Todd McCarthy's Deep Focus

When Biography Becomes Legend, Print the Legend: Carlos and The Social Network

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • October 27, 2010 3:10 AM
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  • 8 Comments
With little more than two months left in 2010, two films released thus far this year loom over all the others. The many merits of "Carlos" and "The Social Network" have been amply appreciated by critics and most people who have seen them. But what the two films strikingly share is a biographical and historical scrupulousness up to a certain point, accompanied by an implicit willingness to use the built-in seductive and myth-making aspects of the cinema to turn biography into legend. Biographical films have always been with us, but in the Hollywood of yore the subjects were only occasionally still alive and if they were, they would either appear onscreen as idealized and airbrushed ("Sergeant York," "The Spirit of St. Louis") or sufficiently fictionalized to avoid libel charges ("The Miracle Woman," "Citizen Kane"). "Carlos" and "The Social Network," which center, respectively, on the lives of a notorious international terrorist and of the founder of Facebook, not only name names but are unflatteringly clear about the crimes of the former and (to put it kindly) the unfriendly behavior of the latter toward the crucial "friends" who helped him get where he got so fast.

Review: "Love and Other Drugs"

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • October 26, 2010 10:12 AM
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  • 4 Comments
After hiding them for years while turning out more grandiose historical and action films, director Ed Zwick's television roots show up vividly in "Love & Other Drugs," an enormously contrived and cloying romantic drama without a moment of believable reality to it. The appealing stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway try hard, real hard, to inject some credibility into the sexually charged relationship between a hotshot drug salesman and a heavily guarded young woman with early stage Parkinson's disease, and the fact that they appear naked in many scenes will pique curiosity among some. But Zwick's shtick keeps getting in the way, to the point that the film feels as much like a strained sitcom as it does a failed poignant love story.

Sally Menke Was An Ace

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 29, 2010 12:07 PM
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  • 9 Comments
My wife and kids heard the helicopters rounding overhead half the hot night, not knowing, of course, who or what they were looking for at the tops of Beachwood and Bronson canyons. Not until the next day did we learn the search was for our friend, Sally Menke, who had been missing since Monday morning after bidding goodbye to her hiking partner, who evidently had decided the heat was too much. But Sally and her black lab ventured on, as Sally, a longtime hiker, must have felt she could handle it. Police found her body, watched over by her dog, in a ravine in the hills at around 2:15 a.m. Tuesday. Since learning about it I've been able to think of little else, so distraught am I for her husband Dean and children Isabella and Lucas.

Review: "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole"

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 22, 2010 2:55 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Before embarking upon “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole,” somebody should have given more thought to the fact that it's really hard to tell owls apart. Especially when they're flying. This is just one of many reasons it's difficult to engage with this elaborate animated 3D adventure fantasy, which goes through all the motions of trying to create an owl-world mythology but, despite a stellar vocal cast, ends up feeling like a pale rehash of so many similar kid-friendly ventures that have come before. Zack Snyder's fans will be hoping he gets back to more heavy duty action in short order.

Review: "The Social Network"

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 20, 2010 11:56 AM
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  • 16 Comments
“This is our time!,” Justin Timberlake's Sean Parker exults to Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg by way of welcoming the Harvard Facebook creator to Silicon Valley, and the same thing can be said by everyone who had anything to do with “The Social Network;” David Fincher can make five more masterpieces, Aaron Sorkin can win an Oscar, Tony and 20 more Emmys; Timberlake, Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer and Mara Rooney can all be big stars for the next half-century, but it will rarely be as sweet as this, a film where not only does everything come together in a way that the whole is even bigger than the sum of its brilliant parts, but where the result so resonantly reflects the time in which it was made.

Review: "The Town"

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 16, 2010 9:17 AM
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  • 4 Comments
Is Warner Bros. trying to mold Ben Affleck into the new Clint Eastwood? Well, why wouldn't they? Studios don't maintain stables of stars anymore, but they can try to keep marquee talent happy enough to stay on the lot most of the time, much as Warners has done for Eastwood. Just when Affleck's acting career seemed to be down-shifting, his first film as a director, “Gone, Baby, Gone,” surprisingly suggested that he may have more to offer behind the camera than in front of it, and there's enough good about his new feature, “The Town,” to indicate that he may be that rare animal—a good-looking leading man who's also capable of making intelligent, well-crafted commercial films.

Claude Chabrol Knew How to Eat

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 16, 2010 5:58 AM
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  • 10 Comments
I only met Claude Chabrol once, but our encounter was one of the most unique and pleasurable times I've ever spent with a filmmaker.

Review | "Hereafter"

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 14, 2010 4:40 AM
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  • 0 Comments
There have been a helluva lot of deaths in the 31 feature films Clint Eastwood has directed, but I can't remember too many of the doomed characters in them giving much thought to the afterlife. How, then, to account for the flirtation with the idea that there's something out there bigger than all of us in “Hereafter,” a quiet, contemplative and absorbing inquiry into how jarring incidents can make you look at life from an entirely different perspective than you've done all along.? Is it that Eastwood, at 80, is ruminating about mortality in a way he never did before? Does it have anything to do with his beloved mother's death, at 96, four years ago? Or is it just that he liked Peter Morgan's atypical script, which offered one of the most prolific directors in the United States the opportunity to tackle yet another fresh and unpredictable topic?

A Bummer Trip for “2001” At The Egyptian

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 11, 2010 5:35 AM
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  • 13 Comments
The Ultimate Trip turned into a bad trip Friday night at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard when one member of the audience at a screening of the Academy's 70mm vault print of “2001: A Space Odyssey” tried to recreate the late '60s a little too aggressively.

Review | "The King's Speech"

  • By Todd McCarthy
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  • September 11, 2010 1:45 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Queen Elizabeth II got the royal screen treatment in "The Queen" four years ago and now it's her father's turn in "The King's Secret," another entirely engaging inside look at little-known goings-on among the Windsors. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush lead a splendid cast in this curious and ultimately quite moving story of an Australian speech therapist who endeavors to rid the future king of his stammer and enable him to speak in public as World War II looms. As audience-friendly as it could be, the film will provide a crucial test of the Weinstein Company's ability to maximize a title's potential, as this is the sort of Anglophilic crowd pleaser that routinely made fistfuls for the old Miramax.

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