Monthly Archives: February 2011

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010)

You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.

During last weekend I finally got around watching The Social Network, which scooped a couple of Oscars last night. It was just released on DVD in the UK for people like me who missed it in the movies; who then had to listen to everybody talking and writing about how brilliant it is. And yes – they were right – it is a brilliant movie.

                                                                In the beginning there was a Man with a Computer

It could have easily been a boring documentary about the birth of Facebook and how it revolutionized the way people connect. But because of Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant rapid-firing screenplay there is no time to be bored – you have to keep up with the dialogue which is like a Nadal – Federer tennis match on speed. If you blink – you missed it! Sorkin who created such TV favorites as The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (the latter maybe only my favorite) has turned Ben Mezrich’s book (The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal) into a captivating movie. It lets you decide yourself if Mark Zuckerberg is a ruthless, disloyal asshole or a übermotivated computer genius, who did not let anybody get in the way of his vision. The New York Times investigated how this movie divides the audiences generationally. The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic, unsocial figure; while younger people applaud him for being a go-getter who does what he needs to do to protect his creation.

You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount

If you are not aware of the story and lawsuits behind Facebook’s rise to a phenomenon, you must have been living under a rock. Most of the movie takes place around the time when the idea is born and is put into action by Mark Zuckerberg, who is so brilliantly played by Jesse Eisenberg. If you ever had the question in your mind about Eisenberg being a secondary Michael Ceraish nerd, you have been proven wrong. Later the movie shifts between the early years and the two lawsuits launched against Zuckerberg by the Winkelevii (Winklevoss twins played by Josh Pence with a little help from CGI) and Eduardo Saverin (fantastically acted by Andrew Garfield). In to the mix enters the Napster co-founder Sean Parker and things really take off. Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker is a revelation. Inspirational casting, which really pays off. There is so much betrayal, envy and resentment in this movie. It also has a lot of innovative visions, outside-of-the-box thinking, ambition and just pure computer geniuses. And of course there is a girl.

                                                           Soon The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher, who has given us gems like Seven and Fight Club, has directed another gripping movie. You can’t find any fault in the directing and editing of The Social Network. But what really shines is the screenplay and the acting.

                                                     Safety first – nobody is stealing my briefcase

At the end of the day, nobody knows what really happened in real life. But who cares? The fact remains that Facebook affects each one of us on a daily basis. It now has over 600million members and is valued at more than $ 50billion. I for one have to thank Mr. Zuckerberg for getting me back in touch with my childhood best friend.

We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!

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No. 5 SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)

Dignity – Always Dignity

Singin’ in the Rain is one of my all-time favourite movies. It is such a feel-good movie, which has it all – fantastic acting, dancing, singing, and dialogue – set against the twenties glamorous looking Hollywood. Why didn’t I live back then?! This movie celebrates the joy of filmmaking, joy of love and joy of friendship. It is a buddy comedy mixed with romcom.

                                                           You let go – no; you let go first

In the movie Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) and Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) are huge movie stars, but then comes the transition from silent movies to talking movies. They are faced with a problem of how to make a musical with an actress who is a triple-threat (can’t act or sing or dance)? And whose speaking voice is higher than Mickey Mouse’s on helium. With a cunning use of a lovely unknown actress – of course – who can do all the above.

                                            Household names – like bacon and eggs

Singin’ in the Rain has been quoted as the best Hollywood musical ever made and it absolutely lives up to that. The transitions between dialogue and dance / musical numbers are seamless. This is the first musical where the songs were actually incorporated into the plot in the way that they enhance the characters’ emotions instead of being a separate part of the movie.

                                                         Why did I think I could pull off a hat with this outfit?

The film features a 12-minute Broadway Melody Ballet dance number, which took a month to rehearse and two weeks to shoot. My favourite song and dance number is “Good Mornin.” It just makes you want to get up and start dancing and singing for no apparent reason. No, I did not do that – I thought to spare my neighbours from wondering who was terrorising a cat.

                                                                   Y-M-C-A

The most famous scene of the movie is “Singin’ in the Rain.” It was actually shot during daytime under a black tarpaulin. During the filming the technicians lost water pressure in the late afternoon when the residents of Culver City, US arrived home and turned on their sprinklers to water their lawns and gardens. Gene Kelly once said when asked about how he was going to approach this scene: “It’s going to be raining and I’m going to be singing. I am going to have a glorious feeling and I am going to be happy again.” That quote summons up the feeling in this movie. It is glorious to be happy!

You have been reading those fan magazines again – smashing it up Glee-style

The real triple threat of this movie is its three main stars. Gene Kelly holds such a charisma that during the dance numbers you cannot take your eyes away from him – he dances with such ease. He also co-directed and choreographed the movie. So it’s no wonder that Singin’ in the Rain is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Donald O’Connor as Cosmo delivers fantastic slapstick comedy especially in the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. He went on to win the 1952 Golden Globe award for “Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical or Comedy” for his performance. Debbie Reynolds as Kathy is such a pill of joy that you feel energized for days. At the time of filming “Singin’ in the Rain”, she was 19 years old.  Gene Kelly, whose character falls in love with her character in the movie, was 40 years old at the time.

If you’ve seen one – you’ve seen them all

EAT PRAY LOVE (2010)

Maybe you are a woman in search of a word

… Or lost carbs? I have wanted to see EAT PRAY LOVE for a while now as the film and the book have created such a phenomenon. Was I sucked into this craze as well? Not in such lengths, but the movie did make me want to go to Italy to eat and learn Italian words that smoothly roll off your tongue; go to India to meditate and scrub floors for inner peace (ok, maybe for 5 minutes); and to Bali to find balance and true love in the form of a sexy Brazilian.

Ryan Murphy, who is well-known for his TV-hits like Glee and Nip/Tuck, has directed a truly visually stunning movie that has Julia Roberts in every scene. Everything and everyone looks gorgeous. It is like 133 minutes of a self-help travel documentary. After the movie, you feel like your vision just overate a bowl of colourful pasta.

                                                           You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes

In short, this is a true-life story of a modern woman Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts), who has it all – a successful career, a fantastic house, supportive friends and a husband. Already I am bitterly jealous; and we have not even gotten to all that pasta, red wine and Javier Bardem. Then one day she realises that, she is not happy and makes a courageous decision to do something about it. After a difficult divorce and a rebound with a young hottie, she is ready for rebirth and a round-the-world journey to “find herself”.

He just folded my delicates – did he use to work at GAP?

Sometimes it feels like the visual aspect of the movie overpowers the story. You get lost in the panorama and not in the story itself. The outdoor scenes are shot in the way that even the side streets of Naples look inviting – I am ignoring the less than friendly greeting from an adolescent girl on a balcony; not quite the Juliet…

The script is enjoyable and floats forward seamlessly. It delivers touching moments like the one that unravels after the wedding in India, when Richard from Texas (gorgeously acted by Richard Jenkins) tells his story to Liz. This entire scene was shot without a cut in one take over Julia’s shoulder. Ryan Murphy kept the first take in the movie, as it made him and the whole editing crew cry.

To summon this movie up I would use the usually hated word “nice”. It is nice. It does not leave you wanting more, but it keeps you entertained.

So I am backing my bags and heading to Italy to eat some pizza in Napoli and drink a lot of red wine. If you are wondering what that whizzing sound was; it was me on a scooter – without a helmet – waiving Ciao!

You need a “thumbs up”!

No. 83 TITANIC (1997)

When you got nothing – you got nothing to lose

After taking a week off from watching the movies on the AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list I am back in action with Titanic, the $ 200 million James Cameron pre-Avatar movie which was expected to sink like the unsinkable ship of dreams. But instead it has been quoted as the most popular motion picture of all time. I have seen it a couple of times, so now when I began watching it again I was feeling quite blasé about it. It’s a movie I like, but not a movie I love. Then something happened when the images of the ship in all its glory started flowing onto the screen – I got once again sucked into the story.

You remember what I told you about the boats

Titanic is like two movies is one. One is about the unthinkable tragedy which saw more than 1,500 of the ships 2,200 passengers die, because the ship was thought to be indestructible. As said by James Cameron “The lesson of Titanic is, just don’t go so fast when you’re dealing with that much of power and energy. Give yourself time to turn, because that’s all they did wrong”.

The other movie is an epic love story between a girl who has everything except her freedom and a boy who has nothing except his freedom. The love story unfolds smoothly even though at times it’s overpowered by the story of Titanic sinking, which is probably why the screenplay was one of the few categories in which the movie was not nominated for an Oscar. Funnily when you really think about the screenplay, it is nothing new. Love story between two people who are separated by social class – has not that same story been told millions of times? But what makes this movie special is that everything works. The chemistry between the characters has been fine-tuned to perfection. Kate Winslet as Rose and Leonardo Di Caprio as Jack are perfect casting. I have to say that for me Victor Garber as the ship’s builder Thomas Andrews steals the show. He pretty much summons it up with lines like “She [Titanic] is made of iron, Sir – I assure you she can [sink] and she will”.

                                                         Flying without wings

James Cameron is like an all-in-one moviemaking machine – he wrote and directed the movie. He even drew all the sketches used in the movie as Jack’s drawings, including the most famous one of naked Rose wearing the Heart of the Ocean. Damn, if he could act he would have probably acted in it as well. But if you remember his acceptance speech at the Oscars in 1998, where Titanic scooped 11 golden statues, you can be sure it is a good idea for him not to act. “I am the King of the World” just did not have the same punch as said by Leonardo Di Caprio in the movie.

                                                                 I am the King of the World

But he sure made one cinematic masterpiece and proved all the doubtful people wrong. The recreation of the sinking of the Titanic is stunning. It makes chilling watching each time. I also found fascinating that footage of the actual Titanic is used in the film. Even though much of the underwater footage was filmed on set with miniature models and special effects. Inarguably the most visually stunning special effect scenes of the movie are the ones when the ship breaks up just before it plunges to the bottom of Atlantic. In the words of the unsinkable Molly Brown: “Now there is something you don’t see everyday”.

The level of detailing throughout the movie is also amazing. The sets representing the interior rooms of Titanic were reproduced exactly as originally built, using photographs and plans from the original builders who are still in business. Titanic must have really been something else. I wish I had been there – except for the sinking part; obviously.

I found the last scene of the movie the most touching – together at last on Titanic. A fitting ending to an epic story, which I am sure, will live on as one of the Greatest Movies ever made – also in my mind.

All life is a game of luck

THE OTHER GUYS (2010)

 

You girls stay here and get your type on

Epic! A movie that should not work – actually works. The Other Guys is a movie full of fast action sequences and even faster humor. It has more funny one-liners than Jimmy Carr’s stand-up and more high-speed chases than The French Connection. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell are two mismatched NY police officers – Terry Hoitz and Allen Gamble. One is a peacock, who just wants to fly and the other is a paperwork loving ex-pimp.

Proud peacock – there might be a job opening at NBC

Their big chance to serve and protect to max comes when the two badass supercops P.K.Highsmith (Samuel L. Jackson) and Christopher Danson (Dwayne Johnson) run out of luck. Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson do a brilliant job as the over-the-top-rock-star-cops. Their entrance is only topped by their exit!

So urgent is Terry Hoitz’s need to prove himself that he kidnaps his partner to force him to go to a crime scene. It does not go according to the plan and they end up with a cocaine-covered car. On the way back it’s Allen Gamble’s time to kidnap Hoitz – with his wooden gun. They start investing Gamble’s huge case about illegal scaffolding permitting, which leads them to discover a financial conspiracy masterminded by a British banker David Ershon (Steve Coogan). At the end of the first meeting with Ershon, Hoitz and Gamble have lost their shoes and made some serious enemies.

There are fantastically funny scenes in this movie like the very quiet fight scene in a funeral and Gamble’s first desk-pop.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrel is perfect! I don’t think anybody else could pull off the always-yelling-trying-to-prove-himself Terry Hoitz better than Mark Wahlberg. Special mention to Michael Keaton’s TLC (don’t go chasing Waterfalls) quoting captain Gene Mauch, who has a second job at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Everything in this movie is over the top – the silliness, the stunts, even the stupidity of the bribes. There is a lot of banter between the two main characters; sometimes going into lengthy debates – like the one about lions v tuna. Even then the dialogue does not lose any speed.

Where did you learn to drive like that? Grand Theft Auto

At the end of the movie the mystery remains about why and how did the bad-guys take Hoitz’s and Gamble’s shoes? And why are all the hot women attracted to Gamble? These are never explained. But tell you the truth, they don’t need to be explained. The funniness lies in the mystery.

If you want to be thoroughly entertained and laugh so that it hurts – this is a movie for you!

At the crime scene.lol. Good tweet!

WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (2010)

 

It’s not about the money – it’s about the game – the game between people – and that’s all it is

Instead of concentrating on going thru the list of The 100 Greatest Movies, I paid a visit to my local Blockbusters this weekend. As Social Network was not out yet – I am dying to see that after I missed it at the movie theatre – I ended up getting Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. This is a sequel to the 1987 Oliver Stone film Wall Street, which I saw a long time ago. And obviously have forgotten that I possibly did not understand most of it. In any case, this is exactly what happened with WS: Money Never Sleeps – I lost the plot several times. Graphs of stock markets, stock market jargon and the trading business just made me dazed and confused. There were several scenes in dark boardrooms with bankers discussing the banking crisis in length. Yawn! The movie is over two hours long – too long if you ask me.  This would be fine if there would be a nice and meaty sub-plot with two-dimensional characters, but I have to say that after forty-five minutes I did not really care what was going to happen to Shia La Beouf’s and Carey Mulligan’s characters. Nor who caused the boss of SLB’s character to jump in front of a train.

  Painting by numbers – anyone?

Instead I spent most of the movie concentrating on my “apartment envy” directed towards the fabulous apartment where Jake Moore (Shia La Beouf) lives with his girlfriend Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), who also is Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) estranged daughter.  And – in my mind – redecorating that apartment! Gordon Gekko’s rented apartment was not bad either!

Gordon Gekko is a ruthless and sinister man – this is clear from the beginning of the movie. He is using Jake Moore to get revenge on the person who testified against him back in Wall Street. This person just happens to be the same one who caused Jake’s boss and mentor to commit suicide. Jake is more than happy to make him pay; but as he is playing with the Devil (Gekko); Jake gets into more trouble than he bargained for. This is as far as the plot stretches. The sub-plot deals mostly with father issues – obviously both Jacob and Winnie have plenty of those. For an Oliver Stone movie, I was expecting the screenplay to be more interesting / controversial – something that could hold my attention even if the “financial crisis” aspect of the movie would not. Boy, was I disappointed!

  No need to go to the gym while lugging that mobile phone around

All the actors did a good job; but it felt as if the characters were not explored deeply enough. Even Gordon Gekko seemed to be lacking punch, which he did have in the first movie. Though Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko is still devilishly cunning. WS: Money Never Sleeps has nice cinematography and great camera angles. But even that cannot save this movie from being boring and lacking any controversial approach. It also does not have great one-liners like the first one.

Once again, it is proven that very seldom sequels do actually rise to the level of the original movie.

Greed is good – sequels not so much

No. 55 NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

I never discuss love on an empty stomach

Neither should you – I think – as only bad things happen then. Half of your brain is thinking of food and not running on full power. You don’t necessarily make the most rational decisions then – at least I don’t. But that aside – the original line in the North by Northwest script was actually “I never make love on an empty stomach”, but that had to be edited as it was ahead of its time. Nowadays nobody would even bat an eyelid at that! How times have changed!

North by Northwest was filmed in 1959 – at a very different era. The cold war was a reality. Moviemaking was different back then – there were no computer made special effects. Somehow the movies filmed back then now look more glamorous even though we have much more sophisticated techniques now. The men looked like real men and the women looked like elegant temptresses. This movie is a bit slow-paced as one has gotten so used to the spectacular special effects and fast-paced action movies where things seem to happen at 100 miles per hour; but it still holds your attention all the way thru. And to be frank I actually enjoyed the slower pace as you have time to concentrate on the characters’ expressions and almost see the wheels turning when they think what to do next. It is actually quite relaxing. The movie is fantastically shot by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock whose attention to detail is amazing. Every scene has hidden meanings. I am sure I missed crucial elements that make this movie one of the Greatest Movies. Like the last scene in the movie when the train that is carrying Cary Grant’s and Eva Marie Saint’s characters shoots into a tunnel. Just before that you see them kissing on a bed. And no, I did not make the connection – I wish I would be that smart. Instead, I watched the Behind-the-Scenes documentary on the DVD!

North by Northwest is like Mad Men meets CIA. Cary Grant’s character Roger Thornhill looks like a tanned, suave ad man / gentleman spy; who likes to suit up. If this is ever remade – please, don’t – I could see George Clooney running towards the cornfield and smooth talking to a dangerous blonde on a train [I am sure now it would be some kind of a bullet-train]. In the movie CG’s character is mistaken for a government agent [who later in the film we learn does not really exist], while taking a business meeting in “Mad Men style” with some tasty looking Martinis. From this misunderstanding starts the chase thru the country by trains, planes and automobiles – from New York to Mount Rushmore. It seems that Roger Thornhill is being chased by everybody. Not to forget about the blond oh-so-dangerous-vixen, who does some different kind of chasing! And Roger Thornhill is ready for wife number 3. But not before some spellbinding twists and turns that are Alfred Hitchcock’s trademarks.

This film also features probably the most famous chase scene ever – Cary Grant’s character is being chased by a crop-duster plane in the middle of nowhere where there is nowhere to hide. Run, Boy, Run!

Would you buy a holiday from Alfred Hitchcock?

This is truly a movie where all the little things matter. Like the matchbook, that Cary Grant’s character tosses downstairs from the balcony towards the end of the movie. And how it ends up at the feet of one of the bad guys, who actually lifts it up without looking at it and not realizing that it has R.O.T (Roger O – O stands for nothing – Thornhill) on it. The whole time I found myself holding my breath – and grinning at the initials…

I also love that Cary Grant’s character is so self-conscious that in the first scene of the film he asks his secretary to put a note on his desk in the morning, which says “Think Thin!” How times have not changed that much!

This movie is worth watching as long as you pay attention to every little detail; that is where the cleverness of this movie lies. Not my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie, but enjoyable watching.

War is hell – even if it is a cold one.