Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

When I first heard that David Fincher, one of my favourite directors of the past 20 years, was due to helm a second film version of Stieg Larsson's novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was not exactly over the moon. Before too long, though, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, if only because there was the original source material to draw from and [ick] re-imagine, thereby (maybe, possibly, kinda) not making this a remake per se. (What d'ya mean, I'm stretching?!)

Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed the book and its two sequels. And I enjoyed the Swedish films, even though the first one was by far the best of the three, and all of them left plenty to be desired. [NB: I watched the "short" versions rather than the extended cuts.]

So, was it necessary to have a "remake" of this story? And is the new take on it significantly better than and/or different from the first?

Let's start with the opening-credits sequence. I really didn't like it. Fincher usually makes good opening credits, but this one left me cold. Yes, I could see the parallels with the story; I'm neither blind nor stupid. But I just didn't like it. It seemed out of keeping with the film and the story, frankly. I had that sinking feeling...

Thankfully, though, from there onwards, everything goes much more to (my) plan, and the plot starts to unfold almost painfully slowly, just like it does in every version of the story. But once all the expostion is out of the way, we get down to the meat in fine style. And this is where it becomes real Fincher territory, of the ilk of Se7en and Zodiac: investigation.

Some random thoughts: Early on, Fincher sticks closer to the source material than the Swedish film did. But he changes things up at the end. Both versions of the film made changes, yes, and of course that is to be expected with any adaptation of a novel.

A bit of comparisony stuff: Fincher's version is better made, too -- of that there is no question. But of course he has the action taking place in Sweden, with Swedish characters speaking English, which is jarring in its own way.

Q&A: Was it necessary to have another film version of this story? Honestly, probably not. Will I watch either version again? Yes; probably both of them.

So, how to score this puppy? Actually, I'm gonna give it 78 points, the same as I gave Zodiac on first viewing. But I think Zodiac is better overall and, having now seen it a second time, deserves to be scored a tad higher.

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Dark

Sean Bean and Maria Bello, ably assisted by Maurice Roëves, star in The Dark: what could possibly go wrong? At the very least, we are sure to see Maria with her tits out and/or getting head (like she seems to in almost every film), no?

Alas, it was not to be this time around, on either count.

Instead, she runs around like a blue-assed fly shouting "Sarah!" a lot, Sarah being the name of her daughter, who is missing presumed drowned on a trip to see her father (Bean) in Wales.

I know Mr Bean (heh heh) has his admirers, but I can't help but say I think he's a really poor actor. I don't think I've ever seen him good in anything, with the possible exception of Patriot Games and an honourable mention for Flightplan, the latter being the only film in which I can honestly say Sean Bean was underused, so awful was everything else.

I can't even bring myself to say much more. Really rather bad. I dunno: 28 out of 100?

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Game

I'll say upfront that it's hard-ish for me to be critical of Fincher. I've liked him since Alien3, which I always thought was significantly better than Aliens. Yes, I am that ahead of my time.

So, I thought I'd give The Game another go. I remember it being fun.

Yeah, it's got Michael Douglas in it, but sometimes Mikey is great. I mean, who doesn't love him in Traffic (recently rewatched; review coming soon) or Falling Down? And Sean Penn. Come on. How can this film fail?

And it doesn't.

Conrad (Penn) buys super-wealthy brother Nicholas (Douglas) a gift certificate to partake in a "game" of some sort, but he gives no clues about what it involves. There follows a veritable plague of calamities that befall our hapless (but frankly not very likable) hero Nick.

Is this part of the game? Or has Nick been taken for a ride by a bunch of conmen? Is Conrad involved? How about waitress Christine (Deborah Kara Unger), who Nick has picked up along the way?

Full of twists and turns, this movie should keep you guessing even while it increases the heights to which you're asked to suspend your disbelief. But it's a fun couple of hours, even on a repeat viewing.

Ultimately, though, this is a film that entertains. Nothing more, nothing less. For that, I award The Game a solid 70 points.

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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Brighton Rock (2010)

Let's start by saying this -- and those who've known me and read my blog posts over the years already know: remakes are almost always unnecessary. Yes, you can say, on occasion, that a film is not a remake but a new attempt at translating a certain source material to the big screen. Sure. And Brighton Rock -- the original classic film -- was made in a time when it couldn't perhaps be as gritty as it should have. Maybe.

So someone decided to make a new one.

But they've moved the action to the 1960s, to coincide with the legendary mods 'n' rockers clashes on the beach in Brighton. This pointless change (with no real impact on the plot) was clearly only made in an attempt to bring in young mod or scooter kids who wouldn't otherwise go and see this film.

Oh, I don't really know where to start...

The acting is awful, with one or two exceptions. By far the best turn of the bunch comes from Andy Serkis. He has a lovely naturalness to him that absolutely nobody else does in this film. Second best is Helen Mirren, looking like a million-dollar fox but, sadly, in the later scenes given nothing but a silly and frankly unbelievable chase scene. Her performance is fine, given the material she had to work with.

Everyone else is just mugging like their lives depend on it, the worst offenders being the two leads.

The drama is just nonexistent. Just... there is nothing thrilling about this film. It is blah and dead and lacking in character and action and soul. Fifty-five minutes in, I was ready to turn it off, to be honest.

I can't be arsed to waste more words, so I'll score this movie 20 out of 100.

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Man on the Moon

I stayed up realllllly late last night, till 2am. It was like being young again -- though this morning I'm paying the price. I stayed up to revisit Milos Forman’s Man on the Moon, which I saw on its initial release at the cinema and remembered enjoying a lot.

Telling the story of comedian(?)/performance artist(?) Andy Kaufman (with whom I'm still not familiar, in that I don't think I've seen any actual footage of him), Man on the Moon stars Jim Carrey in a lead role that some might say is almost Carrey playing himself -- a full-on, perhaps annoying, supposed funnyman.

I say, Carrey is at his career best here, playing someone who appears to be a comic genius.

There were barely more than three consecutive minutes in the 118-minute running time in which I didn't laugh heartily. This stuff is gold!

Carrey is wonderfully supported by Danny De Vito and Paul Giamatti. Even Courtney Love puts in a good effort.

And once you've seen Vegas superstar Tony Clifton doing "Volare", you will never forget it. Amazing!

I'm going big here (for me) and giving Man on the Moon 82 points.

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