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Ill Manors (2012)
Gritty realism... with a Hollywood twist
This is a very hard film to review
And as a matter of fact it was a very hard film to watch too. More than once I found myself having to look away from the screen, just to be able to catch up with my breath and I had to remind myself "It's only a movie
It's only a movie"
Or is it? Sure one would want to give the film some credit for attempting to talk about some really serious issues in a stark and crude realistic way. However I find myself wondering: just because a movie touches important issues and goes to places where many don't even dare looking, does that make it a good film? Ill Manors (still trying to work the meaning of the actual title) is clearly a film made by a first time director: it's full of energy and ideas. It's inspirational too
But unfortunately some of the inexperience shows up on the screen too. It's almost as if director Ben Drew didn't feel confident enough of his own material and felt he had to pepper the film (unevenly, I may add) with a series of flashy visual devices: some of them work, but then, once the story takes over, the film almost forgets to keep up with them. It makes me wonder if Ill Manors could have been a much more powerful film, if the director had actually restrained some of that rather showy visual style and non-linear editing and had just concentrated more of the story. I'm not against time-laps or montage sequences edited to rap music (some of which were actually beautifully done), but I think once you establish a style, you should stick with it. In Ill Manors everything felt rather random and arbitrary: a hotchpotch of visual ideas and devices, borrowed from many other films before (Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting, just to mention the most obvious ones), but all without any real reason. And the proof is in the pudding: the strongest and most interesting bits in the film are also the plainest and the ones where the director focused just on his actors (or actually non-actors apparently) to tell the story of a broken society alive and well right in the heart of London. Despite the claims of realism, this bleak vision of Britain feels a bit contrived in places: lines like "Can I try some crack?" the endless prostitution scenes and the final sequence in particular when a fire takes place in a pub, all feel a bit heavy-handed and wildly exaggerated. Also most of the characters are a little bit too stereotypical and the film seems to rely more on the charisma of our main lead, Riz Ahmed (from Four Lions), for the audience to sympathise with, instead of giving him a full fleshed-out and a much more believable persona. In the end the amount of horror and depressing bleakness is just too much and what was already a fairly long film, with too many subplots, eventually just imploded. An exhausted audience during my screening even burst into laughing during the final climax (yes, it might have been a hysterical laugh, but still a laugh
and that's just the wrong reaction to have for such film!). The points Ill Manorswants to make are made quite earlier on and after a while it all becomes just too repetitious, over the top and indulgent. All this makes it loose its edge and diminishes its important message. It is a brave film and certainly must be commended for trying: there are some very intense and good moments, which I am really praising, however, even though I might talk to people about Ill Manors, I don't think I'll ever recommend anyone to watch it (aside for our prime ministers and politicians). 6.5/10 MovieGeekBlog
Friends with Kids (2011)
When Harry and Sally had a kid....
Making a good romantic comedy is not as easy as you might think. Comedies in general have always been the overlooked genre when it comes to recognition or even awards: there is a certain (unfair) snobbery about them and an even greater misconception: because they talk about lighter subjects than, let's say, the holocaust or war or cancer (just to mention the few obvious ones), we should not consider them as serious films
Obviously calling them "rom- com" doesn't quite helped their case either
Isn't it incredible that people still look at the 50s and 60s for the favourite comedies (Some like it Hot or the Apartment)? Or that we still quote those classic Woody Allen movies from the 70s? And when asked about the best rom-com (there you, I'm saying that too!) many will go back 23 years to that little jewel of a movie called When Harry Met Sally. It's not surprising then to see writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt going back to exactly those types for her directorial debut. Friends with Kids owes a lot the best Wood Allen (nowadays we must specify 'best', as there's good Woody and dreadful Woody), both in its settings (New York, of course) and in the sharp and witty dialogue exchanges. But there are lots of echoes from When Harry Met Sally too, in fact it could almost be called "When Harry and Sally had a kid". But while in Rob Reiner's classic the question was "Can a man and a woman be friends without sex getting in the way?", in Friends with kids the question gets updated to "Can a man and a woman have a child, without getting stuck into the trappings of married life?". The actual premise and the excuse for the film is definitely rather out-fetched, gimmicky and to a degree it might feel a bit forced, but if you're willing to go with it, what you'll find beyond is an incredibly well-observed and smart piece of comedy about the painful truths of parenthood, about getting older, about responsibilities and friendship. Westfeldt relies more on her characters and their dialogue to make us smile, or cry, or simply think, as opposed to resorting on cheap gags, or shots of cute babies (well OK, you get a couple of those too
But you get my point). This is an actors' film, first and foremost and the cast is truly impeccable. Adam Scott had already shown what he could do with the underrated (and rather harsh and depressing) HBO series Tell Me You Love Me: in this film he makes a potentially unlikable and tricky character, warm, sympathetic and charismatic. However the film is also packed with other characters, which once again remind us of Harry and Sally's types of friends: these are all people rooted into the real world, instantly recognisable to anyone struggling to find love before the clock runs out, anyone dating, anyone who's been married for a long time, anyone who's had kids or who's about to have some. Like in the real world, there's no black and white here: each relationship in the film feels true, people are not simply bad or good, they fall in and out of love, they come and go in and out of your life. Everybody is perfect, even if they just appear in a few scenes. Jon Hamm shines, as he always does, and makes the most of his tiny role, even Edward Burns manages to be incredibly likable and there's even a surprisingly turn from Megan Fox, who shows she's not just a pretty face
and body, and legs.. and
OK well, you get it. It all comes to a head during an excruciating dinner sequence with no less than 8 people sitting around a table, which is not just beautifully directed and skilfully handled, but also it's where the film really shows its cards and goes beyond the simple rom-com boundaries. It's interesting to see this film only a few weeks away from the clichè-riddled What to Expect When You're Expecting. Both stories essentially tackle the same issues, but while WTEWURE goes for the easy Hollywood way (i.e. schmaltzy, A-list packed-cast, cheap jokes and so on), this one takes its time to work around its characters and aims at reaching a much more mature audience: it's not just the situation that feels real but way the characters behaves in that particular situation. Unfortunately there are some slips here and there: the excessive and unnecessary vulgarity of some of the dialogue does feel a bit forced and some jokes to do with kids seem to belong to a different kind of film (It's "Three men and a Baby" territory, more than Annie Hall's)
And the ending might make some people cringe a little bit
However most of Friends with Kids is so honest and balanced that it feels wrong be harsh about it. In an age where good romantic comedies are so rare (they only come once every two years, if we are lucky!) we should treasure films like these, which at least try to be a little bit more intelligent and step away from the clichés of the genre. MovieGeekBlog.com
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Pure Anderson, but in the end a bit too hollow.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) -
Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel.
This film has got so many of all those Wes Anderson's trademarks that it could easily become a fan's favourite: the strange magical feel, the deadpan humour (almost Airplane! slapstick) mixed with that underlying sadness and melancholia, those classic sideways tracking shots across the sets, the reddish colour palette, Bill Murray, the quirky music... This could be nobody else's work, but Wes Anderson's! And yet, at the same time, you may argue, we've seen it all before. Not only there's a strange feeling of Déjà vu here, but also the inconclusive, weightless and wobbly storytelling and the stock characters feel even more exposed than they usually are. Maybe because the central story about 2 young kids who run away from home to find each other and fall in love is so heartfelt and sweet that it almost feels out of tune with the cartoony nature of the world around them.
I'm not even suggesting that the cast is not great, because it is: Bill Murray plays slightly against his likable self, Bruce Willis is as sweet as he's rarely been before, Ed Norton's performance too is perfectly pitched and rather charming... And yet despite making this a great ensemble cast each of them actually pulls the film in a different direction and eventually they add very little to the mix. For example, did we really need Harvey Keitel's character in this film? Could Tilda Swinton be anymore two-dimensional?
This is obviously an idealised vision of adolescent relationships, where love is honest, pure, simple, uncompromising, and it is probably the best part of the Moonrise Kingdom. And yet, the quirky style, the overloaded music (really too much, too loud and too intrusive in my view. There is never a moment of silence in this film), the over-the-top secondary characters, all enhance this feeling of hyper-reality which somehow prevents you from fully engage with the film. But then again, as I said, this is a Wes Anderson's movie and his fans will certainly love it... I'm not so sure about the casual viewer. As far as I am concerned, I liked it, I'm happy I saw it, I appreciated its technical skills, its meticulous look, its quirky humour (this is one of those films that leave a smile on your face throughout its entire length as opposed to induce out-loud laughs) but in the end it is all a bit too indulgent, slightly hollow and really it just left me a bit cold. And for a film that's all about pure feelings and childhood, that's probably not a great sign.
Slick, well acted, but in the end a bit empty...
What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012)
Director: Kirk Jones. Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Morrison, Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock.
Don't ask me what possessed me to go and watch this film. In my defence I can tell you that I had seen everything else at my local multiplex and I had 2 hours to spare. Also the cast seemed impressive enough... and, to top it all up, my wife is pregnant, so I thought at least I would fit its target audience just perfectly.
To be completely honest I was expecting (sorry about the pun) something a lot worse: this is one of those average ensemble comedies where, as always some of the stories and some of the characters are more successful than others but in the end they are so many of them that if you are a parent or preparing to be one, you're bound to find a something to like... Other than that, this is all pure middle-class Hollywood, pretty slick, light-hearted but with enough sweet-and-sour moments to make it feel like it's actually about something. Obviously at the end of the day it's all rather forgettable, and it's actually a great shame, because the acting talent a shown here is impressive (surprisingly even Jennifer Lopez showcases a nuanced performance unlike much we'd seen before) both directing and editing are potentially quite skilled at doing what they do and the few good moments here and there give you a little glimpse of what it could have been.
The main problem is that the film is just not funny enough to be able to be a crowd pleaser and looses itself among the too many subplots, some of which are way off the main subject, to be able to become a classic (the golf cart chase sequence is one of the lowest and unfunny points and the father group sequences, despite Chris Rock, are just too indulgent, over the top and long). However having said all this, I must confess, even though I laughed very little, I found myself moved a couple of times: oh dear, it really must be the hormones (I think they call it sympathetic pregnancy).
Piranha 3DD (2012)
not funny, not scary.. just embarrassingly dull
The only achievement of this film, as far as I am concerned, it that it has managed to get the lowest score so far among my reviews. Of course, I was never expecting to see a masterpiece from a movie with such title... But at least I was hoping for something just as self-consciously trashy, funny and splatter as the deliciously camp B-movie first part (which itself was a remake) directed by Alexandre Aja in 2010.
There have been several trashy splatter/exploitive horrors in the past (mainly in the 80s and early 90s) which I still consider classics within their own genre (Re-Animator, Society, possibly even Tremors and to a degree the Evil Dead movies just to mention a few). Why couldn't this have been one of them? All the ingredients seemed to have been there: an R rating (18 here in the UK), tits-galore right from the title, exploitive 3D, horrible little hungry monsters (piranha in this case), and a series of more or less famous stars willing to play along...
Unfortunately what I found was the most un-inventive, uninspired, un-funny, un-scary, dull piece of junk I have seen in a very long time... (Well, I guess that by itself is quite an achievement since I do watch quite a lot of movies). Yes, it's boring too, despite being only 83 minutes long.
How can somebody like Christopher Lloyd, the man with a resume sporting such masterpieces like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Back to the Future, could have accepted to have his name associated with such an insult to human intelligence is beyond me! Was your rent really so behind, Chris?
The film is badly conceived, badly filmed, really badly post-converted into 3D (possibly the worse conversion I've seen since a cheap stereoscopic comic I had when I was 10!). The story (if we can call it such) makes no sense (there's a piranha in the swimming pool... well, get the f**k out it!). The characters (again... characters?!) all merge into one and even the gore is way below anything one would have hoped for such a movie and most of the potentially gruesome stuff is happening off camera (I guess they didn't have enough imagination to figure out how to make it on camera!)
For the first 30 minutes or so, you don't really know how to take it. It seems a film aimed at 14 or 15 years old kids who are hoping to get a peek at some boobies for the first time in their lives... except that this film is actually rated 18...which kinda defeats that purpose. So in the beginning it all starts building up as a straight horror (a bad one of course, but still a horror). Only once David Hasselhoff shows up you actually begin to get a hint of the fact that this is all supposed to be taken for a laugh... If only it were remotely funny. The "jokes" (please notice the inverted commas) are so puerile and genuinely unfunny that it becomes almost embarrassing. Not only we are not laughing with it, but we are not even laughing at it... in fact we are just not laughing at all.
This is one of the few films where not even the endless outtakes during the end credits can make you smile (And when I say 'endless' I do mean really endless.. What an indulgent and embarrassing moment!. There is nothing worse than seeing a whole bunch of actors and grown-up film-makers laughing at things which are not even remotely funny to us outside.
To be honest, I think the film doesn't even deserve such a detailed review, so I'll just stop here and urge you to give it a miss, even (and especially) if you love this genre. wp.me/p19wJ2-xt
The Dictator (2012)
So desperate to offend and be controversial that it forgets to be funny
Heralded by a strong marketing campaign that makes it sound as the most controversial movie since the last temptation of Christ, The Dictator is a strange hybrid. It is certainly not what the trailers makes it look like, nor is as innovative as Sacha Baron Cohen's best work (well... so to speak... I guess I'm referring to Borat, which is no masterpiece but at least it felt new at the time). I call this a strange hybrid because in trying to be both controversial and a crowd- pleaser, rude and cute, clever and silly, in the end might just dissatisfy pretty much everyone.
This time the documentary style from both Borat and Bruno has been abandoned in favour of a more straight forward and linear structure. But while there are undoubtedly some inspire puns and good ideas here and there (right from the start the mother dying in child-birth), the story (or rather lack of one) is so idiotic and pedestrian that leaves those few good jokes too exposed and definitely not enough to keep you engaged even if the overall length movie is pretty short.
Believe me, I'm all in favour of good satire and I'm certainly not one of those who claim we should not joke on delicate issued like racism, xenophobia, terrorism and Arab (or Western) stereotypes and preconceptions. If it's done with a purpose and if it's clever, it can be as sharp as a knife and quite effective. Sadly here, you can just see sporadic glimpses of what this film could have been, had it not fallen into the trappings of a thin love story. Four Lions tried it last year: it was not completely successful, but it was a noble attempt. Here, the satirical edge of the Dictator is too diluted among cheap slapstick and unnecessary interludes, extraneous to the central message (the masturbation sequence for example, rude for its own sake, was just cheap and unfunny in my book, just to mention one... Just being rude for the sake of being rude should really not be the purpose of such film. Leave that to Apatow).
The Dictator was so desperate to offend and be controversial that it forgot its main purpose: to be funny. In the end it just fell flat. This is certainly not Dr Strangelove, but it's not South Park or Team America either. It's just a collection of gags, some more successful than others; a sort of modern-day (and more polished and slick) Kentuky Fried Chicken (and let's not forget that even that one is NOT a good movie!).In theory there is nothing wrong comedies made up with a series of gags all stringed together by a silly story. Look at Airplane! But at least on that one the gag rate was so fast that all you did is laugh... here the laughs are too few.
At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding: I was in a half-packed theatre surrounded by what I suppose must have been the core audience for this type of product (a 20-something crowd) and the silence that welcomed some of the supposedly funny jokes was deafening: a clear sign that I was not alone in feeling sorry for a film that is just not as clever as it thinks it is...
The Woman in Black (2012)
full of clichés, slow and greatly miscast
I am really sorry to have to reduce most of my review about this film to the fact that it all starts with a bad casting choice, but it's really very hard to see past Daniel Radcliffe portraying a father of a four years old boy. I mean, how can I possibly buy into it when the DVD of the latest Harry Potter film is plastering every single window of every store in town right now? It doesn't matter how much facial hair Daniel is growing to disguise his baby face, or how far away he's trying to take his new character from the 'boy who lived', or even how little dialogue he speaks in this film (because let's admit it, it usually all falls apart as soon as he opens his month), I am just NOT buying into it! A grown man (A lawyer in fact!) who's been married, widowed and has a child of 4? That is a big leap of faith...
However I was willing to take the leap and I did really try my best, despite the film itself doing virtually nothing to help me and convince me otherwise: there was not a single mention of his young look from any of the characters and we are just supposed to take it all from granted. At some point in the beginning there was even shot of what looked like the Hogward Express, running through the British landscape, with steam and all the rest (I was expecting to hear John Williams' tune at any point!).
Radcliffe himself does try his best to restrain his usual trade-mark heavy breathing. The film-makers made sure he spoke as little as possible and wisely they even avoided having him standing right next to any other cast members (so that it wouldn't show how short he is which would have made it even more laughable). But unfortunately all this is just not enough and his presence, instead of making the film better, holds it back..
It's probably not very fair to criticise a movie just for his main lead, even less fair to compare it to previous movies the same lead starred in, I agree. But even when you take Radcliffe out of this film, you're actually left very little else.
"The woman in Black" wants to be a film about "mood" and "atmosphere" more than "action" and "twists". It's more about the expectations of the ghost in a looked room at the end of the corridor than the actual reveal of the ghost itself. In a way, it's an old fashion ghost story: it's all about those creaks in a old house, the thick fog hiding a secret and those eerie shadows that should make your skin cold.
On paper all this sounds great and I am all in favour of an old-style good ghost story... If only it was all building up to something... Alas the pace is evenly slow and Daniel is alone for most of the film investigating strange noises around the house for what feels like an eternity; so much so that after a while it all gets rather repetitive and tedious.
James Watkins was probably aware of this and in order to "jazz it all up" decided to pepper it all with several "fairly predictable" loud stabs of cheap scares. I say "fairly predictable" because as an average horror fan I could see most of those "jumps moment" coming from miles away. Of course some of them are quite effective, but I don't think that should be a mark of a good horror film. It's certainly not difficult to scare people with a loud crashes and bangs in the middle of a very quiet scene.
I couldn't help feeling there was nothing in this film that I had not seen before... A haunted house, rocking chairs moving by themselves, spider webs, locked doors, ghosts appearing in windows, a graveyard at night, thick fog and quicksands, old fading photographs ... No cliché was left untouched. Oh look, Daniel is reflected in a window! How long will it take until a ghost appears in the reflection. Not long, believe me.
As for the plot itself, it really feels rather dated, like a story that belongs to a different era, which in theory should be fine, but 10 minutes into the film I really get the feeling that I have already seen it all.
I haven't read the original story, nor seen the stage play, but by watching this film alone I do get the feeling that this is a short story stretched to its limits. Probably OK for a twilight Zone episode, or maybe even or a theatre stage, but as a film, aside from some interesting visual imagery, there was just not enough to keep me intrigued for the length of the film and by the time the ending came I just did not really care who lived or died.
Very very very disappointing. In fact quite laughable. Full unedited review on MovieGeekBlog.com
Beautiful and tender to melt your heart
This small independent film was made for peanuts (Filmed on a Canon 5D and just a handful of people in the crew) and it is probably unlikely to make any big impact on the box-office. However I'm sure it'll leave a mark on those few who will actually manage to see it.
Zoé Héran is absolutely wonderful as Laure, the 10 years old girl who's just moved into a new neighbourhood where nobody knows her and pretends to be a boy (Michaël) with her new friends. Her performance is one of the best of the year, and possibly among the best ever performances by a child: she not only perfectly captures that innocence that children of that age have, but at the same time she seems to have a deep understanding of the struggle and the pain of her character. Throughout the film she really acts as if she was a real boy in a way that's so believable that at some point I really started to wonder whether "she" was actually a real "he". The film knows that and it does play with you by stretching the lie as far as it possibly can, until it decides to show you the real truth in a beautifully handled scene where you do actually see briefly the girl naked. It's a fleeting moment and the film obviously doesn't linger on it, but it's enough to put our minds at rest so that we can carry on enjoying the rest of the story.
The director Céline Sciamma's ability to film children making it look real is incredible. It feels effortless as if the camera was one of the children themselves and we as the audience are left observing them playing in the forest as if we were spying on them, or as if it was all a documentary. Rarely I have seen scenes with such young children that feel so honest and real: the approach is subtle and light, the atmosphere is almost muted, dialogue to advance the story is used to a minimum and the silences are charges with meaning and intensity. This is a subject that rarely makes the news, let alone the movie theatres. And it's so refreshing not just to see it depicted in this film, but to have it told with such an understanding, honesty and open-mindedness. All this together with the stellar acting from little Zoé make the internal drama of Laure/Michaël even more poignant and powerful. Be warned, this is a slow film (a very short one too at only 82 minutes), that has "French independent" written all over it, from its pace, to its rough look and its lack of music score, but if you, like me, love films about children growing up, this sensitive, tender and never heavy- handed story might just melt your heart too.
I saw it months ago and I still remember it vividly, so it must have worked on me.
J. Edgar (2011)
A wasted opportunity...
am finding really hard to find something good to say about this latest dull dull dull film by Clint Eastwood. I am actually even beginning to think that it's probably time for Clint to enjoy his retirement, instead of giving us every year a film which borders between the cheesy, the flat and most crucially the rhetorical propaganda! I am sorry to say this, because I love the guy as a person, but let's face it, both Invictus and (especially) Hereafter were real stinkers As far as J. Edgar is concerned behind the thin patina of gloss, the actual true fascinating story and an impressive cast, there is otherwise very little to enjoy. Eastwood directs it all almost by numbers, as if he wasn't even there, without any visual flair, any care or attention for details, any subtlety, or worse any real ideas or anything to say. Every decision behind the making of this film seems to have been wrong one: the decision to break the film up, flashing backwards and forwards makes it too complicated to follow and keeps the audience emotionally detached for at least the whole first half. The decision to allow Eastwood to recycle his usual plain piano notes soundtrack, which sounds exactly the same as every other one of his films and actually here is used in the most cheesy possible way to its worse effect. The decision to have J Edgar Hoover telling the story of his life to a biographer (my God, can it all be a bit more obvious please!?), but most crucially, the decision to have Di Caprio & Co acting with (not very good) prosthetics for half of the film thus forcing the audience to get constantly distracted by the bad hair lines, the dodgy fake wrinkles and the rubbery feel on people's faces. I must have spent half of the film looking at the make-up thinking "God, this is bad" and even when sometimes I though "mmm, this is a bit better
" I was always aware of it. Even when you look at the publicity stills from the movie (the picture above this review) you can see tell how fake the hairline is. In an age of seamless CGI (look at the ageing effects of Benjamin Button!!) I am surprise to see such shoddy work (hopefully it'll look alright on DVD, but on the big screen I saw this, digitally projected, it all looked incredibly ropey). I am usually a huge fan of Di Caprio: I loved him since "A Boy's life" when he upstaged even Robert DeNiro (in a time where DeNiro was actually still good), he was absolutely amazing in "What's Eating Gilberg Grape" (to this day one of my favourite films), but on "J.Edgar" Di Caprio is forced to spend half of the film covered in that damn thick prosthetics which prevents him to convey any real emotion to his character. I felt like I was always watching Di Caprio in a fat-suit as opposed to J.Edgar. To be completely honest, it's not all his fault. Eastwood 's direction jumps from scene to scene, sometimes quite randomly, trying to cover as much ground as possible from the undoubtedly intriguing real life. There are way too many characters, too many story lines, most of which are left hanging without a real sense of place and eventually the emotional focus of the film gets diluted and any understanding of his character gets lost. There are some potentially very strong moments: for example the relationship between J.Edgar and his domineering mother (the always very watchable Judi Dench) and the sexual tension between Di Caprio and Armie Hammer, are both potentially very strong, however in the hands of Eastwood they all fall into schmaltzy and clichés as those cheesy piano notes tell us "a now, watch out
this is going to be emotional". It's all handled so badly that it even kills a potentially good performance like the one by Di Caprio. The rest is just a hollow mess where characters come and go without leaving any real mark: we never really know why Naomi Watts's character decides to stick with J. Edgar right until the end, we never really get a grip on the procedures that made finger prints database possible, we never really get a sense of what could have happen if the real J.Edgar had been exposed and while all sorts of lawyers and politicians appear and disappear in a seemingly random succession we are getting more and more lost in irrelevant subplots. It could have been a fascinating story: a closeted gay, the first director of FBI, a man who lived through presidents like Truman, Kennedy and Nixon. There could have been so much here and yet it's all wasted in bad storytelling, staging and wrong choices at every turn. I blame the direction, the script (surprisingly the same person who had penned the quite gentle and a lot more subtle Milk),but also the editing: obviously a lot has been cut out trying to condense 50 years into 137 minutes. But instead of loosing entire subplots and deciding to make it all more focused, somebody made a terrible decision to actually have it all in. The first 20/30 minutes are some of the most disjointed and messy I've seen in any film recently. It would probably deceiver even less than a 5/10 rating, but some of central performances are quite good, despite everything else around them. moviegeekblog.com
A handsome but quite pointless adaptation.
Your appreciation and enjoyment for this film mainly comes down to whether you buy into the story or not and whether you are you a fan of the original book (I should probably say books, since this is the first part of a trilogy). Unfortunately my answer to both questions is quite a drastic no: I know I am going to be quite unpopular with this statement, but I've never really fallen in love with the book and I in fact just don't seem to be able to find the appeal for the actual story itself. I find it quite derivative, exploitive, contrived and a bit heavy-handed to be honest. These exact same problems are translated (in fact even enhanced) into both film adaptations. It's probably unfair to draw comparisons with Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 version, but also unavoidable. There are of course similarities, but given the fact that David Fincher is directing, the US version is a lot more slicker and cinematic. It is also closer to the original book in many places, but, as always in condensing it all into a movie, it has lost some of its more polemical thrusts from Larsson's story and some of the details which made the characters so compelling. All for the sake of the actual crime/mystery plot (which let's face it, it's pretty bland for today's standards and brings very little new to the genre). So in the end, not only the film suffers from the same problems of the book but by shrinking it all it has lost some of its more subtle subtext too. I am not really saying anything new here: what works in books doesn't necessarily work movies. For example, the film spends a long time setting up the two main characters who don't meet until a good hour and 20 minutes into the story. And yet despite all this time Daniel Craig's character is just as elusive to the audience as it was at the beginning. That is an ongoing problem with Fincher's movies. His usual cold approach to film-making and detachment from his characters makes it always very hard for anyone to empathise with anyone on the screen. Craig does bring some unexpected charm and a slight sense of humour to his character (something which was completely absent in the previous version), but it's really not enough to make you care for his character, let alone for making you want to watch him again for the next couple of sequels (Fincher has recently announced his interest to direct both sequels back to back
But no official announcement will be made until this one get released, of course). It's Rooney Mara who really steals the show here (well, let face it, so did Noomi Rapace in the previous version. It's a great part to play!). This is one of the performances of the year and there will certainly be nominations and awards for her coming left and right over the next few months. She even manages bring a certain realism to an otherwise over-the-top character by convey both fragility and an incredible strength, sometimes with pure simple looks. However, did we really need that 1 hour and 20 minutes of preparation before these two characters meet? Did we really need to see the infamous rape scene? Yes of course, it's that rape that gives her the motivation for wanting to solve the crime, but why couldn't they just convey that with a quick flashback? Why was the audience allowed inside that room watching not only the rape but also her revenge to her rapist? Wouldn't it have been just as effective and less exploitive if we had been left outside the door, maybe listening to the screams? The problem is, if you take all that preamble out of the equation, you're actually left with very little else because let's face it, as a mystery this is a fairly derivative film. As I said, these are all queries with the book and the story itself . Given the material Fincher has probably down the best he could. This is a handsome film, with some solid acting (Plummer once again is at his best!) but in the end you're left with a sense of "
so what?". I couldn't help feeling that everything that Fincher did in this film, he had already done it before. The dark tones of Se7en, the seedy and multi-layered atmosphere of Zodiac, the dark ominous music (if we can call it that) by Trent Reznor from The Social Network. Finally it's probably worth mentioning the impressive "James Bondesque" title sequence (again, Fincher has down beautiful title sequences before) to the notes of the cover version of "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin which I found absolutely mesmerising and yet somehow seemed to belong to a different film altogether. In the end this film adds very little to the previous version, aside from giving us the wonderful Rooney Mara, and certainly adds nothing to what I already know about David Fincher. I just look forward to seeing him handling a script and a story worth of his craft, because I do believe he's one of the best directors out there right now