GREGORY HOBLIT’S FREQUENCY — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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This is a shamelessly entertaining film with lots of heart and a tone that bounces all over the place. Gregory Hoblit’s underrated 2000 genre-bender Frequency was a modest hit with critics and audiences at the time of its release, and while it’s hardly a great movie, it’s so much fun to watch, and it stands up on repeated viewings. This movie is so many things: A father-son drama, a sci-fi time travel piece, a serial killer thriller, a domestic drama, an action potboiler – screenwriter and future studio chief Toby Emmerich devised a true “kitchen-sink” film with a heady, complicated narrative that’s happy to fold back on itself repeatedly. Dennis Quaid was perfectly cast as the father impossibly communicating with his grown son, played by Jim Caviezel, years later via an old ham radio and some interesting celestial disturbances courtesy of a very active Aurora Borealis. And as in most time-travel narratives, the more you do to disturb the space-time continuum, the more likely it’ll be that things will have changed all around you, thus setting the butterfly effect in motion. This is a restless piece of work, a film that has tons on its active mind, and I can’t think of too many other efforts that resemble it in intent and execution. It certainly feels light years away from the types of films that are currently getting the greenlight at the studio level.

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Hoblit, a dependable director who cut his teeth on various TV shows before making the leap to features with the excellent Primal Fear, has had a solid career as a helmer of underrated mid-budgeted thrillers (Fallen, Hart’s War, and Fracture are some other credits), and with Frequency, he took a project that had spent years in development under various other filmmakers and turned it into a film with a great sense of visual style, and wasn’t afraid to embrace the inherent silliness of its idea, and directed with a steely conviction that turned the entire piece into a slice of earnest entertainment. It’s certainly contrived to within an inch of its life but it’s no less enjoyable, and it’s admirable the way Frequency keeps piling it on all the way to its cornily effective finale, which will leave a lump in your throat unless you’re a true cynic. A big reason for this is the fantastic chemistry between Quaid and Caviezel, who despite not really looking like they come from the same family, exhibited a natural warmth and rapport with each other that went along way to making the film work as well as it does. For some reason, Frequency feels like a strange companion piece to Field of Dreams, and while that film is infinitely superior overall, I can’t help but feel that they share some of the same honest-at-the-core traits that always keep me coming back for more.

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LUC BESSON’S THE FIFTH ELEMENT — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Luc Besson’s wild and wacky sci-fi action film The Fifth Element is one of the most insane pieces of eye-candy ever devised, with a cartwheeling sense of manic energy, absolutely stunning production values, an overstuffed screenplay, and performances that range all over the map in terms of tone. I can vividly remember seeing this film with my parents on opening day during the summer of 1997, and being a massive fan of Leon, I was totally jacked to see it. And while I was fully entertained and most definitely overwhelmed by the film upon first viewing, over the years I’ve revisited this distinctive piece of work numerous times, and the film simply gets better and better. There’s also an extended male-on-female oral sex joke sequence that goes on for an extended period of time, and I truly don’t get how the MPAA let that one slide, but I love it regardless! This film has a brazen sense of its own self, and I love how Besson seemingly didn’t care about anything except for his exploding imagination and letting everything rip and fly. And the blending of CGI with practical and in-camera effects is rather stunning to observe all throughout.

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Everyone was off their ass in this film, most especially Chris Tucker, who took a role that was originally conceived for Prince, and blasted his way off the screen as one of the most obnoxiously over the top characters ever to enter a film at more than the half-way point. Thierry Arbogast’s ridiculously stylish cinematography was in perfect synch with the gaudy costumes designed by Jean-Paul Gauthier and the eye-filling production handled by the brilliant Dan Weil. Besson and co-writer Robert Mark Kamen’s script is a hodgepodge of ideas and tropes that is both silly and serious in equal measure. The flying cars and futuristic cityscapes still dazzle, and positively pop in the Blu-ray format. Gary Oldman went to the moon and back in this film, and Bruce Willis did a reliably great job as the hunkered down bad-ass who has to spring into action and handle business. I’ve enjoyed most of Besson’s directorial offerings, and this one is near the top of the list for me. But I don’t think anything will ever unseat Leon as his crowning cinematic achievement, as that film really means something special, especially the international director’s cut.

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TSUI HARK’S TIME AND TIDE — A REVIEW BY FILMMAKER & GUEST CRITIC DAMIAN K. LAHEY

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‘Time and Tide’ (2000) dir. Tsui Hark

Hands down, this is one of my favorite action movies. Wicked stunts, wonderful characters, well placed humor – this is a film that comes together in a perfect blend of movie madness!

But what I LOVE about it more than anything is that there is NOTHING to compare it to. When I recommend this film to people I am not comparing it to other iconic actioners. I am not saying stuff like: ‘Dude, it’s like ‘Die Hard’ meets ‘Speed”’. No way, ‘Time and Tide’ is its own thing. Such a singular achievement in a genre bogged down in derivative mediocrity.

Check out this plot. Our directionless hero has a drunken one night stand with a lesbian cop, gets her pregnant and then becomes part of a security detail for a shady businessman in order to take care of their child. He winds up entangled in a convoluted web of shifting alliances, stolen money, violent mercenaries and along the way learns the value of friendship and true love. Sound confusing? It is. But it works. Amazingly so.

And here’s something else that this film has to be commended for. In many instances the non action sequences in films of this type are merely filler. You know it to be true. We’re just biding our time during uninspired plot points in order to get to the next action sequence. In ‘Time and Tide’ everything is watchable. Every beat is electric. Everything naturally propels itself to the next scene. The narrative hits a magic sweet spot where even when it falters – we are swept up in the emotionalism, performances, and aesthetics so that it all seems JUST RIGHT.

Serious credit needs to go not just to Hark’s direction but to the vibrant cinematography of Chiu-Lam Ko and Herman Yau as well as the natural chemistry between actors Nicholas Tse and Wu Bai with fantastic support from Anthony Wong and Candy Lo. It is said that the legendary Hark found a different film than what he originally shot and intended to make while in post-production. And this is certainly reflected in the film’s eccentric rhythm. For those that thrive on action flicks that have their own voice – this one’s for you!

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DAVID MICHOD’S WAR MACHINE — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I’m not exactly sure what all the bitching and moaning was about (56% at Rottentomaotes – are you kidding me?!), but from where I sit and view cinema, the new Netflix original movie War Machine, from hot-shot director David Michod (Animal Kingdom, The Rover) is a pointed, extremely funny, and often times sad commentary on the war in Afghanistan and how the American military simply could never fully understand the ramifications of doing what they’ve done in the middle east. Brad Pitt is absolutely terrific as General Glen McMahon, a fictionalized version of General Stanley McChrystal, a take no nonsense commander who was given the unenviable task of “fixing” the situation in Afghanistan, something that he could never possibly have done, as he very quickly learned. One thing leads to another in this wild and woolly tale, and one of the things that I admired most about the film is that it carries a persistent “This is Fucked” vibe that’s both startling and humorous.

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Pitt and the excellent ensemble cast, including Alan Ruck, Scoot McNairy, Anthony Michael Hall, Emory Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Topher Grace, Meg Tilly, Will Poulter, and Tilda Swinton, who gets one of the best and most ferocious scenes of the film with her reporter character going straight for the jugular, were clearly in match-step with one another, as Michod’s script, which was based on the book The Operators by Michael Hastings, is filled with sly yet upfront humor that rolls off the tongue, with an especially lacerating quality in various key spots. The outright hubris that was demonstrated on the parts of various government officials during these stages of the “War on Terror” is ridiculous to note, and the backwards and reductive approach to troop involvement is very much shown on screen. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (The Martian, Dark City) shoots in a straight forward fashion, never calling attention to the images, but still giving the film a very polished and stylish look.

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I absolutely love topical filmmaking and seeing stories about our current geopolitical conflicts. I’m not a “too soon” cry-baby (United 93 is and always will be a masterpiece) or someone who is easily rattled by Hollywood taking poetic license with the facts. Movies are movies, documentaries are documentaries, and when I watch something that’s ripped from the headlines, I can accept the fact that filmmakers have to change certain things around, condense characters and situations, and approach the material with a strong viewpoint in order to get their message across. War Machine is the sort of film that would have been funded by a major studio in past years, but because it doesn’t fit the current franchise-driven corporate mold and isn’t a safe “Oscar bet”, Netflix took action and made a relevant and smart piece of entertainment that sadly not enough people will check out. This is definitely not an empty-headed action picture, but rather, a film that has something on its mind that’s worth saying.

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What Michod does so well in War Machine is present the absurdity of the situation, while piling on incident and conflict, with characters who shuffle in and out of the narrative who don’t ever have a full idea as to what’s truly going on around them. I don’t want spoil anything as there’s any number of scenes that are outrageous in their content and deeply funny because of the absurdity on display. The varied musical score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis plays up the comic uncertainty of the entire operation while still getting tense when required, while Peter Sciberras keeps a fast pace via tight editing; look out for a hilarious cameo during the final scene for one last kicker. And hey, if this isn’t your cup of tea and you stories cut from the world around you aren’t of interest, the latest and greatest in CGI-idiocy is playing down the hall or available to stream on various platforms. Me? I’ll take a bitter, ruthless, smarty-pants satire like this any day of the week, as War Machine further cements Michod’s arrival as a new and distinctive cinematic voice to take note of.

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DAVID FINCHER’S THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Many people seem to love to hate David Fincher’s divisive, Oscar-baiting epic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but I’m definitely not in that group. This is a ravishing movie, filled with more emotion and heart than any previous Fincher film and any Fincher film to come after. Yes, the heart that beats all throughout this somber and exquisitely rendered romantic fable may be a tad cold, but that’s the Finch for you — if he’s going to offer ANY sort of sentiment he’s going to do it on his terms and in his special way. This is a perverse movie in retrospect, a film with a bleeding-heart romance at its core, but one that keeps its lovebirds separated for most of the narrative, due in no small part to the surreal quality that the film’s twist so mind-bogglingly explores. This is sumptuous, old-fashioned filmmaking studded with new-fashioned techniques and technology, and of course Fincher created a digitally altered character that’s more introverted and reserved than flashy and garish. This is a film filled with magical realism, allusions to other great literary works, romantic fantasy, and all of it is pulled together with flawless, groundbreaking visual effects that heighten the story instead of overpowering, great performances from a fully loaded cast, breathtaking cinematography from Claudio Miranda that’s all silky shadows with a stunning quality of light that repeatedly casts a cinematic spell over the viewer, and lush production design by Donald Graham Burt that feels wonderfully old and new at the same time. Every creative element was in perfect harmony with the melancholic notes of Alexandre Desplat’s sweeping original score. At times, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button feels like one of the most expensive art films ever made.

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Based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film is the quirky and odd story of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), a human being who is born as an old man, and who then ages in reverse, thus complicating every facet of his life. Pitt’s acting talent has long been underrated if not outright ignored, and in this film, he gave a quietly expressive performance, similar to his work in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. He’s playing an observant character, not a man of fast action, and because of this, there’s this potential sense of aimlessness and purposelessness that some people had with his character. Not me. I find these roles to be perfect vessels for actors to allow themselves to be ensconced in an environment, letting everything wash over, allowing them time to contemplate the grand ideas of life, something that happens on more than one occasion to Benjamin during the course of the film. Pitt is matched every step of the way by the luminous Cate Blanchett, playing his eternal love interest, and the two of them shared spellbinding on-screen chemistry that you can truly feel in every scene. Watching the two of them find each other and then drift apart then back together again throughout the sprawling narrative is the stuff of genuine heartache, and Fincher, ever the smiling sadist, is happy to break their hearts, and ours, more than once.

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The episodic but perfectly balanced screenplay from big-gun scribe Eric Roth (which he wrote from a story he concocted with screenwriter Robin Swicord) does share some of the spirit and structure of Forrest Gump, another film that Roth adapted for the screen and which features an inwardly main character who goes through a variety of life experiences set against the backdrop of the expanding country all around him. Roth always brings intelligence to his work – this is the man responsible for helping craft the scripts to The Insider, The Good Shepherd, Munich, and Ali (to name just a few) – and while Fincher certainly gets his customary mileage out of the visual aspects to this tremendous story, Roth’s poetic dialogue and heartbreaking notions about life never get lost on the audience or on Fincher as a director. Working with his most eloquent of scripts, Fincher was able to craft a film that felt real and right and true, even with a story device that is high-concept yet cerebral.

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This is a piece of work where death hangs over the proceedings at all times, very much in an ominous fashion, and the way that Fincher combined these dark themes with an ultimately uplifting message is a stroke of pure directorial finesse. Some of the best scenes of this movie involve the relationship between Pitt and Tilda Swinton in that lovingly burnished hotel which reveals multiple layers of romantic longing that boils the blood in your veins. When this film was released, many people scoffed at it, calling it Fincher’s desperate bid for Academy recognition, and yes, it landed a slew of nominations, but if memory serves me, it went home empty handed in all categories. The film performed well enough at the box office ($250 million worldwide or something close to that) but I’ve always felt that this movie got a big shrug from many Fincher loyalists. I’d take this movie ANY DAY over something like Gone Girl or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. For as fine as those two genre thrillers ended up being, while watching, you sense an artist on autopilot, directing splashy material that’s beneath his level of smarts and filmmaking savvy. With The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher stepped outside of his comfort zone more than he ever has, and made a sweeping and romantic film on his terms.

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VICTOR HEERMAN’S ANIMAL CRACKERS — A REVIEW BY FILMMAKER & GUEST CRITIC DAMIAN K. LAHEY

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‘Animal Crackers’ (1930) dir. Victor Heerman

I love the Marx Brothers. Huge fan going way back. When I was in middle school I was OBSESSED with these guys. I used to dress up like Harpo Marx with the over sized trench coat, wig – all of it. I’m not lying. I must have looked like an idiot and while that phase of my life came to an end by the 9th grade, I still adore them and believe they are absolute masters of the form.

I chose this film of theirs because for many years it was my personal favorite. Even had the poster hung up in my dorm room in college. Objectively I believe ‘A Night At The Opera’ is their best work but this is certainly a classic as well and one that really shows off their range and intelligence. For those that don’t know, the Marx Brothers have a phenomenal track record. They appear in FIVE universally recognized classics: ‘Animal Crackers’ (1930),  ‘Horse Feathers’ (1932) , Duck Soup (1933)  ‘A Night At The Opera’ (1935) and ‘ Day At The Races (1936). Nothing to snort at.

‘Animal Crackers’ is their second feature and follows the formula of their other early films in that the Marx Brothers themselves are more or less the protagonists. They are harmless grifters in some way, shape or form. Groucho plays one of his most legendary characters, the rakish and wise cracking Captain Spaulding and performs the classic ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’ number as well as other famous routines in this picture. The humor bounces frenetically from surreal visual gags to word play, Eugene O’ Neil references and musical bits. A Broadway hit for them before becoming a movie, the gags were well worn before filming began and they deliver them with an effortless confidence. One must give credit to the writers that backed them up on this – Morrie Ryskind, George S. Kaufman, Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby. This film also contains some of the finest work between Groucho and his best sparring partner, Margaret Dumont. Her and Groucho are magic on the screen together while Harpo and Chico define themselves as the bumbling co-conspirators they would remain in subsequent films. Oh. And Zeppo is Zeppo.

In my opinion, ‘Animal Crackers’ is the best application of the early Marx Brothers format. One that lead to them breaking the boundaries of comedy, which is what they did successfully in films like this, ‘Horse Feathers’ and the imaginatively chaotic ‘Duck Soup’. However, as they are not fully developed characters but rather walking and talking gimmicks, this formula does not always lend itself to full bodied narratives and it can sometimes grow tiresome as in their films ‘The Cocoanuts’ (1929) and ‘Monkey Business’ (1931).

In 1935 under the mentorship of Iriving Thalberg at MGM the brothers became supporting characters in storylines involving young love sick couples in some sort of distress. This was a shrewd move as it provided central straight characters (made purposefully lame) for The Marx Brothers to bounce jokes off of and a linear narrative that could inspire even more jokes. This proved to be a very effective anchor for them. Gone was the anarchy but also the peril of Marx Brothers burn out. Aesthetic advantages aside – this was also a more commercial turn and it produced two bona fide classics with super box office smashes ‘A Night at The Opera’ and a ‘A Day At The Races’. After Thalberg’s passing and an unsuccessful attempt at adapting a stage play (1938’s ‘Room Service’) they returned to this formula for the very good ‘At The Circus’ in 1939 before getting bogged down by it in lesser efforts like ‘Go West’ (1940) and ‘The Big Store’ (1941). They would balance things out with their final film (I don’t count 1949’s ‘Love Happy’) the good but not great ‘A Night In Casablanca’ in 1946.

‘Animal Crackers’ is 87 years old and does not need to be watched as a historical reference piece. It is a truly hilarious kick ass comedy as it stands right now and is a testament to the legendary talents of the Marx Brothers. Watch it and laugh…

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DAVID FINCHER’S FIGHT CLUB — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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David Fincher’s apocalyptic, hysterical, and blood-soaked satire of male (wish)fulfillment Fight Club escaped into theaters in 1999, and yet its message still rings loud and clear: FUCK THE MAN. And make no mistake – this film literally escaped. How did they ACTUALLY get away with all of the stuff in this movie? I’m not going to delve into all of the various ideas and storytelling levels that the wild narrative operates on; that’s been done hundreds of times by very intellectual writers and I don’t feel I can really offer anything new. But what I can state is how this movie made me feel as a 19 year old film student and obsessive movie fan when I saw it opening night with my college buddies – it made us feel alive and explosive in a way that few films ever have. And now that I’m a 37 year old father and looking to the next chapter of my life, the film’s themes of societal placement, advancement, and the construct of family and its importance (or lack thereof) seem more relevant and thought provoking than ever. This film is an anarchist’s dream come true; look no further than the beyond ballsy final moments with the collapse of the American credit system.

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I love how this movie doesn’t give a fuck about anything, it could care less if you like it, and at times, seems to be openly mocking the viewer for enjoying any portion of it. Fincher’s subversive streak was in full swing here, and because the material was so fertile with ideas, his lightning-quick visual style had tons to leap off of. Fincher, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, screenwriter Jim Uhls, original novelist Chuck Palahniuk, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, and editor James Haygood were all in perfect synch with regards to the aesthetic construction of this film and how it tied into the dense and mordantly funny narrative. Everything is up for analysis, critique, deconstruction, and destruction in this berserk and ferocious piece of work, and when it came out, I remember the critical community proudly taking sides over the merit (or lack thereof) of the film’s message, and asking if it was a dangerous piece of propaganda or a masterfully satirical comment about the male psyche and how it’s influenced by various forms of emotional and visceral stimuli, in an effort to smother, suppress, or fully control. This is a ballsy movie, a film with something to say, and the live-wire nerve to say it.

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The extra-slick visual tricks that Fincher and his creative team employed still feel fresh in that hopped-up manner that was desired, while the film’s hysterical sense of its own self has become more and more apparent and downright incendiary over the years and countless viewings. Thank you, Bill Mechanic. Thank you, David Fincher, Chuck Palahniuk, Jim Uhls, and all of the hugely talented people that made this form-busting piece of cinema come to life. There’s absolutely ZERO CHANCE this film gets made today, even with Fincher’s clout that he’s attained. I got some flack the other day for “demanding” that Fincher get back to challenging and risk-taking films such as this. And while I understand that the marketplace is VERY different now than it was in 1999 (hell, the entire industry changed yet again, for the worse, in 2008), the fact that Fincher is capable of films such as Seven and Fight Club and Zodiac, well, it just makes me yearn for something truly exceptional again. Something that literally bursts through the screen and chokes me at the neck saying LOOK HOW OUT OF BOUNDS BRILLIANT I AM. I’m greedy, and I love David Fincher’s unique view of the world. And for me, Fight Club is endless in its cinematic glories.

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DAVID FINCHER’S ALIEN 3 — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I was 12 years old when my father took me to see David Fincher’s Alien 3 on opening night, totally unaware of the behind the scenes fiasco that had occurred during production, and that’s probably why I’ve always enjoyed it more than most. I still think that, for all the documented issues that befell this film during the creative, shooting, and post stages, it’s pretty damn good. And really grim and bleak, which of course would become Fincher’s cinematic stock in trade – delivering subversive and sinister thrills (the corridor chases are fantastic), upending expectations (a bald Ripley!), and delivering a climactic deathblow (with chest-burster!) that should have ended the series. Sure, thanks to the amazing Alien Quadrilogy Blu/DVD set you’re now able to see various cuts of the film, including the much-loved but not Fincher-sanctioned “assembly edit” that everyone seems to point to as the best possible version. But I’ve always found the theatrical release cut to be a very effective piece of cinema, and after multiple viewings, I still sort of scratch my head as to what the big fuss was about with the final product. Sure, it’s not a masterpiece like Ridley Scott’s original and it’s not the full-on rousing action-adventure like the James Cameron sequel. But rather, this is a ruminative, somber, and cerebral entry in the franchise, which has employed new directors throughout the lifespan of the series, continuing with Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s derided-by-many-but-loved-by-me Alien: Resurrection (swimming Xenomorphs!) before Scott returned for his rather striking 2012 prequel Prometheus; the less said about this summer’s waste-of-time Alien: Covenant the better.

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But Alien 3 has a distinct personality and tone all to itself, and I’ve always loved this rather poetic bit of dialogue that Ripley so thoughtfully states during a key moment in regards to her relationship to the Xenomorph: “You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.” There’s a severity to Alien 3; it’s not anything like the previous two pictures that had come before it, and I’m glad no attempt was ever made to replicate any of the beats from Alien or Aliens. Even after replacing director Vincent Ward and scrapping much of what was to be used from a narrative and visual standpoint, the idea that a FIRST TIME director was put in this PARTICULAR hot-seat and STILL delivered something of merit says a lot, and speaks to the start of Fincher’s quest through Hollywood. I know he doesn’t like the film; he doesn’t have to, and if I were him, I might feel the same way. But it’s good stuff. And those shocking final moments with Ripley taking her furnace bath are poignant and oh-so-Fincher-esque. I always loved that after all the violent insanity that went down during the story, that it was good old-fashioned WATER that serves as the ultimate defense. Alex Thomson’s gritty cinematography perfectly matched the dank, decrepit production design by Norman Reynolds and his team. Much maligned and certainly not perfect, Alien 3 is still better than its reputation, and will always carry a certain level of notoriety given that it’s Fincher’s directorial debut.

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DAVID FINCHER’S THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I expect more from David Fincher than remakes of airport novels, but even when he’s “slumming,” the end-result can be fascinating and visually striking. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo had of course become a smash-hit in both book and film form in its home country of Sweden, but that meant nothing to the Hollywood bean-counters, who felt the need to adapt this exceptionally dark and nasty piece of work for the big screen. Fincher and big-money screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Moneyball, Searching for Bobby Fischer) were drafted, and a needless yet entertaining remake was born, one that softened some of the grimier elements of the original in favor of more digestible thematic ingredients and yet still explored the depths of human depravity. Which is, often times, what Fincher has enjoyed doing as a dark-arts craftsman. He is, of course, the filmmaker who has been famously quoted as saying that “movies should leave scars” and that he and the audience are nothing more than “perverts,” so I guess it doesn’t surprise me that he would be attracted to this inherently sadistic material. But this is a film where it felt like Fincher could have directed it from a remote location, with one hand tied behind his back.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remains watchable, for me as a viewer, because of the exceedingly sophisticated aesthetic package and the juicy, full-bodied performances. The film looks and sounds like a feverish nightmare, with frosty cinematography and an unnerving musical score that could cut glass. Rooney Mara was fabulous in the leading role, physically disappearing into a character that has some seriously prickly emotional currents, and Daniel Craig wasn’t afraid of taking on a morally questionable character that rarely emerges as the victorious alpha male we’ve seen in narratives such as this and previous films he’s appeared in. The supporting cast is peppered with familiar faces and some rather creepy unknowns, and even if the material ultimately took Fincher nowhere new as a storyteller, there’s a bracing dynamism to his imagery that cannot be denied and often times has you coming back for seconds. The opening credits sequence is also completely stunning, a small tour de force in and of itself. But I need more from Fincher as an artist, and a sequel to WWZ is not what I’m interested in seeing. Give us another Fight Club. Break the mold again, and take us somewhere we’ve never been. That’s what I demand as a viewer.

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DAVID FINCHER’S THE SOCIAL NETWORK — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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When I first heard that David Fincher would be directing a film about the formation of Facebook, my initial response, as was likely the same response from many others, was one of befuddlement. Why would this exquisitely talented filmmaker spend his time telling a story about a relatively young social media empire? What’s so cinematic about that? In conjunction with Aaron Sorkin’s razor-sharp and dialogue-heavy screenplay, Fincher ended up crafting one of the strongest films of his career, and while not as deep or as emotionally shattering as Seven, or as detail-obsessed as Zodiac or as trendsetting as Fight Club, there’s a timeless aspect to The Social Network that encourages repeat viewings. The film also continued Fincher’s obsession with finding the absolute perfect shade of the color brown, as his visual palette became even more desaturated and icy in this film, thanks to the pin-point precision of Jeff Cronenweth’s foreboding cinematography that stressed shadows and low-lit interiors. All of the ego-driven and brilliant characters on display operate with a sense of emotional iciness which must’ve appealed to Fincher’s dark cinematic heart, while Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue contains sardonic wit as well as hyper-intelligence to match its subjects.

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This is the role that Jessie Eisenberg will always be remembered for, Andrew Garfield projected empathy and stupidity at the same time, and Armie Hammer did a superb job in a double performance which consistently steals the show. The ominous and suspenseful musical score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a sonic delight, punctuating nearly every single scene with sinister energy, and was in perfect tandem with the slippery-smooth editing patterns set by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter. A box-office hit and critical darling, The Social Network was nominated for eight Oscars, winning three, but not Picture or Director. Which is ludicrous. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen this film a helluva lot more times than The King’s Speech. This was the film, along with Zodiac, where I really started to notice how Fincher was becoming his generation’s Alan J. Pakula: Seven was his Klute; The Game was his Parallax View; Zodiac/Social Network are his All the President’s Men; Gone Girl was his Presumed Innocent; Benjamin Button was his Sophie’s Choice; Dragon Tattoo was his Dream Lover. I’m probably stretching a bit, but I think the similarities between the two filmmakers are apparent in both aesthetics and themes, despite them working in very different eras of storytelling.

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