Review: ‘Justice League’ gets a gold star for trying

Hello, darkness, my old friend…”

Well. Here we are.

After three-and-a-halfish years of this iteration of the DC Extended Universe, a span of time which has seen film quality – and level of consumer confidence – fluctuate from acceptable (“Man of Steel”) to bad (“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”) to worse (“Suicide Squad”) to rebirth (“Wonder Woman”), we have finally arrived at what, we assume, should be a benchmark for this iteration of DC superherodom.

Instead, “Justice League” feels more like a litmus test, a way to test the loyalty of its fanboys while providing a predictable story whose flashiest moments still lack any really intrigue to stand out in a saturated genre. While easier to swallow than “Dawn of Justice,” you know you have a problem when there’s more charm in your 60-second mid-credits scene than everything that has preceded it. Continue reading →

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Review: “The Accountant” too much movie for one film

 

(An edited version of this review originally appeared in the ABQ Free Press, and can be viewed here.) 

There haven’t been very many Hollywood heroes like the one that “The Accountant” offers. Then again, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Christian Wolff – an autistic bookkeeper-Terminator figure – could hardly be called a hero.

Nonetheless, the film displays the disorder as a strength, not just in Wolff, but in others. Our differences should be celebrated and embraced, “The Accountant” argues. Individuals with autism have as much to offer the world as anyone else.

It’s an appropriate message, one not explored in contemporary film as much as it should, let alone in action thrillers like the one brought to us by director Gavin O’Connor.

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Unfortunately, the film turns what could have been an in-depth exploration of a misunderstood disorder into a gimmick, one of a myriad over narratives that are part of an overstuffed, overambitious plot that is as varied in tone as it is tough to follow.

“The Accountant” has enough material for three movies, or even a short season of binge watch-worhty TV. There are so many moving parts involved that are easy to forget about, even though they are all interconnected in a complex web of…stuff that happens on-screen. It feels like a first cut of a film rather than a finished product, resulting in a two-hour affair that feels more like four.

At its core is Christian, whose affinity for being thorough leads him to success as someone who helps clean up finances. At least, that’s all he seems to do on the surface.

The film is its most engaging when it focuses on Christian in the first half hour of the film – his routine at work, his subdued nature (in an interesting, decidedly non-Affleck performance by Affleck), his daily dose of curated self-therapy he utilizes to live with autism.

It all works to a point, especially in tandem with the film’s start that covers a young Christian’s relationship with his parents and brother. It’s when Wolff is hired to help find the financial holes in the books of a robotics company that deals in the millions of dollars instead of hundreds that the film’s narrative begins to get muddled.

Over its runtime, “The Accountant” leaves the audience in the dark at so many frustrating points, not the least of which in the way it tries to connect every piece of its ensemble of characters to each other.

The Accountant

There’s an admirable attempt to create a deeply layered story, and even glimpses of what could have been a very memorable work had much of its excess been stripped away. Most narratives are a means to an end, many of them laughably disposable.

The film almost knows it too, utilizing sound and fury at some of the most opportune moments to break up the lifeless, obfuscated hodge-podge of plotlines.

Affleck and most of the supporting cast is acceptable enough, though Anna Kendrick looks out of her element here, to the point that “The Accountant” seems like a totally different movie when she’s on-screen. This could be the darkest fare she’s been involved with in her career, and she does what she can for the role, but she’s simply miscast.

There’s a good film somewhere in “The Accountant,” perhaps even a great one that touches on the impact of autism on families over a number of years. But the audience shouldn’t be asked to seek out and fit those pieces together, in a piece so thematically and stylistically jumbled.

 

“The Accountant” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout 

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

2016

Fincher and Flynn – a macabre marriage resulting in Gone Girl

David Fincher is part of a special group of modern filmmakers, a group that includes the likes of Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and Alfonso Cuaron. These directors are elite in their craft due to their consistency; they commit themselves to a certain style that is purely their own.

Masterpieces of modern film are usually the result. These directors are able to seamlessly create entire, engrossing worlds and convey moods more effectively than most.

But Fincher got off easy. The world of Gone Girl had already been created in Gillian Flynn’s exceptional 2012 novel from which the film is adapted.

Fincher just had to do what he does best: Bring Flynn’s macabre world to life using his style that fits it just right.

In essence, he was the perfect man for that job.

Gone Girl is part crime-procedural, part marriage drama with the disturbing foundations of a Tarantino film. It follows Nick Dunne as he has to manage being caught in multiple headlights when his wife, Amy, disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary. The did-he-or-didn’t-he suspicion plays out for about a third of the film…until the big twists start coming into play.

 

A collaboration for the ages

The genius minds of Fincher and Flynn couldn’t have synergized at a better time. In fact, why did it take this long?

There was some concern over how well the narrative style of Flynn’s novel would transition to the big screen. Would it be able to retain the suspense without giving away certain characters’ motives?

Worry no more. Flynn, who was actually chosen to write the script for the film, brings to life every detail of her conniving characters and the deceit-filled world they live in magnificently. Flynn’s signature dark wit, morbid atmosphere, and memorable characters, it’s all there. And the way the plot unfolds works is an absolute work of art, one that will leave you second-guessing everyone involved.

The Dunne's are in a pickle.

The Dunne’s are in a pickle.

Gone Girl is lengthy, clocking in at just around two and a half hours, but Flynn’s world is so sprawling that the film’s editors should get lots of credit for keeping it that short. There is nary a moment where the film drags; it paces along excellently and swiftly and it is one of the film’s many strengths.

 

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club, Se7en) has brought many dark worlds, dark attitudes, and dark characters to life, to memorable effect. Gone Girl is no exception. It’s almost too easy for him at this point, because Flynn’s story is right up his alley.

Fincher employs his trademark tone and cinematic style to grandstanding effect. The way light sets the mood. The snappy dialogue. The numerous dramatic build-ups. The sweeping and intimate cinematography. His attention to detail is once again 20/20 and the result is a film as disturbing as the novel it is based upon, and that is saying something.

Did he? Didn't he? Could he? Would he?

Did he? Didn’t he? Could he? Would he?

The score plays a huge role in that disturbance. For the third time Fincher collaborates with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – they won an Oscar for 2010’s The Social Network soundtrack – and for the third time, it is a fruitful partnership. The music in Gone Girl is unrelenting, it’s eerie, and it’s downright frightening at some points. The score has become a staple of Fincher’s films, as it should be.

Acting is also a huge part of Gone Girl’s success. Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town, Good Will Hunting) begins a career renaissance spanning multiple years. He is cold, naïve, and mysterious as the helpless Nick Dunne. Rosamund Pike (Pride & Prejudice, Jack Reacher) however takes it to another level altogether. She is terrifyingly visceral and viscerally terrifying from the onset as the damsel in distress Amy Elliott-Dunne. Forget watching Annabelle, Pike will haunt you with her performance. Her seething, goosebumps-inducing narration as the plot unfolds. Her unrelenting stare which will leave you guessing what emotions she’s feeling. Pike is Flynn’s Amy come to life in every way imaginable, and it’s a sight to behold, possibly multiple times.

Gone Girl will easily be the most polarizing film amongst audiences in 2014, a la The Wolf of Wall Street to a certain extent. The subject matter is especially interesting considering numerous current events, and Flynn’s themes are heavy-handed. Everything you know about the damsel in distress story will be turned on its head in the most devious and know-you-sideways way possible.

Of course, if you read Flynn’s hit novel, you are aware of said subject matter.

If you haven’t yet delved into the wonderfully sinister world of Gone Girl, buckle up.

It’s gonna be a fun ride.

 

In a Nutshell

Fincher continues a torrid run of creating masterpieces from existing historical and literate material. No other director could pull off Flynn’s gem of a novel as well as he does. Think you know what’s coming? Think again.

9.5 / 10 or Ever wonder how bad a marriage can get? Almost as bad as missing this film.

 

 

Gone Girl is rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language 

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike

Directed by: David Fincher

2014