Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Dir. by David Fincher

This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), as he investigates the disappearance of a wealthy patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined. Written by Anonymous on

If you are not familiar with the works of David Fincher by now, then there is a chance you should probably be beaten. Aside from probably the worst Alien sequel ever, he has built quite a resume of intense, and sometimes mind boggling films. This includes last years Oscar stomping film The Social Network, but also includes some other greats like Zodiac, Panic Room, Fight Club, The Game, and Se7en. The man makes some super intense films, and I absolutely love it. I always look forward to seeing his work, and now that he seems to be teamed up regularly with my favorite musical phenom Trent Reznor, it only makes me want to see his movies more.

The casting job is about as spot on as I have seen in a long time. Daniel Craig plays the curious and sometimes submissive Blomkvist like he lifted it from the pages of the novel. The always amazing Christopher Plummer portrays Henrik beautifully as a man crushed by his own family and determined to solve a 40 year old murder mystery. I don't think there is ever a doubt that Stellan Skarsgård plays whatever he is told to with excellence, just as he does here. The rest of the supporting cast does just an absolutely amazing job. Now that brings me to the one last person I really want to talk about, and I'm going to start a whole new paragraph for her just because she deserves it.

Rooney Fucking Mara just blew my mind away. I even forgot who she was after the film was done. Now I remember making fun of her after watching Nightmare on Elm Street. Her acting was horrible, but now looking back that was probably the director's fault and not hers. She was forgettable in The Social Network and Youth in Revolt. I barely remember her in either of those films, and it doesn't fricking matter. If she doesn't take Best Actress at the Oscars this year then I have lost all hope for film. She took the character of Lisbeth Salander and ripped it out of the frickin book and portrayed it on the screen in probably the best book to film adaption of a character I have ever seen. I left the theater last evening just amazing and I can't stop thinking about it. She bared it all emotionally and physically to bring this character to life. All of the piercings she has in the film, she really got in real life just to help understand her character. She does such an amazing job playing a troubled woman, beaten down by life, and still managing to survive because of her inner strength. After being brutally raped, instead of taking it as it is and remaining shattered she rises from the ashes to exact her revenge in such a beautiful fashion. The rape scene is graphic just as it should be, but you feel her pain as you are watching it. You are rooting for her to do something about it, and not to just take it. You can tell she is troubled when she seems to use sex as a way to escape her surroundings, and takes comfort in finding a new friend in Blomkvist. I don't know that I have ever seen a person act as well as I saw Rooney Mara do in the theater last night. Just pure beauty and pain wrapped up in the same person. I recommend watching it just alone to see her performance.

Since I am well aware of the story through the books and previous movies, it was not a surprise to me to see the film move at such a slow and steady pace. It picks up at all the right times, and drops down when it needs to. The editing is flawless and brilliantly linked between screen and score. It was such a unique score that it could be construed as overwhelming at times, but I thought it really matched the emotional foreground of the film. It helped make the two hours and forty-five minutes fly by, and kept me super involved in the film. The way Fincher chooses to reveal the contents of the story is a thing of beauty in itself, as he lets the viewer only know as much as the characters at all times, and slowly brings everyone up to speed, slowly building to a big dramatic finish, while cleverly setting up the film naturally for a sequel. I recommend this movie to everyone, and it will be on my DVD buy list when it finally comes out. I look for this to at least get nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (which she damn well better win), and Best Score.

Entertainment Value: 10/10 Forty Year Old Parade Photos
Cinematic Value: 10/10 Forty Year Old Parade Photos

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Trollhunter (2010)

Trollhunter (2010) Dir. by Andre Ovredal

A group of students investigates a series of mysterious bear killings, but learns that there are much more dangerous things going on. They start to follow a mysterious hunter, learning that he is actually a troll hunter.

I can't honestly tell you what I was expecting going in to this viewing of Trollhunter. I had never heard of Ovredal before, but this film has definitely got the buzz over the past year or so. I tried to go in with a wide open mind. This makes the third found footage film I have seen in the last week or so and I have been disappointed the first two times. I guess this helped me go in to the film with low expectations.

I absolutely love films with a small cast. I think it is perfect when there is s small amount of characters to really focus on, rather than a large group. I say this now, but it is only really true when we are allowed to really develop with the characters themselves. One quiet and smart camera man, one scared yet oddly aroused mic girl, one fearless documentary leader, and one mysterious yet rugged and manly trollhunter... with a beard. Yes... the beard is essential to the film. Yes everyone just sort of falls in to their respective places, but it really makes the film work this way.

Ovredal has managed to create a real gem of a film here, and on little to no money. This is a prime example of how to make a film for $3,000,000. The troll effects are fantasy like, yet scary at the same time. The differences in the troll types is great, and only makes the experience that much better by explaining the different types of trolls, and given them backgrounds as well, rather than just the mysterious creatures of the night. I thought this made for a rather respectable film that relies on your senses of sight and sound even more so than a jumpy horror flick. It is just beautifully shot, and perfectly executed. Everything from the lighting and sound was done amazing. The only thing I can really say negative about the film is the ending. I understand why the ending is there, but it felt rushed, and I'm not so sure I was ready for that moment to be the time for the film to end. I think I wanted more, and I wanted to know what happened next. I guess I will just have to wait and see if the American remake in 2014 expands on it at all. Otherwise everyone should check this flick out. Good Fun!

Entertainment Value: 9/10 Christians Screwing Shit Up (movie reference)
Cinematic Value: 8/10 Christians Screwing shit Up (movie reference)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Apollo 18 (2011) - Quick Review

Apollo 18 (2011) Dir. Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego

Decades-old found footage from NASA's abandoned Apollo 18 mission, where two American astronauts were sent on a secret expedition, reveals the reason the U.S. has never returned to the moon.

Gallego took a big swing and a miss on this one. With such an amazing film as Nomadas under his belt, I thought it would be interesting to see his American debut, so to speak, but I was way off. I was so pumped to see this film. Man it upsets me to say the things I'm going to say.

I feel like someone just did a big ol glass bottom boat to my face. The characters are more annoying than anything, offering up no characterization to help me feel for any of the characters. Yes... I get it... it is a found footage movie. I can think of several other found footage films that are brilliant. Paranormal Activity = brilliant... Cloverfield = brilliant... [REC] = brilliant... Trollhunter = brilliant and I could probably think of one or two more, but Apollo 18 is not on that list. The first half of this film made the first half of Blair Witch Project look riveting.


One last warning... there is a spoiler below this line.

I was so pumped for the idea of rock spiders on the moon. It sounds like something out of a Roger Corman SyFy original film! I am all about that. It isn't even the creatures that ruin this film. It is trying to stay involved in the movie when half the time you can't see a damn thing. Yes... I get it... you were going for a realistic approach to a found footage film. Everyone that goes in to the movie knows it isn't a true story before they get there. We have all seen Warren in SyFy's Alphas, or if you haven't you should... Great show. The movie did look like it was made in the 70's and I respected that from a filmmakers point of view, but I would have liked to see some higher production value come out of the $5 million budget. Gareth Edwards made a masterpiece on less than 1 million. Duncan Jones made what should have been an Oscar winning film with Oscar winning performances for $5,000,000. This is what you came up with Gallego? Just atrocious. The creatures were underused, didn't look very good. The acting was bad, but not the worst part of the film. It was so hard to see what was going on half the time.

Ok, now that I have ripped the film a new one... there were some really good things the film had going for it. Make-up effects were done really well. I was super impressed by those. The flashing camera light in the dark crater idea was brilliant, and I'm glad they utilized it more than once. The flashes were a little quick, but it was enough to get the job done. This movie was just bad... boring and bad, and I can't believe I was talked in to seeing it, although I do give every film a fair chance until I have seen it. Now I need to go watch Rubber to end my night on a good note. Rock Spiders on the moon should be redone right. I'm still holding out for Sandworms on Venus though.

Entertainment Value: 3/10 Empty Russian Vessels
Cinematic Value: 4/10 Empty Russian Vessels

The Reef (2010)

The Reef (2010) Dir. by Andrew Traucki

Luke welcomes his friend Matt and his girlfriend Suzie that come from London and Matt's sister and Luke's former girlfriend Kate that comes from Sydney to sail with him and the sailor Warren in a sailboat. However, the vessel hits an underwater rock and capsizes with an opening on her bottom. Luke advises that they should swim in the north direction to reach the Turtle Island, in Queensland, Australia, while they have strength since there is a current moving the boat in the opposite direction of land but Warren prefers to stay on the hull waiting for help since there are sharks in the water. The quartet swims, but they are hunted by a great white shark. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on

If you are not familiar with Traucki, go watch the movie Black Water. The guy is relatively new to the whole filmmaker scene but he is surely making an impact quickly. I look forward for him to start to branch out a bit in what he does, but he has the "Based on True Events" down to a science. There is something about the way he makes these movies that it does manage to keep you fairly engaged.

I can't really say much about the acting, other than there isn't much of it, and there doesn't have to be. I mean, for the most part the characters are stuck in the middle of the ocean and there isn't a lot to be said. The men do manly things, and the girls yell, whine and scream a lot. It is pretty annoying at times. During the beginning, and some of the down moments in the film Traucki does manage to do what he does best, and that is get you to feel for the characters and relate to them. I think this ability is what makes his films as affective as they are.

There are a lot of things that are really great about The Reef. The camera work, for instance, is really creative and manages to balance on a thin line between shaky cam and Hollywood mainstream. The camera (and the story itself) always gives the perspective of the people, and nothing more. It is actually perfectly done, as you always know nothing more than the characters. This is one of the reasons the tension is so easy to build. The shark itself is never mulled down by crappy CGI effects, and this I loved very much. There was something about seeing a realistic dorsal fin floating along the horizon in the distance that really gave me goosebumps. I'm pretty sure I saw moments where I could tell the people and the shark were filmed at separate times, but it was a tough catch. The pacing of the film came to get to me after a while, but thank goodness the film is so short that it didn't really matter. All I can say is that it is ten times better than Open Water, which I didn't care for at all. It was nice to see something done right for a change, although it was still no Jaws or Orca.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Big fish nibbling at your toes
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Big fish nibbling at your toes

Friday, December 16, 2011

Super (2010)

Super (2010) Dir. by James Gunn

After his wife falls under the influence of a drug dealer, an everyday guy transforms himself into Crimson Bolt, a superhero with the best intentions, though he lacks for heroic skills.

It didn't take long for James Gunn to graduate from Troma films to the big leagues. Slither was pretty much a spring board on a high dive for Gunn. Oddly enough that is also where it ended. After having such a huge hit like Slither he has managed to state out of the spot light a bit, barely doing anything other than hosting "Scream Queens" on television. I was excited to see his return to solid filmmaking.

It didn't take long for Super to set the stage. Rainn Wilson as a man who thought his life had come together so well. His life immediately shattered when Kevin 'flippin' Bacon comes in and steals his woman by offering her a drop of liquid happiness (drugs). Man gets upset, sees Nathan Fillion in spandex as a superhero and decides he wants to be one too.

The characters are relatively well stretched out. Rainn actually does a superb job in a semi-serious role. Ellen Page is more attractive than she has ever been before and all she had to do was put on a superhero outfit. Kevin Bacon is actually pretty hilarious as a bad guy. Nathan Fillion pretty much steals the show as a caped crusader on a mission from God to rid the world of evil.

What really surprised me about this film is the level of gore Gunn was willing to go to. It did not disappoint me, and it is pretty much responsible for being on this site. It does not shy away from the real life consequences of hitting someone with a monkey wrench. YOU WILL PUT SOMEONE IN THE HOSPITAL OR KILL SOMEONE! I was so happy to see that it didn't take a ridiculous approach to this, and remained realistic. Overall the film wasn't too bad. It was mildly entertaining with a few great scenes that were enough to pump it up past the half way point for me. The film was actually made really well, but just didn't do enough for me to get more than one viewing.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Exploding People
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Exploding People

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I Am Number Four (2011)

I Am Number Four(2011) Dir. by D.J. Caruso

Extraordinary teen John Smith (Pettyfer) is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events-his first love (Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny. Written by Walt Disney Pictures

I have always been a sucker for Caruso's films. You can make fun of me all you like, but his films are almost always extremely enjoyable, and hold high rewatch value in my mind. With a list like The Salton Sea, Taking Lives, Disturbia, Two for the Money, and Eagle Eye; can you really argue? Unfortunately I have not had the time to pick up I Am Number Four or its sequel to read. It is on my list. I was, however, familiar with the story and I was excited to see Caruso's take on the book. I don't think I was really set down by the film so much, but it did seem really rough.

The acting was actually pretty good. I'm really starting to like this Alex Pettyfer dude. With movies like Tormented, Beastly, and In Time, he is really starting to make a name for himself. I look forward to seeing what he can do with a little more experience. Timothy Olyphant does a decent stand in job as well, although his role is rather minor, as John's guardian. Now when you throw in two insanely attractive actors, Teresa Palmer and Dianna Agron, and you have the making of a very watchable film. Everyone does very well in their relatively cookie cutter roles, but it never takes anything away from the film. Callan McAuliffe is an actor to watch out for as plays his role of the curious friendly nerd. I see big things in his future, as there were times during the film where I felt like he was what really held it together, and the side story with his father added depth. I kept trying to see Kevin Durand during the course of the film, as the bad guy, but I felt like it was a role that was underused, and forgettable. He has such a strong presence on screen (Mystery, Alaska; Dark Angel; The Butterfly Effect; Walking tall; Smokin' Aces; 3:10 to Yuma; Legion; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; Robin hood; and many more), but he doesn't get a lot of focus in this film. That made me sad.

The film itself is well paced, with good acting, but I couldn't really get behind it as a whole. There are moments in the film where it seems like it has no direction. Unnecessary filler can kill a film, and it certainly starts to here. The unsatisfying build made for a fizzle of an ending. I surely hope the sequel makes up for it. The flashlight hands thing is pretty cool, but I look forward to him getting more powers. I know in the books, all of the people have several powers. The special effects in the film are extremely cool, but they should be with Bay behind the wheel at producer. All in all I recommend watching the film, but I don't know if it is worth a buy, unless the next two are better, and a trilogy box set comes out. I remain hopeful.

Entertainment Value: 7/10 Cute Pet Chimaera
Cinematic Value: 7/10 Cute Pet Chimaera

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Skew (2011)

Skew (2011) Dir. by Sevé Schelenz

When Simon, Rich, and Eva head out on an eagerly anticipated road trip, they bring along a video camera to record their journey. What starts out as a carefree adventure slowly becomes a descent into the ominous as unexplained events threaten to disrupt the balance between the three close friends. Each one of them must struggle with personal demons and paranoia as friendships are tested and gruesome realities are revealed...and recorded. Written by Sleep Apnea Productions Inc on

When I was asked to review Skew, I didn't really know what to expect. This can be a good thing when dealing with low budget independent films. That being said, I think it really worked in the favor of Skew. Schelenz seems to have found footage filmmaking down to an art form. Typically when watching films of the found footage genre, there always seems to be some things I can pick out to make the movie seem less effective. Stuff like: a movie that runs 2 hours long and the person operating the camera never puts their arm down, or never turns off the camera or plugs it in to an outlet to charge. Never having to change the tape. Aside from a questionable part near the end this film does a great job of tying up those loose ends. It shows him gathering the cords, multiple tapes, and moments where the camera shuts off for a sustained period of time. I really liked this about this film. It almost seemed to take a unique stab at a storyline from a Goosebumps book I read as a kid, Say Cheese and Die!, where the camera takes pictures of people and the people in the picture die. I don't know if it was intentional, but it seemed to make me like the movie even more.

The acting, while acceptable for the most part, really bugged me a bit when it came to Rich's overacting. He seemed to be the only one that I thought never quite pulled his weight on the screen. Amber Lewis did an amazing job as Eva, and considering you never really get to see Simon in front of the camera, he did exceptionally well bringing life to a voice over.

There are moments where the film seem to drag on a bit, but sometimes necessary for the development of the characters. With a limited amount of story in a film of this length, there seemed to be times where filler was used that just didn't seem to go anywhere. One thing that was used as a scare tactic was randomly showing dead people in the camera, and often using jump scare tactics, which I admit were very effective, but in the end never seemed to come to life story-wise. The last little bit I want to add is, while the body of the film was fairly entertaining, the ending seemed a bit abrupt and didn't really offer me the closure I was looking for. All in all the film was very entertaining, and I look forward to seeing Schelenz grow as a director and continue to increase his skills and make solid films. I know it seems like I tore the movie apart according to this last paragraph, but it did have a lot of good things going for it and it is worth checking out.

Entertainment Value: 6/10 Gunshots to the head
Cinematic Value: 4/10 Gunshots to the head.