Gone Girl is directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, based on Flynn's 2012 novel of the same name. The film stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, and Carrie Coon.
If I were to say to you David Fincher's Gone Girl is a horror movie, how would you respond? I would think, if you've seen the movie, the temptation is to disagree, because hardly anything in the movie resembles that of conventional horror movie ingredients: no jump scares or frightening monsters or anything else of the sort. The reason I claim Gone Girl is a horror movie is because of what the film is able to achieve in terms of what all horror movies strive for: to evoke a negative reaction from the viewer and prey on their worst fears. The specific fears that Gone Girl preys on are those of married couples, but I would also throw in the fears of dating couples, because there's some overlap between the two. That being said, Gone Girl easily earns the title of Worst Movie Night Choice for new couples. I would even recommend to not watch it at all with your significant other.
David Fincher is no stranger to psychological thrillers and mysteries, but none of his previous directorial works have taken this deep of a look into the relationship between two people, particularly two people who are a married couple. This is not at all like what you would see in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as Gone Girl shows us how its two main characters' marriage starts falling apart at the seams, as opposed to how the relationship between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett's characters in Benjamin Button is forced to come apart due to Benjamin Button's reverse aging. The marriage that is vital to Gone Girl's story is a realistic one whose thrills and horrors come from how much the marriage loves to play with your mind, how difficult it is to play the blame game and decide who is more at fault: the husband or the wife. By the end of the movie, there's a clear answer as to which one is the true antagonist, and the thrill rush of Gone Girl is everything that brings us to that conclusion. And once you see how the movie ends and what it means for the husband and the wife, that's when the true horror begins to set in, and your outlook on the entire movie changes for good.
The husband and wife are Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne. The two live in Missouri and have their five year anniversary coming up. The day of their anniversary, Nick returns home from work and finds Amy missing. His only clue of her disappearance is a flipped table with a shattered glass top, but a police walkthrough of the house also reveal blood stains, suggesting there was a struggle and that Amy might have been murdered. It is shown that Amy was the inspiration behind her parents' series of popular Amazing Amy children's books, leading to her disappearance gaining intense media coverage. The evidence found by the police makes them suspicious of Nick, and Nick's awkward behavior leads the media and others around him to believe that he is a sociopath who murdered Amy.
Flashbacks show us how Nick and Amy met, got married, and then how their marriage fell apart; both lost their jobs during the economic recession and moved from New York down to Missouri so that Nick could take care of his sick mother. Nick grew lazy and started cheating on Amy, and Amy chronicled the events by writing entries in a dairy. The present police investigation uncovers proof of financial troubles and domestic disputes, including a medical report indicating that Amy was pregnant. Nick denies knowledge of Amy's pregnancy, leading to greater and greater suspicion that Nick indeed killed his wife.
Gone Girl's story is very spoiler-sensitive, so I have to be extra careful from here on out about what exactly I write. Right from the get-go, David Fincher puts us into an uncomfortable frame of mind, as we hear Nick talk about cracking his wife's "lovely skull, unspooling her brains, trying to get answers", answers about how Amy is feeling and what she is thinking. Nick then asks, "What have we done to each other?" and this immediately deposits into us a feeling of distrust, that this relationship isn't what we think it may be. As this scene goes on, we get our first exposure to the soothing, yet unnerving score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which continues while the opening credits roll over various shots of the Missouri town where the majority of the film takes place. Fincher relies on a cool color palette and shadowy interiors to keep up the feeling of discomfort we get from the opening, never letting up over the course of the film's 149 minutes. Even when, in the final 15-20 minutes when it seems like everything plot-wise is wrapped up and the film is coming to a close, there's still discomfort, and then comes the ending that will leave the ill-prepared viewer a little messed up afterwards.
- I always thought the Pearl Harbor's and Gigli's of the early 2000's marked the death of Ben Affleck, the actor, with Affleck eventually going on and finding that directing was something he had a gift for. And while Affleck seemed to revive his acting credibility with the success of films like State of Play, The Town, and Argo (the latter two he also directed), none of his performances in those films come as close as to what Affleck achieves acting-wise in Gone Girl. Affleck shines bright as Nick Dunne, a character whose struggles almost exactly mirror those of Affleck himself. Everyone and his brother hates Nick Dunne in the early parts of the film, until Nick is able to redeem himself and make up for the way he had treated Amy before she went missing. Affleck got a lot of ridicule for how a lot of his movies turned out in the early 2000's part of his career, but if Affleck's directing success hadn't been enough to redeem him, the critical and box office success of Gone Girl definitely will. Affleck makes the most out of his role, with Rosamund Pike shining as bright if not brighter than Affleck in her role. Rosamund Pike's Amy Dunne is the perfect mixture of everything she needs to be: beautiful, vulnerable, but also cunning. She can go from innocent wife to scary psychopath in the blink of an eye, fantastically blurring the line between Amy Dunne as the the marriage victim and Amy Dunne as the marriage perpetrator. Pike got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress and rightfully so. This is a performance that will make husbands stay up a little bit longer at night.
- The truth is that there actually isn't a whole lot of mystery to be had in Gone Girl, the movie telling us not even halfway through what happened to Amy. Suspense comes from not knowing which of the possible outcomes will occur (unless you've read the book). We know all the plot lines will intersect sooner or later, but we can't quite put our finger on what exactly the outcome will be. There's really no point in me keeping this vague: Nick's innocence should never really be in question. It would be too easy to think that he killed Amy and is hiding her body somewhere. I'm not going to flat out tell you what happened to Amy, but I will inform you that the movie hardly gives you a reason to like Nick and feel sympathetic towards him. Despite Nick being a dishonest husband, murder is something most likely not in his thoughts. So what exactly is the low point? It's that Gone Girl is pretty light on actual mystery, and that is likely what you were not expecting going in. Regardless, the movie still works as a very memorable piece of psychological horror.
Know this much about Gone Girl: it is an all-out attack on marriage, fully exposing some of the dark, ugly truths of marriage that people don't want to think about when they see proposal and engagement photos on Facebook or any other social media platform. Strengthened by stand-out performances from Affleck and Pike as well as Fincher's always reliable direction, Gone Girl is cold, biting, and as horrifying as any quality horror movie. I'm serious. Gone Girl should be thought of as a horror movie. It's about a couple whose marriage disintegrates and how their lives are forever changed as a result of this disintegration. There's no hero or clear protagonist here. Both Nick and Amy commit unforgivable acts, the two bringing the worst out of one another. By the movie's end, it's clear which one of the two is worse, with the other being put into a terrifying and inescapable situation. Nick Dunne tells his wife, "All we do is resent each other and try to control each other. We cause each other pain." Amy turns his head to Nick and replies, "That's marriage."
Gone Girl shouldn't completely dissuade you from getting married, but it should make you think a little more critically about it. Just like life, marriage isn't all peaches and cream. For some, it can be the greatest decision they ever made, bringing a lifetime of happiness and achievements. But for others, it can be an unforgettable nightmare and give people experiences they will never want to sit through again. If relationships and marriage is the way you want to go, be with someone who makes you truly happy. Just remember, never let you and your significant other turn into Nick and Amy Dunne.
Recommend? Yes, but do not watch on a first date
Scooby-Doo. Your name means Scooby-poop.
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is directed by Raja Gosnell and is the sequel to 2002's Scooby-Doo. Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Matthew Lillard, and Neil Fanning all return to reprise their roles from the first film. Newcomers to the cast include Seth Green, Tim Blake Nelson, Peter Boyle, and Alicia Silverstone.
I have special affection for the 2002 live action Scooby-Doo, but only because it is a film that I watched at a young age and found myself enjoying quite a bit. But despite the power of childhood nostalgia, viewing that film again many years later was not the most comfortable experience I've ever had sitting in my chair and watching my television screen. My eyes were much more open to the hideous CGI effects and the awkward sexual references that hampered the film. At the end of the day, it's a film that deserves my hatred. However, I could not stir up hatred for the film, because...childhood memories.
No such merciful behavior for the sequel: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, another film that somehow became a fine childhood memory of mine, though perhaps not as vivid of one as was Scooby-Doo. I was not the most avid Scooby-Doo fan back in the day; me getting the privilege of sitting through not one but two(!) live-action Scooby-Doo movies could not have been anything more than sheer, utter coincidence. And re-watching Scooby-Doo 2 years later was also an uncomfortable experience, but even more uncomfortable than sitting through Scooby-Doo. While Scooby-Doo 2 doesn't suffer from the exact same set of problems as Scooby-Doo, it does bring along some baggage from its predecessor and adds that baggage to a new host of issues.
The story of Scooby-Doo 2 makes no mention of any events that happened in the previous film, leaving us with no idea of how much time has passed between the two films, as well as making it entirely possible for someone to skip over the first film and not be confused at all by what's going on. I haven't even started talking about the actual plot and I've already thrown into question this movie's nature as a sequel. Zoinks.
Okay, so, Scooby-Doo 2 begins with Mystery Inc. attending the opening of a monster exhibition at the Coolsonian Criminology Museum, where monster costumes from their past mysteries are put on display. The exhibition is interrupted, however, by the arrival of a masked figure named - you'll love this - Evil Masked Figure, who steals two of the costumes with the help of the living Pterodactyl Ghost. The gang's reputation takes a hit due to the incident, mostly because of the ridicule from journalist Heather Jasper Howe (Alicia Silverstone). They suspect that an old enemy is the culprit behind the museum robbery. One person they suspect is Jeremiah Wickles (Peter Boyle), who formerly portrayed the Black Knight Ghost. The gang sneaks into Wickles' mansion and discover a book that gives instructions on how to create monsters. As Fred, Daphne, and Velma work on the mystery, Shaggy and Scooby overhear how the two of them have a bad habit of messing up every operation. Shaggy and Scooby decide to better themselves and start acting like real detectives. Meanwhile, Velma finds herself combating intimate feelings for the Coolsonian Criminology Museum's curator, Patrick Wisely (Seth Green).
Here's the thing: I have no idea what this movie is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be another helping of harmless chow for hardcore Scooby fans and all the oblivious children who decide to watch this? Is is supposed to be a closer look at how and why Shaggy and Scooby deserve to be a part of Mystery Inc.? Or is the movie supposed to be an homage to the monsters from the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! TV show of the late 60's and early 70's? Scooby-Doo 2 desperately tries to juggle all of these ambitions and sadly tries to do so with an onslaught of lame jokes, more awful CGI effects, and an overall mystery so vapid and so predictable, you could predict every major beat of this movie well before each beat happens.
- Probably the best thing I can say about Scooby-Doo 2 is that it shows some faithfulness to its source material, with several of the monsters bound to be recognized by those who ever watched enough episodes of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. The gang mentions at the start of the film how the Black Knight Ghost was their first mystery, which is true since the first episode of the TV show was about a black knight's armor coming to life. Other monsters like Miner 49er and the Tar Monster are here as well, and it is pretty cool to see all of the monsters together in one place. Too bad a lot of the monsters look like the product of a CGI novice trying to make dues with a software that he/she is opening up for the first time. They're not as horrific-looking as the demons from the first film, but they still look like crap.
- There are few specific examples of the awful special effects that I MUST discuss in some length. The absolute worst stretch of effects in the entire movie is a scene in which Shaggy and Scooby come across some kind of laboratory, and Scooby discovers a refrigerator that contains many different colored potions. Scooby, thinking one of the yellow-colored potions is lemonade, drinks one, and sprouts tentacles, turning into some dog-squid hybrid and becoming an even uglier CGI specimen than he already was. Oh, but that's not the worst of it. Shaggy joins in on the action, and he develops a hot chick's body after drinking one of the potions. Now it's quite obvious that a body double (Nazanin Afshin-Jam, credited as Shaggy Chick) is used for this scene, but my God! Shaggy's head! It looks like 2002's absolute worst Photoshop effect. Shaggy's head doesn't even look like it's properly attached to his chick body, being placed on the chick body like someone's head on someone else's body in one of those head swap videos you may find on the Internet somewhere. You may not notice it right away, but I guarantee you, once you see how incomplete the effect looks, you cannot un-see it. And as for Scooby-Doo, he sometimes looks worse in this movie than he did in the previous one. CGI is always so convincing isn't it?
- Scooby-Doo 2 has one of the easiest mysteries to figure out of the entire library of Scooby-Doo mysteries. Seriously, you can guess who the main villain is not even ten minutes into the film, the screenplay not being at all careful, with constant dialogue from the main villain that screams, "I'm the one who did it! It is so obviously me! My gosh, how have you not yet figured out that I was the one who is behind all this?" The movie could have salvaged itself a little bit had the mystery been more creative and fun. That way, we could walk out thinking to ourselves, "well, the mystery was no surprise, but at least it was fun to see how it played out." But instead, we have to pray and hope for a good laugh, because anything resembling suspense is non-existent throughout the film's 92 minutes. Speaking of good laughs, I am sorry to say, but there are very few of those here.
The most important question of all, however: will Scooby-Doo 2 entertain young children, while keeping their parents from wanting to claw their eyes out? The answer, dear reader, I have to say is yes. As hideous as the CGI Scooby looks sometimes, it's not going to stop little kids from laughing and laughing at Scooby's goofy voice and the barrage of cartoon-ish sound effects that come whenever Scooby gets whacked and flung around. And though the movie isn't funny per se, there are at least some lines that I think adults will get a chuckle or two out of, but that's all. The gathering of famous monsters from the TV show are likely to please hardcore Scooby fans, but with the other host of problems on display, this movie is a critic's worst nightmare. The CGI? Horrible. The mystery? Incredibly predictable. But despite anything else you'd want to harp on, I can't deny that the movie does its job of pleasing the family. I say that, speaking from experience. Revisiting these Scooby-Doo films years later did make wonder one thing though: whoever said family and children's film can get a pass for awful special effects and bad writing?
Recommend? Only for young children who love and adore Scooby-Doo
And Like That....She's Gone
The Vanishing is directed by George Sluizer and is based on the 1984 novel The Golden Egg by Tim Krabbe. The film stars Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Gene Bervoets, Johanna ter Steege, and Gwen Eckhaus.
We all like to think the climax of a mystery is the ending, when it's finally revealed who the murderer or who the kidnapper is, the chance for us to finally put all of the puzzle pieces together. I love a good mystery as much as the next person, but George Sluizer's The Vanishing (Spoorloos in Dutch) delivers an ending that has nothing to do with revealing the identity of someone, yet is so incredibly haunting and is certain to stick with you long, and I mean long, afterwards. So much so, it would make even the most decent of mysteries cower in fear. A lot of what makes The Vanishing so special is its unusual narrative structure, finding ways to build suspense even when it seems like there's no way the movie could be building suspense, because of what it tells us early on.
As I speak of suspense, I should mention that The Vanishing also works as a thriller (maybe even more so than a mystery), for its mystery is an exercise in heart-thumping tension and not just as an object of curiosity. I would credit George Sluizer as something of a Dutch Alfred Hitchcock, but I don't know enough of Sluizer's filmography to properly give him such an honor. Honestly, I think had Hitchcock been around long enough to see this film, he would have had nothing but praise for it. The Vanishing isn't "Hitchcockian" by any means, never utilizing Hitchcock's signature techniques like his voyeuristic camera movements and fear-inducing framing shots. But it knows how to build suspense in a way that makes it seem Hitchcock-like, and that is a compliment of high order for any thriller.
The story is about the disappearance of a young woman named Saskia (Johanna ter Steege). The film opens with Saskia and her boyfriend Rex (Gene Bervoets) travelling on holiday in France. Saskia mentions to Rex a recurring dream she has about drifting through space while trapped inside a golden egg. The two have an argument, but quickly make up. They stop at a rest area after they run out of gas, where Rex promises to never abandon Saskia. The two bury a pair of coins underneath a tree to symbolize their love for each other. Saskia goes into the station to buy some drinks just before the two head out. She does not return. Rex frantically searches for Saskia, only finding a handful of possible clues related to her disappearance. The search goes on for three years, but Rex never gives up hope.
What happened? Where did Saskia go? Was she abducted? Yes, Saskia was abducted. And believe it or not, the identity of the abductor is given to us before the abduction even happens. We don't learn the specific details of how Saskia was taken until late in the film, but we know for the majority of the film who the abductor is. The abductor's identity is not a colossal spoiler by any means, but I won't give a name, just so, if and when you see the film for yourself, you can go into it blind.
- The Vanishing builds up to an ending that is more horrifying and spine-tingling than your average gore-fest in an R-rated slasher/horror flick. Yes, I said that already. I don't care. I'm going to tell it to you again. Much of how the ending is so effective is because of how the movie spends a lot of time exploring the mind and habits of the abductor. The abductor is a perfectionist; we watch him meticulously practice his kidnapping routine. We also learn that the abductor is a loving husband, a caring father, and a professor. On the outside, he appears to be a perfectly normal person, living a full life. But on the inside, this man is a deranged sociopath and a much scarier one because of his outward appearance.
- The film takes on a more nonlinear narrative, and it really, truly works. After Saskia disappears, the movie almost immediately takes us into some time earlier, were we get a look into the life of the abductor. Once we flash forward to three years later, the movie goes back and forth between a distraught Rex trying everything to find Saskia and events from the abductor's past that affect him in the present. Instead of building suspense by having Rex think and work like a detective, the movie builds suspense by bringing Rex and the abductor closer and closer together, until they finally meet, and all hell breaks loose.
- I needed to take a bit of time to fully process this movie after I watched it, and after doing so, the closest thing to a low point that I could come up with is that the movie could've taken some time to show us more of how Rex and Saskia came to be, how the two grew to love each other. Rex bemoans how much he misses Saskia, but he doesn't proceed to tell us exactly how his life is different or incomplete without Saskia. Did she always look after him in tough times, perhaps help him through some financial struggles? Was it her laugh or her cheerful personality that made him fall for her? The time that the two spend together in the beginning of the film is brief, and in that time, we only see the two have a small argument and Saskia tell Rex about her golden egg dream. In other words, a bit more character development for Rex and Saskia would have likely catapulted the film into the territory of masterpiece, and the ending might have been even more haunting than it already is.
But you know what? The Vanishing is a borderline masterpiece as is, and I can't believe I didn't come across it earlier. It's a mystery thriller whose unconventional structure works as a hybrid of those two genres, and a film that builds suspense in a way I never thought imaginable for a film that centers on someone's disappearance. The film grabs hold of you from the start and never lets go, applying the ultimate squeeze with its ending, an ending you may never ever forget. The Vanishing's mystery isn't the whole story, though. The story is also an analysis of a sociopath and what goes through the mind of such a person. And the fact that a sociopath may very well be posing as a normal, every day person? Those are the kind of realities that keep you up a little bit longer at night.
Scooby-Doo is directed by Raja Gosnell and stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson, and Isla Fisher. It is based on the Hanna-Barbera animated series of the same name.
Scooby-Dooby-Doo! Nothing else says mystery better than Mr. Scooby Doo and Mystery Inc., who have been stopping creepy, ghoulish fiends - that are actually troublemakers in costumes - for decades, with more animated series, movies, and merchandise than anyone would know what to do with. With Scooby-Doo being such a popular, long-running franchise, a live-action film seemed inevitable because there's something of an unofficial law out there stating that any and all popular, animated franchises/movies must get a live-action adaptation before the end of time. But it's not like live-action would be an impossible task for the world of Scooby-Doo. You wouldn't have to think too hard to think up some real-life depictions of Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy. Plus, the right group of costume designers and make-up artists could turn out a pretty neat looking ghost, ghoul, whatever scary creature that Mystery Inc. would be up against.
Now Scooby-Doo, on the other hand? Well, an actual, real-life dog wouldn't fly, because Scooby-Doo himself is very cartoon-y: goofy facial expressions, an equally goofy voice, and taking on a style of comedy that I think you can say is slapstick, but I don't know. I've never found Scooby-Doo to give us the kind of cartoon violence you see in Tom and Jerry or the Looney Tunes shorts.
The point is, Scooby-Doo is one of those cartoon characters that I don't believe you can vividly picture in live-action, so the use of an actual dog and giving it a talking, animated mouth would only come off as awkward. Which means that Scooby-Doo will be a CGI-creation. Or does he have to be CGI? Maybe Scooby could have been done with cel and optical composition animation, like how the toons were done in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. No? Too much work involved? Fine, CGI it is...
Scooby-Doo opens with Mystery Inc. solving the Luna Ghost case at the Wow-O-Toy Factory, but not without some long-time frustrations boiling over between Fred, Daphne, and Velma. Fred frequently takes the credit for everything, with Velma frustrated that none of her ideas get any appreciation. Daphne, meanwhile, is sick and tired of getting kidnapped during each and every case. The three quit, putting an end to Mystery Inc. The End.
Okay, not really. Mystery Inc. remains disbanded for two years, until the gang is reunited when they're all invited to the Spooky Island resort, owned by Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson). The gang learns from Mondavarious that the visiting island tourists have changed into some kind of bizarre, brainwashed state. Velma, Daphne, and Fred split up, each determined to solve the mystery on their own. But when it's discovered that the island is being taken over by an army of ancient demons, the gang may have to put aside their differences and work together again.
Admittedly, Scooby-Doo is a movie that has become childhood nostalgia for me. My family and I loved watching the movie time and time again, laughing at all of Scooby's silly antics. But watching the movie as an adult, many years later? I can only describe the experience as strange. I didn't laugh anywhere near as much as I did when I saw the film at a younger age, and I could not for the life of me get past some of the egregious wrongs that any young child is likely to ignore while watching the movie.
- What can I say about Scooby-Doo that can be safely categorized under, "Nice Things To Say"? Here's something I can say: The movie is undoubtedly well-casted. Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Matthew Lillard all certainly look their respective parts, with Lillard giving a real stand-out performance as Shaggy. Lillard has all of Shaggy's "Like..." and "Zoinks!" expressions down pat, and he brings the right kind of energy for a character like Shaggy that is as goofy as he is lovable. The one weak link in terms of acting is Freddie Prinze Jr., who looks like he wasn't given much direction from Raja Gosnell and is just sort of going with the flow.
- Now, more about that CGI. Yikes. While the CGI for Scooby isn't the worst I've ever seen, the CGI for the demons is an eyesore, the demons looking like something out of a low-budget, SyFy Channel creature feature. And oh yeah, because this is a Scooby-Doo movie, y'know, a movie meant for the whole family, that means the demons need to look not the least bit scary and also act more like harmless pranksters than like savage monsters intent on killing. And when we finally learn who the mastermind behind the entire mystery is, we get a CGI monstrosity that's, oh my goodness, even worse than the demons. The reported budget for this movie is at $84 million, but given the amateurish quality of the effects, I refuse to believe that to be true.
- The movie also has some bizarre and unsubtle sexual undertones. This is obvious right from the get-go when Daphne mentions getting a wedgie while the Luna Ghost is carrying her around the Wow-O-Toy Factory. This is followed up shortly afterwards by a Pamela Anderson cameo, and nothing says sexual undertones more than a 2002 Pamela Anderson. Fred has a weird line in which he says to Velma, "Dorky chicks turn me on too" and I'm not sure how this is supposed to be recapturing the spirit of the old Scooby-Doo TV show, because anyone who has ever watched at least a little bit of Scooby-Doo in their lifetime could tell you that Fred has never been sexually or romantically interested in Velma. Sarah Michelle Gellar has commented that her and Linda Cardellini shared an onscreen kiss in one scene, but that, and several other adult jokes, never made it into the final film. Writer James Gunn (You read that right. The same James Gunn who directed both Guardians of the Galaxy films) mentioned back in 2017 that there was an R-rated cut of the movie and that CGI was used to remove the cleavage of several female cast members. An R-rated Scooby-Doo movie? That would be either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever. Still though, good luck to all the parents watching this with their kids and explaining to them why Daphne looks down her shirt in one scene.
Everything is there for me to give the movie a big thumbs down. The CGI sucks, the jokes are weak, and the movie is stuffed full with more sexually suggestive bits than should ever be allowed in a family film, particularly one that's based on Scooby-Doo. But childhood nostalgia prevents me from casting a fiery rage upon this movie, and I'd be lying if I said, even now, I don't find the movie to be a little charming. It wants to be pure silliness more than anything, and that ambition results in the movie being mostly harmless fun. This is only one of many Scooby-Doo movies, but this one stands out mostly because it's live action. And despite the bad rap that live action has gotten in the years since Roger Rabbit, this version of Scooby Doo is the cinematic equivalent of an edible Scooby Snack and, thankfully, not a giant mound of Doo-Doo.
Recommend? I would only recommend if you loved watching Scooby-Doo at a young age.
It lives up to the hype, *plus plus*
Deadpool 2 is directed by David Leitch and stars Ryan Reynolds who reprises his role as the titular Deadpool. The film also stars Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, and Jack Kesy.
2016's Deadpool was one of the more unique superhero movies to come out in recent memory, the world getting its first real taste of Deadpool's anti-humor persona and his irreverent, fourth-wall breaking sense of humor. It was something of a refreshing change-up from the heroics of the other X-Men and the heroics of all the characters in the MCU, especially because the movie was a good excuse for Marvel to enter R-rated territory, featuring more bloody, graphic violence and more frequent usage of words like 'fuck' and 'shit'. 20th Century Fox knew right away that Deadpool was going to be a hit, green-lighting a sequel around the time that the first film was released. And would you be surprised if I told you that Deadpool 3 is already in development? No. No you would not.
Ryan Reynolds has found something of a calling with Deadpool, the character fitting Reynold's charm and sense of humor the way peanut butter fits with jelly. It's as if Deadpool is the role Reynolds was always destined to play, and his enthusiasm for playing the role being the equivalent of the enthusiasm of a little kid waking up on Christmas morning. I don't need to waste time talking about how enjoyable Reynolds is in the title role; that's a high point I'm not even going to list. But what we should be especially grateful for is that Reynolds doesn't need to put the entire movie squarely on his shoulders; there is plenty of stuff going on around him that works.
But first, plot summary: two years after the first film, Wade Wilson comes up short in killing one of his targets on his anniversary with girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, reprising her role from the first film). On the night the two decide to start a family, the escaped target tracks Wilson down at his home and kills Vanessa. Wilson is able to kill the target before he escapes, but the damage has been done, and Wilson is overcome with grief, blaming himself for Vanessa's death. Wilson attempts to commit suicide six weeks later by blowing himself up into tiny pieces. However, Wilson's body parts stay alive and are later found and put back together by Colossus. Colossus takes Wilson to the X-Mansion to recover, with Wilson agreeing to join the X-Men in order to help him heal better. Wilson joins Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to stop an incident involving the young mutant Russel Collins / Firefist (Julian Dennison) who is in a standoff with authorities outside an orphanage called the "Mutant Reeducation Center". After Wilson kills one of the orphanage workers, he and Collins are arrested and sent to the "Icebox", a prison for mutant criminals. Meanwhile, a cybernetic soldier from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) travels back in time to try and kill Collins. His reason? I don't want to spoil it and feel it's better you just watch the movie and find out. Later on in the movie, Wilson forms the X-Force team in order to protect Collins from Cable.
- Deadpool 2 has more of the hilarious fourth-wall breaks we came to know and love in the first film, but what really stands out about the humor this time around is the bountiful number of jokes that the movie has that not only poke fun at other superheroes, but poke fun at other non-superhero movies like Frozen and Basic Instinct (yes, there really is a segment that makes fun of Basic Instinct). The kind of meta-humor that Deadpool 2 takes on makes it seem like the ultimate superhero spoof movie, and in this day and age where superhero movies are coming out left and right, this kind of humor is totally justified.
- Nothing more needs to be said about Reynolds as Wade Wilson / Deadpool. I must, however, give some love to Josh Brolin as Cable. Who would've thunk that Brolin, merely weeks after excellently portrayed the MCU's quintessential villain in Thanos, would knock it out of the park again as another villain in another, somewhat-MCU-related superhero film? Brolin does an excellent job bringing a sense of menace to Cable, while at the same time, successfully able to show off Cable's more tender, vulnerable side that we come to know. I also loved how the movie turns Cable into someone who is clearly beatable, with fights being done in such a way to imply to us that Deadpool always has a chance. Cable has a lot of high-tech weaponry, but he is shown to be getting a run for his money whenever he's up against Deadpool, getting thrown around quite a bit during fight scenes.
- Speaking of fight scenes, the action in Deadpool 2 is pretty exhilarating. That ought to be no surprise with a director like David Leitch who had proven his worth before with the first John Wick film and with 2017's Atomic Blonde, both of which were enhanced by stylish action scenes. The action in Deadpool 2 is always coherent, and the movie time and time again finds a way to slip in something funny whenever the opportunity allows itself.
- I said the relentlessness of the humor was a low point in the first film, and that is present once again here. Admittedly, I was willing to just accept the non-stop humor and roll with it, mostly because the majority of the jokes land. The main issue with Deadpool 2 is, despite how funny it is, there's this feeling of familiarity that just cannot be ignored. The movie is perfectly content with dishing out more of the same from the first movie, and that's fine because of how much works from the first movie. The trouble with the movie being content is that it foregoes the opportunity of trying anything brand new, and something brand new is a hope we should have for all sequels, because shouldn't a goal of the sequel be to do something that we haven't seen before? Those of you thinking that Deadpool 2 would be some kind of drastic change-up from the first movie are going to be pretty disappointed.
So then, would I say that Deadpool 2 is better than the first movie? My answer is yes, but the sequel is better than the first by not a whole lot. Deadpool 2 has terrific action and more superhero jokes than you could possibly count, though it tends to stay on the safe side and stick with what worked from the first movie. Still, the Merc with a Mouth has turned himself into quite the darling for audiences over the past few years, and I have no doubt we haven't seen the last of Mr. Wade Wilson and his funky X-Force bunch. There is one thing that I think we can all agree on however: Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern is all but forgotten.
Recommend? Yes. Be sure you watch the first Deadpool beforehand.
Round Up The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is directed by Bryan Singer, written by Christopher McQuarrie, and stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite, and Kevin Spacey. McQuarrie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and Spacey won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects is a film that embraces unpredictability, growing more complex by the minute and never giving you a straight answer to how things actually are until the very end, where the biggest surprise of all occurs. Singer has described the film as, "Double Indemnity meets Rashomon", created so that you will notice several things the second time around that you didn't notice the first time. I support this claim, because my own experience made me realize that The Usual Suspects is a film that requires at least two viewings to fully wrap your head around and appreciate. The first viewing is most likely to be something of a struggle with understanding the plot, while the second viewing, and any additional viewing afterwards, is an opportunity to perceive the film for its strong writing and for the benefits of its narrative structure, one that relies heavily on flashbacks and connecting the dots.
The film's title, if you hadn't guessed already, originated from Claude Rains' famous line from Casablanca. Singer read a Spy magazine column titled "The Usual Suspects" after Rains' line, and he thought the title would work for a movie, leading to him and writing partner Christopher McQuarrie developing a story in which a group of criminals meet in a police line-up (and which turned out to be the idea behind the film's poster). Kevin Spacey wanted to be in Singer's next film after he saw Singer's first film, Public Access, at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, with Benicio del Toro being cast as well upon Spacey's suggestion. Stephen Baldwin, fed up with taking part in exploitative indy films at the time, was hesitant to join the production at first, but eventually signed on. The collection of actors for the film was a rather unusual one, financiers of the film upset because there was no notable star attached to the film. But may I ask: would the film have been as effective had it been a collection of well-known stars as opposed to a group of more unknown faces? If there were stars like Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, and Tommy Lee Jones cast in the film instead of say Baldwin, Byrne, and Spacey, how could we be as suspicious of the characters? We would be immediately tempted to think the perpetrator is Walken or Pacino, because we've seen those actors in villainous roles before. Now, if the group consisted of mostly unknown actors, there would be no clear-cut answer, because this is probably our first time seeing these actors, and therefore, we have no prior knowledge to do detective work with.
Anyway, the plot of The Usual Suspects revolves around the interrogation of Roger "Verbal" Kint (Spacey), a con-man with cerebral palsy. Kint is one of two survivors of a massacre and explosion aboard a ship docked in the Port of Los Angeles. Kint tells his interrogator, U.S. Customs Agen Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminetri), of the story of how he and his partners got on the ship, preceded by a series of events that began six weeks earlier. Meanwhile, the other survivor, Hungarian mobster Arkosh Kovash (Morgan Hunter) is recovering in a hospital from burns suffered during the ship massacre, constantly mentioning the name Keyser Soze. Keyser Soze is the name of a Turkish crime lord with a reputation that supposedly makes criminals shake in their boots, as well as the person responsible for tasking Verbal and his men to appear on the ship. Verbal's story develops layer after layer, while police at the hospital try to get more information about Keyser Soze from Kovash.
We'll talk about the film's most infamous moment in a minute, but I want to talk at least a little about the other famous moment from the movie: the lineup scene. I never fully understood why people made such a big deal about this scene, other than the fact that it's basically what we see on the poster and the scene that served as a major source of inspiration for the movie. The scene was supposed to be Verbal and his partners simply stepping forward one by one and saying to a couple of watching police officers, "hand me the keys, you fucking cocksucker." During filming, however, the actors kept cracking up and making a blooper reel out of the scene, and Bryan Singer eventually decided to go with the funniest takes instead of shooting the scene as dead serious. I wanna say because the actors being all goofy is the reason why the scene is so memorable, but I really can't be too sure.
- It is so difficult to talk about The Usual Suspects in considerable length because any sane person doing a review of this movie would do everything in their power to avoid mentioning anything that may give away the film's ending. The twist ending to the film is considered by many to be one of the best plot twists in all of cinema, pulling the rug out from underneath you just when you think you have the mystery figured out. The movie hits you first with a conclusion that ends up being a fake twist, to deter you long enough so that the actual twist will whack you like a ton of bricks. A montage of lines from earlier in the film play over while the real twist comes to light, revealing that some of the lines have double entendre, lines you never would originally have guessed had double entendre. The twist is an excellent example of "show the reveal without speaking the reveal out loud", right in line with a similar kind of twist like in Citizen Kane.
- Christopher McQuarrie deserves a lot of credit for his screenplay that is brimming with snappy dialogue, workable characters, and a plot that never lets the audience assume too much. The only way I think one could become bored by this movie is if the plot becomes too confusing and you proceed to give up and just roll with whatever is playing out on screen. I would much rather take a confusing plot as opposed to a highly predictable one, and The Usual Suspects is much more than former than the latter.
- Roger Ebert listed The Usual Suspects as one of his most hated films, stating that the film was confusing and uninteresting, both of which are understandable, because this movie is certainly not for everyone. The truth is that you really have to pay attention to every little detail from start to finish if you want to have any hope of understanding the plot on your first viewing as well as get the full impact of the twist ending. And while any further viewings ought to clear up any prior confusion and help you better see the movie for how it works on a narrative level, you no longer have the shock of the twist ending. That is to say, The Usual Suspects is something of an unfair movie: it's next to near impossible to both fully understand the plot and be wowed by the twist ending, the latter only being possible on a first viewing. So I suppose that means your best chance of getting the most out of The Usual Suspects is to go all in on your first viewing, and pray your mind doesn't slip even a little while watching. And given how people's attention spans nowadays are shorter than that of a tadpole, I find this movie hard to recommend to young folks (which sounds a little paradoxical of me because I myself am one of those young folks). Telling ya though, people. Writing can be a powerful thing if you take the time to understand it.
And let us not forget about some other key parts of the film that also really work: the acting that is spot-on, the violence that comes in spurts to spice things up every now and then, and a nice little score by John Ottman to liven scenes up without ever sounding overblown. Put it all together, and The Usual Suspects turns out to be quite a loaded package, even if it may not be realizable right away. You can dismiss the film as overly confusing after one viewing and never speak of it again. But for those who may care to understand the film, even a little bit, what I will tell you is this: The Usual Suspects works because of the risks it takes in being unpredictable, building and building in complexity until it wallops you with a twist ending that you'll want to talk about with your other movie-loving friends. Not all films can be fully appreciated after one viewing. Let The Usual Suspects be a fine example of how that can be true.
Recommend? Yes, but be warned, the first viewing is most likely going to be very confusing
To Infinity and Beyond
Avengers: Infinity War is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo and stars an ensemble cast, many of whom are reprising their roles from previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, and Chris Pratt. The film is the nineteenth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I am a firm believer that Avengers: Infinity War has been the one film Marvel has been building up to over these past ten years. Yes, I say even the first two Avengers movies, in one way or another, have been leading us to this moment right here and now, in which nearly every single superhero previously introduced to us in the MCU (Ant-Man and Hawkeye are missing for some reason) come together in one of the most substantial superhero smackdowns we have ever seen. All of those mid-credits/post-credits scenes of the previous eighteen MCU movies? They've all been guiding us to this movie right here. Yep. Every single one. And yet, Infinity War doesn't at all feel like a complete movie spectacle. I mean, it is technically one half of a larger story. While it's quite the gargantuan movie on its own, everything that happens in it will tell you that it is one half and only one half of the MCU's meatiest entry to date.
I knew I would be facing sell-outs left and right had I gone to see the film within its first two weeks, and also, because I am that cynic with a more unpopular opinion of the MCU, I couldn't generate enough excitement to go out of my way and see the film right away in the middle of my busy schedule. Eventually, the fact that the film is starring so many more characters than ever before, and that nothing else good has come out over the past two weeks, I finally decided to go out of my way to see it. I walked away liking the movie a lot more than I thought it would, and, dare I say it, I'm actually excited about what the MCU is going to be doing in early 2019, given what the film teases to us in its post-credits scene?
For now anyway, it's best that we simply enjoy the sight of seeing all of these comic book superheroes together, especially after the way Marvel has spent all of these years building them up. Infinity War brings the Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and Black Widow, Doctor Stephen Strange, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Vision, Scarlet Witch, and the Winter Soldier together with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who all work together to try and stop the almighty Thanos (Josh Brolin). Thanos intends to collect the six Infinity Stones and use their power to wipe out half of all life in the universe. The Stones are scattered throughout the galaxy, with some currently in the hands of the Avengers.
Aaaaand that's about it for plot. Anything else is entering spoiler territory. Speaking of spoilers, it is a minor spoiler to say that there is not a single shot in this movie where we see every single character together in one place, like some wide shot where all of the Avengers and the Guardians are standing in a straight line together, about to take on Thanos' army. Instead, the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are scattered throughout the universe in groups of four or five, with every single group coming into contact with Thanos. I guess there just wasn't enough room left for Ant-Man and Hawkeye, especially since the movie has quite the daunting task of balancing all of the characters that it already does feature.
- 2018 has been some year for the MCU, maybe even their best year yet. Black Panther got all the love and all the money at the box office, and then that movie gets followed up by the beginning of the ultimate showdown with the one baddie that Marvel has quietly been building up to over all these years in Thanos. I loved Killmonger in Black Panther; he easily booted out Loki for MCU's Best Villain (and Loki is enough of an enigma on his own). But then comes along Thanos, who might as well have locked up the award for all eternity. If Infinity War was going to work the way it needed to, Thanos needed to be great. And he is.
Thanos brings something to the MCU that I never thought was possible before in the MCU: a sense of hopelessness. Despite all of our beloved heroes coming together, there's a feeling that sort of washes over them all: a feeling that they have no hope of defeating this all-powerful being. Thanos' power only grows and grows as he collects more and more of the Infinity Stones (What? Did you really think he wasn't going to get any of them?), and unlike all those previous times against the likes of Loki and Ultron, the Russo brothers are able to do what Joss Whedon could not do: for just a split second, which is long enough, make us question if the Avengers and the Guardians can actually win. In addition, Thanos isn't some generic, power-hungry villain who wants to wipe out half of the population just because he wants to be ruler of the universe; he takes the time to explain the basis of his motives, while making difficult sacrifices in order to move forward with his plan. I don't know about you, but I was actually pulling for Thanos at times, because some of the best villains are more misunderstood than they are evil.
- My main fear for this film was how bloated it would be, and that fear came to be a reality, though not as bad as I had first envisioned. First off, there was simply no way the Russo brothers could balance all of these characters in a way to make it look as if they are all being given equal consideration. Some of the characters are much more crucial to the plot than others - mainly those who are in possession of an Infinity Stone - so it ought to be no surprise that some of the Avengers and a few of the Guardians of the Galaxy take something of a backseat for the majority of the film. In other words, the movie is trying to do a lot with its plot, but it has just way too many characters to look after.
- Tonally, Infinity War is a little off. The movie can go from a serious, dramatic scene, in which the Avengers contemplate what to do against Thanos, immediately to a light-hearted scene where the Guardians of the Galaxy are taking verbal jabs at one another. Irreverence is part of who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, though their style of humor isn't always the best mixture with the dread that the movie creates because of Thanos.
The truth is that in the months leading up to the film's release, I was feeling almost no excitement whatsoever. I liked Black Panther, but even after seeing that film, I still felt pretty jaded towards Infinity War, because I had seen Marvel go through the same routine time and time again. Even if they were bringing nearly every hero of the MCU together, I had no reason to think Marvel would bother to go away from excess humor and colorful action, because those two had been bringing in millions for them at the box office.
But Infinity War did more for me than I imagined it would: it gave me a terrific villain in Thanos that I very much want to see again in the 2019 sequel, it gave me a massive superhero outing that managed to be quite entertaining despite too many characters, and it gave me reason to believe that Marvel is starting to realize where they've been going wrong, and 2018 is the year in which they're proving they're fixing those wrongs. Those wrongs being weak villains and too much humor. Infinity War is the first part of the MCU's ten-year culmination, and while it has its drawbacks, it still is as much of a spectacle as you hoped it would be.
Recommend? Yes, but you should be fully aware of everything that happened previously in the MCU. In other words, it's best that you see the first eighteen MCU films.
Be vewy vewy qwiet. I'm hunting wabbits.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is directed by Robert Zemeckis and is based on the 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf. The film stars Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Charles Fleischer, Stubby Kaye, and Joanna Cassidy.
No introduction is needed for the massive collection of animated characters from the Golden Age of American animation. The likes of Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Tom and Jerry were all, in one way or another, a memorable part of all our childhoods or at least characters we fondly remember watching at least a little bit during some point in our childhoods. We all have our personal favorites of certain Looney Tunes and Disney animated characters, but if any of us we're alive and well during the Golden Age of American animation, probably not a single one of us could have envisioned that we would one day get the chance to see all of these goofy, fun-loving animated characters on screen together. Here's one such example of that:
Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny together on the same frame? Inconceivable!
The opportunity to see moments like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny together on the same screen is given to us in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the film that did so much more for American animation than people may first realize: renewing interest in the Golden Age animated characters and paving the way for the Disney Renaissance. While I can't say that the likes of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King would have never happened had Who Framed Roger Rabbit flopped, I find it hard to argue that all of those beloved Disney animated films still would have happened had things not turned out so well for Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The Disney animation department was in deep deep trouble following the box office failure that was 1985's The Black Cauldron. While the animation department saw a bit of a turn around following the box office success of The Great Mouse Detective and Oliver and Company, there was no guarantee that Disney had gotten themselves completely out of the mud. Then in 1988, Disney agreed to have long-time animation fan Steven Spielberg come on as executive producer for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with then Walt Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg firmly believing that a live-action/animation hybrid would rescue the animation department from an untimely death. Spielberg was able to convince the likes of Warner Bros., Turner Entertainment, and Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz Productions to "lend" their characters to appear in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, though he was unable to get permission for certain characters like Popeye and (*sigh*) Tom and Jerry. Robert Zemeckis got hired as director in 1985 after initially being turned down, as Disney saw how Zemeckis was able to change his fortunes with the success of Back to the Future and Romancing the Stone.
Now that all that backstory is under our belt, let's get to it with Roger Rabbit and his gang of trouble-making toons. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a little bit of everything: action, adventure, comedy, drama, and, oh yeah, mystery. The movie takes place in 1947 Los Angeles, in a world where "toons" act in cartoon shorts while interacting with real-life people and living in the nearby Toontown. R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern), the head of Maroon Cartoon Studios, is worried about the recent string of poor performances by one of his most famous stars, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer), so he decides to hire private investigator Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to look into rumors about Roger's buxom toon wife Jessica (Kathleen Turner). Eddie despises toons, refusing to ever work for them again after his brother, Teddy, was killed when a toon dropped a piano on Teddy's head. Eddie is informed that Jessica may be romantically involved with Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), the owner of both Acme Corporation and Toontown.
Eddie goes to a club, where he is able to secretly photograph Acme and Jessica playing patty-cake together. Eddie shows the pictures to Roger, who gets himself drunk and flees. The next morning, Marvin Acme is found dead at the Acme factory, a safe dropped on his head. Evidence gathered at the scene points to Roger being the culprit, and Toontown's superior judge, Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), vows to find Roger and kill him with a toxic, toon-killing substance called the dip. Eddie learns from another toon that Roger may be innocent, and that Acme's missing will may be the key to his murder. The will is believed to give the toons ownership of Toontown. Eddie eventually comes across the wanted Roger, and in order to prove that the rabbit is indeed innocent, he will have no choice but to put aside his hatred for toons.
- Not surprisingly, there is a lot of silliness to be had throughout Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with toons getting whacked around the way you'd see Wile E. Coyote get smashed by the Acme products he uses to try and catch Road Runner or the way Tom gets all crumpled up while trying to catch Jerry. Every time a toon gets kicked, punched, or squished by a falling object, it's accompanied with all kinds of goofy sounds effects you'd remember hearing anytime someone got hurt during a Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry short.
But what makes the film's goofy nature even better is how it's so nicely balanced with the film's more dramatic side. We see Eddie Valiant struggle with the antics of Roger and the other toons, but as we come to learn early on, Eddie isn't the one grouch in the world of toons simply because he was born that way. Eddie is shown to have been enjoying a wonderful career working alongside his brother, but the actions of one bad toon take away both Eddie's brother and Eddie's joy. The film never lets itself develop a depressing mood because of Eddie's grief. How could it when there are so many zany toon characters constantly around him? And at the same time, the movie never becomes a goofy, extended Looney Tunes bit where nothing is taken seriously, because the movie understands that it is still a noir-style mystery, even if it is an unconventional one, since it happens to star cartoon characters. All in all, Who Framed Roger Rabbit has terrific balance, dishing out a nice helping of everything that I said before: action, adventure, comedy, mystery, etc.
- There's nothing about the film's technical achievements that hasn't been said already, the way the film is so able to make its toon characters look like they're an actual part of our world and not at all like someone's first attempt at doing computer animation. Interactions between real-life characters and toon characters are never the least bit awkward in movement, as if it was an actual toon sharing the same space as the real-life person, as opposed to the real-life person looking like they're pretending to play with some kind of stage prop/set piece and having a hard time doing so. Yep. I think that's all that needs to be said on that one.
- The only disappointing thing about Who Framed Roger Rabbit was that it couldn't get more cartoon characters to be signed on, even if those additional characters would get little more than a small cameo. Don't get me wrong. It's great that all of the Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons are on display here. It's just that seeing so many famous cartoons together at once might leave you hungry for a little bit more, because when else are we going to see all of these toons together again in another movie? And that's not a knock on the film's plot or characters. You just have to wonder: this was the one and only time that all of the big-name animation studious would put aside their creative differences and come together to have some fun, so why couldn't all of them buy into this great idea?
Believe it or not, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit also suggested an idea that the likes of Disney would gasp at: animation for adults. Sure, you had adult animated features like Fritz the Cat in the 70's, but adult animation was an idea nobody ever took and ran with back in the day. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is not a pure kiddie flick by any means: it has drinking, swearing, sex jokes that are not at all subtle, and death, honest to God death! How many times would we worry about someone actually dying in a Looney Tunes or Disney cartoon? But despite these more mature elements, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is still a wacky, jolly good ol' time that hasn't lost an ounce of its greatness over the past thirty years. If there is possibly anything new that I can add, it would be this: Who Framed Roger Rabbit introduced to the world the possibility of attaching more mature, adult matters to animation, all the while showing that you can still maintain a fun and bouncy demeanor. A lot of animation that we know today I think can relate back to Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which also took us back to the past and see more of the classic Golden Age cartoon characters. The movie is the bridge that connects the past and the future, and a triumph that the likes of the animation genre may never experience again.
Recommend? Watch it right away if by some miracle you have not seen it yet.
Do you wanna build a Snowman?
The Snowman is directed by Tomas Alfredson and is based on the novel of the same name by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer, and J.K. Simmons.
What the hell is Michael Fassbender doing? The man who I thought made quite a name for himself as Magneto in the most recent X-Men films and as Steve Jobs in 2015 has, for whatever reason, been finding himself lately in crap project after crap project. Say what one will about Alien: Covenant (Fassbender actually being the best part of that movie), but I see how no one in their right mind can give Fassbender a pass for Assassin's Creed, especially for his decision to be a producer for that film. I suppose any actor/actress who has been in business long enough will inevitably finds themselves in a crap project, because not all films can be good, and an actor can't star in a masterpiece every day of the week.
Masterpiece, however, is a word that does not belong anywhere near the likes of The Snowman, unless we're talking about a masterpiece of wildly incompetent film-making, which is what The Snowman is a near perfect example of. It's really quite astounding to watch the movie and see how much of it fails to amount to anything. Never mind the shocking fact that freaking Martin Scorsese served as executive producer (he was actually slated to be direct early on). The most alarming bit of information is that director Tomas Alfredson came out and stated in an interview that 10% to 15% of the script wasn't even filmed, leading to several narrative issues and editing problems. So that is to say the final product of The Snowman is an incomplete film, and the 85% of movie that we do get is a horrific, snow-covered mess from start to finish.
My understanding is that the film deviates quite a lot from the novel, but since I haven't read the novel, I can't give a valid assessment on that criticism. What we get in the movie plot-wise is this: Norwegian detective Harry Hole......
Okay, stop. Stop the review for a second. We just cannot let the fact that our main character's name is Harry Hole slip by without some proper discussion. I believe author Jo Nesbo meant to have the last name pronounced, "Hol-eh", but in the movie, it is for sure pronounced the way you likely read it just now. It's not only that Hole is perhaps the worst last name to be had for someone whose first name is Harry; it's also that the fact that such a name makes it that much harder for us to take our main character seriously. Okay, now that that little issue is out of the way, let's resume.
Norwegian detective Harry Hole receives a letter in the mail containing a mysterious message and ending with the drawing of a snowman. Harry is paired with new recruit Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), and the two are assigned to a case involving a missing woman named Britte Becker (Genevieve O'Reilly), who had vanished from her home one snowy night. The police receive another report of a missing woman, and after investigating each crime scene (finding the decapitated head of one of the two women), Harry and Katrine discover that a snowman is present at each woman's house. Connecting the letter and the disappearances, Harry realizes that a killer is on the loose, and the killer is using a snowman as his calling card. Katrine deduces that the killer strikes only on days when it is snowing, and that her and Harry must move quickly in order to find the killer and prevent any more disappearances.
That is all I am going to give in terms of a plot synopsis. There is much more to tell, but everything else is so convoluted that it isn't worth the effort to try and put all the pieces into their proper place. Barely anything about the story makes a lick of sense, which I mostly blame on the fact that we only have about 85% of a movie to work with here. Some of the characters' purpose in this movie is completely unclear, and if that weren't enough, The Snowman is also dreadfully boring, with not one single scene containing even one iota of excitement. So is that all to say that there isn't anything good in The Snowman?
- Occasionally, cinematographer Dion Beebe is able to dish out a pretty gorgeous looking shot, such as shots of the snowy Norwegian landscape in the film's opening moments. There are also some nifty looking shots of statues as the opening credits fade in and out on screen. But aside from that, The Snowman has nothing else deserving of praise.
- We'd be here all day if I were to discuss every single low point of The Snowman, so I'm just going to pick out the worst of the bunch. Let's start with Michael Fassbender's performance. Holy crap, I do not remember the last time I felt so appalled over watching a performance from an actor like Fassbender. Fassbender is so depressing to watch in this movie, with lifeless facial expressions while speaking his lines in such a nonchalant manner that I can only assume Fassbender had no passion for this project and was in a "let's get this over with" state of mind throughout shooting.
We learn that when Harry Hole isn't doing detective work, he's drowning himself in alcohol, supposedly because he has recently gone through a divorce, and his wife Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has recently remarried. The movie does not ever make it completely clear that the divorce is the reason why Harry is a drunk, but I don't see what else the reason could be. Instead of successfully acting as a man suffering from depression, Fassbender resembles something of an empty shell, with all the enthusiasm of a sloth. It's so hard to watch Fassbender next to Rebecca Ferguson, because Ferguson is at least trying to make something out of her performance.
- The slowness. The slowness, the slowness, the slowness. Fassbender's performance is one fault. The writing is another, and we'll get more into that in a little bit. But the slowness? My dear readers, you don't know the half of it. The Snowman goes along at such a sluggish pace, it's like watching a snowman melt in slow motion. Save for an opening scene flashback, it takes a good half hour-forty minutes for anything of substance to happen. Even when the investigation kicks into high-gear, the movie is all over the place with its characters and plot details, with all the intensity of a snowball fight at a retirement home.
- And finally, let us discuss the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad low point that is the writing. To start with, the movie flat out shows you who the killer is in the opening scene, so suspense and tension are immediately done away with, and for the rest of the movie, you will keep telling yourself, "I know the killer has this background." Knowing half of the mystery before it even begins is inexplicable, but again, I haven't read the novel, so I can't say if knowing a part of the killer's identity right away is included as something that was taken from the novel. If it was, then that's bad writing on the part of Jo Nesbo than the film's three screenwriters.
But anyway, the next bit of the writing to talk about are the two characters portrayed by Val Kilmer and J.K. Simmons. Kilmer is supposed to portray an investigator who worked on a similar snowman case in the past, but any explanation of the character's importance to the plot is borderline nonexistent. If there is a clear explanation located in the film, I was too bored to notice it. What doesn't help matters is how awful Val Kilmer looks. Now, I've read sources that say Kilmer has been dealing with some form of cancer recently, and I wish no ill will on him personally if that's true. My gosh though, Kilmer looks as if he's about to pass out every time he is on screen, and you don't have to look too hard to notice that the synchronization between Kilmer's dialogue and his lip movements is way off. That 85% is going strong, I'll tell you what.
In regards to J.K. Simmons' character, you'll be severely disappointed if you think you'll get a great performance out of him. His character has barely anything to do, and his purpose to the plot is...um, I really couldn't tell you. Like Kilmer's character, Simmons' character is hardly fleshed out, ending up as nothing but just a wasted opportunity for Simmons.
And I believe that's about it with the writing. There's not much of anything to say about how the plot makes no god damn sense, the editing twisting and bending the plot into a tangled jumble. You'll have better luck trying to build a snowman during the summer than you will trying to make sense of this slushy, inept film. When you watch a film like The Snowman that is oh so terrible on oh so many levels, you can only hope that all of it amounts to a hilariously bad product that you can make a fun drinking game out of. Hilariously bad is something that The Snowman is not, for any unintentional laughs to be had are washed out by the film's slowness.
What then, exactly, is The Snowman? Is it merely a bad, boring thriller that squanders its talented cast and some decent potential? Not quite. The Snowman is a little bit more than what I just described: The Snowman is, on top of everything I just said, an incomplete film, one that desperately needs finishing touches to fill in its gaping holes and try to make at least some sense of everything. The "final product" that director Tomas Alfredson went with is nothing short of unacceptable, constructed in such a lazy, clueless fashion that it's almost fascinating to watch. Well, it would be fascinating, if the movie wasn't such a dreadful bore from beginning to end. In conclusion, there was a lot of garbage released during 2017, and The Snowman is an undeniable stinker that needs to be ranked right at the very top of any and all "worst of the year" lists.
Recommend? *Laughs hysterically at such a ridiculous question*
A River Runs Through It
Mystic River is directed by Clint Eastwood and is based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. The film stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney. It won the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, the first film to win both awards since the 1959 Ben-Hur. The movie was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress.
There's so much star power on hand in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, that the movie turning out great is something you feel you ought to take for granted. It's not every day you get to see the likes of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, and Kevin Bacon team up with someone like Clint Eastwood in a film adaptation of an award-winning mystery novel, but in the case of Mystic River, that's exactly what we have, and there is no reason to expect anything but the best. I have found Clint Eastwood to be a good director more often than a bad director, but given the proper source material, Eastwood can be a great director, and with Mystic River, we get flashes of great. It took myself two full viewings to realize the greatness existing within the film, and I can now better understand the justification for so many Oscar nominations.
At the heart of Mystic River's story is the relationship between three boys: Jimmy Markum, Sean Devine, and Dave Boyle. The film begins in 1975 Boston, where the three boys are playing street hockey together, until their ball accidentally falls into a sewer. The three notice a spot of wet concrete and decide to write their names into it. Suddenly, a car drives by with two men inside. One of the them gets out and, pretending to be a police officer, scolds the boys for drawing their names into the concrete. The man then demands for Dave to get into the car, telling him they'll drive him home and tell his mother what the boys did. The men do not drive Dave home. Instead, they hold Dave captive and sexually abuse him, until Dave is able to escape four days later.
Twenty-five years later, the three boys are grown and still live in Boston. Jimmy (Sean Penn) is an ex-con who is married to his second wife Annabeth (Laura Linney), has three children, and runs a neighborhood store. Sean (Kevin Bacon) is a detective for the Massachusetts State Police, but is struggling with the fact that his pregnant wife Lauren (Tori Davis) has recently left him. Dave (Tim Robbins), is a blue-collar worker who is married, has a son, but is still tormented by the memory of his abduction. One of Jimmy's children is his 19-year-old daughter Katie (Emmy Rossum), and she is secretly dating a boy named Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry), whom Jimmy detests for some reason. One Saturday night, Katie goes out with her girlfriends, but she does not return home later that night. She is found murdered the next day by Sean and the State Police, her body discovered lying in a nearby park. The same night of Katie's murder, Dave returns home in the middle of the night covered in blood and with an injured hand. Dave claims to have fought off a mugger and possibly killed him. When Jimmy learns of his daughter's murder, he begins his own investigation, intending to find the killer before Sean and the police do.
While much of Mystic River is the solving of a murder mystery, the movie is a character study more than anything. The three boys are good childhood friends as we come to understand in the film's opening scene, but as things happen in life, friends can and will go their separate ways. Jimmy, Sean, and Dave all do drift apart as they grow up, but because of Dave's abduction, the three share a bond that can never be erased. The fracturing of Dave's psyche due to the abduction continues to affect him even in married, adult life, and because Dave can never shake the haunting memory of his abduction, he will never be able to let Jimmy and Sean slip from his mind. After all, Jimmy and Sean were the ones who watched Dave be driven away in the abductors' car, the two knowing full well that it could have been them in that car as well. And with Katie's murder many years later, the three are brought back together, but in a way where "remembering the good ol' times" is not possible. In a way, the boys' friendship ended with Dave's abduction, and it isn't until many years later that the fallout of that tragic day comes to life.
- It should surprise absolutely no one when I say that the acting on display is very strong. Sean Penn's intensity is, at times, through the roof, particularly when he arrives on the scene where Katie's body is found (the famous, "Is that my daughter in there?!" scene). For that scene, Penn actually requested for an oxygen tank to be standing by in case he passed out after the take. Then there's a scene that Emmy Rossum stated made her cry: when Jimmy goes to the morgue and tells Katie that he is going to find the killer before the police do. Penn shows a fierce exterior throughout the movie, understandable for playing a man who was once a criminal. Despite his aggressiveness, Jimmy doesn't hold back any emotions when the loss of his daughter starts to really take its hold on him. Jimmy goes to visit Dave in one scene, and the two sit on a porch together, where Jimmy eventually breaks out into tears, explaining his frustration over not being able to cry for his daughter earlier. Speaking of Dave, Tim Robbins is just as excellent in his role as Penn is in his: conveying Dave's scarred interior with the right amount of long faces, and speaking his lines with a type of somber tone that clearly suggests that this is a troubled man but not a mentally ill one. I think that Dave is actually the most important of the three boys: his state of mind throughout the movie is always a dark and troubled one, and it acts as a microcosm of the movie as a whole. Mystic River is gloomy and unsettling, with Eastwood relying a lot on low-key lighting and a de-saturated color palette to help you better realize that this is not at all a "happy" film. Jimmy and Sean are also troubled characters, but Jimmy takes on a more heated, energetic approach to the situation, while Sean's troubles don't extend that much beyond the departure of his wife and his frustration with trying to solve the case. Jimmy might be the main character as he has the greatest tie to the murder, but because of what happened to Dave in the past and of what happens to him the night of Katie's murder, everything, one way or another, runs through him.
- The discovery of the murderer and the reasoning behind Katie's murder aren't anything mind-blowing. In fact, watching what happens to Jimmy, Sean, and Dave is far more interesting than trying to put all the pieces of the mystery together. This is a time where the focus of the murder mystery should not necessarily be on figuring out how it happened, but more so on what happens to our characters because of this murder mystery. What do we observe in Jimmy, Sean, and Dave all these years later, with Katie's murder driving their actions and emotional states? How much have they changed over the years? Or have any of them changed at all? The movie provides no easy, straightforward answers to such questions, and that's what makes it such an interesting character study.
It'd be one thing if Mystic River was solely an impressive murder mystery with lots of twists and turns. The nature of the mystery is, in reality, the part least worth focusing on, because it is the characters that give Mystic River its power and its soul, as we watch one tragedy separate Jimmy, Sean, and Dave in the past, until another tragedy unites them many years later. What we can take away from Mystic River is a dark look into the irreversible power of pain and suffering, and how it permanently connects people. Jimmy, Sean, and Dave could have gotten together many years later to talk about how much fun they had playing street hockey and writing their names in wet concrete. But because of what happened next, they couldn't. The three are permanently connected by Dave's abduction, and no matter how far the three may have drifted apart, that haunting memory is always there, and it will never leave any of them. Kind of ironic that the mystery turns out to be the least interesting part of a mystery movie. Hey, that's the result of having several full-bodied, highly memorable characters.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: