For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
What's a director of classic musicals doing in science fiction? Making Saturn 3, one of the worst of the genre Hollywood made in the immediate post-Star Wars / Alien era. Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) takes to it about as well as you'd expect; he's in over his head.
As not-so-boldly predicted, director David Fincher (“The Social
Network”) delivers a superior remake of Sweden’s global hit “The Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo,” an adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s phenomenon of a
However, those who have seen the original may wish to approach this version only to witness what Fincher brings to it, as the story remains unchanged in all but minor details. Many scenes seem shot on the very sets of Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 film.
What Fincher grants is a sharper, crisper look; a brisker pace; a richer supporting cast; and an instant classic of an opening-credits sequence. His suspense level isn’t noticeably greater, and even pales compared to the punch of his “Zodiac” or the shock of his “Seven.”
As disgraced investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist hired to solve a 40-year-old murder, Daniel Craig (“Cowboys & Aliens”) makes a stronger impression than Michael
Nyqvist was allowed. As Lisbeth Salander, the brusque, socially awkward
hacker Blomkvist hires as a research assistant, Rooney Mara (“The
Social Network”) had huge combat boots to fill, following Noomi Rapace’s
award-nabbing turn in the foreign “Dragon” and its two immediate
sequels, but Mara commits and delivers.
she’s not nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as deserved, it’s because
the Academy is too stodgy to recognize such dark material. Her Lisbeth
lives on Coca-Cola, Happy Meals, ramen, nicotine and pain, and makes an
unforgettably stark impression.
big imperfection is the occasionally intrusive score by Trent Reznor
and Atticus Ross. Still, it’s hardly a reason not to look forward to the
Americanization of the trilogy’s remaining chapters.