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Posts Tagged ‘The Girl in the Spiders Web’

Another interested and varied month month, the contenders for movie of the month are: 

Juliet, Naked – Chris O’Dowd plays a music bore, obsessed with reclusive singer songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).  The release of a “Naked” version (acoustic demo) of his supposed masterpiece Juliet results in an unexpected chain of events featuring O’Dowd’s long suffering girlfriend (Rose Byrne).  After the disappointment of A Long Way Down (excellent book, poorly served on film) I went into Juliet, Naked with a little trepidation, but also a certain optimism, largely because of Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.  Fortunately the film is excellent as are the aforementioned stars.  The comedy is sharp and telling, but often subtle, never overpowering the drama.  Chris O’Dowd’s character is truly annoying, but even he has his moment in one excellent scene.  Not the commercial hit that Fever Pitch or About a Boy were, but just as worthwhile seeing. Juliet Naked

Some Like it Hot – Screened in a stunning 4K restoration as part of the BFI comedy genius season – Two down on their luck musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.  They escape town disguised as women with an all female band bound for the Florida sun, where they intend to skip out on the band.  There is however a complication, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).  If there is any such thing as a perfect movie, this is it.  Sixty years later the comedy is still relevant and hilarious.  The performances (including Marilyn Monroe’s) are outstanding, but its Billy Wilder’s sharp script and direction that shine through.  What has long been my favourite film plays even better on the big screen with an audience. Some Like it Hot

Overlord – A small group of American soldiers are on a mission to parachute behind enemy lines in the hours leading up to D-Day to destroy a MacGuffin.  As you would expect things don’t go entirely to play, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if they did!  Unfortunately, I saw the trailer for this film before seeing it so knew what was coming.  It would probably have been even better without prior knowledge of where the story goes.  The cast of relatively unknown and vaguely recognisable actors (Wyatt (son of Kurt) Russell, Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones), Jovan Adepo (Fences), and Mathilde Ollivier) are all really good.  Wearing its 18 certificate as a badge of honour the action scenes are well shot on a relatively modest budget and there are some real scenes of gore.  The story gets very silly, but it’s always entertaining and never boring, I really enjoyed it. Overlord

Widows – After a heist goes wrong the surviving partners, the widows of the title, are forced to take on their own criminal enterprise.  I have a strange relationship with Steve McQueen movies (12 Years a Slave, Shame, and Hunger), I admire them, but I didn’t necessarily like or enjoy them.  I have never had the urge to re-watch a McQueen movie.  When it was announced the Oscar winner was making a movie based on the 1980’s Lynda La Plante TV mini-series, it was suggested he was slumming it, making a genre picture.  More a drama than a thriller, the film is outstanding, and for my money his best film.  The script (by McQueen and Gillian Flynn) is taught and the story rolls along at a perfect pace.  The twists in the plot, never surprise, I’m not sure they are intended to, but they always please.  The cast are all outstanding: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo (only a matter of time before she gets an Oscar to complete her EGOT), as the main characters and Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Daniel Kaluuya in major supporting roles.  The true sign of how good the film is, there are plot strands (Davis’ grief, Farrell and Duvall’s bickering, how the fallout affects Rodriguez and Debicki’s, Erivo’s strugle to make ends meet, and Kaluuya, doing what he does) that are all essential for the overriding story, but could have made a film in their own right.  All this is topped off by a less then subtle subtext about the state of politics and society. A hugely impressive film.  Widows

Wildlife – Montana, 1960, Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould) is trying to fit in at a new school when his father, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job.  Seemingly not for the first time.  Jerry decides rather than finding a new job, he will go to fight wildfires much to the annoyance of wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan). Paul Dano debut as director is a sublimely confident one.  The script adapted from Richard Ford’s novel of the same name by Dano and partner Zoe Kazan is excellent.  Gyllenhaal is on top form but pales in comparison to Carey Mulligan who is sensational.  Despite the teenage viewpoint, this is Jeanette’s story, pinpointing a small window in history, where a woman had more choices than a generation before, but not the same as a generation later.  The film ends with a stunning image, the meaning of which is open to interpretation, its meaning probably says more about the viewer than the filmmaker. Wildlife

Assassination Nation – What begins as brash, and crude teen high-school movie descends into chaos following a computer hack that exposes the secrets the people of Salem.  A witch-hunt for those suspect of being responsible ensues.  Sold as a modern take on the Salem witch trials, it is both more, and less than that depending on your point of view.  The film is a mess, with a long slow build-up.  It is always intended to be satirical, but it does quickly decent into parody and farce; however, it is during this decent the film finds its place, and its voice.  An interesting note on the casting, one of the main characters is a trans woman played by a trans woman (Hari Nef), this is notable it that its unlikely to have happened in a movie of the type a few years ago; on the other hand, it probably won’t be a thing worth mentioning in a few years as the industry becomes more inclusive.  On the whole I enjoyed it but not without reservations although I expect a lot of people to hate it.Assassination Nation

Suspiria – Taking the place of a girl who has recently gone missing, an American dancer joins a German company led by a legendry choreographer.  I came at this film with mixed feelings.  While I remember loving Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria on each of the three occasions I have seen it, the most recent of those was around ten years ago.  It is also a film that lacks enough plot to hang any memories on, it is a film that exists as a feeling, or a splash of colour (often red) in the back of your mind.  By extending the runtime by an hour would Luca Guadagnino bring more plot to the party? The main reason for seeing the film is the reteaming of Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson, whom I loved in Guadagnino’s earlier A Bigger Splash.  Strangely, very little happens, again there is little plot, beyond a little investigating from two of the characters. Despite this the 152 minute runtime never feels long. The film is far from subtle; it may not have messages deep within subtext, but the director is certainly making a lot of statements. Is it far better than people are giving it credit, or am I giving it a pass as it ends well leaving a good impression? SUSPIRIA

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald –  There seems little point in reviewing a film like The Crimes of Grindelwald, those invested in the world of Harry Potter will see it, those who aren’t are unlikely to see it, unless like me you just watch a lot of movies.  As someone who has seen the harry potter movies but isn’t necessarily invested in them, I can look at this with a certain prospective.  The story is wafer thin, the special effects set pieces are of varying quality.  The big issue is the characters; Grindelwald is neither a moustache twirling hissable villain, nor a complex sometimes sympathetic one (even Star Wars gets this right with Hux and Kylo Ren).  Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein are terribly dull, and most of the supporting cast are window dressing with little to do. Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) was one of the more interesting characters in the first film, while the plot didn’t serve her well this time around, it does look like she may have more substantial part in future.  Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) looked like she was going to be interesting, but was then wasted.  Not a disaster, but needs to get back on track, or the next film may me.  I would start with hiring a writer, J.K. Rowling may be a good novelist, but screenwriting is a different discipline, and she needs some help.  And possibly a director with a bit of flair, I seem to remember the third Harry Potter got that one right!Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – Lisbeth Salander is hired by a computer programmer to steel his own program from the American government as he fears the power it gives.  This sets in motion a chain of events that are uncomfortably close to home for Salander.  Claire Foy is nothing short of fantastic.  Not exactly the character of the original trilogy, even a little more human and dare I say it warm than the previous incarnations, she is still recognisable as Salander in both look and temperament.  The plot is total nonsense, but does its job in that it gives an environment for the characters to shine.  A little like The Fast and Furious franchise has morphed into Mission: Impossible, Lisbeth Salander has become equal parts Robert McCall, Simon Templar, James Bond and Jack Reacher, except, she’s a girl! Once you accept this, you can enjoy it for what it is, or should I say what it has become, a dumb, but fun thriller.  The story diverges a lot from the plot of the book on which it is based, this isn’t a bad thing as the book was flawed and served Blomkvist better than Salander. Not a classic, but it’s never boring,I hope it does well enough to get a sequel for two reasons; the second book, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is a better story, and more importantly, I want to see more of Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander!The Girl in the Spider's Web

Escape From New York -Another remastered John Carpenter classic.  Made in 1981 and set in the future, 1997 where Manhattan has been turned into a giant maximum-security prison.  Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into the prison to rescue the president after Air Force One is hijacked.  What could have been a forgettable Sci-Fi B-movie is elevated to stone cold classic by the inclusion of the iconic Snake Plissken, and more importantly Kurt Russell’s portrayal of him.  Made in a cynical post-Vietnam war/Watergate American it is strangely and frighteningly relevant today. Escape From New York

Robin Hood – Hitting all the beats and containing all the characters you would expect from a Robin Hood movie, but looking like a cross between Call of Duty, Peaky Blinders and last year’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  parts of the movie are fun, the cast isn’t bad, and it isn’t as bad as bad some of the reviews suggest, but it is totally pointless and derivative.Robin HoodBy far the best film of the month was Some Like it Hot, but I don’t include re-releases for movie of the month, this leaves a clear winner: Widows.  widows movie poster

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Lisbeth Salander is hired by a computer programmer to steel his own program from the American government as he fears the power it gives.  This sets in motion a chain of events that are uncomfortably close to home for Salander. The Girl in the Spider's Web poster

First, a little background; This is the fifth time Lisbeth Salander has made it to the big screen, originally, Noomi Rapace appeared in adaptations of all three of Stieg Larsson’s novels (all 2009 – also shown in Sweden as a six part, nine hour, TV miniseries in 2010).  Then Rooney Mara took the part in David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).  Both versions of the first book were excellent, parts two and three, while still good, lost their way a little, as did their source material.  Author, Stieg Larsson died in 2004 before the publication and immense success of the Millennium trilogy.  Following this success, David Lagercrantz (whose previous books include a biography of Zlatan Ibrahimović) was commissioned to write a new trilogy, the first of these, The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Lisbeth Salander

So this brings us up to date, and asks the question, is it any good?  The simple answer, yes, not bad.  “A New Dragon Tattoo Story” as it is being marketed in some territories lives or dies on the casting, the filmmakers gave themselves a head start by casting Claire Foy who is nothing short of fantastic.  Not exactly the character of the original trilogy, even a little more human and dare I say it warm than the previous incarnations, she is still recognisable as Salander in both look and temperament.  The rest of the casting is a little distracting, while Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist and Vicky Krieps as Erika Berger are both very good in their respective roles, they are ten to fifteen years too young to play them.  Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks) is described in the books as being incredibly beautiful is buried under a tone of hair and makeup.The Girl in the Spider's Web

The plot is total nonsense, but does its job in that it gives an environment for the characters to shine.  A little like The Fast and Furious franchise has morphed into Mission: Impossible, Lisbeth Salander has become equal parts Robert McCall, Simon Templar, James Bond and Jack Reacher, except, she’s a girl! Once you accept this, you can enjoy it for what it is, or should I say what it has become, a dumb, but fun thriller.  The story diverges a lot from the plot of the book on which it is based, this isn’t a bad thing as the book was flawed and served Blomkvist better than Salander.claire foy lisbeth salander

The film looks fantastic, the photography is stunning, this is nothing new for the franchise; except unlike the previous versions, it is the interiors, urban and industrial landscapes that shine, not the snow-covered vista’s.  This comes as no surprise as Pedro Luque has a background in horror movies. it is helped by great production design.  The direction from Fede Alvarez is relatively taught with just a little sag in the second act.  Like his cinematographer Alvarez also has background in horror, it therefore comes as a surprise that he is better at the action set pieces than the tension.The Girl in the Spider's Web

I don’t expect to see this on any best of lists at the end of the year, but I also don’t think anyone should be bored by it.  I hope it does well enough to get a sequel for two reasons; the second book, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is a better story, and more importantly, I want to see more of Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander!

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I know trailer breakdowns are a big thing, but I have never bothered writing much about trailers.  I don’t even go out of my way to watch them, but one has caught my attention; The Girl in the Spiders Web.  I have had the book on which it is based, for a couple of years, but only just gotten around to reading it.  David Lagercrantz was commissioned to write the book (and potentially a trilogy) by the Stieg Larsson estate.  The story has a more focused narrative and is less sprawling than the original books.  He is however, less assured in his use the leading characters; it is almost as if he hero-worships Mikael Blomkvist, and is afraid of Lisbeth Salander (or her legion of fans).  I got to impression that Blomkvist appeared in the story far more than Salander, he got more of whatever the literary equivalent to screen time is called.  Then I saw this trailer:

As far as I can see, Blomkvist doesn’t appear in the trailer.  I only recognise one character from the book other than Salander (I won’t mention who to avoid spoilers) and it inst Blomkvist.  Most of the scenes in the trailer are not from the book, or play out differently.  This is probably not a bad thing, it is a different medium after all, a good adaptation doesn’t have to be a faithful one! The photography and production design look impressive, reminiscent of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal TV show.Lisbeth Salander

The most significant thing about the trailer is Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander.  I was very excited about what she could do with the character after seeing her in Unsane earlier in the year.  Having seen a glimpse of her in the trailer I am even more interested.  As well as her performance, I am glad to see the filmmakers have given her, her own look and not copied Noomi Rapace or Rooney Mara.

The Girl in the Spiders Web is Set for release in November this year.

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