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By midlandsmovies, Mar 14 2019 02:18PM

The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018) Dir. Fede Álvarez

As a big fan of the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – which had terrific introductory performances (to me anyways) from Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace – I was greatly looking forward to The Girl in the Spider's Web which is an adaptation of the 4th book in the Millennium series.

After the author of the first three books, Stieg Larsson, died of a heart attack in 2004 Swedish author and crime journalist David Lagercrantz was commissioned to continue the stories of Goth-hacker Lisbeth Salander and political investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

This is an adaptation of the first of Lagercrantz's two books he has had published so far, and the film follows Salander as she hunts down a file that could access the world’s nuclear arsenal whilst protecting a young boy who is the key to accessing its precious secrets. Along the way we get a flashback to Salander’s abusive past and plenty of intrigue as multiple parties – from the State to terrorist goons – try to get their dirty mitts on the electronic bounty.

If that sounds a bit too far-fetched for what began as a drama-thriller then you’d be right. Fresh from an amazing performance in First Man, Claire Foy dons the dark leathers of the rebellious Salander and despite her multitude of talents cannot raise the sub-Mission Impossible material. Which is certainly a weird direction for the franchise to go in.

Gone are the dark machinations of political and family drama and in comes a Bond-pastiche of nuke codes, bike chases and villainous lairs. Combined with a series of sequences that has Foy tazering and brawling, by the end we are exhausted from the chaotic action as a team made up of a sniper and a computer hacker support Salander beat up a clan of henchman.

Also disappearing from view is the simplicity of the first novel – a whodunit in the main – and Sverrir Gudnason is monstrously miscast as a far-too-young Mikael Blomkvist. The father-figure/mentor character which operates as an antidote to Salander’s wayward impulses was a highlight of the Swedish originals – and Fincher’s US remake – and its absence here is sorely missing. Salander’s mysterious character too has been replaced with a spousal revenge superhero of sorts with her Bat-belt of tricks and black hoodie “cape”.

The Bond-lite developments continue with car chases, gadgets and codebreaking along with duplicitous double-agents and an albino-haired henchman. There was also not enough dialogue to flesh out the characters, their motivations or to create drama. And I yearned for the powerful verbal sparring of the earlier incarnations that would have punched up this bland screenplay.

So despite many of the great ingredients and with Claire Foy doing well as Salander, sadly it all just doesn’t gel. A passable time for a few hours, this ‘facsimile of Fincher’ means only (super) fans of the book should clear their diary and make time for this unremarkable, and highly disappointing, adaptation.

★★ ½

Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, May 28 2015 12:58PM

Guilty Pleasures

By Jake Stevenson

“What’s your favourite film?” A relatively easy question for most people to answer when asked. Star Wars, The Godfather & The Shawshank Redemption would be a lot of people’s responses, and you’d nod approvingly or shout excitedly in agreement.

But what your reaction be if someone said with no hint of irony, Analyse This? Or Michael J Fox’s third finest hour (behind BTTF & Teen Wolf) The Secret Of My Success? You’d probably ask them to repeat their selection in case you’d misheard them, or laugh in their faces. You’d probably then proceed to tell them why they’re wrong in many, many ways by using many, many colourful expletives. However, perhaps that person, is simply being what most people aren’t when discussing their favourite film, honest. All their doing is accepting the fact that their guilty pleasure isn’t something to feel so guilty about.

My guilty pleasure is Major League… I feel dirty in admitting that but it’s the truth. I first discovered the 1989 baseball comedy starring Tom Berenger, a pre-Tiger Blood Charlie Sheen & a young Rene Russo in the mid-nineties. I can’t recall the exact circumstances of how I came to watch it, other than it was late and it was on BBC1. I stayed awake all the way through, mildly entertained by the oh so wacky team mates valiantly trying to win a pennant in order to foil the nefarious plans of the team’s owner Rachel Phelps (the wickedly cougar-ish Margaret Whitton). “Hang on” you’re thinking, “mildly entertained? Shouldn’t you have found it a classic underdog, comedy romp if you like it so much?” Well yes I should, but I’m all too aware of how middle of the road it is. If it was that funny and that well-made, it would’ve been valued as such and therefore wouldn’t be kept out of sight, like the black sheep of my brain’s mind when discussing all things film. I like it so much due to its mediocrity, not in spite of it. Because it’s so bland, because there’s no stand out comedic set piece to rival the campfire scene from Blazing Saddles or the razor sharp patter of The Odd Couple you can watch it from start to finish pretty much completely zoned-out and not have your enjoyment of affected in any way.

To be honest, I watch it mostly when I’m ill because I can fall asleep, miss 20 minutes and not feel the need to rewind it, safe in the knowledge that I’ve not missed anything vitally important. You try watching Goodfellas or Interstellar whilst feeling the drowsy effects of Night Nurse in less than five hours, it’s impossible. Schindler’s List, City Of God & The Shining or all cold stone classics, but despite the fact you’re in awe at the varying degrees of artistry on show, you wouldn’t watch them on a wet February afternoon would you? Much better to veg out to Bad Boys.

Most people can appreciate the complex flavours of a dish like Asparagus, Pea, Broad Bean & Herb Salad on a Warm Tomato Tart Fine, with Whipped Briliat Savarin Brie, but day to day they’d always prefer a chip supper.

You shouldn’t have to feel snobby when listing your favourite cinematic dishes. For every medium-rare chateaubriand like Blade Runner, you can enjoy every once in a while, there’s the ham & cheese toastie of the original Fast & Furious to chow down on more often.

I know this may be coming across like I’m an advocate for the (further) dumbing down of popular culture but all I’m suggesting is for people not to feel so guilty about their guilty pleasures. If you enjoy it, don’t feel ashamed about it, shout it from the roof tops, embarrassment be damned!

My favourite film of all time is Major Le… Fight Club!

By midlandsmovies, Dec 14 2014 10:01PM

Gone Girl (2014) Dir. David Fincher

Fincher, the director of macabre and dark films such as Seven, The Game and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adapts Gillian Flynn’s 2012 novel in this thriller concerning the seedier side of the American dream. When Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home one day, he finds his wife (Rosamund Pike) missing with blood splatters around the house before the media spend no time roundly pointing an accusing finger at him. With the police checking his every move, his demeanour is analysed by all around him as we uncover some home truths about his “perfect” marriage and with clues piling against him – from suspicious credit card purchases to extra-marital dalliances – Fincher points the camera at Affleck as his life spirals out of control.

An impressive Tyler Perry acts as Nick’s lawyer as Affleck begins to put some interesting puzzle pieces together in the hope of finding the truth. Ben Affleck shows that his acting chops in Argo and The Town weren’t a recent fluke but the outstanding performance is Rosamund Pike who holds the film together with a multi-faceted and multi-faced performance. Saying too much would spoil the story surprises but as we uncover the truth about everyone’s past, the audience are struck with a conundrum between people’s public persona versus their very much private performances. A few rug-pulls are obvious from the outset but Fincher is never boring, keeping the narrative strands moving forward but allowing space for characters to develop and expand.

A mystery and thesis in one, Gone Girl uses a simple set up to tackle thorny issues of marriage and relationships and throws in some absurdly murky twists and turns along the journey.

A sinister 7.5/10

Midlands Movies Mike

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