Tag: David Fincher (Page 1 of 4)

Movie Flashback: “The Game” (2011)

Screenshot The Game Michael Douglas

I had never seen “The Game” so I was happy to see this film pop up on one of my streaming services. Starring Michael Douglas at the height of his powers along with the always entertaining Sean Penn, the film had star power along with a very intriguing story.

Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) is a successful and wealthy banker who seems to have everything. He looks like Gordon Gekko but Douglas plays him without the cockiness and bluster. He’s a straight-laced guy living a very comfortable life. His brother Conrad (Penn) is the opposite as we learn quickly when Nicholas meets Conrad for lunch. Their conversation sets up the contrast between the characters, and then Conrad offers up an odd birthday gift. He wants Nicholas to take part in a personalized, real-life game. Nicholas is skeptical but then reluctantly agrees to accept after looking into it. And then things spin out of control.

Screenshot The Game Sean Penn

The story has so many twists and turns that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. The audience is often left guessing as to whether Nicholas is truly experiencing a game or if it’s all real as his life spins out of control. The end of the film is over-the-top, with a final plot twist that will surprise most viewers.

Yet the movie is flawed. It’s difficult to explain this in detail without giving away the ending, but too many of the details don’t add up. It’s too hard to believe the story. We’re used to suspending disbelief in fantasy films like superhero movies or ghost stories, but the setup here is grounded in the real world.

Still, the movie is brilliantly shot and paced. I didn’t realize this was a David Fincher film until the closing credits. It makes sense, as the entire feel of the film fits his style. But Fincher admits he probably should not have directed this film due to problems with the story, particularly in the third act. His wife told him not to take on the project but he didn’t listen. The frenetic ending of the film delivers plenty of entertaining twists and action, but you’re left asking yourself how this is all possible.

While the film is far from perfect, the performances from the cast make up for the problems with the story. Douglas is brilliant as you would expect. He’s able to handle such a wide range of emotions without ever overacting. Events if the events around him seem far-fetched, his reactions always come across as authentic. Penn dials it up and delivers a manic performance that fits the character. He’s perfect for this role, even if this is far from the best performance in the film. Deborah Kara Unger is fantastic as Nicholas’ love interest. It’s surprising that her career fizzled after this film. James Rebhorn delivers his usual great performance as he convinces Nicholas to give this crazy idea a try.

Screenshot The Game Deborah Kara Unger

Do I recommend this movie? Yes. It’s a fun ride from a brilliant director featuring great performances from a stellar cast. But the film has issues that will leave some viewers less than satisfied. But you’ll probably enjoy it if you can get past some of the unbelievable sequences and treat this as a suspenseful popcorn movie.

David Fincher’s obsession with detail

There’s plenty of buss around The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the new film from director David Fincher. Wired has a great profile of Fincher, with some interesting stories about his obsession with detail.

For much of the past year, Fincher has been filming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, his roughly $100 million adaptation of the macabre Swedish mystery that centers on a punk-hacker heroine with distinctive skin art. On one of the first nights of shooting, Fincher and his crew were in Sweden, filming a murder scene that takes place alongside a gloomy dock. But after a night’s work, Fincher didn’t have the shot he wanted, and the film’s ultratight schedule meant he wouldn’t be able to return for months.

When Fincher began planning the reshoot, he learned that the property had been sold to one of the guys in ABBA. Apparently, the new owner—either Benny or Björn, it’s not really clear—wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of having his evening stroll interrupted by a simulated drowning, and he refused to let the crew come back. Rather than find a new location or make do with the footage he had, Fincher decided to build his own Swedish dock.

Which is why, on a late-summer afternoon, we’re standing on a Los Angeles soundstage, examining a replica of a rural-Scandinavia mise-en-scène: mossy rocks, foliage-fat trees, and—perched high above the docks, turtlenecking out of the woods—a squat, deceptively cozy faux cottage. Like most sets, it looks a bit weird naked. But once the lights hit and the smoke drifts in, we are suddenly in the land of stunted summers and moderately high suicide rates.

I guess his approach is a bit different than that taken by Clint Eastwood, who loves going with the first take when he feels it’s good enough.

Oscar madness kicks into high gear at the DGA and SNL

People who want a real Academy Award horse-race got probably the best possible news last night at the Director’s Guild Awards. As you’ll no doubt be hearing many, many times over the next month or so, the DGA Award for Best Director and the Oscar for Best Director have only not lined up six times in the history of both awards. Also, of course, the directorial Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar often tend to correlate as well because, sometimes rightly but occasionally wrongly, most of the credit for a good movie tends to go to the director.

Those who remained confident that “The Social Network” remained the favorite for an Oscar sweep despite it getting beaten out in the number of Oscar nominations by two films, were given a sharp jolt because the winner last night was not David Fincher, but the extremely talented fact-based-drama specialist Tom Hooper of “The King’s Speech.” Count me among the surprised.

I’ll save for later why I still think the Oscars’ are either movie’s ball game or could easily be a sort split decision. However, in an amusing not quite coincidence, “Social Network” star and Oscar nominee Jessie Eisenberg had a small surprise of his own to reveal as he hosted “Saturday Night Live” last night.

Let’s see Colin Firth pull that off with King George VI. Also, Mark Zuckerberg can’t complain that he was misrepresented in terms of height, at least. H/t Nikki Finke.

The winner in the best documentary DGA category, by the way, was Charles Ferguson of the hugely acclaimed “Inside Job” which might actually guarantee that it won’t win the Best Documentary Oscar, because that’s the way the documentary category often rolls. We’ll see. For you TV fans, I’ll post/paste the complete list of DGA Awards (nice wins for Mick Jackson and Martin Scorsese,) after the flip.

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A movie moment for Mark Zuckerberg

When it came time for me to do my movie news dump late Friday night, I somehow managed to forget the news item from the middle of the week that Facebook founder and reluctant movie character Mark Zuckerberg had been named Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year. It’s an oversight I can’t bring myself to ignore completely.

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Looking at past selectees, 26 year-old billionaire Zuckerberg is hardly the only one to have a movie made about his exploits. In terms of sheer footage, he’s got nothing on such occasional film lead figures and frequent supporting players as Nelson Mandela, John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Mohandas Gandhi and, most frequent of all, Adolf Hitler.

What is unique about Zuckerberg is that “The Social Network” came out the same year as his selection and, in a peculiar way, probably helped him to get it. Reading the Time article about Zuckerberg by geek journalist and fantasy novelist Lev Grossman, I can only marvel at some very shrewd PR work by someone. The article goes out of its way to present a highly sympathetic alternative from the “angry-robot” of the movie to a figure more akin to the stiff but kindly Tin Woodman. If writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher portrayed Zuckerberg as a bit like the treacherous Ash from “Alien,” Grossman turns him into the quirky but lovable Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The words “Eduardo Saverin” and the legal troubles portrayed in the film are never mentioned in the online version of the article that I read.

I strongly suspect Zuckerberg’s knowledge of movie history doesn’t extend much further back than “Alien.” However, even with all the image rebuffing a billionaire’s money and power affords him, I’m sure he’d prefer the old days of movie biopics where, if powerful celebrities were portrayed at all, they were portrayed positively. Not only were possibly imaginary warts not added, as they might have been by Sorkin and Fincher, very real ones were actively removed.

I’ve never seen it, but check out the trailer below for Billy Wilder’s 1957 biopic about perhaps the most ironically similar Time Person of the Year (back when it was “Man of the Year”) to Zuckerberg, aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh. As the L.A. Times reminds us, Lindbergh was also the first person chosen and the only one younger than the Facebook fonder. What Zuckerberg feels he is doing to bring people together virtually, Lindbergh was instrumental in doing physically by demonstrating that a nonstop flight from New York to Paris was possible. At this point in history at least, in some ways Lindbergh’s achievement still dwarfs Zuckerberg’s. That may change fairly soon, but there’s no doubt what Lindbergh did commanded a huge personal risk and, eventually, a personal price with the most infamous kidnapping and murder case in American history.

Ironically, while it might said that the Jewish American Sorkin went hammer and tong against the Jewish Zuckerberg, Billy Wilder by all accounts went easy on the famous flyer when, under the circumstances, it would be entirely understandable for Wilder to despise Lindbergh. Working thirty years after the famous flight of “Lucky Lindy,” Wilder was able to completely ignore Lindbergh’s highly controversial early opposition to World War II and qualified support for Hitler as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, his antisemitism, white supremacist beliefs (though hardly unusual at the time), and links to the more openly Jew-hating Henry Ford. Wilder you see, was not just a liberal Jew who advocated for U.S. involvement in the war, but an actual escapee from Hitler’s Europe whose immediate family perished at Auschwitz.

If there was any revenge by Wilder at all, star James Stewart was nearly 50 when the movie was released, double the age Lindbergh was when he came to fame. Jessie Eisenberg might be, unusually for the movies, smaller and less physically fit looking than the real-life Zuckerberg, but at least he’s still only 27.

L.A., New York online, and Boston Critics speak and “The Social Network” is the word + the AFI’s Top 10 (updated)

Jessie Eisenberg in

Three major critics groups gave out their awards on Sunday and, while there were differences, the common thread isn’t going to give Facebook boy billionaire Mark Zuckerberg any relief for his PR agita. The awards also have some good news for Best Actress contender Natalie Portman and possible Best Supporting Actor shoo-in Christian Bale. Among the Best Actor possibilities, however, it was a split with between actors portraying Zuckerberg and his fellow real-life guys turned movie characters, Aron Ralston, and King George VI.

Simply because of geography, the Los Angeles Film Critics is probably the most influential group. The awards here, however, were the quirkiest of the three, with a split of sorts between “The Social Network” and this year’s cinephile cause celebre, “Carlos,” which may well be shut out of the Oscars altogether for a number of reasons. Though a shorter cut of the reportedly action-packed-yet-thoughtful multi-lingual French film about the real-life left-wing terrorist of the 1970s has been playing to general plaudits, a 5.5 hour television version of the film by Olivier Assayas has had shorter but successful engagements here at the American Cinematheque and is much on the mind of many of us film geeks (I just blew another chance to watch it all in a theater and I’m not happy about it.)

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Assayas and “Network” director David Fincher tied while Fincher’s movie won Best Picture with “Carlos” as the runner up and also the Best Foreign Film winner. Aaron Sorkin won for his “Social” screenplay while Colin Firth won best actor for “The King’s Speech,” the first runner-up in the category was Edgar Rameriz for playing Carlos, yet another real life person.  Kim Hye-Ja from the cinephile-approved Korean thriller “Mother” and Niels Arestrup from France’s violent “A Prophet” won in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor categories. While those awards are unlikely to be replicated by the Oscars, Jacki Weaver’s hopes for a possible Oscar nomination and even a win for the Australian critical and festival hit, “Animal Kingdom,” are looking up ever more with another Best Supporting Actress award. The LAFC site has the complete list of winners.

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