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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Hello, Again

For those of you who don’t know me too well, I’m in my fourth semester with an MFA program called Stonecoast. Well, I’m stopping in to say that due to all the work associated with this program, I’ve been away for a couple weeks and over the next six months until I graduate, I’ll be working on my thesis – so I won’t be able to do as many reviews as I normally do.

Stonecoast has been amazing, thus far. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different and talented authors including Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Wench), Nancy Holder (Resurrection, Domino Lady, Buffy) , Michael Kimball (Undone), David Anthony Durham (Acacia: The Sacred Band), James Patrick Kelly (The Wreck of the Godspeed and Other Stories), Elizabeth Hand (Radiant Days) and Elizabeth Searle (Girl Held In Home) (. I’ve also had the pleasure of working closely with authors such as Mur Lafferty (Shambling Guide To New York City), Thomas Morrissey (Faustus Resurrectus), Laura Navarre (By Royal Command) and Magdalen Braden (Blackjack and Moonlight) among other many talented writers of all genres.

This is not to say that I won’t be doing any reviews, though. I have a backlog of both new and old pop culture items to post reviews on. Until then, here are a couple pictures of me at my residency in Freeport, Maine:

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Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil (2006)

Shanna, The She-Devil collects issues #1-7 of the series of the same name by Marvel Comics, with art and writing by Frank Cho and colors by Jason Keith and Dave Stewart.

Shanna is a Nazi science experiment in the form of an Amazonian jungle girl with a killer body and killer instinct, living on an island teeming with prehistoric horrors. When a paramilitary group becomes stranded on the island after crash-landing, they discover Shanna and quickly learn that she is a genetically-engineered super-weapon. Luckily she is, because she’s the only one who can help defend them against T-Rexes and massive hordes of Velociraptors, among other things.

Frank Cho is one of the best artists around and I checked out the book primarily to see his work. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the writing side of things, but the seven issues included in this trade has a pretty decent story arc and plays out like an action film.

Some may be turned off by the titillation, but Cho is a master at rendering women who aren’t just waify, sexy supermodel-types who just happen to have super-strength spouting from some unseen source – Shanna actually looks the part. Her thighs are dense and her arms and back muscular, and when she impales a dinosaur with a massive tree trunk, you believe that she did it. When you see her knocked into a car by a T-Rex and still manages to get up, you believe it. Shanna is also not stupid and while different men try to take advantage of her in the book, she sets them straight pretty fast.

The colors only add to the visuals, and the dinosaurs are all very nicely-rendered as well as backgrounds, vehicles….everything. Nothing is forgotten and everything stands out in an exceptional way.

This is worth a read if you like adventure stories, dinosaur tales and books like Red Sonja or Vampirella. You may come for the titillation and gorgeous art but you’ll stay for the substance. Give it a try.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly

Set in Viking-era Ireland, Northlanders Book Two: The Cross And The Hammer, collects issues #11-16 of the DC/Vertigo comic book series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, The New York Four).

It is 1014 in Viking-occupied Ireland. One lone man, only known as Magnus, refuses to bow to the will of the Viking overlords and is leaving a bloody trail of insurgency in his wake. Magnus has no ties, no weaknesses, nothing to lose…except his daughter Brigid. Magnus’ killing spree and defiance catches the attention of Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson, a forensic specialist and confidant of the King who becomes obsessed with finding Magnus and ending his uprising.

When it becomes apparent that the only way to draw Magnus out of hiding is to provoke him by senselessly murdering innocent Irish families, it sends the two foes into a circle of psychological warfare and intrigue.

I was really looking forward to this volume after having already read Northlanders: Sven The Returned, which was amazing…so maybe my hopes were a little too high.

First off, don’t get me wrong. I would rather read this volume than not read this volume. Northlanders is a great series, and Brian Wood is doing some great stuff. Even the premise of the arc in this volume is decent and had me intrigued, but it all ended up falling a little flat.

Ryan Kelly is a great artist but I was honestly, the entire time, comparing his style (without meaning to) to Davide Gianfelice’s, who did the art for the issues collected in the first volume. In some ways, Kelly’s artwork is better for this Irish story but in others it just doesn’t feel up to par. There was nothing wrong for it save for the flavor, and despite some great splash page work some of it seemed a bit cartoony.

On top of that, I was sort of brought out of the story some by the way Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson spoke/wrote in the way that you might see a character do on an episode of CSI. I kept thinking to myself “This is so modern sounding. WTF is going on here?

Another thing to watch out for is the twist ending. It seems to be all the rage nowadays to give a twist ending on everything, but I don’t think they had to do so, here. It wasn’t super-compelling as it was and then to sort of glaze over it all with a twist ending such as the one found within the pages of this TPB, it just dulled everything down even more.

Overall, I wouldn’t miss this entry into the series, but it could have been much better. I hear that Volume III is, indeed, much better…so I’ll have to check it out. So, give this a read if you follow along but I’m not so sure this will be a favored volume in the series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Northlanders, Vol. 2: The Cross And The Hammer
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Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: May 27, 2010
Director: Jared Hess

Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is a withdrawn, socially awkward home-schooled student with a love of science fiction. While at a writing camp for young authors, Benjamin gets to see his favorite sci-fi author, Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), who is one of the judges of a writing contest. Hoping to win the contest, and Chevalier’s respect, Benjamin submits a manuscript. When he sees extreme similarities between Chevalier’s new novel and his own manuscript, he decides to fight back.

I really, really wanted to like this.

  • I mean, it was made by Jared Hess, the same guy who made another movie I loved; Napoleon Dynamite.
  • It had Sam Rockwell in it, along with Jemaine Clement.
  • It was about science fiction writing and writing in general, which is something I’m very interested in right now. (I’ve been to writing workshops and seminars lately just like the one in the film)
  • It had all of the ingredients to be a great film but it ended up falling short.

I think the film’s first mistake was to under-use the main draw of the movie, for me, which was Jemaine Clement. He was hands-down the funniest part of the movie. Sam Rockwell was great as Bronco, too, but we at least got a decent amount of scenes of him between the various versions of the story used in the movie.

Michael Angarano wasn’t super-charismatic on screen and thus didn’t keep me as interested as the other characters in the movie. I felt he didn’t have much of a voice in the film.

On top of that, there weren’t a ton of hilarious parts in a supposed-to-be-hilarious movie like this. With Napoleon Dynamite we still had the kitsch, but there were a ton of laughs. This one was just very drawn-out and unfocused, moving between a film-within-a-film concept in addition to alternate versions of the original story both altered by Chevalier and Benjamin as well as the overall arc of the story that was going on simultaneously. Too much, too fast.

It had some good heart and a lot of ambition, but it wasn’t executed to its fullest extent.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Gentlemen Broncos

Aristotle’s Poetics For Screenwriters, by Michael Tierno (2002)

Aristotle's Poetics For Screenwriters, by Michael Tierno (2002)

Original Release Date: August 21, 2002
Publisher: Hyperion
Author: Michael Tierno

Michael Tierno takes Aristotle’s Poetics and breaks them down, utilizing Aristotle’s ideas about how storytelling should be done on the stage and applies it to story structure for the big screen and writing in general. Citing examples of other films to successfully use (intentionally or not) Aristotle’s formulas for success, Tierno makes a good case for why you should follow suit and also doles out advice on how to get your script seen by the bigwigs, having been a story analyst for Miramax Films himself.

The book is set up with small chapters that cover various things in high detail but with minimal confusion and the page count is relatively low for a reference book dealing with a subject that has so many facets to it. Aristotle was amazing when it came to story structure and the rules for writing comedies, tragedies and drama in general and this all still holds up today.

The price wasn’t bad. I bought mine on Amazon.com for only about $10, but you can find it brand new for only a bit more than that.

This is very informative for a screenwriter like myself who wants to improve their work, and you will find yourself going back to it for reference again and again.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Check Out A FREE Preview Of Aristotle’s Poetics For Screenwriters HERE

The Pocket Muse: Ideas And Inspirations For Writing, by Monica Wood (2004)

The Pocket Muse: Ideas And Inspirations For Writing, by Monica Wood (2004)

Original Release Date: July 15, 2004
Publisher: Writer’s Digest
Author: Monica Wood

Monica Wood has put together a mash-up of various writing prompts. Some are photographs, some are questions, some are scenarios and all are aimed at helping you get through your writer’s block or giving you ideas for new stories.

This volume is pretty helpful, as far as these types of books go. There aren’t any page numbers, which can make it hard (if you’re using it in a class or something) to keep track of certain prompts you need or might like. A lot of the prompts are fun but they seem like they could have been a lot cooler. Some feel more like wasted page space.

You can find many prompts for free online, so the asking price of $20.00 is a bit steep. I got mine for free so I didn’t have to worry about it (I won it) but I can picture a lot of people being turned off by its price. Look for it in used bookstores and in libraries.

The size is nice and fits easily inside any backpack and probably some handbags. Wood has also come out with a second volume, so I may get that at some point, but so far I haven’t been able to get through all the prompts from this volume.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check Out A FREE Sample Of The Pocket Muse HERE