Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Easy A

Here's the timeline of me watching this movie:
  • 10 minutes in I wonder why I'm watching this
  • 15 minutes in I grabbed my cell phone and started playing Solitaire
  • 30 minutes in I got bored of Solitaire and opened my netbook to check Emails/Gather/etc.
  • 60 minutes in I got up to use the bathroom, tidy up some stuff while the movie was still running
A couple of "friends" recommended this movie, but it didn't do anything for me.  It was predictable pretty much from start to finish, so that when I got up to use the bathroom and stuff I didn't care because I knew by then what was going to happen, although the zany scheme at the end to save the day wasn't even that zany.

The been there, done that story involves Olive (Emma Stone) who is ignored at school because...um, she dyes her hair red and gets good grades?  That's about all I could think of.  She doesn't even have glasses like most Hollywood movies about high school outcasts!

Anyway, she tells her friend for no real reason that she had sex with some guy named George (one thing that struck me is where the friend says there's no one sexy named George; I guess she's too young to remember former Sexiest Man Alive George Clooney) and then gets a bad reputation.  Some gay kid then goes to Olive and bribes her to stage some fake sex so people will think he's straight.  Word gets around and soon Olive is the school slut--except she never sleeps with anyone.

You could probably figure out the rest of the plot.  [Mild spoilers!]

There's your Mild Spoiler space.  At first she thinks it's cool but then realizes it sucks.  There is of course some hot sensitive guy she likes who she finally gets at the end after confessing everything on YouTube.  (Why anyone would believe her when she's obviously a liar is beyond me.)

More Mild Spoiler space.  The movie wants to be "Juno" mixed with John Hughes, but it's just another dull, cookie cutter Hollywood teen movie.  Emma Stone makes a good sassy heroine, but the story lets her down by being way too predictable.

Anyway, save yourself some time and just watch "Juno" instead or even better, get MTV's "Daria" series from the late '90s on DVD.  Or you could rent some John Hughes and watch the master at work. 

That is all.

My score:  25/100 (1 star)
Metacritic score:  72/100 (3 stars)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Social Network

That "The Social Network" has won numerous awards as the Best Film of 2010 pretty much sums up what a disappointing year it was for films in my opinion.  I just watched this on DVD and I was pretty unimpressed.  Really I think it would have made for a better hour-long CNBC documentary on Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook.

Writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher try to inject some life into what is otherwise a pretty dull tale.  Essentially what they do is try to set Zuckerberg up as a 21st Century Charlie Kane, going so far as to create a fictitious Rosebud in the form of a former girlfriend named Erica (Rooney Mara), whom Zuckerberg perhaps sees as "the one who got away."  They also interweave testimony from two legal hearings against Zuckerberg.

One hearing is for a lawsuit brought on by his former partner Eduardo (Andrew Garfield, soon to be Spider-Man), who put up the cash for Zuckerberg to start "the facebook" which eventually became what we now know as Facebook.  Eduardo thinks that the site needs to find some advertisers to make money, while Zuckerberg thinks that would compromise the "coolness" of the site.  The former Harvard roommates eventually drift apart, much like Kane drifted apart from his former roommate, played by Joseph Cotten.  And just like in "Citizen Kane" there's a final betrayal that fractures their relationship, leading to the lawsuit.

The other hearing is brought on by the Winklevoss twins and another guy, who wanted Zuckerberg to create a dating service called "Harvard Connection."  But Zuckerberg had a better idea.  Instead of just breaking things off with the twins, he makes excuses and then rolls out "the facebook" on his own, cutting them out of the loop.  After exhausting other remedies, including going to Harvard's president, the twins and their partner sue Zuckerberg.

Actually while they were already pilfering so much of one of the greatest films in history, Sorkin and Fincher might as well have gone the rest of the way and used the same style of having a reporter interview everyone to try and find the real Zuckerberg.  The real Zuckerberg is what's missing from this movie.  We get to see that he's socially awkward, smart, a gifted programmer, and driven to succeed.  I'm not sure we really get to see what makes him tick.  We never get to see his parents.  (Are they alive?  Where do they live?  Does he have siblings?  Aunts, uncles, cousins?  I have no idea.  Maybe I should check his Facebook page.)  "Citizen Kane" at least gave us some glimpses of Kane's background.  "The Social Network" just has Zuckerberg springing fully formed from Harvard and bursting onto the scene.

Like Charlie Kane, the film shows Zuckerberg as essentially being a victim of his own success.  By achieving fame and fortune he's alienated those (one, really) who cared about him.  Probably if they made this movie ten years from now they could include where Zuckerberg builds his palatial house and lives in seclusion from the outside world after a failed attempt to become governor.  Overall it's fine, but as I said, a straight documentary would have been more interesting to learn about Facebook and then you can always watch "Citizen Kane" for the rest of it.

Though the greatest accomplishment is that now I probably won't think of Jesse Eisenberg as "that guy who looks like Michael Cera and was in 'Zombieland.'"  I have my doubts that he'll become an A-list star after this (I doubt he'll win the Oscar or Golden Globe), but he's on his way to some good parts now.
Anyway, I should probably go see "The King's Speech" which is the other heavyweight Oscar contender.  I doubt it could be less impressive than this.

That is all.

My score:  62/100 (2.5 stars)
Metacritic score:  95/100 (4 stars)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The American (2010)

Movies like "The American" and "Greenberg" exemplify why we still need film critics.  In looking at the customer reviews on the Blockbuster website for both films, the majority opinion is that these are slow and boring.  To which my rebuttal is, "Yes and they were supposed to be."  Slow, that is, not boring.  Though to some people anything without an explosion or car chase every two minutes is boring.  If these people had done their due diligence by reading a few critical reviews, they would have known that before renting it and complaining.

If you're reading this, then you're taking the first step towards doing that.  Good for you!  Let me say that "The American" is not a frenetic actionfest like the Bourne movies, though it is similarly part of that subgenre of films about a hired gun getting tired of the business and wanting to quit.  (Besides the Bourne movies, I could think of "The Merry Gentleman," "The Matador," "Bangkok Dangerous," and "Grosse Pointe Blank" off the top of my head that also fit into this category.)  What you get with "The American" is a slower-paced, more thoughtful variation on this topic.

When the movie begins, Jack (George Clooney) is hanging out in the wilds of Sweden in a cabin with a woman.  They go outside one morning to get some fresh air, but then some bad guys try to kill Jack.  It's not a spoiler to say that they do not succeed and the woman is killed, for which Jack feels guilty.

His contact Pavel sends him to a small town in Italy, though Jack soon takes off for an even smaller town in Italy.  There he pretends to be a photographer and makes friends of a sort with the local priest.  He also begins visiting a local prostitute named Clara (Violante Placido, who looks exceptional in the several scenes in which she is topless--so sue me for noticing!).

Eventually he takes a job to design a special sniper rifle for a woman named Matildhe, who appears each time with a different hair color.  Meanwhile, problems begin to escalate as the Swedes track Jack down in Italy and he's entangled by his feelings for Clara and dissatisfaction with his life.

There is a low-speed chase and some gun play, but probably not enough for action enthusiasts.  Something else that probably throws off the general public is that this isn't the Clooney from "Ocean's Eleven," the suave, debonair criminal.  This is more the Clooney from "Solaris," somber and brooding.  That is generally the air of the movie overall.  This and that Clara is an unabashed prostitute probably don't make it the best "date night" fodder.  But it is an interesting look at a man who is grappling with his personal demons and the bad choices he made in life.

My main complaint (other than the subtitles when people speak in Italian are all but impossible to read on a normal 27-inch television screen) is that the movie doesn't say much that's overly new.  As I said, there's a whole subgenre dedicated to this kind of character and generally "The American" plays out the same way those do:  the assassin is cracking, then there's a last job, a love interest enters the fray, some fights/chases where the assassin tries to escape those who want to make sure his retirement is very short, and then the end.  But to it's credit "The American" takes this more seriously and is more plausible than most of those other movies I mentioned.

So now you have a better idea what to expect--and knowing is half the battle.

That is all.

My score:  75/100 (3 stars)
Metacritic score:  61/100 (2.5 stars)