Tag Archive: 2011

The late Stieg Larsson’s series of three mystery novels are huge hits, they have sold millions of copies. Those books were adapted into three wildly popular series of Swedish films, which made a star out of leading lady Noomi Rapace. So many were kind of confused seeing the films were going to be remade. For me I usually stand against remakes, I find most of them pointless. This film though with David Fincher behind the camera gives this film such a great atmosphere, also with the addition of Rooney Mara as the punk bad ass Salander makes this film not just good but possibly better than the original.

The plot follows disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist(Daniel Craig), career is crumbling all around him and is effecting his marriage. So when a rich reclusive Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger(Christopher Plummer) to solve the disappearance of his niece that happened over forty years ago. As Mikael dives deep into his investigation and picks up Lisbeth Salander who is a young hacker. She has almost endless issues but stays on the mission. Together they are able to connect the young woman’s disappearance to a string of murders.

As a remake this film pushes past the original in many ways. First off Rooney Mara does a fantastic job as the lead. Her character continues to get underestimated and used in many ways. Yet she fights through it and is stronger than you might think. Daniel Craig here kind of takes a back seat, but it really works, his character is charming and well tempered. When the two are on screen the film really picks up because the two are great together.  The only real problem this film has is that as a remake, we sort of figure out who the villain is easily just by the actors chosen. Wish they would have tried a little harder to hide who the villain was.

The real star is David Fincher who gives this film such a dark vibe. Even knowing the story or seeing the original you’ll feel the tension. The film never blinks or turns away from violence or sex, which is a breath of fresh air. Two scenes focus on anal rape and it would be tempting to spin it or not show it so straight forward. Fincher doesn’t blink and even though it’s disturbing it does make it clear to the audience that anything can happen. Fincher has a true vision and most of his films stand in my mind as great films, like Seven and The Social Network. This film very much belongs to be named with those. I for one hope Fincher returns for the other two films. It would be a real let down if he doesn’t step back up to the plate.

Rating: 8/10

We follow Carl Jung(Michael Fassbender), who was an admirer of the highly talented Sigmund Freud(Viggo Mortensen)  and tried and used the controversial method called “the talking cure”. Still Jung is presented with a slight challenge in the form of a woman named Sabina(Keira Knightley) who has a lot of problems, basically she connects pain with love and sex. As Jung heals her he finds himself falling in love with her. Their relationship also helps tear Jung away from Freud and almost makes them rivals.

This film is perfect for David Cronenberg who isn’t afraid of violence and sex in his films. Now the film isn’t violent at all but sex is always a topic. This may be one of his most clean films, no real visuals here, mainly just dialogue. Fassbender gets most of the screen time here as the film focuses on him treating Sabina. The love story isn’t what you would think it would be since a lot of it happens of screen. Jung of course being a married man with children can’t keep up the love affair. The way Jung handles himself though burns away at his relationship with Freud. The respect begins to fade and only the competitive nature of the men remain. Cronenberg does a fantastic job here and many scenes are just so crisp and clean looking, I loved it. My only problem would be some editing choices that made the film a little choppy.

Acting wise Fassbender is becoming a force of nature with great performances in X-Men: First Class and Shame, now here he is becoming a top notch actor. Mortensen is almost unrecognizable, if I didn’t know ahead of time it was him I think I wouldn’t have guessed it. His screen time is limited but it stands out every time he is on screen. The true stand out though is Keira Knightley who was asked to do a lot. Not only is her character Sabina Russian she has very odd movements, especially early on as she deals with the pain she went through in her youth. Knightley is mainly remembered for the Pirate film franchise. Here though she is showing off her acting chops and it really helps give a lot of life to the film. Without her I’m not exactly sure what would keep people interested as her character is the life force of the script and the story. The script is also very solid, it is deep and never afraid to dive into topics of sex and emotions connecting to choices we make. It was a real treat for me to get another Cronenberg film and I enjoyed it so much that it felt like five minutes past as the film ended. If you have any interest in Jung or Freud then this film is a must see.

Rating: 7.5/10

Movie Review: Shame

This movie isn’t really getting it’s fair shake, I figured that out from the crowd I saw this film with. Many of them were too immature to handle this film. If you’ve read anything about this movie you know it’s about a sex addict, but that’s not really it. Along with it’s NC-17 rating the film somehow has just been labeled as a “sex movie” and some think it’s going to be fun, like watching Barney from How I Met Your Mother for two hours. This movie is far different than that, it is a sad story about a man so damaged all he has is meaningless sex, and not even that can help him.

Brandon(Michael Fassbender) lives in New York and has a great job. Yet he has no honest connection with anyone. He swings through bars and night clubs looking for a night of passion with a stranger. If he fails there he finds hookers. His computer is filled with every type of porn you can think of. Only friend he seems to have is his ass hole boss who rarely ever is able to hook up with women. His sister Sissy(Carey Mulligan) arrives at his door and things begin to spiral down. Their relationship is very uncomfortable. It’s never really discussed but it’s obvious their childhood was filled with abuse. Both of them are broken people. Can barely connect and it’s heart breaking to watch them in a way, coast through life.

Both have moments where they feel something, but is passes. Brandon tries to sleep with a co-worker, but after going out with her, the connection upsets him and he can’t finish the job. No for him it has to be no connection, it’s all he has. Slowly though all that disconnection gets back to him. Director Steve McQueen does a fantastic job here, the movie is smooth and slick. The sex scenes are not fun. Most of the time it comes off as pathetic. This movie isn’t for everyone, believe me this movie is deep and never winks at the audience or makes it seem like Brandon pick ups are “cool” or “fun”. I believe the audience I was with didn’t understand this and was let down. So prepare yourself before you see this film, it’s not about sex, it’s about not being able to connect with anyone and being alone.

Rating: 9/10

Movie Review: War Horse

Young Albert played by Jeremy Irvine is a young man living and working on a dying farm. His drunken father is tired of being treated like trash by his landlord(David Thelwis) so he purchases a horse for way too much than he should have spent. Albert connects with the animal on a deep level and names him Joey. When WW1 starts his father sells Joey to the British Calvary. From there we follow Joey as he moves from owner to owner and how bravery plays a role, especially with animals during warfare. What we find is a beautiful and epic tale that reminds us what movies should be.

Steven Spielberg is a master, if you have ever doubted this(After watching the end of War of the Worlds or watching Indian Jones 4) then this movie will restore your faith. It’s very hard to make a film where one of the leads doesn’t speak and is not human. We also connect with multiple characters over the stretch of this movie. It’s visually stunning from beginning to end. The balance here is also perfect where we move from the hills of Devon to the battlefields of WW1. The movie also attacks your heart with the beautiful soundtrack and just a strong message of hope even during the darkest and most violent times. It’s also very hard to make a serious film where we follow an animal. Well it works very well here. I found myself very wrapped up in Joey’s story and this film made me think: “It’s not fair we make animals fight in war, they have no choice”. After thinking that the movie became even better.

Once the movie gets into the war we see how WW1 changed everything. Technology changed how men fought each other. At first calvary charges were the norm and it was about honor and bravery. Then machine guns, tanks, artillery changed all of that and war became a blender where men and animals simply died in epic numbers. The images of the war are important for people to see since that war is fading away in people’s memories.

Joey’s story arch is very impressive. He keeps getting handed off to different owners. First is Captain Nichols who is won over by the connection between Joey and Albert. Sadly though Joey doesn’t stay with him long, a German deserter takes him a one point, then a farmer and his sick granddaughter, to a German soldier who sees the humanity in Joey and his devotion to another horse. Albert eventually joins Joey on the battlefield where they both witness the hell which is trench warfare.

I understand many will try and throw this movie in the mud, it’s high on optimism even during the darkest times. The film basically makes the claim that animals are beyond brave for being forced into these wars and never blinking, which to me is true. This film will make you cry for multiple reasons. It shows you that even during the war that should have ended all wars that humans can still treat each other with respect, that humanity can live on. This film is a masterpiece that no one should skip.

Rating: 10/10

We follow reporter Tintin and his dog/partner Snowy who we understand have already had some outstanding adventures together. After inadvertently acquiring a model ship that seems to be sought by several different people, one of those include Sakharine(Daniel Craig) who wants the ship for a villainous reasons. As Tintin follows the story he and Snowy befriend a drunk sea captain named Haddock, played by the amazing mo-cap actor Andy Serkis. Together they try and put the pieces together and stop a man with a mission of revenge.

When I was younger I loved the Tintin comics made by Herge. I loved them so much that I even had some written in French, not being able to read the language I just made up my own dialogue for Tintin. I was a little uneasy about the mo-cap here. Recently the technology has come off as creepy and I was worried it would ruin Tintin. Thankfully it doesn’t ruin anything here. Spielberg used the technology to make Tintin’s world come alive. Using his Indiana Jones knowledge he brought a spirit to this film that is hard to explain. The fun of adventure is the life line in this film. I will tell you right now that Tintin is leagues better than the recent Indiana Jones film. Spielberg also uses the technology and has some fun with it, everything really flows together nicely in this film.

Jamie Bell is the voice of Tintin and is frankly amazing. His voice works perfectly. Tintin is also just a lot of fun, he looks like a boy, yet owns his own apartment and carries a gun. That is Tintin! The dog also is an actual character who has his own moments in the action. It’s not annoying or eye rolling, you find yourself cheering for the dog all the way through. One has to realize how impressive it is that this worked. Rarely animal characters in animated films become anything more than annoying. Haddock is a great character and looks amazing. You can always count on Serkis to bring it hard for these mo-cap films.

The action scenes move very well, one thing I was worried about, I shouldn’t have worried at all. The two best set pieces is one that mimics Indiana Jones. Tintin, Snowy and Haddock escape his own ship and the gun fight is very impressive. Towards the end of the film there is a motorcycle chase that is out of the world. It just keeps going and around every corner something else is being thrown at you, pretty amazing.

This movie works on pretty much every level, it has action, multiple funny moments. To me a film like this is a great family film. It’s a real movie, not some trash filled with pop culture references and easy fart jokes. This film is a real treat and if you have kids I would suggest taking them to it. Years from now they may thank you for it.

Rating: 8.5/10

Ethan Hunt(Tom Cruise) is back in another mission where he finds himself and his team traveling around the world to stop a terrorist. This time around though the stakes are much higher. Hunt and his team are blamed for a bomb that takes out a piece of the Kremlin. The IMF is then shut down, also known as Ghost Protocol. So Hunt and his team are on their own and have to track down the man responsible for the bombing who on top of that is planning on possibly destroying the world with nuclear weapons.

I have always really enjoyed the Mission Impossible films. The first film is frankly a classic spy movie. The second one is a action orgasm directed by John Woo, it goes off course but is still a lot of fun. Mission Impossible 3 was back to form and a really solid action film. This time Brad Bird came on to direct, a Pixar guy, this was his first live action film. Well he hits it out of the park on this one. Ghost Protocol is simply a lot of fun. This film is just packed with brilliant action scenes, comedy, and just fun from start to finish. One moment where Tom Cruise has to climb up the Burj Khalifa(The tallest building in the world located in Dubai) is hands down one of the best action sequences we’ve seen on screen this last decade. Very rarely am I put on the edge of my seat by a movie, but Brad Bird and Cruise had me there and even got me cheering(yes out loud) in the theater.

The cast here is beyond strong, one thing I really enjoyed is we stay with our heroes through out this mission. The villains are menacing but don’t dominate screen time at all. Most of their plan happens off screen. It’s really nice to see Tom Cruise back in action here. Write me down as a huge fan of his. Sure I get he’s done some silly things off screen but I don’t care about any of that. Cruise plays Hunt perfectly here and the dude is an action hero. Simon Pegg plays his nerdy side kick very well. I would really love another two movies or me with him and Cruise playing off each other because it’s amazing here! Jeremy Renner plays a CIA analyst who gets wrapped up in everything here. Rumor is his character is going to step in and take over for Cruise’s Hunt. I’m down with that since Renner did a really good job here and I could see him becoming a staple in the series. Paula Patton is not only stunning but plays a great agent with a revenge agenda in her back ground. This entire team just works so well on screen that once the film ended I wanted another Mission Impossible to be in the works.

I’ve never wanted a sequel more, Ghost Protocol is so much fun. It’s pacing is astonishing, it only slows down in a couple places, when it does it actually gives us great little character moments for the team. If you can see this film on IMAX, some images in this film are stunning to the eyes. This film really shows that Brad Bird is on his way to be a go to director for any big franchise. This film has set the mark early for all the block busters. Mission accomplished!

Rating: 9.5/10

Weekend Box Office Dec. 16-18th

It’s the holiday season, so there are loads and repeats on television and loads of shopping going on. Plus people going to the movies… Well sort of… Seems like people are staying away from the theaters at least for now. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows came in on top with a little over $40 million bucks. That is a decent number, but no where near close where the first film was when it opened over Christmas two years ago, then it made $63 million in one weekend. Now mind you this is the week before Christmas and so maybe the numbers will jump. A bigger surprise to me is that Alvin and Chipmunks 3 came in at second with over $23 million. I guess people will take their kids to see anything, no matter how horrible it is.

One of the most surprising things about the weekend is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol(MI:4) landed in third when it only opened in IMAX theaters. That means it hasn’t even gone wide yet. In just IMAX alone(that’s under 500 screens) it made $13 million, that’s very impressive and a good sign for when the movie opens wide around the country. I think people put way too much into Tom Cruise’s melt down a couple years ago, the dude is an action star, if you don’t like his actions or beliefs, maybe you should leave that at the door and just enjoy the movies.

The rest of the box office was pretty average, Twilight is dropping hard but has made some major cash($266 million domestically). New Years Eve and The Sitter haven’t exactly grown any legs. Young Adult went wider and rose in the charts which is good to see. Smaller films like My Week With Marilyn, The Artist and The Descendants keep selling out screens and I think studios need more faith in America and open these films wide. Major audiences want good movies, even though Alvin and the Chipmunks keep trying to prove me wrong.

Here is the list…

1. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows $40 million

2. Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwreckes $23.5 million

3. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol $13 million

4. New Year’s Eve $7.4 million

5. The Sitter $4.4 million

6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 $4.3 million

7. Young Adult $3.6 million

8. Hugo $3.6 million

9. Arthur Christmas $3.5 million

10. The Muppets $3.4 million

Movie Review: Carnage

After two boys have a fight in a park, we follow the boys parents who after meeting and trying to solve things and stay civil, have things fall apart. Based off the play “God of Carnage” written by Yasmina Reza, she wrote the screen play and the film is directed by Roman Polanski. The film is set basically in one apartment and a hallway. So it is totally focused on acting which is great but mistakes can also be seen blatantly.

The two set of parents are played by John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster. Who are an odd mix. He owns a hardware store but likes the finer things in life(Expensive whiskey and cigars). Foster’s character is your stereotype of a liberal New Yorker. She collects art magazines and is trying to write about the Darfur conflict. Christophe Waltz and Kate Winslet play the other couple, he is a big shot lawyer who is always on his phone. They came off as very real to me. Waltz especially out acts everyone here and every one of his lines seemed special to me.

I really don’t have an opinion about Roman Polanski when it comes to why he can’t return to the United States…. For me he makes great movies. His recent “Ghost Writer” was a great film. Here though his great eye is really put in check. The film is essential just a play on screen, and that is what hurts it the most. Many scenes don’t seem real at all, it’s obviously a play, once you accept that you might be able to settle into the movie a little better. The style the film takes is interesting and Polanski does make some really fun choices as the film goes on, but it’s just not enough.

The script frankly holds the actors down, I like all four of these people but Reilly and Foster fail here and at times it’s hard to watch. Foster is given the hardest character but her line delivery it was just off. Every time she speaks it feels like a play, then when Winslet or Waltz or speaking it feels like a movie. That back and forth really hurts the film. It never feels real. The conversation they have is interesting though, about how American society looks at violence, how adults can easily still act like children. A good point the film shows is that people will put up facade’s that break down as alcohol is introduced. Still there isn’t enough here to get over the fact that the movie is so off balance between the script and the performances.

There is some other interesting facts about this film, the rumor is it cost $25 million to make. A film like this should never cost anything near that. I’m sure most of that price tag went to the actors salaries but my goodness that is a lot of cash. Also it seems Reilly came in later in the game that it was suppose to be James Gandolfini who was in the play. I guess over all I was just let down by the movie, it has great moments don’t get me wrong, it just should be stronger, like I know without seeing it that the Broadway play is better.

Rating: 5/10

Movie Review: Young Adult

Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, an author of an ending young adult book series. Mavis lives a pretty decent life in Minneapolis, she’s decently wealthy it seems and writing a decently popular book series. Problem is she lives her life with angst, she walks around with a chip on her shoulder. When she finds out her old high school boy friend, Buddy Slade, is having a baby, she decides to drive back to her home town and winning him back. Mavis is a drunk, lives like a frat boy, and just generally has issues but as we stay with her we get to see one of the best performances of the year.

Diablo Cody is a great writer, her name is well known now, online she gets a lot of hate. The character and Mavis Gary is complex and in ways very real. There are some non-reality factors here as well. Charlize Theron is stunning, yet her character lives life without a care. The woman shouldn’t look as good as she does. That is a minor complaint. Theron destroys this role, it’s so hard not to care for this woman even though she is nasty, drunk and generally not a great person. The more we get to see Mavis’s life though, the more we understand why she acts the way she does.

The best scenes involve Patton Oswalt who plays Matt Freehauf, a man who never left his high school town, who was beaten badly by “jocks” who though he was gay. He and Mavis connect in an odd way and it’s nice to watch. The friendship isn’t realistic but these two actors make it feel very real. Patrick Wilson plays Buddy Slade very well. We don’t actually see a lot in him, he just wants to be a good dad, he’s very basic, maybe that is why Mavis wants him back so badly. He’s what most people believe is real or happy. Cody’s writing is good but these actors really elevated everything here.

Jason Reitman has made some great films(Thank You For Smoking is a classic in my opinion). Here though, Reitman show his talent by balancing very dark depressing moments and mixing the comedy into it. Minus one or two moments the audience really never get a moment to root for Mavis, she’s frankly a bitch. Many might find this movie frustrating, because Mavis changes but not in ways we’ve seen in movies before. She doesn’t really learn any lesson or have some uber redeeming moment. To me it made this movie very different, which to me is a breath of fresh air. Kind of tired of films coming out where the leads drastically change either over love or something even smaller, here it’s more real.

If anything you should see this movie for Charlize Theron, this is her year, too bad she has heavy competition from brilliant performance from Michelle Williams and others. Any other year I’d say Theron was a shoe in nomination and winner for best actress. It’s hard not to enjoy every nasty moment Mavis has, because Theron is so good, and in the end no matter how nasty the character may be, we all love watching a good performance.

Rating: 8/10

Set in 1927 Hollywood, we follow silent film star George Valentin(Jean Dujardin). He stars in multiple types of films all of them also co-star his Jack Russell terrier. He is the dream of every woman, he is obsessed with his own career. He runs into a beautiful woman, Peppy Miller(Berenice Bejo) at a premier, she becomes an over night sensation and she makes her way into the movies. But, the arrival of sound films or “talkies”, slowly people change their tastes for film and Valentin doesn’t know how to change with the times and battles his own ego and failures.

This film is a love letter to early movies, the film is in black and white, it’s silent minus one or two brilliant scenes. What is interesting is we’ve had a lot homages to older genres, most of them wink at the audience or are mainly tongue in cheek comedy. The Artist is an actual film that works on its own and never really has to wink at the audience it simply tells a story. Many people don’t know that silent film actors were destroyed when sound came to film, many of them didn’t have voices that people at the time would enjoy. Many had accents and couldn’t find work once sound came to the movies.

Now The Artist might sound like a depressing story, but mainly it’s very funny. The dog named “Uggy” gets a lot of laughs here actually. The jokes are not on the nose and in sense classic. The love story is also very touching and both leads work very well on screen together, they are both charming, and one scene at the end involving dancing, I couldn’t help but smile. Everyone involved here, especially director Michel Hazanavicius deserve nominations, in my opinion this movie deserves to win a truck load of awards.

For many people this movie will be hard to swallow at first, the audience I was with seemed a little surprised the film was silent. Younger people especially might not “get it” at first, it being black and white and no dialogue. Still after that initial response everyone will be won over by this story. It is hard not to smile while watching this film. I’ll go as far as this, The Artist is one of my favorite movies this year, after a couple more viewings it might go into one of my top favorite movies ever.

Rating: 10/10