Tag Archives: Stellan Skarsgard

Melancholia (2011) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Kirsten Dunst as Justine
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Claire
Alexander Skarsgård as Michael
Kiefer Sutherland as John
Cameron Spurr as Leo
Charlotte Rampling as Gaby
John Hurt as Dexter
Jesper Christensen as Little Father
Stellan Skarsgård as Jack
Brady Corbet as Tim
Udo Kier as The Wedding Planner
Director: Lars von Trier

On the night of her wedding, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) is struggling to be happy even though it should be the happiest day of her life. It was an extravagant wedding paid for by her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) who are trying to keep the bride and all the guests in line. Meanwhile, Melancholia, a blue planet, is hurtling towards the Earth. Claire, Justine’s sister, is struggling to maintain composure with fear of the impending disaster.

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I had heard about Melancholia for a while, I heard that it was Lars von Trier’s most accessible film yet, which wasn’t an easy thing to narrow down to considering his filmography. After watching and mostly liking his two part film Nymphomaniac, I decided to check this movie out. Melancholia is a great and impactful film about depression, with great performances and some really good direction. It’s not for everyone and is a bit overlong, but I thought it was really good.

Melancholia is pretty long at around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The film is split into two parts, one titled Justine (Kirsten Dunst) which is focussed on her wedding, and the other is titled Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), which is more focussed on the approaching planet of Melancholia potentially being the end of Earth. I don’t have a lot of problems with the movie but I will say that it might be a little overlong, it’s mostly with the first half. The first half is important in showing glimpses of Justine’s depression and all that, however this wedding section feels a little too drawn out and could’ve been shortened quite a bit. You do need to know going into Melancholia that it’s pretty slow paced, particularly early in the movie. Despite the plot sounding large scale on paper, it really is a character driven movie, and is more intimate than you’d think it would be. You have to really be focussed on everything that’s going on or you’re just going to lose interest in it all, I was and I had a good time with it. Melancholia is also a very artsy movie, with the way some of it is written and the way certain things are shown, and that could turn people off, for me it didn’t really. The first 8 minutes is full of just slow moving images and video, it could annoy some but personally I though it was fantastic and really haunting. Now know that I’m basing it off Nymphomaniac and what apparently is in von Trier’s other movies, but Melancholia doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling of just absolute bleakness that’s in his other movies. Nor does it force a ton of thematic elements all at the audience or anything like that. It’s much more straightforward, with the main theme being really about depression, and the parallels of Justine’s depression with the looming planet. Despite it being Lars’s most accessible movie, it’s not necessarily an easy watch, it’s a rather sad movie (as you can gather from the title, it’s not just in reference to the approaching planet) and as mentioned earlier, it’s a bit of a slow burn. There’s a reason why this movie along with Antichrist and Nymphomaniac have been called the Depression Trilogy. Without spoiling anything, despite knowing the ending, the last scene of the movie was really impactful and effective.

The acting all around is fantastic. Kirsten Dunst gives a career’s best performance in the lead role of Justine as someone with depression. A big part of the film is her character going through depression and she carries it incredibly well. It’s not a very showy performance, she just really embodies the character incredibly. Charlotte Gainsbourg is about as equally great as Dunst’s sister Claire. The relationship between the two sisters are one of the driving forces of the movie, especially how differently the two react to the looming threat of Melancholia. Justine seems to feel nothing, whereas Claire is constantly worried about it. The rest of the supporting cast are all great as well, from Kiefer Sutherland as Justine’s brother-in-low husband, Stellan Skarsgard as her boss, John Hurt as her father, Charlotte Rampling as her mother and Alexander Skarsgard as her husband. Most of them are just in the first half, we do however also get Sutherland in the second half, and his performance in Melancholia might be one of his best. The only thing about the casting that bothers me a little is that both Stellan and Alexander Skarsgard are in this movie, but they don’t play father and son or relatives or anything, so it’s a little distracting.

It seems like no one directs like Lars von Trier, his work on this movie is nothing short of fantastic. The cinematography is stunning and beautiful, and is done incredibly well. Some of the editing is a little weird where there are unnecessarily a lot of cuts done in many scenes, which is something that von Trier does sometimes. I guess it’s something that you have to get used to when it comes to his films. Throughout the film there is this sense of dread, with the whole thing about the planet Melancholia potentially going to destroy Earth, and it’s effectively haunting. While his films are usually more gritty and grounded, this film does involve some larger scale elements, with the whole film surrounding a planet potentially colliding with Earth. Now it’s not a full on sci-fi movie and most of it doesn’t have a bunch of crazy visuals, but nonetheless these big visual moments are also done really well.

Melancholia is probably the easiest of von Trier’s films to digest, by far the most accessible. I know this, because when it comes to recommending the movie, I don’t have to necessarily give a big warning about what his movies are like and all that. It is still not the most fun film to watch and it is a little overlong but it’s an incredibly well made and directed film and the performances are fantastic, especially from Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you’re open to depressing slow-moving art films, I’d say definitely give Melancholia a chance, it’s really great.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 2 (2013) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Jamie Bell as K
Willem Dafoe as L
Mia Goth as P
Michaël Pas as Older Jerôme
Jean-Marc Barr as the Debtor Gentleman
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

The continuation of Joe’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s (Stellan Skarsgard) care.

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I’m assuming that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already read my review of Lars von Trier’s divisive Nymphomaniac Volume 1. While I didn’t love the movie, it was very interesting, with some great performances and von Trier had a very unique style and vision (it was the first film of his that I saw). That was only the first half of the story however, and I heard very different reactions to the second volume. Some said that it was better than the first volume, others says that it was a significant drop in quality. I actually quite liked Nymphomaniac Volume 2, though it is (understandably) less enjoyable than the first volume, and the rather obnoxiously forcibly bleak ending really took away from both movies.

Long story short, if you didn’t like Volume 1 at all (as in was disturbed by it or found it to be absolutely horrible as a movie), Volume 2 isn’t going to be that big of a difference for you, whether you like or dislike it more. Otherwise, if there was something that you liked or were interested in with Volume 1, you’re pretty much going to need to watch the second volume. I do recommend reading my review of Volume 1 as there are some similar things between the two volumes and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. I’ll do my best to mostly talk about the new parts and differences between the two. Volume 2 is as long as Volume 1 at around 2 hours, despite this, instead of being split up into 5 chapters, it is split up into 3 chapters. It really does feel like the second part of the story, there’s not opening credits or anything like that, it goes straight into the rest of the story. There are clear differences between the two volumes and you can tell why Nymphomaniac is split at this particular point. Volume 2 is much darker, while the first volume had spots of dark comedy, the second volume has just specks of dark comedy. While the main character of Joe had many sexual experiences seemingly without any consequences in the first part of the story, without spoiling anything, let’s just say that things just go extremely bad for her in the second part. For example, at the end of Volume 1, Joe is numb from sex, which is particularly significant to her given that she’s a sex addict (or nymphomaniac as she self proclaims to be). So she has to find extreme methods of reigniting her sexuality. While Volume 1 at many points could be hard to watch, this second volume is much more so. In that it’s a less enjoyable experience, but I can’t exactly fault the movie for that. Once again it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily done for shock value (though knowing Lars von Trier, that probably did play a part in some of the things that happen), it feels honest for the story that’s being told. There are parts that do feel more riveting than the first volume, but it is quite possible that this is because it has less chapters than the first volume or that it is darker. Despite this, enjoyment wise I preferred Volume 1 much more. The conversations between Joe and Seligman are once again interesting and one of the best parts of the Nymphomaniac movies, though once again they could be a little self indulgent (for lack of a better term to use while avoiding the term ‘pretentious’), though they don’t go to absurd levels like the first volume could be at times. Then there’s the ending which has divided a lot of people. Now I knew the ending a long time before going in and I hated the ending already. I did hear about people’s defence of the ending and I kept that in mind while watching both movies, and it still didn’t work for me after watching it. I won’t spoil what it is, but basically it involves one of the two main characters in present day (played by Gainsbourg and Skarsgard) doing something incredibly out of character. While it may have been meant to be a twist, it feels really forced. There’s nothing even small during the movie leading up to the end that hints towards it happening at all, just because people won’t expect a twist to happen doesn’t make it good. This also affects one of the best parts of the movie(s), the conversations between the two characters, instead of making you see them in a different light, it just makes them feel confused and it doesn’t really work or make sense. As a result it all just feels like a cheap way for Lars von Trier to make one of his typically depressing endings. While apparently he has many of these types of endings, I’m sure that they aren’t this lazily bleak. The ending is more than just underwhelming and disappointing, it’s infuriating and does notably detract from the overall film. I’ll just say that if the film ended with some random character we’ve never seen before appearing out of nowhere and killed both characters, it would feel less frustrating. Then again you might actually like the ending, some actually do.

The acting all around is great once again. Charlotte Gainsbourg was fantastic, this time she’s much more front and centre to what was going on. In Volume 1 she was very present throughout, but only in her scenes when she’s telling her stories. Here’s she’s actually present in the flashbacks and being present throughout most of them. She has to go through a lot, both physically and emotionally. Joe’s story in the first volume wasn’t particularly light but the second volume is especially dark. I’ve not seen much from Gainsbourg in terms of acting but from Nymphomaniac she has really shown herself to be an excellent actress. The scenes with Gainsbourg and Stellan Skarsgard in the present day are great as well and their conversations are really one of the more interesting parts of the Nymphomaniac story, especially how they played off each other with how different they are with regards to their outlook on life and all that. Stacy Martin is once again great as the younger Joe, despite her pretty much being the lead in Volume 1 though, in Volume 2 she’s not in the movie as much, given that in this point in Joe’s telling of the story she’s like in her mid 30s. Shia LaBeouf and some of the other actors return to their roles, once again they are really good and served their purposes well but really they are supporting players. There are mainly 3 newer actors added into the second part of Nymphomaniac. Willem Dafoe at one point is in the movie playing Joe’s boss, he doesn’t really get a lot of screentime but Dafoe brings a lot to whatever role he’s in and here it’s no exception. Jamie Bell plays a sadist who Joe comes in contact with in order to somewhat rehabilitate her sexuality. This is a role that Bell hasn’t really taken on before or since and he is suitably unnerving and violent, really great performance. Mia Goth is the other addition to the story later on, as Joe’s accomplice. This was really one of her first performances and she was really great in her role whenever she was on screen. It seemed like plenty of people were also impressed with her performance, seeing that she would go on to deliver more great performances in A Cure for Wellness, Suspiria and other movies.

Lars von Trier’s direction once again is impressive, with the cinematography being really stunning and direction-wise, a lot of impressive things being done. Regardless of how you feel about the story and all the things that happen, it’s clear watching this that he knows his way behind the camera. The sexual parts to everything is once again graphic and uncomfortable. This time there aren’t as many sex scenes, the sexual aspect of it is border more on fetishism, but again it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to titillate the audience, the sexual acts aren’t pornographic at all, they are actually more disturbing and even darker this time around. Despite some of my issues with Nymphomaniac, it didn’t feel exploitive. Volume 2 is arguably more uncomfortable in general, but that’s mainly because of the story. A weird thing I noticed that differed from the first volume is the lack of drawings, numbers and words that would sometimes appear on screen. Not that it was the glue holding everything together (the diagram of Joe parking a car certainly wasn’t the peak moment of Volume 1), it’s just something I noticed. Also to the second volume’s credit, it doesn’t make random directing decisions, like how it had one chapter with a smaller frame, and another chapter in completely black and white, it actually feels consistent throughout the movie.

Nymphomaniac Volume 2 mostly succeeds in telling the rest of the story. It is harder to watch, darker and more uncomfortable, however that seemed to work for the story. As I said and detailed earlier though, the ending really didn’t just disappoint, it really worked against and detracted a lot from the movie. So even aside from the fact that Volume 1 is more enjoyable to watch, Volume 2 ends with a horrible taste in the mouth, and not the good kind, thus making it not as good as the first part of the story. All in all, I understand why it was split into two parts, the first volume of the story was rather overwhelming and there was a lot of story to cover from what I’ve seen (haven’t seen the director’s cut). However, I think it still would’ve been possible to cut down some things from both volumes and release Nymphomaniac as one 3 hour long movie (or even 3 hours and a half). Nymphomaniac isn’t a movie I want to rewatch ever again and I don’t know if I can ever recommend it, but I guess the best thing I can say is that if my reviews of it made you the least bit interested in it, go check it out and hopefully you’ll get something out of it.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 (2013) Review

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Explicit material & content that may disturb.
Cast:
Charlotte Gainsbourg as Joe (ages 35–50)
Stacy Martin as young Joe (ages 15–31)
Stellan Skarsgård as Seligman
Shia LaBeouf as Jerôme Morris
Christian Slater as Joe’s father
Uma Thurman as Mrs. H
Sophie Kennedy Clark as B
Connie Nielsen as Katherine (Joe’s mother)
Udo Kier as The Waiter
Director: Lars von Trier

A man named Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard) finds a fainted wounded woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in an alley and he brings her home. She tells him that her name is Joe and that she is nymphomaniac. Joe tells her life and sexual experiences with hundreds of men since she was a young teenager while Seligman tells about his hobbies, such as fly fishing, reading about Fibonacci numbers or listening to organ music.

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I’ve heard a lot about Lars von Trier, he’s one of the most controversial directors working today. Yet I hadn’t gotten around to watching any of his movies until now. I didn’t really know where the best place to start with him would be (given that his movies are disturbing, depressing, or both), so I just watched the movie I could easily access, Nymphomaniac. I had heard all about Nymphomaniac for a while, with some very polarised reactions to it, some loved it, others not so much.
Having watched the first half of it, while I’m not one of the people who loved it, I actually did like it quite a bit and there’s a lot of great things to it.

I want to preface this review by saying that I saw the movie on Netflix and at the beginning it said that the film I was going to watch is an abridged and ‘censored’ version. So it’s possible that the version I saw won’t be the version that you might see. Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is a slow moving arthouse movie that happens to be about sex. This movie is really conversations between Charlotte Gainsbourg telling her story to Stellan Skarsgard and we see flashbacks of that happening. It’s mainly broken up into 5 chapters (at least for the first half of the story). These conversations are really interesting, especially as Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are very different people and have different perspectives on what happened, definitely one of the highlights of the film. It was interesting to listen to their conversations. Quite often there are a lot of comparisons from objects to things that happened in Joe’s life, an example being a comparison between fly fishing and sex. I get that a lot of people found some bits of the discussions and the comparisons pretentious (and it is), and to be fair they go a little too ridiculous with it sometimes. With that said, I think a lot of these bits are intentionally ridiculous and add quite a bit of humour. Actually there are surprisingly quite a lot of effective comedic moments in the movie, which does lighten up things a bit. It really needed them, because it is a really uncomfortable and bleak movie, even when watching it by yourself (I would know). It does feel a tad repetitive in some of the things that happen but it’s not like the same things happening every time, with every chapter we learn something new about Joe. I will say that I didn’t really feel any emotion throughout this movie. It is a rather cold movie, and on the whole the most emotion I felt was uncomfortableness at certain moments. Now I was still interested in the movie despite this, but it’s not really a movie where you get emotionally invested or anything like that. Now this is a review of essentially half the story, and as of this point I haven’t watched Volume 2, so I can’t tell yet how the whole complete story works just yet.

There are a lot of actors in this movie and they do a great job in their roles. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays the lead character of Joe, we really just see her as she’s talking to Stellan Skarsgard’s character of Seligman and have a lot of conversations, both Gainsbourg and Skarsgard are great. In the flashbacks, the younger version of Joe is played by Stacy Martin, who does a fantastic job, in this volume, Martin really gets the lead in the movie. She has to do a lot of things, it’s a very challenging role and she absolutely nails it. Shia LaBeouf is also quite good in his (small) role here, though his English accent is a little hit or miss. We also have Christian Slater and Connie Nielsen as Joe’s parents, good in their limited screentime. We also get a bit of Uma Thurman in one chapter, also great. Really everyone did a good job in their roles.

I’ve only seen one movie from Lars von Trier now, but I can tell from his work on Nymphomaniac Volume 1 that he’s great at his craft. As this is a movie called Nymphomaniac, surrounding a sex addict, you can tell that there is a lot of sex shown on screen. However it actually isn’t exploitive or pornographic. It is basically as graphic as porn as you see pretty much everything, though apparently no actual sex was performed and there was a lot of body doubles, prosthetics and CGI face swapping involved. However it’s not particularly sexy, it doesn’t glamourize it at all, just portraying the sexual acts on screen with honesty to the story. It treated it much like how the movie Shame treated it (another movie about a sex addict), the sex actually has a point. As I said earlier, the version of Nymphomaniac I saw was apparently a ‘censored’ version, so I’m guessing there’s another version that’s much more graphic than this. There was some interesting editing choices made, with some scenes cutting to things like animals, and this mostly worked for me. This film would also have some visuals shown on screen, with words, numbers and shapes actually being drawn on screen during scenes (which surprised me). As much as I mostly loved Lars von Trier’s direction, there were some odd choices made that were out of place. For example, in chapter 3, the framing of the screen was much smaller compared to the rest of the movie, and I don’t really know why. Then in another chapter, it switched to black and white. Also the aforementioned visuals being shown on screen can be a little too much and trying too hard. I liked some of these moments, but we didn’t need a diagram to be drawn out showing Joe parking a car or things like that. They didn’t take the movie down a lot but it was a bit distracting.

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 is definitely not for everyone. It is a difficult to watch, slow moving arthouse movie about a sex addict. If you’re not immediately turned off by this concept and are interested in it based on my thoughts on the film, maybe you should check it out. However, it worked for me, The direction was mostly fantastic, the cast was great, and it was an effective story. With all that being said, this is only the first half of the movie, as of this moment writing this review I’ve just watched Volume 1 (and by the time I uploaded this review I would’ve watched Volume 2), so my view on part 1 could change depending on how the second part goes. It’s made me interested to watch the second half of the story, as well as von Trier’s other movies. Again though, I’ll probably need to watch Volume 2 before coming to a proper conclusion to the overall story.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains sexual references
Cast:
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie Sheridan
Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan
Lily James as Young Donna
Dominic Cooper as Sky
Christine Baranski as Tanya Chesham-Leigh
Jessica Keenan Wynn as Young Tanya
Julie Walters as Rosie Mulligan
Alexa Davies as Young Rosie
Pierce Brosnan as Sam Carmichael
Jeremy Irvine as Young Sam
Colin Firth as Harry Bright
Hugh Skinner as Young Harry
Stellan Skarsgård as Bill Anderson
Josh Dylan as Young Bill
Cher as Ruby Sheridan
Andy García as Fernando Cienfuegos
Director: Ol Parker

In 1979 young Donna (Lily James), Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies) graduate from Oxford University — leaving Donna free to embark on a series of adventures throughout Europe. On her journeys, she makes the acquaintances of Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine) — the latter whom she falls in love with, but he’s also the man who breaks her heart. In the present day, Donna’s pregnant daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), dreams of renovating a taverna while reuniting with her mother’s old friends and boyfriends on the Greek island of Kalokairi.

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I watched the original Mamma Mia about a week ago and although I was entertained by it, I wasn’t a particularly huge fan of it, I didn’t really consider it to be a good movie but I had fun with it. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect from Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the pre-sequel to the first movie 10 years in the making. So I just expected a dumb and over the top with a bunch of great ABBA songs. However, it actually surprised me quite a lot. Basically all the issues I had with the first movie were fixed here, with a stronger story, better use of songs and some surprising emotion. And like the first movie it is really campy and entertaining.

Something that occurred to me over the course of my viewing was that it seemed that Mamma Mia 2 fixed all my problems with the first movie. First of all, Mamma Mia 2 has more of a story. The first movie felt really like talented actors doing drunk karaoke – ABBA edition. Mamma Mia 2 has much more of a plot, half of it focussing on Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie in present day and the other half on Lily James’s younger Donna in flashbacks. The first movie jammed a whole lot of ABBA songs into moments where they didn’t really need it, and almost felt like padding to extend the movie. With the sequel though, there are enough breathing moments and it didn’t feel like they were just shoving ABBA songs into the movie just for the sake of it and all the song segments seem to work appropriately for the story and movie. Whereas the first movie had some humour which didn’t really land (most of the comedy I found in that movie was unintentional), the sequel is genuinely funny. Last but not least, there are genuinely solid emotional scenes. I wasn’t emotional myself during the movie (most movies don’t really get me to be that way) but the emotional scenes were earned and were well done, and I’m not exaggerating when there were some people in the cinema that I was in that were legit crying in some scenes particularly near the end. The movie like the first is over the top and campy. If you were fine with how absolutely silly the first Mamma Mia was, you’ll have no problem with how silly the sequel can get. Whether it be some of the dialogue, the song transitions and segments, and just some of the goofy things that these characters do, for me it was just really fun to watch. I think I should also mention that you really shouldn’t expect much of Meryl Streep here. The film made a really weird decision considering that she was part of what made the first movie so successful. What I can say that it was a risky move that paid off in the end, the story did actually work well for it.

Most of the original cast returns with Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranaski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Dominmic Cooper. It is a little jarring how much older all of them are now (10 years older to be exact) but they are good. One of the highlights of the original movie was that everyone there looked like they loved being there and are having a good time, thankfully that’s the same with the sequel. The younger cast also do well, whether it be the younger Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters played by Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies, or whether it’s the younger Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard played by Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan respectively. They all feel like younger versions of the actors/characters. In terms of stands outs however, it’s really Lily James, she is really believable as a young Meryl/Donna and really leaves an impression. The other people in the cast is also pretty good. Cher is in the movie plays Streep’s mother and Seyfried’s grandmother and while she’s good, she really doesn’t end up living up to the hype that the movie was building her up to be, and no I’m not just referring to the trailers or the fact that they got Cher for the part. The problem is that despite the fact that she was built up from the very first scene, when she finally arrives, she doesn’t really do much or leave that much of an impact. It ultimately feels like they could’ve gotten any half decent singer and actress for the part and so in that aspect it felt a little underwhelming after all that build up (or they could’ve cut the character from the movie). With that said, Cher is good in the role. The singing is also generally good. Once again, the women do fare much better than the men, but the men were okay enough for the most part. And yes, Pierce Brosnan does do some singing in this movie but he is actually somewhat okay, then again most of his singing time is spent with dozens of other singers. The one moment when he did some singing on his own actually worked for the scene.

This first Mamma Mia was directed by Phyllida Lloyd, whereas the sequel is directed by Ol Parker, both movies are actually pretty well directed for what they are. Like with the original movie, Mamma Mia 2 takes advantage of its locations, it’s a really good looking movie. The song segments are all entertaining and wonderfully goofy when it needs to be. It’s also always great hearing ABBA songs.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again honestly surprised me, it was a little bit better than just being a dumb and goofy movie (though it very much is a dumb and goofy movie). It fixed the issues that I had with the first movie and I was able to enjoy the movie both ironically and unironically. Speaking as someone who was entertained by but wasn’t a massive fan of the first movie, I really think the second movie is a significant improvement. If you love the first movie and haven’t seen this one, you’ll definitely love the sequel, especially in a packed cinema. If you disliked the first movie, I highly doubt that the second movie would change things for you.

Mamma Mia! (2008) Review

Time: 109 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains sexual references
Cast:
Meryl Streep as Donna Sheridan
Amanda Seyfried as Sophie Sheridan
Pierce Brosnan as Sam Carmichael
Colin Firth as Harry Bright
Stellan Skarsgård as Bill Anderson
Dominic Cooper as Sky
Julie Walters as Rosie Mulligan
Christine Baranski as Tanya Chesham-Leigh
Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Donna (Meryl Streep), an independent hotelier in the Greek islands, is preparing for her daughter’s (Amanda Seyfried) wedding with the help of two old friends. Meanwhile Sophie, the spirited bride, has a plan. She secretly invites three men from her mother’s past in hope of meeting her real father and having him escort her down the aisle on her big day.

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Mamma Mia was a movie I heard a lot about every since it’s release in 2008. Although I watched some bits of the movie, I hadn’t ever gotten around to watching it in it’s entirety. With the sequel coming soon, I decided to watch the original movie to see how I felt about it… and I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. It’s not really that good of a movie, but it’s so campy and over the top that I was entertained by it.

Now I think I should mention I’m not familiar with the musical of the same name (although I’m familiar with a lot of the ABBA songs). There is a plot to Mamma Mia but honestly it feels really quite small, and the only reason it is like an hour and 50 minutes long is because of the songs shoved in. It’s like you get 5 to 10 minutes of the story and then it cuts to another ABBA song. The vast majority of the time, there was no reason for the songs used. Sometimes it has nothing to do with anything, and by removing certain song segments, it wouldn’t feel like any part of the movie was missing. I thought that Moulin Rouge used way too many songs for no reason, but Mamma Mia takes it to a completely different level. It does its fair share of songs that worked in certain moments to be fair, and most of the song segments were entertaining enough. It’s just that when they come out of nowhere they can feel really jarring. Outside of the songs, the reason I was somewhat entertained by the movie was how bizarre it was. A lot of the time I didn’t know what was going on, whether that be the absurdity of some of the singing segments, the sudden song segments that come out of nowhere for no reason, some of the bad singing, some of the insane decisions made by some characters, it felt very strange to me. There was a lot of camp to it as well. I think a lot of the intentional humour didn’t really land with me, and those moments where it did, it’s because of how bizarre the concept was. I think the best way to enjoy Mamma Mia is that if you have an issue with something, try to just go with it. That’s not that strong of a compliment but that’s what I did, and I did have a fun time with it. It doesn’t have a particularly strong plot, characters or anything like that, but it was entertaining, it was an entertaining movie.

This movie has a big cast with Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Julie Walters and others. While they aren’t by any means giving performances that would rank among the best in their careers, they all look like they are having the time of their lives. They don’t seem to be taking it too seriously as well, they sort of know what kind of movie they are in. When it comes to singing, the women fare much better than the men. Pierce Brosnan was infamous in this movie for sounding atrocious, and yes, his singing does in fact sound like a wounded dog. To be fair, props to him, Firth and Skarsgard for at least trying to sing, and Brosnan’s singing was one of the highlights of the film (just not in the way he intended), I’m lowkey hoping it makes a return for the second film. Meryl Streep’s singing wasn’t great (her singing would improve in Into the Woods) but it was actually pretty decent here. In fact most of the singing was fine enough, I don’t really have much to comment about them.

A lot of the musical segments are actually pretty well directed, no matter how crazy it gets a lot of the time. It’s also a pretty good looking movie as well, though most of that is because of the location of the movie, which takes place in the Greek Islands. Also I really like ABBA so I enjoyed the musical segments, and most of the singing was okay enough so I could get into it. Direction-wise, it’s a competently made movie.

I’m still not sure what to say about Mamma Mia. It just seems like a bunch of famous actors and actresses got together to do drunk ABBA karaoke. I can’t say that I was bored. It’s so batshit insane and it does have some entertaining moments (whether it is genuine or just how bizarre everything is). Even though its not good, I had some fun with it (and it feels like everyone involved had fun with it), and not in a ‘so bad it’s good way’. So I guess I might be able to call it okay, I think. If you’re going to watch it for the first time, just know that you can’t take any of it seriously. I’m not expecting much from the sequel, I’m not sure why Mamma Mia is even getting a sequel (especially 10 years after the original) but if it’s at least as half as batshit insane as the first movie, it might be entertaining at the very least.

The Avengers (2012) Review

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The Avengers

Time: 143 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Stellan Skarsgård as Dr. Erik Selvig
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Director: Joss Wheddon

When Thor’s evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), gains access to the unlimited power of the energy cube called the Tesseract, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D., initiates a superhero recruitment effort to defeat the unprecedented threat to Earth. Joining Fury’s “dream team” are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

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This is the first combining of a superhero team on the big screen. Everything could have gone wrong, nothing like this has ever been done before. Yet with Joss Whedon’s direction The Avengers have now successfully been integrated and just seeing all these characters on screen at the same time is a real joy to watch. Although it’s by no means a perfect movie, its pros more than make up for the cons and is for me one of the most enjoyable movies to watch.

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Joss Whedon is great at writing dialogue and The Avengers is no exception. The dialogue is very well written, there is a lot of great back and forth between the characters. Even though a lot of people love this movie more than Age of Ultron I will say the plot isn’t particularly strong. It’s thinly strung together and its fine but I think that people that disliked Age of Ultron’s plot forgot that the original didn’t have a great plot. It does the job fine but it wasn’t as well done as it could have been. However it does give convincing reasons why all the superheroes work together. The main reason to watch the movie is to see all these superheroes together. The entire third act is nonstop action and is by far the best part of the movie, seeing all of these superheroes in action was a joy to watch.

“Marvel's The Avengers” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) join forces in “Marvel’s The Avengers,” opening in theaters on May 4, 2012. The Joss Whedon–directed action-adventure is presented by Marvel Studios in association with Paramount Pictures and also stars Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson. © 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

All the actors do play each other really well and they have great writing to support them as well. The film establishes clear differences between characters, especially between Steve Rodgers and Tony Stark. Mark Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton as the Hulk and he did as well as Norton, he probably worked better as an Avenger Hulk than Norton, which is probably why the recasting happened in the first place. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and he is having a lot of fun in the role. The one character that felt a little weak was Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, Renner does well in the movie it’s just that the film doesn’t really go much into detail in who he is (Age of Ultron fixed that though).

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The special effects and action scenes are as usual great. Many of the fights are great, from Thor vs Iron Man, to Hulk vs Thor and of course the final battle scene in New York, which is one of the best action climaxes in any superhero movie. The costumes for all the characters as usual look good, except for Captain America. His look in The First Avenger (and The Winter Soldier) looked great, but his new outfit here looked a little ridiculous and it was a little hard to take him seriously, even if it looked more accurate to the comic book.

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The Avengers isn’t a perfect movie. The reason why Age of Ultron wasn’t received as well was because it wasn’t as much of a surprise the second time round, and audiences could pick up on the issues more. The Avengers’ plot isn’t particularly strong and not all of the characters are fully developed yet (Hawkeye) but even if it’s not a perfect movie, it’s still one of the most entertaining movies I’ve ever watched. It’s one of those movies I can watch again and again and never get tired of. This film should at the very least be commended for actually putting 6 superheroes on the screen at the same time and made it work. We’ll have to see if DC can do that with the Justice League.

Thor (2011) Review

Photo credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures / Marvel Studios
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in THOR, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment. 

© 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Thor

Time: 115 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig
Colm Feore as Laufey:
Ray Stevenson as Volstagg
Idris Elba as Heimdall:
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis
Rene Russo as Frigga
Anthony Hopkins as Odin:
Director: Kenneth Branagh

As the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of the Norse gods, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will soon inherit the throne of Asgard from his aging father. However, on the day that he is to be crowned, Thor reacts with brutality when the gods’ enemies, the Frost Giants, enter the palace in violation of their treaty. As punishment, Odin banishes Thor to Earth. While Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother, plots mischief in Asgard, Thor, now stripped of his powers, faces his greatest threat.

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Some people might be able to see Iron Man and Captain America on the big screen but they couldn’t have seen how they would’ve done Thor. He is so larger than life and he’s a superhero character based in a different type of universe. However this movie introduced Thor in a pretty good way and by the time The Avengers came around, we were all onboard for seeing Thor play a part. It’s not one of the best movies in the Marvel Universe but considering that director Kenneth Branagh had to introduce Thor, it’s impressive how well he did it.

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As I said before, this film does well at introducing Thor to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don’t think that having a fish out of water tale was the best way to introduce him but the movie still worked well and was lots better than you would initially think. One thing that I noticed is that the film succeeded most when it was taking place on Asgard. When it took place on Earth it was fine but it didn’t feel as strong. I will say at least all the Earth scenes served a purpose, it wasn’t just for bad comic relief (that would be saved for Thor: The Dark World). Speaking of comic relief, there’s quite a little bit of it, particularly with Kat Dennings and although it wasn’t great it wasn’t really bad either and didn’t distract much.

Photo credit: Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Studiosâ€(R)Left to right: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in THOR, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.â€(R)â€(R)© 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Chris Hemsworth nails the role of Thor, I personally think that out of all of the Avengers this is the toughest role to pull off. He needed to be larger than life but yet be three dimensional at the same time. Natalie Portman is quite good and does share good chemistry with Hemsworth. Tom Hiddleston does quite well as Loki, even though he’s not as strong as in later movies he is pretty effective as a villain here. Anthony Hopkins is also great as Odin, even though you don’t see much of him in the movie, he is really believable as this character.

Odin banishes Thor

As I said previously, the best scenes of the movie are once again when in Asgard but it’s not just because it’s more interesting, everything there looks grand and exciting. This is probably why I really liked the action in this movie, everything feels on a grand scale and although there isn’t a lot of it, when it was happening it looked great. This grand style would be sadly missing from Thor: The Dark World. That style really elevated the movie and made everything much more epic. This is a little bit of a nitpick but I should mention that there were a little too many dutch angles for my taste and sometimes it got distracting but it was fine for the most part.

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Thor expanded the Marvel Universe and showed that they could go into many areas of the comic book universe. It’s not one of the best movies in the MCU but it is good and it is definitely worth watching. Even if there were some parts that could’ve been improved, I think that Kenneth Branagh did pretty well at putting Thor on the big screen and I do think that he was a good pick for this movie. Thor: The Dark World would be a decent sequel but commit as many mistakes as the previous movie.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) Review

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The Avengers Age of Ultron

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Chris Evans as Steve Rodgers/Captain America
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlett Witch
Paul Bettany as Jarvis/Vision
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/The Falcon
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig
James Spader as Ultron
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Director: Joss Whedon

When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron (James Spader) emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for a global adventure.

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Avengers 2 was one of my most anticipated films of 2015, the first Avengers is one of the best superhero movies and did the impossible, combine many superheroes together in one movie and somehow made it work. Making a follow up to one of the most successful comic book movies is no easy task. Fortunately, this film manages to easily surpass that, I’d even say that I liked it slightly more than the first one. If you liked the first Avengers, you’re definitely going to enjoy this.

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The plot is well planned out and is entertaining all the way through. Although the plot is darker than the first movie, it still has the humour present in the first Avengers to lighten the mood. A lot of that has to do with the dialogue and the interactions between the characters which have some of the funniest moments. One thing that worked in the favour of this movie over the previous film is that the world and the characters are much more developed. I was hoping for some more Captain America: Civil War links but there were definitely some events here which will probably tie into that film. One thing left to mention is that there is one mid-credits scene, so you don’t need to stay to the end of the credits. It is quite exciting and although it’s not relating to Captain America 3, it’s making me even more excited in how the plotline will pay off in the future.

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As usual, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner continue to be great in their roles and as I said before, they are developed even more. One standout is Hawkeye, in the previous films he hadn’t really had much development but he makes up for it here and is now at the level of depth of the other Avengers. The new actors also do pretty well in their roles. Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen hold their own against the other avengers. James Spader gives a menacing and entertaining villain performance as Ultron. Some people complain about the Marvel villains and how most of them aren’t that strong, save for a couple like Loki and The Winter Soldier. I can tell you that Ultron is one of the best that this universe has had so far. Without spoiling too much, Paul Bettany gets to play a bigger role than in the previous movies, he’s great and I’m excited to see what part he plays in future Marvel films.

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The action scenes as usual are done very well, they up the stakes especially in the last act, making it bigger even than the battle of New York in the previous movie. My favourite action scenes were the Hulkbuster vs Hulk scene as well as the final battle, I’d even say that they are some of my favourite action scenes of the year so far.

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Since Iron Man, Marvel movies have never disappointed me. I even enjoyed some of the lesser films they released (Iron Man 2). If this year’s Ant Man impresses me, I’ll pretty much be 100% confident that every Marvel movie will be awesome. I’ve heard that this will be the last Marvel movie that Joss Whedon will be involved in, and all I can say is that this was a great film to leave on.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

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Good Will Hunting

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Matt Damon as Will Hunting
Robin Williams as Sean Maguire
Ben Affleck as Chuckie Sullivan
Minnie Driver as Skylar
Stellan Skarsgård as Gerald Lambeau
Director: Gus Van Sant

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a genius who works at a college in Boston. He’s discovered by Fields Medal winning Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) who eventually tries to get Will to turn his life around with the help of Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), as Will begins to realize that there’s more to himself then he thinks there is.

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Good Will Hunting has had a lot of attention and got a lot of good reviews but I never expected the level of greatness I was going to experience walking into this movie. Good Will Hunting succeeds as a coming to age story, a comedy, a drama and overall, it is very compelling and a wonder to behold. It is amazing from start to finish and is a film that really sticks with you afterwards. It is one of those films that are essential to watch at least once in your lifetime.

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The writing from both Ben Affleck and Matt Damon is truly flawless and well made; they must really understand the human psyche because all the characters feel very real and believable; in fact for me, this movie has the most believable characters I have seen in a movie so far. There are times in the movie that are really funny but there are also a lot of real drama moments that really catches people off guard. The drama in this movie is as well done as the comedy is and both tones are well used for the moments. The sadness also really hits hard, even I managed to feel the weight of the emotions and I’m not usually someone who feels emotion from a movie; Good Will Hunting also has many deep, personal messages that really got through to me. There is never a dull minute in this 126 minute long movie. The film is always interesting and that has a lot to do with the characters which are so perfectly acted.

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It goes without saying that this movie has great acting. Matt Damon plays probably the most complex character of his career here and he does such a great job becoming everything that his character is. Robin Williams is also fantastic here; he is usually known for being a comedic actor but here, he gives such a touching performance. Matt Damon and Robin Williams overall gave the best performances of their careers here and they play off each other really well; you can really see the connection between these two characters. Other actors like Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver and Stellan Skarsgard are also great in their roles and they all get their chances to shine in the film. Like I said previously, these characters are so believable and credit has to go to all of the actors in this movie who managed to do that. There isn’t a single performance that wasn’t good and they really takes the film deeper than it would have with different actors.

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The setting of Boston is well portrayed here. The cinematography here is good, though it’s not really the main focus of the movie; it’s the story and script, however even so, these simple shots used in the film somehow are quite effective. The score by Danny Elfman is great too – it really sets the mood.

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This movie should be seen by everyone as soon as possible if they haven’t seen it already; from start to finish, it takes the viewers on a captivating journey that never ceases to amaze me. With its brilliant acting, great writing and big emotional drama, it is a film that I will remember for years to come. Emotionally rich and fantastic, it is one of my favourite movies of all time and has made quite an impact on me.

R.I.P Robin Williams
July 21 1951 – August 11 2014

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Time: 158 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Acts of cruelty & rape, sexual violence & offensive language
Cast:
Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvist
Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander
Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger
Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger
Steven Berkoff as Dirch Frode
Robin Wright as Erika Berger
Yorick van Wageningen as Nils Bjurman
Joely Richardson as Anita Vanger
Director: David Fincher

After being successfully sued for libel by a wealthy industrialist, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) leaves his magazine Millennium and accepts an offer from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) to write the Vanger family history. What Henrik is most interested in learning however is what happened to his niece, Harriet Vanger, who he is certain was murdered by a member of his family in the summer of 1966. Mikael takes on the task and moves into a small cottage on the Vanger estate. Blomkvist eventually believes that her disappearance might have something to do with some serial killings that took place 20 years before she disappeared. He begins to decipher some of the clues Harriet has left behind and decides to get an assistant, computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), the woman who did the very thorough background check on him for Vanger. Together, they learn of some of the Vangers deep, violent secrets.

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I haven’t read the novels by Stieg Larsson or watched the original movies, but just from watching this movie, I should get around to looking at them sometime because of how much I loved this movie. David Fincher was the perfect director for this film, creating a chilling atmosphere and overall, a film that is always captivating and interesting with never a dull moment.

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Starting with a sleek, stylistic and dark opening animation which is accompanied with Trent Reznor and Karen O’s cover of Immigrant Song (Originally by Led Zeppelin) the film never lets up in being completely interesting. When you go into this movie, expect a dialogue driven movie, like Zodiac (another Fincher movie) but yet it is much more captivating. It is also worth knowing that this is a mystery movie that has a lot of details to take in. The film also mostly jumps between the perspectives of Lisbeth and Mikael before they meet about halfway into the movie. Despite the film being a bit long at 2 hours and 40 minutes I still was interested throughout the entire runtime. The film also concludes with a fitting ending that has me itching for the sequels.

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Rooney Mara was absolutely fantastic in this movie. From her performance alone, I can see that her character is extremely hard to portray but somehow, she pulls it off. Mara managed to really transform herself to become Lisbeth and on screen, she lives and breathes her. She has successfully managed personifies one of the most complex and interesting characters I have watched on screen. Daniel Craig is also really good here who also has great chemistry with Rooney Mara. Other actors like Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgard are also really good in their roles.

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David Fincher’s films always look great and this movie is no exception. The locations in Sweden are well made and the film looks downright beautiful when it takes place in winter. Incredibly, some of scenes used CGI, when all of the film looked like it was filmed with none of that. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is also really good and sets the mood for the location, particularly in the snow.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo proves again that David Fincher knows what he is doing behind the camera. It may not be the most pleasant film to watch but it is always eye catching with beautiful cinematography, a captivating tone and brilliant performances, mostly notable that being of Rooney Mara’s. It’s extremely hard for me to find any flaws in the movie and I’m looking forward to the sequels and I hope they get made.
9/10