Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Releases (02/02/12)

There are four new releases hitting Australian cinemas tomorrow - The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank, Man on a Ledge, directed by Asger Leth, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, directed by Sean Durkin. I have now seen three of these releases, with the exception of Man on a Ledge (which I'm pretty sure I won't end up seeing), and it is a strong line-up. It has been a while since I saw Martha Marcy May Marlene, but I saw it at both SFF and MIFF - and it is one of my favourites from 2011. The Artist I watched the other night - and it is a delight. It looks to be the likely Oscar winner at the end of the month, and that's fine with me. Chronicle took me by surprise. It is a clever premise, and features some really inventive camera operation, and impressive visual effects. Well worth a look.

The Artist - Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it seems the sky's the limit - major movie stardom awaits. The Artist tells the story of their interlinked destinies. 10 Oscar nominations. Winner of Best Film at the Producer's Guild of America, Best Director at the Director's Guild of America, and Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is delightful. Check it out.

Chronicle - Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding. As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over. Has received strong early reviews and rightly so. It gets a little bit unjustifiably silly near the end - but most of the film is entertaining, and visually impressive. Not so much a 'found footage' film, but the filmmakers are intent on having everything captured on a device by the characters themselves, which is innovative, if a little problematic. The third option this week - but still a strong one.

New Release Review: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius, 2011)

The Artist, the red-hot Oscar favourite, the unexpected hit at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, finally hits Australian cinemas this Thursday, distributed through Roadshow. Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist has not received glowing acclaim purely because it is unique and different; but because it is a delightful, beautifully crafted and technically proficient feel-good tale of the intertwining fates of two individuals during the silent/talkie transition period at the tail end of the 1920’s.

The Artist opens in the year 1927, with the charming, talented and exceptionally popular silent film star, George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) attending the premiere of his latest film, A Russian Affiair. Immediately, Hazanavicius is playfully toying with his audience by having Valentin’s character in A Russian Affair cry out under torture: “I won’t talk. I won’t say a word.” It is clever too, because it is not immediately apparent that this is actually a silent film because the accompanying score in these early scenes could realistically be coming from the orchestra scoring A Russian Affair. There are several other allusions to the film’s ‘silence’ throughout the narrative.

Incredibly proud of being a silent actor and of his grand achievements, Valentin, with his faithful canine in tow, entertains the crowd following the film, but it is outside the theatre, as Valentin is posing for photographs, that his life is forever changed. He is bumped into by one of his many admirers, a young woman named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Valentin reacts graciously, and Peppy embraces his good humour by posing alongside him in the photographs. They cross paths again later when Peppy, an aspiring actress, auditions to be an extra. Valentin insists that she be given a part in Kinograph Studio’s next production, much to the chagrin of the studio boss, Al Zimmer (John Goodman), concerned about this potential 'distraction' to his lead star. Following several romantic encounters with Valentin, accompanied by some friendly professional guidance, Peppy starts to earn more prominent starring roles.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Awards Watch: Dujardin, Davis and THE HELP Lead Winners at the SAG Awards

Here is the complete list of winners at the 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards:

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role: Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role: Viola Davis - The Help
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role: Octavia Spencer - The Help
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role: Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: The Help

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin - 30 Rock
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Betty White - Hot in Cleveland
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series: Modern Family
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: Kate Winslet - Mildred Pierce
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie of Miniseries: Paul Giamatti - Too Big to Fail
Outstanding Performance by A Female Actor in a Drama Series: Jessica Lange - American Horror Story
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire
Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Boardwalk Empire

Classic Throwback: Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)

I watched and reviewed Au Hasard Balthazar as part of my 2012 Blind Spot Series.

“Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished,” Jean-Luc Godard once said about Au Hasard Balthazar, “because this film is really the world in an hour and a half.” Put it this way, this episodically plotted but thematically dense black and white masterwork from French auteur Robert Bresson (Pickpocket) is a very difficult film to analyze, but one that must rank as one of cinema’s most essential and emotionally rewarding classics.

The premise behind Au Hasard Balthazar is an endearingly simple one. It is the story of an often-exploited donkey, christened Balthazar by the children of a farmer’s family who adopt him at an early age (the opening shot, like in Steven Spelberg’s recent epic, War Horse, which shares many similarities with Balthazar, is of a baby donkey nursing at its mother’s side) and raise him in rural France. He functions more as a family pet than a ‘beast of burden’ – a role assigned Balthazar after several sad twists of fate. He gets passed from owner to owner, observing all manners of human goodwill and pure evil – finding himself in the possession of a satanic local delinquent, a mysterious drifter and even a circus troupe. It is a powerful and upsetting fable about human adoration and cruelty struggling to coexist, about suffering and the destructive impulses of humanity. Bresson uses Balthazar as a saintly symbol of purity and virtue, and as a passive observer, forced to cop the brunt of mistreatment and carry misdeed as best he can.

Love for Love and 'Alone Again Or'

The other day a work colleague and I were talking about music and some of our favourite artists. We were talking about The Beatles and The Beach Boys ('Pet Sounds'). Then we started discussing The Kinks, their song 'This Time Tomorrow' and Wes Anderson's wonderful use of their music in his film, The Darjeeling Limited. Then I was asked:

"Do you know the band Love?"

"Yeah, I know Love. 'Forever Changes' is an amazing album. One of my favourites.

"I think 'Alone Again Or' is one of the best songs I have ever heard."

"Yes! Yes it is."

Then it got busy, and we had to go back to our tasks, but it was quite a moment to learn that someone else I know has love for Love. Be sure to check out 'Alone Again Or' here.

'Wastelander Panda' Short Film Prologue, from Adelaide's Epic Films, Receives Worldwide Attention.

Wastelander Panda, produced through an independent but emerging company from Adelaide, Epic Films, has attracted plenty of attention in the internet community since the three-minute prologue to a developing television series was released online this week.

The three-minute film, which is a live-action tale of the last remaining panda in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, has prompted comparisons to iconic films Mad Max, The Road and The Book of Eli. Produced by Kirsty Stark and written and directed by Victoria Cocks, Wastelander Panda was created as a prologue for a television series that the team at Epic Films has been developing for the last 12 months.

Epic Films raised the money for the prologue independently, with assistance of a grant from the Helpmann Academy. They also received lots of support from the local Flinder's Ranges communities of Blinman, Parachilna and Hawker, who offered locations and acted as extras in the film. They hope to use the prologue's success to fund a full series of Wastelander Panda, and will be taking their concept to television stations and funding bodies, in the hope to have production underway at the end of the year.

To view the prologue and share online, go to http://www.vimeo.com/epicfilmsAUS/panda

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Awards Watch: 'The Artist' and 'Project Nim' Winners at DGA

Just when it seemed like Hugo was bridging the gap with its eleven Academy Award nominations, Michael Hazanavicius has taken out the award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for The Artist at the Director's Guild of America Awards. Hazanavicius is now favourite to back up this win with a Best Director Oscar - and with The Artist also taking top honours at the Producer's Guild of America Awards it is now the clear-cut favourite. James Marsh also won Best Directorial Achievement in a Documentary for the wonderful Project Nim.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures

Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist *WINNER*
David Fincher - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary

Richard Press - Bill Cunningham New York
Martin Scorsese - George Harrison: Living in a Material World
Steve James - The Interrupters
James Marsh - Project Nim *WINNER*
Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky - Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Will Hazanavicius win the Oscar for The Artist or will Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne or Terrence Malick cause what must now be considered an upset?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Release Review: J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood, 2011)

J. Edgar is Clint Eastwood’s examination of the infamous career of J. Edgar Hoover (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio), influential in the founding of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), acting as its controversial director for over four decades, until his death at age 77 in 1972. The screenplay is written by Dustin Lance Black (Academy Award winner for Milk) and tracks both his professional achievements and his speculated private life, including his close acquaintance with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), his protégé, associate director, and lifelong friend.

Hoover first came on the scene in 1919 with strong anti-Communist ideologies, eventually assigned the role of the acting director of the Bureau of Investigation (which would later become the FBI) by the Attorney General in 1924. He was an innovative radical, obsessed with his job, with no social life or relationship to speak of. He was allowed to select his team, dismissing anyone that didn’t appease his desired ‘look’ for an agent of the bureau – but seemingly drawn to handsome young men like Tolson. In the years to come he was instrumental in building the FBI into an efficient crime-fighting agency, bringing scientific innovation into the justice system – including the building of forensic laboratories, and a centralized file for fingerprint analysis.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January: Quick Reviews and Ratings

I don't have the time and energy to review every film I watch, so I'll give a quick capsule review and rating of some first viewings I have not looked at in a feature length review throughout January:

Cabaret (Bob Fosse 1972) - Cabaret won eight 1972 Academy Awards, losing out to The Godfather for Best Picture. Bob Fosse took home Best Director and Liza Minnelli (excellent) won Best Actress, and the film is widely considered to be one of the revolutionary musicals ever created. Not having much of an interest in musicals, I was skeptical about whether I would enjoy this film, but due to its significant prestige, I figured it would be worth a look. It is excellent - and I was impressed by the strength of the emotional impact produced by the story, and the catchiness of the song and dance sequences. Set in Berlin in 1931, Cabaret follows the lives of an American singer and cabaret star, Sally Bowles (Minnelli), and Brian Roberts (Michael York), a reserved English academic, who moves into her building at the start of the film and later becomes her lover. Amidst the turbulent political period, they also experience ups-and-downs in their own lives. Even the subplots (a romance between two of Brian's pupils - a German Jew posing as a Christian and a wealthy Jewish heiress) have real bearing on the story. What gives Cabaret a lift beyond simply being an engaging romance, or a catchy musical, is the fact that it is socially conscious. Almost all of the musical interludes, which feature inventive choreography, are shot and edited in a dynamic and visceral style - seamlessly captured from all angles (from the POV of the crowd, from off-stage). They also directly relate to the narrative and the rise of the National Socialist Movement, while also existing as a performance in the Kit Kat Klub. Even for cinephiles with little interest in musicals as a genre, this one is well worth a look. ★★★★

The Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, 2000) - Considered to be one of the masterworks of Hungarian master Bela Tarr. It is based on the novel, The Melancholy of Resistance by Laszlo Krasznahorkai. It is shot in black and white and the 145-minute running time is composed of just thirty nine lengthy shots. The central character is Janos (Lars Rudolph), a kind-hearted and gentle young man living in a small town surviving a bitter winter on the Hungarian plains. He is a postal worker who also takes care of an elderly music historian, and has great interest in the cosmos and the miracles of creation. One night - and casting a sinister shadow over the town, despite it being the dead of night - a traveling circus arrives in town with an enormous dead whale entombed in a corrugated iron trailer. Rumour quickly spreads around town about another accompanying attraction, dubbed "The Prince", whose feared influence over the bewildered and restless townsfolk, who assemble in the cold around the trailer, soon becomes horrifically apparent. The plot, to say the least, is bizarre, but what Tarr manages to convey in this series of richly textured, and marvellously constructed sequences (despite their length, they never cease to be captivating), is simultaneously beautiful and haunting, but above all, thought-provoking. There is sparse use of music throughout the film, but when it is present (the wonderful opening sequence, the beautiful moment where Janos first investigates the whale, and the finale, are examples) it is unforgettable. But scenes like these are reciprocated with equally disturbing ones - the townfolk's mass ransacking of a hospital ward as if under a trance. Tarr's floating camera takes us through these strange occurrences - never relinquishing this feeling of ominous tension. Masterful. ★★★★★

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Releases (26/01/12)

There are four releases scheduled for Thurday 26th January (Australia Day: a holiday that most Australians take ridiculously seriously, but one I don't care for) - J. Edgar, Underworld Awakening, A Few Best Men and Weekend. The latter is one of the best films I have seen recently, but overall (mostly due to the negative responses to Eastwood's latest film), I am expecting this to be pretty weak lineup. Luckily, great films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Descendants, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Muppets, Hugo and Young Adult are still playing in cinemas - plenty to check out. Here is a quick overview of this week's releases:

J. Edgar - Clint Eastwood's new film explores the public and private life of one of the most powerful, controversial and enigmatic figures of the 20th Century. As the face of law enforcement in America for almost fifty years, J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life. DiCaprio, I believe, gives an excellent performance (and at the time of writing, is an Oscar candidate, and on revision missing out on a nomination) but the consensus is that the film is a mess with it's through-narrative, distracts with poor make-up and is generally mediocre.

Underworld Awakening - Kate Beckinsale, star of the first two films, returns in her lead role as the vampire warriorness Selene, who escapes imprisonment to find herself in a world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans, and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species.

The 84th Academy Awards Nominations Postmortem

Ahh the backlash. There is always backlash. Plenty was said by the Twitter folk last night - and as I was reading, re-reading, and processing the many puzzling selections made by the AMPAS in the early hours of this morning, I thought I would save my own thoughts on the matter until after a cool down period. Every year there are disappointments. Why wasn't this film nominated? Surely this performance was better than that? Last year the nominees were all pretty sound, but it was on the night when the big surprises came. This year the surprises came with the nominees, and hey, we all wanted surprises didn't we?

Best Picture - Okay, so I was immediately on a downer when War Horse was called out first, but was given a bit of pep when The Tree of Life was also mentioned. The rest of the usual suspects appeared (The Artist, The Descendants, Hugo, The Help, Midnight in Paris and Moneyball) and we all expected there to be eight nominees. Then comes the announcement of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. What the hell? Stephen Daldry has directed another Best Picture nominated film. The film has received mixed reviews, but predominantly negative ones, making this inclusion inexplicable and suspicious. Considering the films that were left out and received more nominations (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), there is almost no way to justify this selection. It received more than 5% of #1 votes. This is why I thought The Tree of Life would make it in, and why I thought that films like Drive and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had a chance to be nominated - and that for sure War Horse would miss out. Anyway, it doesn't really matter, because The Artist is going to win. Although Hugo led the way with 11 nominations. Who knows?

Awards Watch: 84th Academy Awards Nominees

So, I was still up at 12.30am (and beyond) watching the Oscar nominations announced via a live stream. It was an experience. A maddening one. Here were my predictions, and following are the official nominees for the 84th Academy Awards:

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Best Director

Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life
Woody Allen  - Midnight in Paris

Best Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Demian Bichir - A Better Life
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Viola Davis - The Help
Michelle Williams - My Week with Marilyn
Rooney Mara - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Octavia Spencer - The Help
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Nick Nolte - Warrior
Max Von Sydow - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Kenneth Branagh - My Week With Marilyn

Best Original Screenplay

Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist
Woody Allen - Midnight in Paris
J.C Chandor - Margin Call
Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo - Bridesmaids
Asghar Farhadi - A Separation

Best Adapted Screenplay

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash - The Descendants
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian - Moneyball
John Logan - Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon - The Ides of March
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughn - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Animated Feature

Chico and Rita
A Cat in Paris
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Best Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again
If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Best Foreign Language Film

A Separation
Monsieur Lazhar
In Darkness

Best Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki - The Tree of Life
Robert Richardson - Hugo
Guillaume Schiffman - The Artist
Janusz Kaminski - War Horse
Jeff Cronenweth - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best Film Editing

Anne-Sophie Bion and Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist
Thelma Schoonmaker - Hugo
Kevin Tent - The Descendants
Christopher Tellefsen - Moneyball
Kirk Baxter and Angus Hall - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Best Original Score

Ludovic Bource - The Artist
Howard Shore - Hugo
John Williams - War Horse
John Williams - The Adventures of Tintin
Alberto Iglesias - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Art Direction

The Artist
War Horse
Midnight in Paris
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Best Costume Design

Jane Eyre
The Artist

Best Makeup

The Iron Lady
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Albert Nobbs

Best Visual Effects

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Real Steel

Best Original Song

"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets - Music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from Rio - Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyrics by Siedah Garrett

Best Sound Mixing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Best Sound Editing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

Best Documentary Short Subject

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
Gold in the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

Best Short Film

Dimanche/Sunday - Patrick Doyon
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore - William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
La Luna - Enrico Casarosa
A Morning Stroll - Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
Wild Life - Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Best Short Film (Live Action)

Pentecost - Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
Raju - Max Zahle and Stefan Gieren
The Shore - Terry George and Oorlagh George
Time Freak - Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
Tuba Atlantic - Hallivar Witzo

Tomorrow, once I have cooled down, there will a post-mortem picking out the highlights (The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick, Rooney Mara, Gary Oldman, A Separation...yeah) and the lowlights (War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids, John Williams, no Michael Fassbender, no Tilda Swinton, no Shailene Woodley, no Albert Brooks, War Horse) of the 84th Academy Awards. For now, to bed. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

National Dates and Venues for the 2012 Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Announced

The ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL, the beloved celebration of French cinema, which takes place nationally from early March through to April, welcomed a record-breaking 130,000 attendees during its 2011 season. For its 23rd outing it will feature over 1,300 sessions at 17 locations across the country, and is proudly presented by the Alliance Francaise in Association with the French Embassy in Australia and the gracious support of Gold Sponsor Peugeot.

Launching the 2012 Festival will be Declarations of War (La Guerre est declaree), a powerful tale selected as France's official submission for the 2012 Academy Awards. Based on real-life events, Declaration of War will screen courtesy of Palace Films, and is the compelling tale of a young Parisian couple whose carefree existence is suddenly shattered by an unexpected twist of fate. A massive box office success in its native France, Declaration of War is just one of 45 films and documentaries on offer in this year's line-up, which will also include a closing night presentation of Francois Truffaut's 1980 classic, The Last Metro, starring Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu and Jean Poiret.

2012 Festival Highlights include:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Classic Throwback: Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)

My only exposure to the films of Robert Bresson prior to Pickpocket was a short clip from A Man Escaped (1956) at university, and Lancelot Du Lac (1974), which had a few too many shots of horses torsos and monotonous armour clinking for my liking. Though Bresson's style was interesting I was optimistic about finding more enjoyment in some of his earlier works (widely considered masterpieces of 50's/60's French cinema). I thought I would start with Pickpocket and then watch Au Hasard Balthazar, which I included as part of my 2012 Blind Spot Series.

Pickpocket opens with Michel (Martin Lasalle) amateurishly attempting a theft at a racetrack, managing to successfully steal money from the bag of a spectator, but being arrested as he leaves. It is initially unclear why he has been picked up, with the Inspector (Jean Pelegri) eventually releasing him due to insufficient evidence. Along with the Inspector, who suspects Michel of being an elusive pickpocket, but tries to understand and help the man throughout the film, Michel also spends time with his loyal friend Jacques, who gives him contacts for honest work, and Jeanne, an attractive young woman who lives in his ailing mother’s apartment block and takes care of her. Jeanne and Jacques start to date one another – but Michel is eventually forced to divulge his secret profession to Jeanne following his mother’s death.

The film’s main narrative is Michel’s improvement as a pickpocket. His outspokenness about the morality of picking pockets, and the book detailing the art of the craft in his possession is more than enough for the Inspector to suspect him. Michel either remains oblivious, or chooses to ignore this. Perhaps he is so over-confident in his abilities, having apprenticed with a professional thief to learn the craft, that he has become blind to the danger he is in and is generally indifferent about being caught?

Updated (Final) Oscar Predictions

Though I am yet to see The Artist, I have tinkered with my 2011 Oscar Predictions one last time before the announcements. These are my final predictions. I couldn't help but throw in a couple of personal picks that I accept are unlikely, but it's fun to be optimistic.

Each category has some alternatives (listed in order of likelihood) below. I have offered no explanations for these selections - but it is a mix of personal opinion and influence from the results of the lead up awards ceremonies. I have not included the categories of Best Original Song and the Shorts. The Artist and Hugo tied for the most nominations with ten apiece. Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Trailer: Chronicle

Chronicle, distributed by 20th Century Fox, hits Australian cinemas on February 2nd. It is a sci-fi fantasy written by Max Landis and directed by Josh Trank. Here is the trailer:

New technologies and social communities allow us to record, post and comment on every seconf of our lives, sharing our every emotion and opinion with the world, no matter how mundane. For three high school classmates who suddenly gain superpowers from a mysterious substance, the chronicle of their ordinary lives is about to take an extraordinary turn.

Initially they lose their powers to play innocent pranks on each other and people around them, but soon they gain confidence and learn to control their powers better to take on more difficult tasks. Their newfound sense of immortality and impunity will force them to evaluate their own morality to ultimately decide where to draw the line about how far they should go.

Awards Watch: 'The Artist' and 'Tintin' Winners at the PGA

The Artist was already the odds-on Oscar favourite, but now looks all-but locked in after being awarded Best Motion Picture by the Producer's Guild of America, an accolade usually followed up by Best Picture. It was at this point last year that The King's Speech became the favourite, beating out The Social Network. Before that The Hurt Locker and Slumdog Millionaire also took home the PGA before winning Best Picture.

Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (spelling Rango's likely Oscar doom) won Best Motion Picture: Animated, while Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, won Best Motion Picture: Documentary. The latter isn't even on the Academy shortlist, continuing the prove what a joke that list is. Wins also came for Downtown Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family and The Amazing Race in the television categories.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Release Review: Young Adult (Jason Reitman, 2011)

Young Adult is the new film from writer/director pair Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman (Juno). Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) is a divorced 37 year-old ghostwriter living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, famous for the Waverly Prep series of young adult novels. She is facing a deadline to complete the final book in the series, which is soon-to-be-cancelled, but is experiencing creative block and suffering from depression and self-depreciation, further distracted by an email she receives from her high school boyfriend, Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson), who is married with a newborn. Mavis' life is a mess. Her home is a disgrace; she drinks copious amounts of Maker's Mark Bourbon, and fights off brutal hangovers with huge swigs of Diet Coke and fast food. Even her dog suffers. Above all, she is a rude, self-involved and ungrateful bitch.

Stuck in a rut, and obsessed with her deluded agenda of winning Buddy back, she returns to her hometown of Mercury, sticking in on the drive an old mix tape given to her by Buddy. She sets up a meet with him at a sports bar the following day, and at a different bar reconnects with Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), an old classmate she barely remembers. They recall his beating in high school, which left him partially crippled, and Mavis divulges her plans to win back Buddy. Matt runs a bourbon distillery in his garage, and seems to be the only person willing to be in Mavis' extended company. Buddy invites Mavis to his home to see his daughter, then to a bar to watch his wife Beth's (Elizabeth Reaser) band's play, and finally to his daughter's naming ceremony - alluding that their relationship is more complex than it seems. But, will revisiting her past help Mavis to learn how to finally grow up?

Upcoming Release Review: Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)

Shame is released in selected Australian cinemas on February 9th.

There is a moment in Shame when Michael Fassbender’s character, Brandon, goes for a run in the middle of the night. Whether this is a common practice for him is unknown to us as viewers, but sometimes (and many viewers will relate) it feels necessary just to run to briefly escape the stress of your life. Feeling claustrophobic and constricted by the unannounced arrival of his estranged and mentally unbalanced sister, played by Carey Mulligan, trying to wrestle with a destructive personal ‘affliction’ while also brimming with frustration and self-loathing, who can blame him for running aimlessly through the city. The incredible extended take, with tracks Brandon as he is running, allows viewers’ time to process all that they have seen up until this point too, and I can assure you, it's pretty harrowing stuff.

Shame is the second film from British writer/director Steven McQueen (Hunger) – and ever since it premiered at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, where Fassbender won Best Actor, it has been drawing acclaim and controversy in even doses. Shame was distributed with an NC-17 rating in the United States, which in-turn means the film can’t be shown in some cinemas. Set in New York, Shame captures about a week in life of Brandon, a handsome, successful and wealthy thirty-something who works in corporate business (or something to that extent). He has a beautifully positioned, but bland, high-rise apartment, and an active social life. But Brandon is wrestling with a compulsive personality – surviving day-to-day within a personal prison, coping with an uncontrollable addiction to sex. We learn that he fuels it in a number of ways – random romps with co-workers, paying for prostitutes, and self-satisfaction. Though he is emotionally withdrawn, and shuns commitment to a relationship, his life is ordered. When his emotionally fragile sister, Sissy (Mulligan) turns up to stay for a while, a romance with a co-worker blossoms, and his work hard drive is found to be 'corrupted', his lifestyle, along with all of his secrets, is sent into turmoil.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Upcoming Release Review: Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)

Weekend is the second feature by British writer/director Andrew Haigh, shot on location in Nottingham in a mere 17 days. Weekend premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival winning the Emerging Vision Audience Award, before also taking out the Grand Jury Prize and Best Actor Award at the Nashville Film Festival during its run through the US. Though its release has been limited (and it hits Australian cinemas on the 26th January) it is one of the most lauded films of the year.

On a Friday night, after hanging out with his mates, Russell (Tom Cullen) heads out to a nightclub on his way home. Intoxicated, alone and on the pull, he picks up Glen (Chris New), an aspiring artist – setting in motion an unexpected weekend together. Expecting the encounter to be just a one-night stand, they are surprised to find themselves still in each other's company the next day, sharing their experiences as gay men, with Russell learning that Glen is soon to be leaving for Oregon for a two year art course. In both crowded bars and the intimacy of their bedrooms, they share stories, take drugs and have sex – and form a connection (albeit brief) that will continue to resonate throughout their lives.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Awards Watch: London Film Critics Circle Announce Winners

Here are the winners from the 32nd London Critics' Circle Film Awards. The Artist was named Film of the Year, while Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin was named British Film of the Year.

Film of the Year - The Artist
British Film of the Year - We Need to Talk About Kevin
Foreign Language Film of the Year - A Separation
Documentary of the Year - Senna
Director of the Year - Michael Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Screenwriter of the Year - Asghar Farhadi (A Separation)
Breakthrough British Filmmaker - Andrew Haigh (Weekend)
Actor of the Year - Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Actress of the Year - Anna Paquin (Margaret) and Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) TIE
Supporting Actor of the Year - Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn)
Supporting Actress of the Year - Areh Bayat (A Separation)
British Actor of the Year - Michael Fassbander (Shame, A Dangerous Method)
British Actress of the Year - Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur, The Iron Lady)
Young British Performer of the Year - Craig Roberts (Submarine)
Technical Achievement - Marla Djurkovic, production designer (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Critics's Circle Top 10 Films of 2011

The Artist
A Separation
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The Tree of Life
We Need to Talk About Kevin
The Descendants

What are your thoughts on these winners? No real surprises, perhaps with the exception of Anna Paquin tying with Meryl Streep. Great to see A Separation receive multiple awards and a win for We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Classic Throwback: Blowup (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)

Following up L’Avventura (196), which I was underwhelmed by but hope to re-visit someday, Michelangelo Antonioni co-wrote and directed Blowup, his first English-speaking film and one of his most acclaimed. Blowup won the Grand Prix at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival and he was nominated for Best Director and Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (which is focused more on sound recording than photography as a means to establish the mystery) is evidently influenced by Blowup, though still a fantastic film in its own right. Brian De Palma’s Blowout (1981) is another.

Blowup is actually set over the course of just over a day – chronicling the life of a nihilistic glamour and fashion photographer named Thomas (David Hemmings). The film opens with Thomas running late for a photo shoot at his studio with Veruschka (a popular glamour model at the time, apparently) after spending the night at a doss house (a homeless estate) taking photographs for a book he is close to completing about social structure in London. Later that morning he has another shoot with several vapid models that pose absently in a number of impractical items. He storms off the shoot, bored by their lack of enthusiasm and reward for his efforts. The earlier shoot has been voted as one of the sexiest scenes in film history – as Thomas aggressively instructs Veruschka to pose in a series of sexy positions, kissing her on the neck to arouse her and evoke emotion, before eventually climbing on top of her and capturing her lying on her back.

Later that day searching for a peaceful image to conclude his book, he discovers an unpopulated park and starts snapping away at a couple, a young woman and an older man, who seem to be sharing a quiet and innocent moment. The woman (Vanessa Regrave, unrecognizable) soon approaches him distressed, queries his suspicious presence, and asks for the pictures. She later continues to press her case at his studio, turning up on his doorstep. She doesn’t successfully persuade him with her nervous flirting, but actually further piques his intrigue.

Turns out that the pictures contain a mystery – evidence of a killing – discovered once Thomas palms off the woman with the wrong film, develops and enlarges the photos. He discovers a man with a gun lurking in the bushes, and the distinct corpse of the man the woman was with. Has Thomas accidentally documented a murder in these captures? He becomes briefly obsessed, unable to articulate to anyone else what he has discovered, but eventually returning to his daily routine when it seems impossible to prove anything. But is Blowout really about the mystery at all? Was there actually a mystery?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Release Review: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011)

Tomas Alfedson, the man at the helm of 2008’s wonderfully atmospheric Swedish vampire film, Let the Right One In, is back to direct an adaptation of John Le Carre’s acclaimed 1974 novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The intriguingly complex screenplay is penned by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan. With extremely dense storytelling, comprised of an unconventional extended montage-style approach, this is a film that requires undivided attention from a viewer – but is certainly an engrossing experience well worth your time.

The plot is perfectly comprehensible, but the way that the script balances its characters, seamlessly blends timelines, and shifts between recounts, will likely leave some viewers lost in the murkiness and scratching their heads. A return will no doubt make everything much clearer. The characters are so interesting (flawed but evoking sympathy), and the production so calculated, that I feel like it earns another viewing. Overall, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is not going to get your pulse racing (don't expect something in the vein of the Bourne films) but it does have some suspense, and some pretty unexpected revelations. It is a thinking person’s espionage thriller, with not the reclamations of nuclear warheads at stake, but the possession of incriminating information, surrounded by a stifling claustrophobic and paranoiac atmosphere.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Awards Watch: British Academy of Film and Television Arts Announce Nominees

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) have announced its nominations for the best films of 2012. The Artist tops the nominees with 12, while Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy picked up 11. While there are some similarities to what we have seen with the CCA and Golden Globes, there are some pleasant surprises as well as the usual head scratchers. The ceremony will take place on 17th February.

Best Film

The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Outstanding British Film

My Week With Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin

The rest of the nominees can be found at The Reel Bits.

Pleasant Surprises.

Best Film: Drive, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Outstanding British Film: Senna, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Foreign Language Film: Incendies
Director: Nicholas Winding Refn (Drive), Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Lynne Ramsay (We Need To Talk About Kevin)
Leading Actor: Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Original Music: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Editing: Drive, Senna, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

What the Hell?

Best Film: The Help
Foreign Language Film: Potiche
Supporting Actress: Judi Dench (My Week With Marilyn)
Supporting Actor: Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady)
Original Screenplay: Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady)
Films nominated for Original Music, and Cinematography: Exactly the same
No Tree of Life. Anywhere.

Still, great to see films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Drive, Senna, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Shame getting recognised here. What do you make of these choices?

Awards Watch: ACE Editing Nominees

Here is the complete list of nominees for film by the American Cinema Editors (ACE). The awards ceremony will be held on February 18th.

Best Edited Feature Film (Dramatic)

Kevin Tent - The Descendants
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Thelma Schoonmaker - Hugo
Christopher Tellefsen - Moneyball
Michael Kahn - War Horse

Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy or Musical)

Anne-Sophie Bion and Michael Hazanavicius - The Artist
William Kerr and Michael L. Sale - Bridesmaids
Alisa Lepselter - Midnight in Paris
Adam Recht - My Week With Marilyn
Dana W. Glauberman - Young Adult

Best Edited Animated Feature Film

Michael Kahn - The Adventures of Tintin
Craig Wood - Rango
Eric Dapkewicz - Puss in Boots

Best Edited Documentary

Joe Bini and Maya Hawke - Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Lewis Erskine and Aljernon Tunstil - Freedom Riders
David Tedeschi - George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Who do you expect to win these categories? My picks are The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Artist and Rango.

New Releases (19/01/12) + Exclusive 'Young Adult' Clips

Opening in cinemas this week are Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, adapted from the classic John Le Carre novel, and directed by Tomas Alfredson, Young Adult, directed by Jason Reitman from an original screenplay by Diablo Cody and starring Charlize Theron, The Darkest Hour and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Courtesy of Way to Blue I also have some clips from Young Adult to share with you. I will upload them and give a quick overview of the film a little bit later.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - This international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th Century. George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government - which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets. Featuring an all-star cast (Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hindes in addition to Oldman), and direction by Tomas Alfredson (who created an incomparable atmosphere for Let the Right One In), this densely plotted, impeccably designed espionage tale has been universally acclaimed, and though it requires close attention - it's a highly sophisticated and rewarding experience. Review to be posted in the next couple of days.

Young Adult - Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a writer of teen literature who returns to her small hometown to relive her glory days and attempt to reclaim her happily married high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). When returning home proves more difficult than she thought, Mavis forms an unusual bond with her former classmate (Patton Oswalt) who hasn't quite gotten over high school, either. Rotten Tomatoes describe the film as a "funny and ultimately powerful no-holds-barred examination of prolonged adolescence, thanks largely to a convincing performance by Theron" - Golden Globe nominee for her work. It's the same team (Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman) behind Juno, and though it likely won't appease everyone's tastes, I think it should be worth checking out for Theron alone.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Awards Watch: Golden Globe Winners

Here are the list of Golden Globe Winners as they announced. For the list of nominees and my predictions, click here.

Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

This was to be expected. Either Plummer or Albert Brooks. Plummer takes it out - and is now the heavy Oscar favourite.

Best Actress: Television Series Comedy - Laura Dern (Enlightened)

Best Miniseries - Downtown Abbey

I bought this for my mother for Christmas. Seems like a great choice.

Best Actress in a Miniseries - Kate Winslet (Mildred Pierce)

I love Kate. I really should check out this Miniseries.

Best Actor: Television Series Drama - Kelsey Grammar (Boss)

Best Television Series: Drama - Homeland
This show must be good if it beat out Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones.

Best Original Score - Ludovic Bource (The Artist)

Not a surprise. I had hoped Reznor/Ross would take this out. I also liked Howard Shore's work in Hugo.

Best Original Song - Madonna for 'Masterpiece' from W.E.

Umm. Ok.

Best Actor in a Mini-Series - Idris Elba (Luther)

Elba is awesome. He's Stringer Bell from The Wire.

Best Actress: Comedy/Musical - Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn)

Glad to see Michelle Williams take out this award. I am yet to see her film, but I understand she is fantastic.

Best Supporting Actor in a Series or Mini-Series - Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

Yes. Dinklage is so great in that show.

Best Animated Feature - The Adventures of Tintin

Not Rango? What a shame.

Best Screenplay - Midnight in Paris

Great to see Woody take out this award. It's a delightful film. I did think it would go to The Artist, however. A pleasant surprise.

Best Supporting Actress in a Series or Mini-Series - Jessica Lange (American Horror Story)

Best Foreign Language Film - A Separation

Though I have only seen The Skin I Live in from the other nominees, the Golden Bear winner is one of the best films I saw in 2011. It's a masterpiece.

Best Actress, Television Series Drama - Claire Danes (Homeland)

Best Actor, Television Series Comedy - Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)

Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer (The Help)

This is one of the tightest categories, but Octavia follows up her win at the CCA.

Best Director - Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Wow. I did expect Hazanavicius to win this for The Artist, but I am happy for Marty. Does this mean he is now the Oscar favourite? No.

Best Television Series: Comedy - Modern Family

Best Actor: Comedy/Musical - Jean Dujardin (The Artist)

No surprise here. No one was going to beat Dujardin, one of the locks for an Oscar nomination.

Best Actress: Drama - Meryl Streep (The Iron lady)

Yawn. Realistically, this was between Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. They went with Streep. Of course. Couldn't they have thrown a wrench in the works and picked Rooney Mara to make this ceremony somewhat exciting?

Best Picture: Comedy or Musical - The Artist

Wow. No shock. Has won a couple of awards earlier in the night (though Woody's screenplay win had me thinking twice about the inevitability of The Artist's win here) but this was in the end, inevitable.

Best Actor: Drama - George Clooney (The Descendants)

I can live with that. He was excellent. Still, if I had seen Shame I might have a different opinion.

Best Picture: Drama - The Descendants

Contrary to all the hate for this film on Twitter, which I don't get, I am perfectly content with this film winning, given the nominees. I loved Moneyball, and enjoyed Hugo, but this had built plenty of buzz and I was not surprised.

What are your thoughts on these choices? How much bearing do you think they will have on the Oscars?

Trailer: Wes Anderson's 'Moonrise Kingdom'

Focus Features has released the first trailer for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Headlined by a cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two children who fall in love and run away into the wilderness. The authorities try to track them down, where chaos ensues. Courtesy of Max @ Impassioned CinemaCheck out the the trailer below:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Release Review: Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)

Hugo, nominated for several Golden Globe Awards and one of the Oscar frontrunners, is Martin Scorsese’s first foray into the world of 3D. It is a delightful family film, based on Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, adapted by John Logan (Rango). It tells the story of Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), a young boy who lives alone within the walls of a Paris railway station tending to the station’s clocks, and his unique bond with the owner of a toy store.

Hugo is set in Paris in 1931. We are introduced to Hugo Cabret, taken in by his uncle (Ray Winstone), an alcoholic responsible for maintaining the clocks in a Parisian railway station, when his father (played by Jude Law) dies in a museum fire. He was a master clockmaker who had started an ambitious project – repairing a broken automaton (a mechanical man) – before he died. When Hugo’s uncle disappears, he is left alone within the walls of the station were he tends to the clocks alone, steals food and searches for parts to fix the automaton.

His desperate lengths to fix the machine are shattered when he is caught stealing by the owner of the toy store (Ben Kingsley) and his notebook containing the blueprints for the automaton is confiscated. Heartbroken, he pleads with the man, whose name we discover is Georges Méliès, for the notebook to be returned, instructed to earn it back by assisting around the store. He also finds an ally in Georges goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). Hugo introduces Isabelle to the magic of cinema (which he and his father frequented) and she assists Hugo by supplying the missing piece to the automaton, and together they uncover the secret about Papa Georges past – and ensuring that his legend is never forgotten.

Awards Watch: Golden Globe Predictions

With the Golden Globe ceremony set to take place this week sometime, and with us Oscar nuts wondering what will get recognised so that things are made all the more clearer, I thought I would run through the categories and give my predictions - and the Oscar chances of some of the films nominated here.

Best Motion Picture – Drama

The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March
War Horse

Predicted Winner: Hugo
Alternative Choice: The Descendants

Pretty tough to split these two at the moment, but I have no doubt that one of them will win. I am leading towards Hugo because I think the film's beautiful story and respect for silent cinema will win over voters. Scorsese could also take out Best Director, which gives it the jump over The Descendants. I think Moneyball is the only other lock for a Best Picture nomination from this group. I personally don't think War Horse is good enough (nor The Help) and with the swift rise by The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, it is possible that The Ides of March (which was an outsider before these nominations) could be left out. 

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

The Artist
Midnight In Paris
My Week With Marilyn

Predicted Winner: The Artist
Alternative Choice: Midnight in Paris

The Artist will win this, but I think that Midnight in Paris has a Best Picture slot locked up (especially with Woody Allen receiving a DGA nomination). None of the other nominees have much of a chance, though I am yet to see 50/50 or Marilyn, the former I believe to be quite good. Bridesmaids received both PGA and WGA nominations, which suggests that it has a shot at Best Picture. This would be a HUGE mistake.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The 30 Best New-to-Me Films in 2011

Here are the 30 best films I watched for the first time in 2011 - listed in order of release year exclusively by screenshot - though the titles of all of the films can be found at the bottom of the post.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Awards Watch: Winners Announced at the 2012 Critics Choice Awards

Here are the nominees, with the winners credited. The Artist takes out Best Picture and Best Director, with George Clooney and Viola Davis now the frontrunners for Best Actor/Actress after taking out their respective prizes.

Best Picture

The Artist *WINNER*
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Best Actor

George Clooney - The Descendants *WINNER*
Leonardo DiCaprio - J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Michael Fassbender - Shame
Ryan Gosling - Drive
Brad Pitt - Moneyball

Best Actress

Viola Davis - The Help *WINNER*
Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton - We Need to Talk About Kevin
Charlize Theron - Young Adult
Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn

New Release Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher, 2011)

At long last, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo hit theatres this week. There is a hurdle that director David Fincher had to overcome when making this film, and I think it is impossible to overlook. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has been done before, and not particularly long ago. This may prove to be a detriment for some viewers having already experienced the story once before (or twice if they have also read the novel). When I heard about the American re-adaptation, I was initially frustrated. Why on earth was this necessary? When I heard that Fincher was on board, my interest was piqued, but I was still confused as to why one of my favourite filmmakers had decided to take on such an endeavour. Could he transform this evidently flawed story into yet another slick thriller?

But, having not been enamoured with the Swedish version (and being progressively bored by the deteriorating sequels) I knew that a better film could be made, and that if anyone could make one, it is David Fincher. Having now seen his film, I can only admire what he has put together. It not only surpasses the cold, remote atmosphere of the Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation, but it is significantly better in almost every way. Fincher has not only crafted a compelling thriller, but he hasn't shied away from the story's brutality, making the experience just as uncomfortable as it's predecessor. Even with his touch of brilliance, this doesn’t rival his best films (Se7en, The Social Network), but Fincher continues to prove that he sure knows how to make a hell of a film.

I won't delve too far into the plot because I presume that most people know it already. Following a pretty extraordinary opening title sequence accompanied by the Reznor/Ross remix of Immigrant Song, we are introduced to Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig), a well-known investigative journalist for Millennium Magazine. In his attempts to take down a corrupt businessman, he has landed himself in court and financial trouble. He is approached by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the uncle of Harriet Vanger, a 16-year-old girl who mysteriously disappeared forty years prior, to re-pursue an investigation into her disappearance and suspected murder. Blomqvist resigns from Millennium and moves to the Vanger estate and begins to recount Harriet's past, using police reports and photographs to piece together new evidence.