In trying to decide how best to review the new Netflix original series ‘House of Cards’, I had a few options to toy with. The most obvious was to simply review the pilot of this remake of a well-regarded BBC program, but that seemed short-sighted considering how the service was putting all 13 episodes of the show online at the same time. There was the option of reviewing each individual episode, but ultimately I decided to wait and look at the first season in my write up. Essentially, I’m reviewing it as a 13 hour movie. Luckily for me, this is a terrific show, and one in which Kevin Spacey absolutely owns the screen as a ruthless Congressman playing everyone around him. The entire cast is superb, but this is undoubtedly his show. Possibly too bleak or smug for some, I was addicted from the first scene on. Though the latter third of the season has some lesser moments and the show wraps up with a finale that’s a clear set up for next season, the first two episodes are genius. Those alone are enough to recommend the show, but the whole package is still great. I don’t watch a lot of television, but in my book this is an absolute must watch.
Lasse Hallström’s The Hypnotist is a spine-tingling thriller that marks the famed director’s first Swedish production in over twenty years. A return to his home turf after a long absence, coupled with Hallström’s prestige in the eyes of The Academy™ (Cider House Rules, anyone?), is perhaps why the entire country put their full support behind a film that seems little more than Saturday afternoon escapism at the cineplex. The Hypnotist is Sweden’s official entry for next year’s “Best Foreign Language” Oscar®, but it stands little to no chance of winning the grand prize or even scoring a nomination. Heck, I wouldn’t be shocked to find it absent from the upcoming shortlist. Everything that The Academy™ will love about this film begins and ends with the “Hallström” name. If AMPAS didn’t go for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo last awards season, this grisly thriller that’s cut from almost the exact same cloth (and from the same country, no less!) stands absolutely no shot at surfing the wave to Oscar® glory. Read more on The Hypnotist (***)…
Something that many never thought would ever happen is going on in Hollywood right now. Yes, ‘Star Wars Episode VII’ is in pre-production, and it’s not even being fully brought to us by George Lucas. We’re all aware by now that Oscar winner Michael Arndt has been hired to pen the script, and filmmakers like Colin Trevorrow and Matthew Vaughn have been rumored to be taking the directing job. Of course, A-listers like J.J. Abrams, Zach Snyder, Steven Spielberg, and Quentin Tarantino have already pretty much said no, while people like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan aren’t really even worth seriously discussing. That got me thinking though…who else would get people excited? I know Brad Bird is a popular name, but I wanted to get the input of the community here at The Awards Circuit. I’ll be sharing seven names that I’d be interested in seeing get the gig (not including Matt Reeves, who I always put in pieces like this and decided to take a short break from), but I’m just as interested in getting your names as I am in sharing mine. We’re likely not too far out from finding out who the directing choice of Disney is, so before long we’ll know the director of a new Star Wars movie! Until then, here are my picks for filmmakers who could do a good job with the new trilogy…
Potentially marking the fourth collaboration between the pair, David Fincher is reportedly pursuing Brad Pitt for his next project, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Since taking a break from feature films after the past few productive years with The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher has directed the first few episodes of Neflix’s experiment in original programming, House of Cards.
If you love the movies, you owe it to yourself to see ‘Side by Side’. This documentary on the past, present, and future of cinema filtered aptly through the lens of the celluloid vs. digital debate is engrossing, entertaining, and vital. Somehow, filmmaker Christopher Kenneally and producer/interviewer/narrator Keanu Reeves manage to not make this project too inside baseball for the layman or laywoman, but at the same time it gets into the details in such a way that even experts won’t be bored. Digital and photochemical filmmaking have their passionate defenders, and the documentary gives both of them equal time. Reeves actually spends most of the time playing devil’s advocate (an amusing coincidence, no?) with A-list directors and cinematographers (plus some editors, studio executives, and businessmen working on the cameras being debated about), leading the doc to actually be the rare breed that isn’t advocating for one side or the other. Shooting on film is romanticized to a degree, but its limitations are made clear. Shooting digitally is presented as the wave of the future here today, but also not without some huge issues that detract from it. This is the type of thing every film school student should see in a 101 class, but moreover every film lover should see. It’s informative, but it’s also a lot of fun. Anyone who’s had the film vs. digital argument will adore what’s going on here. I can’t see anybody who enjoys film not enjoying this documentary, and that’s a rare statement.
Tackling the epic story of Cleopatra always seemed like an odd fit for filmmaker David Fincher. I have no doubt that a Fincher directed ‘Cleopatra’ would have had the potential to be something special, but it never felt like the type of movie he’s ideally suited for. While, Vulture is reporting here that we won’t actually be getting his take, as he’s dropped out of making the flick, still set to star Angelina Jolie in the title role. Apparently Ang Lee is now the top choice to direct, but nothing is set in stone. You can see some details after the jump, but I wonder if this is a sign that he’s more likely or perhaps less likely to take on ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’, since both are set up at Sony. We shall see, but you can find out a little bit more about Fincher’s departure from the project below…
It had always seemed like a long shot to me that we’d be seeing ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ at any point next year, especially if Sony wanted David Fincher to come back to direct. As things stayed mostly silent, the idea of the sequel to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ hitting theaters in 2013 even more unlikely, and Entertainment Weekly (found here) is confirming the sensible notion that the adaptation of the second book in the popular series is still being worked on at the script level by scribe Steven Zaillian, so it’s looking like 2014 or later for the movie. David Fincher is still the top choice to make it, and it appears he’s still in play, but we don’t know that for sure. After the jump you can see the story, but stay tuned for more details as we know it. Either way though, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are still onboard for more. Read on below…
Now, we don’t even know yet if David Fincher actually wants to direct the sequel to ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ or if it’s all just talk right now, but it seems like MGM could look to go in a cheaper direction with ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ should they finalize plans to make the flick. The Playlist has the relatively speculative story (which I caution you should take with a bit of a grain of salt) below for you take a gander at and work over in your mind. I don’t know how much truth is there, but read on and decide for yourself…
Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs”
Oscar Scene: “I could live here.”
Viola Davis for “The Help”
Oscar Scene: “You’re a Godless Woman!”
Rooney Mara for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
Oscar Scene: “He’s had a long standing sexual relationship with his co-editor of the magazine. Sometimes he performs cunnilingus on her. Not often enough in my opinion.”
Meryl Streep for “The Iron Lady”
Oscar Scene: “It used to be about trying to do something. Now it’s about trying to be someone.”
Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn”
Oscar Scene: “People always see Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they realize I’m not her, they run.”
If you still weren’t willing to call the Oscar for “The Artist,” you should now. Not sure if this will necessarily translate to an automatic Directing win for the French director but the film is signed, sealed, and delivered for Oscar gold. Here’s the press release:
Before we ask whether or not The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo should have been remade or not, we must first acknowledge that anymore, this is the way things are simply going to be. In the case of Dragon Tattoo, not only was there a successful 2009 Swedish film franchise that had just been introduced to American audiences in 2010, but Dragon Tattoo was the first book in a multi-million selling trilogy by the late author Steig Larsson. As controversial as the source material remains after first being published in 2005 (the first book was originally entitled “Men Who Hate Women”), people are simply drawn to the harsh and unrelenting mysteries centering around Lisbeth Salander and “The Millennium Trilogy” of posthumous Larsson novels.
Maybe it was impossible to actually justify the talent and resources involved in this project. Maybe there was just no way that any faithful adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s depressingly overrated novel would ever be anything more than, shall we say, problematic to me. Still, I come to you with what might be the most positive review I will ever write for a two-star film, as David Fincher’s adaptation/remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is far better than I had anticipated, and I must take back some of what I originally predicted would become of it. Its connection to the source material is still an albatross, make no mistake, but some smart filmmaking craftsmanship and humor elevate it to at least the level of passable lurid pulp.
The premise is by now well-known: Mikael Blomkvist (aka Stieg Larsson’s own Tyler Durden), fresh off of a libel conviction that will most likely bankrupt his polemical magazine Millennium, receives a mysterious offer from former Vanger Corporation CEO Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance and likely murder of his niece Harriet. Despite not having seen her for forty years, he still receives one framed flower every year on his birthday (once again he doesn’t track down where the packages are coming from, though at least Steven Zaillian’s script tries to give that a semi-credible explanation this time). Henrik firmly believes that they are being sent not only by the killer, but that her murderer is a member of his own rotten family, who all – a little too conveniently – live on a single snowbound island. After making a breakthrough, Mikael requests a research assistant. Read more on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (**)…
Who doesn’t love David Fincher? He’s one of the most distinctive filmmakers working in the industry today. Who would have thought that the man who got his start in movies about as rockily as possible with ‘Alien 3′ would now be considered one of the best directors without an Oscar? He’s come up short twice now in the Best Director category, losing for ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and just narrowly missing for ‘The Social Network’ last year. Could the third time be the charm this year for ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’? As anyone who read my review undoubtedly knows, it’s a superbly directed flick, but I highly doubt the Academy will honor him this time around. This all did get me thinking about his best works, much as I do with any under appreciated filmmaker. Before I get into the 5 best David Fincher films, I want to get into his history a bit.
David Fincher takes a well known property and easily makes it his own with the remake (or second book adaptation if you will) of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’. We all knew that this flick was right up his alley, so it’s no surprise that he knocks it out of the park in terms of direction and style, but all eyes were on his casting decisions, namely that of Rooney Mara in the title role. Well, let me say it front and center…Fincher picked a winner here. Mara is, for my money, even better than Noomi Rapace was as Lisbeth Salander. This is a slightly different interpretation of the character, and a stronger one in my opinion. For that matter, pretty much everything in this version of the story is better than in the original Swedish one (I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on that part of it). I wasn’t a fan of that last incarnation by Niels Arden Oplev, but this one is a contender for my Top 10 of 2011 list. It’s incredible what the right filmmaker can do for a movie. The story hasn’t changed much (besides the ending, but I’ll get to that in a bit), but it’s just done so much better here. While this isn’t on the level of ‘The Social Network’ or ‘Fight Club’ in terms of Fincher flicks, this is definitely one of his best directed works. One can make the case that there are “better” projects for him to be focusing on (something I actually said on my than one occasion during this past year), but he gives this 110% and it shows. He’s relentless in keeping your interest going and making sure that you’re on the edge of your seat, even if you know what’s about to happen. In just about every way, Fincher and Mara beat Oplev and Rapace.
Back when auditions were going on for David Fincher’s remake of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ were going on, lots of compelling names were thrown out there. 3 in particular struck me as strong choices. They were Katie Jarvis of ‘Fishtank’ fame, Rooney Mara (who obviously won the job), and Scarlett Johansson. I’m a big Johansson fan, and thought she might have turned her career back around with this gig. Apparently Fincher thought she had the goods too, but ultimately didn’t choose her for a rather interesting reason. Vogue Magazine has a nice write up on the upcoming film and Fincher’s work with Mara, but buried within this article is Fincher explaining why Scarlett isn’t his Lisbeth Salander. Here’s the few paragraphs that tell this particular story:
To tell the story of how Rooney Mara landed the role of Lisbeth Salander, one must go back to David Fincher’s last film, The Social Network. That movie, as you may recall, opens with five minutes and 22 seconds of blistering dialogue between Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his fictional college girlfriend, Mara’s Erica Albright, on a relationship-ending date in a pub. “I remember the feeling that I needed a foil for Jesse and his intense inability to see other people,” says Fincher. “I needed somebody about whom the audience could go, ‘Dude! She’s right there!’ ” Radiating intelligence and self-possession, Mara was a natural for the part.
Then, as Fincher was putting the finishing touches on the film, he started casting Dragon Tattoo. “I had seen a lot of actresses,” he says. “I was beginning to get to the point where I was thinking, Maybe conceptually you are talking about a person who doesn’t exist.” One day his casting director said, “What about Rooney?” He resisted at first. “I believe in casting people whose core—that essential personality you can’t beat out of them with a tire iron—has to work for the character.” He needed someone who was dissociated, antisocial—the exact opposite of Erica Albright. But when he saw Mara’s audition, he was “struck by how different it was from what I felt I already knew about her.”
This is reportedly truncated from the 8-9 minute preview that critics, press, and select screening audiences saw last week. To me, this looks mighty impressive and the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross score feels strong. However, what say you?!?! Does this cement the film as a player in the race or is it still on the outside looking in for you?
I’m guessing – based on its box office take – that at least some of you saw The Hangover: Part II. Which means that you also saw the teaser trailer for David Fincher’s highly anticipated remake of the hit Swedish film based on the megahit crime novel series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or you just saw the “bootleg” online). Wasn’t it awesome? That dark, foreboding atmosphere? The almost alien-looking Rooney Mara, widely tipped as a serious Best Actress contender? And holy cow, who could forget that killer version of “Immigrant Song” from Karen O and Trent Reznor? Plus, you have to give some credit to any major studio release that advertises itself as “THE FEEL BAD MOVIE OF CHRISTMAS,” though I suppose selling a depressing blockbuster isn’t quite as ballsy anymore in the wake of The Dark Knight. Not only that, but word has gotten around that the version that had “leaked” on YouTube last Saturday was actually a marketing stunt to contribute to the grunginess of the trailer. Now THAT is cool!
However, I’m here to warn you all: don’t be fooled. Underneath all of the style, the talent involved, the hype, it still has the framework of the original Swedish film. Because of that, I am still confident in predicting that it is going to suck. Actually, I’m more confident than before. Read more on Don’t Be Fooled…