OscaRank: Friend “The Social Network”

Did my dad just poke my mom?

Sometimes people are just plain jerks. Sometimes people are misunderstood. Sometimes people are just at the right place at the right time standing upon a precipice of the Next Big Thing (right Brock Lesnar? Obscure Wrestling Reference Warning!).  And then sometimes people are just so socially awkward that they come across as misunderstood jerks because they happened to come upon an improvement to an idea at the exact right time. I’m talking about how Facebook took the MySpace motif and gave it enough of a twist to make it interesting.

It happens all throughout history. Houses became improvements to caves. Guns became an improvement to pointy sticks. Labradoodles became an improvement to the bulky Labrador and wimpy poodle. Pizza became an improvement to picking up scalding cheese in your bare hand. Blackberry Messenger is an improvement to ICQ. Firefox and Chrome are improvements to NetScape Navigator. The list goes on.

It’s not stealing an idea if it’s an improvement of an existing idea.

The Social Network is an improvement to an existing movie formula. It takes the silly competitive drama that’s only found in university and combines it with a story of potential stolen intellectual property. Then wordsmith Alan Sorkin braids a true story with large strands of fiction.

No. This isn’t a 100% factual account of how Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Savarin, Dustin Mokovitz and Chris Hughes founded THE most influential website in history. This is a Hollywood dramatization of that story.

Here’s a secret. Life is boring. 98% of people’s lives (mine included) would be one big test pattern or the original Slap Chop commercial like this:

What Hollywood does is this as represented by DJ Steve Porter:

I think I’ve made my point.

So let’s be fair and look at this movie as what it is: entertainment.

The real star of this movie isn’t Jesse “I’m not Michael Cera” Eisenberg or the constantly surprising Justin Timberlake. Yet, each of their performances are levels above anything else I’ve ever seen them in. Eisenberg plays the socially awkward Zuckerberg who introduced and updated the best version of a social network around today. Think about that for a moment…it’s like Carrot Top actually making of of his toilet seatbelt for Taco Bell toilets an improvement over a regular toilet seat. I might’ve just compared Zuckerberg to Carrot Top. I apologize to both…but regret nothing!

The real star in this movie is the adapted script written by the incomparable Alan Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Sports Night, The West Wing) from Ben Mehzrich’s nonfiction book “The Accidental Billionaires”. The story is honest in it’s portrayal of collegiate life as a young twenty-something. The hazing, the acceptance, the need to be different and break out of whatever shadow you may be under, the sex, the drinking, the parties, the embarrassments and the quick assumptions. Sorkin’s smart script deserves every accolades it receives.

The actors, as talented as they are, would’ve needed to be very bad to not be able to follow the nuances that were put into the script. Not to say the cast couldn’t have made it their own…my point is that like a great recipe, sometimes you don’t need to add another dash of cilantro for it to taste good. Sometimes the writer is just good enough with his creation that the actor just needs to say the words with a medial level of competence and they’d have a Bobby Flay entree. Other times, the actor needs to become Bobby Flay to make it work.

The Social Network is intelligent, funny, enjoyable and, in moments, cringe worthy in that “Kevin says something unintentionally stupid on Wonder Years” kinda way.

And with Oscar nominating it for 8 naked golden dudes (Best Picture, Best Actor – Eisenberg, Cinematography, Directing, Film Editing, Original Music Score, Sound Mixing, Writing -Adapted Screenplay), the Academy is expecting big things from this one. As of this writing, they are the buzz to win it all this year…but I disagree. Amazing movie but see my other reviews to see which ones I think are better…

…a-choo!!!!!…(King’s Speech and True Grit)…a-choo!!!!!!!!!

9 inappropriate Pokes out of 10

When Rankatron analogies go wrong....

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RETRO-RANK: The Twelve Flicks of Christmas

Originally Posted December 4, 2008

With only one month left before Christmas, I felt that it was now safe to share this oldie but goodie. Like the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas, this one seems to get better with time and is one of my faves. So throw another log on the fire, make that nog a little stronger (you can still smell the nutmeg over the rum!), and find your most cozy position because Christmas movies get the full Rankatron treatment.

A friend of mine had asked me a few weeks ago, “Why don’t you rank up a list of best Christmas Movies of all time?”
I thunk to myself…yeah…why not?

Compiling and deliberating on this festive flick list took a lot of time, sacrificed candy canes, and soul searching.

The next question was: Should I include all those TV specials with the actual movies?

Those great and awesome stop-motion classics like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, or The Year Without Santa. How about the cartoons we all grew up with? Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, or A Charlie Brown Christmas (poor tree!). Or what about A Muppet’s Family Christmas where all the Muppets hooked up with the Fraggles and the Sesame Street gang at Fozzy’s mom’s house for some festive joy? Or the more recent Shrek the Halls or Colbert Christmas? Or the entertainingly offensive South Park offering Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo?

No…I’ve decided, much like how Santa rules with a velvet red gloved iron fist over the North Pole, to make this list purely movies…ones that have hit theatres at one point and have grown fond in our hearts as we grow older.

Also, as one caveat, I would like to say that I have not seen every Christmas movie in history. So people who will jump on me and say: “Where’s Babes in Toyland???” or “You didn’t include Bad Santa???” or, “Hey, I expected to see Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s To Grandma’s House We Go!”. To them, I say I’m only one man with one pen and one blog. If I do see them between now and then, I will be sure to see if they fit anywhere on this list. So get off my backs, Humbugs! 😛

So here are the TWELVE FLICKS OF CHRISTMAS all Ranked Up (and click on the titles for the trailers and other stuff!):

12. DIE HARD (1988) 7.5 Yippee-ki-ya-yay’s out of 10

Did I mention that this was my list and I’ve got Authorial Dictatorship of this? Besides, name one review that isn’t based on opinion. Regardless, this movie wouldn’t normally be considered a typical Holiday movie but it makes the list because it takes place over the Christmas Season. It’s a kick-ass action movie wrapped up in a gift with a Bruce Willis nougat centre. The original and still the best of the Die Hard series. Not only does this movie hold up after 20 years as an action movie, it actually makes you feel good at the end…and isn’t that what Christmas movies are all about?

11. THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994) – 7.8 Chubby Fat Suits out of 10

Many years ago, during the height of Tim Allen’s popularity, he made this: his first big screen flick. And with the exception of TOY STORY, probably his best. For the uninitiated, Tim Allen takes over as Santa Claus due to a “clause” at the North Pole which states that if the original Santa can no longer do his duties, the first to find him must take over. So Santa happens to slip off Allen’s roof and dies. A dark beginning but the movie does pick up from there with nutcracking laughter and festive cheer as Allen stumbles through a world that he hasn’t believed in since he was a kid. Well, believe in me when I say that it’s worthwhile to sit down and watch this on a nice holiday afternoon.

10. POLAR EXPRESS (2004) – 8 Golden Tickets out of 10

A train that magically rides anywhere and picks up kids…really? That you can really ski down on its roof while it goes down a hill…really? That can somehow lose control and pick up speed on an ice lake and manage to get back on a track perfectly while the ice cracks behind it…really really? Really. The magic about this movie isn’t its fantastically unrealistic sequences (really what movie isn’t unrealistic to some degree). The magic is in the characters as a boy learns to believe in Santa again thanks to a friendly conductor and a cast of wacky friends. This is a classic animated flick that holds up better than the previews give it credit for. Worth the watch. Really.

9. HOME ALONE (1990) – 8 Joe Pesci burning scalps out of 10

So a kid is left home alone for the Holidays while his parents and his Mormon-sized family shuttle off on a plane for Paris. This movie is an ultimate dream-come-true for any kid needing to get away from his family and the ultimate horror movie for any parent. Kevin (MacKaulay Culkin) fends off hunger, loneliness, and the dumbest thieves in the history of cinema in a rollicking sleigh ride for the Holidays. Like DIE HARD, HOME ALONE makes pain funny on Christmas. A nice movie with fun action.

8. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) – 8.2 spooky Santa’s out of 10

Back in 1993, Tim Burton introduced us to the dark morbid world of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. A world where Jack wants to spruce up Halloweentown and decides that kidnapping Santa would be the best way to figure it out. The cult flick is filled with catchy songs like “What’s This?” that will make you root for Jack as he uncovers the true meaning of the Holidays. If you’ve ever been curious over who’d win in a battle between Halloween and Christmas, sit down and watch this during that cold transition month called November.

7. SCROOGED (1988) – 8.5 spiked eggnogs out of 10

Remember that wonderful Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol”? Ever wonder what it would be like in the mind of Bill Murray? If you said “anal-rentative spirits, antlers stapled to mice heads, nuclear explosions, a zombie ex-boss, and Bobcat Goldthwaite carrying a shotgun”, you’d be exactly right. Not only would this movie make you laugh, its light-hearted horror makes you truly feel for Bill Murray’s character even though you think he deserves everything coming to him. Only weakness to this film is the gratuitous yet all too forced singing ending. But I can let it pass.

6. THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992) – 8.7 Cheeses for your Meeses out of 10

The last truly good Muppets Movie and a classic of a classic retold through the eyes of a weirdo named Gonzo and his rat buddy, Rizzo. Kermit and friends try to make ends meet at Christmas while Michael Caine’s Scrooge survives the onslaught of three creepy Muppet ghosts, one of which is probably the single best muppet ever created to this day. We’ve got Muppet comedy that will beckon you back to childhood, an album of some of the best Muppet tunes since THE MUPPET MOVIE, and a warm Fozzy feeling at the end. Sniff…

5. A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) – 9 tombstones out of 10

Yes, I know I did three versions of the Christmas Carol back to back to back but this is THE definitive version of the story. Alastair Sim shall always and forever be Ebeneezer Scrooge no matter how many other versions come afterwards. Whether you’re watching the original black and white version or the remastered in Technicolour version, you’ll feel the spirit of Christmas flowing through you like a nice festive version of ale. For those of you playing a drinking game at home: version.

4. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) -9.3 beard tugs out of 10

I wish more court cases where decided by people’s opinions being mailed via US Postal Service. Think of the OJ trial back in ’95…imagine if the prosecutor, realizing that he has no way to truly win the case received millions of letters all addressed to OJ saying that they know he’s guilty, and imagine the judge saying “Well, if the US Postal Service thinks he’s guilty, then I say he’s guilty,” then we wouldn’t have the second OJ trial today. But I don’t need the US Postal Service to confirm that I’m a guilty sucker for this movie. Right up to the end where you see ol’ Kris Kringle’s cane leaning against a wall in that empty house. You’re left knowing without a doubt that this is a special movie for all ages.

3. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) – 9.5 bailout loans out of 10

This Christmas movie about a banker losing money and faith in life right after the end of the Great Depression speaks volumes in today’s current economic climate. Mark my words, when we see the light of day at the end of this recession, there’s going to be a remake of this movie starring Jim Carrey. A remake of this movie has him all over it. Seriously. The brilliance of this movie is it’s simple story of love, life, and finding true happyness. I swear if Jimmy Stewart came to my door with his puppy dog eyes, I’d give him my home to save his business. A story of how bad things happen to good people and how good people find the strength and faith to carry on. This movie is a must-see at least once a year.

2. NATIONAL LAMPOONS CHRISTMAS VACATION (1989) – 9.8 shorted light circuits out of 10

For as long as I can remember, this here has been my favourite Holiday movie of all time. Chevy’s in his prime, the soundtrack is awesome, the action is hilarious, and you get Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Juliette Lewis, Randy Quaid, and Doris Roberts before they were famous. On any given scene, I could walk in and know exactly where we are in the movie and most often what the next line is going to be. And this movie is one of my staples. It’s over-the-top kitschy humour is what makes this movie so worthwhile and brings me coming back and begging for more dried turkey. And if there’s one scene that sums up this movie, it’s this one. Do yourself a favour and watch it before you end up in the nut house!

But regardless how good this movie is…this one trumps all…

1. A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) – 10 Red Ryder BB Guns out of 10

I only saw this movie for the first time a couple years ago. I don’t know why it took me so long to see this movie. My friends all have said that this was their favourite Christmas movie. “Better than Christmas Vacation??? Nothing’s better than Christmas Vacation! How can a movie where the trailer looks this cheesy (click here) be any good!!!!” I thought with absurd wonder.

Well, in the past couple years, this movie has grown on me and has tied for Christmas Vacation. The reason I place it above Vacation is simply because this IS the perfect Holiday movie. Fraught with Wonder Years-esque dialogue before there was a Wonder Years, filled with the sweaty, smelly, gritty Christmas cheer that we all experience this time of year at the malls, and teeming with child-like wonder, all Christmas movies should be seen through a child’s eyes like this one. There is no single bad scene and they’re all incredibly quotable:

RALPHIE NARRATING (on seeing he just got a pink bunny pyjamas from his Aunt): Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually 4 years old, but also a girl.

And if all that doesn’t sway you, I’ll let Siskel and Ebert try to bring it on home.

Well, that’s it! My top 12 Christmas Movies of all time!!!!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Freakin’ New Year…

…awww, heck…one more Ralphie clip for the road: Fa-Ra-Ra-Ra-Ra!!!!

Independence Day vs The Rankatron

Captain Steven Hiller: [talking to the unconscious alien he’s dragging] Y’know, this was supposed to be my weekend off, but noooo. You got me out here draggin’ your heavy ass through the burnin’ desert with your dreadlocks stickin’ out the back of my parachute. You gotta come down here with an attitude, actin’ all big and bad… [yells] and what the hell is that smell? [starts kicking the alien, yelling] I could’ve been at a barbecue! [kicks the alien one last time and calms down] But I ain’t mad.

If you're an alien, you're getting one right on the melon.

OK. OK. OK. I get it. Summer block busters don’t normally hold up after fourteen odd years have passed. One starts to notice the glaring plots holes, the bad acting, and other “creative” shortcuts that all gets cleverly disguised at first under hype, big action and bigger BOOMS! Then as time marches on, the varnish begins to rub off leaving nothing much left than a story…and if the story isn’t strong, a movie falls apart.

To make this simple, here are the things I noticed specifically on my most recent watch of ID4:

  1. Jeff Goldblum is a TERRIBLE actor in this movie. I remember at the time I liked him because I thought he had a quirky delivery. It made me laugh back then. Now…I cringe at how really really over-the-top it was. And drunk Goldblum near the end before they realized that he could use a virus to bring down the alien ships…why did no one else stop him from throwing crap around? Yes, it’s a crisis but there should’ve been just more than his dad (Judd Hirsch) and a passed out techie in the UFO hangar. A soldier? Another techie? An acting coach? They were probably all passed out drunk in another room. That’s the only explanation.
  2. Ignore the fact for a moment that it is possible for a late 90’s Mac could upload a virus to an alien computer. This would be like trying to use a Vic 20 to hack into an iTouch using BASIC. Ignore the fact that these aliens couldn’t see into the alien ship Will Smith and Goldblum had flown in because they closed the front window blind (and the aliens hadn’t developed video technology). Ignore the fact that the aliens…with ALL of their extremely advanced technology…still had to rely on OUR satellite system to coordinate an all out worldly attack (can you say convenient plot device?). Wouldn’t that mean that if the aliens attacked pre-Space Age, they’d be a mess trying to beat us all at once? And ignore the fact that we used Morse Code to communicate and coordinate a world attack WITHOUT satellites just prove how inept these aliens are. Better yet, don’t ignore any of those facts. I can see your ears bleeding.
  3. Ever notice that when the aliens are attacking the bases that none of the planes on the ground are ever hit in lieu of trucks, jeeps and Winnebagos? This could either mean: a) the planes are invisible to them on the ground or b) they perceive Winnebagos as more of a tactical threat than jets equipped with heat-seaking missiles. Go watch that scene…it’s true!
  4. July 2nd: Exciting beginning. Still gives me chills.
  5. July 3rd: Snore. I actually dozed off. Might be one part because I don’t have a crazy good TV sounds system, another part because the version of the movie I had been on VHS, and a final part because the story weaknesses really drug the middle down.
  6. July 4th: YAY! AMERICA WINS! (and the rest of the world…) But the final battle is still fun and (as hard as it is to admit this) the President’s speech is Obama-quality.
  7. How did the aliens know what all of the world’s landmarks were and aimed for them? Did they pick up a Frommers?
  8. There’s a LOT of bad acting in this movie. I know I picked on Goldblum at the beginning but really it was a cast wide epidemic. Maybe the aliens were coming to save us from that.
  9. …with one exception: Will Smith. Solid all around performance. It’s why after this movie he became a bankable action star. But he still owes me $20 for Hancock.
  10. The special effects or CGI still holds up on par with anything that’s out there today. Except maybe Avatar. The best part of the movie.

So when they re-release the 3D version of this movie right before the two sequels come out (and they will do this because ID4 missed out on the 3D IMAX innovation), I’ll be the first in line to see it. Because I’m a sucker. And I like fun action movies. And I hope they include this scene in it:

Having said that, considering the sheer known quality of other movies on this list, I’ve got to be harsh and nitpicky with this ranking.

6.5 Wonder Years Dad sightings out of 10

I dug for this one folks!

(and you thought that reference in my previous blog pre-amble was just for fun.)