Friday, January 27, 2012


This movie is about an "agent" who is double crossed and then spends the rest of the movie tracking down and killing - I guess you'd call it revenge. But the weird thing is that unless you are a fan of MMA (that's mixed martial arts for you pacifists), you will keep asking yourself "who is this unbelievably bad actress playing the lead?" She does her own stunts, but still- it's like watching paint dry when she is "delivering" her lines. The average 7th grade lead in the play does a better job doing Death of a Salesman. If you try to just get past her it is almost impossible since she is in almost every scene.This movie has gotten good reviews- really, it has. But I cannot decide why. I am stumped. Kill Bill was better if you want to see humans fake fight and not get nearly as hurt as they would be in reality. Perhaps this is a film school type film where I was supposed to appreciate some sort of satire or tribute to some genre. I found it dull. Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas are ALL in this movie. So you'd think there would be an explanation. But probably not. I am giving it 2 stars because Soderbergh deserves it for conning people to produce and act in it!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Artist

A little bon-bon from France pretty much sums up this imaginative, funny, and very charming black and white silent film about acting in silent films in the 20s and 30s. In order for any movie to be truly loved by the audience, the audience must CARE. And you care by the bucketload because more delightful lead characters (one of whom is a Jack Russell ala Asta) are not to be found. The lead is played by Jean Dujardin, a French comedian/actor, and no, you haven't seen him before. The ingenue is played by Berenice Bejot, aptly named Peppy in the film.(also the writer/director's wife in real life) The movie is almost totally silent for dialogue, but the music plays throughout. Of course, here is also a lesson in the importance of the film score to the action. The actors, though French sprinkled with some English/Americans, silently speak in English so you can lip read on occasion. Just like reading subtitles in a foreign film where you are tricked into thinking "hey I totally can speak Chinese here!" so is the audience lulled into thinking they are hearing dialogue. One great side effect is that the audience in my theater was dead silent- no chit chat, no whispers- there was an acute awareness of how much everyone could hear. And so we listened more closely to words that were actually unsaid. Uncanny, but true. This is a truly wonderful film. It deserves all the credit it gets. And the charm of Dujardin cannot be overstated. The last moments of the film and just 2 words reveal what this has been about, and don't worry, you won't miss them. But it is a sweet revelation to the audience.  Go see it and bring all your friends.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I sort of dreaded seeing this. Yes, I read Stieg Larsson's books- every last one. I found them bloated and always in need of a sharp editor with a pair of virtual scissors. Larsson's books are full of needless random subplots and overdone narrative- and that is why the Swedish film versions of these books are awful. In order to understand the Swedish films you must have READ the books- characters drop in and out and scenes are truncated and obtuse to follow- as if the screenwriter would be tased if he left out one tidbit. So I feared another lengthy feature length film would make me sorry I ever heard of the franchise. But what a great surprise! At heart, these books are written by an angry, angry socialist who thinks everyone is a victim (my opinion- you can keep yours). And the best point of the books is that Salander is a survivor- competent, not afraid to be brutal,and gifted. Larsson uses Salander as a social and political cause- evidently Sweden is tough on its wayward youths all the way into their adulthood. Sadly, we cannot interview the very late Larsson to see if he is still so angry. But he does make the guys in the audience squirm. So the script writer had a choice- clutter the US version with the useless meanderings in the book, as Sweden did,  or stick to the heart of the story. And by sticking to the heart of the book, it is  far better than either the book or the Swedish film. The cast is terrific except for the surprise of seeing Robin Wright (Penn) flash on the screen- which actually caused some laughter in our theater. It is as brutal as they come- fairly graphic and hard to watch at times. Daniel Craig is a great Blomkvist and Mara Rooney is even better as Lisbeth Salander. What IS funny is how half the cast speaks English with an off and on Swedish accent. Or I assume it is Swedish. Then some speak with a British accent that also comes and goes. It is distracting and truly a detail the director should NOT have missed. I am glad that they pared the story down as far as it could go- no one will miss the unimportant scenes that stemmed from the ADD/ADHD mind of Larsson in his books. I hope Hollywood makes the other books into movies with the same scriptwriter, Steve Zaillion- because he got the gist of it.  And because of that, if you promise not to bring the kids, I highly recommend this movie.