Week 3: September 16th, 2011
Based on the book by James Sallis
Writer: Hossein Amini
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston
“A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.”
The Cannes hit from versatile director Nicolas Winding Refn (behind the brilliant Pusher series, and last year’s Valhalla Rising after the excellent Bronson) stars rising star Ryan Gosling, who is loved by the ladies, but he may also be the best young actor of his generation. He is joined by his female counterpart in acting talent, Carey Mulligan. Bryan Cranston joins in on the fun as a detective pursuing Gosling’s character, and he has quickly risen to the top of the acting pool after his work on the AMC show Breaking Bad, which he has won numerous awards for.
Gosling plays Driver, a Hollywood stuntman who spends his nights driving getaway vehicles for different criminal groups. When a job goes awry, he learns the East Coast mob has a price on his head, so he does the only thing he knows how to do: Drive.
Refn has made consistently exciting, amazingly shot films filled with top-tier acting work. After the positive word of mouth and critical response after Cannes, there’s no reason to believe this isn’t some of his finest work. I’ve seen a small sequence online that is one of the most tense 2 minute beginnings to an all-out car chase that I’ve ever seen. Anchored by the strong acting of all involved, I think we have a possible awards contender, even though the material and style of the film is somewhat unconventional, it’s what makes Refn’s movies unique.
In what will most likely be his widest US release yet, I’m hoping people take notice of Refn as a major Hollywood player making mainstream films. It’s not like his films have suddenly become mainstream, rather, the mainstream has moved more into the arena of Refn, where smart, visceral films are more often appreciated for their difficulty over the simple Hollywood blockbusters.
Drive, Rated R, opens September 16th, 2011 from FilmDistrict in theaters nationwide.
Title: I Don’t Know How She Does It
Based on the novel by Allison Pearson
Writer: Aline Brosh McKenna
Director: Douglas McGrath
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker and Pierce Brosnan
“A comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy, a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids.”
When the best thing you can say about a genre film is “At least it’s based on a novel”, like that gives it some glimmer of hope of being genre redefining, you know it’s probably not a great film. In the romantic comedy genre, notorious as a plot-thin genre, the fact that a book has already drawn some attention to the story is somewhat reassuring.
While the film is of no interest to me, it at least has a good pedigree, with director Douglas McGrath having previously directed the excellent film Infamous, which unfortunately sat in the shadow of the better Capote the year it came out. Otherwise, the film looks like a lot of other examinations of the life of a working mother, and how she relates to her family. Sarah Jessica Parker has decided to change things up, finally realizing she’s better off playing mom roles, now that she’s no longer very believable as a single plaything. Anchored by Pierce Brosnan and Kelsey Grammer, she has some respectable actors to play against, so at least it might have some quality for those that are interested in the story.
I Don’t Know How She Does It opens September 16th, 2011 from The Weinstein Company in theaters nationwide, and is not yet rated, although I’d bet it gets a PG-13.
Title: Straw Dogs (2011)
Based on the novel The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon Williams (Check out Sean’s review of the book by clicking here)
Screenplay: Rod Lurie
Director: Rod Lurie
Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard
“LA screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both.”
An odd choice for a remake, or a re-adaptation as it may very well be. The original novel that Sam Peckinpah changed for his version of Straw Dogs is a great starting point for a film, but it looks like they’ve taken their liberties with this version as well, transporting the story from England to the rural American south, something I guess more American audiences can relate to. We need our hillbillies relatable, and general audiences probably wouldn’t find a country British accent very intimidating.
James Marsden is the conflicted protagonist David Sumner, who has moved with his wife Amy Sumner (Kate Bosworth) to her home town in the deep American south. Upon moving there, unable to fit in, David tries everything he can to become friendly with the locals.
When an escaped maniac threatens the town’s children, and David has an unfortunate run in with him, David must choose between the easy way, and his own moral stance on the situation, which may cost him more than he’s willing to lose. Straw Dogs comes down to a simple theme of a man who must choose between what he believes is right, and what will keep his family safe, and he struggles the entire time.
Alexander Skarsgard (who plays Eric Northman on HBO’s True Blood) appears as the main antagonist Charlie, the scary good ole boy that puts David on edge. When it comes down to sheer cunning and brutality, David hopes he can match the wits of Charlie and outlast him for the sake of his family. While I’m not usually huge on remakes, I will be seeing this one, since I’m a fan of the original novel, and Peckinpah’s original 1971 film. With the actors involved I don’t anticipate a great film, but it should be an entertaining little piece of Hollywood exploitation if everything goes right, and they don’t rely too heavily on cheesy southern stereotypes.
Straw Dogs is Rated R, and it releases from Screen Gems on September 16th, 2011 in theaters nationwide.
Title: The Lion King (in 3D)
Disney displays their usual credo with this one: “Make more money from the same product” that they typically save for their video titles. Here, they’ve hopped on the 3D craze and post-converted one of their biggest hits of all time The Lion King to the format to create a “new experience” for fans. The thing is, most people that will be seeing this film will be seeing it with their kids, introducing them to it, for the impending 3D Blu Ray re-release from Disney, who have had the film in their vault the past few years, driving prices on the old DVD on eBay up to as much as $300 a copy.
With that kind of demand for their product, can I really call Disney money grubbing fiends? In reality, they are only doing what the fans want them to do, satiate their need for quality family entertainment, which seems to be in short supply as of late. While many of the recent animated films have grossed good amounts of money, none have replicated the runaway hit that was The Lion King.
The new 3D Blu Ray releases October 4th, 2011, but in the meantime, The Lion King 3D will play for a two week limited engagement starting September 16th, 2011 from Disney. The film is still Rated G.