Will “Social Network” Play In Peoria?

The new Facebook movie is time well spent but will the non-geek enjoy it?

Thanks to Columbia Pictures and Social Media Breakfast MSP, I was able to check out an advance screening of the soon to be released “The Social Network”. The movie is based on the 2009 book “Accidental Billionaires”, the story of the rise of Facebook and it’s founder Mark Zuckerburg. (Leave it to a movie about a social network to get me blogging again after a long absence.)

What lured me to this movie, beyond of course my ongoing interest in Social Media, was the writing and cast. I’m a fan of Aaron Sorkin, known by most as the writer for TV’s “The West Wing”, and I was anxious to see this latest offering. I was also interested in the young cast, many of whom you may have never seen or known you’ve seen. I was particularly interested in seeing Justin Timberlake. From N’Sync to SNL and everything in between, this cat has proven himself to be very talented.

Since many in the audience secured seats through SMBMSP, this was a group of social media enthusiasts and expectations were high. We in this space tend to share everything that we do while we do it via Twitter and photo sharing. Since this was an advanced screening where the studio didn’t want anything to get out, we were asked to surrender our mobile phones. So the entertainment began early as many in the theater showed visible signs of social media withdrawal. Heck, many couldn’t even tell the time with out it. (One word: wristwatch.)

The Review

Both cast and writing did not disappoint. Jesse Eisenberg brought a real complexity to Zuckerburg. Between his handling of Zuckerburg’s anti-hero persona and the need to convey his almost autistic like behavior, he managed to portray a passionate asshole. Someone you can’t help but like and despise at the same time.

Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Facebook Co-Founder Eduardo Saverin provided a great counterpoint to Eisenberg’s Zuckerburg as a ‘brilliant in his own right’ room-mate that provided the root of what Facebook becomes. He is lovable and naive as one of the many jilted participants in the founder’s rise to brilliance.

I’m also happy to say that Timberlake impressed as the founder of Napster. He is the one who hypnotizes Zuckerburg with his confidence, arrogance, and vision of what the Silicon Valley lifestyle could be; an endless whirlwind of coding, drugs, coding, booze, coding, and babes. Oh yeah..and money.

“The internet’s not written in pencil Mark, it’s written in ink.”

I think you’ll also dig the performances of: Armie Hammer in his dual role as the Winklevos twins and Rooney Mara as the girl who pushes Zuckerburg to spend the night coding his revenge for her dumping of him over beers. Those parents of young kids will be happy to see Disney Channel star Brenda Song make the leap to the big screen as Facebook “groupie”. An though the plot twist is somewhat unnecessary, she becomes less than wholesome as she proves to be a bit whacked as Eduardo’s girlfriend.

Sorkin’s writing shines as his face-paced, sarcastic, and caustic wit works well in the telling of a story that is itself all of those things. He provides great lines for Zuckerburg that are funny and sad and cutting…all at the same time. He also brings out the telling traits of the Winklevoss twins as they establish themselves as a coders nemesis; the “suits” that are the business of the web. Oh…the music from Trent Reznor also seriously does not suck.

Hello Peoria

Speaking of that business of the internet…My question is, as the saying goes, “Will it play in Peoria?” The audience, with whom I shared the theater, were of the business or at the very least a participant in it, clearly enjoyed the film. I’m sure most would give it thumbs up, 5 stars, 5 tweets, or whatever. Will the average person enjoy it? Is Joe six-pack interested in the rapid rise of Harvard internet geek with a hoodie obsession to billionaire with access to an infinite number of bytes of information…with a hoodie obsession?

Obviously, time will tell once the movie is released October 1st. I find it difficult to detach myself from my own workings within the space. Being part of media makes it difficult to not critique it. (I    still turn up the radio when the music stops.) But, if you are into some fast-paced writing, clever dialogue, good character development and a dash of Animal House this is a movie for you.

Of course, if you are a fan of the lure of Silicon Valley millions, all night computer coding, actually believe that “the babes” love a successful geek, or are even a rabid Facebooker and tweeter, with a taste for Animal House, this is also for you…whether you live in Peoria or not.

Now, That’s Incredible Mobile

Some time back I shared that I would be leaping from my steam driven and coal fired Palm Treo to the then brand spanking new Palm Pre. I was met with a price plan that prohibited me from making that commitment. Thank God! I was thankfully spared from investing in what my friend Lisa Foote now calls “a dead phone walking.”

Since that time I have been patiently waiting for a phone that fulfilled my mobile needs. One that offered all the utility I seek (fast web, good service, access to apps, plenty of power) while still having a look and feel that didn’t say, “I’m sensible..not sexy.” I have a Volvo wagon that handles that just fine, thanks.

Last week the fine folks at Verizon offered me a chance to take the HTC Incredible, officially labeled the Droid Incredible, for a spin. The Incredible is on my short list of phones to which to commit, along with the iPhone (on anything but AT&T), or the HTC EVO and I was anxious to put the phone and it’s Android platform through it’s paces.

Disclaimer: This won’t be an overly “techie” review. Those who develop and program for the smartphone market are far more qualified to do that. In fact, Breon Nagy does a stellar job in his latest review. Mine will be from a more hands on “do all the bells and whistles really work for me” viewpoint. Yes, there will be a bit of spec verbiage, but I’ll try and answer the “Yeah, but what does that mean.” questions. Should you crave a little geek speak, you can see the full specs here.

Let’s get started. When unboxing this phone I distinctly heard a distant chorus of angels. Now hold up…this isn’t an all sunshine and rainbows review…there are some things that bother me about this phone, but Verizon’s Incredible delivers a damn good looking phone, so I was visually impressed right away. It’s a look and feel is sleek and sexy, something the flagship Droid, with it’s hard edges and multi-layer design, failed to deliver. The front slick black design with only a small, well recessed track-ball and the slightly rounded edges of the device feel good in the hand. The “topographical” back puzzles me a bit but it’s flat black finish does make it easier to hold on to what looks as slippery as a buttered newt.

I’m not thrilled by the narrowness of the phone in my rather long hands, nor am I crazy about how the camera lens of the hefty 8 megapixel camera protrudes so much, but the features and benefits of both make it easy to get past this. My guess is that a protective case will alleviate both issues should you decide to use one.

The Incredible is currently “state of the art” in the Android arena. Running on Android 2.1 (the latest version) and offering 3G connectivity this bad boy is plenty powerful. Upon turning the phone on with the top mounted power button the 3.7 inch screen jumped to life. It’s clear, colorful and easy to read. I even found it so in direct sunlight.

The phone offers good-looking wallpaper choices including “Live” wallpaper. The moving colorful wallpaper would have kept me entertained for hours back in the partying’ days of college. Kinda like your own little Who concert light show. The ability to customize the desktop to your liking is available in seven different screens. These screens are part of the Sense user interface and allow you to divide up the content the way you want as well as offering established themes (Travel, Social, etc.) with a host of available widgets.

Being a big fan of a real keyboard I was concerned about adapting to the virtual keyboard the Incredible sports. I was pleasantly surprised. The “keys” are quite large in landscape but even in portrait view, I had little to complain about. The web browsing and access was lightning quick (relatively speaking) thanks to the Snapdragon processor.

I was able to take advantage of some of those apps and widgets I mentioned during the short time I had the phone. I navigated to a few destinations with the turn by turn directions offered as part of Android Google maps app and tried a host of Twitter apps (ultimately settling on HootSuite Lite). I was looking forward to using the the FM radio app, which requires you to plug in earbuds for an antenna. In a word, the FM radio blows. Reception was poor even with strong city-grade signals. Consumers always name the FM tuner as a feature they want included in their MP3 device. It’s too bad this doesn’t deliver more than the look of FM and not the sound.

My MP3 library sounded fine and allowed me the appropriate amount of crankage for individual tracks. The hefty amount of on-board memory and the SD card slot offers plenty of room for even the heftiest of libraries. App-wise, I found easy access to most of what I was looking for in the Marketplace and the phone offered no hiccups or problems as I added and deleted applications.

Of note is that third party applications available for the phone will require that SD card to run them. The card easily plugs into the side of the phone under that back cover and Verizon will give you a free 2GB card if you purchase an Incredible before May 31st. This is a memory management thing that I’m sure will be fixed in later versions. But for now the extra space you get with the card doesn’t hurt!

The camera quality is a real standout for the phone…OK, it kicks ass. The 8 megapixel camera delivered great photos and video recording. My iPhone lovin’, 3 megapixel camera slave colleagues were quite impressed. The dual LED flash is a nice addition for indoor shooting though it can leave subjects a bit washed out if you’re too close.

With a device such as this battery life is always a concern. Though I gave the Incredible quite a work out, I didn’t find myself cursing a low battery. I spent the entire day live blogging and Tweeting from the Minnesota High Tech Association conference and had no issues. I used up about 3/4 of the battery but the ability to charge the phone via it’s USB cable (and included wall adapter) made it easy to get a little bump when needed.

A quick note about coverage area. Being one who is currently a free agent when it comes to cell service (I’m out of contract on all three of the phones in my account) I was anxious to get a taste of the Verizon network. While I never dropped a call, the “one bar” of service I get at my home south of Minneapolis is not better than my Sprint coverage. In downtown Minneapolis, I wallowed in four screaming bars and 3G…but I don’t live there. Kind of disappointing…but not a deal-breaker.

Why? Because this phone is all that and a bag of chips. I think the whole quest of the “iPhone killer” is pointless (though incredibly flattering to Mr. Jobs and company) but you would have to consider the Incredible on par with it. Maybe it’s the iPhone “wounder”.  The phone delivers ease of use, plenty of power, all the apps you’ll really need and access to a rabid Android community. That community is so into the platform they will gladly step out and help any “noob” who needs some assistance.

Pre-orders are being taken now online and the phone itself hits stores on April 29th. The cost is set at $199.00 including a 2-year commitment and after an instant rebate. You’ll need the voice and text plan data plan as well as the data plan to use the Incredible. If you go with an individual plan, you’ can get into this bad boy for about $80 a month.

(Photo courtesy of Pixar and Phandroid)