I’ve been out of town all weekend and just returned to LA by way of Squalling Toddler Airlines  so I’m going to make my part of the Watercooler shortish this week.

Despite being focused on other more important endeavors, I managed to take another crack at Drive. Yes, it’s better than my first impression of it, but it still isn’t the cure for cancer.

What’s surprising though is the report that it only got a C- CinemaScore from audiences who saw it. I have to assume most of the audience was made up of people who were expecting a Fast/Furious movie? It’ll be interesting to see how it holds up next week. Will word of mouth kill it or will the ecstatic critical reaction help it fine the audience it was meant for?

And that’s all from my end this week. Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear what movies you’ve been up to lately.

14 Responses to “Return trip with Drive”

  1. I managed to see quite a few films this weekend and I’m happy with most of them :)

    Bridesmaids – the film had some hilarious moments but it came short on other things. Still, I thought it was a nice adult comedy. And as a guy who hated the episode and a half of Sex and the City he watched, I’m glad this film managed to get a better box-office.

    The Hamlet Adventure – a friend of mine produced an adaptation of Hamlet a few years back. Or to be more precise, failed to produce one. They were supposed to shoot at the highest mountain in Bulgaria and the production got delayed due to many reasons. This documentary (a fairly entertaining one) is the story of how they failed.

    The Perfect Host – One of the best films I’ve seen this year. Great acting, directing and script. Enjoyed every minute of it. Had quite a few laughs and some of those “this can’t be happening” moments that I love to see in films :D I’m curious if anyone else saw it and what you make of it?

    The Family Man – I have watched it a few years back. Still find it and entertaining film. Nothing too great but I have a soft spot for romcoms…

    That was my movie-going experience over the weekend. Pretty satisfied with it :)

  2. After movie going had slowed to a trickle the week before, Lucille and I (and some of the kids) have come back with a vengeance this past week with an unusually prolific assault on multiplex screens. Heck, after the non-EZ pass toll from New Jersey to Manhattan jumped from $8.00 to $11.50 yesterday, I can only wonder how I’ll have to motify the number of my Manhattan appearances! Ha! Anyway, we sat seven (7) films in theatres, with one of those a 3D return of the animated masterpiece The Lion King. Saturday was the biggest day with three films seen:

    Contagion **** (Tuesday night) Edgewater multiplex

    Higher Ground *** (Thursday night) Montclair Claridge Art House multiplex

    Straw Dogs * (Friday night) Ridgefield Park multiplex

    Our Idiot Brother ** (Saturday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex

    The Lion King in 3D ***** (Saturday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex

    Drive ***** (Saturday evening) Chelsea multiplex

    The Debt *** 1/2 (Sunday evening) Edgewater multiplex

    Stephen Soderbergh’s CONTAGION is my favorite of his recent output, as much like Ravel’s “Bolero” it builds upon itself adding the hair-raising urgency of the crisis, even with an overly-clinical presentation. It’s probably the most intelligently-wrought of all the germ plague films, and it includes another expert score by composer Cliff Martinez, who is fast becoming one of the best out there. Matt Damon is most effective here. The first film by Vera Farmiga, HIGHER GROUND captures nuances in a small town overrun by born-again teachings and blind religious fervor, but fails to connect the larger picture, and is maligned by that worst enemy of moviegoers: intermittant tedium. Nothing new for the most part, but Farmiga and the cast are admittedly impressive. One of the year’s worst examples of multiplex waste is the re-make of Sam Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS, which is as boring, pointless and repugnant a film as one is likely to see, and lack of originality is the final nail in the coffin. I don’t see where all the funny lines are in OUR IDIOT BROTHER which quickly squanders it’s orginal promise, and relegates the main character to subsurvient narrative status far too soon. And the central conceit does become wearisome.

    THE LION KING in 3D is a true glory, though as is the case with other films that utilize this device it’s unecessary. But seeing this animated masterpiece on the big screen no matter what the incarnation, one is motivated to celebrate. One of the greatest of all animated featues at this time or at any other.

    DRIVE is visual poetry incarnate. I saw much more David Lynch in this than I
    did Michael Mann (and Frederick Elmes and Angelo Badalamenti for that matter).
    In any case for me this is a five-star masterpiece, and one of the best films of
    the year, an existential, expressionistic mood piece with remarkable direction
    and pacing and a deep sense of urgency and inevitability tinged with a deep
    melancholia. The violence is intense and often stomach-churning, but it’s symbolic and apllied in an abstract fashion. Gosling and Brooks are brilliant, and Mulligan is engaging, but the unsung hero of the piece is composer Cliff Martinez, whose score is nothing less than electrifying, utilizing some melancholic new age themes with terrific songs. Utterly remarkable direction by Nicholas Winding Refn, who employs slow motion to profound and mesmerizing effect throughout. I think he show teach a course to new filmmakers on how to maximize the technique in contemporary cinema. I can see why the film could be absorbing and alienating at the same time, but I found the former quality as the dominant one, and in the end understand the importance of the extreme blood-letting. The lack of love and heroism can be applied to the film’s existential underpinnings, and frankly I am happy that this goes so much further than just about any Hollywood film out there. This is one instance where the spectacular reviews the film received seemed fully warranted, at least to my perceptions.

    Helen Mirren stars in John Madden’s intermittantly riveting political thriller THE DEBT with some harrowing scenes set in a hospital. Good if unspectacular entertainment.

  3. I revisited Don’t Bother to Knock. Richard Widmark was a fascinating actor. Even when his character wasn’t supposed to be the bad guy there was always that other side, that edge to him. And Marilyn Monroe was impressive, too. She had as much a flair for drama as she did for comedy.

  4. Alison – Don’t Bother to Knock is a good one! I have my TCM back so I watched Suspicion for probably the 67th time. Always a fun one to see.

  5. Piro, is Perfect Host the sorta dark comedy with David Hyde Pearce? I haven’t seen it but it BARELY go ta release here in the US back in July. I’ll have to catch up to it on DVD.

    Was the Hamlet doc only in Bulgaria? It sounds like a nice companion to Lost in La Mancha.

    Sam, surprised you liked Contagion since you’ve seemed to be off the Soderbergh wagon for a while now.

    It’s interesting too you praise Lion King but point out that the 3D is useless. That’s exactly why I skipped it. I’m not paying 4 extra bucks for what amounts to little more than a distraction. It saddens me Disney was rewarded for its greed.

    Had it been 2D, I’d have been happy to belly up to the bar.

    Love Richard Widmark, Alison. I kept expecting him to be the bad guy in that one. It was a nice bit of casting.

    Jeanine, do you feel whole again now you have TCM back?

  6. Craig, I can absolutely recommend The Perfect Host. I can’t imagine how they let this slip with such a limited distribution. Maybe because it didn’t have any major stars (all respect to DHP but I can’t call him a box-office draw) and to be honest it’s pretty dark even when it’s funny. However, one of my favorite films this year.

    The Hamlet Adventure didn’t really got any distribution in US as far as I know. Even in Bulgaria it had a very limited release but I found it interesting. Made the festival rounds last year but nothing major.

    Sam, I’m glad you liked both Drive and Contagion. Keeps my hopes up for those films. However, I’m beginning to doubt if I shall even give Straw Dogs a shot. All the comments I’ve been hearing tend to be negative.

  7. Piro: Thanks for the confidence, but of course you may well see either or both in a different light. I look forward to your thoughts. STRAW DOGS is nearly impossible to sit through, I’ll admit.

    Craig: I was so happy to get back on the Soderbergh bandwagon again. Yep, LION KING in 2D is a better bet and a cheaper ticket I’m afraid.

  8. We’re watching season 3 of the French crime drama Engrenages (Spiral). The first season, which acclimatizes one to the oddities of the French judicial and policing systems, was intriguing and entertaining despite some shortcomings. The much tighter Season 2 was excellent and so far, three episodes into the third season, the show maintains the same high standards. I’m loathed to compare anything to The Wire, given its once in a generation quality, but Spiral pleasingly shares some traits with it and offers the exoticism of being set in another culture.

  9. Watched Super 8 and I really liked it. Tonight, I’m watching Pearl Jam Twenty and I hope for Cameron Crowe to make a good film out of PJ’s career.

  10. Sam, I didn’t find Straw Dogs to be terrible, but it actually was less than I expected. I didn’t expect Lurie to improve upon Peckinpah, but I thought it might at least be an effective if workmanlike thriller. It was not.

    Interesting Sartre. I’ve heard of Spiral, but haven’t seen it. I’d also be skeptical of a comparison to The Wire, but what you’ve said intrigues…

    Rodrigo, Super 8 was one of the nicer surprises for me of summer. I know it has its share of detractors around here, but I had fun with it.

  11. I haven’t gotten to the theater since seeing Contagion. Last weekend I re-watched A Serious Man on HBO, then immediately followed it with another viewing of True Grit. I know. I’m not really obsessed. It was actually my first time to actually watch the film on DVD and I was mainly interested in the score and lighting this time around. But of course I still loved it. Got my Coens fix.

  12. We KNOW you love True Grit, but how did A Serious Man hold up the second time? It gets better for me every time I see it.

  13. Super 8 was a surprise for me too. I wasn’t expecting the film to suck, but Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning’s character were pretty engaging.

  14. I thought so too, and that was the main thing that made the whole thing work. I also liked the undercurrent of boyhood friendship.

    The alien story was really all just a background to that. I wish that part had been stronger, but it was enough.

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