“You two are the most fucked up people I’ve ever met.” – Gone Girl review

David Fincher really doesn’t do nice.

With Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999) Social Network (2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) in his back catalogue, Fincher’s latest feature, Gone Girl, is just as dark and equally as twisted as his previous works.

Heavily based on Gillian Flynn’s bestselling page-turner, Gone Girl is the tale of a modern marriage turned sour, the obsession with our perceived sense of self, and the perverse circus of our celebrity-obsessed, media-saturated culture.

On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home to find his wife, Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), has vanished.

Soon becoming embroiled in a murder investigation, Affleck’s brilliantly nonchalant Nick parades around police stations and press conferences with pomp, as well as swigging beer at his sister Margo’s (Carrie Coon), and excelling at being both a monumental arsehole and average nice guy all at the same time.

Following Affleck’s steady comeback and in his finest role since Argo (2012), Nick is effortlessly effortless, or in other words, he doesn’t give a shit.

But why doesn’t he? After all, his “Amazing Amy” is missing and presumed dead.

The answer lies in Gone Girl’s absorbingly clever narrative.

Fincher skilfully deploys two story threads.

The first follows the linear aftermath of Amy’s vanishing; the police procedure, the media circus, the pseudo-celebrity status of a missing person. At times it almost feels like a parody. But, this is Fincher’s style – playfully inhumane.

The second thread however, tells the (true?) story of Amy and Nick’s relationship from the carefree and lovey-dovey beginning.

“We’re so cute, I could punch us in the face” says Rosamund Pike’s strikingly blonde Amy, as she monologues from a series of diary entries.

We’re given her side of the story, Amy’s take on things, the voice of a victim. We want to believe her – but should we?

It’s a real star turn from the British-born actress who, like Affleck, has perhaps suffered in her career due to a mixed bag of previous films.

But, Pike grabs this one by the scruff of the neck and her performance is truly magnificent.

What keeps Gone Girl so fresh in terms of its label as a thriller is the way it progressively becomes less of a “whodunit” and more about the how and why.

Though the how is left for an unconventional but re-energising middle of the film plot twist, the why is as hugely apparent as Ben Affleck’s dimpled chin.

“That’s marriage” replies Amy (receiving biggest laugh of the film) after Nick explains that all they do is “cause each other pain.”

And being the “most fucked up people [defence attorney Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) has] ever met,” perhaps the institution of marriage, it seems, is only for the mentally insane?

No, perhaps not.

But you’d certainly think twice about it after seeing Gone Girl, and see it you should.

8/10

“War has begun” – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review.

Andy Serkis’ Caesar is king as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rules this summer’s box office in this intelligent yet, stunningly action-packed sequel.

With an already confirmed third instalment to this Planet of the Apes origin, things are looking good for Twentieth Century Fox and director Matt Reeves, as this emotionally charged chapter in the Apes canon delivers everything from more marvellous ‘Mocapping’, to crazed gun wielding chimpanzees on horseback.

Set 10 years after their rebellion in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar’s growing group of super-smart primates have settled in the Red Woods, San Francisco, where things drew to a close last time out.

Unlike the thriving apes however, most of the world’s humans have been wiped out by the deadly simian flu teased at the end of Rise and elaborated on during the opening of Dawn.

From the start this sequel to the prequel of the reboot (confused?) is strikingly different in tone.
Where there was joy in Caesar’s triumphant and heroic rise in the first movie, despair looms large this time round and everything seems rather bleak.

Well, for the humans anyway.

Away from Caesar’s utopia, ‘genitically immune’ human survivors, living in the abandoned and overgrown streets of San Francisco, have almost run out of power and dare to cross his territory in order to fix the dam generator.

There’s no monkey business here, as Reeves immediately sharpens his focus to two significant power struggles.

This first tussle is expected.

The delicate relationship between human and ape threatens to implode more than once throughout Dawn, before breaking into all-out war, allowing the franchises’ much applauded CGI and stunt work to come to the fore.

Yet, it’s the struggle between two apes that dominate proceedings.

Toby Kebbell’s brilliant work as the ferocious and disturbingly violent Koba is hard to ignore, as he tangles with the might of a learned Caesar, putting the latter’s motto of “ape shall not kill ape” to the test.

Serkis’ alpha ape is once again sensational, as we marvel at the brilliance of motion capture as well as his undeniable acting prowess.

As emotionally hinged as the first movie was, Dawn takes things up a notch, leaving us hanging on every expression and word spoken (yes, spoken!) by the ever endearing apes.

The human characters however certainly take a back seat, with the most prominent of performances coming from Jason Clarke’s well-meaning Malcolm.

Gary Oldman’s confused role as the human leader Dreyfus is neither here nor there and, rather disappointingly, is shunned to very little screen time at all.

In this cluttered and clogged era of modern filmmaking sequels can often be wide of the mark but, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is absolutely spot on.

Expanding on the success of its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ exciting mix of intelligent storytelling, stunning special effects and relentless action, bodes well for whatever the apes have in store for us next.

5 things guaranteed to happen at the World Cup…

With the World Cup about to kick off in Sao Paulo, Brazil, millions around the globe are cracking open a beer, donning their nation’s colours, and having to put up with Adrian Chiles’s awful presenting.

Often throwing up some unpredictable results and some irregular behaviour (from fans and players alike) you can always count on some things at the World Cup.

So, here are my 5 World Cup guarantees…

1.) Ridiculous haircuts

 

The World Cup consistently serves up some barmy barnets. Think Chris Waddle’s massive mullet at Italia ’90, Nigeria’s Taribo West’s green bunches, and Ronaldo’s unfinished buzz-cut in 2002.

However, first place goes to the Romanian team who all dyed their hair peroxide blonde at France ’98 after losing a bet. Classy.

 

2.) “That goal”

Maradona’s mazing run against England at Mexico ’86, Michael Owen’s sizzler vs Argentina at France ’98 or, Cambiasso’s stunning strike after a 24-pass-move bamboozled Serbia’s defence for Argentina at Germany ’06. Take your pick!

There’ll be plenty of brilliant goals in Brazil. 30-yard screamers, well-worked moves, spellbinding solo efforts, but only one will be remembered for years to come.

 

3.) Controversy, Controversy, Controversy

It’s inescapable.

But slightly less this time round, with FIFA’s introduction of goal-line technology.

Yet, in the past we’ve had the Hand of God, Graham Poll and his three yellow cards, Rivaldo’s ‘I-got-hit-by-the-ball-in-the-leg-so-I’ll-go-down-holding-my-face’ moment, Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany, and Zidane, almost causing the first human combustion via head-butt ever, during the World Cup final. 

We love it. And we want more. 

 

4.) A Star Is Born

Pele, Zico, Maradona, Linekar, Ronaldo…

One player will shine brighter than the rest in 2014. Will it be the home town hero Neymar? Or, perhaps the pace and power of Cristiano Ronaldo will dominate? Is it Messi’s moment to deliver on the grandest stage of them all?

No matter who it is, it will be someone.

 

5.) England lose on penalties

Sorry!

Bring it on! And come on England! 

Why I love the World Cup.

I love the World Cup.

From Michael Owen’s wonder goal against Argentina at France ’98, to Zidane’s insane head-butt during the final in Germany 2006, the World Cup is something special to me.

Being only five years old when Euro ’96 came to England, my first real memory of an International football tournament was the France ’98 World Cup.

Brazil had Ronaldo, France had Zidane, England had David Batty. All the stars were there.

Being on holiday for most of the tournament, and with my broken arm in a cast, the seaside was forgotten and the TV was my window to the world.

I still have so many vivid memories of that tournament…

Beckham’s flailing leg against Argentina, Bergkamp’s goal to knock them out in the next round, Scotland’s entire first XI caked in sun cream, and Ronaldo’s controversial involvement in the final for Brazil.

Since then, my affliction with the World Cup has grown and grown.

Every four years, for a month in June and July, football fever takes hold.

But the World Cup is not just for football fans.

There’s something for everybody admire.

The celebrations, the heartbreaks, a spirit of togetherness, it’s hard to ignore such a monumental event.

An event that is estimated to receive over one billion viewers for the opening match, more than five hundred thousand people descending on the country in the group stages and, despite concerns over the government’s organisation and infrastructure, involve 12 host cities accommodating 32 teams.

Brazil 2014 will showcase some of the best football on the planet.

Portugal’s Ronaldo, Argentina’s Messi and Brazil’s Neymar, will hopefully dazzle on the pitch along with the rest of the world’s greatest players and teams including World Cup holders Spain, a very talented German side, last time’s runners-up Holland, and dark horses Belgium.

And unlike in previous tournaments, England’s chances are firmly grounded in reality.

Perhaps for the first time in years, England and their fans may actually be able to enjoy the football produced by the Three Lions and come home from Brazil with their heads held high.

As well as the beautiful game, I have no doubts that Brazil 2014 will throw up some outrageous, hilarious and touching moments, from it’s opening in four days, to the final on July 13th.

If not, then there’s always Wimbledon. 

“The future is never truly set…” – X-Men: Days of Future Past review

 

Move over Avengers and step aside Spider-Man, because the X-Men are back and in full force.

Returning to the franchise he began back in 2000, Bryan Singer delivers the series’ most ambitious yet, most confident X-Men movie to date.

Featuring the casts of both the original trilogy and the hugely successful prequel X-Men: First Class, this time-travel tale based on the 1981 comic of the same name, opens to Terminator-like ruins of a bleak dystopian future, as both mutants and humans are hunted by power-absorbing robot Sentinels.

Along with some new faces, Patrick Stewart’s familiar Professor X and Ian McKellen’s recognisable Magneto, devise a plan to prevent this apocalyptic future from ever happening.

And of course, the man charged with saving the world – Wolverine.

Days of Future Past marks Hugh Jackman’s seventh outing as the cigar-smoking, claw-wielding, leather jacket wearing vagabond.

The series’ over-reliance on the character, as well the unforgivable abomination that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, made Logan rather stale and uninteresting.

But Singer keeps things fresh, as the impatient Wolverine must travel back in time to bring together a younger, and much hairier, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), and an incredibly dangerous and dogmatic Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

Their mission – to stop Jennifer Lawrence’s elegantly sinister Mystique from assassinating the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask, played by Game of Thrones’ excellent Peter Dinklage.

Yet despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the X-Men’s imminent apocalypse, Days of Future Past is incredibly fun.

Just ask Evan Peters’ Quicksilver.

Topping Nightcrawler’s stunning opening scene antics at the White House in X2, this speed-freak’s playful prison break is as visually spectacular as it is acceptingly hysterical.

But the film’s serious tones are anchored by the performances of the original trilogy’s cast.

However, it’s First Class’ lineup that really come to the fore here.

McAvoy’s deeply troubled and hopeless Xavier is by far the most intriguing of the fledging band of mutants, whereas Fassbender wields Magneto with such menacing confidence, that moving an entire baseball stadium from one place to another is terrifyingly no biggie.

Days of Future Past seems so aware of the franchise’s previous failures that as each glorious minute ticks by, X-Men: The Last Stand and that awful Wolverine film, are all but vague repressed memories floating in the deep recesses of your mind.

Not only is X-Men: Days of Future Past a wonderful comic book adaption, it may also claim to be the finest comic book movie since The Dark Knight Rises, and the most enjoyable X-Men film to date.

“Look, Mommy! Dinosaurs!” – Godzilla Review

The cinematic foreplay of a ‘slow reveal’ is what makes a monster movie truly great.

A glimpse of a fin in Jaws, a ripple in the puddle in Jurassic Park, the rustling of trees in King Kong.

Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla would be another to add to this list of intriguing revelations.

But, unlike the shark, the T-Rex and the ape, the ‘King of Monsters’ barely takes centre stage in this reboot and, rather embarrassingly, ends up in a supporting role in his very own film.

What’s also embarrassing is that when you strip away the multi-million dollar gloss of near-perfect CGI and immense visuals, Godzilla is a muddled and, in the end, a rather dull B-movie with a ginormous budget.

Not even its promising cast can save it.

When Ken Watanabe’s Dr Serizawa isn’t staring blankly into monitors or, looking out of windows and muttering something under his breath, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Lieutenant Ford Brody is being simply boring.

The best minutes of the film come, rather unsurprisingly, when Bryan Cranston’s Joe Brody is present.

Ranting and raving over seismic graphs and pouring over books on echolocation, a grizzled Brody desperately attempts to uncover the truth as to why the power plant in which he worked, is mysteriously destroyed after a series of abnormal ‘earth tremors.’

Haunting scenes of an abandoned cityscape evoke warnings of nuclear power, as Brody, and his son Ford, enter the ‘quarantine zone’ years after the incident to find answers.

Captured and taken to the now re-built power plant, Brody’s ramblings of a force capable of sending us “back to the stone age” are realised.

No, it’s not Godzilla but, an annoying daddy longlegs-looking creature that resembles something you’d find on the shelf at the toy section in Poundland.

These creatures, known as MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), are explained as ancient parasites from the same ecosystem as Godzilla. You remember, the giant lizard who shares his name with the title of the film? No?

After the TWO daddy longlegs (as they shall now be referred to) tear down countless buildings and one unlucky casino in Vegas, Godzilla decides to show up, just because he feels like it, to hunt them.

Here, Watanabe delivers the film’s most thought-provoking line, “the arrogance of man is thinking nature is in their control and not the other way around.” Before leading the film into mindless monster-action with the fatally damning line, “let them fight.”

One saving grace is the look of Godzilla.

But, instead of ‘wows’ and ‘ooohs’ when the big reveal finally arrives, all intended impact is lost thanks to our de-sensitisation to all things monster-y, after the ridiculous escapades of the daddy longlegs prove all a bit too much.

Gareth Edwards’ re-imagining of this legendary behemoth promises a lot but, ultimately, delivers very little.

It’s not as far down car-crash lane as Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla. There’s no corny love story, or scenes stolen from Jurassic Park, and no Matthew Broderick this time.

In its place however, is a Godzilla film that really does find itself under the category of missed opportunity. An opportunity as big as Godzilla himself.

4/10

X-Men films ranked from worst to best

X-Men

Fire up the jet and slip into some yellow spandex because X-Men: Days of Future Past is finally here.

Mutant fans around the globe are gearing up for returning director Bryan Singer’s star-studded sequel, featuring the casts of both the original X-Men trilogy and reboot/prequel X-Men: First Class, including Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Halle Berry.

But, since the Children of the Atom first appeared on the big screen back in 2000, X-Men movies have been a real mixed bag.

Ranking every X-Men film from worst to best, here’s my scoop on Marvel’s favourite mutants.

Be warned: this article contains spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the films.

6. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

x-men-origins-wolverine

What’s worse, the fact that this Wolverine ‘origin’ story completely ruins the mythos of the character or, that some people actually like it?

Inspired by the six-issue comic mini-series Origin, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of how James Howlett, AKA Logan, AKA Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), came to be the man he is at the beginning of the first X-Men movie.

Not even Hugh Jackman’s, nor will.i.am’s (why?), best efforts could save this monstrosity from director Gavin Hood (Ender’s Game).

Unfortunately, the film’s defilement of Marvel characters doesn’t stop with Wolverine, as it also shits all over Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) and Gambit (Taylor Kitsch).

Simply put, this film is terrible.

 

5. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Last Stand

Not as desperately woeful as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but it’s definitely in the same league.

The third instalment of the original X-Men trilogy sees the discovery of a cure for mutation, Jean Grey (Famke Jansen) returning from the dead as celestial being the Phoenix, and Cyclops (James Marsden) being killed off before you’ve barely touched your popcorn.

Opting to leave production at the last minute to work on DC’s Superman Returns, director of the first two X-movies, Bryan Singer, is sorely missed here.

X-Men: The Last Stand suffers from a complete lack of character development and sensible story navigation, the very qualities which made its predecessors so enjoyable.

 

4. The Wolverine (2013) 

The Wolverine

Aside from its shoddy climax and lengthy run-time, James Mangold’s film is an intriguing but, ultimately disappointing, chapter to the X-Men canon.

Set after X-Men: The Last Stand, Jackman’s Wolverine becomes a drifter, living off the land like an adamantium-clawed Rambo. The action then moves to Japan where Logan is summoned by a dying old man he once saved during the Nagasaki bombings of WWII.

Truer, but still not entirely faithful to the comics, it toys with interesting ideas such as immortality, death and honour, but never really expands on these.

Instead, The Wolverine boasts some neat and tidy action sequences and another run-of-the-mill performance from Jackman, culminating in a massively average X-man flick.

 

3. X-Men (2000)

x-men-2000

Kick-starting a wave of comic book blockbusters from Spider-Man to Hulk, Bryan Singer brings the uncanny X-Men to life with a perfect balance of style and spectacle.

Led by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), outcast Rogue (Anna Paquin) and vagabond Wolverine team up with Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm (Halle Berry) to stop the evil Magneto (Ian McKellen) and the Brotherhood of Mutants.

Capturing the essence of the comic books and its plethora of characters, X-Men’s smart storytelling and ensemble cast place it rather high atop the mutant-movie mountain.

 

2. X-Men: First Class (2012)

xmen first class

Rebooting the franchise after X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine had reduced it to something brown and sticky you might find on the bottom your shoe, Matthew Vaughn’s prequel marks a real return to form.

Set in the early ’60s during the midst of the Cold War, the US government recruits a young Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), a raw Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and a team of rookie mutants, to stop the wicked tyrant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from causing WWIII.

Well scripted with a superb cast, X-Men: First Class delivers a first class superhero spectacle.

 

1. X2 (2003)

x2

Bigger, badder and bolder than the first, X-Men 2 is a superb action-packed follow-up from Bryan Singer that sets the tone for all comic-book movie sequels, and X-Men films, in general.

In an incredible opening scene, a mutant assassin attempts to murder the US President, forcing the government to crack down on mutants. Kidnapping the children at Xavier’s School for Gifted Mutants, the X-Men and their usual foes, The Brotherhood, team up in a fight against the sinister Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox).

Well-acted, smartly directed, and with more action than Wolverine can shake his claws at, X-Men 2finds itself in pure blockbuster territory, and comes at you harder than one of Cyclops’ optic blasts.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is out on Thursday (May 22nd). 

You can also read this article here – http://www.wow247.co.uk/blog/2014/05/19/x-men-films-ranked-from-worst-to-best/