Rated R for rape, torture, brutal violence, profanity, frontal nudity and graphic sexuality.
Fincher Makes First-Rate Adaptation of Grisly Swedish Crime Saga
Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) resigns from his position as editor of Millennium Magazine after being unable to substantiate the incendiary allegations he’d made about a corrupt billionaire (Ulf Friberg). Fortuitously, the disgraced journalist is soon secretly approached by an intermediary representing recently retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the mysterious murder of his beloved niece, Harriet (Moa Garpendal), back in 1966.
Mikael jumps at the job offer, since his desire to escape the media circus surrounding him in Stockholm conveniently dovetails with the aging patriarch’s need to reopen the case right on location at the family’s secluded estate where Harriet had disappeared into thin air. An additional incentive is Henrik’s promise to provide the proof necessary to overturn the libel conviction.
Straightaway, Mikael moves up to the remote island of Hedestad in northern Sweden, and starts sifting through the boxes of 40-year-old evidence. After unearthing an array of sordid skeletons in the Vanger family closet ranging from anti-Semitism to sadomasochism, he realizes that he sure could use the help of an assistant, and takes Henrik’s suggestion that he collaborate with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant, if bizarre-looking, computer whiz.
Mikael is willing to pardon the young hacker’s tattoos, multiple piercings and punk hairstyle because of her passion about catching any creep who’d harm a female. And her technical skills do prove to be the perfect complement to Henrik’s uncanny ability to interview surviving witnesses despite their putting on aristocratic airs. Still, not surprisingly, the closer they come to solving the mystery, the more dangerous a situation they find themselves embroiled in.
So unfolds The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a worthy remake of the Swedish-language thriller of the same name just released in 2009. Directed by David Fincher (The Social Network) this English-language version is actually a rarity in that it is an improvement over its foreign film original.
Both movies are based on the first installment of the trilogy of novels by the late Stieg Larsson, and Sony Pictures has already committed to adapting the other two books to the screen, too. Here, scene-stealer Rooney Mara is nothing short of riveting as the ever-edgy Lisbeth, while Daniel Craig disappears into his role as Mikael sufficiently so you forget about the fact that he also plays James Bond.
An intricately-woven, edge-of-your-seat whodunit as graphic and grisly as it is cerebral and mind-bending.
Excellent (4 stars).
Running time: 158 minutes.
Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows
Warner Brothers Pictures
Rated PG-13 for drug use and intense violence.
Holmes and Moriarty Match Wits in Action-Oriented Sequel
Once again, Guy Ritchie has served up a bombastic interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, which will undoubtedly have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle purists squirming in their seats. That disclaimer notwithstanding, anyone open-minded enough to forgive the blasphemous action sequences is in for a cinematic treat every bit as cerebral as it is visually captivating.
Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Holmes and Dr. Watson, respectively. And Jared Harris has joined the cast to play the pair’s diabolical archenemy, the inscrutable Professor James Moriarty.
At the point of departure, we find Holmes in the midst of throwing a bawdy bachelor party for his loyal sidekick who is set to marry a fetching lass named Mary (Kelly Reilly) the very next morning. However, after the wedding, the newlyweds’ travel plans go awry immediately courtesy of a comedy of errors in which the bride is unceremoniously tossed off a train leaving her hubby and Sherlock to share the honeymoon suite aboard the Trans Europe Express.
It’s just as well, anyway, given the fact that the perspicacious Holmes has been the only detective able to connect the dots among a series of recent slayings, including the murders of an Indian cotton tycoon, a Chinese opium trader and an American Steel magnate, as well as some suspicious bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna. The super sleuth has figured out not only that it must be the work of Moriarty but also that the maniacal madman might be trying to trigger an international incident.
Next, a frenetically paced, cat-and-mouse caper unfolds in which the protagonists chase the endlessly clever professor from France to Germany to Switzerland. Along the way, they are assisted in this endeavor by Holmes’ hulking brother (Stephen Fry) and a gypsy fortuneteller (Noomi Rapace) with the proverbial heart of gold.
Just brace yourself for the sort of stylized, high-impact fare for which director Ritchie is best known. Still, besides the bravado and over-the-top derring-do, the adventure does also allow for intellectual interludes during which Sherlock and his nemesis match wits in a rather refined fashion.
Welcome to the 21st Century edition of Sherlock Holmes, a well-rounded gent as likely to flex his brawn as his brain!
Excellent (4 stars).
In English and French with subtitles.
Running time: 129 Minutes.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening December 23, 2011
The Adventures Of Tintin (PG for violence, drunkenness and smoking). Steven Spielberg directs this animated adaptation of the classic comic book series about an intrepid young journalist who is abducted from Europe to Morocco where he escapes his kidnappers to embark on a perilous quest for hidden treasure. Voice cast includes Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Toby Jones.
The Darkest Hour (PG-13 for profanity and violence). Sci-fi horror flick about the struggle to survive of a quintet (Olivia Thirlby, Emile Hirsch, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman and Max Minghella) stranded in Moscow during an invasion of Earth by aliens in need of a power supply. With Dato Bakhtadze, Gosha Kutsenko and Veronika Ozerova.
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (PG-13 for profanity, disturbing images and mature themes). Post 9/11 drama about a 9-year-old boy’s (Thomas Horn) desperate search for the lock that matches the mysterious key left behind by his father (Tom Hanks) who perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. With Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, John Goodman and Jeffrey Wright.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (PG-13 for violence and intense action sequences). Fourth episode in the espionage franchise finds Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his fellow secret agents (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and Josh Holloway) going rogue to clear the IMF’s name after a bomb blast flattens the Kremlin while they just happened to be carrying out an undercover operation in Moscow. With Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan and Tom Wilkinson.
War Horse (PG-13). Steven Spielberg directed this World War I saga about a young man (Jeremy Irvine) who enlists in the British Army after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry. With Emily Watsaon, Benedict Cumberbatch and David Thewlis. (In English and German with subtitles)
We Bought A Zoo (PG for mature themes and mild profanity). Screen adaptation of Benjamin Mee’s bittersweet memoir recounting the grieving widower’s (Matt Damon) decision to relocate his family to a dilapidated estate with 200 exotic animals on the premises with hopes of refurbishing the zoo while rebuilding their lives. Cast includes Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Elle Fanning and J.B. Smoove.
Albert Nobbs (R for profanity, sexuality and brief nudity). Glenn Close plays the title character in this genderbending drama about a lesbian who passed as a man for over 30 years in order to survive in 19th Century Ireland. With Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brendan Gleeson and Mia Wasikowska.
The Flowers Of War (Unrated). Historical drama based on the Geling Yan novel about a mortician (Christian Bale) who poses as a priest in order to save the lives of prostitutes and parishioners during the Japanese’s rape of Nanking. With Shigeo Kobayashi, Bai Xue and Paul Schneider. (In English, Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles.)
In The Land Of Blood And Honey (R for sexuality, nudity, violence, rape, ethnic cleansing and profanity). Angelina Jolie directed this romance drama set during the War in Bosnia revolving around a Serbian soldier (Goran Kostic) who reencounters a Muslim ex-girlfriend (Zana Marjanovic) now being held captive in a POW camp. With Fedja Stukan, Branko Djuric and Nikola Djuricko.
Miss Minoes (PG for rude behavior, smoking and brief profanity). Carice van Houten stars as the title character in this kiddie comedy about a cat that morphs into a woman in order protect its quaint hometown from developers with evil intentions. Cast includes Theo Maassen, Sarah Bannier and Pierre Bokma. (In Dutch with subtitles.)
Pina (PG for sensuality, smoking and partial nudity). Reverential biopic about modern dance maven Pina Bausch (1940-2009), featuring both tributes to and performances of four pieces by the late choreographer. (In English, French, Russian, German, Spanish, Croatian, Korean, Italian and Portuguese with subtitles.)