Recliner Reviews for Sept. 5, 2013

September 3, 2013 

PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

Ryan Gosling in "The Place Beyond the Pines."

ATSUSHI NISHIJIMA

Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.

“Mud”

Writer/director Jeff Nichols has made a couple of small films – “Shotgun Stories” and “Take Shelter” – and both of these gems were full of tension and starred Michael Shannon. In this one, Shannon was filming “Man of Steel,” so he took a smaller role and climbed in behind his lead, Matthew McConaughey. Don’t scoff – McConaughey channels something here that we haven’t seen from him in awhile. The same is true of his costar Reese Witherspoon, both are able to provide performances that keep you guessing. The whole movie keeps you wondering who these characters really are, but the true stars of this movie are the two kids. Tye Sheridan from “Tree of Life” and Jacob Lofland in his debut make this coming of age story an impactful ordeal that pulls no punches. Nichols put together the right set of actors to make his vision crystal clear – worth a watch.

“The Place Beyond the Pines”

Anyone who saw writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s last movie, “Blue Valentine,” knows that Cianfrance can deliver some heart-churning melancholy drama. For his follow-up, he brought Ryan Gosling back and added some action and thrills to his melancholy drama. That’s important because if he just went for the drama alone in this generational tale of fathers and sons, it would’ve probably been a two-and-a-half-hour jumble. It’s not. But it is many things. It is gritty and brash and full of flawed characters. These messy characters are brought to life by Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn and the young Dane DeHaan, who plays an oddball teenager for about the fifth time. But the film isn’t about movie stars it’s about the story. Movie stars are just the tools Cianfrance uses to tell the story, and this story is worth a watch.

“The Iceman”

Sometimes a movie goes on too long for no reason. Sometimes a movie isn’t given enough time to develop and feels like a missed opportunity. Some movies shouldn’t be allowed to go on at all. This one lands in that middle area. It was based on the true story of the hitman Richard Kuklinski, a story which has garnered two chilling HBO documentaries where the real Iceman Kuklinski was interviewed and confessed to more than a hundred murders. They fill the cast list with lukewarm to hot actors – Chris Evans, James Franco, Winona Ryder, David Schwimmer, Stephen Dorff and Ray Liotta (he was also in “The Place Beyond the Pines”). The problem is all these actors with their small roles and cameos don’t bulk up or make the story any better. The script has been boiled down to a confusing storyline that holds little resemblance to the actual story. That’s a shame because Michael Shannon, who plays the lead, is incredible in the part. He owns every scene. Imagine what he could’ve done with a fully-fleshed, multi-dimensional character? His performance is good enough to elevate this film to barely worth a watch.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge

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