Maybe you’re a half of a content pair who believes love should be celebrated every day…without so much emphasis on buying stuff. Maybe you’re currently flying solo and loving your independence…and hating how Heart Day enthusiasts assume you’ll be watching Sleepless in Seattle and sobbing tonight. (I mean Sleepless is great; sobbing, not so much.) Maybe you’re a mysterious stranger with serious stunt driving skills who breaks out of a hermit-ish existence to help his beautiful neighbor…knowing there will be price to pay.
Yep, I’m suggesting you watch Drive today, in celebration of the international day of lovey-dovey-ness. Here’s why the 2011 Nicolas Winding Refn-directed, Gosling-starring wheeled thriller is a great Valentine’s Day choice.
The Valentine’s Day movie-going season is upon us, for worse or for worse. Fortunately, the first lovey-dovey date film I have to announce features brain-eaters. Warm Bodieshas a couple other things going for it, too. First, it’s directed and adapted (from the Isaac Marion novel) by Jonathan Levine, who was behind one of my favorites from 2011, 50/50. Secondly, it stars the charming (and fully grown up) Nicholas Hoult, who I’ve been following sinceAbout a Boy. And, as mentioned, zombies. Can love bridge the undead-notyetdead gap? I am really looking forward to finding out. Rotten Tomatoes has the unique rom-com at 73% right now. The New York Times‘s Manohla Dargis writes, “‘Warm Bodies’ is an improbable romance sweetened with appealing performances and buoyed by one of the better cute meets in recent romantic comedy…”
“Hey girl, are you going to see Gangster Squad this weekend? I’m giving myself cancer for the sake of historical accuracy and everything.”
This star-laden period piece is directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less) and written by Castle-scribe Will Beall, based on the book by Paul Lieberman. It tells the story of how a small team of LAPD officers fought mob-boss Mickey Cohen for control of Los Angeles.
When faced with tragedy, some of the most comforting words you can hear are “That should’ve never happened.” The assertion of the wrongness of reality is strangely comforting. With Django Unchained, as in Inglorious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino takes that righteous anger one step further to “And here’s what should’ve happened instead.”
Tarantino paints a guns-blazing, upside-down world—a Southern-Western that brings bulleted justice to one plantation in an over-too-fast 165 minutes. It’s one of the most alive films I’ve seen since, well, Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino is an exuberant filmmaker. He uses every trick in the book, from gorgeously framed silhouette still shots to quick zooms to extreme close-ups. Injuries spurt. Smoke curls. Stuff moves. As bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) says of Django (Jamie Foxx), it can be said of Tarantino: “My friend has a flair for the dramatic.” He’s not afraid to highlight the quintessential gesture, as in the trailer-featured moment when Django slo-mo shrugs off his rough slave blanket at the start of his transformation into a bada$$ bounty hunter.
I saw Zero Dark Thirty earlier than its wide-release January 11th opening by chance. A winter storm delayed my holiday trip and landed me in New York City for 24 hours, so I did what I always do when I have unexpected free time: I found a theatre. And that theatre was one of a few in the country showing Zero Dark Thirty.
I stood in a long line of New Yorkers escaping the cold to settle into the cavernous theatre. I had heard snippets of the film’s background (a second collaboration between The Hurt Locker‘s Oscar-winning director, Kathryn Bigelow, and writer, Mark Boal) and its controversy (allegations of too-lenient CIA-access, its portrayal of torture).
Start off 2013 by seeing the best action film of 2012 (feel free to argue with me in the comments, but I’m standing firm on this one). The inventive film, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brother’s Bloom) Looperfollows the mind-bending journey of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Bruce Willis), a hit man hired to kill people the mob sends back from the future. When the mob is done with a looper, they send the future looper back. The present-day looper then “closes the contract” (read: kills his future self) and is rewarded with a big “retirement” sum and the dubious honor of knowing exactly how he’ll die. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Joe’s contract closing doesn’t go as planned, and the resulting chaos makes him face questions of free will versus fate, self identity and self-sacrificing love.
Johnson balances the dizzying actions-and-consequences tightrope necessary for a satisfying time-travel film with a plot that rock-skips agilely over the depths without drowning in them. At one point, Older Joe quips, “I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.” (SPOILER link). (Johnson has said that they actually did have a straw diagram sight gag in the film, but they edited it out.) Known for creating engrossing film worlds, Johnson sets up the rules of this one through interesting action and mise-en-scene dialogue, prepping you to understand plot implications later.
In honor of the Christmas Day opening of Django Unchained, let’s look at Quentin Tarantino’s back catalogue. One of the most unique filmmakers working today, Tarantino has a signature style that borrows heavily from ’70s-era genre films, adds in stylized and idiosyncratic dialogue, then mixes it all up with over-the-top imagery. His films often feature shocking violence and revenge themes. I’m ambivalent about the use of both; sometimes I think he’s being exploitative, and sometimes I think he’s rightfully using them in the service of the story or an issue. More study is necessary: At the time of writing, I’ve only seen half of his films (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Inglorious Basterds). I’m making a New Year’s resolution to see the rest.
Here’s the deal: Premium Rush isn’t going to change your life. But it definitely won’t make you like Joseph Gordon-Levitt any less. And it might make you want to buy a fixed-gear two-wheeler, even if you’re a super clumsy cyclist like me.
What Premium Rush will definitely do is flat-out entertain you for a fast-flying 91 minutes. It’s a straight-up action movie with more bikes than bullets (thank God), and it knows the rules of its genre and agreeably delivers on them.
Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Kill Bill) Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Johnson and more.