Gone Girl (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: October 3, 2014
Director: David Fincher

Author Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) arrives home on the eve of his 5th wedding anniversary to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing under mysterious circumstances. After calling the police, Nick finds himself in the middle of an intense media circus as the search for Amy goes underway. Soon, the clues begin to pile up and fingers begin to point Nick’s way.

I went to see this film with a couple of friends last night as I’d been hearing good things about it. I’ve never read the novel it’s based on by Gillian Flynn (who also penned the screenplay) but according to online sources, the movie differs only slightly in some ways from the book version. Movies always differ from their book counterparts, though, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone.

It’s rare for me to want to watch a hyper-realistic crime movie – they aren’t my thing. Still, all the good things I heard about the various performances given by the actors made me want to check it out, so that’s what I did. Every single one of the actors in this movie, even Ben Affleck, really turned it up a notch. Affleck kept his cool just enough during the film to make me waffle on whether or not he had anything to do with Amy’s disappearance. Rosamund Pike, however, carried this movie with her role (in my opinion). She is not only accessible and sexy – but also terrifying. Another surprise was Neil Patrick Harris in his short role which added a lot of subtext to the film, regardless of how small a part his character played in the overall story.

The direction was great – Fincher hardly ever fails at that (except maybe with Mulholland Drive). The music was low-key enough to not interfere but still added just enough mood for a thriller. The length was a bit too long, however, clocking in at a whopping 149 minutes. The only real reason I’m giving this film four stars instead of five is the ending – which I felt was maybe a little rushed. I dunno if it was due to time, or due to something else – but the entire movie built up the characters to be solid and absolutely believable within the context of the story, except for the last half hour or so, which was unbelievable and completely took me out of the movie. I’d love to see a director’s cut in the future to see if maybe the motivations of the characters were a little more clear before some of the film hit the cutting room floor.

All in all this is one worth watching at least a couple times so you can catch all the little “easter eggs” (like the Scott Peterson novel one of the characters are reading at one point) and nuances in background scenes and in the subtleties of the characters and their actions. Good job again, Fincher – you do great work.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Gone Girl

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Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Breaking Bad: Season 1 (2008)

Original Air Date: January 20, 2008
Stations Airing: AMC
Number Of Episodes In Season: 7

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he only has two more years left to live because of his unexpected stage III cancer. With nothing left to lose, and no other means to provide for his family, he enlists the aid of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a bright but broken junkie and former student to help him distribute some crystal meth, which “Walt” is very proficient at creating. Soon, the duo find themselves not only at odds with each other but also crossing paths with heavy-duty drug dealers like the insane and violent Tuco (Raymond Cruz) as Walt and Jesse shoulder in on the meth-dealing business.

I had been extremely excited for this show upon seeing the original trailers on AMC back when I had cable. When it finally came on, I was not disappointed. I missed most of the original airing, but recently caught up on all the episodes using Netflix.

Right off the bat, the series and season one starts off at a decent pace, and you really get to both fear and love Walt by the end. I would say that the beginning half of the season is a nice segway into the dark, frenetic and chaotic second half with episodes like Crazy Handful of Nothin’ where Walt shaves his head and begins to really embrace his inner gangster. The dichotomy of Walter White, chemistry teacher with an extreme illness and Heisenberg, the meth-producing hard-ass is amazing and I can think of no better-written show in memory that could stand up to this series.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is really, extremely well-done and is the subject of discussion even now among some of my friends. One of my friends, actually, (if you’re interested at all) has many theories about the show, especially when it comes to color symbolism. Check her out, but be careful because there might be spoilers if you haven’t seen the entire series yet. She makes some good points and observations, for sure, though. Her name is Erin Enberg and her website is HERE.

Breaking Bad has inspired so much conversation, between things like plot and characters, to other things like color symbolism. It’s that good. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven’t already. Just be prepared to become addicted to the show and not see the light of day until the series is over.

And even if you’ve already followed the show through to its satisfying conclusion, I found that it’s best to re-watch the series again right away from the beginning. You’ll really see how the characters have changed, mostly for the worse. Now get out of here and go watch it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Breaking Bad 

Everything Must Go (2010)

Everything Must Go (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: October 14, 2011
Director: Dan Rush

Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is an alcoholic struggling to kick the habit, but when he falls off the bandwagon, his wife has had it and throws all of his belongings out onto the front lawn in addition to having the locks to the house changed, and she goes away for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, this happened on the same day he was let go from his company, also mostly because he is an alcoholic. Forced to face the failures in his marriage and personal life, he must sleep amid his belongings and try to sell them off so he can start over.

This movie is based on a Raymond Carver short story that I’ve never read titled Why Don’t You Dance? I wasn’t aware of that until a friend pointed it out to me. (I’ll have to read it soon.)

Now, you wouldn’t think that Will Ferrell starring in a Raymond Carver story adaptation would be that great, but he was a very good choice for the role. People like to give Will Ferrell a bad rap, but he has proven himself in other films like Stranger Than Fiction and Melinda And Melinda, and so he doesn’t always have to be typecast as the normal, over-the-top roles he’s most placed in. He does have some acting chops. Rebecca Hall was okay as Samantha, but her role didn’t seem to add much and her character was pretty formulaic and seemed to exist just as a counterpoint to Ferrell’s character. I would have been more interested in seeing less of her character and more of the neighborhood kid, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) and his relationship with Nick.

The movie went along at a decent pace, and I really felt like Nick was a real person. Ferrell’s mix of seriousness and humor was a great blend. Dan Rush’s direction was great, but I’ll have to read the short story to see how well his adaptation matched up. I also happened to catch this film at the right time, having been through a recent separation and divorce myself, as well as ending up having to get rid of a lot of junk so I could move on. (I still have some work to do on that front)

If you’re expecting a lot of normal, Will Ferrell-style laughs like he’s given us in Step Brothers or Starsky and Hutch, you won’t find a lot of that here. Instead, you will find a lot of heart, though there are some laughs to be had.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Everything Must Go

Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: June 8, 2001
Director: Dominic Sena

Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) just wants a normal life with his daughter, but being a convicted computer hacker is putting a damper on those desires and he can’t afford the legal fees to battle for her custody. In comes Gabriel Shear (John Travolta), a cold-as-ice leader of a counter-terrorist unit called Black Cell, who wants to hire Jobson for his hacking skills in order to break into the government mainframes to get a $9.5 billion payoff with old DEA money that’s been in an encrypted account for years. Jobson has to choose to stay clean or break the rules one more time for a final payoff that might just get his daughter back.

First off, we need to get one thing straight: Watching people type on screen is not extremely entertaining to watch, even if there is some dramatic music playing in the background. Unfortunately, typing/hacking sequences are what the movie is mostly comprised of. If the director and writers had included many more scenes with typing only, the film would be much worse off.

There are a lot of logic problems in the film, too,  and I almost hate watching computer-hacker movies because inevitably, they are written by people who seem to know nothing about the internet or computers, at all. Not that I’m an expert, either – but if even I can tell that what they’re doing is ridiculous, then that’s a huge disconnect.

The biggest draw to this film is pretty much the star power, besides the sleaze-factor. We have Don Cheadle, Halle Berry, Vinnie Jones, Hugh Jackman and John Travolta who make an otherwise run-of-the-mill film sparkle a bit more than it would have, otherwise.  Most of the characters are pretty intriguing, too – so kudos to the writers and actors for that.

The pacing of this film is actually pretty good (despite my reservations about the typing scenes) and there are lots of cool explosions and some legit-tense moments. Overall, it’s your pretty standard action-thriller without a ton of actual action.

Let me know what you think.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Swordfish

Cruel intentions (1999)

Cruel intentions (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 1999
Director: Roger Kumble

Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) are step-siblings. Both are extremely attractive and twisted individuals. Sebastian can have any woman he wants. Well, almost…except for Kathryn and it drives him crazy. Kathryn decides to make a wager with Sebastian, betting him that he can’t bed a virgin waiting for true love, named Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If he loses, she gets his jaguar. If he wins, she has to sleep with him. How far is he willing to go?

I watched this back when it first came out (I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Yes, I did.) I think I appreciated the film less then, than I do now.

On its surface, it’s just a vehicle for the twenty-something actors to look edgy in their fledgling careers, flaunting skin and excess. However, at its core is an express message of sexuality, temptation and virtue that reveals itself at a slow pace throughout the length of the film. (Albeit through the POV of jaded, rich white kids from New York)

Some of the movie watches like a high-school dramatic play, but other times it shines with devious tittilation and complex character motivations. Overall, it’s better than some films in its genre (Such as Wild Things) but it’s not amazing by any definition of the word.

PS – I have never read the novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, that it was based on (Choderlos de Lacios) so I can’t speak as to the differences from the book to the film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Cruel Intentions

 

Saints Row: The Third (2011 – X-Box 360)

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

I couldn’t resist trying this game.

The story takes place in the fictional city of Steelport and you are in control of a gang called the Third Street Saints, eventually rising to the very top. The style of game play is open-ended (and similar to Grand Theft Auto), with a major story arc but lots of things you can do on your own as you battle for control against other gangs in the city and eventually, a militaristic gang-suppression squad called STAG.

I am not a huge fan of the entire series (due to ignorance, not any other reason), having never really played the first two games. Seeing the trailers for Saints Row: The Third, though, inspired me to buy it the same day it came out (though I didn’t make it in time to pre-order, so I didn’t get the cool Professor Genki stuff). I was not disappointed.

I am a spastic gamer, and when I first bought it, it ended up sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a year because, hey, I’m a busy man. I’d created a couple characters (really nice system for that, by the way) and it was fun but I hadn’t really gotten into the game until recently, with THQ being sold off.

It didn’t take me too long to beat the main story arc. It was probably only something like 30 hours, if that. (I take my time)

The graphics were all really nice, the animation was pretty awesome, and the story line was fun (Lots of sex and drugs and violence, though, so don’t let your kiddos play). I didn’t have any expectations of it other than it would be fun, similar to how I think when I go see an action flick.

It’s definitely one of the better titles I’ve played and I will be playing through again at least once or twice more now that I’ve beaten it to unlock everything and get the achievements.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Gameplay Trailer for Saints Row: The Third

Waitress (2007)

Waitress (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: May 25, 2007
Director: Adrienne Shelly

Jenna (Keri Russell), a server who is trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), has a talent for creating amazing pies -which she often uses to mentally escape from her life. A new doctor comes to town (Nathan Fillion) and she finds out from him that she’s pregnant, spurring a series of events that rock her world and force her into action.

Waitress kind of surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie before seeing it. I’d watched the trailer and  liked the look of the cinematography and the narrative voice of Jenna’s character. I love Jeremy Sisto as an actor, and also Nathan Fillion, so it was a natural for me to check out.

The acting was amazing in this movie. I hadn’t seen much of Keri Russel but she played her part very well. Jeremy Sisto was an amazing douche bag husband and Nathan Fillion was, of course, charming as the new doc. This was a very character-driven piece, the plot being secondary. Adrienne Shelly weaved everything together masterfully, though, and it all came together. I enjoyed seeing all the different sorts of pies she made and I rooted for her success. (Plus, we got to see Matlock in a diner)

About the only thing that kept me from giving it five stars was the pacing toward the end. By the time it was starting to wrap up, I had already figured out almost everything that was going to happen and basically had to stick around to see if I was right, at the end. Still, Adrienne Shelly definitely showcased her directing chops with this one. It’s too bad that she was murdered and now will not be able to create any more films. 😦

PS – I wonder if they created a pie recipe book as a movie tie-in. I’ll have to Google that…

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Waitress