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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo



Having read the popular novel (along with 65 million others) and having viewed the Swedish screen version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I wasn’t sure what a new American film version could bring to the franchise.

My anticipation peaked as the title sequence kicked in, blazingly set to Trent Reznor’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. Ah-ha, perhaps the American film is going to kick up the intensity?  Nope. The spark provided by that opener developed into just a fizzle of a firework. I was about to watch another faithful adaptation of the novel.

Rooney Mara (above,left) creates the exact same essence that Noomi Rapa (above,right) did in the original film. They both make a convincing Lisbeth, the outlaw heroine of the series. Likewise, Daniel Craig is an even match for Sweden’s Michael Nyqvist.

This is a good thriller, but it’s hauntingly similar in look and storytelling to the Swedish film. David Fincher, the director of Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac, and The Social Network, should have raised the bar a bit.

 Simply put:  A convincing thriller to anyone who hasn’t met the Lisbeth Salander character yet; a two hour and 40 minute bore to anyone who’s seen the equally good Swedish film.

Award potential: Pundits are thinking nominations for film and actress. I’m thinking neither.

The ten buck review:  Worth 2 bucks. Save your theater money and rent the Swedish film instead.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows



There's a lot to like in this new installment of the Sherlock Holmes franchise: Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law's bantering bromance is good cinematic fun, director Guy Richie's crunch-and-thud action shots are superbly choreographed and Sherlock Holmes' Victorian London is fascinationg to view. So why didn't I enjoy it?

This stylish film is probably just too stylish to love. I watched the story and action at such arms length that I never fully vested in it. As a plus, the charm of Holmes and Watson's witty sniping breaks through all the stylish clutter. But Downey Jr. has similar chemistry with co-stars in all of his recent films, so I can't recommend the film based off of that alone. 



Simply put: Without Downey Jr., I presume this movie would be a bombastic bore.


Award potential: Technical awards only.


The ten buck review: Not worth ten bucks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Week With Marilyn

In 1956, Oxford grad Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) worked as a lowly assistant on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl", a film starring Sir Laurence Oliver (Kenneth Branagh), Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) and Dame Sybil Thorndike (Judi Dench). On the set, Marilyn befriends the trustful Colin during the shoot. And that's the setup for a movie that's light on plot but heavy on performance.

There's a pleasant clash of British royalty vs. American celebrity going on, and the real tension is revealed as Oliver notes that for all his theater-trained acting, the silver screen rewards the magic of someone like Marilyn.  Much like Monroe's work in the "Prince and the Showgirl" film, the astonishing experience of watching Michelle Williams transform herself  tends to block out everything else going on.

At one revealing moment, Monroe turns to Colin and asks, "Shall I be her?" And, instantly, she is.  The film's story has a few slow spots but it dazzles when Marilyn, ahem, Michelle Williams is on screen.  Perhaps the creators knew this.  They give us opening and closing music numbers to guarantee that this film is worth your big screen bucks.

 Simply put:  A simple story with one blonde ambition: Michelle Williams magically recreates Marilyn Monroe. 

Award potential:  Michelle Williams (Actress) and Kenneth Branagh (Supporting Actor) are  front-runners.  Judi Dench (better in J.Edgar) is less likely. Don't look for the screenplay to rise to the short list.

The ten buck review:  Worth ten bucks.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Muppets


Romney Muppet

"I guess people sort of forgot about us," Kermit the Frog laments early on in The Muppets. This joyous, charming film should remedy that.

The revival comes from director James Bobin (Flight of the Chonchords, Da Ali G Show), screenwriters Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jason Segel (who also stars with Amy Adams).  Bret McKenzie (Flight) also contributes three songs.

As you'd expect from that talented group, the dialogue and the songs are superb. They've added some sharpness but kept the sweet streak. It's clear that this was the team that was meant to make this movie. This fact was made clearer by how poorly the cameos were misused, the movies biggest flaw.

Will adults who grew up on The Muppet Show enjoy this reboot? Can the muppets still resonate in a cynical world? It's time to cue the music, it's time to light the lights....


SImply put:  Delightful.

Award potential:  "Life's A Happy Song" should get noticed for Original Song. I'd love to see "Man or Muppet" make that list too.

The ten buck review: Worth ten bucks. Worth nine and a half just to hear the chickens sing.