Tag Archives: Gone Girl

The 2015 BAFTA Nominees Rundown

With the 2015 BAFTAs coming up, Callum Petch guides you through the likely winners and losers of all of the major categories.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

We have one final stop on the awards train before we reach The 2015 Oscars in almost exactly one month’s time, and that’s The 2015 British Academy Film Awards.  The BAFTAs, for those who don’t know, celebrate the best in the past year of film with an added British tinge due their being a British awards body and all.  Although their main purpose for people like us is to get one last indicator as to how The Academy will be voting come February 22nd, since all of their nominations and eventual awards typically line up with one another.

So, that’s what we’re here to do.  With the awards themselves in just over two weeks, and my having seen just about every single one of the major nominees, I am here to guide you through the major categories, tell you who I feel deserves to win, who you should probably put your money on if you’re a betting kinda person, and any snubs, rule-flaking inclusions or just plain weird things that caught my fancy.  We’re not covering all of them, because we’ll be here all day – although other members of the site may fill in those blanks later if they wish – but we’re doing most of them.  So, without further delay, GRAPPLING HOOK!


lefoBest Animated Film

Nominees: Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, The Lego Movie

Who Should Win: Soooo…  I know that I’m supposed to say The Lego Movie, and I do really, really like The Lego Movie, but…  Big Hero 6 is currently playing to my heart way more.  I’m sorry, but it is!  I was actually sat writing about Kung Fu Panda 2 the other day when this quietly devastating yet heart-warming scene from Big Hero 6 popped up into my head and now I just want to go and spend more time with that cast again.  I’m sure whenever I eventually get around to watching The Lego Movie again, I’ll put that back on top but, yeah, I guess I’m switching teams and rooting for Disney.  Sorry, folks.

Who Will Win: Time was that I would say that this was The Lego Movie’s to lose, but with How To Train Your Dragon 2 upsetting it at the Golden Globes and not even being considered in the Oscar category – although I still find that a mostly strong list, so I’m not going to complain much – I really don’t think this is a safe bet anymore.  Big Hero 6 is Disney, so that will always be in the running, and awards bodies are really loving The Boxtrolls it just racked up 13 nominations at this year’s Annie Awards (which, incidentally, is a very lazy set of nominees this year, but this is not the place to talk about that) – so that has a good shot.  My money’s still on The Lego Movie leaving with the award, but don’t be surprised if either of the other two take it instead.

Other Notes: The BAFTAs have always only had three nominees for this category, so that makes snubs more obvious but also, sometimes, more understandable.  Although I was lukewarm on it, I am glad to see Laika rack up another nomination with The Boxtrolls and it deserves that spot more than How To Train Your Dragon 2.  That being said, colour me disappointed that there’s no room for The Book Of Life, which sadly seems destined for cult status rather than mainstream acceptance.  Also, even though there was clearly no chance in hell of it ever happening, I would like to have seen the genuinely excellent My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks get a look-in.


71Outstanding British Film

Nominees: ’71, Paddington, Pride, The Imitation Game, The Theory Of Everything, Under The Skin

Who Should Win: Under The Skin is a film that deserved far more love and attention from awards bodies than it has gotten, although the fact that it’s slipped away with barely any recognition outside of the BAFTAs – Mica Levi’s excellently unsettling score is also up for an award – is kinda fitting really.  It is really not a film for everyone, but its quiet study of gender, sexuality, and gender performance – as well as its quietly furious screed about how casually, and occasionally outwardly hateful, sexist society views and treats women – is utterly gripping and compelling viewing for those willing to work for their films, and Scarlett Johannson puts in the single best performance of all of last year in it, too.  It’s my no. 5 film of 2014, and it deserves this award.

Who Will Win: It won’t, though.  Not by a long shot.  Nor will Paddingtonwhich I did like but don’t get the intense passionate love that critics and audiences are throwing its way – nor will ’71, and most certainly nor will Pride.  See, The Imitation Game and The Theory Of Everything are up for Best Film and it looks real bad if the films that are up for Best Film don’t win Outstanding British Film.  The Weinsteins have been campaigning hard for Imitation Game, but this is the home turf of Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, which may sway voters towards The Theory Of Everything.  I’m leaning more towards the former, though, so those of you looking for a definite bet should put money on The Imitation Game.

Other Notes: Starred Up should really be in contention.  One of the best British dramas in years and it’s kept out by two slops of porridge?  Ugh.  Ditto for Richard Ayoade’s The Double, which everybody seems to have let undeservedly slide into the background since last April.  I can’t really complain too much, though, 2014 was a very good year for British film and I’m just glad we’ve gotten actual British films filling up the list this year.  You know, unlike last year.


GHB_9907 20130130.CR2Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness for The Grand Budapest Hotel, Damien Chazelle for Whiplash, Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu and Nicholás Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo for Birdman, Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Who Should Win: Nice strong list here.  As much as I like Whiplash and Birdman, though, I feel that they are great scripts that are elevated to excellent scripts by everything else from the movie – performances, direction, editing, etc. – so I’m not particularly rooting for them.  The script for The Grand Budapest Hotel is excellent, managing to balance whimsy and light-hearted farcical caper antics with this constant undercurrent of sadness and melancholy, a tale of men born out of time and a nostalgic longing that is admirable but foolhardy.  Meanwhile, Nightcrawler’s script has a tonne of things to say about capitalism, the media, classism, business, and the kind of sociopathic monster that one can be yet still win in our broken society.  I’m good with either of those taking it, leaning more towards Nightcrawler.

Who Will Win: This will be The Grand Budapest Hotel’s consolation prize.  Sure, it received 13 nominations overall, but most of those were in the technical categories that, although deserved, most people, and especially headline writers, don’t care about.  This is where it gets its due in the major categories, to apologise for it having no chance in anything else.  Whiplash has garnered enormous traction as of late, but I still don’t see it going over Grand Budapest here; this one’s basically set in stone.

Other Notes: You will notice that I left out Boyhood whilst I was going through complimenting the nominees.  We’ll come back to that.


gone girlBest Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: Jason Hall for American Sniper, Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl, Paul King & Hamish McCall for Paddington, Anthony McCarten for The Theory Of Everything, Graham Moore for The Imitation Game

Who Should Win: Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl.  Duh.  I really don’t have to say any more than that, do I?  Considering the rest of this field, I really don’t think I do.

Who Will Win: This field is suspiciously weak, full of films that have nothing to say or actively steer themselves away from having anything to say about their subjects or themes (although I do find that a plus in surprise nominee Paddington’s case), almost like it’s been designed with the express purpose of making sure that Gillian Flynn will win.  Hmm, funny that.

Other Notes: Something that became immediately clear to me when this season’s awards films were lined up like this: this was very much a year of films, and especially biopics, about men that spectacularly failed to have anything to say about the men that they’re about.  I mean, this is often a problem with awards bait films – failing to have any thematic arc or insight into their subjects but superficially arranging the beats of a feel-good story to create the illusion that something is being said – but it’s especially true this year.  Maybe that’s a sign that we should diversify who we tell our stories about?


Film Review FoxcatcherBest Supporting Actor

Nominees: Steve Carell as Jon du Pont (Foxcatcher), Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans, Sr. (Boyhood), Edward Norton as Mark Shiner (Birdman), Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz (Foxcatcher), J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher (Whiplash)

Who Should Win: J. K. Simmons, hands down, no contest.  If you disagree then, quite frankly, you just haven’t seen Whiplash.  Simmons takes the two registers that he typically operates on – hammy shouting fury, and warm paternal comfort – and weaponises them to stunning effect, adding nuance to the character of Fletcher whilst still frequently keeping him at the level of a complete monster.  He is utterly sensational as this utterly inhuman force of nature and rage and he deserves this award far more than anyone else.

Who Will Win: Good thing that he’s guaranteed the win, then.  He’s basically been on a well-deserved awards tour which, on February 22nd, will culminate with the 60 year-old taking the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles to collect his first ever Oscar.  For one of our best and most consistent character actors for the last 20 years, in a career-defining role, it will be incredibly satisfying to see.  We’ll get a taste of that feeling at the BAFTAs and it will be wonderful.

Other Notes: Two well-earned nominations for Foxcatcher, although Steve Carell’s appearance here reeks of canny studio awards gaming.  I mean, Best Actor has been a tight lock for months and the chance of anybody unexpected breaking in is slim, so why not position one of the leads of the film as a Supporting Actor in the hopes of at least scoring a nomination?  Of course, there is a case to be made for Ruffalo also being the main character in Foxcatcher, too, but I think this all says more about the clever protagonist shuffling nature of Foxcatcher than anything else.


imitation gameBest Supporting Actress

Nominees: Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans (Boyhood), Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke (The Imitation Game), Rene Russo as Nina Romina (Nightcrawler), Imelda Staunton as Hefina Headon (Pride), Emma Stone as Sam Thomson (Birdman)

Who Should Win: It takes a damn strong actress willing to put in the extra work to not have the film completely whisked away from them by Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, but Rene Russo was more than up to the task.  She excellently embodies a woman who has to fight every day for the power she wields, who hates having to rely on Lou Bloom but recognises his value, and seizes on every possible advantage and opportunity in a desire to raise her stature and influence.  She’s a more socially acceptable version of Lou Bloom, basically, only with some inherent sympathy ingrained in her due to the institutionalised sexism of her line of work, and Russo nails it all totally.  So, yeah, I’m on the Russo train.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette has been the front-runner since the second Boyhood had its festival premieres, she has been sweeping practically every awards body that nominates her, and if she doesn’t win the Oscar I will be utterly floored.  She’s going over here.  I am fine with that, she is quite literally the only thing I actually liked about Boyhood, but I’m still going to be a little bitter regardless.

Other Notes: Nice to see Pride get a non-Britain-specific nod!  Really annoyed that it’s not for any of the cast members who played a homosexual – who were the actual goddamn protagonists for that film which, lest we forget, is the reason why Pride works – but at least it’s being recognised for something; that film was a very nice surprise for me.  In terms of snubs, four words, to be repeated for Best Actress: where is Emily Blunt?  Seriously, between Edge Of Tomorrow, Into The Woods, and even her voice work in the dub of The Wind Rises, she’s spent the last year reminding us all that she’s one of the best actresses in film today, but we’ll snub her totally come awards time?  I don’t get that.


TTOE_D17_ 05356.NEFBest Actor

Nominees: Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing (The Imitation Game), Ralph Fiennes as Gustav H. (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom (Nightcrawler), Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson (Birdman), Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything)

Who Should Win: My heart wants Keaton to win, because it’s Michael Keaton, he is great in Birdman, and I want nice things to happen to the guy.  However, my head has to admit that Gyllenhaal put in the better performance this year – the much better performance – and so I’m backing him to take home the statue.  Plus, based on how The 2014 Failed Critics Awards went, you all would probably tear me shreds if I didn’t.

Who Will Win: All signs point to Eddie Redmayne taking this one with very little effort.  This category has been a constant fight between Redmayne and Keaton since awards season started up in earnest, but the splitting of their performances into separate “Drama/Comedy” categories has made it harder to gauge which is taking the biggest prize home with them.  Keaton has the comeback and long-overdue narrative ingrained in a victory that awards bodies love, but Redmayne has the exact kind of showy, yet empty and trying-way-too-hard performance that awards bodies love.  I think Redmayne is going to take it here, also because he’s on home turf, and then he’ll also pick it up at the Oscars.  Dammit.  Maybe he’ll at least be good in Jupiter Ascending.

Other Notes: Very nice to see Ralph Fiennes get a nomination for Grand Budapest.  This does make me wonder why, mind, Tony Revolori has been totally skipped over for any Best Supporting Actor nominations.  He is very much the heart of the film, arguably more so than Gustave, and Revolori puts in a quietly strong and personal performance that has curiously gone uncelebrated.  Also, we’ll nominate Benedict Cumberbatch but not Ben Affleck for Gone Girl?  Fine, sure, whatever.


la_ca_1202_still_aliceBest Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams as Margaret Keane (Big Eyes), Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking (The Theory of Everything), Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland (Still Alice), Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne (Gone Girl), Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed (Wild)

Who Should Win: We all saw Gone Girl, yeah?  We all saw Rosamund Pike with her captivating note-perfect Lauren Bacall-referencing performance?  Good, then I don’t have to explain myself further.

Who Will Win: Julianne Moore has been due for decades, she’s finally going over here.  The problem is that she shouldn’t.  I don’t mean this in a subjective opinion way, either, I mean that the BAFTA Eligibility Rules should disqualify her from contention.  As you can check on their own website, only films released in UK cinemas to the general public between January 1st and December 31st of any given year are eligible.  However, if you are a film released in UK cinemas for the general public between January 1st and February 14th of the year in which the awards take place, then you are still eligible for awards contention as long as you screen the film to BAFTA members by December 19th.

Yes, this does all sound more than a little shady and cop-out-y.  It gets worse.  See, even with that very generous window, Still Alice still doesn’t qualify – it doesn’t receive a UK cinema release until March 6th, well past the closing eligibility date – and, therefore, shouldn’t be here!  Selma meanwhile, which does qualify – UK cinema release: February 6th – and which I haven’t seen but I’ve heard is great, is shut out completely.  So, yeah, I am against all of this.  Julianne Moore could put in the single most outstanding performance I have ever seen, and I will still be against her winning.  I’m sorry, but it’s against the rules and am I the only one around here who gives a shit about the rules?

Other Notes: Scarlett Johannson.  Emily Blunt.  That is all.


Whiplash-6606.cr2Best Director

Nominees: Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Birdman), Richard Linklater (Boyhood), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything)

Who Should Win: Look, I really dislike Boyhood, but I cannot deny the commitment, the energy, the time, and the skill that Richard Linklater put into making the thing.  To shoot one film over 12 years, the logistical and financial nightmare of organising and lining up everyone’s schedules to get this thing to happen, the hard work put in to keeping everyone’s character consistent, and to keep the film looking and remaining visually consistent despite progressing as a director significantly in the space of a decade…  Yeah, I have to respect that and admit that this is an award he should walk away with.

Who Will Win: Like hell is this not going to Linklater.  Maker, from the second this film was in the can, every Best Director gong going today was pre-packaged and all set to be FedExed to his front doorstep.  If he doesn’t win, then I quite frankly have no idea what to believe any more.

Other Notes: No Ava DuVarney for Selma, which is the sole thing that I am saying on the subject until I finally get to see the thing.  More egregiously, no David Fincher – the man who BAFTA quite rightly acknowledged as a superior filmmaker to Tom Hooper 4 years ago, and who put out quite possibly his best work ever, or at least his best directing work ever, this year, is apparently just no match for James Marsh’s directing for The Theory of Everything, a film that I fell asleep during for about five minutes.  Sure, of course he isn’t.


boyhoodBest Film

Nominees: Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything

Who Should Win: Despite this sudden backlash that has collectively greeted the thing – because apparently we don’t even wait two months now before we try and backpedal on our opinions – I still think Birdman is brilliant and maybe even quietly genius in the way that it’s able to walk so many tightropes without ever properly falling over into un-self-aware “Artist Rants About Mainstream Film, Critics, The Internet and Clouds”.  However, I find The Grand Budapest Hotel to be the best of all of these nominees by a country mile, so I am flying that flag all the way.

Who Will Win: I know that the current narrative is that this is a straight fight between Birdman and Boyhood, with The Imitation Game sneaking its way into contention thanks to the usual Weinstein efforts, but those people are just trying to spice up a narrative to which the ending has been pre-ordained since June.  Boyhood will win with no contest and Richard Linklater will finally pick up a Best Film award, along with finally getting the Oscar equivalent a few weeks’ later.  Shame the film in question sucks.  I broke down here why I strongly dislike Boyhood and why it is objectively a bad film beyond its central gimmick, so I won’t waste time repeating myself.  Just know that I am against this disappointingly inevitable outcome.

Other Notes: 2014 Awards Season.  Otherwise known as “Yay, White Men: Hooray for White Men”.  In fairness, it’s been a pretty poor awards season and Grand Budapest absolutely deserves its spot up there – and I don’t object to Birdman showing up, either.  But it’s also such a safe and blindingly obvious list with little of interest and few of the genuinely interesting or exciting films from this past year.  Where’s NightcrawlerStarred UpWhiplashFoxcatcher?  If you’re gonna choose films about men, why snub the ones that actually have something to say about masculinity and men and challenge current societal notions?  How about Under The SkinGone Girl?  Films that look at the female gender, gender performance, and how society views them?  What happened to Pride, which had things to say about sexuality – far more so than The f*cking Imitation Game – or Belle and Selma, which said cogent things about race (and which I haven’t seen yet but heard excellent things about)?

Look, I and everybody else wouldn’t be getting so angry and worked up and vocal about this if you awards bodies didn’t keep shutting films like those out in favour of paint-by-numbers surface-level slop like The Imitation Game or The Theorzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  When you shut out genuinely original and diverse films in favour of interchangeable porridge like those, it’s a slap in the face to those films that try, that offer up a different perspective, and to those of us who demand and wish for diversity and greater representation in film.  You awards bodies carry way more power than you think you do in this day and age, so what you nominate and reward matters.  So when the awards end up as white and male as this, with many of them genuinely not being the best films released in the past 12 months, you’ll have to excuse us for getting upset and calling you out on it.


That’s the rundown.  The BAFTAs themselves occur on February 8th.  Feel free to throw your insights and predictions for the ceremony into the comments below!

Callum Petch is gonna kill yr boyfriend.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

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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)!

US Box Office Report: 12/12/14 – 14/12/14

The people were rather unmoved by Exodus: Gods And Kings, Top Five thankfully makes the top five, Inherent Vice has the worst opening of anything ever, Wild runs wild on you, brother, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

For those of you keeping track at home, 2014 has only had one faith-based drama that was worth anybody’s time released in its twelve months, despite this sub-genre being strangely thriving this past year.  I am of course referring to Darren Aronofsky’s sublime and surprisingly moving and beautiful Noah, and most certainly not Ridley Scott’s, by all accounts, insipid Exodus: Gods And Kings.  Fortunately, in this instance, it seems that most of the public agreed and, although Exodus is still our new box office #1 by dint of being the first new wide release in two weeks, it reached that summit with only $24.5 million in ticket sales.  Noah, meanwhile and having to follow surprise hit Divergent, opened to $43 million.  VICTORY!!

In more good news, Chris Rock’s Top Five, which by most accounts I’ve heard is something really special, was an out-of-the-box success!  Playing at 979 theatres, with a full-on nationwide release coming soon, the film broke into the top five with wondrous ease, finishing in fourth with $7.2 million in ticket sales and a $7,000 per-screen average.  That’s $1.6 million more than Chris Rock’s last directing gig, 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife, opened with and that film had the luxury of almost double the number of screens that Top Five did!  So, not only did Top Five manage to send Chris Rock back on the interview circuit – seriously, I want him to keep making movies purely so he can keep going around giving interviews like this one and this one – it’s also apparently a really damn great movie and managed to make a fair bit of money!  DOUBLE VICTORY!!

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news, folks.  Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice was released in those five New York and Los Angeles art-house cinemas that all major awards season wannabes have to start off their life in if they want to taken seriously, apparently.  It managed $330,000, which sounds really great, and a per-screen average of $66,000, which is probably more than anybody working for this site or reading this article makes in a year.  But that’s also less than There Will Be Blood and The Master made opening weekends (per-screen in Blood’s case, overall and per-screen in Master’s case), so therefore Inherent Vice is a colossal failure of epic proportions that has ruined the careers of everyone involved.  Sorry Inherent Vice, thanks for trying!

In further limited release news, the Weinstein-backed The Imitation Game – so look for Benedict Cumberbatch to steal the Best Actor awards of whoever we’ve arbitrarily decided as a collective hive mind deserves it this year – continues to rake in the cash like Scrooge McDuck on a hot streak at the casino Blackjack table.  Expanding to 25 screens, the film took $875,000 this weekend for a per-screen average of $35,000, so look for it to crack the full list some point soon.  And finally, before we get down to business, we have Wild, which added 95 more screens this past weekend, cracked the Top 10 and allowed me to make a dreadful Hulk Hogan reference in the headline.  Yay films!


wpid-wp-1418666873280.jpeg

This Full List used to be a visionary, but has spent the past decade phoning it in with boring sh*tty spectacle pieces instead of anything decent.

Box Office Results: Friday 12th December 2014 – Sunday 14th December 2014

1] Exodus: Gods And Kings

$24,500,000 / NEW

Nope, can’t do it.  I can’t get over the fact that they cast white actors to play the roles of Middle East natives.  Especially since the good leads are lightly tanned, whilst the bad leads are made much darker in skin, and that the slaves are still people of colour.  I mean, sweet lord, how f*cking tone deaf do you have to be to not get that?!  We were raking The Last Airbender over the coals for trying to pull this sh*t back in 2010, and you thought that you were honestly going to get away with it now?!  Ridley Scott’s explanation doesn’t help matters, either, as all it does is remind us all of just how broken the Hollywood system is and… well, it’s not like casting recognisable names has helped much at the box office, has it?

2] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$13,200,000 / $277,398,000

This is going to close around $750 million, I’d say.  It’s already at $611 million, it’ll pass The Hunger Games some point in the next week or two, and it shows no real signs of slowing down.  It’ll wrap up lower than Catching Fire’s $865 million worldwide, but it’s definitely going to be, in be within spitting distance of being, the biggest grossing film domestically of 2014 when all is wrapped up.  Does this mean we’re now done calling this a box office disappointment, even though it never was one to begin with?

3] Penguins Of Madagascar

$7,300,000 / $58,839,000

Well, sh*t.  At least I’ll be at the forefront of the “This movie was criminally overlooked at the box office!” brigade in a few years’ time!  Or more likely, considering how quickly we are to label things as underrated and “cult classics” and the like nowadays, two months’ time.

4] Top Five

$7,210,000 / NEW

March 20th.  March 20th.  What did I do to deserve withholding of this level, American film industry?  Huh?  Got a halfway acceptable answer you’d like to share with me or are you withholding that, too?  Look at you, getting off!

5] Big Hero 6

$6,145,000 / $185,325,000

You should see how quickly I sprint out of whatever screen I’m seeing new release movies in when the trailer for this comes on.  I refuse, I completely refuse, to have even one second of this film spoiled for me.  It’s a new Disney film, I am there.  You don’t need to throw jaw-dropping setpieces, trailer-ready quips, Fall Out Boy songs or anything else at me to get me in.  Just, “YO!  DISNEY PUTTING OUT NEW FILM!  IT’S CALLED [X], IT’S OUT [Y]!” and you have my attention.

6] Interstellar

$5,500,000 / $166,800,000

Next week is The Hobbit, so expect this to sink like a stone as Peter Jackson confiscates all of its IMAX screens.  Still, pretty good run, all things considered.  In fact, I find it strange that people keep insisting that the box office has been in a horrendous state of affairs this past year when, week in week out, I keep typing out Total Grosses that stretch into 9 figures for many films featured in this list…

7] Horrible Bosses 2

$4,630,000 / $43,601,000

I don’t really have anything to put here.  Here’s an It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia clip instead.

8] Dumb And Dumber To

$2,757,000 / $82,117,000

This isn’t tracking particularly well overseas.  Still, I do find it rather comforting that the only people who were crying out for a Dumb And Dumber sequel 20 years later are apparently all contained on one mass of land.  Good to know the crazy is bottled up, kept from being spread, and not in control of anything particularly important.

9] The Theory Of Everything

$2,525,000 / $17,148,000

Adds 394 screens, to cross the 1,000 screen mark, makes less money than the week before.  Maybe this signals the upcoming slide out of my goddamn chart!  It’s all going to be OK, folks!  It’s all going to be OK.

10] Wild

$1,550,000 / $2,423,000

The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson, following on from her piece this past Summer about The Trinity Effect (which I referenced in this week’s DreamWorks Retrospective entry, *plugplug*), wrote an excellent piece last Monday about how the new breed of genuinely strong female characters are those that are relatively weak.  You should go and read it.  Like, right now.  Don’t worry about missing anything, we’re done here for the week.

Dropped Out: Gone Girl, The Pyramid, Birdman

Callum Petch has the microphone but you can sing it as well!  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 5/12/14 – 7/12/14

Self-fulfilling prophecy comes true as nothing really makes money or switches places since nothing came out, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Well.  Hello, there.  Welcome to the Box Office Report, I guess.  How are you doing?  Not too bad?  That’s good to hear.  Call your parents recently?  See any movies this past weekend?  No?  Yeah, well, that’s you and everybody else, don’t fret.  Post-Thanksgiving weekend is a dead zone according to studios, so nobody ever releases anything that weekend.  Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you ask me, but that’s how it is.  Also means that nothing happened in the chart this week, which makes writing up this report rather pointless.  I, however, have nothing better to do, so let’s see what scraps we can work with instead, eh?

Ooh, there were two new releases this past weekend!  First off we have The Pyramid, a dreadful looking and barely marketed horror movie crapped out at the beginning of December because it’s not like there’s any better weekend for it.  Dumped into 589 screens to die a painful death, it did meh-y, raking in $1.3 million for ninth place and a $2,292 per-screen average.  Second off we have Wild, an adaptation of the memoir of the same name about a woman who did a solo 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail in order to better herself as a human being and deal with her traumatic life beforehand.  Notice how I didn’t make any jokes, there?  I am capable of compassion!  Anyways, opening on 21 screens, the Reese Witherspoon-starring, Nick Hornby-adapted, Jean-Marc Vallee-directed awards season contender managed a very great $630,000 and a per-screen average of $30,000.

In expanding news, The Imitation Game doubled its screens to 8 and managed another $402,000 for a per-screen average of $50,250.  The Homesman jumped up a good 104 screens to 154 total and banked a good $501,000 for the weekend, although its per-screen average was a decidedly not-good $3,253.  The Babadook, meanwhile, terrified 19 new screens, bringing its total up to 22 and a weekend haul of $66,600.  I will refrain from making the obvious hack joke to instead sadly inform you that the thing’s per-screen average is still only $3,027, which at least is slightly more than The Pyramid’s if nothing else.

And… yeah, that’s about it.  Everything else that’s worth mentioning is located in the Top 10 and I don’t much fancy blowing my material all early.  Also, Penguins Of Madagascar collapsed 56% between weekends and is now pretty much guaranteed not to cross $100 million.  That is really bad news for both DreamWorks as a whole – Christ, even Mr. Peabody & Sherman crossed $100 mil domestic and that was their lowest non-Antz CG earner ever – and for the movie – which is one of the absolute best animated films released this year.  For f*ckssake, America, can’t you at least try making decent animated movies successful!?  If this ends up finishing lower than The Nut Job domestically, then I am going to take out a vendetta on the lot of you.  First The Boxtrolls, then The Book Of Life, now this!  When will the bad public film-skipping choices end?!


the pyramid

This Full List…  Nope, I got no particularly great puns for this week.  Such is the state of the chart.  Let’s just get on with it.

Box Office Results: Friday 5th December 2014 – Sunday 7th December 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$21,600,000 / $257,700,000

I have actually had a desire to go and see this again recently.  A real full-on, “I should find time to go and see this again” desire.  Consider me completely amazed at this development.  Of course, I’m not sure how much of that is just down to that “Hanging Tree” song randomly worming its way into my brain at every opportunity, but it’s there none the less.  I’m referring to both the desire and the song.  “Are you, are you…”

2] Penguins Of Madagascar

$11,100,000 / $49,591,000

Saw it first thing on Friday, finished the review the same day, was posted on Saturday, obviously.  I loved this movie and need to find the time to go and see it again.  Seriously, I haven’t had this much pure fun in a cinema since Lucy, which doesn’t sound like that long but one needs to remember that fun has been in rather short supply this past year in film, so a film that is pure fun is going to get a very high grade from yours truly.  Also, my heart went all fuzzy and warm whenever something nice happened to Private and I liked that feeling.

3] Horrible Bosses 2

$8,600,000 / $36,075,000

A pretty strong hold – only a 44% drop – which doesn’t sound too bad until one remembers that the film opened to $15 million and that this thing will be very lucky if it crosses $60 million.  Ah, well, least everybody realised they could just stay home and watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on Netflix instead!  I call that a win!

4] Big Hero 6

$8,130,000 / $177,548,000

My local Cineworld now has a big inflatable Baymax stood up in some out-of-reach corner of the lobby to advertise this film and it is so freakin’ adorable!  I just want to take it home with me, install it in the corner of my uni apartment and give it hugs whenever I feel close to down!

5] Interstellar

$8,000,000 / $158,657,000

It’s within spitting distance of $600 mil overall, with China and South Korea going wild for the thing, so I think it’s safe to say that Christopher Nolan’s box office rep isn’t going to take that big of a hit after this is all said and done.  Weirdly, in real life, most everybody I’ve talked to loves the heck out of this movie and my “Eeeehhhh” keeps getting misconstrued as pure outright hate for the thing.  It’s weird, what did I not get when I saw the film?

6] Dumb And Dumber To

$4,169,000 / $78,081,000

Only one more weekend left to go until I get to join in with everyone’s strangely high disappointment to this thing!  I mean, it’s a 20 years’ late sequel to a comedy film, The Farrelly Brothers haven’t made anything worthwhile in over a decade, Peter Farrelly helped mastermind Movie 43… and you actually thought this was going to be good?  That’s just wilful ignorance, is what that is.

7] The Theory Of Everything

$2,688,000 / $13,613,000

…  …  …  …  …  That’s how little I care about this thing.

8] Gone Girl

$1,500,000 / $162,861,000

If you had told me back in September that Gone Girl would be one of the year’s most successful films financially and would even make it to double digits on the “Weeks In The Top 10” counter, I genuinely would not have believed you.  Yet, that is the world we live in because sometimes, just sometimes, good and just things occur.  If it makes it to 11 weeks, I will be utterly astounded but I don’t think it will.  Thanks for everything, Gone Girl!  Sorry about Life Itself stealing the “My Favourite Film Of The Year” title from you!

9] The Pyramid

$1,350,000 / NEW

Well, that looks like yet another indistinguishable crappy horror movie crapped out for a quick buck!  Guess we’ll just mov…  wait…  is that James Buckley?!  Is that…  no!  No!  Jay from The Inbetweeners is not in this thing!  He can’t be!  He jus…  WHAT?!

10] Birdman

$1,150,000 / $18,919,000

It’s going to be between this and Boyhood for all Best Picture awards this season, isn’t it?  Brilliant.  I look forward to seeing Birdman, disliking it immensely and therefore just not giving a shit about all award bodies this coming January and February!  I kid, of course; I really want Birdman to be good and I’ve got a good feeling about it!  I just really, really, really, really dislike Boyhood and the fact that it’s guaranteed all of the awards forever irritates the living hell out of me.  I really want to be proven wrong on this, but we all know what award bodies are like.

Dropped Out: St. Vincent (which was fantastic, by the by)

Callum Petch (*crushing guitar riff*).  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 28/11/14 – 30/11/14

Mockingjay insults the rest of the chart, Penguins Of Madagascar smile and wave goodbye to a lot of money, nobody particularly like Horrible Bosses now, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This past weekend, Americans were witness to a dystopian future.  One with barely restrained tensions, majorly unfair financial differences, and a complete lack of fairness and generosity.  These disparate groups would congregate under one roof to try and make it through proceedings in a civilised fashion, until one side insulted Peeta at which point all bets were off.  Proceedings were violent, conflicts escalated, both sides exited wondering who had really won that round, filled with feelings of unsatisfaction, like the resolution had been postponed for another year or something.  But enough about Thanksgiving with your family.  At the box office, much like my joke construction, The Hunger Games repeated its Thanksgiving first place status to diminishing returns with Mockingjay, Part 1 taking home $56 million this year.  Expect history to repeat itself next year and for me to basically copy-paste this dreadfully unfunny paragraph again in the hopes that you won’t notice.

It’s not like Mockingjay, Part 1 had much in the way of competition, though.  Continuing an absolutely dismal year for DreamWorks Animation, Penguins Of Madagascar decidedly underwhelmed in its opening weekend.  Even with the 5-Day Thanksgiving bump, it could only manage $36 million.  Without it, that’s $25 million over the weekend which, for a spin-off of one of the few remaining cash-cows that DreamWorks has and as promoted to hell and back as this film has been, is dismal.  The one saving grace for the film is that Annie and Night At The Museum 3 aren’t out for another 3 weeks, so there’s still a chance that it can make up some of that cash before it gets dogpiled.  I’m sorry, you were expecting snark?  Nope, no snark here, this news genuinely bums me out and has me majorly worried considering the position DreamWorks is in right now.

Still, could be worse.  You could be Horrible Bosses 2.  Yes, the widely-trashed comedy sequel that quite literally nobody was ever asking for didn’t do so hot.  Over the five-day weekend, it barely reached $23 million and over three days it could only make $15.7 million for fifth place.  Yeah, safe to say we are all being spared from Horrible Bosses 3: The Final Chapter, Part 1.  What we are unfortunately not being spared from, however, is The Theory Of Everything which went nationwide this past weekend and managed to bank $5 million from 800-odd screens.  If Eddie Redmayne takes the Best Actor Oscar from Dan Stevens in The Guest (or Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler), then tables will be flipped.  Just warning you Academy; you don’t want no part of this shit.

In more limited release news, The Imitation Game finally reached American shores this weekend and the typical Weinstein push ensured a very solid opening.  $482,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $120,500, putting it only behind The Grand Budapest Hotel in Best Limited Release Openings of 2014, is most definitely more than “very solid”.  One can only imagine how the latter film would have done if it had a legion of Benedict Cumberbatch fangirls and fanboys filling the back rows with their…  Yeah, OK, I’m just going to move on.  Foxcatcher added another 48 theatres to its run and broke past $1 million, meaning we should see it in the Top 10 soon enough.  The Babadook, meanwhile, finally got a release in America and it did OK: $27,000 from 3 theatres for a per-screen average of You Do The Math.  In other words, it’s The Guest all over again.  Goddammit.


hunger games

This Full List is gonna take ya riiii-ght in-to the DANGER ZONE!!

Box Office Results: Friday 28th November 2014 – Sunday 30th November 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$56,875,000 / $225,693,000

Have you heard the CHVRCHES track from the Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack, yet?  If not, go do so immediately!  It is SO GOOD!  Like, “this could’ve gone on their debut album” good, and The Bones Of What You Believe is a bloody damn good album!  In fact, from what I’ve experienced of the soundtracks to all three films so far, everybody brings their A-game when they’re called upon for a track.  Nobody coasts.  I love that about them.  Think it’s time I took the plunge and bought the lot.

2] Penguins Of Madagascar

$25,800,000 / $36,000,000 / NEW

Friday.  It’s out here Friday, I am seeing it first thing Friday, I will not go to bed that day until there is a review ready to run on Saturday.  I’m genuinely really excited for this.  In the meanwhile, the DreamWorks! A Retrospective archive is here.  Go amuse yourself and make me feel like I haven’t wasted 5 months of my life.

3] Big Hero 6

$18,770,000 / $167,209,000

Only a 7% drop between weekends, which is pretty darn astou-WHY IS THIS MOVIE NOT IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW?!!  IT’S NOT FAIR!!  (*proceeds to have a mini-breakdown*)

4] Interstellar

$15,800,000 / $147,090,000

I would really like to go and see this again on the big screen for a second try, especially since I’m still not 100% solid on my opinions on it.  However, six films are coming out this week in the UK and I have way too much work to do to find time to see it again.  Plus, I have to give up a good 15 hours of my life to The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit in the next 11 days.  I genuinely don’t have the time.

5] Horrible Bosses 2

$15,700,000 / $23,010,000 / NEW

Saw it on Friday and I’ll see if I can find time to get a review out – I’m currently working on one for Paddington in between essay work, DreamWorks work, other articles, and social commitments so this will more than likely fall by the wayside – but the skinny is this: I laughed a good consistent amount, but it is still an utterly pointless sequel and it drops the ball and crosses the line on the Julia stuff spectacularly.  Think of it as the American equivalent of The Inbetweeners 2 and you’re about there.  If you have nothing better to do or just want to get some easy laughs for 100-odd minutes, this is fine but it’s still ultimately pointless.

6] Dumb And Dumber To

$8,295,000 / $72,205,000

So… Jim Carrey’s not making a full-on box office comeback, is he?  (*dejected sigh*)

7] The Theory Of Everything

$5,082,000 / $9,604,000

Still refuse to believe that this is anything other than dreadfully mediocre slop.  Still can’t be proven right or wrong until New Year’s Day.  Still going to bitch and moan about its existence until then.

8] Gone Girl

$2,470,000 / $160,557,000

I was going to say that we must bid adieu to Gone Girl, but then I looked at the release schedule for next week and saw that nothing at all is coming out.  Wild is only in 5 theatres, and The Pyramid is being sent to die on 550 screens, like Fox have been reading the signs with regards to Horror films at the box office this past year or something.  So, we’ve got one more week before this inexplicably long-lasting flick finally drops out.  Seriously, I love this film to death and I have absolutely no idea how it has managed to make over $330 million worldwide.

9] Birdman

$1,880,000 / $17,237,400

“Dayman, AAAHHHHH!!  Fighter of the Nightman!  AAAHHHH!!  Champion of the sun!  AAAHHHH!!  You’re a master of karate and friendship for everyone, Dayman!”

10] St. Vincent

$1,773,000 / $39,327,000

So maybe it won’t have the courtesy to stick around for its UK release after all.  That sounds very much like Bill Murray.  Always leaving the parties that he crashes before I have the chance to book the plane ticket to take me there!  That prankster!  Of course, this joke only works if I actually went to parties and nobody ever invites me to theirs because I’m… I’m… (*breaks down sobbing*)

Dropped Out: Beyond The Lights, Fury

Callum Petch will hold up to an idea.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 21/11/14 – 23/11/14

Mockingjay fails to catch Fire – a headline that literally every other writer has already used in a week where literally nothing else happened, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Well…  Er…  Hi.  … … …how are you all doing?  I am tired, I will tell you that much.  I’m currently running on less than six hours sleep, and that is currently the lowest reason on my list as to why I could faceplant this keyboard at any second today.  My life has just been non-stop these past few weeks, just one thing after another like “boom, boom, boom” without stopping.  So many commitments, films to see, articles to write, essays to prep and pen, lectures to attend, radio stuff to thing-that-you-do-to-stuff… is this what being a responsible adult is like?  I both hate and love it, I’ll tell you that much.  Anyways, I still have a written review to crank out and a radio show to do before I can collapse onto my bed, so let’s just get this blasted article done and over with, eh?

The good news for my slowly vacating sanity, and my long vacated energy, is that there was literally only one release this past weekend.  Seriously; just the one.  No other saturation releases, no wide, no limited, nothing.  Everything else vacated November the 21st of 2014 in order to avoid The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1.  For comparison’s sake, there will be two big saturation releases going up against The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies this December.  That should demonstrate just how commanding an amount of power that The Hunger Games currently has, as every other release possible went “f*ck that noise!” and upped sticks.  Mockingjay, Part 1, then, would prove just how much those fears were worth by underwhelming majorly opening weekend.

Now, of course, I need to specify that a $123 million opening weekend – the biggest that we have seen, and will see, all year – is not in itself underwhelming.  I mean, $123 million is a lot to the likes of you and I.  Unfortunately, though, we have to look at that opening through Hollywood Accounting in order to understand why people aren’t exactly rushing to break out the party poppers.  For one, there’s the fact that many people had predicted Mockingjay, Part 1 to open in the $150 million range, so seeing it come up short, and so thoroughly at that, is gonna sting.  For two, the previous Hunger Games both opened in the $150 mil range, and third instalments in popular franchises are supposed to not retreat so much opening weekend.  For three, it didn’t magically cure Hollywood’s haemorrhaging money problem that’s been plaguing it all year, so f*ck the film.

So, yes, unfortunately The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is a major financial failure.  That $123 million domestic and $152 million overseas – which combine to already make both this and Part 2 break even financially – means absolutely nothing.  Jennifer Lawrence’s box office clout has been majorly hit, Lionsgate stock is plummeting to an all-time low, Elizabeth Banks will never be involved in another movie ever again because this is all her fault somehow, and it seems that the search for the next true successor to the box office invincibility that Harry Potter held for a full decade goes on!

I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to write, yeah?  Because we can’t just congratulate the thing and realise that this dip only exists because it’s “Part 1 of 2”, can we?  We have to get out the Doom Parade and have a whinge and a moan, don’t we?  I mean, Christ, lighten up, would ya?  Sure, it’s been a bad year at the box office.  Let’s maybe temper the gloom with some positivity about the few films that are actually making money, eh?  Instead of crying about successful movies that make executives rich arseholes not being mega-successful movies that make executives even richer arseholes.


mocking jay 1

This Full List is locking up everyone that ever laid a finger on it.

Box Office Results: Friday 21st November 2014 – Sunday 23rd November 2014

1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

$123,000,000 / NEW

Saw this Thursday, review will be up tomorrow at some point.  Short version: loved what I got, but its one flaw is major, near-fatal, and right there in the title.

2] Big Hero 6

$20,086,000 / $135,708,000

If you live in America and have seen this, know that I hate you.  Nothing personal, and I love the fact that you’re making Disney films mega-smashes again, but I am stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic being punished for something severe that I must’ve done in a past life, and so can’t see this until January as I will keep complaining about until somebody at Disney FIXES THE GODDAMN ISSUE!!

Also, turns out that The Wild, which wasn’t even made by them, is in the Disney Animated Classics canon in the UK.  I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.

3] Interstellar

$15,100,000 / $120,692,000

I wrote a piece last Thursday where I lamented the lack of notable scores from 2014, and somebody wrote back listing a good 4 more than the ones I put in my article.  Whilst I appreciate his disagreement and concede that none of the scores he listed jumped out at me during the viewing of those films in question, I think he may have missed the point.  It’s not that 2014 hasn’t had any good scores, it’s that the majority of cinema for a good while now hasn’t bothered to try to create scores with any distinct personality.  There are exceptions to the rule, but that’s what they are: exceptions, and I want those exceptions to become more frequent than they currently are.

That, or my article was terribly written and I was talking out of my arse.  …  …it’s probably the second one.

4] Dumb And Dumber To

$13,820,000 / $57,473,000

Mega-steep 62% drop between weekends signalling that everybody has wizened up to the fact that The Farrelly Brothers have been incapable of creating anything good for, ooh, 13 or 14 years now.  You know, in case the fact that Peter Farrelly was the diabolical monster responsible for helping Movie 43 come together hadn’t already given that away.

5] Gone Girl

$2,185,000 / $156,823,000

You know what’s amazing?  This is Gone Girl’s eighth straight week in the Top Five.  You know what’s pretty much unbelievable?  I think I’ve found a film from this year that I love more than it.  Stay tuned to the site this week, you’ll know when the relevant review goes up.

6] Beyond The Lights

$2,630,000 / $10,124,000

I got nuthin’.  Moving on…

7] St. Vincent

$2,354,000 / $36,613,000

I have no idea how this has managed to hang around in the Top 10 for so long.  I really, really don’t.  Hey!  Maybe it’ll stick around for another two weeks, when it actually comes out in the UK and I can therefore actually talk about it, instead of just spouting nonsense!  Wouldn’t that be something?

8] Fury

$1,900,000 / $79,150,000

In the most tenuous link possible – Fury, The Furious Five – allow me to use this space to ask you to check out this week’s entry into the DreamWorks Animation Retrospective, Kung Fu Panda!  In fact, if you have a spare afternoon or, more accurately, a spare day, why not get caught up on the series so far?  Seriously, I put a hell of a lot of effort into those and am really proud of how most of them have turned out – and I am never proud of anything I ever do, so this means a lot – so if you could take time out to give them a read and fling feedback or insults my way, it would be highly appreciated!

9] Birdman

$1,855,000 / $14,407,000

So, I guess this isn’t going to break out of the art scene, after all.  Figured as much.  More pertinent question, is Birdman in any way related to Dayman?  These are the questions that need answering, folks!

10] The Theory Of Everything

$1,500,000 / $2,796,000

This film is sh*t until it can prove itself otherwise.  Unfortunately for it, the UK release date is New Year’s Day, so I have plenty more time to rag on just how absolutely putrid this film looks until then!

Dropped Out: Nightcrawler, Ouija

Callum Petch is just a child whenever you show up.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

On Interstellar & Nightcrawler’s Scores

Callum Petch takes a look at the film scores of Interstellar and Nightcrawler and looks at the effect they have on their respective films.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

james newton howardQuestion: how many films can you name this year where the score was something that actually caught your attention as you were watching it?  And I don’t mean licensed music or songs written specifically for the film by the latest hot band (so exclude Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Guest and any musical so far), I mean the actual score that’s sat there helping drive events along.  I can count Under The Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Double, Gone Girl and the two films I’m talking about today.  That’s really about it.  Out of 113 films that I have seen from 2014, I can recall the score from only six.

See, the art of the film score is very much receding in general perception nowadays as they become more about mood setting than attention grabbing.  Now, admittedly, this is how it should be to a degree: a film’s score should get the audience into the mood of the film, compliment the visuals and the narrative, and be a cog in the machine that helps elevate the whole of the film.  The trouble comes from just how… unmemorable and interchangeable a lot of modern day film scores are.  There’s no personality there, no individual touch that makes Film A stand out from Film B aside from some half-assed attempt at a leitmotif.

The reason why, say, that distinctive theme from Jaws managed to break into popular culture is because there is personality.  You hear that slow, ominous build and you instantly think Jaws, it can’t be anything else.  It’s distinctive, but it also builds mood which is why a whole bunch of other media over the years have lifted it wholesale for their own ends.  It’s why hearing it come up in Jaws, despite it having broken into the popular culture and used as joke fodder for a lot of the last four decades, one doesn’t burst out into laughter or get dragged out of the film.  It fits the mood, it complements the film, but it’s also distinctive and has its own personality.

Too many films nowadays seem afraid to try and add personality to their scores.  They see them as just a cog that can be slapped together and forgotten about.  That, or they’re afraid that a big, showy, personality-filled score will detract from the experience.  And whilst that is true – as I will demonstrate with one example in a bit – it shouldn’t discourage composers and filmmakers from trying anyway, since a score doesn’t need to be big and showy to have personality or be memorable.  Although The Double’s soundtrack commands your attention with its loud, melodramatic and darkly hilarious violins played by what sounds like an orchestra held at gunpoint – which is distinctive and perfectly fits the mood of the film itself – Under The Skin manages to be just as memorable with barely anything more than an uneasy discordant drone – again, distinctive and fitting.

A dull interchangeable score blends into the background and neither helps nor hinders the film that it’s attached to.  A distinctive and memorable score grabs the attention and can either enhance a film’s positive attributes or highlight its glaring weaknesses.  Lots of filmmakers seem to be afraid of the second half of the latter option, and so opt to go for the former instead.  Whilst I understand why, I ultimately prefer the second option, because that shows some semblance of an effort, creativity, and personality in proceedings – the most memorable aspect of any Marvel Studios score that I’ve heard in the last six years has been the one that backs their frickin’ studio logo, for example.

So, in that respect, I’d like to briefly look at two recent film scores that are loud, distinctive, and personality-filled and explain how they embody all of the flaws and enhance the positive aspects of their films, respectively.  Specifically: Hans Zimmer’s overwrought and majorly distracting score for Interstellar, and James Newton Howard’s off-kilter and bizarrely brilliant score for Nightcrawler.

Let’s do Interstellar first.  Now, I seem to be in the minority on this one – yes, I know, you are bowled over in surprise by this twist – but I detest Zimmer’s score for the film.  I find it incredibly overwrought, desperate, and ultimately hollow and insincere.  His recurrent leitmotif of incredibly loud church organ notes whenever something “epic” is going down comes off like the keys are being manned by a narcoleptic who nobody can bother to remove from the instrument when he does inadvertently nod off.  The constant piling on of instruments when they’re not needed, the cacophonous nature that drowns out a lot of the dialogue (although that’s more of a problem with the sound mixing than anything else), the extreme self-consciousness of its attempts to call back to hard sci-fi, and the fake-ness of it all – at no point did I get the impression that anybody involved truly put emotion into this.  It’s like somebody who has never actually felt emotions trying to make other people to feel emotions; it doesn’t convince.

Consequently, this actually ends up being emblematic of Interstellar’s faults at large.  The film itself is so cold, so clinical, yet so desperately trying to stir up emotions within its audience that it comes off as phony and awkward.  The script lacks characters, but has plenty of time to over-explain every little bit of science that goes on in the film – like it’s worried that Neil deGrasse-Tyson is going to burst in through some nearby window and demand to see the Nolans’ science credentials.  Nolan’s filmmaking style, and I’d like to note that I don’t consider it a criticism as long as he’s working within that wheelhouse, is very removed, emotionally distant and intellectual.  Unfortunately, he took on a project that doesn’t play to those strengths at all and so spends a lot of the film failing miserably at emulating the style of Steven Spielberg (whom this project was originally meant for).  Nolan creates moments and images of wonder and beauty, but fails terribly at making those coalesce in a way that feels genuine or is even sustained for more than a minute or two at a time.

Therefore, since the film is so detached emotionally even though it is trying so hard to grasp that human concept, the job of getting the audience emotionally invested falls on the score.  Hence why it goes so all-out so frequently and so heavily.  Every second of the thing is trying desperately to pick up the ball that the film drops, trying to overwhelm the audience in the hopes that the kitchen sink will finally elicit some semblance of an appropriate emotional reaction.  Like the film itself, it does work in fits and starts, but it can’t keep it up for any longer than a minute or so at a time.  For every pretty little dancing synth in the background, there’s seven separate segments where the foregrounded strings and organ are noticeably straining under the weight of the task placed upon them.  Hence why the overall product feels thuddingly manipulative and insincere.

Again, I realise that I am in the minority about this.  I expressed my thoughts on Interstellar’s score in one of my Film Studies classes shortly after release and one of the guys I know on it looked at me like I just admitted to eating puppies.  He tried to counter by stating his belief that the score could tell the story of the film by itself, but I think that just bolsters my view even more.  The score has to do the hard work because Interstellar itself fails at its end of the deal, so the score ends up swinging for the fences in order to try and make up for that.  The score is certainly distinctive, but it just adds to the distractingly fake nature of a lot of the film and only ends up making its shortcomings more noticeable.

Contrast with James Newton Howard’s score for Nightcrawler.  Now, in theory, this thing really should not work – our own Owen Hughes certainly didn’t think it did – and should be one of those soundtracks where you just sit there and go, “just what in the blue hell were they thinking?”  Nightcrawler, after all, is a dark and occasionally darkly funny satire about capitalism hidden within a brutally angry takedown of 24 hour commercial news networks.  I think the very last thing anybody expected to be backing key scenes was a distractingly out-of-place reverb-soaked guitar that makes it seem like Louis Bloom’s adventure is one that is hopeful and worthy of success.  Or take the ending with its strangled Jimi-Hendrix-rendition-of-“Star Spangled Banner”-reminiscent overdriven guitar riff.  Or even the scene before that which is backed by something that belongs more in a light-hearted comedy drama than Nightcrawler.

This is not a score that one can tune out, either.  Its atypical and ill-fitting nature is constantly calling to the viewer’s attention.  Not blatantly, in the sense that it is screaming for your attention, but in the way that one is having a conversation but keeps noticing something abnormal in the background that just won’t stop distracting you.  And that, essentially, is the point.  Nightcrawler’s score is purposefully atypical and ill-fitting because it wants to be, because it reflects the state of mind of the person whose viewpoint we are experiencing the narrative through at that moment in time.

For example, Owen cites a section around the film’s midpoint where Lou makes a speech towards Nina about his goals in life.  It seems genuinely heartfelt and completely sincere – even though we the audience already know that Lou is pretty much incapable of sincerity due to his sociopathic nature – and is the kind of speech that, in a different film, would be a life-affirming inspirational moment as the scrappy underdog outlines their Big City ambitions and desire to win at the game of Capitalism.  So that is how the scene is scored.  Because the person we are experiencing this scene through is not a detached third party – it’s through Lou.  And for Lou, in the film of his life, this is that moment.

It’s why multiple sequences where he watches his footage back on TV are backed by jaunty, bouncy tunes.  To us, these are horrifying examples of a complete sociopath exploiting the trauma and fragility of those victimised by our morally bankrupt society in order to raise his own standing within it.  To him, these are moments of victory where the people involved are secondary to his own accomplishments, him having that little empathy for those whose tragedy he is filming.  It’s why the sequence where he screams into the mirror has this dark foreboding music; for Lou, this is his low point, where he is being unfairly kept from success by bigger people than him.  The whole film could have been backed like that, to help scream to the viewer that this is wrong and to keep us at a very comfortable observatory distance from the people and events on screen.  But that’s not what happens, and that in turn makes the deployment of those ominous synths carry that much weight.

Or, to case study real quick, there is a reason why the two segments of the sequence that make up “Horror House” are scored so differently.  The first, when Lou is shooting it, is given this rather urgent and tense synth rumble – something that combines with the purposeful lacking in focus on the bodies and the violence to show how Lou sees the sequence: a tense race-against-time to document this once-in-a-lifetime footage before the cops show up; the victims being incidental.  The second, as the footage hits the air, replaces the urgency with ominous darkness which, coupled with the focus on the bodies and the almost fetishizing of said violence, paints the scene as something from a movie.  Fitting seeing as we are experiencing this scene from Nina’s perspective and she’s trying to conduct the sequence into being Must See TV.

Again, the film could have stuck with that the whole way through.  It could have backed every scene with ominous synth bass rumbles, to add a few exclamation points to the idea that this is absolutely not something to idolise or aspire to.  But not only would the film have lost the impact of when those times do appear – such as just before the film’s action sequence where, coincidentally, we switch narrative perspectives to Rick for a short while – it would also have lost its character study angle.  Nightcrawler gets its messages across through its characters, showing how utterly warped their sense of morality and worldview has to be to win at their various games, and that idea would have been lost if the score were endlessly generic and repetitively ominous – much like my usage of that word.  Such a prominent and attention-calling score was undoubtedly a risk, because it is so off-beat, but it ends up working gangbusters and elevates the rest of the film as a result.

So, now that we’ve done that, allow me to ask and answer a question: what do the scores for Interstellar and Nightcrawler have in common besides being very noticeable and memorable?  Honestly, nothing.  One works, one doesn’t, one overcooks proceedings whilst the other seasons them just right, one has to make up for its attached film’s flaws and only ends up making them more glaring whilst the other compliments the excellent film it backs and highlights its strengths even more.  In the sense of their being scores, there’s really nothing linking them together, except one key thing…

I’m talking about them.  I may hate Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar, but I’m talking about it.  I’ll know it when some part of it inevitably breaks through into pop culture.  I love Nightcrawler’s score, and I find the score such an integral part of that film’s feel that I can’t picture the film without it.  Same with Interstellar.  Meanwhile, you could switch the soundtracks for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Transformers: Age Of Extinction and I honestly would likely be unable to tell the difference.  Too many films are afraid to try crafting a score with a legitimate personality nowadays, instead settling for a fun licensed soundtrack and Generic Blockbuster Score #264 to trundle proceedings along, and that disheartens me.

Just because you may fail, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t even bother to try.  I am of the firm belief that the worst thing a film can do is leave me with no reaction whatsoever.  A film can make me angry, offend me, upset me, repulse me, but at least it got a reaction and isn’t that what films are supposed to do?  To get a reaction out of us?  I prefer a vehemently negative reaction to a shrug of total indifference, because then I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time.  I’ve felt something, and way too few scores nowadays are willing to take that risk because they believe that the risk of a negative reaction far outweighs the reward of a good one.

I’d like to see more film scores try.  Try to have some personality, some noticeable thing and quality about it that lends the overall film a specific feel that it can’t get from any other score.  Something that does its part to help brand a film as That Film.  I want them to try.  I want a reaction, more than anything else.  Interstellar and Nightcrawler do this.  Under The Skin, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Double do this.  I’d like that list to be longer in today’s films.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Callum Petch is overqualified for the position.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 14/11/14 – 16/11/14

Dumb and Dumber audiences turn up in droves for Dumb And Dumber To, Beyond The Lights exists an imaginary pile of cash, Christmas is doomed, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Surprisingly, it turns out that the audience size for a sequel to Dumb & Dumber is about equal to that of the audience for a second week Disney film, which I genuinely did not see coming.  Dumb And Dumber To ended up taking the top spot this weekend with about $38 million in ticket sales, just $2 million more than what Big Hero 6 managed.  For those wondering, my surprise keeps alternating between “that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?” and “only that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?”  I dunno.  I’m in shock, I just don’t know what I’m in shock at.

In any case, unlike next week, there was more than one new release this weekend.  With regards to the wide releases, bottom of the pack was Beyond The Lights – a film whose trailer just caused me to vomit profusely in sickening anger – which could only manage a very mediocre $6.5 million from 1,800 screen for a distant fourth place.  Birdman continued its slow expansion nationwide and managed to crack the Top 10, albeit with about the same haul as last week but in more theatres.  Whiplash, meanwhile, continues to be punished for NOT BEING IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW DAMMIT by struggling to find a non-arthouse audience – its expansion to 441 theatres could only manage $801,000.

In limited release land, we have a pair of successes, an OK performer, and a hilarious failure in more ways than one.  Most successful of the lot was the speculative fiction drama Foxcatcher which rode a near-literal wave of buzz and good press to a weekend total of $288,000 from six theatres – a ridiculous per-screen average of $48,000.  Performing much less great than that – but still great, it must be said – is the Tommy Lee Jones-directed western drama The Homesman which managed a very respectable $48,000 from 4 screens for a $12,000 per-screen average.  Whilst in expanding news, The Theory Of Everything infected another 36 theatres and raked in an average of $18,000 from each of them.  Yes, I do think that film looks insufferable, don’t act surprised.

Elsewhere, John Stewart of The Daily Show (as every mention of his name must be suffixed with by royal decree) released his directorial debut this past weekend and Rosewater did… OK.  It managed $1.2 million from 371 theatres for a per-screen average of $3,325, which is OK.  Not great, not poor, OK.  It’s fine, could’ve been better but still enough to crack the Top 15.  Much less OK, and more closer to straight up “bomb” territory, was Saving Christmas which could only manage $1,012,000 from 410 screens for a dismal $2,468 per-screen average.  This means that either Americans don’t give a sh*t about the threat that faces Christmas, or that stoners who want to laugh at inept entertainment with no redeemable value except MST3K sessions were too busy staying at home watching Adult Swim.  In either case, America is doomed.

Oh, and The Book Of Life collapsed out of the Top 10 because you people hate good movies.


dumb and dumber to

This Full List is Dumberer than the other box office reports you could be reading elsewhere.  Also, it just reminded you that Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd existed and now you hate life.

Box Office Results: Friday 14th November 2014 – Sunday 16th November 2014

1] Dumb And Dumber To

$38,053,000 / NEW

So the film that my Secondary School Physics teacher would throw on almost quite literally whenever he couldn’t be bothered to teach us finally got a sequel, eh?  Well, if it leads to a late-career resurgence for Jim Carrey then I won’t complain.  I still really like Jim Carrey and that streak he had in the mid-to-late 90s still predominately holds up!  I’d like to see him get one last run at the spotlight.

2] Big Hero 6

$36,010,000 / $111,653,000

There are people on this world that do not like The Emperor’s New Groove.  I do not know who these people are or why they are incapable of experiencing joy, but they exist and I want nothing to do with them.  I defy you to watch scenes like this, or this, or this without cracking a smile at least once – I think science has deemed doing so to be physically impossible.

3] Interstellar

$29,190,000 / $97,810,000

Not too bad a drop, quite frankly, especially considering the near-non-stop toxic word-of-mouth on this thing.  Look, folks, I am not Interstellar’s biggest fan either – I barely think it’s good, even if I did enjoy it – but maybe calm the vitriol somewhat, eh?  It’s not the worst film ever, it’s nowhere near the worst film this year!  It’s just a rather disappointing mess that tried to do too much and failed in its lofty ambitions.  Perspective, people!

Now, if you wanna talk Worst Film Of The Year candidates, let me talk to you about Nativity! 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!

4] Beyond The Lights

$6,500,000 / NEW

Will this be the next Ride Along or the next Obsessed?  Well, which do you think it’s going to be?  Come on.

5] Gone Girl

$4,625,000 / $152,699,000

Rosamund Pike is not going to get a Best Actress nomination, is she?  Let’s get real, we all know that the Academy are not going to go for Gone Girl, despite the fact that I still haven’t seen anything that comes even slightly close to its level so far this year.  Since we all know that Scarlett Johannson getting a Best Actress nomination – let alone deservedly running away with the statue before the nominees have even been announced – for Under The Skin isn’t happening, Pike would have been my backup “I approve” choice.  But, again, getting realistic, that probably isn’t going to happen.  Siiiigh…

6] St. Vincent

$4,025,000 / $33,258,000

You should really listen to St. Vincent’s self-titled album if you haven’t already.  It’s one of the best albums of the year.

7] Fury

$3,810,000 / $75,941,000

I… err… don’t really have anything to put here.  What can I say?  Not every film has an endless bountiful stream of material to mine on a week-by-week basis.  And so it goes.

8] Nightcrawler

$3,038,000 / $25,000,000

Going back to the cinema to see this again on Tuesday.  I’ve wanted to go and see it again for a good while now, but I have just been way too busy and way too swamped.  Bright side: cinema screen should basically be empty!  Woo!  In the meanwhile, and on a related note, Matt Lambourne has a short piece on why we are all to blame for his crappy movie choices up on the site if you have a spare five minutes.

9] Ouija

$3,025,000 / $48,105,000

Oh, just fuck off.

10] Birdman

$2,450,000 / $11,575,000

As I mentioned last week, this doesn’t hit the UK until January.  You know what else I found out doesn’t hit the UK until next year?  Chris Rock’s Top Five which looks brilliant and doesn’t get here until MarchMARCH.  I’ll tell you right now, Penguins Of Madagascar better be next-level amazing because it’s the sole thing making up for this incredibly dull-looking Rest Of 2014 Schedule for me.

Dropped Out: John Wick, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Book Of Life

Callum Petch is the only one in the only world.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 7/11/14 – 9/11/14

Interstellar’s opening isn’t so stellar, Big Hero $56 million, The Theory Of Everything lacks an easy pun for this headline, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

A lot of people, myself included, felt that Disney were signing Big Hero 6’s death warrant when they chose to schedule it directly against Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.  I mean, it’s Christopher Nolan!  You all have seen how much his last films made, right?  I get the idea of counter-programming, but Nolan films are events, and you, Disney, have only just solidified your second renaissance!  Are you insane?!  Those fears, however, conveniently forgot one key part of this equation: Disney always wins.  Disney.  Always.  Wins.  No matter how long it takes, no matter the force against them; Disney will always win.

And win they did, quite handily at that.  Big Hero 6 opened in first at an excellent $56 million estimated, the second biggest opening for an animated film in 2014 only behind The Lego MovieInterstellar had to settle for an estimated $50 million, one that more than likely will not hold when the actuals come in, which puts it below Inception, Gravity and even Prometheus – as Box Office Mojo notes, likely whilst applying salt liberally to the film’s various wounds.  If one were to include Wednesday and Thursday IMAX-only screenings, then the total would rise to $52 million, but we don’t include such cheat tactics around these here parts!  This is the weekend Box Office Report and, last I checked, the weekend doesn’t include Wednesday or Thursday!  Nice try, Nolan!  Thanks for playing!

Activity elsewhere on the chart is limited, as seemingly everybody else realised that they have better things to do than be crushed by Disney and Nolan and so got the hell out of dodge whilst they were still able to do so.  The one major release was the none-more-blatant piece of awards bait known as The Theory Of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne metaphorically gets down on his hands and knees and begs for awards by playing Stephen Hawking in a biopic about his life.  So, naturally, the film also did pretty great in limited release, as folks cued up to have an opinion to spout come Oscars time, taking $207,000 from 5 screens for a $41,400 per-screen average.

That just leaves a trio of documentaries that were likely dumped here because all the prime spots on the release schedule were taken.  Doing the best in terms of pure gross, primarily because it played in the most amount of theatres, was On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, a pseudo-sequel to the 1971 Steve McQueen-fronted doc, which took $344,000 from 231 screens (for a per-screen average of $1,489) full of people with nothing better to do that given Sunday.  Next, and most successful in terms of per-screen gross, was National Gallery which made $9,700 from 1 theatre full of people who couldn’t be arsed to just book a plane ticket to London and see the place in person.  Finally, Death Metal Angola, about soft rock in the Maldives, made $2,500 from 1 screen populated with people who had a very strangely specific urge that needed scratching.


big hero 6

This Full List is really rather pissed that Big Hero 6 is giving the UK a miss.  Hey, that rhymed sorta!

Box Office Results: Friday 7th November 2014 – Sunday 9th November 2014

1] Big Hero 6

$56,200,000 / NEW

Yup, you heard that right!  Big Hero 6 doesn’t hit the UK until January of next year, adding to a pile that already includes Whiplash, John Wick, Inherent Vice, Birdman, Foxcatcher and a hell of a lot more.  That also means that the only film I’m really excited for from now until the end of the year is – and I kid you not here – Penguins Of Madagascar.  Look, American studio execs, I get that you want to capitalise on the inevitable awards hype that all of these films are going to get, and I get that we forcibly colonised your country one f*cking time, but come on!  There are giant empty gaps in our release schedules that are being plugged with dreck like a third goddamn Nativity movie!  You can do better, dammit!

2] Interstellar

$50,000,000 / $52,151,000 / NEW

Owen has reviewed it here because I am way too busy to crank out a review right now.  But also because, honestly, I’m still not quite sure what to think of it.  I did enjoy it, but the film is incredibly fatally flawed in ways that are too numerous and lengthy to explain here.  I’ll try and find time go into detail on it at some point, but for now I will say that Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely atrocious, like a church orchestra that’s being disembowelled and expressing the feelings of said disembowelling via their instruments as they slowly bleed out.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that “overwrought” doesn’t even begin to cover it, and I’m pretty sure the guy in charge of the organ dropped dead at some point and nobody bothered to move his corpse from the keys he face-planted.

3] Gone Girl

$6,100,000 / $145,428,000

I have a friend who works at a cinema and she managed to snag me a Gone Girl poster from work today.  I have good friends.

4] Ouija

$6,017,000 / $43,472,000

The fact that this hasn’t sunk like a stone since its release genuinely confuses the hell out of me.  Like, nobody liked this one, critics and audiences, so who’s still going to this?

5] St. Vincent

$5,707,000 / $27,356,000

Chris O’Dowd’s slow breakthrough into America is one of the more bewildering things that I have come across recently.  I mean this in a good way, for once, though.  I like Chris O’Dowd, I think he’s a funny actor – although Moone Boy did quite literally nothing for me – but I thought he’d be an exclusively British thing.  You know, like how Steve Coogan has never broken through into the US despite being STEVE F*CKING COOGAN?

6] Nightcrawler

$5,512,000 / $19,756,000

OUCH.  I mean, I really should’ve seen this coming, Nightcrawler is not exactly the kind of film that will sit well with general audiences, but still.  This really isn’t the fate that one of the year’s best films deserves.  It might survive next week, as Dumb And Dumber To is the only wide release that will make money, but this still deserves way more love.  If you’ve yet to see it, go now!

7] Fury

$5,500,000 / $69,268,000

This was pretty darn great.  Took a while to warm up and ultimately didn’t do much that many other war dramas haven’t already done better, but its cast is great, its individual scenes are really good, and the whole is the sum of its pretty good parts.  Glad to see that Sabotage appeared to be a fluke for David Ayer after all!

8] John Wick

$4,075,000 / $34,745,000

Wha…?  Huh…?  Wh…?  IT’S JOHN WICK, YOU GUYS!!  I don’t even know you people anymore.

9] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$3,495,000 / $59,208,000

Yes, I did end up seeing this.  No, it wasn’t awful.  I mean, it’s not that good, but it is pacey, incredibly earnest, and has committed performances from a game cast.  It’s that earnestness that keeps it from being an intolerable slog, because the film is that happy and sincere that it overwhelms any cynical boundaries.  It’s not a good film, we can’t forget that, but it’s not an awful one so I’m willing to chalk this up as the most minor win possible.

10] The Book Of Life

$2,800,000 / $45,215,000

This has yet to cross $80 million worldwide.  Why do you people hate nice things?

Dropped Out: The Judge, Dracula Untold

Callum Petch asked her for her number all the same.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 24/10/14 – 26/10/14

Ouija makes contact with idiot spirits who have money to burn, St. Vincent is the kind of clown that’s crying on the inside, Laggies doesn’t lag behind, John Wick underwhelms goddammit, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

The world is a cruel, horrible, and uncaring place where anything good will fail miserably whilst anything bad rakes in the cash hand-over-fist.  That’s my theory, in any case, as to why Ouija triumphed over John Wick at the box office this weekend.  The former, a strongly-marketed PG-13 horror film with dreadful reviews released near-Halloween to capitalise on a seasonal desire to be spooked in some way, took first place with $20 million in ticket sales.  The latter, a lightly-marketed R-rated action film with excellent reviews slotted into a free weekend of a ridiculously cramped release schedule, took second place with $14 million in ticket sales.  Sure, you could point to other factors that would cause a film like John Wick to underwhelm, but I’m sticking with my initial conclusion: people suck.

Ah, well.  At least John Wick wasn’t 23 Blast, the faith-based sports biopic about Larry Freeman, a man who lost his eyesight but still managed to go on and play in the NFL anyway.  That film got its start in 617 theatres, maybe even had big aspirations as to overall total gross and its standing in life, only to have them snatched away from it by a cruel, uncaring public.  It only managed to make $402,000, making its opening weekend the 11th worst for any wide release film ever, and with a dismal $652 per-screen average to boot.  This would be the point where I make cruel tasteless jokes at the film’s expense, but I find this just too sad to crack wise at.  On the bright side, it still opened better than last week’s Men, Women & Children.  So at least it has that going for it.

In limited release news, Laggies, the new film from Lynne Shelton which has been renamed to Say When in the UK for some reason, got its start in 5 theatres and banked a respectable $78,500 – for a per-screen average of $15,700.  Citizenfour, a documentary about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal, did much better, managing to confiscate itself $125,000 from 5 screens worth of people who fancied a change of pace; one has their limits when it comes to buzzed-about Indie Dramedies, after all.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya expanded to 20 theatres and raked in a far less impressive $63,500, for a per-screen average of $3,175, as a sad reminder that most people don’t seem to give a sh*t about Ghibli if the film isn’t made by Miyazaki.  Dammit.

Finally, we have multiple expanders, the most successful of which was the Bill Murray-led St. Vincent.  Admittedly, it’s the only one that went nationwide and boats the advantage of having Bill Murray in the lead role, but it still managed to crack the Top 10 with $8 million in ticket sales.  Whiplash, which I want in my life now DAMMIT, added 25 more theatres to its slow conquest of America and managed a decent $266,000 from all 46 of them.  The provocative Dear White People, which still looks amazing and still doesn’t have a UK release date for NO GODDAMN REASON, jumped up to 384 screens and finished with a much more down-to-earth and expected total of $1,384,000.   Birdman, meanwhile, expanded to 50 screens and did exactly as well as a film like Birdman is expected to do – $1,436,000 and a per-screen average of $28,720.


ouija 2

This Full List was a final gift from John Wick’s dying wife.

Box Office Results: Friday 24th October 2014 – Sunday 26th October 2014

1] Ouija

$20,006,000 / NEW

This seems like as good a time as any to tell Owen that I will not be coming into “work” for a week commencing on January 23rd.  That’s when Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell comes out and I sequester myself away from the world for a straight week to do nothing but play it.  I live for the simple things, like a new Saints Row with an increased focus on Kinzie Kensington, the greatest character in anything ever.  So, yeah, sorry Owen.  Can’t say you weren’t notified, though!

2] John Wick

$14,150,000 / NEW

This is no longer coming out in the UK this year.  I have to wait until January 2nd to watch John Wick.  This was NOT THE GODDAMN DEAL, LIONSGATE!!  I was supposed to get John Wick at Christmas!  It was all-but-guaranteed a spot on my Top 10 of 2014!  To withhold it until next year is evil, ya hear?!  Pure evil!  HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!  (*goes on like this for another 5 or 6 pages*)

3] Fury

$13,000,000 / $46,050,000

OK, that’s not a good hold at all.  Considering the star attached to it, the level of advertising that it’s received, and the fact that pretty much nothing came out this week, this should have held better than a 45% drop.  Owen’s review went live last Tuesday if you want to know if there’s a reason as to why few came back for repeat showings.

4] Gone Girl

$11,100,000 / $124,093,000

Battle lines have been drawn in my Film Studies course over Gone Girl.  You either love it, like I and several students do, or you hate it, like most of our lecturers seem to.  If this doesn’t end with a full-on all-out war, then I am going to be sorely disappointed.  At least I know that I will be on the right side of history if everything does kick off!

5] The Book Of Life

$9,800,000 / $29,913,000

Of course I saw it this weekend, who do you think I am?  The only reason as to why I haven’t reviewed it yet is quite simply because I haven’t had the time.  It’ll be up by Wednesday at the latest.  Short version: really good, best looking animated film I have seen all year, last 30 minutes are incredibly rushed.  It absolutely needs to be seen, definitely way more than it currently is.  If you’re still on the fence though, quite rightly believing that my opinion means sh*t, then know that the film is Lauren Faust and Craig McCracken approved!

6] St. Vincent

$8,058,000 / $9,189,000

There’s a part of me that wants to just talk about the music of Annie Clark instead, but I get the feeling that this one is going to hang around next week, so I’ll hold off on bombarding you with links until then.  You should listen to St. Vincent anyway, though.

7] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$7,023,000 / $45,544,000

So I was all set to see this Saturday but, before I’d even set off for the cinema, the screening I was planning on going to had sold out.  That came as a surprise, but rest assured that I will be seeing this at my next free occurrence, which is Wednesday!  I may accidentally miss awards bait dramas, I may miss horror flicks, and I may even accidentally miss awful-looking action flicks, but I shall never miss an insufferable looking live-action family film!  That’s just not my style!

8] The Best Of Me

$4,736,000 / $17,663,000

…THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST…

9] The Judge

$4,345,000 / $34,377,000

Yeah, I ended up missing this one.  I was too busy in its opening week and all showings were pulled this week at my Cineworld, so that was the end of that.  I could have gone to a different cinema and paid money, but my remaining cash went to My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks (review here) and bis gig tickets and like f*ck am I willingly spending money on this cure for insomnia!  So, goodbye, The Judge!  At least be glad that I didn’t make any Arrested Development references during your stay!  That takes restraint!

10] Dracula Untold

$4,302,000 / $48,328,000

… … … …nope.  Can’t do it.  Can’t let The Judge escape without an Arrested Development reference.  Hit it, William Hung & His Hung Jury!

Dropped Out: Annabelle, The Equalizer, The Maze Runner

Callum Petch don’t care if we never come back from the night.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 17/10/14 – 19/10/14

Sound and Fury signify a change in the top spot, Birdman will be able to buy law books with pictures this time, Nicholas Sparks is not getting the best, the best, the best, The Best Of Me, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Movies, successful movies at that, often go about trying to solve questions that the public need answers for.  For example, our new number 1 film, Fury, finally helped to answer our year-long conundrum, “So, is this what caused Shia LaBeouf, who wasn’t exactly the most stable and upstanding citizen to begin with, to finally go completely off the deep-end?”  As marketing hooks for World War II movies go, it’s a pretty unique selling point, and one really should commend LaBeouf for starting so far away from the film’s release date and sticking with it for so long, too; professional wrestlers can’t commit to a bit this much!  $23.5 million worth of Americans ended up tempted enough by the possibility of a train-wreck to pony up and watch an apparently pretty alright film.

In release news that doesn’t involve me making really tired and terrible jokes about a man who is most likely suffering from some kind of mental health problems, The Book Of Life continued the trend of animated films not made by established companies, and not outstandingly marketed to hell and back, opening rather soft with a third place debut and $17 million in ticket sales.  By contrast, Studio Ghibli’s second-to-last planned film, The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, opened in limited release to a very respectable $51,700 from 3 screens – which sounds small, but one must remember that this is the return feature of Grave Of The Fireflies’ Isao Takahata and that not everybody wants to be reduced to blubbering, incoherent wrecks at art-house cinemas filled with snobby judging art-house crowds.

Meanwhile, and thankfully for people absolutely f*cking sick of his goddamn signature brand, the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Best Of Me, bombed majorly, only managing $10 million for sixth place and allowing hacks like me to make unfunny Foo Fighters references.  Admittedly, Nicholas Sparks films have very fluctuating performances – The Notebook was followed by Nights In Rodanthe, whilst The Last Song was followed by Dear John – so we can’t break out the party poppers just yet, but it’s still the lowest opening for any of his adaptations ever so I’m calling this a win!  Along similar total-failure lines, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children expanded to 608 screens this past weekend and scored the fifth worst nationwide debut ever, with just $320,000.  Films that managed a better per-screen average than it ($526) include Let’s Be Cops in its 10th week ($795), The Giver in its 10th week ($561), Lucy in its 13th week ($778), How To Train Your Dragon 2 in its 19th week ($566) and… well, pretty much everything else on the list.

Finally, we have the limited releases and the big success story of the weekend: Birdman.  The new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu starring Michael Keaton as somebody who once played a superhero now trying to make it on Broadway and filmed in a way that gives off the illusion that the film is just one continuous shot… actually, now that I think about it, it’s absolutely no surprise that the LA and NY cinemas that got this film ate it up so massively.  In any case, $415,000 from 4 theatres makes it the second-biggest-per-screen-average for a limited release of the year (behind The Grand Budapest Hotel) and the ninth best live-action limited release opening ever.  Also doing great business on 11 screens, for a very impressive $31,273 per-screen average, was Dear White People with a weekend total of $344,000.  I don’t really have anything else to add, to be honest, the film looks way too good for me to get snarky at.


dear white people

This Full List has got another confession to make, it’s no fool, it’s getting tired of star- (*is forcibly pulled away from keyboard*)

Box Office Results: Friday 17th October 2014 – Sunday 19th October 2014

1] Fury

$23,500,000 / NEW

Owen will be handling review duties on this one, folks.  Be gentle with him.  I also find it interesting to note that Fury has made more domestically in one weekend than David Ayer’s other 2014 film, Sabotage, did worldwide throughout its entire run.  Good to see his year has turned around significantly!

2] Gone Girl

$17,800,000 / $107,069,000

Gone Girl has been embraced by Men’s Rights Activists, just as I feared it would be.  Sigh…  I guess that’s the risk one gets when trying to tell stories like this one, but it is saddening to know that I am going to have to spend the rest of my life lengthily explaining myself when I tell more Internet conscious people that I love Gone Girl, so that they don’t get the idea that I’m some kind of woman-hating psychopath.

3] The Book Of Life

$17,000,000 / NEW

Out here on Friday, so one last time for good luck: I ORDER YOU TO NOT SUCK!

4] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$12,039,000 / $36,871,000

And this is out this weekend, too.  Well, I guess you gotta learn to live with the bad days to ap- (*looks down to see hands have somehow become sentient and are strangling the author to death*)

5] The Best Of Me

$10,200,000 / NEW

Should probably clarify that the strangling that occurred in the previous joke involved my throat, not anything dirty like I know some of you more childish readers were attempting to misconstrue it as.  There are no such uses of toilet humour in these articles.  This is a family feature.

6] Dracula Untold

$9,889,000 / $40,735,000

A pretty large 58% drop between weekends, so it’s a total flop domestically.  Unfortunately, it’s almost cleared $100 mil overseas, mainly thanks to Russia and Mexico of all places, so I can’t smugly sit here and claim that it completely bombed like I predicted it was going to.  Drat and blast!

7] The Judge

$7,940,000 / $26,843,000

No, seriously, watch the trailer for Dear White People.  It looks absolutely excellent and the kind of film I need in my life right f*cking now.

8] Annabelle

$7,925,000 / $74,127,000

Yes, that is a really close gap between The Judge and Annabelle, but actuals have yet to actually flip the places of two films that are dead close to one-another in estimates under my watch, so don’t expect anything to actually happen here.  You know, except for the realisation that I just managed to sufficiently kill time by making a big deal out of nothing with this entry.

9] The Equalizer

$5,450,000 / $89,170,000

Fuck off.

10] The Maze Runner

$4,500,000 / $90,837,000

OK, I’m not stupid.  I know you haven’t actually watched the Dear White People trailer yet.  I have no control over you and can’t force you to visit every single link I attach to these articles.  You’re busy people with places to be.  So I’m just going to leave this here and we’ll all reconvene next week for me to do this dance with another completely different film possibly maybe.

Dropped Out: Addicted, The Boxtrolls, Left Behind

Callum Petch is watching the television with no sound.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 10/10/14 – 12/10/14

The Judge has a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad weekend, Dracula does makes Untold millions, Kill The Messenger is DOA, the full list will give you Whiplash, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

This weekend, a terrifying curse was placed upon a certain set of people.  One that rendered them scared, confused, worried about the changes and its effects, and unable to go out during the daytime (primarily because they don’t go out during the day, anyway).  I am of course referring to the 48 hours in which the website known as Box Office Mojo ceased to exist.  We film writers were thrown into a panic.  “How on earth can we do our jobs now?  What other monstrous websites will we have to patronize instead?  Why hast thou forsaken us?!” we cried skyward to the heavens.  But then, right on cue, the site returned this morning with no explanation for its absence!  And so our great national nightmare was over!

You could say, then, that it was a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad weekend, in an incredibly lame segway towards referring to the box office stats.  It was most certainly one for the “Robert Downey, Jr. has a space on his fireplace that he’s just freed up for some awards statues” flick known more commonly as The Judge.  Not only did critics collectively shrug it away from any possible awards buzz, the film underwhelmed severely at the box office, despite featuring Robert Downey, Jr. doing that Robert Downey, Jr. thing that the people like, only debuting in fifth place with $13 million in ticket sales.  Alexander, then, much like its titular character, ended up passing off that yadda yadda weekend to somebody else, opening with a surprisingly strong $19.1 million for third place.

That left it comfortably sat behind the number two film, Dracula Untold which debuted to a very surprisingly strong $23 million.  Couple that with its currently-really-rather-successful overseas performance, and you have one genuinely surprised writer.  In any case, that still puts it very much behind the weekend’s number 1 film, Gone Girl, which shed only 28% between weekends to hold onto the top spot.  Couple that with its currently-very-successful overseas performance, and you get one very, very happy writer.  Also sneaking into the Top 10 was the moderate release drama-thriller Addicted, which managed to overcome the handicap of apparently being complete garbage to score a seventh place debut and a near-$9000 per screen average.

As for those limited release films outside of the top 10, there’s a lot to parse through.  First off, Meet The Mormons, which resides in 11th place on our countdown with a weekend gross of $2.7 million, from 317 screens, that are presumably from people who thought it was an expose on the making of The Book Of Mormon.  It is, though, the second biggest opening for a documentary all year, at any rate (behind Bears).  Next up, we have the Jeremy Renner-starring and Mary Elizabeth Winstead-featuring Kill The Messenger, which tanked with only $939,000 from 374 screens.  You know, because Mary Elizabeth Winstead is cursed at the box office.  St. Vincent, a film starring Bill Murray and I know that’s all it needs to do to earn your ticket because that’s all it took to earn mine, managed to take $121,000 from 4 screens worth of people who had the exact same thought processes as us.  Meanwhile, the critically lauded Whiplash kick-started its assault on the public with $144,000 worth of people in 6 screens wanting to see J.K. Simmons mentally and physically abuse the f*ck out of Miles Teller.  The real abuse, as should be obvious, though, is withholding this film from us Brits until January the goddamn 16th of 2015!!

Oh, and One Chance, that biopic about the opera singer from Britain’s Got Talent, finally got released in America this past weekend.  $32,800 from 43 screens.  Absolutely worth the constant release date circle-jerking.


dracula untold 2

This Full List is being held in contempt of court!  Everything that guy just said is bullsh*t!  The Bible is a good book, but it’s not the only book!  I believe there is justice in our hearts!  You can’t handle the truth!

Box Office Results: Friday 10th October 2014 – Sunday 12th October 2014

1] Gone Girl

$26,800,000 / $78,281,000

Saw it again this weekend and again loved every second of it.  It’s just such a brilliant film, and trying to articulate the reasons as to why I love it so in less than an A4 page when it inevitably ends up in the highest possible echelons of my Top 10 of 2014 list is going to be a monumental task.  Look forward to that inevitable train-wreck of a series (yes, series, I’m planning in advance here, got a feeling the overall article would be in excess of 10 goddamn pages otherwise) in the future!  For now, go see Gone Girl!  Yes, even if you have already seen it.  Go again.

2] Dracula Untold

$23,457,000 / NEW

So, yeah.  Gonna be frank, I fully expected this one to out and out bomb.  Like, straight flop as soon as it left the starting gates.  It still could, next week has plenty of releases ready to steal its thunder and rumours are going around that the $70 mil price tag the film is sporting is significantly lower than its true budget, but it’s not an immediate and total failure, which I will likely never stop being surprised by.  You people did see the awful trailer, right?

3] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$19,100,000 / NEW

Oh, Christ, this one.  Look, I refuse to believe that it is anything less than a total steaming, nigh-on insufferable dud until I inevitably see it with my own eyes in the near-future.  I’m also guessing that his work as Childish Gambino is not paying anywhere near enough to keep Donald Glover away from dreck like this.  That’s a bit of a shame; because the internet isn’t too bad of an album.

4] Annabelle

$16,365,000 / $62,156,000

A 56% drop between weekends, which is a little steeper than The Conjuring’s but is still not too bad overall.  Again, it’s got no direct competition for the whole of October, which is weirdly empty with regards to horror films this year, and Ouija, which drops at the very end of the month, will bomb to some degree (I have never been so sure of anything in my entire last 15 minutes of life).  Annabelle will keep making money.  Whether that’s a good thing or not is for you folks to judge.

5] The Judge

$13,300,000 / NEW

Robert Downey, Jr. really does just play the Robert Downey, Jr. role now, doesn’t he?  That’s kind of a shame.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I really like Robert Downey, Jr., but he is capable of more and I’d rather he stretch himself and try to mitigate the risk of just coasting by on Iron Man.  On a related heathen note, all three Iron Man films are my least favourite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the exception of The Incredible Hulk.  Yes, even Iron Man 3.  Expect my firing to be made public in a few hours.

6] The Equalizer

$9,725,000 / $79,885,000

Skipped it last Tuesday, before you ask.  I fulfilled the “seeing Dolphin Tale 2” part of that plan and then was too “eeeeeeeeeehhhhhh”’d out to bother seeing The Equalizer on top of it.  Guess I’ll never see it now.  Oh, boo hoo.  How I weep for such a missed opportunity.

7] Addicted

$7,600,000 / NEW

It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I realised why this film came out of nowhere to make big, big bucks: it predominately stars, and is targeted at, black people.  Let me be clear, that’s not meant to be an insult – for the love of God, it really is not.  It’s instead an observation that there is a large segment of America that very much enjoy watching films aimed at them regardless of quality, and which are not white.  In fact, it’s an observation that keeps being made every single time a film like that becomes successful, almost like it’s a fact about a mostly untapped market instead of an observation about trend that will die out soon…

8] The Maze Runner

$7,500,000 / $83,840,000

Penning my review as soon as I’ve finished with this.  Short version: surprisingly, genuinely great until the abysmal ending cocks everything up.  You should have seen me in the cinema; I visibly went from “Hell yes, bring on the sequel!” to “(exasperated groan), I guess I’ll see the sequel because I have to,” in the space of about 10 minutes.  Again, review will be set for tomorrow, so sit tight for in-depth thoughts, but man I was so disappointed by this one.

9] The Boxtrolls

$6,676,000 / $41,032,000

Oh.  Oh.  OK, remember last week when I said Laika were going to be OK?  I want you to disregard that and instead hit all of your panic buttons.  The budget is $60 mil, which it has only barely cleared thanks to foreign grosses, it’s currently sitting at less domestically than notorious under-performer ParaNorman, and The Book Of Life (side note: PLEASE DO NOT SUCK) is coming along next week to hijack its audience.  It may end up a hit on home video, which it deserves to be because Laika deserve all the success even with films that aren’t up to their usual standards, but I’m going to panic the f*ck out until somebody at Laika tells me I don’t need to.

10] Left Behind

$2,909,000 / $10,920,000

Still not going to make any obvious jokes at the expense of its title.  I am above that.  I have limits, y’know.

Dropped Out: This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, Guardians Of The Galaxy, No Good Deed

Callum Petch couldn’t see he was the car you crashed.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

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)!