Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good movies, even better actor...

With the holidays here, I am on a pretty big movie kick and thought I would give my thoughts on an actor that has been in a bunch of movies I have seen here lately. Last night I watched the movie Hunger and earlier over the break I caught the movie Shame. Yep, Michael Fassbender is who I am talking about and if any of you listen to the Filmspotting podcasts, this name will be familiar as he is probably Adam Kempenaar’s favorite actor of the moment right now. Some of the more popular movies he has been in here recently were Inglorious Bastards, A Dangerous Method and X-Men: First Class where he played a young Magneto. He is still relatively unknown right now, but that is changing as he surely has become a talked about actor who many consider to be one of the better ones out there right now. Born in Germany, but raised in Ireland, Fassbender can play characters from a variety of European backgrounds and it can be tough to really get a feel for where he might actually be from by just looking at him. In Hunger he plays a Northern Ireland prisoner who begins a hunger strike to protest the English government. For the role he dropped about 40 lbs from the beginning of the filming and at the end of the movie he is at 135 lbs. The dramatic weight loss that takes place over the time of the film is tough to watch and so it must have been even harder for him to go through what he did. And while the weight loss is certainly something that everyone can see, I think the most memorable aspect of the film is a scene between Fassbender and a priest that takes place in a visiting room. The whole scene is one single shot, with the camera not moving, just dialogue for 17 and a half minutes between the two actors. It is unreal and you find yourself wondering how they possibly shot this…and if they had to attempt it more than once. There is no room for even one mistake when a single shot is at play and the practice to get it right must have been extremely laborious. While it is normal for actors in plays to talk for great lengths, it is just not something we see in film. Truly one of the more mesmerizing scenes I have ever seen, right up there with the one shot soccer scene from The Secret in the Their Eyes (still the best film I have seen in a really long time).

Going to another extreme is the character that Fassbender plays in Shame. The movie gives us the portrait of a man who literally is controlled by sex and his need for sexual satisfaction. This role put Fasssbender back together with Steve McQueen who directed him in Hunger and the two just work really well together. Fassbender has a pretty stark existence in Shame, with his life pretty much revolving around going to work and then doing whatever he has to do to satisfy himself sexually. His life gets knocked out of his normal routine when his sister unexpectedly comes to stay with him and he does not really know what to do with his life now that she is around. There are a lot of undertones that the two of them have had a tough past together, but nothing really is said and so everything is left up to interpretation. Needless to say, they have a very contentious relationship that reaches a scene at the end that I did not see coming.

There has been lots of praise for Fassbender for his role in Shame and I will say, it is very well deserved. He does a terrific job of playing a character who has almost no emotion, just the sense of what he needs to do to get to his next “fix.” Right now he is up for a Golden Globe and typically that leads to an Oscar nomination and so we will see soon enough how things end up for him this year. In the end, Michael Fassbender is a great actor who only has brighter days ahead as he gets more and more notoriety for the roles he plays. Keep an eye on him, although some of you might have already had your eyes on him from before.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review

Wow!! Been a while since I have updated the blog and so thought, what better way than with a review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now for those of you who have not read the books and are going to see the movie, maybe lay off this review as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Okay, now we are ready to go….

So I have read all three books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy and loved them. While the first one took a little bit of time to get into, it did not disappoint as it introduced us to one of the most interesting characters to come along in a long while….Lisbeth Salander. The second book was addicting as Stieg brought us further into Lisbeth’s life and giving us a whole lot of back story. The third book wrapped everything up for the most part, although there are stories out there that Mr. Larsson had written more books for the series, but due to his unfortunate passing, we might never get to see what actually took place.

And of course when a trilogy is complete and when it is hugely popular, movies are made and the three books were made into films a few years ago with an entirely Swedish cast (as that is where the books take place). Fast forward to now and David Fincher (Seven, The Social Network, Fight Club) is at controls of the “Hollywood” versions of the stories. Now I did go see all three Swedish films and liked them all very much, they were very well done. Subtitles for sure for those of you out there who stay away from those types of movies, but highly entertaining and they did an amazing job of bringing Lisbeth to life on the big screen. For those of us who read the books, we all had a pretty good vision of how we thought Lisbeth would look and act and to finally see her on screen was pretty dramatic. Noomi Rapace was the actress who played Lisbeth and she did an awesome job in what had to be one of the hardest parts to pull off in recent movie history.

But I am here to talk about the new version of the movie and I saw it late last night on opening night. I am a big fan of David Fincher and so was intrigued as to how he would pull the story together and how he would give us his glimpse of the world Stieg Larsson created. And I will admit, after having slept on it for the night, while I enjoyed the movie a whole bunch, I think I am going to have to go with the Swedish version as being a little bit better. Now to be fair, I think pretty much everyone who has seen both movies is going to eventually compare the two ladies playing Lisbeth, as she is pretty much the focal point. That being the case, I am going to say that I think that whole aspect of the movies is a wash. While I loved Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth, I was equally pleased with how well Rooney Mara did in this huge role. Most people don’t know who Mara is, she has a very short filmography, and many were shocked when she won the role. Most moviegoers know her as the girl who dumped Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of The Social Network and that is about all anyone has seen her in. And I think there were a lot of skeptics out there who were not sure she could deliver in what was one of the most sought after roles of the last decade. I am on the bandwagon though! She did an amazing job and she was great in what is an extremely demanding role. For those who know the story and know about Lisbeth, playing her would not be an easy task as there is a whole lot that happens in the story that would command just some amazing acting. Rooney Mara pulls it off and I think it is one of the better performances I have seen in a long time. You really can sense what is going on within her through her eyes and her expressions…and that is not an easy thing to do. She looks the part as she had all the earrings and tattoos and I found myself always gravitating toward her when she was on screen, even when she was in the presence of the more accomplished actors that are also in the movie. Lisbeth is a loner and you certainly got that feeling in the way she was portrayed by Mara and it cannot be understated how tough it must have been to film some of the scenes. She does an awesome job though and I am definitely a fan of Mara and look forward to how she moves the Lisbeth character forward.

Taking it all back to the story and my overall feel for everything, I did like the movie, but the ending seemed just a bit rushed. Good performances by Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard and Daniel Craig, but none of them really stood out. I am a big Daniel Craig fan and actually think he does a whole lot better job playing Bond than he does Blomkvist. And for those who are fans of the AMC show “The Killing,” you will be happy to know that Holmgren is in this movie as a part of Millennium and so surely he will be around for the other two films.

I did like this movie, don’t get me wrong. There is a very climactic scene that takes place toward the end of the book and when it happened in the movie, there was about twenty minutes left. From there they seemed to close up and finish the rest of the movie extremely fast. There was a lot that took place in the last twenty minutes (from the book standpoint) and it seemed that they could have developed that aspect of the story just a little better. If I had not read the book, I know I might have been just a little confused. Either way, go see this movie. It is highly entertaining, it has a great soundtrack (Trent Reznor again) and if anything, become a fan of Rooney Mara, she does not disappoint.

Thanks for reading, sure I will be back again soon…