Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Explosive whirlwind of entertainment, no action fan will leave this film disappointed
So this is what happens when you give George Miller a good budget.
Completing a recent trifecta of spectacular world cinema in the action category (The Raid 1 and 2), Mad Max Fury Road not only easily becomes among the top movies of 2015, but arguably amongst the best action movies this century. Two hours of absolute post-apocalyptic mayhem, this is one of the rare sequels that not only stands tall with the originals, but actually surpasses them. What used to slightly restrict the previous Mad Max movies were budget and technical limitations. But in the 21st century, with more money involved, and more resources to tap into, George Miller's decade-in-the-making vision comes to life in the most entertaining and thrilling way.
Fury Road may have the Mad Max tag, but his story is just one of many that roam around. The most impressive amongst the cast (Tom Hardy as Max really didn't have much to do outside participation in the carnage) is definitely Charlize Theron, who plays the tough-as-nails woman that jump-starts the action that will preside over the last 100 minutes of the film. Without mentioning too much, Theron (has there been a quieter action career than Theron?) as Furiosa steals a massive armored rig and raises absolute hell as she tries to make it to her childhood homeland with other prisoners. Crossing paths with her is Max, a loner with recovering from his past who also has been taken prisoner. Even though plot isn't usually a focus point in action movies of this caliber, there is plenty of social commentary and feminist themes to stir the pot.
While the verbal and storyline aspects are nothing to scoff at, the technical details of this movie is the headlining show here. Nearly flawless, from the art direction to the cinematography to the editing, the apocalypse has never looked so beautiful. The colors pop out at you, and the camera-work isn't shy of displaying the miles upon miles of nothingness that surrounds the characters. It truly feels like the end of the world as you see the small shadowy figures of vehicles maneuver through the layers of sand or see dark blue darkness when the sun mercifully comes down. And then you have the wide array of visually unique characters that look straight out of your pulp comic books (Yes, the guitar-playing fiend deserves his own story). It's a hauntingly beautiful ride.
Miller's directing is what makes the movie stand out. The action sequences are intense, relentless, and done with so much precision and attention to detail; you cannot look away from the screen a millisecond as you see the next round of carnage take place. This movie tries excruciatingly hard to separate itself from the pack of normal summer blockbusters, and it succeeds by pacing like a video game; continuously escalating and topping the previous action sequence.
The Raid movies also notoriously saved their best tricks for last. And my friends, even if you might be the slightest bit underwhelmed just wait until the final 30 minutes. Be prepared for some of the tightest and well-choreographed action since the criminally underrated Adventures of Tintin (The "Opera Chase" deserves much more love). The mix of special and practical effects blends in so well you swear you can smell the burning tires. The movie is one big long vehicular chase, and one that never starts feeling stale.
Summer may have peaked extremely early, because it will be very difficult to top the vicious joyride of Fury Road. From start to finish, from the top-tier acting right down to the sound effects, this Mad Max installment is the best hands-down, even though Hardy is no vintage Mel Gibson. Not sure what happened to American action filmmaking, but now Australia and Indonesia own the right to claim their country has produced the finest action flicks this decade. If you are in the mood for a highly entertaining yet original action extravaganza, look no further. By the time 2015 finishes, I can guarantee you that Mad Max Fury Road will remain as one of the best movies in the entire year.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
The train of joy coming from the MCU continues to deliver, but its starting to run out of steam
I'd hate to spoil the party, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is starting to run out of trick cards.
Criticizing Avengers: Age of Ultron is the equivalent of being one of those prick judges on Cutthroat Kitchen, insulting a cook for making a mediocre pasta when all they had was marinara sauce and expired noodles. Joss Whedon and friends pulled out all the necessary mayhem, entertainment, and joy of your usual MCU flick, so let's mention this before this turns into a massive review of disappointment. However it's becoming a bit more apparent that the intangibles holding back Marvel and Disney's potential is hindering the quality of the movies. It hurts to point out the elephant in the room, but after seeing the final scene you can't help but realize that clearly Hollywood and the Copyright shenanigans is hampering the franchise as a whole.
For those not truly knowledgeable of the subject, Marvel and Disney are restricted on who they can show (and for how long) and who can get their own spin-off movie. As of now, the true-true Avengers team assembling on screen is literally impossible. Fox, Sony, and Universal own cinematic Marvel properties and unless every film studio in California decide to drop the competition and hold hands, Whedon will be restricted on his vision of the Avengers and the current Marvel universe. He even has to change the origin stories of some of the characters because certain words can't even be used in this franchise of movies. Like a production version of mineweeper, you can avoid mines for only so long before you notice you're running out of space.
The production value, writing, acting, humor, action, and attention to each of the characters has been spot-on lately, and Avengers: Age of Ultron is no exception. All the characters are back, and they remain just as entertaining and engaging as the original Avengers movie that overwhelmed audiences back in 2012. Iron Man and Hawkeye have all the great lines, Hulk and Thor has all the awesome kinetic energy, and Captain America remains our lovable heroic leader. Of course, a few other characters make nice cameo appearances, and others...well, we didn't really need them (one hero in particular was bizarrely underwhelming). Lastly, Ultron was quite a formidable foe, perfectly portrayed by James Spader.
There are no stakes to be raised. We all know the upcoming Marvel lineup for the next several years. We all know of their limited amount of cinematic resources. So with that we are presented with less surprises, less suspense, and less of the unpredictability factor that had been a major source of fun during the first phase of Marvel movies. The movie took off immediately without any sort of build-up because it knows why we are there: entertainment of the highest summer degree. But with sequel after sequel planned, the audience pretty much knows who is going to make it. What would keep us engaged would be if we saw any major left field surprises or unexpected turns. Because of the restrictions and because of the required schedule, there honestly was very little to be shocked at. It didn't have the ballsy shakeup of The Winter Soldier.
No movie built to predate upcoming chapters has ever felt complete (Dead Man's Chest anyone?). Avengers: Age of Ultron tries its best to disguise this but the inevitable is clear: punches were held back because they need to be saved for later installments. Marvel has to keep whatever remaining limited cards it has on its deck. Unlike DC which pretty much has all its eggs on the same basket, Marvel has to make incredible omelets using less eggs. And although you will enjoy this satisfying meal of comic book action, you'll notice the kitchen staff starting to sweat.
Furious Seven (2015)
Bloated but still fun, Furious 7 is brain-eliminating popcorn entertainment with nice dramatic touches
Imagine your favorite food. Let's use pizza, because 99% of the world loves pizza. Imagine a nice big pepperoni pizza. Always a good decision right? The cheese, fresh sauce, crisp pepperoni, nice crust. Now imagine that you pile nine pounds of pepperoni on top of the pizza. The ingredients are still good, these are still your favorite toppings, but the result remains overkill. That is Furious 7 in a nutshell: way too much of a good thing that results in the most ridiculousness and implausibility in the entire franchise. And yes it is indeed entertaining but for the first time we are seeing special effects totally overpower practical effects and the result is a movie that comes straight out of summer blockbusters as opposed to being a gritty and stunt-filled extravaganza like what we have been seeing in previous installments.
If you are a fan of the recent string of franchise-altering movies, then you will be entertained here. Just know that Fast and the Furious peaked with the killer bank vault scene from Fast Five. Within the two hours of Furious 7 there will be elongated fights, massive car chases, and purely insane action sequences that forces you to remove your brain temporarily. Mixed in nicely with the carnage are the consistent themes of family and love---plus the now-famous final scene that will trigger emotions that Fast and Furious had never dealt with before. Paul Walker's passing gives this movie a haunting edge, as even some of the costume choices and dialogue ironically singled out Walker long before his actual untimely death.
The cast is mostly back, although I do find myself missing the Don Omar/Tego Calderon combination. Vin Diesel and The Rock are at their toughest, Paul Walker is the perfect partner, Michelle Rodriguez continues that tough chick streak, and of course there's Ludicrous and Tyrese (whom we forget are music artists) working their comedic magic. We have now three villains they have to look out for (remember my comment about overkill?) but Jason Statham is the one that delivers the strongest punch as he mixes espionage with muscle.
The movie paces and runs like a music video: combining gorgeous women (to a point of pure misogyny), gorgeous cars, lots of speed, plenty of quick cuts, and lots of slow-motion shots. James Wan quickly developed a knack of combining music video eye candy material with an abundance of testosterone-laden carnage seamlessly. He is far removed from his low-budget horror days. However this day and age when action buffs have become accustomed to Gareth Evans (*raises hand*), it's slightly tougher to digest the fights and chases that occur here without feeling the slightest bit underwhelmed.
Furious 7 is more of the same, except so much more it really doesn't leave much for the eighth installment. After parachuting from a plane while inside a car, what on earth is there else to do? Fast and Furious has had a fantastic run but with each installment trying to top itself every time it will reach a point in which every scene becomes laughable. When the audience is chuckling and giggling during a serious action sequence, it's not the right reaction, even if the audience won't regret the money spent to get in.
If you are fine with the Fast and Furious series drifting farther and farther away from the lower-key, more urban original flick that started it all, then Furious 7 will entertain you, thrill you, and leave you smiling. If you are looking more for a return to roots, a more realistic approach to vehicular action, run away from this movie. Furious 7 isn't the best, but it's definitely the biggest, and definitely the most emotional of them all. The stuntwork (when actually used) is fantastic, the directing is slick, and it accomplishes what it's set out to do. And lastly, Paul Walker despite his untimely departure cinematically gets to leave in the perfect time.
Top Five (2014)
A few jabs but no knockout punch, Top Five is Chris Rock's directing best...but still could have been better
Top Five is a film that should have been ballsier, should have had a stronger voice, and should have delivered a heavier punch. The fact is we have seen this concept before, with the weak Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins and the mediocre Funny People. The entertainer-going-back-to-roots-rediscovery angle has been done a couple times within the past half-decade. So in order for Top Five to stand out, it needs sharper dialogue, more entertaining scenarios, more heart. And who better to do this then one of the best comics in the last 20 years? Yet despite the effort and the clearly talented cast, the movie never truly floats above mediocrity waters. Top Five does enough to slightly entertain, but you really wish that there could have been more.
Chris Rock's stand-up is undeniably one of the best in the history of the art form. He has the observational humor of Jerry Seinfeld mixed with the sharp delivery of Eddie Murphy. His cinematic career however lacks the bite that gives him the unique voice in comedy. When your best performance and best non-animated movie comes from a 20+ year old Wesley Snipes film (well...maybe CB4), there is a major issue. And although this movie isn't autobiographical, it definitely has some nods to Rock's actual career. This time Rock is channeling his inner Woody Allen by writing, directing, and starring in a New York flick.
In terms of acting, Chris Rock does not disappoint. His chemistry with the evocative and beautiful Rosario Dawson (sheer underrated talent) was the highlight of the film by far. They work off each other very well, which makes it all the more surprising that the rest of the cast had such limited material and didn't have their chance to truly mesh with Rock. Even Cedric the Entertainer and his amazing portrayal of a Houston freewheeler didn't contribute much. Chris Rock does indeed have the ability to run a movie, but boy did I wish more from Cedrick, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Gabrielle Union, among others.
All the small roles from talented people would be forgiven if the script had been stronger, and if the film had truly explored the harsh questions. Behind the microphone, Chris Rock is not afraid to take on touchy subjects. In Top Five, lots of concepts are lightly brought up but never explored. The reality star life angle, the difficult comedian life angle, the race angle, the returning-to-roots angle, and even the politics subject was slightly and very dimly brought up, but it never dwelled deeper. We could have had some serious post-viewing discussions on the whos, the whats, and the whys, but the film never ignited the fire.
Similar to About Last Night, another 2014 woulda, coulda, shoulda black ensemble film that didn't dip its feet into the discussion waters, Top Five explores a similar cinematic concept and stays afloat mainly because of lead character chemistry and a few cameos striking comedic gold. Unfortunately this movie lacks the bite of Chris Rock standup (despite the "R" rating giving you full permission to do so), instead meandering into similar territory that mixes Woody Allen with recent Judd Apatow. Dramatic but not dramatic enough, funny but not funny enough, provocative but not provocative enough, There are too many ingredients in the talent soup for the overall flavor to remain slightly lifeless.
I wanted more, anticipated more, and overall it just wasn't enoughdespite this being Rock's best directorial and acting work.
Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
Low-Fat, Low-Carb, Low Sugar Entertainment for the Kiddies
If you are going out of bounds, be fully out of bounds.
If you are going to create a wacky, out-of-control movie devoid of any slowdown moments or sentimental value---keep it that way.
This is what makes Emperor's New Groove such a phenomenal gem, and what made a movie like Shark Tale a jarring confusing drag. The Penguins of Madagascar falls somewhere in the middle, combining wacky ridiculous humor with a slight bit of heart that actually bogs the movie down a few notches. The additional cast of characters joining the penguins also actually brings it down a few notches. And lastly, the extended running time, which especially feels dragging for a movie that moves so fast, prevents this flick from truly excelling.
Nonetheless, just like in all the Madagascar movies, when the penguins are present and behaving zany, this is when the movie shines the brightest and flourishes the most. We had been begging for these characters to get their own movie; as their snarky creative schemes and no Fs attitude contradicted the pace and characterizations of the others involved---minus the lemurs which sadly have no place here. And although our wish came true, it still awkwardly left us yearning to see more from the original Madagascar cast.
If you are going to replace Alex and company, and replace the equally-ridiculous lemur crew (especially King Julien flawlessly voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen), you better have an awesome cast taking the wheel. Unfortunately, this is not the case as we have ho-hum secret agents that serve only as a compliment to a quick-and-easy plot involving an angry John Malkovich-voiced octopus wishing revenge on penguins around the world. Yea, the plot has a 90s children cartoon feel, and that is exactly what we got, even though being a little more straightforward could have severely benefited the entire thing.
In movies that operate in this frantic style, heart, animation, realism, and normal rules of storyframing should take a backseat. When a movie shoots and flies like a bullet, there cannot be anything holding it back. In my ultimate example, The Emperor's New Groove went against the Disney grain and delivered arguably the most Chuck Jones-ish movie since the Looney Tunes and obliterated every animated rule in the book. The fourth wall was non-existent during those 90 minutes. With Penguins however, there were a few slowdown moments and although they can be vital to wholesome family fare like How to Train Your Dragon and Big Hero 6, it does hamper movies that just aim to please and become throwaway popcorn entertainment.
Luckily, there is still plenty of entertainment here, from the quick-paced one-liners to the creatively-done action sequences. I assure you, the potential was indeed here. And to top it off, plenty of penguin espionage keeping the tykes entertained. We just wish that there was more of it. For some odd reason the penguins continuously leave us asking for more, even after getting its own entire movie. It might be that the penguins work best in small doses. It could be that the Madagascar crew actually holds more quality weight than we anticipated. At the end of the day though, this movie becomes entertaining yet unmemorable. Funny yet not fully satisfying. A mission well-done, but very little reward.
King Julien and Mort really should have gone along for the ride.....
Interstellar is like the comedian having to explain and dissect the now-magicless joke.
Interstellar is like trying to consume a 10-inch slice of pizza in your mouth without chewing: we know the pizza is always good, and we know that the more pizza the better, but then after a point it becomes pure overkill. That is what Interstellar is: cinematic overkill that overstays its welcome, overstays its logic, and lingers around long enough for you to notice the rapidly-thinning plot. The technical aspects were indeed spectacular in every sense of the way, which arguably keeps the movie afloat for as long as it possibly can before the third act weighs everything down with its left field conclusion.
What really limits Interstellar more than anything else is the plot and the script. Movies that use a backdrop as vast and expansive as space needs a smaller story to keep the audience and the logic in check. This is what worked for Wall-E, Gravity, and to a lesser extent 2001: A Space Odyssey. With Interstellar however, too much is explained, and the audience is required to make massive leaps of faith that we may not be willing to make---especially after already going through two hours of it. The dialogue is slightly overblown and loses authenticity, and by the climax too much is being discussed and not enough is being shown.
The performances and the technical details keep the dialogue and story from disappointing us too much. Matthew McConaughey carries this film well as he becomes simply a man concerned about the future of his family in the midst of the grand space adventure that takes too many twists and turns that requires a second viewing to fully realize it all. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine did a swell job with the minimal material handed to them. They each added a sense of believability to a plot that was quite devoid of them as the movie went on.
The cinematography and special effects were top-notch, although they suffered a few setbacks if you compare them to 2013's Gravity. Interstellar hides its space scope with far too many closeups of the crew in the space station, when there was an entire universe to be explored. The other locales themselves were quite lacking in eyecandy and creativity, leading to us longing for more scenes of outer space.
Also hurting this film was that too much was happening at the same time, not in plot but in presentation. Sometimes the dialogue audio was battling the musical score and sound effects, resulting in a loud mass that made it tough to hear and comprehend the scene. In the case of Gravity and 2001, it was made sure the music was front and center, toning down just slightly when dialogue was needed to be said.
Christopher Nolan is a go-big-or-go-home type of director. Simplicity is not in his resume, he loves his stories and films complex, full of wonder, full of questions, and full of awe-inspiring scenes. However, simplicity is what is definitely lacking in Interstellar. If the film spent more time showing instead of telling, then we would have had a better visual feast ahead of us. A movie of this kind, with so much room to explore, needs to be more like Jurassic Park (simple, yet incredibly thrilling) and less like Contact (psychologically and philosophically inducing).
I truly wanted to enjoy this movie, considering the time, effort, and sheer labor put in to this cinematic space opera. But the entire affair was too bloated, too overdone, and just altogether didn't leave much to the imagination. Each of the pieces were good from the acting to the directing to the cinematography to the special effects. But altogether none of it really meshed, even with a running time of over 160 minutes.
In space, nobody can hear you. In the movie theater however, every yawn can indeed be heard, now matter how pretty it looked...
Whiplash is cinematic freeform jazz: unexpected, unpredictable, and quite fulfilling
Being an artist, whether writing something, filming something, or playing something, requires a special edge. This special edge is a passion that not everyone can possess, and not everyone can maintain. This special edge can alienate you from the rest of society, can cast you as a black sheep, can drain all your willpower, but at the end of the day if you are good at your craft this is all that matters.
Whiplash is a grandiose work of cinematic bittersweet delight that explores that darkness of said passion and the drawbacks that comes with it. It is required viewing if you ever want to know what it feels like to be a tortured soul determined to be the best. There were only 12 people in the theater when I watched this: we all wound up clapping in the end.
Whiplash thrashes around like bebop jazz: initially inviting, then becomes loud, unexpected, twisted, daring, violent, and entertainingly tedious. On the surface it looks like a simple tale of an aspiring jazz drummer entering a tough course with a nasty instructor becomes something much more. It is about two people that seek perfection in their craft in an art form that can easily hide the blemishes. It is about two people trying to succeed in a type of music that is a far cry from what it used to be. The olden days are referenced aplenty, from style to music to the victim artists within the genre.
On the surface, it may look like a simple film to direct. But Whiplash contains a heavy and hyper dosage of extreme close-ups, long shots, fast alternating cuts, and just a dizzying cinematographic energy that is on par with the best action films. Damien Chazzelle not only writes the strong script that is far from predictable, but also gives the movie a strong flavoring of authenticity from the small details to the music that is ultimately performed in front of our very own eyes.
The acting deserves Oscar nominations all around. Although J.K. Simmons will receive almost all the (well-deserved) attention for a spellbinding and flawless performance as a profanity-laced and dangerous perfectionist teacher that becomes a tyrant once the class starts, Miles Teller also deserves just as much acclaim for bringing his extremely devoted yet sympathetic lead character to life. The jazz action is intense, the blood, sweat and tears are frighteningly real. The tension is heavy in an unlikely Hitchcockian sense, and by the time you get to the climactic scene you will simply be swept away by the musical, emotional, and psychological madness.
It is not an easy movie to stomach, it is a tough pill to swallow. But surviving the intense thrill dramatic ride of passion brings enough catharsis and snarky emotional payoff to have you hooked from beginning to finish. Whiplash is easily one of the best films of 2014 as it all comes together perfectly like a great jazz ensemble.
Being an artist is zealous torture, plain and simple. Whiplash perfectly personifies this fact of life.
And this type of torture is exactly why I am writing this review at 4 in the morning. And whether you understand this aspect of my life or not, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Big Hero 6 (2014)
The Student is catching up to the Teacher
There was an interesting cinematic juxtaposition that occurred on the weekend of November 6th, 2014.
Just as the silently sputtering and problematic Pixar announced yet another sequel, this time a pointless one to a masterpiece of a trilogy that ended perfectly, we see the Walt Disney Animation division deliver yet once again another surprisingly powerful and entertaining film. Continuing a quality streak that began with 2009's Princess and the Frog, Walt Disney Animation Studio has essentially created a second Renaissance that has delivered quality Oscar-winning films (Frozen) as well as a few surprises (Wreck-It Ralph). With Big Hero 6, we see a great animated film devoid of a love story or princesses that is full of humor, heart, action, and overall entertainment.
The Disney formula is alive and kicking in Big Hero 6, as we have the themes of heavy loss, the strong villain, the essential supporting cast that steals the show, and of course minimal surprises that doesn't deviate the movie too far from its main course of entertaining the kids and adults alike. And although the Disney formula prevents Big Hero 6 from reaching the necessary shock in your better comics and comic book inspired movies like The Incredibles, it's still a fun flick that becomes a nice departure from your recent influx of animated and superhero sequels.
Part of the requirements of making the ultimate comic book film includes a unique look and feel that distances itself from other workswhether it's the toxic dark Gotham City or mythological-laden Asgard. One of the best aspects of Big Hero 6 is how deep and engaging the world of San Francisokyo is, as the visual range of the city is just as expansive as the environments of recent Disney movies like Frozen, Tangled, and even Wreck-It Ralph. This gives the added visual flair to the chases and action sequences sprinkled throughout the two hours.
Just as spellbindingly good as the animation was, it was the powerful and quick-moving script that propels Big Hero 6 to the next quality level. Although it is based off of a Marvel comic, the adaptation is extremely loose, extremely watered-down, and toned down to appeal to a wider audience---while at the same time giving it a necessary dosage of likability that was absent in the original comic. The trio writing team crafted a screenplay that acts like an origin story but paces like a complete film. There just isn't enough time to give the correct amount of attention to the delightful supporting cast of characters (and its crafty anime-influenced villain) but luckily our well-rounded hero (aptly named Hiro) and his robotic pal have strong personalities, and a strong friendship to propel the movie forward. Beymax has layers of depth that the trailers and commercials could never convey.
Although the tropes and current financial strategies of the Disney company (and suddenly Pixar) prevents Big Hero 6 from truly reaching the stars (Because we all know what happens to successful Disney animated movies), we are still treated to a well-directed wholesome blend of comedy, drama, and action swirled around a cool comic book setting wrapped in a Disney bow. From beginning to end this film will entertain, will move you, will make you laugh, and will make you cry. Even if it's a few feet from reaching 1999-2009 sans-Cars Pixar level (then again, this epic run may not happen again from any film studio), Disney Animation is doing a fantastic job fully recovering from Eisner's attempted murder of the animation studio.
After spending years following in Pixar's footsteps, it looks like the Walt Disney Animation Studio has just about caught up.
Superb thriller from the School of Fincher, Nightcrawler is Gylenhall and Gilroy in top form
David Fincher would be absolutely proud.
Nightcrawler is a melancholy subtle thriller that laces fantastic acting with a strong script with plenty to say and wrapped together by tight editing, incredible cinematography, and a moody James Newton Howard (who has been exceptionally busy lately) score that has a very unexpected Ross/Reznor feel. Dan Gilroy's directorial debut is arguably among the best since Shyamalan's Sixth Sense---another impressive debut with the similar under the bubble suspenseful psychological horror that keeps you on edge until the final minutes.
How the writer behind Reel Steel and Two for the Money managed to imitate Fincher I'll never know, but it sure does help to have some Oscar-worthy acting at front and center. Jake Gylenhall as Louis Bloom is easily the strongest aspect of the film, as his character is like a bone-crushing car accident: brutal, uneasy to look at, but you still can't look away. This is Gylenhall's movie easily, as his cold eyes, anti-social demeanor, and psychotic way of life makes his character one of the best you'll see in cinema nowadays.
Similar to how End of Watch (Also Jake Gylenhall) took a known lifestyle and then displayed the grim dark side of it, Nightcrawler chronicles the late-night lives of people that record and deliver the late-night newswhile simultaneously showing the ugly underbelly mannerisms behind what you see on television. Dan Gilroy's script pulls no punches as he not only writes an interesting character in an interesting premise, but also interweaves some clever and biting commentary about the pursuit of success and the murky morality during the rise to the top.
But the movie never appears preachy because it still has a good story to tell, and consistently prevents you from figuring out how far, how deep, and how wicked it goes. Nightcrawler has a slow yet steady pace as it morphs from a glimpse of a lifestyle to a scenario that stems from it. The ascetics enhance the mood as the cinematography transforms Los Angeles into an eerie environment with heinousness creeping out of the dark corners everywhere. What is more surprising than Gilroy's superb directing debut is Howard's score which deviates far from his normal blockbuster orchestral feel and gives us a low-volume high-intensity score that undermines and bubbles under the silent terror of the hunt for grisly footage.
What honestly kills some of Nightcrawler's momentum in the Oscar run and attempt to be the best film of the year is ironically David Fincher and Gone Girl. Gone Girl not only came out first, but also has the biting commentary that oozes out of its script, superb directing, and a phenomenal musical score that ties together a story that has few heroes, and even fewer chances of the audience figuring out its next direction. Gilroy makes a grand entrance, too bad it had to follow up the master of the broody underground cinema scenesimilar to how the wonderful David Bowie had to unfortunately follow (and never have a chance to surpass) Queen's legendary performance in Live Aid 1985.
However it is cruel to bring up another movie when the one currently being discussed is still a great work of cinema. Gylenhall, Gilroy, and Howard are Oscar-worthy as their skills blend together to create one of the best films of the year, and a hell of a thriller overall. Even if the ending underwhelms and dissatisfies a little, there is no denying that Nightcrawler will leave an impression on you from the character of Louis to the slick writing and camera-work that perfectly unites him and the midnight environment slums from which he comes from.
Nightcrawler is dark, dark chocolate: satisfying, fulfilling, and with that nice bitter aftertaste.
Gone Girl (2014)
The Hitchcock is Strong in This One
Gone Girl starts off with in an unsettling fashion, even throwing the opening credits quicker than normal. This makes the audience a little uneasy as the story begins.
And the audience will remain uneasy and struggling to catch up for the remainder of the film.
Gone Girl is polarizing, intense, extremely jaded, and quite manipulating. David Fincher's fingerprints are all over the adaptation of the best-selling novel that alters the tone of the book to adjust better to the cinematic medium. From the direction to the spellbinding and haunting musical score, Gone Girl hits all the right notes, does an excellent job maintaining the tense mystery without becoming predictable, and leads an all-star cast (Even Tyler Perry was bearable) surrounded by talent in the art, cinematography, and production department.
What starts off as a simple tale of a quiet mysterious husband (Ben Affleck) worried about the disappearance of his wife (Rosamund Pike in a pure Give Me My Oscar performance) turns into a darkly stylish thriller with twists, turns, unexpected surprises, intrigue, and slick commentary on American marriage and the American media's mannerisms surrounding the news and the people involved in it. Similar to Social Network, it presents an interesting character and sociological portrayal while mixing in an exhilarating story to propel the movie forward.
And then we go in a very different direction for the final act.
In a style similar to Hitchcock's also-polarizing Vertigo, Gone Girl consists of two parts: the mystery and the consequences of the mystery once the conclusion has been unveiled. This makes Gone Girl practically two different movies that might be equal in tone but splits into seemingly opposite roads. While the film is 150 minutes long, the climax of the original conflict actually arrives much much sooner than the normjust like Vertigo. And just like Vertigo, it's slightly tough to appreciate the unveiling of the wild card when there is still so much poker left.
The best way to describe Gone Girl without revealing any of the surprises and revelations is this: Gone Girl's first two acts are like a dark roller coaster you've never ridden before; full of turns and inversions that you will enjoy and consistently anticipate and request more of. The final act of Gone Girl is like a good roller coaster you've ridden before; where you can appreciate the thrills, appreciate the details, but at the same time make you wish you could be surprised more.
And----like Vertigo----if the movie had played out the mystery and the conflict a bit longer then the payoff would have been much grander. The timing of the payoff is extremely important in movies like this, it can make a movie like Fight Club and The Usual Suspects, or it can totally shatter a movie like Lucky Number Slevin (Oh, you don't remember this one? Of course you don't ). Not to say Gone Girl loses too much momentum once the movie takes a jarring shift, but that second roller coaster ends quite abruptly, leaving you with a satisfied feeling with a side of emptiness.
But hey, there is a good chance that Fincher's intention was to never let you find your footing during the grim adventure. There is a good chance that Fincher had spent a good deal preparing a beautiful cinematic present without even considering topping it with a nice bow. Because at the end of the day, whatever timing and tonal shift issues the Gillian Flynn script presented, it was eradicated by the high value of the overall film. It is unique, it is breathtaking, and it will devour your thoughts long after the movie is overif it wasn't any good, would I even spend so much time trying to figure out how to judge this flick?
Good movies are enjoyable, great movies linger in your consensus. Like the thickest of peanut butter gluing to the roof of your mouth, Gone Girl will meander in your thoughts as you continuously struggle to soak in all the grim, all the insanity, and all the sheer hurricane of subtle tension you had just witnessed.
If only it had less Vertigo