October was an even busier month for cinema than September, with 6 films in total:
Winter’s Bone is a grim story of desperation in an isolated community. A young girl is forced to raise her brother and sister due to an ill mother and an absent father. When said father skips bail, she’s forced to look for him in places where she should not be asking questions. The film is vicious and dark, and paints an interesting picture of a rural family. It’s well put together, but features some fairly unnecessary moments of questionable animal scenes. That aside, it’s a good film. (See my Winter’s Bone Twitter review).
The Town is a surprisingly good crime-thriller, following bank robbers in Boston as they become more involved in a job than they should. The story stands up by itself surprisingly well, with very little waste. There are some good performances too, with Jeremy Renner as particularly notable. A few too many establishing shots aside (yes, I know we’re in Boston, move on), Ben Affleck does a great job in the director’s chair. Along with Gone Baby Gone, he’s showing some real talent on that front. Well worth seeing. (See my The Town Twitter review).
Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake show the problems with mixing business and pleasure in the story of Facebook, The Social Network. While I’m sure the story has been dramatised more than a little, it’s a good one, and well-structured. Framing the story through the telling of two lawsuits against Mark Zuckerberg gives the film the pace it needs to be interesting, without losing the audience. David Fincher proves himself again as a must-see director, with a real mastery of storytelling and simple, clean visuals (even if the reality of a shot is much more complicated). A good story. (See my The Social Network Twitter review).
The original Wall Street was a classic movie, capturing a time and place perfectly through a story of loyalty, betrayal, decency and the shady face of capitalism, Gordon Gekko. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, at best, captures a fairly flimsy, dumbed-down vision of the same environment two decades on. It fails on a number of fronts: the dialogue is awful, the acting is perfunctory, the direction is scattershot, and the story is nonsense. Frank Langella puts in a great early performance and is easily the best member of the cast, while the character of Gordon Gekko shows some promise in his behind-the-scenes trickery. We’re never shown why we should care about any of the other characters, so we simply don’t. By the time the cringeworthy final act appears (“See? They’re not such bad guys. Let’s have a party!”), you’ll care very little about this waste of film. Avoid. (See my Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Twitter review).
In Despicable Me, Steve Carrell really helps sketch a great villian in the shape of Gru, the evil mastermind who feels underminded by his mother and feels he has to out-do his rivals. At first, he’s a little Wile E. Coyote, but quickly finds a sweet side that adds some depth. That’s where this film delivers: as a sweet film about a grouchy villian finding his humanity. Funny and fun. (See my Despicable Me Twitter review).
Finally, Paranormal Activity 2 serves as a prequel of sorts to the events of the first film, but fails to capture the simple but effective scares on show there, going for louder and bigger moments. Some of them work for sheer shock value, but it quickly pales by comparison. Given the horror in this kind of film is rooted in suspension of disbelief, casting Sprague Grayden as one of the bigger characters was a mistake. While she puts in a great performance, it was impossible to take her seriously in the role given her work on some big TV shows (24, Jericho, Sons of Anarchy). If you’re looking for a Halloween scare, you could do worse, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it. (See my Paranormal Activity 2 Twitter review).
Another tough month to pick a winner. The Social Network and Winter’s Bone came very close, but I think The Town wins on the grounds of sheer enjoyability.