throws a few curveballs and the plot kicks in to high gear.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke, a traveling stunt motorcyclist (I swear this isn’t Driver 2) who finds out a woman he had a fling with a few summers back has given birth to his child. Luke quits his job to stay local and become a father figure for the boy. Unfortunately, the child’s mother, played by Eva Mendes, has moved on with her life and now lives with her boyfriend, who has no interest in allowing Luke to come around. The down on his luck motorcyclist turns to robbing banks, using his riding skills, after meeting an unlikely partner in town.

Enter Avery, an ambitious cop looking to climb the ladder on the force and beyond, who sets his sights on chasing down the motorcycle-riding bank robber. The cop is played by Bradley Cooper who doesn’t appear until over 40 minutes into the film. His portrayal of a beat cop anxious to be out of his father’s far-reaching shadow helps glue the film together. Especially the way he handles a run-in with a powerful detective, played by Ray Liotta.

As the film played out, and we grew more invested, I wondered why the beginning had been dragged out so long when there was so much more story to tell. The film jumps ahead several years, as a second generation of characters continue to feel and live with the consequences of a single bank robbery gone wrong.

To no one’s surprise, I enjoyed the film’s soundtrack, provided by Mike Patton, but I felt the droning, ambience of the music exaggerated the tempo at the beginning of the film. The dark intensity serves the film much better as the action grows.

The Place Beyond The Pines has a few twists and turns in the second half of the film to keep you on the edge of your seat, and as a parent, I was left wondering just how far I would be willing to go to protect my children.

 

Thor: The Dark World

Thor 2: The Dark World

For all of the money and effort that went into making the sequel to the surprise hit of the Marvel universe, Thor, you would think they would have worked out some basic kinks before releasing the movie.

Marvel/Disney have done a bang up job over the past 6 years launching what they call Phase One of a series of connected films all based around the massive blockbuster, “The Avengers”. Now, as they launch Phase Two, the pressure is on to not only match the quality and ticket sales as the previous phase, but to also build upon those numbers to assure a third phase of the rapidly growing list of comics turning into movies. So why they allowed some easily corrected mistakes/plot points to slip through on “Thor 2: The Dark World” is a head scratcher.

Before I go into the errors, (as I see them) I want to mention what a great film, cast, plot, teaser this movie is. In my opinion, there has been no other character to emerge with more popularity and met with more enthusiasm than Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, who has appeared in “Thor”, “The Avengers”, and now, “Thor: The Dark World” after initially only being slated for one film. He, once again, steals just about every scene he is in, even when relegated for the first half of the film in a small cage with little to do. Most of the cast from the first film return, with one noticeable change being the recasting of Zachary Levi as Fandral. Apparently, Josh Dallas, was too busy with his tv show “Once” to reprise his role.

So, if I liked the movie, why did I begin the review with negativity? For a fast paced, action packed movie such as this, keeping the audience grounded and the timeline clear is important and this film lacks in both of those departments. At the beginning of the film, we are given a prologue with a lot of info, which while important is all repeated more than once throughout the rest of the movie. The prologue apparently was added just to introduce the villain sooner and give an established actor more screen time. Then, we see a bound Loki facing the closest thing he has had to a father, Odin the king of Asgard, and being banished to prison for his actions in The Avengers. Again, this is a good scene that gives Loki more screen time, but then the very next scene jumps two years in the future with no mention of the jump, making the timeline hard to follow. There are 2 other instances of scenes happening out of order or time, leaving the viewer thinking back on what happened when rather than getting lost in the multi-faceted story.

The action is well-paced, the soundtrack shines, and director Alan Taylor does a great job immersing us more into Asgard than the first film, allowing the viewer to get a feel for life in the distant land. As with the other Marvel films, the credits are peppered with additional scenes to preview other upcoming films, such as this year’s “Captain America” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. DVD extras include a Marvel One-shot short film about the Mandarin, who was the “villain” in last year’s “Iron Man 3”, a goof reel, a look at the relationship between Thor and Loki and more.

My confidence is still high in the Marvel films, but I hope, as Phase Two continues, they clear up the small details that prevent a good film with some great twists from being remember as a great movie.

 

After Porn Ends

After Porn Ends poster

This documentary plays out just about as expected. Several stars from the porn industry’s past are interviewed in a “Where are they now” fashion. Some have thrived since the camera stopped rolling while others are a mess, most of whom were a mess before the glamour of taped sex entered their lives.

Asia Carerra details leaving the business and finding a small, far away town to blend in, but even there she is recognized from her dirty past. Crissy Moran is a young ex-porn star who left the business for the church in 2006. She has faced criticism from both sides.

Randy West, a male porn star, had some of the most interesting viewpoints on the industry both positive and negative, while also confirming he has slept on camera with over 3,000 women.

The sad and startling section of the film details just how much money can be made by the stars at the top and how unprepared most of them are to deal with it. Several stars, such as Mary Carey and Raylene, look back with vastly different viewpoints on their time in the industry and how it shaped their lives. Both end up back in porn not long after filming their spots for this film.

If you have seen a couple episodes of VH1 “Behind the Music”, you can predict how this film will play out, though most of the actors are easier to look at than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. After Porn Ends is an interesting concept and a well done film, but it ends without a climax.

 

The Rum Diary

Director: Bruce Robinson
Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi

Just so we’re clear, folks: this review is about the movie and not the novel it is based on. That being said, I may reference the book to help clarify my points.

A young reporter is hired to write horoscopes and cover meaningless page-filler stories by a small, failing newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico amidst a revolt. That reporter, Paul Kemp (played by Johnny Depp), is a novelist searching for his voice. Usually he searches inside of one bottle of alcohol or another.

Before he has a chance to get his feet wet and come to understand his position at the paper or the culture found in Puerto Rico, Kemp finds himself entangled in a secret plot to capitalize a nearby island. He also falls for the girlfriend of the head of the group plotting to take advantage of the island.

The pacing of the movie is very slow, as was the pacing in the book, but the movie doesn’t have the luxury of a few hundred pages, so when the story starts rolling the movie is already nearing its end. Many great scenes at a local bar which serves only rum and hamburgers have been cut in favor of spicing things up for the big screen.

Aaron Eckhart fills the shoes of the slick and slimy bad guy effortlessly with very little to work with. Johnny Depp tones down his better known Hunter S. Thompson role enough to make it original, but lacks anything deeper than his skin to grasp onto and root for. The story is sparse and hinges on two important story arcs, one is that Kemp loves rum and the other being Kemp’s desire to use his voice at the paper to expose a wrong, so it is understandable that the book was tough to transfer to the screen. How much can you focus on a few reporters drinking at a bar and BSing? That being said, one guy nailed his part in almost eerie perfection: Giovanni Ribisi plays Moberg, an eccentric, doped up drunk who is an off again/on again contributor to the newspaper. His spaced out, awkward portrayal provides comic relief, sobering reality, and an unexpected depth of character.

Book snobs love to tell people to just go read the book because, “It’s way better”. And you know what? I agree in this case. Do yourself a favor: Grab a bottle of rum (or two), go find an empty chair in the sun, and start reading.

The Wolfman

Director: Joe Johnston
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins
Runtime: 102 minutes
CARA Rating: R for bloody horror violence and gore

The Wolfman movie poster

First off, I liked this movie. It definitely didn’t suck. The over all look was great. Dark, foggy, gloomy, very cool. It has a very classic feel to it. There was a good share of gore, but not over the top, and the CG was used fairly tastefully. Rick Baker did a knock out job with Wolfie’s make-up.

It was an updated version of the original and I thought it looked great. Very bad ass but not cheesy. The story stayed pretty close to the original, which was the intention, but threw some cool twists and a few other things to fatten up the original story. But, one thing I did like that kept akin to the original, is that it started quick and ended quick. There wasn’t a lot of overly dramatic bullshit to slow the film down. I thought the acting was pretty good. Del Toro did a good job as Larry Talbot. He’s not going to win any awards but he fit the part very well. Anthony Hopkins did a good job as well, turning in a typical Anthony Hopkins performance, which for this type of role is perfect. The supporting cast did a fine job as well.

Basically, this was a very good remake. It stayed true to the original and that’s what I was looking for. I’m sure that 70% of the audience have most likely never seen the original and since everybody these days is used to over the top effects, the fact that I didn’t hear any snickering from the younger viewers – because The Wolfman’s “classic” look – I thought was a good sign that it was done well.

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