Film Review : Foxcatcher (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 88%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Makeup, and Best Original Screenplay

Directed By – Bennett Miller
Starring – Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Venessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, and Brett Rice

The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

(I’m going to try a different writing style with this one and see if it works out. Just a FYI)

Like Whiplash, I’ve been aware of this film for a long time as it had a very early run at film festivals early last year. I heard Steve Carell was a revelation, that the film was a contender for Best Picture, and that Bennett Miller crafted a tight thriller aimed to get under your skin. Well, some of those things ended up being true, some didn’t. Let’s get into this.

Steve Carell – This was really the first thing I heard about the film. Steve Carell, Michael Scott himself, can act with the big guys. Considering he was recognized by the Academy, I’d say that he has found his way into talk of great working actors today. I didn’t think however that his performance was as monumental as most are claiming. I think that the fact that it was Steve Carell behind that enormous shnoz added to the talk of greatness. The guy who was speaking gibberish on Bruce Almighty and throwing tridents at people in Anchorman was now taking on a serious acting role in trying to portray John duPont. I think he did as fine a job as anybody could have, I just think the actual part was a bit underwhelming. duPont doesn’t say much. This role was all in the eyes for Carell and by all means did he nail it. My favorite parts of the film were when Carell, as duPont, is confronted with a problem, and his gaze goes cold, and his mind seems to be racing, but there is zero emotion on his face. That’s all Carell. He was able to give off such a creepy and subtle psychosis that even though I didn’t know the outcome of the story, I knew something bad was brewing. David Oyelewo should have been in the Best Actor category, but I had no problem with Carell being there.

The screenplay – This is where the film had its flaws. I love quiet films. This film is VERY quiet. There is a very subtle score consisting of light piano and strings but most of the film is dialogue and while that is happening, there is silence. There were times where this kind of slowness was totally important in the building of these characters. Other times it meandered. There were scenes involving duPont and his obsession with being in control that were important theme wise but seemed to drag on film wise. The two hour and fifteen minute run time felt like three hours mostly due to this meandering. The end of the film was also very abrupt and didn’t really give us reactionary points of view from all parties. Shocking? Oh, hell yeah. The pivotal scene that begins the end of the film is one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen this year, but after that the film just kind of fades away. I needed more resolve. There was also a lot of holes in the film where Shultz and duPont start to get closer to each other. There’s a scene on a helicopter before a ceremony that leads right into bad haircuts and total character change. Nothing explained it other than what happened on the helicopter. Just felt forced.
Other than that, I felt that the comparison and development of duPont and Mark Shultz was fascinating to watch. Both these characters had father/mother issues, felt like they were in the shadows of somebody else, and loved America a whole lot. It’s a great character study.

Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum – Both of them, teamed with Carell of course, kicked major ass in this film. I said as the film was starting that I wanted to see if Tatum could actually act or if he was just a one trick pony with his sexy dancing and his buddy cop comedies. The dude can act. I’m now in the group of people that sees him as an actor rather than a celebrity who tries to act. For the record, I loved him in 21 Jump Street. Like Carell with duPont, Channing portrayed Mark Shultz as a silent time bomb, ready to explode at a given point. I was impressed. Ruffalo has been a favorite actor of mine for a while and even I didn’t understand the praise he got for this film until about three quarters of the way in. Then I got it. The last quarter of this film, Ruffalo becomes one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve seen in film in a while. He portrays the character and personality of Dave Shultz so well that all sorts of emotions were flying by the films end. He earned his praise.

The liked the film. I’m glad I didn’t see it in theaters because I may have fallen asleep but the film worked in most ways in telling the chilling tale of what happens when you mix immense power and money with mental illness. The three actors knocked it out of the park and the film had great tone and color. It dragged in bits, but overall it’s a film that I can see getting better with age. The character study alone of duPont and Mark Schultz was worth the watch.

3/5




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Oscar tweets

Quick reminder that I’ll be tweeting a bit during the show. I wont be going crazy but will provide some musings, most of which will be inappropriate.

Follow me at @booththoughts for the fun. That is all.

Film Review : Gone Girl (2014)

Too early for ratings…

Directed By – David Fincher
Starring – Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens, and Scoot McNairy

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

The film ended and the credits began to roll. I expected an applause but there was none. I expected hushed talking and the shuffling of feet as people started to make their way out of the theater. There was none. It was like everybody was afraid to move. Everybody, including myself, was sitting there waiting for more. That, or everybody was just too uncomfortable to be the first one to leave. There was some of that in my motivation to stay in my seat. I was also too embedded in the film to find the cognitive function to stand up and make my feet move. Gone Girl, which was the opening film of the New York Film Festival, had wowed me. I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the film with the stars. I was able to however get a ticket to see the film across the street where the people with the budget on their wallets were allowed to see the film. I actually kind of liked it this way. I was away from all the hoopla and was actually able to focus on what I came there for, to see a film. It was a pretty awesome experience.

I haven’t read the critically acclaimed novel by Gillian Flynn. My reading consists solely of Calvin and Hobbes collections and Anthony Bourdain. I am however very familiar with the man who made the film, David Fincher. I mentioned this in my NYFF preview, Fight Club kind of opened my eyes. Through seeing may other films I began to notice some flaws in the movie but the experience of watching Fight Club in high school and being absolutely stunned silent will live with me for a while. I would rent it, along with Se7en, from my local video store about once a month and show it to my friends. I had never seen anything so dark and dirty before but with just the right amount of light to give the scenes character. I saw Zodiac in the theater and fell asleep through half of it. I was so disappointed with how boring it was. I decided to give it a second chance at home and it’s now one of my favorite films of all time. Funny how that stuff works huh? Like many, I was disappointed with Benjamin Button and Dragon Tattoo but there was something different about his newest film. In a way I guess it just seemed more of a story that hit close to home. I had seen the Swedish Dragon Tattoo films and Benjamin Button seemed to fantastical for my taste. Gone Girl seemed like a story that could happen down the street from me and that just so happens to be the reason I love Zodiac so much. It just felt so real. I had to see it. I purchased my ticket and attended my first film festival.

This is certainly a story you want to go in knowing as little as possible. I mentioned that I didn’t read the book but what I failed to mention was that I really only viewed the trailer once and it was a distracted view. I stayed away from early reviews and TV promos and tried to know as little as possible of the plot. The IMDB description above is all you need. A mans wife disappears and he is left with the media and police who are trying to point fingers and figure out what happened. There really is no reason to read further. I’m obviously going to talk about the film more in depth and while I’m going to be as careful as possible not to reveal anything, you may want to just wait the week and see it for yourself. That’s your warning.

This film is totally about manipulation. The way two people manipulate each other in marriage, the way the media manipulates stories to get good ratings, and the way complete sociopaths manipulate their victims to get away with their crimes, all ever so present in this film. The media is most notably scrutinized by Fincher in a way that reminds me of the Amanda Knox circus that we all went through a couple years ago. The media will focus on what they perceive to be the criminal and they will stop at nothing until the reputation of that person is shattered. Since news is basically 24/7 now, you’re going to start to run out of things to talk about real fast, so you sort of coax more outrageous conversation and theory with your guests and all of a sudden your mole hill is the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s sad that instead of Edward R. Murrow reading the days events to us in an unbiased manner, we have Nancy Grace making Elizabeth Smart cry on television after she just returned from being kidnapped for half her life. The swarm of television crews, the swarm of people who are only reacting because of the media, all exist to further complicate and already complicated situation such as having your wife missing. It’s disgusting and the film did a great job highlighting it.

The film also delves into what makes up a marriage. How much are we willing to give up of ourselves to spend our lives with each other. Should we sign a prenuptial agreement? Does that throw trust out of the window from the beginning? Fincher does a great job balancing the past and present relationship between Nick (Affleck) and Amy (Pike). He tells the story from both sides up until the sides start to crumble and we’re left with the truth. Twists are featured but none seem unearned. I was fully engulfed in the story and didn’t think for a second that what I was seeing was poorly done or rushed. Their relationship just seemed so real to me. There are plenty of marriages that have perfect stories and happy endings. There are also marriages full of lies, resentment, and spiteful anger. Fincher gave us a film in which people play nice when other people are watching but deep down inside, they’re trying to destroy each other. It makes television almost seem like another planet. All of it fake.

The acting in the film was pretty concrete. Besides Pike, nobody gave otherworldly performances but rather performances that fit their character and purpose perfectly. I’ve always liked Ben Affleck. I thought he did an excellent job portraying a person who not only lost his wife, but also had no idea how to emotionally handle such a thing. There were times I felt for him and times I wanted to punch him in the face. Pike was the standout of the film. Getting into her performance too much will give away key plots points so lets just say that she goes through a full spectrum of emotions that she nails perfectly. There were a lot of subtle thing going on with both of these people due to the amount of media exposure the case ot and they handled it perfectly. The supporting cast was also great. Carrie Coon, who should be getting more work soon due to her phenomenal performance in “The Leftovers”, plays Nick’s twin sister Margot. She plays the only truly likable character in the film and also delivers the films funniest lines. Tyler Perry was not only not annoying but actually enjoyable as the superstar defense lawyer who is trying to save Nicks ass. Neil Patrick Harris is, well, you’ve never really seen him play somebody like this. Everybody did their job perfectly to form a truly believable and engaging cast.

Lastly, the film is a joy to the eyes and ears. Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross team up together to deliver another knockout score to a Fincher film. There is a pivotal scene between Pike and NPH that is taken to a whole other world with the score. I was in shock by the end of the scene. That particular scene also showcased why I love Fincher so much. He leaks style into almost every shot and the beginning and ending fit perfectly into a nice round circle which reminded me a lot of Inside Llewyn Davis. The film had such a dark tone to go along with some black humor and to see mostly every scene shot with dark lighting was something I’ve missed since Zodiac. It helped create a sense of uncomfortability that couldn’t be shaken off even after I was walking out of the theater.

The film releases in a week and I’ll certainly be seeing it again. It’s one of the better mystery films of the last five years and a front runner for my film of the year. If you are a Fincher film in any way shape or form, this film is for you. Just don’t bring your wife or husband with you. You may see things a little differently by the end.

5/5




Biscuits & Trail Mix

Sorry for the wait. It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been pretty busy lately with work, friends, family and things like finally picking up a book and and football starting (NINERS! YEAH!). Here’s some biscuits…

– I have seen a few movies recently that I chose not to write about due to lack of either interest or procrastination. These films include Freaks, The Arbor, and Blow Up. I just didn’t find a lot to write about with these ones even though I really did enjoy Freaks. The Arbor and Blow-Up were a bit disappointing.
– Has anybody been to the fucking movie theater recently? Ugggghhhh I hate September. Thankfully there are some great films coming out soon including The Drop, The Skeleton Twins, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and Tusk. Some of those trailers and more will be below.
– Did I mention football? I may be more 49er fan than movie nerd. It’s been a passion of mine for about fifteen years now. They kicked the shit out of Tony Romo yesterday so I’m pretty happy.
– Please check out my 2014 Films page and see if you missed any great films from the beginning of the year. They may be out on home video now. I know that Only Lovers Left Alive and Enemy are. That is reason enough.

Here are some trailers until I get some time to watch my next film. I should be watching “Korengal” tomorrow night. The first are all coming out in the next three weeks.

September 12th

Yeah, I literally can’t wait for this. I love Tom Hardy. I love James Gandolfini. I love Noomi Rapace. I love and own “Bullhead”. I love Dennis Lehan adaptions. You know, this is probably going to suck and ruin all this hype I built up for myself but I’ve read that there were standing ovations at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival” so I’m expecting brilliance. Plus, that puppy is adorable.

September 12th

I laughed…A LOT…during this preview. Two of my favorite funny people being funny. Sign me up.

September 12th

There’s something about this one that intrigues me. Maybe it’s the acting or maybe because…

The project has one of the most unique structures in cinema. It was shot as a two-part movie, which follows the story of the couple played by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain from both of their point of view. The two films premiered in 2013 at the Toronto Film Festival. After the premiere, although it received rave reviews, Ned Benson started cutting the movie again, as a one feature, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. All three movies received a theatrical release.

I have no idea how I’m going to see this but I’m going too.

September 19th

Justin Long acting like a jackass? Haley Joel Osment as a fat radio DJ? Walrus experiment? Michael Fucking Parks? Sign me up.

September 19th

Looks weird as shit. I love Gilliam. I’ll be seeing this. From the trailer, it looks like Christoph Waltz was made for this role. Also, did I see Tilda Swinton with another mouth piece and weird accent? Every movie should be doing this now. Every one.

October 10th

Looks like a crazy psychotic ride on the JK Simmons train. Miles Teller is turning into a great actor and this should be his best role yet. It won the grand jury prize at Sundance by the way.

October 17th

This is my movie. If this isn’t my favorite movie of the year I’m going to be very disappointed. The return of Michael Keaton to actual prominence. It is apparently edited to look like a single take, like, the entire fucking film. I’m going to nerd out ALL over this.

October 31st

I think this film is going to disturb and entertain me while also driving in the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal is only beginning to become one of the best actors of our time. He looks bonkers in this film and I love that.