Category: Movie Dramas (Page 1 of 188)

Staff Pick: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011)

Rooney Mara The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2011 640

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is one of David Fincher’s best films, which is saying a lot. This psychological thriller was adapted from the novel of the same name by Swedish author Stieg Larsson and fits right into Fincher’s wheelhouse. It’s dark, intense and twisted, and it’s a must-see film.

Story

The film follows the intertwined stories of two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a fiercely intelligent and unconventional computer hacker.

The film begins with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a journalist at Millennium magazine, losing a high-profile libel case against corrupt businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström. With his reputation tarnished, Blomkvist feels he has no choice but to take a leave of absence from the magazine. He is then approached by wealthy retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who offers him a job to investigate the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who vanished 40 years ago. Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered by a member of his own dysfunctional family.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a skilled computer hacker with a troubled past, is introduced when she conducts a background check on Blomkvist for Vanger’s lawyer. Despite her social awkwardness and unorthodox appearance, Lisbeth is a brilliant investigator, and her report on Blomkvist ultimately leads to his hiring by Vanger.

As Blomkvist delves into the Vanger family history, he uncovers a series of brutal murders connected to Harriet’s disappearance. He realizes he needs assistance and, after learning about Lisbeth’s skills, recruits her to help him with the investigation. Together, they form an unlikely partnership, with Lisbeth using her hacking skills and Blomkvist’s journalistic expertise to unravel the mystery.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth

Rooney Mara delivers a stunning and breathtaking performance as Lisbeth Salander, who is one of the more unique and compelling characters we’ve seen in years.

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Movie Review: “Babylon” (2022)

Margot Robbie stars in Babylon 2022

You have to give Damien Chazelle credit for trying. “Babylon” was an ambitious project. But despite all of the big stars, wild scenes and stunning visuals, the film is a disappointing mess. All of the brilliant cinematography doesn’t count for much when the audience can’t connect with the characters or the story. The 3-hour run time makes these flaws even more annoying. I couldn’t wait for the movie to end.

The film generated a lot of buzz around the opening party scene that features stunning shot of the beautiful and charismatic Margot Robbie dancing up a storm. Robbie draws you in and you can’t take your eyes off of her. She executes her elaborate dance moves in her spectacular red dress in the middle of what can only be described as managed chaos. It’s the best scene of the film and it goes on for quite a while, yet even this scene falls flat. All of the moves are overly choreographed and stylized. There are various couples engaging in sex in the middle of all the frenzied dancing, but none of it is remotely natural or believable. Rather, it comes across as awkward as opposed to erotic, reminding me of robotic orgy scenes in “Eyes Wide Shut.” Everyone is supposed to be having fun, but they just seem like they’re pretending.

Things slow down a bit with the rest of the film, which sadly does little to make anyone become more interested in the characters. The stories revolve around several stars of Hollywood’s silent film era and the excesses of those times. But many of these scenes do little to advance the story, but rather give Chazelle an excuse to create elaborate, cinematic scenes showing how these films were made. The scenes look great, but most are tedious and boring. You always feel like you’re watching a stylized movie . . . the film never grabs you and makes you feel like you’re there. It just feels like a bizarre series of sketches with little purpose.

A lot of acting talent is wasted here. Brad Pitt has proven his acting chops again and again, but here he seems robotic as he recites his poorly written lines. There’s little that’s believable about his character or his performance. His character is a silent film star, living the life of a rich and adored celebrity, who then struggles with the emergence of talkies. But the audience isn’t given a chance to become emotionally invested in his plight.

Margot Robbie does her best with her part, but she’s asked to deliver an over-the-top performance. She delivers, but there’s little to like about her character beyond her stunning appearance. Tobey Maguire gives a creepy and memorable performance as he guides us through an underground party with disturbing visuals that we’d prefer to forget.

The ending is the film is supposed to make the audience feel nostalgic about the silent film era in Hollywood through the eyes of the lead character Manny (Diego Calva). But flashbacks to characters in their glory days don’t land as well if the audience doesn’t care about those characters.

Sadly, it’s not surprising that this film bombed at the box office. It’s difficult to imagine how a director who delivered the brilliant “Whiplash” could also create this self-indulgent disaster, but even the best creative minds have their misses. Don’t waste your time on this one.

1.5/5 Stars

Staff Pick: “Michael Clayton” (2007)

George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson in Michael Clayton 2007

“Michael Clayton” is a slow burn, with an ending that delivers quite a punch. It’s the type of film that many love but doesn’t fit neatly into the modern economics of Hollywood. Studios rarely make dramas like this for broad theatrical release anymore.

George Clooney plays Michael Clayton, a middle-aged lawyer who works for a large law firm as its fixer. He cleans up messes for clients who get into trouble – stuff like accidents, domestic issues, etc. He’s also having his own problems as he tries to dig out of debt from a restaurant venture gone bad due to his alcoholic brother.

Clayton gets pulled into a crisis when the firm’s top litigator Arthur (Tom Wilkinson), threatens to blow up the firm’s largest case by exposing how the client chemical company (fictional U-North) knew its product was killing people. Arthur is a brilliant but troubled lawyer with mental health issues, He strips naked during a deposition while declaring his love for the lead plaintiff, a young, pretty woman from a farm in the Midwest.

The cast in this legal thriller is excellent. Clooney delivers one of his best performances as Michael, playing it straight and leaving aside the playful attitude we see in so many of his popular performances. He’s right out of central casting as the middle aged, big firm lawyer who is doing his best to remain calm as he deals with Arthur and his own issues.

Wilkinson, on the other hand, is brilliant as the manic Arthur who feels liberated by his decision to finally come clean about his client’s misconduct after grinding on the class-action lawsuit for years. He gives us some of the most memorable scenes of the film.

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Movie Flashback: “The Game” (2011)

Screenshot The Game Michael Douglas

I had never seen “The Game” so I was happy to see this film pop up on one of my streaming services. Starring Michael Douglas at the height of his powers along with the always entertaining Sean Penn, the film had star power along with a very intriguing story.

Nicholas Van Orton (Douglas) is a successful and wealthy banker who seems to have everything. He looks like Gordon Gekko but Douglas plays him without the cockiness and bluster. He’s a straight-laced guy living a very comfortable life. His brother Conrad (Penn) is the opposite as we learn quickly when Nicholas meets Conrad for lunch. Their conversation sets up the contrast between the characters, and then Conrad offers up an odd birthday gift. He wants Nicholas to take part in a personalized, real-life game. Nicholas is skeptical but then reluctantly agrees to accept after looking into it. And then things spin out of control.

Screenshot The Game Sean Penn

The story has so many twists and turns that it’s sometimes hard to keep up. The audience is often left guessing as to whether Nicholas is truly experiencing a game or if it’s all real as his life spins out of control. The end of the film is over-the-top, with a final plot twist that will surprise most viewers.

Yet the movie is flawed. It’s difficult to explain this in detail without giving away the ending, but too many of the details don’t add up. It’s too hard to believe the story. We’re used to suspending disbelief in fantasy films like superhero movies or ghost stories, but the setup here is grounded in the real world.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Bringing Out the Dead

Today’s entry is a hidden gem not only in the catalogue of Netflix, but also in that of beloved director Martin Scorsese, one of several underrated masterpieces so often overshadowed by more well-known ones like Goodfellas and Raging Bull. Along with films like The King of Comedy and After Hours, Scorsese’s 1999 film Bringing Out the Dead has been unjustly overlooked for the most part, and deserves more recognition than it has gotten. Sure, you could dismiss it as simply “Ambulance Driver” for its similarity to Scorsese’s breakthrough masterpiece, Taxi Driver, as well as the fact that both films were written by frequent collaborator Paul Schrader, but there is more to it than that. I’m certainly not saying it’s better than Taxi Driver, but it’s certainly different enough to warrant appraisal on its own merits.

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