Archive | October, 2014

Horns: The Movie Review

12 Oct

I don’t know how many people have heard of the movie Horns. I personally haven’t seen any trailers or advertising for it and only knew of it thanks to a random mention of it online. Even then, the only things revealed about the movie were that it starred Daniel Radcliffe and that he has horns. I didn’t even know when the movie came out so it wasn’t on my radar. Until yesterday when an opportunity to see Horns came my way and I thought “What the Hell?”. It was definitely an advantage not knowing anything about the movie. So in order to try and preserve the unexpected surprises in Horns I’ll avoid major spoilers.

Obviously we all watched the star of Horns, Daniel Radcliffe grow up playing Harry Potter. I’m not a fan of the money printing establishment collectively known as Harry Potter. I’ll spare that ranting diatribe for another time, suffice it to say that whole franchise can go stuff their wand up their chamber of secrets. The reason I don’t like Harry Potter has nothing to do with the casting of the movies, indeed the performances were the main reason I paid to see all eight movies in theaters. But it seems clear to me that Radcliffe is doing whatever he can to distance himself from Harry Potter (who can blame him?). He stripped down in the play Equus, and got all Victorian-gothic for The Woman in Black, which is worth watching. He’s also done a guest spot on The Simpsons. I realize that a man in his 30’s who knows this much about Radcliffe’s career may arouse some suspicions. Let me just say that I watched all this stuff, for science.

Anyway it’s refreshing to see Daniel in a different type of role. In Horns he’s all grown up, playing a character called “Ig” who curses, smokes cigarettes, swills liquor, has a one night stand, and desecrates a religious statue, and that’s just in the first 20 minutes. I’m so used to seeing Daniel play Mr. Perfect, I really enjoyed seeing him play someone who’s flawed, confused, and tormented. It must be said however that there are a few instances where he struggles with the American accent and sounds robotic. Other than that it is a great performance. The rest of the cast isn’t as recognizable which is a good thing since you see everybody as the character they’re playing, not as some famous person. There’s two cameos that are exempt; one is David Morse, you won’t recognize the name but you will recognize the face. He’s that man that’s been in a ton of movies and hasn’t aged in like 25 years, how’s he do that? The second is Heather Graham she has some crazy and cliché dialog but she delivers it with such enthusiasm its hilarious.

Horns

 

In fact it’s surprising how funny Horns is, it isn’t strictly a comedy but there are a lot of black comedy moments in it. Clearly a movie called “Horns” is going to have references to religion and particularly Hell, but this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and get all artsy fartsy with subtlety. The devilish images are up front and so obvious as to be funny. Some of the humor comes from just seeing how casually people react to Danielle / “Ig” having devil horns. There’s also a reverse catholic confession thing going on, where people unknowingly tell Daniel their inner secrets whether he wants to hear them or not. The main story of Horns is an interesting spin on a familiar trope and has a crime-drama / mystery-thriller format. So if you don’t have a dark since of humor like me there’s still a lot going on if you don’t get the jokes.

Now it’s time to do what the internet is great at, nit-picking imperfections. Some of the writing almost does what it tries to do. For example a woman talks about sleeping with her golf instructor and calls her lover’s black cock “my 5-iron”. That joke works much better with “9-iron”. This is a small example, but bigger pieces of the movie come so close to hitting their mark and miss at the last moment, it’s hard to describe without spoiling it. The movie uses too many songs that were made iconic by other movies. The moment is lost as the background music starts and you instantly are thinking about Fight Club or Austin Powers or whatever. Maybe I’m getting too old, or have seen too many movies, probably both. But Horns should play more obscure songs the audience hasn’t heard in a popular movie before. I also saw one of the final plot twists about an hour before the movie revealed it. Lastly I hate it when movies use narration to tell the audience what is clearly visible on the screen. Don’t tell me what I’m seeing or what I just saw. Narrators should stop being Captain Obvious and tell the audience what they can’t figure out for themselves.

In conclusion, for me Horns was an unexpected surprise. It was wonderfully twisted and original and the type of movie best enjoyed around this time of the year. I hope Daniel Radcliffe continues to do projects like this. This movie isn’t meant to be taken too seriously so don’t over think it and try to avoid learning too much about it. I hope reading this review doesn’t negate that last suggestion. I tried to only divulge little things.

P.S. Many times I was tempted to write wickedly awful puns in this post; The (blank) was sinful, So and so was devilish, It was a hell of a good movie. But I stopped at two, because it was too easy, and besides lazier people than I need those types of remarks for their tweets and rotten tomato comments.

 

Carl Wells

Is Gone Girl Good?

4 Oct

The movie Gone Girl is based on the bestselling novel of the same name, that I’ve read of coarse because I read a crap load of books. The novel starts out depicting a husband whose wife has mysteriously disappeared on their anniversary. The local police pursue the missing person’s case, while the husband undertakes his own private search for answers. Both investigations yield increasingly cryptic clues about the whereabouts of the missing wife. As the police gather evidence they have more reasons to suspect the wife met a violent end at the hands of her husband. Secrets about the couple are revealed and the overall tone of the story shifts from a typical crime drama to a dark psychological thriller. Neither of these people are who they appear to be. Then the stakes are raised as the media latches onto the case in a ratings frenzy. I liked the book because it’s pretty dark and twisted and I really couldn’t predict how it would end. The author Gillian Flynn uses this style in all her books (also great reads) meaning they’re all pretty messed up and show what cold and deceptive creatures human beings can be. But Gone Girl is different because it also deals with the media and how it has become a tool to sway public opinion rather than a communicator of facts and truth.

Gone Girl

I thought Gone Girl’s disturbing subject matter and unpredictable story would make a great movie especially when I heard David Fincher was going to direct it. Fincher has proven more than capable of taking a popular book involving violence, betrayal, and misdirection, and churning out a great film, look at Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. My expectations were high, which is a precarious position to be in, as it’s just as easy to disappoint someone with high expectations as it is to impress someone with low ones. With that said let’s explore the question “Is Gone Girl Good?”

If you’re someone who thinks a movie should follow the book as much as possible, then I am happy to report this movie is very faithful to the book. The major differences are things that were left out for time, but the movie is still two and a half hours long. That’s probably because author Gillian Flynn interestingly enough is also the screenwriter, who I’m sure wanted to get as much of her book onscreen as possible. There’s two bad things about this; firstly the beginning runs at a hurried pace, characters speak in fast short lines, and scenes jump quickly. So pay attention or you’ll miss something crucial. Secondly after two hours you’re ready for the end. I’m sure more stuff could’ve been left out to make it 20 minutes shorter and I suspect the author prevented those cuts. No matter how great a book is sometimes less is more. Especially if the story is light on things like action and special effects, but is heavy on things like emotional tension, psychological manipulation, and destructive relationships, which require more mental interpretation. I felt worn out at the end and know it was because the movie was a little too long.

After you get past the first 20 minutes of the movie. The middle part is excellent. Fincher’s signature dark and contrasty shooting style applied to the boring Missouri suburbs transforms the mundane locations into unsettling ones. Trent Reznor’s music doesn’t deviate much from his other two Fincher movies, it’s a haunting score of piano and distorted notes that helps to alter the reality of the film, complete with scratches and over-modulations that you notice but it doesn’t distract from the story.

Gone Girl 2

There’s some really great casting in this movie. Ben Affleck might be a little too perfect as the husband Nick. Not once did I think he was shady or suspicious enough to have harmed his wife, Amy. Maybe that was their point but in the book it’s more fun suspecting he’s guilty of murder. Amy is played by Rosamund Pike who’s English but speaks with a flawless American accent. Amy goes through a couple transformations and Rosamund glides through them effortlessly. When we find out just who Amy really is via montage and voiceover the story really takes a turn and it’s the one time when Amy’s intentions are really clear. I wish Rosamund had more scenes like that because she’s really great being a scheming psycho. I was really impressed with Kim Dickens, she plays Detective Boney, the officer investigating Amy’s case. This was a hard role, she had to be unattractive but feminine and not a cliché hard-ass. She had to be sympathetic enough for Nick to trust her while cleverly building a case against him. This actress turned Detective Boney into a much more interesting person than the book portrayed, good job Kim Dickens. Tyler Perry is trying not to play a Johnnie Cochran type defense attorney. He’s actually more of a media coach and has a few funny lines, my favorite being “You’re the most fucked up people I know, and I specialize in fucked up people.” Oh yeah Neil Patrick Harris is in this movie as a super-rich ex-boyfriend. I’ve never seen NPH be creepy and it’s the uncanny valley seeing Doogie Howser as a creeper. I think it’s because he’s playing a really creepy man trying very hard not to be creepy, it’s weird and it works.

I liked Gone Girl because it’s different and has a lot going on under the surface. It’s also fun to see such different characters interact with one another and see how the media exploits that and also how people can manipulate the media to their own ends. Honestly I felt the ending was unsatisfying and not just because it wasn’t a happy ending. You don’t have to have read the book to enjoy this movie but expect a slightly above average movie not a top notch piece of cinema.

 

Carl Wells