Friday, November 26, 2010

The Story Behind Facebook: The Social Network - Movie Review

The Social Network

Director: David Fincher
Year: 2010
Country: USA

Facebook is probably the world's biggest running social network in these moments. It has a bigger member base than any other socializing website and it is continuosly growing on popularity. But with Facebook it is not all hearts and butterflies, as there is a very dark and intriguing story behind its creation. And while this film shows a partly fictionalized version of said story, it pretty much gives a good idea of how it went. But the movie is not a simple docu-drama that tries to instruct the viewers of the rise of the biggest social engine, it is also a very well constructed, highly enteratining and frankly, one of the best movies, not only of this year, but of the past 10 or probably 20, becoming the movie that defines the generation of internet.

The plot, as many of you know, is the following: in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg was a simple but genius geek attending Harvard trying to get the attention of the clubs. On one night, after his girlfriend broke up with him, he started a small web page used to rate pictures of the girls attending Harvard. It quickly became popular, receiving 22.000 hits in four hours. But he had troubles with this, so it had to be shut down. But the Winklevoss twins, a pair of athletic and wealthy brothers seeking for a breakthrough for their project, notice Zuckerberg and want him to help them with this little project. But while he was "helping them", he was developing a little project of his own, which quickly grew into becoming the giant social network millions of users log in everyday that we call Facebook. But along the way of its growth, Zuckerberg had to face many challenges, including two lawsuits, one by the Winklevoss twins and one by his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. As the poster of the film reads: You can't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.
What is the best movie of the year, what it is likely to steal the show at the next Academy Awards, and what is probably the movie to define this present generation, was masterfully delivered to us, the audience, by its wonderful cast and crew. If it wasn't for them, the film would have probably been a simple boring documentary on economics, but thanks to likeable performances, flawless writing and perfect direction, also mentioning technical details like breathtaking editing and astounding music, The Social Network has become an event.

David Fincher, who has delivered to us films like Fight Club, Zodiac and Seven, has now achieved his masterpiece with this. He certainly deservesa nod at next year's Oscars, and in my book, a win. He gets his actors to do the best of themselves, and he captures them in all his glory. He also sets up the dark but still funny mood for the film, and the low lightening and great cinematography are also fantastic. But all this is fantastically edited, making the film a more pleasing visual expierence, without taking the substance out of the film. Fincher's direction has always been excellent, but with this film he achieved perfection, making it not only his best film but the film he will be remembered by in the future.

But what would be Fincher without his actors? Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the genius Mark Zuckerberg, has exceeded expectations and has played to perfection his role. He's perfectly fitting making it easier for him to become Zuckerberg, and, even though I promised to myself not to mention this in my review, he has beaten Michael Cera by stepping out of his usual character, though not into too far ground, and making a different movie. I really think he deserves to be nominated for an Oscar. Also, in the acting highlights is Andrew Garfield, playing Eduardo Saverin, Mark's best and only friend. He is probably the most sympatethic charater in the film, making the audience feel sorry for him. He also gets ahold of his character, making him his and he becoming part of his character. Another actor deserving to be mentioned is Justin Timberblake, surprisingly in a great performance, as the wild and partying Sean Parker. He was a surprise, a wild card, and yet he was amazing. It was a pleasure to see him perform in every scene he was in. Other actors deserving praise are Armie Hammer as both the Winklevoss twins, Brenda Song as Eduardo's girlfriend Christy Lee, and in also a surprising good role Rooney Mara, who early in this year gave a shameful performance in the equally shameful remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Now I'm having more hopes for the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in which she will be playing Lisbeth Salader.

But the one deserving all the praise and acclaim screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. His screenplay is probably the best of the year. He delivers smart and charismathic dialogues, funny and sad situations and very amusing and interesting characters, with certain charms of its own too. He is most likely to win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars and Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes. I think his screenplay was so wonderful that many of the dialogues in the film may go down in my list as some of the best in 2010, and I even go further into saying that it may be one of the funniest films of the year, even if it wasn't a comedy. And achieving that is something that I respect in a screenwriter. So, Aaron Sorkin, you're the true hero of this film. Its power lies in the writing.

But the film is also socially important. It tells the story of one of the most visited sites on the internet, and it does it so well that it becomes a film that people at almost any age can enjoy (though maybe for kids younger than 10-11 it may not be appropiate). It is like All the President's Men at its time, only more fun and amusing.

The Social Network is a masterpiece, not only for Fincher, not only for the year, but for the generation. It is one of the best movies to have come out in the past two decades, and it definitely is the best of this year. I see a big bag full of gold in next February, more specifically, Oscar night.
My recommendation: High
My score: A perfect 100 (this is the first film of the year that I have given this rating, and the only one I have given it (chronologically) since 2007's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which also has decreased a little bit since I saw it).
So, ladies and gentlemen, you are before, without a doubt, the best movie of the year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Man Som Hattar Knivvor) (2009) Review

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Director: Niels Adren Oplev
Year: 2009
Country: Sweden

What has become an international sensation, and one of my personal favorite books, has been successfully adapted into an award winning universally acclaimed film directed by Niels Adren Oplev, starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. Swedish film industry has done a come back in the past few years, with Let the Right One In and these films mostly, and they are heavy. This film is a very well done adaptation, though not too faithful with the source material, but still a great, thrilling and entertaining film.

Mikael Blomkvist (Micael Nyqvist) is found guilty of libel after publishing a story with no credible evidence about an industrialist magnate Hans Erik-Wennerstrom (Stefan Sauk). Months before his conviction to start, he is hired by a powerful and wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), head of the Vanger Corporation, to investigate what happened almost 40 years before when his niece, Harriet Vanger, dissappeared and was never found. But Blomkvist will need the help of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), genius hacker who helped the Vanger family with the research on Blomkvist. But to uncover the truth about Harriet's dissapearance they must have to deal with the Vanger family, a power thirsty clan that hides darker secrets than possibly imagined.

Part of what makes this film so excellent are the magnificent performances. Particularly good was Noomi Rapace as the antisocial, genius hacker, problematic Lisbeth Salander. She certainly acts, thinks, lives and breathes like Lisbeth Salander. She's perfectly fitting fr the role. The whole time while reading the book I had an idea of Lisbeth Salander quite similar to Noomi Rapace, and not because I had seen her on the posters or trailers (because I seldom saw them), so she's perfectly fitting, but not only that but also she becomes her character, adopting all the little expressions or ticks that she may have. Michael Nyqvist, who plays Mikael Blomkvist, is also great at becoming the journalist. His performance is, as with Noomi Rapace, a perfect impersonation of the character in the book, though there is one little detail: for some reason, I thought he would be blonde. But that aside, he's perfectly adecuate for the role.

What impressed me the most, probably, was the direction. The film is extremely well shot, employing perfect use of cinematography, capturing all the beautiful landscapes and settings the Swedish fields have to offer. But that's not all what the direction has to give, because it also can provide pulse-quickening pace and a suspenseful aura. Niels Adren Oplev directs his film perfectly, by capturing the wonderful view of the settings, creating a thrilling mood and getting his actors to do their best. Add all this with some fast pace editting and you've got a wonderful full of twists and thrills ride.

But then there is the screenplay. Here is where I probably had most of the problems I had with this film. I'm not saying that the film was badly written, no, on the contrary, its script is pretty good. But what is the problem here is the adapting of the book. While I don't want it to be a perfect adaptation, a complete translation from paper to screen, I would have liked it to be a little more faithful to Stieg Larsson's novel. This might not be a problem to most, but for me it was. The book is one of the most exciting and intriguing books I've read and certainly alot of what made it this way was left out of the film. *SPOILERS WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD.* For example, the fact that they wrote Anita Vanger out of the movie angers me a little. She was very important for the book's narrative, and she was the one that helped them solver Harriet's mystery, so by writing her out they simply skipped an important and interesting part of the book. Also, Mikael's relationship with both Cecilia Vanger and Erika Berger weren't even mentioned, and that constituted an important amount in the novel. As well as the Wennerstrom affair, which was barely touched in the film, while in the book it covers about at least one fourth and it was what motivated Blomkvist in the first place to take the job. I also didn't like the role the Vanger family as a whole played in the movie. While in the book extended paragraphs and even chapters were dedicated to develop many of these characters which was part of what I liked the most and made the story more intriguing, in the film they were barely there. Maybe there was too much to fit into the film, but the filmmakers could have at least given the family a more important role than being on the suspects list. And also, though this might not be too much of the film's faithfullness, I thought that Blomkvist's and Salander's relationship wasn't that strong in the film as it was in the book, and that is a very important aspect in the film. Just think if in Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling's relationship wouldn't have worked. The whole film as a whole wouldn't have either. And while in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo it is not a major issue, there is this feeling of the lack of the special chemistry they shared on the book. *SPOILERS OVER* But other than the unfaithfullness of the script and some other minor issues, the film has some powerful writing. The dialogues are sharp and smart and the characters, for the ones who are, are given their fair share of participation and development. So the only main problem I had with the film was it not being too faithful to the novel.

With Niels Adren Oplev's strong direction, astounding central performances by Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist, and the power of Stieg Larsson's powerful source material, the film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo shines. If only the filmmakers would have stuck along with the story a little moe this film would have probably gotten a perfect score. But that aside, I can safely say that this is one of the best films released in 2010.
My recommendation: It may be too harsh at times for some viewers, but for those who can stand torture and sexual violence this is a must see.
My score: 92-94%

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) Review

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I
Director: David Yates
Year: 2010
Country: UK

It finally arrived, the first part of the final chapter in the Harry Potter film series, it is finally here. Almost ten years after the first (with the second part beeing released exactly ten years later) we finally get the beginning of the end of this enchanting series that marked my childhood and a generation. What was probably the most expected movie of the year was far from a disapointment, an utter failure that puts the other to shame. No, it was totally the contrary. It was surprisingly better than expected, and it may become one of the best Harry Potter films. And though I am not sure if its better than Prisoner of Azkaban or Goblet of Fire, it is still a fantastic entry to the series, and who knows? maybe with Part II, regarding Deathly Hallows as a whole, we'll get the best of the series. But we'll have to wait until July 2011, but in the mean time let me tell you what I thought about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.

Harry Potter is about to turn 17 and the mark that the ministry has upon him will vanish, but until then they can track every movement he makes. Harry is moved then to the Burrow, Ron's place, to be safe until this mark is broken. The place is later attacked by the death eaters, following the fall of the ministry, and Harry, Ron and Hermione see themselves forced to leave the burrow and are unable to attend their new year at Hogwarts. But they have a difficult task ahead of them: find the remaining Horcruxes, the objects were parts of Voldemort's soul are hidden, and destroy them. And on their journey they won't only have to face the common dangers one would expect, like coming across a couple of blood thirsty deatheaters or having to face nasty creatures, but also what can be the hardest mission they may ever have to undergo: survive as their friendship deteriorates slowly.

Well, the first part of the finale of this epic series was more than satisfying, and while it may not be perfect and may not be the best, it is still an incredible and exciting journey to take.

Part of what's wonderful about this film is how David Yates shot it. I have always had some doubts about David Yates as director of this films. He seems that he prefers to make the film dark and add his style rather than to deliver the story. But it seems that for this film he has learned his lesson. I'd say this is his directorial masterpiece within the series, not to mention the best of the ones he has directed. The way he directed the film, with the beautiful shots of the British landscapes or the thrilling action scenes, he has finally achieved what seemed he was looking for from the beginning: to deliver the story without sacrificing his style. And of course his dark tone wasn't tossed out in this film. He keeps the film dark, but without leaving out the joy or funny moments, like he did in the fifth film. So, in a way, he finally delivered what he wanted to do, making this his best directorial effort in the series plus the best of the three he has directed.

The acting is astounding too. The tree main actors, Daniel Racliffe, Ruppert Grint and Emma Watson have improved alot since they first put on their cloaks and grabbed their wands. They are grown actors now and they are able to deliver the emotions to their characters and are also able to carry out their scenes perfectly. I'd say that probably Ruppert Grint is the best one out of the three, but Radcliffe and Watson are also vry good in their roles too. Other than them, there are plenty of actors that shine in this film. Ralph Fiennes, who plays the evil Lord Voldemort, is as fantastic as in his previous films. He inpires a menacing and fearful feeling to any one who sets eye upon him. Helena Boham Carter is also marvellous as the insane Bellatrix Lestrange, although I think that she did a better job in 5 and 6. Brendan Gleeson, Mad Eye Moody, is also great though his performance has decreased too.

But what's really especial about this film is the excitement the film provides to the long time Harry Potter viewers. Its not only the flashy and awesome special effects (including the battle on broomsticks, the monster within the locket, the patronuses, the dementors, the spells, the snake, etc) or the thrilling action sequences (including the battle on broomstics -again-, the numerous chases like the one in the ministry, the deatheaters scenes, etc), but the big feeling that all fans will get while watching this film. And while I was in between nostalgia and excitement, the film finally did the trick with me and made me forget all about nostalgia and focus on excitement.

While we still have to wait to see the end in July, I can already feel the excitement of the final conclusion. In the book, the second half has more action and possibly more excitement, so I can't wait for Part II! So Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I is a very exciting film that all Potter fans will love, despite a few unspecified problems here and there.
My recommendation: A must see for all HP fans; for others, you might want to watch the previous films in the series in order to fully understand and enjoy this one, but it is worth the shot
My score: This is a little difficult. I want to rate it high, but I would be kidding myself. I guess I'll give the film a 92 in a Potter scale (a 92 in the series, with 100 being Goblet of Fire which is my favorite) but a, lets say, 84 in a real film scale. I think I'm satisfied with that.
It is still almost 8 months away, but I'm already starting to feel the excitement for the next one!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Harry Potter Film Series: My View of the Films

Harry Potter Film Series
My View of the Films
Analysing, Rating and Ranking Them

On the eve of the world premier of the first part of the Seventh and final Harry Potter film, I have decided to take a look at the wizarding world of Harry Potter, an event that marked my childhood and this present generation. The films, which started in 2001 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's in North America) Stone, have truly become a popular franchise, enough so that almost 10 years later the films are more popular than ever.

My expierences through the series:
I was about 6 or 7 when I first watched the first film. Back then I didn't really have great taste in films, and I wouldn't know if the film was good or bad because of the acting, writing, directing, character development, plot, etc. but the film did have an impact on me, making me try to become a wizard myself (lol). I remember about watching it about three or four times in the theater. It had blown my child mind away. It became my favorite movie (or rather one of my faves) and I found myself playing role playing games with other friends that were as psyched by the movie as I was (please, I was only a kid). Then, when the second movie came along, about 1 year after, it revitalized my love for the series and once again I was under the spell of the wizard world. I was much more mature by the time when the third one came, and despite I wasn't playing around with pens as wands the film still enchanted me, and as the wait had been long (and it was killing me) when I finally saw the movie I was more mindblown. Then, another year and a half later, the fourth film was released, and with it the first human appereance of Lord Voldemort, and it quickly became my favorite. The fifth one then, I wasn't as blown away as with the first films (which was ironic because it was the one that I had been waiting for the most; maybe I had my expectations too high) but I still loved it. And last year, the sixth installment in this magically epic journey came out, and it did the trick that the third and fourth had on me. And now, I am here in front of my computer, writing about how much I loved and still do this series, waiting anxiously for the final chapter (or rather the first part of the final book) to be released.

Books vs Movies and Series Overview:
I've read all the series of books and I've gotta say that the ovies are probably better than the books. The films have a more dark and serious tone, while the books still feel like a fairy tale, but they are still a wonderful adventure that young readers would enjoy embarking into.
The films are quite faithful to the books, especially the first two. They practically follow the storyline to the dot, but of course the whole book isn't in the movie, but it only leaves out a very few insignificant details that probably nobody really missed. But then Alfonso Cuaron came, and brought a whole new level to the Harry Potter world. While Chris Columbus was faithful to the source material, trying his best to bring this wonderful world to the screen, Cuaron practically rewrote the story to make it his. And while there were a few plot details that would have been nice to see on screen, the film was wonderful, and is probably the best of all the series. Then, Mike Newell sat in the director's chair to bring his own vision of the series. The film became much darker, and it has a "thriller" feel, and he effectively brought th Dark Lord to our minds to hunt us in our nightmares. After Mike Newell didn't sign to direct the next one, David Yates came along and once again we got a very different and much darker version than the last one. In this film, Yates made the film the darkest in the series, leaving out many details of the book. And it is probably one of the weaker entries, but it is still a fun ride, and its dark tone was very amusing for me. The sixth film, also directed by David Yates, feels like the previous one does, though much less darker and more humurous. It was a step up from the last, and was a very good entry to the series. But then again, it left out a few interesting stuff from the books (like some of the flashbacks), though probably it works well this way. And tomorrow we'll know how the seventh film ends up like. I think that was my favorite book, and if everything goes right it may become my favorite movie. Even J.K Rowling, author of the books, said the seventh was her favorite.

Here is my order of favorites, from least favorite to most favorite:
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
It was the first one, they were probably only learning, exploring new territory, but it was the worst (from my POV) of the series. That doesn't mean it was bad, on the contrary, it was the one that started my love for the series, but it is still the least good one. The film feels a lot like a kids or family fairy tale, and also feels like a kids movie, unlike the rest of the series. Also, the characters are underdeveloped, with the high majority being 2D, and it didn't have the dark tone of the next ones had. Nevertheless, the film is highly entertaining, with magical adventure and great sense of friendship.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Fancy, 5 on number 5? Haha, okay. So this film is not like the preceeding three and subsequent one, but it was still a good one. The film is probably the darkest in the series, dealing with the aftermath of Harry's battle with Voldemort and Cedric's death, displaying a Harry full of anger and desires of revenge, a one who even questions himself of his heart nature. But, while these subjects may be interesting, I feel that David Yates failed to execute them in a fashion that all the family would like. This was a more mature film than all the previous and subsequent ones, and it was a movie more directed towards teens rather than to the whole family. And while the previous film I've mentioned felt like a fairy tale/adventure film, this felt rather like a psychological thriller or even horror film, without the scares. So probably, that's the reason of why so many disliked it. Plus, it is the movie that follows more loosly the book, though the studio made the filmmakers cut about 45 minutes of the film, making it the shortest in the series, from the longest book. I think that probably if those 45 minutes had been left, or at least 20 of them, the film would have been better.
4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
The second film in the series to be directed by David Yates, the Half Blood Prince was a step up from the last one, but still it wasn't the best of the series. David Yates film is still pretty dark, but much lesser than the previous one, which I didn't really mind considering that the fifth book was darker than the sixth. What I really didn't like was that it had more humor than it should. I'm not asking for a stiff, melodramatic film, but one that takes itself more serious. It can have a couple ofjokes, like all of the others had, but not as much as it does. Anyway, I felt that the performances here from its three leads have improved, and also the rest of the under 18 cast did too, like Ginny or Draco Malfoy. I think also that Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore, gives what could be his strongest performance in the series, and considering that this is the installment that has him more involved, it is adequate. I also especially liked Helena Bohan Carter as the demented Bellatrix Lestrange. The writing improved from the last one, as it returned to the original screenwriter Steve Kloves. And in this film, the feeling of an adventure film returns.
3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Well, probably you wouldn't place it as high as this, but I am very fond of this film. This was my favorite for a long time, until in 2008 when I rewatched all of them and decided that I liked the remaining ones better, and it is still one of my favorites. The plot of the film is basically a haunted house crossed with a detective mystery, and I liked that. The basilisk is one of the most interesting creatures (along with Buckbeak and Fluffy) in the series, and the fact that we have Voldemort's past come to life is also very cool. But the film's characters are 2D once again and lacking of depth. I also didn't like that the film still feels like a family film, which has clearly evelotuionated into something different (a haunted house film crossed with detective mystery anyone?).
2. Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban
This is a common favorite, a popular opinion, that this is the best of all the series, and while I may agree, I don't think it is my favorite. Let me say, that Alfonso Cuaron is probably the best thing that ever happened to this series. His take into the films is so beautiful, so wonderfully dark and complex and so rich in surprises that this might really be the best. It features Buckbeak, the Hypogriphe, who is also one of the most interesting creatures, and the dementors are as chilling as hell. The film's increasing dark tone is what differentiates the film from its predecessors. I also felt that the performances increased here too. Gary Oldman and David Thelwis, who play Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, are wonderful in their roles, becoming each their own character, giving their depth and development. And the rest of the cast also do a great job too. Also, Cuaron's direction is top notch, with the dark tone and his view to the series being one of the great parts of the film, making the film feel like a thriller. And while this might be probably the best of the series, my favorite of course is...
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Precisely. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is probably the most entertaining of the series for me. It doesn't only feature one of the most exciting storylines in the series, the Triwizard Cup, but it also has the return of Lord Voldemort's plot arc, which takes in the whole movie secretly. Also, Alostor Moody, played magnificently by Brendan Gleeson, was introduced in the film, and his probably one of the coolest and oddest characters of the series. Other actors that were excellent in their roles were Ralph Fiennes as he-who-must-not-be-named, Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, Maggie Smith as Professor McGonnagal, Alan Rickman as the cold Severus Snape, Predrag Bjelac as Igor Karkaroff, among others. Also, Mike Newell's direction is great too. He makes the film what it is, giving it its dark tone and its thriller or action feel. So this is the most entertaining film in the series for me, for the Triwizard Tournament and the Lord Voldemort story arcs. It is my favorite of the series, and I'm gonna stick to it unless tomorrow we get something that tops this.
So I think a resume of this films and my like of them is like this: 5 and 6 lack the emotion of the first four films, but 1 and 2 lack the maturity and darkness of the next four, making 3 and 4 the perfect films of the series! Hahaha, but yeah, that is really what I think about them.
*And, if you were wondering what are the "feels" of each of the films I said here's a recap: Sorcerer's Stone a child fairy tale/adventure film, Chamber of Secrets a haunted house flick mixed with a detective mystery, Prisoner of Azkaban a dark thriller, Goblet of Fire a dark thriller too or an action film as well, Order of the Phoenix a psychological thriller or horror movie, and Half Blood Prince an adventure film. :)

So the Harry Potter series has a special place in my heart. And while I may have grown up now and I like other mature stuff, this will always be the movie of my childhood. I write with a tear in my heart of nostalgia, as the ending of this series probably means the end of my childhood, but also there is joy and emotion to see the final conclusion and climax. But then again, there is Part II in July 2011. We'll see how my view of the series changes after tomorrow when I see the seventh film. Who knows, there might be a new number 1 in my list. Expect to hear from me tomorrow for my review of the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, seventh film and first part of the finale of this epic series.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My favorites: Books

CACB's Favorite Books
Stepping aside from the movies for a while, here is a list of what are some of my favorite books. This is in no particular order if someone was wondering.
-1984 (Written by George Orwell): George Orwell's dystopic classic, which many regard as one of the best books of the XXth century, is certainly a masterpiece of its time, and it is still one nowadays. Its story about dictatorship and rebellion grabbed me into its world and didn't let me go until the final word was read. Highly recommended for anyone.
-The Shining (Written by Stephen King): Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, if not my favorite. He's stories are so wonderfully dark and intense that they are certainly amazing. And this, The Shining, is probably his masterpiece, one of the most entertaining, grabbing, thrilling and amazing novels I have ever read.
-The Lord of the Rings (Written by J.R.R Tolkien): This epic tale written in three volumes has become now a classic. Tolkien's wonderful world full of hobbits and elves will captivate you, hook you in and make you want to read the next volume when you're done with the previous one. It is most definitely an epic fantasy tale that one most read at some point in their lives.
-Farenheit 451 (Written by Ray Bradbury): Another dystopic science fiction classic, Ray Bradbury's story about censorship is engaging and amusing. The story one again grabs the reader in making him want to continue reading. Its a very enjoyable novel with a message to the governments who want to control everything in
the background.
-The Road (Written by Cormac McCarthy): An excellent post-apocalyptic tale about a father and a son on their journey to the sea. The novel entertains with its post-Armageddon argument while at the same tme displaying a touching father and son story, and it is this relationship that impulses the novel and the reader to keep going.
-No Country for Old Men (Written by Cormac McCarthy): Another book by McCarthy, this story is, in contrast, set in western Texas, where a man named Anton Chigurh chases Llewellyn Moss with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell trying to figure out what's happening. Adaptated masterfully by the Coen Brothers, this is one of the best books of the 2000s.
-Firestarter (Written by Stephen King): Second King book in the list, this is a story about a father and daughter on the run, the latter possesing the power of pyrokinesis, the ability to create fire. Its an excellent thriller with two likeable characters and intense narrative. King's Firestarter is definitely suspenseful.
-100 Years of Solitude (Written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez): What could possibly be the most important Latin American novel, 100 Years of Solitude is the excellent story of several generations of the Buendia family in the ficnional town of Macondo. With excellently crafted characters and touching and humurous situations, Garcia Marquez masterpiece is a must read.
-Sherlock Holmes (Written by Arthur Conan Doyle): This series of novels and short stories are what could be the best detective work ever put on paper. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most interesting characters in literature and his partner Watson is also a very likeable fellow. Their many adventures are garanteed to entertain any one who puts their eyes on them.
-Let the Right One In (Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist): The vampire tale of the XXI century. Its story is heart breaking but at the same time disturbing. With fascinating characters and gut wrenching situations, author John Ajvide Lindqvist creates his universe in a way that won't let the eyes of the reader go away.
-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Written by Stieg Larsson): While I haven't read the other two parts of the trilogy, already it is starting to become one of my favorite series in literature. For the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is breathtaking and addictive thriller featuring one of the mos bizarre and interesting characters put on paper, genius hacker Lisbeth Salander.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 400 Blows (Les 400 Coups) (1959) Review

The 400 Blows (Les 400 Coups)
Director: Fran├žois Truffaut
Year: 1959
Country: France
What is certainly one of the best French films of all times (and the best I have seen up to today), and what may fit perfectly within the 30 best movies in film history, The 400 Blows is a time less French classic that became a landmark in French New Wave. The film is a semiautobiographical tale of director and writer Fran├žois Truffaut, who was a rebelious teenager at his time. It was his feature film debut, as he had been a critic years before and had made two short films, but this was his big breakthrough.

The film tells the story of Antoine Doinel, a rebelious middle class early teenager in 1950s France. Antoine lives a unhappy life, in a loveless home, a troubling school and a growing crime career. At first, his crimes were small and insgnificant like sneaking into movies, stealing few small things and skipping school, but they dangerously started to escalate to the point he had to be sent to reform school. But Antoine wasn't really a bad kid, he was only impulsed by his un-loving mother (who is having an affair), his cruel teacher and his best friend. Probably, the one who had the bigger responsibilitie was his mother, because she didn't only not give him affection, but after he saw her with another man his personalitie started to change. So Antoine is caght in a cruel world that impulsed him into becoming the criminal he would later be, but at the end it wasn't fully his fault.

The film is excellent in many aspects. First of all, the story (which I explained in the last paragraph) is compelling, thought provoking, inspiring, heart warming, and loveable. The writing in this film is wonderful, excellent enough to garner a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. It is the story of an unloved child in a very troubled situation. It may sound simple, but by the way it is executed and carried on by Truffaut is excellent. And the fact that the film is largely based on Truffaut's own experiences as a trouble teenager makes it even more special. The character of Antoine Doinel is one of the most interesting characters under the age of 18. He is a troublemaker, a criminal in fact, but at the same time he is likeable and many in the audience will be able to connect with him. There are other interesting characters, like his friend, his parents and his teacher, but none are as great as Antoine. The dialogues in this film can be funny and touching at the same time, and th situations make the audience feel empathy for the character as well as being able to relate. And it has a very beautiful message about children's need for love and comprehension. Overall, a screenplay full of excellent material.

The direction of this film is also excellent. Truffaut's feature debut was a massive success, giving him his name. The film is beautifully shot, taking the screenplay's themes and translating it into the screen, capturing the emotions of his characters and recreating 50s France in a wonderful manner. Truffaut's talent and skills are shown here, and they result in what is without a doubt a wonderful work of art.

The acting is also very well done. Jean-Pierre Leaud, a relative unknown at the time, plays Doinel to perfection. His incarnation of the young delinquent is one of the greatest characters in the history of cinema. Also, Guy Decomble, the ruthless teacher who makes Antoine's life impossible, does an incredible job with the material he is given. And while his character is not as great as Leaud's, his impersonation is certainly worthy of eternal rememberance. Claire Maurier, who plays Antoine's mother, also gives an excellent performance, as well as Albert Remy as his father. A great film full of unforgettable performances.

The 400 Blows is definitely one of my personal favorites, and probably the best French film I've seen (note, I have yet to see La Regle de Jeu or La Grand Ilusion). The film's touching story is wonderfully executed by its cast and crew, making this one of the best films of all times.
My recommendation: Very high, for everyone
My score: A perfect 100

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Donnie Darko (2001) Review

Donnie Darko

Director: Richard Kelly
Year: 2001
Country: USA

The mystery/suspense, science fiction and psychological thriller cult film Donnie Darko might be one of the most bizarre and unusual films I have seen in my entire life. If you come to think about it, there are only a few that are weirder than this (2001: A Space Odyssey, Un Chien Andalous, Mulholland Drive are the ones I can think of). But I have been considering that probably 2001 was a year full of bizarre films such as this. We had David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, another pretty unusual psychological thriller; we had Christopher Nolan's Memento, just another psychological thriller that goes backwards; and you can even consider A Beautiful Mind, a movie about a man who suffers from schizofrenia, though the weirdness is toned down in that film, making it not as bizarre as these ones I have already mentioned, but still being a little strange. Back to Richard Kelly's debut feature, this is a very but very strange film that has numerous interpretations and is probably one of the greatest films of the last decade.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an average teenager, probabl more somber than most. He has a family that, although drives him crazy, love him and he loves them back. He attends school, has a girlfriend and goes through the troubles of being a teenager. But he then starts having very unusual visions, as one day he sleepwalks out of his house to find a very weird rabbit (whom he later calls Frank) who tells him "28 days. 6 hours. 42 minutes. 12 seconds. That's when the world will end". From here, Donnie will start having troubles at school, but not normal troubles like facing bullies or problems with teachers (though he still has of those, only they aren't the ones I'm reffering too), but being a suspect in vandalism acts and going to the extreme of needing psychological help. All the chain of events that start to unfold are triggered by Frank, his imaginary rabbit friend who is telling him to do the things he does, becoming what many may consider a psychopath.

Donnie Darko's world is a very unusual one, where the unexpected is expected to happen and possibilities like time travel or seeing the future exist. As I said, it is one of the most bizarre films I've seen, and probably one of the weirdest I may come across to. It is a very weird, dark, thought provoking and yet entertaining piece of filmmaking. It is definitely one of the best films of 2001 and probably of the last decade.

Its strength lies in Richard Kelly, director and screenwriter. He creates the Darko world so meticulously, giving the effect he wants to give it, proving his skills as a director and screenwriter. His screenplay displays all these characters, tormented with onething or another, putting them together in a world full of darkness and madness. The situations going on can be the most unexpected in the last 10 years, but yet they are wonderfully written and shot. The characters have a depth and developement, growing into each of us viewers, and we can project the feeling we have to give them easily, weather it is hate or likeableness. And the dialogues are very well written too, smart and funny, adding to the story and entertaining. And the film's tone is wonderfully dark, perfectly fitting for this tale of madness. The director creates the mood for the film in a perfect fashion, becoming what can be one of the best directorial debut's of the last decade.

But there's also power in the performances. Jake Gyllenhaal plays what could be his best role, or second after Brokeback Mountain, as the troubled and tortured Donnie Darko, giving his character emotion and depth, becoming one of the most unlikely heroes and unusually dark characters of his career. Mary McDonnel plays his mother Rose, who doesn't know what to do with Donnie's attitude. She's very credible as a mother as we see her trying to go through Donnie's problems and facing them in the best way she thinks is possible. Drew Barrimore also gives a very powerful performance as Donnie's teacher, driven with emotion and sparked with wisdom. Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jake's real life sister), Holmes Osbourne, Katharine Ross and the rest of the cast also do an excellent job with their roles.

The film's themes can be hard to interpret, nontheless I have a few theories of my own which I would like to explain. Probably, if you haven't seen the movie you'd like to skip to the next paragraph so you won't be spoiled of anything. I repeat, this section may contain spoilers, and if you're planning to watch it then it is better to skip this paragraph. You've been warned. So Donnie is probably crazy or is probably sane, seeing thins which are actually there but no one else can. While I'm leaning to the former, I think there is a chance of the latter of being truth. The director himself has given his interpretation by saying that there are two different universe, which collide at the beginning and then at the end of the film (which is also the beginning). He said that it was Donnie's fate to die to be able to solve or rather fix the problem of the two universes, making Gretchen and Frank to stay alive. He also said that the Frank he sees is a future dead Frank, who contacts Donnie to make him fulfill his destiny. I think this theories might be very accerted, and it was the writer/director who said them, so they're probably the final word, but still there is room to debate weather he was crazy or really having those visions. I think that may be these possibility may be true. Here is what I think: he is clearly a disturbed child, so when he starts having these visions he doesn't know how to interpret them, and goes on by doing the wrong thing. So basically, he's both crazy and going through all this. Because after all, the ending did happen, right?

Donnie Darko is a very dark, complex and open to interpretation fantasy-psycho thriller film. It has excellent writing and direction, very fine performances and disturbing themes. I also want to mention Gary Jules' cover at the end of the film of "Mad World", which is perfectly fitting for the fim's dark tone and complexity. So, Donnie Darko is not only an entertaining film, but also one that makes you think. Its great aspects make it one of the best of 2001 and the decade of 2000s.
My recommendation: Though I can personally recommend it highly, it may not be a movie for everyone.
My score: 94%

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ed Wood (1994) Review

Ed Wood
Director: Tim Burton
Year: 1994
Country: USA
Edward D. Wood Jr. is known particularly for doing films that are categorized as some of the worst ever made (examples are Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen or Glenda?). If you've watch this films, or others by him, you know how bad films can get, but at the same time you know how a terrible film can grow with you, becoming an excellent guilty pleasure to watch hundreds of times despite its so horrendous its laughable. Ed Wood had a talent, not to make good films but to make films with heart, even though they were plain bad. At the end, his films were simply watched for mere curiosity or for some good laughs. He is terrible, that's true, but not enough to call him the real worst director of all times. If you compare Ed Wood with some modern day brainless idiots with a cam like Uwe Boll, Friedberg and Seltzerbeg, Michael Bay and Uli Lommel, Ed Wood is great.
And now, director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp team up once again to create what is probably their best collaboration: Ed Wood, a biopic about the man and his films.

The film tells the story of Edward D. Wood Jr. and how he struggled to make his projects. He was at first a theater producer, whose plays didn't receive any more praise than his latter movies did. But then when the opportunity came to tell the story of his cross-dressing nature he did his best (sadly, it was apparently his best) to direct it. and upon meeting Bela Lugosi, star of popular films like Dracula and White Zombie, he sees his opportunity to become famous. Further on, the film explores his relationships with women, as well with Bela Lugosi, and how he struggled through Hollywood to get his films made, and how badly they were received when they finally came out.

Tim Burton is, or at least once was, a great director (unlike Ed wood). He did films such as Edward Scissorhands and A Nightmare Before Christmas, which were received warmly when they were released. -Nowadays he does some barely decent films-. These films were great, and some have achieved a cult status. But the best of all of them, his greatest and finest piece of work, his ultimate masterpiece, is the Ed Wood biopic.

The film is serious enough to be a drama, and funny enough to be a comedy, so I think this fits into the genre of dramedy or comedy-drama perfectly, aside from being a biographical film.

The performances in this film are excellent in my opinion. Johnny Depp gives one of his best performances (probably not better than Curse of the Black Pearl and Sweeny Todd, but still), and most of the supporting cast also doing an exceptional job. But the best is Martin Landau as the actor Bela Lugosi. Martin Landau gets into his character, becoming the count Dracula in his aging days, in his struggles to be remembered as someone other than a once-great-now-forgotten-junkie-star. His performance was so good that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (though I think the award should have gone to Samuel L. Jackson for Pulp Fiction).

The writing for this film is very clever and smart. The film satirizes the world of Hollywood as well as creating a touching story. You can see in the film how they try to make fun of Ed Wood but at the same time making him a lovable character. Just think of the scenes where he is directing: the shot is really terrible, but he still says "Perfect!", that's clearly making fun of him. But despite its humorous nature, the screenplay does try to make Ed look good. He is actually a very sympathetic character, he is just like any other struggling young director who's trying to get his project done. After seeing this, I have not seen Ed Wood the same way I did before: before I saw him as just another idiot trying so hard that the end result was damned awful, but after I now see him as a person who wants nothing else than achieving his dream of becoming a director.
For the other characters, the highlight is again Bela Lugosi. After all, the film also focuses on the fading star. The screenwriters did a good job with this character too, making fun of him in some scenes and at the same time making him sympathetic, though much lesser than Ed.

The rest of the production values are very good too. Tim Burton's direction is excellent, with the appropiate tone and feel, bringing the story into the screen in such an interesting fashion. The music is a little extravagant in some parts, but tolerable, and the rest of it is quite good. The scenery, costumes and make up are also very well done, making the feel of the 1950's come to life.

I won't ever see Ed Wood again as I did before watching this film. It is excellently acted, marvelously written and wonderfully directed, covering all of the other aspects nicely too. If you thought Ed Wood was another idiot with a camera and a few actors think again, he is just another director fighting for his dream, though actually talentless.
My score: 93%
My Recommendation: Recommended, for fans and non-fans of Edward D. Wood Jr.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Walking Dead (My take on the first two episodes)

The Walking Dead

There is a vast mythology of the zombie world. From the movies by George A. Romero to the new ones that frequent sometimes the theaters or the TV, there are a lot of stories to tell about the undead. But I think we had never had a TV series about them, but now Frank Darabont, director of films such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, delivers to us this TV version of the popular comic book series.

The series is far from original, as we have seen tons and tons of zombie films, but the premise develops enough to keep the viewer interested. Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimmes, who was shot in the shoulder and was rushed to the hospital, wakes up in his bed after an unspecified frame of time. But there is something in particular here: he wakes up in a world where chaos is the rule and the government doesn't have no say, humans have to trust their instincts in order to survive. And to survive what? A hungry horde of zombies that has taken over the world. Rick returns to his old house, just to find it empty, but this doesn't mean his family is dead. There is evidence they packed to leave, so he keeps his hopes up. He meets a father and a son, who tell him about refugee colony in Atlanta. The father and son decide to stay, but Rick, in the hopes to find his wife and kid, goes to Atlanta, not knowing what awaits him there: a massive amount of "walkers", and a group of survivors hiding in a store. Along with them, Rick will organize a plan to escape and reach the colony...
And that's up to episode 2...

As of now, the series is going pretty good. The series has enough excitement and adrenaline for those who wants a thrilling story, it has some powerful emotions, and the story, although light by now, promises to grow more complex by each episode. Of course, the series is not perfect, but as far as its going it is actually one of the best new series of this season.

The series is technically impressive. The effects and make up on the zombies are quite good, for a TV series at least. You know how there are some TV series that have some very crappy effects? Well, this is not the case. While the effects aren't as impressive as the ones you may see on a movie, they are impressive for a series. And the make up on all the zombies is also quite convincing too. And all the gore and blood we get they are realistic enough to gross out the viewer. They look real.

The direction on these episodes was very good, especially from the pilot, from Frank Darabont, who is a professional film director, so it was to expect, but in the second episode it is also pretty good. The directors finely create their world, making everything look as realistic as possible despite is sci-fi plot, capturing every emotion of the characters and directing their actors in a competent way, making the story suspenseful as well as emotional, brining the world of The Walking Dead to life. The direction is possibly one of the best aspects, as it is what makes the story intriguing in the visual format.

The series is based on a very popular comic book series of the same title. I have to say before I go on with this point that I haven't read the comics, so I can't really compare the series with the source material, but still I can talk some about the writing. Its not a perfect screenplay, but its good nonetheless. Some of the dialogues seem out of place sometimes, and the situations may rank over preposterous even for its fantasy premise, but the screenplay is concise and does everything it tries to do. As for the characters, I think that in a TV show they don't need to be fully developed at its beginning, as the story keeps moving so will the characters, so their slow development is not a real problem. And there are a few that are interesting, like the father in the pilot. The man was a very interesting character, with the actor playing his part perfectly, delivering the emotions needed for his character. But there are a couple of these characters which are really dull or annoying. Glenn, who Rick meets in the second episode, is quite annoying, as well as some of the other characters he meets in that episode. His wife, played by Sarah Wayne Callies (Sara in Prison Break, if you were wondering), actually angers me. We don't know how much time has passed since Rick got injured, but I'm sure that it hasn't been over a year, and considering that she beliefs he's dead, in that time I'm sure a wife wouldn't get involved with her husband's best friend right? I found that really annoying and it made me angry. But there are other points in the show that are quite interesting, as it may present a more realistic view to the zombie world. In the old movies you never get something like "Don't shoot, you'll attract them", but if you take this into consideration it makes perfect sense.

The acting, well, it is not really remarkable, but it is decent. As I said, the father in the first episode does quite a great job with his character, and in the second episode that crazy old racist also does a good job too. But for the rest of the cast they aren't really outstanding, but then again they aren't bad. They are quite decent and good.

Episode one, the pilot, is a slow moving one, but it is also a more emotional episode than number two. But number two is much more intriguing and exciting. So which of the two is better? It is hard to tell, but probably I'll go with... damn, it is hard. Let's stay with I enjoyed better the second one, but probably the first is better. The pilot has more emotional power, and it draws us into this zombie ruled world, while the second one delivers the action and entertainment. The only thing I can be sure about is that both these episodes were great, and if the season continues this way, it will make a hell of a season.

But I just can't shake off the feeling of this series being one of those like Smallville or Heroes which have a great start, but they then start going downhill. I hope I'm wrong, because by now I really like the series for the two episodes we have, but its just a feeling I get... I don't know, I just hope the series improves. Anyway, by now it is going smoothly good.
We'll have to wait and see for the rest of the season...

My Early Predictions for 2010 Oscars

2010 Oscar Predictions:

This are my early prediction for next year's Academy Awards. I haven't added all the categories, just the most important ones and a few others. This may change as the year progresses.

Best Picture:
The Social Network
Black Swan
The King's Speech
The Town
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
Winter's Bone
The Ghost Writer
Toy Story 3

And the winner will be... The Social Network

Best Director:
David Fincher - The Social Network
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
Tom Hoper - The King's Speech
Ben Affleck - The Town

And the winner will be... David Fincher for The Social Network

Best Actor:
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
James Franco - 127 Hours
George Clooney - The American
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network

And the winner will be... Colin Firth for The King's Speech

Best Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
Tilda Swinton - I Am Love

And the winner will be... Tilda Swinton for I Am Love

Best Supporting Actor:
Jeremy Renner - The Town
Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
Sam Rockwell - Conviction
Christian Bale - The Fighter

And the winner will be... Christian Bale for The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress:
Olivia Williams - The Ghost Writer
Marion Cotillar - Inception
Helena Boham Carter - The King's Speech
Violante Placido - The American
Blake Lively - The Town

And the winner will be... Helena Boham Carter for The King's Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay:
The Social Network (Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on the book The Accidental Millionaires by Ben Mezrich)
Winter's Bone (Written by Debra Garnik and Anne Rosellini, based on the novel Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell)
The Ghost Writer (Written by Roman Polanski and Robert Harris, based on the novel The Ghost by Robert Harris)
Shutter Island (Written by Laetta Kalogridis, based on the novel Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane)
The Town (Written by Ben Affleck, based on the novel The Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan)

And the winner will be... The Social Network, written by Aaron Sorkin

Best Original Screenplay:
Inception (Written by Christopher Nolan)
Toy Story 3 (Written by Michael Arndt)
The King's Speech (Written by David Seidler)
Somewhere (Written by Sofia Coppola)
The Kids are All Right (Written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)

And the winner will be... Inception, written by Christopher Nolan

Best Animated Feature:
Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon
Despicable Me

And the winner will be... Toy Story 3

Best Visual Effects:
Iron Man 2
Tron Legacy

And the winner will be... Tron Legacy

Best Film Editing:
The Ghost Writer
Shutter Island
The Social Network
The Town

And the winner will be... Inception

Best Sound Editing:
Tron: Legacy
Shutter Island
The Town
Iron Man 2

And the winner will be... Inception

Best Sound Mixing:
The Town
Toy Story 3
Iron Man 2
Tron: Legacy

And the winner will be... Tron Legacy

So that's been it. Keep checking out for updates :)