BY DAILY FILM STAFF
Published January 4, 2012
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A guy supplements his income by getaway driving for the Los Angeles underworld and becomes trapped between the mafia and the woman he loves. It sounds utterly conventional, yet somehow, “Drive” defies expectations, an example of everything Hollywood’s missing.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece is more arthouse than blockbuster, but it isn’t the arrogant wish-fulfillment of “Midnight in Paris,” nor is it Terrence Malick’s, “I studied philosophy at Harvard” brand of condescension. Refn takes us back to a time when filmmakers cared about how their films looked, designing the composition of each frame, each action set piece, each incredibly choreographed outburst of white-hot violence, with meticulous detail. With the help of lead actor Ryan Gosling, who turns in his best performance, Refn’s film reinvigorates the crime-action genre, breathing new life into a tired field.
2. “The Adventures of Tintin”
Tintin always moves (unless he’s been knocked out by some ruffian). Motion is his appeal and the reason Steven Spielberg’s representation rings true.
Every second conveys cartoonish energy: slipping, sliding, tripping — the swashbuckling fun never stops. It’s vintage Spielberg — an animated Indiana Jones.
Great movement requires great characters, and luckily, “The Adventures of Tintin” has them. The inebriated Captain Haddock (does Andy Serkis ever do wrong?) is the perfect foil to the grounded Tintin, and Snowy (can dogs win Oscars?) may be the greatest dog in the history of dogs.
“Tintin” testifies to the fact that you’ll never find adventure sitting on your couch (or “locked” up, drunk, in a ship’s cabin). If you keep searching for life, you’ll find it. As they say near the end of the film, “How’s your thirst for adventure, Captain?”
3. “Attack the Block”
Damn, it feels good to be an alien-thrashing gangster. The teenage hoodlums of “Attack the Block” realize every adolescent male’s dream as they gang up and hop on BMX bikes to repel an extraterrestrial invasion. With the swagger of an old master, rookie writer-director Joe Cornish captures claustrophobic, frightening action as leader Moses guides his people against the “gorilla wolf motherfuckers” that land in their South London housing project.
And the action, gloriously gory without being gratuitous, is hilariously hair-raising. Cornish keeps raucous humor alive throughout (aided by a superb extended cameo by Nick Frost), yet nimbly avoids parody.
The film’s American release suffered from unfortunate timing — the miscreant heroes closely resemble the instigators of the London riots — and the film floundered, so it’ll take a groundswell of support before posters of this cult masterpiece become a dorm-room staple. An exclamation by one of the valiant teenage thugs properly sums up the “Attack the Block” experience — “I’m shitting myself but … this is sick.”
-KAVI SHEKHAR PANDEY
When director David Yates joined the “Harry Potter” franchise, he was under a lot of pressure. The series was four movies and three directors in, with notoriously expectant fans. But Yates rose to the challenge, culminating in a dark finale more rewarding than this year’s alleged Oscar contenders.
“Harry Potter” is a fantasy bildungsroman: a coming-of-age story for the characters, the filmmakers and us. “Deathly Hallows: Part 2” boasts some of the best ensemble acting of the series, relying as much on the actors who grew up in London’s Leavesden Studios as it does on British veterans. There are fantastic special effects, beautiful cinematography and a sweeping soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat. There are spells and broomsticks.