Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Title: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Elodie Yung
Genres: Adaptation, Drama, Thriller
Running Time: 2 hours. 40 minutes
Release Date: December 21st, 2011
MPAA Rating: R

Review: I loved the books, as well as the original Swedish movie adaptation (read my review here), so it was with some trepidation that I watched the Hollywood-ized adaptation.

And Fincher's version of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' is good. The script has been altered quite a bit, some for the better, and some for the worse. I did really enjoy the fact that they still filmed it in Sweden (which happens to be my home country), but that may be my own bias, since several people I went with specifically mentioned this as one thing they didn't like.

Personally, my biggest gripe with the remake is Lisbeth herself. In the Swedish version, this character is brought to life in one of the most authentic performance I've seen in a while. Noomi Rapace climbed into this fictional character, and basically lived as Lisbeth Salander for 3 years, while filming the trilogy. She IS Lisbeth.

Here, we get to see the Hollywood version of Lisbeth, and it is a stark contrast. While they look very similar, this Lisbeth is more surface, less substance. Instead of showing us who she is, she tells us. Instead of the quiet threat of Rapace's Lisbeth, we here have a Lisbeth who screams in people's faces to show her aggression. At the same time, the fragile vulnerability of Rapace's Lisbeth is absent in Mara's Lisbeth, and the space left behind is stuffed with stereotypical clichés. While the Swedish Lisbeth would never care if Michael sees someone else, the Hollywood Lisbeth is miffed and jealous, something that doesn't quite gel with this emotionally detached character. Furthermore, I wish the dragon would have been left alone. I much preferred it when it ripped it's way out of Lisbeth's entire body, instead of the small dragon on her shoulder we see here. The change is quite telling.

That is not to say that Mara's version is weak. Far from it. If hers was the only portrayal of this character, it would be a very strong performance. However, as it is, the original portrayal was better. I do hope, as the remake trilogy continues, that Mara brings some more substance to her version of Lisbeth.

The strength of the American version, much to my surprise, is Daniel Craig. His performance as Mikael Blomqvist is excellent. It's one of, if not the, best performance of his career. I find myself looking forward to where he will take this role in the following two films. Well done, Mr. Craig.

The Swedish films are raw, with a typically Swedish starkness, and every scene brings the story forward. The Hollywood version is more jagged, at some moments very much so. Some bits of the story have been scrambled for "movie making reasons", so fans of the book series will be surprised here and there. While it may be unfair to judge a remake film against its predecessor, so is the life of a remake. All in all, though, this version is a good film, and definitely worth a watch.
Grade: 7.5

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Title: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Steven Fry, Jared Harris, Kelly Reilly, Rachel McAdams, Eddie Marsan
Genres: Adaptation, Action/Adventure, Sequel
Running Time: 2 hours. 9 minutes
Release Date: December 16th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' has a lot of things going for it. It is funny, at times hilarious, the directorial style of Guy Ritchie suits the story and add interest, Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect Holmes, and the charming rapport between the characters, established in the first film, continues seamlessly in the sequel. The result is a highly entertaining film, with plenty of loose ends that sets up another sequel.

I do wish the story line would have been a bit stronger. Here, we're thrust into an already on-going case, where Holmes is already heavily involved in a "game of brains" with the villain. I would have much rather been along for the entire ride, and seen Holmes start this case from the beginning. It would have made for a stronger story, and a better film. It's a shame, because the potential to be an '8 or above' flick is obviously there, so I do feel a little cheated.

And now, I can't help to wonder about Adler. Is she, or isn't she? What do you think?
Grade: 7

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Title: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor
Genres: Action/Adventure, Adaptation, Sequel, Thriller
Running Time: 2 hours. 12 minutes
Release Date: December 16th, 2011
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Review: If you enjoyed the previous 'Mission Impossible' movies, you will like "MI4". The flavor is clearly that of another installment in the popular series, but a few things have been shaken up. This time, Tom's team are on their own, without an agency with resources to help them. Of course this bring a whole new set of problems, with continuously failing electronics, tools, computers, etc. which adds a lot of humor to the film.

However, it seems it is not only the equipment that is failing. The team, supposedly highly trained agents, the best of the best, are falling on their face over and over. Throughout the film I'm sitting there in my seat, wondering why the hell Agent Hunt (Tom Cruise) wouldn't be able to catch a middle-aged Swede (played by Michael Nyqvist which some might recognize from the Swedish 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' films), who plays a physics professor with a pot belly & no special training. Over and over again, this professor beats the shit out of Agent Hunt. I find that odd.

Of course, this is a movie, and things happen in movies that wouldn't happen in reality. That goes with the territory. Reality is one of those things one has to temporarily let go of in order to absorb the reality the movie is selling, it's an essential part of appreciating the typical Hollywood action flick. If we start comparing our reality to the one they are selling us in films like this, the enjoyment falls away. However, I am not fact checking this agains our reality, just against the one that has been portrayed in the MI movie series. I do not think that the fact that Agent Hunt can't beat an old man gelled very well with the history of this character, or the reality created in the films.

Besides that, take into account that this is the fourth sequel of the series, something that doesn't happen everyday, it isn't a bad flick, and it's sure to delight fans of the series.
Grade: 6

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Sitter

Title: The Sitter
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Starring: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Ari Graynor, J.B. Smoove, Sam Rockwell
Genres: Comedy
Running Time: 1 hour. 21 minutes
Release Date: December 9th, 2011
MPAA Rating: R

Review: I can always be convinced to see a Jonah Hill flick, and 'The Sitter' was no exception. Although it is definitely not a 'Superbad' or 'Pineapple Express', it is a funny comedy. It has some absolutely thigh-slappingly hilarious moments, some that fall way short of funny, and some that are so awkward it's almost painful to watch. All in all, it's not a bad way to spend an hour twenty minutes, if you're looking for some light entertaining.
Grade: 6.5