The Girl in the Spider’s Web Movie Review

In 2011, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo billed itself as the “feel bad” movie of the Christmas season. It was an apt description due to its bleak subject matter stemming from the series of Stieg Larsson bestsellers. However, the film itself left a very positive impression with its stylish direction from David Fincher and fine lead performances from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

It’s taken some time for Hollywood to come up with their second iteration of the franchise (there were three Swedish entries a decade ago). This time around, the players from Tattoo are MIA and they wisely removed themselves. Fincher only executive produces. Mara’s Oscar nominated turn as Lisbeth Salander is now portrayed by Claire Foy. Craig’s journalist Mikael Blomkvist is now represented by Sverrir Gudnason. The harsh material and winter that accompanies it are still present.

Unlike the 2011 adaptation, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (based on David Lagercrantz’s book following Larsson’s death) is not an example of bad meaning good. Sadly it’s just plain bad most of the time. In ways that were only hinted at in Tattoo, Lisbeth’s backstory is explored in detail here. She’s a child of a nasty abusive father that she managed to escape from. Her mission of avenging women from lousy men is provided more context. Lisbeth has a sister that didn’t get to loosen herself from her father’s grip. And she grows up to be Sylvia Hoeks’s character, who inherits many of the sadistic patriarchal traits.

Web has a tangled plot involving a McGuffin that reveals the global nuclear codes (how familiar). Lisbeth is hired by a conflicted programmer (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve it. The programmer, in a lame plot twist, has a young son who is the only one capable of unlocking the device’s codes. The American government, led by a sullen NSA agent (LaKeith Stanfield), want it back. So does Lisbeth’s sibling and her bevy of thugs who go by “The Spiders”.

I haven’t mentioned Blomkvist yet. He’s in the picture for plenty of minutes. As played by Gudnason, he’s also totally forgettable. The romantic dynamic between that character and Lisbeth was the bloody heart of Tattoo. Here it’s basically ignored and inconsequential. Mara and Craig clicked in the predecessor. Blomkvist is a dull blank slate in this.

Fede Alvarez is behind the camera and he’s a talented filmmaker as proven by his Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe. He does his best to bring some visual flair and succeeds a few times. He’s no Fincher though. Many of the action sequences are routine. I don’t look for plausibility in stuff like this. Yet the sight of Lisbeth getting herself out of impossible scenarios over and over again based on her being a walking super computer grows tiresome.

Foy is a fine actress who tries her best to provide some emotional heft to the lead role. This pseudo-sequel doesn’t deserve her. Tattoo made its feel bad mark in highly satisfying fashion. Spider’s Web feels like a fake.

*1/2 (out of four)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/08/18): And another revision down to $9.4 million

Blogger’s Note (11/05/18): I am revising my estimate down to $11.7 million from original estimate of $13.7 million

The Girl in the Spider’s Web makes its way to stateside multiplexes next weekend nearly seven years after David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mr. Fincher is nowhere to be found nor is Rooney Mara as computer hacking heroine Lisbeth. Claire Foy takes over the title role with Don’t Breathe maker Fede Alvarez directing. Costars include Sverrir Gudnason, LaKeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant, and Vicky Krieps.

It’s based on the wildly popular series of novels began by the late Stieg Larsson. This one in particular is adapted from the 2015 book by David Lagercrantz. The long layoff and different personnel involved could present some box office challenges. Reviews are mixed thus far as it stands at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s also direct competition in the form of Overlord, which will be vying for much of the same audience.

Comparing numbers with Tattoo is a tricky proposition. That eagerly awaited pic’s traditional opening weekend number was $12.7 million, but that’s with a huge asterisk. It opened Christmas weekend of 2011 when the holiday fell on a Sunday. Tattoo rolled out on Wednesday and Monday was counted as part of a long weekend. So its six-day earnings totaled out to $27.8 million. At the end of its run, it made $102 million.

Web is highly unlikely to approach those earnings. While it certainly could technically match Tattoo‘s traditional Friday to Sunday debut, there will be none of that extra holiday dough. I actually think a fair comp is September’s Peppermint with Jennifer Garner at $13.4 million and that’s right in the range of where I have Spider landing.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web opening weekend prediction: $9.4 million

For my The Grinch prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/the-grinch-box-office-prediction/

For my Overlord prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/overlord-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

On November 9, The Girl in the Spider’s Web drops in theaters stateside. It had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival and reviews are out. The film is a continuation of adaptations of the bestselling Swedish crime novels originated by Stieg Larsson (this particular book was penned by David Lagercrantz). If it seems odd to have an Oscar Watch post up for the thriller, don’t forget that 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo nabbed five nominations: Best Actress (Rooney Mara), both Sound races, Cinematography, and Editing (which it won).

This version finds Claire Foy taking over the lead role of Lisbeth as she follows in the footsteps of Mara and Noomi Rapace before that. Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez takes over top duties after David Fincher made Dragon. Costars include Sverrir Gudnason, Sylvia Hoeks, LaKeith Stanfield, Stephen Merchant, and Vicky Krieps.

Early reaction is quite mixed and Web appears highly unlikely to match the many kudos that went to Fincher’s film. Critics are pointing out Foy as a highlight, but I wouldn’t look her to be a factor at all in Best Actress. Lucky for her, she is a definite factor in Supporting Actress with the already released First Man.

Bottom line: while Tattoo garnered Academy attention, don’t look for voters to stamp their approval here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Girl on the Train Movie Review

The Girl on the Train isn’t skillfully made enough to realize its own trashiness. This differs greatly from David Fincher’s Gone Girl, which embraced its pulpy source material and had lots of fun with it. Based on a huge bestseller by Paula Hawkins, Train takes itself too seriously to be the guilty pleasure it ought to be. That’s a shame because Emily Blunt’s central performance continues her fine work rolling along.

She plays Rachel, a divorced alcoholic who spends the bulk of her time on the titled mode of transportation. Her boozy travels send her past her old home, where her ex (Justin Theroux) lives with his new wife and old mistress (Rebecca Ferguson) and baby. It is two houses down, however, where Rachel’s chemically imbalanced imagination is running wild. This is where Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans) reside and the passenger watching them envisions their relationship to be the one she pines for. Of course, there’s far more beneath the surface and that goes for all the characters involved.

When Rachel realizes there’s more to the facade she’s conjured for the couple, it leads to a mystery and a disappearance that involves Allison Janney’s detective. It leads to questioning Rachel’s whereabouts on a typical blackout drunken evening. I suppose, too, it eventually leads to a twist that is one you’re likely to pick up on earlier than you should. Whether this is designed that way is something I don’t know, but it’s a flaw nonetheless.

Our title character’s abuse of her own body and mind and other abuses I won’t reveal gives Blunt a chance to shine. Her performance is really the only one worthy of note, though Bennett does have a couple moments of her own. The story is told in a flashback style that gives all the women some backlog, but it’s Rachel who merits our attention. If only director Tate Taylor didn’t seem intent on pushing a dour vibe instead of recognizing this is vacation paperback material, this could’ve worked better. Blunt almost makes it worth the trip, but not quite.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar History: 2011

For the Academy Awards, 2011 will forever be known as the year when a French black and white silent film came out of nowhere to win three major categories, including Best Picture. That would be The Artist and it picked up momentum over its rivals, becoming one of the more unlikely recipients of the prize in some time.

During that year, the number of Picture nominees was nine and it beat out The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. 

As for some others I may have considered, my favorite film of the year was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Another personal favorite: David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Furthermore, the expanded list of nominees could have given the Academy a chance to nominate some of the better blockbusters that year: Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol for example.

The Artist‘s auteur Michel Hazanavicius would win Director over stellar competitors: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). Again, Mr. Refn and Mr. Fincher would have made my cut.

The Artist love continued in Best Actor where Jean Dujardin took the prize over Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Gary Oldman in his first (??) nomination (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball).

I may have found room for Ryan Gosling’s silent but strong work in Drive or perhaps even Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love – in which he showed off real dramatic acting chops coupled with his comedic abilities for the first time.

Awards darling Meryl Streep took Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher (no relation) in The Iron Lady. Othern nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

The Academy’s penchant for ignoring comedy was shown here as Kristin Wiig should have merited consideration for her megahit Bridesmaids.

Beloved veteran Christopher Plummer won Supporting Actor for Beginners over Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Two others I may have made room for: Albert Brooks in Drive and especially the brilliant motion capture work of Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Octavia Spencer was victorious in Supporting Actress for The Help over her costar Jessica Chastain, as well as Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Melissa McCarthy in the rare nod for comedy in Bridesmaids, and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs).

Two other comedic performances worthy of consideration: Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids and Jennifer Aniston’s scene stealing work in Horrible Bosses. I also would have found room for Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.

And that’s your Oscar history for 2011, folks! I’ll have 2012 up in the near future.

Oscar History: 2010

In my ongoing series of Oscar History posts, we arrive at what happened during the year 2010. This was quite a strong year for movies and, unlike other years, I can’t really quibble with the ten pictures that were nominated.

I can, however, differ with what won: Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech. While this was a very solid and entertaining picture, I would have definitely put at least three of the other nominees above it: Black Swan, Inception, and my favorite of the year, The Social Network. Other nominees were 127 Hours, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone. 

Picture/Director matched up as Tom Hooper’s work in King’s Speech would win over Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), David Fincher (The Social Network), and David O. Russell (The Fighter). I may have found a spot for Christopher Nolan’s visually striking work in Inception. 

The love for The King’s Speech continued in Best Actor as Colin Firth was honored for his portrayal as King George VI. He triumphed over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), and James Franco (127 Hours). It’s worth noting that Franco co-hosted the Oscars that year with Anne Hathaway. It wasn’t too memorable.

While his supporting players were showered with love, Mark Wahlberg was snubbed for his anchoring performance in The Fighter. Others worthy of mention: Leonardo DiCaprio in either Inception or Shutter Island and Robert Duvall for Get Low.

Natalie Portman was a bit of a no-brainer pick for her tour de force work in Black Swan in the Actress race, beating out Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

I was a little surprised to see Bening’s Kids lead costar Julianne Moore left out. Franco’s co-host Anne Hathaway would’ve been a solid choice for her fine work in Love and Other Drugs. The Oscar voters rarely honor comedy, but they could have here with Emma Stone in her hit Easy A, as well.

Supporting Actor honored Christian Bale as Mark Wahlberg’s drug addicted brother in The Fighter. The other nominees were John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), and Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech).

I might have found room for either Andrew Garfield or Justin Timberlake in The Social Network. And keeping the snubbed comedy theme going, here’s an outside the box mention: Rob Corddry for his hilarious work in Hot Tub Time Machine.

The Fighter also won in Supporting Actress with Melissa Leo, who edged out her co-star Amy Adams. The other nominees: Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech, Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit, and Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. The voters could have certainly nominated either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey for their roles in Black Swan.

And that’s your Oscar History of 2010, my friends. We’ll get to 2011 soon…

Oscar Watch: Steve Jobs

As I’ve made my initial round of Oscar predictions over the past few days on the blog, it seemed somewhat safe to place Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs as a nominee for Best Picture and Director. Same goes for Michael Fassbender in the Actor race as he plays the late tech genius title character and Kate Winslet in Supporting Actress playing a member of Steve’s original MAC team.

Last night, the pic debuted at the Telluride Film Festival and critics are mostly loving what they’re seeing. Fassbender’s work has particularly been singled out and it seems highly unlikely that his name won’t be among the five in Best Actor. Winslet seems like a fairly safe bet as well. In Supporting Actor, Jeff Daniels seems more likely than Seth Rogen but I didn’t include either in my first round of predictions and stick by it (for now).

Several reviewers have noted Jobs as a companion piece to 2010’s The Social Network, David Fincher’s terrific tale of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Some have even said Jobs is better. That bodes extremely well for its chances at Picture and Director nods. It also seems virtually guaranteed that Aaron Sorkin will see his screenplay recognized in Adapted Screenplay. Steve Jobs is out October 9.

As the film festivals continue to roll out, look for several posts in the next few days outlining pictures likely to be in the mix and others that may not be.