Monday, November 24, 2014

"MOONRAKER" (1979) 35th Anniversary Photo Gallery

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This year marked the 35th anniversary of the release of the 1979 James Bond movie, "MOONRAKER". Based on Ian Fleming's 1955 novel and directed by Lewis Gilbert, the movie starred Roger Moore as James Bond 007. 


"MOONRAKER" (1979) 35th ANNIVERSARY PHOTO GALLERY

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

"GONE GIRL" (2014) Review

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"GONE GIRL" (2014) Review

I have a confession to make. I have never read Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel, "Gone Girl". Which means I would be the last person to compare it to its 2014 film adaptation, directed by David Fincher. But in regard to my opinion of the movie, I am more than happy to give it. 

"GONE GIRL" is a mystery thriller about a Midwestern man, whose wife has gone missing. Due to a lack of a body, Nick's behavior and clues pointing to him being his wife's killer, the police, the media and the public begin to suspect that he may have killed her. "GONE GIRL" begins on the fifth anniversary of Nick and Amy Dunne, in which Nick announces his intentions to divorce Amy to his sister Margo "Go". When Nick returns to his home, he discovers that it is in disarray. He also realizes that Amy is missing. While a team under Detective Rhonda Boney investigates Amy's disappearance and Nick, the movie reveals flashbacks of their five-year relationship - from their first meeting at a party in New York City; their courtship and wedding; the economic and personal woes that led them to movie to Nick's Missouri hometown; his affair with a local college student; and their eventual estrangement. Because Amy's parents had used her as their inspiration for their "Amazing Amy" children's books, her disappearance catches the attention of the media. By the movie's mid-point, Detective Boney and the North Carthage police come to believe that Nick had murdered his wife. It is also at this point when the narrative reveals that Amy is not only alive, but had framed Nick for her murder.

I might as well say it. "GONE GIRL" is an emotionally crazy film that can almost put the ABC series, "SCANDAL", to shame. Its first half seemed like your typical, yet well done mystery thriller about the disappearance of a spouse. But once the narrative reveals that the missing woman, Amy Dunne, is actual alive, the movie transforms into this wild and crazy tale filled with lies, desperation, greed, obsession and melodrama. The ironic thing about "GONE GIRL" is that this transformation did not harm the movie's narrative one bit. If anything, it made the movie more interesting. And I have to thank Gillian Flynn, who not only wrote the novel, but also the screenplay; and director David Fincher for keeping this insanity under control and making it believable. 

Another aspect about "GONE GIRL" that I found very interesting is that it provided an interesting insight into the illusions that exist in our society. The movie explored the downside of celebrity and the media's culpability into it. This exploration of celebrity even reveals how families (including Amy's parents and her own marriage to Nick) exploits it for their own gain. Three scenes remind me of this - the revelation that Amy's parents used her life as the inspiration for their novels, Nick's performance on a talk show in order to prove his innocence, and the performance that both he and Amy give in the movie's conclusion to prove the happy state of their marriage.

The visual style for "GONE GIRL" seemed to possess that rich, smooth look that marked other films directed by David Fincher. I am not surprised. The cinematographer for this film, Jeff Cronenweth, had worked with Fincher in three other films. I especially enjoyed how Cronenweth's recaptured the color and look of the Midwest, especially the movie's location shots in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, which served as North Carthage. The movie also benefited from Kirk Baxter's editing. The latter certainly had his work cut out for him in the movie's second half. I wish I could say that I found Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score memorable. But I would be lying. All I can say is that it served the movie very well and there did not seemed to be a flat note out of place. Trust me, I have seen movies in which the score and the narrative seemed to be in a state of conflict.

There are three things about "GONE GIRL" that made it incredibly memorable for me. I have already commented on David Fincher's direction and Gillian Flynn's narrative. What I have not commented on are the performances featured in the film. There were supporting performances that struck me as enjoyable, yet brief. Scoot McNairy gave an interesting and realistically frantic performance as Amy's ex-boyfriend, who had an unpleasant break-up with her, when he failed to live up to her expectations. Missi Pyle was a hoot as the Nancy Grace-style commentator that spent most of the movie accusing Nick of murder. Lisa Banes and David Clennon gave subtle performances as Amy's ambitious and snobbish parents, Marybeth and Rand Elliott. Patrick Fugit gave a sly performance as Detective Boney's sardonic assistant, Officer James Gilpin. Emily Ratajkowski was solid, yet sexy as Nick's young mistress and student, Andie Fitzgerald. Sela Ward gave a brief, yet amused portrayal of TV talk show hostess Sharon Schieber.

"GONE GIRL" proved to be the first motion picture I had seen Neil Patrick Harris in years. And his role as Amy's college boyfriend, Desi Collings, was the first dramatic role I had seen him do. Personally, I thought he did a fantastic job in portraying the controlling Desi, whose obsession with Amy struck me as rather creepy. The best thing about Harris' performance is that it proved to be subtle, yet effective. Tyler Perry seemed to be having a ball as Nick's famous and successful defense attorney, Tanner Bolt. The actor did a great job in conveying his character's legal smarts and common sense. Of all the characters, Perry's seemed to be the most amused. And his hilarious, yet spot-on assessment of Nick, Amy and their marriage nearly had me on the floor, laughing. Aside from Perry, Kim Dickens gave the most grounded performance in the film as the North Carthage police detective, Rhonda Boney, who is assigned to investigate Amy's disappearance. I rather enjoyed Dickens' no-nonsense performance and was rather relieved that her character did not automatically assumed Nick's guilt, while conducting the investigation. I have never seen Carrie Coon before "GONE GIRL" (I have only seen one episode of HBO's "THE LEFTOVERS" and did not recall seeing her in it). And she proved to be a revelation as Nick's twin sister, Margo "Go" Dunne. I thought she did an excellent job of balancing Margo's pragmatic and frank opinion of both Nick and Amy, and at the same time; willingness to allow Nick to emotionally manipulate her. Superficially, Margo seemed like a cut-and-dry role. But Coon did such an excellent of exploring the character's emotional state.

"GONE GIRL" has been out in theaters for over a month-and-a-half and already, the media has Rosamund Pike pinpointed for an Academy Award nomination for her performance as the complex and manipulative Amy Dunne. Frankly, I agree with him. I thought she did a superb job in portraying Amy's chaotic moral compass and her penchant for wallowing in illusions that extended to molding the men in her life to fit her "perfect" image of manhood. There were moments when Pike's performance seemed in danger of sliding into theatricality. But in the end, the actress kept her performance under control. Ben Affleck seemed to have no trouble in keeping his character, Nick Dunne, under control. One could say that he seemed to have little difficulty in portraying Nick's complacent and occasionally lazy personality. Many have claimed that Affleck was merely playing himself. I will not make such an assumption, considering I do not know jack shit about Affleck's true personality. I will state that I was more than impressed by his brilliant portrayal of Nick, who proved to be, underneath the lazy douchebag persona, just as chaotic as Amy. And like her, he possessed a talent for manipulation and wallowing in illusions.

Although Rosamund Pike is being touted by the media for an Academy Award nomination, I have not heard anything similar for Ben Affleck or the movie in general. Personally, I believe it is one of the better movies I have seen this year. And I believe it deserves numerous nominations - not just for Pike, but also for Affleck, Carrie Coon, writer Gillian Flynn and David Fincher. Regardless of whether it receives numerous Academy Award nominations or not, I look forward to the day when it is finally released on DVD. It is that good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ranking of Movies Seen During Summer 2014

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Usually around this time, I would list my ten favorite summer movies of a particular year. Unfortunately, the summer of 2014 proved to be a dismal season for films and I only watched six new summer releases. Due to the limited number, I decided to rank the films I actually saw: 


RANKING OF MOVIES SEEN DURING SUMMER 2014



1. "Guardians of the Galaxy" - The latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe proved to be a surprising delight about a group of criminals who find themselves on the run after an attempt to make a profit on a stolen orb coveted by powerful villains. Directed by James Gunn, the movie starred Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana.



2 - Edge of Tomorrow

2. "Edge of Tomorrow" - Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt starred in this excellent adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's 2004 science-fiction novel, "All You Need Is Kill" about a public relations officer who is deployed into a combat mission against invading aliens and end up in a time loop. Doug Liman directed.



3 - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

3. "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" - Andrew Garfield reprised his role as Peter Parker aka Spider-Man in this well-made sequel, which was marred by a badly written ending. In this film, the Web Slinger battles Electro and the Green Goblin, while investigating the circumstances surrounding his parents' deaths. Marc Webb directed.



4 - Godzilla

4. "Godzilla" - Gareth Edwards directed this solid, yet dry reboot of the famous Japanese monster, who helps the human race battle a pair of radiation-eating monsters known as MUTOs from Japan to San Francisco. Aaron Johnson-Taylor, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston starred.



5 - X-Men Days of Future Past

5. "X-Men: Days of Future Past" - Bryan Singer returned to direct his third movie in the "X-MEN" franchise. In this promising, yet clumsily executed film, Wolverine is sent back 50 years in the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender starred.



6 - Maleficent

6. "Maleficent" - Angelina Jolie starred in Disney's twist on the "Sleeping Beauty" tale in which the story is told from the viewpoint of its antagonist, Maleficent. Robert Stromberg directed this entertaining film that was marred by a limited and rushed narrative.