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Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Social Network movie review

Tom from MySpace complains, “Where’s my effing movie?!?”

If The Social Network is anything, it’s a showcase for performance.  Outside of Jesse Eisenberg, I hadn’t really seen any of the peeps in this movie do anything, but everybody delivers a great performance:  Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Erica Albright…  very impressive cast.  The dialogue was really snappy, but then, what else would you expect form Aaron Sorkin?

It’s hard to know what to say about this movie – it’s a really good movie, that much is clear – and when a movie is based on fact and isn’t necessarily a work of fiction, this can make it difficult to create the sort of drama that I expect in terms of an overall arc.

spoiler alert

 

 

The movie doesn’t offer much in the way of a conclusion… consider:  The movie is a story about Mark Zuckerberg, and we meet him when his girlfriend is breaking up with him, so he events a website that ranks girls against each other (and farm animals?) and everyone is mad at him.  Seems like he’s in a bad situation.  Then he meets Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (twins played by Armie Hammer – everybody who made this happen did a great job, by the way) who were impressed by Zuckerberg’s website and want him to program their idea for a social networking site…  I think it’s called Harvard Connection or something like that.  Zuckerberg’s character asks them what makes this different than MySpace or Friendster or any of it’s competitors (which I think is a great point about Facebook itself, but I’ll get back to that later), and the idea is exclusivity – you must have a Harvard email address to join.  Zuckerberg agrees to create the site, but doesn’t.  He spends his time creating his own social networking site and sends the Winklevosses (Winklevi?) endless emails that he’s too busy to meet with them to work on their site.  Finally, when he is inspired to add a relationship status feature, he puts his own site, TheFacebook.com live.  Obviously, the Winklevosses find out about TheFacebook when it’s all the rage on Harvard’s campus and in the student newspaper (The Crimson) and they are mad and send a cease and desist letter, which  Zuckerberg ignores and Eduardo freaks out, and things seem bad…

(I just need to stop for a moment and talk about how adding the relationship status is supposed to be an epiphany moment for Mark’s character – it’s kind of silly.  Like ‘relationship status’ is one of the great ideas of the twenty-first century or something.)

I have no intention of summarizing the entire movie, but what I’m trying to say here (admittedly, I’m not doing a good job) is that the characters always seem to be a bad place.  As I mentioned in my drama post, the main character should have a conflict that drives the story and introduces all of the characters (act 1), he gets into the worst possible situation (act 2) and then he gets out (act 3).  The problem is, the Zuckerburg character never really gets out of his bad situation – at least not in a satisfying way.  Let’s break it down:

  • ACT 1:  Mark’s girlfriend breaks up with him and he creates Facebook, but the movie is moving back and forth through time, so we’re all seeing the deliberations of the big law suit – so it’s also sort of act 2.
  • ACT 2: Facebook is blowing up into a phenomenon on college campuses, but Sean Parker gets arrested and embarrasses the company, and embarrassing the company seems to be something that Mark desperately wants to avoid.
  • ACT 3:  Some text books comes up on the screen and tells the results of the lawsuit.  Mark sends a friend request to the girl that dumped him at the beginning of the movie and waits to see if she accepts it.

This isn’t what I’d call a satisfying third act for the audience, but that’s how the movie ends.  Now if this is how the story really goes, the film makers are constrained by the real life narrative, and that’s cool.  In any case, it’s still an OK movie:  good dialogue, better performances,  just not a great ending…. OK, maybe it’s a little pretentious, but it’s worth a watch.

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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The King’s Speech movie review

The King’s Speech comes in at just under two hours, and while I’m giving myself until I finish this writing to decide on a score, I think it will come in just under a perfect ten. Read the rest of this entry

The Green Hornet movie review

Perhaps it’s not unusual for a movie to go through so many trials and tribulations, but I suppose I don’t usually hear about it.  I’ve been hearing rumblings about a Green Hornet movie for years, way back to when Kevin Smith was tied to the project.  Finally, a finished product is available for our waking eyes.

If you’ve been paying attention to the criticism surrounding this movie, you’ll notice it’s been pretty mixed.  Some people liked the movie while other didn’t, but I haven’t heard too many extreme views where people hated it or heralded it as the best movie of the year.  However, The Tomato Meter is currently at 45%, which is pretty low in terms of over all quality.

As for me, I enjoyed this movie.  Sure, the re-imagining of Britt Reid was pretty far off the mark from the chore character, but then, the movie is starring Seth Rogen, so if you were expecting a hard hitting action drama… I don’t know what to tell you.  That being said, The Green Hornet is a ton of fun, and I laughed out loud on multiple occasions, so that’s about as ringing an endorsement as you’re going to get from me when it comes to action comedy.  I was also impressed with the performance by Jay Chou, who I’m not familiar with, but was immediately taken with.  Frankly, the guy is a movie star, and he handled his scenes with scene-stealing-grace.  I also want to take a moment and say how shocked I was by Cameron Diaz‘s performance – she didn’t giggle and snort like a crazy person at all, but instead, acted like a real person.  In fact, I think that’s what worked best about this movie – the characters, for whatever one dimensional failings they may have, also are good at not stepping too far out of the box – at the end of the movie, Seth Rogen’s character has evolved and become a better Green Hornet than he was at the earlier stages of the movie, but its not like he’s doing flips and killing people – in fact, his big fighting evolution scene at the end of the movie is pretty funny because again, Britt Reid isn’t a trained fighter in this take of the Green Hornet, and it shows – which gives the Rogen casting all the more legitimacy, but then, as he has a writing credit, this movie is mostly his project.

I found that pacing worked nicely, but 119 minutes might be a little too long for this sort of action comedy styled drama.  If you’ve ever wondered, “How many times can you have guys get hit in the balls in your movie without it ruining the movie?” this is the movie that answers that question!  The violence also continued to escalate as the movie went on, and it exceeded the heights I had expected it to reach well before it was over – that’s not necessarily a criticism, and in fact, it’s probably an endorsement; this movie takes a lot more chances than I thought it would.

The Green Hornet is a fun action comedy, and if you’re a Seth Rogen fan, it’s a must see – he gives a great performance that I can’t help but believe, enjoy and never saw coming.  If I had to pick one word to summarize this movie with, it would be surprising – and The Green Hornet surprises in a good way.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

The Company Men movie review

First, watch the trailer for The Company Men:

Looks good, right? In fact, this is one of the most promising trailers I have seen in a while – although keep in mind I just saw the Transformers 3 trailer… just awful. (I hope NASA is as pissed off as I am.) But yes, it looks like there are all the elements of a good story here along with a promising cast, including Ben Affleck as the guy who lost his job, Tommy Lee Jones and as Chris Cooper his former coworkers, Craig T. Nelson as their boss, and Kevin Costner as Affleck’s brother in law, who is sporting a Boston accent – guess he heard I was ripping on him for not doing a British accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

spoiler alert

 

 

The problem with this movie is… well, it’s just not very good. If somebody pitched the idea of doing a movie about downsizing on a corporate level, it sounds like the stuff Oscars are made of, right? The problem here is I don’t believe this movie for a second. The characters are one dimensional and largely unsympathetic. I’m sorry, I love Tommy Lee Jones as much as anybody, but it’s pretty hard to believe that Maria Bello would have an affair with him – and what’s with the totally random shot of her rack? I love rack as much as anybody, but there was no need to include a shot of her rack while she was getting dressed. It felt like they were there shooting the movie and a producer called the director’s cell and said, “Hey, do me a favor: get some tits into this movie any way you can. Nothing says authentic drama like tits.” Its that kind of movie; you find yourself wondering, what the hell is happening here? Isn’t a million dollar home excessive for an executive that makes under $150k a year? I don’t understand the way Affleck’s character was written – it’s like they were thinking about doing the five stages of grief with him after he lost his job, but in the end, they decided, “Fuck it, lets just do denial, a little anger, and a dash of acceptance.” Why is Cooper’s character the flattest, least interesting character ever? His suicide isn’t a surprise; you’re waiting for it. In the first five minutes of the movie, his character promises to “take an AK47 to the place” if they fire him… The guy is literally throwing rocks at the office building after he gets fired… it’s the most inauthentic thing you’ll ever see on film. When Affleck gets a job working with Costner as a carpenter, you expect it to go somewhere, for Affleck to learn something besides his brother in law isn’t so bad after all. Or, maybe he’ll get good at carpentry. Or maybe that his Porsche and his country club membership weren’t so important after all. But no, that doesn’t happen. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones leaves his wife after he gets fired… presumably because she bought a really expensive end table (like over $10k) in a previous scene… or because he’s having an affair… I don’t know. There just isn’t enough content in the movie to explain it. Then he decides to start his own company and he hires Affleck and they are pretty much back where they started before they got fired and the movie ends. There is no rivalry with the old company – I was thinking it might have been interesting to do a “you were doing business the wrong way, we’re doing it the right way and we’ll be more successful than you,” sort of angle, but it can’t because the movie is over. (And not a moment too soon, it’s a long 104 minutes.) The movie just always leaves you feeling… I don’t know, flat. You never feel what the movie intends for you to feel – when Cooper’s character dies, you don’t fee bad – he was a miserable man, you’re sort of glad he’s dead so you don’t have to listen to him complain anymore.

OK, I’m going to leave it there. The movie isn’t unwatchable, but on a whole, it just doesn’t work. The characters are crappy and the plot is kind of pointless. It’s an ensemble drama that wants to do character portraits, but it doesn’t devote hardly enough time to any of the characters, not even Affleck, who is the star of the damn movie. Nobody really learns anything, nobody changes… There are some good performances in here (sorry, Chris Cooper – I know they wrote you into a corner, but your sad-sack whining just wasn’t working here), but it’s not enough to save the movie. I am neither recommending nor endorsing this movie – its crappy, but if there are no other movies to see, it’s watchable. It’s like the Coors Light of movies.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Johnny Storm, Human Torch and Member of the Fantastic Four, dies at 50

human-torchDear Mr. Tom Brevoort, Senior Vice President for Publishing, Marvel Comics:

Are you kidding me with this? Surely you are joking.

I have been reading comic books since I was a little kid – the first time I read a comic book (it was an issue of Captain America… I think 294, back in a day when the cover of a comic book was actually an accurate representation of the content within, but I digress…), it captured my imagination in a way that few things have since. In the passing decades, I’ve fallen in and out of love with comics, and right now, I’m nearing one of those stages where the infatuation dims back to a flicker. It’s mostly due the exuberant amount of Batman related titles released by DC, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, but Marvel isn’t far behind on my shit list.

I understand that comic books are, by definition, violent melodrama – a visual method of conveying stories that often do not translate mediums. It’s part of their charm. Story telling, layouts and art all come together to push the reader down a stream of fantasy that can’t be experienced anywhere else. I’m with that.

What I’m not willing to champion is the pathetic use of death as both a plot device and an excuse to sell more books. The idea that Johnny Storm is dead and is never coming back is as ridiculous as the notion that Steve Rogers is dead and never coming back… which brings me to the crux of my argument. Stop fake killing people! If characters are dead, then leave them dead. Don’t kill them and bringing them back. Now again, I do understand that comic books are melodramas, and what could be more melodramatic than coming back from the dead? But this is getting ridiculous. Getting? OK, it is completely atrocious! Look, I know you guys have a business to run and comic books to sell and your new masters over at Disney don’t want to hear that profits aren’t up this quarter, but get it together and reign it in a bit. You remember the whole Jean Gray/Phoenix thing and how she was dead, then she wasn’t dead and she did all those horrible things and then she was dead again, but then she came back again but it turns out that the one who did all the bad stuff wasn’t really her and… ugh. Just ugh. And then years later, you killed Captain America (well, not you, Tom, but you know what I’m saying) – this would not stand. You can’t kill Steve Rogers! He’s survived everything Marvel has thrown at him (including Hitler) since the 1940s, including the ill advised Captain America: Commie Smasher series from the fifties. But I guess Cap also wasn’t really dead, he was lost in time or something… (not to be confused with Batman being lost in time just a few months later… very creative, DC) and then he returned, or was reborn, or whatever. If you’re always going to bring everybody back, what’s the point of killing them in the first place? I remember a line from somewhere in volume one of Captain America where he asks himself, “Why is it that when the heroes die, its for good, but the bad guys always come back?” Well, the answer back then was that the writers were too lazy to come up with new bad guys, but these days, they’re too lazy to come up with new heroes as well. In the last decade, Marvel Comics have brought back long dead characters from the Golden Age, like James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Jim Hammond, aka the Original Human Torch and his partner, Thomas Raymond, aka ‘Toro’. All of these moves were unprecedented, but not as stale as what happened with Jean Gray or Steve Rogers – yet still lame. Just like what you’re doing with Johnny Storm, and consider this – given that Jim Hammond and Thomas Raymond have already died before, this makes Johnny Storm the third and final human torch to have died! Are you guys at Marvel just making sure you didn’t miss anybody?

I’ve never been a Fantastic Four fan, although the characters are likable at their basic levels. The movies sucked, but that’s not your fault. (Right?) I guess what I’m saying is I could care less what you do with these characters, but don’t do some far reaching repercussions throughout the Marvel Universe death of Johnny Storm nonsense and then just write him back into the funny papers in a year. This is the reason I’m going to drop my Batman titles – it’s overkill (sorry, no pun intended) and it’s better for Marvel’s longevity if they keep the fake deaths to a minimum.

Thanks!
Jamie Insalaco
CreativeJamie.com
BomberBanter.com

HOW JOHNNY STORM DIED

I know a lot of folks that ended up on this page were just trying to find out how Johnny died, and initially, I didn’t provide that information – my bad.

Apparently, there was some kind of tear or something in the negative zone (I read comic books, and I have no idea what that is, so don’t feel bad) and the only way to close it was from the inside, so Johnny sacrificed himself.  Now in my Star Trek the Next Generation thinking mind, it seems perfectly logical that Johnny is still alive and trapped in the Negative Zone (or whatever) – the problem is getting him out.  I’m sure that’s how they’ll bring him back… find some way to tear a hole, take him out and seal it from the outside.  Right.  Anyway, I read that Marvel said there will not be another issue of the Fantastic Four…  Fine, get ready next month for ‘Fantastic Three’… or maybe ‘The Fantastic Richards Family, Features Ben Grimm’ or something.

What do you think?  Is it OK to kill off a character when you know it’s only a matter of time before they return from the grave?  Comments are welcomed!

more Comic Book Reviews at creativejamie.com/category/comic-book-reviews/

Icicles and Christmas Lights

The unrelenting snow has made it impossible to take down the outside Christmas lights (which I put up against my will, by the way for this specific reason!), but its yielded some fun photos.

 

icicles

icicles during the day - the perfect murder weapon (no finger prints!)

 

icicles and christmas lights

icicles and christmas lights

 

icicles and xmas lights

icicles and Christmas lights, close up

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