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Friday, September 26, 2014

NYFF52 Opening Night Review: Gone Girl (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

[A disclaimer: Though I saw Gone Girl at an Atlanta press screening, I'm posting it alongside the rest of my coverage of the New York Film Festival since it is tonight's opening night gala selection. It opens in theaters across the country Friday, October 3rd.]

Among director David Fincher's movies, Gone Girl might end up ranking as well executed a puzzle film as The Game. It sounds like a simple statement, but there's a lot to unpack in it. Like The Game, Gone Girl is excellent, trashy fun; no more, no less. It's hard to see how Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn's bestseller, will have much of a chance for any major awards outside of the technical categories with one glaring exception, Rosamund Pike, whose part here is star-making. More on that later. As in Fight Club, Gone Girl is so dependent on its plot intricacies that one can't write much about it without giving something away. So trust me. This review will tread carefully. Finally, even for those who have read the novel, Fincher constructs Gone Girl in such a way that, like Zodiac, and again Fight Club and The Game, multiple viewings shall yield more and more rewards for the viewer.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Movie Review: The Equalizer (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

I never watched the original Edward Woodward TV series Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer is based on. As a critic colleague reminded me, "Well, it was for the blue-hairs." And so it probably was, despite having a high quotient of violence and a killer main theme by the Police drummer Stewart Copeland. The new remake isn't much different, except maybe for abandoning Copeland's classic pulsating bit of electronica. Fuqua reunites with his Training Day star Denzel Washington and further strips down a premise that's already pretty spare to begin with. What's left is so thin and empty, a cloud of vapor would feel more substantial in comparison.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

The last time we saw private eye Matthew Scudder, he had a sunnier disposition and resembled Jeff Bridges. This was in his first film appearance, 1986's nasty 8 Million Ways to Die (Hal Ashby's muddled final movie, written by Oliver Stone and a pseudonymous Robert Towne). Nearly 30 years on, Liam Neeson plays the detective in the unbelievably grimmer A Walk Among the Tombstones. It's a serviceable throwback to cult detective thrillers from the 70s like The Long Goodbye or Night Moves, movies with a flawed antihero at the center of a mystery that's really just an excuse to meet a cast of quirky supporting characters. So who better to direct it than Scott Frank, screenwriter for a number crime films based on literary potboilers and chock full of such eccentrics: Get Shorty, Heaven's Prisoners, Out of Sight, and the never-aired pilot for Hoke.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Movie Review: Love Is Strange (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Sweet, sincere and romantic, if ever there were an LGBT-themed film with crossover potential Love Is Strange would be a prime candidate. Sure, there has been Brokeback Mountain, Milk, The Kids Are Alright and any number of other ones that have struck a chord with audiences, particularly in the arthouse circuit. But there is something sweeping about Ira Sachs' Love Is Strange, something to which everyone in a deep, committed relationship can relate to without the movie betraying its own identity to pander to a straight audience. While "betray" may be too strong a word to use regarding the previously mentioned movies they did play to the stands, so to speak—Brokeback by emphasizing homosexual alienation; Milk by emphasizing its countercultural aspect; Kids by making the story a triangle featuring a straight male figure as a possible point of identification.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Movie Review: The Drop (2014)

by Tony Dayoub

Michaël R. Roskam's The Drop doesn't exactly venture into new territory. Its story places two small-scale hustlers, Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) and his cousin, known to all as Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), at the center of a treacherous and complicated scheme right out of Noir 101. Now owned by Chechen mobsters, the eponymous Cousin Marv's Bar is robbed by two dim assailants on the night it happens to be the assigned drop bar receiving all of the Chechens' protection money collected at other bars. This instantly puts Bob and Cousin Marv in hot water with the bar's deadly owners who suspect an inside job. Though the robbers were masked, Bob notices a curious detail: one of the thieves was wearing a stopped watch. Mentioning it to lead investigator Detective Torres (John Ortiz) inexplicably raises Cousin Marv's ire and sets him against his soft-spoken relative.