17 September 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire

Noomi Rapace portrays Lisbeth Salander in a scene from "The Girl Who Played with Fire."
Intrigued by the challenge of telling a story with no real beginning or end, I often find the middle installment of film trilogies to be the most interesting. "The Empire Strikes Back" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" immediately come to mind. To that we can potentially add "The Girl Who Played with Fire," the follow-up to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," based on the second novel in Swedish author Stieg Larsson's "Millenium" trilogy.

By now, the story behind the books and movies is well-known. Larsson, a journalist, died prior to the publication of his novels, which became worldwide best-sellers and spawned film adaptations from his native country, as well as American versions now in the works under the direction of David Fincher ("Seven," "Fight Club," "Zodiac").

Because most movie-goers here refuse to read subtitles, the English-language adaptations surely will reach a larger audience. But it is hard to imagine them being better than the original Swedish films, featuring the fiery Noomi Rapace in an iconic performance as the title character, misfit computer hacker Lisbeth Salander.

The Town

Rebecca Hall, left, and Ben Affleck are shown in a scene from, "The Town."
"The Town" is a film full of heists, shootouts and powerful emotional moments. But one quiet scene pulsates with more tension than any other.

Bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebbeca Hall), recently taken hostage during a bank robbery, unknowingly finds herself sharing a table at an outdoor cafe with two of the crooks. One, Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck, who also directed and co-wrote with Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard, based on a novel by Chuck Hogan), the brains behind the operation, is her new suitor. He's wormed his way into her life to find out what she knows after learning she lives just a couple blocks away in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown. The other, Jem (Jeremy Renner), bears the only identifying mark Claire has on them—the tattoo on the back of his neck. Doug knows this, though Jem does not and Claire has no reason for suspicion.

It's a perfect scene of Hitchcockian suspense in a film that, on the whole, has more in common with "Heat" and Affleck's first directorial effort, the superb "Gone Baby Gone."

03 September 2010


Danny Trejo stars as a legendary ex-Federale in a scene from "Machete."
A common complaint about movies today is that all of the best parts are in the trailer. So what happens when you make the trailer years before the feature?

That is the case of Robert Rodriguez's "Machete," which began life in 2007 as a fake trailer accompanying the Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino tribute to 1970s exploitation flicks, the double feature "Grindhouse."

Danny Trejo, finally getting his shot as the leading man after racking up nearly 200 film and TV roles in the past 25 years, is the title character, an ex-Federale-turned-day-laborer in a Texas border town hired to assassinate State Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), whose hard-line stance on illegal immigration includes support of an electrified fence. The whole thing is a setup engineered by Booth (Jeff Fahey), an aide to the senator, and the Mexican drug lord (Steven Seagal) responsible for the murder of Machete's wife and child three years earlier.