DRIVE

The first half of this movie should have been called STALLED. It takes 45 loooooong minutes to set up the main character, the romance, and what will eventually become the main plot…and they do it with about five minutes worth of script. That being said, once this clunker gets back on the road it becomes a sleek machine. Albert Brooks is scary good as the big bad with a blade fetish and Ryan Gosling is finally allowed to act in the last hour. Worth seeing for sure…guess I'm spoiled. Two of the actors in this (Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston) star in shows that are as good if not better than this. DRIVE seems like a golf cart compared to the NASCAR speeds reached on a weekly basis by Breaking Bad and Sons Of Anarchy.

Stormy Curry

MARGIN CALL

Bliss! An intelligent, gripping, superbly acted drama about what led
to the current financial meltdown, told not as a docu-drama, but
through the prism of a fictional Goldman Sachs-type mega-firm. Even if
there had been talented unknowns in the cast, the whip-smart
screenplay would have carried the audience along with them. But oh my
stars — these are A-listers at their very peak, striking sparks both
individually and off one another. Many good movies are memorable for
one or two juicy scenes. Here, pretty much the entire film soars. Part
of the reason is that the “villains” are not simply nasty greedmongers
with no understanding of the larger problem; they're flawed (in
varying degrees) human beings caught up in an unstoppable tidal wave
of corrupt capital. That includes top dog Jeremy Irons: Is this actor
one big humongous ham…or is he one of our greatest screen treasures?
It doesn't matter! He ROCKS. Additionally, when I saw that Kevin
Spacey was playing yet another “tough” business executive, I thought,
well, here he goes again. Not so! This time, Spacey's intensity and
drive are offset by an unexpectedly gentle side which, in a throat-
lumpy flourish at the end, beautifully ties up this story of business
world skullduggery and its impact on the lives of the employees. It's
as if Rod Serling's PATTERNS had been remade for the new reality —
with the added excitement of a MICHAEL CLAYTON. This is one Call
you're gonna wanna take! — Jeff Schultz

THE DESCENDANTS

People who think George Clooney is merely a pretty face who occasionally throws over his beautiful girlfriend for another one aren't paying attention. Mr. Clooney is a producer, a director and most impressively an actor. Last year he was largely overlooked in THE AMERICAN and was underrated in UP IN THE AIR the previous year. His latest demonstration of immense talent is THE DESCENDANTS. He plays Matt King a real estate lawyer in Hawaii who can trace his lineage back to King Kamehameha. His family is faced with a tragedy. His wife is critically injured in a boat accident, an injury that has put her in an irreversible coma. Matt is forced to get to know his daughters (Scottie and Alexandra) and tell friends and family his wife is going to die. Oh, and he finds out his wife was having an affair. And, he is dealing with a big family land sale that could add hundreds of millions of dollars to his fortune. This sounds like it could be a soap opera plot, or filled with treacle and melodrama. But, in the more than capable hands of Alexander Payne it never goes down that road. Serious, funny and surprising, this is real family drama. It is about dealing with reality in a real and honest way. The screenplay by Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash is wonderful and shooting in paradise adds to the feeling of tragedy. Clooney even says it in voice over near the beginning of the movie.. and I'm paraphrasing here.. bad stuff happens in paradise too. But good stuff happens on screen and look for THE DESCENDANTS to get a outrigger canoe full of nominations. All of them (and Clooney better get a Best Actor nod) richly deserved. — Alan Yudman

TOWER HEIST

It would be unfortunate if people let director Brett Ratner's
shortcomings as a human being lead them to dump on his latest movie.
Rather, TOWER HEIST should be trashed on its own demerits — the
mechanical plotting, the paperboard characters, the labored stunts and
the almost complete lack of anything fresh or amusing. As plastic and
disposable as a cheap toy, this overlong revenge romp doesn't even try
to manufacture a believable scenario, then cuts so many corners you
quickly give up caring if it makes any sense. Halfway through, Eddie
Murphy shows up and gives a desperately needed jolt to the
proceedings. But neither he nor capable performances from Alan Alda
(especially), Casey Affleck and Judd Hirsch can salvage this comedy
without laughs, this caper without thrills, this Exhibit A for how
disappointing mainstream moviemaking has become. — Jeff Schultz

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE

This film tries so hard to be “arty” that it completely lost me. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (MMMM from here on), is about a young woman who escapes from a cult and runs back to her only family, her sister. Nothing is overt in this movie. You have to pay attention and watch as the plot unfolds to determine how Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) got into the cult, how she grew to become a part of it and how she eventually felt she had to bolt. But what they cult is about is anyone's guess. It's an unfocused cult of slackers best I can figure. It has a charismatic leader (or one who is supposed to be) in John Hawkes. He's creepy good, but doesn't have much to work with. We know Martha has left and eventually we find out why, but we have no clue why this incredibly broken woman went to her sister and what she wants now. Olsen is very good, but again doesn't have a lot to work with (She got all the talent in the family, her sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley got the fame). And the final scene is so maddeningly ambiguous that I sat scratching my head for minutes afterword. It didn't really deserve much more introspection than that. The lack of dialogue isn't a bad thing in a movie (see DRIVE for a good example), but to leave the audience almost completely in the dark about what's going on makes them lose interest. All I can say about MMMM is meh. — Alan Yudman

TOWER HEIST

The previews for TOWER HEIST give the impression that this is first a comedy and second a “heist movie”. Turns out it's a “heist movie” with a ton of laughs. But, whatever it is, it all begins with “story” and Brett Ratner has a great one. Ben Stiller is the manager of The Tower, the highest priced real estate in New York. Alan Alda is Arthur Shaw, a wealthy financier who lives in the penthouse. Alda turns out to be Madoff-esque and some of his victims are the employees of The Tower. Slowly, Stiller realizes that Alda is the crook everyone says he is and after taking revenge with a putter, he is fired and decides to steal from the thief. Stiller enlists the help of the only criminal he knows, his neighbor Eddie Murphy. Even when it becomes serious, the next laugh isn't far off. One of the funniest is a great drunk scene with the wonderful Tea Leoni who plays an FBI agent. Everyone looks like their having fun with this and the audience is right there with them. The way it plays out is unpredictable and funny and simply awesome. Stiller is great, mainly because he isn't playing his usual flustered schlub. His Josh always in control and always has the right answer. Murphy is hysterical. Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Michael Pena and Gabourey Sidibe as his “crew” are fantastic. And the soundtrack by Christophe Beck is perfect. This is a fun movie, that is a great vehicle for Murphy and Stiller. I absolutely loved TOWER HEIST! — Alan Yudman