Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Paranormal Activity 2"

Paranormal Activity 2 - Directed by Tod Williams, written by Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon, and Tom Pabst - Rated R

The Kurgan is still shakin' in his boots after this one. True, those boots are made with the skin of his enemies...but they're still shakin'.


Quick, did you like the first Paranormal Activity? No? Don’t watch this then. That may be obvious advice, but just in case you thought this sequel might try and get all Blair Witch 2 on you, be assured that it does not. Paranormal Activity 2 (a thankfully straightforward horror sequel title) is exactly like its predecessor in tone and style. If you thought it was stupid the first time, why would your mind change for a second go around? If you’re like me, though, and thought the original was a refreshing and chilling horror film, then read on.

Paranormal Activity 2 was a pleasant surprise for me. I honestly expected this movie to be complete garbage. I came close to skipping it completely, but good word of mouth and a decent score on Rotten Tomatoes convinced me to give it a try. I’m glad I did. While this sequel doesn’t surpass the original, it is definitely a worthy addition to the franchise. Yes, I said franchise because after this film’s opening weekend you can bet you’ll be seeing a Paranormal Activity every Halloween for the foreseeable future a la Saw. I’ll come back to that later, though.

This film worked for me mainly because of its connection to the original. This film actually turns out to be a prequel of sorts (Micah and Katie show up sporadically) and that was surprising to me. I figured the filmmakers would go with a standalone story for the sequel. But they actually ended up tying it all together nicely. Paranormal Activity 2 follows Katie’s sister Kristi and her family. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I won’t go into specifics. Basically it’s the first film with a teenager, a baby, and a dog thrown in. A crying baby and a barking dog in the middle of the night? Throw some mirrors in and we have some creepy stuff. What, you have two mirrors? Oh crap.

Which brings me to what I love about these two movies. This series is essentially the “Where’s Waldo?” of the horror movie world. You have to constantly scan the screen to look for something amiss. This is mainly fun in the early minutes of the film because things get progressively obvious. I love those first few nights, though. I find my eyes darting all over the screen, not wanting to miss a thing. I’m sorry, but if a film makes you pay that close attention to it, then something is going right.

The scares get more blatant near the end, but that doesn’t diminish the film at all. I have found that creepy, loud noises in the middle of the night are very relatable scares. Everyone’s been home alone at one time or another, so it’s easy to place yourself within this movie. The unseen horror of it all adds to the fright factor. A stomping invisible menace is flat out effective.

The film not only adds more characters, it also adds more cameras. The reasoning is justified and there are enough blind spots to keep things suspenseful. Overall, everything that was effective the first time around still works; it only lacks the “gotcha!” of the original.

The only other thing I felt that this film lacked compared to the first movie is the character development. I liked the young couple from the first film. They were amusing and believable. This time around we get believable characters, but we don’t get to know all that much about them. The teenager gets some nice moments, but for the most part I didn’t find myself caring about this family as much as I did for Micah and Katie. Let me put it this way, I remembered Micah and Katie’s names, but all I could remember from this film were the mother’s name (Christi) and the baby’s (Hunter). I think the teen had a name that started with an “A”…not sure, though.

Now back to that whole franchise business. I rejoiced when the first film crushed the Saw sequel last year (and I hope this takes down Saw 3D this weekend). I loved the first Saw but felt that the series had spiraled out of control from the second film on. I was glad to see this sequel work, but I don’t see how they can keep the story connected for future films without it getting extremely tiresome. It might be unfair to judge like this, but I can’t imagine any future outings working this well; as a story, that is.

The scare tactics of this film will work for a while, though. I don’t know if they will work for seven movies, however…or for 3-D for that matter. And here’s hoping that we’re not talking about Paranormal Activity 3-D this time next year.

As it is, we can be happy that this sequel to the unlikely phenomenon from last year turned out to be a surprisingly effective follow-up. If you liked Paranormal Activity the first time, watch this. If you didn’t, well, whatever disparaging comments you had for the first film…repeat them.


Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

I liked the touch of the framed photo from the original showing up onscreen.

The scenes in the basement in the end were a bit too close to those of REC (or the remake Quarantine) for my taste...still scary, though.

Anyone notice the message these movies are sending? Men don't believe in spirits and ghosts until it's too late and they pay for it with their lives.

What happened to the dog? Was it in the last scene? I didn't notice it. Maybe it's still in the hospital. Or it's dead...

They did review the security footage a few times, but a reasonable family would have checked that stuff out much more consistently when most of this crap started happening.

Way to amp up the dragging scene in this one. I loved how she got away for a bit, just to be dragged again.

Katie Featherstone snaps necks with the ease of a Steven Seagal in his prime.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Hereafter"

Hereafter - Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Peter Morgan, starring Matt Damon, C├ęcile de France, and Frankie and George McLaren - Rated PG-13

"It's who you are. You can't run away from that forever!" No, you can't, but you can sure as hell stay as far away from this movie as humanly possible.


What’s the afterlife like? Well, I would rather find out firsthand than sit through the pointless, boring Hereafter again. Yeah, I know, that’s quite the hyperbolic statement, but the latest film from producer/director Clint Eastwood was very disappointing. I went into the theatre expecting an interesting film about a former psychic who converses with the dead (Matt Damon) and his struggle with his “gift.” Instead I saw an overlong melodrama with a terribly plain payoff.

Hereafter is about the psychic mentioned above, but it’s also about a little English boy who wants to speak with his dead twin brother. The other third of the story concerns a French TV anchor that has a near death experience and becomes obsessed with the afterlife. The typical mystery of a film like this is the connecting factor. I can understand that the film doesn’t want to go with a standard “save the world” storyline, but the conclusion reached by screenwriter Peter Morgan just seemed pointless.

The other mystery a film about the afterlife deals with is if there is in fact an afterlife. Hereafter may have been much more interesting if the audience didn’t know if the afterlife existed in the film, but we’re shown that it does exist in the first minutes. I would find Matt Damon’s character far more interesting if it was posited that he may be a fraud paraded around by his brother (a very aged Jay Mohr). The confirmation of an afterlife has blinded many people’s reaction to the film. As usual, I used the IMDb message boards to see what was being said about the movie. I found a battle being waged between believers and atheists, with a lot of people liking or hating the movie based solely on their interpretation of an afterlife. My personal beliefs did not factor into my opinion of this film. I just accepted that a type of afterlife exists in Hereafter and that has no bearing on the existence of an afterlife in reality.

Your personal beliefs shouldn’t cloud your ability to notice terribly clich├ęd dialogue along the lines of “It’s not a gift, Billy, it’s a curse!” Pretty much every line spoken in this film feels like it’s been said one hundred times before and never in a compelling fashion. Not to mention the story is almost never interesting. I was never worried about any of the characters. I didn’t care about any of them at all because the writer spent too much time sowing their misery and forgot to create actual characters. The only description you can give of them is that they cry a lot and are connected by death. I know that the characters in a film about the afterlife don’t need to be lighthearted, but they can be more than shells of humans, at least.

Hereafter isn’t a dialogue rich character study, which would be nearly forgivable if the depiction of the afterlife was interesting at all. But as we see very early on, the afterlife is a vague, foggy nothingness peopled by shadowy, murmuring figures. Eastwood never truly shows us this place, either. We only get glimpses. If the filmmakers were not willing to go all the way with the premise, then they should have left it open to interpretation.

As if this bland movie wasn’t bad enough, it’s also way too long. Clocking in at over two hours, the story could have easily been told in ninety minutes. We are beat over the head time and time again with each character’s misery. The English boy can’t find any real help? The French woman is having trouble coping with near death? Matt Damon is lonely and hates his curse/gift? I could tell all of that after one scene, I didn’t need the subsequent five scenes for each character that etch these ideas in stone.

Despite all of these things, Eastwood is still a competent director. The problems with Hereafter are almost solely with the screenplay. It is all cut together coherently and I never thought that it stayed too long with any one character (actually, it just stayed too long with all of them). The sole action scene at the beginning of the film was interesting, even if some of the CG was questionable. Eastwood knows how to shoot a movie; it’s just not enough to save it.

Maybe you saw a preview for this film and you thought it was about the Matt Damon character and his ability to see into the afterlife. Well, don’t fall victim to the deceptive advertising because that is certainly not what this movie is, it’s only a terrible third of it. Being fooled by the preview isn’t the only thing wrong here, though. I didn’t hate Hereafter because I wanted it to be something it wasn’t. I hated this movie because it was pointless, contrived, and too long. Maybe I just wasn’t patient enough for this one, I don’t know, but I can’t recommend this to anyone. I suggest avoiding this one at all costs.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

So what was the resolution for the little boy, really? He gets some advice from his brother (and did anyone else think that Damon's character was faking that cheesy advice at the end, just like all the impostors before him?), but he is still miserable and he has not accepted the death. His end purpose was to be a mini-stalker for Damon. He ended up being completely inconsequential to the entire plot. And how weird was it that the scene in which his brother saved him by blowing off the hat turned out to be extremely good luck through sibling rivalry? Just when it looked like there was something about the afterlife that mattered in the real world, the screenwriter decided to say, "Nope, just coincidence is all." Weak.

What was with all that Charles Dickens crap? Was it just an excuse to eventually have a Derek Jacobi cameo? It didn't make sense to me and I didn't need three (three!) scenes in which Matt Damon listens to someone read Charles Dickens. Is it not a sign of a weak film when we simply watch a man listen to another work of fiction?

Clint Eastwood needs to stop adding terrible music to his films. The score was thankfully nonexistent for most of the film, but when the French lady showed up this terribly cheesy "French" music would play and it seemed painfully out of place and it was completely distracting.

The cooking class scenes seemed to last forever. Did we really need nearly five minutes of blindfolded taste testing?

Let's recap: Hereafter contains multiple scenes of Matt Damon listening to audiobooks and celebrity readers and tastetesting food whilst wearing a blindfold. Yeah, if you saw this movie, be like me and try your best to unwatch it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"RED"

RED - Directed by Robert Schwentke, written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, and Karl Urban - Rated PG-13

The Kurgan is cool with the elderly kicking some ass, hell, he's hundreds of years old himself.



I read the graphic novel of RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) as soon as I heard that it was to become a movie starring Bruce Willis. Willis seemed perfect for the grim story of Frank (Paul in the comic) Moses, a tough retired CIA operative forced back into action. I was excited because the graphic novel is filled with brutal action peppered with references to CIA black ops. Well, the film RED is a bit different, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing…well, I guess it is if you’re married to the source material (which I wasn’t).

This film is not grim and the violence is PG-13. Sometimes the censoring of an action film to get the teens in bothers me, but RED is fun enough that I forgive it. Instead of the dark solo mission of the comic, RED is more of an elderly operative reunion movie, and I mean that in the best possible way.

The story goes like this: Frank Moses is attempting to live a quiet, retired life. But he’s bored. His only enjoyment comes from talking to the customer service lady (Mary-Louise Parker) who deals with his pension checks (Frank keeps ripping them up so he has a valid excuse to call). Suddenly a death squad is sent after him in suburbia, so he kidnaps the customer service lady/love interest and heads off to find out why someone tried to kill him.

Willis is joined by former friends and foes such as Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich. Richard Dreyfuss and Karl Urban are also tossed in for good measure. Needless to say, the cast is quite impressive. I could write a few paragraphs talking about all of their moments, but I’ll just stick with my favorites. Malkovich was my favorite part of the movie, period. Some of his wacky dialogue was a bit over the top, sure, but the crazed faces he makes throughout had me laughing consistently. Cox was fun as well as a former Russian agent. I also enjoyed Freeman’s appearance in the film, but he doesn’t factor into the movie nearly as much as the previews and the poster might lead you to believe. In fact, Cox (who I didn’t even know was in this until he showed up) has a larger role than Freeman.

The previews do deliver on one thing, though: ridiculous action. Don’t take that the wrong way; I was completely okay with the crazy action scenes in this movie: literally shooting a house to pieces, sniper-worthy precision with a grenade launcher, a hand gun versus an RPG, etc. I dug all of that wackiness. I was okay with it all because the tone of the film allowed it. This is not meant to be some realistic, gritty action movie. It’s meant to be fun, and it is.

RED isn’t a complete blast, though. It does suffer from an overlong running time, or at least long for this type of film. It’s cheesy at times, mainly during scenes involving Mary-Louise Parker. Nothing against Parker’s performance; it’s really just a character thing. I was hoping for more CIA humor as well. There are plenty of casual comments about killing people, but I wanted references to actual (or at least rumored) covert CIA operations. In other words, I was hoping for a slightly smarter film. And the score was kind of annoying at times. In a movie like this the score is something that should not be noticed, but multiple times this stupid happy-go-lucky music would be playing during an already goofy scene. It was just overkill.

There is another factor that works for this movie, though: Bruce Willis. I’ve barely mentioned the star of the entire film. He isn’t breaking any new ground in this film, sure, but the guy is a star for a reason. I’m always up for seeing Willis kill roomfuls of random enemies; he’s just fun to watch. Sure, it would’ve been great to see him face off with a specific villain (the “bad guy” role is vague at best in this film), but Willis does have a few excellent moments opposite Karl Urban. Their office fight was great and that scene in which he steps out of a spinning car, while completely stupid and disrespectful to the laws of physics, was still pretty awesome.

RED might not be the dark, brutal action movie some people were hoping for; in fact, I can imagine some people absolutely hating it. If you’re expecting a faithful adaptation, you’ll most likely despise it. (Just check out the film’s message board on IMDb.com for evidence.) If you’re expecting realism, you might even walk out. But RED is just good old-fashioned (emphasis on “old”) fun. It’s crazy, ridiculous, and funny. Lighten up and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.


Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

So, kind of a bummer that Morgan Freeman gets killed off, twice. It was just kind of strange since they were all so happy and goofy at the end. I had to laugh when Parker says something along the lines of, "It all worked out." Yeah, except for Morgan Freeman, you heartless slag!

Seriously, you can't just step out of a spinning car like that.

Julian McMahon is not old enough to play a character that was a lieutenant in the Army back in 1981. Assuming he was 20 (and I'm not sure if that's a possible age to reach that rank), that would make him 49. McMahon himself is only 42 and they didn't age him for this movie. It was just kind of weird.

Cool to see Ernest Borgnine still rocking on the big screen.

It seems way too easy to break into the super secret records room in Langley. Just kick in the drywall right next to the door and there you have it. Yeah, I know, definitely not the dumbest part of this movie, but still.
And finally, this weird coincidence: Brian Cox starred in a movie called Red with Tom Sizemore in 2008.

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Jackass 3D"

Jackass 3D - Directed by Jeff Tremaine, starring Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Ryan Dunn, and Chris Pontius - Rated R

The Kurgan enjoys laughing at the pain of others...and the vomit and feces of others...



First off, I must commend Jackass 3D for containing a truly great introduction. The film opens with MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead” explaining the use of 3-D to the audience. As a longtime fan of that show, I absolutely loved seeing the duo in action again, if only for a short while. That’s cool and all, but it’s also very fitting; who better than the original morons of MTV to introduce the idiots of Jackass?

Let’s save some time. At this point, you know if you’re the intended audience for a Jackass movie. There’s no narrative structure to these movies, they are simply collections of skits involving grown men perform idiotic and juvenile stunts. There really isn’t a critical approach to take with these films individually, but there’s something to be said about the general idea behind Jackass, especially since this is the first film in the series to come out since I started reviewing movies. And there’s also the quality of the 3-D to evaluate, along with how the stunts compare to the rest of the franchise.

Those who don’t like the humor of Jackass usually label the series as stupid and/or gross. Those who enjoy it, like me, admit that the stunts performed are stupid and/or gross, but that’s okay because it’s hilarious. True, it takes an immature sense of humor to find most of this stuff funny, but that’s the appeal of it all. It’s fun to watch a group of men act like boys because they’re doing all the stunts I’m not brave or stupid enough to try myself. Sure, not all of it is great, and some of it is downright sickening, but the majority of Jackass 3D is a great time.

The main difference with this new installment is the use of 3-D. The film was actually shot in 3-D so it ended up looking pretty great. Surprisingly, the movie shies away from the “in your face” 3-D gags (though there are a few well-placed shots) and sticks with the technology to add depth perception. I thought this worked out for the better as it places you in each skit. The point of 3-D is to place the viewer in the film and that is how it is used in Jackass.

It’s important to feel like you’re part of the movie, especially when there are moments of such extreme pain going on onscreen. It’s never surprised me that Jackass has been able to provide laughs and even gags at times, but it’s ability to make me cringe is unmatched. (To this day, I have to look away when I see the paper cut segment from the first movie.) I have found that pain the viewer can identify with is the most visceral. With that said, the “bee tetherball” skit had me gritting my teeth and I think the 3-D made the experience all the more painful to watch.

Cringing during a movie usually is not a good thing, but “Jackass” has always been more of an experience than a film. I prefer to laugh, though, and this film delivers. The majority of the skits are funny; the fighter jet segment, the recurring “Rocky” joke, and the “field goal” were among my favorites. I also found most of the disgusting segments funny, but mainly in an “I can’t believe they did that” kind of way.

That brings me to what might make people walk out or throw up during this film. It should come as no surprise, but Jackass 3D is absolutely disgusting at times. I don’t want to attempt to describe any of the gross-out gags in writing, just be aware that anything you’ve seen before is amped up a bit. If you’re watching a third Jackass movie, though, you’re surely expecting this.

As you can tell, I felt that this film is a worthy entry in the series. I don’t want to call it the best or the worst because I don’t classify these movies in that way. Jackass has always seemed liked a constant event that the cameras return to every few years. It’s just great to see this group of guys together and having fun again. This film features some of the funniest things they’ve ever done and it contains the usual hilarious banter among the men.

Jackass 3D has the feeling of a reunion between old friends. The 3-D helps you feel like you’re part of it and it’s an enjoyable experience. My only disappointment is that they forgot to invite Party Boy, but there’s always next time…I hope.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"I'm Still Here"

I'm Still Here - Directed by Casey Affleck, written by Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix, starring Joaquin Phoenix - Rated R

So it was all fake? Who cares? It's funny and that's good enough for me.



I’m Still Here is the “documentary” that is the chronicling of actor Joaquin Phoenix’s retirement from acting and his attempt to become a rapper…and his self destruction as well. It was all filmed by his brother-in-law (and actor in his own right) Casey Affleck. The story behind this documentary is arguably more interesting than the movie itself.

The basic question from the very beginning of this whole story was, “Is he serious or is this all some big joke?” Then Phoenix famously went on David Letterman’s show and really created a stir with his strange, possibly drugged out behavior. That appearance was pretty convincing, but it was not enough to definitively say if he was really messed up or just messing with us. When the film debuted about a month ago, critics had to come up with their own conclusion. Some believed it all and some called it a hoax. I don’t have the benefit of making a guess, because, as you probably already know, Affleck admitted it was all a work of fiction and Phoenix returned to Letterman’s show clean-cut and normal.

I was finally able to watch I’m Still Here when I saw that it was available on Amazon On Demand. Obviously, I can’t watch this and ignore the fact that I know it’s fake. I can say that all involved were very determined and willing to go to extreme lengths to keep the lie alive. Some have questioned Affleck’s decision to announce that this was all a hoax. I think it was very wise on his part. If I watched this unaware of the truth, I would have responded to it very differently. I may have asked what was wrong with the filmmakers. Why would they just sit back and watch their friend destroy himself? And I would wonder why I was watching the disturbing film.

As it turns out, I was watching a comedy, and a very funny one at that. Phoenix’s outbursts and drugged out behavior aren’t disturbing, they’re hilarious. It’s all just a performance, but a meta-performance. He’s acting like an actor who wants to stop acting…all while being filmed. It’s ridiculous, but I found it amusing and impressive. Phoenix deserves plenty of praise for this performance; if not just for the scenes in the film, then for his willingness to destroy his public image and his career. He ditched any semblance of his past self for the grungy look you see in the poster. The man really delved into this new persona, all for a fake documentary that hardly anyone has watched. You have to respect that sort of dedication, though I am glad that it was all a joke so he can get back to regular movies.

Once you establish that this is a comedy, then the rest of the movie works very well. I’m Still Here is mainly about Phoenix’s quest to become a rapper. I’m not the foremost authority on rap music, but I must say that Phoenix’s music in this film is absolutely terrible. He mumbles every song over strange beats and backup singers. But he believes in it (or seems to, anyway). Much of the film consists of Phoenix trying to track down Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy, Diddy, Puff Daddy, etc.) to see if he will produce his album. All of the misguided attempts to meet with Combs are amusing and when he finally gets some face time with him it’s great. Combs, who was reportedly in on the joke, plays the part very well, questioning Phoenix’s motives and critiquing his music. One of my favorite moments of the film is the look on Combs’s face as he listens to Phoenix’s terrible rapping.

I’m Still Here features other interesting performances as well. Ben Stiller shows up for an amusing conversation. Edward James Olmos inexplicably arrives with life advice. Phoenix’s friend Antony Langdon has the toughest role, though. The former guitarist for Spacehog has to listen to Phoenix’s constant berating and keep a straight face as they argue. I found his performance very sincere.

Antony gets the thankless role in I’m Still Here. This is all due to Affleck and Phoenix’s writing. Phoenix just blames everything that is wrong with his new career on Antony and his paranoid theories about Antony are so ridiculous that you have to laugh. But Antony’s moments earlier in the film had me scratching my head. There are a couple of scenes in which Antony appears nude. It makes no sense to just randomly show this man naked. It’s referred to later in the movie and explained and it ends up being another funny aspect of the film.

I mention all of that because this is one example of Affleck’s direction. This is the first film he’s ever attempted to direct and he has admitted that he was unprepared for the task at first. I think he’s done a fine job, here. He knows what to show and what works, for the most part. Some of the more serious moments don’t work (mainly because I knew it was a joke, though), but that’s bound to happen when you make a movie this complicated.

I’m Still Here is an interesting, funny, and impressive look at what a celebrity breakdown can be, but it’s only funny when you’re in on the joke. If you’re left on the outside, you might find this film disturbing and flat out sickening at times. You could also be put off by the “story” of the film as it doesn’t really lead to any pay off. It basically just stops. I suppose the real ending came from Affleck spoiling the mystery of the film, which turned out to be his best directorial decision.
Check out I’m Still Here if you want to see a parody of celebrity insanity. It’s potentially disturbing, but while you’re watching, remember: it’s all a joke, and a funny one at that.


Random Thoughts
The Letterman interview is hilarious on its own. My favorite moment has to be Phoenix's response to Paul Shaffer: "Are you serious with the maniacal laughter?"

The snow angel bit was so weird and funny: "Dude, do the snow angel!"

The whole hooker encounter was insane.

And lastly, this is a movie in which someone threatens to defecate on somebody's face and it actually happens. I can only assume that they faked that, but if they didn't, then Phoenix is truly dedicated to a disgusting degree.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The Social Network"

**The first thing you might notice is yet another "Vader" review (I believe it's number four after Scott Pilgrim, Inception, and My Son, My Son). This doesn't mean I'm lowering my standards it just means I really enjoyed these four films. And as I posted in my top fifteen list earlier in the year, the "Vader" doesn't represent the perfect film (even though I claim that in the description). I do intend on changing that description on the side someday.

The Social Network - Directed by David Fincher, written by Aaron Sorkin, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Justin Timberlake - Rated PG-13


"We don't know what it can be, we don't know what it will be, we know that it is cool."



The Social Network
, aka “The Facebook Movie,” seemed like a joke when I first heard about it. Okay, a popular website that seemingly everyone uses is getting its own movie. Sounds like a gimmick. Then I read that Aaron Sorkin was writing it and David Fincher was directing it. How quickly gimmick turns into entertaining art.

The creation of a social networking site may not sound like ripe material for a movie, but in this case, the “true” story actually contains plenty of dramatic possibilities. I put “true” in quotations because it’s not really known how much of this film is factual. A lot of the film takes place during legal depositions, and much of the script was based on documents from these meetings. But regardless of what is or is not true, the film packs in plenty of drama in the form of revenge and betrayal.

The story goes like this: Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg gets dumped one night and goes back to his dorm to drink his sorrows away and denigrate his ex on the internet. He decides to take his anger out in the form of creating a site that allows people to rank female students side by side. This attracts the attention of the Winklevoss twins, who ask Mark to program a social network for Harvard students. Mark agrees, but creates Facebook on the side with his own crew, including his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. It becomes very popular and the legal action begins.

It’s all a bit more complicated than that, of course, but you get the idea. This isn’t really a movie about “what happened?” anyway. This is a film about Zuckerberg as a character. What is his motivation? Why does he betray his friends when there seems to be no real benefit? Zuckerberg seems to be operating on a different plane than the rest of the characters in the film. He certainly talks on a different level…or should I say levels? Zuckerberg talks a mile a minute and seems to be in the middle of three simultaneous conversations. It’s exhausting to listen to at times (a fact a character points out early on), but it’s always entertaining. Sorkin’s script contains some of the wittiest and smartest dialogue this year.

The dialogue is one thing, the delivery is another. Jesse Eisenberg (who hopefully will no longer be confused with Michael Cera after this) is the perfect choice for the speed talking, sarcastic Zuckerberg. I get the feeling that you’re supposed to hate the character at least a little, but I found myself rooting for him, because Eisenberg, while portraying a socially awkward, childish jerk, is still very charismatic and even likable in a strange way. I hope that Eisenberg is recognized this year come award season because as of right now, his is my favorite performance of the year.

The supporting cast is rounded out quite well. Andrew Garfield (recently cast as the new Spider-Man) stands out as Eduardo. I may have liked Zuckerberg a bit, but I felt complete sympathy for Eduardo and that is due to Garfield’s earnest performance. Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins (his likeness was digitally added to a body double in post production) was entertaining as well, especially since the twins provided quite a bit of comedic relief. And entertainment Renaissance man Justin Timberlake is amusing as Napster founder Sean Parker.

The acting and writing is great, but this is still a David Fincher film. Fincher has yet to make a film I don’t like (yes, I enjoy Alien 3) and his streak is alive with The Social Network. This film has all the visual flair one would expect from Fincher and there are segments that are just amazing (the regatta scene is definitely a standout). The dim lighting of the film worked for me as well. It created a cool atmosphere. The decision to go with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for the score was pitch-perfect too. It’s hard to imagine the film without the techno-infused music blasting throughout.

There is much to be said for the editing of the film as well. It all pieces together so coherently even though the story could potentially be very complicated. This is a film that delves into techno-babble concerning computer programming and whatnot and at times you just have to let it wash over you and stop trying to understand it all, which is how you should enjoy the entire film.

Don’t trouble yourself with questions about whether or not this film “defines a generation” like the commercials claim. For the record, I don’t see how we can think in terms of generation this or that in the internet age. Everything has become so diverse because of the internet you can’t even lump people together by their age anymore. I guess the story about the birth of a site that is helping to bring about the end of “generations” may in fact define the era. Maybe we should say that The Social Network is a film that “defies” generations.

The Social Network doesn’t need all the hyperbole that is surrounding it anyway. It’s a film that knows just how cool it is. Now you just need to check it out, not because it’s a statement on this or any generation, but because it’s smart, funny, and it is one of the best films of the year.