Archive for October, 2010

“The Social Network” wins the weekend box office AGAIN!

October 10, 2010 Leave a comment

New estimates are now confirming that the near-masterpiece that is “The Social Network” has once again taken down the weekend box office with over 15 million dollars earned, only dropping a rough 30% in ticket sales. The film also maintains the highest sales average per theater among films showing on more than 1000 screens.

Overall, the film isn’t doing QUITE as well as one of its caliber should, but one must declare victory under these circumstances. Hopefully it will retain a high re-watch value among those who love it, and it’s numbers will remain fairly high.  Hell, I believe I’ll be seeing it again in a few hours. Just pitching in…

TW LW Title (click to view) Studio Weekend Gross % Change Theater Count /Change Average Total Gross Budget* Week #
1 1 The Social Network Sony $15,500,000 -30.9% 2,771 $5,594 $46,069,000 $50 2
2 N Life as We Know It WB $14,635,000 3,150 +2,339 $4,646 $14,635,000 $38 1
3 N Secretariat BV $12,600,000 3,072 +2,268 $4,102 $12,600,000 $35 1
4 2 Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole WB $7,015,000 -35.6% 3,225 -350 $2,175 $39,401,000 $80 3
5 N My Soul to Take Uni. $6,919,000 2,572 $2,690 $6,919,000 $25 1
6 4 The Town WB $6,350,000 -34.9% 2,720 -215 $2,335 $73,787,000 $37 4


“The Social Network” Review

October 10, 2010 1 comment

So, it’s now been over a week since I saw an early screening of David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s “The Social Network,” and I’m still not sure that I have all of my thoughts collected. It may not be able to until after a second viewing later this week that I can firmly put together a consensus. One thing is for sure, however, that I don’t need another second to figure out: this film is a quarter of a step away from being an absolute cinematic masterpiece.

Everyone obviously knows the story by now. It tells the semi-biographic tale of Mark Zuckerberg and his rise to wealth and fame as he shepherds Facebook through its developmental phase. However, in the process, he breaks enough laws to be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits and manages to alienate and betray his best friend in the world.

The real beauty of “The Social Network” is that there really isn’t much wrong with it…at all. I can go on forever about every good aspect of this film, and I’m about to, but it’s important to make that notion clear, right off the bat. This is practically as good as it gets.

It’s important to confess up front that, yes, I am a huge fan of Aaron Sorkin. In fact, I worship the very ground that he walks on. In my opinion, “The West Wing” is the greatest show in television history and will never be topped. However, for the sake of this review, all of that goes out the window. This might have well been the first thing Sorkin has ever penned in his life, and it wouldn’t matter. It’s the fact that the man has gone so far outside the parameters of his usual subject matter and still crafted such a stupendous tale that marks this film as such an event.

The script is nearly flawless. The story travels at a mile a minute or more and still manages to capture enough wit, fire and intelligence to leave the competition somewhere in the dust. It seems as though every single line of dialogue was either blisteringly funny or searingly poignant and in the moment. The structure of the screenplay never fails and is balanced perfectly between the present and past. The latter storyline is not told sloppily through flashbacks, but rather on an even keel with its storytelling platform. The best facet of the script, however, is its use of characters. Every single person in the film is completely fleshed out, from Zuckerberg himself to the bit parts of lawyers and students. Everyone has just enough screentime, and in the end, there are no questions left unanswered.

David Fincher has no doubt created his masterpiece in this film. His direction dots every “i” and crosses every “t.” He has matured in form and better solidified his craft than perhaps any mainstream director working for the last twenty years. Fincher always understands the tone of the scene set in motion by Sorkin’s writing and blends every moment of realism and theatricality into a single, concise vision. From the Harvard campus to the legal conference room to the ground floor of Facebook’s business offices, the film is alive and constantly bustling with rhythm and energy. If the Academy does not give Fincher his due and proper this year, they are going to have a lot to make up for.

The cast is stellar…the whole ensemble…and, yes, that includes Justin Timberlake. Believe it or not, Timberlake is very well cast as hotshot Sean Parker, putting up a facade of false integrity and style which really shields the weakness of his true being. The truly breakout role in the film, however, is Andrew Garfield. Garfield very recently gave a solid turn in “Never Let Me Go,” but here, he shined. He is the heart of the film, the epitome  of innocence not lost, but rather destroyed.  In a way, it’s a coming-of age performance, for his boyish qualities are slowly deteriorated into manhood as Zuckerberg’s manipulation of him begins to graduate.

However, if Garfield provides the sweet and innocent side of “The Social Network,” then Eisenberg is the yang to his ying. Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t just do a good job of embodying all of the little facets and details that make his character believable, but knocks it completely out of the park, and therefore, the movie as well. He owns the screen and the viewer’s attention in the same way that someone the caliber of Heath Ledger did, or even some of his predecessors like Tom Hanks or Daniel Day Lewis. Eisenberg is not a passenger in this film, he is driving it, full speed. I would be appalled if he is not on Oscar’s shortlist at the end of the year, and just for a nom, but the win, as well.

The film has a fantastic sense of its technical values. The camerawork, shot on the digital RED One, uses some very impressive color schemes and brilliant compositions. David Fincher has recently become a huge promoter of digital cinematography and here he truly demonstrates how good it can be. The sound design and editing are also outstanding, and are subtle enough to probably go overlooked by many. Some of the montages created by Kirk Baxter and Angus Hall help maintain a great pace for the story, and are magnificently cut to Trent Reznor’s unorthodox, yet effective score.

When the film opened the New York Film Festival over the summer, the event’s director Richard Pena compared the cinematic pairing of Fincher and Sorkin to that of Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky, the makers of the ironically titled classic “Network.” I am wholeheartedly inclined to agree. These two artists have stepped out of their ordinary circles and come together to compose not only a great film, but one that speaks for the times and addresses a much larger social issue. In certain ways, I cannot argue with the critics who would go as far as to point out the similarities to “Citizen Kane.” And before I get burned at the stake, I obviously don’t mean in regards to “Kane”‘s groundbreaking, game-changing technical achievements, but thematically, they are quite similar. Featured is a man who strives to create something bigger than life, and in the process, destroys the lives of those who love him and helped him get to the top. Many films may have this story, but not many pull it off in the same fashion and bravado as these two features.

One facet that “The Social Network” seems to achieve over “Kane” is the merging of plot and the character until they’re one of the same. Zuckerberg’s rise to power through the massive-connection machine that is Facebook is coupled with his own burning need to be accepted. And yet as the site grows bigger and faster, the more alienated from the rest of the world Mark becomes. The film is a truly masterful insight into the ironies and tragedies of interpersonal communication and relationships in a technologically advanced world. It seemingly defines the exciting, yet sad truths of the previous decade and sets the bar for filmmaking quality for the new one.

GRADES:           A           * * * * * / * * * * *           9.8 / 10.0

“Blue Valentine” Trailer

October 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I have really had yet to hear one bad thing about this film. Ryan Gosling probably is the absolute best performer of his generation and I still think that Michelle Williams should have taken the Oscar home for “Brokeback Mountain.” Sadly, it’s looking unlikely that either of these two’s names will be called come the morning of Oscar nominations. Obviously, the film could not have a more indy look to it, which isn’t always too popular with the AMPAS. Plus, the film recently got saddled with an NC-17 rating, which absolutely boggles my mind.

Anyway, enjoy the new trailer to one of my most anticipated films of the year.


A New Oscar Contender on the Horizon

October 5, 2010 3 comments

I’m hearing word from a couple of sources that a film that has been on the fence for the 2010 season for a long time has now been confirmed for a release that puts it in competition for this year’s Oscars. I could not be more thrilled.

That film is “The Way Back” directed by Peter Weir. Weir is the mastermind behind such brilliant films as “Witness,” “The Truman Show,” and “Master and Commander,” and this film is said to be a great addition to that list of prestige.

The film tells the story of a group of escapees from a Siberian gulag (or prison) during World War II making their way back through harsh climates and enemy territory back to their home country. The film boasts a great cast with Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess, Mark Strong, Saoirse Ronan and Ed Harris. Also a strong technical pedigree with an Oscar Winning cinematographer (Russell Boyd) and editor (Lee Smith). The film was a huge hit at the Telluride Film Festival and will surely build up a great campaign leading up to January.

It might be a little late in the game for this relatively unheard of film to stage a coup against such awards monsters as “The Social Network” or “The King’s Speech.” However, this release is phenomenal news for one person in particular, one of my absolute favorite actors of all time: Ed Harris.

It would be a crime to call this year’s supporting actor race weak, for there are so many phenomenal actors with great roles already in the running. However, Ed Harris entering at this point is a game-changer. Right now, the category is filled with a lot of young actors who are just now looking for their first nomination, and one veteran who already has an Oscar under his belt. Yet, the Best Supporting Actor Oscar has been a long-used tool for awarding older actors in return for snubbing them in the past (Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, James Coburn, Robin Williams, Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Sean Connery, the list goes on and on…..) and not many individuals meet that pedigree more than Ed Harris.

He has been nominated four times, and at least two of those times, he was kind of a snub (Apollo 13 and The Truman Show). This is a great opportunity for the Academy to correct the mistakes of the past and award he who is widely considered the most overdue man in Hollywood before its too late. My predictions have been updated accordingly.

Uh oh…

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, it appears that, due to the partial influence of my girlfriend, I have once again started a viewing of The West Wing. Gentleman, start your engines…

Only about the 14th or 15th time since the show’s airing. It’s not like I’m obsessed……..

“The Contender,” Revisited

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

So as I said, this site will not only be featuring reviews of films that I have never before seen, but also brief revisitations to films that I decide to watch again. Ironically enough, the first installment of these is, in my mind, one of the most underrated films of the previous decade and one that I’d love a chance to get on my soapbox for.

“The Contender” was released in 2000 with the helm of writer/director Rod Lurie and tells the story of the first woman ever to be nominated to fill the seat of the Vice President, along with a select group of Republican Congressman intent on destroying her by way of a sex scandal. This is an excellent film that really sets a statute for what political thrillers can be. The writing, while, at times, preachy, is honest and scathing. It is a no-holds-barred account of leadership at the highest level, like “The West Wing” told from a much darker perspective.

Rod Lurie stumbles on a few directorial roadblocks, making it awkwardly cheesy and almost a bit too “Capraesque” at points that don’t help to serve the overall tone of the film. However, it’s the investigation hearings in the House chamber where his style really shines. The mood is stark and realistic. The static camera angles heighten that sense of reality as though you were watching a much more interesting version of C-SPAN 2.

The film features an absolute wealth of stunning acting. Joan Allen definitely carries the weight of the lead role. The audience has little to no trouble standing behind her despite the heaviness of her character’s burdens. Jeff Bridges successfully transforms “The Dude” into a completely desirable presidential figure. Collected, funny and thoroughly inspiring. Many of the smaller roles pull there weight well, including Kathryn Morris, Mike Binder and especially Sam Elliott.

However, the true star of this film and the reason I can watch it over and over again is the magic of Gary Oldman. He embodies this character to a “t” as he does to so many others. His mannerisms and appearance carefully articulate the sense of piety that the congressman he plays holds for those on the other side of the aisle. And he engages us, constantly, just as he engages his enemy, without any sense of remorse or regret. He mercilessly tears through the script and leaves us with an antagonist both hate-inspiring, and yet equally human. By far, it is Oldman’s finest performance. In my eyes, one of the greatest supporting turns of all time, maybe the best of that decade.

GRADES:          A-          * * * *1/2 / * * * * *          9.2 / 10.0

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Full Length “True Grit” Trailer

October 4, 2010 1 comment

People are going to think that this is actually a “True Grit” FYC site, but trust me it’s not. However, I was very surprised to see a full length trailer for “True Grit” at an early showing of “The Social Network,” especially after the fantastic teaser was released only a few days beforehand. I’m over the mystery, however, because any fears that this film will not be everything that it can be, including an Oscar contender, should now be assuaged:

True Grit Trailer on Yahoo!

I will try to post a good HD copy as soon as it becomes available.

Oscar Predictions Posted

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

My official Oscar predictions for the 2010 film year are now up and running. You can view them from the link below, or they will always be up in the tab at the top of the page. Right now, the format is obviously pretty rough. Stand by eventually for a little more flash and media. But, there they are, quite literally in black and white. I hope to have them updated bi-weekly, or at least a couple of times a month.

Right now, I have no shame in predicting “The Social Network” right out front of the pack. It certainly does not have a straight up and down Oscar pedigree, but I believe that it’s simply too good for them to ignore. It’s biggest competition, right now, is definitely “The King’s Speech,” the big winner from TIFF. It’s Tom Hooper’s period-biopic that definitely screams Oscar out of its gills and seems to have a lot of class and quality, not to mention the indisputable frontrunner for Best Actor in Colin Firth.

The two major Hollywood blockbusters that will almost certainly survive into the winter are Pixar’s “Toy Story 3” and Christopher Nolan’s “Inception.” Obviously, they’re box office giants as well as critical darlings, and it doesn’t help that Christopher Nolan is now considered one of the most overdue men in the business.

Some other films to watch out for, for sure, include Lisa Cholodenko’s Sundance favorite “The Kids Are All Right,” Mike Leigh’s late masterpiece “Another Year,” and the Coen Brother’s remake of “True Grit,” which remains a mystery to audiences, but is obviously a likely contender due to its pedigree.

Overall, it’s going to be an interesting season with a lot left up for grabs. Enjoy the race…


“Never Let Me Go” Review

October 3, 2010 1 comment

Many a film has been made in the past about dystopian societies, perfect worlds where nothing bad ever happens. Tales of people lucky enough to live forever in harmony with themselves and each other. Hardly ever are there stories of the unlucky ones, those who are locked out in the cold. People who not only never get to experience the sweet life, but are literally thrown in the fire for civilization’s expense. This is one such story.

“Never Let Me Go” is the sophomore effort of music-video director Mark Romanek, the creator of the very sub-par thriller “One Hour Photo” starring Robin Williams. It would seem that he had bitten off more than he could chew by helming the adaptation of what Time Magazine called the best novel of the decade. However, the inevitable disappointment never occurred. The film excels on a number of different levels.

It is set in the backdrop of a reality in which a breakthrough medical miracle provides a cure for a great number of human illnesses, allowing people to live longer and happier lives. This world, however, comes at the cost of a very small fraction of the population, individuals who are genetically cloned, raised healthily behind closed doors and eventually harvested for their vital organs.

Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield play three of these unfortunate souls, Kathy, Ruth and Tommy (names ordered respectively). While children, given a privileged upbringing at the pleasant Hillsham Academy, they are kept completely sheltered from the rest of the world. It is here that the mousy Kathy develops a crush on Tommy, who is outcasted from the other boys. However, her emotions are stifled when her best friend Ruth moves in and steals Tommy out from under her nose. It is around this time when, from a leak in the faculty, the children learn the reason of their existence and perhaps realize how short life is…literally.

As they grow older, they begin to move out and experience a bit more of the real world. They also discover that for select couples that graduate from Hillsham and can prove their love for each other, a deferral could be available from the point at which they must begin their “donations.” Now, the love triangle that began years ago becomes less romantic and more vital for survival as the countdown to their lives’ completion continues to tick down.

All around, the film is an honorable achievement. The first thing that is noticed is not only the subtle, yet fantastic acting, but the wonderful casting of the three leads, both as adults and children. Each individual knows their character’s limits and boundaries and meticulously stays within them. Romanek also works from a very subdued perspective and never allows the story to become sentimental or melodramatic. In fact, one of the film’s strongest facets is its ability to portray this horrible place in such a matter-of-fact way. The film becomes so much more haunting when treated as a reality that must be faced eventually by the protagonists. Even the sought-after deferrals are only effective for a few years, and then it’s back to square one.

The cinematography, while for the most part dull and fairly uninspired, does lens as gray and bleak a dystopian society has ever seen in its own mirror. However, the truly technical standout in the film is its beautiful score. Always lurking in the background and yet never overpowering the acting or visuals, the music will leave you moved and even a bit shaken. Pay close attention to the haunting strings in use at the bleakest moments of the film and you realize that they are driving the emotional core. While the film is becoming less of an Oscar contender each week, this nomination for Rachel Portman should be assured.

If one qualm could be made of this solid production, it would be a plea for just a bit more of an emotional wallop. Without descending into complete melodrama, more needed to be made by the screenplay of the fact that every one of these kids is doomed. This is a sad story. No one can deny that. And yet as haunting and dreary as it is, the film is never really a tearjerker, and this is one that’s truly allowed to be. Yet even if it won’t make you cry, see this film for what it does make you do: realize that every gift, no matter how amazing and brilliant, comes at a horrible price.

GRADES:         B+         * * * * / * * * * *         8.0 / 10.0

Effects Wizards Playing Director…Next Please?

October 3, 2010 1 comment

Wow. You know most god-awful films that I have seen in my lifetime, I’ve usually been drawn into due to an exceptionally cut trailer. Said trailer usually makes the film seem so much better than it really is and thus, disappointment occurs.

The new trailer for the upcoming film “Skyline” seems to completely defy this theory. Quite simply put, I don’t know how this film could actually drop lower than the expectations set by this horrid preview. Sweet Lord, this film looks so horrendous that I’m just speechless. It almost gets me more psyched for how much fun I’ll have blasting it when it finally comes out.

What we have here is a clear-cut example of what happens when gentleman who do a fine job making lots of great effects look super from behind their computer screen try their hand at what goes on behind the camera. Not to rag on all visual effects artists-turned-directors, but lets face it, these are the guys who took a giant shit on so many people’s hopes and dreams with “Alien vs Predator: Requiem.”

You do the math when you check this out, if you dare: