Sunday 17 December 2017

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Forget about the banality of the world's most popular website -- this is about greed, jealousy and revenge


Drama. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Rooney Mara. Directed by David Fincher. Cert 15A

Based on Ben Mezrich's book, The Accidental Billionaires, The Social Network boasts heavyweight input with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, and the always-interesting David Fincher in the director's chair. Sorkin sets the scene with Zuckerberg in court facing two separate lawsuits, and cuts back and forth between the progress of these cases and the various stages in the growth of the globe-gobbling website.

Oddly enough, the inspiration for a supposedly 'social' network, where users are 'friends', comes from a classic, socially toxic, Billy-no-mates Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) being dumped by a fellow student (Rooney Mara) and retreating to his dorm where, in true nerd fashion, he sets up a site whereby students can rate the hotness of female co-eds -- with the girl who told him where to go being first up for 'judgement'. What a gentleman.

The crux of the movie centres on two chief points, namely the claim from Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) and the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer) that Zuckerberg stole the basic idea from them, and the compensation claim by Facebook's initial CFO and original investor Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), after he was effectively frozen out of the company when they moved to California.

So, despite all the guff about the wonders of technology and its power to bring us all closer together, what we're down to here is the basics of greed, jealousy and revenge -- all that old, good stuff.

The Social Network is unusual for a mainstream Hollywood movie (it has topped the US box office for the past fortnight) in that two of its central characters are shown to be dreadful human beings, with little empathy for anyone around them and no neat life lessons learned tidying things up in the final reel.

As Zuckerberg, Eisenberg gives a great performance as a man who may be a borderline genius when it comes to technology, but as a person is wired completely differently to the rest of us. And in a show-stealing turn, Justin Timberlake is wonderful as the arrogant and obnoxious Sean Parker, the man who invented Napster (following being dumped by a girlfriend, too), effectively destroyed the music industry and then pushed Facebook to a new level when he came on board.

Fincher, for whatever reason, has chosen to give the interiors a murky, underlit feel, which begins to wear somewhat after an hour or so, especially given that those computer lads aren't exactly noted for their love of the open air. Still, you could argue that this is a reflection of the dark undercurrents which underpinned the founding of the world's most popular website, and, as a story, The Social Network certainly holds up. HHHII


Animation. Starring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. Cert General

The bar for this year's animated movies was set reasonably high by How to Train Your Dragon and then lifted into the stratosphere with Pixar's brilliant Toy Story 3, so Universal's first entry into the lucrative field of 3D cartoons is up against competition of the highest stripe.

That it doesn't come up to stellar standards set by Pixar is only to be expected, but, after a somewhat wobbly start, Despicable Me finds its rhythm and cruises along in an easy, entertaining gear.

Voiced by Steve Carell, Gru is a towering, skinny-limbed ogre of a man, who has ambitions to be one of the world's greatest super-villains, but, as yet, hasn't quite managed to pull off any major coups.

However, with the assistance of scientific genius Dr Nefario (Russell Brand) and an army of amusing robot minions, his latest scheme is the most audacious of all: a plot to steal the moon and hold the world to ransom.

Requiring a shrink gun belonging to his arch-rival Vector (Jason Segal), Gru concocts a dastardly plan involving the adoption of three cute orphan girls to obtain the gun, which is where his problems really start.

There's nothing too jarring or really that exciting on offer here, but it fairly rattles along in an agreeable manner without pushing the boundaries of the form, either in the animation itself or the use of 3D. Pleasant enough, though. HHHII


Comedy. Starring Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Chris Riggi, Ken Jeong. Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Cert 12A

The very mention of the names Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer is enough to give most movie reviewers a fit of the abdabs.

This spectacularly talentless pair having worked as co-writers on the first three Scary Movie films before striking out on their own with Epic Movie, Date Movie, Disaster Movie and the appalling Meet the Spartans.

Their formula is cheap, simple and bewilderingly lucrative: take the basic plot of a recent genre favourite, recreate certain set-pieces as shoddily as possible, lob in references to pop culture and wait for the loot to roll in. Here, as the title suggests, it's the Twilight franchise that's getting the laugh-free treatment, but, bizarrely, it's not as execrable as it might have been.

Crass and obvious it most certainly is, but Vampires Suck didn't have me fleeing the cinema and demanding booze along the way like Meet the Spartans did. This is largely down to the fact that, as heroine Becca, Jenn Proske does a spookily accur- ate take-off of Kristen Stewart's mopey mannerisms as Bella Swan in the original, bloated movies.

It's still utter rubbish, of course. HIIII

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