Friday, 16 December 2011

Men Who Hate Women

Considering The Social Network was my favourite film of last year, and that this film had possibly one of the best trailers ever made, my anticipation for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was somewhat... high.

Before you can comprehend the film has even started, Fincher rams into 5th gear with an intro that would put some of the best James Bond opening credits to shame. What follows is a highly stylised, highly cool (if slightly unnecessary) remake of Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 Swedish original.

Visually, the film has more in common with Fincher's latest efforts than the days of Seven and Fight Club. Dialogue is snappy, editing is lightning fast, and every shot could be considered as a piece of art (this film is just screaming for Blu-Ray). The film doesn't hold any punches with the original source material either; as Fincher delicately put it when commenting on the possibility of an Oscar: "there's too much anal rape in this movie”. All these factors mean there is plenty that are improved upon the 'made-for-TV' original.

There has been some critical concern about whether Rooney Mara can live up to Noomi Rapace's fantastic interpretation of the 'fiery' Lisbeth Salander. I can safely assure you that she is every bit as fearsome, vulnerable, and downright badass as her predecessor. Younger in age and lighter in frame, Mara carries a certain fragility that was missing in the Swedish version - making the 2nd act of the US version a lot more shocking.

However, as much fun as the film is, it does feel like a step backwards for Fincher. Not quite a shot-for-shot remake (à la Gus Van Sant's misconceived Psycho update), but there is simply not enough to make it stand out in it's own right. Even some of the composition of locations/characters looks exactly the same - which begs the question: did this really need a remake? And don't even get me started on Daniel Craig's accent (or lack of one).

Sick of Christmas films? This is the perfect antidote. Just don't expect another The Social Network.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Films that are ruined by their own genre

Whilst recently watching the first half of Mark and Jay Duplass’ 2008 film Baghead, I became completely enamoured with its cast of characters and the intricate love-quadrilateral between them. However, I knew this wouldn’t last forever. In a lazy attempt to branch out into a different genre, the Duplass brothers decided that this would be a horror movie. Consequently the second half of the movie is ruined by a murderous figure running around with a bag over his head. Whilst I love the horror genre, if it is not handled with great care (see The Shining), it can descend into meaningless wobbly camera shots and high pitched screaming (see Blair Witch 2).

This got me thinking about other films that could do without their own genre...


Let’s face it. Monsters wasn’t a critical success because of it’s (admittedly impressive homemade) alien SFX. What made Monsters so great was the undeniable chemistry between its 2 leads – Scoot McNairy & Whitney Able - who are, unsurprisingly, a couple in real life. So when the aliens do start blowing shit up, it’s actually a distraction from the story’s main hook – the will they, won’t they dynamic. Don’t believe me? Just watch the last 30 seconds of the film.

Attack the Block

What starts off as a rather unique urban dramedy, quickly descends into a messy exercise of cheap CGI tomfoolery. The only reason Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block comes away with any redeeming features is its cast of unlikely heroes. But given there’s an imminent alien invasion, we get very little time to actually learn about the characters – making them the two dimensional cut outs they always had the potential of being. Hopefully Cornish will stick to one subgenre in his next feature.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Edgar Wright’s unashamed love letter to the slacker generation. But I can’t deny that there’s a part of me that wishes the film didn’t include the 'evil exes'. “Say what!?” I hear you say. But seriously, the story doesn’t need it. Scott Pilgrim already has a pretty interesting life: 2 hot girls on the go, a band on the verge of stardom, and an army of hipster friends. Does he really need to fight 7 evil exes as well, just to make the story interesting enough!? I think not.

For the sequel, how about: Scott Prilgrim Vs. Normal Existence? Catchy, I think you'll agree.