Monday, July 19, 2010

They come here to be woken up.

I spent the last two days at Warped Tour, and this morning I'm feeling - wait for it - totally warped. More on that tomorrow. For today: how's about those movies I saw last week? I'll forewarn you when I might get into spoilery territory...

The Girl Who Played with Fire

I was severely disappointed in this adaptation of the novel, considering how well the first novel was translated for screen. I enjoyed the sequel novel much more than the first book because it was focused on titular character Lisbeth Salander, and we delved deeper into her past. Plus, she got to demonstrate just how intelligent she is, despite her anti-social tendencies. In the film, the suspenseful and dark directing and cinematography of the first film was dashed away (because of a new director's vision, I suppose) and replaced with a bland eye and trite music. In the first scene of the film, we get a see-through computer screen superimposed over Lisbeth's face as she works. What is this, Hackers? To be sure: Noomi Rapace still accomplished the daring feat of embodying Lisbeth, but they watered the character down a bit for the film. The adapted screenplay missed many a mark from the novel. Here is where I detail some things that confused me - spoilers!

First, there are two things that I was glad they didn't include from the novel.

1. The entire first part of Lisbeth in the Carribean wherein she saves a woman during a hurricane from her murderous husband (who then gets swept away in said hurricane winds).

While I enjoyed reading about Lisbeth's time post-Vanger/Wennestrom scandal from the first book, I can easily understand why it didn't add to the rest of Played with Fire's plot. Plus, Carribean film shoots and the special effects necessary to re-create a hurricane scene seem easy to do away with considering a budget. Well done - I would have made the same decision, script-writer.

2. Lisbeth Salander gets a breast augmentation.

Lisbeth Salander?! Ultimate rebel who doesn't give two bits what anyone thinks of her?! In the book, Stieg Larsson emphatically tries to convince the reader that her decision makes total sense and that she is super happy with her bigger breasts since she was flat as a board before. It was completely unnecessary amidst the unfolding events to mention this, and it was continuously awkward whenever he did so. When she comes back to Sweden, there was always a line about her old friends noticing she'd been stuffing her bra or her breasts looked larger for some odd reason. I am baffled as to why it was even included. I'm all for a woman getting something done to make herself feel better, but it was jarring in the book to be reading about murder! scandal! torture! and then interject with a thought about how happy Lisbeth is with her newly sized breasts. And in the film, as demonstrated by a sex scene, Lisbeth Salander remains as she always was. I was imagining how awkward it was going to be film-wise, considering how awkward it was in the text. Point to you, film.

And much I despised some of the choices made my the filmmakers. (Continued spoilers)

1. The new characters cast. I didn't come to like the new journalist and his doctorate-writing girlfriend as much as I had in the book. When they were murdered, it didn't have the impact it did in the novel.
2. Harriet Vanger not on the Millenium board. What a great wink/tie-in it would have been to the first film.
3. Lisbeth Salander NOT actually being at the scene of the crime. In the novel, she shows up at the victims place to help them with a missing piece of their research, and leaves. Moments later, they are murdered, but the police have Salander's DNA on a tea cup she was sipping from while there. It undoubtedly places her at the scene of the crime, which makes the ensuing chase for her more dramatic, and it also showed how she was always a step ahead of everyone else. However, in the film she's surprised the cops are looking for her, and it was all because of the dumb mistake of touching Bjurman's gun (the murder weapon) a few days before when she threatened him in his own apartment. Don't try to base the narrative on such a simple mistake: it doesn't hold as much drama. In the book, while you read, you almost questioned if Lisbeth really did it or not. In the film, you don't at all, and you lose all that great suspense!
4. The police story being mostly eradicated, with little screen time given to Armansky and his team.
5. Bjurman being "caught up" in somebody else's vendetta, when in the novel, he was the one seeking a way to destroy Lisbeth. He gets murdered as in the novel, but it was much less satisfying a fact to find out since he was just a dumbass in the film. In the book: he was a conniving jerk who was continuing to make things harder for Lisbeth.

I can't even go on - it's gone too long already, hasn't it?

Bottom line: C; if you read the book, the film won't do it for you. If you haven't read the book, the film is still worth the action and drama, but the moody directing of the first film is sadly missing here.

The Kids Are All Right

Simply, this may be the best comedy-drama that comes out this year. Everything about the film is quality: the writing, the directing, and superb acting. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play a married lesbian couple with two children they concieved through an anonymous sperm donor; their kids want to find out who that donor is, and thus Mark Ruffalo's character enters into their lives. There is nothing cliche or political about The Kids Are All Right - but it definitely makes you think. There are lines that had me doubled over in laughter, they were so funny. And while I laughed, there's also recognition of a family's (any family's) relationships and all the familiar, universal truths residing within this incredibly satisfying story.

Bottom line: A; I highly recommend it, and hope that come awards season, the wholly original film and those who were involved in creating it will be recognized accordingly.


I feel lucky to have seen two smart, mature films two days in a row. While Inception is radically different from The Kids Are All Right, I also have to acknowledge that when Pixar is providing the best quality filmmaking out there, I get excited for a theater without children in it (I can only remember two other films this year that were of good quality in adult subject matter - Crazy Heart and Shutter Island).

All that said, director Christopher Nolan has achieved another great mind-bending drama, just as intricate as Memento - but easier to follow. The film looks amazing, the actors are all convincing, and Hans Zimmer's score adds to the film perfectly (think in the same way that Jonny Greenwood's score added to There Will Be Blood). There's something about Nolan and the way he directs with grandeur though his stories are usually about the human mind and the way it works - its strengths, its weaknesses, and above all, feelings of regret and guilt. Inception is no different; while a visually stunning thriller with a sci-fi edge, its power lies in the characters and basic human emotion. In this way, it actually reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don't believe I want to say much more about the film; Jesse hasn't seen it, so we're seeing it together this week, and it's something you most definitely must see to understand.

Bottom line: A; see this in theaters, see it now. (And please see Nolan's Memento if you haven't seen it either!)

Anybody seen these films? Read the Stieg Larsson novels as well? Fall totally in love with Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right? Have creepy dreams after seeing Inception?


  1. Saw Inception this weekend as well. Totally agree about the soundtrack. Everything else I want to write is spoilerific so I'll wait for your next post :)

  2. LOVED Inception. Totally creeped me out - but in a total good way. Need to see The Kids Are Alright STAT!

  3. JJ - It's so funny you should sasy that, I just finished reading Ebert's review of the film, and how it's basically the hardest movie to spoil. You could explain the end, but you still wouldn't get it unless you saw it. Ha.

    (But I understand!)

  4. I'm excited to see Inception on Wednesday! I definitely keep hearing great things about it.

  5. Kristen - yes! Do see it and love it!

  6. Alice - I'm finding it hard to find something in the film to nitpick about; I think it's truly great!

  7. The girl who played with fire is a movie!?!??!! Did they make a movie of the first book???

    I'm about done with book number three and I can't get enough.

  8. I saw Inception and it is the BEST movie I have seen in the last ten years. BTW, did Leo's character in that movie remind you of his character in Shutter Island?

    I also loved, LOVED Memento. As soon as Inception comes out on Blu-Ray I'm doing a marathon.

  9. It's a shame that the second movie is not as good because like you I enjoyed the second book better. I'll still see it but maybe wait for it to show up on Netflix.

    Inception was great and I'm going to see it again but in IMAX. Loved it.

  10. Nolan's Memento is one of my favorite movies. He is constantly a genius at the way he gets great performances out of his actors and maintain stunning visual quality. I also loved it and The Kids Are Alright.

  11. KT - YES! The first movie was GREAT! It's on Netflix instant right now! Check it out! I'm itching to buy book #3! Am waiting for proper paperback...

    That Ain't Kosher - I can see definite ties to Shutter Island!

    Ginny - Inception, so so so good. I just saw it again last night!

    Jessica - Yay! Yes, Nolan is quite amazing. He's taking Fincher out of the running...

  12. ok you have my attention, movies are quite possibly my favorite pastime. i've never heard of the first one you mentioned nor the book, but holy hell i had read about the second movie awhile back and i'm glad you liked it, i can't wait to check it out - same with inception.

    god i'm becoming a sucker for leonardo now that he's getting older and looks like a man instead of a little boy man. <-- did that even make sense? ha.

  13. Nice review, I just saw the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and have the Girl who Played with Fire on my list to see. I agree that the change in linking Lisbeth to the crime scene is bogus--you really aren't sure if she's done it or not for a while, which I think was a strong point of the book.

    Have you read The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's nest yet?

  14. I still haven't read/seen the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so I'm not gonna read/see the next one, yet.

    I really wanna see The Kids Are All Right. I love Mark Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska (she was great I'm the TV series In Treatment on HBO).

    I saw and loved Inception. I wanna see it again. I wanna talk to someone about it, too.