Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reviews: The Place Beyond the Pines + 2 Bonus Reviews

Derek Cianfrance, director of Blue Valentine once again teams up with Ryan Gosling for a three-act snapshot of small town crime and corrupt police in Schenectady, NY entitled The Place Beyond the Pines.  Gosling plays Luke, a loner motorcycle stunt rider who decides to stay in town and quit his job to be with his lover (Eva Mendez) and a son he didn't know he had.  Mendez's character (Romina) has moved on in her life and is ready to marry another man.  Luke tries to win Romina back by doing a series of dangerous bank robberies, using his skills on a motorcycle to help escape the police.  When a final robbery goes terribly wrong, Luke encounters an eager rookie cop named Avery (played by the ever-more-dramatic Bradley Cooper).

Avery and Luke cross paths and throw the plot into a series of follow-up events that expose the corruption of the Schenectady police force (which includes a wonderful cameo performance by Ray Liotta).  Events that unfold in the first act of the film are given dire repercussions throughout the second and third act.  Cooper and Gosling are excellent at portraying troubled characters who are faced with tough decisions.  Mendez is good but not great as a single mom who must weigh her own needs with those of her son.  The chase scenes are spectacularly shot in real-time using POV cameras that put you right in the action.  The drama, sound and speed of these sequences are extremely authentic and help build tension.

This movie is well-acted and superbly shot by Cianfrance.  Throw in some excellent mood music from a satisfying original soundtrack by Mike Patton and all the ingredients are in place for an awesome gripping film.  While the tension did grip me at times, I found myself wishing the movie ended before the third act.  The depiction of teenage life in a small town is spot-on but it seemed a bit forced and there were far too many coincidences throughout to make any of it seem believable.  I also feel that Gosling's portrayal of Luke is too closely mimicked with his work in Drive.  I'd like to see him take a break from playing the loner outlaw type in an upcoming film. I would recommend renting this movie on Bluray but skipping full price in the theater.  3.5 out of 5 JRs for The Place Beyond the Pines, a far-too-long raw and tension-filled police drama.

I saw two other movies over the past month and have a brief review for both of them.  Oz The Great And Powerful is a worthwhile prequel to the classic Wizard of Oz.  Milas Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams all give good performances as the trio of witches and James Franco is OK in his portrayal of Oz.  Bonus points for some pretty solid special effects all around and minus points for Zach Braff's creepy voice-over work for the talking monkey.  My kids enjoyed it but I can't really give it more than 3 JRs.

Last week, I managed to make it to the theater to see the 3D conversion of Jurassic Park.  J Park is one of my all-time favorite films and I had the pleasure of seeing it with my friend Omar who watched it with me on opening night in 1993.  It was great to see it on the big screen again and the 3D conversion was well done, making the dinosaurs seem even more realistic than before.  I would only recommend that the most die-hard J Park fans spend the $16 to go see this.  It was worthwhile but I can only give this 4 JRs since I've seen this film so many times.