The Old EVIL Scorpion and the Frog Tale in “Drive” reviewed! (Second Sight / Screener)



“Anything Happens in that Five Minues and I’m Yours.”  Drive Limited Edition Boxset at Amazon.com!

A solitary mechanic and movie stunt driver offers his services as a getaway driver for illicit odd jobs.  He falls for his single parenting neighbor and as the two begin their romantic affair, her ex-con lover returns from prison to reintegrate back into her and their son’s life.   When ex-con trouble brews an inescapable situation involving ruthless gangsters calling in their favor for prison protection, the stunt driver involves himself with his moonlighting work but when things go terribly wrong and he becomes a target, everyone he knows and cares for are threatened by the mobsters.  War is waged in the fast lane between the mysterious stunt driver and Los Angeles most feared gangsters for the sake of an innocent mother and her child caught in the middle.

Around 2010-2011, when I first heard of Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” starring “The Notebook” and “Lars and the Real Girl’s” Ryan Gosling, I thought to myself, why would I watch this quirky comedy-romance actor drive around in a run-of-the-mill stunt car action film?  Immediately, I wrote off the film penned by “The Four Feathers’” screenwriter Hossein Amini, whose now penning the stories and teleplays of a little Disney+ streaming series you may have heard of called “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”  I now admit it, as painful to my pride as it is, that I was so ignorantly wrong about Refn’s “Drive” that has turned out to be a cult hit present day and a really good and exceptional crime-drama that’s subtle on the dialogue, high on the graphic violence, and all-around superb performances.  The script is the filmic adaptation based off American author James Sallis’s novel of the same title, keeping the neo-noir intact under of guise of muscle car predilection, and is a produced by Gigi Pritzker and Chris Ranta of Oddlot Entertainment (“Buried Alive”), Jonathan Oakes and Gary Michael Walters of Bold Films (“The Neon Demon”), Marc Platt of Marc Platt Productions (“Wanted”), and Motel Movies (“Blue Valentine”). 

To be upfront, Ryan Gosling has never been a go-to movie star for me, personally, so there might have been some psychogenic bias blocker keeping me away from the film over the last decade.  However, over the years, my pallet has grown in diversity and in tastes, chiefly because of influences in my life, and so curiosity got the better of me in wanting to explore the story of and the craft of Ryan Gosling’s character in “Drive.”  The way Gosling portrays the lead, known only as either the Driver or Kid, heavily relies on expression with minimal dialogue and lets all his emotions be poured through his eyes and body language as well as his actions in an anti-charismatic sense that, in a good way, leaves the character unassuming but still confident.  Watching Gosling’s methodical flow through the role and while having a little knowledge of the neurodivergence, it’s not difficult to see that the principal character comes off as a person somewhere on the autism spectrum and doing some post-credits research, I’m not the only one who had the same thought.  Unsociable, quiet, lack of facial expression, and obsessed with routine, especially when moonlighting as a criminal getaway driver with a set of very specific conditions, are just some examples of his behavior that point in the autism direction.  When the driver meets beautiful single parent neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan, “Shame”), that is when we start seeing him deviate from his isolation, from his routine, and become more complex with what was previously a non-existent life, but of course as life blossoms into something new and safe, gangster obstacles rear their ugly head and the criminal in him is forced out for a head on collision.  “Ex Machina’s” Oscar Issacs is the first hurdle as the recently release ex-con dragged back into unscrupulous dealings with unsavory organized crime that climb the latter to “Hellboy’s” Ron Perlman and “Taxi Driver’s” Albert Brooks, business partners who oversee the West Coast turf. Perlman is a natural tough guy, as we’ve seen in countless works stretching over numerous decades and I would have never pictured “The In-Laws” and “Finding Nemo” Albert Brooks to be the minatory type but he does in fact have a dark-twinkle in his eye and can extract the false sense of security out of people before he jabs a fork in their eye and slits their throat…wrist….guts….yeah, his character loves to knife others. The all-star cast rounds out with Bryan Cranston (“Godzilla”) as the Driver’s mob-connected boss-friend-agent and Christina Hendricks (“The Neon Demon”) in a lowkey accomplice role that makes a gruesome, unforgettable impact.

Speaking of “The Neon Demon,” a more recent Nicholas Winding Refn film, you’ll begin to absorb the Denmark-born filmmaker’s stylistic motifs between the two films involving lingering shots, graphic violence, and the integration of electro-pop tracks into an eclectic soundtrack. Many of the scenes convey an emotion through dialogue-less scenes and the soundtrack to contrast actions speak louder than words. However, there is one radical theory of mine that I believe has a firm foundation is that everything from point A to point Z in the story is all in the Driver’s fantasy world. I know “Drive” is a movie and the need to suspend belief is important but only to an extent and depending on the quality derived from the filmmaker. Refn’s a good filmmaker, we know this, but everything the Driver experiences pitches upon pure imagination when the truth is stretched to be in his favor for the length of the feature. First example – the Driver slams into the side of another car head on, but the headlights, front bumper, and ventilation grille are all clearly intact. Second example – a tense-elevator scene involving the Driver, Irene, and a mobster assigned to take the Driver out takes an improbable turn when the Driver turns to Irene, both bathed in the sudden appearance of a spotlight, and they kiss passionately for quite a while. The moment become the perfect opportunity for the goon to blow away his target. Instead, he lets them kiss and then a close-quarter fight ensues shortly after. Third example but not last – the Driver is nearly an unstoppable force with no background to who he really is or why he is in Los Angeles, but he fights like a hardened criminal and knows how to play the organized crime game, never really have bad hand in his deck of cards, and even is given an ambiguous “Shane” ending. So, I ask again, is the beautiful girl, the ripe for the picking off gangsters, and the prodigious skillset all in his head?

I’ve clearly misjudged Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” to be pretty-boy, stock-story, waste of time. Though I’m still not convinced about Ryan Gosling’s acting, like a Supreme Court Judge nowadays, I’m overturning my naive judgement and calling “Drive” a true modern day cult film hiding in plain sight, receiving new life from Second Sight films with an UK limited edition 4K UHF/Blu-ray release as well as a standard 4K and Blu-ray release. Unfortunately, this review covers only a BD-R screener so commenting on the true quality of the image and audio will not be recorded, but release specs include a new 4K master produced by the original post-production company with Refn’s approval, the UHD is presented in Dolby Vision HDR graded by the film’s original colorist, audio options include a Dolby Atmos and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with optional English subtitles, and the 4K UHD are region free while the Blu-rays are region locked encoded on region B. Standard bonus features include a new exclusive commentary by director Nicolas Winding Ren and The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw, a feature length conversation with Refn, editor Mat Newman, and composer Cliff Martinez reminiscing about their sudden post-theatrical career success with “Drive” when the film saw more success on video, Gutting a Getaway – a new interview with Mat Newman, and 3 Point Turns – a new video essay by Leigh Singer. The limited-edition contents include a premium box set with new Driver Scorpion artwork by AllCity, a 240-page hardback book with new essays by various authors, an exclusive interview with “Drive” author James Sallis hosted by Matthew Thrift, original storyboards, stills, behind-the-scenes photos, the original Sallis novel with new AllCity artwork as well, and 7 collectible art cards. What a massive, massive haul for the film that didn’t do great in theaters due to poor financial support by investors who saw the film as a failure. The film has a runtime of 100 minutes and is UK certified 18. Don’t be like me and neglect a chance to see “Drive,” a great piston-pumping and violently beautiful crime-drama paralleled love story that deserves our time, our attention, and everything including the kitchen sink Second Sight Films pumped into the tremendous limited-edition boxset that dropped this week for release!

“Anything Happens in that Five Minues and I’m Yours.”  Drive Limited Edition Boxset at Amazon.com!

May the EVIL Be With You! “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” reviewed! (Disney / Blu-ray)


The rebellion suffers lost after lost against the oppressive First Order and news that the evil Emperor Palpatine lives casts an even larger shadow of fear and hopelessness across the galaxy. As Fin and Poe Dameron continue running small strikes against imperial targets, Rey finalizes her training as a Jedi with the help of Princess Leia, but as Kyle Ren discovers the Sith coven and the existence of Palpatine, his desire to search and track down Rey grows stronger before releasing a new First Order fleet of Star Destroyers with the capabilities to destroy entire planets. The Force pulls at Rey, guiding her to face her most difficult challenge: the truth about her parents and lineage. Rey faces crossroads that will determine whether she will continue to fight for good or cave into her anger and fear that’ll inevitably lead to the dark side.

Star Wars? What is Star Wars doing being reviewed on a blog that mainly covers the schlocky low-budget horror scene and the occasional obscure and weird Sci-Fi arthouse film? And the fact that “The Rise of Skywalker” is a Disney film makes this writeup the first ever Disney review for ItsBlogginEvil. No, don’t fret. I’m not selling out my love for the gore, scream queens, and pint-sized productions for the mondo-glitzy, big budget Hollywood epics nor am I making a soft right turn into bloodless PG-13 commercial commodities, but, and this is a big atypical but, “Episode IX” needs to be heard from those outside on the fringes. “Episode IX” is perhaps the darkest film of the cross-generational saga alongside “Revenge of the Sith,” or at least a close second, and, so it be, Disney was gracious enough to provide us a Blu-ray review copy of the J.J. Abrams grand finale to an adventure that has trekked through 40 plus years of galaxy-conflict, saw countless different alien species, gave us more pew-pews than we could ever hope to hear, three different versions of Anakin Skywalker, and the phantasmic super powers of what is known as the Force, all of which is encompassed by a fascist, utilitarian power. Co-written with Abrams is “Argo” and “Justice League” writer Chris Terrio from a story co-written also by “Jurassic World’s” Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.

“Episode IX” begins with Kylo Ren (“The Dead Don’t Die” and “BlacKkKlansman’s” Adam Driver) discovering a pyramid shaped device that’ll Mapquest his way to find the secret Sith location where a familiar evil figure from the past returns and has built a gigantic fleet over the last three decades. This time around, Kylo Ren’s less of a toddler in the throes of brain development as he’s embattled with guilt and choice. Adam Driver does nail the performance with solemnity in his last performance as the son of Leia and Han Solo. The story’s heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is also facing internal conflict with self-discovery as the prospect of knowing who she is sets her on a quest to discover her ancestry and what she might find might blur the sides of good and evil. The young actress who had a number short films and one horror title under her belt (“Scrawl”) before skyrocketing into “Star Wars” mythology returns to Rey as a Jedi hot off the Leia training course and thrusted immediately into the Force’s subconscious dark star, shielding her from the truth for fear of what may come of it. While Ridley shines, the Rey character sprints from, at this point in the Saga, point M to point Z, jettisoning much of the internal grappling to a mere blip on the ship’s internal sensors. Rey also feels entirely infallible, thrusting her character beyond the limits of mortality by completely overshadowing not only Kylo Ren, but also Emperor Palpatine. The other two new to the “Star Wars” crew, Poe (“Ex Machina’s” Oscar Isaac) and Finn (“Pacific Rim: Uprising’s” John Boyega), received similar shaft treatment of reworked characters from the original trilogy, possessing nothing new to offer. Poe a watered down version of Han Solo, a hot shot pilot who doesn’t understand the concept that together him and his fellow rebellious friends can defeat anything that stands in front of them; Lando Calrissian had to educate him with a bit of heart-to-heart exposition. However, Finn is perhaps the biggest undercooked character who has an inkling of Force within him that always simmers to the surface, but nothing is definite, nothing’s explained, and nothing is provided to perhaps the best known minority character in all of “Star Wars” behind Lando. Lastly, and I know the character write is up long and might be a little drawn out, Abrams really botched Carrie Fisher’s Leia that worked in awkwardly unused footage of the Princes/General from previous films. The simple and bland rhetoric used when Leia’s having a “conversation” with Rey is nearly painful to stand as Rey pours from an emotional spigot and all Leia can be, responsively, is cold, blank, and superficial. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Harrison Ford, and Greg Grunberg co-star.

I adore “Star Wars” as much as the next nerd who grew up between the first and second trilogy. The blending between science fiction, westerns, and samurai tropes speaks volumes on how engrained George Lucas made space come alive with larger-than-life gusto that appeased not only fans of space adventure and wonders, but also fans saturated inside the spaghetti westerns and those with an affinity for Akira Kurosawa films. Those genre bending tactics really brought the film community together to appreciate the novelly detailed miniatures that came to life and the eccentric, sometimes outlandish, characters like Han Solo, Jabba The Hunt, Boba Fett, and Leia in that scantily-clad slave girl bikini. Yet, “Episode IX” irks me, irks me hard, as the once innovate “Star Wars” has been placed into a bingo ball spinner to have it’s originality called out once again in one ginormous homage to see, again, the Emperor, who seems very high and mighty upon his throne of Sith muscle, pitted against a ragtag team of good doers and their champion quasi-Jedi who has to make a between benevolent freedom or a junta power. That’s not to say that “Episode IX” is a total sham of a finale. Fans will receive the totality of a “Star Wars” film complete with light saber clashes, space battles, and the beautiful, yet sometimes violent, different worlds that ships can hyper speed to in seconds. The visual and practical effects are bar-reached and awe-inspiring by means of thousands of ships clustered together, the dim-lit bars crowded with varied character creatures, and the speeders racing through canyons and sandpits become heart-pounding thrill rides of excitement. The introduction of new characters, like the amiable and smile-evoking bot technician Babu Frik, the former Poe co-spice trader and survivalist Zorii Bliss, and another ex-Storm Trooper, Jannah, forms that similarity bond with Finn, are new blood that delight when on screen. Yet, these new characters are shamefully underused as minuscule support that garners only a speck of adoring fandom but little else to the story’s plotline.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” comes home with a 2-disc Blu-ray and Digital Code release, sheathed inside a rigid slipcover, presented in 1080p, full high definition, widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Video is top shelf quality of everything a “Star Wars” film should be with colors and details galore that are arranged purposefully and perfectly to aesthetically please a contrast against the bleakness of space. The extensive line textures are seriously sharp and along with the vast special effects professions who model, shape, and digitally imprint the liveliness into the work, but there are instances, such as on the Sith home world, where the visual effect of an arena filled with distantly scoped blurry Siths dampens the moment of Rey’s endmost consignment. It looked and felt cheap and didn’t properly convey’s Rey’s loneliness against all odds. The lossless English language 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio caters to every pew-pew blaster sound, every ship zipping through space with an engine-like exhaust, and every electrical discharge of a light saber humming in the throes of dual. The dialogue, and Chewbacca’s guttural growls, are effervescently prominent with a natural tone and not commingled by the other tracks, making “Episode IX” some of the best sound work to date in any “Star Wars” film. Capping off the Saga soundtrack with the familiar John Williams robust overtone and coursed throughout an engaging orchestra that moves in synth with story’s dynamics. The bonus feature disc includes an over two-hour documentary entitled “The Skywalker Legacy,” a full length feature of orgasm supplementary regarding “The Rise of Skywalker” and diving deep into the mythos of “Star Wars'” history. Other bonus material includes the mechanics of creating a speeder chase on the Pasaana world, shooting in Jordan to utilize it’s dessert location to create an alien planet, exploring the D-O ship that’s new to the franchise, an interview with Warwick Davis who returns to “Star Wars” to once again don an Ewok character along with his son Harrison, and a cavalier look at the otherworldly creatures and highlighting those who play the part of these beings. For many, the book of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” has been closed as the final episode completely arcs the Skywalker story. Yet, for a few who wish to explore more, “Star Wars” is sought to be an open to a means for other characters to be explored, such as with The Mandalorian,” and, just maybe, that cute Babu Frik. “The Rise of Skywalker” exited in a cliche fashion, a warp drive to an already established and tiresome rehash of circumstances, while only supplying a healthy demand of star power and intense action inside a rapturous package overflowing to the brim with too much content and too little substance.

Complete the Saga! Amazon has “The Rise of Skywalker” on Blu-ray+Digital!