Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

I promised. The next time I would talk about the Millennium series is when the new chapter comes out. Well, here we are and The Girl Who Played With Fire is about to get released next week all across North America. Like the first chapter, it is a well thought out & at times challenging dive into the great Swedish divide. However, just like the first chapter, it is a mess, overstuffed with characters and a story that is hit and miss in execution.

The plot -involving sex abuse and sex rings- overreaches and ultimately fails in its outrageous concept. I do think the lead actors are great starting with Noomi Rapace as femme fatale Lisbeth Salander, the movie rests on her shoulders and she carries it gloriously to the finish line & her compatriot and film partner Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist- an impeccably professional Swedish movie star. They are the driving force of the movie. The filmmakers strike a somber, successful mood but there isn't much here that I'd recommend, unless -of course- you are a fan of the popular books. & That is basically what it comes down to. Most of the folks I encounter that have an affinity for these films are fans of the novels- which have sold in the millions worldwide.

When you have a fan base that is straight up literary, there is no reason why a film adaptation should not be made. Case in point, the Twilight series, which has single handily focused its attention on the book's die hard fans, to make the movies as straightforward as anything read on book. Smart move, considering the movies are now bona fide cash cows that are the hottest thing to have come out of the Hollywood system since The Lord Of The Rings (which doesn't necessarily mean the quality is high). Basically, playing it safe so that Twi-Hards don't get pissed off prevents the artistic freedom necessary for such a satisfying ventures into cinematic territory. Sucks for us but a wet dream for Twi-Hards and Millenium fanatics.

Kudos has got to be given to director Daniel Alfredson- trying his best at keeping the style and substance relevant- but even the greatest of directors cannot save the most poorly written screenplays (Scorsese? New York New York?). Rumor has it that Hollywood maverick director David Fincher has a remake up his sleeves for 2011, he's currently starting pre-production and filming should begin in the fall with Bond man Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and An Education star Carrey Mulligan as Salander. Here's hoping this visionary does something different with the source material and conjures up a screenplay that is both cinematic and more worthy than its predecessors & goes his own rebellious way in telling the stories. If there's a person that can do it, it's Fincher.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Phil Spector all coked up

I couldn't resist but post this absurd and scary-funny picture of genius/madman music producer Phil Spector. Thanks to Glenn Kenny for the heads up on this priceless snapshot of the music mogul.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Winter's Bone

Debra Granik's second feature film Winter's Bone (B+) is the kind of movie that gets progressively better & better as you delve deeper and deeper on it. It is filled with humane, real characterizations of a society that is rooted in evil and people that have lost all hope in life and succumbed to shadiness & drug dealing. There are memorable scenes that linger (the gutting of a squirrel, the taking of a girl, the final -ambiguous- mumbling scene) & a sense of dread that will turn off the most primitive of moviegoers. It is through and through a product of Independent film and we should be very appreciative of its existence.

If there is a plot it is sparse and purposely slight @ first. Granik films her subjects in a cinematography layered in blue and in a mountainous background that brings mythic purpose to her story's very fabrication. What to say of the performances? absolutely spellbinding. Jennifer Lawrence as the 17 year old main character does not over act but instead brings subtlety to her role as a teenage girl desperately looking for her -dead?- father in the wilderness Ozarks of Missouri. John Hawkes as her isolated and troubled uncle & really just the entire cast which does an amazing job conveying a mood that enhances the dread.

I've heard people complain about the grimness of the picture and its sheer hopelessness. I've heard some complain that not much happens & that the narrative plotting is thin. I've also heard some folks say that they were bored out of their minds and did not get the movie's message. To all these naysayers I say look closer and maybe you will find what you missed the first time around- a film about the root of evil and how matriarchal ties that bind never get broken, no matter what the cost. That is Winter's Bone & I guarantee you will be talking about it no matter your liking or disliking of it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why 3D?

It's everywhere. It seems as if every film coming out these days is available with 3D glassses. This of course has a lot to do with money. Ever since that groundbreaker Avatar came out & stormed the Box Office, the studios wanted to take advantage of the 3d medium by releasing every mediocre effort with an extra pair of glasses. When conceived, most of these movies were not meant for 3D viewing, compared to James Cameron's Avatar which was born and bred as a 3D experience. Don't waste your money watching Toy Story 3 in 3D, it is not essential & the film does not benefit in any way shape or form from it. Watch it sans the frames, you'll thank me later for it.

The reason why these studios are releasing everything they have in this form is simple- money. The 3D glasses make the movie ticket 3$ more expensive, meaning that the average 12$ ticket price gets boosted up to 15$ for 3D. It's a Hollywood studio Exec's wet dream to have his ticket price boosted. I'll be the first to admit that 3D could quite possibly be the future of filmmaking, Martin Scorsese is planning to shoot his next movie that way, so are other key Hollywood filmmakers.

Cameron's 2009 film was a curse and a blessing. It brought out the best and the worst in movies. Its influence on the next generation of film is limitless. Film will be more focused on visuals and filmmakers will surely try to outdo themselves with visionary eye popping images. This is a positive but at what cost? The negative is simple, while a 3D film will focus on the visual it might just forget the most important part of a film- The story, the narrative, the structure.

How To Train Your Dragon did not forget the rules of  the technology, which is why it's the best 3D movie of the year thus far. Its story is heartfelt and well told, ditto its visuals which pop out & blow your eyes away. The story might be old fashioned and tiresome but it has an old school vibe that had me hooked from its colorfully inventive dragons to its innocently told tale. Cliches come about in many ways, but the key to enjoying it is letting yourself go to the images directors Dean Deblois and Chris Sanders conjure up in this medieval tale. There are far more gripping movies playing at the moment but none are as eye popping or colorfully transportive as this B movie dragon tale.

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