Movie Reviews: Only God Forgives

37426.jpgAfter seeing Drive, like many people, I was interested in what would come next from Nicolas Winding Refn. I was so excited, I did something I rarely do … I paid to watch the movie on demand. It cost around 20 bucks I think, and it was 20 bucks I would have rather had back. This is the price to pay when you want to see something still “new” in theaters from the director of Drive.

I even watched it twice, just in case I missed something or it was too confused at the arthouse story. I didn’t pay twice, mind you, since it was one of those things where you can watch as much as you wanted in 24 hours.

It was clearly an experiment gone wrong.

Ryan Gosling must have wanted to capitalize on the skills of the new hot director who made the classic, Drive, based on source material (a book, then Hugh Jackman script). Or, he clearly wanted to pay Refn back while loyalty in order to get funding for the film.

If you watch the documentary, My Life Directed, it is clear there were issues getting funding and distribution for this movie. Ryan and Nicolas had to make appearances at Drive events in order to add to the budget of Only God Forgives. What is also apparent is Nicolas Refn’s fear about how the story would be received.

It’s surely weird.

Kristin Scott Thomas is evil.

Ryan Gosling is really an antagonist in a foreign land.

We watch bad people squirm around trying to navigate in seedy ways.

The hero had unorthodox and uses methods most revered for villains.

The story is about characters which I like, and the cinematography is actually pretty good. The story isn’t compelling for my taste. I doubt anyone in Thailand relates to it. I term this is a story out of water. I can’t really classify it. I hated it and appreciated it at the same time. There is one great scene, involving a market ambush. There are a bunch of terrible, and cinematically pretentious scenes, involving everyone.

In My Life Directed, Refn says everyone wanted him to make another Drive.

Well, it’s been around 7 years since Drive. I think it’s time.

As for this movie, I’ll forgive you.

Movie Rating: 2/10 Machete chops

New Debate Series (And Top 5 Favorite Films)

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We will be bringing you a new series where we debate all sorts of things eventually. For now, we are focusing on films. Adrian Jonklaas at http://adrianjonklaas.com will be debating me on on movies. We will let you, based on the comments below the debates, decide who won. We will try to keep this going until it goes 15 rounds or one of us gets knocked out.

A little about me. I consider myself knowledgeable about movies. At one point in my life, I wanted to go to film school and direct movies like many other teenagers, except reality set in and I chose a more stable path. As a hobby, I devoured film. Foreign films. Documentaries. All of the acclaimed movies and the cult classics of the past. My top 5 favorite films are:

1. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantinodcd5c1e6-4198-4f65-8259-6c5837ee7906.jpg

“Now that’s a tasty burger.”

This is the movie that made Quentin Tarantino a household name and made him a target of controversy for language, tone, and subject matter. When I first watched this movie in my early teens, I didn’t quite understand what I was watching. Over the years, it grew to become my favorite film. It was the movie that resurrected John Travolta’s career. It put Samuel L. Jackson on the map. It was the first movie that made me consider wandering the earth for a living.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Irvin Kershner

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“I know.”

This is science fiction space operate at its finest. The heroes of Star Wars get chased across the galaxy and end up at Bespin. Luke receives training from Yoda. Han seeks help from his old friend and original owner of the Millennium Falcon. The tale is dark and personal and makes the hero make the most difficult choice of his life. Many people felt empty leaving the theater with a cliffhanger in 1980, but the story grows in stature each year as nothing has come close to beating this as the best Sci-Fi film of all time.

3. Drive (2011) Nicholas Winding Refn

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“You blinked.”

He is the drive with no name. I almost didn’t want to see it when the previews came out, but when I finally saw it on DVD while in a foreign country, it blew me away. I watched it back-to-back, then watched it every night for a week. I broke down each scene cut of the movie. It was masterful. The shooting script was only 81 pages and the crew worked to cut it even more to allow as much acting and scope and breath in the film and the result is a beautiful film. It was the best movie I had seen in a decade.

4. Fight Club (1999) David Fincher

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“The first rule about fight club is …”

This is another poorly marketed film in the late 90s. When I eventually saw it I was blown away. When I see an epically constructed film, I don’t usually attribute it to the actor. I look at the DVD cover and look for the director. “David Fincher … who is that?” I looked him up and he was the same guy that did Se7en. “Oooh, that is why it looked so dark. What else did he do? The Game? Holy cow! This guy is amazing.” Sixteen years later David Fincher remains my favorite director today.

5. Die Hard (1988) John Mctiernan

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“Get the detonators.”

Die hard is the greatest action film of all time. It is also the greatest Christmas movie of all time. It made Bruce Willias an action star. It proved yet again John Mctiernan is one of the best in the action genre (until his little fiasco). The poster pretty much captures it all. This was the movie that started the trope off. Everything after was “Die Hard on _______.” What the movie got right was having Alan Rickman (in his first role) play the villain almost from his point of view. He is just an entrepreneur who wants to collect his interest on the beach.

ADRIAN JONKLAAS

Though I despise having to pick favorites or rank things, I realize “Top 5 / Top 10” type lists work well with blog posts. As such, I’m taking a stab at a “Top 5 Favourite Movies” posts.

A couple of comments:

  • I have tried to pick from a diverse range of movies spanning genres, times, foreign films, etc.
  • If you ask me what my Top 5 movies are in a month’s time, the list may have changed. What will not have changed is that the movies I list below are memorable movies that I will always love because they resonated with me. If you haven’t watched them, I encourage you to do so.

Without further adieu, the list of “My Top 5 Favourite Movies”:

1. Pi (1998) by Darren Aronofsky

“The Torah is just a long string of numbers. Some say that it’s a code sent to us from God.”

This is an intense psychological thriller. The protagonist is a brilliant mathematician who is pursuing the secret of “Pi”; not as in “apple”, rather, the “3.1415” kind. His computer spits out a mysterious 216-digit number as he conducts his research. What is this number? A shady group of business people think it is the secret to forecasting the stock market. A sect of Jews thinks it is the secret name of God and a door to esoteric knowledge and power. His mentor had a stroke researching the secret of the number and the protagonist himself is on the verge of a total breakdown.

One of Darren’s Aronofsky’s best movies (along with Requiem for a Dream) before fame got to him and he produced such tripe as “Noah”.

2. Princess Bride (1987) by Rob Reinerthe-princess-bride.jpg

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The best fairy-tale ever, full of charm and wit. This movie is sprinkled with delightful characters throughout – save perhaps for the Princess Buttercup – who make the movie utterly engaging. Some of the scenes, driven by dialogue more than action, e.g. the battle of intellect between Westley and Vizzini, will stay with you for ever. Though the happy ending is expected, the plot has several interesting twists and turns along the way.

3. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) by Irvin Kershnerempire-movie-poster-star-wars-empire-strikes-back-20604952-1369-2125.jpg

“Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

I watched this movies as a 5 year old when it was released in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Needless to say, it gave me nightmares. This movie is all about arguably the greatest movie villain created, Darth Vader. My little heart leapt out of my chest when Lando opens the door to the dining room in Cloud City and Han, Leia, and Chewbacca see Darth Vader siting at the table – what a way to be introduced to the concept of betrayal. Perhaps the movie will always be known for the mind blowing plot twist at the end of the fight between Luke and Vader. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, pull your head out of the sand and watch this movie!

4. Underground (1995) by Emir KusturicaUnderground_film_poster.jpg

A thought provoking, satirical, tragicomic film about the modern history of Yugoslavia through World War 2, the Cold War, and the Yugoslav Wars. Explanation for the title: One of the characters, Marko, leads a group of friends and relatives into an underground cellar where he cons them that World War 2 is still continuing for 20 years. The people in the cellar manufacture weapons that Marko sells and profits from enormously. The scenes from when the chimp, Soni, blows a hole in the wall with a tank and the inhabitants of the cellar head out for the first time in two decades are poignant and heart wrenching. World War 2 may be over but war still blights their land.

 

5. Ex Machina (2015) by Alex GarlandEx-machina-uk-poster.jpg

“And for the record, Ava’s not pretending to like you. And her flirting isn’t an algorithm to fake you out. You’re the first man she’s met that isn’t me. And I’m like her dad, right? Can you blame her for getting a crush on you?”

A brilliant slow boiler of a thriller. Caleb believes he is conducting a Turing Test on an android, Ava, that his billionaire boss Nathan has built. Ava is a captive in a glass cage and is clearly intelligent. His interactions with Ava make Caleb begin to wonder what the real purpose of the “test” is ? Is he the android? Is Nathan playing him? Or is Ava?

Now on to our first debate (ROUND 1)

Movie Reviews: Drive

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Drive directed by Nicholas Winding Refn

I first remember seeing the preview for Drive in the theater.

I thought it was going to be a giant turd and refused to check it out. The marketing powers that be took it upon themselves in their infinite marketing wisdom to make it look like an action packed thrill ride as if it was the Fast and the Furious. They could’t have been more confused at appealing to people to watch it.

About 7 months later I finally watched the movie as it hit DVD. I barely rented it, you know, in one of those (is this movie even worth wasting my time with because I know it’ll be shit) moments. I think I went and got some food and popped in the DVD and pressed play while in the back of my mind thinking I could always just hit stop.

From the first two minutes I realized I was watching artistry at work. The director had a vision and they were going for it. When I say “it” I mean they were disregarding the rules of commercial filmmaking and attempting to make a perfect film. I don’t use that term lightly because to me, there might be only 1-2 movies per year that could be classified as a masterpiece.

After watching Drive, I concluded instantly it was the masterpiece of 2011.

It was probably 10:30pm when I finished and did something I’ve only done once since.

I watched the movie again in a true back-to-back, Shining-repetition. I simply couldn’t believe what I just saw. This wasn’t just a masterpiece. This was a damn perfect movie.

From the get go, the cinematography and music took control of the film. The director was not afraid to slowly let the scenes run a few seconds long even when no dialogue was taking place. The acting is an inspiring thing to watch. I’m not sure if it’s because they are not speaking as much dialogue they are forced to listen to every word rather than remember lines that they act more naturally or not.

The story is pretty straight forward, but there is a noticeable difference when an auteur is behind the camera. Originally, Hugh Jackman was planning to make some bullshit Fast and the Furious type movie which I can only imagine would have been worse than any Nicolas Cage movie the last 4 years. Thank god Ryan Gosling decided to go the artist route and get a director with talent to helm the picture.

I’m not going to get into the plot. See the damn movie if you haven’t. After I watched the movie a second time I went on Facebook and emailed every movie buff I knew and told them to see the movie and that I would pay. (This is totally weird and only happens once a decade). I needed to talk to somebody about this. I was crushed, kind of like the first time I saw Once Upon a Time in the West. This is what filmmaking should be. Tell a story the best way you can in the best format you can.

Sometimes less is more.

As for me, I continued watching Drive for a week straight. I studied every scene and tried to unravel what the secret was. I think I figured out what worked for me: An uncompromising vision. The only time I felt this in awe of an uncompromising vision since then was when I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. Holy shit I was blown away, especially by the first 30 minutes. Uncompromising vision to make the best film possible is something that doesn’t happen to often when the budget is over $10 million where focus groups, studio marketing, toy tie-ins, happy meals, soundtracks, book rehashings, tv spinoffs, and the almightily possibility of a sequel/reboot/remake/requel is considered.

Drive is a movie of uncompromising vision that didn’t give a rats ass about anything except telling the best possible story in 90 minutes.

It is a perfect movie.

QUEST REVIEWER: NATALIE THE NITPICKER 

I’m like so totally confused to what Matt is like totally saying, cuz, like, I really didn’t know what was going on in the movie. I mean, Ryan Gosling is totally cute usually, but he was a bit weird wearing a satin jacket with a yellow scorpion on the back and not talking much. I just didn’t understand why the girl just didn’t totally hook up with him and skip town with all that money, because I totally would have even though he really did totally smash in that skull like it was a watermelon. I’m from the south, so I’ve seen so many watermelons smashed like that, so it didn’t bother me one bit. 

Overall Rating: 10/10 Satin Jackets