Archive for the ‘MOVIE REVIEWS’ Category

The Social Network

Posted: October 1, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by: Sarah St. John

With 500 million members, 207 countries being serviced and valued at $25 billion, it was only a matter of time before a movie, “The Social Network”, was made based on the phenomenon we all know as Facebook.  The script and story-line was helped with Ben Mezrich’s book entitled “The Accidental Billonaires: The Founding of Facebook.”  The buzz already surrounding this movie is huge, with predictions of it winning “best picture of the year” at the Oscars.  In fact, the very first thing the audience members did after the movie screening was update their Facebook statuses on how good the…um, “Facebook movie” is.

“The Social Network” details the inner workings, technology, money, back-stabbing and lawsuits involved in making Facebook what it is today.  Facebook (formerly known as “thefacebook.com”) was started by Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg: “Adventureland”, “Zombieland”) in early 2004.  It started as a social site for Harvard, gradually expanding to other Ivy League schools, then to colleges and high schools across the nation.  It was finally opened to the general public in 2006.  Today, not only is Facebook being used as a social site to stay connected to family and friends, it’s also a source to market businesses, products, services, politics, charities and organizations.  Or, a place to waste time playing games such as “Farmville” or take quizzes such as “Who are your top 5 celebrities.”  But, back to the movie.

Mark Zuckerberg is an awkward, yet brilliant 19-year-old Harvard student who spends most of his free time on the internet, blogging and dabbling with programming, HTML and JavaScript.  In fact, he was offered jobs from Microsoft and AOL when he was still in high school, but he turned them down.  When his girlfriend dumps him due to his poor social skills (although never diagnosed, many argue he may have Aspergers), he creates a site called “Facemash.com” which compares and rates the attractiveness of the girls on campus.  The site gets 22,000 hits in two hours, crashes Harvard’s network (which produces the first lawsuit), and spawns the attention of the Winklevoss twins (played by Armand Hammer’s grandson, Armie Hammer, with the help of body double, Josh Pence). The Winklevoss twins along with their friend, Divya (Max Minghella), approach Mark about coding a site called “Harvard Connection” which would do as the title suggests: connect Harvard students in an online world.  Mark agrees, but runs in a different direction with his best friend, and later the former Facebook CFO, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).  It was then that “thefacebook.com” came alive.  Of course, as soon as the Winklevoss twins and Divya find out, they start accusing Mark of “stealing their idea” and a big lawsuit commences.  But, what we learn here is that it doesn’t matter whose idea it was.  What matters is who can produce it.

Putting aside all the confusing, fast-paced computer jargon that is repeatedly spewed out of Mark’s mouth, “The Social Network” grabs the audience’s attention and keeps them honed in for the full two hours of screen time.  Thanks to screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing, “A Few Good Men”), the script is sharp, brilliant and witty.  Thanks to the actors and director, David Fincher (“Fight Club”, “Zodiac”), the cast delivers and nails it to a T.
The film also stars Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the guy who started Napster.  Sean teams up with Mark and gives him some of the best advice early on to not fill up the site with ads and to drop “the” and just call it “Facebook” because it is cleaner.  Their new camaraderie starts to push Eduardo out of the picture and forges yet another lawsuit.

Ironically, the movie states “what makes us different from other social sites is Facebook never crashes.”  Um, really?  ‘Cause Facebook crashed off and on the week before the movie opened.  What is also ironic is that Facebook, which serves as a social site, was created by someone with extremely limited social skills.  Throughout the movie, Mark is egotistical, rude, sarcastic and never smiles.  Little did Mark know, a site that was created as a hobby and a way to get girls, would make him the youngest (now 26 years old) billionaire in the world.  However, on the flip side, it also cost him the few closest friendships and relationships he had.  The tagline for “The Social Network” is “you don’t get 500 million friends without making a few enemies”, and Mark sure did make a few enemies along the way.  In a sense, he is an anti-hero.

Mark Zuckerberg himself was not involved in the film in any way and says some of the details of the film are inaccurate.  Knowing this can be somewhat of a frustrating disappointment to the audience as they aren’t sure which parts to believe or not, but one thing is certain: the film is going to be one of the biggest hits at the box office all year.  I am looking forward to seeing it again myself.  But until then, I’m going to sign off here and sign on to Facebook and hope it doesn’t crash.

Easy A

Posted: September 17, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by: Sarah St. John

“Easy A” is an easy C-.

The new film stars Emma Stone (“Superbad”, “Zombieland”) as Olive Penderghast, a typical teenage girl who desires popularity and attention at her high school.  And that’s precisely what she gets when a little white lie about losing her virginity turns into a massive rumor.  Then her gay friend (Dan Byrd) offers to pay her to say she had sex with him (in order to hide his sexuality and prevent further torment by other students).  The word spreads like wildfire, and  soon numerous guys – similarly desperate –  offer to pay Olive (usually in the form of gift cards) to say they had sex in order to build reputations that will overshadow their respective weight, looks or nerd status.  In a sense, she prostitutes herself without actually having intercourse.

At first, Olive doesn’t appreciate or understand all the attention she is getting, but in time grows to enjoy her infamy and bursting wallet.  This is illustrated when Olive changes her look to fit her new reputation by wearing tighter, skimpier outfits.  It only becomes a bit silly when she attaches an “A” to all of her clothing (Olive is reading “The Scarlet Letter” in class).  Her teacher, Mr. Griffin (Thomas Hayden Church), states: “I think you are taking the reading assignment too seriously.”

“Easy A” is loaded with attempts at laugh-out-loud satire and banter.  Some of the humor comes from Olive’s sarcastic parents (the always reliable Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson); best friend Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) who enjoys calling her names suited to the rumors; Mr. Griffin’s stiff attempts at being cool and guidance counselor Mrs. Griffin’s (Lisa Kudrow) own dirty little secret;  and a wide array of John Hughes’ clips.  The soundtrack includes some apropos songs (Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”).  However, the narration doesn’t add anything to the story.

While “Easy A” is just another typical light-hearted teen movie, there is an underlying message just below the surface.  Olive quickly learns that it is not worth sacrificing your dignity at the expense of a bad reputation.  Initially, she considers bad attention to be better than no attention at all.  In the end, Olive becomes more lonely and unsatisfied with her new popularity, and it makes it harder for her to get the attention of the guy she’s had a crush on for years (Penn Badgley).  “Everyone is jumping at the chance to fake sleep with me,” Olive says, “but no wants to actually sleep with me.”  Our response? Boo-hoo.

Overall, “Easy A” ends up being better than anticipated (I predicted an easy F), but the movie poster suggests a more worthwhile plan of action: “Let’s not and say we did.”

The Town

Posted: September 17, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by: Sarah St. John

“The Town”, based on the novel “Prince of Thieves” by Chuck Hogan, is Ben Affleck’s second successful attempt at directing, after 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” The movie takes place in a small town – only one square mile to be exact – called Charlestown. Charlestown is a suburb of Boston, and holds the highest bank robbery crime rate in the USA with more than 300 robberies per year.

Ben Affleck also acts in this film. His character, Doug, heads up a four-man bank/armored truck robbery team. “The Town” is just like any other heist movie, including last month’s “Takers.”  I fear this theme is becoming all too common and predictable. But, what makes “The Town” stand out from the others is in between all the car chases, shoot outs, bank robberies and fast-paced action, there is a romantic love story that develops. And not just any love story. A love story between Doug and his victim.

During another routine bank heist, the bank manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), is asked to open the vault. When someone presses the silent alarm, they take her hostage, drive several miles and drop her off at a beach, unharmed. However, the robbers are nervous that she may have seen James’ (Jeremy Renner) neck tattoo and could identify him in a lineup. So, Doug keeps tabs on her by camping out at her house and following her. When they “accidentally” bump into each other at a laundromat, they strike up conversation and a relationship develops. Because they were wearing Halloween masks during the robbery, she never knows she is falling for the man that robbed her bank, held her hostage and then dropped her off in the middle of nowhere hands-tied and eyes-covered.

Doug decides that he’d prefer to return to a normal life and continue his relationship with Claire. But, the rest of the crew convinces him to do one more heist – their biggest one – at Fenway Park. This offers the longest action-packed shoot-out scene of the entire movie as the other heists are relatively short in comparison.

There are a few humorous moments in the movie to cut the tension. When Claire tells Doug the story of being robbed and taken hostage, she claims she would recognize the robbers’ voices if she ever came into contact with them again. Clearly not so. When Doug apologizes that she had to experience that, she states “it’s not your fault.” Clearly it is. She then proceeds to ask him what he does for work. Little does she know that he robs banks, including her bank, for a living. Other humorous moments are mostly related to all the outfits the robbers have to hide their identity and how well they pull it off: cop, EMT, nuns, etc. They play these parts oh so well.

As “The Town” progresses, you begin to feel sympathy for Doug’s character. He had a rough childhood, with a supposed suicidal mother and a convicted felon of a father (Chris Cooper). He had a chance at a hockey scholarship, but somewhere along the way he turned to drugs and crime. Now, he wants to get out of this life style and get back on solid ground. The audience is rooting for him. We also hope that he and Claire end up together in the end.

While the general concept of this movie is nothing new, “The Town” is entertaining nevertheless. It brings to light how much talent and the multi-tasking skills Mr. Affleck possesses. Not only did Ben Affleck direct and act in this film, he also co-wrote it alongside Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard. While his acting is hit or miss (including in this film with his on/off Boston accent), his directing is a hit. Perhaps he should spend more time behind the camera instead of in front of it.

Flipped

Posted: September 9, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by Sarah St. John

Based on a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen and directed by Rob Reiner (“Stand by Me”, “When Harry Met Sally”, “A Few Good Men”), “Flipped” could very well be another addition to the director’s vault of  timeless stories.  Unlike the present-day novel, the film is set in the late 50’s to early 60’s.  The plot revolves around the youthful, on/off love shared by Juli Baker and Bryce Loski (newcomers Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe).  Juli, as most young girls do, becomes instantly infatuated with Bryce as soon as he moves in next door.  Bryce, as most young boys do, thinks girls are gross.  Fast-forward to middle school, and as Juli’s feelings dissipate, Bryce’s interest flourishes.  The two are never on the same page, and the pleasant predictability comes from knowing that, in this type of story, they soon will be.

While “Flipped” has a rather familiar story, there are a couple of extraneous and exhausting subplots that seem to do nothing more than take up precious screen time.  One involves a sycamore tree that Juli likes to climb, which is at risk of being torn down as an eyesore to the community.  Then there is a diversion about Juli’s fascination with harvesting and distributing eggs, which adds little to the goodwill the film builds.

What is unique and captivating about “Flipped” is the style in which it was filmed and edited.  The film often moves back and forth between elementary and middle school years, as well as replaying scenes in a he said/she said manner as the characters narrate their respective points of view.  In doing so, we find they are on completely opposite ends of the friendship spectrum, which can be amusing.  “Flipped” also utilizes a sepia filter and a continuous soundtrack of golden oldies to accentuate flashbacks.  For the casual listener, these cover versions will suffice, but classic audiophiles may find them a disappointment.

In addition to being a carefree, family film, “Flipped” does touch on some topical, real-life issues such as class stereotypes, treatment of the mentally handicapped, coping with financial hardships and the importance of spending enough quality time with your family.  It is an all-around wholesome film, with nothing cringe-worthy other than a close-up shot of a snake eating an egg.  With a cast of familiar faces (Anthony Edwards, Rebecca DeMornay, Penelope Ann Miller, Aidan Quinn, John Mahoney) and a charming, enchanting story, “Flipped” is no flop.  It guarantees to be a crowd pleaser for young and old alike.

Going the Distance

Posted: September 2, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by Sarah St. John

“Going the Distance” is an adult-minded romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, who just happen to be a former couple off screen, which could account for their great rapport in the film.  Garrett (Long), suffering from a break up earlier that day, meets Erin (Barrymore) in a bar by distracting her from beating her high score on an arcade game.  Erin has six weeks left in New York City as a summer intern for a local newspaper, but despite this the two hit it off, date and ultimately fall in love.  A journalism major at Stanford, Erin must soon head across the country to her hometown of San Francisco, and reality hits the couple hard.  Who expects to fall in love in such a short period of time?  So they try to make a very long distance relationship work.

Not unlike other long-distance-relationship stories, “Going the Distance” shows us the trials and tribulations the couple goes through while trying to keep their love alive across thousands of miles: distractions, temptations and time zone differences.  Both Erin and Garrett look for jobs in each other’s cities so they can be closer to each other, to no avail.  However, Erin’s willingness to sacrifice lifestyle and career quickly becomes obvious, while Garrett doesn’t bend as easily.  A junior executive at a record label, Garrett doesn’t even like his job, but expects Erin to give up a once-in-a-lifetime journalism opportunity in San Francisco to live with him in NYC.  Erin has tried this before, and doesn’t want to leave her life behind for a guy who doesn’t seem willing to reciprocate.

Erin and Garrett are fun-loving characters, but seem rather dull and mundane in comparison to some of the more interesting supporting cast.  Standouts include Erin’s protective, paranoid sister, Corrine (Christina Applegate), who also suffers as a germaphobe.  Corrine’s husband, Phil (Jim Gaffigan), tends to show up at the wrong place and time.  Humor is also supplied by Garrett’s friends, Dan (Charlie Day) and Box (Jason Sudeikis), who like to set the tone for Erin and Garrett’s hookups by DJing through the bedroom walls.

The film’s style shifts, at times feeling like a hand-held documentary, leaving the camera movements shaky and the picture fuzzy.  It is unclear if the few scenes in which this occurs are intentional, and it distracts from the enjoyment of the story.

“Going the Distance” really falls short in how its humor has been targeted: based on the film’s trailers, audiences will probably expect a date-night version of fun, light romantic comedy.  Think again.  The humor is highly sexually-charged, to the point of being over-the-top and annoying at times.  The filmmakers could have reached a much broader audience by toning down some of the more crass, immature high school-level jokes.  “Going the Distance” promises sturdy, adult, romantic comedy, but starts to come across as silly and crude as a lost “American Pie” sequel.

Takers

Posted: August 27, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by Sarah St. John

“Takers” revolves around a group of five guys (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Michael Ealy, Chris Brown & Hayden Christensen) who call themselves…well, “Takers”.  They run bank heists to support their posh lifestyle (fancy clothes, luxurious cars and elite parties).  They leave no evidence behind and come up with elaborate escape methods that would make David Copperfield and Criss Angel jealous.  If anyone gets in their way, they are well-versed in martial arts and can take down an army of men.  After a $2M bank heist, a pair of LAPD detectives (Matt Dillon, Jay Hernandez) are eager to prevent another robbery, but the Takers tend to lay low and wait a year between jobs.  That is, until one of their old colleagues, Delonte “Ghost” Rivers (rapper T.I.), is released from jail a year early and divulges his elaborate plan to take down a couple of armored trucks which will net the group twenty million dollars. The catch: they only have five days to prepare, and like any good heist movie, things will not go according to plan.

“Takers” is action-packed and fast-paced from the get-go.  It will keep you on your toes and entertained throughout.  The film has a unique sense of style that works particularly well during action scenes, as in a final-act shoot-out filled with slow motion guns blazing, bodies leaping about and the feathers from pillows flying through the air.  Yet the film’s plot is so similar to “The Italian Job” that the earlier film gets a shout-out (“We’re gonna go Italian Job.”).

“Takers” offers subtle hints of humor through Gordon (Elba) and his “crack-head” sister, Naomi (Marianne Jean-Baptiste).  We are never really sure why she is in the story, or how it is relevant other than simple comic relief, as Naomi repeatedly appears at the wrong time and place, completely out of touch with reality much of the time.  Also somewhat pointless is the inclusion of Zoe Saldana’s character, who shows up in four very brief scenes, mostly without dialogue.  Maybe her character was a victim of last-minute editing, but one would imagine the star of one of the biggest blockbusters of all time would be worth a little more screen time.  In addition, eyebrow-furrowing ensues as Idris Elba switches back and forth between American and British accents as if he couldn’t remember what role he was playing.  This is strange and distracting.

“Takers” does a nice job of forcing audience sympathy for its “good” criminal characters, to the point we can understand their choices and actions.  Yet it also puts the viewer in the awkward position of choosing “hero” criminals over good cops, even when Hernandez’s Eddie is shown to have a shady secret.  The trend of romanticizing thieves is not a new one, but the movie doesn’t allow the viewer to fall in love with the police officers.  No, we want the bad guys to win.  To balance all this out, there are those really bad guys who are after the Takers and their money.

“Takers” is above all a great action film and true to its hype.  With its flash, style and youthful cast, it should do well in theaters during this final summer weekend.  Those who have been waiting over a year for its release will not be disappointed.  “Takers” will also make a great date movie, as it offers the fast-paced, driving action for the guys, and is loaded with eye candy for the ladies

Date Night

Posted: August 21, 2010 in MOVIE REVIEWS

by Sarah St. John

Date Night, starring Steve Carrell (The Office, 40 Year Old Virgin) and Tina Fey (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and known for her Sarah Palin impersonations), will make you laugh so hard you may need a diaper. Mr. Carrell and Ms. Fey play a married couple, Phil & Claire Foster, with two young children. Both have successful careers, but we sense that the exhaustion of work and the role of being parents have taken a toll on their relationship. Throughout the beginning of the movie, we discover that Phil & Claire have an infrequent sex life, and their highlight of the week is book club and date night.

It is during date night one evening that it all goes wrong. The Fosters decide to go to a nice seafood restaurant situated in the heart of Manhattan. Although this restaurant normally takes reservations months in advance, they decide they’ll take their chances. As predicted, there is no availability, so they wait at the bar in the event a table opens up. As a waitress goes around trying to find the “Triplehorn” couple and their table for two, Phil decides to claim that they are the Triplehorns in order to obtain a table.  The beginning of the night is all fun and games as they watch other couples and make up fake conversations that these couples are having. But, before their main course even arrives, two burly men in leather jackets ask them to step outside. The Fosters assume this is because they stole a reservation that wasn’t theirs, but quickly learn that isn’t the reason for the interrogation. The two men think they are the Triplehorns, and the Triplehorns have a flash drive that the men want.

At first, the Fosters try explaining that they are not the Triplehorns and that they just used that name to get a table. The men in leather claim that Triplehorn must be their alias. After the Fosters realize that they are not going to be able to convince these men that they are not the Triplehorns, Phil Foster tries to buy some time by saying the flash drive is in Central Park. After being escorted by the men to Central Park, they realize that that was a bad idea as Central Park isn’t populated at night. The Fosters try to pull all sorts of shenanigans to break free, including a story about Phil Foster needing medical attention for his penis.

Throughout the course of the movie, the Fosters go through a vast array of hilarious struggles to get access to the flash drive or find the Triplehorns. During this time, they break into office buildings, get invited by a shirtless Mark Wahlburg and his character’s girlfriend to have a foursome, steal one of Wahlburg’s cars and crash and get stuck to a taxi, and perform a silly strip tease together. Throw in Carrell and Fey’s witty and sarcastic humor, and you have a great “date movie”, and it will keep you laughing and on your toes.

So what is on that flash drive and who does it involve, you ask? You will just have watch it for yourself. But, be sure to stay for the credits/out takes as they are some of the most humorous moments in the whole movie.