By Chauncey Telese
So all in all not a bad week and it essentially concludes with me seeing probably the best one two punch at the movies in a while. Two different movies that will generate a lot of discussions come Monday. Okay, let’s get to it.
I know I was supposed to have a review of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and “Buried” today but instead I’ll just sum both movies up in a few sentences because I’d rather not be a week behind. With “Wall Street,” all I’ll say is that it is good, not great, and that any Shia LeBouf haters out there (and there are many) are starting to really run out of ammo. Also that it features some great acting all around but wasn’t Stone’s best written movie.
“Buried,” for being a movie that is essentially an hour and 34 minutes of Ryan Reynolds in a box, is fantastic. It is in the pantheon of claustrophobia movies and for people who think Ryan Reynolds has been trading on his Van Wilder persona for a decade, they are sorely mistaken.
On to today’s reviews.
One is a remake of a modern classic and faces a tough road for fans of the original, and the other is easily the best movie of the year so far (though not to take any credit away from it, 2010 is like the rest of the NBA during the Bulls’ 72-10 season, not competitive but still the Bulls had the fortitude to go 72-10 and win a title.) Does that analogy make sense? I guess not, on to the movies.
“Let Me In”: Proving Remakes Can Be Good, Yet Disappointing
When any entertainment medium is replicated usually the torches and baseball bats come out in droves. People don’t want to see something they love reinterpreted because it sort of taints the memories and feelings they developed while experiencing the original. When a band covers a song that the masses love it better be good or else. And while sometimes a cover song can overtake the original (think “Along the Watchtower” or “A Little Help from My Friends”) more often then not artists are shut down Pittsburgh Steelers-style and look foolish. In film, remakes are taken personally as well.
For instance, look at what happened when Gus Van Sant remade “Psycho.” He tried to reinterpret it and nearly ruined his and Vince Vaughn’s career in the process. The point is remakes are difficult because it can’t be a shot for shot rendition then you’re looked at the same way I looked at the Britney Spears episode of “Glee” (a huge “really” face coupled with sighs and eye rolls).
The trick is to keep the elements that made the original great in the first place while still adding in your own touches and I think that Matt Reeves does his best rendition of that for “Let Me In.” For those who haven’t seen the Swedish masterpiece “Let the Right One In” that was released in 2008 (you may think that’s too soon to declare anything a classic but that implies you haven’t seen it), which managed to almost reinvent the wheel or at least restore the wheel of vampire movies. It is about Oskar, a 12-year-old boy who is constantly bullied and finds friendship in Eli, who has been 12 for a really long time because she’s a vampire. Oskar is able to get revenge with Eli because she needs to eat and bullies are expendable to Oskar. That’s the complete Post It Note version but I don’t want to ruin anything for you. Just know that Eli lives with a guardian who is shady and creepy.
Okay, again not the best recap but that’s the base of what you need to know.
Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield” fame (not a fan of it to be honest) has taken on the assignment of remaking a movie that is beloved by so many because it has more emotional resonance then any “Twilight” movie or episode of “True Blood.” The smartest thing he does is cast two kids who are clearly destined for great things (assuming neither of them decide to go clubbing on a regular basis when they’re in high school). Chole Moretz Grace (who already blew me away as Hit Girl in “Kick Ass”) is outstanding as Eli (in America she’s been renamed Abby) and Kodi Smit- Mcphee (who held his own with Viggo Mortensen in “The Road”) plays Oskar (renamed Owen). While Reeves does replicate a lot of the scenes from the original but does piece together a back story between Abby and her guardian, which helps out a little bit. He also gets great performances out of everyone, particularly the kids who really do wonders here and Richard Jenkins as the man who hunts Abby.
The movie fails though because the CGI and effects feel out of place and look sub-par and tries to account for American audiences who may be bored because this isn’t a typical vampire movie. I guess the movie works if you haven’t seen the original and only because the acting is amazing, however those that have seen “Let the Right One In” will be disappointed but not surprised. It’s a tough gig but at the very least people who doubted that Reeves couldn’t do anything that didn’t resemble “Cloverfield” are shown that maybe if allowed to have his own material to work with he might be for real after all.
Now let’s switch gears and go into a movie that was called “The Godfather” or “Citizen Kane” of computer movies, a movie that was dubbed by some “the movie of the decade”, and given all sorts of hyperbole over the last few weeks. It is currently batting a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes (it’s been seen by 150 critics and four didn’t like it) Does it live up? Let’s find out.
“The Social Network”: The Best Movie of the Year Period!
Before I review this, let me preface with the following things: I promise that I won’t say anything like “I highly recommend you add this movie as a friend,” “Poke this movie,” “You will write about this on your friends’ wall for years” or any other really bad cliché that I’ve seen from other reviews.
Also to provide a little perspective, I am 21 years old and I do not have any social networking site at all. I don’t have a MySpace (not that anyone should because as Seth Myers once said MySpace is the equivalent of an abandoned amusement park), I don’t Tweet (because unless you’re famous or really interesting you shouldn’t be allowed to Tweet your mundane 141 character long thoughts), and I don’t have a Facebook page (though like MySpace, I did have one once). I am too much of a people person to want to spend my life playing on a virtual farm, poking people, or caring about my friend stock (granted the last one was taken to the literal extreme by “South Park”). I just prefer talking to people face to face or through text messaging (which sadly took me until April of 2009 to start doing. Okay, I’m weird but you knew that already).
However, as an advertising tool for a young comic, band, or whatever talent you are, it is an extremely valuable tool. I’m not like my dad who only recently got over his whole “the Internet is a fad and YouTube has no value whatsoever” state of mind.
Now to the claims of “The Social Network” being the defining movie of this generation. I was hesitant to concede that because that kind of distinction should come with time but then again that’s contradictory to what this generation is all about, excessive coverage and quick snap judgments. So while it doesn’t define me per say I will agree that it does define who we are as a society. “The Social Network” is easily the best movie of the year and will cruise - CRUISE - to a Best Picture Oscar.
Let’s set the clock back to fall of 2003. A time where the Pats were defending Super Bowl champions having just defeated McNabb’s Eagles, Lindsey Lohan hit pay dirt with “Freaky Friday” and by the movie’s end will have hit another home run with “Mean Girls.” Mel Gibson was the most powerful man in Hollywood, having released “The Passion of the Christ,” Kobe and Shaq were coming off a second round loss to the Spurs, the Red Sox were cursed, and Robert Downey Jr. was struggling to get work. Also 14-year-old Chauncey Telese was in his freshman year in high school spending his time backing up several people on the Saugus High School football team because he didn’t believe in running and spent too much time joking around and talking about movies.
This is where “The Social Network” begins. We start at a Harvard area bar where Mark Zuckerberg (an absolutely outstanding Jesse Eisnenberg) is having a drink with his girlfriend Ericka, (the up and coming Mara Rooney) and because Zuckerberg is essentially a social Vulcan (the guy doesn’t quite understand how to talk to people) he gets into an argument with her and in one of the great back and forth dialogue scenes in a long time she dumps him (her line last words to him hit harder then Clay Matthews Jr. or Lane Pryce’s dad). This prompts a drunken Mark to go to his dorm room and create a site called FaceSmash where he posts pictures of every Harvard girl he can download and have students vote whose hotter (he also blogs about Ericka and cuts her like Dexter Morgan). Mark essentially crashes Harvard’s server and inspires rowers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer playing both roles, well, he had a body double but his face was imposed onto the body double), to seek out Mark and have him develop a dating site exclusively for Harvard students. Mark says he’ll do it but instead has his best friend Eduardo (an excellent Andrew Garfield who is recently been cast as our new “Spider Man”) to help him create something better. Mark creates The Facebook, a site that is intended to simulate the college experience and eliminate the need for fraternities and exclusive clubs. Mark dodges the Winklevoss’ or Winklevi as he calls them and spends several weeks writing code and essentially builds the site by himself. And we all know what would eventually happen. The Winklevi are not happy that he sort of stole their idea (though he never used their code), and they try to sue him. As Mark becomes a celebrity he is sought after by Napster founder Sean Parker (his real name is Sean Fanning but for legal reasons he’s now Sean Parker) played by Justin Timberlake (“Saturday Night Live’s” evolutionary Tom Hanks) who gives Mark the idea of expanding worldwide and Eduardo sees Sean as a paranoid drug-addled mess (with good reason) but Mark just sees a guy who took down the record industry and the kind of person he thinks he wants to be. So over time the friendship between Mark and Eduardo deteriorates (I’m not spoiling anything because the entire movie is told via court depositions because the Winklevi and Eduardo sue Mark).
As the movie goes on, we see how Mark comes up with the little nuances that seem so commonplace and we see how the toll of the site success eats at all parties involved. I was totally ready to be just as cynical as Bill Maher who doubted a Facebook movie (he said “What’s the dramatic second act? Does the server crash”) but he misses the fact that the movie is not necessarily about Facebook nor is it necessarily entirely accurate. This movie is really about a guy in his dorm room ended up essentially changing the way we socialize forever and how this guy is ironically socially inept and ends up without a friend in the world (again not exactly a spoiler alert).
Though Erika is not in the movie much her presence drives Mark to become who he is (and at the end we see how this consumes him and it is touching) and through the Marilyn the legal assistant (Rashida Jones) we are shown a person who basically looks at Mark the same way I feel most would, with a combination of awe and pity. The way she sees him behave during the legal proceedings really drives how what the movie seeks to accomplish. This version of Mark is a guy that you either walk away hating or you walk away feeling a tad sorry for (I say a tad because he is the youngest billionaire in the world after all).
The movie works on all levels, Aaron Sorkin (writer of “A Few Good Men”, creator of “The West Wing,” creator of the underrated “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” which was eclipsed by the superior “30 Rock,” and writer of the underrated “Charlie Wilson’s War”) finally has a script that fully utilizes his gift for dialogue and will easily give him his first Oscar. David Fincher who made two of the best movies of the ’90s, “Seven” and “Fight Club” is low key enough not to interfere with the dialogue and even though the movie is totally dialogue driven he shoots it in a way that conveys tension. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails does the score and with Hans Zimmer’s booming score for “Inception, Beck’s score for “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and whatever Daft Punk come up with for “Tron Legacy,” this may be the hippest Best Original Score race ever (not like that’s hard to do but still it’s pretty neat).
The acting is dynamite. Eisenberg sheds his “Michael Cera” clone reputation (not my idea but the thought is out there), Andrew Garfield plays Eduardo as a guy who is Mark’s best friend but doesn’t have the kind of friendship he wants and that torments him. Aside from Eisenberg though the best performance is by Justin Timberlake because while I’ve always been annoyed with him as a musician (though he does have fantastic stage presence and a good voice I just don’t like the music) and he kills every time he goes near “SNL” and is naturally funny (also in the talk show guest Hall of Fame), he demonstrates that he can be a complete charmer who also is mentally unstable. Timberlake is the real deal as an actor and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him strongly considered for Best Supporting Actor.
This is the best movie of 2010 about 2010 (though it takes place in 03 and 04) and assuming we don’t get stuck in another “Avatar” vs. “The Hurt Locker” philosophical debate that undermines the Best Picture race, though that can’t happen two years in a row, can it? I highly recommend this movie and considering the above preamble that’s a strong endorsement.
If this doesn’t suit you then there is the comedy “You Again” with Jamie Lee Curtis (who sadly lost her father the great Tony Curtis), the family film “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of G’Hoole”, the documentaries “Waiting for Superman” and “Freakanomics”, as well as the horror movie “Case 39”.
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as I cover “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”.
Remember you can see these and other fine films at your local Edwards.