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>> Sunday, October 31, 2010

I see dead people... and you can too for only $4.99 a minute!

I hadn't really heard of Clint Eastwood being a director until Million Dollar Baby (2004). Since then I've seen pretty much every film he's directed, my favorite being Gran Torino (2008). A lot of people like Gran Torino because of the shock value associated with Clint's racist remarks. It's also pretty cool to see Eastwood kick some ass again, with his 'takes no shit' attitude. What I remember most about that film, though, is not just the dark glimpse into the life of a dying man, but how the film itself flowed in a very organic way from the softer moments to the rougher ones. I remember Gran Torino being like a great poem. If you have the patience, take it slow, listen to and watch everything closely and appreciatively, a rare and beautiful experience will unfold before your eyes - leaving you knowing just a tiny bit more about your own life and who you really are. It's not inspiration per say, but rather an understanding.

As with Gran Torino, Eastwood seems to be realizing that he's getting older. If you've made a movie about what happens when you get old and the last minutes of your life are upon you, than I suppose the next logical step would be making a flick that questions what happens after you die. That's when Clint decided to team up with Matt Damon and Cécile De France to bring us Hereafter.

George Lonegan (Damon) is a retired psychic. He had a book written about him, his own website and his own office. One day, out of the blue, he quit to pursue a career at a factory. Now George makes only a fraction of what he did before, but as his brother Billy (Jay Mohr) proclaims, "He says he's happy". The reason for leaving it all behind? As George tells Billy repeatedly, its because his 'gift' is more of a curse. He finds he is spending more time on the afterlife than on his own life, leaving George without much of an existence at all.

I imagine it would be a tough life being the man who has all the answers. George often runs into problems with people disliking what he has to say, as is the case with the near romantic experience George has with fellow culinary class student, Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). After getting him to do a reading she begs him to do, he never sees her again. Even worse for George, who has the answers to the questions that plagues him?

Hereafter is not only George's movie, though. Being as important and diverse a topic as post-death existence is, we travel across the pond to catch up with the lives of two others who have had death come a little too close for comfort. There is the news personality, journalist Marie LeLay (De France), and Marcus (played by both Frankie and George McLaren). Marie nearly drowned and believes she saw the white light. Meanwhile Marcus, who is only about ten years old, lost his twin brother Jason (his only friend and confident) to a car accident. Marcus and Marie become affected intensely by the experience of death, so they both set out on their own journey to find the answers they are looking for.

Marie uses her journalist super powers to seek out a more definite answer, for a topic that her colleagues say has a 'limited market' (as in, it's only for the crazies in the world). Marcus on the other hand, simply wants to talk to his brother again and beg him to come back - sad, I know, yet highly effective. This leads Marcus on a journey that forces him to sift through the many fakes that exist in the psychic world - from mediums who use ultra-sensitive high frequency microphones, to those that use a similar technique originally popularized by fake psychic, John Edward. Marie on the other hand, speaks with esteemed colleagues of hers - professionals who have been looking into life after death for years on a scientific level. I found the two characters a good representation of the way the world sees the hereafter. While Marie is out seeking fact-based knowledge as a professional adult, Marcus is out taking a faith-based approach - which is right on the money for someone who is still young enough to believe in Santa Claus.

As you can gather from my aforementioned appreciation of Eastwood's directing skills, it would take a hell of a misfire for me to have disliked Herafter. One of the things I've consistently noticed in all of Eastwood's work is his keen eye for lighting. More often than not its completely breathtaking to look at and you can see a definite fondness for dark settings. In Hereafter, it works especially well as I believe all the under-lit faces play as a parallel on this film's brief images of the afterlife - where the deceased appear as fuzzy and darkly lit - another nice subtle commentary on the idea that the living are just as lost as those who have passed on.

I mentioned earlier as well that Eastwood's films more often than not require you to be patient. If you're looking for an action movie or for something that will move quickly, this isn't for you. Hereafter has a running time of over two hours, and it's the type of film you have to be in the mood for. But if you're in that mind frame, you'll be in for something that will leap off the screen and play out like the reading of an amazing poem, that has existed just long enough to be wise, and in turn radiates age and experience with every word -not unlike the Hereafter's eighty-year old director.

I am giving Hereafter a well deserved open door. Death and the afterlife are incredibly important topics to keep as neutral as possible in order to send the right message. Hereafter doesn't ever really confirm that life after death is a real thing, nor does it make religion front and center in trying to convey its messages. Rather, it tells the tale of George, Marie and Marcus to, simply enough, relay their story and portray the many ways a person deals with death. In the end, Hereafter is just as much about the acceptance of death as it's about what happens after we all die. Eastwood's never done better , and I would keep this in mind come Oscar season.

*Stills courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures



>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As I headed to the theatre last night to see Score: A Hockey Musical, I did what I normally do. I get to the theatre forty-five minutes to an hour early, I grab any food I want and I head into the theatre to get the best seat possible. This normally results in me getting my favorite seat - back row center. Walking into Score produced no different result. Not only was I treated to the best viewing spot in the house, I was also privy to a view I can honestly say I didn't expect nor have every experienced - that of a completely empty theatre. Not just for the half hour before the movie started, but through the entirety of Score as well. Through all my years of seeing movies on every day of the week, during every time of the day and no matter at which point in the films theatrical run - that I've never had the whole theatre to myself, especially not during the film's opening week.

In some movies, I would be thrilled by this. It's certainly something I've wished once or twice I could experience in some cheaper theatres, but it's nothing I've ever expected to happen at a bigger multiplex. Yet there I was. Alone, confused and kind of upset. Being a filmmaker with aspirations of my own films being shown at this exact theatre one day, I was disappointed to see nobody supporting this film. It's an all Canadian film which now seems doomed to the fate of its predecessors (Gunless [2010], Pontypool [2008]) - recognized, unpopular and seen by few. This may be due to the Canadian film curse, that drives our stars and our talents down south for "actual" success - all of which will continue to happen if we don't start going to our own goddamn movies. That's just a small piece of my mind and I could easily write a much bigger post on it, but this is a review for Score, and that's what I will continue with.

I'll get this out there right now, I don't really watch Hockey, but recognize and embrace it as Canada's sport. I do however have a soft spot in my heart for musicals. They are tough to pull off correctly, but when done right, they are absolute magic and can make you feel just fantastic. One of my favorite movies is Hairspray (2007), and I'm not ashamed to say it. But I also like the classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Mary Poppins (1964) - simply because I can appreciate them. The fact that Score is Canadian and a musical is what drove me to see this film.

Score tells the tale of home schooled Farley Gordon (Michael Cera wannabe Noah Reid). Farley's neighbour is his best friend (Allie MacDonald) who has had a crush on Farley ever since they have known each other. 'Problem' is, he doesn't know. Fareley rarely leaves the house except for one thing - to play hockey, and he's damn good at it. He could never play in a team though. Not because he doesn't want to, but his parents are kind of prudes when it comes to organized sports. Farley's mother Hope, by the way, is played by Olivia Newton-John - who us terribly underused considering this is her first return to a musical since Grease [1978].

One fine day, Farley gets discovered by the owner (Stephen McHattie) of the Blades, a local hockey team. He is reluctant but soon finds himself trying out for the team, to the chagrin of Coach Donker (John Pyper-Ferguson) who is understandably hesitant about the home schooled kid who's never played an organized game of hockey in his life. Predictably, Farley blows the socks off of everybody and is soon the biggest star in town - appearing on billboards, magazine covers and cereal boxes. But is the fame too much for him to handle. His best friend and parents seem to think so. They say he's 'changed' and is 'different' - this is the point where you confirm what you've been thinking for the last forty-five minutes, that Score is predictable and unoriginal in its characters and plot. Oh, and Farley refuses to fight when another player challenges him. This is apparently what makes a hockey game and there's no room for his 'why can't everybody just get along' mentality.

In support of Canadian films I wanted to really like Score. In fact, before I went to the film I believed I would most likely give it an open door. However, I'm sad to report this is not the case. The reason Score failed as much as I think it did is for more than just one reason, so don't think I'm being picky here.

The first and biggest problem I should bring up is the songs themselves. It was as if the songs were trying to be bigger than they could be, and for some reason most seemed to be no longer than a minute. The audio was badly mixed which was incredibly distracting. I often found it difficult to hear the lyrics over the rest of the music, which made any meaning the songs had to begin with...well, meaningless. It wasn't until the last twenty minutes or so that I felt the songs finally improving. Every song up until that point seemed weak, awkward and out of place. I then realized that it was because there was an orchestra behind the songs, rather than the piano and guitar combination every other song had (causing them to all sound the same). In my opinion (obviously), Score's composers should have spent more time developing a good nine or ten songs rather than spending less time on twenty. Classic debate: quality or quantity?

When it comes to songs in a musical, it's my belief they should exist only when the message or emotion cannot be easily or efficiently conveyed in another fashion, such as dialogue or visuals. A good musical has no songs out of place - they are there for a reason and flow with the entirety of the film. Score felt like it was broken down into music, movie, music, movie, music, movie, etc. Each one interrupted the next which became very distracting and, well, annoying - especially when the songs have no imagination. It's one thing to have characters just stand on the street and sing to each other lacking any actual visual stimuli, but its another when the lyrics appear to be as complex as something written by a sixth grader. I think at one point they actually rhymed 'cat' with 'hat'.

As for the characters, I didn't really like any of them, especially the main cast. There is one character on Fareley's hockey team named Maurice (Chris Ratz) that I enjoyed whenever he was on screen, as did I enjoy the very few shots of the overly rambunctious character played by Nelly Furtado. She seemed fun, obnoxious and for some reason she was hanging off the arm of a big, fat, shirtless guy. Where's the rest of her part? Hell, where's her own movie?

I'm giving Score: A Hockey Musical a closed door. Its a better film when it's not constantly being interrupted by its out of place and awkward musical numbers. Even then, the dialogue and storyline are okay at best. This grade isn't because I don't follow hockey, nor is it because this is a small Canadian film. This grade is because Score felt lazy. It's writer was also its director - Michael McGowan, who also directed Joshua Jackson in the also 'only okay' One Week (2009). I feel if McGowan had spent more time on the script or brought in another writer we may have had something main stream enough yet uniquely Canadian. His gross underuse of bigger names like Olivia Newton-John and Nelly Furtado are big mistakes that should have been corrected upon confirmation of their involvement. Also, I couldn't figure out for the life of me if the movie itself was trying to be cheesy and silly, or if it was taking itself seriously. All the actors seemed to play it as if it was a serious drama, which is maybe why none of Score actually worked. Do me a favor, McGowan. Next time you make a movie please make it decent enough so I don't look like an ass for supporting Canadian cinema. Thanks.

*Stills courtesy of Mulmer Feed Co.



>> Saturday, October 23, 2010

A lot more paranormal activity.

I don't think a person can begin to talk about Paranormal Activity 2 without speaking about the first film, Paranormal Activity. In my review for the first film I concluded it was a patient man's movie. If you gave it enough of your time and had the right atmosphere, the movie's quietness and eeriness would serve you well when the big moments came. I also mentioned that Paranormal Activity was also lacking a lot of those big moments. I later found out the film was made for only $11, 000 and this made those mistakes more forgivable. A sequel however, that has a budget roughly 200 times higher than that of the original, has no excuse for failing. Thankfully, it doesn't.

The movie opens with another couple, living in the suburbs. This couple has a fourteen year old daughter, and a baby boy named Hunter. At this point a person is not sure who these people are and how or if they connect to the previous film's stars, Katie and Micah. That guessing game doesn't continue for long as it is soon revealed that Katie (Katie Featherston)is the mother's sister. I would like to also apologize for the lack of character and actor names in this review, as IMDb and Paramount seem to want to uphold the illusion that this film is real - even if we all know otherwise.

It isn't long before unexplained things start to happen. It starts off small (the pool lights going out) and eventually gets bigger (shadows appearing and doors slamming). The good news here is that PA2 moves at a much quicker pace than it's predecessor, having things happen almost immediately - even if they aren't related to the actual 'paranormal activity'. The movie is told this time through a handheld camera accompanied by an in-home security camera system, which was installed shortly after a break-in during the first few minutes. It works effectively as this time we don't have to buy into the unlikely fact that someone will have a camera on them at all times. It also allows us to see events (no matter how big) unfold to individuals while alone at home.

I don't want to go much further into the plot. What I will comment on is that if you take a look at the poster for the film, you may notice that the baby in the crib is not in the reflection in the mirror - even though everything else is. This is not necessarily important to PA2, nor does it give anything away, it's just an interesting thing to take notice of.

I am giving Paranormal Activity 2 a wide open door. It was not only entertaining and vastly superior to the first, but its story also tied in very well in a way that sheds some unexpected light on the overall story. This is either a sequel ploy or it was planned all along. ;-) Not only does it move at a nice pace but it effectively scares and even shocks you at just the right moments , all without seeming cheesy. This is definitely a movie to see in the theatres not only this Halloween, but beyond the season as well. It's by far the scariest movie of the year and will not disappoint.

*Stills courtesy of Paramount Pictures


RED (2010)

>> Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Old man, my ass!" - Marvin Boggs

Alright. Time for some movie trivia. What do you get when you put Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich in a movie? You get a very lazy intro for my movie review of Red. You also get something that is surprisingly really, really fun.

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired Black Ops CIA agent who lives a mundane life in suburbia. Is it boring? Hell yes. Does he seem to mind? Yes and no. In an intro that is akin to American Beauty (1999) (minus the narration) we catch a darkly funny glimpse into Moses' life and how he spends his time. Whether it's destroying his mail as a reason to speak to somebody on the phone, or putting up Christmas decorations simply because his neighbours have done it as well - Moses goes through the same motions day in and day out. But there's always that look in his eye. A look that says he prays somebody will come crashing through his wall with a semi-automatic and try to take him out. Cut to scene two - it appears Moses gets his wish.

If you're a man in Moses' position, you may live alone - but you're wise enough to know you're not really alone. Enter Moses' Black Ops long time friends - Joe (Morgan Freeman), crazy 'they did experiments on me' Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). They all happen to be on the hit list it seems, and I'm not talking about 80's pop. Also joining the group is Moses' very recently acquired girlfriend, Sarah (Weeds' Mary-Louise Parker). The group's main goal outside of staying alive is to find the person who put the hit out on them.

They seek help from a former Russian enemy, Ivan (Brian Cox), who says to Moses "Twenty years ago if you would have walked through my door I would have killed you. Now... now I'm just too old to care". Ivan's statement becomes the creed Red as a films seems to live by. Through all their shenanigans these guys get into, each characters represents a certain ideal of what it's like to be past your prime.

Moses seems to have the philosophy that life goes on and things change, and he has to suck it up. He treats his retirement much like he would have treated a mission - in stride without uttering a complaint. Joe has Cancer and has since realized and accepted his fate. Victoria, on the other hand, is dreadfully bored. She likes her quiet life but keeps a gun near her at all times should the opportunity arise to put a bullet into someone's torso. Ivan is just saddened that it had to end and leads a life filled with nostalgia. At one point he utters to Moses "I miss the old days, I haven't killed anyone in years." To which Moses replies, in a empathetic and serious tone "That's sad." It is sad, but it's also quite funny. In the end, that's what Red is about.

What do you do when your 'life' is over? Do you accept it, do you fight it, or do you start a new chapter? Outside of that, Red is also about the generational gap between those born in the first half of the century and those born in the latter half. Moses' generation was about people who would do their job as long as they were recognized and treated right because of it. Meanwhile, rookie CIA agent Will Cooper's (Star Trek's (2009) Karl Urban) generation expects recognition and special treatment without having to work for it. It's safe to say in the end Cooper may learn a thing or two from Moses.

Red gets an open door. It's not just an action movie or a comedy, but deals with life lessons both realized and unrealized. The cast in this film is very well put together and creates a great energy that radiates from the screen - mainly as a result of the fun these guys had making this movie. There's some insanely great action shots in this movie, snappy dialogue and costumes that were also quite good (something I don't normally notice in films). It reminds me a lot of how a retired James Bond movie might play out. John Malkovich is also a delight and delivers some of the best one-liners of this film and most others I've seen this year. If you get the chance, go see Red. It's s shame this will undoubtedly get lost amongst the Jackass's and other more anticipated films of the Fall. It surely deserves more.

*Stills courtesy of Summit Entertainment


CATFISH (2010)

>> Monday, October 18, 2010

Plenty of fish in the sea? Maybe. Plenty of catfish? Thankfully, no.

I first heard about Catfish about two months ago. At that point I had no idea what it was, nor did I look into it. After all, I had never heard of it before and based on the title and the poster image alone, I assumed it was some kind of horror movie. In some ways, it turned out I was right.

For those of you that haven't seen the trailer or even heard of the documentary (which shouldn't be too many people by now), Catfish follows the life of photographer Nev Schulman as he embarks on an online journey that involves three members of the same family. There is Abby, an 8-year old painting prodigy, Megan, Abby's older half-sister, and Angela, Abby and Megan's mother. Nev starts out by discovering the painting abilities of Megan and through long distance correspondence he begins to form a relationship with all three. Eventually Nev starts to form feelings for Megan, and that's where the movie starts.

Nev's roommates (which include his brother Ariel Schulman) are filmmakers. Being a filmmaker I constantly think the same thing these guys did - "Hey, maybe we should start taping this stuff - it may make a good movie one day". Indeed. However, after eight months of getting to know Megan through Facebook and phone calls, some strange things and irregularities start to surface that lead Catfish to a place that is in some ways, very dark. That's as far as I'll go when it comes to summarizing the story due to spoliers.

Take my advice, if you plan on seeing Catfish, stay away from spoilers that may pop up when it comes to the ending. I unfortunately knew what happened prior to seeing the film and I feel that may have changed how I saw it for the first time. However, like most good movies with a twist ending, it becomes equally as interesting to watch or rewatch the movie knowing what happens. It allows you to see and appreciate certain intricacies .

As Catfish became more popular, questions popped up as to what aspects of the film were true. Frankly, I didn't think it mattered. Sure, as with most documentaries (specifically Michael Moore vehicles) you wonder if what you're seeing was put in for truth and fact, or shock and entertainment. In this case I'd say what you're getting is about 90% truth. In the end though, I don't think it matters. What the movie focuses on more and more (and maybe not enough) is the complex nature of the human mind and the abilities it has to keep people on their toes. Catfish isn't as much a thriller as it is a human interest story.

What's interesting is watching a movie like this the same month as The Social Network. Both are relatively Facebook oriented, both make comments about the way most people are living their lives and how big an impact online dating and social networking have become on our society. Most people I know live their lives by Facebook and more often than not either end up loving it and getting addicted, or hating it because of the pressures it can have, mistakes made and lives that have been ruined by it. Catfish is another shining example of almost all of these. Something that should be referred to as 'the Facebook circle of life'.

I am giving Catfish an open door. As aforementioned, it's a great human interest story as has decent social commentary. I found at times it dragged slightly and feel maybe the documentary-making experience (or lack thereof) of Nev and crew lacked enough skill to really dig into the story they stumbled upon. After you watch this film, I recommend tracking down the 20/20 episode that aired on Friday October 8th. It goes into the film's story with a bit more detail and gets answers to some of the questions you may be left asking when the credits roll.

*Stills courtesy of Relativity Media and Rogue


JACKASS 3D (2010)

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

Jackass 3D - so real it'll make you vomit, then laugh, then vomit.

I don't know if there's actually been any films quite like the Jackass movie series, which started in 2002 with Jackass: The Movie and continued in 2006 with Jackass Number Two. Over the years (and starting with the initial show on MTV in 2000) Johnny Knoxville (Men in Black II [2002]) has given us the gift of an intentional, R-rated version of America's Funniest Home Videos. You think its funny to see a kid throw a baseball at his dad's groin? What if the dad knows it's coming and you can see the "Holy shit" look in his eyes? Now that's funny. What Knoxville has now done (being the pioneer that he sorta is) is said, okay, okay - that is funny. But what if we do it all in... (wait for it) super cool, state of the art 3-D?!

I know what you're thinking - because I (and anybody else with a slight distaste for sheep culture) are thinking the same thing. "No, Johnny! Don't! Jackass is perfect with its home video style the way it is! Don't jump on this band wagon and ruin it!" I guess I should say, that's what I thought. That somebody so cool like Johnny Knoxville would sell out due to studio pressure, blah blah blah. I was dead wrong.

Here's a guy that says "Look at what Hollywood is doing with 3-D. It's fucking everywhere. It's too fucking everywhere. And nobody is doing anything that looks remotely 3-D with it either. It makes things look pretty, sure, but where's all the shit that flies out at you? Where's the illusion that you can reach out and touch something that's not really there? I think we should do that. Yeah, yeah. A 3-D Jackass!" The thing you will be able to reach out and "touch"? A flying dildo, feces (lots of it) and maybe a penis or two (and not your own or the stranger next to you, please).

When it comes to the Jackass movies you probably know the drill - mix two parts gross out humour with one part insanely stupid stunts and three parts 'how the hell did they think of that?' The result? Pure enjoyment. Although I had my doubts about what the cast could do this third time around (and in 3-D nonetheless), Jackass 3D may be short on a few ideas that made the original shows and movies so endearing - but I'll damned if it doesn't work. Not only that, but the 3-D in this installment of Jackass makes this film the best 3-D movie of the year. Also added to the repertoire? A super slow mo camera you'll find more at home in TV shows like Time Warp and Mythbusters. Remember that shot in The Matrix Revolutions (2003) where Neo punches Agent Smith in the face and it goes crazy super slow? Lots of that stuff in Jackass, only real, and with more than just a punch to the face. Awesome.

Jackass 3D gets an open door, easily. Definitely one of the more entertaining pieces of cinema I've seen this year and one of the best times I've had at a theatre in a while. If you think a horror movie makes you cringe to the point where you cover your eyes and peak through your fingers, think again. I don't know how many times I sunk into my seat thinking nothing but "Holy shit..." (pun intended). Go see this movie. Go see it in 3-D. You won't regret it.

*Stills courtesy of Dickhouse Productions



>> Monday, October 11, 2010

Blue Horseshoe likes Money Never Sleeps, but doesn’t love it.

I’ll admit it right off the bat. I’d never seen Wall Street until a week or so prior to seeing it’s follow up. Of course, like most, I knew of the 1987 original that earned Michael Douglas his first acting Oscar for his portrayal of the now infamous Gordon Gecko. ‘Greed is good’ Gecko used to say, with such certainty you could have sworn it was one of the Ten Commandments. Now, twenty some years later, it seems he may have been wrong – and more poignantly, realizes it.

Turns out Gecko’s former protégé, Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen of Wall Street), wasn’t the only one to back stab Gecko, landing him in the slammer. No, there were others. As more and more evidence turned up, Gecko soon found himself in jail until he was eventually released – years later. That’s where this movie begins – or sort of begins. Come to think of it, I’m not sure this movie really does begin as much as it sort of just starts existing. I digress. During his hiatus, Gecko manages to scribble out a book titled ‘Is Greed Good?’. Seems the nice man has learnt his lesson. Or did he? Gecko’s book is (in a fat nutshell) about the many trends Americans have adopted through a few generations that will lead to their downfall and ultimate demise. The trend – overspending; the downfall – the recession.

In Wall Street Gecko takes Bud Fox under his wing to teach him the ropes and show him the high life. Fox is undoubtedly glamoured by Gecko’s presence and thus follows suit until he comes face to face with the one thing Gecko left behind a long time ago – moral fibre. Gecko seems to always need someone to look up to him, and in Money Never Sleeps he sinks his talons into future son-in-law, Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf). Jake is a nice kid who works on Wall Street and has always admired the legend that is Gecko. No doubt when he found out he was dating the daughter of the man he’s always admired, Jake hoped the two would cross paths one day.

After a lecture given by Mr. Greed himself, Jake takes the opportunity to introduce himself – against the wishes of his wife-to-be, Winnie Gecko (Carey Mulligan). The look on Jake’s face says “I know I should be cautious, but Gecko seems nice enough so I’ll stay around a little longer”. The two soon form a secret bond and it’s not long before Gecko seems to be back to his old ways the second some money enters the picture. Unsurprisingly, Winnie’s not allured by the power of money - Jake on the other hand just lost a third of his $1.5 million bonus due to the unpredictable recession. What a predicament - listen to the women who hates the man you admire and realize money does not mean happiness, or take advice from a man who has made a living out of making money even though the love of your life hates him with everything she has. What you have here folks, is the classic love vs career debate – a tussle that rarely finds a balanced medium.

That said, Money Never Sleeps seems to be missing something - more than that it seems to be unaware of whom the movie belongs to. One will argue that it’s Jake’s movie – Wall Street or wedding day? Other’s will say it’s Gecko’s film – money or mediocrity? Wall Street belonged to Gecko, hands down. Here it seems director Oliver Stone tried to breathe life into an old idea when all we get is another Basic Instinct 2 (2006) – it seems Michael Douglas will never get classic standalone movie without it being tainted by an unholier-than-thou sequel. Stone should have left Wall Street exist as it was – an iconic 80’s money movie, but he seems to always bring politics and economy and the American spirit into everything he does now (exhibit A: World Trade Center [2006]).

Still, I am giving Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps an open door. Despite its flaccid connection to the original hit, by itself, it wasn’t half bad and relatively watchable. LaBeouf finally shows off some nice acting chops and despite his limited range he fits in well here. Douglas is… well Douglas - great actor, nearly (if not already) past his prime though. There is a scene where Gecko and Winnie reconnect and it seems as if Gecko has finally been broken down and the harshness of prison and the disconnected family life he’s lead has finally gotten the best of him. Unfortunately, this is only a glimpse into what this movie could have been. I feel it may have been more interesting to see a film about a broken down Gecko struggling to find a new identity and a new path. Picture Wall Street mixed with About Schmidt (2002) – that’s the movie I wanted to see. Money Never Sleeps takes the easy way out and goes with, unfortunately, a slightly happier ending. If Douglas was hoping his reprise would earn him another Oscar, I’m sad to say he’s dead wrong.

*Stills courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox



>> Monday, October 4, 2010

Angry Charlie likes The Social Network.

I remember when I first started hearing about Facebook back in about 2006 (maybe late 2005, not sure) via email invites from a few people. It wasn’t until my friend, Luke Fandrich of Editing Luke, decided to join the fad that I jumped on board. I recall him telling me about how it was the neatest thing ever and in just a few days on the site, he had connected with people he hadn’t spoken to in years. Prior to Facebook I never tried MySpace but was part of Hi5 – which never really went anywhere. Facebook never really seemed different until you realized EVERYONE was doing it. That’s when it became common for someone at a bar to ask if a person was on Facebook rather than try and get their phone number. Nowadays if you run into someone who doesn’t have Facebook, it seems about as strange as it did in the 80’s to not have a TV (before it became a trend for hipsters in the past decade).

As I walked into The Social Network (or “the Facebook movie” as it’s commonly referred to) I initially didn’t think too hard about how much of an impact Facebook has had on our lives, on our culture. Seeing where the site comes from is even more astounding as it’s something that sorta seemed to be there overnight. Unsurprisingly, that seems to be the way it was for Mark Zuckerberg (portrayed very well by Zombieland’s Jesse Eisenberg) as well. The basic story is that Mark gets drunk one night while getting revenge on his girlfriend who just dumped him. How does Mark get the revenge he seeks? Well outside of calling her a bitch on his blog, he decides to demoralize all the women on his and several other campuses by creating a website called The site, not unlike, allows you to compare which girl is hotter – not exactly flattering for the one who doesn’t win. Within four hours of the site being live, there are 22, 000 hits to the website and it crashes Harvard’s network. This is an intro to the type of person Mark is - both in genius and ego

This stunt also gains the attention of a fraternity who wants Mark to create a website for them called ConnectU, which is pretty much an online dating site for the campus folk. Mark says he’ll do it but instead uses the interest in such a site to begin working on a project of his own – This leads him to making many acquaintances and business relationships in a span of only a couple of years, including friend and initial CFO of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin (Spider-Man 4’s Andrew Garfield), and Napster’s Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake). The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, when it comes to a docudrama, obviously we’re not seeing all truth. There are things used to exaggerate the real stories in order to create more of a compelling story. The funny thing is, is that The Social Network doesn’t really need such a gimmick. Director David Fincher is a great story teller – Fight Club (1999) and Se7en (1995) are just two examples of that. With this film he does no different. In the end what you realize is that for Mark Zuckerberg, creating Facebook wasn’t about money or popularity (well, maybe a little about popularity), it was about feeding his own hunger of self control, ego and perpetual rebellion – all in an effort to be self satisfied. What we find out in the end is that somebody like Zuckerberg may never be truly satisfied with what he’s doing – than again, I could be wrong. To me it seems like the classic case of the genius who’s unable to relate to anybody around him. The name of the film, The Social Network, is a double entendre referencing the obvious (Facebook itself) and the unobvious (Zuckerberg’s relationships to those he already knew and those he meets).

I am giving The Social Network an open door. Some of the people I spoke to after the movie stated they liked it but didn’t know why it existed, as nothing really happened and there seemed to be no point. While I agree with the fact that ‘nothing really happened’, I don’t think it’s a bad thing nor do I think it’s pointless. In the same style of 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, you get to experience the journey of someone who, in the end, is still the same person. They haven’t really learned any lessons, they didn’t gain a new perspective on life, if anything – they’re more annoyed by the complexities of it all. The journey though, is an important and inspiring one that I absolutely admired. Watch for this one come Oscar season.

*Stills courtesy of Columbia Pictures



>> Friday, October 1, 2010


Why? Because. That's why. At least - my mom tells me that's a valid reason. However, that's not good enough to stop you from seeing a movie I know in advance is not worth your time.
Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl are likable enough people, don't get me wrong. Heigl was really great in Knocked Up (2007) and believe it or not I actually liked Duhamel in Win a Date with Ted Hamilton!. My guess is that's what lead each of them to this role (or their agents or whomever is to blame).

For those of you who haven't seen the trailer, Duhamel and Heigl are one of those couples you see who you know will not have a relationship in the near future. They argue all the time, never seem to be on the same page for anything and for all intensive purposes, loathe eachother. But wouldn't you know it, their mutual best friend dies and leaves them with the custody to her now orphaned baby. The thing is, is that they must spend one night in a haunted castle. No, wait, wrong movie. This is much worse - they must get a long with eachother and learn to not argue or the baby will go to an orphanage forever being cursed with the shame of never having a real family. Whatever. So Heigl and Duhamel decide to give it a go, and wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what they needed to solve their differences and become one, happy family.

I refuse to see Life as We Know It because it only enables the idea that struggling couples should have kids to solve their differences, when in reality said child will eventually take part in a custody battle ten years down the road wondering how the became that lucky kid.

Now, yes. I know this is an innocent comedy and like most movies where you can suspend your disbelief long enough you ultimately want a happy ending. But no offense, their friend is a bitch. Nice burden to put on a couple who would have most likely broken up at next year's spring break anyways. It's the same reason you don't get a tattoo with your loved one's name until you know damn well for sure they (like the tatt) are forever.

My prediction is that Life as We Know It will be a dopey comedy that will have a couple of laughs, for sure (that are all probably in the trailer), but in the end won't be enough to justify the $10 you'll spend. There's enough out there this month to see to keep one away from such a thing - even if there was time I don't think I'll be seeing this anytime soon. If only it was in 3D....


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