★★★ / ★★★★
Three college students (Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, Emma Bell) decided to go snowboarding in the mountains. They didn’t have enough money so the girl had to flirt with the conductor of the chairlift (Ed Wackerman) in order for them to gain admittance. During the trip, there was a lot of growing tension between Lynch and his best friend’s girlfriend because Lynch felt like the trip should have been more about bonding with Dan instead of teaching Parker how to snowboard. Eventually, their luck turned against them when the trio found themselves stuck in chairlift while on their way up the mountain for a final run. I enjoyed “Frozen,” mostly in parts, because it was able to take something as simple as sitting on a chairlift and making it a horrifying experience. It played upon what most people are afraid of: heights, freezing to death, and being eaten alive. As grim as their situation was, I was glad that it had unintentional laughs and some uncomfortable chuckles, such as when Parker couldn’t help but scratch the frostbite on her face, in order to break some of the tension. With situational horror pictures like this, it’s too easy to get caught up in being one-note because the filmmakers, especially independent projects, want their work to be taken seriously. There were some gross-out moments like when Parker woke up, found her hand stuck on the safety rail, and had to peel it away slowly. It was messy, bloody and worthy of every flinch it got from me. However, I wished the characters were smarter. One of them decided to jump off the chairlift early on. Naturally, we knew it wasn’t going to work because it was too early in the movie for the solution to be handed to us. Regardless, I kept asking why the character felt the need to jump when there were other options they could have tried prior. There was one solution I came up with which was not used in the film (but it did come close). If one of the three had been a Physics student, they probably would have thought about unscrewing the chairlift from its support and used it to break their fall. There was a chance they could still get hurt, but it beats foolishly jumping off and breaking one’s bones. Nevertheless, I admired the film’s simplicity. There was no serial killer so it felt believable. It was a battle between man and nature. I felt that with each passing minute, the characters’ desperation became that much more intense. There were some questionable logic (like none of the three was ever thirsty) but those could easily be overlooked by most audiences. Maybe on their next trip (assuming there is a next one), Dan, Lynch and Parker could put their destination on their Facebook status. That way, if they didn’t show up for class, people who cared about them would know where to look.
★★★ / ★★★★
Yaniv “Nev” Schulman’s friend and brother, Henry Joost and Ariel “Rel” Schulman, decided to make a documentary about Nev’s communication, through Facebook and occasional phone calls, with a family in Michigan. Abby, the youngest of the family, e-mailed Nev claiming that she loved his photographs so much that she decided to make a painting off one of them. Apparently, her paintings were being sold for thousands of dollars. Eventually, Nev and Megan, Abby’s older sister, began to Facebook, text, and call each other. Everything seemed to be going well; Nev was especially happy because he genuinely believed that he found someone he could be in a serious relationship with despite the fact that they haven’t met in person. However, after discovering pieces of information that did not quite add up, the trio surmised that Megan might not be telling the truth. Nev, Henry, and Rel went on a road trip to Michigan to get to the bottom of things which was tantamount to opening Pandora’s box. “Catfish” was a fascinating documentary because I was convinced that everything that was happening wasn’t real. After all, who would wait about eight months to Google someone they haven’t met in person yet had all sorts of correspondences with that person? Regardless, I went along with it because the subject matter was creepy. I had so many questions I wanted answers to such as who Megan really was, whether Abby was really a gifted child artist, and what would happen once the three got to Michigan. There were times when it got downright scary. When the New Yorkers visited a farm in the middle of the night, which Megan supposedly owned, I expected them to get caught and get shot. You just don’t drive in the middle of nowhere and spy on someone else’s land. Other times, it was just sad. Either Nev was a really good actor or Nev really did fall hard for Megan. One scene that stood out to me was when Nev decided to read to the camera some of the texts he and Megan sent each other over the course of their flirtation. It was very personal, undoubtedly hilarious, and embarrassing. There was a certain sadness to it because Nev couldn’t believe he was tricked into believing that he found a potential girlfriend. What “Megan” did was very cruel but, as strange as it sounds, I was able to emphathize with her. Indeed, the trio did meet her. The film wasn’t necessarily about a critique of Facebook, but more about the dangers of being a part of social networks over the internet and easily allowing strangers to enter our lives just because they have a profile page. Even though the filmmakers did not directly address the issue of privacy, it was obvious that we should take more precautions concerning people we choose to interact with online.
The Social Network (2010)
★★★★ / ★★★★
The first thing I did after watching David Fincher’s “The Social Network” was log on Facebook to check if I had any notifications. Whether one’s feeling toward Facebook and other social networking sites be love or hate, no one can deny the fact that such simple inventions changed how people communicate. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) desperately wanted to fit in Harvard when he was an undergraduate. He wanted to get into a private club but he didn’t have the means. He was smart but he wasn’t likable. In fact, he was far from likable. When his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) broke up with him, he went up to his dorm room and posted insults about her body and her family on LiveJournal. His only real friend was Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) who also wanted to belong. Eduardo’s emotional intelligence was higher than his friend’s. Eventually, the two became partners in creating Facebook but when it was launched, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) claimed that their idea was stolen. Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), founder of Napster, came into the picture in order to bring Facebook to an international level. The film benefited from very strong performances from Eisenberg, Garfield, and Timberlake. I was delighted with Eisenberg’s performance because even though I’ve seen him play nerd-chic multiple times prior (with relative ease), I felt like this was his most complete and challenging performance yet. I hated him, I rooted for him, I hated him some more, and I felt sorry for him. The final shot of him refreshing a certain someone’s Facebook page was pitch-perfect because it showed that despite all the money and the acclaim, he had nobody so his life felt empty. Garfield, who’s been doing fantastic independent work for a while, is finally given the spotlight past overdue. He had a lot on his plate because he was the heart of the picture. He was David who had to face multiple Goliaths equipped with brains. We all knew it would take more than a slingshot and some pebbles for him to, not necessarily succeed because we all knew what would ultimately happen, but to take what he deserved. I was invested in his character because he struggled to remain loyal to his friend even though his friend had no sense of loyalty to him. Lastly, Timberlake did a wonderful job playing Parker, a fierce and forward-thinking businessman who knew exactly he wanted and wasn’t afraid to grab whatever he desired even if it was on someone’s else plate. His ego was probably as big as his ambition to be relevant again. Fincher’s confident direction mixed with Aaron Sorkin’s intelligent script made a wonderful film that highlighted not just the story of college students lives’ being broadcasted over the internet or the drama of the creation of Facebook, but also the highly ambitious, although sometimes misguided, natures of young adults today.
★★★ / ★★★★
I love zombie movies because I’m fascinated with the idea of the dead taking over the world of the living. (Did I mention I have nightmares about zombies?) Not to mention zombie flicks usually have social commentaries which were not absent in this little gem. “Zombieland,” directed by Ruben Fleischer, stars Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus, who wants to make his way to Ohio to be reunited with his parents. On the road, he meets Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, a man on a mission to find Twinkies; Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as Wichita and Little Rock, respectively, sisters who initially look innocent but turn out to have a knack for survival. The very “28 Days Later”-like gathering of very different people was smart because all of them yearned for that rare human connection in a world full of flesh-eating monsters. All four of them eventualy head to Southern California in order to find refuge with other humans. I love this movie’s self-awareness. It seemed to know its strengths which were highlighted in the beginning of the film as Eisenberg described his survival guide. It was done with such craft because the jokes were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny so the realization that it was all a gimmick later on became insignificant. The flashback scenes were done well, especially how Eisenberg’s character reflected on how much of a loser he was back when humans still ruled the planet–staying in on a Friday night playing video games, not socializing with people, and not getting enough attention from girls. A lot of people compare him to Michael Cera but I think there’s an important difference between the two. I think Eisenberg’s awkwardness is edgy and his characters usually have a certain toughness. Cera’s awkwardness, on the other hand, is softer and cuter–the kind that makes you go “Aww” and maybe pet him afterwards. That awareness was also highlighted via pop culture references from Russell Crowe, Facebook to Ghostbusters. Comparisons to “Shaun of the Dead” is inevitable because it is a horror-comedy about zombies. But I think “Zombieland” is a little scarier because the characters didn’t stop to analyze a zombie, imitate, and make quirky comments about them. All of that said, I had one problem with the film. I thought it slowed down a bit somewhere in the middle because it spent too much of its time showing the characters bickering on the road. It got redundant and such scenes could have been taken out and instead added terrifyingly slow suspenseful scenes. Lastly, I thought the final showdown at the carnival was inspired. The movie was able to find ways on how to kill zombies using the rides or the characters using the rides to their advantage. It made me want to ride a rollercoaster right then and there. I’ve read audiences’ reviews about how surprised they were with how good the movie was. To be honest, right after I saw the trailer for the first time, I had a sneaky feeling that it was going to be good. It certainly didn’t disappoint and in some ways exceeded expectations. If you love zombie movies, blood and guts, cameos, and pop culture allusions all rolled into one, then see this immediately. It’s total escapism and it has the potential to get better after multiple viewings.