Gone Girl

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And if that girl only hope is you, well, I pray for her, because she’s gone, girl. Gone.


Affleck in the front at a press conference for his mising wife, © 2014 Gone Girl, New Regency.

Affleck in the front at a press conference for his mising wife, © 2014 Gone Girl, New Regency.

I wanted to start my review by setting it to the tune of “My Favorite Things”, but after “Fincher and Affleck” I felt like every combination I made up did not really work. So, you’re welcome for me not putting you through that. The appeal of using a ditty like that comes from a desire to condense my review into bite-sized morsels. “Reznor’s tense music” seems a lot easier than discussing how the minimalist score made this low on action film seem extremely tense. It was a psychological thriller with the power of Zodiac without a face of evil. I chose that comparison because Zodiac is my favorite David Fincher film and *FAKE SPOILER ALERT* the Zodiac killer never gets caught. In fact, Fincher cast multiple actors to embody the killer to throw us off the scent and to demonstrate that while he might personally believe that so-and-so was the Zodiac Killer, he was not the only potential suspect.

Herein Fincher calls upon his main two actors, Ben Affleck—Argo—and Rosamund Pike—Jack Reacher—as Nick and Amy Dunne, to play multiple versions of themselves. I find that reversal fascinating. On one level, it is the most obvious thing for an actor, one who pretends to be someone whom he or she is not, to show different versions of themselves, but that does not mean that it is easy to pull off. That neither Nick nor Amy were particularly likable fits into Fincher’s wheelhouse. Did you like Mikael Blomkvist or Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? Did you like either of the co-creators of The Social Network? I know that I hated Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker. Did you like even one character in Fight Club? The only truly likable character in Se7en winds up with her head in a box. Yes, that’s “what’s in the boxxxxxx!”

Kim Dickens portrays Detective Boney, one of the officials investigating Amy Dunne’s disappearance – and possible murder. Gone Girl.

Kim Dickens portrays Detective Boney, one of the officials investigating Amy Dunne’s disappearance – and possible murder. Gone Girl.

The likable characters, in this film, come in the background. Nick’s sister, Margo, played by Carrie Coon, is a single woman in her late thirties who looks and acts like a single woman, not some sort of sitcom version of what that is. She is supportive, but not as sap. Her life is not perfect, but she is not a sad sack. Tyler Perry hits a triple as Tanner Bolt, Esq., defense attorney to the CNN famous clients of this world. He is excellent as an actor in a way that eclipses his skills as a director. Kim Dickens steals the show as Detective Rhonda Boney. I could not recognize her without a ridiculous hat on her head, as she always was in “Deadwood”. Her performance was a dramatic version of Frances MacDormand’s in Fargo. Her slightly less competent partner, played by Patrick Fugit, kind of annoyed me, but he may have been necessary to appreciate Boney. Neil Patrick Harris was slightly miscast as Amy’s high school boyfriend, because when he first appears in the film and Nick sees him, I assumed that Nick recognized him, so someone less visually flamboyant may have been better. Harris’ performance was excellently creepy, though. Missi Pyle—a parent from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—killed it as fake Nancy Grace. I like Missi Pyle, and would have punched her in the face. So the background characters were hateable too!

Affleck and Pike both took excellently written characters and brought them to life in extremely human ways. Sure, those characters were jerks, but hopefully they get the recognition they deserve for such performances. I have been recommending this film right and left to people that I know. More than any conscious analysis that shows me just how much I enjoyed this film. I cannot wait for the sequel, Gone Girl 2: Goner Girl. But who will play the girl and will she truly be a goner? I have no idea since I just made that up. On some level that seems oddly appropriate.


2014 Fall TV Preview: Thursday

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How to Get Away With Murder (ABC) — I would rather sit through an actual lecture on criminal law than watch this. Much of the main cast portrays law students? Punch me in the stomach, that sounds just awful. If they get it right, that sucks. If they get it wrong, that sucks in a different way. The main character gets to start the first episode by saying, at arraignment, “How are we to know if the confession was coerced or not, your honor?” to which the judge makes bail $1,000,000. That is stupid because if the confession was coerced, she should say so. If it was not coerced, then why imply that it was? The show is supposed to get a little raunchy for primetime ABC, but…it is helmed by Shonda Rhimes. She is the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy”—trashy, briefly interesting medical soap opera—and “Scandal”—classy madness in a series of unethical decisions made by bad people soap opera. No thank you!
Verdict: With a name this bad, I would say canceled quickly, but with Rhimes and Viola Davis this probably makes it two years, maybe three.

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) — It’s still on the air.
Verdict: Seriously, this is like the Law & Order of medical programs. Unless that was ER, in which case this is the Law & Order: SVU, soap opera style, of medical programs. Another five years on the air.

Gracepoint (Fox) — I never watched “Broadchurch” (BBC), but I do like David Tennant so I plan to give this American remake a shot. I did the exact same thing for the underrated—and now canceled—”Low Winter Sun” starring Mark Strong. But that was on AMC, which has a better record with dramas than Fox.
Verdict: I plan to actually watch this show, and thus it will most likely be canceled half-way through this first season.


Kate Walsh, on NBC's Bad Judge.

Kate Walsh, on NBC’s Bad Judge.

Bad Judge (NBC) — Where to begin? With the open robe? With the purple top? How it is unbuttoned half way? Or with the black miniskirt? Let’s begin nowhere: the title sucks, Kate Walsh has only successfully done medical soaps, and the promiscuous judge whom I am going to assume is magically brilliant at her job will be an annoying premise.
Verdict: Canceled after one season.

A to Z (NBC) — I was going to say, yay for Parvesh Cheena getting a paycheck, since I have not seen him since “Outsourced,” but Cheena works. A lot. It took like five swipes to get to 2010 on his IMDb page. Oh and each episode is theme around a different letter. If that is what NBC wanted, why did it cancel “Community”??
Verdict: Quickly canceled. Not a judgment on its quality, just its chances for success.

The McCarthys (CBS) — This comedy targets CBS’s main demographic—old white people who love procedurals and Jay Leno humor—with a period piece about Joe McCarthy and how his poor family dealt with the crazy senator as a husband and father in Milwaukee, WI! If only that were true. Instead Laurie Metcalf–”Roseanne”–plays a “passive-aggressive matriarch of a New England clan learning to navigate life with their newly out gay son.” Here’s to waiting for some bland attempts make politically correct gay jokes. Cheers.
Verdict: Renewed late, but then canceled mid-season 2.

Dallas Buyers Club

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You know what? You don’t deserve my money, you homophobic asshole.


Steve Zahn and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club, © 2013 Truth Entertainment.

Steve Zahn and Matthew McConaughey talking about drugs, AIDs and dementia, in Dallas Buyers Club, © 2013 Truth Entertainment.

Matthew McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, the homophobic, redneck asshole from 1985 Texas. When he gets diagnosed with HIV & AIDs, by a cold doctor conducting a study on AZT, Woodroof becomes a better person. Haha, just kidding! He is still an asshole, but he reads up on the possible treatments of his condition. That cold doctor was Dr. Sevard, a man whom I trusted for zero seconds. Denis O’Hare played him and O’Hare previously portrayed Dr. Jonathon “Cog of the abusive LAPD” Steele in Changeling. If he walked into my room, I might react as if he said I had feline AIDs. Woodroof behaves the way someone in his boots and hat would—fear, anger, homophobia, sexism. Yet as unlikable as he is, Steele and the FDA come off so poorly, that I found myself rooting for him to not die.

I thought this would be a story about Woodroof’s death, but this was better than that. This was the story of his struggle to live. Along for the ride were Jennifer Garner—”Alias” and Elektra from Daredevil and Elektra, as Woodroof’s love interest/doctor and Jared Leto—Requiem for a Dream—as the transgendered Rayon. Leto and McConaughey won Oscars for their performances, but I would like to highlight Steve Zahn’s subtle performance as Woodroof’s police officer friend, Tucker—Zahn’s best performance can be found in Rescue Dawn. He gets no scenes to showcase his emotional journey, but the challenge of his low-rent criminal friend going through this clearly affected him and he struggled to overcome those difficulties. On the whole this was a wonderful showcase for these talented actors.

2014 Fall TV Preview: Wednesday

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Life got busy so I could not find time to keep up my preview. For that, I apologize. Continuing on…

Red Band Society (Fox) — Child cancer ward? Makes me feel like I should avoid making some jokes.
Verdict: Show fails in one season due to the odd title name.

Laz Alonso, Debra Messing, Charles & Vincent Reina, and Josh Lucas, © 2014 NBC.

Laz Alonso, Debra Messing, Charles & Vincent Reina, and Josh Lucas, © 2014 NBC.

The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) — The ad for this, above, is a smiling Debra Messing with arms open to cuff a perp and to hold onto the hoodies of her kids while Josh Lucas does not give a shit. There is so much to analyze here! First, Laz Alonso on the left, is he police? Is he a confidential informant? Is he a repeat criminal? Then we have casually dressed detective Debra Messing, with a trenchcoat on with the sleeve rolled up. Who rolls up the sleeves of their coat? No-one. Ever. Then we have aloof Josh Lucas, whom I thought was the father, but now seems to just be her partner? Or her Captain? Is he as interested in having sex with Messing as Alonso clearly is?
Verdict: I will never find out. One season, then canceled. Too bad Josh Lucas’ “The Firm” got canceled, it was an okay show.

The Goldbergs (ABC) — This made it to a second season! Hopefully I give it a shot this time.
Verdict: Canceled at the end of this season.

Stalker (CBS) — Dylan McDermott stars in…who cares. After “Damages” I doubt he can rebound from the TNT-ification of his career. In five years he will be on NCIS: Washington, D.C.
Verdict: Well, he will have to be free of this horror show in order to get back to what America wants, middle aged white guys leading teams without showing emotion on CBS!

blackish (ABC) — The ad for this is the cast laughing, which is not something the audience will be doing!
Verdict: I can only assume that if the show had any funny material that the commercials would have shown it. Canceled after one season.

Chicago P.D. (NBC) — it’s NYPD Blue for firefighters, but for cops. The ad has three faces, including that one guy who always plays the cop or soldier who will kill the suspect in spite of what the protagonist cop/agent says.
Verdict: Did not realize that this had already been on for a season, or I would have said less than one season…

2014 Fall TV Preview: Tuesday

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And now for part 2…

Jo Ch and Karen Gillam.

Jo Ch and Karen Gillam.

Selfie (ABC) — The ad for this horribly named show is Karen Gillan, airbrushed into unrecognizable territory, and half of John Cho’s face. While it may not be racist to only show half of John Cho’s face, it is stupid. This sucks too because those two scifi supporting actors could be doing something good. They were in Guardians of the Galaxy and the new Star Treks, respectively, as Nebula and Sulu.
Verdict: It’s got no chance. No chance in hell.

Utopia (Fox) — it is the reality tv version of the Pauly Shore movie Bio-Dome. Reality tv is the dumb version of things, so this is the dumb version of one of the dumbest movies of all-time. Why couldn’t Fox do a reality show of In The Army Now?
Verdict: While I will never watch it, this may fall into the adage of being stupid. Stupid as a fox! (Homer Simpson)

Manhattan Love Story (ABC) — I have not seen any ads for this, so it will probably be pretty good and have no viewers.
Verdict: Canceled before the end of season one.

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS) — While I do not watch NCIS, I did catch the episode that functioned as the pilot for this show. And I immediately could tell it was just that because it broke free from the formula that NCIS uses to structure its episodes. America does not need another damn NCIS, but I do love Scott Bakula.
Verdict: CBS & their crime procedurals are unstoppable, even when they are terrible. Get ready for this taking up space on their schedule for years.

The Flash (The C.W.) — Why do they always have to change the costume? If people will tune into a show based on a comic book character the costume does not need to be as black as possible. Flash gets the Daredevil treatment and I do not approve. This will be an expensive show to run, with so many special effects in each episode.
Verdict: This probably has the same run as whatever “Arrow” will have.

Chicago Fire (NBC) — because the creator of Law and Order, Dick Wolf, wants to make NYPD Blue, but for firefighters.
Verdict: Prime time soaps can last a long time, or they can burn out after a season or two. Boom!

2014 Fall TV Preview: Monday

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I am compelled to write this after seeing one too many advertisements for a terrible upcoming tv show. They cry out to be mocked, thus let the (pre)judgment commence.

Gotham (Fox) — Watch as Fox puts out the show that they hastily altered after listening to Fatman on Batman, one of Kevin Smith’s podcasts. Seriously, the show was not going to have Bruce Wayne, but just focus on young Jim Gordon. Then Kevin Smith and Paul Dini come along and two months later, huzzah, it will show young Bruce Wayne and he will go to school with the future criminals. I understand that if Fox admitted what they had done that they would owe Dini and Smith a lot of money, but that fails to make their lies more truthful.
Verdict: I will not watch this show for a few years, and if it looks good enough I will catch up.


Forever (ABC) — Who says you only live once? Unfortunately for Mr. Fantastic—Ioan Gruffudd—I doubt this show will live even one full season. The premise for the show is promising—a 200 year old man searches for the key to unlock the curse of his immortality.
Verdict: I will plan to watch the show to give it a shot, maybe even DVR it, but never watch it. And then it will be quickly canceled because of people like me.

Scorpion (CBS) — 4 nerds and one 30 year old hot mom help the government solve crimes. I love the coded language in Entertainment Weekly’s description, “the show works hard to transcend conventional procedural trappings.”
Verdict: Do, or do not, there is no try. Avoid this one.

Jane the Virgin (CW) — Just read the name of the show.
Verdict: If the name were not enough for you, here is the premise, “a rule-bound Latina student who’s accidentally inseminated…” And done.
Note: Nice to see a non-white lead actress…and since the CW has very low standards, this might not actually get canceled immediately. Might not.

State of Affairs (NBC) — Katherine Heigl plays Scandal/Homeland lady.
Verdict: Nope. And since it is on NBC no-one else will watch it either. Lasts one season.

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS) — This is still on the air, and a hit, despite no-one in the entire country admitting to have seen it. Must be old people falling asleep and Nielsen counting them.
Verdict: This will be on until O’Donnell or LL Cool J gets another movie


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Murder! Murder! Murder!

The archangel and Mephisto, wagering on the fate of humanity, Faust from 1926.

The archangel and Mephisto, wagering on the fate of humanity, Faust from 1926.

I was fortunate enough to watch the 116 minute version restored in 1997 instead of the often seen 85 minute version. Regardless, this is based on the play by Johann Wolfgang Goethe; the silent movie is adapted by F.W. Murnau. Normally the screenwriters get the majority of the credit for adapting a play or novel, but in the silent movie era the screenwriters were just credited with the “titles”, a term for the cards indicating what was said. Murnau is often regarded as the master of German Expressionism and is one of the three best silent film directors ever. While not his most famous work, Faust ranks up there with his most famous movie, Nosferatu. 

I wonder which story is more famous now, that of Faust and his pact with the devil, or the story of Dracula, even if it Nosferatu is technically an unauthorized version of it. On the surface of it, Faust sounds like a more modern story than that of Dracula, since Bram Stoker’s novel was released in 1897. On the other hand Goethe released Faust in the early 19th century. But were these the original versions of these stories? Faust appears to be Goethe’s take on a German legend. On the other hand, I know that the story of Dracula dates back to the days before modern German, Russian or any other language that people now actually speak. Of course he was more famous as Vlad, the Impaler, before the name Dracula caught on.

Mephisto (Jannings) watches Faust (Ekman) with Gretchen (Horn).

Mephisto (Jannings) watches Faust (Ekman) with Gretchen (Horn).

Moving on to the movie itself there could be an entire book written to analyze it. But I will do what I can in the space that I have. The first question I have is whether or not this movie is pro G-d, or not. On the surface there is an archangel willing to put the world into the hand’s of Mephisto if one good man can be corrupted to evil. That is a terrible f’n deal. One made out of hubris and pretty much ignored at the close of the movie. The implication of which I do not truly understand. I do not know if G-d’s and the archangel’s lack of interference is an honorable thing or something pathetic. The main character shifts from Mephisto—Emil Jannings, to Faust—Gösta Ekman, and to Gretchen—Camilla Horn. It is a rare storytelling technique and it left me wondering why it was not Faust the whole time. Gretchen’s sufferings were the greatest and, I think, that Murnau wanted to use the film to highlight how ostensibly good, godfearing people can be instruments on evil in the name of G-d just easily as Faust could try to do good in the devil’s name. Even her love of Faust is as corrupt and superficial as the devil who ensnared her for Faust. Yet it is their love that admits them to Heaven. So many questions!

For me, the highlights of this film are its look and special effects. Using the technology available at the time, Murnau made magic. The devil did not seem like the stereotypes with which I am familiar. I do not know why this look did not catch on in the way that early deerstalker cap did for Sherlock Holmes.  That old Faust was played by Ekman, who played young Faust, surprised me. Thoughts like this go on and on. They are what help make this movie special. Now that you have read this review, try watching Kino Lorber’s GIFs from Faust.

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