Sunday, December 25, 2011

Fincher reimagines aspects of 'Dragon Tattoo'

The posthumous novel by Stieg Larsson has sold over 15 million copies in the U.S. alone and the original Swedish-language film adaptation has already become a cult-favorite. So, how could American director David Fincher bring something new to the widely admired story? Re-imagine it, of course.

From the abstract opening-credit sequence to the cinematography all the way to the most obsessive attention to detail, Fincher retells Dragon Tattoo in his darkly saturated, gritty style.

It's a pretty faithful adaptation, but Fincher is able to re-imagine certain elements, certain story-lines in such a cognitive and innovative way it's never insulting or mockingly.

This version has all the same elements as the Swedish version, but heightened due to a bigger budget. An amazing score by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, gorgeous cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth, fast-paced, high adrenaline action and of course, a smart crime-mystery story makes this film just as engrossing as the first.

However, my only critique is perhaps the most important element of the story: the protagonist--Lizbeth Salander.

The story revolves around Lizbeth Salander, a part-time computer hacker and full-time bad-ass, and Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a journalist, who team up to piece together a decades-old murder-mystery.

In the Swedish version, Noomi Rapace portrayed the bad-ass female heroine with so much attitude and discipline, for loyal fans of the series, it's hard to imagine anyone else could have portrayed Salander better. But for her break-out role, Rooney Mara did an incredibly amazing job as the American lead in this version and might even get her an Oscar nomination; it just wasn't up to par with Rapace's convicting portrayal of this damaged character.

Rapace was able to be tough and sexy at the same time, but never romanticized her role. This is not easy to achieve. I felt Fincher added more humanity to Salander in his version and added almost a childlike vulnerability to the character. There's nothing wrong with that, but compared to the original film, it feels a bit "softened," which is a bit of an understatement if you're aware of the heavy subject matter of the film.

But leave it to Fincher to make up for it; he's known for his sinfully tasteful films, incorporating almost an art-house style to his psychological thrillers, i.e.: Fight Club, Se7en, and Zodiac.  And last year's critically acclaimed The Social Network made him the ideal director to helm this high-speed action film about a computer hacker going through years of data to solve a murder case.

As far as the film strays from the original, at times, Fincher goes above and beyond in re-telling it in his unique way and should nonetheless please fans of the original story. It's a great film to watch for the holidays--just don't take your kids to see it!

Rating: B+

Friday, December 16, 2011

'Hugo' is a dream for cinephiles

From the best-selling book by Brian Selznick, you would expect someone like Chris Columbus, Robert Zemeckis, or even Steven Spielberg to helm this film, based on the popular children's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Instead, you have veteran director Martin Scorcese, known for his more mature credit of work like Goodfellas, Taxi Driver and the film that finally won him an Oscar 2006's The Departed. It sounds like an odd match and it is for the first hour or so, but during the second half it becomes obvious no one could have treated the subject matter of this film with as much care and finesse as Scorcese.

The story revolves around Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan living in a Paris train station, whose job is to wind the clocks. He lives alone, hidden within the walls of the station that is until he meets the sesquipedalist Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kickass) after being caught by the station toy-maker and Isabelle's godfather Georges (Ben Kingsley, Shutter Island) for stealing toy parts. Hugo's father (played by Jude Law) was a clock smith and after his death Hugo went to work for his uncle, managing the station clocks. He took only one object with him--an automaton, a mechanical man, his father was working on, up until his death, but couldn't quite fix. Hugo believes fixing the automaton will send him a message from his father and Isabelle is more than jocund to help, because she claims it is an adventure, like the books she indulges in. But not everybody is so willing to help. The station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat) is just waiting to catch Hugo and send him off to an orphanage, where he believes he belongs and Georges holds on to the secret of the automaton, but refuses to divulge anything to the boy who has been stealing from him.

It sounds like a children's tale and it is for the most part, but the foremost question is why Scorcese would want to tackle such a genre this late in his career? The answer is simple. This film is a film maker's dream and for a cinephile like Scorcese it's no wonder he chose such an endeavor. Simply put, it's an ode to the birth of cinema, a well crafted homage to the early, black and white era of silent film and filmmakers. Scorcese recreates, shot for shot, some of the earliest scenes from films by Melies and the Lumiere brothers. He eloquently retells their story with such a creative and innovative twist, the film oozes with his sentimental tribute to such landmark directors. The entire film feels like a personal payment of gratitude to the greats before him.

As a children's film, it doesn't quite work. It's hard to imagine young kids knowing the context of what's happening or what a silent picture is. However, I'm sure the adults taking their kids will both appreciate and respect the level of achievement behind this tale. It's more of a film about film, told through the eyes of a child. Children nonetheless will find this film just as enjoyable. Butterfield gives a very vulnerable and tender performance as the orphan who wants to fix his father's machine. In a head-scratching role, Cohen also gives a rather vulnerable performance, considering his previous films, as the station inspector and produces a few laughs. But the true star of the film are the films themselves. Just like the films of Melies, his purpose was to capture dreams onto film and Scorcese manages to achieve nothing less than that.

In the film, Hugo states, "If you lose your's like you're broken." Scorcese's purpose is clear, to pay a tribute to the films that inspired him when he was a child. And like those films, Hugo should be an inspiration for film lovers of all ages.

Rating: A-

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

New Review Coming Soon

I haven't been posting anything in the last few weeks, because I've been busy with school. That said, this is my last week of finals and next week I'll have my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, along with the latest version, out next week (it'll be a long one).

The release date, originally November 21, has been changed to November 20.

Click here to watch the latest trailer to Fincher's adaptation.

Also, I'll have the best and worst of 2011 and my Oscar predictions for next year within the coming month or so!

Thank you for stopping by.
Hope you come back.

Love, Cristina.