Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Three Tries

Three character-driven films include strengths but fail to become compelling overall.

The best of the three - A Walk Among the Tombstones - features Liam Neeson in his usual guise as the tough-guy-who-feels-pain-both-inner-and-outer as he searches for and fights two gruesomely psychotic serial killers. There is a taut showdown among the tombstones, but the final act turns unnecessarily lurid and derivative.

In the same way Neeson’s guilt-ridden Matt Scudder bonds with a young outcast in a diner, Denzel Washington’s smoldering loner Robert McCall strikes up a relationship with a teenage hooker in a diner in East Boston in The Equalizer. Denzel’s diner scenes with Chloe Grace Moretz are superbly shot and performed. The rest of the film turns into an excessive, often silly, deluge of blood spilt as McCall sets out to eradicate all the bad guys involved in victimizing the “innocent” girl.

Finally, Gone Girl is mostly a dull ride as Ben Affleck goes through the motions as the framed hubbie, and Rosamund Pike comes off as mostly unchilling as the cold-blooded "Amazing Amy" Dunne. What happened here? Part of the problem is that the novel is a long and drawn out melodrama that stretches credibility to the snapping point. David Fincher seemed promising as the kind of director who could turn it into something visually arresting and disturbing, but Fincher is tame until a stand-out scene of orgiastic blood-letting that certainly woke me up. Ultimately, however, the film as a whole is a bland disappointment.


Steve's Blog said...

Long time, no comment. Well, just saw The Equalizer and have to agree mostly with your comments--diner scenes are the best in the film, but I also liked the first violent outburst between him and the girl`s abusers in the restaurant. It fit in poetically with his philosophy, "Progress, not perfection." Denzel`s too-cool-for-school persona fit this role better than his previous efforts, most notably Flight.

I am disappointed to see your unimpressed musings on Gone Girl. I will see the film in the coming weeks here, but I just finished the novel, and have to say I was transfixed by the twists and turns, and impressed by the way in which the writer plays with the rituals of style and acting to gain perception over truth. It`s about posing over thinking, a telling theme of the times. It seems like an angle that Fincher would sink some sharp teeth into and I am looking forward to seeing on film. I heard the endings of book and film are quite different. Which do you prefer?

Also, on a side note of books and film, I also just finished reading Unbroken and was deeply moved by the story and enlightened about history. I am likewise looking forward to the film, but am apprehensive about the finished product doing justice to the details. The trailer looks promising, if over-sentimentalized. But the script is by the Coen Brothers and that is promising to be sure. Thoughts???

Hokahey said...

Yes! A comment! Thanks! The glory days of blogging are over so I appreciate your fidelity.

In The Equalizer I also liked the fight in the restaurant. The one in the Home Depot is overblown and silly.

I will look forward to your comments on Gone Girl. Endings different? Don't know how. I read the book - which kept my attention but stretched my ability to suspend disbelief a little too far.

I've read Unbroken as well. Great story. Interesting resolution. The preview seems to suggest that the film may leave out a lot - also, I don't think it can be as gruesome as the book is.

I saw Fury - actually, three times. I'm not sure what you would think. At times, it is heroic hyperbole - but it's pretty grim throughout, which I liked. Also, lots of memorable shots, and I like Brad Pitt and am forgiving of his affectations. Also, after seeing it a second time, I realized that it was more like an older war movie in the sense that you could follow the action more clearly - no rapid shutter speed affect - and the tanks were always real, not CGI. I really liked that.

Getting ready for Interstellar. Will see it multiple times, I am sure. Does it come out in Japan around the same time - November 7?

Thanks again for commenting.

Steve's Blog said...

Perhaps I was mislead about the endings of Gone Girl, the book and Gone Girl, the film. I shall see...

Fury sounds and looks great. It will be here in 2 weeks! The scenes are reminiscent of Battle of the Bulge--as you say, an older war movie. Interstellar is set to release here the end of November as well. Looking forward to that.

I will watch Dracula Untold Friday. Reviews are less than stellar, but the story and design look intriguing nonetheless. Have you seen it?

I agree that Unbroken may leave out many of the gorier details in favor of Hollywood bravado. I wonder if the spirituality of the resolution will be in tact. Also, Jack O`Connell is a fine actor, but not my image of Zamperini. And wondering if the Japanese actor has the guts necessary for the camp commander role. Interestingly enough, the book is unpublished here in Japan and there is no plan to release the film either, despite Jolie`s popularity. I read that the Japanese do not want to see the representation of their country in that way, which is disappointing on so many levels.

Hokahey said...

Steve - I liked a lot about Fury. Some very memorable shots. Shia LaBeouf gives a great performance! (A best supporting actor nomination would really puff up his huge ego!) Most of all, I liked its grim, otherworldly vision of war. It's a vision of WWII that was not as strongly shown in Saving Private Ryan as Spielberg would like to think.

I also did not see the main character of Unbroken in O'Connell, but it's just a preview - and I've learned how previews can totally misrepresent a film to one extent or another. Right - I can see how this is not a popular subject for a film in Japan. Germans would feel the same way about Fury. My German friends would never see it.

Did not see the Dracula movie. Almost uttered the title when buying a ticket but said The Judge instead. In retrospect, I should have said, "One for Dracula Untold" Might see it this Friday but I have a feeling it will disappear.

Thanks for the comments! Mostly I have been so busy at school and with my own writing that I haven't even written brief posts. I will try to post at least a brief paragraph with a picture to springboard comments from you!

Steve's Blog said...

I had a busy week of movie-going and am excited to catch up with you! First, FURY was more than I expected. I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the performances and especially of its "other worldliness." I was definitely taken away. I loved the middle sequence in the apartment with the ladies. It was the soul of the film for me and Brad Pitt`s finest moment. Tank battles were first-rate and very intense and ugly. The whole atmosphere reeked of death.

I liked Gone Girl more than you did. I found it worked more as a black comedy than a thriller. The celebrity commentary was a bit obvious, but I liked how Fincher created a world of cold observation. Affleck was suffocating the entire time and I felt that very strongly. I also admired the score and how every journal entry had a motif to compliment it. It was hypnotizing.

Finally, I loved The Babadook. I think it is something you could admire as well as it was reminiscent of Mama in its psycho-horror formula. The ghost is indeed frightening and the performances are brave and flawless. Like Fury, it was such a tangible sensory experience.

On a side note, I closed out The Hobbit and enjoyed my daughter`s love of the experience than the experience of the film itself. Nonetheless, it was leaner and meaner than the other films and the ending had a poetic quality to it.

Hokahey said...

Thanks for comment. Glad you liked Fury so much. It is certainly grim and I love the central scene with the Germans as well. Lots of tension - and very touching too.

I will try to catch The Babadook.

Gone Girl doesn't quite work for me but I had read the book so I found it kind of boring, but your observation about the world of cold observation is insightful.

Saw The Theory of Everything and it didn't have much to it. Not very compelling.

Saw Exodus: Gods and Kings and it was mostly terrible. The plagues were well done - each plague causing the next. Strangely, with all the vast action, there wasn't much conflict in the film. Moses should have said, "Let my people go." Instead, he just shows up and Pharaoh just assumes that's what he wants.

Will see The Hobbit - your comment makes me want to see it more than I did before.

I am working on a top movies of the year post.

Thanks again for checking in!