Tag Archive | Movie Reviews

Must See Movie: The Social Network

Jesse Eisenberg Stars in The Social Network

One thing to keep in mind when going to see the fantastic new film, The Social Network is that this is not a movie about Facebook. The billion-dollar creation of Mark Zuckerberg could have been anything – an advice column or a shopping website – it really wouldn’t have mattered. The only thing that mattered in sealing the fate of this now 26-year-old computer nerd as the youngest billionaire in history was Zuckerberg’s ability to fine-tune an already existing idea (a phenomenon that is also known as ‘building a better mousetrap’). Not only do you not need to be user of FaceBook to enjoy The Social Network – a film that will surely be feted with many Academy Award nominations – you don’t even need to know what FaceBook is. The Social Network – which at its core tells a gripping tale of rampant personal ambition and the relationships sacrificed due to inadequate foresight – is an entertaining and highly engaging film that never loses sight of where it is going. Director David Fincher (Fight Club) and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have created a taught drama with psychological undertones and many belly laugh-inducing moments evoked by some of the smartest, wittiest dialogue I’ve heard in a movie in ages. I can’t say enough positive things about this film.

Whoever cast The Social Network should get an Academy Award of his or her own for making such spot-on choices. On screen, Jesse Eisenberg, whom I’ve always considered to be the “straight man version of Michael Cera,” becomes Mark Zuckerberg – a brilliant but almost borderline-autistic social misfit seemingly obsessed with one-upping anyone he perceives as his intellectual competition. Eisenberg carries the movie on his performance alone, but there are so many other fantastic performances to revel in. Pop singer Justin Timberlake is excellent in the role of Napster founder Sean Parker, who plays devil’s advocate to a naïve Zuckerberg.  I’ve always found Timberlake’s music to be mainstream and mediocre at best, but he is obviously a naturally gifted actor. Maybe he should go the way of Mark Wahlberg, leave pop music behind and concentrate on acting? Just saying.

This was also my first exposure to actor Armie Hammer (the devastatingly handsome, great grandson of late tycoon/philanthropist, Armand Hammer), who plays a dual role of Zuckerberg’s chief nemesis, identical twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss; two financially privileged students who row for Harvard’s crew team, and who unknowingly set the wheels in motion when they hire Zuckerberg to write code for their start-up dating website. Hammer does a fascinating job of playing identical twins, and if you didn’t already know that a single actor played both roles you certainly would not guess. My very favorite use of an actor whom you rarely see anymore is David Selby’s appearance as the lawyer to Zuckerberg’s original partner in the creation of FaceBook. Fans of the 1970s-era Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows may recognize Selby from his role as Quentin Collins in that legendary TV series. Selby, now in his late 60s and white-haired, still looks absolutely fantastic. What a treat to see him in this film!

Much has also been said about the film’s score, composed by Trent Reznor and his longtime cohort, Atticus Ross. It’s been ten years since Reznor produced anything that caught my attention or held my interest. But his and Ross’s contribution to The Social Network includes intense, propulsive and storyline-appropriate techno-flavored musical themes that serve the film beautifully. More than once, the score carried a scene without need for any additional dialogue by the characters – quite a noteworthy accomplishment! I’ve avoided giving too many details about the actual plot of The Social Network because, as is the case with so many films of high quality, I feel that less is definitely more as far as how much you need to know going in versus how much enjoyment you will get if you just let the film unfold for you.

The Worley Gig Gives The Social Network – now in nationwide release – Five out of Five Stars.

Advertisements

Going the Distance: Surprisingly Hilarious and Fun

Drew Barrymore and Justin Long Grope Each Other in Going the Distance

As big of a movie fan as I admit to being, generally speaking, I would much prefer to have my eyes gouged out with a hot poker than sit through a Romantic Comedy. Because contrary to popular belief, the lowest form of humor is not the pun, it is the romantic comedy: which is almost without exception neither romantic nor funny. So, when I made the decision to attend a screening last evening of the new Drew Barrymore flick, Going The Distance, I was hedging bets that I’d find it irredeemably heinous: especially based on the commercials which make this film seem like viewing it would be only slightly more fun than root canal therapy. But, surprise! I was wrong: Going the Distance is awesome!

As the title suggests by its not-that-clever play on words, Going the Distance is about two people living on opposite coasts trying to make a long distance relationship work. Erin (Barrymore) is a San Francisco-based writer doing a summer internship at a NYC newspaper when she meets the recently dumped record label A&R guy, Garrett (played Justin Long) in a bar. After one of the more fun one night stands you could possibly hope to have, Erin and Garrett agree to spend the remainder of her internship – six weeks – hanging out and hooking up until she has to return to her home in California. Of course, as she’s about to board her plane back to the west coast, they decide they like each other too much to call it quits and commit to a period of flying back and forth to visit each other and “see where this thing goes,” as they say.

Besides being unbelievably funny, Going the Distance is also kind of hot and sexy. When they are not cracking jokes or saying very clever things to each other and those around them, Erin and Garrett are either making out or boning each other almost constantly. Few will deny that Barrymore and Long (whom I’ve had a crush on since he started appearing in Apple’s Mac Versus PC commercials) are an attractive couple with great on-screen chemistry (I believe they are also a couple in real life, and it they aren’t they should be) so if you enjoy watching horny young people maul each other, you will be able to buy into the veracity of this well-worn plot. I’d also bet that if you see this movie with a date, I don’t know how you could possibly not get laid afterwards. Excellent supporting roles are all over this thing, including Christina Applegate’s outstanding turn as Erin’s sister Corinne (watch for the line “Maya! Statue!” to become a buzz phrase any second now), comedian Jim Gaffigan (King Baby) as Corinne’s husband Phil, and Jason Sudeikis (SNL) and Charlie Day as Garrett’s hilarious best friends, Box and Dan.  As much as I think that romantic comedies are retarded bullshit that have about as much grounding in reality as Lord Of The Rings, this film kept me engaged and laughing hard enough to suspend my disbelief and enjoy myself for 96 minutes. That’s all you can ask of any movie, really.

The Worley Gig Gives Going the Distance Four out of Five Stars.

Must See Movie: Toy Story 3!

Spoiler Alert: The Big Pink Bear is The Bad Guy (Click Image to Enlarge)

Sequels to successful movie series can be so played. I’m generally not someone who immediately jumps on the bandwagon to see the theatrical release of every sequel to a movie that I liked (see: The Matrix), especially now that I have a Netflix subscription! But when a couple of my friends whose judgment I trust wanted to go see Toy Story 3 yesterday afternoon, I figured it was a pretty safe bet that I’d at least be entertained. Man, did I ever underestimate this movie going in, because Toy Story 3 is just fantastic! First of all, it’s got the Pixar graphics jumping off the screen at you – so you know it looks completely amazing – but also, the plot and dialogue are not only engaging but surprisingly edgy, and the action gets quite harrowing in parts (a toddler in the row in front of us burst into tears during one particularly “heavy” scene). There is also a lot of talk about this movie being sad, but I didn’t find it to be “sad” so much as very touching and “real.” I dabbed at my eyes more than once, but Toy Story 3 is also unbelievably hilarious, adorable and lots of fun for adults as well as kids. I really loved this movie.

Now in wide release, The Worley Gig gives Toy Story 3 five out of five Stars!

Must See Movie: Anvil, The Story of Anvil!


Robb Reiner and Steve “Lips” Kudlow Star in Anvil: The Story of Anvil

Yesterday, Geoffrey and I celebrated the first day of really nice NYC weather in over six months by sitting in a dark theater, enjoying the fantastic new documentary, Anvil: The Story of Anvil. You may have heard this film being referred to as a “Real Life Spinal Tap,” but I assure you that the story of this Canadian Metal band that grasped for fame only to fall into obscurity is all too true. A few of the metal drummers I’ve interviewed in my career have cited Anvil drummer Robb Reiner as an influence, so I had heard of them, but only by name.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil tells an unintentionally hilarious and truly emotionally moving music industry tale that I am sure a gazillion other bands can relate to, yet Anvil imbue this film with so much heart, I can’t imagine any other “almost was” metal band creating an experience quite like the one you get in this film. Back in the ‘80s Anvil were poised to be the next big thing; touring Europe with supporting gigs for Iron Maiden and The Scorpions, and inspiring peer-group fans that included members of now legendary bands like Metallica, Anthrax and Guns ‘N’ Roses. But where those bands continued on to achieve great commercial success and global fame, it didn’t quite work out that way for Anvil. What went wrong?

There is no doubt that the music is strong and these guys are great musicians, and certainly they did not lack anything in the passion-for-what-you-do department. Anvil is both an incredible inspiration and a highly entertaining cautionary tale that I absolutely loved every minute of. Definitely add it to your list of films to see in the theaters before it comes out on DVD in a few months.

Movie Recommendations: One to See and One…Not So Much

This Movie Sucks

Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando Wallow in Self Loathing in Last Tango In Paris

How many times has this happened to you? You read glowing reviews or hear endless hype about a supposed Cinema Classic from the ‘60s or ‘70s that you’ve managed to never see, either because you were too young/not born yet when it was initially released or it’s never been available on DVD before, or maybe just because you sensed it was not going to be your thing.But after years of people telling you how great this film is, you figure it must be at least worth seeing, since it was nominated for an Academy award for Best Picture, or so-and-so won a Best Actor Oscar for his role or whatever. So, you add the film to your Netflix queue and get all excited when it arrives because you are about to see the Greatest Movie Ever Made! But after all the years of anticipation, it just ends up being aggressively terrible and sucking wildly. That’s how I felt when I wasted over two hours of my life that I’ll never get back watching what is certainly one of the most overrated pieces of pretentious Art House crap ever put to film: Last Tango in Paris.

Last Tango in Paris was released in 1972 and earned a scandalous X rating at the time, due to the film’s controversial, “highly erotic” and sexual subject matter. But let me tell you something: the only thing shocking about this movie is how bad it is. While there’s quite bit of (female only) nudity, which gets pretty boring after two hours, there are exactly three sex scenes, two of which involve no nudity, and one of which is a rape scene. The two main characters, played by Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, speak in improvised non sequiturs throughout most of the film and they usually end up sounding like a couple of mental patients. Although the acting is pretty decent, both characters are largely unlikable. On the up side, the street shots of Paris are lovely. Here’s why I think Last Tango in Paris (which even now mysteriously carries the NC-17 rating) was ever rated X: full-frontal bush shots. Because you know how offended Americans are by pubic hair. The best part of the entire film is the last scene, where Schneider’s character shoots Brando in the gut. If you haven’t seen the film yet, don’t read that last sentence.

Great Movie!

Shannyn Sossamon, Patrick Fugit and Shea Whigham star in Wristcutters: A Love Story

A film I can recommend is a new release called Wristcutters: a Love Story, starring Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon and Tom Waits. Wristcutters is dark comedy about what happens to suicides in the afterlife. For a movie in which every character has, as they say “offed” themselves, it manages to be hilarious, intelligent and, ultimately, really sweet. I loved it. If you live in NYC Wristcutters is playing at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Ten Reasons to See The Darjeeling Limited

The Brothers
Jason Schwartzman, Adrian Brody and Owen Wilson Star in The Darjeeling Limited

Highway robbery at the ticket window be damned, I see a lot of movies in the theater. That’s probably one of the reasons why I can never seem to accumulate more than a dozen films in my Netflix queue at any one time. Because, you know, by the time anything I would want to see gets released on DVD, I’ve already seen it.

Earlier this week I took myself to see the latest Wes Anderson-directed film, The Darjeeling Limited, and it was just fantastic. I’ve been a big fan of Anderson’s work since Rushmore, and after hearing great things about The Darjeeling Limited from a couple of friends whose taste in movies I respect and trust, I knew I would love it. And what’s not to love? It’s got a great cast, a great script, beautiful cinematography and – gasp – an at least quasi-original story about the three Whitman brothers, who make a spiritual pilgrimage-slash-site-seeing trip across India – by train! – in an effort to reconnect after their father’s death. No CGI, no Mad Slasher chasing after Teenagers in their Underwear, no gunfight bloodbaths: just a subversively funny, sincerely touching, smartly made film that’s beautifully filmed, written and acted. Wow. Imagine that.

A lot of your average movie-going schmoes will not understand this movie, and will go off on their Myspace blogs about how the plot “goes nowhere.” And to those people, I ask, “What is your problem?” These are the same kinds of whiners who thought Clockwork Orange was “too violent,” or those who were bored by the pacing of Napoleon Dynamite. Jesus god. If your head is too thick to absorb the simple joys of a slightly arty film that isn’t a standard formula Hollywood comedy staring Adam Sandler or (gag) Jim Carrey, do us all a favor and stay home.

Jack and Rita

And because the obsessive compulsive in me loves to make lists, here is a list of the
Top Ten Things I Loved About The Darjeeling Limited

1. Jason Schwartzman as Jack. Schwartzman may be one of the most pedestrian rock drummers since Rikki Rocket (I mean, Phantom Planet – the fact that they completely suck being another matter entirely – was really lucky that Jason quit the band to join the cast of that acclaimed FOX TV sitcom that got cancelled after, like, 6 weeks) but he’s one of the best dry-witted comic actors since Woody Allen. He is completely awesome in this movie.

2. Adrian Brody as Peter. I’m sure he’s always been a very fine actor, but Adrian Brody generally makes films with premises so unappealing (see: The Pianist or The Jacket) that I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a hot poker than be forced to sit through them. So, my bad and everything because not only does he knock it out of the park with his performance as middle brother Peter Whitman but, man, he’s totally hot! Brody has that Ichabod Crane-meets-Howard Stern thing going on that I find just completely swoon worthy. I heart Adrian Brody.

3. Also, I think it was either a brilliant stroke of luck or truly inspired casting to have two actors with charmingly crooked noses (Brody and Owen Wilson) playing brothers. Who thinks of details like that?

4. Putting “This Time Tomorrow” by the Kinks on the soundtrack. Like Martin Scorcese, PT Anderson and Quentin Tarrantino, Wes Anderson is a director who chooses to soundtrack his films with classic rock songs that not only forward the action but also give new life to underappreciated musical gems. In a word: sublime.

5. India. More films need to be shot in India. Americans should be more familiar with the beauty and culture of exotic lands like India beyond what they can see during a season of The Amazing Race.

6. I liked that scene where the brothers try to get their dad’s sports car out of the garage en route to his funeral.

7. Bill Murray appears in a two-minute cameo where he runs after a train and has maybe one line, but every time I see Murray I reminded of how much he rocked in Lost In Translation. Bill Murray on screen is always a pleasure.

8. I liked the drug-swapping scene. I don’t want to spoil anything if you haven’t seen it yet, so that is all I am going to say. But that scene ruled.

9. “Are you going to give us back our snake?”

10. Bespoke Louis Vuitton Luggage!

Go see this movie now.