The Social Network

It’s not just watchable, it’s addictive, much like the topic it’s about.  Aaron Sorkin doesn’t need to be called a genius or one of the great American script-writers by me to feel good about himself, but, damn.  This is a film about a website, without a single action sequence of any relevance contained, and a shit-ton of geek-speak.  And the film is riveting.

Falling somewhere between “a tad” and “highly” fictionalized, Sorkin’s script (and David Fincher’s direction – spot on and claustrophobic) shows the nasty underbelly of the creation of Facebook with all its flaws.  Jesse Eisenberg’s rightly-lauded turn as “Mark Zuckerberg” (there’s quite a bit of creative license going on here; not at much as “Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”, but enough) is the glue that holds the film together, with more one-liners and intelligent-rambling diatribes than can be isolated.  But the support cast is excellent, and Andrew Garfield’s “Don’t *fish* eat other *fish*” line is still the most quotable.  Heck, I’ll even give kudos to Justin Timberlake for playing a shady, entrepreneurial prick… maybe a little *too* well.

It’s a film about belonging, the need for acceptance and belonging and the scratch and claw way we humans go about to connect and yet remain disconnected.  It’s funny and sad and I’m sure I’ll Facebook about it at some point.  (I'd be remiss if I didn't get tingles when Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross took home an Oscar for Best Score.  Something surreal about that.)

Source Code

I rented Source Code primarily on the basis of Duncan Jones’ impressive sci-fi debut, Moon (not because of Jake Gyllenhaal), and my belief that Jeffrey Wright could do no wrong.  Source Code turned out to be a rewarding and challenging picture of second (and third, etc) chances and what happens to those chances.

See, it’s best to go into this picture with as little information as possible and let the series of clues be revealed as the picture goes on.   Ostensibly, Jake’s Captain Colter Stevens is sent into an 8-minute window of time that the scientists (led by Jeffrey Wright) can somehow tap after a horrific terrorist incident by getting into the mind of one of its victims.  Never mind the garbly-gook explanation, and just accept that somehow these little pockets of time can be used to mine the past to catch the terrorist and prevent him from striking again.  But what the film ultimately ends up doing with it opens it to a richer territory than advertised and leaves the viewer (or this one, anyway) with more theoretical questions than anticipated.  Source Code is an unexpected treat.

Sherlock Holmes

It’s not really a reboot – was there a Sherlock Holmes franchise that needed an update? – but more of a re-envisioning project that is very much a Guy Ritchie film.  It feels a little like a mash-up between Fight Club (for atmosphere), Snatch (fight sequences), and mandolin-driven soundtrack and, well, Sherlock Holmes.  Only, if it was just that easy, and it couldn’t have been, it would have been done long before. 

The pairing of Robert Downey and Jude Law works, and works surprisingly well.  The two have chemistry, and succeed in their respective roles playing off one another.  This revision of Sherlock has Downey something of a menace who *needs* to use his formidable, sometimes even crippling observation abilities, lest he become a problem to himself.  Whether it be as an occasional pugilist (the fight scenes where he mentally deconstructs his approach are a highlight) or a barely-reluctant analyzer of a woman’s former past, this Sherlock appears to be almost a victim of his mental sharpness.  In a brief moment before he meets Watson’s lady in a restaurant, Sherlock’s gaze about the room ends with him habitually focusing on his watch’s ticking – this implication being there may be something mentally off about this Holmes.  Downey plays the role as his own and my only complaint is that his English accent is so quick that it is sometimes hard to catch.

Law’s Watson is ruled by his own demons, although he ostensibly has put a leash on his gambling habits.  I’d not thought of Law as playing a tough, but he does it convincingly.  His care for Holmes – really he knows his friend better than most and knows he needs help – is palpable despite the character’s mask of disdain.

A little less effective is Rachel MacAdam’s turn as Holmes’ love/foil Irene Adler, if for nothing else than the chemistry between Downey and her falls a little short.  Mark Strong seems to be making a sweet living playing villains of all sorts (see Green Lantern, Kick Ass), and knocks it out of the park with Blackwood’s sneering, supernatural threat.  (Downey and Strong, *do* have great chemistry when onscreen.)

Sherlock Holmes is eminently watchable and rewarding, especially repeat viewings.

Carte Blanche

Jeffery Deaver’s first foray into James Bond, Carte Blanche, does a 180 from Sebastian Faulk’s fine effort from 2008, Devil May Care and sets the British agent in the modern day.  Not exactly a green reboot agent as in the Daniel Craig reboot, but certainly early in his career, Deaver handles Bond’s character with familiar ease.  The plot was engaging, the characters well-drawn, and there was a real sense of danger and intrigue.  The story was a low-key Bond story, more of the Craig-type rather than one of global domination that seems to be the vogue of the 70’s and 80’s, but not without threatening impact.  Running through the background (and sometimes foreground) was the theme of recycling and “green” products – the tale benefitted greatly from the current-issues incorporation, and its perversion by the arch villain.

The Bond story aside, the lingering takeaway I had from the book was an intrigue into the future of this Bond.  Notsomuch a reboot as a alternate universe re-imagining (think Star Trek) of the character (and characters) was refreshing and felt like it set a new direction for a fresh series of novels.  Really, so much has been written about Bond that it’s impossible to keep the old stories without being tied down to the timeline or the fact that he’d be about 70 years old by now.  If you are going to bring him to modern day and shed some of that history, why not work with the rest of it.  Deaver’s story and loose ends does what it is supposed to do, sell me his *next* book.

Captain America

Captain America is a comics hero that needs to be handled more deftly than others.  He’s a true hero – not so much representing the country that is his name, but the underdog.  In an era where the United States is no longer looked at through rose-colored glasses, a superhero wearing the flag colors is more likely to get burned with mockery than embraced.  Fortunately, an early scene in the rather excellent new film nails it when Steve Rodgers explains his desire to fight: Rather than agree with the question of if he wants to kill Nazis, he shakes his head and responds, “I just don’t like bullies.”

Rodgers is a 98-pound weakling whose desire to stand up against tyranny is done from such a pure place that, by being in the right place at the right time, he is chosen to become the first super-soldier through a mysterious process that is destined to die with its creator.  (The effects of displacing Chris Evan’s body with another actor’s are unnervingly seamless.)  Set up against a dark alter-ego of sort, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, threatening and sometimes quite funny), Steve overcomes a lot of odds to become the embodiment of a hero, whilst suffering real, painful loss.  The film is not sugar-coated, and rather moving at times.

Ultimately, this is a prequel for the new Avengers film set for next summer, and it handles it’s task with pitch-perfect tone.



This much is certain: he must work out.

I’m not entirely certain about a lot of other things about Thor.  The plot is complicated, dare I say almost too complicated to absorb by this poor sap in one sitting, but enough to warrant a second viewing when the time is right (read: release on DVD).  So that’s a good kind of complicated, as one would expect for a plot hatched by the legendary Loki.

I’m not exactly certain why Natalie Portman is starring in this Avengers vehicle, either.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining (aside: when did Natalie Portman become the recognized standard for geekly lust?  Or rather, when *after* the Professional was it okay to admit that freely?), and her acting doesn’t suck, but Jane Foster (I had to Google the last name and I have a decent collection of Thor comics) isn’t exactly one of the premier comics roles that you go after.  I am pretty sure that it has to do more with Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair than Hemsworth’s mighty torso.

And I’m not exactly certain why Kenneth Branagh is directing this film, but I have to say it intrigued me enough to want to see what he would do with it.  He really didn’t disappoint.   Neither did Hemsworth in the lead role and his aforementioned sculpted body.  He inhabited the role playfully and believably.

No, I’m not really sure how I feel about the film Thor, but I’ll gladly see it again, because it certainly was fun to watch.  So, that’s something.