The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)


The Girl Who Played With Fire

A couple of old friends get re-acquainted.

(2009) Thriller (Music Box) Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Michlis Koutsogiannakis, Annika Hallin, Sofia Ledarp, Jacob Ericksson, Reuben Sallmander, Yasmine Garbi, Ralph Carlsson, Georgi Staykov, Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl, Per Oscarsson.  Directed by Daniel Alfredson

There are those of us who have causes and are passionate in pursuing them. The trouble with tilting at windmills, however is that often we find ourselves face to face with our own demons – and some of those demons have wicked claws.

Lisbeth Salander (Rapace) is on the run following the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She has leased out her apartment to an attractive woman named Miriam Wu (Garbi) and has paid a visit to her old abuser Bjurman (Andersson), threatening him with his own gun. When that gun is used to murder him later, as well as two reporters for a left wing magazine, Salander is framed for the crimes.

It so happens the two reporters worked for Millennium, the magazine published by Mikael Blomkvist (Nyqvist) who doesn’t believe for a second that Salander murdered his people. Blomkvist decides to follow the investigation they were working on into a ring that brought Russian girls into Sweden to be used as sex slaves for wealthy Swedish men.

As corruption at the highest level of government begins to resist the investigation, Salander who is doing some looking into of her own discovers that her own past is very much a part of the murky shadows involved in these crimes. As Lisbeth and Mikael find their investigations are beginning to point to the same place, Lisbeth’s past threatens to collide head-on with their present which may leave either of them with no future.

The second book in the Millennium trilogy is definitely on the transitional side. You get a sense that events are being set up for the third installment (and they are). Alfredson takes over from Niels Arden Oplev who helmed the first movie, and lacks some of the visual style of the first. It also lacks the intensity and stress level of the first movie. It’s certainly more laid-back in tone, with more exposition and less action.

Still, the movie is redeemed by Rapace who continues to make Salander one of the most interesting characters to come along onscreen in decades. We get to see much more of her – she and Nyqvist barely appear onscreen together and only then near the end of the film. In many ways this is very much her show and while Nyqvist is a capable actor, his role is certainly secondary to Salander’s as it is in the book.

Purists may again wish the movie hewed a little closer to the book, but of course that’s not really possible – as it is the movie runs a little long to me. There are some significant plot changes but by and large the book and the movie are similar enough to get by.

There are a lot of complexities in the plot, with lots of subplots running through the movie. That’s both good and bad. Good in that it makes the movie more of a thinking person’s movie – and God knows we need more of those – but also it makes the movie unnecessarily convoluted. While those plotlines are necessary, still it can make the movie feel cluttered at times. However, in the defense of the filmmakers, I’m not sure there’s a way around it without either creating a fourth movie or making the third a lot more confusing.

Still, while this movie isn’t quite as good as the first, it’s still miles ahead of most of the competition. This is still a well-written and taut thriller and while the ending leaves it feeling a mite unfinished, that’s often true of most second films in a trilogy anyway. There are some definite gotcha moments and the performances continue to be strong. It left me eager to see the third and you can’t ask much more than that from a second movie in a trilogy.

WHY RENT THIS: Rapace continues to impress as Salander. Taut and well-written.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A little bit blander than the first. Too much exposition and not enough action.

FAMILY VALUES: More of the same – brutal violence, much of it directed at women. Sexual violence including a rape, a bit of nudity and a few bad words scattered here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the only book and film in the trilogy where the Swedish title is the same as the English one (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was titled Men Who Hate Women in Sweden and the third movie The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was titled The Castle in the Sky That Was Blown Up in Sweden).

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $67.1M on an unreported production budget; the movie was very likely a hit.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

TOMORROW: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

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New Releases for the Week of August 6, 2010


August 6, 2010

Will Ferrell has Mark Wahlberg fit to be tied.

THE OTHER GUYS

(Columbia) Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Coogan, Eva Mendez, Michael Keaton, Ray Stevenson. Directed by Adam McKay

Danson and Manzetti are the city’s two most celebrated cops, collaring bad guy after bad guy. Gamble and Holtz aren’t quite up to their level; Gamble is a forensic accountant who would much rather sit in the office analyzing the paper trail, while Holtz has been banished to being Gamble’s partner after an itchy trigger finger put him in hot water with the Captain. These two unlikeliest of heroes will be called upon to save the day but as things usually do for the other guys, things don’t go quite the way they intend them to. McKay and Farrell have previously teamed up for movies like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material)

The Girl Who Played With Fire

(Music Box) Roomi Napace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre, Sofia Ledarp. The second installment in the Millennium trilogy penned by Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson sees the publisher of Millennium magazine, who has made his living exposing corruption in high places, throwing himself once more into the fray when a young journalist comes to him with a story of sex trafficking in Sweden that goes up to the highest levels of authority. During the investigation, the computer hacker who works with the publisher is accused of three brutal murders, forcing her to go on the run while the publisher clears her name. The two stories turn out to be interrelated. The first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, made serious waves in the indie film circuit and is being remade into a major studio property being directed by David Fincher scheduled for release on December 23, 2011. The third of the Swedish films, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest will see a limited American release this fall.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language)

Step Up 3D

(Touchstone) Adam Sevani, Rick Malambri, Sharni Vinson, Alyson Stoner. A group of street dancers from the Bronx team up with a freshman at NYU to take on the world in a global breakdancing showdown that will change their lives forever. One wonders how relevant a movie is when their official website is a MySpace page.

See the trailer, featurettes, music videos and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language)

Twelve

(Hannover House) Chace Crawford, Emma Roberts, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Kiefer Sutherland. A high school dropout turned drug dealer is living the good life; his Upper East Side clientele of boarding school preppies are keeping his business booming and he is able to successfully hide his secret life from his girlfriend. Things take an ugly turn when a new recreation drug du jour called Twelve is introduced into the market and his cousin is brutally murdered on an East Harlem playground. Now he is going to have to survive in a world he’s woefully ill-equipped to handle. This is based on the controversial novel by Nick McDonnell.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong drug content, alcohol abuse, language, sexual material, brief nudity and some violence – all involving teens)

Four-Warned: July 2010


July 2010

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.
Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief explanation
Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE


1. INCEPTION (1.0)
2. SALT (1.9)
3. DESPICABLE ME (2.1)
4. PREDATORS (2.2)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)


1. WINNEBAGO MAN (2.1)
2. THE WILD HUNT (2.4)
3. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (2.5)
TIE. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2.5)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JULY 2, 2010

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Music Box) Genre: Swedish Thriller. A magazine publisher finds himself in a dangerous investigation of sex trafficking and abuse. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.5 The sequel to the highly regarded The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
GREAT DIRECTORS (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Conversations with ten acclaimed and highly individualistic film directors from around the world. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles July 9). RATING: 3.5 Nice idea, but I’m not sure all of the directors on the list could be called “great”.
THE LAST AIRBENDER
(Paramount) Genre: Fantasy. A young boy with the ability to control the four elements must defend his people against an aggressive invasion by the Fire Nation. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.6 Director M. Night Shyamalan has been on a cold streak lately and I’m not sure this live action version of a Nickelodeon cartoon is the way to break it.

JULY 8, 2010

GREASE SING-A-LONG (Paramount) Genre: Musical. A classic musical gets re-released with restored prints and song lyrics. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 The only thing worse than Karaoke or American Idol would be going to a theater full of people singing along to Grease…pass.

JULY 9, 2010

DESPICABLE ME (Universal) Genre: Animated Feature. The world’s greatest criminal mastermind meets his match in three little girls who think he’s their dad. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Universal is pushing this one hard, and given Steve Carell is voicing the mastermind and the trailers look good, this could be a massive hit.
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
 (Focus) Genre: Comedy. The two teenaged kids of lesbian parents are determined to find their biological dad, who becomes a part of the family much to the horror of the moms. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A terrific cast, and a nifty premise redefining what a family is in the 21st century.
PREDATORS
(20th Century Fox) Genre: Sci-Fi Action. A group of human predators are transported to an alien planet to be used as prey for the greatest predators in the universe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Does this franchise really need to be rebooted? Since its Robert (Sin City) Rodriguez, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.
[REC] 2
(Magnet) Genre: Horror. An apartment building where a disease has rendered its residents into unthinking bestial cannibals, a government team investigates to find out a terrifying secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The first one was the basis of the American horror film Quarantine; this one sounds even better.
WINNEBAGO MAN
(Kino International) Genre: Documentary. The story of a Winnebago salesman, whose commercial outtakes became an Internet sensation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Jack Rebney is one of those people who is interesting enough to deserve his own documentary.

JULY 14, 2010

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE (Disney) Genre: Fantasy. A sorcerer and his new apprentice are swept into an ancient war between good and evil. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 The jury’s still out on whether this is going to have blockbuster appeal.

JULY 16, 2010

INCEPTION (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. A man who specializes in stealing secrets from the dreams of others looks to get out of the racket after one last big score. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 Christopher Nolan directing Leo di Caprio? I’d be in even if it was a remake of High School Musical!
KISSES
(Oscilloscope) Genre: Family Drama. A couple of runaways try to survive on the streets of Dublin. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.5 The trailer looks gritty and unsentimental; could be a big winner.
THE WILD HUNT
(Hannover House) Genre: Indie Drama. A young man follows his girlfriend into a medieval re-enactment game that quickly gets out of hand. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Although the geek quotient is surprisingly low considering the subject, the trailer looked pretty intriguing.

JULY 23, 2010

THE CONCERT (Weinstein) Genre: Foreign Comedy. A disgraced ex-orchestra conductor intercepts an invitation meant for his old orchestra and sets out to make a triumphant return to the music scene with an orchestra of his own. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles (expanding August 6). RATING: 2.9 A good but underrated cast might make this a sleeper on the indie scene.
COUNTDOWN TO ZERO (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it seemed as if the nuclear threat had passed; this film indicates it hasn’t. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 A chilling look at nuclear weapons in the 21st century.
FAREWELL
(NeoClassics) Genre: Drama. A KGB agent in the 1980s passes secrets to the French ambassador that may well topple the Soviet Empire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I don’t know a whole lot about this movie but it sounds interesting.
LIFE DURING WARTIME
(IFC) Genre: Indie Ensemble Dramedy. The specter of war affects a family in unexpected ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 I’ve never been able to connect with director Todd Solondz but he is an indie icon.
RAMONA AND BEEZUS
(20th Century Fox) Genre: Family. An irrepressible moppet irritates her older sister, but they both must unite to save their family home. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 Based on a popular series of children’s books.
SALT
(Columbia) Genre: Action Thriller. A CIA agent is figured as a double agent by a Russian defector and now must discover who’s setting her up. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 This could be Angelina Jolie’s best action film since Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
VALHALLA RISING (IFC) Genre: Adventure. A mute warrior escapes captivity and joins a Viking crew who then gets massacred by a mysterious force. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 The trailer makes this look intensely gory and extremely exciting.

JULY 25, 2010

O APOSTOLO 3D (Artefacto) Genre: Animated Feature. A Spanish village labors under a 600-year-old curse. Release Strategy: Limited (3D). RATING: 3.3 iMDB says next to nothing about this, and their American distributor is unknown but Coming Soon lists it so here it is.

JULY 30, 2010


CATS AND DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Family. Age-old enemies must learn to work together against a common enemy to save their humans. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.5 The first movie was cute but was anybody really waiting to see the sequel after nine years?
CHARLIE ST. CLOUD (Universal) Genre: Drama. A young man with a bright future must re-adjust after a tragic accident changes everything. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Even though Da Queen is not especially fond of Zac Efron, she loves tearjerkers so we’ll probably see it.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. An ambitious man’s career hinges on finding the biggest loser to his boss’s dinner party. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Having seen the trailer, the jury’s still out on this one.
THE DRY LAND (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Indie Drama. A veteran of the Iraqi conflict returns home to West Texas and tries to adjust to civilian life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Could well be the Best Years of Our Lives of our generation.
THE EXTRA MAN (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A young man leaves a rarefied prep school environment for the eccentricities of the Big Apple. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Kevin Kline automatically elevates any movie he’s in by a lot.
GET LOW (Sony Classics) Genre: Dark Comedy. A reclusive hermit plans his own funeral, which he plans to celebrate while he’s still alive – an occasion he plans to reveal a long kept secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The trailer looked amazing; cast includes Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek.
HUGH HEFNER: PLAYBOY, ACTIVIST AND REBEL (Phase 4) Genre: Documentary. The life and times of a man who didn’t just start the sexual revolution; he also tirelessly advocated for racial equality, social justice and human rights. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Hef is one of my heroes and it’s about time he got recognized for his other contributions to American culture.
TWELVE (Hannover House) Genre: Gritty Urban Drama. A drug dealer on the decadent Upper East Side sees his life turned upside down when his cousin is arrested for murder. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 An impressive cast but the trailer held no magic for me.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Last Airbender, Despicable Me, Predators, Inception, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Salt, Charlie St. Cloud