11
Feb
14

Dragon Inn Theater and Dragon Tattoo, Too–My Recent DVD Views Review

Among the lot from my most recent stop to rent DVDs, I just finished watching “G.I. Joe:  Retaliation”, “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (the original Swedish version).  Here are my thoughts:

G.I. Joe:  Retaliation

Synopsis:  The Joe team gets ambushed after locking away Cobra Commander and Destro, and the remaining members of both teams duke it out over a nuclear weapons scare.  New faces abound with some new nifty technology tricks (namely Firefly’s homing explosives which look like…wait for it…fireflies).

The gritty combat action and Cobra plots were better than in the first film.  [However, the fight scenes with Snake Eyes were not any better.]  Though relieved not to see so much goofy computer animation, cinematography didn’t impress me as much this time.  I still don’t quite understand the need to wipe out the G.I. Joe team, change CC and oust Destro (supposedly the original cast who apparently did not care to do another film in the series?).  But then, film makers did the same thing with Mortal Kombat, and we all know how that went.  No third movie was made.

Bruce Willis (Joe) was amusing.  Adrianne P. (Lady Jaye) and Elodie Y. (Jinx) were beautiful.  And, Firefly was brilliant (aside from the corny boat chase near the end).  But, considering the cast changes and the sad end? to Zartan, the poo quickly piled up on this one.  I can only hope–if there is a third movie–it’s a major improvement with some of the original cast.  [I’m looking at you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the original CC) and Sienna Miller (a great Baroness minus the earrings).]

TGI a rental.

Goodbye, Dragon Inn

Synopsis:  In case you’re completely clueless (as I was until I stumbled upon it), this looks like an independent/film festival (small screen) film about a small movie theater running a martial arts film on its closing night (before demolition or reconstruction due to its crumbling condition and lack of staff).  Only a limping female ticket clerk and a young male projectionist (who doesn’t appear until the last third of the 80 minute movie) manage the theater.  A tourist escapes the rain outside and discovers an assortment of fellow wanderers who seem less interested in the movie and lost in themselves.  In the end, there is a hint of unfulfilled romance and a fitting song.

I get the feeling the creator/s of this film wanted to capture a favorite theater the way they experienced it before the place was shut down and took advantage of permitted access to film the various corridors and mysterious storage areas (which are never explained).  I did a similar take on the closing of a place I previously worked.  My camera wasn’t of the same quality, but my footage amounted to as much without the cast of characters supplied quietly into this film.  And, when I composed a montage/music video with my footage, I did some editing to make it more interesting.  This, on the other hand, is more like raw footage on quality film and a virtual movie theater experience.  You can sit behind someone for a few minutes and see what that feels like.  And, the moments are quite random (without much continuity).

There is very little dialogue.  In fact, the majority of talk is handled by the film within the film which provides subtitles.  And, while the camera shots and angles are decent, there are long, lagging clips that could easily put some to sleep.  This is beyond a “sleeper” yet it inspired me to write something and think about working with the crew to re-create the film with more content.  It’s a good concept.  But, unless my DVD player was missing some special features, the overall product was significantly lacking.

Definitely a late night rental you watch with that special someone when you can’t get to the theater and want to drift asleep together.

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009 Swedish original film)

Synopsis:  A reporter loses his job and gets a minor prison sentence after digging up dirt on a corrupt wealthy businessman.  In his hiatus from work, he is hired by another wealthy man to solve the mystery of his missing “daughter” (Harriet)…but not solve the mystery (as Mr. Vanger says).  Meanwhile, a 24 year-old, unorthodox (punk) computer hacker working for another publication digs into the reporter’s case and ends up working with him (in more ways than one) to resolve Harriet’s disappearance.  Rated R for good reason.

In short, the story is decent–but not very unique–with its share of dramatic cuts and music.  The characters are abundant and fairly interesting…but their development is lacking.  [This may just be another “You need to read the book” thing about another one of these book-to-film projects.]  The key moment that triggered this negative thought is when the reporter and his young hacker assistant decide to have a spontaneous sex scene.  Like other “murder” mysteries I’ve been reading as of late, these sex scenes are the worst kind of surprises completely misplaced (unless you consider the young woman’s actions from a therapist’s point-of-view).  Other than the intimate exchanges, the hacker and reporter DO make a somewhat refreshing team.  But, their lack of depth makes them less valued than the average RPG  video game characters.

Also, the usual suspects–a large enough family seeking money from their elders–are almost glazed over and diminished by a few graphic (though not quite graphic enough for the next letter rating, X) scenes which seem included purely for “realistic” shock value.  Justice is not exactly served.  [Even jail seems…WiFi pleasant?]  And, we are left wondering what the sequels could possibly entail (while I think leaving Harriet missing until the next “chapter” would have been a smarter ending).  [I fast forwarded through most of the violent sex which would have been discomforting to watch in the theater.  And, in my personal opinion, the girl should have stopped when she played the video for the cops to find.]

Is it poor writing if I figure out who the killer within the first few minutes he/she is mentioned?  Or, am I just a great detective/guesser?

I will likewise view the sequels and skim through/over the American version of the first film in time.  But, save the ticket price and rent/borrow these for popcorn thrillers with someone you trust to sit next to you.

 

The Girl Who Played with Fire (TGWTDT part 2)

Synopsis:  After solving a missing person’s case as a dynamic, intimate and yet distanced personally duo, Lisbeth and Mikael must work together to clear her name from a murder charge tied to her former guardian (who she cannot leave alone after he assaulted her).  The murder leads to ghosts from Lisbeth’s past which drag her friends into the fire before the girl (technically a woman in her twenties) gets some (more) revenge.

The second installment of the story is slightly less disturbing than the first.  In this one, the sex is purely consensual.  Yet, is it necessary?  Not really.  Even if Miriam Wu (Yasmine) is an attractive nude, the nudity is not key to the story.  Thus I think it could be veiled.  The fire comes into play as we learn a bit of Lisbeth’s personal history and uncover some faces from the past who surprisingly reappear.

In the first movie, there was extensive PC hacking and (internet) research as well as active interaction between (main) characters (even if they were far apart).  There was also a large family that briefly appeared as suspects.  The sequel lacks some of the active “enjoyment” of the research/investigation and involves friends of Lisbeth in perils that remind me of a cheesy 80’s martial arts film.  It didn’t really grab me until the last twenty or thirty minutes when Lisbeth’s family came into the picture.  Her friend, the reporter from Millenium, seemed of less significance until the end, too.

In short, you could see this one and skip the first if you want to avoid the most graphic violence/sex (though the DVD Lisbeth makes reappears in every segment/film).  But, you might miss a few small details and introductions.

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (TGWTDT part 3)

Synopsis:  Lisbeth’s past leaves her battered in a hospital with her father not far away and looking to rub her out.  Instead, someone from his secret organization kills him and misses a shot at Lisbeth before a major investigation into that organization and the crimes committed with/against Lisbeth unfolds.  Mikael must make some “tough” choices to protect those he values.  And, Lisbeth must decide, once more, how far she will take her thirst for vengeance while clearing her name in court.

I’d almost give the same advice for the third film that I gave for the second if not for the key details about Lisbeth’s father and family in that previous sequel.  The last quarter of that film sets us up for this film.  [The part played by Lisbeth’s friends in part two seems to have no impact whatsoever on this third chapter.]  And, here we have a hospital scene that turns into a lengthy court trial injected with Mikael action until Lisbeth is free to do as she pleases in the final minutes.  As with the first film, the “rap up” disappoints me a bit.  This sequel was meatier (had more content/research) than the last but wasn’t much more entertaining.  At least, it was void of sexual abuse/content (aside from the brief reappearance of the rape DVD) and thus could have dropped the R rating if not for a few other odd bits of violence (one of which was a bit silly/unbelievable near the end).

As a whole, the trilogy feels more “episodic” and could be seen on TV as part of a larger series.  It’s refreshing to see such different characters working together with modern technology.  But, the “cases” needing resolution were nothing new, and the R-rated tidbits were pointless other than to justify Lisbeth’s abuse and sexual nature/comfort.  I’d be tempted to work with someone (since the author is technically deceased) on sequels/further adventures of Lisbeth/Mikael.  But, before I judge too much, I am going to suggest reading the books (which I have not yet) to compare stories.  As I said with my review of the first film, these movies might just be “cliff notes” of a more detailed story we should be reading first.

 

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Synopsis:  Steve Carell plays a troubled, aging magician who was once a bullied boy before he became an outdated spectacle of an ever-changing craft.  He works with his long-time friend Anton (Steve Buscemi) and female assistant Jane (the lovely Olivia Wilde) who replaces countless other blonde bimbos the inconsiderate and highly waxed magician hires (and sleeps with).  And, he repeatedly clashes with a self-torture artist named Steve Gray (played by Jim Carrey).  The late James Gandolfini plays a hotel “big cheese” who seems to hold the fate of these magicians in his wealthy hands.  Down on his luck, Burt must remember why he became a magician with the help of his mentor Rance (Alan Arkin) and the reappearing Jane (Wilde) before he loses his friend (Buscemi) forever.  Meanwhile, Steve Gray (Carrey) attempts to humiliate Burt at every turn as he seeks the hotel magician throne.

Carell is a lucky man to work so closely with such lovely women (considering he’s married).  As he did with Anne Hathaway in “Get Smart”, he has some amusing intimacy with Jane (Wilde) which could have gone far worse (raunchy) than it did.  My guess is Olivia took this job to expand her unusual range of characters/roles.

In short, I laughed sufficiently and would have enjoyed this in a theater with the right company.  There are a few disturbing moments (including the ending which has that “so wrong” feeling though it strikes me as still slightly funny) and cheesy tidbits which get washed over by the sheer unsettling demeanor of Carell in character (who has never looked scarier).  Wonderstone rivals Carell’s Evan character from “Bruce Almighty” who was a stiff jerk of a news anchor, climbing the corporate ladder while stealing Bruce’s (Carrey’s) thunder.

 

Cloud Atlas

Synopsis:  A number of famous (and some not so famous) faces question the possibility of deja vu as they cross paths in past, present and futuristic lives which repeatedly test love and truth.  In each time period featured, two characters (not always who you’d expect) are soul mates, at least one person helps the soul mates and another one or more create obstacles for those soul mates to conquer.  Each loving pair tries to achieve some grand revelation of truth to satisfy their souls against all odds.  And, each achieves some measure of success as well as hardship/failure.  Throughout the series of lives and events, a piece of music–written (as we see it) by a young bisexual man–acts like a cosmic string that binds these people together.

It’s a bit difficult to grasp from the start.  The worst aspect might be how the time periods shift so often and at random.  You just about figure out what’s happening in one place and get jetted off to another with the same actors in different roles.  Certain time periods have languages that require some thought to process (particularly the far future time period).  But, after the first thirty minutes or so, you (hopefully) start to see where events are going and how these lives connect and intersect.  One connection I found particularly interesting involves Jim Broadbent playing the naive “victim” chasing an old flame in one story while playing the cunning “thief”/”villain” in another.  In the latter, we find the young pianist who writes the “Cloud Atlas Sextet” and becomes Broadbent’s victim, and, in the former, the same young man plays the wife of Broadbent’s (character’s) brother who (spoiler) foolishly slept with the other brother.  If you made sense of that much, you’re off to a good start.

Since it required watching twice to better understand some of what was being said and happening, I’d recommend this as a rental with plenty of brain food (snacks) and, ideally, some company of the opposite sex.

 

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