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Film Review: Gone Girl (2014)

Marriage is tricky.

Four years after the release of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, director David Fincher returns to the big screen with the thrilling adaptation of the best-selling novel that gave a new twist on a missing person’s case, and conveying the message that maybe some marriages can be deadly.

As featured in the book, the film’s story was told from two perspectives: one from the character of Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) from the time of his wife’s disappearance, and the other from his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), from the years prior to their marriage leading up to the day of her disappearance. As the plot progressed, Nick Dunne’s evasive behaviour and numerous lies became eerily apparent both to the audience, who were discovering Amy’s side of the story, as well as to the rest of the cast who were witnessing a husband who does not seem particularly distressed about his missing wife; especially at the fact that she disappeared on their fifth wedding anniversary. The pressing question that then surfaces is to whether Nick Dunne was truly capable of killing his wife.

Author Gillian Flynn had faithfully adapted her book to the screen, making the two mediums almost identical to the fan’s expectations. David Fincher’s skillful directing enhanced the story with his signature fast-paced editing, quick-dialogue, and meticulously composited shots. The narration of the book was maintained both by voice-over narration and subtle fade-ins and wipes that were unobtrusive to the plot and allowed the perspectives of the husband and wife to be shown in a more simultaneous, rather than episodic fashion, as you would see in the book. Fans of the book (such as myself) will find this a very satisfying adaptation. And even those who have not read the book will highly enjoy this fast-paced thriller that will leave them at the edge of their seats when the shocking twist is revealed halfway through the film.

My only major concern, however, was the casting of the two leads. Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike certainly had the physical attributes required for their roles: beautiful, charming, intelligent, confident, while possessing a mysterious inner-quality that one cannot place as positive or negative. Nevertheless, Ben Affleck’s performance was as wooden as all his performances are, with no charisma or real emotions, which made it very difficult for the viewers to sympathize with his character as you might have in the book. I might even go so far as to say that Tyler Perry (who plays his lawyer, Tanner Bolt) gave a more convincing performance than Affleck in this film. Rosamund Pike was slightly better in the role of Amy Dunne, but her wide eyed-expressions and beautiful smiles made her seem more like a model, rather than a brilliant scholar who has influenced a widely popular series of children’s books her parents had written for her as a child.

Overall, David Fincher’s fast-paced and exquisitely filmed direction, Gillian Flynn’s excellent screenplay adaptation and strong supporting cast (especially Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, and the always charming Neil Patrick Harris, who play Nick’s twin sister, chief investigator, and ex-boyfriend, respectively), made this film one of the most original, and suspenseful thrillers of 2014. Although it was primarily targeted towards a female audience, fans of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Se7en, or even Fight Club will find familiar territory with this film, and the dark twist at the end of the film can be seen as a way of offering a critique on marriage to the audience.


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The Great, The Bad and The Mediocre - Summer 2014 movies Recap

The summer brought in a interesting blend of films this season that we were accustomed to, along with some that we have grown to expect. It differs in that there was no truly, monumentally anticipated blockbuster in the wheelhouse of The Dark Knight or The Avengers, which turned out to be culturally defining hits; however we did get a slew of superhero films, children properties films and reboots/sequels. This is not to say that the summer was mediocre, in fact I would say that this summer was relatively successful given my rather tepid expectations.  

(As a disclaimer, this list is missing a few entries like the new TMNT film because I don’t think could stomach more Michael Bay derivatives)

 

The Amazing Spiderman 2

This film almost felt over-edited, and had a strong made-by-committee feeling to it. It tried to explore the complications and implications of being a super hero, but unfortunately the plot and overall pacing were severely impacted. Scenes felt disjointed and the suturing of scenes didn’t seem to work. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were as good as they could be, given the restraints of the screenplay and the film and their chemistry was one of the few redeeming factors of the film. However, the villains were underutilized, utterly ridiculous (in a bad way) and completely pointless. They were thrown together in the film simply for the sake of having numerous villains. Overall, I felt that this movie was the epitome of an overstuffed yet underwhelming super hero film.

 

Godzilla

Godzilla was a vast improvement over the 1998 Roland Emmerich film, which was a failure on a critical and financial level. It managed to not lack in sense and disregard the cinematic lore of the character, compared to the previous edition. Coming from the director of Monsters, the film is relatively successful.  The film focused on the human characters and especially on various generations of a family and some thought that this wasn’t the right vision for the film; however the logic behind the attempt was solid. The only problem with this approach was that the films human characters were rather sterile in their characterization. Not only was the script lacking in depth but the performances themselves also seemed to have fallen flat. Though this shortcoming does affect the film, it still managed to follow in the tradition of the original Japanese one, respecting the nature-metaphor of the monster’s existence but modifying the nuclear metaphor to pollution and environmental degradation.

 

Captain America 2: The Winter Solider

The best Marvel movie since The Avengers, this film was a successful follow up to the first Captain America movie. The film truly had an epic feeling and a compelling plot, which is a rare for a Marvel film. Unlike all other sequels, the film properly balanced Marvel’s light approach to serious subject matter with a deftness. Chris Evans gave a great performance as the titular character, along with a great supporting cast including, but not limited to, Robert Redford (as the head of SHIELD Alexander Pierce), Scarlett Johansson (Reprising her role as Black Widow), Anthony Mackie (as the Falcon) and Emily Vancamp (Agent 13). The film was filled with action, fun twists and turns, and good character development, expanding on the world set-up in its fantastic predecessor The First Avenger.  

 

X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Another great super hero movie of the summer that exceeded expectations and, in one fell swoop, re-established the X-men Franchise as a one of the most exciting superhero franchises. X-men: First Class and The Wolverine, arguably, helped reinvigorate the X-men franchise which dead in the water after X-men Origins: Wolverine. This film, directed by Bryan Singer, took the franchise back to its quality roots of X1 and X2 while integrating the cast from First class. The film was an epic super hero film with compelling action sequences and arresting performances especially Michael Fassbender, who was a magnetic and powerful presence as Magneto. One could even argue that the high point of the film is the first real exchange between him and James Mcavoy. In a world where DC/WB and Marvel/Disney are dominating the super hero film genre and the X-men are back in the game and ready to compete.

 

Transformers: Age Of Extinction

From the makers of Transformers 1, 2 and 3, Paramount pictures presented us with Transformers 4. This film was basically a rehash of all the other transformer films; it was loud, misogynistic, and laden with CGI imagery, which did not resemble a fun or compelling plot. Michael Bay thinks he is ironic but he isn’t. Winking at the camera or trying to create a comedic moment around the laws of statutory rape, a scene that was a couple minutes long, does not work.  The film was too long, offensive, boring, and almost felt like a waste of time. This film was arguably the worst big budget blockbuster of the summer, in my opinion.  It was just awful and an insult to everything that is decent and good in cinema.

 

Edge Of Tomorrow

This was one of my favorite movies of the summer. I am huge Tom Cruise fan but even I will admit that his most recent works, such as Oblivion and Jack Reacher, all of which I enjoyed, weren’t as phenomenal as they should have been. Edge of Tomorrow is a film that not only meets basic expectations but also far exceeds them; it was a true return to form for Cruise. It was one of the best action comedies, even better than Guardians of the Galaxy. The film has great action, compelling performances and genuinely good comedy. The film also managed to give audiences one of the most badass female action heroes in a long time through Emily Blunt’s character of Rita Verbanski. On top of this, the rest of the supporting cast was great including actors like Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton. Overall, I feel that the film was entertaining and well crafted. Unfortunately the film did perform under expectations at the North American box office like last year’s original sci-fi work Pacific Rim. If you still haven’t seen this, and most of North America hasn’t, I suggest that you do watch this film as it is already out on VOD services and will be out on DVD and Bluray on October 7th.

 

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

This film was the best blockbuster of the summer.  Where the Dark Knight provided a darker and epic sequel the previous batman films, this film provided that same effect to the planet of the apes franchise. This is one of the few movies this year that managed to give me the spine chilling experience, which I normally tend to get from Christopher Nolan films. The look and feel of the film was anchored in a gorgeous naturalist look and the CGI was at such a high level and the performance capture technology is unparalleled. The film was a great look at the complex and fraught relationship between two species that live near each other and the tension that runs through the entire piece was enthralling to watch. The film was one of the few blockbusters in recent years that transcended the genre-fare and base-level competence.

 

Hercules

From the creative genius behind X-men: the last stand and Rush Hour 3 comes the (unintentionally) hilarious adaptation of Hercules: the Thracian wars. If you can’t tell, I am not a fan of Brett Ratner and this film exemplifies why. It was a bloated, over-produced film that looked and felt undeveloped with derivative action sequences and basically relied solely on the performance of solid actors.  The trouble with the film was that it wasn’t entertaining enough for irony to save it.  The CGI was pretty mediocre but it felt as though the creative vision, to begin with, was stale.

 

Guardians Of The Galaxy

This fun, competent marvel movie that received overwhelming and, in my opinion, a bit too much acclaim was the best and the worst of the Marvel franchise. The humour was good, although it was a bit juvenile in nature, and the action was further enhanced by the charisma and great teamwork of the leads. This was yet another example of another awful Marvel villain who lacked any motivation beyond revenge, a sentiment that was explained away in a few sentences. The film tried to break the tropes of the super hero film or at least, poke fun at them but their attempts undermined their own film. The idea, injecting a comedic moment, to defeat a villain did not make the film a good example of a action-comedy but instead, merely muddled the comedy and ruined the stakes. Unlike Edge of Tomorrow where the action and comedy were both featured but still had stakes, this film utterly failed. Iron Man 3 directed by Shane Black, for example, was probably the most successful action-comedy from the Marvel universe

 

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

As a massive fan of the film noir genre/style, this film turned out to be a massive disappointment. Unlike the first film, which worked as a decent adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic Novel, the sequel rendered redundant and pointless. Even though the style of the film was a different experience after all these years, this excitement wearied away quickly. This film utterly failed at being anywhere near as good as the original, not even fulfilling the minimum requirements of a sequel. Even though there were some enjoyable performances (most noticeably Eva Green), the film was still relatively pointless and an overall disappointing. 

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Remembering Stars of the Golden Age: Eleanor Parker (1922-2013)

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Remembering Stars of the Golden Age: Eleanor Parker (1922-2013)

"For me, her greatest performance came in the 1951 William Wyler film noir, Detective Story. In it, she played the wife of the troubled and zealous detective played by Kirk Douglas. The role, if played by others, would have come off as either too melodramatic or restrained. She gives the perfect balance of perceived weakness and fear." 

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List: OSCAR SEASON: Best Foreign Film

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List: OSCAR SEASON: Best Foreign Film

“Amelie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It's a perfect moment. A soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind overcomes her.” –Amélie (France, 2001)

Join Trevor as he reflects on the Academy award nominated best foreign films, and get ready for Oscar night this weekend!

 

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Review: The Great Beauty (2013) dir. Paolo Sorrentino

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Review: The Great Beauty (2013) dir. Paolo Sorrentino

"As someone who has had to endure mediocre schlock for the past two months, The Great Beauty (2013) is a bright beacon of filmmaking that illuminated the winter despair. Without ever feeling too pretentious or art house, the film manages to strike a balance between entertainment and art effectively." 

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Review: The Lego Movie (2014) dir. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

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Review: The Lego Movie (2014) dir. Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

"The Lego Movie has it all: the chosen one, Emmet, the magister Vitruvius, the evil robotic minions, pirates, cowboys and the one and only Batman. The parallel universes actually are the various Western, Marine and Space themes that the beloved Danish toy has been advertising for ages." Get nostalgic with this review of The Lego Movie by CINSSU blogger Lola Borissenko!

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Review: Non-Stop (2014) dir. Jaume Collet-Serra

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Review: Non-Stop (2014) dir. Jaume Collet-Serra

"The film, it goes without saying, has a simple plot and story but it tries to add emotional back story and heft for a few characters. Needless to say it’s hard to take any of it seriously. The emotion is pure sentimentality and it feels forced and manipulative."

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The Seventh Art and CINSSU Present: the Andrzej Bujalski Retrospective

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The Seventh Art and CINSSU Present: the Andrzej Bujalski Retrospective

"On February 3rd and 4th of 2014 CINSSU presented, along with The Seventh Art, a retrospective of the work of Andrzej Bujalski--the "Godfather of Mumblecore"." Catch up on our recent look back to the films of director Andrzej Bujalski with event photos, media coverage, and a film review of Funny Ha Ha (2002) by CINSSU blogger Zubin Ali.

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Mongrel Media Presents: Tim's Vermeer (2013)

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Mongrel Media Presents: Tim's Vermeer (2013)

Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer ("Girl with a Pearl Earring") manage to paint so photo-realistically--150 years before the invention of photography? 

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Remembering Stars of the Golden Age: Audrey Totter (1917-2013)

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Remembering Stars of the Golden Age: Audrey Totter (1917-2013)

"Overall, Audrey Totter’s willingness to embrace what she was given and to persevere through life itself imbue her legacy with a beautiful spirit of fortitude. She was one of the standard bearers for my most cherished genre/style of filmmaking and she remained proud of her work all the way to the end." Join Raphael Deutsch in remembering a hidden gem of film noir cinema; Audrey Totter.

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