Tag Archives: The Social Network

A Few Good Men (1992)

A-Few-Good-Men

I had never seen A Few Good Men until recently, and, even though I knew the film’s famous quote (“You can’t handle the truth!”), I did not know that it belonged to this film. When my good friend TJ, Editor-in-Chief of MovieByte.com and head host of the site’s podcast, The MovieByte Podcast, on which I am his co-host, suggested that we review this film together, I said, “why not?,” and set out to watch it – and I had a great time talking about it with TJ on Episode 69 of The MovieByte Podcast!

A Few Good Men, directed by Rob Reiner (The Princess BrideThis is Spinal Tap) and with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (The West WingThe Social NetworkMoneyball), is based on Sorkin’s 1989 play of the same name. When two US Marines are court-martialed for killing a fellow Marine, the young, inexperienced Navy lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is assigned to the case. After striking a deal with the prosecution, Captain Jack Ross (Kevin Bacon), Kaffee learns from the defendants that their actions were the result of an order given by Lt. Jonathan James Kendrick (Kiefer Sutherland), Kaffee drops the deal and takes the case to court. With help from Lt. Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollak) and Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore), Kaffee sets out to prove that the two Marines were merely acting on orders, bringing him against Kendrick and his superior, hardball Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson).

Courtroom dramas are just fun, with the prime example being the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee’s book of the same name and starring Gregory Peck. Tom Cruise is no Atticus Finch, but his inherent on-screen likability works well for him here as he works to convince the jury of his clients’ innocence. For me, it was interesting seeing Cruise outside of an action role, and I certainly wish he did more of them because he’s excellent here. Demi Moore does a decent job of showing uncertainty from a character who is usually so sure of herself, and most of the other characters do a fine job as well, though they’re nothing to speak of. Jack Nicholson, however, is obviously the shining star of the film, despite his limited screen time, which can be compared to Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, in which he was onscreen for only 12 minutes but still won the Academy Award. Though Jack Nicholson didn’t win the Academy Award for his performance here, he still does a fantastic job of portraying such a stubborn character, and his delivery of the classic line doesn’t at all feel forced or cliched. In fact, I think that that is Nicholson’s greatest strength as an actor: he is able to play crazy/angry/etc. so believably without it seeming forced.

The star behind the scenes here is Aaron Sorkin, who wrote both the screenplay and the original play that it is based on. His dialogue is sharp, and his storytelling is strong, and the relationships between characters develop nicely and provide several nice moments throughout the film. Most of the humor he writes into the script is good as well, though I must admit that there were a few jokes that seemed forced, being there simply for the purpose of being jokes rather than being a byproduct of something that actually advances the story.

On the whole, my complaints are minimal, and I was entertained throughout. A Few Good Men is a well-deserved classic that has withstood the test of time; I think that I was destined to like this film. With the combination of so many amazing talents – Rob Reiner, who directed one of my favorite films (The Princess Bride; (my review)), Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay for another of my favorite films (The Social Network), Tom Cruise, who I have only recently discovered and enjoyed in films such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (my review) and Oblivion (my review), and Jack Nicholson, one of my favorite actors (The ShiningOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) – what’s not to love?

-Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for language

Advertisements

Now You See Me (2013)

NOTE: Review originally written for and posted at MovieByte.com. To see this post and check out the guys over at MovieByte, click here!

 

NOW YOU SEE ME

Magic is fun. Movies are fun. Combining the two to make a movie about a group of magicians who rob a bank? Even more fun! With a premise like that, Now You See Me, sets itself up from the start to be one heck of a ride – and quite an entertaining one at that!

Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco star as four magicians of varying abilities who work alone. As we are introduced to each magician performing his/her solo act, we notice a hooded figure  in attendance at each performer’s show. Soon, the four are brought together, each having received a card from this unknown person telling them to show up at an apartment, where the performers are given blueprints and instructions to a grand master plan that involves bank robbery through the art of deception. They form a group and call themselves the Four Horsemen, and, through the sponsorship of insurance businessman Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), they give a performance a year later in Las Vegas where they seemingly rob a bank in Paris using their talents. The FBI gets involved, with Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) on the case, as well as French Interpol agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent). They ask for help from Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), an ex-magician who exposes magicians’ secrets for a living, leading to several intriguing explanations behind some of the magic tricks performed.

While all of that is a lot to comprehend on paper, it doesn’t feel convoluted in the context of the film. Each of the lead actors does a fine job, though Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson both seem to be channeling previous roles at times (Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network and Haymitch Abernathy from The Hunger Games, respectively). None of that detracts from the film, however, because, believe it or not, the focus isn’t much on the magicians; the focus is on Rhodes and Vargas, the FBI and Interpol agents who are frantically trying to get ahead of these apparent criminals.

The entire film is a boatload of fun; I’ve had a fascination with magic tricks since a very early age, so I was constantly on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how things were being done. The performance sets were huge, and the constant camera movement (not shaky-cam) helped add to the notion that what you were seeing was an illusion…nothing was held still for very long, so the film had a dynamic feeling of movement throughout that worked quite well, pushing the story forward in a great way. The music, composed by Brian Tyler, was a huge asset to this film, sounding appropriately like a Vegas stage show, background music for an inspirational speaker, and like an action film, all simultaneously, again adding to the notion that everything that the Four Horsemen did, on stage or not, was a performance.

Like all films, though, this one has its problems, with this one being its ending. I won’t reveal the twist to you, but I’ll tell you that someone gets arrested, and it happens in a way that seems entirely illegal. The character who gets arrested is the object of another character’s longtime plan for revenge, and he gets locked away simply out of spite, which is definitely not okay. Had he done something actually illegal, I would have been completely fine with it. Additionally, Michael Caine’s character, Arthur Tressler, disappears for the entire final act of the film with no payoff. Unfortunately, even if his character had come back with a proper payoff, Caine’s performance seemed pretty weak to me, something that I fear can be attributed to his age – at 80 years old, the range of Caine’s acting ability is growing thinner, and I think that this role, however small in the overall context of the film, is outside of that range. I didn’t dislike him, but he certainly could have been better.

Aside from those couple of issues, I really enjoyed this movie. Something that I noticed was what I took to be a hidden commentary on Christianity and belief in God. FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes has a firm disbelief in magic. At one point in the film, a comment is made about believing in something you can’t see to make yourself feel better, and, though I initially thought it was a slam against those who believe in God, I later decided that the film was in support of the idea of having faith in something like magic or God or whatever it may be. I may be completely wrong in that assumption, but it was a bit of commentary that I picked up on and that I really appreciated, being a Christian myself.

Overall, this movie is (mostly) everything I hoped that it would be. A strong central cast takes an intriguing premise and takes us on an exciting journey into the world of magic where its all too easy to get sucked into the fun of the illusions, and, although I was skeptical of the twist ending at first, I’ve come to really appreciate it as I look into how it fits back into the earlier parts of the film. Now You See Me isn’t the kind of film that calls for extra scrutiny or criticism at a superficial level as other films might; just sit back, get your popcorn, and enjoy the ride!

-Chad

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for language, some action and sexual content


The King’s Speech (2010) – Alexandre Desplat

I’ve told this story on here before on my review of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’ score to The Social Network, but I don’t mind repeating it. I bought the scores to both The King’s Speech and The Social Network because, after expecting The King’s Speech to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score and watching The Social Network win, I wanted to decide for myself which one was better. To my surprise, I enjoyed The Social Network‘s score more, but Desplat’s music here is still fantastic.

The beauty of this score is found in its simplicity. It doesn’t strive to wow the audience with loud brass or soaring strings but opts instead for quiet, peaceful melodies played on piano and strings. In fact, the whole album is like a piano solo with string accompaniment, which is different and refreshing for a film soundtrack.

The main theme, “The King’s Speech”, is light and bouncy, though not “bouncy” in the same sense as Thomas Newman’s Wall-E score; it’s a bouncy that feels authentic to the time period without feeling overly dated. In other words, it’s not a burden to listen to. At the end of the track, we lose the bouncy quality to a painful strain of music, representing “Bertie’s” shame regarding his speech disorder.

I’ve always said that Alexandre Desplat is the king of emotion in film scores; it’s certainly apparent in The King’s Speech. Tracks like “The King is Dead” and “Memories of Childhood” easily convey sadness and grief, while “The Threat of War” dispenses the same anxiety as does Colin Firth’s character in the film. While not composed by Desplat, the choice of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 – Mvmt. II for “Speaking Unto Nations” deftly exemplifies the building confidence that Firth’s character experiences while reading his speech.

Overall, while it may not be the revolutionary wild ride that Reznor/Ross’ score to The Social Network may be, the score to The King’s Speech is evidence enough to show why Desplat is one of the best composers in the business. His ability to match the tone and period of the film in his music and to convey even the most complex of emotions sets the standard for his peers.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  1. “Lionel and Bertie”  2:11
  2. “The King’s Speech”  3:55
  3. “My Kingdom, My Rules”  2:51
  4. “The King is Dead”  2:06
  5. “Memories of Childhood”  3:37
  6. “King George VI”  3:06
  7. “The Royal Household” 1:44
  8. “Queen Elizabeth”  3:35
  9. “Fear and Suspicion”  3:24
  10. “The Rehearsal”  1:43
  11. “The Threat of War” 3:56
  12. “Speaking Unto Nations (Beethoven Symphony No. 7 – II)”  5:03
  13. “Epilogue (Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor” – II)”  3:56

Total Length: app. 42 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

P.S. – Read my review of the film here!


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

I just got home from the midnight showing of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man in IMAX 3D, starring Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, Emma Stone, Denis Leary, Sally Field, and Martin Sheen. I’ve been excited for this film since I first heard that it was being made and that Andrew Garfield, who I loved in The Social Network, had been cast in the lead role. Being a big fan of the first two films of Raimi’s trilogy (because we all know that Spider-Man 3 was just awful), I had high expectations for this reboot, and it didn’t disappoint.

*MILD SPOILERS AHEAD*

What really stood out to me about this film is that it showed that it’s truly just a man behind the mask, and a young one at that. Peter adapted to his new powers a bit slower in this film than he did in Spider-Man (2002), which really added to the realism that the film presented. His movements were clumsy, and it took him most of the film to truly adapt and adopt this new persona that was introduced into his life. Nothing came naturally to Peter in this film, which was a bit of a breath of fresh air after seeing the character almost instantly fall into the role of Spider-Man in the original Raimi film.

In addition to seeing Peter’s human personality, we also saw that he has human relationships with other people. He argued with his aunt and uncle, he fought the bully who had tormented him throughout high school, and he stumbled through conversations with the girl he had a crush on. These are all sides of Spider-Man that members of the audience can relate to, despite the fact that he has spider powers and we (I assume) don’t.

Spider-Man has the word “spider” in his name, and we really see the spider side of him in The Amazing Spider-Man; in fact, we occasionally see the spider side of him take over the human side, such as when Peter accidentally fights several guys on the subway ride home one night. There is another instance when he uses webbing to detect movement down the sewer, a trick out of the Spider Scout Handbook (again, I assume).

Webb aimed for a more intimate and personal Spider-Man in this reboot, and he succeeded. Uncle Ben’s death (oh, come on, you’ve all seen the first movie) is more directly related to Peter than in the original film which makes it all the more emotional. Plus, we see Peter’s relationship with Gwen Stacy develop as the movie goes on, rather than in the first film when it sort of just happens.

Speaking of Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone was lovely as the blonde love interest to Peter Parker, and it was nice to have someone who knows Peter’s secret so that he has someone to confide in. I’m not sure if I like Spidey being alone in his secret or having a confidante more, but I certainly don’t dislike Gwen knowing.

Rhys Ifans as Dr. Connors/The Lizard was decent, but I must admit that Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2 was a better, more fleshed-out character. Though the CGI/motion capture allowed Ifans himself to become The Lizard, the transformation took away the human side that we want to feel compassionate for, at least for me. I know that the only things he wants are his missing arm and to help people, but it’s difficult to sympathize with a giant, scaly monster. That’s no fault of Webb or Ifans, though.

Garfield’s Spider-Man was pretty fantastic. I’ll admit, I haven’t read a lot of Spider-Man comics, but I have read a few, and Garfield did a great job with capturing the witty, sort of big-headed personality of the Spidey created by Stan Lee (who had a hysterical cameo in the film). They did a great job with showing us that he was smart, too, so that it wasn’t hard to believe that a teenager was capable of creating web-shooters and what-not.

Sally Field, Martin Sheen, and Denis Leary were all great to see as well. Field and Sheen, as Aunt May and Uncle Ben, played more believable parent-figures than the actors of the original trilogy, with them acting more like parents than as people who were watching over their friend’s child, as they should.

There were a few little details that I sort of geeked out over. First, when Connors runs amok as The Lizard, he predominantly uses his right arm, the arm that is missing when he is human; whether or not this was a conscious choice by Ifans or Webb, I don’t know, but it helped me to feel for the character a bit more. The flash of the web-shooters as they were used was consistent, which isn’t a huge deal, but it still managed to make me smile.

I feel like The Amazing Spider-Man left us in a better place than the Spider-Man did. We have yet to figure out what happened to Peter’s parents (a short scene mid-credits makes us question it even more, so stay for a minute or two after the credits start rolling!), and we are curious to see where Peter and Gwen’s relationship will go, both of which can be explored further in the sequel. I’m curious to see who the next villain will be. I hope it won’t be someone we’ve already seen in the original trilogy…unless they can bring back Venom and do the character justice.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a reboot that brings new life to the character. We see Spidey’s more human side, we see his more human relationships, and we get a sort of realism that was absent from Raimi’s trilogy. This new Spider-Man universe more believably fits into our own world, whereas Raimi’s was still partially in the comic world. There were flaws, yes, but this was an origin story, after all. Webb’s re-imagining of the character introduces new opportunities that I can’t wait to see on the big screen in the future.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of action and violence

P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by James Horner, here!


The Social Network (2010) – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

The hype for director David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network was strong and, in my opinion, deservingly so; I seem to like it more and more every time I watch it. However, I didn’t expect to like the soundtrack, composed by Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) and Atticus Ross. Being a big fan of Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, I was rooting for (and expecting) his score for The King’s Speech to win. At the time, though, I hadn’t heard the scores to either The Social Network or The King’s Speech, so, when The Social Network took the Academy Award for Best Original Score at the 83rd Academy Awards, I decided to buy both and decide for myself which I liked more, expecting the Desplat to win.

To my surprise, I liked The Social Network’s score more.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score to this movie is, to say the least, unconventional. Most of the time you hear an orchestra in the background of a film, not a bunch of electronics and guitar, but that’s exactly what you get in The Social Network…and it’s delightful.

From the haunting piano melody of “Hand Covers Bruise” (which acts as the theme for the film) to the underlying excitement of “Intriguing Possibilities” to a sort of experimental electronic rock in “Eventually We Find Our Way”, Reznor/Ross’ score delivers in every way I can think of: excitement, atmosphere, tension, emotion, etc.

My favorite tracks are “In Motion”, “Intriguing Possibilities”, “Pieces Form the Whole”, and “Carbon Prevails”, and the arrangement of the classic “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is reminiscent of the work of composer Wendy Carlos (TRONThe Shining).

The score for The Social Network has something in it for everyone, whether you are a fan of the film or not. Check it out!

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

1.”Hand Covers Bruise”  4:18

2.”In Motion”4:56

3.”A Familiar Taste”  3:35

4.”It Catches Up with You”  1:39

5.”Intriguing Possibilities”  4:24

6.”Painted Sun in Abstract”  3:29

7.”3:14 Every Night”  4:03

8.”Pieces Form the Whole”  4:16

9.”Carbon Prevails”  3:53

10.”Eventually We Find Our Way”  4:17

11.”Penetration”  1:14

12.”In the Hall of the Mountain King” (Edvard Grieg)  2:21

13.”On We March”  4:14

14.”Magnetic”  2:10

15.”Almost Home”  3:33

16.”Hand Covers Bruise, Reprise”  1:52

17.”Complication with Optimistic Outcome”  3:19

18.”The Gentle Hum of Anxiety”  3:53

19.”Soft Trees Break the Fall”  4:44

Total length: app. 67 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad