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Gone Girl
Gone Girl (2014)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Acclaimed director David Fincher returns with another masterpiece. David Fincher has made plenty of great films over the years like Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network and the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. His newest film is the mystery thriller Gone Girl, based on the book written by Gillian Flynn (who also pens the screenplay). Most of the time, Oscar worthy films usually don't appear until November and December. However, we have three that have plenty of awards potential with Boyhood, Gone Girl and the upcoming WWII film Fury.

The novel, Gone Girl, was published just two years ago. It received a lot of praise for its unpredictable story and exploring numerous themes like loveless marriages and how the media can sometimes twist the truth. Personally, I have not read the book and didn't know too much about it except for its premise. However, for some, this might actually make the movie a better experience. Knowing little about the story before watching/reading it makes the experience better since it can keep you guessing about what will happen next. This is particularly the case with stories that could go in many different directions and attempt to push the boundaries of storytelling (just ask George RR Martin). Gone Girl accomplishes this. And here are two things that I have to say about the film. It is a very riveting experience from beginning to end and is one of David Fincher's best films.

The plot revolves around the characters, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and Amy Elliott (Rosamund Pike), a couple in Missouri. Nick is a former journalist who lost his job due to a struggling economy. While they manage to make a living by opening a bar run by Nick and his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), their marriage is far from perfect. But on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy mysteriously disappears. This brings in detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens), who starts an investigation into it. However, as they search for clues, they find lots of incriminating clues that seem to lead back to Nick. From here, the films follows the narratives from Nick and Amy. While Nick's perspective deals with the investigation, Amy's part gives us background information before her disappearance. As the plot moves forward, there's one question: did Nick really kill his wife, or is he possibly being set up?

Gone Girl is an example of taking the "edge of your seat" element to great heights. There is a lot of suspense in how the plot unfolds. At first it starts out like a simple kidnapping case, but then it suddenly turns into an accusation of murder. With all of the evidence against him, the manipulation of the media and the words of others who knew Nick and Amy, it becomes very difficult to prove his innocence.

However, as with David Fincher's previous works, none of the characters are shown in a black-and-white manner. Everyone here has shades of grey. The most notable case is the prosecuted Nick himself. While he does claim to be innocent of the accusations against him, even he has his own dark secrets. And these secrets could become his ultimate undoing should they ever be revealed to the public.

As with the novel, the adaptation deals with real life issues like dishonesty, the effects a bad economy can have on marriages and the dark side of the media. Through flashbacks, we get to see that the life that Nick and Amy. While they might initially look to have a really good marriage from the eyes of others, their marriage actually has many problems, such as having to move from New York to Missouri and Nick's lazy, distant and sometimes violent nature.

The media has received criticisms for sometimes twisting facts and manipulating the public to adopt a certain view towards a criminal case, which hurts the possibility of a fair trial. This is a huge point that is expanded on in the film, as the news channel in the film uses the opinions of others and twists certain facts to make Nick look like a murderer. Often times, when someone is accused of a serious crime, whether guilty or innocent, sometimes the news takes a certain bias towards the case and uses information and anything else that may look incriminating that would make the accused seem guilty before they even see their day in court. The news anchor who broadcasts the story over the news is a clear parody of someone like Nancy Grace.

While the trailers make this look like a dark thriller, it's not completely steeped in darkness like last year's Prisoners. The story itself has a bleak tone, but it isn't without moments of levity. There are several instances of dark humor. A reference to Law and Order is also thrown into the mix.

The actors give very organic performances. The two most notable performers are the two stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Ben Affleck gives a very human performance as Nick reacts to everything that his happening around him from the disappearance of his wife to dealing with the accusations that would bring people to their knees. This will also prove a breakthrough for him as his performance here shows that he may have what it takes to take on a role like Bruce Wayne in Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Rosamund Pike, on the other hand, is an absolute revelation as Amy. Amy's part of the story brings a lot of twists and turns on how the story unfolds and is told masterfully through Pike's performance. Pike's career in the past has mostly been composed through supporting roles, but her performance as Amy will provide a large turn in her career. I'll be amazed if she isn't even get an Oscar nomination for this role.

While they don't stand out as much as Affleck and Pike, the supporting cast is quite good. Tyler Perry is very effective as a lawyer who comes to Nick's defense. Carrie Coon is very good as Nick's sister, who acts as Nick's conscience and the chemistry between the her and Affleck really felt like a bond between brother and sister. Neil Patrick Harris, who usually takes on comedy roles, comes out of his comfort zone as Amy's ex-boyfriend. Kim Dickens is effective as a detective investigating the case.

Gone Girl is a very engaging thriller worthy of a director like David Fincher. This is probably his best film since Fight Club. Filled with numerous twists and turns, Gone Girl is a must-see "edge of your seat" film and is an early contender for the Oscars this year.

Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

While Robert Rodriguez is mostly know these days for making plenty of kids films like the Spy Kid movies, he had also done his own fair share of ultra-violent fare. His most significant work to come from these films was 2005's Sin City, which is an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novels of the same name. Shot in black and white and done in a narrative structure similar to Pulp Fiction (different stories not told in chronological order), Sin City was visually brilliant, a lot of fun and it felt like a comic book coming to life on the big screen. However, along with the slavish looks, it is marked by brilliant performances from its cast and stories that dealt with revenge and morality. It left a large impact on the comic book genre that the only other film that matched its brilliance was The Dark Knight.

The movie was a box office success and went on to become a cult classic. Seeing how Hollywood works and there were still plenty of stories in the comics to tell on the big screen, a sequel was likely. While it entered development soon after the release of the original, for many reasons along the way like recasting, it kept getting put on hold. It wasn't until late 2012 that the film actually went into production.

However, after nine years, Sin City isn't quite so fresh in most peoples' minds anymore. While its style still holds up today, it has been done in other films like 300, The Spirit and Watchmen. While some might be put off by the long wait for release, this follow-up will likely please fans of the original. But like with 300: Rise of an Empire, this isn't a movie for the mainstream audiences. This is a movie that was made for its fanbase, and in that sense A Dame to Kill For delivers.

There are four different stories told in different time spans. The prologue starts with tough-guy-with-a-heart Marv (Mickey Rourke) who has a run-in with a few crooks and seeks to bring his brand of justice on them, which is told early on. Next up is Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an overconfident gambler who wants to beat the powerful Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) at his own game. However, his actions lead to disaster for him. Then we come to Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), who reunites with his former lover, Ava Lord (Eva Green), who is seeking help from him. But it turns out she has a darker agenda. The last story deals with Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) seeking to get revenge on Roark for the death of Hartigan (Bruce Willis).

Like its predecessor, this isn't a movie for mainstream audiences, and that's not just because of the fanbase. While the comic book superhero adaptations this year were mostly fine for older kids to watch, A Dame to Kill For is for adult audiences. Being given an R-rating, it contains plenty of nudity (mostly from Eva Green) and bloody violence. Which I was actually happy for. Sin City was always meant to be R-rated fare, and it would have been really disheartening if it had been PG-13-ized.

This film is very similar to its predecessor, though it doesn't leave an impact like it did. There was no way that it was going to be able to do that, but it stays true to it. Two of the stories here were from the comics (the opening scenes with Marv and the A Dame to Kill For storyline) while the other two (Johnny and Nancy) are original stories made for this film. The former stories are very fun and engaging. While the original stories have their moments, the ending to Johnny's story was anti-climatic. But Nancy's story does nicely tying up loose ends.

On a visual level, its about as impressive as the first. The special effects are neatly threaded into its environment and it doesn't feel fake. There is plenty of action to go around, some which involve shoot-outs and trying to get into a mansion against tons of guards.

With a few exceptions, the cast does pretty well here. The returning cast are in fine form. Mickey Rourke is still quite brilliant as Marv as he plays the muscle man and has some good one-liners. Jessica Alba may not be that great of an actress, but her performance in Sin City was fine. Same thing here, in which her character takes a darker turn as she seeks revenge. Bruce Willis isn't given a lot to do besides being an apparition. Powers Boothe, who left quite an impression in the first film despite limited screen time, seems to really relish his role as the nasty Senator Roark.

There are plenty of re-castings along with some good newcomers. Josh Brolin, who plays Dwight before getting plastic surgery on his face (referenced in the first film), does really well playing a tortured man. Manute and Miho have been recast with Dennis Haysbert and Jamie Chung. Both were for understandable reasons, as Michael Clarke Duncan died two years ago and Devon Aoki's pregnancy at the time. Dennis doesn't look like Duncan, but he manages to sound much like him in the role. Jamie Chung doesn't get any lines but makes up for it with her skills with swords. The one recast I didn't like was Jeremy Piven as Bob, though he isn't given a lot to do here.

The two newcomers, Eva Green and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, are both quite good. Eva Green plays her role much like Artemisia in the 300 sequel, she's appears to be a woman in need of help, but in reality is a vicious female that hurts anyone not smart enough to see her for what she really is. Levitt does really well playing a smug gambler and there was an interesting revelation about his character.

If you're a fan of the original film, then you will most likely enjoy this. It has a lot of the qualities that made its predecessor such a great film, but it isn't without its flaws and it lacks some really memorable moments. But then again, it was going to be hard to capture the same impact.