In the past month, I have seen Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Hangover Part III and Furious 6 and they were all good. If you liked the previous franchise movies, you will probably like these as well. However, I am not going to review them here because most people have probably already made up their minds about whether or not to see those. Instead, I am going to talk about The Place Beyond the Pines and The Iceman, which were fantastic and I am not sure these films are on most peoples' radar.
To be fair, I mostly saw these two movies because of who is in them (Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans), but I am glad that I did and now think you should too!
The trailers for The Place Beyond the Pines made it seem more like an action movie and, while it did have a few fast-paced scenes, I would call it more of a character study. Similar to director Derek Cianfrance's most recent movie, Blue Valentine, it is about the how these peoples' lives intersect and how each action affect those lives.
The movie is split into three acts. The first act focuses on the character of Luke, played by Ryan Gosling, a motorcycle stunt rider who starts robbing banks in order to provide for his son. The second act follows Bradley Cooper's character, Avery, who is a young cop in a small town police department run by corrupt detectives. Avery and Luke's individual stories only overlap once, but that small interaction has huge consequences, which you see fifteen years later in the third act of the movie between their two teenage sons. It is an intense story and very well done.
The acting is great all around, as is to be expected from all involved, but I was especially impressed with Eva Mendes. She is the only actor that is in all three acts of the film and normally I am not a huge fan of hers, but she actually surprised me in this. And, of course, I would get my wish of having Cooper and Gosling in the same movie only to have them be in only one scene together. C'est la vie.
The Iceman is also pretty intense, but not really in the same way. It is based on the true story of Richard Kuklinski, who was a contract killer in New York and New Jersey from 1964 to 1986. He murdered over 100 people before he was caught and sentenced to life in prison where he died in 2006. He was called The Iceman because he used to freeze the bodies of his victims before disposing of them. It is based on the book The Iceman: The True Story of a Cold-Blooded Killer by Anthony Bruno.
Michael Shannon is phenomenal as Kuklinski and he plays the character so dynamically that I actually felt a little sad when he got caught in the end. Winona Ryder plays his wife and is also fantastic. I love that she is making good movies again, I always enjoy her performances. The cast also includes Chris Evans as another hitman and Kuklinski's partner Robert Pronge aka Mr. Freezy (named that because he drove an ice cream truck), as well as Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer.
I will warn you that while the majority of the movie is blood-free, there are a few scenes that caused me to close my eyes, including one where Kuklinski and Freezy are cutting up dead bodies. The gore does not dominate the film, but it is something for which to be prepared. It is necessary for the character and did not impede my enjoyment of the film at all.
I am not saying that you should *not* see the new Iron Man, Star Trek, Fast and Furious or Hangover movies, they are good summer blockbusters, but if you do not go to the movies often, or if you are looking for something with some substance, then I highly recommend both of these if you can find them playing in your area.