Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie Review: 2012 Review Summaries - Part 4

Five reviews in total: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Headhunters, The Hunger Games, & The Imposter.  I know you're all waiting for my review of Un amour de jeunesse, be patient I will get around to it!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).  Starring Daniel Craig & Rooney Mara.  Directed by David Fincher.  Rated R (for implied scenes of rape and sodomy... do you think I’m kidding?)

Story: 2 / 5
Direction: 4 / 5
Acting: 4 / 5
Visual: 4 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a touching coming of age tale about a young Swedish girl who learns to love the most distrusting person in her life... herself.  Or it’s actually a standard fare whodunit, with exceptional execution.  Everyone is great in it.  The film looks amazing, but the story is completely bland.  I have a feeling that it’s meant to be a character study of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), but having not read the book I can’t be sure.  I wonder why they didn’t make this movie in Swedish?  I already have in mind who would be perfect for the title role; Noomi Rapace!

Would I recommend this film?  Not to those who are afraid to see “bad things” on screen.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009).  Starring Jason Palmer & Desiree Garcia.  Directed by Damien Chazelle.  Not Rated.

Story: 2 / 5
Direction: 2 / 5
Acting: 2 / 5
Visual: 1 / 5
Overall Rating: 1.75 / 5

I have no idea what this movie was about.  Guy is a musician and he meets Madeline.  They’re together, then they break up, there’s some songs and dancing, but not enough to call it a musical.  At one point Guy gets a new girlfriend whose final scene is her having dinner with a cheating pervert, who literally lures her in off the street by saying he’s looking for a friend, possibly a code word for a prostitute?  This pervert has a wife and a daughter, the latter of whom is at home when the new girlfriend gets there.  What happened to her?  Did the pervert murder her?  Cut her to pieces?  Bury her in the garden?  If that’s not relevant then why was the scene even in the film?  Why not just have her walk out on Guy and say “It’s over.”?

I belong to a local film society, which is where I tend to see the foreign and independent films I will be reviewing, and this is one of those films that just defies understanding.  Sometimes a movie is too “artsy” for its own good.  I’m sure some people will pretend it means something more than it does because they, like the filmmakers, are true artists, and us simple folk can’t understand the depth of the human soul.  Screw you.  Shaky black and white camera work zoomed all the way in on someone’s pimply face is not art, it’s someone who has no concept of visual language.  

Would I recommend this film?  I’m not your mother.  Do whatever you want.  Writing about this movie upset me all over again.

Hodejegerne [Headhunters] (2011).  Starring Aksel Hennie & Jaime Lannister.  Directed by Morten Tyldum.  Rated R.

Story: 5 / 5
Direction: 4 / 5
Acting: 3 / 5
Visual: 3 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.75 / 5

Headhunters is about an art thief who crosses the wrong man.  I honestly do not want to give away any of the plot of this film, because it’s sensational.  It’s a crime thriller with all the right twists and turns.  An English speaking remake of this is in the works, which will no doubt double the running time, quadruple the action scenes, and completely miss the point of the film, maybe even remove a few twists.  You don’t want to confuse the audience too much, they may forget to eat their popcorn.

Would I recommend this film?  No question.  Find it, somehow, and watch it.  Oh, but it’s in Norwegian, so you will have to read while you watch.  Quit moaning.

The Hunger Games (2012).  Starring Jennifer Lawrence &  Woody from Cheers.  Directed by  Gary Ross.  Rated PG-13 (for implied horrific acts of children getting murdered)

Story: 2 / 5
Direction: 3 / 5
Acting: 2 / 5
Visual: 2 / 5
Overall Rating: 2.25 / 5

In some kind of ill conceived dystopian future there’s a bizarre gladiator type event that pits children against one another and results in all kinds of hilarious brutality.  Like all poorly thought out science fiction or fantasy worlds everything is a stereotype or overly simplified to the point of silliness, including Woody Harrelson in a comedy wig.  I think this is supposed to be some kind of female empowerment story, or so I hear, but all I saw was this chick getting her ass beat over and over again and only surviving with the help of other people, that is when she wasn’t running away from trouble.  Even her relationship with “the boy character” was one of convenience, just to get her through the games and to safety.  This movie also suffers from “book with a bunch of tertiary characters that are pointlessly over explained, but mostly left out of the film” syndrome.  There’s some little black girl that gets killed, and in the theater there was a girl who started bawling.  I didn’t even know who this character was.  She was “the little black girl”.  A character’s death is only meaningful if the character’s life has meaning.  Maybe she was explained better in the book?  I’ll never know.

Would I recommend this film?  Not really.  There are better films in this genre that take the concept of a dystopian society more seriously and don’t treat it as a Hollywood cash in.

The Imposter (2012).  Starring Frédéric Bourdin.  Directed by Bar Layton.  Rated  R.

Story: 4 / 5
Direction: 3 / 5
Acting: N/A
Visual: 3 / 5
Overall Rating: 3.3 / 5

The Imposter is a documentary about how Frédéric Bourdin managed to fool a Texas family into believing he was their missing teenage relative.  Or did he fool them?  This is another one where I don’t want to give too much away that isn’t clear pretty early into the film.  It’s pretty well structured as far as sensational documentaries go.  It withholds all the key details until the end when all is revealed about our protagonists and their lives up to that point.

Would I recommend this film?  I would.  It’s a documentary so it may be hard to find via Red Box, but you may see it online somewhere.

Explanation of Ratings

All ratings are on a 5 point scale where 1 is the lowest possible score.  A score of 3 indicates the film was simply effective in this regard.  A score of 5 indicates perfection in a given category.  The overall rating is a simple average of the four scores.

  • Story -- How well the film was written?  Did the story make sense?  Were there plot holes?  Was the dialogue natural for the style/genre?
  • Direction -- How well was the film put together?  Did all of the elements come together properly?  How was the pacing?  Was the tone consistent and effective?  A subcategory of this would be editing, but for the purpose of these reviews it is combined into one category.
  • Acting -- How good were the performances?  In a drama did the lead actor/actress draw the audience in?  In a comedy where the performers funny?  This is an amalgam score of all the performances in the piece.  A single great performance can elevate the entire score, but a bunch of bad performances can just as easily bring it down.
  • Visual -- How did the film look?  If there were visual effects were they used appropriately and did they look good?  Did the overall look enhance the telling of the story?


  1. Dragon tattoo deserves a visual rating of five, hands down. It's a master class example of proper color correction and cinematography. A film doesn't need cgi to snag the 5. Take the upcoming evil dead movie. Watching the trailer, I'd guess it had loads of cgi, but the director managed to do everything non-cgi. A proper filmmaker, indeed... Micheal Bay is not the standard to live up to.

    1. For starters my visual rating only applies to CGI if it's used in the film (for better or worse). And like any rating system the scores are always relative to the type of film being reviewed. A summer blockbuster schlockfest with good CGI may end up with a 4 because I was pleasantly surprised with the computer generated images, whereas a decent looking drama may only get a 3 because it didn't do anything special.

      I did struggle with my direction and visual scores for Dragon Tattoo, I'm a pretty big fan of David Fincher, but in the end were either "the best I've ever seen"? Unfortunately no. For a film to receive my top score in visuals the visuals have to almost be their own story element.

      I'm going to be extremely stingy with handing out 5 / 5 ratings and even 1 / 5 ratings. This isn't IMDB, I'm not a 14 year old who thinks "The Dark Knight is the best movie EVAR!"

      So far I've handed out four 5 / 5 ratings, three of them to Beasts of the Southern Wild, which is a film I'm ultimately not even sure I liked, but those elements were so astounding in that film that it elevated the material and left an impression on me, now months since I saw it. The other was the story for Headhunters, which is hardly some deep philosophical look at the meaning of existence. It's a thriller, but probably one of the best I've ever seen.

      Looking through the films I've still got to review there may be one or two more 5 / 5 scores coming, but that's it (obviously both will be for John Carter).