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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Movie Reviews: DRIVE, 50/50

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman

Being a stunt double in the movie industry can't be easy, especially when car chases are involved. Driver (Gosling) is a stunt double and mechanic by day, and a getaway crime driver by night. He will drop you off, wait five minutes for you to committ your crime of choice, and leave if you are not back in the car. The movie starts with an edge of your seat ride as two men jump back into the car and evade the police right on their tail. After running into his neighbor, Irene (Mulligan), on a couple of different occasions, they strike up conversation and chemistry starts to build. Irene is raising her son while her husband, Standard, is in jail. Even though their relationship is building, Driver still remains pretty elusive about his true profession. After Standard is released from jail, he is threatened that if he doesn't pay his dues, Irene and their son will be harmed. Driver wants to protect Irene so he offers to help Standard out. The goal is for Standard to rob a Pawn Shop of the two million dollars that is being stashed there. If it were only that simple.

Drive is another example where you shouldn't judge a movie by it's trailer. The first time I saw the trailer, I thought "Really, Ryan Gosling? What is that?" Being the hard core fan that I am, I knew I would see it anyways. It had too good of a cast to be a clunker of a movie. On the surface, Drive sounds like your average Nicolas Cage/Vin Diesel movie, but it is not at all like anything they would do. There is a specific style, look, and brains behind it that I loved. The sound mixing really surprised me. All of the gun shots, stabbings, and car crashes were far louder than you normally hear in movies. It literally made me jump numerous times. Talk about putting you right in the middle of the action. Ryan Gosling is one of the best actors of his generation. He makes intelligent choices and oozes chemistry with every one of his current or former co-stars (Rachel McAdams, Michelle Williams, Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan). Every detail from the credits, the sound, the style, and the soundtrack have all been thought out and specifically chosen. Drive is one of the best movies I've seen all year.

Rating: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5)

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston

Adam (Gordon-Levitt) is a perfectly normal 27 year old guy. He doesn't smoke, drink, litter, and he leads a pretty clean lifestyle. I would be pretty shocked too if I lead that clean of a life to find out that I had a very rare kind of cancer. He first informs his best friend, Kyle (Rogen), and girlfriend, Rachael (Howard). Kyle steps up to the plate and is there for him every step of the way. Rachael proclaims she's going to be the good girlfriend and take care of him but crumbles under the pressure. After forgetting to pick him up from appointments and getting caught cheating on Adam, he appropriately dumps her. Kyle's approach to helping Adam involves partying, hooking up with women, and smoking lots of "medicinal" marijuana. Who uses a cancer pick-up line and doesn't score with lots of women, right? Adam tries to go about his new life with as much optimism as he can. He slowly builds comfort with his therapist (Kendrick). Their meetings don't start off smoothly as he realizes she's only a doctoral student, and he's her third patient. He also finds solace with two other men during his chemotherapy sessions.

Cancer movies are hard to do well. You want to treat the situations and people involved with respect. You don't want it to be too weepy that it turns into a Lifetime movie. You want to include humor so it doesn't get bogged down in the drama. 50/50 excels at hitting the right notes and paths along the way. It has a smart script full of funny one-liners, poignant moments, and believable characters. The screenwriter, Will Reiser, based the movie on his own experiences battling cancer. Seth Rogen basically plays himself in the movie as he helped Will during his ordeal. Anjelica Huston is pitch perfect as the nervous, over-bearing mother. She brings out the funny, stern, and caring side without make her a one-note mom. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has proven once again he is far more than just the child star he once was.

Rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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