Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quick Hits on 5 Movies

1. Source Code - B. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a tool of the military used in an experimental program for data extraction. He can travel back in time to repeat the 8 minutes prior to a bomb exploding on a train in order to try and find the bomber. Not exaclty mind-blowing, but I didn't mind the existential dilemma and the acting was good from a quality supporting cast (Jeffrey Wright, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monaghan). A nice little 96 minute film.

2. Girl With a Dragon Tattoo - B+. My first reaction to hearing the news that David Fincher was remaking the original film, I was disappointed because I felt like it was a waste of time and a Fincher film. Even though I enjoyed the Fincher version very much, I still feel that way. Doc's review is right on. I loved the sound and score of the film, and the last hour was electric.

3. The Help - B+. I expected to hate this mommy book club film, but found it surprisingly touching and interesting. Great performances all around, especially from Jessica Chastain (exact opposite of her Tree of Life character). Plenty of cringe-worthy message moments and female stuff I just don't get, but it is definitely worth your time.

4. Warrior - B+. Priest raved about this one, and even still I had low expectations. I loved the darkness and its resistance to cliches. The uniqueness of the ending and the real damaged people on display were a treat. I was riveted.

5. The Change-Up - B-. Director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) does the classic changing places film with Jason Bateman as the sturdy father/lawyer and Ryan Reynolds as the loser bachelor guy. After they switch places, they have to play each other's roles. This one was roundly panned, but I laughed at several of the jokes. Not bad.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - A-

In theaters, Rated R for everything

David Fincher received unwarranted criticism for male chauvinism for 2010's The Social Network. But there's at least 3 great female characters - 2 lawyers and Rooney Mara's Erica Albright. Fittingly, Fincher's next film contains the greatest pop culture heroine since Marge Gunderson: Lisbeth Salander - the unforgettable tattooed, pierced, violent, bisexual computer hacker with a photographic memory. And Fincher chose Mara to play her - obviously appreciating her tough-talking, no-nonsense style. But she does plenty more than talk this time around . . .

If you've read Stieg Larsson's book or seen the original 2009 Swedish film, you'll remember journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig this time) losing a court battle and his credibility because of unproven allegations about a rival. He's hired by a rich family's patriarch (Christopher Plummer) to investigate a girl's disappearance 40 years prior. Eventually, Blomkvist enlists the help of Salander and the 2 uncover many horrific crimes involving rape, torture, murder, Nazis, child abuse, racism, and Old Testament justice.The cold Scandinavian feel of the original film is replaced by that distinctive Fincher feeling. While the original had the element of surprise, Fincher's stark visuals (the camera attached to Lisbeth's motorcycle, the slow approach to the houses, a clock subtly showing that Craig is enraptured by Plummer's story, etc.) easily compensate. Mara is surprisingly great both with emotion and accent. My favorite moment in the film is the look on her face when Craig says, "I want you to help me catch a killer of women." (see top photo) Craig is relaxed and natural - and just as good giving the opposite performance of James Bond - more passive, cerebral, and weathered. I loved the way he frequently tinkered with his glasses to help himself think.

The supporting cast (including 1980s bad guy Steven Berkoff, the noble Christopher Plummer, ER's Goran Visnjic, the still-beautiful Robin Wright, and Swedish native Stellan Skarsgard) is superb - some giving career best work. Steven Zaillian's script is excellent though lacking the Aaron Sorkin one-liners - which is fine since the film is supposed to be more deliberate and thought-provoking. The music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross lacks the melodies and originality of The Social Network but is perfectly appropriate for the pitch black subject matter and frozen landscapes.

The major flaws are an ill-advised opening credits sequence (which was way too James Bondish) and the film's uneven pacing - by trying to include the entire book, the film lacked fluidity and contained too many tangents and characters to keep straight. Though I imagine that will be remedied with repeat viewings. And I plan a lot of them. A-

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