REVIEW: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (2010)

 CAST

Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Rooney Mara (The Social Network)
Katie Cassidy (Arrow)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Kellan Lutz (The Legend of Hercules)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Connie britton (Nashville)
Judith Hoag (Armageddon)

I grew up as a kid watching all the Freddy movies. As the series went along, Freddy became less scary. He wasn’t scary like he was in the first two movies. He went from being a very scary, very mean guy to just being a scary clown, with more emphasis on the clown aspect. Then he was scary again in New Nightmare. And then he was somewhere in between in Freddy vs. Jason. Either way, Englund was in top form in every single incarnation. So of course, the first thing on everyone’s mind is how in the hell will Jackie Earle Haley top what Englund has created.  After watching this, and liking Jackie, I came to the conclusion that nobody, no matter how good of an actor, will ever top Robert Englund.  In a sense, the role of Freddy is like the Joker; it goes from simply trying to top an actor to just giving up and realizing that the original actor can’t be topped, in which case, you simply have to make it different and make it your own. Which is probably what Haley did. It’s like if someone were to try and top Ledger’s Joker: It wouldn’t be possible, so they just do the next best thing: Make the character their own and give their own awesome take on it; it might not live up to the original, but it can still be a good performance. Simply put, Robert Englund is Freddy, and the only thing another actor can do is simply give a different interpretation and make it a good alternative.

I really liked Haley’s take on Freddy Krueger, and in all, I really liked this take on Elm Street in general. In comparison to the other movies, this one seems to have more weight, it seems much meatier. It makes you think about things a lot more than the old movies did. They do this by giving Freddy a human side, a back story. Nothing about the character is really changed, he’s just explored more than he was in other movies.

This remake was really interesting to me because they made Freddy a really ambiguous character. Throughout the movie, you’re left wondering whether or not he’s actually guilty of harming the children. During the first half, it seems very likely that he was wrongly accused, and during that same half, you’re left thinking that all of his killing might just be because he’s legitimately angry and getting revenge on the kids that got him killed. Even though he’s an awful person already, you’re still left thinking that maybe he was a good guy. He certainly seemed like a really good guy in the flashbacks. This ambiguity added an extra dynamic to the movie that the original didn’t have.Now when you finally realize that Freddy was really bad man, that he really is sick enough to hurt children and then wanna kill them because they simply told the truth about him, it makes the movie, and Freddy himself, much more interesting and a little creepier. When you’re watching the flashbacks, you’re left thinking that he might’ve been a good guy, but when you realize that he never was, you’re forced to realize that this seemingly good hearted guy was a very mean, very awful and evil psychopath underneath it all. When you realize that he’s relishing and enjoying killing all these kids (now grownup) just because they told on him, it makes him a lot creepier and just completely different in comparison to the old movies.

All the actors were really good. Kyle Gallner is pretty cool and he’s pretty awesome in most of the movies he’s in. Thomas Dekker was pretty good, I liked Rooney Mara as Nancy and Clancy Brown is always awesome in anything he’s in Overall, I really liked the movie. It could have easily turned out terrible. It’s much better than the nightmare sequels, and it’s a new take on Freddy, and I really liked it. It doesn’t tarnish the original, it doesn’t try to imply that the original was crap, it’s just a new take.

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REVIEW: PAN

CAST

Levi Miller (Jasper Jones)
Hugh Jackman (Logan)
Garrett Hedlund (Tron: LEgacy)
Rooney Mara (Side Effects)
Adeel Akhtar (The Dictator)
Nonso Anozie (Dracula)
Amanda Seyfried (Jennifer’s Body)
Kathy Burke (Flushed Away)
Lewis MacDougall (A Monster Calls)
Jack Charles (Tom White)
Cara Delevingne (Sucide Squad)
Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones)

Newborn Peter (Levi Miller) is left by his mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried) on the steps of an orphanage in London, an establishment under the care of Mother Barnabas (Kathy Burke). Several years later, during World War II, upon learning that Mother Barnabas is hoarding food for herself, Peter and his best friend Nibs (Lewis MacDougall) try to steal it to distribute amongst themselves and the other orphans but they are caught. In the process, Peter finds a letter written by his mother, declaring her love and assuring Peter they will meet again “in this world or another”.In retaliation for the boys’ mischief, Mother Barnabas summons pirates who kidnap Peter, Nibs and several others. Nibs manages to escape but Peter does not. He is captured and taken aboard a flying pirate ship. Following an aerial battle with several Spitfires the ship takes Peter to Neverland, a magical realm beyond space and time, where he is forced to become a slave laborer and mine for Pixum (crystallized Fairy Dust) on behalf of the terrible pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) who uses it to prevent himself from aging. Peter befriends another miner, named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund). After insulting Blackbeard’s men, Peter is forced to walk the plank over the deep mine, but survives by flying. Blackbeard then tells Peter about an old prophecy that a boy who could fly would one day kill him, but Peter refuses to believe he is that boy.Peter joins Hook and his accomplice, Sam “Smee” Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar), stealing one of Blackbeard’s flying ships and escaping into the forest. There they are found by the native chief’s daughter Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara) and nearly executed but when the natives Chief Great Little Panther (Jack Charles) notices Peter’s pan flute pendant, left to him by Mary, and said to belong to their people’s greatest hero, the legendary Pan. With the Memory Tree, Tiger Lily tells Peter that many years ago when the natives and the fairies united to fight together against the pirates, the Fairy Prince and the love of Blackbeard’s life, Mary fell in love but when Blackbeard discovered them, the Prince took human form to rescue Mary. But as fairies could only live in the form of a human for one day, the Prince sacrificed his life for Mary. Mary was then forced to hide their newborn son Peter in the other world and seek shelter in the Fairy Kingdom when she and the fairies had to retreat. As part of his heritage, Peter has the ability to fly, but is unable to do so because of his lack of faith.Fearful of Blackbeard’s punishment, Smee betrays the natives’ location to him, and in the ensuing battle, Chief Great Little Panther is murdered by Blackbeard, who also reveals that he killed Peter’s mother. Peter is hurt to learn that Tiger Lily had lied to Peter, telling him his mother is alive but she explains that he would have walked away from his destiny if he knew the truth.Peter, Hook, and Tiger Lily escape in a raft and head to the Fairy Kingdom to enlist their help in defeating the pirates. Along the way, Peter falls into the river and is nearly eaten by giant crocodiles before being rescued by the mermaids, after which he has a vision of Blackbeard accidentally killing Mary as she defended the Fairy Kingdom from his offensive. Despondent over their chances, Hook leaves while Peter and Tiger Lily arrive at the Fairy Kingdom only to be ambushed by Blackbeard who plans to use the fairies vast amount of Pixum to live forever. Blackbeard takes Peter’s pan flute pendant, which is the key to the fairy kingdom, opens their gates and launches an attack.Peter escapes and befriends one of the fairies, named Tinker Bell. Together, they rally the rest of the Neverland fairies to fight the pirates while Tiger Lily duels Blackbeard. Hook returns on the stolen ship and fights Blackbeard’s right-hand man Bishop (Nonso Anozie) until the ship tips over, sending both falling to their deaths. Peter conquers his fears and flies to save Hook, while Blackbeard and his men are overpowered by the fairies. Forced into an abyss, they subsequently fall to their deaths. Smee is the sole survivor having fled during the battle. Peter then sees a vision of Mary, who reaffirms him to be Neverland’s savior: Peter Pan. Shortly afterwards, Peter and Hook, now the captain of the Jolly Roger, return to London to rescue Nibs and the other orphans, who become part of Peter’s crew, the Lost Boys. In the final scene, Peter and Hook reaffirm their friendship, certain that nothing will ever go wrong between them.A totally different side of the Peter Pan story. Unique and imaginative. Non stop action packed and Hugh Jackman like you’ve never seen him before. A talented cast and brilliant production.

REVIEW: THE DISCOVERY

CAST

Rooney Mara (Side Effects)
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Jesse Plemons (Varsity Blues)
Riley Keough (Max Max: Fury Road)
Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Ron Canada (Ted 2)
Mary Steenburgen (Step Brothers)

The film opens with an interview with Thomas Harbor (Redford), the man who scientifically proved the existence of an afterlife, which has led to an extremely high suicide rate. The interviewer (Steenburgen) asks Harbor if he feels responsible, to which he says no. Directly after, a member of the crew kills himself on air.On the two year anniversary of the discovery, Harbor’s son Will (Segel) travels with a ferry where he meets Isla (Mara). They have a conversation and Will notes Isla looks very familiar. He says he is upset that people keep killing themselves while Isla thinks it’s an easy way out. Will also shares a memory he had while being dead for a minute, where he saw a young boy at a beach. Will is picked up by his brother Toby (Plemons), who drives him to an isolated mansion where their father has built up his new station. Will notes people working for him and Toby says they all attempted suicide. They enter a room where Will meets Lacey (Keough) and Cooper (Canada) and sees his father tied up to machine as they kill and revive him. Will blames him for the high suicide rate.
Later, Will sees Isla on the beach as she walks into the water with a backpack full of stones. He runs after, barely saving her. He brings her to the mansion, where she is taken in. At a later meeting with the occupants, Thomas reveals he invented a machine that can record what dead people see in the afterlife, which requires a dead person and they steal the corpse of Pat Phillips from the morgue. Will reveals to Isla that his mother killed herself when he was younger. The next day, they try to record the afterlife but nothing happens. After the failed attempt, Will enters the room alone and puts back a piece of wiring he took out of the machine, which then shows a sequence of a man driving to a hospital, visiting someone and fighting with a woman there. Will finds the hospital from the recording online and visits it but finds that the hallway from the video is gone after remodeling a decade prior.
Later, during a meeting, Thomas brings Lacey on stage and confronts her about telling other people in the mansion about the failed device and tells her to leave immediately. Will drives Isla to the hospital and shows her the recording and tells her that he thinks the device records memory rather than the afterlife. After breaking into the hospital, they find a file from Pat Phillips’ father, who died in the hospital. Isla finds out that the man in the recording has a different tattoo from the one she saw on Pat earlier. Will drives her to the beach, where she reveals to him that she had a son and that he died while she was asleep. Later they seek out the woman from the video, revealed to be Pat’s sister. She tells them that Pat left her alone with their dying father and that he never visited him in the hospital.
Isla and Will grow closer togther and share a kiss, which is interrupted by Toby. Together they rush to Thomas, who is hooked up on the machine and dead. They observe that he is seeing the night their mother killed herself, except that Thomas stops her. They are able to revive Thomas, who concludes that the afterlife is an alternate version of their existing life. They agree to destroy the machine. Thomas prepares to hold a speech, which is interrupted by Lacey shooting Isla who claims she just “relocated” her. Isla dies in Will’s arms. Later, a devastated Will hooks himself up with the machine. He arrives back on the ferry, where he meets Isla again who states that this is a memory. It is revealed that Will is living in a memory loop trying to prevent Isla’s death and that he restarts on the ferry every time. Isla says that he saved her and that they both will move on now. Although Toby and Thomas try to revive Will, he dies, promising Isla to remember her.  We next see Will on the beach, where he sees a little boy and gets him out of the water. His mother, revealed to be Isla, arrives and thanks Will. They don’t recognise each other. After she leaves, he looks back, first confused and then with a knowing look.This movie was enjoyable and a fresh interpretation of new science brought to bear on an age old question about death.

REVIEW: SIDE EFFECTS

 

CAST

Jude Law (Spy)
Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Catherine Zeta-Jones (Entrapment)
Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street)
Vinessa Shaw (The Hills Have Eyes)
Ann Dowd (Compliance)

After her husband Martin completes a four-year prison sentence for insider trading, Emily Taylor drives into a wall in an apparent suicide attempt. Jonathan Banks, assigned her psychiatrist, prescribes a series of antidepressants, but none work. Jonathan contacts Emily’s previous psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert, who suggests an experimental new drug, Ablixa. The drug seems to help Emily, but gives her sleepwalking episodes as a side effect.
One night, Emily stabs Martin to death while sleepwalking. Jonathan fights for Emily’s acquittal in court. She pleads insanity and is declared not guilty on the condition that she stays in a psychiatric hospital until cleared by Jonathan. The publicity destroys Jonathan’s reputation, and his colleagues assume negligence on his part.
Jonathan discovers evidence that Emily is lying; she was not depressed and faked her suicide attempts. He also discovers someone may have profited from Ablixa’s fall in stock value. He interviews Emily after administering what he claims is a truth serum that will make her drowsy. Though the serum is actually a placebo, she feigns drowsiness, confirming Jonathan’s suspicion that she is deceiving him. When he confronts Victoria with his findings, she mails photographs to his wife Deirdre implying he had an affair with Emily. Deirdre leaves him, taking her son with him.
Jonathan calls Victoria’s bluff by telling her Emily told him about their plot. He threatens Emily with electric shock treatment and tells her Victoria is paying him to keep her incarcerated so she can keep a bigger cut. Emily explains that she hated Martin for losing their opulent lifestyle, and began plotting to kill him, get away with it and profit by his death. She began seeing Victoria for counseling, and the two women became lovers. Emily taught Victoria about the financial world, while Victoria taught Emily how to fake psychiatric disorders. They plotted to kill Martin and use the negative Ablixa publicity to manipulate stock prices. Jonathan accepts Emily’s offer to give him a cut of her money if he releases her from the ward.
Emily meets Victoria wearing a wire. After Victoria mentions details of the plot, she is arrested for conspiracy to commit murder and securities fraud. Emily, due to double jeopardy, cannot be charged as criminally responsible for her part in Martin’s murder. As retaliation for Emily’s part in the plot, Jonathan, who still oversees her case, prescribes her Thorazine and Depakote and describes their unpleasant side effects. She is sent back to the mental ward for refusing treatment, and Jonathan regains his family and reputation.It’s an edge-of-your-mind thriller rather than an edge-of-your- seat thriller. Never really scared, always questioning the moral and psychological behaviour of these characters. The ending takes some strange, sexually-charged turns, and perhaps a bit more conclusive than I was originally expecting, but don’t worry, you can still question where the line is between right and wrong and when each character crossed it.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: URBAN LEGENDS 3: BLOODY MARY

Image result for urban legends: bloody mary

CAST

Kate Mara (Fantastic Four)
Robert VIto (My Best Friend’s Wife)
Tina Lifford (Queen Sugar)
Ed Marino (Sisters)
Michawl Coe (Everwood)
Lillith Fields (Dead Noon)
Olesya Rulin (Powers)
Rooney Mara (Side Effects)

Image result for urban legends: bloody maryOn November 5, 1969, three high school footballers tried to drug and kidnap their prom night dates. Their plan works with two of the girls but the third, Mary Banner (Lillith Fields), tries to escape. The football captain chases her into a storage room and punches her, knocking her out. Unable to revive her nor able to hear her heartbeat, he believes Mary to be dead. Panicking, he locks her body in an old trunk. Thirty-five years later, this story is told among three school girls during a sleep over. One of them, Samantha (Kate Mara), had written an article in the school paper critical of football players’ academic achievements and subsequently she, her friends, and her brother David (Robert Vito) are treated as outcasts by the rest of the school. They also jokingly conjure up Bloody Mary and the next morning all three are gone. After having been missing for one day, they reappear, waking up in an old deserted mill, with no knowledge of how they got there. While most suspect a hoax on the girls’ part, Samantha and David suspects that it is a prank by football players.Image result for urban legends: bloody maryWhile Samantha is haunted by visions of a dead girl bleeding from her head, several pupils die under mysterious circumstances resembling urban legends; for example, football player Roger (Brandon Sacks) burns in a sunbed, Heather (Audra Lea Keener), girlfriend to football captain Buck (Michael Gregory Coe), has spiders erupting from a swelling on her cheek, driving her to cut her face with a mirror, and football player, Tom (Nate Herd), is electrocuted while urinating on an old electrical fence, his ring finger being bitten or cut off. Buck blames these deaths on the Owens siblings. Before her death, Heather made up with Samantha and tried to tell her that this happened before. In her homework, Samantha finds notes sent to Heather about the disappearance of Mary Banner and the homecoming kidnappings of 1969, as well as notes referencing the events of the previous films. Browsing the school paper’s archives, they find out that Mary was never found, that another victim committed suicide years later and that the third, Grace Taylor (Tina Lifford), still lives in town.Image result for urban legends: bloody mary
They visit Grace, who claims that Mary, or rather, her “life force”, is exacting revenge on the children of the five people involved in the kidnappings but cannot (or will not) reveal the names of the perpetrators. While Samantha is prone to believe her, David remains skeptical and thinks that Grace is the killer. While sneaking around in Grace’s house, he also found out that Grace produced or collected artwork on Urban Legend and identifies Grace as the originator of the notes sent to Heather. The siblings go to warn Buck, who admits that he and his mates orchestrated Samantha’s disappearance and blames her for the death of his friends. He also reveals that his father, the football coach, was one of the kidnappers in 1969 but did not hurt Mary. Samantha, however, suspects that the coach was the one that killed Mary as she saw him put flowers on her headstone earlier. Her stepfather, who overheard her, tells her to reveal any solid evidence she has.Image result for urban legends: bloody maryMeanwhile, an upset Buck tries to relax by drinking and watching movie in a motel. Falling asleep, he wakes up from hearing a dripping sound and discovers the corpse of his dog. He is attacked by Mary, who crawls out from under his bed and kills him with his broken bottle. Different rumours about his death are spread immediately. Both siblings are trying to find clues about the fifth remaining perpetrator; Samantha by browsing through old photographs, David by visiting Grace again. Grace still refuses to reveal the names but directs him to the school archives. Going through the archives, he finds out the identity of the fifth person and rushes home, but finds Sam gone and is suffocated by a hooded man. Samantha meanwhile has visions of Mary again, revealing that the girl was not dead when she was locked in the trunk. and that she later awoke, realizing she was buried alive. The visions also reveal to Sam the whereabouts of the trunk.Sam visits Grace, who tells her to find and bury Mary’s corpse and reluctantly agrees to drive Samantha to the school. While Grace is waiting in the van, Samantha finds the storage room and the trunk with Mary’s corpse in it. The hooded man also appears and enters the storage room but Samantha locks him inside while carrying Mary’s remains outside to the van.Image result for urban legends: bloody maryFinding Grace unconscious, Samantha drives the van to the cemetery, where she begins to dig a grave for Mary under her headstone. Her stepfather, whom Samantha had phoned, also appears and helps her digging but suddenly hits her with the shovel. Suddenly Grace intervenes and tries to fight off Mr. Owens (giving Sam a chance to run) but he eventually knocks Grace out with the shovel. Pursuing his stepdaughter through the graveyard, Bill Owens (Ed Marinaro) reveals that he was the one that locked Mary in the trunk and that he also killed his stepson (Sam’s brother), David. He finally captured her and is about to decapitate her when Mary, in her living form, appears. Smiling towards Samantha, she kisses him, then reverts to her ghastly form and drags him with her into the grave. When Samantha wakes up, the grave is surrounded by police and medical personnel retrieving her stepfather’s corpse. She and Grace are bandaged and treated for their wounds, and sitting together, console one another. It is announced that Bill Owens has died of a heart attack while trying to dispose Mary Banner’s remains.Image result for urban legends: bloody maryI enjoyed the film, was slightly grossed out at parts, I think it’s at least a semi-faithful portrayal of one of the modern variations of the legend, and it’s rather satisfying to finally “see” Mary in some form.  If you’re a big horror film fan, it’s definitely worth buying.

REVIEW: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)

CAST

Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Rooney Mara (The Scoial Network)
Christopher Plummer (Star Trek 6)
Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Steven Berkoff (A Clockwork Orange)
Robin Wright (Nine Lives)
Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck)
Goran Višnjić (Elektra)
Geraldine James (Arthur)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)
Alan Dale (Lost)
Julian Sands (Gotham)
Joel Kinnaman (Robocop 2014)
Élodie Yung (Daredevil)

In Stockholm, Sweden, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), co-owner of Millennium magazine, has lost a libel case brought against him by businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg). Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant but troubled investigator and hacker, compiles an extensive background check on Blomkvist for business magnate Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who has a special task for him. In exchange for the promise of damning information about Wennerström, Blomkvist agrees to investigate the disappearance and assumed murder of Henrik’s grandniece, Harriet, 40 years ago. After moving to the Vanger family’s compound, Blomkvist uncovers a notebook containing a list of names and numbers that no one has been able to decipher.

Salander, who is under state legal guardianship due to diagnosed mental incompetency, is appointed a new guardian, lawyer Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), after her previous guardian Holger Palmgren suffers a stroke. Bjurman abuses his authority to extort sexual favors from Salander and violently rapes her, not realizing she has a hidden video camera on her bag. At their next meeting she stuns him with a stun gun, rapes him with a dildo, and marks him as a rapist with a tattoo on his chest and stomach. Threatening to disclose the video recording, she blackmails him into writing a glowing progress report and granting her full control of her money.

Blomkvist’s daughter Pernilla (Josefin Asplund) visits him and notes that the numbers from the notebook are Bible references. Blomkvist tells Vanger’s lawyer, Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff), that he needs help with his research, and Frode recommends Salander based on the work she did researching Blomkvist himself. Blomkvist hires Salander to investigate the notebook’s content. She uncovers a connection to a series of murders of young women from 1947 through 1967, with the women either being Jewish or having Biblical names; many of the Vangers are known antisemites. During the investigation, Salander and Blomkvist become lovers. Henrik’s openly national socialist brother Harald identifies Martin (Stellan Skarsgård), Harriet’s brother and operational head of the Vanger empire, and Blomkvist marks Martin as a possible suspect. Salander’s research uncovers evidence that Martin and his deceased father, Gottfried, committed the murders.

Blomkvist breaks into Martin’s house to look for more clues, but Martin catches him and prepares to kill him. While torturing Blomkvist, Martin brags of having killed women for decades but denies killing Harriet. Salander arrives, subdues Martin and saves Blomkvist. While Salander tends to Blomkvist, Martin flees. Salander, on her motorcycle, pursues Martin in his SUV. He loses control of his vehicle on an icy road and dies when it catches fire. Salander nurses Blomkvist back to health and tells him that she tried to kill her father when she was 12. Blomkvist deduces that Harriet is still alive and her cousin Anita (Joely Richardson) likely knows where she is. He and Salander monitor Anita, waiting for her to contact Harriet. When nothing happens, Blomkvist confronts her, deducing that the woman posing as Anita is Harriet herself. She explains that her father and brother had sexually abused her for years, and that Martin saw her kill their father in self-defense. Her cousin Anita smuggled her out of the island and let her live under her identity. Finally free of her brother, she returns to Sweden and tearfully reunites with Henrik.

As promised, Henrik gives Blomkvist the information on Wennerström, but it proves worthless. Salander hacks into Wennerström’s computer and presents Blomkvist with evidence of Wennerström’s crimes. Blomkvist publishes an article that ruins Wennerström, who flees the country. Salander hacks into Wennerström’s bank accounts and, travelling to Switzerland in disguise, transfers two billion euros to various accounts. Wennerström is found murdered. Salander reveals to her former guardian Holger Palmgren that she is in love with Blomkvist. On her way to give Blomkvist a Christmas present, Salander sees him with his longtime lover and business partner Erika Berger (Robin Wright). Heartbroken, she discards the gift and rides away.I recommend it whether or not you have seen the original series. I also recommend you do check out the original series. If they do complete the rest of the trilogy, there will be opportunities in those movies to vastly outshine the originals, certainly if they include more detail from the books as they do here.

REVIEW: THE SOCIAL NETWORK

 

CAST

Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger)
Justin Timberlake (Friends With Benefits)
Rooney Mara (Her)
Rashia Jones (I Love You, Man)
Josh Pence (The Dark Knight Rises)
Malese Jow (The Vampire Diaries)
Lacey Beeman (Power Rangers Time Force)
Jason Flemyng (Snatch)
Jessie Heiman (Chuck)
Riley Voelkel (The Originals)

David Fincher’s The Social Network is a business procedural played with the intensity of a thriller and the ingenuity of a screwball comedy. It’s something of a departure for the filmmaker, whose pictures lean toward visual pyrotechnics and darker, more disturbing themes. Handling a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin that consists primarily of people in rooms talking, and in which the violence is purely psychological, he curbs his occasional excesses and cooks up his most satisfying film to date. Though mining (with some significant departures from the official record) the origin story of Facebook, a presumably of-the-moment phenomenon, Fincher and Sorkin have made a movie that is about more than its ostensible subject. Yes, The Social Network examines, at least implicitly, the cultural moment that precipitates the explosion of a site that aims specifically to make the social experience a virtual construct. But where the film strikes oil is in understanding the kind of guy who would want to create that experience.

His name is Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and the opening scene that introduces him is a whiz-bang Sorkin special–a flurry of rat-tat-tat dialogue and cranked-up interplay in which characters talk non-stop while revealing themselves only accidentally. Zuckerberg, a smug Harvard sophomore obsessed with the university social hierarchy that he cannot penetrate, is out with his girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara); he clearly sees himself as smarter than her (she attends lowly Boston University), but she’s so adroit at conversational maneuvers that before he realizes it, she’s broken up with him. Depressed and half-drunk, he goes back to his dorm, blogs some hurtful things about her, and concocts a website called “facemash” that pulls pictures from campus sites and lets students rank the women against each other. Fincher gives this embryonic sequence the finesse and energy of an action scene–particularly as he intercuts the rich and powerful “club” kids living the life Mark longs for, the velvety seductiveness of the haves in sharp contrast to the laptop tappings of the have-nots.

The program crashes Harvard’s server and gets him called on the university carpet, but it also catches the attention of would-be power broker Divya Narenda (Max Minghella) and irritatingly entitled rich twins Tyler and Cameron Winlevoss (both played by Armie Hammer). The trio approaches Mark with an idea for a new networking site–“The Harvard Connection,” a school-wide apparatus for profiles, pictures, and so on. Mark jumps in, but decides almost immediately that he can do this thing better than they can; he builds on the concept, hits up his best friend–and occasional conscience–Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) for a grand or so in start-up funds, and launches his version, “the facebook.”

The complex saga of the rise of Facebook (and of Zuckerberg) is told in interlocking depositions (“I’m currently in the middle of two lawsuits,” Mark explains, somewhat impatiently), which sounds like the dullest imaginable framework for a narrative. But the picture gets a kick from Sorkin’s distinctive conversational rhythms and considerable skills as a wordsmith. The Social Network is a whirlwind of talk–invigorating, intelligent, fast-paced dialogue, from the throwaway lines to the occasional loquacious show-stopper. Every Sorkin script has one (Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” bit in A Few Good Men is the obvious example, though Baldwin’s “I am God” speech in Malice is nearly as quotable); here, it comes when the Winlevosses’ lawyer asks Mark, “Do I have your full attention?,” unleashing a perfect storm of Sorkinian attitude, snark, and barely-contained impatience. “You have part of my attention–you have the minimum amount,” Mark snaps. “The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?”

Performances are universally strong–Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman) is immensely likable and marginally heartbreaking, Hammer’s double-playing is simple but effective, and Timberlake, as the well-connected but semi-flaky Parker, handily sells his multi-layered portrait of the guy who knows all the angles but can’t quite hide his own rough edges. But Eisenberg’s is the breakthrough performance; as good as he’s been as shy, stuttering, would-be intellectuals in Adventureland and Zomiebland, this is a darker and more complicated piece of work. His performance here is somehow both showy and deftly underplayed–you get the sense, from that very first scene, that he’s already tired of always being the smartest guy in the room.

When The Social Network was announced, it seemed such an oddball project that snickers and jeers were the prevailing response (. But from the unveiling of its mesmerizing trailer, it was clear that this wasn’t just “the Facebook movie,” any more than Citizen Kane was a film about newspapers.