Posts Tagged ‘Movie’

Film Reviews! Hereafter

December 22, 2010

Clint Eastwood has a long and storied professional history that spans across half a century and includes some of the most prolific titles of all time as well as some of the most memorable Oscar contenders of the last ten years.  His latest flick, Hereafter, is certainly not one of those aforementioned movies.

Hereafter is the story of a retired psychic (Matt Damon) recently laid off of his  job in construction, just looking to find his place in the world while being hounded with a what he considers a psychic ‘curse’ that keeps him withdrawn and alone.  His brother (played by an alarmingly aged Jay Mohr) looks to drag him back into the psychic reading game in order to best ‘help people’ (see: make money).  Auxiliary stories revolve around a twin who desperately wants to reconnect with his deceased brother and a news anchor who experiences a touch of the afterlife after surviving a near-death experience.

The synopsis above does a good job of translating precisely what the major errors are within the film.  A lot technically happens, in Hereafter, but very little actually comes of any of it and said outcomes that do come to fruition feel forced, juxtaposed, and flaccid.  Eastwood has chosen a story that really has very little to tell, with three central characters who do little more than awkwardly bounce against one another.  By film’s end, you are left feeling unsatisfied, wishing that simply ONE of the three stories had some sort of substance to dig into.  Sadly, though, each character truly does have the propensity to tell their own, individual, 90-minute story, this is just a classic case of a screenwriter with too much to say ultimately saying nothing.

Matt Damon’s George Lonegan is the kind of tortured, hapless hero that knows the extent of his own abilities and simply cannot overcome the fears that he has associated with them.  While he’s certainly knowledgeable enough to know the positive aspects of his psychic craft, he also has clearly broken his fair share of human beings down by bringing up the past in ways they simply were not ready for.  The first girl that we see him get close to simply leaves in an emotional whirlwind after George relates a message sent to her from a relative who was too “touchy” in her past.  And while much is done to address Damon’s character’s clearly solitary, lone existence, it is the only piece of substantial acting in the entirety of the piece.  The other two main characters, young, now lone twin, Jason, played by twins Frankie and George McLaren and French newscaster, Marie, played by Cecile De France give two of the weakest performances I have seen in a theatrical release in quite some time.  They come to their roles without almost zero emotional investment and very little, if any sincere point of view.  Either the editing left out insurmountable chunks of dialogue which better flesh out these characters, or Clint Eastwood really knows how to sink a movie through a miserable supporting cast.

The score is another point of incredible weakness that merits speaking to.  Every single note that is played to underscore an action, mood, or tone in the film actually managed to bristle me out of my seat and call attention to itself.  I could not come across a single moment when I felt that the tone of the score even mirrored, let alone added to, the tone of the film.  The underlying trend seemed to be to actually put in musical underscores that were antithetical to the production progressing onscreen.  Horrible, cheesy, elevator muzak-ish guitar solos would wail as though an 80’s hair metal band was coming to the middle of their hit love ballad during the few poignant moments of the movie.  Casual outdoor establishing shots would be sprinkled with upbeat, strange, artificial musical musings that have ZERO correlation to one another.  The fact that any money was spent on this arrangement at all and it wasn’t simply composed using freesound.com ten minutes before the first screening is a testament to Hollywood’s oftentimes incompetence.

As mentioned before, the screenplay to this mess is equally frightful, and I assume acts as the cornerstone to the rest of the mess that this film becomes.  I can only assume that Eastwood and Damon both saw the potential for a sweeping character piece in this little movie.  Of course, that’s me being positive.  What probably happened was that Eastwood saw an easy paycheck and after a twenty minute read-through of the script decided that he may even be able to milk some critical acclaim out of this cow with his directing magic.  Damon, not even reading the script, but seeing Eastwood’s name attached, signed on blind, and we were given this mess.  I think the best word to sum up this movie would have to be “jilted.”  Yeah.  “Jilted.”

Score/Sound: 32/100

Screenplay/Story: 45/100

Performance/Direction: 48/100

Cinematography: 55/100

Overall: 39/100

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Film Reviews!: The Social Network

October 6, 2010

Hello all my shway-keteers!  (wow, that needs work).  I know it’s been a LONG time but I’m back in what I THINK is “the saddle” and I’m ready to start the bloggin’ once again.  I’ve decided to add reviews to the site for a very significant reason:  I think it’s all I have left to offer.  After I made the startling discovery of what the kids are calling “the Twitter,” I realized that anything that I could want to share or distribute over the internet could be done in 140 characters or less.  Film, however, my most lasting love in this life, yearns to be discussed.  Film and television and entertainment, as a whole, cannot be critiqued or evaluated in passing.  It needs elaboration.  So I’m going to start throwing the proverbial hat in the critic’s ring, in the hopes of expressing what I feel is (terribly) wrong with cinema (maybe even some things that are right.  Yay?)  My approach is simple.  I will discuss the piece in general, its flaws, positives, indifferent moments, then I will rate it on a scale of 100.  100 being a perfect movie, 50 being an average movie and 0 being one of the worst movies ever made, a completely inconceivable pile of filth that didn’t deserve the print it was delivered on.  So don’t think of it as a grading scale, think of it as a full, 100 point bell curve.  AAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNDDDDD we’re off!!!

David Fincher has a knack for making mainstream movies both beautiful and relevant.  This is a skill that is absolutely paramount to acquire in the industry as Hollywood generally ends up splitting the bill during the fiscal year, funding a plethora of movies geared solely towards profit margins, as well as a more meager slate of flicks designed to seduce the academy towards the end of the year in order to keep the studio in a ‘respectable’ light. His filmography reads of some of the most successful films (both financially and critically) in the past decade.  Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and now, The Social Network.  The through-line in most of his work, is an attention to pace and fluidity.  Fincher is nothing if not masterfully-kinetic.  He can take a dialogue-deluged script and shuttle it along at speeds reminiscent of Michael Bay or Brett Ratner, while STILL maintaining the story’s integrity, imagine that!

A fairly base hypothesis for why the man has such a mastery over his craft would lie in the years of time he spent as a music video director for roughly ten years from the late 80’s to the early 90’s.  Being forced to tell a story in around three minutes with little to no dialogue set to music is a task that will develop a sense of energy in your work.  Just ask any film school grad.  And while these are all simply wild hypotheses, I seem to be able to feel fully validated in them as The Social Network exists entirely almost as one long, beautifully shot music video.  That’s not to take anything away from the movie, necessarily, it just speaks to the overall tone that Fincher has set, and I want to believe that that tone is set from an intentional, psychological place.

My generation, one of the very first to basically grow up with Facebook (To date myself, I first signed on to Facebook my senior year of high school.  I was attending a university during high school so I had a .edu e-mail address, allowing me access), seems to have become defined by our succinct attention spans and constant yearning for diversity and multiplicity in all facets of life.  We work fast, we play fast, we rest fast, and if something isn’t up to our immediately-gratified standards, we have no problem trimming away the fat, throwing away the fluff, and digging in to something else, something more immediate, something more enticing.  The internet, the very overarching topic of discussion in The Social Network, has given us every bit of information and ability to create/interact with the rest of the world.

And this is precisely how Fincher’s latest endeavor feels.  It feels like a 120-minute-long music video hurtling along at a 3-minute video’s pace.  And yet, it never feels sloppy.  It never feels forced.  Fincher is able to fully realize his world, in his time, on his terms within this seemingly expanded frame.  Of course, he also had all the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly together, as well.  Trent Reznor’s score is a spot-on parallel for the action onscreen.  Every feeling, memory, and discussion caught on film seems to be perfectly buoyed by Reznor’s techno-tronic score.  While they highlight the different moments of each beat perfectly, they also manage to retain a sense of universality and act as a thread throughout the entirety of the production in order to keep the pace marching forward.  The overall emotion and ‘feel’ of the film itself is, ironically, conveyed through one of the most mechanized, digital scores of all time.  And yet, it works.  It perfectly works.

The cast of this film is quite impressive, as well.  Jesse Eisenberg has yet to disappoint me as he plays an emotionally disjointed version of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg.  Eisenberg does a perfect job of bringing screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s interpretation of Zuckerberg to full-form as an emotionally misguided, driven, slightly misogynistic genius who sees the world in less than a three-dimensional sense but, instead, more of a binary code.   Andrew Garfield, our Godsend of a new Peter Parker, plays Eduardo Saverin.  Zuckerberg’s only true friend and the start-up CFO of thefacebook.com.  Garfield handles himself so well in the part of the ironically emotional and turbulent business end of the company, trying to act as a moral compass for Zuckerberg who he worries is simply getting swept up in the tides of the of fame as Facebook begins to become a larger and larger monster of itself.

And the supporting cast really adds so much to this film, as well, Rashida Jones works perfectly as the inevitable angel of reason to Zuckerberg’s beastly temperament.  Justin Timberlake continues to bowl over the competition by playing the greasy, snarky, but strangely-likable Sean Parker, founder of Napster, and one of the original entrepreneurs of the peer-to-peer revolution.  And Max Minghella, Josh Pence, and Armie Hammer respectfully play the suing trio behind Harvard Connection who look to profit off of Zuckerberg’s fortune.

The acting is absolutely spot-on, and is a testament to Fincher’s casting abilities and his artistic prowess as a director of actors.  Eisenberg shines the brightest in his highly nuanced, yet specified portrayal of Zuckerberg, yet this is perfectly acceptable, given the weight which Eisenberg is expected to uphold.  The glaring problem that The Social Network does run into is it’s slight emotional disconnect with audiences.  What is usually a monumental cinematic fault really becomes nothing more than a blemish on Fincher’s otherwise fabulous narrative.  In what may have been an effort, or even an after-effect, of producing a film centering on Generation Facebook’s digital dependency, The Social Network at times feels as though it is moving too fast or glazing over moments too casually that otherwise may desire to be fleshed out in other works.  And yet, that’s exactly what this entire parable of Fincher’s is all about.  In the age of instantaneous ALL things do move faster than we may desire them to, things may get lost in translation.  All we can do is sift through what we have and do the best to make moments of connection happen in an age where people feel much more comfortable giving out a webpage than a phone number.

It should also be noted that Sorkin’s script is not one for accuracy, in multiple facets.  While no one knows PRECISELY how the story went down, it should be noted that glaring inconsistencies have already been brought up with certain key elements of the film.  Zuckerberg has denied any wanted involvement of his own in attending any of the final clubs that the film almost seems to base his creation of Facebook on.  Zuckerberg is still with his Chinese-American girlfriend that was actually with him as Facebook was coming to fruition.  There is no failed relationship debacle with a one, Erica Albright, which caused Zuckerberg to spiral out of contral that one, fateful night.  Further, Sorkin seems to turn his girlfriend into a Facebook groupie, painting her as nothing more than a clinger-on after Facebook’s founder begins to reap the enormous rewards of his work.  While there are considerably others that I have been told of yet I am not adroit enough to have caught, it stands to be noted that Zuckerberg is painted in an increasingly negative light.  He is an anti-hero, at best, and the overall arch of the story is in the hopes that Zuckerberg will ‘see the light’ and realize the error of his ways.  It does an incredible job of making a story more fantastical, it just doesn’t seem fair to base a character off of an actual human figure and then paint in such a light with such distinct colors.

All that aside, The Social Network is an excellent cinematic achievement that manages to bring together all the filmic ingredients that best make a ‘good’ movie.  The flick’s tone, thematic construct, and score are among some of it’s strongest moments and give it an absolute edge over most of the other entries into 2010’s moviescape.

Performances: 88/100

Cinematography: Aesthetics: 84/100

Score: 94/100

Script: 80/100

Final: 84/100

Welcome to Brilliant Marketing

November 7, 2009

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With an already Iron-clad marketing campaign going down in the books as the most profitable cinematic campaign of all time, Paranormal Activity’s team just keeps upping the ante. I found this article posted on /Film stating that the DVD/Blu-Ray release of the micro-budget horror flick will feature ANYONE’S name in the credits that logs onto the site and inputs their data. The reason stated is that the creators want to give back to the internet community that demanded the wide release of the film and made its profit-margin rise exponentially. While actually being farely sincere and generous, this may be the second best marketing move ever (the first being the movie’s ACTUAL release). First, this creates more buzz for the film at hand. Second, it attracts fans to the site producing site traffic and advertising revenue. Third, it reminds fans that the film is still in theatres and will be released eventually on format. And finally, it creates a sense of ownership with the viewers that input their names, causing them to purchase the DVD, and also hold a place of reverence for it amongst the rest of their movie collection. In fact, moreso, as they can actually lay claim to this cinematic centerpiece. Absolutely amazing. These guys should be given a medal, and while they’re at it, lets put them in charge of the United State’s Financial Sector. Lord knows they’ll do a better job than who we have in there currently.

2009-2010 Must-See List

September 15, 2009

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After a lackluster-at-best summer movie season, we have all been (strangely) blessed with an incredible 09-10 season to look forward to.  I seriously haven’t been this jazzed about movie-going in a few years.  It seems that an amazing new debut is announced weekly at this point, which is really cutting in on my Hollywood bitching time.  Below, I’ve created a haphazard, make-shift rundown of what I am absolutely chomping at the bit to see in the upcoming season:

ROAD MCCARTHY FILM 2
The Road-Cormac McCarthy’s novel’s big screen adaptation was recently pushed back to Thanksgiving, frightening me all the more as I fear that studios are losing faith in its bankability.

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Sherlock Holmes-Robert. Downey. Jr.

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Alice in Wonderland-Tim Burton’s CGI-fest update of Lewis Carrol’s classic.  Though I am EXTREMELY skeptical, Depp as the Mad Hatter with Matt Lucas, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Michael Sheen, Crispin Glover, Stephen Fry, and Alan Rickman are keeping my cries of “CGI-FOUL!” at bay.

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Iron Man 2-I’m intrigued to see Downey fight Mickey Rourke.  Intrigued enough to include this entry on this list.  Past that, to be honest, I don’t see this film panning out much differently than its predecessor, but, as long as they deliver on some great Downey/Rourke headbashing, I’ll be content.

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The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus-This is, hands down, the crown jewel of this list.  Terry Gilliam’s fantasy epic starring the late Heath Ledger had to improvise with its script as Ledger passed away during filming.  So what is one of the most revered directors in Hollywood to do when he loses his lead actor?  Simple, he calls in Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Ferrell to replace him.  All in one movie.  Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Ferrell, and Heath Ledger all play the same role.  I was trying to come up with a new word to describe this event, but I simply can’t.

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Zombieland-I’m not even a self-professed zombie-buff like many of my co-horts, but the trailers for this endeavor look too astounding to pass up.  Watching Woody Harrelson annihilate zombies while taking the less-than-menacing Jesse Eisenberg under his wing is all I wanted over the summer ’09 movie season.  Was that so much to ask?

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I Love You Philip Morris-Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor in a dark comedy about an inmate who breaks out of jail once his lover is released from the same prison.  I love Jim Carrey.  I love Ewan McGregor.  I love the premise.  I Love You, Philip Morris.  (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

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A Christmas Carol-Robert Zemeckis retells Dickens’ classic utilizing Jim Carrey as Scrooge and all three ghosts.  Need I say more?

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Fantastic Mr. Fox-Wes Anderson helms this Roald Dahl retelling with a cast the likes of Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson.  CAN. NOT. WAIT.

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Inception-Christopher Nolan’s first at-bat (no pun intended) since The Dark Knight.  A sci-fi/thriller starring Leo DiCaprio.  How many good things can we combine into a single movie? 

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Youth in Revolt-Michael Cera adopts an alternate persona all in the hopes of wooing a love interest.  My description doesn’t do the title nearly as much justice as images of Cera with a faux mustache. 

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Bronson-Having been called A Clockwork Orange of our time, Bronson chronicles the true story of Charles Bronson, the prisoner, who attained superstar status from simply being an unruly inmate.

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(Untitled)-An art flick commenting on the absurdity of art flicks and art in general.  Seems to be everything Art School Confidential promised to be but failed to deliver on.

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Gentlemen Broncos-Jared Hess’ latest directing forray is a surreal fantasy about a down-on-their-luck sci-fi writer who steals a young boy’s manuscript and profits greatly.  I was sold upon reading “A surreal fantasy.”

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The Box-Richard Kelly (who I’m STILL giving credit for Donnie Darko) directs James Marsden and Cameron Diaz in a thriller about a married couple who discover an obscure box left on their doorstep.  Try to forget Southland Tales for just a minute and remember: James Marsden.

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World’s Greatest Dad-This could very well be the role that brings poignancy back to Robin Williams’ career.  Williams plays a failed poet father who finds his son dead due to auto-erotic asphyxiation.  To lull his son’s unfortunate fate, he writes a beautiful suicide note that gets absurd publicity and paints his son as a genius.  Williams then must decide whether to out himself as the genius or maintain his son’s newfound celebrity.  Did I mention that Bobcat Goldthwait is helming the project?

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The Vampire’s Assistant-All production stills simply do not do this flick justice, you HAVE to check out the trailer.  Otherwise it just looks like John C. Reilly attempting a recreation of Nic Cage’s The Magician’s Apprentice, and that isn’t even out yet!  This quasi fantasy-quasi comedy-quasi drama seems to be perfect for John C. Reilly who stars in the lead role. After pulling schlock duty at the Apatow-Factory for the last few years, it will be good to see him be able to stretch again and actually play with something with some meat to it.

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Where the Wild Things Are-Spike Jonze’s adaptation of everyone’s favorite children’s book looks amazing and I’m very curious to see how good/bad it pans out.

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9-Back to John C. Reilly!  This voice cast is amongst the best I have seen in years.  Christopher Plummer is a catch in any medium. 

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The Lovely Bones-The trailers all look AMAZING and have kept my appetite satiated for this neo-fantasy thriller involving a young girl slain before her time and her attempt to reach out from beyond the grave.

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Big Fan-Patton Oswalt has put down a show-stopping dramatic performance that has stunned and stupefied most critics with its un-abashedly powerful and sincere dramatic intent.  Oswalt steps out of the image he has been stereotyped with and fully explodes on the scene with a (hopefully) attention grabbing portrayal.

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Not Quite Hollywood-A documentary (which I am usually a sucker for) about the explosion of the Australian film market in the ’70’s.  Pure.  Genius.

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Kick-Ass-Michael Cera and Nick Cage star in Mark Miller’s adaptation of his own graphic novel in which an everyday kid takes on the mantel of the superhero.  Miller’s graphic novel has a die-hard, monstrous fan base while being a relatively new title.  Plus, Nic Cage.

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Cold Souls-Paul Giamatti plays himself in a Being John Malkovich sort of drama, in which Paul, a successful actor, takes part in a breakthrough soul-removal-procedure.

This entire effort seems fairly frivolous, because, while this is all I can think of now, as soon as I finish writing this article, fourteen more trailers will be released and will stupify me.  I’m FAR from complaining, however, as it has been years since I’ve been anywhere near this excited about anything Hollywood has done. Happy movie-going everyone!

Shameless self-promotion, everyone!
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