REVIEW: THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB

Starring

Claire Foy (Season of The Witch)
Sverrir Gudnason (Borg vs McEnroe)
Lakeith Stanfield (Death Note)
Sylvia Hoeks (Blade Runner 2049)
Stephen Merchant (Logan)
Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread)
Claes Bang (Jungle Child)
Synnøve Macody Lund (Headhunters)
Cameron Britton (The Umbrella Academy)

Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)In Stockholm, Sweden, vigilante hacker Lisbeth Salander is hired by computer programmer Frans Balder to retrieve Firefall, a program capable of accessing the world’s nuclear codes that he developed for the National Security Agency, as Balder believes it is too dangerous to exist. Lisbeth successfully retrieves Firefall from the NSA’s servers, attracting the attention of agent Edwin Needham, but is unable to unlock it, and the program is later stolen from her by mercenaries led by Jan Holtser, who also attempt to kill Lisbeth. When she does not attend their scheduled rendezvous, Balder mistakenly believes Lisbeth decided to keep Firefall for herself and contacts Gabrielle Grane, the deputy director of the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), who moves Balder and his young son August to a safehouse. Meanwhile, Needham tracks the unauthorized login to Stockholm and arrives to seek Lisbeth and Firefall.Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)Lisbeth asks her hacker friend Plague for help and they contact Lisbeth’s former lover, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, for help identifying her assailants. Blomkvist learns Holtser previously worked for Lisbeth’s late father, crime lord Alexander Zalachenko, and is now affiliated with an elusive international crime syndicate known as “The Spiders”. Lisbeth puts surveillance on Balder’s safehouse, and when it is attacked, intervenes to protect Balder and his son. She is intercepted by Holtser, who kills Balder, frames Lisbeth, and kidnaps August. Lisbeth pursues them in a stolen police car and is able to rescue August and take him to another safe house, where she confirms that he is the only one capable of unlocking Firefall.Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)Elsewhere, Needham locates Lisbeth’s girlfriend Sofia and persuades her to arrange a meeting between them, intending to lure Lisbeth into a trap, but Lisbeth manages to evade him, and Needham is later arrested by Grane. Lisbeth helps him escape in exchange for Needham safely escorting August back to the United States to be reunited with his mother, and begrudgingly agrees to give him Firefall as well. The Spiders later attack Lisbeth’s safe house and kidnap August once again. Lisbeth and Blomkvist manage to escape, and Lisbeth learns that their leader is her twin sister Camilla Salander, whom Lisbeth believed to be dead. When they were children, Lisbeth decided to run away from their abusive father, and when Camilla hesitated, Lisbeth left her behind. After years of torture, Camilla faked her suicide and went underground to form the Spiders.Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)Camilla and the Spiders take August to her base of operations at the sisters’ childhood home. Grane had hired the Spiders to retrieve Firefall for her and informed them of Balder’s location, but Camilla kills Grane instead. Lisbeth, Blomkvist, Plague and Needham track August to the building, and Lisbeth breaks in to give Plague access to the building’s surveillance system, but is caught and taken to the room where August is being held, where she learns that Blomkvist has also been captured. When Camilla threatens to torture him. Lisbeth tells August to trust her and reveal the password to Firefall. Camilla then tries to suffocate Lisbeth by wrapping her in a rubber coating and suctioning out all the air, while describing the abuse she suffered at the hands of their father.The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)Armed with a sniper rifle and guided by Plague, Needham eliminates Camilla’s henchmen, saving August and Blomkvist, while Camilla escapes with the laptop containing Firefall. Lisbeth escapes, Holtser, having been injected with a poison that induces blindness, stumbles around in a forest and gets hit by Camilla’s car, causing the vehicle to plunge into the woods. An injured Camilla escapes from the crash site. Lisbeth pursues her to a nearby cliff, where Camilla tearfully asks why she never returned for her; Lisbeth responds by telling her sister that she chose to remain with their family rather than escape with her. It is then that Camilla realizes the error of her ways, but she ends up committing suicide by jumping off the cliff – despite her sister’s objections; though she mourns Camilla’s death, Lisbeth retrieves the laptop in the snow.The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)On his way back to the United States with August, Needham attempts to access Firefall, only to discover Lisbeth has already destroyed it, citing it is what Balder would have wanted, while Lisbeth later burns down her childhood home to destroy all traces of her father.Sverrir Gudnason and Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)The visual presentation is pretty darn good. Director Fede Alvarez, who did the Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe has honed his skills in dark action visuals. I found there to be some pretty impressive and at times freaky imagery in this. The fight scenes, though often brief, are well executed. As a whole, the movie looks good in general with a couple really nice shots. Though Claire Foy does an admirable job as a decent job as Lisbeth Salander, she doesn’t compare to Noomi Rapace or Mara Rooney. (Same can be said for the guy who played Blomkvist.) In fairness to Foy, the film pulls more punches as Lisbeth’s anti-social/on-the-spectrum traits are toned down and the character feels a bit more average. Props should be give to Sylvia Hoeks as the villain. She is effectively unsettling. This movie will probably infuriate some fans. It’s impure. I would actually recommend this more to casual viewers.

REVIEW: SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011)

CAST

Nicolas Cage (Ghost Rider)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Claire Foy (Going Postal)
Ulrich Thomsen (The Thing)
Stephen Campbell Moore (The Bank Job)
Stephen Graham (This Is England)
Christopher Lee (The Hobbit)
Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Brian F. O’Byrne (Flashforward)
Robert Sheehan (Mortal Engines)

In Villach in the year 1235, three women are accused of witchcraft by a priest. While one claims to be a witch through persuasion from the church, one denies it, another does neither and curses the priest. He orders them hanged and drowned. That done, he urges the guards to pull them back up for a ritual to make sure the so-called witches never come back to life. The guards refuse, claiming they are dead enough. The priest returns late at night to perform the ritual. One of the corpses, one of a hag with a blind eye suffers a seizure but dies, While another corpse, a younger woman takes on a demonic appearance and kills the priest and burns his book with the rites in it.In the 14th century, Teutonic Knights Behmen von Bleibruck (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) are engaged on a crusade, taking part in several different battles throughout the 1330’s (1332 Gulf of Edremit, 1334 Siege of Tripoli, 1337 Imbros & 1339 Artah) and eventually in the Smyrniote crusades. After witnessing the massacre of civilians during the 1344 capture of Smyrna, the two knights desert the Order and the crusade and return to Austria.While traveling through Styria, Behmen and Felson encounter the grotesque sight of people infected with the Black Death and discover that the Holy Roman Empire has been swept by the plague. They enter an unnamed town, trying to conceal their identity as deserters, but are revealed as knights by the crest on Behmen’s sword. They are arrested and taken to Cardinal D’Ambroise, who is infected with the plague. The Cardinal asks the knights to escort an alleged witch suspected of causing the plague to a remote monastery, where an elite group of monks reside. These monks can determine if the girl is truly a witch, and if she is found guilty, know a sacred ritual to cancel her powers and stop the plague that is devastating Europe. The two knights agree under the condition she be given a fair trial and that the charges of desertion against them be dropped. The Cardinal agrees and they set out accompanied by a priest, Debelzaq; a young altar boy, Kay von Wollenbarth, who wants to become a knight like his deceased father; a knight, Johann Eckhardt, whose family was killed by the plague; and the well-traveled swindler Hagamar, who will serve as their guide to the monastery in return for a pardon. The witch, a young girl later identified as Anna from Marburg, shows hatred towards Debelzaq and forms a bond with Behmen.Shortly after setting off, the group camp for the night. Johann decides to take first watch. When Debelzaq comes to relieve him of the watch, Johann says how much she remind him of his dead daughter, then goes on to speak of the politics of her trial, and how the Church cannot have her not be guilty. Johann decides to give up the mission and goes to convince the others to do the same, leaving Anna alone with Debelzaq. Anna becomes hysterical at the prospect of being left alone with Debelzaq. She attacks him and grabs his key to the cage, then escapes, fleeing toward a nearby village. The search for her leads the group to a mass grave, where Eckhart has visions of his dead daughter. Chasing the visions, he impales himself on Kay’s sword and dies. When they recapture her, the tearful Anna explains that she only ran away for fear of Debelzaq. However the group gradually becomes less trusting of her. They cross a rickety rope bridge, where Anna saves Kay from falling to his death by grabbing him with one hand, showing unnatural strength. The group enters the dark forest called Wormwood, where Hagamar attempts to kill Anna so that the group can go home, only to be stopped by the others. Anna appears to summon monstrous wolves, which chase the group and kill Hagamar. An enraged Behmen tries to kill Anna, but is stopped by Debelzaq and Felson, who point out that the monastery is in sight.At the monastery, the men find that all the monks have been killed by the plague, but locate the Key of Solomon, an ancient book filled with holy rituals used to defeat evil. The men confront Anna, and Debelzaq begins to perform a ritual used on witches. However, as Anna begins precisely recounting Behmen’s past actions during the Crusades, Debelzaq realizes that she is not a witch, and begins frantically performing an exorcism. However, the demon that is possessing Anna reveals himself and melts the metal of the cage. He fights off the knights effortlessly, but when Debelzaq throws a vial of holy water on him, the demon flies out of sight. As the men search for the demon, they realize he is not trying to escape, but to destroy the book so that nothing can stop his powers. They find a room where the monks were writing copies of the book, where the demon, revealing himself to be Baal, destroys the copies and possesses the dead monks’ bodies to use as weapons. The three men fight the possessed monks while Debelzaq continues the exorcism ritual. During the fight, Baal/Anna breaks Debelzaq’s neck, then kills Felson.Kay picks up the book and continues the ritual, while Behmen continues fighting Baal/Anna. Behmen is mortally wounded during the fight, but Kay is able to finish the ritual and Baal is expelled from Anna’s body, freeing her. Behmen asks Kay to keep Anna safe and then dies of his wounds. Kay and Anna bury their fallen friends. Anna asks Kay to tell her about the men who saved her. They depart from the monastery with the book.

Season of the witch was a far better film than critics and fellow moviegoers lead you to believe. If you want to see a fun yet dark heroic adventure, go see Season of the Witch!

REVIEW: THE LADY IN THE VAN

Starring

Maggie Smith (Harry Potter)
Alex Jennings (Belle)
Roger Allam (The Book Thief)
Deborah Findlay (Maigret)
Jim Broadbent (Paddington)
Claire Foy (The Crown)
Cecilia Noble a(Rate me)
Gwen Taylor (Heartbeat)
Frances de la Tour (Alice Through The Looking GLass)
Nicholas Burns (Benidorm)
Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter)
James Corden (One Chance)
David Calder (Rush)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Samuel Barnett (The History Boys)
Sacha Dhawan (Iron Fist)

Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings in The Lady in the Van (2015)The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett’s strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, a crabby, eccentric and insanitary homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home “for three months”. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a gifted former pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for whose death she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings in The Lady in the Van (2015)Much of the dialogue is between two versions of Bennet – his “real self” and his “writer self”.Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van (2015)During her 15-year stay in his drive, Bennett balances his writing career with watching over Shepherd and providing for his increasingly invalid mother. Though he denies “caring” for anyone, he slowly becomes aware of his growing friendship with Shepherd. After coming home early from a day centre he sent her to, she dies peacefully in her sleep in her van. Alan decides to write a memoir covering the years he’s known her. In 2014, the real Bennett is shown observing this film’s final scene being filmed: his younger selves unveiling a plaque on his home dedicated to “The Lady in the Van”.Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van (2015)It’s not the biggest dramedy out there and not even the funniest, but The Lady in the Van is bound to please just about anyone. And like the titular character, it’s a film hard to love, but once you do, it’s equally hard to resist.