Sunday, October 31, 2010

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • On this Halloween weekend, horror fans flocked to Lionsgate's seventh and final chapter in its lucrative slasher franchise, as Saw 3D earned an estimated $24.2 million.
  • Saw 3D boasted more than 2,100 3D locations among 2,808 total engagements -- with 3D venues contributing 92% of its weekend gross.
  • The solid tally for Saw 3D was still well short of a franchise record -- in fact, it had the third lowest opening in the series. Saw III bowed with a series-best $33.6 million in 2006 on the way to $80.3 million in U.S. and Canadian coin. The franchise's top domestic run came a year earlier, when Saw II fetched $87 million following a $31 million opening. But this year was a step up from last, when Saw VI opened with a disappointing $14.1 million and rang up only $27.9 million overall domestically.
  • Last weekend's champion, Paranormal Activity 2, slipped to #2 with $16.5 million -- taking the 10-day haul for Paramount Pictures' scary movie sequel to $65.7 million.
  • On an industry-wide basis, the weekend was strong. Top 10 finishers rung up a collective $83.8 million, or 13% more than top performers in the same frame last year.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Final weekend figures will be released on Monday.
  • Reviews of Red, Hereafter, The Social Network, The Town, Conviction and other movies not in the top 10 can be found by clicking on the Film Reviews archive icon at left.
  • Sources: Hollywood.com, Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Schedule for Animated Halloween Specials


Halloween is this Sunday -- and most of the big networks (except CBS) are getting in on the fun. Here is the schedule of animated specials celebrating the holiday.


Thursday, October 28

8pm ET on ABC --

It's the Great Pumpkin,
Charlie Brown
  • The third prime time animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.
  • Debuted on CBS on October 27, 1966 -- following the CBS premieres of A Charlie Brown Christmas (December 9, 1965) and Charlie Brown's All-Stars (June 8, 1966).
  • It just never gets old watching poor Linus waiting in the pumpkin patch for The Great Pumpkin! And hearing Charlie Brown's repeated infamous line while trick-or-treating!
  • Stick around to watch Linus run for office in You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown -- which originally aired on CBS on October 29, 1972.
8pm ET on NBC -- Scared Shrekless
  • All-new special featuring film star, Shrek -- the second spin-off from the movie series which started in 2001 (the Christmas special Shrek the Halls debuted on ABC on November 28, 2007).
  • Halloween is Shrek's favorite holiday, and this year he’s planning a night of frights -- as he challenges Fiona, Donkey, Puss in Boots and the other fairy tale characters to spend the night in Lord Farquaad’s haunted castle telling scary stories. The last one to be scared "Shrekless" will win.


Friday, October 29


8pm ET on ABC -- It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • ABC is re-airing the classic one night later -- with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown following once again at 8:30pm ET.


Saturday, October 30

8pm ET on NBC -- Scared Shrekless

8:30pm ET on NBC --
Monsters vs. Aliens:
Mutant Pumpkins From Outer Space

  • NBC kicks off the night by repeating the new Shrek special.
  • Next up is the new-ish special starring the cast of the 2009 hit film, Monsters vs. Aliens.
  • The Monsters vs. Aliens special premiered on NBC on October 28, 2009.
  • Susan (aka Ginormica) and the Monsters must stop mutant aliens disguised as innocent-looking Halloween jack-o-lanterns from implementing their fiendish plan to take over Earth.

Sunday, November 7

8pm ET on FOX -- The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXI

  • Due to the MLB World Series, the annual Simpsons Halloween special is delayed a week.
  • It's the 22nd season of The Simpsons -- and even if you no longer watch, you have to tune in for the annual Halloween special!
  • The 21st "Treehouse of Horror" episode -- like the others before -- will consist of three self-contained segments. Guest stars include Hugh Laurie and Daniel Radcliffe.
  • Tale #1 -- "War and Pieces" -- Marge, worried about the effects of excessively violent video games, encourages Bart and Milhouse to give wholesome, classic board games a shot. The best friends discover that board games are not boring after all when they find themselves playing a real-life game in which they must beat all the challenges before they are allowed to return to home. Think Jumanji!
  • Tale #2 -- "Tweenlight" -- Twilight fans are in for a real treat as Lisa becomes smitten with a mysterious new student, Edmund (Daniel Radcliffe), who also happens to be a vampire. When a romance blossoms, the young lovers run away to Dracula-la Land, leaving Homer to come to Lisa's rescue.
  • Tale #3 -- "Master and Cadaver" -- Homer and Marge set sail on a romantic second honeymoon, but are interrupted when they rescue Roger (Hugh Laurie), a castaway who escaped an attempted poisoning on his ship. Convinced that Roger is sabotaging their getaway and plotting a murder of his own, Homer and Marge take matters into their own hands.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • Doing better than experts predicted, Paramount's Paranormal Activity 2 topped the domestic box office this weekend with an estimated $41.5 million -- the best debut ever by a horror film.
  • Paranormal Activity 2 opened in 3,216 locations and earned more during its first weekend than its predecessor rang up in its first four weeks. The prequel also wiped from the record books a $40.6 million bow by 2009 horror pic Friday the 13th.
  • The original Paranormal Activity opened in September 2009 with $77,873 from just 12 theaters, part of a low-profile launch prior to the micro-budgeted original's wide expansion. A year ago this past weekend, the film topped domestic rankings with a $21 million session en route to an eventual $107.9 million domestic haul.
  • Paramount also had the #2 movie with the stunt comedy Jackass 3D, which opened in first place last weekend. Jackass 3D pulled in $21.6 million, down sharply from its $50 million opening. But the movie raised its 10-day total to $87.1 million, more than either of the earlier two "Jackass" movies took in during their entire runs.
  • After opening Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon's Hereafter in limited release a week earlier, Warner Bros. expanded the supernatural drama nationwide, and the film came in at #4 with $12 million. That slightly exceeded the studio's expectations, yet like most Eastwood dramas, it was a modest start. His films play to older adults who do not rush out on opening weekend in the same numbers as young crowds.
  • Year-to-date revenues are at $8.65 billion at the end of the weekend and are running 3.36% ahead of last year (thanks to higher ticket prices). Attendance is still lagging by 2.15%. Fall-to-date box office tells a somewhat depressing story with revenues off by 6% vs. last year and attendance running 11% behind last season.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Final weekend figures will be released on Monday.
  • Reviews of Hereafter, Red, The Social Network, The Town and other movies not in the top 10 can be found by clicking on the Film Reviews archive icon at left.
  • Sources: Hollywood.com, Reuters, AP

Friday, October 22, 2010

Movie Review: The Latest from Clint Eastwood


Hereafter


Invictus director Clint Eastwood and star Matt Damon re-team in the new drama, Hereafter. The film tells separate parallel stories about three individuals greatly affected by struggles with mortality -- and their beliefs in the afterlife. Damon plays American factory worker George, who is able to communicate with the dead, but finds it a curse rather than a gift. In another story, C├ęcile de France plays French television journalist Marie, who is haunted by her near-death experience after barely surviving the 2004 tsunami. Finally, newcomers Frankie and George McLaren play Marcus, a London boy who loses the person closest to him -- leaving him extremely lonely and longing for answers. As has been done in previous films in this style (yep, no longer original), all three stories and characters eventually converge.

The film has an extremely powerful opening showcasing Marie's survival. The special effects will pull you right into that horrific tsunami -- and the story. However, from that point on, the pacing of the film slows down significantly -- and at times, nearly stalls. And although it has a thought-provoking premise, and all three leads deliver strong performances, the conclusion seems a bit hokey and a tad unsatisfying. Still, Eastwood is a master director and the film is beautifully shot. Also stars the radiant Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) and the miscast Jay Mohr (better suited for comedies). Written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon), with original music by Eastwood. It's not as strong as Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby or Gran Torino, but still worth seeing. [Rated PG-13; opens nationwide today]


Grade: B


Notes:

  • Conviction opens wider today. Click here to read my review -- and to see an interview with star Sam Rockwell and director Tony Goldwyn.
  • Click on the Film Reviews icon at left for more reviews.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remembering Two Sitcom Legends


In the past week, we lost two TV legends -- actress Barbara Billingsley and actor Tom Bosley. Billingsley, 94, starred as the mom on "Leave it to Beaver" (1957 - 1963) and Bosley, 83, starred as the dad on "Happy Days" (1974 - 1984). Both shows were set in the same time -- the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. A time when almost all the mothers were homemakers, and the fathers always had the right answers. Ah -- a simpler time.

I found it interesting that photos released this week for both stars were quite similar! Check it out. And RIP to them both.


Photo captions/credits:


Right: TV's Cleaver family decorates their first Christmas tree, December 1957. From left, Hugh Beaumont, Jerry Mathers, Billingsley and Tony Dow (compliments of CBS; photo appeared on the Los Angeles Times Website).

Bottom: TV's Cunningham family decorates their first Christmas tree, December 1974. From left, Ron Howard, Bosley, Erin Moran, Randolph Roberts and Marion Ross (compliments of ABC, via Photofest; photo appeared on The New York Times Website)


Note: Although no date (or caption) was given for the "Happy Days" photo -- a keen eye will see that this image has to be 1974. How so? Well look who's in there -- the infamous older brother Chuck! The basketball-playing college student went to practice one day and never came back (during season 2).

The series debuted in January 1974 -- so, this photo has to be from December 1974 -- or season 2 -- which included the show's first Christmas episode. Randolph Roberts was actually the second actor to play the part. Gavan O'Herlihy originated the role in the first season.

Monday, October 18, 2010

MusicMonday: More Free Downloads


Here is this week's round-up of free downloads:
  • Compliments of People Magazine and iTunes comes a 10-track country sampler here. Artists (left) include The Charlie Daniels Band and Chelsea Field. Offer expires November 15.

  • The CMJ Music Marathon first started in 1980 with a modest amount of artists taking part in week-long festivities. The New York festival officially turns 30 this year, and the CMJ will have more than 1,000 artists performing throughout NYC tomorrow through Saturday. Spinner has compiled a list of over 50 free mp3 downloads of artists performing at CMJ 2010 here. And click here to learn more about the music marathon (and the accompanying film festival).

  • This year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martens -- and you can now download the DM50 Album containing all 10 tracks that helped the company celebrate its milestone. Plus, they continually offer other free songs from a variety of artists. Click here for the current selections.

  • Download Far East Movement's single "Don't Look Now" (featuring Keri Hilson) on iTunes here.


Want more free downloads? Well, don't forget to continually check the following sources -- new songs covering all genres are added frequently. Just click on the links below and enjoy some new tunes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • Jackass 3D, the third installment in a feature series about a crew of thrill junkies, crushed forecasts by selling an estimated $50 million in tickets during its opening weekend. Rather impressive considering the film's budget. Even though it was filmed in 3D -- rather than converted in post-production -- the film cost a modest $19 million to make.
  • Industry experts had predicted a $30 million debut for the Paramount Pictures release. If projections hold up when final data are issued on Monday, Jackass 3D will beat 2003's Scary Movie 3 ($48.1 million) to rank as the biggest October opening of all time.
  • All three Jackass films have now opened at #1. The first film released in 2002 opened with $23 million and finished with $64 million. The 2006 sequel led the field with a $29 million opening, and ended up with $73 million. MTV, which originally aired the "Jackass" TV series between 2000 and 2002, and Paramount are units of Viacom Inc.
  • Opening at a distant #2 was Summit Entertainment's Red, a Bruce Willis action drama based on a DC Comics book. It earned $22.5 million, in line with expectations.
  • Overall revenues totaled $133 million, down 4 percent from the same weekend last year. So far this year, domestic revenue is at $8.5 billion, 3.2 percent above 2009's record pace. But adding in higher ticket prices, attendance is down 2.3 percent from 2009.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Final weekend figures will be released on Monday.
  • Reviews of Red, The Social Network, The Town and other movies not in the top 10 can be found by clicking on the Film Reviews archive icon at left.
  • Sources: Hollywood.com, Reuters, AP

Friday, October 15, 2010

Movie Review: A Different Kind of Love Story


Conviction


Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry, Million Dollar Baby) turns in yet another winning performance in Conviction. Based on a true story, Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a single mother who goes back to school to earn her GED, then her bachelor's degree, a master's in education, and eventually a law degree -- all in an effort to help exonerate her brother. Kenneth Waters was convicted in 1983 of the brutal 1980 murder of Katharina Brow in Ayer, Massachusetts. Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is no angel -- but Betty Anne feels she knows her brother the best, and is convinced he is innocent. So much so that she spends many years for just the chance to find a way to prove it.

Written by Pamela Gray and directed/co-produced by Tony Goldwyn (A Walk on the Moon, The Last Kiss), the story almost slips to TV movie quality at times -- maybe because so much ground (nearly 20 years) has to be condensed into a two-hour film. But Swank (Amelia), Rockwell (Everybody's Fine) and a great support cast led by Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), Juliette Lewis (The Switch, Whip It!), Melissa Leo (Frozen River) and Peter Gallagher (Adam) give the film the heavy jolt needed to remind you that you're watching a truly remarkable story. And we're fortunate it got told in a theatrical release instead of a watered-down Lifetime TV production.

Now, I complain a lot about dumb movie titles that often contribute to a film's failure. Finally, we have a moniker that is genius. Think about it -- two uses of the word fit here. Waters fought so hard to find a way to overturn her brother's conviction -- because it was her firmly-held belief that he was innocent. This movie is quite a moving story of one's love for a sibling -- and should not be missed by anyone who loves his or her family. [Rated R; opens in select cites today, wider next Friday]


Grade: B+


Notes:

  • Click on the Film Reviews icon at left for more reviews -- including RED, which opens today.
  • Fun fact: Tony Goldwyn comes from a long line of Hollywood producers, actors and writers. And although he has also now branched out to directing and producing, Goldwyn is probably still best known for his acting. He played bad guy Carl Bruner in 1980's Ghost and philandering business executive J.D. Sheldrake in a recent stint in Broadway's Promises, Promises (a role he'll reprise on the big screen).
  • Goldwyn, Sam Rockwell and Betty Anne Waters attended my recent screening of Conviction. The next day, the three made the usual round of press stops to promote the film. Here below is their interview with Philadelphia NBC10's "The 10! Show."

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Movie Review: On the Edge of My Seat -- But for the Right Reason?


RED


In yet another film adaption of a comic-book series, RED follows the escapades of former black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis). Frank is now living a quiet life -- but maybe it's a bit too boring for someone the government labeled, "Retired, Extremely Dangerous." Now he's reduced to pining away for Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker from TV's Weeds) -- a woman he's never met in person, just talked to over the phone.

Things get interesting fast for us though, as would-be assassins enter Frank's life, and kidnappers take Sarah hostage. To combat his enemies, Frank reassembles his old team -- quite an oddball mix of characters. What transpires is a road trip full of cartoon violence, romance and a few laughs.

Willis (Die Hard series) is at his goofy best once again, and the film's silliness is saved (barely) thanks to him and the strong supporting cast -- which includes Oscar winners Helen Mirren (The Queen), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Richard Dreyfuss (The Goodbye Girl) and Ernest Borgnine (Marty). Also on board are John Malkovich (Secretariat), Brian Cox and Karl Urban (Star Trek). The action-comedy is directed by Robert Schwentke (Flightplan, The Time Traveler's Wife), with a screenplay by Jon and Erich Hoeber based on the comic book series by Warren Ellis. There's nothing original in this story, but it's a hoot alone just to see Mirren play out of character. You'll just wish she and the others had better material to work with here. [Rated PG-13; opens tomorrow]


Grade: B-


Notes:
  • I nearly fell off my seat at my August screening of the film. As you may recall from an earlier post (here), I visited New Orleans for the first time this past spring. I loved attending Jazz Fest and exploring the city -- but my hotel was a dump. It was the only accommodations my buddy and I could find thanks to the musical festival, a national convention and a golf tournament all being held in The Big Easy at the same time! Well, imagine my shock when the hotel made an appearance in this film! The St. Vincent's Guest House was built in 1861 as an orphanage, and remained so until the 1970s when it was converted to its current use. In the movie, the hotel serves as nursing home where the Bruce Willis character visits his fellow retiree, played by Morgan Freeman. Movie magic strikes again -- as the dump actually looks good on screen!
  • Fun fact: Brian Cox also starred in a 2008 thriller titled Red.
  • Click on the Film Reviews icon at left for more reviews.
  • Coming tomorrow: a review of Conviction starring Hilary Swank.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DVD Movie Review: Tilda Swinton Stars in an Italian Film


I Am Love (Io sono l'amore)


By now, you may have heard that Oscar winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) has turned in another winning performance in an Italian art house film she co-produced. And that she does in I am Love -- but unfortunately, besides her potent turn and some breathtaking cinematography, the film is nothing more than a glorified soap opera.

Swinton plays Emma, a native Russian who had long ago wed into the wealthy Recchi family of textile manufacturers from Milan, Italy. With her children all grown, Emma finds herself in a rut -- and ends up having a passionate love affair that rocks her existence and jeopardizes the sanctity of the entire family. Mix in secrecy, homosexuality, an accidental death and some business wheeling and dealing -- and you'll feel like you're watching a dubbed version of a 1980s "Dynasty" episode.

Although the mostly Italian cast is unknown here, you may recognize the wonderful Marisa Berenson (S.O.B.) as the Recchi matriarch. The score, which contains several works by Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Adams, is mostly way over the top -- adding to the film's melodramatic tone. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by Guadagnino and Barbara Alberti. [Rated R; Italian and Russian with English subtitles; released on DVD today]



Grade: C+



Notes:
  • Click on the Film Reviews icon at left for more reviews.
  • Coming soon: reviews of October theatrical releases RED and Conviction.
  • Curious when current films will be released on DVD? VideoETA remains the best online source -- click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MusicMonday: Free Fall Downloads


Here is this week's round-up
of free downloads:
  • From Filter Magazine comes the fall installment of the Landmark Digital Sampler -- with 11 tunes including David Gray's "Holding On" and Ryan Bingham's "Hallelujah." Click here or the image at right for the free download.
  • Download "Rock Crowd" from Pete Yorn here.
  • Finally, have you checked out Guvera yet? The site has spent several years negotiating rights all around the world and designing its system to make music free by having advertisers pay for downloads. Yep, it's totally legal! Guvera started overseas and is now available in the U.S. -- so, visit the site here and start downloading thousands of hit songs!


Want more free downloads? Well, don't forget to continually check the following sources -- new songs covering all genres are added frequently. Just click on the links below and enjoy some new tunes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • Sony's The Social Network beat all newcomers to top the box office for the second weekend in a row. Falling a modest 31% in its second outing, the critically-lauded film sold another $15.5 million in tickets to build its cumulative earnings to $46.1 million.
  • In so-so openings, Warner Bros.' romantic comedy Life as We Know It -- starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel -- earned an estimated $14.6 million to place second. Disney's Secretariat was third with $12.6 million.
  • The only other large release, Rogue Pictures' Wes Craven-penned and –helmed 3D horror pic My Soul to Take scared up a disappointing $6.9 million for fifth place.
  • Collectively, the pre-Columbus Day weekend's top 10 movies rang up $77.3 million, or almost 17% less than top performers in a comparable frame last year. (Though a federal holiday, Columbus Day isn't considered part of the box-office weekend, which remains a three-day session.)
  • All figures are industry estimates. Final weekend figures will be released on Monday.
  • Reviews of The Social Network, The Town and other movies not in the top 10 can be found by clicking on the Film Reviews archive icon at left.
  • Sources: Hollywood.com, Hollywood Reporter

Thursday, October 7, 2010

$50 Amazon.com Gift Card Contest Winner Revealed!


Congrats go out to Katherine P. of Sherman, New York. Katherine had the winning tweet entry in the EntertainmentBlogger $50 Amazon.com gift card giveaway contest -- and she received the e-card codes today! Click here for more details on the Twitter contest!

Thanks to the hundreds of you who entered during the contest period -- resulting in thousands of valid entries.

Remember to continue to follow EntertainmentBlogger on Twitter (@Entertainment2u) and check back here for more contests. You just never know when the next contest will be announced!


Note:

Bummed you didn't win? Well, just a reminder that you can earn FREE Amazon.com gift cards from several search and win sites. Just click on the links below, read up, join -- and start winning those free gift cards fast:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • Sony's The Social Network topped the weekend box office, but debuted in the lower end of projections. The David Fincher-helmed drama about the creation of Facebook posted an estimated $23 million.
  • The 3D family adventure Legend of the Guardian: Owls of Ga'Hoole, from Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, dipped just 33% from its week-earlier opening for a surprisingly strong $10.9 million -- good for second place and $30 million in cumulative take.
  • Fox's Michael Douglas starrer Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps declined 47% to fetch $10.1 million in third place in its second weekend with a $35.9 million cume, while the Warners/Legendary heist thriller The Town finished fourth with $10 million and a $64.3 million cume through three frames.
  • Two other new wide releases settled for modest debuts: Paramount Vantage's demonic-possession pic Case 39 (which sat on the shelf for a couple of years) fetched $5.4 million in seventh place, and Overture's vampire thriller Let Me In grabbed $5.3 million in eighth.
  • Collectively, the weekend top 10 registered $83.8 million, or 7% less than top performers in the same frame last year.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Final weekend figures will be released on Monday.
  • Reviews of The Social Network, The Town and other movies not in the top 10 can be found by clicking on the Film Reviews archive icon at left.
  • Sources: Hollywood.com, Hollywood Reporter

Friday, October 1, 2010

Movie Reviews: The Two Facebook Movies


In just a short period of time, social media has greatly changed the way we communicate with each other. Our personal and online lives are increasingly being intertwined to levels most of us never dreamed imaginable -- but is it for the better? Two films this fall bring Facebook -- the leading social media site -- to the silver screen. One movie explores the site's genesis -- while the other is a disturbing take on where we are at now. Both help to define a generation -- and are the perfect complement to each other. I strongly recommend that you see them both -- and in this order...


The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), The Social Network is an engrossing look into the creation and early years of Facebook -- and the mind of its co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg). It's almost hard to fathom (with its current active worldwide user base of 500 million people) that Facebook is a relatively young addition to the Internet. How it got started in 2004, survived and thrived makes for an amazing business story and history lesson -- but Fincher's character study of the brilliant mind behind the entity makes for movie magic.

After being dumped by his girlfriend (captured in one of the best movie openings in a long time), Harvard sophomore Zuckerberg decides to create a university version of Hot or Not -- a rating site that allows users to judge the attractiveness of individuals in posted photos. Learning of his technical expertise, fellow Harvard students and identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss recruit him for help starting Harvard Connection, an online community exclusively for that university's students. Perfecting (or stealing?) their idea, Zuckerberg creates The Facebook (the "The" drop is later explained) -- and it's an almost immediate success. But as the site continues to flourish, Zuckerberg is faced with not one -- but two lawsuits that threaten to halt the site's growth and drive him out of the business.

As the film's promotional poster states, Zuckerberg makes many enemies along the way. So, it's amazing to see how he pulls off Houdini-like escapes to survive the legal battles. Kudos go out to Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland, Zombieland) who is terrific in the lead. Somehow he's able to pull off this complex person -- how can we possibly be sympathetic to him even though he is a total douchebag (sorry, no other word fits)?

Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, TV's West Wing) weave a captivating story adapted from Ben Mezrich's 2009 book, "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal." Both the book and film are unauthorized accounts of the site's young founder. The strong cast includes Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go) as the screwed-over friend and site co-founder Eduardo Saverin -- and Armie Hammer, who does double duty playing the Winklevoss twins. And then there's Justin Timberlake -- who proves again that he is not just an amazing musician -- as he turns in a convincing high-energy portrayal of Napster founder/party boy Sean Parker, who helps Zuckerberg think bigger.

The film is being touted by many as the 'film of the year,' but is it that good? I don't think so. Some of the added humor in this mostly dramatic story falls flat. And it would have been great to learn a bit about Zuckerberg's upbringing -- what helped mold him into this gifted jerk? Even a brief look into his family life would clear up that big question. Finally, some of the cast is totally wasted -- such as Rashida Jones' (I Love You, Man) turn as a member of one legal team. But these are minor complaints on an otherwise very intriguing film. [Rated PG-13; opens today]


Grade: B+




Catfish

There's something the folks behind Facebook and the media failed to tell you when announcing the recent 500-million-user threshold -- that not all of the people behind those profiles are for real. The Internet allows us the freedom to create any persona we'd like -- it only becomes a big issue if you then try to bring that life into the real world. In their unsettling documentary, Catfish, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost explore this other part of the Facebook story.

Chronicling the adventures of Ariel's brother Nev, a New York City photographer, the filmmakers set off to tell a tale of friendship in the Internet age. It all starts when Nev befriends Abby, an eight-year-old child prodigy artist in rural Michigan, who sends him a painting of one of his photographs. They become Facebook buddies in a network that broadens to include the girl's mother, Angela, Angela's husband and Abby's attractive older half-sister Megan. But as the friendships move from online to the phone -- and a long-distance romance stirs between Nev and Megan -- things begin to get fishy. When Nev, Ariel and Henry travel together to Michigan to visit the family, the resulting encounter is astonishing.

Let's clear the air on a couple of things. Something is a little bizarre about the (mis)marketing for the movie, as it almost makes it look like a horror film. Although what you see is disturbing, it's not scary in the true sense of the word. And is the film a true documentary? Some will argue that there's some definite scripting going on here and there. But don't let that ruin the experience for you. The film is a gripping mystery -- and yes, the bizarre title is explained! [Rated PG-13; in select cities now]


Grade: B+



Notes:
  • Click on the Film Reviews icon at left to read other recent reviews.
  • Coming soon: reviews of RED and Conviction.