Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

In a nutshell: Hollywood’s take on Larsson’s dark masterpiece

Popcorn rating: 4/5

Who would have thought a series of novels by a late Swedish author could have caused such a stir?  More than 20 million people have read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy and the original films proved to be among Sweden’s most successful.

Now it’s Hollywood’s turn at the girl with that tattoo, with David Fincher in the director’s chair.

Many have questioned the purpose of remaking The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  The 2009 original directed by Niels Arden Oplev was critically acclaimed and of its place . The remake will therefore no doubt spark a debate about our reluctance to read subtitles.

Nevertheless, Fincher is a perfect fit for the dark yet captivating subject matter, channelling his experience from his previous thrillers like Seven and Zodiac.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tells the story of disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as he investigates the disappearance of a teenager some forty years ago.  He is aided by the enigmatic computer-hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) in the seach to uncover secrets which will ultimately threaten their lives.

A word of advice is needed for those new to the Millennium story – be prepared.  The core of the film is a classic ‘whodunnit’ but there’s a darker edge to the film with many scenes of sexual violence. This is an important addition, helping to shape the plot and characters, but it is graphic and abhorrent.

Indeed, the original name for the story is Men Who Hate Women and the book’s themes were inspired when a teenage Larsson witnessed a rape and was too frightened to intervene.

But this should not put anyone off because the film features redemption on many levels, particularly for anti-hero Lisbeth.  The character, one of cinema’s most interesting in years, is played almost perfectly by newcomer Rooney Mara.  It is almost on a par with Noomi Rapace’s groundbreaking portrayal in the Swedish versions.

Mara introduces a vulnerable side to Lisbeth – a welcome new dimension to the damaged character. Daniel Craig also works hard to hang up his 007 tuxedo to play an everyman.

Although it’s a little jarring and confusing to see Americans playing Swedish characters it’s worth suspending your disbelief as this is worthy adaptation.

Reviewer: DavidMorgan

In a nutshell: Spielberg works his magic on a classic comic icon.

Popcorn rating: 3.5/5

Belgian artist Hergé (pen name of  Georges Rémi)  once said he “thought Spielberg was the only person who could ever do Tintin justice.” The late comic writer created the boy reporter and adventurer in 1929 and now here we are in 2011 where his vision has come true.

It’s up to film fans and critics to discuss what The Adventures of Tintin would have been like in someone else’s hands but Hergé was right – Spielberg has done wonders with it.

Obviously the most noticeable thing about Tintin is its gorgeous motion capture visuals, which involves transforming the actions of real actors into animated sequences. It’s been done before with the likes of Mars Needs Moms where it was greeted by an underwhelmed audience. This time it is more promising with Spielberg proving how immersive the technique can be. Indeed, perhaps Tintin will do for motion capture what Avatar did for 3D.

Despite its flashy visuals, Tintin has an old fashioned feel to it. The globe-trotting adventure is almost reminiscent of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films but is more accessible and child friendly. It will be a hit with the kids but you may be left with the lingering sense that more should have been on offer for adults.

The story sees Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his new friend Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) search for a sunken treasure ship that was commanded by one of Haddock’s ancestors. They aren’t alone,however; hot on the trail is villain Ivanovich Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

Essentially, Tintin shows a cast and crew at the top of their game having a lot of fun. You know you are in safe hands with the likes of Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson producing. The film even reunites the team behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thomson and Thompson and director Edgar Wright as a script writer.

Expect multiple sequels.

Reviewer: DavidMorgan

In a nutshell: Not so plain Jane falls in love with foxy Fassbender

Popcorn rating: 4.5/5

With the new Wuthering Heights adaptation just around the corner (complete with – gasp – a black Heathcliff) it’s timely for a revamp of the fairest Brontë of them all – Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. Cary Fukunaga, who impressed with Sundance winning Mexican gang feature debut Sin Nombre, may seem a strange choice as director for what at first glance (and especially when Judi Dench turns up) looks a super-expensive BBC costume piece – indeed the Beeb also co-produce – but the result is something quite special, to rival even the quintessential Orson Welles/ Jane Fontaine pairing in Robert Stevenson’s 1943 film.

No one does Gothic romance quite like the Brontës and Fukunaga and scriptwriter Moira Buffini (who penned Tamara Drewe) wisely stay true to the source material. Why bother attempting to create brilliant dialogue when Charlotte Brontë got there before you over 160 years ago? The most notable shift however is our introduction, transporting us to the latter quarter of the novel with Jane (Mia Wasikowska) fleeing from Thornfield across the bleak moors, before efficiently returning to childhood and the destiny-shaping position as governess for Mr Rochester’s (Michael Fassbender) ward in flashback.

Famously, Brontë described Rochester as ugly and the narrator herself as plain, but our two leads could never achieve this. Wasikowska is brilliant as a severe Jane, but Michael Fassbender – all Byronic sex appeal, piercing glances and filling out those breeches in a very healthy manner – is absolutely mesmerising. Okay, perving over, but if you caught his turn as Bobby Sands in Hunger, or even his magnetic Magneto in the new X-Men, you’ll know how the German-Irish actor can ignite a screen and the exchanges between Rochester and Jane are sizzling with tension.

Fukunaga also plays up the Gothic elements of the novel for some great suspense – for the four people left in the world who don’t know the reasons behind the strange events at Thornfield, Popcorn won’t spoil the surprise – but the atmosphere and mystery is brilliantly played and Adriano Goldman’s excellent cinematography captures the harsh landscape as an almost alien landscape, far from the rolling English fields of similar adaptations.

While much of the male section of the audience may roll their eyes at the aching romance, this is far from a Brontë-snorus, Jane Eyre is a brilliant adaptation, which is faithful but also brings something new. If you’re a fan of the novel – or my future husband Michael Fassbender – this is a must-see.

Reviewer: AoifeWantonMovieLover

In a nutshell: Insipid sub-Twilight fantasy

Popcorn rating: 0/5

Little Red Riding Hood: it’s a creepy old fairytale, isn’t it? And I’m a sucker for a good old lycanthropy-as-a-metaphor-for-coming-of-age story, two of my favourites being Neil Jordan’s dreamlike Company of Wolves and the low-budget Canadian shocker Ginger Snaps, so I thought I’d give Red Riding Hood a go.

Unfortunately, Red Riding Hood, directed by Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke, has about as much depth as, well, Twilight.

Red Riding Hood is set in a mediaeval European village in which everyone is spotlessly clean with porcelain-white teeth, speaks in a nasal Californian twang and is coiffed and made-up as if for an American Apparel advert. The cliché-ridden dialogue is a monstrous offence to the ears and probably the scariest thing in the film.

This theme-park MediaevalWorld™ is pestered by a werewolf – which occasionally sprints in and kills someone, but this being a film rated 12, it does so in an inexplicably tidy, gore-free fashion. So far, so yawn-inducing.

Then priest Gary Oldman turns up from nowhere, overacts in a silly accent and tells the villagers that the werewolf must be one of them. Everyone gangs up on the village idiot for no obvious reason, and then it’s left to the too-perfect-to-be-true Mary-Sue of a heroine, Valerie (yes, Valerie – that really is her name. Her friend’s called Roxanne. Like, totally mediaeval, right?) to save the day.

The rest of the plot is a pile of guff not worthy of relating, but suffice it to say that the message overall is that the most important thing in life is to have a brooding, sexy boyfriend, even if he’s a potentially dangerous killer and you have to leave your home and your family to hang around for him until he works through his issues. Oh, and there’s also a thinly-veiled true-love-waits metaphor about learning to control the beast within.

Red Riding Hood is badly acted, badly directed and badly written. It’s not fun, it’s not creepy, it’s not romantic, it’s not dark, it’s not anything except appalling on every level. The special effects are rotten, most of the sets wouldn’t be out of place in panto, and the whole package spreads a horrible misconception that dropping everything for a ‘misunderstood’ brooding pretty boy means you’re twuly in wuv. One day, perhaps we’ll stop peddling this poisonous drivel to teenage girls and give them something positive to watch. In the meantime, strike this DVD off your daughter’s LoveFilm list.

Reviewer: JoSheppard

In a nutshell: A worthy throwback to the blockbusters of the 80s

Popcorn rating: 4/5

Watching Super 8 is like experiencing time travel. The clothes, the haircuts, the way the film is shot and even the plot points to a more innocent time when the world was enjoying its first blockbusters.

It is blissfully reminiscent of the excitement of the 80s and films like The Goonies and ET.  Super 8 is a clear tribute to that with the basic premise that a group of kids witness a train crash that is at the centre of an alien conspiracy.

But it is more than a love letter to the 80s. Modern filmmaking brings a new dimension to the old school – there are almost as many explosions as a Transformers film.

Yet the children’s innocence and reaction of sheer panic to a situation out of their control is convincing and charming.  Then again what else would you expect when the best of the old generation meets the new?  Steven Spielberg produced the film while Lost creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams was the man behind the camera.

The story centres around Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) in smalltown Ohio. His mum has recently died in a disastrous industrial accident and he is attempting to get over it by helping his friend create a zombie film for a school competition.  But then his home becomes swamped by the military who are ruthlessly efficient at keeping the Government’s secret just that.

As you might expect, all hell eventually breaks loose but clever camera work means you only get a true glimpse of the alien at the end of the film. It builds a tremendous and old fashioned sense of suspense.
And it’s satisfying to know an alien presence in a film can once again be fascinating and mysterious rather than world conquering.

Essentially this is a movie about friendship and community and how something so catastrophic can affect those bonds.  In truth Super 8 does go off the rails a bit towards the end but in terms of the experience and nostalgia it is definitely worth your money.

Reviewer: David Morgan