Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Live by Night

Live by Night is a film with big ideas. Writer, director, producer and star Ben Affleck is very clearly attempting to use the classic gangster film as a commentary upon the American Dream. This is hardly a novel idea, but it still resonates as powerfully as it did during the pulp era of the thirties and forties. Working from a novel by Dennis Lehane, Affleck crafts a story about violence and power that is clearly intended to resonate with modern audiences looking to understand fundamental aspects of the American identity.

And there are moments when Live by Night really works. Affleck is a solid writer and a performer who can skilfully channel that old-school Hollywood charm, but he has proven himself a very impressive director. Live by Night is occasionally a beautiful film, as the camera pans across the wilderness of the Florida everglades or spins around a room during a tense dialogue scene or even just captures the lead character on the shore with the reflection of the sky framed so perfectly that it seems like he is standing upon the edge of heaven itself.

Speaking easy.

Speaking easy.

However, these moments are assembled in a haphazard fashion around a disjointed plot. Live by Night plays like a stream of consciousness attempting to delve into the symbolic heart of the United States, tossing out crazy ideas like a turf war between Prohibition gangsters and the Ku Klux Klan or arbitrarily drawing long-absent characters back into the narrative with little foreshadowing. Live by Night seems to navigate by night, prone to storytelling detours and narrative cul de sacs that undercut (rather than enrich) its thematic intent.

Live by Night is built like an epic, but its script lacks the discipline and structure to justify an impressive running time. Affleck is a strong enough director that the film never collapses, even as it stumbles. There is a sense that the writer and director is having a great deal of fun playing with a very archetypal set of iconography and themes, and that fun is occasionally contagious. However, Live by Night never truly comes alive in the way that it promises.

Sea changes.

Sea changes.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: The Accountant

If the default summer blockbuster is a “comic book” movie, then The Accountant is an “airport paperback” movie.

Although The Accountant is based upon an original idea by screenwriter Bill Dubuque, it feels very much like something adapted from some pulpy thriller. It has all the ingredients. Like so many John Gresham best sellers, it has a title comprised of a noun used as the definitive article. It has a pithy high concept that can be summarised in a nice tagline. It is packed full of ridiculous twists. It has a plot that is largely just something on which it can hang all manner of goofy ideas. It even has a fondness for absurd (and contrived) exposition delivered via monologue.

Unaccountable variables.

Unaccountable variables.

This is both the best and the worst thing about The Accountant. By just about any measure, The Accountant is a ridiculous film with a fairly thin concept and with a variety of twists that will seem inevitable to any genre-savvy observer. However, there is something quite enjoyable in watching The Accountant bounce between these crazy twists. The Accountant works best when it embraces its pulpier attributes, rolling with each crazy development after the last and never stopping to catch its breath.

The Accountant is a very weird and dysfunctional film, but that dysfunction becomes part of the charm. Much like those page-turners picked up to help pass long flights, it is unlikely that much of The Accountant will remain with audiences after the credits roll. However, there is still some fun to be had.

You can make a killing in this field.

You can make a killing in this field.

Continue reading

My 12 for ’14: Gone Girl and the most $£@!ed up people…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

Gone Girl is a surprisingly playful film.

David Fincher is a director who likes to play with his audience, constructing elaborate and stylish labyrinths that might trap the audience as easily as they trap his characters. Gone Girl plays to Fincher’s strengths, as Gillian Flynn adapts her best-selling novel into a pulpy thriller. The news that Fincher and Flynn would collaborate on HBO’s Utopia is fantastic, giving television viewers something to anticipate; one hopes that the collaboration might be as fruitful as that enjoyed by Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Joji Fukunaga on True Detective this year.

gonegirl3

Gone Girl is a story about stories. Most particularly, it is the story of two people fighting to control their own narratives; to try to steer the stories being told around them. Is Nick Dunne a loving husband desperately searching for his missing wife? Or is Nick Dunne a sociopath desperately trying to cover-up her murder? Is Amy Dunne an innocent victim who has worked her way into the heart of the American public? Or is Amy Dunne a manipulative and ruthless (and ruthless) cynic who has helped to turn her marriage into a perpetual struggle?

Gone Girl is a very sleek and stylish film that is lovingly crafted and wryly self-aware. It is a horror story about a dysfunctional marriage, a tale about media fascination and a black comedy about resentment and revenge. More than that, it is a puzzle that competes against the audience, a story that seems to change form at any point where the viewer might finally have come to grips with what they are watching.

gonegirl5

Note: This “best of” entry includes spoilers for Gone Girl. You should probably go and see the movie, because everybody is talking about it. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Still there? Good. Let’s continue. Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Gone Girl

The stories that people tell.

In many respects, Gone Girl is a story about narratives. It is a film about how we construct and manage our own narratives, and the narratives of those around us. Facts are malleable, reality is arbitrary. Everything that happens exists as a detail to be woven into some sort of story. Inevitably, stories differ, narratives conflict. The story that Nick Dunne tells about the disappearance of his wife differs from the version of events presented in her diary; the narrative that the public and the press construct is rather distinct from that constructed by those inside the story.

gonegirl3

Gone Girl itself plays with this idea, playing with the audience. It starts out as a very familiar and almost cliché story. Nick Dunne was trapped in a loveless marriage. His wife disappears. People begin to suspect that perhaps Dunne had something to do in the disappearance. Even the audience isn’t entirely sure what to make of Nick as the details add up against him. The closer we look, the more flaws begin to appear, the more the evidence seems to mount.

And then, the story changes. Gone Girl pulls the rug out for underneath the audience, becoming something radically different and almost surreal. It’s a dazzling, brilliant, crazy, ambitious and ingenious. Gone Girl is a startlingly confident twisty film that plays with the audience with a macabre glee that is contagious.

gonegirl8

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Runner Runner

Runner Runner feels like it should be a lot more fun than it winds up being. For a film about gambling, it lays the cards on the table pretty quickly. It’s a story about an ambitious young man who is offered wealth and success, only to eventually discover that the price is nothing less than his soul. As such, our plucky young hero has to keep all the plates spinning as the walls close in around him, trying to keep his head above water and the wolves from his door. There are, of course, other clichés I can throw in there, but these will do for now.

As such, Runner Runner isn’t about originality or insight, borrowing heavily from far better character studies and morality plays – even the casting of Justin Timberlake as a nerdy internet-savvy college student feels like a riff on his role in The Social NetworkRunner Runner is all about the execution of these familiar high concepts and plot points. Unfortunately, the movie never seems too invested in its stakes, or too engaged with the game it is playing. When the chips are down, Runner Runner can nothing but fold.

I want to believe this is the same look Ben Affleck had when reading the internet's response to Batffleck...

I want to believe this is the same look Ben Affleck had when reading the internet’s response to Batffleck…

Continue reading

Look! Jack Kirby’s Designs for Argo!

I’m actually reasonably happy with Argo winning Best Picture. I’ve given up on the idea of the Academy Awards ever mirroring my own tastes, and Argo is a pretty great film from a director who is developing into a wonderful talent. And the awards last night spread the love around. It’s hard to hate a ceremony that can give Quentin Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Django Unchained.

Anyway, in celebrating the success of Argo, how about a look at Jack Kirby’s original designs for the fictitious movie Lord of Light (which became Argo)? Kirby was a comic book legend, who created The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Captain America, Thor and countless other iconic comic characters. In the seventies, Kirby had an ever heavier science-fiction bint, creating his wonderful Fourth World and The Eternals and O.M.A.C. As part of the operation to rescue the escaped diplomats, Kirby designed these storyboards for the movie, which actually hit upon several of the author and artist’s favourite themes – including advanced god-like beings and the merging of the rational with the mystical.

Check out his sketches below. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Continue reading

International On-Line Film Critics’ Poll Nominees Announced…

The nominees for the 2012 International On-Line Film Critics’ Poll 2012 have been announced. Open to all films released in the United States between November 2011 and November 2012, it allows for a slightly different playing field than the Oscars typically does. It also means that I am (as a non-American) far more likely to have seen all the nominees, with only Lincoln yet to see among the Best Picture nominees. Anyway, I will be sending in my ballot soon enough, but take a gander at the full list of nominees below. It’s a strong list, to be sure.

iolfcp1

Continue reading