Tag Archives: Fede Alvarez

Salander. Lisbeth Salander.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story

by George Wolf

This far along, it’s no surprise some freshness has wilted from the Lisbeth Salander franchise. But now, as the fourth book in Steig Larsson’s “Millennium” series makes it to the multiplex, some of its identity seems to be slipping away as well.

Claire Foy hops on the speed bike as the latest Lisbeth, Stockholm’s most infamous hacker/vigilante/all around badass. Her latest impossible mission is to recover a top secret computer program known as Firefall.

Developed by a weirdly tall code wizard (Stephen Merchant), the program can breach all missile defense systems and put them under the control of a single user. Though the program can’t be copied, it can be moved, and when the Americans steal it, Lisbeth is contracted to steal it back.

The job comes with plenty of attempts on her life and open wounds from the past, and as Lisbeth is pursued across Sweden by a Washington NSA agent (Lakeith Stanfield), her old pal Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) tries to help sort it all out.

Director/co-writer Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead) trades the cold, sterile atmospherics that marked the previous films for a more standard thriller tone. Despite a few nifty sleights of hand, the film always seems to be working from another’s playbook.

It’s less grisly, less ambitious and more comfortable settling for overly convenient plot turns and painting the female action hero in more of a male fantasy world. Salander has been an anti-Bond since book one, making this shift particularly disappointing.

For her part, Foy is a serviceable Salander but more of a blank slate. While Noomi Repace brought more instant menace and Rooney Mara more mystery, Foy can’t define her turn much beyond hurtful stares and beatdowns.

Spider’s Web is always watchable, and engaging enough to keep you invested. But Lisbeth became memorable by being uniquely compelling, not merely satisfactory.

Cabin Carnage for Your Queue

Oh glorious day, everyone – it’s here! Today we can take home and forevermore enjoy Fede Alvarez’s update to the Sam Raimi cult favorite Evil Dead. Groundbreaking amounts of gore accompany this sly reimagining of the beloved cabin in the woods horror. Expect bloody fantastic results.

One of the reasons Evil Dead works as well as it does is that there is already a “cabin horror” shorthand we all know, based on the array of stellar existing films. If you haven’t seen the film’s originator, do so now. If you haven’t seen Drew Goddard’s ingenious Cabin in the Woods, again, go do it right now. We’ll wait.

But for a hilarious, frightening, bloody mess you may have missed, try Dead Snow. Nazi zombies, everybody! Hell yes! Co-writer/director/Scandinavian Tommy Wirkola embraces our prior genre knowledge to mine for comedy without ignoring the scares. Wirkola’s artful imagination generates plenty of startles, and gore by the gallon.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz4KnSI_47c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pn_bwdUeiM

Weekend Countdown: Best films..so far..in 2013

The year’s half over. What were the  best films so far? Well, #1 opens this week at the Gateway. Have a look!

 

5. Evil Dead

Fede Alvarez remakes Sam Raimi’s beloved indie splatter fest with the right amount of respect (to the original), humor, and more than enough gore. This infectious bloodletting surprises even the most ardent fan of the original with ingenious twists, solid performances, and a script doctored brilliantly by Oscar winner Diablo  Cody.

 

4. This Is The End

Seth Rogan’s posse gathers for an end of the world party to lampoon their own images and spin a hilarious yarn about celebrity, the rapture, and Michael Cera’s cocaine habit. Jonah Hill’s demon possession is inspired comedy, but the film’s a clever, weirdly good-natured laugh riot from start to finish.

 3. Much Ado about Nothing

Thank God for nerds. Joss Whedon turns his considerable skill to breathing new life to Shakespeare, with the second big party on the list. Mining the Bard’s comedy for actual laughs, Whedon stacks his cast with hyper-talented buddies, and a scene-stealing Nathan Fillian alone is worth the price of admission.

 

2. Mud

Writer/director Jeff Nichols follows up his flawless (and criminally underseen Take Shelter) with another exquisite film. This coming of age tale about a boy, a disappearing way of life, and a fugitive named Mud charms and surprises.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv30J05U2nI

 

1. Stories We Tell

A fascinating, thoroughly entertaining documentary from Sarah Polley.  While laying bare the secrets in her own family history, Polley expertly speaks to all families, and the questionable truths in which we often take comfort.

 

Runners up: Star Trek Into Darkness, Before Midnight, Frances Ha, World War Z, To the Wonder, The Bling Ring, How to Make Money Selling Drugs  and The Iceman. Happy viewing!

Like Visiting an Old, Very Very Bloody Friend

By George Wolf

Back in ’the early 80s, a low budget horror flick called The Evil Dead got an unexpected boost from legendary author Stephen King. His  public endorsement thrust the obscure title into the spotlight, and on its way to cult status among horror fans. Evil Dead 2 followed in ’87, and then Army of Darkness in ’92. While the series grew increasingly campy, the original story of a deserted cabin, stupid kids and a certain book of the dead remains iconic.

It gets new life with Evil Dead, and fans that have been chomping at the bit will not be let down. The camp is long gone, replaced by solid writing and surprisingly steady direction. Oh, and blood, lots and lots of blood.

Director/co-writer Fede Alvarez, in his feature debut, isn’t concerned with Stooge-worthy splatter . His reboot lovingly reworks Sam Raimi’s tale, eliminating nearly all the humor but absolutely none of the bloodletting. Did I mention it’s bloody?

The film puts more backstory and character development in the mix, but the core remains. We find two couples and one sister holed up in an old cabin, but this time David (Shiloh Fernandez, a bit weak), his girlfriend and his buddies are there to help his sister Mia (Jane Levy, from TVs Suburgatory, in a fantastically gritty performance) quit her drug habit.

Though it’s impossible to pick out the contributions of each of the screenwriters updating Raimi’s script, certain elements – like this back story – scream of Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult, Jennifer’s Body), as an ingenious concept gives the film potential subtext by way of an unreliable narrator. Is this reality, or is Mia just insane and detoxing?

Solid writing and Alvarez’s gleefully indulgent direction allow the film – not only a remake, but a remake of a film that tread the overworn path of “cabin in the woods horror” – to remain shockingly fresh.  This is thanks in part to a handful of inspired tweaks, a couple fine performances, and a fearless but never contemptuous eye for carnage.

From the super-creepy opening sequence, Alverez’s update announces its fondness for the source material and his joyous aspiration to stretch that tale to its fullest, nastiest potential. He also shows a real skill for putting nail guns, machetes, hammers, electric meat slicers, hypodermics, even your standard bathroom mirror to fascinating new uses. Bloody, bloody uses.

It’s a quick,intense ride, but don’t be in a rush to leave the theater. For fans of the series, there’s a little gift at the end of the credits.

Bloody good fun!

4 stars (out of 5)