Saturday, 31 December 2011

Friday, 30 December 2011

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


USA/Sweden/UK/Germany: David Fincher, 2011

David Fincher's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO provides a fascinating re-adaptation of the original source novel which both retains and changes the plot to make the material its own. Crucially, Fincher's version (like the Niels Arden Oplev Swedish film adaptation before it) stands on its own terms as a gripping and compelling crime thriller that makes over zealous anxiety around which version (novel, Swedish or Anglicised film adaptation) is the definitive one, largely academic.

The biggest problem Fincher's film has is the inherent one of being an English language film set adrift in the Swedish backdrop of Stieg Larsson's bestselling book. This is particularly noticeable in Daniel Craig's performance as Mikael Blomkvist. Fine actor he may be but hearing Craig deliver his lines in an unaffected English accent atop of a smorgasbord of faux Scandinavian dialects is unquestionably jarring and a flaw that I'm not convinced the film ever fully recovers from. Although it should be noted cast members such as Christopher Plummer (Henrik Vanger), Robin Wright (Erica Berger) and most emphatically Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander) are note perfect no matter the language.

However, despite being a huge fan of Larsson's novel and the original Swedish film adaptation I went into this film with an open mind and fortunately there is plenty to be impressed by. The opening credit sequence - despite being a separate entity from the aesthetic of the film - is an awesome display of Fincher's audio/visual sensibilities and acts as a mission statement that distinguishes this version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO from any other. Yes this film has a noticeably bigger budget, it has a more distinct style, more technical depth than its Swedish counter-part but the greatest success of Fincher's film is its combination of a confident script by Steven Zaillian anchored around Rooney Mara's fresh portrayal of Lisbeth Salander.

The titular 'girl with the dragon tattoo' is undeniably the most interesting and well realised aspect of Larsson's fiction but that makes for no guarantee of an equally mesmerising vision on screen. Just as Noomi Rapace's inimitable 'Lisbeth' performance elevated the Swedish film and its two sequels, if Mara had faltered it would have sunk Fincher's film. Thankfully, unequivocally, she delivered with a different but no less iconic representation of Lisbeth Salander faithful in spirit to the character on the page. Moreover, Fincher's tender, nay more romantic handling of the Blomkvist and Salander relationship on screen is far closer to how I imagined it as written in the novel. The disappearance of Harriet Vanger and this unlikely duo's investigation into the circumstances surrounding it were always the framing plot device of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (in all its variations). The true core of this story plays out in the slow, conflictory and ultimately doomed friendship that Lisbeth forms with Mikael. That Fincher recognises this and allows it to gradually but surely come to the fore is this film's enduring strength.

The Count's Verdict: Have no fear - this 'Hollywood' retelling of a now familiar literary phenomenon can co-exist with both book and Swedish film without prejudice. Indeed, it adds to the entertaining and enthralling story that is THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Sunday, 25 December 2011


Much to my surprise and joy Daddy got spoilt just as much as baby H this Xmas. So far my haul has included Stephen Thrower's mighty tome 'Nightmare USA', Jamie Russell's 'The Book of the Dead, 'Frost/Nixon' and the biography of 'Scream Queen' Jamie Lee Curtis. I've also been fortunate enough to receive a stack of BDs: TOY STORY, TOY STORY 2, MONSTERS INC., TANGLED, RIO, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, SUPER 8, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, BRIDESMAIDS, KILL LIST and the glorious BBC Natural History documentary FROZEN PLANET.

I'll try and post a photo later...

Saturday, 24 December 2011


Canada: Paul Lynch, 1982

IMDB reference

Even watching this on a fuzzy VHS copy the opening scene was pretty damn grim. Luckily the dumb teens soon arrive featuring a cast/plot which smacks of a fun 'Scooby-Doo' vibe & the film has some suitably cheesy 80s paraphernalia & fashions.

However, ultimately it's all a bit meh. The incredibly dark & rough VHS image transfer can't of helped matters. The audio in particular is very poor on the version I watched. Even so despite the shortcomings of the audio/visual presentation there's no denying the fun to be had with the wooden acting!

The Count's Verdict: In desperate need of a DVD release to aid shoddy audio-visual presentation but no matter how good it looked or sounded this is a pretty silly and forgettable slasher.


The Movie Matters podcast returns for its final episode of 2011. In this special Christmas instalment, co-hosts Lee Howard and Michael Mackenzie exchange gifts, casting an eye on French actor turned filmmaker Guillaume Canet's adaptation of American crime author Harlan Coben's TELL NO ONE (NE LE DIS À PERSONNE) and Martin McDonagh's celebrated black comedy IN BRUGES, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Upcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases of note are also covered, and another Blu-ray Disc enters the Movie Matters Hall of Fame.


Created by Lee Howard & Michael Mackenzie
Edited by Michael Mackenzie

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

(*) TELL NO ONE ****

Original Title: Ne le dis a personne
France: Guillaume Canet, 2006

IMDB reference

(*) IN BRUGES ****½

UK/USA: Martin McDonagh, 2008

IMDB reference

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

HUGO 3D ***½

USA: Martin Scorsese, 2011

IMDB reference

I was slightly underwhelmed by HUGO. Not enough film history to satisfy an adult enthusiast nor exciting enough to entertain a child. The much lauded 3D aided the visual spectacle of the film but was by no means essential. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty to enjoy, especially technically, in HUGO but I felt it lagged in pacing and the narrative felt uneven with rather forced vignettes of humour.

So, much to my surprise, a Scorsese pic won't make my Top 10 of 2011. In fact, as divisive a film as last year's SHUTTER ISLAND was I undoubtedly prefer it to HUGO.

The Count's Verdict: Go see it, enjoy it - just beware the hype as no matter what they say HUGO doesn't demonstrably vindicate the need for 3D or hold a candle to Scorsese's best work.

Monday, 19 December 2011

DEXTER - SEASON 6 (8/10)

USA: Various Directors, 2011 (Developed by James Manos Jr. and created by Jeff Lindsay)

IMDB reference

As watchable as ever, hence the generous 8/10 rating, but in actuality this has proved to be the weakest season of DEXTER so far. This season's theme of religion used to underpin the murder plot was ultimately empty and long out stayed its welcome. Plus the later 'romantic' developments with Deb were nothing short of insulting. The season 6 Finale proved a mixed bag too with the dark potential of the final confrontation between Dexter and Travis being very anticlimatic. However, the season ended with a much needed final reveal which promises much for season 7.

Thankfully, Michael C. Hall's portrayal of the titular character is as strong as ever and the resonate subplot exploring a father and son relationship (Harry & Dexter/ Dexter & Harrison) continues to emerge as the show's true heart.


USA/France: Woody Allen, 2009

IMDB reference

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

SENNA ****

UK: Asif Kapadia, 2010

IMDB reference

Watched this documentary alongside my F1 fan wife and must say we found it equally captivating. The masterful use of archival footage on display, woven together through superb editing, pieces together an intimate portrait of a man and a narrative full of triumphs, intrigues, rivalries and inevitably tragedy.

The Count's Verdict: A must for fans of the sport but an equally compelling story for any fan of film.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


aka Terror Eyes
USA: Ken Hughes, 1981

IMDB reference

Rather slow and relatively tame slasher film which bafflingly was identified as a 'video nasty' by the DPP during the 80s in Britain. The plot does boast a playfully bizarre 'head hunter' killer, dressed in bikers' black leather and helmet, brandishing a machete who decapitates victims to stage grisly tableaux featuring water akin to an ancient African ritual. NIGHT SCHOOL also has some memorable kills with the stalk and slash sequence set in an aquarium a particular stand out. Finally, the film is notable for the debut appearance of actress Rachel Ward who gives an unintentionally hilarious wooden performance as the lead.

The Count's Verdict: Worth a watch for 80s slasher enthusiasts otherwise it may prove a little too languid in pace for a more mainstream audience.


USA: Various Directors, 2011 (Created by Terence Winter)

IMDB reference

Sunday, 11 December 2011


aka National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
USA: Jeremiah S. Chechik, 1989

IMDB reference

Saturday, 10 December 2011


USA: Todd Phillips, 2011

IMDB reference

I caught up with 2009's THE HANGOVER back in early 2010 after it had grown to become an impressive Box Office sleeper hit. A rarity for a Hollywood comedy these days and despite it being nothing more than a crass mindless 'lads' film, I did chuckle more than once during its (slightly overlong) running time.

Thus I thought I'd give the inevitable sequel (a third film is also due for release in 2013) a spin. My expectations going in were simply 'I'll be satisfied with more of the same crass mindless humour.' THE HANGOVER 2 does deliver in that regard with most of the laughs coming in the first half of the movie. After that the characters and the non-existent plot seem to out stay their welcome with the chortles soon running out. I'm not a big fan of Bradley Cooper but I'm more than willing to suspend disbelief in order to shout "you're a complete twat" at the TV whenever his smug over-exposed face ever appears on screen. Actually, seeing an actor I find irritating being very irritating its strangely cathartic and I count my irrational dislike of 'The Coop' one of the guilty pleasures afforded by these films. Not sure I'll be returning for Part 3 though.

The Count's Verdict: If you liked the first there is enough of the same here to entertain you. If you didn't like THE HANGOVER then avoid this sequel and move on.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


USA: Terence Malick, 2011

IMDB reference

If I were creating a list of the most ambitious, 'important' or profound films of 2011, Terence Malick's THE TREE OF LIFE (winner of the coveted Palme d'Or, and ranked the year's best film by Sight & Sound magazine) would undoubtedly be at the top of the pile. The artistic and thematic endeavor Malick brings to recreating and charting the inception of life on our planet (from the Big Bang, the reign of the Dinosaurs to the intimate drama of a man recalling his childhood) is nothing short of immense. In its best moments THE TREE OF LIFE recalls the aesthetic and religious transcendence of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. However, I found these moments to be all too fleeting and rather aptly ethereal.

Despite Malick's trademark style for lush 'snapshots of nature' visuals accompanied by poetic voice-over dialogue the film often meanders in pace, pushing its contrived fragmented narrative structure to the fore which actually blights the fragile human drama (effectively portrayed by the cast of Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and the young Hunter McCracken) within. Ultimately, THE TREE OF LIFE is a film like no other I've seen in 2011 but I can't deny my own personal reaction to the film is both positive and negative. Thus, it'll only make an honourable mention for me.

The Count's Verdict: Essential for Malick fans. For all others it is destined to enthral and euthanise in equal measure.

Monday, 5 December 2011


USA/Canada: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., 2011

IMDB reference

Fairly pointless retread of John Carpenter's own remake of the Howard Hawks original. Carpenter's film brought cutting edge special effects, Cundey's glorious cinematography and an atmosphere of acute paranoia. This latest instalment can't decide whether is a prequel or a straight remake and only manages to mildly entertain before predictably relying on CGI effects to tell its derivative story.

The Count's Verdict: Take it or leave it.

Saturday, 3 December 2011