Tag Archives: David Fincher

Callum Petch’s Top 10 of 2014: #5 – #1

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Welcome back to the countdown of my Top 10 Films of 2014.  If you missed Part 1, where we counted down entries #10 to #6, then you can go here to get caught up.  Otherwise, we are going to get straight back down to business.  So, without any further ado, GO GIRLS GO!

There may be spoilers.  Proceed with caution.


under the skin05] Under The Skin

Dir: Jonathan Glazer

Star: Scarlett Johannson

Under The Skin is not on the list because I enjoyed it.  The rest of the films on this list are here because I enjoyed them; the commonly accepted barometer by which people typically measure the quality of a film.  Under The Skin is not here for that, for I did not enjoy Under The Skin.  I experienced Under The Skin, I endured Under The Skin, but I did not enjoy Under The Skin.  Instead, Under The Skin is here, and is this high on the list, for two specific reasons.

The first – and honestly the more minor of the two, which is crazy to believe – is Scarlett Johannson’s performance as the lead character, which is the single best performance by anybody in any film released in 2014.  Her performance of the main character is sensational, having to simultaneously keep them an enigma and yet clearly be able to give the audience some semblance of a clue as what is going on in their mind-set, and she is more than up to the task.  Shedding all of her effortless movie star charisma, she positions herself in this very alien register, taking detached to new heights and playing each new revelation about her character – the discovery of a conscience, strange new emotions, exploring the form that it has taken, the reaction to its humanity – as major game-changers without bursting into a flood of emotion.  She is on a whole other level compared to everyone else this year, and I spent so much of the film’s runtime in awe of her.

You know, when I wasn’t being made incredibly uncomfortable.  That’s the second reason why Under The Skin is on this list, it got to me.  It really got to me.  If I were a hack writer and wanted to undermine the seriousness of that last statement, I’d make pun involving the film’s title right now.  But, although I am, I don’t want to.  Under The Skin really got to me.  See, I am very sexually repressed, possibly bordering on asexual.  I always have been.  Nudity makes me uncomfortable, the concept of sex grosses me out, and having to witness sex or nudity causes me to want to reach for the exit as fast as possible.  One of the main aspects of Under The Skin is all about sex, sexuality, and the body, but the film never shoots any of these aspects in an erotic way.  It instead presents them coldly, clinically, alien, and explores how we are affected by each of those things.

Many of the film’s most disturbing sequences for me come from the depiction of nudity.  The full-frontal shots of the men that return to the protagonists’ dark void of a room, the scene where the biker examines the protagonist, the sequence where they look at themselves naked in the mirror and inspect their body… all scenes that made me thoroughly uncomfortable because they contextualise themselves in the way that I often see the naked flesh, as something alien and strange.  It’s not just that we are presented with these images, it’s the way that we are presented with these images as something unusual and slightly imposing.  It taps very much into my psyche and pushes many of my buttons, confronting me with my fears in a presentation that visualises how I possibly see them deep down.

Not to mention how the film very much plays out its narrative as the visualisation of gender performance and gender awakening.  The protagonist slowly identifying as female, putting on the airs required to be seen as acceptable in modern society, and being viciously punished the second it fails to keep up that act.  If the film weren’t so deliberately abstract, Under The Skin could very much be read as a blisteringly angry clarion call against the way that our patriarchal society treats and views women.  That hateful attitude – not to its protagonist, instead from how our world is presented through alien eyes, how our sh*tty attitudes towards women and our complicated relationships with nudity and sex can look to an outsider – seeps through the entire film and serves to further prey on my underlying fears and deep-seated issues.

No film this year has stuck with me and affected me in the same way that Under The Skin has.  It’s not exactly a film I am clamouring to see again – I had to pause the thing three times whilst watching it because I just needed to stop and calm down – but it more than earns its place on this list.


04] The Raid 2the raid 2

Dir: Gareth Evans

Star: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Alex Abbad

It’s all about pacing.  The Raid didn’t understand proper pacing; that was a film that started at 11 and tried to stay at 11 for all 90 of its minutes.  That gets tiring and it means that your finale doesn’t hit anywhere near as hard as it should do, and in fact bores a bit.  The Raid 2 gets pacing.  It gets pacing very much so.  It starts at about 2 or 3 and then slowly builds to its 11 finale, so the 150 minutes that the film runs for pretty much fly by and its excellent finale works gangbusters and never ever bores or drags.

The Raid 2 also has a plot, something that The Raid sort of hinted at having but ultimately cut most of because it got in the way of the fighting.  It’s not a particularly original story – undercover cop infiltrates a criminal organisation to bring it down from the inside, son of criminal organisation wants to prove himself to his father but his impatience leads to temptation, and then everything goes to hell – but it is fascinatingly told with strong characters and excellent performances.  There’s a real stylish cleanness to proceedings, where every single frame is immaculately constructed and every shot tells you a story of some kind – a care and love that’s frequently missing from other action films nowadays in their desire to “immerse” the viewer by simulating being stuck on a rollercoaster mid-barrel-roll-crash.

Then there are the action scenes.  Oh, man, the action scenes!  Again, the film benefits from understanding pacing.  They’re doled out when they fit the narrative, there are no extended fight sequences just for the sake of 15 or so minutes having passed without a few dozen dudes being murdered, and they escalate.  The film’s opening fight involves a good 20 or so guys against 1 but lasts barely 90 seconds, the introduction of important lieutenants get fight scenes to establish their gimmick and dangerousness but they never drag, the final string of action sequences have ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs, and enough breaks between them to keep the plot going and not make the last 30 minutes feel like an endurance test.  Plus, each sequence has enough variety and innovation to keep them from blending into one another.

And that final fight!  Oh, man, that final fight!  It is paced perfectly, the choreography is outstanding, the camerawork is beautiful, the story it tells is captivating and doesn’t require a single line of dialogue, and there is just this electric feeling to it that stands it above all other action scenes I’ve seen this year and maybe even this decade.  It is a perfect six-and-a-half minute encapsulation of everything The Raid 2 does right and every single time I see it I am left short of breath with my palpable adrenaline running through me and a burning desire to fist-pump the air repeatedly.

Prior to seeing The Raid 2, I was excited but also very cautious and sceptical.  After all, I was excited for The Raid and I have never been able to truly love that film.  But The Raid 2 blew me away totally, surpassing my every expectation, fixing every problem with the first film, and being my favourite film of 2014 for the longest time.  Gareth Evans is planning a third entry for some point in the future and I will be satisfied however it turns out.  If it happens, I cannot wait to see how he tries to top what is almost the perfect action film.  If it doesn’t, then I will still be satisfied thanks to this film kicking so much arse and that ending shot and line being almost the most perfect in all of 2014.  This is what sequel-making should be like.


the double03] The Double

Dir: Richard Ayoade

Star: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn

When I saw The Double in the cinema, the thing that stuck out the most to me was the sound design.  Everything about the way that The Double sounded just appealed to me.  The way that the film balanced its score – its bloody, bloody, bloody brilliant score by Andrew Hewitt – with the various diegetic sounds of the film’s world that it handles in such a way as to draw direct focus to them in an almost drone-like repetitiveness.  It does an outstanding job of getting the viewer inside the head of Simon James, conceptualising what it is like to be a spineless creep drifting through life making no impression, and I have done an appalling job at explaining and describing it.  Watching the film is the easiest way to understand why it works for me, so props to the entire sound team for their work here.

In fact, watching The Double is one of the best ways to understand why it works so well.  There have been many, many times this year where I think back on the film and question whether it is truly a comedy – the register it operates on being that black and the tone being that deadpan – only to re-watch it or certain clips from it and find myself laughing raucously along for pretty much every single one of its 93 minutes.  The world that the film exists in is such a bleak and miserable place that there are sections of the police force set-up solely for the purpose of dealing with jumpers in a certain area, yet the officers’ matter-of-factness about their job and the open contempt they have for those they have to deal with somehow manages to make their existence darkly laughable.  James is such a pathetic wet doormat when it comes to the world that it loops around from being sad to outright hilarious.  And the world’s singularly gloomy and laser-focussed hatred of Simon skips straight past irritating and is instead a constant source of laughs.

The world of The Double, whilst we’re on the subject, is one of the most singularly focussed, believable and immersive worlds that I have seen a film construct in a long time.  Even though it’s clearly not our world and many holes, specifically as to how this dystopia is like outside of the focus we get on Simon, are left unexplained, it still feels immersive.  I sit down and I just get transported to this world and at no point do I question it or get dragged out of it.  The sets do such a great job at filling in the details, the low-key lighting and claustrophobic camerawork paint the oppressive nature superbly, and little details like the glimpses of the in-universe TV series The Replicator, a look at their coins, and the usages of South Korean and Japanese artists on the soundtrack give an indication of life in this world outside of Simon James.

But The Double is about Simon James, and his physical doppelgänger, James Simon.  Simon is such a spineless timid useless tool that he is incapable of spitting pretty much anything out.  He walks around in life like he doesn’t exist and uses that to his advantage with his quietly obsessive stalking of his co-worker Hannah.  It is quite clear that he wants to just say the words to her, but he glides through life so passively, and has for so long, that he is incapable of doing so.  Crucially, the film recognises that James’ stalking of Hannah isn’t romantic and never endorses it – right up to the end, too; the last scene’s dreamlike ambiguity providing yet another fantastic ending for a 2014 film, a recurring thing with most every one of the entries on this list – but forces the viewer to have to get inside Simon’s head regardless and see why this has come to be.  It’s a difficult balancing act, and the film pulls it off just about with surprising deftness.

James, meanwhile, is a detestable little shit.  A weasely, conniving, smug prick whose slow absorption of Simon’s life is teeth-gratingly tough to watch.  He is that rare character whom I hate for the reasons the film wants for me to hate him.  As somebody who loves well-written and entertaining characters – and I mean properly loves, where I won’t sit there and demand their head on a pike because I juts enjoy their presence too much – it takes a lot to make me hate a character for the reasons that I am supposed to, but The Double pulls it off flawlessly thanks to an excellent script, by Ayoade and Avi Korine, and Jesse Eisenberg putting in the best male performance I have seen in a film all year.  He’s always been good, and I have always liked him, but he is on show-stopping form as Simon and James, twisting performances that he’s given in Adventureland and The Social Network into something new and fresh and majorly compelling.  The film hangs on his performances and he is more than up to the task.

Plenty of critics were tripping over themselves at the time of The Double’s release to throw plaudits in its direction, only for everyone to cool off and mostly forget it the further the year went on.  I honestly don’t know why because it is the best British film that I have seen all year and one of the absolute very best films of 2014.  Ayoade has had a fantastic directorial career so far, and I cannot wait to see how he tries to top this.


02] Life Itselflife itself

Dir: Steve James

Surprised?  So am I.  For the last month or so, I was quite certain that Life Itself was going to be my Film of 2014, such was the power, emotion and energy it stirred in me as I watched it.  It touched me in a way that no other movie released in 2014, or even that I had seen in 2014, had been able to do.  It sent me into floods of tears and re-invigorated my passion for movies.  Yet, when it came time to set in stone my official list for 2014, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t put it at the top.  As it turns out, there is one other film that has stuck with me more and affected me more and that I just plain loved more than Life Itself.

That, however, is not to discredit Life ItselfLife Itself is a genuinely uplifting, interesting, and frequently heart-breaking mediation on movies, friendships, rivalries, the progress of society in the last 50 years, the power of criticism, death, and life.  It’s a documentary that uses its supposedly restrictive set-up – a biopic about film critic Roger Ebert – to explore so many themes and ideas, without ever losing sight of its original subject, that even people who have no interest in Roger Ebert can watch the film and get something out of it.  It is a vital documentary and the truest possible definition of a “feel-good movie”.

I will not, however, be writing any more about it.  Not because there’s not enough happening in the film to be able to do so, lord no, but because I can’t.  Fact is, I said everything I can say about Life Itself in my review from back in November.  In it, I laid bare my feelings on Ebert, the ways in which the film touched me, and why it got me so and that took so much painstaking effort to do that I can’t go through it again.  I can’t try and improve or re-state my thoughts on Life Itself because I said damn near everything I had to or could say about it back there, and I don’t want to have to repeat that or condense it to fit in the five allotted paragraphs that each entry in this list gets.  So, if you want further explanations and reasoning as to why Life Itself is this high up on my list, go and (re-)read my review.  But know that Life Itself deserves to be this high on my personal Top 10.

The only reason why it is not number one, is because of the following film…


gone girl01] Gone Girl

Dir: David Fincher

Star: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon

NO, SERIOUSLY, MEGA SPOILERS, DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN GONE GIRL.

I sympathise with and root for Amy Elliott-Dunne.

The more that Gone Girl has been rattling around in my brain, the more that that realisation has stuck out in my brain.  Amy Elliott-Dunne is a psychopath, somebody who uses and discards people as she sees fit, somebody who goes the extra morality-crossing mile to get what she wants, a woman who refuses to compromise, and who is willing to commit a man to death and outright murder another in order to get out on top.  She forcibly inseminates herself with a kid she doesn’t really want to keep a loose end under her thumb, she fakes being a rape victim, she is a walking embodiment of everything that MRAs fear women to be.

And I sympathise and root for her.

Not completely, of course, there are lines that I won’t follow her across, but enough that I get why she does the things she does and quietly hope that she successfully pulls one over on everybody.  Gone Girl is very much presented as a “He Said/She Said” narrative and I am very much more inclined to believe the “She Said” side, even after the reveal that the diary was faked and everything that Amy has ever revealed about her relationship with Nick is thrown into question.  Nick, as presented in both Amy’s version of events and his own segments of the film, is a whiny, selfish, complacent ass who never fully appreciates what he has after he gets it, forces his life on others, bleeds his supportive wife dry, and doesn’t even have the spine to end things with her before moving on to somebody else.  He does have redeeming qualities, and he is forced into situations and events where it is hard to not feel sorry for him, but when Amy states out loud, point blank, that Nick Dunne “took and took from me until I no longer existed.  That’s murder,” I honestly find it hard to disagree with her.

Does this mean that Nick deserves the death sentence that Amy hands down to him?  Honestly, the fact that I don’t immediately go “no” scares me a little bit.

The cold-blooded murder of Desi is seemingly more black and white: she murders him in order to return to Nick and complete the fabricated cover story that paints her as a victim who managed to escape from a crazed ex-boyfriend.  She lies, and therefore she is not to be trusted – incidentally, brief side bar, I absolutely agree with those who interpret Gone Girl to be misogynistic as pretty much every female character in the film is a walking embodiment of a negative male viewpoint of a woman, but I find the dualities between that misogyny and its frequently blistering feminist heart (both embodied by Amy Elliott-Dunne) to be so loaded and so complex that the film cannot be dismissed so easily without a hugely detailed and in-depth analysis from people far more qualified than myself (although I could also be talking out of my arse and apologising for loving something so problematic, that’s the beauty of critical analysis).

gone girl

Yet, Amy is very much trapped with Desi.  She’s stuck in a figurative prison, partially of her own making and partially of Desi’s making.  She’s made commitments she doesn’t want to follow through on, Desi always carries this creepy possessive air around with him, and the slow realisation seeps in for Amy that Desi is the worst traits of Nick only with genuine devotion replacing quietly-resentful hatred.  She’s traded one loveless, inescapable relationship for another and, in both instances, she no longer exists.  Her only out is through force, to turn the tables and take their agency away from them.  Amy has spent much of her life being driven about by men.  In a way, she still is, but now she’s getting a say in the matter.

Does this mean that Desi deserves to get his throat slit?  I will answer “no” far quicker than I would the question earlier, but that itself raises further questions.  Is the fact that Nick isn’t being directly murdered by Amy making it easier for me to not immediately turn on her?  Am I projecting with Desi?  After all, he doesn’t openly act possessive and the film purposefully spends little time with him to properly deepen his character.  Am I just assuming and judging someone without truly knowing them?  Is this all being fuelled by a misunderstanding and misappropriation of feminism on my part?

These are the sorts of thoughts and moral quandaries and conundrums that have been rolling around in my head for the last 3 months, more so the further we got to the end of the year.  More so than even Under The Skin, Gone Girl is a film that has clung to my brain since I first saw it in the cinemas and it has not let go since.  What began as a love for a smart, stylish, complex, and slightly trashy thriller with a phenomenal performance by Rosamund Pike – in other words, a film I loved as a film – has evolved into a constant moral discussion and self-examination that refuses to let me get up and walk away.  Gone Girl commands my thoughts, Gone Girl asks tough questions of myself, Gone Girl is seared into my brain like no other film that I can recall.

And that is why Gone Girl is my Film of 2014.  Not only is it the best made film of the entire year – absolutely nothing else is operating on the same continent as the ball park that Gone Girl resides in – it is the most thought-provoking and personally challenging film I have bared witness to in a long, long time.  I cannot wait to watch it again.


And there you have it.  My Top 10 Films of 2014.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments below and tell me your favourite films of 2014!  Tomorrow, I will return with the first half of My Bottom 10 Films of 2014.  Prepare the pitchforks and torches.

Callum Petch just wants to be a woman.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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Failed Critics Podcast: La Gone Girl, Le Back Boy

le jour se leveWelcome all to this week’s podcast! As mentioned on the last episode, Carole is taking a break this week so we turned to trusty stalwart James to fill in. He can’t do anything to prevent quiz controversy with Owen’s inept hosting. But then, neither could Carole. Nor Steve, now that we mention it.

Despite James’ temporary return, it’s actually Steve who somehow ends up being the most sophisticated and intellectual of the bunch. No, really. At least, that’s what the guys at EM Foundation thought prior to the podcast as they sent him a copy of the fully restored and fantastic 1930’s French poetic realism movie Le Jour se lève for review. And raise the tone of the pod to BBC4 standards he did, along with help from James sharing his opinion on the award winning documentary Print The Legend… before Owen brings us crashing back down to our usual BBC2 level with a review of the Roger Corman film A Bucket of Blood.

The main review this week is David Fincher’s highly anticipated Gone Girl, replete with a return for the spoiler alert section at the end – so stay tuned for that if you’ve seen the movie (Matt)!

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT LINK

US Box Office Report: 3/10/14 – 5/10/14

Gone Girl disappears with a lot of cash, Annabelle scares up big bucks, Nas: Box Office Gross Is Illmatic, you already know the obvious pun for Left Behind, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Defying typical David Fincher luck, Gone Girl obliterated the weekend and took first place with $38 million in ticket sales.  Why do I say “defying typical David Fincher luck”?  Well, because David Fincher films do not open past the $20 million mark, the only exceptions being The Social Network (and even then just barely), The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (which had Brad Pitt and enough crowd-pleasing Oscar bait schmaltz to drown kittens in) and the prior biggest opener Panic Room (which… OK, I’ve got nuthin’).  Plus, you know, the fact that the film is bleak and nihilistic and preposterous and nasty as all hell.  But, hey, it’s the date movie of the year!  I mean, I don’t know about you folks, but I find that films about psychopaths and sociopaths are just the most hopelessly romantic!

Anyways, the success of Gone Girl means that, for once, justice prevails at the box office!  My favourite film of the year so far managed to hold off blatant coat-tails riding cash-grab Annabelle, which entered in second with $37 million!  Admittedly, that is still extremely close and could lead to a switch in positions when the actuals come in, but I am going to pre-emptively do my happy dance jig right now, if you all don’t mind.  The fact that its opening is still massive and that it’s guaranteed to make crap tonnes due to it being the only horror movie out for the majority of October (Dracula Untold will bomb, just you watch) are both irrelevant.  Gone Girl came out on top!  Everything’s going to be OK, folks!  Everything is going to be OK.

Other films came out this past weekend, though, so we have to talk about them.  Left Behind, an adaptation of a faith-based book series starring noted religious man Nicholas Cage and directed by former stuntman Vic Armstrong, was resoundingly… you know what?  I am above the obvious joke that everyone else has already made, I draw the line at jokes this easy.  All I’ll say is that Left Behind took almost $7 million for sixth place.  Faring infinitely worse was the “mother of God, this trailer is so offensive and offensively treacly that a crazed homeless man could jump out of nowhere and scoop my eyeballs out of their sockets right now, and it would honestly be preferable to having to see the rest of this trailer or the film that it’s promoting” The Good Lie, which could only manage $935,000 from 461 screens despite Reese Witherspoon being somebody whose name we should all know.

Doing much better than both of those was the Bollywood epic (and I do mean “epic”) Bang Bang!, a remake of that world-famous and widely-revered Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz vehicle Knight & Day that you all totally didn’t forget about 5 minutes after watching.  In any case, its 271 screens, as part of one of the biggest release roll-outs for a Bollywood movie ever, convinced $1.2 million worth of people to finally try this Bollywood thing they keep hearing so much about, the highest opening of the year for a Bollywood film in the US.  Faring much, much, much worse was the latest film from once bright directorial star Jason Reitman: Men, Women & Children, which has been absolutely savaged by critics, only managed to take $48,000 from 17 screens for a per-screen average of $2,824 which is horrible.  The film might do better when it expands nationwide in a few weeks, but that’s still two straight critical drubbings in the space of 10 months for Reitman.  Dude, what the f*ck has happened to you?

Finally before we get into the full list, Nas: Time Is Illmatic, a documentary about the creation of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, rap albums of all-time and the people behind it, managed to open to $23,200 from 2 screens.  I mention this purely for the reasons of I think that’s genuinely awesome and to tell you to listen to Illmatic right now if you haven’t yet.  In fact, listen to it even if you already know it front-to-back, it’s never not a good time to listen to that album!


XXX GONE-GIRL-MOV-JY-2007-.JPG A ENT

This Full List sneaks a uzi on the island in its army jacket lining.

Box Office Results: Friday 3rd October 2014 – Sunday 5th October 2014

1] Gone Girl

$38,000,000 / NEW

My review, in which I battled against an unrelenting cold and a desire to avoid spoiling anything to tell you why I think Gone Girl is the best film I have seen all year and likely will see all year.  Before anybody shouts “BUT INHERENT VICE HASN’T COME OUT AND CHANGED ANYONE’S LIVES YET” or some such like, UK release dates mean that films like Inherent Vice don’t make it over here until January because Americans just can’t get over that one time we forcibly colonised them.  In any case, no film has made me as excited about films and cinema and going to the cinema this year as Gone Girl did.  It’s going to be divisive, but I f*cking adore it and, for me, it’s the bar to clear for everything else this year.

2] Annabelle

$37,200,000 / NEW

I am so glad this comes out next week here.  Then I can finally stop hanging around outside cinema screens for films I want to see waiting for the trailers to finish in case this one starts up and gives my easily-scared self a heart-attack.  Instead, I’ll be hanging around outside cinema screens for films I want to see waiting for the trailers to finish so that other films I want to see aren’t spoilt for me; a totally legitimate reason for doing so.

3] The Equalizer

$19,000,000 / $64,500,000

Fine, I guess I’ll see this tomorrow or whatever.  I’m probably going to hate it, but at least then we’ll all know together!

4] The Boxtrolls

$12,425,000 / $32,539,000

A 28.1% drop between weekends, which is excellent.  Now, yes, considering the soft opening, that’s still a bit too much of a drop for my liking, but it’s actually really excellent.  Why?  Well, again, stop-motion animated films open soft anyway and a near 30% drop is rather expected between weekends for them, it’s better than ParaNorman’s near 40% plummet two years back and is equal to the fall that Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit took between weekends.  Boxtrolls will pass Frankenweenie by Friday in terms of total domestic grosses, it’s doing well overseas, and it may close closer to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride than initially thought.  Overall, things are going to turn out alright for Laika.  I’ve got a good feeling about this!

5] The Maze Runner

$12,000,000 / $73,921,000

OK, then, Friday, bring on The Maze Runner.  I’m ready to give it a fair shot.  My expectations are low but my mind is willing to give the film a chance to win me over.  This is your shot, Maze Runner.  Impress me.

6] Left Behind

$6,850,000 / NEW

Yeah, I’ll just stick to watching The Leftovers, is that’s alright with everyone.

7] This Is Where I Leave You

$4,000,000 / $29,003,000

So… have we all come around to Arrested Development Season 4 yet?  Granted, I haven’t watched it since it came out (I have been busy, but I’d like to have a run back through all of Arrested Development yet again some point soon), but it fulfilled pretty much all of my expectations when I saw it; I spent pretty much three straight days in varying levels of hysterics with it.  That made my going online and seeing the bile-filed reception the season got from most people rather perplexing.  I mean, sure, it’s not as good as Season 2, but I ask you what else is?

Can you tell that I’m really reaching for stuff to talk about with regards to this film, cos I want to hold off on making any judgements until I’ve seen the thing for myself?

8] Dolphin Tale 2

$3,530,000 / $37,940,000

So, in preparation for finally seeing this in the very near-future, I watched the original over the weekend.  It’s an OK film, does exactly what it promises to do and not much more but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it did work for small stretches at a time.  It felt very much like a film that’s been pulled out of time and released in the early 2010s, specifically a time between 1993 and 1996.  Still have no idea what they can do for a sequel, mind, besides hit the exact same beats this one did but with diminishing returns.  I guess I’ll find out soon.

9] Guardians Of The Galaxy

$3,034,000 / $323,360,000

Well, it’s been an incredible 10 week run, but it’s time to say goodbye to the Guardians Of The Galaxy.  Next week sees the release of a sh*tty looking Dracula movie, an abysmal looking live-action Disney family film, and a mediocre looking Robert Downey Jr. starring piece of award bait.  But it’s not the quality that’s the point here, it’s the fact that they’ll be new films and that Guardians will be an 11 week old film that will hit home media in exactly two months from now.  Ah, well, it’s been fun!  Let’s play it out, shall we?

10] No Good Deed

$2,500,000 / $50,157,000

America, you could have seen anything else.  Almost quite literally anything else.  Just remember that fact.

Dropped Out: A Walk Among The Tombstones, Let’s Be Cops, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Callum Petch never sleeps cos sleep is the cousin of death.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Gone Girl

Gone Girl is a master-class in filmmaking.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

gone girl 2“I picture cracking open her beautiful skull… to see what thoughts go on in there.”

It’s the pause that got me.  The scene is serene; a single held shot, from the perspective of Nick (Ben Affleck), of Amy (Rosamund Pike) as he strokes her hair in a loving fashion before she lifts her head to stare back at him, whilst Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score calmly yet slightly uneasily backs this scene of apparent domestic bliss.  Then Nick narrates that line and the mood flips, the dynamic changes.  It could be a perfectly innocent line – who doesn’t want to know what their significant other is thinking? – but it’s the pause that hits most, because it raises so many questions.  Why the violent imagery?  Has planned on doing this?  Can we trust the serenity of the visuals considering what we just learnt about the man who we are seeing them from?

Gone Girl does this a lot: presenting you with scenes but then altering their appearance and expectations through a well-timed piece of information, before distorting it again with the heavy implication that the person whose eyes we are seeing events through may be hiding something too.  It is a twisty, jittery film that changes its character dynamics every few scenes and plays on viewer expectations to knock them for six when the time is right.  But where other films would simply use this kind of structure for a pulpy thriller with little thematic depth, Gone Girl uses those twists to explore the ramifications of the revealed information, and to address the media, gender politics, sociopathy, psychopathy, parenting, the way we vilify anybody who seems close to being guilty of anything, marriage and relationships.

It is also f*cking brilliant.

After that opening scene, the film picks up on the day of Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary.  He’s a failed writer who spends his days primarily running a bar with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon), whilst she…  Actually, it’s never made quite clear what she does during her days, which is the point.  Nick returns home from The Bar (one character notes how the name is “very meta”) to find her missing and a house that makes it look like she was attacked in some way.  Nick immediately contacts the police and starts to co-operate fully with the investigation except that his behaviour, he forgets or just plain doesn’t know many facts about his wife and her life, his attempts at being pleasant to those who help him come off as creepy and he doesn’t seem to be grieving for his wife’s disappearance as much as some consider right, marks him out as the number one suspect.  Meanwhile, the film flashes back to glimpses of their relationship prior to the disappearance, told through extracts from Amy’s diary, only they seem to be slightly off and overly romanticised too.

To say anything else, almost quite literally anything else, would be to wander into spoiler territory and you deserve to see Gone Girl without arseholes like me spoiling large facets of it.  That’s not to say that twisty turny plot points are the primary reason why Gone Girl works, but its willingness to play the viewer and upend their expectations every time they think they’ve gotten a handle on things is a reason.  This is a twist film in the best and truest sense of the word, doling out multiple twists over the entire length of the film, rather than just at the end or in the middle, although there is one absolute humdinger in the middle of the film that changes everything.

But that twisty nature is not just for show, it’s in service of the films many themes, primarily relationships; specifically marriage and the he-said-she-said nature of hearing about arguments.  Like a master storyteller, Gillian Flynn’s script (adapted from her own novel) dolls out these twists at the exact right moment required to confirm suspicions and blind-side the viewer with info they couldn’t have foreseen.  It shifts the viewer’s sympathies constantly, even full-on flipping protagonists at one point to fill in the blanks, but it is always in service of the characters and its overall themes.  The twists are built into the character motivations so that, whilst one may not sympathise with what they do, one always understands why they do what they do.

And what they do is built into the theme of relationships and, especially, marriage.  No matter what happens, it all comes back down to the relationship and marriage of Nick and Amy and how they both perceive it.  Nick, as it turns out, is not a good husband, not in the slightest, but he also seems more realistic about the history of their relationship.  Amy seems more loving and devoted to Nick than he says she is (in private, to his twin sister, yes this is an important little detail) but her diary entries seem a little too well-written, a little too romantic, a little too cliché.  Then the twists come up and one has to start questioning just how much either side is telling the truth or, more accurately, how much of their preconceived notions and what they believe to be true are actually true.  I wish I could say more than that, I really do, but I am committed to spoiling as little as is humanly possible so now I have to keep schtum.

Throughout it all is David Fincher’s impeccable direction.  Not only does he keep proceedings fast, fluid and stylish (chronology and perspective hopping between Amy and Nick is frequently achieved via fades to black, which is a technique I really like), he keeps things distant.  Fincher is often accused of being cold and mechanical, a filmmaker who never likes to let the audience emotionally into his works that are frequently about terrible people, which is a sentiment I disagree with to an extent, but is true here and it is the film’s masterstroke.  Despite the depths that a lot of its cast plumb, the film doesn’t judge or, at least, it doesn’t judge openly loudly.  Fincher instead presents proceedings and leaves you to shift your sympathies and allegiances from there.  He maintains a clean and steady environment to make sure that you can’t invest too much emotionally, and he always keeps the viewer at an arm’s length because… urgh, spoilers!  But seriously, his distancing directorial style, along with his generally stylish direction anyway, is the perfect fit for this material.  In quite literally anybody else’s hands, this would devolve into a trashy mess.  In his, it remains an intelligent and consistent thriller with a lot to say and a slightly trashy edge.  It works.

Also working… actually, no, not “working”.  “Working” gives off the impression that she’s merely competent and good lord she is so much better than that!  In any case, the absolute standout in the film’s cast, and this is a cast where every single performer is fantastic no matter the role they’re given (in particular, Neil Patrick Harris takes a purposefully underwritten role and embodies it so totally as to make the finale hit that much harder), is Rosamund Pike as Amy.  Now, I can’t explain why due to my self-enforced “no spoilers” handicap, but I can tell you that Amy is far more layered and has far more to do than she sounds like she does on paper and Pike is absolutely phenomenal with what she gets; a tour-de-force who absolutely gets the character she’s playing and is capable of making every single one of her actions justified and consistent.  If she doesn’t get award nods and a breakthrough into stardom for her work in this then I quite frankly give up.

Aaaaand, that’s your lot.  Reviewing Gone Girl in any deep and meaningful capacity without spoiling is a damn difficult, near-impossible feat.  I’ve managed to touch on most of what I wanted to talk about, but there are still a tonne of things going on in Gone Girl that I would like to even vaguely allude to but can’t because I don’t want to risk spoiling anything from it.  Hopefully I’ve done a good job at convincing you to see it despite that handicap because Gone Girl is absolutely seeing, if nothing else so that you get why other people will not stop bleating about it for the rest of the year either.  If you’re still unconvinced, though, I leave you with this one fact…

I have seen 87 films released in the last 286 days and Gone Girl quite possibly tops them all.  Go immediately.

Callum Petch is about to fill his shoes, but you say no.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!