Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hugo Review

(5 out of 5 Stars)“This is the place where your dreams come from,” says French filmmaker George Melies, portrayed by Ben Kinglsey. He peers down at a young boy, a fellow film lover, and in that moment they share something- an unabashed love for cinema, an ageless kind of magic. This scene best represents Martin Scorsese’s first family feature, Hugo; based on the Award Winning novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Hugo is a love letter to the early days of cinema- extravagant in visuals, gorgeous in set pieces,memorable in score, and boasting of cinematic rapture - the pure dazzle that the film so completely exudes is astounding. Martin Scorsese, famous for his violent gangster films such as The Departed, and Gangs of New York, as well as Taxi Driver and The Aviator would not be the first person you’d expect to helm a family- oriented film. But his evident care for the subject matter is what fuels his talent here, young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) seeming to be a reincarnation of the famed director.

Hugo Cabret is a 13-year old boy living in a train station. His father (Jude Law), who was an inventor, one day, found an automaton abandoned in a museum storage closet. His drive to fix things sparks his curiosity of the old invention, bringing it home, where he and Hugo can find out how it works. But before they get too far in the invention, Hugo’s father dies in a museum fire. He is sent to live with his constantly drunken uncle (Ray Winstone), who takes him in as an apprentice to wind the clocks in the Paris train terminal every day. Disappearing one day, Hugo has to reset the clocks each day and evade the station inspector (Sacha Baran Coen) so he won’t get sent to an orphanage. Thinking that the automaton contains a message from his father, he steals parts from the toy store owner in the train station, George Meiles, who eventually catches him. He takes Hugo’s notes on the automaton, which he claims to be his own. His goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Mortez), tells him that he won’t burn the book, which he pretends to. Hugo 
persists, and one day, Meiles has Hugo fix a small automaton for him, completing the task admirably, stunning the old man, who still won’t hand over the notes. Hugo finds out that Isabelle’s heart shaped necklace fits into the keyhole of the automaton, and causes it to draw a picture of a bottle rocket in the moon’s face- Hugo’s father’s favorite film. They slowly learn the George Meilies was the famed French film maker, who gave up on his dream of making films. As they try to get him to follow his dreams once more, Hugo struggles to find his own purpose, and finds that the key to finding it just may be found in the heart of an automaton.

I know now why Hugo is so well reviewed. It’s a movie about movies made by a man who knows a lot about movies. Being that most movie reviewers like movies, seeing the revelation of a small boy, lost and alone who finds comfort in watching movies, it may just bring each of us movie lovers who experience this film to feel something magical, so vibrantly expressed, something that precisely fits the definition of what art should be like. I also know why it’s a children’s film- not because it’s fantasy, or adventure, or whimsy, but because the best way to experience this film is with the purity, with the innocence of having an adventure. How sometimes the most perplexing of events can be best comprehended in such simple psychology. It’s also an excellent film because of Scorsese’s obvious love for movies. He handles this movie with care and affection, detailing the events of George Meiles’ life and his movies with an unadulterated platform, the scenes of Meiles’ movies taking a break from the 3D. The film is also excellently acted- Asa Butterfield, best known fror Merlin, is wonderfully childlike but also displays some fine emotional performances when such are due. Chloe Grace Mortez, who’s always been great, is obviously toned down a bit here. But the first scene when she appears on screen- she’s holding a book, she’s using a big word, and she’s looking at her male counterparts like they’re the lowest intellectual life forms possible- it is like the second coming of Hermione Granger herself.  There’s not a flat note in the production, but unlike the rest, Ben Kingsley stands out among Scorsese’s understandably dominant direction. He has a twinkle in his eyes as he remembers his love for film- he shows anger and deep signs of age when he remembers he’s no longer a film maker. He shows sadness when the revelation of the loss of his life’s work comes back to haunt him- an award worthy performance.

Scorsese’s direction is transportive and dramatic. Gorgeously shot with elegant flair, his dark vision is vivid here, illuminating dark backdrops with dazzling imagery and camera shots. He has done his homework here on 3D films, masterfully adding dimension to several scenes. I personally don’t like 3D, but if there is one film this year that actually used it to fullest ability, it is this one. The cinematography is crisp and haunting; flashes of Meiles’ past and films are detailed and actually meld into the film, an evenly polished finish. The art direction is some of the best I’ve seen all year. Elaborate set pieces are carefully detailed and magnify the beautiful streets of Paris, the inner workings of a clock, a crowded train station, and even an apartment overlooking the Eiffel Tower are intricate and well-crafted.

This film is Scorsese’s gift to those who love film and still look fondly at its earliest days. It’s dually an introduction to those who know nothing about movies, and if nothing else, will help viewers appreciate anyone who ever had a dream. A truly magical, poignant adventure.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars 
Rottentomatoes.com Rating: 93% 
Commonsensemedia.org: 5 out of 5 Stars 
Metacritic.com: 85 out of 100 
IMDB.com: 8.6 out of 10 
MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic 
material, some action/peril and smoking. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Prestige Review

(4 out of 5 Stars) It’s 1860. 19th century London and the rest of developing societies have convinced themselves that they are at the height of civil progression and have delved into gratifying forms of entertainment. One of the less attractive forms are magic, magicians forming illusions and mind-benders to test the intellect of theater goers. This is the backdrop to Christopher Nolan’s 2006 adaption of Christopher Priest’s celebrated novel. The film revolves around two rival magicians, Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale).  The two once worked together, finding bigger and more elaborate ways to bend the minds of their theater goers. Angier’s wife was their assistant. One performance is the popular "Escaping the locked water chamber"- they start the pocket watch and the woman

is behind the curtain. The minute’s up, they pull the curtain, and the woman is dead. Angier blames Alfred, who later marries and starts a family. He envies his partner’s life. He quickly returns to magic acts, and utilizes a simple transport sequence. Everyone, including Angier’s new assistant, Olivia,(Scarlett Johannsen) and his manager, Cutter (Michael Caine) say it’s an illusion, using a behind the scenes duplicate. But Angier reads between the lines. He knows that Alfred is doing something different—is it true magic? An optical illusion, or the obvious answer, science? Angier spends years searching for the answer, growing corrupt and insane. Alfred isn’t faring well, all the while leading his ex-partner on a false trail and dealing with his wife (Rebecca Hall) who is tired of secrets. Angier seeks science and researches the possibility of cloning, which Alfred only tricked him into doing, but finds out it really is real. He suspects, however, that what Alfred may be performing is the greatest illusion of all time—or perhaps true magic.

It’s made clear from the beginning that this movie isn’t about magic tricks. The screenwriter doesn’t toy with supernatural elements but cleverly invests most of the plot in character development. Director Christopher Nolan helmed this film after Batman Begins but right before The Dark Knight, so he had already set a tone for himself as a film maker by this time. This, to me, feels a lot like a 19th century Inception. What makes this film engaging to watch is seeing the rival magicians trying to outsmart each other. Christopher Nolan brilliantly balances his multiple time periods in this (much like Inception) so that a wary viewer won’t get confused but is still in for a surprise at the end when the final card is laid on the table. He manages to juggle multiple subplots as well as mold the character psychology into the execution of the story, which in another’s hands would be disjointed. The camerawork is purposefully shaky and the cinematography purposefully dark as to illuminate the story’s tone and conflict.

The film is bolstered by powerful performances from its leading cast, who carry a lot of the weight here. It’s Jackman in particular who holds the viewers’ attention, managing to inject just the right amount of borderline psychosis that his character needs. The little exposition that's is in the story is mostly left spent on him, as Bale’s perspective is purposefully kept in the dark due to plot demands. He’s not only easy to watch but riveting in his role as a man driven to madness by obsession, idiosyncratic in his performance and chilling as an afterthought. This is possibly the most psychologically dark performance he’s given, which according to Hollywood is puberty for actors. 

Gripping, disturbing, and with just the right amount of narrative complexity, The Prestige proves to be a thrilling and unique period piece that racks up another cinematic success for Christopher Nolan. 



Rottentomatoes.com rating: 76% 
Commonsensemedia.org: 4 out of 5 Stars 
Metacritic.com: 66 out of 100 
IMDB.com: 8.4 out of 10 
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and 
disturbing Images


Saturday, October 22, 2011

'The Three Musketeers' Review


Rottentomatoes.com: 25%
Metacritic.com: 38 out of 100
Commonsensemedia.org: n/a
IMDB.com: 6.0 out of 10
My Rating 38% (2 Stars)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of
Adventure action and violence

With the rising popularity of books by Scott Westerfeld and Cherie Priest, steampunk (a sci/fi-fantasy that takes place during a historical time period) has become a popular infusion in literature, and now it seems to be edging its way into theaters. Summit Entertainment’s The Three Musketeers is the first major release revisit to the classic Alexander Dumas book since the 1993 remake starring Charlie Sheen. My expectations weren’t very high for this remake, so I wasn’t too disappointed by the end, but it still doesn’t have enough merit to stand on its own.

The story starts off with the arrogant D’Artagnan, fresh off of leaving home for the first time, one day finds himself in a Paris street battle with the Three Musketeers, an elite trio of warriors ready to defend France from its many political and vindictive forces, when he is in fact trying to join them instead. The Three Musketeers until now have done nothing but sit around and drink, but when the rival British king trespasses on the young king of France’s territory, tensions rise and the Musketeers are prepared. Things worse when a plot arises between Milady (Mila Jokovich) and Richeliu (Christopher Waltz) to frame the Queen of France and the King of England for infidelity, causing a war between England and France and putting Rochefort in a position of power. It is up to the Three Musketeers, Athos (Luke Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Matthew McFadyen) to get to England and stop the plot, as well stop the Richeliu, who just might be more dangerous than they think.

Given all of the ways this could have gone, the film deserves credit for its surprisingly fast pace. We don’t spend too much time mulling over one scene, which is the film’s weakness as well as its strength. The film squanders the brilliant source material, choosing the predictable route for modern movie adaptions and transforming a simple tale of friendship with a few sword fights into an action film with giant airships and guns.

The film doesn’t take itself too seriously, which makes the movie bearable. It’s obvious the actors are having fun in their roles, but maybe a bit too much so, as considering the tremendous amount of talent here, it should have been better. Surprisingly, Orlando Bloom gives the best performance overall, using perfect comic timing and looking like a 1700’s playboy. It’s really a shame he doesn’t get more screen time here. Christopher Waltz, who was brilliant in 2009’s Inglorious Basterds is very subdued here, only passable. Of course, it’s always fun watching Mila Jokovich. Her scenes are very much like those in her Underworld movies, except with more lace. Except for one scene, when she has to sneak past the lasers, and of course, she just has to remove most of her clothing so she doesn’t get killed. Just has to. Logan Lerman is given the runt of the litter, so to speak, of the script. He’s the one link to teens who’ll want to view the movie, so of course they stick him in a conversation with a king where they talk about theirfeelings. About girls. About anytime he gets near that one girl who sees past his musketeer exterior, his palms get all sweaty, his heart starts beating through his chest, and he says stupid things. Also, he has long hair in this one- I tell you, there are a lot of women who would pay through the nose for that kind of volume. Mila Jokovich seems to agree with me- her character in the movie says “Don’t kill him. He’s too pretty to die.” And I’m quoting her ad verbatim.

This movie takes the conventional adaptive route, and it’s pretty much executed like Twilight. If there weren’t so many fans of the book, the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as popular or well taken. Most of the original fan base of Musketeers is dead, so they saw no reason to follow closely to the book. The execution for the movie was good, so if they just wouldn’t fill the script with so many clichĂ©s and muddle the predictable storyline then it might actually be good.

Fight sequences are elaborately choreographed and admittedly fun to watch, but they carry most of the weight here. The message of “being a musketeer is about being true to yourself” wears thin after a while, and  since there isn’t much else in terms of storytelling, the viewer eventually gets bored.

Overall, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, but it spends too much time trying to modernize itself and in the end, loses its heart and doesn’t properly reinvent the story that an adaption this recent should have.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Moneyball Review

Rottentomatoes.com: 94% 
Commonsensemedia.org: 4 out of 5 Stars 
Metacritic.com: 87 out of 100
IMDB.com: 8.0 out of 10 
The Movie Man Rating: 4 and 1/2 Stars 


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language 
Please Note that there may be some spoilers in this review.



Despite my initial expectations for Moneyball, it, in the end, emerges as a triumphant and engaging film. This film has been getting Oscar buzz for the last couple of months because it is Aaron Sorkin’s first work on a screenplay since The Social Network (which won him an Academy Award) along with Steven Zailian, who wrote Schindler’s List and Gangs of New York. Moneyball is based off the Michael Lewis book- last time a Michael Lewis book was adapted The Blind Side was created, and received a Best Picture nomination as well as a Best Actress win for Sandra Bullock.



Now, Michael Lewis books are very document-like and its main appeal for directors is the information, because it provides ample opportunity for adaption. One of the things wrong with The Blind Side is that it glossed over its issues. Moneyball, a statistical book, seems best suited for documentary, but in Sorkin’s hands, there was hope. You see, The Social Network was based off the book by Ben Mezrick. In my opinion, the main reason for that film’s success was the screenplay- Sorkin provided in Network his singular gift for making statistics absorbing and cinematically engrossing- because he understands the mutual credit that human psychology and modern technology has in this information age.



He takes the same approach when writing Moneyball. A situation that involves mathematics as an approach to change, with humans mixed up in the middle to see how they will react to that precise range of variables. He tries to recreate his winning success once again, but the difference between this and Network is that the changing world played only a backdrop to the human drama- but the fact that modern technology was changing the world takes center stage here.



The movie centers around Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his arrival as the Oakland A’s new General Manager. After a good season that ended with them losing the playoffs, the Oakland A’s loses their three team stars to teams willing to pay more. They can’t replace their team members because they’ve only got a 30 million dollar budget to offer their players- while the Yankees have 110 million.



Billy is faced with the problem of scouting new players- his board, a range of crotchety old men, are stuck with the old ways. This one’s got an ugly girlfriend. The other one pitches funny. At this point, he knows he needs to find a new way to get players. He meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) a young, intelligent Economics graduate from Yale, who thinks he’s found a new, better way to find players- statistics. He’s created an algorithm where they can mathematically find which players are best suited for different positions- but they can also get them cheap, because other scouts, stuck with the old ways, don’t realize potential in these knew players.



After a couple of expected bad games, Billy and Peter trade up players they think are better suited. They start winning all their games- and on their way to a new record. Newscasters everywhere still say that Beane can’t do it. That there’s no way to reinvent a game that they’ve been doing for so long. But he continues to move on. He remembers that a scout once told him that if he chose the Mets over college, that he would be a big shot. But, sure enough, he lost his chance at education and got cut loose. He sticks with statistics.



Again, this movie was a lot better than I thought it would be. Jonah Hill, in a rare serious role, has easy, brilliant chemistry with Brad Pitt, which I think makes the movie. Brad Pitt shines in this film, as always. This is his best performance since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s charismatic and carries the film in the long stretches with no development. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in a chameleon role, isn’t as notable, but still as good as he always is. The scene where Pitt and Hill balance two phone conversations while discussing which players to buy was particularly terrific.



Bennett Miller directs with emotional consideration and dramatic thoughtfulness here- he and Aaron Sorkin don’t have the mutual vision that Sorkin and David Fincher shared, but he still directs the film sharply and compellingly.  



This movie is a fan that even non-baseball fans will enjoy. This looks like a big Oscar contender, and might finally get a win for Brad Pitt. It’s really inspirational without bordering on schmaltz, with great performances and sharp, witty, dialogue. It’s captivating, contemplative, and much like its protagonists, succeeds above all expectations. One of my favorites of the year. 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Help Review

Rottentomatoes.com: 73% 
Commonsensemedia.org: 4 out of 5 Stars 
Metacritic.com: 62 out of 100
IMDB.com: 8.0/10 Stars 
The Movie Man Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars 

Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallace Howard, and Jessica Chastain 

Viola Davis has been remembered up until now as the quiet scene stealer of film- she is such an incredible actress, having been nominated for an Academy Award opposite her performance from Meryl Streep in Doubt, and even being the voice of truth in films such as David Schwimmer’s Trust, not an important character, but one that moves along the plot. Which makes you wonder, how can an actress as excellent as her biggest role be as a maid? Which brings us back to The Help.



The Help, based off of Kathryn Stockett’s monumental bestseller and book club favorite is adapted by Tate Taylor, who set this film into development before the book was even published- you could call it a passion project. It stars Octavia Spencer, a relative newcomer to the screen but a friend of Taylor and an actress he fought to be put into her role, as well as the talented young Emma Stone in what is probably her most serious role to date.




The Help chronicles Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone), a young, ambitious white woman with dreams of becoming a writer that seem to be overshadowed by her mothers of her getting married, Aibileen (Viola Davis), a black maid who has learned to keep quiet over the years, and Minny (Octavia Spencer), a maid who has been fired countless times over the years for back talking to her white employers. The film is geographically and historically accurate, taking place right before the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. Skeeter has just graduated from Ole Miss, a college that Southern women mainly attended to pick up husbands, which is why she is the last of her friends to leave. The best job she can manage to find is writing for the Miss Myrna column for the Jackson Journal, a domestic maintenance column, which she knows something about.



Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) is Skeeter’s best friend, (and leader of the 1960 Southern Clique, otherwise known as the Junior League) is duplicitous, vicious, and always gets her way. Skeeter begins to question their friendship when Hilly creates the Home Help Sanitation Initiative, a document that requires every White home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help, claiming that is because they are known to carry different diseases then they do. The wheels begin to turn in Skeeter’s head- she wonders how the help feels about such blatant racism.




Using her Miss Myrna column as an excuse to talk to Aibileen, Skeeter’s friend Elizabeth’s (Ahna O’Reilly) maid, she asks Aibileen how she feels about all the talk, who beats around the bush long enough for Elizabeth to step into the room. Skeeter begins to think about it, and she calls Elaine Stein (Mary Steenburgen), and editor in New York who turned Skeeter down for a job due to lack of experience but told her to call if she had a good idea, and tells her she wants to write a book of interviews about life from the point of view of the help.





She continues to ask Aibileen, who knows it’s worthwhile what Skeeter’s doing. She’s currently taking care of Mae Mobley, the white baby she’s been most fond of so far- her mother, Elizabeth ignores her child and when she does pay her attention, it’s usually for a punishment- Aibileen whispers good things into the child’s ears and teaches her to love all people the same, but she knows it’s not enough. At this rate, she’ll turn out as racist and one-dimensional as her mother. That’s what gets to her- exposing the hypocrisy of the women they work for, as well as being as courageous as she thinks God wants her to be.




Minny, meanwhile, has been fired again- she works for old Miss Holbrook, Hilly’s mother, and she is let go- this time, because Hilly is putting her mother in a nursing home. Hilly offers her a job, wanting Minny for herself (who is known as the best cook in Mississippi). Minny does something horrible to Hilly that isn’t revealed for the first half of the movie, and Hilly spreads rumors that it was because she stole the silver. No one will hire her, that is, until Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain), comes along. Celia was a poor girl from the southernmost parts of Mississippi. Johnny Foote, her husband, married her, and now she’s living in a huge mansion on the outskirts of town. She’s desperate for a friend, so she pursues the Junior League members, who won’t talk to her because Johnny was Hilly’s ex-fiancĂ©. She hires Minny, who quickly learns that Celia isn’t like other white employers.




Aibileen pours out all her stories to Skeeter, who listens fervently- some things that Aibileen tells her are shocking—and those are things that have been under her nose all her life. When Minny becomes part of the group, saying she is skeptic of Skeeter is to say the least- together, their stories are slowly unraveled and they start to feel the world around them changing. Aibileen, who learns to speak, Minny, who learns to speak up, and Skeeter, who learns to change. The three women become friends, and learn that skin may be the only fabric that make them different.





Viola Davis gives her best performance yet- you take one look at her face onscreen and you can see one thousand things going on in her head. When opens her mouth, she speaks with a raw intensity the conveys the complexity and power of her characters. I read an article in Time last month that said when Davis reads a script, she shuts herself in a room with the blinds closed to get to know her characters. Ever since getting nominated for her Oscar, she’s been getting a lot of offers- she says she’s going to ride the shockwave as long as she can, because with the exception of Tyler Perry movies, there aren’t that many major roles for African American actors. She plays a maid in this movie, so the only really passionate lines she gets in this film are toward the end and when she recounts the death of her son- but all in between, you can see that quiet character waiting to be asked to speak her mind. She delivers the best lead performance I’ve seen from an actress this year, and she fully and completely deserves and Academy Award, and I believe she will get at least a nomination.





Octavia Spencer lives and breathes this role. In real life, she quotes the character as her inspiration- the director is a friend, and he fought for her to get this role. She plays the sass-mouthin’ Minny that sends a Southern chill down your spine, and when we discover her true vulnerability, that’s when you can feel the most powerful thing about her- insecurity. I’d say she deserves an Oscar nod too. Emma Stone, who doesn’t get as much screen time, plays her character in an understated but equally admirable fire- this is the most serious role she’s had, rising above her previous romantic comedies. There’s not a subpar performance in this film- special note of, however, is due to Howard, who plays Hilly with a Cruella de Vil like evil, subtle and suave yet intimidating the same. Chastain, who plays Celia Foote with a fun bounce, also manages to deliver emotion into lines that call for such delivery. The performances in this film elevate this film to heights that allow it to stand on its own amidst a sea of end-of-the-summer blockbusters.




The film has had a great involvement in the book even during the pre-publication period. It follows the events of the book closely, which is both its strength and its weakness. Like the book, it glosses over the deeper, more complex issues of Civil Rights, but I felt that this was also what made the film unique. The point of the film was to explore how the maids felt about all this, wherein it becomes a small—but important—human piece, as opposed to ‘the big picture’. This was more of a character study taking place in a time before change really started to come in, which, they managed to do very well.




This, overall, was a gripping, emotionally intense piece that some people might find boring, but I think it will become more viewed during Oscar season. As well as being emotional the film is also funny, the ‘Chocolate Pie’ act the most brilliant comedic scene I’ve viewed this year. This is a movie deserving of the buzz its getting- I just hope it receives a broader audience. 



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Review

Rottentomatoes.com: 83% 
Commonsensemedia.org: 3 out of 5 Stars 
Metacritic.com: 68 out of 100 
IMDB.com: 8.0/10 
The Movie Man Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the 2001 Tim Burton remake Planet of the Apes, is a violent but surprisingly good reboot to the classic series. The first film, directed by Burton and starring Mark Whalberg and Helena Bonham Carter, had stellar cinematic promise, but turned out to be a let down, which is why this one’s success was probably such a surprise. There are many things done right with this film that Burton’s’ failed to accomplished- for one thing, this one helmed just the right amount of human touch- even within its numerous amount of chimp characters. The film holds a generally fast pace and manages to keep the viewer glued to the screen at all times- there’s never a dull moment. Rupert Wyatt (who debuted with the prison breakout film, The Escapist) directs the film with a visual flair and expertly crafts an intelligent and action packed piece.



The movie chronicles Will Rodman, (James Franco) a San Francisco scientist who has been trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer's disease by testing a genetically engineered retrovirus on chimpanzees. The virus quickly mutates the chimps, enabling them with human-level intelligence. Will presents the study to the board, and just as they are about to gain approval, one of the subjects goes berserk and the operation is shut down. They learn that the chimp that went out of control was just a mother giving birth—she was simply being protective. They find the baby chimp under the table, and while the other apes are sentenced to death, Will sneaks the chimp home and names him Caesar.



Over the years, Caesar’s mental development increases rapidly and has near-human intelligence. Through further secret studies, Will learns that the retrovirus was passed down through his mother- seeing the renewed effects of the retrovirus, he gives some to his ailing father, who is suffering severely from Alzheimer’s and is danger of being put in a home. The effect is immediate- Will discovers that his father is not only recovering, but improving. He presents his finds to his greedy boss, Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo), who immediately starts up the project again, and seeing the results, increasing the studies to dangerous levels.



The effects begin to dwindle on Will’s father and his condition grows worse- in an act of defense, Caesar brutally hurts a neighbor, and is soon put under the care of animal control until a court date is set. Will tries all he can to get Caesar back home with him, as well as trying to get his boss to see reason. But soon, Caesar begins, for the first time, to inhabit with his own kind- he finds the weaknesses of the world he lives in and through his new intelligence, begins a rebellion.




As I said before, the film’s greatest strength was Wyatt’s strong direction- I felt that one of the biggest faults of last film was the fact that it centered around the chimps completely- and even when it did do that, it didn’t properly manage good character development. In this film, the chimps have characters, personalities, and a certain human touch; the human characters are equally complex and believable.



The script is smart and well written; its plot (which would sound ridiculous in the wrong hands) makes sense here, and I’m sure scientists everywhere will be very pleased in the careful research done here. However, the scientific details are not so complicated that the average moviegoer wouldn’t be able to comprehend- it’s conveyed quite simply.



The acting here is excellent all around- James Franco, who plays the lead (I still haven’t gotten over his terrible hosting at the Oscars) is excellent here- not award worthy, but certainly notable. He and Frieda Pinto (who plays Caroline, his veterinarian girlfriend) are both very honest in the portrayals, but the true star here is Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar. Most commonly remembered as Gollum from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Serkis delivers an enthralling performance as the lead chimp. Well covered by visual effects, he may be mistaken for CGI, but he is brilliant, deserving an Academy Award for his mastery of 
the nuanced motion- capture performance.



The visual effects here are excellent (as they should be, because it is vital for the chimps to look real), done by the guys who did Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Captain America: The First Avenger, and the upcoming Uglies adaption. They are the most impressive I’ve seen this year, (with the definite exception of the last Harry Potter installment) and just nearly overtake the 
great story and characters.



The greatest achievement this film manages to make is its heart. It is greatly felt and emotional, the scenes between Caesar and Will definite contenders for guaranteed tearjerker. It is the amount of heart that separates this film from other sci-fi/fantasy types and effects-heavy Summer Blockbusters, and perhaps that’s what makes it this season’s biggest surprise. This is a fun, fast paced film that manages to rise above convention- 
so just pass the bananas and enjoy the ride.



Review also on: Booleanflix.com 


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review of The Social Network

Rottentomatoes.com: 96% 
Commonsensemedia.org: 4 Out of 5 Stars 
Metacritic.com: 95% 
IMDB.com: 8.1/10 
My rating: 90% (4 and 1/2 Stars)


Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Josh Pence, Rooney Mara, Max Minghella, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, Joseph Mazello, John Getz, David Selby, Denise Grayson, Douglas Urbanski, Brayn Barter, Patrick Mapel, Chris Hughes, and Henry Roosevelt. 

Directed by David Fincher, Written by Aaron Sorkin, Score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross 

The Social Network, last year’s most highly praised movie, last year’s most buzz-surrounded film, last year’s defining picture, was definitely a piece of art. It was perfectly edited, impeccably acted, and its script, written by Aaron Sorkin, was definitely the best of the year, and one of the best of the decade. It was David Fincher’s breakout film, (though recognized previously before by the Academy for his work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and his first serious critical response having come from the Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt led Se7en) Though it was a touch overrated, it was definitely one of my favorites of the year.



The movie stars a perfectly cast Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg, nailing his enticing withdrawnness and bumbling intelligence. It dwindles near sociopath, though his cold brilliance isn’t from lack of the ability to develop human emotion, just his lack of comprehension of it. Eisenberg’s performance tells the audience all this; you can even see a bit of vulnerability revealed in him towards the end, when he possibly reconsiders his own actions. Though the characterization may be mistaken by some as pure acting- it’s quite the contrary, but if you read between the lines enough, you realize that it’s pure humanness.


Jesse Eisenberg, master of the cool, 
calculating stare. 


Jesse Eisenberg, playing an unsure Mark 
Zuckerberg following the orders of a 
narcissistic Sean Parker 


The story revolves around the fictional forming of Facebook. After breaking up with his girlfriend, a drunk Harvard student, Mark, creates a computer program with Harvard girls for people to compare two girls. The Harvard system is overloaded; Mark is found out and shut down. The Winklevoss’, two of Harvard’s richest and best, offer Mark the opportunity to help them start up a website called “Harvard Connection.” Instead of helping them, Mark writes the code for his own website, “The Facebook.” His rich best friend, (the much more sympathetic character of the story) Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), is the financial backer of the company. Soon, Sean Parker, (played by the scene-stealer of the year Justin Timberlake) one of the first 20-something billionaires, gives Mark some helpful financial advice, and soon, Eduardo seems to feel useless. The other half of the movie focuses on the meeting discussing the lawsuits made against Mark by the Winklevoss’ and Eduardo. Moral questions, such as the price of popularity, risking friendship, and the climb to success are raised. It is a deep, though-provoking movie. One portrayed honestly and sharply.


Rooney Mara, giving Jesse Eisenberg a talk 
about why dating him is like "dating a 
stairmaster" 



Zuckerberg’s performance was a standout, but Andrew Garfield also held his own. As I said before, he was the sympathetic character of the movie- he was the one everyone’s rooting for. Throughout the movie, Mark’s character is to cold and in the end duplicitous; the temptation of fame and success was just to great (and as he said before, “The train is coming, Eduardo, I’m just afraid you’re not going to be there to jump on it,” While all the other characters were silently pondering their motives, Garfield was the one who helped the plot move. He was the one that brought everyone that nostalgia of the college days back, (not everyone was a uber genius like Zuckerberg) presenting all of the characters’ insecurities with a kind of grace, and all of the betrayals he faced with depth.


Andrew Garfield, playing Eduardo Saverin, 
the lovable best friend of uber genius Mark Zuckerberg 


Timberlake was a sort of dark comic relief, being the sort of Darth Vader to Zuckerberg’s Luke Sykwalker. His loudness and obnoxiousness is somehow charismatic, filling the character’s shoes, those of a successful billionaire in his late forties; only in his twenties.


 Sean Parker, his ego as big as his IQ. 

Josh Pence, who plays the Winklevoss twins, is absolutely pitch perfect. The little changes made to his hair, voice, clothes, and behavior is excellent- he makes you think it’s a pair of twin actors playing the characters.


A perfectly cast John Pence as the Winklevoss twins. 


David Fincher’s directing was dark and impeccably cinematographed, capturing the tense mood of every scene. It was a beautifully orchestrated, modern and enticing vision; it represents why contemporary film making is relevant, and signifies why we still make films.

                            
                             David Fincher directing The Social Network 



Trent Reznor’s beautifully conducted score was simple yet astonishing. It perfectly captured the constant, contemplating mood of the film. It was definitely the best sounding film of the year. (It pains me to say this, but it was a little bit better than Hans Zimmer’s work on Inception, which is destined to become a classic) The sound mixing and editing was rapt and sharply done. It perfectly complemented Reznor’s music, brilliantly resounding with the film itself.


   Trent Reznor accepting the Oscar for his Academy Award Winning 
Score for The Social Network  

Sorkin’s screenplay was intelligently written and made the movie what it was. It stood hand in hand with David Fincher’s directing, adding just as much to the film as everything else did. The great writing held the acting up, giving them all the material they needed. Here’s a piece from the screenplay:

FROM THE BLACK WE HEAR--

MARK (V.O.)
Did you know there are more people with genius IQ’s living in China than there are people of any kind living in the United States?

ERICA (V.O.)
That can’t possibly be true.

MARK (V.O.)
It is.

ERICA (V.O.)
What would account for that?  

MARK (V.O.)
Well, first, an awful lot of people live in China. But here’s my question:

FADE IN:

INT. CAMPUS BAR - NIGHT

MARK ZUCKERBERG is a sweet looking 19 year old whose lack of any physically intimidating attributes masks a very complicated and dangerous anger. He has trouble making eye contact and sometimes it’s hard to tell if he’s talking to you or to himself.

ERICA, also 19, is Mark’s date. She has a girl-next-door face that makes her easy to fall for. At this point in the conversation she already knows that she’d rather not be there and her politeness is about to be tested.The scene is stark and simple.

MARK
How do you distinguish yourself in a population of people who all got 1600 on their SAT’s?

ERICA
I didn’t know they take SAT’s in China.

MARK
They don’t. I wasn’t talking about China anymore, I was talking about me.

ERICA
You got 1600?

MARK
Yes. I could sing in an a Capella group, but I can’t sing.

You can read the entire screenplay at this link: 


The one thing that turned me off the film was the lack of grand scope. It was more of a human piece, focusing on the small aspect of human nature, but even that I felt wasn’t very magnified. It was a film that I felt required close studying to fully understand; one that requires, like the characters, contemplation. But I tell you, once you do that, this film is very rewarding. It wasn’t my favorite film of 2010, though. I felt that Christopher Nolan’s Inception was underrated, as it is an obvious masterpiece, and will become a classic. The Social Network is a beautiful piece of film making- a small, beautiful, treasure of a film- and one that should be treated as such.