Friday, July 23, 2010


Title: Salt
Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andre Braugher
Action/Adventure, Drama, Thriller
Running Time: 1 hour. 39 minutes
Release Date: July 23rd, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: Jolie is gorgeous, of course, that goes without saying. She does just as well as a lead action hero as any other Hollywood star, and the same goes for her ass-kicking skills. Her foreign language abilities are better then most (Daniel Craig in 'Defiance', anyone?), and she has the "if looks could kill" stare down pat. In fact, I prefer her stare down to a lot of other Hollywood actors. In fact, I would have her stare me down all day long, if I never had to see Gerard Butler try "the look" ever again. So what is the problem?

Well, the problem lies not with Jolie, nor with the rest of the cast. They are all doing their jobs well. The problem is the plot itself, as it is very weak. To pick on anything else, such as the ridiculous twists or the play with the laws of physics would be unfair. After all, this is a Hollywood blockbuster action flick. The ridiculousness comes with the territory.

If you are looking for action, things getting blown to pieces, death defying stunt sequences, and lots of combat, you've come to the right place. If you are looking for a grounded, realistic plot with well developed characters, and even the smallest hint of common sense, you really should not be looking to Hollywood for that, should you?

Grade: 6

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes)

Title: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes)
Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Hans Alfredson, Lennart Hjulström
Genres: Foreign, Thriller, Crime, Drama, Adaptation, Sequel
Running Time: 2 hours. 28 minutes
Release Date: October TBA, 2010 (United States)
MPAA Rating: R

Review: While currently not yet released in the US (the exact release date is still a bit murky, but it should hit select theaters this fall), this film is available in Swedish, and since I do speak the language, I decided to watch it.

The last installment of the Millenium trilogy is like a continuation of the second film, starting from the moment the last one ended (which were quite the cliff hanger). And while the the middle child of the series was a step down from the first film, 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest' brings the series right back up to previous glory.

For the third time, Noomi Rapace is the perfect fit for the female lead, although in this film, it is the rest of the cast that really drives the story line this time. The gritty Scandinavian film style is there, as always. The gripping tension is back, and 'The Hornet's Nest' really is a great end to the trilogy.

Grade: 8

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)

Title: The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)
Directed by: Daniel Alfredson
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Georgi Staykov, Paolo Roberto
Genres: Foreign, Thriller, Drama, Adaptation, Sequel
Running Time: 2 hours. 9 minutes
Release Date: July 9th, 2010 (United States) (Limited)
MPAA Rating: R

Review: Again, Noomi Rapace makes 'The Girl who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) worth watching with her captivating performance. She is born to play this role. The second film in the trilogy gives us more of the same raw, explicit Scandinavian film style as the first installment did, but the change in director gives the audience a more streamlined and clear experience. Furthermore, getting a bigger window into who Lisbeth Salander is, and how her past shaped her, is great.

The suspence, which was gripping in the first film, is less so in 'The Girl who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)', but not absent. I still found myself at the edge of my seat, waiting for the story to unfold, and that is after I have read the books! I'm hoping the third film cranks the suspense up to previous levels.

Grade: 7.5

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Title: Inception
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Lewitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine
Action/Adventure, Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller
Running Time: 2 hours. 28 minutes
Release Date: July 16th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: Visually 'Inception' is stunning, a marvel of imagination unlike anything that has come before it, and throughout the film I found myself staring, trying to take in every exceptionally created detail. The cast shines, their commitment to the story is evident in every scene. Marion Cotillard is as stunning as always, and both Page and DiCaprio are perfect fits, bringing easily believable characters to an unreal setting. Without their continuous and leading explanations, the audience could easily be lost.

Conceptually, in a time of tired remakes and dumb sequels, 'Inception' stands out as inventive and refreshingly intelligent. Nolan brings us to fantasy land, a fevered dream free of the normal laws of physics, where the restrictions of time and gravity no longer apply. If you let yourself go, you can come too, but this is no place to cling to reality by analyzing every detail.

With its 2 hours and 28, 'Inception' is long, and while it does cause some restlessness, the film is captivating enough to pull it off. One of the few Must See films of the year thus far, and one that will definitely make the Best of the Year list as well.

Grade: 9

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hater kvinnor)
Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Marika Lagercrantz, Peter Andersson
Genres: Foreign, Thriller, Drama, Adaptation
Running Time: 2 hours. 32 minutes
Release Date: March 19th, 2010 (United States) (Limited)
MPAA Rating: R

Review: I read Stieg Larssons books in Swedish last time I was in Europe, and it is a great story, very well suited for film adaptation. My Swedish friends and family have been raving about this film since it was released in Sweden, and I have been meaning to see it for quite some time. Since its US release was quite a while ago at this point, I thought I had lost my chance to see it on the big screen, but luckily one of the local independent theaters is still showing 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)'.

'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)' (the Swedish title literary means "men who hate women") is well made, brilliantly acted, dark, ultra violent, and produced with a distinctly Scandinavian style that is instantaneously recognizable. If you have seen any other Swedish murder mystery-type film (Wallander or Beck, for example), the naked, raw, unromanticized style will be familiar. If you haven't, I am sure you will notice it.

The first film in the trilogy is exceptionally violent, not in the Hollywood-esque blow stuff up way, but in a gritty, zoomed-in close, impossible to ignore way, and I found myself slightly shocked during parts of the film. With its 2.5 hours, the film is extremely long winded, but it is Noomi Rapace's amazing portrayal of the female lead which manages to make the film worth its length. I found myself wondering who will be able to carry this role in the Hollywood remake? What will Hollywood do to this story?

I would definitely recommend seeing the original, vs. waiting to just see the Hollywoodized version. Now, to see the rest of the trilogy.

Grade: 8