Arriving at LAX yesterday, I was handed the keys to a bland 2011 Chevy Impala, a not-Jetta automobile that is apparently the most common car on the road in Southern California. However, it’s also the getaway vehicle for a fantastic opening scene in the movie Drive, so by now I’m feeling pretty damn fly behind the wheel…..

Because Drive is a really beautiful, thoughtfully-crafted-made movie, an action film that focuses on character rather than SFX, complex human relationships rather than shoot-em-up stunts. It stars Mousketeer Ryan Gosling as an enigmatic Hollywood stunt car driver who moonlights as an icy-cool getaway driver. A man without a name or a history, he begins a tentative relationship with a sweet neighbour – the lovely, always sympathetic Carey Mulligan – but is drawn into a fateful “one last job”.

It’s a methodical Film Noir – the kind of film we could’ve expected had Hollywood been colonized by Scandinavians – that’s nonetheless firmly placed in and bleached out by the California sun. It has a fantastic supporting cast too – Albert Brooks is standout playing against type. The LA Times has a great story on the actual locations, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Crazy Stupid Love

Crazy Stupid Love takes no time with set up, it goes straight for the sucker-punch. Steve Carrell plays Cal, a middle-aged Dad whose life falls apart quite spectacularly when his wife asks for a divorce. He’s jarred from his melancholia by the friendship of a handsome young player called Jacob (a pitch-perfect turn by Ryan Gosling) who recognizes something of his late Dad in the bumbling Cal. And thus Jacob re-styles Cal, teaches him the finer points of dating, and sends him out into the world. He’s only side-tracked from this Samaritan’s mission by the arrival in his own life of the delightful, charming fire-cracker Hannah (Emma Stone – let’s hear it for Emma Stone!) who turns his own world upside down. Throw in a love-sick baby sitter, a couple of scenes with Marisa Tomei, a brilliant Asian sidekick with nowhere near enough screen time, a bit of Josh Groban, crackling chemistry, great pacing and a really funny script, and you’ve got what’s actually a pretty delightful grown-up rom-com.

It also filmed in LA – I recognized several of the stores and walkways at the Westfield Century City Mall, where Jacob takes Cal shopping (Jacob: “Are you the billionaire owner of Apple Computers?” Cal: “No”. Jacob: “Oh, ok. In that case, you’ve got no right to wear New Balance sneakers, ever.”) Westfield is very pro-film, and sponsored one of the strands at the Produced By Conference last year.