Sunday, October 31, 2010


The Social Network is as sizzling as all of the critics have made it out to be.  It certainly proves that David Fincher can’t miss.  While it's his least visually flamboyant film to date, it's the one that has emphasized the written word over all other departments.  Aaron Sorkin knows how to write a lean, mean script.  Jesse Eisenberg plays a wonderful prick.  Andrew Garfield is gonna be a great Spidey.  Timberlake is surprisingly effective.  Everything works in this fast-paced, razor-sharp expose of the early beginnings of Facebook.  It’s not Fincher’s best film (Zodiac is tops for this writer) but it continues his flawless streak of exciting and trendsetting filmmaking.
Oliver Stone is, simply put and kinda sad to say, not the same filmmaker he once was.  Not that he’s become a bad filmmaker per se; it’s just that I get the feeling that for some reason his heart isn’t in it like it used to be.  Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is solid and entertaining and slick and fairly propulsive, but it’s a far cry from the original, and while Shia Lebeouf is a persuasive actor, it’s impossible to believe that he could tell off the likes of Michael Douglas and Josh Brolin in face-to-face confrontations.  I want the fiery, impassioned Oliver Stone back, the guy that pumped out masterpiece after masterpiece (films like JFK, Nixon, Natural Born Killers, Born on the Fourth of July come to mind).  W. was softer than I expected and would have liked, and now with Money Never Sleeps, it seems as if Stone is content to sit back a bit on autopilot.  He needs to get back to smoking hash and speeding in his Porsche along Sunset and acting like the bad-boy of cinema he used to be.

Ben Affleck, the director, has arrived.  He’s now a serious filmmaker to pay attention too.  With The Town, he has proved that Gone Baby Gone was no fluke.  The Town is a hot-blooded crime movie with lots of tough-guy dialogue and a gritty visual style (the incredible Robert Elswit is the d.o.p).  It's also got terrific action sequences and a dynamite car chase through the narrow streets of Boston.  Juicy supporting performances from Jeremy Renner and John Hamm bolster the narrative, while Rebecca Hall continues her impressive run from film to film (The Prestige, Frost Nixon, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Please Give, Red Riding 1974).  And then there’s Affleck, the actor, who gives probably the best performance of his career.  The Town never quite reaches the level of Heat (it's clear that all these guys have studied Mann’s masterwork religiously) but it’s cracker-jack genre entertainment nonetheless.  Affleck could become the next Eastwood if he plays his cards right.

Catfish...the other Facebook movie.  This is an exhilarating, constantly surprising documentary about a group of friends and aspiring filmmakers who learn the cruel, hard truth about the internet.  The less you know/read about this engrossing piece of work the better; it literally pins you to the edge of your seat and refuses to let you go.  I know that sounds like a cliched soundbite but it's true -- this film keeps you guessing.  Funny, sad, scary, and deeply human all at once, Catfish is a film made in the moment, for the moment, and with a cinematic pulse that feels alive and extremely relevant.

Hereafter shows Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon out of their comfort zones but doing some very interesting work.  I loved Damon's performance and also found Cecile De France to be quite effective.  The opening tidal wave sequence was gripping and harrowing (I never want to be in that position) and the ending, while obviously contrived, still worked because I was seriously invested in the characters and I respected how Eastwood and scripter Peter Morgan avoided any discussions of god and spirituality to leak into the tricky narrative.  It's not a game-changer but it's unique amongst Eastwood's filmography and it will definitely stick around in the memory banks upon exiting the theater.

For what it set out to do, Jack-Ass 3-D succeeded.  Genuinely disgusting and always hysterical.  Say what you want about our ever deteriorating society, but I laughed my ass off at the antics on display.  “Reviewing” this vomitorium of idiocy is pointless – you know what you’re getting into…you either want to see a guy covered in other people's fecal matter...or you don't...

With Let Me In, Matt Reeves proved that Cloverfield wasn’t a fluke, and that he was more than capable of adapting the brilliant Swedish original.  Repeating some of the same beats while creating some new ones, Reeves and his fantastic cast (Chloe Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Richard Jenkins are the standouts) have crafted a grisly horror story, a touching coming of age story, and a clever supernatural thriller all at once.  And since there’s no way it could have been as fresh or as new as the original (especially for those who have seen the Swedish import) it’s especially surprising that the film works as well as it does.  I preferred a few of the touches from the original but at the same time, Reeves does some stuff that is more powerful than what came before him.  It’s less of an out-and-out remake and more of a reimagining…one that matches its predecessor.  I still say that both Let The Right One In and Let Me In are the vampire movies for people who don't like "vampire movies."
A tender and delicate film that’s darker than dark at its core, Mark Romanek’s second theatrical effort, Never Let Me Go, (after the underrated One Hour Photo) slipped in and out of theaters and it’s a royal shame for that.  A trio of extremely committed performances (Kiera Knightley, Andrew Garfield, and Carey Mulligan – all sensational) anchor this thought provoking and ultimately devastating drama with sci-fi-ish overtones.  Here's the question:  if you had the money, would you clone yourself incase you needed a new heart or lung or kidney or eye or ear, knowing full well that your clone would likely not see more than 30 years of life?  That’s the whopper posed by this challenging narrative.  Every shot in Never Let Me Go seems ultra precise and extremely controlled; Romanek is a clear disciple of Kubrick.  And I think that old Stanley would have loved this quietly mesmerizing piece of cinema. 

1 comment:

Joel said...

So much to comment on. No time to do it.

I will say this: At this point on the year, Jesse Eisenberg is my personal choice for Best Actor.