GONE GIRL REVIEW

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If you haven’t gone. Go!

One of the best films I have seen in a long time and dare I say a contender for film of the year? Can Fincher do no wrong? (Leave Alien 3 out of this!)

With his wife’s (Rosamund Pike) disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man (Ben Affleck) sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

After seeing the heavily advertised trailers and endless hype for Gone Girl, I dreaded seeing it. I felt the trailers gave everything away and left little for me to look forward to. I went in expecting to be disappointed, praying that it will at least be watchable.

But not this time. A slow burning, tense, suspenseful murder mystery that keeps you guessing. Dark, clever and, at times, surprisingly funny with some sharp satire on the relentless media manhunt that can consume a nation and remove objectivity where it’s really needed.

The opening hour very much sets up the pieces flicking back and forth from the initial incident. We get a sense of each character. The inevitable finger pointing game begins; “I think they’re hiding something”, “He looks dodgy”, “I think he or she did it”.

Ben Affleck was fantastic and apparently battling his Batman bulk. But the real plaudits will go to Rosamund Pike. A fitting end note for a busy year of movies for her. The Oscar buzz around her performance is completely justified.

Now I will admit that I haven’t read the novel. People have told me that the book is so much better. If that be the case, I must read this book because the film was brilliant. It helps that the screenplay was adapted by the author Gillian Flynn.

I’m sure many of you have heard the twist talk. Yes, there is a big twist. That is revealed quite early on. I will not be revealing any plot points because I want people to see this. However, I did find that the twist transformed the film for me and took it to another level.

The first half of the film had chugged along quite well and certainly played on the paranoia and suspicions fantastically with the endless red herrings. But once the twist is revealed, it changes everything and how everyone was initially perceived.

My main quip with films (of late) was pace. At 165 minutes, I thought this film would test me. BUT for once, I found myself hooked and actually turning my phone off to avoid interruptions. Transfixed by the story, the acting and suspense.

The trademark cinematography (and regular Fincher stalwart) of Jeff Cronenweth certainly adds to the murky undertones flowing through the film. Fincher also has a fantastic supporting cast at his fingertips.

Tyler Perry was surprisingly good, delivering some unexpected but hilarious one liners as the ruthless smooth talking lawyer. To be honest, I wanted more to see more of his character. Sela Ward (House) and Missi Pyle (Dodgeball) were perfectly cast as the silver tongued media mouthpieces thriving on the attention focused on Affleck’s Nick.

Flynn couldn’t be any more accurate with the representation of the media surrounding the missing; the social media in particular. How a simple picture can be manipulated to mean so much more than was originally intended.

Gone Girl allowed some smaller actors the opportunity to step up. Kim Dickens (The Blind Side) was very good as the relentless detective hell bent on persecuting Nick. Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) went completely out of character. A breath of fresh air. He played the part to perfection.

Kathleen Rose Perkins was wasted in her role. Anyone could have played her. A real shame after her performance in Episodes. The real scene stealer, second to Pike, was Carrie Coon as Nick’s twin sister Margo. Coon has already made an impression after her turn in the bizarre but strangely hypnotic The Leftovers. Performances like this will certainly keep her very much on the watch list.

I felt the ending fitted the film perfectly but others may find it a little too abrupt and open. It is always a risk when everything pieces together that the final unravelling may disappoint. BUT there is certainly a lot more to this than meets the eye.

A film that very much lives up to the hype. Tense, suspenseful, dark, engaging. GO SEE NOW.

4/5

Yes, a 4! Finally a film to break the endless ranting and raving from this reviewer.

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A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST REVIEW

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A Million Ways to Die Laughing! Unfortunately not. MacFarlane takes on the Wild West and comes out more battered and bruised than his heroic counterpart. Applying his Family Guy spiel, this cowboy comedy yields mixed results this time round.

Now for the record I am a big Family Guy fan and thought Ted was a return to form from MacFarlane as Family Guy teetered on lacklustre but watchable.

His second feature to hit the big screen and a western. My hopes were high. The trailers signed me up from the get go. Job done as always. However, it seems a case of ‘best bits in the trailers’ syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad but it’s not all great either.

The main issue, two hours? Too long. It was only after the first 30-45 minutes that the film got into its stride. The story line is hardly original, merely a rehash of a classical western storyline. Probably one of the reasons why westerns are no longer plaguing our screens.

Local coward finds bravery and confronts nastiest gunslinger to win the town and the girl. Yadda, yadda. I really hoped for a demented Blazing Saddles but only got mildly hot flip flops. The lovely Charlize Theron and McFarlane were fantastic together. Good chemistry. You could see where they were improvising which made the banter all the more entertaining.

However, the main jokes and punch lines are few and far between. The bigger, better gags have been heavily advertised to get you to watch this mildly entertaining affair.

Seth MacFarlane’s rants felt, at times, like nothing more than him trying to do improvised stand up. Some parts fall flat on its backside, other bits bring the odd laugh. His speech on the law and order of the town was very good; “There is the mayor. He is dead”.

MacFarlane manages to carry enough charisma to keep his stocky character going. The funniest moments in the film for me were the unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameos, containing the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds and . . . my God, two brilliant cameos that were nearly worth the ticket. I won’t say for once.

Cameos you would have expected from MacFarlane but still manage to surprise and get a laugh.

Considering the number of musical montages in Family Guy, there is only one song and dance number. An irritatingly catchy one, at that. A missed opportunity in my opinion. I kept expecting Mr Conway Twitty to appear. Alas to no avail. Of course not literally as the poor man passed away some time ago.

I admit I did have to check Google on that. My bad.

In all fairness, the supporting characters bring the better jokes but they are barely in it. You feel that they are brought in to help the slackening pace or when MacFarlane and Theron have stopped messing around.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) was very funny as the mustached lothario Foy with his ridiculously cringeworthy but hilarious pun based insults.

It was great to see Liam Neeson as the villain. Unfortunately he plays it very dead pan. So serious, in fact that his character is just a stocky and highly unmemorable clichéd cowboy killer. I expected at least a Taken parody or something. Nope. At least he didn’t try and do an American drawl again after Seraphim Falls.

The same could be said for Amanda Seyfried who was nothing more than a bland caricature used as a plot device to spur our protagonist. Shame. A joke about her eyes brought an unexpected titter.

Sarah Silverman and Giovani Ribisi were hilarious together. However, they are only resorted to a drawn out gag about having a prostitute as a girlfriend and not sleeping together before marriage as it is not very Christian. The gag gets a little stale but the characters were funny enough to warrant more screen time than they got.  Inevitably, there would be a meeting with the Indians, I mean, Native Americans and a certain taking of various substances, leading to a trippy and surreal sequence that reeked of desperation, more than creativity.

Inevitably it all ends very . . . predictably which leaves you somewhat disappointed (if it hadn’t already).

It’s watchable at best. But I have later series of Family Guy for that. It kills the time, brings the odd laugh but hardly must see viewing. If you are looking for a laugh out loud rowdy riot of a western in the style of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, then I recommend . . . Blazing Saddles 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #130 out of 179!