Month: October 2014

The Film Fan Perspective’s Top 5 Best & Worst Horror/Monster Movies

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the thing descent alien the mistPOLTERGEIST                                                                                                                                                            evil deadblairhillsfridayevent

I’ve had this blog going since June 2013, and it’s been pretty standard fare thus far- movie reviews, trailer reviews, and a bit of news discussion.  What I’d like to present are more ‘feature’ stories, like this one.  It seems appropriate to do something special for this blog to commemorate the Halloween season.  Thus, I put a list together of my top/favorite 5 best and my 5 worst/most hated horror/monster movies, in countdown form.  Keep in mind, I haven’t seen the entire library of the genre (especially foreign horror cinema), but compared to the general population, definitely more than average.  My criteria?  Scary doesn’t necessarily mean gory, and scariest doesn’t necessarily mean best.  I simply have ranked by the least to most effective at scaring me. Enjoy, and please feel free to give me your feedback- in the form of a comment here, on Facebook, or Twitter (@FFPerspective), OR feel free to visit the “I Hate Critics” podcast website (ihatecritics.net), where this blog and other movie goodness awaits.  After all, we did just complete a special podcast commemorating the holiday and scary movies in general.

 

The 5 Worst

5. The Hills Have Eyes (2006): Pardon my language, but this film is such a depraved piece of absolute shit that I barely made it through my one and only viewing.  Call it torture porn, horror, slasher, whatever floats your boat- it still is the single most unnecessary piece of garbage I’ve ever watched.  That doesn’t make it the worst, for I believe it may have done what it intended to do (make the viewer feel bad about the world), and thus it must somehow retain some level of artistic merit to someone out there.  I mean, they kill off a baby, but somehow director Alexandre Aja thinks that by holding the death off-camera that he deserves credit for withholding.  No, it’s just as awful.  And unnecessary.

4. The Entire Friday the 13th series: The first film, in which the actual ‘slasher’ turns out to be Jason’s mother anyways, is considered a ‘classic’ by some.  I don’t quite understand why, for all we get with these are cheap Halloween knockoffs- teens do stupid ‘teen’ things, and basically pass the time messing around with each other and drinking until it’s their turn to be stabbed by a lumbering guy in a hockey mask.  The sequels bring more of the same, just in a different setting- including SPACE (Jason X).  Apparently, Freddy vs. Jason is interesting, but I lost the capacity to care after Jason ‘took’ Manhattan.

3. Evil Dead 1&2: I don’t quite understand the passion for these films, despite my attempts to hear everyone’s opinion.  Is it hype that led to my disappointment?  Possibly.  Is it the fact that neither of these are scary whatsoever, and bordered on being a complete waste of my time?  Certainly.  Director Sam Raimi gets far too much credit for these films; simply making something presentable out of a minuscule budget does not automatically indicate genius, only creativity out of desperation.  Let’s not forget that “2” is basically an exact remake of the first, and that Bruce Campbell’s “Ash” character is simply a spoof.  Perhaps if I’d been introduced to these as pure comedies I may have tempered by expectations; however, all I heard was how ‘awesome’ (direct quote) these films were.  It’s either completely over my head or they are that bad.  Now, the 2013 remake?  That I enjoyed.  Because it was a horror movie.  That was horrific.

2. Event Horizon: I hate this film in general, but mostly for the ‘gut punch of trickery’ that forever amateur director Paul W.S. Anderson delivers about halfway through this travesty.  The pseudo-science and concerned faces on the likes of Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne were acceptable enough, and the film’s space/sci-fi sheen brought about enough trust until THAT MOMENT.  If you’ve seen this, you know what I’m talking about.  Why a writer would take an audience to the ends of the universe, fold space, and then give up by calling the destination ‘Hell’ is beyond me.  My guess?  Laziness, or the lack of conviction to come up with an alternate conclusion.  It’s a waste of a solid premise, and for that alone, I hate this film.

1. The Blair Witch Project: Some call this found footage pioneer a horror classic, citing the buildup of tension and the frantic last few minutes as a blueprint for the ‘scary’ movie.  I focus on the constant arguments amongst three people who don’t know each other, the shakiness of the hand-held camera, the parlor-trick ‘scares’ in the woods, and the utter lack of a Blair Witch.  I get it, that’s supposed to open up possibilities for what actually taunts these three people, but after putting up with the sad sacks for 75 minutes, I wanted something, anything, to pay me back in scares for the time I invested.  I’m still waiting.

*Dishonorable mention to: the entire Hellraiser series, Rosemary’s Baby, The Ring (2002), The Omen (1975), The Human Centipede 1&2, Fright Night (1985), Exorcist II: The Heretic, and The Happening.

 

The 5 Best

5. Poltergeist/The Exorcist– It is impossible to leave The Exorcist off this list, but also impossible to bump my favorite ‘scary’ film in Poltergeist. We’ll call it a draw.  As for The Exorcist, I can honestly say that nothing prepared me for this movie.  I wasn’t even fully aware of what ‘demonic possession’ meant at the time.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this for the first time at 19 in a friend’s dorm room.  I wouldn’t call it scary, per se, but shocking for sure.  From the beginning of the film, with the excavation of an apparently dark relic, to the ghastly abuse the demon inflicts on Linda Blair’s Regan character, The Exorcist is not only very effective as a horror film, it succeeds on such a grand level for being so low-key and forthright in its’ presentation, as well as the undertones of losing faith and God in general.

Poltergeist is an entirely different ballgame.  It’s scary and oozes nostalgia (thanks, Spielberg).  I saw it at age 5, and everything that bothered me then is in this film.  Scary-looking tree in the backyard?  Check.  Creepy toy that you’re 100% positive will attack you?  Check.  Looking under the bed for monsters?  Check.  Lightning and thunder?  Check.  A sibling going missing?  Check.  Your child going missing?  Check.  A predator chasing your child?  Check.  House sucked into a void?  Check.  Disappearing into your closet?  Check.  Real-life tragedies surrounding the franchise?  Check.  You get the idea that Poltergeist touches on some of our most primal fears as both adults and children, and somehow comes off as even slightly believable.  I feel that’s because Spielberg (as well as brilliant composer Jerry Goldsmith) has his name all over this classic, and he knows how to create characters and give them a full life we identify with in two short hours.  It has meant different things to me at different times, evolving into one of my all-time favorites.

4. Alien– I have multiple thoughts on this movie, and it warrants a full-scale review at some point.  For the purposes of this list, I’ll just say that no film before it OR after it has captured the same visceral reaction from me.  In fact, this was my intro to the genre, at roughly 8 years old.  My parents built this movie up so much that I had a knot in my stomach, and that feeling didn’t relent until sometime after the film ended.  I literally cowered as Kane writhed about the table, and held my throbbing chest as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley tears through the Nostromo on her way to the shuttle.  Ridley Scott’s first major movie is still perhaps his best- a moody, claustrophobic, organic, and quite frankly, awesome film that stands the test of time, which also gave rise to the modern female hero, spawning countless imitators, including several entries in the same franchise.  This made such an impact that a simple scene that takes place in the derelict ship grew in legend, spawning an entire movie 33 years later- 2012’s Prometheus and likely its’ sequel.

3. The Mist–  Despite his occasional bout with being difficult to work with (reportedly), Frank Darabont is truly a savant when it comes to bringing Stephen King’s work to screen.  The Mist is no different- simple, yet terrifying.  The contrast between simple, God-fearing townspeople and the nightmarish creatures they encounter is the hallmark of this story, which combines the supernatural with an all-too-realistic portrayal of a situation where humans get frightened and turn on each other.  The monsters are there, sure, but more frightening is how the paranoia, spearheaded by Marcia Gay Harden’s Bible-filth spewer, spreads like a disease.  The ending, lauded by some and decried by others, is simply a gut-punch to me, sucking the joy out of life.  The Mist, like few other films, creates an impending sense of dread that never relents.  For a film that primarily takes place in a supermarket, it seems larger in scope, a clear illustration of its’ brilliance.

2. The Descent– This small little flick didn’t register for me until I saw it on the shelf for rent.  The DVD artwork sold me- a woman emerging from what appeared to be a literal blood bath as if being born.  I went home, watched it unfold, and found my subconscious cowering in a dark corner along with the rest of the film’s motley crew.  If you’ve ever gone spelunking, you may understand that feeling of claustrophobia.  If you’ve ever had a dream, you may understand that feeling of monsters lurking in corners.  If you’ve ever had a fear of heights, you may understand that light-headed feeling that overcomes you like a wave of fear.  Combine all of these things, including endless chasms and cannibalism, and you have a general idea of The Descent.  I love that this film doesn’t relent, and at least bothers to take itself seriously.

1. The Thing’ (1982)– John Carpenter’s Magnum Opus is the quintessential horror film for me, even if it’s a remake.  A group of ‘manly men’ alone in Antarctica are systematically hunted by a being that can imitate them.  So they’re isolated, in harsh conditions, and inside of a sterile, hostile environment.  What could go wrong?  There are innovative (for the time) effects in this film, combined with the crankiness of Kurt Russell, Keith David, and ol’ Mr. Beetus himself, Wilford Brimley.  There are incredibly frightening ‘boo’ moments, especially involving petri dishes.  There are gross-out moments, including a man’s detached head sprouting spindly legs and walking away.  There are hard to watch moments, including the ‘moistening’ and subsequent imitation of sled dogs.  The impressive, understated score of Ennio Morricone gives the entire film a sinister nature, one which the 2011 prequel couldn’t quite match, despite its’ best efforts.  The ending is also brilliant in that it doesn’t give in to the audience with a tidy resolution.  It’s basically hopeless, which is the general, gut-churning feeling this film gives.  Carpenter might be more famous for Halloween, but his best is The Thing.

*Honorable mention to: Jaws, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Psycho (1960), The Shining, The Conjuring, Halloween (1978), Nosferatu (1922), and Scream.

So.  What’s your favorite scary movie?

Josh Adams

The Film Fan Perspective

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Film Review- ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (****)

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"What a bunch of a-holes"
“What a bunch of a-holes”

 

“Guardians of the Galaxy”  **** (out of 5)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, with Benicio Del Toro, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Josh Brolin

Written by: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, based on the Marvel comic created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Directed by: James Gunn

 

Prior to the release of this film, I sensed a small, but vocal group of fans growing discontent with Marvel’s ‘stubbornness’.  After all, fan hero Edgar Wright had walked from the “Ant-Man” project due to creative differences, seemingly because Marvel wouldn’t budge.  Remember, this is a group that hit so hard on their gamble, yet seemingly couldn’t wait to plan everything out in ‘phases’, then not allow for different versions of their ‘plan’.  Sure, they’ve been unbelievably successful, but I’ve been pining for them to have some fun.  Even the latest Captain America film, despite how well-done it is, still operates at a spy thriller-level of seriousness.  In walks Guardians of the Galaxy, a robust, strange, kind of gross, yet extremely funny space opera that’s a complete breath of fresh air for the Marvel cinematic universe.  Aside from a few problems that are really nothing more than my own brain being finicky about songs, this film does ‘comic book movie’ better than any of its’ counterparts, and will likely be remembered for generations to come.

More than one specific part of the film, the tone is spot on.  Upon the hiring of James Gunn as director, I was understandably worried- even with the bits and pieces that worked with his films Slither and Super, they certainly weren’t complete.  I did, however, detect a specific sensibility from Gunn that would work for a proposed film about a bunch of rag-tag galactic misfits.  From an opening scene where Peter Quill (Pratt) prances around an alien treasure room to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” to a chase on the galaxy’s capitol planet, cast and crew alike seem to know that the world they’ve created is far too ludicrous to be taken too seriously.  As a result, Guardians sets a different set of rules, and comes off as quite self-aware, which is the right approach.  Think of it as an ‘indie blockbuster’.

Star-Lord/Quill is the focus of the story, but unknowingly he brings four other beings to him in search of the stolen alien orb.  On the galaxy’s capitol plant of Xandar, home of the “Nova Corps” (think Green Lantern Lite), Quill tries to sell this alien treasure.  Soon, he’s pursued by the green-hued Gamora (Saldana), the enormous, deadly Drax (Bautista), and the dynamic but scientifically improbable duo of Rocket (Cooper) and Groot (Diesel). After tearing through the city in a three-way bounty chase, all five are arrested and shipped off to “Knowhere”, a floating galactic space skull, which just happens to serve as a prison.  This motley crew goes from fighting each other, to gathering in a police lineup, to plotting an escape, to collaborating against a common enemy, all within 45 minutes.  What feels like a rushed partnership in lesser films actually makes sense here- these five all have specific skills that mesh well, and they’re all outcasts.

Little does Quill know that his artifact-snatching actions have attracted the attention of Thanos (Brolin), the ‘Mad Titan’.  He has both his son Ronan the Accuser (Pace) and his daughter Nebula (Gillan) scheming to acquire the power contained within this orb, and now that the five galactic misfits have it, they’re a target.  Much has been made of the Thanos character since he first appeared on-screen in The Avengers– but if I’m honest, his menacing tease isn’t fully realized here.  Brolin, while vocally capable of pulling off the role, delivers flat, antiseptic lines that don’t reflect the promise of his hype.  I’m sure he’ll eventually show off, but Thanos underwhelmed here.  The same goes for Ronan, who doesn’t appear to have much of a motivation for his aggression, nor is there much nuance to his character, other than his hatred for his boss/father Thanos.  If there is a weak spot to this film, it would be the underwhelming presence of the villains.  In fact, their lack of menace is what keeps this film from overtaking Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Marvel’s best entry.

The villains aren’t what make this memorable, however.  Let us ponder the multiple possibilities for failure with this film- a talking, irascible CGI alien raccoon, a stoic alien tree that can only utter four words, a former pro wrestler in a pivotal role, a green-skinned assassin, and a talented, but unproven lead.  In the hands of lesser talent, Guardians would be a disaster.  As it is, Gunn and crew took all of those same possible eccentricities and spun them into positives.  Pratt is a star- and he’s brilliant as Star-Lord/Quill, showcasing both his comic timing and his action chops.  Cooper and Diesel, while just voices, offer such a depth of character with the small amount of time they have.  It’s truly remarkable how Rocket and Groot are realized, both behind the mic and behind the CGI wizardry.  Saldana, playing off her existing connections to sci-fi popular culture (Star Trek, Avatar), brings depth to her character and elevates it from being a simple hired hand.  Bautista was a real revelation- who would have thought he could bring a dry, comic awareness to a character named ‘Drax the Destroyer’?  What appeared to be a weak link with his casting actually stood out for its’ brilliance.  There are new, exciting worlds loaded with strange, bold new visuals, prompting me (a critical sci-fi stickler) to fixate on the screen in wonder.

Other than the obvious comparison to another pop culture titan in Star Wars, one needn’t look much farther than another Marvel mind for a more prescient comparison.  The late “Firefly” series and subsequent film entry Serenity are good, low-budget templates for this material, but Guardians stands taller.  The ironic part is that Guardians, for all of its’ visual brilliance, actually owes its’ character chemistry in large part to Joss Whedon’s cult favorite.  What sets it apart is Gunn’s inherent odd sensibility- the need to place a gross joke in the right place, or a gnarly alien to ground it in a different universe.

Guardians of the Galaxy does care about the larger “Avengers” universe, but only by proxy.  The filmmakers have forged their own beast here, rife with the fantastical and the improbable, and it works.  Ok, not only does it work, it’s wonderful.  Despite my minor protestations (and they are minor), Guardians succeeds where others haven’t- bringing the spirit and fun of something like Star Wars back to pop culture, a task that even the latter’s creator failed to accomplish.  There are brash heroes, skilled warriors, sly sidekicks, idealistic factions, and loyal friends.  Simple?  Sure.  Pandering?  Not at all.  Guardians is the film experience the Star Wars prequels wishes it could have been- but as a function of artistry, the film isn’t the slightest bit worried about comparisons, expectations, or symmetry along the lines of a franchise.  I appreciate that rebel sensibility, and it should be commended for being so bold as to cast a lead like Pratt, for being weird, and for coming off like the middle child that wants to be noticed, but is fine to do its’ own thing. Guardians is fun enough to make me say I “felt like a kid again”, and actually mean it.

 

*note: the mid-credits scene would be throw-away, if not for the already obvious Star Wars/George Lucas link.  By getting the scene right, it shows just how wrong Lucas was/is, and solidifies Guardians as a new standard-bearer in sci-fi/fantasy. 

Film Review- ‘Wish I Was Here’ (*****)

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He's got a swear jar and he's on a mission.
He’s got a swear jar and he’s on a mission.

“Wish I Was Here”  ***** (out of 5)

Starring: Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad, Joey King, Pierce Gagnon, Jim Parsons, and Ashley Greene

Written by: Zach Braff and Adam Braff

Directed by: Zach Braff

 

Perhaps more than any filmmaker working today, Zach Braff is adept at focusing on a pivotal moment in a character’s life and capturing the emotional depth and lasting impact inherent in said moment.  His 2004 masterpiece Garden State was a seminal film for me, and influenced not only my musical tastes but permeated my thoughts for some time.  It seemed to exist solely to speak to my state of mind.  Of course, it’s a film that I believe spoke to many in my age group, but that is the idea I’m attempting to convey- it captured something specific in that character and mirrored the emotions of the audience.  Wish I Was Here is more of the same, yet different, if that makes sense, but a joy in its’ own right.  As Braff the director, actor, and person has grown, his output appears to have followed, and it translates into one of the year’s best films.

Braff directs himself as foul-mouthed yet spirited father and struggling actor Aidan Bloom- inching towards 40, yet still not entrenched in a ‘life’s work’ situation.  His two children (King and Gagnon) are reasonably well-adjusted, and his marriage, despite its’ financial difficulties, is strong.  He and his on-screen wife (Kate Hudson) depict an unlikely film duo- realistic, likable, supportive, yet cognizant of their struggles, working together for something better.  Their portrayals are a welcome breath of fresh air to on-screen couples- still sexy and oozing chemistry despite having to talk about all that silly ‘real life’ stuff.  Other filmmakers could learn a thing or two from what Braff does here- respecting his characters enough to have intelligent, real thoughts about their lives and not harbor mounds of regret- or look for an escape.

Aidan’s life, as a whole, is at a crossroad.  Like men his age everywhere, he feels the need to take stock and find a direction forward.  His cancer-stricken father (Patinkin) is not-so-subtly disappointed in his professional choices, his disconnected brother (Gad) lives by himself and doesn’t want to help, and he can’t get steady work.  Braff makes a conscious choice here to do something different with this character.  As opposed to falling back on a typical cinematic storyline for a character in dire straits, where they cheat on their wife, go on a lavish vacation, or buy a flashy car, Braff writes his character differently by allowing him to go back to what makes him happy.  He daydreams about the good parts of his childhood, including the rich, make-believe world he and his brother created where they were heroes, escaping a ‘hooded’ dark figure on some remote planet (insert vague paternal symbolism joke here).  He takes his children on a ‘quasi-vacation’ to places that gave him comfort before, spending only what he needs from the family’s ‘swear jar’.  He makes a sincere attempt to bring his estranged brother back into the fold- for after all, as the oldest, it’s important to feel that sense of responsibility.  These may seem like very ‘un-cinematic’ choices to make, but their simplicity actually enriches the story, and results in a series of touching, funny, and emotionally resonant scenes.

I must mention the brilliant accompanying soundtrack, which lends a very specific richness to the material.  Braff clearly has the gift of matching songs to moments- whether or not he was directly or indirectly responsible for the music of “Scrubs”, it was generally spot-on.  The music of Garden State was also a revelation- a compilation that led me to a side of the musical world I barely knew.  Here, he uses Paul Simon again, Bon Iver twice, Badly Drawn Boy, and a wonderful track entitled “Raven Song” by Aaron Embry.  As opposed to most modern cinema, where music is nothing but an odd, off-putting distraction or the set up for a punchline, Braff creates a real companion piece here with his selections, informing the plot as opposed to taking us out of it.  I recognize that ‘indie’ music brings with it an air of pomposity, and Braff has been criticized for an overly emo/acoustic/hipster sensibility.  Regardless of a person’s musical preferences, the music here is subtle, seamlessly flowing with the story.

Sure, there are countless films that tackle ‘life crossroads’, or the emotional impact of a parent’s illness.  There are plenty of films that use indie sounds and sensibilities and symbolism ad nauseam.  Wish I Was Here is all of those things- it’s just better than about every one of them.  This is a script that takes its’ time to recognize poignant moments, has enough intelligence to hold back when it should, and a love for each character, giving every lead an important scene that makes their existence sensible and resonant to the story.  I connected with this film on a deeply emotional level- perhaps it is because I like what Braff does; perhaps his character’s age simply mirrors mine and the emotions I tend towards now; perhaps there are just some films that seem to ‘get’ us more than others.  This is a film that most definitely ‘gets me’, but in fairness, succeeds in spite of me as well.  I can say with a degree of giddiness that I anxiously await Braff’s next creative project, but as the cliché states, sometimes genius takes time.  Ten years between directing gigs may seem extensive, but if it results again in one of the year’s best films, it will undoubtedly be worth the wait.

 

 

 

 

 

Film Review- ‘Gone Girl’ (*****)

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The Chin has implored you to assist him in finding his wife.
The Chin has implored you to assist him in finding his wife.

“Gone Girl”  ***** (out of 5)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, and Casey Wilson

Written by: Gillian Flynn (screenplay), based on her novel

Directed by: David Fincher

 

**SPOILERS POSSIBLE**

The taste of love is sweet; when hearts like ours meet.  I fell for you like a child; oh, but the fire went wild.

– Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire”

Let’s be honest- “love” is a specific and occasionally exhilarating form of psychosis.  After all, the emotions and actions of an individual in love exhibit many of the same qualities as a person diagnosed with a mental illness.  The ups, the downs, the joys, the sorrows, the praise, the harsh words, the intimacy, the lack thereof- it can be a whirlwind from which some are left literally or figuratively scarred for life.  From the viciously stated opening line to the equally bold coda, Gone Girl is a masterpiece portraiture of a relationship gone awry, perfectly capturing that inherent madness of loving, then possibly hating someone with your entire soul.  David Fincher, like he is wont to do, elevated potentially sordid and flaky material into a dark, intelligent, ‘mad’ film.  The result is the year’s best thus far.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as Nick and Amy Dunne, a pair that initially appears to be the perfect couple.  He’s the handsome guy with the acerbic wit, and she’s the quasi-famous trust fund baby, anxious to live a quieter life.  The first act of the film juxtaposes scenes from their happy past with increasingly disturbing scenes from their ‘present’, and catches us up with a particular morning- the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary.  Nick arrives at a bar to see his sister Margo (Carrie Coon), and has a morning drink.  We get the hint that he’s not enthralled with the marriage, and he returns home to find that Amy is gone, and there appears to have been a break-in.  Nick, for all intents and purposes, is calm, cool, and collective about the situation, as it rapidly becomes a city-wide, then nationwide search for Amy.  The preponderance of evidence, neatly woven with the narrative from Amy’s diary, gently suggests that Nick may be involved- or is he?

An ongoing discussion of the plot following that last line would reveal far too much about the film, so allow me to focus instead on what this film says about men, women, their interactions, their relationships, and in essence, gender roles.  While watching this, I felt a connection with the two leads (having understood the madness myself a time or two), and how their words perfectly framed the dissolve of their union.  Nick spits out his truths like “I’m so sick of being picked apart by women”, displaying his gargantuan insecurity whilst simultaneously proving their point.  Amy ‘s diary contains sharp revelations such as “I forged the man of my dreams” and “What did he expect- unconditional love?” whilst expressing confusion and frustration about why Nick wasn’t the man he used to be.  I was transfixed by this fictional couple, and how their relationship ran the gamut of love’s emotions, resulting in what you might call the ‘anti-love story’.  As opposed to living happily ever after, Gone Girl appears more interested in the possibility that it’s not possible.  Nick and Amy created idealized images of themselves in their heads and to each other.  Over time, the pressure of upholding those images led them to a place of deep resentment, springing forth undesirable behaviors, and ultimately, well, you’ll have to watch.  Fincher and Flynn may or may not have meant to have all of those issues come through in the film, but I certainly interpreted it that way.  Sometimes, I wonder how men and women actually get together at all, considering the vast differences in presentation and interpretation the two sides have.  I believe this is a film that understands that, on a primitive level.

Gone Girl isn’t all about Nick & Amy, however.  Fincher, again as he is wont to do, goes to an uncomfortable, dark place in order to resolve this story, and as is typical with his films, I was happy to plunge alongside him. There are a number of unexpected and harsh occurrences in the film’s third act, laced with a biting satire of today’s media frenzy surrounding any sort of story that attracts viewers.  A man suspected of killing his wife is such a story, and I love how Flynn and Fincher ape the sadistically pointless cable news shows (looking directly at you, Nancy Grace) and their insatiable quest to suck the life out of journalism.  I also love how Affleck is able to embrace a character that is nearly a mirror image of himself, distinctive chin and all.  Naturally, there’s also a part of this film that deals with an actual investigation, which is handled with intelligence and wit, mostly thanks to the relentless curiosity of Kim Dickens’ homicide detective.

Aside from Dickens, there are standout performances throughout.  Relative newcomer Carrie Coon is flawless as Nick’s twin sister, and even Tyler Perry shines.  Perry’s casting is an especially smart choice, for when he shakes his head in disbelief at the sensational nature of the happenings around him, the audience, aware of his existing sensational nature, buys the words even more.  I’ll reserve a grand heap of praise for both Affleck (whose skill as an actor I’ve doubted many times before) and Pike, for they deserve it- both have never been better.  Affleck is at once both chill and possibly menacing, a difficult balance to achieve.  Pike is asked to pull off an incredibly varied range of performances, and aside from an interesting take on an American accent, is flawless.  Their portrayals are both daring enough to seriously merit awards consideration, if not a complete lock for Pike.

I admit to a modicum of bias toward this film, as Fincher creates films with a distinct visual style that I’m drawn to in a ‘fanboy’ sort of way.  On the other hand, independent of my preferences, there is a menacing, psychological genius to this movie like none before it.  Oh sure, there are the films of Adrian Lyne, or The War of the Roses, and I’m sure a plethora of other pictures that I haven’t begun to understand that tackle the madness of love, but I haven’t seen anything as bold or ego-piercing as Gone Girl.  Fincher’s work continues to take chances, and he varies his subjects ever so slightly.  He may just be the best working director.  This latest effort is the best film of the year at this point, leaving the audience exhausted from their own whirlwind of emotions.  It is almost as if we’re the ones that had to experience the Dunne relationship- for I was left just as charmed, then roused, then complacent, then emotional, then enraged as the characters on-screen.  Madness, I tell you.