Friday, October 31, 2014

Scream Retrospective

With Halloween upon us once again, it’s time for another retrospective post on an iconic horror film franchise. Like last year, the decision on what franchise I would do for this year’s post came down to two choices. The one that I decided to go with for this year’s post was actually the franchise I was considering to do last year before I decided to review the ‘Evil Dead’ movies; the ‘Scream’ franchise. I was originally considering doing a retrospective on the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise mainly because I figured that it would be more relevant considering that this franchise is still going compared to ‘Scream’ given the last film in that series was released three years ago. But, at the suggestion of my co-panelists on ‘The Feature Presentation’, I decided to do ‘Scream’ instead due to the fact that ‘I would have more to talk about’ with these movies. Plus, there have been reports of a ‘Scream’ TV series in the works so I guess this franchise can be considered ‘relevant’ right now. I’ve noted before that I’m not a huge fan of horror films, mostly just because it isn’t really my thing. But ‘Scream’ is the first major horror film franchise that I’ve watched completely so at this point, I guess you can say that this franchise served as my main introduction to the horror genre. So without further ado, let’s look back upon the series of films that posed one simple question; ‘What’s your favorite scary movie?’ These are the ‘Scream’ movies.

SCREAM (1996)

The first ‘Scream’ movie, directed by iconic horror director Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, served as the revival of the horror film genre when it was released in 1996. Before that, the genre had grown tired and clichéd. So what did ‘Scream’ do? It made fun of this fact as the characters within the movie were all very much aware of the clichés of the genre. In other words, this was a screenplay that was full of meta dialogue and it is done to great effect here. But at the same time, ‘Scream’ is also a legitimately scary movie. Craven does a great job of establishing the mood and atmosphere right from the get-go with an opening sequence that back then clearly must’ve surprised anyone who thought that Drew Barrymore’s character Casey was going to be the main character. Although it is just a movie, this does feel like it could happen in real-life; after all, this was inspired by the case of the Gainesville Ripper. This film also benefits from where it’s set; in the scenic valleys of California. The finale takes place in a house in a rather secluded area, which really establishes a sense of tension and suspense as it feels like the characters are on their own, cut off from the rest of the world. All in all, ‘Scream’ is not only a great horror film but also a very smartly-written horror film that was very much self-aware of how repetitive the horror genre had become at the time.

Rating: 5/5!

SCREAM 2 (1997)

Just like its predecessor, ‘Scream 2’ pokes fun at the many clichés of the horror genre but with this, there’s an added layer when it comes to parodying the genre; horror sequels. As we all know, most sequels are never as good as the originals, especially when it comes to horror films. Thankfully, ‘Scream 2’ ends up being one of the best horror sequels to date. It maintains the same level as suspense and tension from the original as well as the ‘self-aware’ nature that made the first movie so great in the first place. Of course, as is common with pretty much every sequel, ‘Scream 2’ also ‘ups the ante’, moving from the quiet town of Woodsboro to a college campus while also progressing the story and characters (more specifically, those that survived the events of the first ‘Scream’) further. It may not ultimately be as good as the first film, and as we’ll soon see, the decision to kill off Randy (Jamie Kennedy), arguably the best character in the entire series, will ultimately end up working against the series. Still, ‘Scream 2’ manages to be another solid horror film and if anything, it’s one of the best sequels of the horror genre.

Rating: 4/5

SCREAM 3 (2000)

‘Scream 3’ is the only film in the series not to be written by Kevin Williamson… and that is one of the key reasons why it is ultimately the weakest entry in the entire series. There are quite a few reasons as to why this is but the biggest reason is that after two films that did a great job of parodying the horror genre and its clichés, this film now falls victim to a lot of those clichés to the point where sometimes you wonder if this is even supposed to be in the same universe as the first two films (as I noted earlier, killing off Randy… not really a good move). And while the first two films both had a memorable cast of characters, this one doesn’t. Well, Parker Posey does manage to stand out amongst the new additions as the actress playing Gale in the fictional ‘Stab’ movies originally based off of the events of the first film (a ‘movie within a movie’) but for the most part it’s just your typical cast of ‘horror movie characters’ just there to be killed off. Save for Posey, you’re not going to remember any of them, especially the one who ends up being the main villain. Not only that, but the filmmakers also add in a twist connecting the killer to Sidney. This twist tries to connect the film to the events of the first film but ultimately comes off as being sort of unnecessary if you really think about it.

The film also does a poor job in handling the characters of Sidney and Gale. In the case of Gale, she’s gone from being the hard-nosed reporter that she was in the last two films to being incredibly dependent of Dewey for pretty much the entirety of this film. As for Sidney, it’s nothing about her actual character but more of the fact that she’s not in the movie as much. This is due to the fact that, at the time this was being filmed, Neve Campbell was busy with other projects. This means that she was only on set for about 3 weeks, resulting in a much more limited screen-time compared to her fellow cast members. I didn’t note this with either the first or second film but I feel that Campbell and the character of Sidney are the main highlights of the franchise. Sidney is a very likable character and we sympathize with her given her tragic backstory; that being the death of her mother. That and Campbell does a fantastic job in the role so in short, the best scenes are ‘Scream 3’ are when she’s on screen and the movie genuinely loses something whenever she’s not on-screen.

I’m guessing that with this film, most people will put the blame on writer Ehren Kruger, who has since gone on to write the much maligned ‘Transformers’ sequels and while I have made it very much clear that I do like those movies, it’s never been for the writing. However, in the case of ‘Scream 3’, it’s not really Kruger’s fault as he was brought into a franchise he was unfamiliar with. In reality, the main one to blame here is the studio, Dimension Films. They were basically rushing the film so that it could be finished on time for the planned release date. This is why Kevin Williamson was unable to return to write the film as he was busy with another project. This is why Neve Campbell was only able to be on set for 20 days, hence why the character of Sidney isn’t in the movie as much. ‘Scream 3’ is, to put it quite simply, the Hollywood-produced version of ‘Scream’ and not the smart referential meta-horror movie that its two predecessors were. What the studio should have done was wait a bit so that Williamson and Campbell could both be involved in the project full-time. Whether or not that would’ve actually made the movie better is up for debate but if you ask me, it would have been a step in the right direction. As is, ‘Scream 3’ is a pretty weak and incredibly disappointing follow-up to two rock solid horror films. I don’t really hate it as much as others might but that doesn’t mean I like it that much either.

Rating: 1.5/5

SCREAM 4 (2011)

A decade after the release of ‘Scream 3’, the series returned for one more film with ‘Scream 4’. This time, Williamson returned as the film’s writer, resulting in a film that improves on many of the problems of the previous film. The ‘self-aware’ nature of the first two films returns with this one, which now focuses on how nowadays the horror genre mostly consists of remakes. Because of this, this film can pretty much be referred to as a ‘remake’ of the first film, even though it’s technically a sequel, right down to the fact that this film even re-creates certain sequences from the original ‘Scream’. It also does a better job in regards to handling the characters of Sidney and Gale. Gale’s ‘no-nonsense’ attitude returns here, having been sorely missed in the last film, and Sidney has much more screen-time here than she did in ‘Scream 3’. As for the new cast of characters, they’re much more memorable than the ones in ‘Scream 3’, with the main stand-out of them being Hayden Panettiere as Kirby, who you can pretty much refer to as the ‘Randy’ of the new cast given the similarities between the two of them. The reveal of the killer is much better than in ‘Scream 3’ and also makes much more sense, without any awkward twists. And while I’ve heard some people say that the finale is just ‘crazy’, I’ll admit I like it if only because of one awesome line said by Sidney; “You forgot the first rule of remakes… don’t f*** with the original”. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

But despite all that I just said, why then is this film ultimately not as good as the first two films? Well, ultimately I think it’s because of one simple reason; ‘franchise fatigue’. It’s not really the fault of the film; this happens to a lot of franchises with more than three films. If you really think about it, ‘Scream 4’ wasn’t exactly needed. Sure, ‘Scream 3’ wasn’t really that good but at least it was the finale to a ‘trilogy’. Granted, ‘Scream 4’ is a far better film, but it’s sort of one of those cases of ‘one film too many’. After all, all four ‘Scream’ films have almost identical plots with not many differences amongst them. So in other words, like how the horror genre had become tired all those years ago before the release of the original ‘Scream’ due to the fact that a lot of them were pretty much the same, ‘Scream 4’ doesn’t really offer much new compared to the first two entries in the series and it rather lacks the same amount of scares and suspense that the first two had. Still, this film at least manages to get the bad taste of ‘Scream 3’ out of our mouths for the most part and, if anything, it’s a far more fitting conclusion to the series than ‘Scream 3’ was. Thankfully, it seems like this will be the last ‘Scream’ film… we really don’t need another one.

Rating: 3.5/5

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Top 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2015

2015 is almost upon us and as many of you know by now, it’s looking to be quite a year for movies. So much so that by the end of last year, it was hyped up so much that pretty much everyone overlooked 2014, which I do feel was a little unfair given some of the great films that have come out this year like ‘Gone Girl’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, and ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. Still, I can’t deny it… it really does look like 2015 is going to be one of the biggest years in movie history as there are quite a lot of exciting upcoming releases next year; too many to count, really. So today, I give you my list of my personal Top 10 most anticipated films of 2015.  Now of course, most of the films on this list are still many months away from being released so at the moment we don’t know that much about them. So that means that there is going to be quite a lot of speculating in this post which may or may not end up being true when these films are officially released. But before we get into the official Top 10, I’ll just go through my 7 honorable mentions.


Now on the surface, this film could go either way. That’s mostly because it’s an Adam Sandler comedy and as we all know, they can be hit or miss and unfortunately, there have been quite a lot of misses recently like ‘Jack and Jill’ and ‘Grown Ups 2’. But ultimately the main reason why I’m looking forward to this is quite simple… it’s about video games. And really, when it comes to films about video games, the best films are the ones that aren’t primarily based on a certain game like ‘Tron’ and ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ which are instead inspired by video games. So because of that, I’m curious to see what (if any) famous video games/characters will be featured in the film. Plus, Sandler does have a pretty nice supporting cast backing him up, including Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, and Peter Dinklage with a badass mullet. How could you go wrong? The film is directed by Chris Columbus, a director that I do like having done the first two ‘Home Alone’ films, the first two ‘Harry Potter’ films (See a pattern here?), and ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’. Again, because this is an Adam Sandler film, it may ultimately end up not being that good. However in this case, I’m going stay very optimistic about it if only for the fact that I love video games. Sure, video games and movies haven’t fared well when combined together (in either direction) but who knows? Given that there are adaptations of ‘Assassin’s Creed’, ‘Warcraft’, and ‘Ratchet and Clank’ (just to name a few) currently in production, maybe the trend could change.


Like many 90’s kids, I grew up reading the ‘Goosebumps’ books by R.L. Stine and I did watch many episodes of the TV show (albeit when I was a little older but that’s beside the point) so I’m interested in seeing how this film plays out, especially considering that apparently it is going to have a fairly meta story. The film centers a kid who moves to a town in Maryland where he meets a girl who lives next door to him. It turns out that her father just so happens to be none other than R.L. Stine himself (who will be played by Jack Black) and the boy ends up releasing the various monsters and creatures that have been featured in Stine’s book series. While I will admit that I haven’t read all of the Goosebumps books, I am actually rather interesting in seeing what famous characters from the series will be making an appearance in this movie. It’s been nearly more than two decades since the original series of books were released so hopefully this film will do a good job at paying tribute to this iconic kid-friendly horror franchise.


If I hadn’t seen ‘The Maze Runner’, I wouldn’t have listed this film in this post but I did see ‘The Maze Runner’ and as you know from my review, I really liked it. It had an incredibly compelling story, a really nice production design and pretty top-notch special effects, and a terrific cast. Overall, it was one of the better films of the Young Adult Book-to-Film genre up there with ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Hunger Games’. So in short, I’m really looking forward to learning where this story is heading next. The first film did end on one of the more obvious ‘sequel-baiting’ lines in recent history (and to my knowledge, the big reveal at the end of this film didn’t actually happen until the second book) but I’m still interested in this franchise. While the Young Adult Genre dominates Hollywood right now (and most of the time to rather mediocre results), I’m glad to see that one of the better franchises from this genre is doing pretty well both critically and commercially.


There have been quite a lot of ‘copycat films’ that have come out in the last few years. In 2012, there were two ‘Snow White’ films. In 2013, there were two ‘Invasion of the White House’ movies. And this year, there were two ‘Hercules’ movies. As for the next major pair of ‘copycat films’, one is hitting theaters next year while the other one comes out exactly one year later in 2016. Both of which are adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’. First out of the gate is Disney’s take on the book (their second after their 1967 animated version, which was notably the last Disney film produced by Walt Disney before his death) directed by Jon Favreau. The film features a prime ensemble cast, even though most of them are only doing voice work while Neel Sethi is the only major human character as the man-cub Mowgli. He is joined by Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Christopher Walken as King Louie, and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera. This film will be followed in 2016 by the Warner Bros. film ‘The Jungle Book: Origins’, directed by Andy Serkis, who will also be playing Baloo. This film too has a great ensemble cast; Christian Bale as Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as Kaa, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan. Since it won’t be released until October 2016 (again literally just a year after Favreau’s film in October 2015) I won’t go too much in trying to predict which film will be better. It’s looking like Serkis’ version will be better, but even with that said, I’m still interested in seeing Favreau’s version.


When the first teaser for this film was released, I heard a lot of negative reactions towards it. That surprised me because my reaction was the polar opposite towards this teaser for the latest adaptation of the ‘Peanuts’ comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz. The animation looks really nice as it looks like they’re going for a combination of the 2D animation that has defined the ‘Peanuts’ TV specials and 3-D animation; in other words a 2.5-D animation style. This film will be hitting theaters in the year where the comic strip celebrates its 65th anniversary. I’ve watched a lot of the specials multiple times since I was young so I am interested in seeing this new film and I am pretty confident the filmmakers are going to do the franchise justice with their take on these iconic characters.


The ‘Mission Impossible’ film franchise has been on a really good run recently. The first film may not have been perfect but it was still a pretty solid spy thriller. As for the second film, well… not so much. Thankfully, the franchise got back on the right foot when then first-time film director J.J. Abrams helmed the third film, which finally started to move away from having the films primarily focus on Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. Then things got even better when Brad Bird made his live-action film debut with ‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’, which featured phenomenal action sequences and a great group of lead characters that were each given solid amounts of character development… again, it wasn’t all about Tom Cruise. So now we come to Mission Impossible 5. This time Bird isn’t directing due to his work on another film (which, (Spoilers!), you will see in the Top 10) and instead Christopher McQuarrie steps in to direct. This is only his third film as a director but he has worked with Tom Cruise multiple times before on films like ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ and ‘Jack Reacher’ so it’s clear that they do work well together. This film will also feature the primary cast of the last film returning (except for Paula Patton… for some as of yet undisclosed reason) so while this may not be directed by Brad Bird, things still look good for the franchise that has gotten better with every film (save for number 2).        


2014 was the first year since 2005 where we did not get a new Pixar film. Originally, this film, ‘The Good Dinosaur’, was supposed to come out in 2014 but it ended up getting pushed back. The reason for this? Well that was because the film’s director, Bob Peterson, was taken off of the project due to story problems and he has since been replaced by members of the ‘Pixar Brain Trust’. That is ultimately why this film didn’t make the Top 10 because compared to the other Pixar film coming out this year, this one seems like somewhat of a risk. Apparently the film has been ‘dismantled and completely reimagined’, according to John Lithgow, who is part of the film’s voice cast along with Frances McDormand, Neil Patrick Harris, Judy Greer, and Bill Hader. Now for the record, this isn’t the first time this has happened to Pixar; it also happened on some of their other films like ‘Toy Story 2’ and ‘Ratatouille’. Then there’s also the fact that Pixar has not exactly been on the best run in recent years. Still, this is a Pixar film (1 of 2 coming out this year, a first for the company) so I’m hopeful that this will be the year that Pixar officially returns to its position as the ‘kings of computer animation’.

And speaking of Pixar, starting things off at Number 10 is the other Pixar film hitting theaters this year, which comes out five months before ‘The Good Dinosaur’.


As I just noted, Pixar has not been on the best run recently. I didn’t think ‘Cars 2’ was as bad as most critics were saying it was but even then I still felt that it was Pixar’s weakest film to date as it was primarily geared towards kids and not to adults, whereas the other Pixar films were able to appeal to both kids and adults with not just their terrific animation but well-written stories and characters. As for their next film, ‘Brave’, it started out great but then sort of became your average family film, resulting in a rather disappointing entry in Pixar’s prestigious filmography. Thankfully, I feel that Pixar did manage to get back on track with last year’s ‘Monsters University’. Sure, it may not have been the absolute best Pixar film, but it was much more in line with the previous Pixar films with its solid writing, memorable characters, and great amount of heart. That is why I’m hopeful that ‘Inside Out’ will continue this solid trend. The premise for the film is pretty interesting; it revolves around the ‘emotions’ within the mind of a little girl as they try to keep everything under control when she moves to a new city with her parents. The film is directed by Pete Docter, who directed two of Pixar’s best films in ‘Monsters Inc.’ and ‘Up’ so it looks like we’re in good hands with this one. Ultimately though, the main reason why I picked this over ‘Good Dinosaur’ is because overall I think this film has a slightly more interesting premise.

My number 9 pick is the next entry in a hugely popular film franchise though in the case of this film, it has had quite a few hurdles to overcome.


Looking back at my 2014 most anticipated list, I realize that I might have posted it just a little bit too early. I posted it in September 2013 and just a few months afterwards, two films that were I my Top 10 list for most anticipated for this year ended up getting pushed back to 2015; this is one of those films though in this case, it was for tragic reasons. On November 30th, 2013, series star Paul Walker died in a car accident while filming was on break for the holidays. Since then, the filmmakers have spent a lot of time reworking the film so that the character of Brian O’Connor could be retired instead of killed. So like Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight’, this film will forever be haunted by the loss of Walker. But aside from that, there’s another big question mark regarding this new film and that is in regards to director James Wan taking over directing duties from Justin Lin. Wan has mainly been known for his work in the horror genre with films like ‘The Conjuring’, ‘Saw’, and ‘Insidious’. This is his first foray into the action genre so it’ll be interesting to see how Wan fares in this genre. Regardless though, the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise has been on a really good run recently following the commercial and critical (the latter of which was actually rather surprising given the general critical reception to the previous four films) success of ‘Fast Five’ and ‘Fast and Furious 6’. I think it’s safe to say the seventh film will at least be a commercial hit and also due to the death of Walker, this film is going to be one to focus on.

While I might be in the minority when it comes to liking ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, I feel that 2014 has been the best year for comic movies to date and while ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ may not have fared well with everybody, the other comic book films of this year, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ were all very well-received by both critics and audiences. One thing they all had in common? They were all based on Marvel properties and this year will see three more Marvel films. My Number 8 film is the first of these that you’ll be seeing on this list.


While superhero film franchises like Spider-Man, X-Men, and The Avengers have been able to be successfully both critically and commercially, other franchises haven’t had the same luck. One of those franchises is the ‘Fantastic Four’. While many people are familiar with the 2005 film adaptation and its 2007 sequel, there was actually another Fantastic Four film in 1994. Never heard of it? Well, that’s for good reason as it was actually never released. This is due to the fact that while Marvel did let it get made, they never actually intended to release it. So that went nowhere and instead we got 2005’s ‘Fantastic Four’ and 2007’s ‘Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer’. These two films are not as well-regarded amongst comic book fans. Now I will admit that I don’t think they’re absolutely terrible (in fact, you could say that I sort of actually… like them) but at the same time they’re not perfect. There were some genuinely solid bits of casting, including Chris Evans (who later took on another famous superhero role, Captain America, in, let’s be honest, far better movies) as the Human Torch and Michael Chiklis as the Thing but it also cast Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman and in the sequel made the character of Galactus a cloud… to put it bluntly, epic fail.

So hopefully this new ‘Fantastic Four’ film will manage to be the first great film in the series. It does have a really nice cast and crew attached to it. The film is directed by Josh Trank, who had previously directed the excellent found footage film, ‘Chronicle’, a film that may not have been based off of anything but was, technically speaking, about kids with superpowers so he’s definitely a good choice for the job. The film is produced by Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn, both of whom had helped resurrect the X-Men franchise with ‘First Class’ and ‘Days of Future Past’ so I have the feeling that they will be able to do the same thing with the ‘Fantastic Four’. Finally, the film has a great group of leads to play the Four; Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as Invisible Woman, Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch (haters, you can shut up about the fact that he’s black… get over it!), and Jamie Bell as The Thing. As the backlash against Jordan’s casting shows, this film hasn’t had the best publicity as not everyone is too positive about the cast (you know, like pretty much every other frigging superhero film ever made?!). I for one am not one of those people and I’m eager to see Trank’s take on these iconic characters.

A lot of famous film franchises are making a major comeback next year. My Number 7 pick is one of those films.


Here we have ‘Jurassic World’, the fourth film in the ‘Jurassic Park’ film franchise, originally based off of the 1990 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. This time, newcomer Colin Trevorrow takes over as director for this film which is set to take place a little more than two decades after the events of the original film. It will be returning to the island of Isla Nublar, where InGen CEO John Hammond had previously attempted to build a theme park called ‘Jurassic Park’ which featured real dinosaurs cloned from fossil DNA, which ultimately ended up going wrong. In this new film, a new theme park has been built under new ownership but when the park’s attendance starts to decline, a new attraction is created in order to drum up interest for the park, which is where things start going wrong… again. I haven’t seen Trevorrow’s previous film, ‘Safety not Guaranteed’, so I’m curious to see if he’s the right choice to follow in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg. Still, Spielberg is an Executive Producer so it does look like we’ll be in good hands with this one. Plus, Trevorrow has stated that the film will be utilizing practical effects, which is somewhat of a rarity in today’s Hollywood, so fans of old-fashioned special effects (which were used in the original ‘Jurassic Park’ even though the Dinosaurs were created via CGI) should be satisfied with certain aspects of the film. So while this film has been in development hell for quite some time and is coming off of two sequels that weren’t as well-regarded as the first, it’s time for the dinosaurs to make a major comeback.

Closing out the first half of this Top 10 list is the finale to what is currently the most successful book-to-film franchise at the moment.


We’re still a few weeks away from the release of ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’ so the big question about these last two ‘Hunger Games’ at the moment is whether or not the decision to split the final book of the series these films are based off of into two separate films was a good idea. Pretty much every major studio with a popular film franchise based off of a best-selling book series has been doing this to fairly mixed results. ‘Harry Potter’ of course started the trend with ‘Deathly Hallows’ but that was a case where it did work because there was enough material for two films. ‘Twilight’ then split ‘Breaking Dawn’ into two films and while I haven’t seen those films, I can already tell that it was unnecessary. And just a month after ‘Divergent’ was released, the final book in that series was announced to be split into two films. Thankfully, this will not be the case with ‘The Maze Runner’ when that series gets to its finale. But anyway, back to ‘Mockingjay’. Given that ‘Mockingjay’ wasn’t as big of a book as something like ‘Deathly Hallows’, I’m very much fairly hesitant about the decision to split it into two films. However, recent reports have given some insight onto why this might actually be a good move.

Apparently, author Suzanne Collins was forced to condense a lot of the story that she was planning into just one book. So it looks like because of this, these two films will be able to go more in depth into the story, in which Katniss Everdeen finds herself right at the front of the revolution of the districts of Panem against the Capitol. I’m aware that the last book wasn’t as well-received due to its ‘fast-paced’ tone so hopefully that means that these two films will be able to fix that problem, again due to the fact that it looks like there will be more time for character and story development. But if anything, I think that we are in good hands with these last two films. I do stand by the first film as being a really good film despite some issues (namely shaky cam work and editing). But like everyone else, I do agree that ‘Catching Fire’ was a superior sequel (ironically the book wasn’t as well-received) in pretty much every way. Director Francis Lawrence did a great job at expanding the world of Panem, which we didn’t really see much in the first film, and avoided using shaky cam and quick editing once we got to the actual Hunger Games. He was definitely the perfect choice to take over the franchise so I’m pretty certain that both ‘Mockingjay Part 1’ and ‘Mockingjay Part 2’ will be just as good as ‘Catching Fire’. But then again, at the time I’m currently writing this, Part 1 isn’t even out yet so we still have to see if the two-film split is going to work.

At Number 5, I have the superhero film that probably has the biggest hurdle to overcome compared to the other two coming out this year.


Out of all of the films on this list, ‘Ant-Man’, the first film of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has the biggest chip on its shoulder. Originally the film was one of the first major projects that Marvel Studios had in development with director Edgar Wright attached to do the film. However, back in May, a bombshell was dropped when it was announced that Wright was walking away from the film due to creative differences on account of Marvel rewriting the script against his own will. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long for Marvel to find a replacement as Peyton Reed was hired to direct the film, which will star Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a criminal who acquires technology that allows him to shrink down in size but also increase in strength with the help of his mentor Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. But even though the film is back on schedule, it’s still a major risk for the studio to the point where a lot of people are predicting that this is going to be Marvel’s first major flop. Plus, unfortunately it seems that not everyone has gotten over the fact that Wright left the project. I previously did a post on this matter where I stated that I’m not at all worried about this film even with Wright’s departure.

Yes, it does suck that Wright is no longer attached to direct the film. I’m certain his take on the character would’ve be amazing, just like his other movies. But really… it’s time to get over it guys. Marvel moved on from it, they found someone to replace him, and it looks like everything’s smooth sailing from here. Yes, Peyton Reed is not exactly the absolute perfect choice to take over for Wright but as proven earlier this year by the Russo brothers’ work on ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, it’s not like comedy directors can’t do action movies. There has also been some doubt about this film, not only because of the Wright controversy but also due to the fact that ‘Ant-Man’ seems like a pretty hard comic book franchise to adapt onto film. Well, in regards to the latter, I got four words to respond to that… Guardians… of… the… Galaxy! Remember when we all thought that was going to be a flop (myself included)? Well, at the time I’m writing this, it is currently the third highest-grossing film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so yeah… it wasn’t a flop. The bottom line is that Marvel Studios has yet to make a bad film. Even their weaker entries like ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘The Incredible Hulk’ are still very entertaining and as ‘Guardians’ proved, they can do some more obscure franchises (unlike DC). So in short, I’m not at all worried about ‘Ant-Man’… I think it’s going to turn out good. Again folks, ultimately it’s just that it’s time that we got over the Wright situation. Like they say in ‘Frozen’…

I tell you, I cannot wait for my Number 4 pick to come out, the latest film from one of my all-time favorite directors.


This was the other film that I mentioned earlier that got pushed back from its original 2014 release date. The good thing is that now that’s it been about a year, we’ve learned a little bit more about the newest film from one of my absolute favorite directors, Brad Bird. For the record though, we still don’t know that much about the film but the first trailer was just recently released so now we’re starting to get an idea of what this film is going to be about. So according to the plot synopsis, it’s about a ‘grizzled’ inventor (George Clooney) and a teenaged girl (Britt Robertson) who travel to a mysterious world known as ‘Tomorrowland’ where they are able to have a direct impact on changing the world. Now something that I’ve been wondering about in regards to this film since it was renamed from ‘1952’ to ‘Tomorrowland’ is if this film was going to be connected in any way to the section of Disney Theme Parks of the same name. Well, based on the first trailer, I’m guessing it only shares the name of Tomorrowland and will not actually focus on the park, which to be honest I think is actually a much more intriguing premise. Then again, apparently there have been some scenes shot at the parks (according to IMDB) so who knows? There’s also been speculation regarding a ‘mystery box’ of items that has been a big part of the film’s marketing campaign. This box contains various items such as old archive photos of Walt Disney, a copy of an old Sci-Fi magazine and old plans for park attractions among other things. I’m guessing that perhaps Bird and co-writer Damon Lindelof are using these items as elements of the story. For example, at the end of the trailer, someone flies across the screen in a jetpack and sure enough, one of the items in the box is a set of plans for what would have been a jet pack ride at the theme parks. Really though, I don’t know what this film is going to be like. But what I do know is that it’s a Brad Bird film and he’s made some of the best films of the last few years. Consider me extremely excited for this film.

My Number 3 pick may not have an official title yet but I still can’t wait to see it.


In the months before the release of the 23rd Bond film, ‘Skyfall’, I watched all of the previous 22 Bond films and I became a major Bond fan. Then ‘Skyfall’ came out… and it was phenomenal; definitely one of the best films in the entire series. So of course, I cannot wait for the next Bond adventure, which will once again be directed by Sam Mendes coming off of his fantastic directing efforts on ‘Skyfall’. But like with ‘Tomorrowland’, not much is known about the overall plot. Actually to be more precise, we don’t anything about the plot yet. I’m not going to try and speculate what it might be but I’m kind of hoping that sometime soon (if not in this film), the franchise is going resurrect the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld and his terrorist organization SPECTRE. After all, the rights to both Blofeld and SPECTRE were recently acquired by MGM, the studio behind the Bond films, so who knows? But for now, let’s look at the current cast. Of course, Daniel Craig will return as Bond along with the newest iterations of M, Q, and Moneypenny, as portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, and Naomie Harris, respectively. Lea Seydoux (‘Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol’, ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’) has been cast as one of the Bond girls and while it’s not officially been confirmed, Dave Bautista (fresh off of his great turn as Drax the Destroyer in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’) is being considered for the role of the film’s main henchman in the same veins of classic henchman like Oddjob and Jaws. As for the main villain, Chiwetel Ejiofor is reportedly the top contender for the role though like with Bautista, nothing’s been confirmed yet. All in all, this looks like this is shaping up to be a nice return to the style of the old-school Bond films (e.g. the Sean Connery/Roger Moore eras). Simply put, I can’t wait to see what happens next for 007.

For Number 2, I have what is very much shaping up to be the biggest film of 2015 given how much hype there has been surrounding it.


AKA what is sure to be almost everyone else’s most anticipated film of 2015; seriously, the hype for this film is frigging insane. I can only imagine what the midnight premiere for the film’s going to be like having already been to a huge premiere with ‘Deathly Hallows Part 2’. So with that said, why is this only my second most anticipated film of the year? Well, there are two main reasons for this; the first is that in recent years I’ve become more of a ‘Star Trek’ fan, mostly due to the excellent reboot films; ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’. Don’t get me wrong, I still like ‘Star Wars’; heck, I even like the much-maligned prequels, which as I’ve said before seriously aren’t as bad as the internet has put them out to be. But it has primarily been due to the frequent changes that George Lucas has made to the original ‘Star Wars’ films and his ignorance of the original unaltered cuts of the film that have driven me more towards ‘Trek’. But the biggest reason for this is because I’m actually kind of worried about how this film will fare amongst audiences. I feel that the hype for this film has gotten a bit out of hand and I have a feeling we might have another case like ‘The Phantom Menace’ in which the amount of hype surrounding the film will ultimately be its downfall. Now I’m not saying this won’t be like ‘The Phantom Menace’ in regards to the film itself but I’m still very much worried that not everyone’s going to like the film. Seriously, didn’t we learn anything from the prequels about getting up our hopes up way too high for one of these films?

Ultimately there is one major reason why I’m excited the film and it’s not just simply that ‘there’s going to be a new Star Wars film’. In reality, it’s because it’s being directed by one of my top five favorite directors currently working today in Hollywood; J.J. Abrams, who has directed two of my favorite films of all time; ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Super 8’. I’m confident that Abrams will do justice for ‘Star Wars’ and bring it back to top form just like he did with ‘Star Trek’. Heck, you can sort of view both of Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ films as his audition tapes for ‘Episode VII’ due to the fact that they have a ‘Star Wars’ vibe to them. And while there have been quite a lot of ‘Star Trek’ fans who have been against this, I for one am not one of them as I felt like this gave the series new life and infused some much needed energy into the series. So overall I feel that this will translate well to ‘Episode VII’. Ultimately though, there is quite a lot riding on this film and as I just noted earlier, all of the hype surrounding this film might have a very negative effect on the film. But I still have faith in J.J., who has stated that he actually is a bigger ‘Star Wars’ fan than he was a ‘Star Trek’ fan so if anything, at least we have someone who does understand the franchise quite well helming this film. Still, while this is my 2nd most anticipated film of the year, I’m not even going to attempt to hype it up any farther because that’s already being done quite a lot. I think the film’s going to be good but in regards to the hype, to quote… well, many of the characters in ‘Star Wars’, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

And finally we come to Number 1 which, given my praises towards the franchise this film is a part of, many of you probably already know what it is. So let’s not waste any more time; my most anticipated film of 2015 is…


Yeah, I know it’s obvious, but really can you blame me? I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I cannot wait for the follow-up to 2012’s epic superhero team-up; ‘The Avengers’. But before I start raving about how much I’m excited about ‘Age of Ultron’, I just want to get something out of the way first. The first trailer has just recently been released for the film; originally it was supposed to debut during tonight’s episode of ‘Agents of SHIELD’ but unfortunately that plan got screwed up when someone leaked the footage just a day after the announcement. Now, I do salute Marvel for how they handled this situation by just deciding to go ahead and release the trailer immediately but I’m still very much pissed at the jackass who decided to ruin everyone’s fun and post the trailer before its debut. Now I know that not everyone’s as big a fan of ‘Agents of SHIELD’ as I am and you could sort of view that plan as a marketing ploy to get more viewers for the show (which in all seriousness has really been fantastic recently) but in all seriousness this is another case of how it’s really hard these days to keep anything about a film secret because these days the internet can find out pretty much almost anything about any film due to leaks.

Anyway, back to the film; ‘Age of Ultron’ is really looking like it’s going to be a big one for the MCU as the Avengers face their toughest enemy yet in Ultron, played by James Spader. Based on this first trailer, it really looks like Ultron is going to be a really intimidating villain, which is good considering that most people feel that most of the MCU villains (AKA anyone not named Loki) have been rather weak. I’m not really one of these people but it looks like Ultron is going to end up being one of the best villains of the MCU. Not only that, but it’s looking like the film is going to be taking a much darker route than anything we’ve seen from the MCU so far which is very exciting. It’ll be interesting to see how this film will affect the MCU as a whole; ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ already dropped a bombshell with the reveal that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been taken over by HYDRA so what about this one? Could one of ‘The Avengers’ actually be killed off? Joss Whedon has been known for killing off major characters in his films/TV Shows and while Phase Two of the MCU has been dominated by characters who were seemingly killed off but ultimately brought back to life, it’s looking like someone could really bite the dust in this one. But in the end, I just can’t wait for this one. DC and ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’, you are going to have one hell of a tough act to follow with this one.

So those are my Top 10 most anticipated films of 2015. But there are still quite a few more films that are coming out next year that I didn’t list here. So with that said, what are your most anticipated films of 2015? Be sure to sound off in the comments.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fury (2014) review

War films… can be brutal; there’s no denying it. I really can’t think of any war film (that I’ve seen at least) that wasn’t brutal in some way, shape, or form. I mean, would you ever make a lighthearted film based on some of the darkest moments of human history? Odds are you probably wouldn’t because ‘war is hell’ and we have certainly seen that through other famous war films like ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Flags of our Fathers’, and arguably the most famous war film of the modern era, ‘Saving Private Ryan’. This idea of the horrors of war is also showcased in the latest war flick, ‘Fury’, the second major film of the year directed by David Ayer (most famous for writing the film ‘Training Day’) following the release of ‘Sabotage’ back in March. ‘Fury’ admittedly can be very brutal at times as is common with war films, and it is also very grim. In fact, this film is arguably grimmer than it is brutal. But even with that in mind, ‘Fury’ is still an extremely riveting war drama featuring a top notch cast of leads and some truly exceptional action sequences. Yes, it’s very hard to watch at times but many other war films have been as well. This one is no exception.

The film takes place in April 1945 near the end of the European Theater section of World War II as the Allied forces begin to make their final push into Nazi Germany. We primarily follow the five-man crew of a Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury” led by Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), with the main crew consisting of himself, Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf), Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Pena), and Grady “Coon-Ass” Travis (Jon Bernthal). Their fifth crew member ends up getting killed in battle and is immediately replaced by Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), a typist who had just enlisted a few weeks ago. Due to his inexperience in tank combat and his unwillingness/hesitation to kill any enemy soldiers, Ellison is initially mocked by the rest of the crew of ‘Fury’, who have all been together since the North African campaign. This results in “Wardaddy” having to get him into the ‘warfighting’ spirit as they head off on a mission behind enemy lines where they soon find themselves outnumbered and outgunned against the German army.

Some have said that this film is like having someone come up to you and yell “war is hell” at you for two hours and while I can definitely see where these people are coming from, ‘Fury’ hasn’t been the only war movie to do this. Yes this film is brutal and yes it’s very grim but despite that it does do a really great job at portraying the horrors of war, specifically through the eyes of Ellison, who’s clearly in way over his head due to the fact that he’s a ‘rookie’ of war compared to the rest of the crew of ‘Fury’. Ultimately, he too has to go to some very dark places because that’s what happens in war; Compassion won’t get you anywhere far. This film features some incredible cinematography and the action sequences are phenomenal, some of the best that I’ve seen from a war movie. This helps make it extremely compelling although there is one scene in the film around the midway point that really slows things down, and not entirely in a good way. The scene in question is when the main characters go into a German town and meet a young woman and her cousin in their house. Now for the record, this isn’t exactly a ‘bad’ scene as it does allow for some nice bits of character development, particularly for Wardaddy and Ellison. The problem, however, is that it just goes on for way too long. In what is a two hour movie, this sequence arguably takes up about a quarter of the runtime. Again, it’s not a ‘bad’ scene, but the film would’ve really benefitted from having it trimmed a bit.

One of the key factors to this film’s success relied on whether or not the five leads have great camaraderie with one another given the fact that they’re all cooped up in a tank and are basically the only people on screen for most of the film. Now unfortunately, most of the main characters come off as being rather unlikable at times, primarily due to how they initially treat Ellison, resulting in him being the main one you root for over the course of the film. Jon Bernthal’s character in particular comes off as being particularly dickish, especially during the aforementioned sequence in the German village. Heck, even Wardaddy acts a little extreme at times when he’s working to break Ellison’s innocence, like when he forces him to shoot a prisoner against his will. But as the movie goes on, we do see that there are still ounces of humanity in all of them. Again, that’s war in a nutshell… it turns you into something you don’t want to become but in the end there’s nothing you can do about it. The five leads do have superb camaraderie, resulting in a very effective and genuine sense of brotherhood amongst them. Pitt and Lerman in particular work off each other extremely well in the figurative roles of ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ respectively though LaBeouf (Who dare I say might just be the standout amongst the five?), Pena, and Bernthal all do fantastic jobs as well.

‘Fury’ is a film that isn’t really for the faint of heart. It’s brutal and also very grim in regards to its overall tone and atmosphere. But at the same time, the movie does manage to be an incredibly captivating war drama with some excellent action sequences and phenomenal cinematography. But at its core, the film’s greatest strengths come from how it does a great job at not only portraying the horrors of war through the eyes of an inexperienced soldier but also the brotherhood between soldiers as shown through the five members of the ‘Fury’ crew. Their camaraderie is superb and all five leads do a phenomenal jobs, with Logan Lerman and Shia LaBeouf in particular giving some of the best performances of their careers. It can be argued that this film is more brutal than it ultimately needed to be but really, when has a war film ever not been brutal/grim? That’s the whole point as these films convey to us how dark things can get in the time of war. ‘Fury’ is indeed a hard-hitting movie but at the same time it will also have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Judge (2014) review

About a month ago, I reviewed ‘This is Where I Leave You’, and I noted in that review that the film was a change of pace for director for Shawn Levy, a director who has primarily been known for comedies. The same can be said about ‘The Judge’ in how it’s a far different film than what director David Dobkin usually makes. Dobkin’s directorial career (not counting some of the movies he’s produced/co-written like ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’) has been entirely defined by comedies with his most famous film being the 2005 comedy ‘Wedding Crashers’. ‘The Judge’ is Dobkin’s first drama (as a director) and it has a pretty nice ensemble cast that is headlined by not one, but two Roberts in Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. But at the moment, ‘The Judge’ is currently receiving mixed reviews from critics. And while it’s true that this film is not really the best film to come out this year, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film… not at all. Sure, it has some flaws but it does manage to be pretty entertaining and at times it really does get to you on an emotional level. It seems like the filmmakers were trying to make a movie that would be a real ‘crowd pleaser’ and if you ask me, I think that they did succeed in that regard.

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a hot-shot lawyer who is regarded as being one of the best defense attorneys in Chicago. On the day of his latest trial, Hank gets a call from his brother who tells him that their mother has just died. Though rather reluctant to return to his hometown, he does return home to Carlinville, Indiana, where he reunites with his brothers Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong) and their father Joseph (Robert Duvall), the town’s local judge with whom Hank has had a difficult relationship with for years. Just a few days after the funeral, Joseph ends up being accused of a hit and run. Also, the victim just so happens to be a former delinquent who he had given a ‘lenient sentence’ years before, which then resulted in the man killing his girlfriend after his sentence was up. With his father’s reputation on the line, Hank ends up becoming his lawyer in court against prosecutor Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton), who is determined to make sure that Joseph ends up behind bars, leaving Hank in a tough position as he tries to prove that his father is not a murderer.

‘The Judge’ admittedly can be rather predictable at times in terms of where the story is heading. That and the film might just be a bit too overstuffed with characters, as some don’t really get enough character development due to the fact that the film focuses more on the relationship between Hank and Joseph. Still, the movie does manage to be pretty entertaining despite those two issues. While it is primarily a drama, there are quite a few comedic lines (which isn’t that surprising given Dobkin’s experience in comedy) thrown in which do lighten the mood at just the right moments. The film is also incredibly well-shot, with excellent cinematography work by Steven Spielberg’s go-to cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. It could be argued that the film sometimes tries a bit too hard to elicit an emotional response from the audience as it tugs on the heartstrings. It may be true at times, but other times the film does have some genuinely effective emotional moments, particularly between Hank and Joseph. We see how strained their relationship has become, as it is revealed that Hank was a bit of a troublemaker when he was younger. This resulted in Joseph being hard on him but as he puts it, ‘he did what he thought was right’ and really he was right as it meant that Hank was able to turn his life around and become the successful lawyer that he is today.

The film’s biggest strength is easily its cast. Robert Downey Jr. is… well, Robert Downey Jr. He’s one of the best actors currently working today and films like this prove that he can do great in roles other than Iron Man. There is a little bit of the same snarkiness of Tony Stark in the character of Hank but not as much. It’s a much more subdued character but also one with a chip on his shoulder given his past and his relationship with his father and Downey Jr. handles the role perfectly. Speaking of his father, Duvall is also fantastic here as well. The character does come off as a grouchy old man most of the time but other times you do sympathize with him, particularly in scenes where he begins to show his age, like to the point where he even forgets the name of the bailiff who he has worked with for 20 years. The best scenes in the movie are when Downey Jr. and Duvall are on-screen together as they really work off each other incredibly well. But they are backed up by a rock-solid supporting cast as well, including D’Onofrio, Thornton, Dax Shepard as the lawyer that Joseph first hires to defend him in court, and Vera Farmiga as Hank’s former girlfriend from High School.

Robert Downey Jr. has been quoted as saying that ‘The Judge’ is an ‘Audience Movie’ and in the end that perfectly defines this movie. Right now, it’s getting fairly mixed reviews from critics so it probably won’t get any major buzz during awards season. But that’s okay because the film isn’t really trying to be something it’s not. It’s just a nice simple drama that manages to be entertaining. Sure, it’s rather predictable at times. Sure, it’s a little too overlong and overstuffed. Sure, it probably tries a bit too hard at times to tug at the heartstrings. But really, I didn’t mind about this that much. Despite the occasional predictability of the script and the two and a half hour runtime, I was still engrossed in the story and there were some truly effective emotional moments, namely between Hank and his father. Really, whenever Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall are on-screen together, that is where the movie really shines. I’m not saying ‘The Judge’ is the best movie that I’ve seen this year but at the same time I don’t think it’s a ‘bad’ movie. It’s a ‘crowd-pleaser’ and those are exactly the kind of movies that I love to watch. In other words, ‘The Judge’ may not be an Oscar-worthy film but it’s worth checking out, primarily for the performances from its two leads.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Gone Girl (2014) review

David Fincher is one of the absolute best directors currently working today in Hollywood. Sure, his career may not have gotten off to a good start when he was hired to direct ‘Alien 3’ but that movie isn’t his fault. He was stuck in a terrible situation working on a movie with an infamously hellish production where the studio vetoed every major decision he had. It was such a disaster for Fincher that it’s completely understandable why he doesn’t view that film as ‘his film’. Fortunately that wasn’t the end of his career as since then, he has yet to make a bad film; ‘Se7en’, ‘Fight Club’, ‘The Social Network’, the list goes on and on. For his newest film, Fincher takes on his second straight book-to-film adaptation in a row (after 2011’s ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’) with ‘Gone Girl’, based off of the best-selling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. With ‘Gone Girl’, Fincher delivers what may just be his darkest film to date. After all, if there’s one thing he is known for, it’s for making incredibly dark and pessimistic films and this film is no exception. But it’s also an incredibly compelling and sometimes darkly comic mystery thriller that features a terrific cast headlined by its two leads. This makes ‘Gone Girl’ yet another great entry in Fincher’s prestigious post ‘Alien 3’ filmography… even though it is quite messed-up at times.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliott (Rosamund Pike) first meet a party and almost immediately develop a romantic connection. They soon marry and two years later, they move from New York to Nick’s hometown in Missouri when his mom is stricken with cancer. On the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick returns home after work to find Amy missing as well as signs of an apparent struggle. The police immediately start investigating into the disappearance and possible kidnapping as the case makes headlines nationwide due to the fact that Amy is the inspiration for the best-selling book series ‘Amazing Amy’ written by her parents. However, as the days go on with no sign of Amy, things suddenly take a dark turn for Nick when certain evidence starts to paint him as a possible suspect, revealing that his marriage wasn’t as happy as it looked. As he slowly becomes ‘the most hated man in America’, Nick must find a way to prove to everyone that he didn’t kill his wife. And really, that’s as far as I can go in terms of the film’s plot because otherwise I would be giving away key plot-points. 

Pretty much as soon as the film started, I was immediately hooked by the film. That’s usually the case with Fincher’s films; even when they are nearly three hours long, they always hold your interest from beginning to end. This one in particular really shines because… well, of how messed up it is. With that said, I want to note that I went into this film having not read the book so I didn’t have any idea of how this story was going to play out and as a result, the film was much darker than I expected. Then again, this is a David Fincher movie so that’s not too surprising. But at the same time, as it is also expected from a Fincher film, the story is incredibly compelling and the film is incredibly well-shot. It’s also darkly comic at times and is a biting satire of various aspects of our lives, like how the media interprets certain events without knowing everything about what’s really going on (as shown via the character of Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle), a TV host who paints Nick out to be a ‘sociopath’ given his behavior regarding the whole case) and how we as an audience are influenced by this or how the economy can have an effect on a marriage, as at one point Nick and Amy argue over Nick’s spending habits after they both lose their jobs. This all makes ‘Gone Girl’ one of the best written screenplays of this year so far. As for how faithful this film is to the book, from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the book, it seems pretty faithful right down to the fact that it retains the controversial ending of the book that was allegedly changed by Flynn herself so that it wouldn’t be spoiled.

The film’s cast is pitch-perfect, particularly in regards to its two leads. As Nick, Ben Affleck is perfectly cast in the role of a man who becomes highly scrutinized by the media, which of course is something that Affleck experienced quite a lot in not only the years before his big comeback in 2007 but even recently after he was cast in ‘Batman v. Superman’. Here he gives the best performance of his career. But ultimately this movie belongs to Rosamund Pike as Amy. Like I said before, I hadn’t read the book going in and I didn’t realize how complicated of a character Amy really was. Going in, I thought she was just going to be the innocent victim but, without really giving anyway here, it turns out that she’s not as innocent as we thought. Amy’s transformation over the course of the story is fascinating and Pike absolutely owns the role. I’ll be genuinely shocked if she’s not nominated for Best Actress at this year’s Oscars because this is one of the best performances that I’ve seen this year. Affleck and Pike lead a talented cast which also includes Neil Patrick Harris in a very much against type role as one of Amy’s ex-boyfriends, Tyler Perry as Nick’s attorney, Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister, and Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit as the two lead cops in the case of Amy’s disappearance.

‘Gone Girl’ is, in many ways, a very messed-up movie and yet it manages to be an incredibly compelling mystery story which of course, as a director, is where Fincher is truly at his best as proven through films like ‘Se7en’ and ‘Zodiac’. But in all seriousness, I legitimately did not expect some of the dark turns that the story took, particularly in regards to Amy and the journey her character takes in this film. The marketing thankfully hasn’t given any of this away so those who go in who haven’t read the book will certainly be surprised by the dark turns that this story takes. As for those who have read, it seems like it stays true to the book, even featuring the same ending and while I may be in the minority on this, I kind of admire the ending for being just as messed up as the story; in other words, I think it actually fits rather perfectly with the tone of the film. In short, ‘Gone Girl’ features great direction from David Fincher, a terrific cast headlined by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike giving the best performances of their careers, and a smartly-written dark and satirical screenplay by author Gillian Flynn. Is this Fincher’s best film? That may be up for debate at the moment but one thing is for certain; Fincher’s hot streak following his initial mishap of ‘Alien 3’ continues with yet another outstanding film.

Rating: 5/5!