Tag Archives: Based on literature

Review of Rear Window (1954)

10 Feb

Rear Window 1954 posterRear Window (1954) is a thriller/mystery film, based on a short story “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock (The 39 Steps (1935), Torn Curtain (1966)).

Written by John Michael Hayes (The Trouble with Harry (1955), Iron Will (1994))

Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Frank Cady, Ross Bagdasarian and others.

We follow a middle-aged photographer played by Jimmy Stewart. His whole leg is in a cast, so he’s reduced to sitting in a wheelchair inside his apartment, looking out his apartment window the whole day. It’s the 50’s, they didn’t have cable yet. He overlooks an inside yard and the building across it.

There’s only a small alley that leads to a street so there’s barely any feeling of the world outside this apartment block. This adds to the claustrophobic and intimate mood of the film. If that’s all you see all day, than you might start feeling like there’s nothing outside your field of vision. The obvious sound stage look in that way helps the film. But soon you forget its fakeness and start seeing it as this weird surreal contained snow globe of a world.

To be fair, the building across have a lot of stuff going on, there’s not one single apartment where something peculiar isn’t happening and people rarely close the curtains. And one day the photographer becomes pretty sure that what he is witnessing is a murder. As the movie progresses, he tries to figure out what is happening and how to convince others, that he is not going nuts, cooped up in his apartment.

"I'll just hang this huge fucking telephoto lens out my window. Nobody's going to notice."

“I’ll just hang this huge fucking telephoto lens out my window. Nobody’s going to notice.”

The photographer has a girlfriend played by Grace Kelly. She wants to marry him, but he is apprehensive, because she comes from a different social background and they have colliding lifestyles. He rejects her and at first you’re glad that he does, because they really don’t have any chemistry and just feel like a forced couple. But later on, the girl gets interested in his little investigation and they sort of open up to each other. Which is kind of messed up if you think about it.

Jeff, the photographer isn’t that nice of guy either. After all, he snoops, he assumes, he is a dick to basically everyone he comes in contact with. Even his girlfriend he starts treating better only after she becomes involved in his unhealthy obsession with his neighbour. Jimmy Stewart is very well cast, he’s good at combining being essentially a nice guy with a selfish fast-talking dick. He was in the 40’s and 50’s what Jeff Goldblum was in the 80’s and 90’s.

Another exploration of their relationship is just the vast array of people in the apartments across, they symbolically represent the ways his life might turn out, depending on how he chooses to proceed with their relationship.

From a filmmaking standpoint this is a great set-up, because it allows the movie to be entirely subjective, being from the point of view of a single person and the building across is like a movie screen, where something horrible is happening, you wish to intervene but you can’t. Since Hitchcock was a master at manipulating with the viewer, this is a perfect canvas for him to work on. Another great aspect is how the movie conjures a fear of the possibility, that someone might look straight into the camera and see Jimmy Stewart looking at them and in a way see you, the viewer. You beg for the fourth wall to stand.

Overall, a great murder mystery with multiple layers, showcasing Hitchcock’s brilliance. Probably, one of his best movies. It’s just excellent filmmaking, hard not to enjoy. Definitely recommended.

"What? Rear Window? Never heard of it."

“What? Rear Window? Never heard of it.”

Review of The Dead Zone (1983)

7 Feb

dead_zone_xlgThe Dead Zone (1983) is a thriller/fantasy/horror film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.

Directed by David Cronenberg (Shivers (1975), Cosmopolis (2012)).

Written by Jeffrey Boam (Straight Time (1978), The Phantom (1996)).

Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerrit, Martin Sheen, Herbert Lom, Sean Sullivan, Anthony Zerbe and others.

So here’s another one of the four thousand movies based on a Stephen King novel. When I watched the film I had just finished reading the book and my interest level for it couldn’t be higher. So it was hard avoiding comparisons, which is both good and bad as it always is when you’re watching adaptations of literary works you’ve read.

A young Christopher Walken plays the protagonist John Smith, who in the novel is a very normal guy, which is something you can’t say about any character played by Walken ever. He doesn’t look as sinister as when he got older, but his speech pattern alone makes him a more odd and arguably interesting character to follow. Yes, he might be miscast, but I never complain about seeing Christopher Walken in a movie, because he as always gives an excellent performance.


I can’t tell you how much I love this clip.

The story concerns an English teacher who gets into an accident, goes into a coma and then wakes up with a psychic ability. Of course this is half the book, because King likes to set up every character and its mother before something starts happening, here it is all the first act. A lot of character lack the depth, but you can’t do that in a movie and have a sensible running time.

They change around the way the accident happens and other details to shortcut between the main plot points and I have to admit that mostly they do a good job, since it would really slow the movie down, had they left all the extraneous shit in. Where I wished they had spent a little more time is the exposition, because it feels rushed and establishes neither the relationship John had before the accident or the lengthy period he spent in coma very well.

One aspect, which I wish they had included as it was, is the implications on the moral level, with Johnny’s mother’s obsession with god and insistence on Johnny being on a mission from god. They do allude to this, but the connection with his mother is left out. But at least the theme of Johnny being a messianic character still clearly shines through.

The movie builds suspense pretty well and it is basically a supernatural thriller and not really a horror movie. One of the best aspects is how the movie moves past the supernatural element, because it is important only as a set-up and for the plot points, which themselves illustrate. Also the plot is polished and structured better and with more sense. For example a section of the book which was just a serial killer murder mystery out of the blue, here doesn’t get so much attention and just advances Johnny’s character, is cool and moves on.

Another performance worthy of notice is Martin Sheen as a two-faced politician, who has a big ominous role in the future of the world. He is great and unlike Walken is perfectly cast as this despicable character.

From the direction stand point, it is a bit cold and detached, doesn’t seem David Cronenberg really was all that into making this movie, since there’s very little of his signature style.

Overall, definitely one of the better Stephen King adaptations, both in quality and faithfulness. I really liked it. Recommended.

"Who wants. To LEARN some English? Today..."

“Who wants. To LEARN some English? Today…”

Review of Shutter Island (2010)

15 Sep

Shutter Island (2010) is a thriller/mystery/horror movie, based on a the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane.

Directed by Martin Scorcese (Hugo (2011), I Call First (1967)).

Written by Laeta Kalogridis (Pathfinder (2007), Alexander (2004)).

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Williams, Elias Koteas, Patricia Clarkson and others.

We start with Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio on a ship. They are obviously in front of a green screen, an effect used more than once in the movie. But it actually works, because it invokes the feeling of rear projection, which looks both fake and charming.

Another aspect that plays into the 40’s thriller mood is the awesome score, compiled from various modern classical musical pieces, that are really kind of over-the-top and used in a very tongue-in-cheek way. These are all basically gimmicks, but I don’t mind it, because they’re not spoofing Golden Age Hollywood, they’re creating the atmosphere those movies bring.

I don’t really remember when was the last time I saw cinematography this amazing and beautiful in a horror/thriller picture, The Shining comes to mind, that was a long time ago. To be fair, both The Shining and this are quite the high-budget productions. Shutter Island is essentialy a B-movie on an A-budget. But the money put aside, this is obviously the work of a master filmmaker, who knows how to make a movie just „flow”.

The acting is also great, Ruffalo in the few last years has done some really solid work and this is one of those times, DiCaprio is as always solid, Ben Kingsley, who has a habit of appearing in not-so-great movies as a generic villain, actually is great here, maybe the best performance in the movie.

So Ruffalo and Di Caprio are detectives sent to an asylum to investigate a disappearance of a patient and as the investigation goes on, less and less becomes clear. DiCaprio’s state of mind also becomes less certain. He has creepy dreams, which have some cool and weird imagery.

The movie has its problems, though.  Around the middle, the movie starts becoming a bit too chaotic and muddled. The biggest problem might be that the movie is quite predictable, we’ve seen this story done before, but this is the best version of it. It’s done so masterfully, that you’re more interested in the execution of the story, the way the build-up is constructed, than its rather obvious conclusion. So if you watched the trailer and thought „I know exactly what’s going to happen,” give it a try anyway, the ride is more enjoyable than just waiting for the destination.

Since it feels so much like a late 40’s film noir, I almost wish that it was shot in soft black & white, but on the other hand, the cinematography is so colorful and beautiful, you don’t want to take that away from this movie. I have to mention that among other great shots, there’s an amazing tracking shot, I won’t reveal what exactly that is, because it would be a spoiler, but the great thing about it is, that it’s not just a technical showcase, it actually works to the movie’s dramatic benefit.

Overall, a great thriller, might be more eye-candy and less an interesting and intricate plot, but for me it didn’t matter. Recommended .

“Shhh, don’t talk so loud, anything more than a loud whisper might make my body to crumble to pieces… Also, have you met my son? His name is Gollum.”

Review of Conan the Barbarian (1982)

11 Sep

Conan the Barbarian (1982) is an adventure/fantasy/action film, based on the stories by Robert E. Howard.

Directed by John Milius (Red Dawn (1984), Dillinger (1973)).

Written by John Milius (Evel Knievel (1971), Farewell to the King (1989)) and Oliver Stone (Platoon (1986), Savages (2012)).

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Max Von Sydow, Sandahl Bergman, Mako, Gerry Lopez and others.

It opens with a narrator telling us about Conan, but the way he talks, you don’t really care to listen, because it won’t really matter anyway. Then the movie finds it important to randomly show us some blacksmithing, just before kid Conan’s village is attacked and I wonder if I should care for these people I see for the first time.

Then James Earl Jones arrives on the scene and you know what? He looks ridiculous, even his epic voice (why couldn’t he narrate the movie instead?) doesn’t change the fact, that his wig of long, straight, black hair doesn’t look awesome at all. Yes, even after he decapitates Conan’s mom. And he doesn’t say a word during the whole scene, so he talks for the first time somewhere in the second half of the movie, when he appears again.

So the attackers kill everyone, except the children, which they take with them, because they’re pedophiles… or slavekeepers, I’m not sure. They make kid Conan push some rotating thing and a couple of years later he’s Arnold fucking Schwarzenegger and it doesn’t take long for Arnie to make his classic guttural “argh!” sounds.

Then we spend some time watching Conan killing people in arena fights. After becoming this champion fighter, he’s almost a celebrity, he gets whores and is allowed to read, which isn’t very barbarian-like thing to do, but don’t worry Conan isn’t smart. He just has the best possible life a slave can have, he lacks some freedom, but in every other way his life is much better than it would have been in his native village. Being an unappreciative bastard he uses the first opportunity to run away and be free, only to be instantly chased by a pack of wolves and falling into a cave to struggle with making fire and shit. If you ask me, being a slave was way better.

25 minutes into the movie we hear the main character speak for the first time and, oh dear god, where did he develop this thick Austrian accent? To think of it, 80s were a weird time, when people actually accepted his accent, this would never happen today.

He stumbles on some chick, they chat for a bit and then we get to listen to her moan out the rest of her lines, while they both are having sex. After that she turns into a horrible witch-monster, so Conan throws her into the fireplace. Who hasn’t had this first date, am I right? From this point on, it’s just Conan having various shenanigans, while searching for the man, who killed his parents. He meets a thief guy and then a  chick and they form a party of D&D characters and proceed on their adventure, which includes among other things, stabbing a huge rubber snake through the head and Conan punching a camel. There was once a time when a snake could look at least somewhat realistic and not like a CG piece of shit.

The movie is often very slow-paced. You get to see quite an amount of naked breasts. These were just two facts about the movie that sort of negate each other. The dialogue is often very clunky and not only when put into Arnold’s mouth. Some people, like Sandahl Bergman, deliver it quite well, with this rhythm, like it’s from Shakespeare, but you only half-listen to what is said. Later on they use Jones’ booming voice and he gives easily the best performance in the movie, but it doesn’t take back his absurd appearance and not having aged a day in the time when Conan became Mr. Universe.

To give credit to Arnold, he might be the only actor that sort of can pull off the Conan look, but when at one point in the movie he is disguised as a monk, he does look ridiculous, the robe failing to hide that he is a muscle-bound freak. Often I got the feeling that the script had lines, but they opted for Arnold just to stay quiet and scowl or not emote at all.

The movie has some nice gore and it’s actually kind of odd, the movie is a solid R, but it clearly appeals most to teenage boys, younger than the allowed age. Also it made me think if we really see any R rated adventure flicks nowadays. I don’t think so.

Overall, a decent, but really predictable movie for adolescents. I didn’t find it as entertaining as some later Schwarzenegger flicks, but if you’re a fan give it a watch, nothing remarkable about it. Not recommended.

Between your villain looking like a drag queen and your protagonist looking like this, I’m really not sure which side to root for.

Review of Dracula (1992)

29 Jul

Dracula also known as Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) is a fantasy/horror/drama film, based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (Dementia 13 (1963), The Godfather (1972)).

Written by James V. Hart (Hook (1991), Muppet Treasure Island (1996)).

Starring: Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Waits, Monica Bellucci, Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant and others.

I won’t dwelve much into plot details, because if you don’t know what happens in Dracula by now, you probably don’t care to find out anyway. Coppola decided to do a little more faithful adaptation of the novel and called it Bram Stoker’s Dracula, however, how its faithfulness is debatable.

Right from the start and throughout the movie we get some amazing visuals, which are even more impressive because they’re all practical. The movie also has this otherworldly, dreamlike quality.

One interesting thing is that we are provided with more insight into Dracula’s character than in the novel, and he now is less of a villain and just a tragic figure, he is basically an anti-hero and way more likable than the protagonist.  We first are introduced to Dracula in a very bad state, he looks old, frail and has an absurd looking wig/hairstyle. Gary Oldman is great casting for the role, but then again, when is he not a great casting choice.

Then, when Dracula gets to London, he starts looking as a young man again and for some reason he walks around the city in daylight. In the novel Dracula was mentioned being able to turn into a wolf, but even though it looked cool, they went overboard here and made him turn into a fucking werewolf, nice effects, but still.

I don’t hate him, but I wonder why some filmmakers cast Keanu Reeves in serious dramatic roles, it’s clear he has a very limited range, he can play a certain type, but it is definitely not Jonathan Harker, the horribly stilted accent he’s doing doesn’t help either.

Jonathan Harker is an odd character, because in all adaptations, that have him arrive at Dracula’s castle, he is very oblivious about all the strange things going on around him. Here they do that as well, but it is sort of explained. He notices all the weird shit, but is just too polite to say anything and after all, Count Dracula is an important client, but still, he should be more creeped out, especially in homoerotic scenes, like one, where Dracula is shaving him.

Winona Ryder is another odd casting choice. I like her just fine, but she doesn’t make any sense as Mina Murray. There’s also Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, which is a good, yet uninspired choice. I wish he had been in Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein, then he would have been in all the modern versions of Universal Horror’s „big three”.

I wouldn’t call this a horror movie though, it’s more of a psychological thriller, exploring the themes of sexuality. And it’s very unbalanced overall. It is the most interesting portrayal of Dracula, yet the least interesting of all the other characters. It is a very well-made and cool looking movie, but not very involving and after a while becomes even slightly dull. Coppola seems to pay great attention to details, yet lose the sight of the picture as a whole.

Also I think of Dracula as a very hard novel to adapt, because of its unconventional format. It consists of letters, diary entries and telegrams, which makes the narrative subjective and constantly changing perspectives, when you apply conventional movie structure to something like that, it tends to fall apart.

Overall, it’s not a great movie, but probably the best adaptation of the novel. I felt it was, in a way, style over substance type of deal, which is weird, since the movie is very much about the characters and romance. I don’t know, I have mixed feelings, but still – recommended.

“I know what you’re thinking “how does he look so cool, without seeing himself in the mirror?”, well let’s just say I have a lot of paintings of myself at home.”

Review of Repo Men (2010)

22 May

Repo Men (2010) is a sci-fi/action/thriller film based on the novel The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia.

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (House (2004 TV), Awake (2012 TV)).

Written by Garrett Lerner (LAX (2004 TV), Boston Public (2000 TV)) and Eric Garcia.

Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, Liev Schreiber, Carice van Houten, John Leguizamo and others.

Say you need a new heart, right? Where do you go? To a corporation which issues brand new mechanical hearts. Sounds awesome, but they cost a shitload of money. Not a problem you can just do monthly payments like it’s a car and here comes the good part. If you don’t pay, they come and cut the fucking heart right out of your chest. ‘Live forever on mechanical organs’ boner is gone.

This a cool sci-fi action movie starring Jude Law as a bad-ass. You know, sometimes he’s a lanky British douche with a receding hairline and sometimes he is awesome. Thankfully this movie is the case. He works for this company and he is the one who goes to get the body parts back. Yes, you guessed it, it’s the age-old „guy works for a company and then is forced to go against it” type of scenario, but at least the company is an interesting one.

Liev Schreiber is like the head of the company and he is just so good at playing this total douchebag asshole, I loved him. On the other hand Forest Whitaker seems a bit miscast as Law’s partner and pal.

The city design is rather cool, it has a Blade Runner vibe about it, but then there is the suburban area where Law’s character lives with his son and wife that is just a bitch for no reason, she has no other characteristic other than being a bitch towards him.

The movie also has some dark comedy elements, which worked very well. The action is just great, especially the last fight scene. It has a decent amount of gore, mostly CG though. And in one utterly ridiculous scene I learned that if you stick you’re hands into another person’s abdomen, there no risk of infection and other bad shit as long as you glue the entry cut shut afterwards.

If not for the most idiotic kind of possible ending I would have totally loved the movie. That is the thing, you will be entertained throughout the movie, but then you’ll leave it with a bitter aftertaste, because you’ll be disappointed. Most critics have shat upon this movie, but I enjoyed watching it way too much to do that. I think it was a great action movie that didn’t take itself too seriously and also had an interesting premise.

Overall, incredibly entertaining and somewhat disappointing, but definitely worth to see Jude Law kicking ass. Recommended.

Pictured: Before Battleship Hollywood did another board-game adaptation. They just didn’t call it Operation.

Review of The Hunger Games (2012)

16 Apr

The Hunger Games (2012) is an action/drama/sci-fi film based on the novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins.

Directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville (1998), Seabiscuit (2003)).

Written by Gary Ross (Big (1988), Dave (1993)), Billy Ray (The Shooter (1995), State of Play (2009)) and Suzanne Collins (Clarissa Explains It All (1991 TV), The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996 TV)) .

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Lenny Kravitz and others.

So here is the movie, the marketing tried to tell us is going to be the next Twilight. And that is a fucking insult. Except for its target demographic, there’s nothing these two have in common. Twilight is a characterless romance with a gimmick and The Hunger Games is a cool action drama for young people. Another comparison that is often brought up is Battle Royale and some other similar films, but the survival reality TV wasn’t a new concept even when Battle Royale was made. Why didn’t we draw the line after The Running Man or even earlier Death Race 2000, in an age of constant idea recycling, this is not a serious offense.

And now even more than ever this satire of reality television makes sense. During the contest we get all the staples of modern reality TV, forced romances, very antagonistic characters, fake obstacles created by the producers, sleazy hosts and so on.

It’s also very stylistic movie and I think this could get an Oscar nomination for production design. It is abundant with weird anime inspired/Neo-Victorian outfits for the upper class members of the society and some early 20th century common plain clothes for the working class.

Jennifer Lawrence, who I think is one of the most promising new actresses, doesn’t disappoint here and is solid as Katniss, who volunteers for the game show, after her sister is chosen and thank god, because her sister was a total wimp, she would’ve been dead in 5 minutes. Most of the other contestants are either not given enough screen time to do much (would have loved to see more of Isabelle Fuhrman) or they are just ok.

The adult characters, however, are very fun to watch. Woody Harrelson, is a winner of the games, who now is a drunk mentor for the District 12 contestants and he’s just amazingly entertaining. Also here he looks like an older Josh Holloway. Elizabeth Banks I didn’t even recognize under a heavy layer of make-up that looks like taken straight off of Helena Bonham Carter in Alice In Wonderland. She also acts appropriately over-the-top. As does Stanley Tucci being the overacting host with blue hair, who really knows how to milk the contestants for the right emotions, both from them and audience. Seems like the director told all the adult main actors to turn their eccentricity up to eleven. Lenny Kravitz went the other way though and just put on some golden eye-liner. Donald Sutherland does what he does best, plays a cold bastard.

The main negative point was the way it was shot. At the start of the movie we get some very shaky handheld shots of static things and I didn’t suspect that it was getting me ready for some of the later way more extreme shaking. In order to get the PG-13 rating they decided to keep some of the violence in, but make it totally incoherent. Seriously, after a couple of minutes of seeing stuff that looked like it was shot handheld by Michael J. Fox trying to stand while wearing roller skates, where the wheels are replaced by rotating vibrators, I thought it’s going to be the first time I’ll get motion sickness from a movie.

Overall, a good movie, I liked it and could recommend basically to anyone.

Pictured: Jennifer Lawrence interviewed by Meryl Streep on the set of The Iron Lady.

Review of Julie & Julia (2009)

31 Mar

Julie & Julia (2009) is a biography/romance/dramedy film about the real-life chef Julia Child and a blogger Julie Powell.

Directed by Nora Ephron (This Is My Life (1992), Bewitched (2005)).

Written by Nora Ephron (Silkwood (1983), Hanging Up (2000)).

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Jane Lynch and others.

You might ask why I’m reviewing this movie? Well, because in a way it is a horror movie. It’s about a huge and demented Meryl Streep destroying lives… sort of.

Right at the start I have to say that I totally understand that I am not the target demographic for this movie, but then again, I think a good movie can be enjoyed by anyone. However, I definitely did not.

The movie is split into two storylines. One is about Julia Child becoming a cook and writing a cook-book in the 50’s. And the other one is about Julie some-last-name, who is writing a blog about cooking everything in Child’s cook-book. Isn’t that an exciting premise? No, it is not. Due to having these two storylines it is way too long for a romantic comedy. And too short for a biographical drama.

Main problem of this movie is that neither Julia or Julie are likable. Julia is just loud, obsessive, insensitive, self-centered and overall obnoxious, although Meryl Streep does make her at times charming and the tallness is definitely done very convincingly. And Julie is a whiny, obsessive, self-centered and hysterical bitch. No wonder Julie idolizes Julia that much.

When Julie starts her blog she writes that she doesn’t know if anyone reads her posts. What kind of blog site is she using? Wewonttellyouifyougetanyviewsorcomments.com? And you’d think that her being a blogger would have helped me identify with her, but I really don’t care about a relatively wealthy 30-year-old woman, who is obsessed with Julia Child and moaning all the time with tears in her eyes. She is a person I would hate in real life. To give her credit she does admit she is a bitch.

So I was left to identify with the husbands, who are in both cases very supportive, normal and nice and have egocentric wives.

Closest I got to an emotional response was when I started feeling hungry or that one scene when the characters are watching a funny SNL sketch on TV.

It is in a way a success story, but it lacks any impact. Oh, you live in a cool apartment in New York and have enough money to keep making these exquisite foods every day? That’s so awful, I hope you’ll get a publishing deal, so you can start living a normal life.

Overall, this movie is shit. Not entertaining, not moving, not funny, not worth seeing.

"Yeah, that's right, what's for dinner, you self-absorbed bitch?"

 

Review of The Omen (1976)

16 Mar

The Omen (1976) is a horror/mystery/thriller film, continuing the trend kick-started by The Exorcist, dealing with various incarnations of evil, often involving children.

Directed by Richard Donner (16 Blocks (2006), Superman (1978)), known for inventing the modern superhero film and the buddy cop film franchise Lethal Weapon.

Written by David Seltzer (Dragonfly (2002), My Giant (1998)), interestingly, he also wrote the 2006 remake of The Omen.

Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Stephens, Billie Whitelaw and others.

“Look at me Damien! It’s all for you.” says a nanny before hanging herself and smashing through a window. This and a few other scenes might just be some of the most memorable moments of horror cinema, which is why this movie is regarded as a classic. In this case it is totally deserved. I often use this particular quote randomly in everyday conversations, that must count for something.

Damien, the six-year-old antichrist played by Harvey Stephens isn’t all that active in the movie, except for a scene where he starts punching and scratching his mother for taking him to the church. This could be considered a reasonable reaction. What kid enjoys going to church? This movie must have reduced the number of newborn children being named Damien. For some reason it seems a very appropriate name.

Gregory Peck in this movie has decided that he won’t actually do emotions, unless the situation is very extreme. You’re wife falls from the second floor, breaks everything in her body and is put in the hospital. Peck just puts on a little frown as if to say “well, she isn’t dead, now is she?”. Peck’s hair seems to change its grayness  in certain scenes, drawing my attention to the fact that nowadays the possibility of a 60-year-old man being the star of a horror movie is rather small.

When a priest turns to Peck’s character to say his child is evil, he is quite unbelieving and understandably so, since it’s hard to trust a priest when another one slipped you the devil six years ago.

Richard Donner seems very confident with directing, which is not surprising, considering the 15 years of doing various tv series before this movie.

The score is just brilliant, over the years there’s been countless imitations.  The choral parts in latin and blasting orchestral score really got my heart pounding leading on the second best death of the film. But I must admit that at times the powerful score was a bit too much for me.

The undoubtedly best death is when a character loses his head in the most amazing slow motion decapitation scene I’ve ever seen, which is caused by an improbable and elaborate string of  events. It might have inspired the whole Final Destination gimmick.

Besides just the shenanigans with the little rascal Damien at the Thorn house, what aids the movie greatly is the far more interesting subplot, where a photographer starts figuring out that something isn’t right.

I think this movies target audience is new parents (preferably adoptive), who might be terrified by the thought of their child turning out to be the antichrist himself.

There are many and beautiful locations, which seems odd for a movie with a budget this modest. Although they might have taken some shortcuts. For example when the characters are looking for a specific old church it turns out to be on the Old Church road. Suspiciously convenient, isn’t it?

The ending is nice, you might think it promises a sequel, but back then it wasn’t such a common practice. Of course that doesn’t mean there were no sequels.

Overall, a good, well-written, well-directed movie, really suspenseful and entertaining, takes itself seriously enough and I totally recommend it for everyone.

"Hello, I'm your son's new nanny, don't mind me, looking absolutely terrifying and showing up from nowhere."

Review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

5 Mar

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) is an American mystery/thriller/drama film, which is the second film adaptation of the novel “Män som hatar kvinnor” by Stieg Larsson.

Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club (1999), Alien 3 (1992)), originally a music video director, that is now known mostly for his dark thrillers.

Written by Steven Zaillian (The Falcon and the Snowman (1985), Schindler’s List (1993)).

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Yorick van Wageningen and others.

Before I start, I must state that I’ve recently also seen the Swedish adaptation of the novel and since it’s so fresh in my memory I can’t avoid comparing the two movies.

I’ll start with the opening credits, which I absolutely loved. So often nowadays all you get is a title card and that’s it. Is our attention span really so short these days, that we can’t take a minute or two of the names of people who made the movie? Since I know a lot of people who would say that opening credits are the unnecessary shit of the times long gone, I guess it is true. Anyway, sometimes filmmakers realise that those couple of minutes while they flash their name on-screen can be filled with something visually pleasing and creative and this one delivers some great looking stuff indeed.

And then we go on in the mystery of the film and while I am going to criticize the movie for being too similar to Niels Arden Oplev’s one, it is nice to see them not trying to make it action packed and deliver us a solid detective movie in the age where even Sherlock Holmes is the main character in action flicks. The mystery itself seemed easier to follow, but mostly due to the fact I had seen it unraveled once before.

What seemed a bit confusing at the beginning was the odd language bending. Thankfully they didn’t decide to change the location to the states, but then again, the mixture of real, fake and not right accents was a bit jarring.

They didn’t tone down the graphic sexual violence, which is also good, but for some reason lacked the same impact. I don’t want to give anything away, but the solution to the mystery also had a lot less impact.

The reason might be Rooney Mara’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. Don’t get me wrong, she was good, more than I expected after her blandness in the A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. But she doesn’t deliver what I got from Noomi Rapace. The difference is subtle and I think it could be a matter of preference. Also why are outcasts in movies always into metal or goth or whatever? Are they saying people who prefer these subcultures are socially disabled or are the outcasts instantly drawn into black hair-dye, I’ll never know, but from what I know, it’s bullshit.

Daniel Craig is likable and all here, but the problem is that he is a handsome man, there’s no way I’d see this well-dressed, blond, blue-eyed, walking movie star stubble on the street and think “well, that’s an everyman journalist”.

They stretch some parts longer and some compress, but overall I got the sense I’m seeing less than in the Swedish version, which really made me feel the literal translation of the novel’s title Men Who Hate Women a lot more apparent. This also made me root for Lisbeth more and justified her avoiding of emotional attachment and social interactions.

The ending was a lot more drawn out and also made Lisbeth a lot more romantically interested in Mikael.

Stellan Skarsgard is the best thing about the film, he gives a great performance and his villain speech is just awesome. And having Orinoco Flow by Enya play in the background was an inspired choice.

The score also deserves some praise and Karen O’s cover of Immigrant Song, played over the opening credits was interesting as well.

What I am interested to see is if they will make the sequels, I haven’t seen the Swedish ones yet, but I’ve heard they’re not as good so the American ones can actually improve on that.

But what I found very disappointing is how similar the movie’s are. Yes, Fincher adds some stylistic touches here and there, but overall it’s so close to the Swedish one, at times even the sets and shots seem the same.

Overall, a good, but painfully unnecessary movie, recommended if your eyes can’t handle subtitles, but otherwise give the 2009 one a go first. I know it’s so often said “yeah, but the original was better”, but what can you do if it is.

"Yeah, I had to do a lot of preparation for the role, you know, bleach my eyebrows and all."