Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Release Date: Jan 20, 2012 
Runtime: 1 hr. 32 min. 
Director: Steven Soderbergh 
Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Angarano, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas.

Jason Bourne gets the feminine touch in Steven Soderbergh's "Haywire." Starring Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, she plays a lethal contractor who gets duped by the very firm that hired her. Filled with a talented cast, including the newly popular Michael Fassbender, the film has all the workings of a bonafide thriller. But while the trailer over-promises action and amped-up revenge, the reality is admittedly far less exciting, and here's where the problem begins. Soderbergh obviously meant this to be a starring vehicle for Carano, whose name and looks are distinguished in the MMA world. That being said, she can dish out a punch like any pro and make it believable, unlike most actresses who have trained all of their lives. But pair that with her novice acting abilities and you get a far less convincing performance that deadens an already serpentine plot line. Her robotic voice and expression do little to justify her role as an assassin, let alone give her much personality onscreen. Likewise, the fight scenes, while substantial and realistic, seem out of place in the ghostly silence that surrounds them. Mix that with an odd "Ocean's Eleven" vibe and conventional story line, and it's not difficult to see where it all went wrong. But Soderbergh is sought after in the film industry for a reason, and he'll have plenty of opportunities at redemption. Hopefully his next project, "Magic Mike," will have more up its sleeve than just dollar bills.

Rating: 2 stars

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Release Date: Dec 21, 2011 
Runtime: 2 hr. 38 min.
Director: David Fincher 
Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright.

From the highly-acclaimed Millennium trilogy, and Stieg Larsson's international best-seller, comes the gruesome tale of murder, mystery and deceit. When disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomvkist, is recruited by wealthy patriarch, Henrik Vanger, to investigate the disappearance of his niece forty years prior, he uncovers a trail of murders that are as inexplicable as they are disturbing. Enter Lisbeth Salander: a skilled hacker with an aversion to human interaction. Together, they form an unlikely partnership to solve the mystery, while grappling with their inner conflicts and moral complexities. Riding the success of the recent Swedish adaptation, master storyteller David Fincher takes the helm of what has rapidly become a literary staple in recent culture. Dark in tone and heavy-handed in dialogue, Fincher stays true to the source without compromising his own vision. The opening sequence of amorphous imagery is both haunting and beautiful, as it sets the tonality of what's to come. As brilliant castings go, Daniel Craig is a natural as sharp-witted Blomvkist, while Rooney Mara is flawless as the titular "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Though previously encapsulated by the talented Noomi Rapace, Mara's drastic physicality and enigmatic presence are enough to extinguish any forms of comparison, as inevitable as that may be. The story, while far from forgotten, undertakes a parallel narrative for an extended period of time, which helps keep it suspenseful and riveting like watching it for the first time. Similarly, the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is perfectly attuned to each scenic backdrop, despite being reminiscent of their last collaborative effort, "The Social Network." Granted, remakes rarely surpass the original, Fincher's interpretation deserves its praise and recognition. A strong story can be discernible in any form, but a strong lead is hard to come by. Without Mara, there can be no "Girl Who Played with Fire."

Rating: 4 stars

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Release Date: Dec 21, 2011 
Runtime: 2 hr. 13 min. 
Director: Brad Bird 
Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner, Michael Nyqvist.

The stakes are high and the match is lit for another mission deemed 'impossible' in Brad Bird's "Ghost Protocol." After an explosion at the Kremlin, the IMF team is accused and disavowed, leaving its agents stranded without shelter or reinforcements. Led by the always resourceful, Ethan Hunt, a new team is assembled to carry out, possibly, the most challenging mission yet, and take on death-defying stunts that boldly blow out the rest. Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner join the fourth installment, with the latter being the most anticipated to see kick ass on screen. Comparable to the last round, Cruise steps back to let his teammates shine, even going as far as allowing Renner to complete the trademark stunt that has distinguished the franchise in all three films. But not one to be outdone, Cruise takes his own jab at withstanding gravity, deftly scaling the tallest skyscraper in the world without breaking a sweat. Whereas the action is pulsing and the new gadgetry is impressive, "Ghost Protocol" still lacks the clever storytelling that made the third film so engrossing. Particularly, a fairly wordless villain, played by Michael Nyqvist, makes for little intimidation, and draws an emotional disconnect when rallying against Ethan Hunt. Still, Bird proves he's a capable director beyond the animation world, keeping the lens close to all the action and excitement. Though it may not be the best "Mission" yet, it sure comes close, and another sequel may be the next objective.

Rating: 3½ stars