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Review: Catfish

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

The Social Network should have won Best Picture. It was the right movie at the right time done the right way. But that’s a different conversation.

This conversation is about Catfish, the other Facebook movie that came out last year and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. Presented as a documentary, it chronicles the story of a relationship between a boy and a girl, or rather a boy and an entire family, which happens to include a girl he falls for. The catch? Their whole relationship — Nev (the boy), Angela (the mother), Abby (the 8-year-old), and Megan (his huge crush) — all takes place over Facebook and phone calls. There are pictures, mailed packages, long conversations, and endless messaging, because Nev lives in New York and Megan’s family lives in Michigan.

But then Nev (and his filmmaker roommates) decide to fit a surprise visit to Michigan into a business trip. Nev wants to meet these people in person.

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Top 10 Movies of 2010 — and Many More

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Beware, many lists to follow. I’ll start with what I’m sure you’re really here for:

Best 10 out of ’10

Honorable Mentions — The Other Guys; The Next Three DaysSaltKnight and DayThe Karate KidThe Good, The Bad, and The WeirdThe A-Team; Iron Man 2Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Let me note that all of these are very worth watching, even though they didn’t make it to my top ten.

10. Easy A — This one came as kind of a surprise to me as I was winnowing down the list. But the truth is, I enjoyed this film too much to leave it off. Out of all the comedies this year, this one had the cleverest writing, and I haven’t been so impressed by a “teenaged” female character since Juno. Emma Stone is comedically brilliant.

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Review: TRON: Legacy

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

When I was a kid, TRON stood out as one of those landmark movies that shaped the way I thought about some things. I imagined that if you could get inside a computer, that was pretty well what it might look like. And the film transported my young mind to an entirely different world. The emotional impact was deep enough that I’m pretty sure it had a hand in convincing me, much later down the road, that I wanted to be a computer engineer.

I was wrong, of course. I realize now that I was much more mesmerized by the aesthetics of that world than I was by any kind of actual science or technology. I haven’t seen the original in… who knows how long, and I certainly have no recollection now of what it was about. What stuck was the world, so completely alien, so mesmerizing back in the 80′s.

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Review: True Grit

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

The Coens are at the point now in their careers where they get to make a new movie almost every year. I think we should all take a moment to contemplate how fortunate we all are.

I’m not going to say that Joel and Ethan Coen are incapable of making a bad film. I’ve heard that Burn After Reading was terrible from every single person who’s seen it. We’re all human here on this little planet, and I’d almost be disappointed if they don’t squeeze out another stinker sometime or another. But True Grit isn’t that film. Nope, it’s just another jewel in their crown of daunting cinematic achievement.

If the Coens have a signature style that permeates their work, it’s gotta be the dialog. They’ve labored within a wide range of genres, but the one constant is that the dialog is always fresh, sharp, poetic… perfect. And very often exactingly funny. Not once in any of their films does a single line of dialog come across as on-the-nose, cheap, trite or out-of-place. It’s a style of writing that lends itself quite well to the Western genre, actually, with all its stoicism and gruff subtextuality.

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Review: 127 Hours

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Deep breath… Okay.

This is such good filmmaking. I could go on and on about how great and amazing and whatever Danny Boyle is, but that would be foolish. Instead, I’ll do my best to try to capture with words and sentences some part of how I felt about his latest film.

127 Hours is about a guy who gets his hand stuck between a rock and a hard place for 127 hours before he ends up cutting his own arm off to get free. This is not a complex story — it is, by very definition, easy to follow. For the majority of the film, you don’t really go anywhere and the main character is limited in terms of what he can do to keep us entertained. Before it started inspiring critics to shout praises from the rooftops, there were a lot of people who were understandably skeptical about this kind of story’s ability to engage an audience for 90 minutes. I’ll go ahead and join the chorus of critics right now and tell you it’s not an issue.

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Best Christmas Movies

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

It’s about this time of year that people start shouting out what they believe to be the “essential” Christmas movies. What makes my list any more significant than anyone else’s? Nothing. And so I’ll begin. These are roughly in order from least Christmas-spirited to most Christmas-spirited. Enjoy.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Spoiler-Free)

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Is this my first Harry Potter review on Rhombus? I think it is.

Well then. You probably haven’t heard my theory. I’ll save it for the end so that you don’t decide to prematurely stop reading this review of the most recent film.

Firstly, let me emphasize the difficulty inherent in evaluating “part one” of a film that was created as two. So much of how I judge a film depends upon how satisfied I feel at its end. Was it emotionally effective? Did the characters’ actions and relationships fit together in a meaningful and reasonable way? Did it help me, as the audience, achieve any kind of catharsis?

This is a film without a climax. Despite starting in medias res, the first act was actually quite powerful, and the second act was great — for how far it got. Then it went and ended right in the middle of the second act.

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Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

This is not a DVD review. I don’t do those, although I probably should. I wish I was one of those people who watches all the special features on the DVDs. It would make me a better film scholar and filmmaker. But I’m not. Maybe I will be one day.

Anyway.

This is about the three times I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in theaters. I figured now would be a good time to say something, since the DVD did, in fact, come out a little over a week ago. And you should go buy it. It is one of the Five-Rhombi (out of five Rhombi) films of the year.

After being fantastically entertained and dazzled the first time through, I remarked to one of my film buddies that films like this don’t come along very often. He responded, “Yeah man. That Edgar Wright. He really puts a lot of time into his films to get them right.” And I realized that was it. Edgar Wright’s name as director had been my primary motivation for seeing the film in the first place, but even so, I was unprepared for his latest work. Films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz hint at what he’s capable of, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a miracle of a film.

The Social Network

Review: The Social Network

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Most people don’t pay much attention to screenwriters. I don’t know why. There is no better indication of whether you’ll love or hate a film than who wrote it. It’s not foolproof, of course, since maybe it’s the writer’s first feature. And sometimes a good writer can write a not-so-good script. Even so, everyone ought to spend more time looking into writers, because here’s a fact: you can’t make a good movie out of a bad script. And almost as fundamental is the notion that a good script almost never gets made into a really bad film.

Why is all this important? It’s probably obvious I’m about to tell you that Aaron Sorkin is one of the finest screenwriters alive. He has a knack for bone-breakingly brilliant dialog and dizzyingly complex characters. His previous work is spare but indisputably significant. You’ve certainly heard of A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!”), and perhaps you’re at least somewhat familiar with the critical sycophancy that followed all seven seasons of The West Wing. This man can write in a way that few mortals can.

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Review: Salt

Written by Jordan Petersen on . Posted in Film

Everyone in the world knows how hot Angelina Jolie is. Barack Obama is the United States’ first black president, Iran is making atomic weapons, and Angelina Jolie looks really good in tight clothing. It’s just one of the facts had by the entire international community.

And it is the fact that saved both Tomb Raider movies from ending up in a compost heap right after a direct-to-DVD release. Philip Noyce — who has in the past helmed Tom Clancy adaptations such as Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, as well as films like Bone Collector and Rabbit Proof Fence — seemed to have intrinsically understood that the world needed no further proof of Angelina’s iconic sex appeal. What she needed was a legitimate role as a kick-butt action-spy-hero. Tom Cruise has had it, as has Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and pretty much every other contestant for People Magazine’s ever-popular (and ambiguously relevant) Sexiest Man Alive.

So why not give one of the sexiest women alive a shot?
For those of you who are not nearly as obsessively tuned-in to the (film) industry, let me inform you that Salt was a first. The studio that gave it the green-light wanted to see whether a female actress could carry this kind of film — one which would be sold primarily upon its merits as an action thriller, and not on the thighs, hips, breasts or lips of the female protagonist. Believe it or not, this has never been done before. It almost didn’t happen this time either — Tom Cruise was actually on board before the script was re-written for Jolie.