Only God Forgives (2013)

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm

Rating: ★★★★

Only God Forgives was a controversial and the “cliché marmite” film of last year as it was either blasted and destroyed by critics or quite contrary praised and applauded as one of the best. Nicholas Winding Refn writes and directs the unnamed sequel to Drive, which is a popular soon to be classic in the making, however Only God Forgives takes a very different approach. Technically and visually powering with a very vague story surrounding sex and violence it brings a mixture between art and action leaving a lot of thoughts and opinions with its audience.

We follow Julian (Ryan Gosling) in the heart of Bangkok who ten years previously killed a man and went on the run. In the present and day to day he manages a Thai boxing club whilst playing a major role for an underground drugs operation. He’s a powerful, respected individual with a life, but inside he is empty. When Julian’s brother murders a young underage prostitute the police call on a retired cop, Chang –The Angel of Vengeance. Chang allows the girl’s father to kill Julian’s brother giving him the power of revenge however Chang “restoring order” chops of his hand.  Julian’s estranged criminal mother Crystal flies over to collect her son’s body, with a dysfunctional relationship Crystal orders Julian to seek revenge. Julian empty and lifeless accepts the challenge and dispatches to find his brother’s killer and “raise hell”. However Julian trying revenge The Angle of Vengeance will lead to a battle of more than just strength which ultimately could restore what he has been missing.

Winding Refn’s story attempts to carry on from Drive (2010), Julian is now emotionless and the violent personality we saw in Drive has taken over completely leaving him not only lost but dangerous. The film has a clear plot however it is not executed so it is clear visually; everything is disguised and very vague. Refn attempts to create links and most importantly achieves this, however to understand Only God Forgives you will have to notice the tiny references which relate Chang’s actions together in his arrival and departing scene. The final scenes are amazing to watch however “the fight” scene is by far the best and most stand-out being anticipated throughout. The story in a whole for me is very strong and although it has been criticised on its vagueness and obsessive sex and violence it is all for a reason; Refn makes us think and to show how empty Julian is we watch him when he should be most intimate and connecting. Once again Winding Refn creates a very misty, symbolic and aggressive film.

Visually Only God Forgives is brilliant, it has been described as “perfect photography but without the captions”, that description is spot on. Each and every frame is a joy to experience and has been shot with precision and accuracy. The cinematography again is equal and this alongside Refn’s direction flourishes within the long awaited fight scene. Only God Forgives is technically flawless with even the make-up department thriving in turning the idolised and loved face of Gosling into something that looks broken and destroyed and more so the special effects team on creating gore which is worthy of the horror genre should be praised. The sound is also a highlighting feature and again likewise to Drive it should be applauded as Cliff Martinez shows great talent and skill.

Criticisms have been harshly focused too on Ryan Gosling and his performance which some have said isn’t worthy to be called a “performance”. However for me Gosling was brilliant, it is most likely harder to act without emotions then it is with, as it is human nature that we display emotions each and every day, every second. To capture such a lifeless and empty Julian, Gosling should be praised. However it was only Gosling that really impressed as the rest of the cast although very silent due to script and Refn’s nature wasn’t too believing or real.

Only God Forgives was victim of very bad criticisms however for me there were only two major flaws and areas I didn’t find impressive. The acting in general as I said with the exclusion of Ryan Gosling was very poor but more so this was due to a very mute script from Refn that didn’t pay off as he hoped despite turning more attention maybe towards the visuals.  The story too for me should have been directly linked to Drive and therefore it would have created a better understanding even if there was a short opening sequence continuing from the end of the 2010 hit.

Only God Forgives is a very complex film yet looks so simplistic, once the story is digested and understood it is then easier to enjoy and be inspired by what is a technically and visually flawless film. It thrives of an excellence main character and acting, whilst elements of gore and effects are well managed and executed. Winding Refn creates a very lovable film which for me was one of my favourites of last year and although not the most easiest to watch nor understand it can become very entertaining and essentially a worth-while viewing.

Advertisements

The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)

Genre: Crime, Drama

Directors: Derek Cianfrance

Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio , Darius Marder

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes

Rating: ★★★★★

The Place beyond the Pines was a film that slipped past my radar in early 2013 but it soon became top of my “must-see” list after seeing it top many “Best of the Year lists”. It is safe to say those plaudits were spot on as many aspects of Derek Cianfrance’s release are flawless. Following a fantastically written story which has been executed equally as good, it is further topped off by a great casting ensemble. The Place beyond the Pines is a film that is totally entertaining, and leaves you reflecting days after which again adds to its brilliance.

We follow the life of Luke (Ryan Gosling) a dreamy motorcycle stunt rider, rebellious and dangerous we quickly form a bond routing for our protagonist. On a circuit tour living the carnival life he performs in the New York town of Schenectady, where he then attempts to reunite with his previous lover Romina (Eva Mendes). Secretly and unknowingly to Luke, Romina has recently given birth to his son, in an act of courage Luke makes a bold decision to quit riding and settle, providing for his new family. Obstacles soon appear for Luke as he has to fight for Romina and his child with new lover Kofi whilst his new wage earned being a mechanic is staggeringly low. Turning to a life of crime to support his family giving them a life and experience he always wanted, Luke robs a series of banks.

However his life as bank robber soon puts him on the path with ambitious and eager police officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  Looking for a quick way up the ranks Avery has to battle within his department as well as out, as it is riddled with a set of corrupt superiors. Luke’s and Avery’s path of sin and trouble soon changes their lives for the worse. Forwarding into the future we then see how these past sins haunt a pair of high school boys trying to accept the legacy they inherited. As life once again proves to be more than complicated the only refuge is a place beyond the pines.

The story is one that still amazes me for many reasons, the element of realism and the outside perspective of a “ripple effect” are somewhat brilliant, but the top of the list is how well executed The Place beyond the Pines is. It left me reflecting how past actions have affected the present and even the future of my life. The way this drama unfolds is also truly brilliant, there’s at no point a dull moment and I was kept entertained and intrigued throughout. The characters and the development were flawless too, Ryan Gosling’s Luke was our hero, the true “anti-hero” in an aspect, and scenes where he played with his son and attempted to put together new cots were actually and surprisingly pleasant. Then when we switched to follow the life of Cooper’s Avery we found a new hero and events to be entertained by.

The casting ensemble was also great and deserves much applause and credit. Gosling played his dreamy Luke brilliantly likewise with Cooper and his Avery. Eva Mendes although a slightly more back-grounded character still portrayed and captured an excellent performance, with all three characters really inspiring and connecting with us. Derek Cianfrance directing was a real highlight too, with many shots being awe-inspiring whilst all scene’s emotions were really heightened to full potential and impact. On a final note and a deserved mention was the score which provided an equal amount of entertainment with Bon Iver’s The Wolves and Mark Patton’s Snow Angel becoming new favourites.

In a whole The Place beyond the Pines left me feeling very entertained and thoughtful and upon reflection the film is flawless with every aspect executed well and interacting together brilliantly. I am surprised this release even slipped past my radar and didn’t become a much talked about huge success. To say The Place beyond the Pines is a “must-see” is a given, and I can only hope that it has the same remarkable impact on everyone else.

Favourite Scenes From 2013

2013 left us a week ago now but still looking back it was a great year in the world of cinema for viewing experiences and entertainment. Regarding my 2013 Round-Up there’s not much left to conclude, so here I bring you some of my favourite and the most memorable  scenes from 2013 releases.

#5

A scene that is truly memorable comes from the recent instalment to The Hobbit series, The Desolation of Smaug  presented us with a stunningly made Dragon which in its final scenes breaks free covered in liquid gold shaking it everywhere. An image and scene that was perfectly executed and is surely to be an award-winner. The scenes involving Smaug were all impressive.

#4

One of the most talked about and divided film of 2013 was Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, despite dividing opinions it really made an impact on me with a brilliantly executed display. The scene I’m sure no one will forget is the long-awaited fight scene that saw Ryan Gosling in a violent display. It was my favourite scene from the film, especially with Cliff Martinez once again adding amazing score.

#3

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was an excellent and surprising film with an almost perfect balance between comedy, drama and action. The very final scene for me was a real heart-warmer which summed up the films pleasant atmosphere! there were also many perfectly shot scenes that really glorified the captured scenery but for me the ending had a mixture of everything.

#2

Gravity was for me the best visual experience of recent years with amazing effects and great use of 3D! A real awe inspiring scene that was a real highlight and advertisement for recent technology was the inclusion of 3D tears as Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone broke down.

#1

Captain Phillips was crowned my favourite release of 2013 and this was mainly down to the amazing and inspirational acting from Tom Hanks. In the final scenes under examination Hank’s Phillips breaks down into shock and capture’s a breath-taking performance that I’m sure will bring many rightful awards and plaudits.

My Favourite 10 for 2013

Since I have now viewed most of the 2013 releases I had originally intended to here are my favourite 10. I know I have already posted My 2013 Awards but here is a more formal list, fortunately I don’t have a habit of going to bad screenings so my list was a bit of a headache to conclude and finalise.

#10

“Different”, “Refreshing” and “Tense”

#9

“Fun”, “Alive” and “Heart-felt”

#8

“Thrilling”, “Clever” and “Chilling”

#7

“Pleasant”, “Touching” and “Powerful”

(Reviewed Here)

#6

“Fun”, “Entertaining” and “Brilliant”

(Reviewed Here)

#5

“Master-class”, “Violent” and “Brave”

#4

“Fun”, “Entertaining” and “Simply Great”

(Reviewed Here)

#3

“Touching”, “Inspirational” and “Magical”

(Reviewed Here)

#2

“Visually-Flawless”, “Tense” and “Special”

(Reviewed Here)

#1

“Breath-Taking”, “Tense” and “Stunning”

(Reviewed Here)

Captain Phillips concludes my 2013 list and gets named my favourite film of the year. I only wish I had reviewed more of them but I’m sure I shall with second watches. Feel free to debate and comment about my choices and it would be great if you’d name your top 10 films of 2013 below!

Top 5: Films To Look Out For In The Rest Of 2013

So we’ve had The Great Gatsby and our Pacific Rim but let’s have a look at what 2013 has left in its film closet.

 

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Action

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn

Release Date: 02/08/13

Staring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas

#5 Only God Forgives: For those who have seen the brilliant film that is Drive (2011) this is a sequel following the story of Julian (Ryan Gosling) 10 years later after fleeing to Thailand. Owning a boxing club, being the main man on a drugs front and an all round respected criminal he gets ordered to kill those who murdered his brother. Feeling the same emptiness and rage that he did in Drive I’m sure the action in this film will be amazing. Staring Ryan Gosling whose performance in Drive was thrilling and from the same director Nicolas Winding Refn you can expect the same quality meaning this film will definitely be a must watch.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt (Screenplay), Suzanne Collins (Novel)

Release Date: 22/11/13

Staring: Jenifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth

#4 The Hunger Games- Catching Fire: A sequel to the 2012 film The Hunger Games it follows  Katniss and Peeta after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the districts.  An inviting story and a great cast makes this film very much-anticipated, especially following its prequel it the Hunger Games Trilogy.

Genre: Comedy

Director: Adam McKay

Writers: Will Ferrell & Adam McKay

Release Date: 20/12/13

Staring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell. Paul Rudd

#3 Anchorman- The Legend Continues: After the much famous success with Anchorman (2004) here comes a sequel, with an amazing all-star cast it provided us with many laughs and is possibly one of the most popular comedies. With Will Ferrell once again staring and writing it looks to have the same success and effect making it a film to look out for.

Genre: Horror

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Writers: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Screenplay), Stephen King (Novel)

Release Date: 29/10/13

Staring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer

#2 Carrie: A remake of the prestigious and greatly known 1976 horror, Carrie a lonely awkward teen is bullied at school and is beaten at home by her religious mother. However Carrie is blessed with an evil power and after a prank at her high school prom she teaches people a value lesson, If you play with fire, you’ll get burnt. With this film being tipped to be the best horror this year, better than Evil Dead (2013) this will definitely be a film people will flood to see.

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy

Director: Peter Jackson

Writers: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, Philippa Boyens

Release Date: 13/12/13

Staring: Martin Freeman, Elijah Woods

#1: The Hobbit-The Desolation of Smaug: The Hobbit the prequels to the most popular trilogy of all time, Lord Of The Rings are very  anticipated films. After the Unexpected Journey (2012) became a huge success and left us with a cliff-hanger you can expect the film to flood the box office with unbelievable sales. Following the story this time Bilbo (Martin Freeman) meets our golden dragon as he goes on his adventure.

That concludes my list of what I think the most top 5 most anticipated films will be for the rest of 2013 but I would like to hear what you think, comment below and let me know.

Film Review: Drive (2011)

 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Director: Nicholas Winding Refn

Writers: Hossein Amini, James Sallis

Staring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks

Rating: ★★★★★

Ryan Gosling stars in this crime drama as a Driver, he has no name, no past, no other life. He drives as a stuntman, a wheelman for getaways and he drives to save his neighbours lives. We first see  Driver in LA being used as a wheelman for a getaway. He’s calm, composed and mysterious and in pursuit from the police he uses not only the sheer power, speed and his driving ability but the environment and intelligence to escape. During the day he works as a mechanic and a stuntman, he asks no questions, he just drives.

He is this traditional “hero” and this film fits the 1960’s trend and style, he is a complete mystery but all we can tell is that he’s damaged and whatever damaged him has had a lasting effect on his mental state. He has no family, no friends, no past not even a name making him defined purely by his behaviour and all he does is drive. He has few if any emotions, he doesn’t talk much but we become to be attached and sympathise for him and this is down to a truly amazing soundtrack and score editing.

The Driver befriends his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son Benecio (Kaden Leos) and within a week becomes very affectionate and close. He takes them home from the supermarket after their car breaks down, he then goes on to drive them around and take them places. This sets up a rather heart warming relationship between the three of them however Irene’s husband and Benecio’s dad called Standard (Oscar Isaac) is due out from prison in a week destroying the relationship. Standard at first is hostile with his new neighbour but then realises that he can use him to pay off his debt in a $1million heist on a local pawn brokers. However when things go wrong it puts his family in danger and being attached Driver decides to take it into his own hands to protect their lives. This fuels the rest of the film as Driver gets involved with ruthless big time mobsters Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as he takes risks to show unbelievable loyalty and feelings for Irene.

As the plot progresses and the danger and conflict increases we see the damaged Driver show as he displays extreme violence. This however creates us to sympathise for him more rather than making him a villain, it also brings some great entertainment and some thrilling action.

The film is action packed but leaves room for a light hearted romance and a good storyline, for once I think a film has managed to balance this out correctly and effectively. Unlike most other crime-action dramas, Drive is a very realistic film, chases seem realistic and so do stunts. CGI is used as little as possible, Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn respecting the genre and craft of film making. The key element in this film is sound, Cliff Martinez should be very proud of what he’s achieved. Due to the lack of dialogue from the driver the soundtrack speaks for him, telling us everything about him including his feelings. Drive has been credited with many awards for it’s sound editing and well deserved too. This is definitely a film you don’t want to miss and you won’t be disappointed after watching.