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Good but Swedish version is better.
I enjoyed this version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". It was a well made and well acted movie and I gave it a 7/10 rating. But I enjoyed the Swedish version more, 8/10. The Swedish version was truer to the book and a bit more coherent. The acting in both movies was fine, some great performances in both and I can't really fault either movie. I thought the American version could have been a bit confusing since they took such liberties with the book's narrative. The main character of Mikael Blomkvist in the American version was a bit less conspicuous which is a good thing since I got rather sick of Mikael Blomkvist by the end of the third book. He wasn't a believable character since he was so self-righteous and such a ladies man. His portrayal by Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish version was also underplayed, and well acted. The really big difference between the versions was the portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. She was the biggest draw of the books and the movies and her character drove the narrative for me. Noomi Rapace portrayed her in the Swedish version and was wonderful in the role. She was Lisbeth Salander to me. Rooney Mara in the American version was good but not in the same league with Noomi Rapace. In the American film she came across as a more deliberately rude, petulant little girl, like a spoiled ,rich, high schooler who did what she did to get attention and anger people. Noomi Rapace's version came across as a more disturbed person, someone who just didn't have social skills or even thought about them. In the books she was more of a idiot savant or someone who could have Asperger syndrome. She was horrible mistreated as a youth but was extremely intelligent and talented. Noomi Rapace had that down. Her most interesting scenes were as Lisbeth sitting and thinking. You could see the wheels turning. You could see her figure things out. Rooney Mara didn't have that. She just was shock value. Not that she was bad in the role but just not deep enough. She bragged more and was more out there with her personality. Noomi Rapace was very internal and disliked anyone getting close to her. She had few friends and even with them she was very reserved. It was a wonderfully intriguing portrayal. Both movies are good but if you are a fan of the books you may like the Swedish version more with Noomi Rapace's portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
I did not enjoy this movie. I have to admit I had very low expectations for this movie and I wasn't disappointed. The animation was poor. The characters looked and moved like Bizarro marionettes. They were all acute angles and stilted jumpy movements. The character development was perfunctory and the story purely a derivation of the past Star Wars movies. I saw no innovation or original thoughts. The special effects only work in juxtaposition with human actors. The viewers can relate to the human and place themselves within the movie and be part of the action. They can relate to the actor walking into a strange, alien setting and vicariously enjoy the scene. All this is lost in animation. Anything can happen in animation. Reality becomes animation reality. The light saber is just a bright light on the screen not a dangerous weapon wielded by a human. There is no danger or excitement since it is a cartoon. The poor animation pushes us further away from our reality towards cartoon reality. The previous Star Wars movies drew us closer into its reality by having us identify with the humans. If this is the final Star Wars movie the ending is a real whimper.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Good summer movie. No masterpiece.
It is a good movie. It is not a great movie. After all of the hype I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed the movie but thought it was just a run of the mill superhero action flick. The performances were good. All of the actors were believable and Heath Ledger's Joker was a great character but it was a one note performance. There was no real depth to the character for me. Each time he appeared he acted in the same psychotic manner but there wasn't an exploration as to why he was doing what he was doing or where he planned to take the story. The story was just a simplistic hatred of Batman and a want to unmask him. Sorry, same old, same old. Superhero movies suffer from clichéd story lines. Superman in each movie will be exposed to kryptonite. Profess his unfulfilled love for Lois Lane, (why I don't know. She is usually portrayed as some skinny, ambitious harpy), and is eventually saved from the bad guy by some babe. Spiderman yearns with unfulfilled love for his girlfriend and fights off some bad guy while reminiscing again about his Uncle, who we get to see die again. Batman will struggle with his demons while fighting off another bad guy punctuated by corrupt cops and double crosses.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is a fine actress and is attractive but she is not an outstanding beauty who would attract the Joker to her in lieu of all of the other babes in the room. It is not helpful when the script has to tell you that the character is beautiful. The character's looks should tell you she is beautiful. Monique Curnen was there to provide the corrupt cop. One of many. She was wasted. Give me something new and fresh. Not a new gadget but a new story line. Explore more than the obvious. This movie was a series of vignettes of action scenes and simplistic twists. There were way too many deus ex machina moments and the twists did nothing but provide excuses for more action scenes. SPOILER ALERT. The scene with the cop being goaded by the joker to beat him up was clumsily telegraphed. Gordan appearing again at the exact opportune moment rang false. Aaron Eckhart's accident and metamorphosis into Two-face was rushed and hardly used. It became more of a distraction from the main story of the Joker. The Joker's character could have been examined in more depth. As it was the ending felt like it was there only to provide grist for the sequel. Heath Ledger's unfortunate death, which added hype to the movie, also destroyed the ending of the movie. There was no closure. It seems more like coming attractions for the next movie. Don't get me wrong it was a fun movie but it is just a summer popcorn movie and not a wondrous masterpiece it is being touted as. See it, enjoy it and then forget it until the next installment.
I thought it was a fun movie with an odd lack of suspense. Action sequences were OK, entertaining but they lacked spark. The cast was wasted except for Cate Blanchett who was the best thing about the movie. Ray Winstone, a good actor, was almost invisible and Karen Allen was little more than a nice smile. Shia LeBeauf was a nonentity. John Hurt's character was fun but it could have been played by anybody and his enormous talent wasn't on display. Besides Cate Blanchett the cast, including Harrison Ford, were just going through the motions. I would have like to have seen more unknowns play the parts then maybe you could suspend belief long enough to enjoy the story. The beginning with the blast and rocket sled was fun. The cycle chase was good but it went down hill from there. The rest was a rerun of action scenes from past adventure flics and totally PG. A hot babe is wet jungle gear would have helped. Cate Blanchett was too cool to sweat. It was an entertaining 2 hours but really totally forgettable soon afterward. As a summer blockbuster it pales next to Ironman.
I thought "Hitman" was a stupid, poorly made movie that would appeal to teenagers who don't get out into the real world much, i.e. gamers. The dialog was trite and stifled. The acting was wooden and the characters were clichéd. I've seen "HighDef" movies and TV. This movie will never be mistaken for "HighDef". It was definitely "LoDef". Scenes were out of focus and the resolution even in set up scenery shots was poor. Most of the movie did not make much sense. The story was minimally just enough to provide some reason to show events on the screen but each scene was hardly tied to an overall structure. It was just one gory action scene after another just for the sake of having an action scene. I gave the movie a 3 rating only because Olga Kurylenko had nice long legs. Her character's personality wasn't in the least appealing but the legs were nice. Miss this movie. Miss this movie. Miss this movie.
The Kingdom (2007)
I did not like "The Kingdom". It had a bad case of shaky cam. Why film makers persist with the shaky camera to generate interest is beyond me. It seems they are incapable of framing a shot. They tend to move the camera all around and maybe think there is a good shot in there somewhere. I think they should study a movie like "Seven Samurai" to understand what a well framed shot is like. If there is some reason for a shaky camera, maybe in kinetic action shots, I can accept it but a shaky cam during a conversation plus obscured shots. Why? Is it because the actors and the conversation alone won't hold anyone's attention then consider a decent screenwriter or better actors. It is style over substance. Maybe the lack of substance in movies is the driving force. Also I have to comment on the extreme close-ups. Why? What is next, nostril cam? The elite FBI team in this movie seemed to be portrayed with the mentality of high school students. There was this snarky background banter and the jokes. Not repartee but jokes, stupid boorish jokes, and this is coming from supposedly well educated, highly trained individuals who are in Arabia investigating the death of colleagues. It was poorly written. Jamie Foxx did a good job despite the weak script. Poor Jennifer Garner obviously was suffering from some virus that caused her to look wan and misshaped and puffed up her lips. Chris Cooper, a fine actor, was wasted. My wish that Jason Bateman got shot went unfulfilled. The Arab cast was very good and seemed much more mature and realistic than the Americans. The last half of the movie was action filled and moved quickly thankfully free of the snarkiness of the rest of the movie. I did not like the anti-Arab or the anti-Islam tone of the movie. You can have bad guys and an enemy without disparaging, or joking, about a culture we seem to be ignorant about. If you like things' blowing up real good and your view of world is basically jingoistic then you may like this movie. I didn't.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
The film editors had to have been on Dramamine. I disliked the shaky camera and the half obscured views. I can understand a partially blocked view if there is a point to it. Like to represent some surreptitious filming but to have the camera view blocked by intervening objects, thus bring to the forefront that the character is being filmed, i.e. that they are actually actors doing a job, seems counterproductive. I would think the goal is to get the audience to forget that they are watching a crafted production and have them suspend disbelief and get involved in the story. The stylized camera work did the opposite. I was constantly reminded that the camera was purposely obscured with blurry objects for no reason but style, like look at this I'm blocking half the shot. Aren't I cleaver? I found it very irritating. This was the weakest of the three Bourne films with the action sequences shot in a way that obscured what was actually happening. I don't like the jittering hand-held camera and extreme close-ups. I think it detracts from the movie. Maybe it makes the cinematography easier since shots don't have to be composed, just move that camera in and most of the filming could be done in a broom closet. "The DaVinci Code" sucked for the some reason. Also the 21st century deus ex machina of computers was abundantly evident. A couple of keystrokes can replace intelligent writing easily plus the computers can be fickle and reveal all if needed while being conspicuously absent when suspense is needed. Matt Damon was good in his role, looking serious and troubled, and he was effective in the fight sequences, as far as I could tell. Joan Allen was very good as an intelligent mature woman, rare to see in the bimbo age of movies. David Strathairn, who I typically like, was too much of a cliché for my tastes. A standout was Julie Stiles. She had this tight lipped intelligent look. You could just see the wheels turning as she analyzed each situation I believed she was an intelligence operative who was trained to keep secrets and revealing very little of what she was feeling. She was great. Albert Finney did a competent job in another clichéd role. It seems that in these movies the idealistic, good people are young and the bastardly, manipulators are all old fogies. I would rate this movie as a weak 7 out of 10 on the basis of the strong performance of Ms. Stiles and Mr. Damon and on the basis of a continued compelling story. The camera work downgraded my rating.
"1408" was an effective scary movie. I typically do not go for this type of movie. I don't believe in ghosts or supernatural phenomena and so just the depiction of either leaves me unimpressed. How well the movie tells the story and pulls you into its world is very important. Too often the premise and execution is just silly and not in the least scary. Frank Booth in "Blue Velvet" was scary. Anyway I enjoyed the movie. It was paced well and slowly revealed the scary bits. I think it was effective because it could be seen as just a mental breakdown of the protagonist, that what was happening was just happening inside his head. I'm going to issue a SPOILER warning here so I don't wreck the watching experience for others but I really want to comment on the false ending. I thought the false ending was effective since it was the way most of these types of movies end and I was ready to leave when things started to go weird again. I was surprised and amused at how effective it was. SPOILER warning defunct. John Cusack was effective in the role of the disbelieving author. He plays the world weary part well. Samuel L. Jackson was good as always. The movie is not a gore fest but is more of a physiological thriller and I recommend it. I give it 7 out of 10 stars.
4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" was a childish movie. It was obviously meant for a teenage crowd. I found it ridiculously saccharine. The whole story about the wedding and the delays and Reed Richards' divided attention was just so adolescent. I know the movie is supposed to be comic book but couldn't the producers create something that appealed to people over 15 years old. The effects were technically impressive but pretty devoid of any real suspense. The characters were just clichés and the acting was just good enough for you to know that. Jessica Alba can't really act. She is really hot looking but utterly unconvincing and rather boring. I can't really say that this film is worth seeing. Maybe it is good enough for a rent, maybe.
Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
Better than 12 but not by much
Ocean's Thirteen was better than Ocean's 12. That isn't saying much since O12 was horrible. O13 was a tad better. Al Pacino helped by creating a character who was believable and entertaining. Ellen Barkin was terribly miscast. Her role would have been played better by some riper, younger actress. Brad Pitt look very please with himself and George Clooney avoided being too smug. Neither were all that entertaining and the movie focused on them most of the time. I thought the movie was slow. The caper consisted of solving a series of problems in rigging all of the gambling at Al Pacino's casino. The rigging was accomplished with a bunch of unexplained, magical devices. It felt more like Wily E. Coyote's Acme products than actual plausible products. The mine digging machine was ridiculous. It was way too fantastical to be believed. The rigging of the diamond prize was clever and believable. The trouble with sequels is that the characters are not developed further but are just referred to in a kind of role shorthand. The whole screenplay was a shorthand version of a caper movie. The Ocean story is that these really clever guys have to rob an entire casino against great odds which they accomplish with neato devices and tricks. This movie followed the outline but failed to develop the robbery techniques beyond magical Acme devices. How did pouring powder in the dice raw material actually make the dice roll over by pressing another magic device? It wasn't engineering it was magic. The movie required one to suspend too much belief in reality to make the caper work. A drilling machine in the middle of a major city, that breaks and has to be replaced in a day, and bores a huge tunnel under the city with no one noticing. Come on! It would take months for a team of engineers to accomplish the task of just getting the machine started. The caper just didn't work. The ensemble casting wasn't an ensemble. It was three stars with other people around. The acting wasn't terrible but just egocentric. Wait for a dark and stormy night and rent it.