Tag Archives: movies

Gone Girl (2014)

Another Fincher Classic

Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck share an uncomfortable embrace in Gone Girl. (image: screenrant.com)

Do you really know the person you sleep beside? The partner you met years ago has changed. To be fair, so have you. Maybe she’s slowly moving in one toothbrush / hairdryer / makeup kit at a time. Maybe he’s going to the gym less and eating out more. Maybe someone is resenting the other. With his latest thriller Gone Girl, director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) explores the ever changing temperature of a relationship with dark humor, pitch perfect direction and exceptional pacing. An automatic top five movie of the year.

Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a New York based columnist who comes home one day to find his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. Like any potential kidnapping, Nick becomes the case’s top suspect. As we watch the story escalate from local to national sensation, we also learn about Nick and Amy’s devolving relationship via flashback. As the story picks up steam, we learn things aren’t quite what they seem in the Dunne household which leads to a number of startling realizations.

Yep, that synopsis is vague, but half the fun is going in completely blind. The plot, adapted for the screen by the novel’s author (Gillian Flynn), is my first lock for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination of 2014. Full of twists, turns and unexpected moments, the script is unpredictable, making the film’s lengthy 149 runtime fly by. Flynn also has a knack for brisk, witty dialogue that helps create excellent pacing. Calling this “edge of your seat’ cinema is an understatement.

As the male lead, Affleck is perfectly suitable as the doting and oft clueless husband. The scandal swirls around him and just like his role in Argo, Affleck is best when he’s the anchor for the cast to work around. The real star is Rosamund Pike as his wife. A far cry from her past life as a Bond girl, Pike is exquisite in a complicated, nuanced role. As the film’s secrets unfold, Pike transitions from hapless victim to a modern day Scarlett O’Hara with controlled intensity.

Ben Affleck makes an impassioned plea to the media in Gone Girl. (image: independent.co.uk)

Fincher also wrangles unbelievable performances from a knockout supporting cast. Tyler Perry is perfectly cast as Nick’s celebrity lawyer and Neil Patrick Harris creates a creepy vibe as Amy’s obsessive ex-boyfriend. Carrie Coon in particular is sensational as Nick’s barkeep sister. She excels at being Nick’s emotional bedrock and just may get a backwards glance for a Best Supporting award.

In the director’s chair, Fincher cements his reputation as the most consistent auteur working today. Like everything in the director’s impressive filmography, Gone Girl is flawlessly crafted. His signature stark, cold cinematography grounds the exaggerated nature of the story. Everything seems familiar yet oddly surreal. Much like American Beauty, it’s real life multiplied by a factor of 1.25.

But this isn’t a simple whodunit. Gone Girl is chock full of interesting themes. Each one, from the pressures of long term relationships to the media’s influence on public opinion, is examined with intelligence and honesty. Luckily, the heavy stuff is coated with a surprising amount of gallows humor. I haven’t laughed his much with a Fincher film since Fight Club.

And the accolades roll on and on. The award worthy editing maintains a brisk pace, Trent Reznor’s minimal soundtrack creates an eerie mood and the dark humor gives the movie life and energy. On par with The Social Network and his most complete work since Zodiac, David Fincher as done it again. Meaty, funny and splendidly acted, Gone Girl is an entrancing trip into the depths of a relationship gone horribly wrong. Just fight the urge to check under your partner’s pillow upon coming home from the theater. I swear, it’s just a movie.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

The Penis Addendum: Much ado has been made about Ben Affleck’s privates getting an extended cameo in Gone Girl. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I made a point to watch for it and found nothing. There may have been a hint of a phallic shadow in one scene, but nothing on par with the end of Boogie Nights. Sorry, female fans. Rumors of an Affleck crotch shot have been grossly exaggerated. Maybe in the unrated Blu-Ray edition.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

An Intense and Emotional Trip Through Cage’s Sin City

Don’t let the rom-com style poster fool you. This is NOT a light hearted traipse through Nevada. – image from http://www.impawards.com

As I wrote in my moving to Austin blog, New York doesn’t love a drunk.  It simply ignores them and lets them be.

The same can be said for Las Vegas.  A den of corporate hedonism, the weak can disappear into the glare of casino neon, ladies of the evening and $12 all you can eat buffets.  Leaving Las Vegas, adapted from the semi-autographical novel of the same name, tells the story of Ben Anderson.  Ben has himself a drinking problem and when he loses his job, his friends and his will to live, he trucks off to Vegas to drink himself to death.  Literally.

Playing the rum soaked depressive is Nicholas Cage.  The actor is at his best when his characters are a bit unhinged and his quirky, stop motion style delivery fits the role perfectly.  Sometimes it’s a bit much and I wonder how much of his mannerisms are genuine to the condition, but it works in the context of the storytelling.  Fair warning:  if you’re not a fan of Nic Cage, this movie may be brutal for you, but if you can tolerate his “distinctive” acting style, you’ll be able to handle the ride.

And what a deceptively simple ride it is.  The film’s base theme is one of two lost souls searching for redemption in their roughshod lives.  On one side, Ben’s looking for a way to squash the pain of his shattered existence.  Sera’s on the other side, a local prostitute who falls for Ben during a quick trick.  Sera is played by Elisabeth Shue and while her performance has a couple of small cracks, her and Cage make a fantastically co-dependent couple.  The pairing is a challenging one.  At first their whirlwind romance didn’t make a ton of sense, but by the hour mark, it just felt right, a testament to strong work and deft writing.

Shue and Cage share a quiet moment. – Image from Hollywood.com

Never mind the multiple award nominations and Cages’ Oscar for Best Actor, Leaving Las Vegas succeeds on the back of the exceptional direction of Mike Figgis.  Figgis perfectly balances the heavy drama of a codependent relationship with moments of levity in the bright Vegas lights.  Not to advocate alcoholism or anything, but let’s face it.  Tipping back a few adult beverages and getting snotty faced can be a lot of fun.  As a result, good times are occasionally had by the pair, whether it’s a boozy casino tour on the strip or a sultry pool side moment of seduction.  Often these scenes have disastrous consequences, but they give the movie depth all the same.

All in all, that’s what the movie is about.  Consequences, for better and for worse.  Every action the twosome takes has a direct result and it’s that honesty which separates Leaving Las Vegas from other boozy dramas.  In film discussions, most people focus on Cage’s vodka slinging and stumbling but there’s much more underneath the debauchery.  No offense to Terry Gilliam, but it’s depth of human character that separates the film from the Fear and Loathing’s of the world.  In Leaving Las Vegas, it’s not all about the trip, the high and the eventual come down.  It’s about the people involved in the journey and the lasting effects of a life lived hard.

Score – 9 out of 10

The World’s End (2013)

Another review for the chaps at Pantheon Magazine. Click below to give it a read!

A Boozy Bit Of Brilliance

The Hunt (2013)

In the madness of planning a cross country move, I still find the time to review the occasional flick.  Either that, or I’m fulfilling my obligation to the fella who run Pantheon Mag.  Not quite sure which…


Mads Mikkelsen readies his rifle in the Danish heart-breaker, The Hunt

Click Here to Read My Review of The Hunt!