Kevin Carr’s Weekly Report Card: October 1, 2010

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr strikes out against… well, pretty much everyone reviewing movies by taking issue with The Social Network. Sue him if you don’t agree, or friend him at Facebook.com/FatGuysattheMovies. But while he cringes under the weight of Jesse Eisenberg’s smug Michael Cera impression, he also rejoices in October being officially here and all the horror movies the month of Halloween promises to bring. Up first, he cowers in a dark theater to the likes of Let Me In and Case 39.

Want to hear what Kevin has to say on the Fat Guys at the Movies podcast? Take a listen below as Kevin invites David Medsker into the Magical Studio in the Sky to discuss this week’s new releases.


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Studio: Columbia Pictures

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Joseph Mazzello and Rooney Mara

Directed by: David Fincher

What it’s about: David Fincher directs this Aaron Sorkin script about how arrogant Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) created the wildly popular social networking site Facebook. While the site was a runaway hit, he is also sued by several people, including one of his friends as well as Ivy League brothers who claimed they had the idea first.

What I liked: As an exercise in filmmaking, The Social Network is a very well-made film. Fincher has become a perfectionist in this game, and his movies always look extremely slick. Fincher tones down his earlier artistic ambitions (with the exception of a crew race in the middle of the film which reeks of his early music video flair) to give a much more down-to-earth film.

The cast is pretty decent, though Eisenberg is thoroughly annoying. Justin Timberlake surprises most people in this film (except me, who has always said he has a knack for acting), and the would-be Spider Man Andrew Garfield also gives a fine performance.

I get what Fincher was going for, and the best thing I can say is that it clicks with the audience. That counts for something.

What I didn’t: From the opening scene, we are treated with a stiff dose of Sorkin’s now-famous hard-hitting dialogue. If you dig this sequence in which Zuckerberg’s relationship completely disintegrates, you’re set up for the whole film. I, however, found this scene to be overwritten, overrehearsed, overacted and trying way too hard. From this moment, I hated Zuckerberg more than I should have, and I never could muster even the slightest amount of sympathy for him going forward.

The story behind Facebook’s creation is interesting to a degree, but people have to remember this is a adaptation of an adaptation. It’s based on a “nonfiction” novelization of the story by Ben Merzich (who also wrote the source material for 21, a film with which I had very similar problems). Like many “based on a true story” stories, there are many liberties – sometimes quite significant (including the presentation of the antagonists as shying away from lawsuits and Zuckerberg’s sole devotion to Facebook) – taken with the story.

The Social Network commits a very common sin in Hollywood films, and that is making the arguably geeky characters far too cool for believability. Hacking, coding and site designing isn’t that cool, and these guys involved in the story were not nearly as slick as presented. If you don’t believe me, do a Google Image search for Sean Parker, and you’ll see the most un-Timberlake looking dork this side of mark Zuckerberg.

In the end, we’re given the most narcissistic film I’ve seen in a while. The film seems to indicate that Facebook changed the face of the world and the internet (it really didn’t) and offered something totally new in comparison to MySpace and Friendster (it really didn’t). And it presents the success of the social network as a grand plan rather than Zuckerberg being in the right place at the right time. Finally, it strokes its own audience (college kids and the Internet generation) by telling them that they are the most significant thing that made the youngest billionaire ever when the reality is that Facebook was never financially profitable beyond a speculative nature until 2009, and it really didn’t take off in popularity until it was open to the entire population and not just college kids.

Don’t get me wrong… The Social Network is going to be nominated for every award out there, and it has a real shot at winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Just count me in that two percent of the critic population that doesn’t think it should.

Who is gonna like this movie: Apparently everyone but me and Armond White.

Grade: C

Studio: Overture Films.

Rated: R for strong bloody horror violence, language and a brief sexual situation

Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Cara Buono and Sasha Barrese

Directed by: Matt Reeves

What it’s about: This remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In tells the story of a bullied twelve-year-old who discovers a new friend in the girl who moves in next door. Unfortunately, it turns out she’s a vampire who is responsible for a rash of local deaths. As her true nature is revealed, their relationship grows stronger, and they discover that they truly need each other.

What I liked: I respect the hell out of Matt Reeves, Overture and Hammer Films for making a fiercely faithful adaptation of the original Swedish film. For the most part, all the elements are there, and the tone and feel of this film is almost identical to the original. It takes a gutsy stance by not smoothing out the rather unsavory story, and while this may not connect with American audiences as a whole, it makes the film very well done.

This is not your girly sparkly vampire film. Instead, it’s a violent, bloody horror flick that reminds us what young vampire love is really about. Let Me In will be lost on the Twilight crowd, and it never panders to that audience.

What I didn’t: As faithful as Let Me In is in tone and style to the original, that is a dangerous game. It’s so similar at times, you’d believe it was shot in the same locations. This invites a little too much comparison to the original because when it does break stride, it’s painfully noticeable.

First, Reeves seems to be overcompensating for his frenetic debut with Cloverfield, locking the camera down and taking too much time to get through the action. Also, he does this unnecessary presentation of the boy’s mother as a faceless entity. It’s as if Reeves is trying to prove that he can be both somber and artistic at the same time.

Finally, some of the special effects break down when the vampire attacks. Just because you have digital modeling at your disposal doesn’t mean you should be using it.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of European-style horror.

Grade: B+

Studio: Paramount Vantage

Rated: R for violence and terror, including disturbing images

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Kerry O’Malley and Callum Keith Rennie

Directed by: Christian Alvart

What it’s about: Renee Zellweger comes back from the dead to play a social worker who tries to save a girl that she believes is being abused by her parents. When the parents are arrested, she takes the girl in to live with her. But soon she realizes that there is a darker force at work in this girl’s life.

What I liked: I was pleasantly surprised with Case 39. It played out as a rather straightforward horror movie with plenty of creepy sequences and some nice eerie moments. I can’t say it was particularly scary because it goes down paths I’ve been before, but it was effectively done.

There’s a distinct retro feel to the movie, reminding me of the 70s-era psychological horror movies, just with better clothes and hairstyles. Think early Argento, and you might have a feel of what’s going on. Sure, it’s predictable to a fault, but it’s fun to watch it get there.

What I didn’t: When dealing with a story of evil children, there’s not a whole lot more that can be said that hasn’t already shown up in movies released more than thirty years ago. Zellweger does a decent job leading the cast, but it’s clear she’s the focus point that got the film funded. Ian McShane has a fun role as a detective friend of hers, but he really isn’t given many scenes.

The movie runs a bit too long and overstays its welcome, but on the whole it works, and it really doesn’t overdo it with the digital effects, and that’s a plus in today’s horror landscape.

Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of 70s-era psychological horror.

Grade: B

Want to see what Kevin had to say about these films on TV? Check out his interview on FOX…

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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