The Social Network (2010)

Our way of living has been defined by many key creations in history. Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook. One may find it strange that Zuckerberg would be included on a list of great inventors, but think about this for a moment. Before Facebook, to write on somebody's wall meant to take a pen and draw on some one's house. "I have to pick my strawberries" was something only a farmer would say. Making friends involved going out to social events and speaking with people in the flesh. Now, with the click of a mouse you can connect with hundreds of "friends", like their status, play bejeweled, and spend a good chunk of your day "creeping" on people's profiles. Our every day lives and even our language have been updated, and it is because of Mark Zuckerberg, organizer of the biggest social gathering in human history.

The Social Network revolves around the birth of Facebook back at Harvard University in 2003. Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, Adventureland) plays Zuckerberg, a socially inept genius with one friend in roommate Eduardo Savarin (Andrew Garfield). After being dumped by his girlfriend in the first scene, Zuckerberg takes to the internet to create a website as way to get some revenge. No it's not Facebook yet, but the website he creates becomes so popular in just four hours, it manages to crash Harvard Univesity's server. Impressed, twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer in both roles) commission Zuckerberg to help create a website they have been thinking of. A social networking site. Zuckerberg agrees, but rather than help them, he designs his own website with the help of Savarin, and thus Facebook is born. But the journey to fame is no easy walk, and Zuckerberg's life becomes filled with controversy.

The Social Network just might be a perfect movie. Writer Aaron Sorkin will more than likely earn an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (the book being "The Accidental Billionaires" by Ben Mezrich). Expertly crafted, Sorkin brings the audience a witty, intelligent, cocky, quick, and sharp film, a perfect parallel to the main character Zuckerberg. Along with this, Sorkin manages to take a rather uninteresting plot and shape it into an intense two hour heart pounder that you will not want to see end. This film is driven heavily by dialogue, yet it moves with the pace of a summer blockbuster, due in part to the astute direction from David Fincher.

Jesse Eisenberg is flawless as the flawed Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. Never hitting a wrong note, Eisenberg captures Zuckerberg's awkward, work driven, condescending demeanor in every frame. It should not surprise anyone to find Eisenberg's name in discussions for Best Actor come Oscar season. But the real surprise coming from The Social Network is the supporting performance from practically unknown Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg's only friend Eduardo. Garfield is outstanding as the modest, business-headed CFO of Facebook. Eduardo's story is tragic, and Garfield's performance draws out heaps of sympathy from the audience. A Best Supporting Actor nomination could be on the horizon for this young actor, and it would be well deserved. It's also worthy to note that Justin Timberlake gives a very strong performance as Napster creator Sean Parker, who infiltrates his way into Facebook and turns Zuckerberg against his friend Eduardo.

But the part of The Social Network that audiences will find to be the most stimulating is analyzing the character of Mark Zuckerberg. This is a man not driven by money or fame. He does bad things, but is not inherently a bad person. At one moment he will commend his friend Eduardo and in the next breath he will demean him, both sentences being in the same tone of voice. His motivations are never explained, because it is more than likely Zuckerberg himself does not understand them. Are his actions later in the film defined by Parker interfering in his life? Is Zuckerberg legitimately a bad person? If money and fame do not motivate him to perfect Facebook, then what exactly does? These are all difficult questions, and you will have fun finding the answers.

It should be noted that although most of the basic events that take place in this film are real, the circumstances surrounding them have been greatly exaggerated and falsified. The writers of the book and film respectively took creative license in order to make a more entertaining story, which is what the business is all about. However, this does not take away from the impact of the film at all. The Social Network will stand as a defining film of our generation for years to come. My guess is, you will "like" The Social Network. My rating (10/10).

Kick-Ass (2010)

Being a superhero is as close as a fictional character can get to becoming a celebrity. Many people forget the names of actors and actresses, but nobody is going to dig through their mind trying to remember who the guy in the bat suit is. This easy notoriety is the reason so many of us fantasize about having superpowers (and don't pretend that you don't). So, how come nobody has tried to be a superhero? This is the exact question Kick-Ass' protagonist Dave Lizewski asks his two nerdy friends as they hang out in their local comic book store. If you ask me, it's to prevent movies like Kick-Ass from being made.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a textbook nerd. He has big glasses, a cracking voice, and is utterly invisible to the popular crowd at school. His favorite hang out spot is a comic book store with his two friends that do nothing to improve his image. Fed up with being useless in a world run by crime, Dave decides that what we really need is a superhero. Equipped with absolutely no combat skills, a green wet suit, and some clubs, Dave assumes his alter-ego as Kick-Ass. Little does Dave know that he is not the only superhero on the block. After narrowly being killed by thugs, Dave is saved by Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz), a father-daughter team set on seeking vengeance for a past atrocity by crime lord Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). Soon after, Dave discovers that being a superhero may not always be worth the fame.

Kick-Ass is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Mark Millar. I have not read the graphic novel, but I have no doubt that it was much better than this film. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Kick-Ass because of Chloe Moretz's role as Hit Girl. There is apparently something about a 13 year old sporting a trucker's foul mouth and a tendency towards bloody violence that just did not sit right with most parents. Well, I'm no parent. Hit Girl was one of the only good things about this movie. As a source of several of the few laughs to be had, Chloe Moretz does an apt job of keeping this otherwise lackluster film afloat. But the real treat was seeing her interact with her character's father, Big Daddy, played brilliantly by Nicolas Cage. Cage and Moretz bring undeniable chemistry to the screen, and are an absolute delight to watch. The best scene in the entire film comes when we first meet Big Daddy and Hit Girl as their plain clothes selves, Damon and Mindy Macready. Former cop Damon is teaching his daughter how to deal with shooting her in the chest while she wears a bullet proof vest. This scene gave me hope that this movie would have many more brilliant scenes to come. Unfortunately, this movie was not called Big Daddy and Hit Girl. It's Kick-Ass. So let's discuss the titular hero.

Do you know how fun it is to watch somebody who cannot fight, try to beat up a group of criminals? You may think it's kind of funny for a few minutes, but after a while it just becomes kind of sad. Well that is how I felt watching Kick-Ass. First of all, the character of Dave Lizewski was one that I had no feelings towards. Aaraon Johnson was not doing enough to create a main character that was worthy of my sympathy. I did not care about him. Because of this, my interest in the character was void. There may have been some hope when he became Kick-Ass, but I soon discovered another problem. It is just no fun to watch somebody flail their arms around in a green wet suit. I understand that his inability to fight was the point, but that doesn't make it a good point. Every film has two basic sides: the point (message, theme, etc) and the entertainment (emotional responses). You can have effective entertainment without having an effective point, but you can NEVER have an effective point without effective entertainment. You can make a film about the most important subject ever, but if I don't like the way you tell the story, than why should I care? Sadly, Kick-Ass does not gain fighting skills throughout the course of the film, so any scene with him is just as monotonous as Johnson's voice over.

Well maybe Kick-Ass shouldn't be graded on its performances. After all, it has been advertised as a high-octane violence fest. Surely, the action sequences are top notch and worth the films downfalls. Well, don't be so sure. There are actually relatively few fight scenes in Kick-Ass, and there are even fewer that are actually fun to watch. The best fight in the film belongs to Big Daddy. It was well choreographed and excellently filmed. Unfortunately, it lasts only about 20 seconds. The majority of the fighting in the film is done by Hit Girl, and though her moves are eye-poppingly exciting the first few times around, they became rather stale near the end. I felt like I was watching the same scene over and over again.

Kick-Ass is a movie that should have remained a graphic novel. It's protagonist did not transfer well to the screen, and neither did it's style. Perhaps if the film focused more on Big Daddy and Hit Girl it would have been a lot better, but that probably would have upset the fanboys of the graphic novel. I cannot recommend this film to anybody over the age of 30 or under the age of 17. This film is perfect for the college crowd but will not sit well with anyone else. And I have a feeling that in a couple of years, not many people will even remember it. My rating (4/10)

Moon (2009)

Sam Rockwell is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated actors working today. Despite excellent turns in The Green Mile and Matchstick Men (just to name a few), Rockwell never received the real notoriety he deserves. Now at age 40, Rockwell may have finally found the role which will grant him A-list status. Moon is the futuristic story of Sam Bell, a man who has been stationed on the moon in order to collect a valuable energy source. With two weeks left on his three year contract, Sam is looking forward to returning home to see his wife and daughter. But just as his trip home looms around the corner, he begins noticing some strange occurences going on around his solitary station. With robot companion GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey), Sam attempts to unravel the mystery behind his mission.

Moon is the debut film for writer/director Duncan Jones, who was formerly famous for being David Bowie's son. Jones' ideas are familiar enough to any science fiction fan. The ideas of solitude and dehumanization are prevalent throughout the film, which seem to be staples of the genre. But Jones handles these tried and true ideas with care, and uses apt direction to bring them to life. His frequent use of wide, expansive shots is key to showing Sam's loneliness. In one particularly powerful scene, Sam drives out to the middle of a wide open range and begins to cry for his home. Jones brilliantly places the camera in a position that shows Sam's vehicle all by itself on the moon's surface, with Earth looming in the background. As a first time writer, Jones also understands that most audiences do not like to be kept in the dark too long about a film's mystery. By revealing the "secret" halfway through the film, we were able to appreciate Moon as a character driven powerhouse.

But the true reason anybody and everybody should see Moon is Sam Rockwell's beautiful performance. As essentially the only actor on screen for what must be 95% of the film, Rockwell is burdened with keeping this movie afloat for the 97 minute runtime. Masterfully, Rockwell tackles this chore with ease, turning this one man show into Academy Award material. Unfortunately, Sony Pictures decided to not send this film out for consideration, a move which has caused much uproar in the film community. There is no doubt that Rockwell would have been nominated for Best Leading Actor, and he maybe could have won,

Just because Sony snubbed this film does not mean you should too. Moon is one of the best science fiction films of the decade, giving new life to old conventions of cinema. This film should be at the top of your movie rental list. My rating: (9/10)

Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange