Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Melissa McCarthy’s literary drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” the “Hunt for Red October” copy cat “Hunter Killer,” the highfalutin hostage story “Bel Canto,” the comedic cautionary tale “Room for Rent,” the family drama “What They Had” and the operatic documentary “Maria by Callas.”
Richard has a look at Melissa McCarthy’s dramatic turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” the family drama “What They Had” and Gerard Butler’s action-adventure “Hunter Killer” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
If there was ever more proof need to put Pablo Picasso’s remark, “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” to bed it’s the new Gerard Butler film. “Hunter Killer” borrows and out right steals elements from any number of movies, “The Hunt for Red October” chief among them, but is neither good nor great.
“Hunter Killer” takes place on land, on sea and on the phone. Based on the 2012 novel “Firing Point” by Don Keith and George Wallace “Hunter Killer” sees Butler as an unconventional US submarine Commander Joe Glass. He’s on a mission to find and rescue a missing U.S. sub when he stumbles across a popular 1990s plot twist—a Russian coup that threatens to demolish world order.
Stealthily cruising through enemy waters he becomes part of a three-pronged mission to rescue the Russian president, being held hostage in Russia by rogue Defence Minister Dmitri Durov (Mikhail Gorevoy). At sea level are Navy Seals led by Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens), National Security Agency analyst Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini), Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common), and, back home in America, Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman in post-Oscar pay cheque mode) who barks orders at minions and into phones. It’s American-Russian collusion that could change the course of history!
Throw in a craggy-faced Russian submarine captain, Sergei Andropov (the late Michael Nyqvist)—we’re not enemies, we’re brothers—and you have a run-of-the-mill World War III scenario that was better the first few times we saw it. “It’s not about your side or my side,” Glass says to Andropov, “it’s about the future.”
“Hunter Killer” is so cheesy it should come with a side of saltines. Much of the dialogue sounds cribbed from the “Tough Guy ‘R Us” manual circa 1986—“He’s gonna play the hand he was dealt!”—spoken by characters so wooden they could easily double as buoys in the above water scenes.
At almost two hours ”Hunter Killer” is a waterlogged thriller, a sopping wet excuse for Butler to grunt his way through another film that is beneath his talent.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about Melissa McCarthy’s literary drama “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” the “Hunt for Red October” wannabe “Hunter Killer,” the highfalutin hostage story “Bel Canto,” the comedic cautionary tale “Room for Rent” and the Alzheimer’s dramedy “What They Had.”
Welcome to the House of Crouse. Julie Taymor brought the animals of The Lion King to life on Broadway, creating one of the biggest hits ever on the Great White Way. She’s the director of movies like “Frida” and “Across the Universe.” In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” she blends the two, presenting a film of her acclaimed stage production. It’s beautiful, magical stuff and we spoke about it at length. Then the HoC pays tribute to the great Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist who recently passed away at age 56. The “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star talked about everything from Proust to George Clooney. It’s good stuff, so c’mon in and sit a spell.
With “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” the Millennium trilogy comes to a close on the big screen. At least the Swedish take on the wildly popular books does. Next up they’ll be given the David Fincher Hollywood treatment, which I originally thought was a bad idea. Leave well enough alone. But now, having seen all three of the Swedish entries I think it’s time someone else had a crack at bringing these pulpy, complicated and deliciously fun stories to the big screen.
“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” picks up about an hour after its predecessor, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” left off. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is in the hospital after being beaten, shot and left for dead by her father and half brother. In a room just down the hall her estranged—and very strange—father, is recuperating after being hit in the head with an axe by his daughter. It’s all very Greek tragedy. Meanwhile a wide reaching and ludicrously complicated scheme to have Lisbeth declared insane and hospitalized for the rest of her life is under way. It involves secret government organizations, some deep dark backroom dealings and a miasma of missing and mysterious documents. Only Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) has the know-how, and possibly the patience, to plough through this mess and keep his former lover out of the bin.
The beauty of the first film in this series, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” was that while it was a pulp thriller, complete with Nazis, bible references and bondage, it had a certain elegance in the way it unfurled its outlandish story, loads of action and a great central character in Lisbeth. Since then, however, the series has been an exercise in diminishing returns. “The Girl Who Played with Fire” committed the great sin of stretching every plot point past its breaking point and its sequel, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” is even worse, stretching our interest past its breaking point.
Talky, drawn out and largely action-free it endlessly rehashes Lisbeth’s life story while, by and large, she sits there mute. It’s such a waste of a character, which in the first episode of the story had the promise of becoming one of the great female characters of recent years.
Cinematically two thirds of this series has been a bitter disappointment. Perhaps it’s better to stay at home with the books until the David Fincher version hits the big screen next year.
“The Girl Who Played with Fire,” much-anticipated follow-up to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is much like one of Sweden’s other great exports—the IKEA Billy bookcase system. It has lots of pieces, but not all of them fit.
The story picks up a year after “Dragon Tattoo”” left off. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is back in Sweden after lamming it around the world. She’s been deep undercover; not even Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) knew where she was or what she’s been up to. Of course as soon as she touches down on Swedish soil her life gets complicated and by extension so does Blomkvist’s. She becomes the main suspect in a triple murder and Blomkvist, trying to get to the bottom of the case encounters human traffickers, Russian gangsters, motorcycle thugs, drugs and even a brute with an unusual genetic disorder. These people lead very dramatic and dangerous lives.
Despite the large number of story shards and characters “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is much more straightforward than “Dragon Tattoo.” It’s cluttered yet simplistic, stretching every plot point past its breaking point. Long meaningful stares are traded, dialogue that sounds torn from the Hardboiled Crime Writers Almanac is exchanged and tepid action ensues, all leading up to a “Murder She Wrote” climax where everyone spills the beans. It’s a disappointment because even at well over two hours “Dragon Tattoo” was gripping and exciting but at just over two hours “Fire” feels much longer. It is not as taut as “Dragon Tattoo” or as interesting.
One of the things that made “Dragon Tattoo” so compelling was the partnership (and budding relationship) of Blomkvist and Salander. We watched as they became the Swedish “Hart to Hart,” battling the bad guys and perhaps even developing feelings for one another, but save for the occasional e-mail “Fire” keeps them apart and the movie suffers in the absence of their chemistry.
Salander, the punk rock computer hacker with, surprise (!), an attitude, is one of the better female characters to come along in recent years, but “Fire” blunts her effectiveness. She spends endless hours hiding in her apartment smoking Camel cigarettes when she should be out kicking butt. Where’s the fierceness from the first film?
The film looks good—director Daniel Alfredson keeps the austere look of the first film intact—but on a technical note some of the subtitles are hard to read—white letters on white backgrounds are not a good idea!
By eliminating the book’s emphasis on systemic sexism and homophobia in favor of a basic crime story “The Girl Who Played with Fire” has none of the dramatic oomph of the first film. Worse, it has managed to make the main characters, so appealing in the first film, less interesting.
If you think Swedish cinema is all isolation and despair, a tortured Bergmanesque look at the human condition, think again. In recent years directors like Lukas Moodysson and films such as “Let the Right One In” have redefined Scandinavian movies; quietly leaving behind the icy introspection typical of the best known filmmakers from that part of the world. The latest Swedish film to gain international notice is “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” a truly thrilling thriller based on a best selling novel.
In the opening minutes of the film Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a muck raking journalist for the controversial Millennium magazine, loses a libel case brought against him by a Swedish industrialist. Before he begins his three month prison sentence he is offered an intriguing job. Hired by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the scion of an industrial dynasty, he is charged with solving a forty-year-old murder. In the late sixties Vanger’s favorite niece disappeared, leaving no trace except for framed, pressed flowers which arrive every year on Henrik’s birthday. It is a cold case, one that the police haven’t been able to solve, but Vanger feels that Blomkvist’s dogged style might be able to uncover some new clues. Aiding the journalist in his search is Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), a trouble computer hacker with a massive tattoo of a dragon on her back.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a pulp thriller, complete with Nazis, bible references and bondage. There’s nothing terribly highbrow about it, but there is a certain elegance to how director Niels Arden Oplev slowly unfurls the clues, stretching the story tautly over the two-a-half-hour running time. The plot shouldn’t work; it has story shards all over the place—the verdict in the libel case, the hacker and her evil parole officer, the disappearance—but Oplev keeps the storytelling as crisp as the sound of a boot crunching on the snow that envelopes the landscape.
Top it off with some terrific performances—particularly from Rapace and Taube—some melodrama and as twisted a bad guy as we’ve seen since “Silence of the Lamb’s” Buffalo Bill and you have a slow burning mystery that builds to an explosive climax.
If this was an American film (and it will be soon) the disgraced, but dogged reporter might be played by Jeremy Renner, the computer hacker by Kristen Strewart and the obsessed industrialist by Christopher Plummer, and you know what, it wouldn’t be any better than the Swedish version. See it in its original language before Hollywood snaps it up and ruins it.