Monday, October 25, 2010


 review by Mark Pezzula

Directed by Anan Tucker

Starring Mark Addy, David Morrissey, Peter Mullan

Red Riding: In the Year Of Our Lord 1983 is the final film in the Red Riding Trilogy, (the first two films I reviewed here and here) and ties up loose ends and fills in gaps left by the previous two films. Specifically, it reveals the identity of the person held responsible for the disappearance and murder of the little girls from the first Red Riding film - 1974. It also reveals the full nature of the Yorkshire Police Department's corruption, and focuses, in one story, about the regret experienced by Detective Superintendent Maurice Jacobson (David Morrissey) who, we see in flashbacks, was mostly hesitant to go along with the criminal activities of his coworkers and superiors.

The film also follows a new character: public solicitor John Piggot (Mark Addy). Piggot is contacted by the family of Michael Myshkin (Daniel Mays), a mentally challenged man who was arrested and convicted of the girls' murders at the end of the first film. Refusing to appeal Myshkin's conviction, Piggot nonetheless begins his own personal investigation into a nearly ten year old case, which seems to have a connection to a the recent disappearance of another young girl Hazel Atkins.

Where Red Riding '74 was a noir/revenge film and '80 was a tight police procedural, Red Riding '83 leans towards being a more conventional thriller, with tepid results. It's quite easily the least engaging of the three films and, while fulfilling in the sense that it answers questions asked by the first two films, fails at being anything more than a competent ending to the astounding first and second acts.

Much of the films downfall can be laid at the feet of the two competing story lines. Whereas '74 and '80 each had a solo hero (with important characters drifting in and out of both films), '83 splits its time between Jacobson and Piggot. While there's nothing necessarily wrong with this kind of structure, the film is hampered by the fact that Piggot's story line is simply uninteresting, and features lots of wheel spinning. Piggot does little else other than interview Myshkin multiple times, questioning the sad imbecile and trying to uncover the identity of the real murderer. Something tells me another version of the script fleshed out Piggot's character and gave him more depth - there are shades of that depth in '83 (Piggot is a messy slob who seems to have an attraction to a young witness), but nothing except the bare surface of Piggot's life is ever really examined.

Maurice Jacobson's story is the fascinating one, and probably should have been allowed to stand alone while Piggot's got excised. As fascinating as it is, though, the screenplay gives Jacobson's tale an Achilles heel: flashbacks. Jacobson is reeling from his involvement in the corruption of the West Yorkshire Constabulary, and although Morrissey exhibits some fine acting chops that bring real pathos to the character of Maurice Jacobson, the film constantly double-backs on itself, sometimes for ten to twenty minute stretches at a time, to show Jacobson performing actions that weren't seen - but were referenced to - in the first two films.  It's a frustrating structure, exacerbated by a shoe-horned in love interest (a psychic medium played by Saskia Reeves) that gets barely any screentime but seems to be the woman of Jacobson's dreams.

When Jacobson and Piggot finally do cross paths at the end of the film, after spending the majority of it dealing with their own personal strife and difficulty in finding Hazel Atkins and the murderer, what should be an arousing and satisfying conclusion is rendered impotent by the film's odd structure choices and questionable information. Characters see and imagine things they couldn't possibly know about, and although I'm fine with leaving some story points up in the air, '83's frustrating preceding hour and a half coupled with a few vague explanations (although the identity of the killer is unquestionably revealed) result in an experience that's deeply disappointing.

The film isn't a total waste, though. Addy turns in a fine performance as Piggot - although, again, it would have been nice to see deeper into his character. And Morrissey makes even the longest flashback a little easier to watch. Fantastic British character actor Peter Mullan, who plays the mysterious Father Martin Laws, is fun to watch as well. David Mays particular impresses as the aforementioned Michael Myshkin. Also, as much as director Anan Tucker doesn't have a grasp on Tony Grisoni's convoluted (which shocked me, seeing as he wrote the almost perfect first two films) screenplay, he does capture the era in grand fashion. (Although the film contains none of the visual richness of '74 or even the classy film look of '80 - '83 was shot using the very modern digital Red One camera.)

Overall, the Red Riding trilogy is an outstanding accomplishment. While its conclusion leaves much to be desired, it still stands as a fine piece of work front to back. '83 may be disappointing, but don't let that keep you from experiencing this magnificent story.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Well I guess it was inevitable. After more than a decade ghostface is back terrorizing Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and all her horny post-post high school friends. Although I've become completely numb (maybe even accepting) of all the sequelizing being done by Hollywood over the past few years, I really have to question the decision to continue a franchise that took a dive Greg Louganis would be proud of at the beginning of the millennium and hasn't exactly had its apologists clamoring for its return.

That being said, I do understand Wes Craven needs a career boost (which has been necessary for awhile and is even more dire, now that My Soul to Take has received such a critical and commercial pounding that even Michael Berryman's's face feels sorry for it), and all three of the previous films earned more than triple their respective budgets. For better or worse, Scream really did change the landscape of horror (and it's a pretty great movie, to boot. No seriously, it is. If it were released on Blu-Ray right now, I'd snag it). I seem to be the only person who didn't hate the second film (in fact I like it quite a bit, even with Jerry O'Connell's strange mid-movie musical number). Scream 3, though, is Hepatitis C wrapped in H1N1. Not only did the movie spark a downward spiral that Craven hasn't yet recovered from (although Red Eye is a lot of fun), it's incredibly sterile and a slog to sit through.

I've watched the trailer for Scream 4 (note: I will never, ever refer to this movie as Scr4m - that's Mark Pezzula's The Everything Film Blog guarantee), and can't really muster anything but a want to watch the first film. It's actually kind of cool to see these characters together again, but I have a feeling that's only because it conjures a certain sense of nostalgia in me. Scream was an important turning point not only in the canon of mainstream horror, but also in my personal film viewing experience.

The trailer predictably signals that the film will attack horror movies from a 2010 perspective, and hints that all sorts of meta things will happen throughout its running time. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, of course, but after almost a decade and a half of hundreds of self-aware horror films highlighting the tropes and cliches of the genre, it'd be nice if the franchise that kick-started that whole trend took the idea and got it drunk and high in the parking lot of Dairy Queen for a little bit, only to drop it off at its parents house hours later, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Scream to wonder why their son is acting the way he is, but enjoying every minute of his odd and out of character behavior.

And who knows, maybe it will do just that. Scream 4 is still six months away from release, and it could turn out to be the same reinvention of the horror genre that the first film was. Check out the trailer at Trailer Addicts.

One last thing: anyone else think they spot Anna Faris at 1:03?


review by Mark Pezzula

Directed by James Marsh

Starring Paddy Considine, Maxine Peake, Sean Harris

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (from here on out to be referred to as Red Riding '80) is a self-contained story that is tenuously, at first, connected to Red Riding 1974, which I reviewed here.

Picking up six years after the first film, Red Riding '80 features the very awesome Paddy Considine (who still kills me in Hot Fuzz's "mustache gag" - check it out here (he's the one with the mustace)) as Peter Hunter, a Manchester Police Officer recruited by the Yorkshire Police Department to take over the Yorkshire Ripper investigation. A total of twelve women have been murdered by the Ripper, and as the press has a field day with the bungling of the case by the YPD, the public is locking their doors and demanding curfew. Hunter has a squeaky-clean record, and appears to be the ideal candidate to head an investigation that needs to be solved for both the good of the public and the reputation of the authorities in charge.

Tying Red Riding '80 to the previous film is the fact that Hunter led an investigation into a mass murder at a Yorkshire bar called The Karachi Club in 1974, which we do see in the first Red Riding installment. When Hunter accepts the job he comes under the employ of characters we meet in '74 - Maurice Jobson (David Morrison) and Bill Molloy (Warren Clarke). Like Red Riding 1974, '80 deals with corruption from the lowest level Police Detective to the highest constable. While there is a different type of victim involved (grown women in '80 as opposed to children in '74), Red Riding '80 still presents a personal story inside a backdrop of evil and fear.

Where 1974 was mostly presented in a film-noir style, though, Red Riding '80 plays mostly as a police procedural. We don't see any of the murders, we simply follow Hunter and his team - Helen (Maxine Peake), John (Tony Pitts), and Bob (Sean Harris) - as they attempt to solve the case of the Ripper. Don't mistake the film for a feature length version of Law and Order, though. As with '74, there's plenty of character development and honest to goodness great writing going on.

As with the first film, Red Riding '80 is deeply layered, with real, tangible characters. Peter Hunter is a man who believes in his policework, but has been broken by a miscarriage his wife had while he was investigating The Karachi Club murders from '74. On the surface he's all business professional, but as the film wears on screenwriter Tony Grisoni slowly reveals facets of Hunter's personality that conflict with his introduction as Manchester Super Cop, and perhaps even dip every so slightly into the darkside. Considine excels in the role. When the wheels of the investigation come undone and Hunter realizes the vast network of conspiracy unraveling around him, there's serious pain in the man's eyes, and the actor sells the character's soul-shattering disappointment with a few lines and a down-turned mouth.

The supporting cast is, predictably (the good predictably), uniformly great. Maxine Peake gets the most meat in her role and, although she's not gorgeous in the typical sense of the word, is quite radiating as the broken-hearted but still professional Helen. And Sean Harris makes an impression with a character who was only glimpsed in '74 committing acts of violence. His Bob Craven is a ratty, corrupt disgusting character, and Harris is likeably unlikeable (looking like DJ Qualls run through a septic tank) in the role.

In my review of Red Riding 1974 I praised the authentic feeling of the production, and felt Julian Jerrod really captured an atmosphere that lent a lot of credibility to the story at hand. James Marsh, while keeping a better pace with Red Riding '80, shoots the film in 35mm, and doesn't fill the film with the attention to period detail like Jerrod did. While this doesn't damage the film irreparably, it does, unfortunately, make the film feel less immediate and engrossing. '74 worked in spades because of its enveloping atmosphere. '80 suffers (but not fatally so) from a lack of it.

Despite its few, if distracting, flaws, Red Riding '80 is still a worthy follow up to its predecessor. It expands a story that so very much asked to be blown open, and it reveals secrets about the first film that makes one want to go back and watch it with more scrutiny than on first viewing. Red Riding '80 is a finely crafted film, and a fine bridge to what, I hope, will be a memorable ending to the Red Riding Trilogy with Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983.  

Monday, October 18, 2010


review by Mark Pezzula

Directed by Julian Jarrold

Starring Andrew Garfield, Rebecca Hall, David Morrissey

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (which I will refer to here on out as either just Red Riding or 1974) is the first in a trilogy of made for TV feature-length films that aired on the BBC in 2009 and were released theatrically in the US in 2010. The film, followed by Red Riding 1980 and 1983, tells the story of a young journalist drawn into the world of police and political corruption in Yorkshire England.

Eddie Dunford (Andrew Garfield) is a cocky and brash writer for the Yorkshire Post, who's only goal is to break a huge story and possibly even solve the case of a series of little girls who have gone missing in the area. Like any noir, Dunford finds that the more he investigates the case and the closer he gets to the truth, the more dangerous life becomes. He befriends and eventually falls in love with one of the mothers of the missing girls (Rebecca Hall), and his emotional connection to her of course ups the stakes of not only his investigation, but of both of their lives and seemingly everyone around them as well.

If that description doesn't sound like anything new, that's because story wise, 1974 really isn't. But that doesn't mean it's not one hell of a great movie. Director Julian Jerrod has created a finely detailed world of shady characters that feels like it comes right from the era it depicts. It helps that the movie was shot on 16mm, so there's a rich and grainy look to the film that seems to capture the grime and filth that Dunford wades increasingly into. It also helps that the screenplay, written by Tony Grisondi, is practically perfect when it comes to delivering both character and story details and developments. There's a whole underworld of wheeling and dealing that we don't really see but get every bit a sense of, as Grisondi's characters speak fast and address each other in language that police and journalists would actually use, refusing to spoon feed the audience with information. It's a treat when dialogue this good is spoken by actors that match it, and the screenplay lets the mind fill in small gaps.

Andrew Garfield (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite young actors) simply disappears into the role of Eddie Dunford. He's overconfident when we first meet him, and follows the head between his legs more often than the one on his neck, but as he's drawn deeper into a world he was not prepared for, he suddenly has the drive of a seasoned newspaper writer, doggedly going after a story - life be damned. This drive turns into obsession when he meets Paula Garland (Hall), and eventually becomes vengeance in the last moments of the film. Along the way, Garfield sells every cocksure smile, and every seething-with-rage-moment. It's another great performance in what is sure to be a career full of them.

Rebecca Hall does nice work as the dame Eddie Falls for. With her sad eyes she portrays a broken woman on the edge almost too well. Paula has a beautiful and comforting presence, as Dunford finds out, and Hall magnificently portrays that. Sean Bean has a smaller role (running time wise, anyway) as ruthless land developer John Dawson, but is extremely imposing and dangerous in the role. He casts a huge presence over the film, even when the character is just mentioned by name. Throw in some great supporting work by Peter Mullan, David Morrissey, and Eddie Marsan (a character actor who is about due for a break-out role and a subsequent Oscar nomination), and 1974 becomes a piece to watch almost for the acting alone.

Thankfully the film is paced well enough by Jarrold and the aforementioned script holds our interest even when it becomes slightly predictable. Red Riding is a film that works immensely well because it's so finely crafted, well made, and acted. There's a level of detail and care put into these characters and scenes that really doesn't get injected into many modern films (mainstream, anyway) as it does here. There's a rich, multi-layered world to explore here, with interesting, off-beat, and fiery characters to get to know. And, for the action fans out there, you'll be happy to know that - although the film is no Michael Bay blow-out - the final minutes of the film feature a cathartic explosion of violence that works within the context of the film and provides a soothing exhale after a long-held breath.

I don't know what the sequels (supposedly interconnected with this and each other) have in store for me, but I do know that Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 is master-class filmmaking, and one of the best films of the year.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


 Review by Mark Pezzula

Directed by Tom Six 

Starring Dieter Laser, Ashley Williams, Ashlynn Yennie

Every few years a film comes around that immediately grabs both scorn and accolades from movie critics and fans alike simply based on the film's concept alone. These films usually come out of the horror genre, and those that condemn the film are apt to chastise the filmmakers for pushing the medium to a new low, while those that support the film claim that any work that pushes boundaries and buttons is reason for celebration. One particular film that has been smashing peoples buttons for the past year and a half is The Human Centipede, which tells the story of a German doctor whose goal is to fuse three human beings together - by the digestive tract (to get the picture click here) - to create one miserable, grotesque monstrosity. The film has both won awards and received scathing criticism. As a film, The Human Centipede certainly has one of the most nightmarish concepts I have ever seen in a film. It's slightly disappointing, then, that the movie really doesn't have anything going for it, other than its stomach-churning premise.

All Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams) and Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) want to do is hang out in Europe, go clubbing, and meet hot German men. They also want to argue incessantly with each other when their rental car catches a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. After hours of walking through the woods (and minutes of me stuffing cotton into my ears to try to ward off the sound of their obnoxious voices), the two best friends stumble upon the abode of Dr. Heitzer who, despite being immediately creepy and off-putting, they decide to seek respite from the cold and rain. The fact that Jenny and Lindsay decide to accept help from this immensely odd human being, what with his box-shaped head and stand-offish demeanor, is an event that's incredibly unbelievable, even for a genre that is built upon towers of  suspending disbelief.

After being drugged by the bad doctor, Jenny and Lindsay wake up to find themselves cuffed to hospital beds in his basement, where Heitzer goes into an overhead-projector presentation on his demented experiment in disgusting and vomit-inducing detail. Jenny and Lindsay are, unsurprisingly, very upset.

Of course, you would be too if you found out that you were about to have your mouth sewed onto the anus of either your best friend or a pissed off Japanese man (Akihiro Kitamura), who eventually becomes the head of the "centipede." In what is one of the dumbest victim escapes I've ever seen in a horror film, Lindsay frees herself from the clutches of Gonzo-Einstein and then goes on to do everything in her power to not get out of the house. For a movie with a one-of-a-kind concept, The Human Centipede wades mouth deep in dumb horror movie cliches.

What The Human Centipede doesn't wade in, to its benefit, is an overabundance of gore and blood. Sure, there's a good amount of the red stuff flowing, but the film is surprisingly restrained when it comes to wet splatter. The operation scene is disturbing and nauseating, but because we know what's going to happen when the experiment is complete, not because the effects are particularly bloody or gross. Director Tom Six at least has some idea on how to craft tension and dread.

When Heitzer finally completes his masterpiece, The Human Centipede lives up to its reputation as one disturbing piece of work. To hear about 3 people fused together front to back breeds nightmarish thoughts, but to actually see this newly formed creature creates a sense of sympathy and repulsion that almost splits the mind. Jenny and Lindsay are annoying characters, but do not deserve the disgusting and bothersome fate Heitzer has given them. If nothing else, this film will replace your fear of going to hell when you die with your fear of becoming the middle member of the centipede.

It's a good thing Dieter Laser is magnificent as Dr. Heitzer, or The Human Centipede wouldn't have a reason to be viewed after its first hour. Whatever thin plot was in place before this point completely disappears and is replaced with scenes of the doctor having fun with his new pet - which the centipede actually functions as, as the head cannot speak English and the abdomen and tail cannot speak at all. Laser is fascinating in the role, and is probably the best reason to see the film. Dr. Heitzer is truly a disturbing and scary character.

The last act of the film introduces a pair of bumbling, Keystone cops into the film, and the movie falls right back into the "Dumb Horror Movie Stuff" rhythm it began with. The nightmarish atmosphere still lingers (as do the faint-inducing moments, such as when the centipede attempts to crawl up a flight of stairs and its members practically separate), but whatever thick aura of dread Six had built up is broken by silly contrivances dumb character moments. As much as the director wants to emulate the style of 80's era David Cronenberg, he simply can't match that master's ability to marry the grotesque and smart.

The ending of The Human Centipede actually goes on to make up for much of the disappointing final 30 minutes of the film. It's an ending that's horrific almost to the point of paralyzation, and should leave any normal, rational audience member somewhat shaken.

For all the accolades, smears, cheers, jeers, criticism, love, and hate the film has received, at the end of the day The Human Centipede is a competently made film with a truly disturbing central conceit, a great central performance, some nice photography, with a disappointing knack for going the dumbest places that a horror movie can go. It's worth a look, if only for curious eyes and for those who can stomach the sick nature of it. Apparently Tom Six already has the sequel (The Second Sequence, in which the centipede will have an astonishingly disgusting TWELVE parts) in the can. Once again there will be controversy. Once again the director will be demonized by some and held up as a boundary pushing artist by others. And I have a feeling that once again we'll be left with a film that has many moments to be talked about, but leaves a lot to be desired as a whole.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


reviewed by Mark Pezzula

Directed by Mark Romanek 

Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley

Never Let Me Go, based on the book of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a subtle and graceful science fiction film unlike any produced in recent memory. Genteel in its portrayal of a fictional dystopia, the film is a noble attempt at using the sci-fi genre as merely a backdrop for what is mainly a love story. While director Mark Romanek succeeds in creating an alternate reality so familiar to our own yet with a Philip K. Dick-ian sense of a repressive, authoritarian state lurking ever so watchful in the background, the love story is more difficult to accept, and therefore the film left me impressed by the audacity of its simplicity, but (despite its consistently sad tone) emotionally unsatisfied.

The film begins as title cards tell us that in the 1950's, a cure was found for any and all human ailments. The average life expectancy rate skyrockets into the 100's by the 1960's. We are then introduced to Kathy H (Carey Mulligan), who, in the 1990's, tells us through narration that she is a "carer" - a person who helps a "donor" through their donation period. As Kathy reminisces about becoming a carer, we are transported back to the 1970's, where Kathy attends what seems to be an exclusive boarding school called Hailsham, where she falls in young love with class outcast Tommy. Tommy and Kathy court each other as only children can, until one day Ruth, Kathy's cold and sexually aggressive friend, steals Tommy away from Kathy. On top of having her young heart broken, Kathy (and the rest of the children at Hailsham) learn, from a renegade teacher who tires of hiding the truth from her students, that they will eventually become "donors" - people who are raised and bred so that their organs may be harvested for sick or dying people.

Advancing almost a decade, the film then follows Kathy, Tommy (Andrew Garfield), and Ruth (Keira Knightley) to a place called The Cottages, where other future donors and prospective carers are held until its time for them to be released out into the "real" world, where they will fulfill their donation duties until they "complete" (die). Kathy and Tommy are still in love, and although they never speak of it Ruth has her suspicions that she is not Tommy's true amor. Throughout their stay at The Cottages, Ruth constantly makes it known to Kathy, verbally and through physical cues, that Kathy and Tommy will never be a couple.

The problems with Never Let Me Go begin with the transition from Hailsham to The Cottages. While Romanek shoots ever scene brilliantly and the film is very well crafted, the movie always seems in a hurry to advance from one scene to the next. Kathy and Tommy barely spend any time together as children, and as soon as Tommy becomes the object of Ruth's affection the film leaps ahead to the second phase of the donor/carer program. During this period of the film Kathy and Tommy again spend no real time together. Romanek strives to convey a loving relationship between the two with glances and short conversations, and the actors do a commendable job with their characters, but at no point did I become emotionally invested in what was happening between them.

What's more interesting about the film is the way Romanek hides the outside alternate reality from not only the characters but from the audience as well. The full nature of the donor/carer program is never explained, but it doesn't need to be. Although details are sketchy (the donors are understood to be clones, but clones of who, really? Who gets the harvested organs - the wealthy? All British citizens?), it's implicitly understood that the donors have nowhere to run (escape is never talked about by any of the characters in the film) and that the whole program is morally contemptible and run by an evil system of government. That Romanek succeeds in making this system feel ever present and oppressive without showing any aspect normally associated with the science fiction film is impressive.

The third act of the film again jumps ahead a decade to where we first meet Kathy at the beginning of the film. A successful and well liked carer, she deals with the daily completion of the donors she is assigned to not with stoicism, but with the passive condolence of a funeral director. Having been estranged from her two friends for ten years, she serendipitously meets up with Ruth, who has survived two "donations", but is frail and moving rapidly towards completion. Attempting to atone for keeping Tommy and Kathy apart for so many years, Ruth tells Kathy that her and Tommy can receive a deferral, by which they would receive a few extra years of "normal" life before having to donate. Ruth tells the two of them that a deferral can only be received by two people who are truly in love. To tell any more of the plot would be to give too much of the film away, which I feel I've done already.

The performances in Never Let Me Go are all great, with Mulligan and Garfield again showing that they are two of the best young actors working today. Knightley turns in a fine performance as well, although Ruth never really gets a chance to do anything other than manipulate and then express regret.

As good as the actors are, as interesting as the film is, and as beautiful as it looks, Never Let Me Go is incredibly somber, almost to the point of being laughably s0. I could count the number of smiles the actors give on one hand, and there are no memorable moments of levity in the film. While the subject matter doesn't lend itself heavily to moments of lightness, some injected humor would have done the film a world of good.

Never Let Me Go is an expertly crafted film, but one that doesn't connect emotionally. It tries very hard, and everyone involved has put a tremendous amount of effort into making the film devastatingly memorable (Garfield comes the closest with a truly heartbreaking moment towards the end of the film. By sheer will of his amazing performance, I came close to breaking down myself), but it ultimately fails to engage as a story about love and mortality.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I've been a fan of Danny Boyle ever since his 1996 film Trainspotting blew my 15 year old mind into the gutter of independent filmmaking and increased my interest in film ten-fold. I owe the deep interest I have in film today to Trainspotting (it was the first time I had gone to an independent theater near me called The Spectrum, and I also attended a question/answer session after the film, another), and although the director hasn't quite hit such a home run since, he is without a doubt still one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. While all of his films may not be instantly memorable, I've come to deeply respect each of them in their own ways. I recently purchased his stab at science-fiction called Sunshine which, after I first viewed it in 2007, left me extremely disappointed. Watching it for a second time on Blu-ray, I came to really appreciate and actually kind of love it (the first two-thirds of it, anyway). Sometimes the great films don't stick with you right away. Danny Boyle's films, more often than not, take some time to stick.

127 Hours, his new film, tells the true story of Aaron Ralston - daredevil and adventurer extraordinaire. In 2003, Aaron's arm became trapped under a boulder, and he spent five days severing his arm in order to escape. A teaser for the film was released back in August. Now, Apple Trailers has the full-length trailer.

James Franco plays Ralston, and the trailer really puts emphasis on his performance - and I'm not talking just with quotes like "one of the all-time great performances." Franco's long been a great actor, and it's great to see him headlining this film that seems to be, for the most part, a one man show.

Boyle has traversed man vs. wild before, with his 2000 film The Beach. He's also a master of making beautifully hopeful films out of characters in hopeless situations (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire).

Check out the trailer for 127 Hours here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


review by Mark Pezzula

Directed by David Fincher

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake

Repeat after me: "The Social Network is not a movie about Facebook." Say it again. Now again. There, glad that's over with.

The Social Network is a film about Facebook the same way Citizen Kane is a movie about a newspaper or Reservoir Dogs is about a jewelry heist. Swap out Facebook for any other technological breakthrough and you'd have the same movie. In The Social Network, the internet's most popular social networking website simply provides a backdrop and catalyst for writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher to develop and execute what is simply one of the most intriguing and fascinating cinematic stories of the year. The title may refer to a relatively recent invention that may or may not stand the test of time (my guess: it will), but the film itself absolutely will (and should) be remembered, because it's about character, first and foremost.

Jesse Eisenberg is Mark Zuckerberg, and we first meet the future youngest billionaire in the world as his girlfriend Erica (the gorgeous Rooney Mara, instantly forgiven for starring in the abysmal A Nightmare on Elm Street remake) becomes his ex-girlfriend after Mark, through a series of passive-aggressive exchanges, denigrates her in a dozen different (and often cringe-inducing) ways. This, we come to find, is the way that Zuckerberg treats most everyone in his life.

After a night of drunk-blogging (the 21st century's version of drunk-dialing) and creating a "who's the hotter chick?" website called Face Mash (and pissing off a majority of the female population at Harvard in the process), Zuckerberg is approached by three entrepreneurs: twins (and row team members) Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) to help them create a social networking site strictly for Harvard University students. Using their idea as a springboard, Zuckerberg instead creates The Facebook, a similar (but not exactly) site that becomes an instant sensation first on Harvard's campus, then, with the help of his best friend and means of capital Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) a hit on several major Ivy League schools in the great northeast. As The Facebook becomes bigger, Zuckerberg finds himself in the middle of two lawsuits: one involving the Winklevoss' and Divya, and the other involving Saverin.

Both the litigious and technological aspects of The Social Network are handled in a way by Fincher and Sorkin as to be easily digestible to the average movie-goer. There's a chunk of time in the first 20 minutes of the film devoted specifically to Zuckerberg's use of computer code in creating Face Mash, and what could have been a dry and un-engaging cinematic moment is transformed into a practically riveting section of the film, where Fincher wisely demonstrates on-screen exactly what Zuckerberg is doing and then inter cuts it with scenes from an exclusive Havard party, which Zuckerberg purposely misses out on in order to attack Face Mash. Zuckerberg's life revolves around creating something monumental and smashing boundaries (and friendships, and reputations, and chimneys) in the process.

As Zuckerberg, Eisenberg exudes the relative coldness and dismissive attitude that Sorkin's script calls for out of the character, but for all of the put-down, condescending remarks, and snide responses, Eisenberg is somehow still engaging. As Sorkin has written him, Zuckerberg is decidedly not a likeable character. Except he is. He's infuriating and fascinating at the same time. Eisenberg has received criticism for being a Michael Cera clone, but a closer look reveals a much deeper persona. There's something going on behind Zuckerberg's cold and calculating glance, and the way Eisenberg moves his eyes to portray this is the mark of great work.

The Social Network gradually becomes an ensemble piece as it progresses, at some points abandoning Zuckerberg to follow Saverin and Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the online mastermind behind such short-lived prospects as Napster. Parker - despite failed Dot Com start-ups, alleged drug problems, and paranoid delusions - becomes Zuckerberg's right-hand man. Ready to take risks and entrenched with a charming, if overbearing, personality that Saverin does not, Parker introduces Zuckerberg to the party-down/wire-up atmosphere of life in Silicon Valley. These scenes take on a different but nonetheless engaging tone, and it's a compliment to David Fincher's directorial skills that they feel so connected and an extension of the film's first two thirds.

I keep on using the word "engaging" because, well, The Social Network is.  And its most engaging aspect comes in the form of Andrew Garfield's performance as Eduardo Saverin. Garfield recently signed on to play Peter Parker in the Spiderman reboot, and after seeing him in this and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, I have no doubts about the man's ability to do many, many a great thing. Saverin is portrayed as a victim in The Social Network, and Garfield is appropriately sympathetic. He's also naive and too trusting of Zuckerberg. But ultimately, when he is pushed against the ropes by Zuckerberg and Parker, Saverin snaps. And his near-breakdown is a small but gloriously awesome cinematic moment, propelled by Garfield's great performance. In what is one of my favorite scenes of the year (specifically because of Garfield's work in it), the young actor displays anger, regret, and genuine sadness all in a matter of a few lines.

While Eisenberg and Garfield are the most impressive of the cast, Timberlake holds his own as well. The former N'SYNC'er has blossomed into a fine actor (and comedian, if you've seen his work on SNL) and a stand-out talent. Timberlake proves yet again that he's more than a former boy-band singer.

On top of the impressive cast is Trent Reznor's equally fascinating soundtrack (sample here). Made up of abstract soundscapes, digital blips, and old-fashioned orchestral arrangements, Reznor (former singer/composer of Nine Inch Nails) has created a soundtrack that mimics the cold and desolate mind of Mark Zuckerberg but also features dramatic and warm moments, perhaps reflecting college life in one of America's oldest Ivy League schools.

Fincher, by the way, may not capture life on Harvard's campus as it really is (I have no idea what Harvard life is like - I've never been there), but he's certainly captured a specific feeling (and maintains that feeling) for The Social Network. Zuckerberg and his cohorts are constantly on the edge of the "good ol' boy" network that has remained sustained throughout generations of Harvard graduates. While the Winklevoss' attend elite student functions, Zuckerberg is attending Caribbean night at the Jewish fraternity. The way Fincher portrays the two competing groups is a joy to watch.

"Engaging." That's what The Social Network is. Engaging. And smart. And funny. And light-hearted. For employing such an unlikeable and down-beat lead character and dramatic heft, The Social Network is a very, very fun movie. It's David Fincher's most accessible film since Panic Room, but without that film's directorial flourishes. The Social Network is straight-up, old-fashioned, cream of the crop fine storytelling, with great acting, mesmerizing direction, and smart writing. It's one of the best films of the year.