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2FL Glance

Along with our full articles, we also publish mini reviews entitled 2FL At a Glance.  These reviews are much like our 2FL Short reviews and are available within the LEFT OF THE LAKE magazine. This magazine is currently available in the Wisconsin/Illinois area, as well as by subscription.  To subscribe, visit: Left of the Lake Magazine

Issue 13
2FL At A Glance: Elly Awesome
By Jav Rivera

Have you ever had one of those days when you just needed someone or something to cheer you up? Australian YouTuber, Elly Awesome, has been creating taste testing videos that do just that for years. Surprisingly, she seems to be doing it somewhat under the radar. But if you find an Elly Awesome fan, you’ll notice the same thing every time: a big smile on their face. 

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With so many YouTube videos available, what makes Elly Awesome stand out? She produces videos that are concise, have a nice visual style, and make you happy. Her idea is simple: taste test food from around the world. She never knows what it’s going to taste like until she opens up the packages in front of the camera. It makes for fun entertainment but, whether she knows it or not, she’s also giving her audience a taste of other cultures (pun intended). 

The videos on her YouTube page date back to around 2010, but there may be more out there. From what I can tell, she first started reviewing games and phone apps before finding her niche with these taste testing videos. 

A close friend turned me onto Elly Awesome videos a few months ago. He explained that he especially likes to watch her videos when he’s feeling a bit blue. And after watching one myself, I could understand why. Elly has a lot of energy and a silly, maybe even nerdy, sense of humor. Her excitement for new kinds of foods is infectious. As she opens up the package, I find myself both curious and concerned. Now that I think about it, actors could study her facial reactions. 

Elly also makes her audience feel good by referring to her viewers as awesome. She starts each episode by greeting us with, “Hello, Awesome People.” She ends with a silly “Buh-bye” and then drops off the screen. It’s her signature sign off and makes me want to watch an- other episode. Elly has a way of melting away bad feelings. I even watched one of her videos after a particularly stressful day at work, and she certainly changed my mood. 

She may not be the only YouTuber out there making these kinds of videos, but she’s a great example of how to make them entertaining. You can find Elly Awesome at https://www.youtube.com/ellyawesome

Online Version: coming soon

Issue 12
2FL At A Glance: "Looper"
By John Bloner, Jr.

How far would you go to save someone you love?

The 2012 sci-fi film, Looper, asks this question, as it tells the story of Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt), a gun-for-hire in the year 2044. Joe’s job is simple: wait in a Kansas field for a time-traveling hostage from thirty years on to suddenly appear, then blow a hole in him. Next: burn the body to complete a perfect crime.

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Joe carries out this murderous trade day after day, working for mob men from the year 2074. At night, he cruises his favorite club and has sex with one of its showgirls. Mostly, however, he’s alone, a grunt soldier for the syndicate.

One day, his victim is late. When he finally arrives, Joe recognizes the man’s face as his own. He hesitates, giving old Joe (played by Bruce Willis) a chance to escape and begin his murderous quest.

Old Joe is on a mission to kill the boy who will grow up to be responsible for the death of his wife. He knows the date when the boy was born, but his goal is complicated: three children match this detail. He prowls the city, its playground, homes and apartment buildings in search of them.

Meanwhile, young Joe flees from the syndicate. It’s a bad thing to let your victim run, and Joe’s employer has crueler things than death to deal with these transgressions. He escapes into a sugarcane field and finds himself at a farmhouse, inhabited by Sara (played by Emily Blunt), a young mother and her little boy, Cid. She cultivates crops and chops wood. She’s fiercely protective of her land and her son.

Joe is first drawn to the farmhouse as a hideout, but his time there changes him. Through Sara, he finds a love beyond the erotic. He learns compassion for not only another human being but for the earth itself.

In the film’s final act, Joe’s old world impinges on his new one and he must make a decision that will affect not only himself, but mankind.

LAST WORD: Following his work on Looper, director Rian Johnson went on to direct several episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad, and will direct Star Wars: Episode VIII, expected to arrive in theaters in May 2017. He’s also slated to write the screenplay for Star Wars: Episode IX.

Online Version: Issue 12

Issue 11
2FL At A Glance: "Paper Children"
By Lisa Adamowicz Kless

As a writer, there are times when I’m filled with a combination of admiration and envy after reading crisp imagery and a beautifully crafted storyline in someone else’s work. It was no exception when I came across Paper Children, a short story in the online magazine Axolotl. Set in a village in an unknown location, it hints at being set in more modern times (grocery stores are mentioned), but then leads readers through a lovely, twining fairytale about a librarian and her out-of- the-ordinary offspring. Even before I’d finished reading the first paragraph, I was impressed with the author’s evocative, gorgeous sentences, and even more so when she describes the titular children of the story: “Beneath their skin was a tangle of paper veins, and beneath those were crisp origami organs and paper-pulp bones. The children had fine wisps of pa- per curls atop their paper heads. When they yawned, their mouths made a crinkling sound. The only color on their bodies was a black ink spot in the center of each paper eye.”

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The story can be described as magi- cal realism, but don’t feel bad if that literary term just leaves you puzzled. I could probably only give you a stumbling meaning myself, and even the editors of Axolotl say that they “...have no intention or desire to pinpoint a concrete definition of magical realism or of slipstream. These terms are slippery, much like our amphibious mascot.” All you really need to know, at least in the case of this story, is that it’s a charming way to elude the bustle of everyday life and escape into a different, enchanting new world for a little while.

To read Paper Children online in Axolotl, visit www.axolotlmag.com/en/paper-children-gennarose-nethercott. To learn more about the author, who, among other things, “on sunny days...can be found stationed on street corners typing poems to order from a 1952 Hermes Rocket typewriter,” check out her website at www.gennarose.strikingly.com. You’ll find photos, a list of publications where you can find more of her work, event information, and even instructions on how you can order a poem from her online. There’s also a mini-movie of one of her poems. Admiration/envy struck all over again when I saw what cool things she does with her work.

Online Version: Issue 11

Issue 10
2FL At A Glance: "Moone Boy"
By Jav Rivera

Chris O’Dowd is becoming a force to be reckoned with. His big break (in the U.K.) was playing the disgruntled and socially awkward character Roy on the hit series The IT Crowd. In the U.S. he gained popularity playing love interest to Kristin Wiig in the film Bridesmaids. Most recently on his TV series Moone Boy, O’Dowd plays multiple rolls as creator, writer, director, and actor.

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Moone Boy follows an Irish family in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. O’Dowd’s character, Sean Murphy, is an imaginary friend to Martin, the youngest of the Moone family. Martin (David Rawle) is lovable and innocent; he’s also a bit dim. O’Dowd challenges TV standards by avoiding the stereotypical formula of a precocious child surrounded by jealous family members. Instead, O’Dowd created a very average family living in the small town of Boyle, which makes the show so fun. The characters aren’t trying to find fame or for- tune; they’re just trying to find a small bit of happiness in an otherwise dreary life.

The head of the family, Liam (Peter McDonald) is a sign maker, and prefers to hide out in his little backyard shop to avoid the daily family drama. His wife, Debra (Deirdre O’Kane), finds herself trying out various jobs, sometimes as a door-to-door salesman and other times as a therapist, none of which she is qualified to do. Their eldest daughter, Fidelma (Clare Monnelly), is a new bride after becoming pregnant immediately after high school. The next child down is Trisha (Aoife Duffin) who’s the outcast. Oddly enough, and despite her rebellious nature, she’s the most levelheaded of the Moone clan. Next in line is Sinéad (Sarah White) a young teen in that weird stage between child and young adult. She’s the one with back acne and a peach fuzz moustache. But the cast is more than just the family. They live in a town full of simpletons and odd characters, and all these characters are the most charming part of the show.

Besides the well-written characters and the surprising amount of heart to the show, one of my other favorite aspects of Moone Boy is its lack of any real format. It’s as if the writers picked a moment from their pasts and fit it into the show, which would make sense since the events in the show are mostly based on O’Dowd’s childhood. Currently, all three seasons are available in the U.S. on Hulu.

Online Version: Issue 10

Issue 9
2FL At A Glance: "The Man Who Would Be King"
By Dave Gourdoux

The Man Who Would Be King is a 1975 film directed by John Huston and starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine. Based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling, it is the last of Huston’s trilogy about human greed (the other two being 1941’s The Maltese Falcon and 1948’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). It’s a funny and epic adventure film, with award-nominated writing, great direction, exotic locales, and brilliant acting.

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Sean Connery and Michael Caine play Daniel and Peachy, rogue British soldiers in India in the late 1880’s, who go looking for fortune in the distant Himalayas beyond the Khyber Pass. After an arduous and difficult journey, they stumble upon an idyllic village, home to endless treasures of incalculable value. Scheming to loot the riches, they ingratiate themselves with the villagers, acting as military advisors against a rival tribe. Things escalate until they are convinced that Connery is a god and make him their king.

While Peachy is the brains and is eager to steal the treasure and get back to India, Connery’s Daniel becomes enthralled with the idea of being king and starts to believe that he really is a god. He selects the most beautiful of all the villagers, Roxanne (played by Shakira Caine, Caine’s real-life wife since 1973), to be his bride. Roxanne, fearful of marrying a god, is convinced that she will burst into flames if she comes in contact with Daniel. During the wedding ceremony, she bites Daniel, drawing blood and exposing him as a mortal and a fraud.

The adventure is framed by a prologue where the two meet Kipling (played by Christopher Plummer), and a short epilogue where Kipling learns the fate of the two men. The scenes with Kipling are very effective and funny, and set the tone of the film. Caine and Connery are both in top form, making their relationship one of the most endearing and deepest friendships on film. It has profound things to say about the bonds of close friendship and how ego and greed can destroy even the strongest of those bonds. More than anything else, it is great entertainment.

Director, John Huston was sixty-nine years old when this film was released, and The Man Who Would Be King holds its own with his other masterpieces. A master storyteller, his films are perfect for repeated viewing – always guaranteed to stop my endless channel surfing.

Online Version: Issue 9

Issue 8
2FL At A Glance: "JD McPherson: Signs and Signifiers"
By Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Having a dad who grew up during the 1950s and 60s, the first time that I heard JD McPherson’s “North Side Gal”, if I’d had my eyes closed I would’ve sworn that I was back in time in the family car, and my dad had just popped one of his cassettes into the tape deck.

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Within the first few notes of that opening song from his 2010 debut album, “Signs and Signifiers”, you’re sucked into this high-energy record, and when McPherson’s voice (sounding like it could’ve come straight from Motown) booms in shortly after, well—if you can turn it off, you’ve got more willpower than me.

Hearing McPherson’s musical chops, you’d guess that a career in that business has been a lifelong ambition. In reality, he first planned to be a visual artist, attending the University of Oklahoma in his home state and eventually earning his MFA in Open Media. McPherson is quoted as saying that he leaned more towards wanting to “paint, do installation, make video art, performance stuff, (and) sculpture.” Listening to music like Delta blues and jazz, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, punk music, Led Zeppelin, Little Richard, and much more in his youth and then playing in bands during college, McPherson’s musical career took root after he teamed up with Chicago-based producer Jimmy Sutton.

They recorded “Signs and Signifiers” in Sutton’s home studio while McPherson was working as a school art teacher. The result is a lush adventure where the sounds of piano, saxophone, guitar, drums, doghouse bass, and the tambourine layer so perfectly with the vocals and lyrics that each song becomes an experience in itself.

It would be unfair to slap a label on the mu- sic just to conveniently tuck it into a genre, but if forced to, rockabilly would probably fit the bill. With a record that contains piano loops inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan’s work, bits of guitar stylings reminiscent of the Smith’s song “How Soon Is Now”, and a cover of the 1955 song “Country Boy” by Big Tiny Kennedy and His Orchestra though, trying to fit “Signs and Signifiers” into a neat little box would be a mistake. The grit and the ruckus are what make it so much fun, and worth listening to over and over.

To find out more about JD McPherson, including information on his soon- to-be-released second album, visit www.JDMcPherson.com.

Online Version: Issue 8

Issue 7
2FL At A Glance: "The Avengers"
By Jav Rivera

Back in 2008, Marvel took a big chance on a not-so-well-known character: Iron Man. He may be internationally known today, but back then Iron Man/Tony Stark wasn’t exactly a household name. Producer Kevin Feige and his team had plans. After the success of the first Iron Man movie, starring Robert Downey Jr., Feige and Marvel unveiled their plans to unite several superheroes in a way that had never been done before. They teamed up several characters in one action-packed film titled The Avengers.
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But why are all these Marvel Avengers movies making so much at the box office? Why do they have such a huge fan base? Why are critics so impressed? The reasons vary, but I’d like to address three of my theories.
In only six years time, Marvel has completely changed the way franchises are made. Since 2008, Kevin Feige has produced: the Iron Man trilogy, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which is tied in with the films.

Reason 1: Marvel comics are well known by fans to have more interesting characters. Their heroes are flawed, conflicted, and very human. Their powers are usually a curse that they’ve learned to use for the benefit of others. Often, these powers are basically heightened flaws/ skills from their own personalities. In a way these characters are an interesting study in psychology. They write heroes and supporting characters who are people you can relate to and truly care about.

Reason 2: Marvel and Kevin Feige make bold choices. They’re not afraid to connect unexpected directors to their films. No one would have ever thought to pair Jon Favreau with Iron Man. Favreau is most famous for writing comedy films including Swingers and Elf. But Feige recognized something in Favreau that made both the film property and director match perfectly. Every Avengers film has a similar story as far as directors. And like their choice of directors, most people weren’t prepared for their choice of actors. In hind- sight, of course, it all makes sense. Marvel isn’t afraid to take chances; in fact, they thrive on them.

Reason 3: Kevin Feige has produced every Avengers film and is the driving force behind Marvel’s innovation. He’s one of the greatest reasons these films are working, and it has to be because of his encyclopedic knowledge of the comics. He has said on several occasions that he is a fan first. He listens to the fans and does his best to make a film that reaches to both wide audiences and the fanboys.

Marvel’s success isn’t bound to my three reasons. I could get into other aspects such as Marvel’s merge with Disney, its respect to the source material (comics), the special effects and general production value, etc. It’s not a fluke that Marvel’s Avengers films are superb. If you aren’t already following these films, it’s time to do so. Not only are they unique, but they’re fun for the whole family (reason #4). 

One last thing: make sure to stay in the theatre after the credits start rolling. Every Marvel Avengers film (minus The Incredible Hulk) has bonus scenes after the credits.

Online Version: Issue 7

Issue 6
2FL At A Glance: "Chester Commodore"
By John Bloner, Jr.

2FL salutes cartoonist Chester Commodore, born in Racine, WI in 1914. He moved to Chicago in 1927, where he applied to the Chicago Defender, which called itself, “The World’s Greatest Weekly.” The paper was highly influential to African-Americans, both locally and nationally. Its publisher, Robert S. Abbott, told him he should finish school. Commodore didn’t heed his advice. He worked a variety of jobs, but never stopped drawing. 

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In 1948, the Chicago Defender asked him to join their staff. He worked his way from photo layouts to the role of cartoonist. In that same year, the paper printed its first gag cartoon, drawn by their new employee. Soon, he was drawing his inaugural strip, “The Sparks,” and contributing to “So What?”, “The Ravings of Professor Doodle,” and “Bungleton Green.”

His impact as an editorial cartoonist was felt immediately for his depiction of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, “Brown v. Board of Education.” His depictions of people of African descent lent them dignity at a time when other artists were drawing them as grotesques.

Commodore received 12 Pulitzer Prize nominations and many major awards for his work. Even after he retired in 1981 and moved with this wife to Colorado, he continued to publish his comics in the Chicago Defender, a practice he followed up to his death in 2004.

Online Version: Issue 6

Issue 5
2FL At A Glance: "Y Tu Mamá También"
by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

While their girlfriends are in Europe for one last adventure before they all head off to college, back in Mexico, Tenoch (played by Diego Luna) and his friend Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) meet Luisa, a decade-older woman played by Maribel Verdú. When they both become infatuated with her, they invite her along on a road trip to a “legendary” beach that doesn’t exist. What they seem to think will be a carefree adventure turns out to be much more complicated than they expected, with implications that will linger long after they come back home.

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Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, one of the strengths of “Y Tu Mamá También” is that it often takes its time, lingering in moments. In scenes where the boys and Luisa are driving, filming was done so that the audience feels like they’re a passenger in the car, seeing both violence and beauty as it takes place on the side of the road. Dubbed a “coming of age” movie by many, it would be a disservice to focus only on Tenoch and Julio though. Viewers may wonder about some of Luisa’s motivations and feelings, but by the end of the movie, a revelation is made that helps to put some of it into perspective. The film is as much about Luisa’s journey as it is theirs.

The soundtrack and glimpses into the political issues in Mexico in the early 2000s add even more layers to an already rich story, and tension is built through how the film mimics real life.

Relationships are tested and strained, things get messy, and there aren’t many clear-cut areas of black and white. It all creates a perfect storm that makes the movie compelling and keeps viewers along for the ride because this is how real life unfolds; nearly everyone should be able to relate to it on some level—even “tu mamá también” (“your mama too”).

Online Version: Issue 5

Issue 4
2FL At A Glance: "Crowded House's Intriguer"
by Jav Rivera

Crowded House’s sixth album, “Intriguer,” starts with a sound unlike the majority of their previous releases. The first track, “Saturday Sun,” has an energy and rock-pounding style that had only appeared on their 1993 album,“Together Alone”. The drums are thumping, the bass distorted, and the guitars have a classic rock electricity.The significance of this sound may not be apparent to the general public; after all, the New Zealand band hadn’t been in the public eye since the 1980s, with their hits “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Something So Strong”.

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It’s interesting how much Crowded House grows every decade. “Together Alone” put them back on MTV with the tracks “Locked Out” and “Distant Sun”. Fans like me were excited by the up-to-date sound of “Together Alone,” utilizing more acoustic guitars and experimental songwriting, as opposed to their New Wave sound of the 80s. But after 1993, the band seemingly fell off the face of the planet (not including frontman Neil Finn’s solo career).

In 2005, after their original drummer, Paul Hester, died, the band decided to get back into the studio using various drummers. The album, “Time On Earth,” was released in 2007 and in my opinion fell short compared to the flawless “Together Alone” album. There are some decent tracks, but as a whole, “Time On Earth” felt like a band unsure of what they wanted to create and lacked versatility.

After the release of “Time On Earth,” the band, which for the most part has included Neil Finn (vocals, guitars, piano), Nick Seymour (bass), and Mark Hart (guitars, various instruments), had chosen a worthy successor to Paul Hester. Matt Sherrod played on a few tracks for “Time On Earth,” but it was on 2010’s “Intriguer” that he was the official new drummer. And perhaps because Sherrod was somewhat un- familiar with their previous work, “Intriguer” separates itself from the band’s other albums. Crowded House sounds focused and invigorated, and shows the band developing yet again. “Intriguer” uses the first track, “Saturday Sun,” to reintroduce the band and remind fans that they still has something brilliant and unique to contribute.

For me, “Intriguer” was the best album released in 2010. Every song is produced with excellent craftsmanship but my favorite remains “Twice If You’re Lucky”.

Online Version: Issue 4

Issue 3
2FL At A Glance: "The Innocents"
by Dave Gourdoux

Horror movies have always relied heavily on imagination.  Today, with access to sophisticated special effects and computer graphics, we’re given insight into the minds and visions of gifted storytellers who plant nightmarish images in our heads and jolt us out of our seats.
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But for all of their gruesome imagery and special effects, they’re not as frightening as some of the great horror movies like Psycho (1960), The Haunting (1965) or Night of the Living Dead (1967).  These movies are effective because, in the absence of modern technology, they rely in large part upon our imagination.  They play upon our ability to imagine what they don’t show us (what, with the censorship rules at the time, they couldn’t show us).   Any good storyteller knows that nothing is more powerful than the power of suggestion.

For me, the best example of this is Jack Clayton’s 1961 masterpiece, The Innocents.  Based on the Henry James novella, “The Turning of the Screw”, Deborah Kerr plays a governess assigned to care for two creepy kids in a remote and spooky English estate.   The film shows us the supernatural nightmare Kerr gradually uncovers, that the children are possessed, until we finally begin to question whether what we are seeing is real or a product of Kerr’s imagination.

What makes The Innocents such a brilliant film is the story being told is piquing Kerr’s imagination at the same time it’s piquing ours.  We see the same apparitions and hear the same voices Kerr hears.  We know they are real to her, and even as we begin to question her sanity, we are left to wonder if the ghosts are possessing Kerr, if not the children.  The kids share a kind of psychic connection, knowing what the other is seeing and thinking without exchanging words. The screenplay, adapted by Truman Capote, provides us with enough psychological background to explain the horror and trauma the young children have experienced.  We question how innocent they really are.

The sheltered governess is less prepared to deal with the ugliness of the past than the children.  Kerr portrays her character as good intentioned, earnest, and naïve.  In many ways, she is more innocent than the children.  This is not a good thing, as the end reveals.

The film is filled with images that will stay with you for a long time (like that woman standing in the weeds across the pond) and uncomfortable moments that will make you squirm.  I’d classify it as a psychological horror film; there is no blood or gore.  If you want a film that makes you think, something that’s subtle but eerie, you won’t find a better movie.

Online Version: Issue 3

Issue 2
2FL At A Glance: “The Hitchcock 9”
by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Alfred Hitchcock spent decades honing the directorial skills and talent that would make him a legend in the film industry, and during the 1920s, he was doing so with silent films.

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Beginning in the summer of 2013, homage is being paid to the cinema icon with “The Hitchcock 9”, a touring program dedicated to Hitchcock’s nine surviving silent films: “The Lodger” (1926), “The Pleasure Garden” (1926), “Downhill” (1927), “Easy Virtue” (1927), “The Ring” (1927), “Champagne” (1928), “The Farmer’s Wife” (1928), “Blackmail” (1929), and “The Manxman” (1929).

As part of the program, the films were restored by the British Film Institute, which also commissioned new scores for some of them.  As “The Hitchcock 9” makes its way around the U.S., it will be showcased in many venues, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Seattle International Film Festival, and in the historic Castro Theatre, as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Stephen Horne, a veteran of live silent film performances, composed a score to go along with a number of the films.  He’ll provide live musical accompaniment at select U.S. showings.

No plans have been made for “The Hitchcock 9” to become a DVD set, so if you have the chance, attend one of the programs while it’s still touring.

Online Version: Issue 2

Issue 1
2FL At A Glance: Drive
by Jav Rivera

I had the privilege of attending a panel for the film "Drive" at 2011's ComicCon. They showed an intriguing scene in an elevator, which has now become one of the more popular scenes of the film. The "elevator scene" has a mixture of romance and disturbing violence. But it's not this that makes the film a success.

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Ryan Gosling stars as Driver, and, like Clint Eastwood before him, he plays a stark character with no name. For an actor who has done several odd characters (see "Lars and the Real Girl" and "Half Nelson"), "Drive" showcases Gosling as a quiet and very intense actor.

The lovely Carey Mulligan and wonderful Albert Brooks co-star, but it's Bryan Cranston and Gosling who steal the show. Cranston, better known for his father character in "Malcom in the Middle" and as Walter White in "Breaking Bad," shows a weaker side with a tragic past. Though not actually related in the film, their father-son relationship is the heart of the story. Their bond parallels Driver's protection over Mulligan's character.

And then there's the best aspect of "Drive" - its pace. It's slow, pulsating, and absolutely perfect. The first scene says it all. Driver's after hours gig as a getaway driver shows a chase unlike anything in cinema history. He's not fast or destructive - instead he's intelligent and patient. With a knowledge of the streets, Driver outsmarts the LA Police.

It's not what you think and unlike anything you'd imagine. "Drive" is sure to have a long life in cinematic history.

For more information, visit IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0780504

Online Version: Issue 1