Shapstik’s Movie Clip of the Week: American Psycho (2000)

“Oh my god…it even has a watermark”

Bale is often undersold for his performance in Mark Harrod’s American Psycho. Dark and violent, some of the content and scenes make a bitter pill to swallow that had not been seen since Natural Born Killers.

But there is also a undercurrent of humour that the viewer can tap into. Batman’s, sorry Bateman’s personality displays such extremes of emotion at such unorthodox moments that you cannot help but laugh. The business card scene is one of my favourites and I love the inner dialogue from Bale as he dissects the pretence of business card etiquette.

This film is fairly underrated and under-watched due to its content. But at the right moments, I actually find it one of the funniest films, and also one of Bale’s best performances.

I hope you enjoyed my Movie Clip, please check out some more in the links!

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The Watch (2012)

“Listen to my words, and hear his face”

If nothing else, Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch should be used as an example of how easily a film with a promising ensemble of comedy actors can fall short of the mark in nearly all aspects,  ending up limping over the finishing line like an injured dog. Sounds harsh? Not in the slightest. If you were enticed by the trailer, it’s because the only funny moments were squeezed in to give the impression of constant laughs. There are funny moments, but most of them are confined to dialogue exchanges, which is never going to be enough is the face of a dire storyline that has no real meaning or interest for the viewer. One of laziest films I have seen in a while, and just proves that without a good script and competent direction, even the best actors comedy has to offer cannot make a poo shine.

The plot sees local nice guy and Costco store manager Evan Trautwig announcing at a local ball game that he intends to set up a neighbourhood watch. This is in response to his friend, who was killed whilst on duty at his store under suspicious circumstances. Cue camera zooming in on the rest of the main cast as they nod in approval to Evan’s rhetoric. Vaughan plays his first recruit, a protective father who has seemingly no real reason to join the group, outside of the movie’s comic foil that stereotypically juxtapositions Stiller’s clichéd anal retentiveness. This may seem overly cynical but the plot just feels generally thrown together out of re-hashed versions of characters all the actors have played before.

This is even more of a shame because Jonah Hill is actually quite funny when given the chance in the film, and Richard Ayoade is given a very awkward and ill-fit début character to work with. In fact, Ayoade looks almost confused at what his character is supposed to be, whose only real purpose rises to the surface later in the film. Unfortunately by then it is way too late and the film has already fallen into the awkward combination of sci-fi/horror, comedy and action that only works when executed well a la Shaun of the Dead.

The modern Apatow school of film making is proving hard to get right. With this sort of comedy there is a thin line between creating the elusive “laugh out loud” moment and just an awkward silence that is just waiting to end. Although The Watch isn’t terrible, it does move tentatively along without ever really having a good time, making it distinctly average compared to its comedy contemporaries.

Shapstik Verdict: Nothing original here I’m afraid, both in terms of story and characters. Funny in places, but no more than should be expected when such a collection of comedians is thrown together. Worth a watch if you are at a lose end, but Hill, Vaughan and Stiller have all been in better films and The Watch only proves how reliant even the best comedy actors are on a strong script. 4/10

Gone Girl (2014)

“You two are the most f****d up people I’ve ever met, and I deal with f****d up people for a living.”

David Fincher has added one of the darkest strings to his bow with his newest film Gone Girl.  A delightfully decadent and addictive blend of mystery thriller and dark comedy, the film oozes Fincher’s style in a way not seen since Zodiac and Seven. Fans of his earlier work will be pleased with Gone Girl’s gripping story and the almost endless and ultimately  unnerving character depth.

Beginning with the disappearance of beautiful young woman Amy Dunn, the film moves between the present interrogation of Affleck and his suspicious indifference, and the past, which is drawn from accounts from Amy’s diary and personal narrative. The viewer is drawn cleverly into a subjective account of events, never really sure what, if anything, Affleck is hiding. As the media creates its own conclusions about the disappearance of “Amazing” Amy, the viewer is torn between the truth, and the media’s agenda.

As with all great films, Gone Girl focusses on its characters, as Fincher manipulates our assumptions and fears to ensure the story twists and hides at just the right time. There is always a hidden threat lying beneath the skin of both main characters, as we realise that like everyone else, their identity is formed as much through their own personality, as by everyone’s elses perceptions.

Fincher creates such an infectious sense of realism that permeates all the characters, including a eerily quiet Neil Patrick Harris as the ex-boyfriend. Although Affleck nails the necessary balance between victim and suspect, it is Rosamund Pike, especially in the latter parts of the film whom steals the show. It just wouldn’t be the same without her, and her performance will likely have you feeling several emotions at the same time when the credits roll. What those emotions are will be in the hands of the viewer, as Fincher’s manipulation of us is quite inescapable as the mystery unravels.

Shapstik Verdict: Mysterious, funny and chilling, Gone Girl is easily one of the best films of the year. Not since Zodiac has Fincher delivered such a dark film, and not since Seven has one felt quite so interrogative of the human condition. Strangely addictive whilst sometimes uncomfortable to hear and see, Fincher delivers an astute lesson in character depth and one that I cannot recommend enough. 9/10

Shapstik’s Movie Clip of the Week: Stir of Echoes (1999)

“You notice that the walls of the theatre are painted in black”

I have always been a huge fan of David Koepp’s underrated Stir of Echoes. A great blend of horror and mystery, it stars a brilliant Kevin Bacon as wired, edgy Tom Witzky. After being hypnotised at a party, Tom starts to have visions, which lead to a murder mystery being unravelled as he starts to uncover more and more about the girl in his visions.

The movie has a real creepy atmosphere, and although slightly predictable, it is nevertheless unnerving during some of the scenes as Bacon becomes more and more unravelled. I have picked the hypnosis scene, not just because of its importance in the movie, but also its originality in visually describing something we normally only hear. You really feel yourself placed into the imagination of Bacon’s character,  when I first saw this I found this scene really captivating. A great scene in a great movie that has Bacon in his most animated role since Tremors.