Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes ‘50/50’ more than disease movie-of-the-week
Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt star in “50/50.”
★★★ 1/2 (out of four)
2011, Dir. Jonathan Levine, U.S., R
“50/50” is rated R for profanity, drug use and sexual
- New films
Director: Matthijs van Heijningen.
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton.
The plot: At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an
alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate
Lloyd and a scientist.
Genre: Horror, mystery.
Director: Craig Brewer.
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough.
The plot: City kid Ren McCormack moves to a small town where
rock ’n’ roll and dancing have been banned, and this rebellious
spirit shakes up the populace.
Genre: Comedy, drama.
- Film roundup
★★ 1/2 (out of four)
“Moneyball” tells the true story of how Oakland Athletics
general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) revolutionized
the way major league baseball teams select lineups, leading his A’s
to a historic 20-game winning streak in the 2002 season and turning
the world of pro ball on it ear in the process. A former would-be
all-star who once discovered at some cost that scouts’ ability to
spot true talent is not infallible, Beane is determined to prove
that the team-selection process in place since the game’s inception
is antiquated and, in a modern context, almost completely
“Drive” is such a film, and in what surely must be a miracle, it
has not been abandoned on the arthouse circuit. On the contrary, it
is playing in multiplexes across the U.S., and as of press time was
the second-highest grossing film in general release (behind the
re-release of “The Lion King,” naturally). To see a film of this
caliber performing so well in wide release is inspiring, and goes
to show that there is in fact a demand for this kind of thing among
“mainstream” audiences. Studios should take note — and give
director Nicolas Winding Refn (winner of the best director award at
this year’s Cannes Film Festival) the money and creative control to
do absolutely whatever the hell he wants from this point
A fast-paced procedural documenting the likely effects of a new
worldwide epidemic, the film has all the hallmarks of a
sophisticated Soderbergh production: a gritty feel and urgent tone;
plenty of jump-cuts and carefully edited montages; a sprawling cast
of A-list actors in modest supporting roles, etc. But also present
is the odd and unsettling remoteness that Soderbergh typically
displays when he’s in studio mode. Everything is so precisely
staged, each camera angle and edit so obviously and meticulously
tweaked, that Soderbergh’s true filmmaking voice often seems in
danger of disappearing into an abyss of overly polished,
“Red State” is an especially surprising and most welcome
game-changer for Kevin Smith, who has built a career out of
straight comedies predicated on crude sex and fart jokes. The film
represents a giant leap forward for him as a filmmaker, and is
indeed the only Smith film that suggests any interest in actual
cinematic technique. I was initially skeptical when he claimed that
producing and distributing the movie himself allowed him the
opportunity to deliver the visionary, uncompromising, totally
kick-ass horror flick he intended to make, free from the studio
interference that allegedly ruined several of his previous works.
Yet it appears there’s something to these claims, and upon seeing
the film it is clear that Smith has intentionally bucked every
genre convention and audience expectation imaginable. He fought the
system, and he’s come out on top.
Posted: Friday, October 7, 2011 8:12 am
I often write about the importance of remaining optimistic
regarding the state of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking, but
sometimes I find it difficult to follow my own advice. Case in
point: As of press time, “Drive” — the intoxicating, trail-blazing
Hollywood debut of Danish wunderkind Nicolas Winding-Refn that may
very well stand as the best film of 2011 — has plummeted to No. 11
on the box office chart after less than three weeks in general
release, bringing its domestic total to roughly $27 million.
This would be less disheartening had the film not premiered in
the No. 2 spot, suggesting that good word-of-mouth could have
easily turned it into a $80 million smash (its production budget
was around $15 million). This, as “A Dolphin Tale” rules the box
office and the implicitly racist “The Help” (spare me the letters)
continues to stick around, passing $160 million in domestic
Friday, October 7, 2011 8:12 am.