GONE GIRL (2014) FILM REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

GONE GIRL (2014) FILM REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT

**BEWARE – SOME SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS**

Gillian Flynn, David Fincher, the cast and production team have carved out a superlative, rug-pulling, amoral, misanthropic and bloody suspense thriller which ghosts between several genres from romance to police procedural to thriller to Grand Guignol splatter film. Given the nature of the well-orchestrated and devious plot I will not be giving anything away other than it is essentially about a marriage in crisis and then some.

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We begin in North Carthage, a picturesque town in Missouri as our anti-heroes Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) are established. Flashbacks reveal a lustful romance but as money troubles affect them they are forced to leave New York and move back to Nick’s hometown. The story kicks off with a weary Nick bemoaning his lot to his supportive sister (excellent Caroline Coon) before he finds out Amy has gone missing. Then the fun really starts.

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As the plot unfolds we are led a merry dance as to where sympathies lie as the story twists and turns allegiances from Nick to Amy and back again. Having lived through a couple of acrimonious relationship breakdowns myself I felt the pain of the characters trapped in a marriage where the spark has been dampened by familiarity, financial worries and narcissistic deficiencies. Although, given the size of the house they live in I didn’t feel too bad for these over-privileged sociopaths.

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Ben Affleck is very effective as the trouble-plagued yet spoilt WASP, however, Rosamund Pike steals the acting honours with a sparkling star-turn. Throughout she demonstrates the many facets of an emotionally complex, intelligent and physically adept human. I sensed this was writer Gillian Flynn’s fantasy; acting out her devilish desires on page through this beautiful yet dangerous character. Pike’s Amy took me back to the age of fantastic ’40s femme fatales played with aplomb by: Barbara Stanwyk, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner et al.

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David Fincher, with his wonderful pallet and great eye for a script, is carving himself out a terrific raft of movies which look into the dark recesses of the American dream. He dissects and delivers a scathing commentary on the flaws and weaknesses of the middle, upper and wealthy classes. He not only incorporates obsessive characters but also muddies waters between good and evil and hero and heroines as witnessed most recently in The Social Network (2010), Zodiac (2007) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2012).  While Gone Girl could have been shaved of 10 minutes to make it punchier, for me, Fincher is a post-modern Hitchcock; making fine films about damned unlikeable characters but somehow pulling us into their tawdry lives.

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There’s a fantastic episode of South Park from season 17 called ‘Informative Murder Porn’ which satirises the rise of scurrilous, scandal-mongering TV shows which “celebrate” salacious murders, crumbling marriages and missing people. Gone Girl is essentially a high-end version of such shows; the likes of which feature cleverly within the film’s plot. Indeed, the film also condemns the poisonous nature of such programmes which take joy in other’s misery.

 

Overall, Gone Girl is a masterful B-movie which is very gruelling to watch from an emotional perspective. Aside from the cops investigating (Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit) Amy’s disappearance and Nick’s sister the majority of the characters are borderline sociopaths. Indeed, when one of the more likeable characters is the media-hungry-lawyer-snake-oil-salesmen-come-showman (Tyler Perry) then you know you’re dealing with an extremely opaque vision of humanity.

 

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FROM HER TO MOD-ERNITY: MY WEEKLY REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

FROM HER TO MOD-ERNITY – MY WEEKLY REVIEW  BY PAUL LAIGHT

Here’s a written round-up of some of the stuff I’ve been watching, tele-viewing, cinema-going, generally experiencing, listening too, visiting in the last few weeks or so.

ALTERNATIVE COMEDY EXPERIENCE – COMEDY CENTRAL

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Pedant-king and all-round comedy god Stewart Lee picks the acts and overlords the 2nd season of The Alternative Comedy Experience.  It features many comedians arguably TOO off-mainstream, surreal, political or whimsical to be considered for a show such as Live At The Apollo; yet, there are mostly wonderful comedians on view.

I winged through the whole season pretty quick and my favourites included:  Stephen Carlin, Bridget Christie, Michael Legge, Tony Law, Paul Foot, David O’Doherty to name but a few.  Lee himself only appears in interview form but it’s a fine showcase for some of the more alternative comedy minds on the circuit.

 

DR WHO – CATCH-UPS 

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The Horror Channel – SKY CHANNEL 319 – often shows some questionably poor films but it also shows some classic Dr Who’s from yesteryear.  I’ve watched a couple of the TOM BAKER stories — HORROR AT FANG ROCK and CITY OF DEATH – and maybe it’s nostalgia for my youth but I think he IS the perfect Doctor: manic, emotion, performance, eccentric, dark, yet funny too. And that booming voice has real authority. He just makes everything – however far fetched – seem so real believable. His delivery is Shakespearean.

Having watched all of Eccleston and Tennant’s episodes recently I’m now onto the youngest Doctor ever – Matt Smith!  The stories are great and while his assistant Amy is bland yet lovely, I’m warming to Smith. He’s like an excitable Tigger on speed with a quirky energy and a hint of darkness. I want to see him really go dark the way Eccleston did at times but in the episode AMY’S CHOICE we got a hint of a darker side in the form of the Dream-Lord played by fine actor Toby Jones so I look forward to more of that element in future, past or present episodes. Also, I loved the VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR episode in which the Doctor meets Van Gogh; artistry, depression and a beastly blind being is hellbent on destruction in a very touching episode written by Richard Curtis.

 

DRAYTON MANOR THEME PARK

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Me and my son Rhys (13) love going to theme parks. My motion sickness seems to be getting worse but I braved the 130 mile journey and drove to Drayton Manor near Tamworth in the hope of holding my breakfast down. It was an overcast but occasionally sunny day and thankfully off-peak so we avoided legions of people and massive queues for the rides.  It was a fun day out and we went on most of the rides and visited the zoo they have there. It’s no Thorpe Park or Alton Towers but it’s still a great place to visit.  While my stomach turned over a number of times I kept my lunch down so a winning day all-round.


THE EQUALIZER

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Denzil Washington is probably the best movie actor around as he has a knack of turning average scripts into something very watchable and this is no different. I can see why he was attracted to the character of Robert McCall as he is a Robin Hood type who uses his special training to assist those in the neighbourhood and eventually turns his brutal killing abilities to something more global.

This is nowhere near as good as the Fuqua/Washington double-teamed Training Day (2001) for which the actor received the Oscar for Best Actor or the equally brutal Man On Fire (2004) which is something of an underrated classic in my view but while instantly forgettable it’s still unashamedly entertaining and had me gripped throughout the slightly overlong running time.

 


HER

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Spike Jonze eccentric “love” story follows a similar path story-speaking to an episode of Big Bang Theory I saw where Raj fell in love with Siri his Iphone voice system.  Of course, Jonze develops the theme of technological romance further over the running time with a beautiful, funny and at times very human dramedy.  Indeed, while many people reach for the Internet to find “love” either through pornography or online dating the brilliantly named Theodore Twombly actually falls FOR his computer itself.

I loved everything about the film: the look, cast, design, direction, performances and above all else the cute and always surprising screenplay. Joaquin Phoenix is full of hangdog desperation at the break-up of his marriage and subsequent loneliness. Scarlett Johansson provides the alluring voice of the “Operating System” he reaches out for as their relationship takes some surprising turns.  It’s a perfect “first world” piece of cinema which charmed me and almost melted my icy heart.


NATIONAL MOTORCYCLE MUSEUM

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My son Rhys has expressed an interest in motorbikes recently and as we were in the Midlands I thought why not check this place out — in Solihull — on the way back to London.  It’s a wonderful place if you love motorbikes with hundreds and hundreds of two-wheelers from the earliest days of industry to the modern age.   I’m not a petrol-head myself but I was impressed by the array of different bikes on show and felt proud that the country I came from had produced so many beautiful machines and many which had served us during the wars and set many a world speed record. My son  was disappointed there were no Harley Davidsons on show so I reminded him in was a “National” and not and “International” museum. Kids eh!?!

http://www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk/


OLD BOY (2013)

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Overall, it’s not bad entertainment but if you haven’t seen the original then do watch Park Chan Wook’s classic instead.  While Josh Brolin in the lead is great Sharlto Copley’s ridiculous English accent ruins much of the tension in the latter part of the film.

It’s still a great story of a dislikeable guy imprisoned against his will and much of the power in the story derives from the mystery of not knowing why he is held captive.  The first half of the OLDBOY (2013) remake directed by Spike Lee was pretty decent but the 2nd half seemed as if it was cut to pieces ensuring loss of dramatic impact during the sick twists at the end. It’s slick and a bit silly but the original remains an utter classic of World Cinema. WATCH THAT INSTEAD!

  

SPURS LATEST (up to 22/10/14)

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After Spurs scrapped to a 1-1 derby draw with Arsenal in the Premier League I went to see them play Besiktas at White Hart Lane in the Europa League. Harry Kane put us  a goal up but Besiktas did well and only some fine saves from Hugo Lloris kept them at bay. To be honest the Turkish team were the better side in the 2nd half. Indeed, they grabbed a penalty equalizer after a silly handball from Chiriches. Ba made is 1-1.

Spurs have since been defeated by Manchester City in a game which had 4 penalties – two of which were missed by Soldado and Aguero.  The Argentinian did however, score the four goals which put us to the sword.  The referee was a disgrace really with some dodgy decisions and while we played okay in patches we were outclassed really.  I have low expectation of this season but can see glimpses of what the new manager is trying to achieve so we will see what the season brings us.

SLEAFORD MODS

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I suffer from arrested development where music is concerned.  I have very specific rock and roll roots on the whole and my favourite kind of music is what some might say is 80s/90s/00s “indie” rock.  I do like a bit of rap, heavier rock, dance, electro stuff too though.   I do listen to new music but I’m firmly entrenched in my preferred genre and only occasionally does a new band capture my imagination.

My new favourite musical thing is SLEAFORD MODS. A Nottingham-based duo who combine sparse keyboards, drum loops and angry, yet humourous, lyrics spat out from the mouth of Jason Williamson.  He is an authentic Midland council estate voice (reminiscent of Mark E. Smith) who rants against media phoneys, social media and delivers poetic rhymes about everyday struggle. Before the Arctic Monkeys became hipster pricks I had great hopes for them. I doubt Sleaford Mods go the same way and become complete Camden cunts.  Check out Divide and Exit – it’s a brisk-sweary-real-down-to-earth-shopping-trolley-in-a-canal-treat.

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

THE EQUALIZER (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD**

This pulpy, yet efficient remake of the 1980s ITV “classic”  features Denzil Washington on decent form as a humble blue-collar worker with both a conscience and mysterious past. It’s a brutal and fun film which runs the gamut of film clichés featuring:

  1. Russian gangsters called Sergei and Vladimir sporting more tattoos than skin.
  2. Young tart-with-a-heart in distress.
  3. The “hero-surveys-the-scene” POV shots before a fight as seen in Downey Jnr’s Sherlock Holmes.
  4. Aerial and time-lapse shots of the city to a brooding guitar soundtrack.
  5. Corrupt cops, politicians and Russian Oligarchs as nemeses.
  6. Hero attempts to overcome the loss of a loved one by turning his back on his violent past.
  7. Hero with insomnia reads Hemingway and drinks tea in the same café every night.
  8. Hero with OCD turns out to be a shit-hot former CIA operative who decides he can’t change and kicks some gangster’s arse!

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Despite such bog-standard features genre director Antoine Fuqua    and Denzil Washington deliver a bone-crushing and tense thriller. It contains some cracking over-the-top violence notably in the final showdown where Denzil takes down the bad guys at the B & Q where he works.

Special mention though goes to Martin Csokas who gave his Russian villain a breathtaking menace which lit up the screen whenever he appeared. He was a highlight along with some very well-orchestrated action.

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Denzil Washington is probably the best movie actor around as he has a knack of turning average scripts into something very watchable and this is no different. I can see why he was attracted to this character: a Robin Hood type who uses his special training to assist those in the neighbourhood and eventually turns his brutal killing abilities to something more global.

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This is nowhere near as good as the Fuqua/Washington double-teamed Training Day (2001) for which the actor received the Oscar for Best Actor or the equally brutal Man On Fire (2004) which is something of an underrated classic in my view but while instantly forgettable it’s still unashamedly entertaining and had me gripped throughout the slightly overlong running time.

 

 

THE ROCK ‘N’ DROLL EXPERIENCE – SHORT FILM BY PAUL LAIGHT

THE ROCK ‘N’ DROLL EXPERIENCE – DOCUMENTARY BY PAUL LAIGHT

This year I did a little comedy show at the Brighton Fringe Festival with fellow comedian GWILUM ARGOS.  I also thought it would be fun to film the whole process and edit it into a, hopefully, funny documentary.  The editing process was long and laborious but I have finally finished the bastard and here it is.  It is not intended to reinvent the wheel formally speaking but I hope it will be something amusing to look back on in year’s to come.

THE PITCH

PAUL LAIGHT and GWILUM ARGOS star in a humorous documentary filmed and edited in 2014 as they prepare, rehearse and perform their comedy show at the Brighton Fringe Festival (2014).

This is a mixture of sketches, podcast, trailers, interviews, stand-up performance etc.  The video is intended for promotional and non-profit making purposes.  It is a historical document recorded for a laugh and posterity and possible insight into the creative process.

 

THE FILM

 

THE CREDITS

Comedy material written by Paul Laight and Gwilum Argos. Original songs written by Gwilum Argos.

Other songs/music used by kind permission.

The Rock and Droll Experience was shot and edited by Paul Laight.

Thanks to everyone involved for their assistance including http://www.laughinghorse.co.uk and the audience who supported our show etc.

A Fix Films Production – http://www.fixfilms.com

TOP TRUMPS #1 – THE BEST ROCK BAND NEVER! BY PAUL LAIGHT

TOP TRUMPS #1 – THE BEST ROCK BAND NEVER!  BY PAUL LAIGHT

I was on holiday with my son playing Top Trumps.  Well, we
didn’t take a holiday to play Top Trumps but we were on the plane
playing DC Superheroes and SpongeBob Squarepants Top Trumps and I had the idea of doing a Rock ‘N’ Roll supergroup top trumpy kind of thing.  Who’s my favourite drummer, singer/front-person, bassist, keyboardist, lyricist, rhythm guitarist and lead guitarist?  And why?  Well here are my picks for what could be the greatest rock band that never existed. Of course, it’s highly subjective and on any given day I may go another way on some of these choices.  If you agree or disagree let me know.  Or don’t.

 

THE DRUMMER – KEITH MOON

The Who’s wild man of rock and roll was an all or nothing legendary figure that beat living hell out of the drums on some of the great rock tunes of our time. A sweaty, ferocious and fiery figure he lived by the booze and by god he died by it too. It was his attitude as much as his technical ability (not that I’m an expert on this) as he played with the Devil in his eyes and the sticks. Read the book Dear Boy – it’s a great read about a man who didn’t just raise hell but lowered heaven for us mere mortals too.

 

THE BASSIST – GARY “MANI” MOUNFIELD

Mani wasn’t just in ONE of my favouritest ever bands – he was in TWO:  Mancunian baggy geniuses The Stone Roses and Scottish junkie rock ‘n’ rollas Primal Scream. He transformed both bands with a Cheshire Cat grin, Northern wit, all-round charisma and powerful playing.  The Roses really took off after Mani joined them and their first album is one of the greatest debuts ever in my opinion.  For the Scream he brought a dominant, driving energy to their punky-post-industrial-wasteland-blues.  Fookin’ legend man!

 

RHYTHM GUITAR – JOHNNY MARR

Marr was the musical hurricane behind probably my favouritest band ever The SmithsWhile Morrissey got the majority of the publicity with his daffodil-sway-dancing, provocative and poetic lyrics and barbed media-jousting tongue but Marr’s guitar sung like an angel on a series of classic albums notably:  The Queen is Dead and Meat is Murder. He would go onto be a guitar-for-hire for bands such as: The The and The Cribs and recently released his debut solo album; which wasn’t that bad actually.

 

LEAD GUITAR – JIMI HENDRIX

Would anyone argue that Johnny Allen “Jimi” Hendrix was the greatest guitarist that ever lived and breathed?  Perhaps fans of Slash?  Or Jimmy Page?  Or Clapton?  Or many more?  Anyway,  he made the guitar sing like demon, and anyone who saw him live was very lucky as he died at such a young age.  Hendrix bridged the gap between blues, psychedelia and rock fusing them in a thunderous mesh.  And within a few short years he went from backing the Isley Brothers to headlining Woodstock. As well as creating some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever he was a pioneer, mastering feedback and popularizing the wah-wah pedal. Hendrix would be an incredible influence during his life and after he was gone.  That’s why he’s my choice for lead guitar.

 

KEYBOARDIST – RAY MANZAREK

Maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t but I don’t think Manzarek gets the credit he deserves for his playing in 60s rock superstars The Doors.   Of course, Jim Morrison was so charismatic that it’s often impossible to take your eyes off his performances, deep growling vocals and magnetic rock star looks. Indeed, it’s so easy to forget the bookish man sitting behind the organ providing the wall of sound in support of the drug-fuelled hell-raiser at The Door’s front of house. However, his rhythm (he also supplied bass), funky, sprawling, rock, pop, classical keyboard-tinkling spanned many different styles, genres and sounds giving the band their originality for the time.  Morrison may have provided the cheekbones but Manzarek provided the backbone.

 

WORDS – MORRISSEY

I used to listen to The Smiths all the time when I was a teenager. Still do. People used to say to me that Morrissey was miserable, moaning and tuneless.  Well, to me it was the complete opposite: uplifting, angry and poetic. He disliked much of life around him and gave short shrift to people who got him down.  In my little room he spoke directly to my confused young mind providing a wonderful intelligence, dour Northern humour sprinkled with mordant wit and crafty word play.  He wrote from the heart and the gut and most importantly the brain. His words often echo around my mind when I’m in certain situations and in my mind the greatest poet/lyricist ever.

 

SINGER – RICHARD ASHCROFT

This is the most interchangeable of choices.  For a long time the front-of-the-band was held by Lizard King Jim Morrison. Then I considered Morrissey or even Freddie Mercury but the latter’s arguably too theatrical for me. Then I thought hmmm… Blondie would be a cracking choice or even Zak De La Rocha of Rage against the Machine; just to give the band something a bit different. Even Dolly Parton, who has a lot of front and sass was a consideration but I just couldn’t hear her singing Morrissey’s words. Bono, Bobby Gillespie, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, Liam Gallager, Robert Smith, Axel Rose and many more went through my mind and then just at time of writing I decided that Wigan-born-ecstasy-driven-poet-come-wizard Richard Ashcroft would be the man to bring this bastard home.

In The Verve Ashcroft’s angular looks and thousand-yard stare are just magnetic as he just throws every emotion into the ring when belting out a tune.  Probably not the most gifted technically, yet, within that voice there is pain and sorrow. Plus a world-weary emotiveness within his visage; like a starving vampire desperate to die in the light. I went for him for emotion, feeling, energy and attitude. On any other day, as I say, it could’ve been another singer.  But today it’s him.