REVIEW: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)

CAST

Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Rooney Mara (The Scoial Network)
Christopher Plummer (Star Trek 6)
Stellan Skarsgård (Thor)
Steven Berkoff (A Clockwork Orange)
Robin Wright (Nine Lives)
Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck)
Goran Višnjić (Elektra)
Geraldine James (Arthur)
Embeth Davidtz (Army of Darkness)
Alan Dale (Lost)
Julian Sands (Gotham)
Joel Kinnaman (Robocop 2014)
Donald Sumpter (Game of Thrones)
Tony Way (Edge of Tomorrow)
Martin Jarvis (Titanic)
Christine Adams (Black Lightning)
Élodie Yung (Daredevil)

In Stockholm, Sweden, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), co-owner of Millennium magazine, has lost a libel case brought against him by businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström (Ulf Friberg). Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant but troubled investigator and hacker, compiles an extensive background check on Blomkvist for business magnate Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), who has a special task for him. In exchange for the promise of damning information about Wennerström, Blomkvist agrees to investigate the disappearance and assumed murder of Henrik’s grandniece, Harriet, 40 years ago. After moving to the Vanger family’s compound, Blomkvist uncovers a notebook containing a list of names and numbers that no one has been able to decipher.

Salander, who is under state legal guardianship due to diagnosed mental incompetency, is appointed a new guardian, lawyer Nils Bjurman (Yorick van Wageningen), after her previous guardian Holger Palmgren suffers a stroke. Bjurman abuses his authority to extort sexual favors from Salander and violently rapes her, not realizing she has a hidden video camera on her bag. At their next meeting she stuns him with a stun gun, rapes him with a dildo, and marks him as a rapist with a tattoo on his chest and stomach. Threatening to disclose the video recording, she blackmails him into writing a glowing progress report and granting her full control of her money.

Blomkvist’s daughter Pernilla (Josefin Asplund) visits him and notes that the numbers from the notebook are Bible references. Blomkvist tells Vanger’s lawyer, Dirch Frode (Steven Berkoff), that he needs help with his research, and Frode recommends Salander based on the work she did researching Blomkvist himself. Blomkvist hires Salander to investigate the notebook’s content. She uncovers a connection to a series of murders of young women from 1947 through 1967, with the women either being Jewish or having Biblical names; many of the Vangers are known antisemites. During the investigation, Salander and Blomkvist become lovers. Henrik’s openly national socialist brother Harald identifies Martin (Stellan Skarsgård), Harriet’s brother and operational head of the Vanger empire, and Blomkvist marks Martin as a possible suspect. Salander’s research uncovers evidence that Martin and his deceased father, Gottfried, committed the murders.

Blomkvist breaks into Martin’s house to look for more clues, but Martin catches him and prepares to kill him. While torturing Blomkvist, Martin brags of having killed women for decades but denies killing Harriet. Salander arrives, subdues Martin and saves Blomkvist. While Salander tends to Blomkvist, Martin flees. Salander, on her motorcycle, pursues Martin in his SUV. He loses control of his vehicle on an icy road and dies when it catches fire. Salander nurses Blomkvist back to health and tells him that she tried to kill her father when she was 12. Blomkvist deduces that Harriet is still alive and her cousin Anita (Joely Richardson) likely knows where she is. He and Salander monitor Anita, waiting for her to contact Harriet. When nothing happens, Blomkvist confronts her, deducing that the woman posing as Anita is Harriet herself. She explains that her father and brother had sexually abused her for years, and that Martin saw her kill their father in self-defense. Her cousin Anita smuggled her out of the island and let her live under her identity. Finally free of her brother, she returns to Sweden and tearfully reunites with Henrik.

As promised, Henrik gives Blomkvist the information on Wennerström, but it proves worthless. Salander hacks into Wennerström’s computer and presents Blomkvist with evidence of Wennerström’s crimes. Blomkvist publishes an article that ruins Wennerström, who flees the country. Salander hacks into Wennerström’s bank accounts and, travelling to Switzerland in disguise, transfers two billion euros to various accounts. Wennerström is found murdered. Salander reveals to her former guardian Holger Palmgren that she is in love with Blomkvist. On her way to give Blomkvist a Christmas present, Salander sees him with his longtime lover and business partner Erika Berger (Robin Wright). Heartbroken, she discards the gift and rides away.I recommend it whether or not you have seen the original series. I also recommend you do check out the original series. If they do complete the rest of the trilogy, there will be opportunities in those movies to vastly outshine the originals, certainly if they include more detail from the books as they do here.

REVIEW: DREAM HOUSE

CAST

Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens)
Rachel Weisz (The Bourne Legacy)
Naomi Watts (Shut In)
Marton Csokas (The Equalizer)
Rachel G. Fox (Spork)
Elias Koteas (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Jane Alexander (The Ring)
Sarah Gadon (Dracula Untold)

Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig in Dream House (2011)In 2007, Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) leaves his job as a successful editor in New York in order to spend more time with his wife, Libby (Rachel Weisz), and their two daughters, as well as to write his own book. At first, the family appears to be happy in their new home, until they discover that its previous occupants, a mother and her two small daughters, were shot to death in the house. Public opinion has condemned the father, Peter Ward, as the person responsible, but there was not enough evidence to convict Peter in court and he was also deemed mentally unfit to stand trial. Ward has been recently released from police custody and Will begins to feel he is seeing Peter watching the house.Daniel Craig in Dream House (2011)Will visits Greenhaven Psychiatric facility, where Peter has been held for five years. He learns that on the night of the murders, Peter was shot in the head by his wife Elizabeth, who had somehow grabbed the murder weapon in the moments just before her death. In recovery, Peter could not believe he had committed the murders and so he no longer believed he was Peter Ward. He chewed his own name off all of his identification bracelets/cards/tags, leaving only his Greenhaven I.D. sequence, which revealed Peter Ward and Will Atenton to be the same person.Daniel Craig in Dream House (2011)Unable to believe this, Will rushes home and we see his home is actually run down and condemned. Peter visits his neighbor, Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts). Ann had been a good friend to the Wards and never believed Peter was the killer. Returning to the house, Peter remembers he was on the phone with Libby when she stumbled on a burglar, who shot the little girls and wounded Libby. Peter attacked the gunman and Libby accidentally shot Peter.Rachel Weisz in Dream House (2011)Ann’s ex-husband Jack and the gunman burst into the now-decrepit Ward home. It is revealed that the hit man had been hired to kill Ann, but broke into the wrong house and chose to kill the witnesses. Jack shoots the hit man in the abdomen before staging the scene so it will appear that Peter has murdered again before burning the house down. Peter regains consciousness in time to fight off Jack and rescue Ann. As Peter and Ann make it out of the house, Jack starts up the cellar steps but is doused with kerosene by the dying hit man, and Jack goes up in flames. The house burns to the ground. Some time later, Peter—now back in New York City—walks past a major bookseller’s window and sees that his book “Dream House” has become a number one national bestseller.Rachel Weisz in Dream House (2011)The acting is good, the thrilling scenes are good enough and the plot confusion doesn’t spoil the movie whole after all.

REVIEW: THE GOLDEN COMPASS

CAST
Nicole Kidman (Australia)
Daniel Craig (Tomb Raider)
Dakota Blue Richards (Skins)
Freddie Highmiore (Bates Motel)
Ian McKellen (The Hobbit)
Eva Green (Dark Shadows)
Ian McShane (Hercules)
Sam Elliott (Hulk)
Christopher Lee (Lord of The Rings)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Mission Impossible)
Kathy Bates (Misery)
Derek Jacobi (Gladiator)
Clare Higgins (Hellraiser)
At the beginning of the film, we learn that the story takes place in one of many alternate worlds, in which a person’s soul is contained within an animal companion called a dæmon (pronounced demon). The Magisterium, represented as a unified religious power, exercises power in the secular world. Lyra Belacqua, an orphan that resides in Jordan College, in a city that resembles Oxford, with her dæmon Pantalaimon (Pan), accidentally witnesses a Magisterium member poison her uncle’s bottle of Tokay. Lyra then warns her uncle, Lord Asriel, who instructs her to remain in hiding. Lyra watches Asriel give a presentation regarding Dust, a particle that the Magisterium has forbidden the mention of. The college gives Asriel a grant to fund a northern expedition. At dinner, Lyra meets Mrs. Coulter, who insists on taking Lyra north as her assistant. Before Lyra leaves, the Master of the college entrusts her with the only remaining alethiometer, a compass-like artifact that reveals the truth. The Magisterium has destroyed all the others. He instructs her to keep it secret, especially from Mrs. Coulter.
At Mrs. Coulter’s house in a city that resembles a futuristic London, Lyra mentions ‘dust’, a type of mysterious particle. This puts Mrs. Coulter on edge and she warns Lyra never to mention it again, and also insists that she leave the bag containing the aleithiometer. Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon (a golden monkey) attacks Pan, causing Lyra to give in. Lyra and Pan discover that Mrs. Coulter is head of the General Oblation Board, the “Gobblers”, who have been kidnapping local children. She also discovers that her best friend Roger and her Gyptian friend Billy have been taken by the Gobblers.
Lyra and Pan walk in on Mrs. Coulter’s dæmon attempting to steal the alethiometer. They escape into the streets. The “Gobblers” pursue her, but she is saved by some Gyptians. Aboard a Gyptian boat heading north to rescue their children, Lyra shows the alethiometer to a Gyptian wise man, Farder Coram. On deck that night Serafina Pekkala, the witch queen, tells Lyra that the missing children are in a place called Bolvangar. Mrs. Coulter sends two mechanical spy flies after Lyra and Pan; one is batted away but the other is caught and sealed in a tin can by Farder Coram, who explains that the spy fly has a sting with a sleeping poison. Lord Asriel is captured by Samoyeds hired by Mrs. Coulter on his expedition but he bribes his captors into releasing him.
At a northern port, Lyra is befriended by a Texan aeronaut named Lee Scoresby, who advises her to hire an armoured bear. Exiled in shame, the giant polar bear Iorek Byrnison has been tricked out of his armour by the local townspeople. Using the alethiometer Lyra tells Iorek where to find his armour. Armoured again, the fearsome Iorek and his friend Lee Scoresby join the trek northward. That night while riding on Iorek’s back, Lyra finds a cowering and changed Billy separated from his dæmon Salcilia. Lyra reunites Billy with his mother just as the group is attacked by Samoyeds who capture Lyra. Taken to the armoured bear king Ragnar Sturlusson, Lyra tricks him into fighting Iorek one on one. At first, Ragnar seems to have the upper hand in the fight, but Iorek eventually tricks his rival and kills him. He then becomes the new king. Iorek carries Lyra near to a thin ice bridge near Bolvangar. Reaching the station, Lyra is taken to eat with the missing children. While hiding again Lyra discovers that the Magisterium scientists, under the guidance of Mrs. Coulter, are performing experiments to sever the bond between a child and his or her dæmon. Caught spying, Lyra and Pan are thrown in the intercision chamber, and end up unconscious from the energy force that tries to cut them. On seeing Lyra in the guillotine, Mrs. Coulter rescues her and takes her to her quarters.
When Lyra wakes up she is comforted by a distraught Mrs. Coulter, who explains the dæmon cutting to Lyra and also tells Lyra that she is her mother. Lyra then guesses that Lord Asriel is her father. When Mrs. Coulter asks for the alethiometer, Lyra gives her the can containing the spy fly. The spy fly stings Mrs. Coulter, knocking her and her dæmon out. Lyra runs to the room with the intercision machine. The growing chain reaction builds as Lyra yanks a control box loose and hurls it into the intercision machine, causing it to explode. This sets off a series of explosions that tear the facility apart.
Outside, the children are attacked by Tartar mercenaries and their wolf dæmons. The battle is joined by Iorek, the Gyptians, and a band of flying witches led by Serafina Pekkala. The Tartars are defeated and the children are rescued. Rather than returning south, Lyra, Roger and Iorek fly north with Lee Scoresby in search of Lord Asriel. Unaware that he is in mortal danger, Lord Asriel has set up a laboratory to investigate the glowing Dust from another world.
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The Golden Compass is hardly Lord of the Rings as many had hoped for, but thankfully it looked it is very much worth watching.

REVIEW: THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN

CAST

Jamie Bell (King Kong 2005)
Andy Serkis (Lord of The Rings)
Daniel Craig (The Golden Compass)
Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz)
Simon Pegg (Shaun of The Dead)
Toby Jones (Captain America)
Mackenzie Crook (Solomon Kane)
Tony Curran (Gladiator)
Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride)
Sebastian Roché (The Originals)

Young journalist Tintin and his dog Snowy are browsing in an outdoor market in Brussels, Belgium. Tintin buys a miniature model of a ship, the Unicorn, but is then accosted by Barnaby and Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, who both unsuccessfully try to buy the model from Tintin. Tintin takes the ship home, but it is accidentally broken, resulting in a parchment scroll slipping out of the model and rolling under a piece of furniture. Meanwhile, detectives Thomson and Thompson are on the trail of a pickpocket, Aristides Silk. Tintin, later finds that the Unicorn has been stolen. He then visits Sakharine in Marlinspike Hall and accuses him of the theft when he sees a miniature model of the Unicorn, but when he notices that Sakharine’s model is not broken, he realizes that there are two Unicorn models. Once Tintin returns home, Snowy shows him the scroll. Moments later, Barnaby arrives at Tintin’s residence, but is fatally shot and killed. After reading an old message written on it, Tintin puts the scroll in his wallet, but it is stolen by Silk the next morning.
The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Later, Tintin is abducted by accomplices of Sakharine and imprisoned on the SS Karaboudjan. He learns that Sakharine formed an alliance with the ship’s staff and led a mutiny to take over control. On board, Tintin meets Captain Haddock, the ship’s nominal captain. Haddock is permanently drunk and thus unaware of the happenings on board his ship. Tintin, Haddock, and Snowy eventually escape from the Karaboudjan in a lifeboat but the ship’s crew tries to ram it. Presuming them to have survived, Sakharine sends a seaplane to find them, which the trio seize and use to fly towards the fictitious Moroccan port of Bagghar. They are forced to crash the seaplane in the desert, due to low fuel.
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While trekking through the desert, Haddock hallucinates and remembers facts about an ancestor of his, Sir Francis Haddock, who was a 17th-century captain of the Unicorn. Sir Francis’ treasure-laden ship was attacked by the crew of a pirate ship, led by Red Rackham. After defeating Red Rackham, Sir Francis sank the Unicorn and most of the treasure to prevent it from falling into Rackham’s possession. Sir Francis prepares three Unicorn models, each containing a scroll; together, the scrolls can reveal coordinates to the location of the sunken Unicorn and its treasure.
The third model is in Bagghar, possessed by Omar ben Salaad. In a concert by opera diva Bianca Castafiore, Sakharine causes a distraction allowing him to successfully steal the third scroll. Tintin gives chase, but Sakharine gains all the scrolls by ordering his gang to toss Captain Haddock and Snowy into the water, forcing Tintin to rescue them instead of saving the scrolls. Sakharine escapes, and Tintin is ready to give up but is persuaded by Haddock to continue. With help from officers Thomson and Thompson, Tintin and Haddock track Sakharine down, who is revealed to be a descendant of Red Rackham. They head back to their starting point and set up a trap, but Sakharine uses his pistol to resist arrest. His gang fails to save him, so Sakharine challenges Haddock to a final showdown. Sakharine and Haddock sword-duel with cranes and swords, but Sakharine is defeated and pushed overboard by Haddock. When climbing ashore, Sakharine is arrested by Thomson and Thompson. Tintin gathers the three scrolls and uncovers the solution to their riddle, leading him back to Marlinspike Hall. There, Tintin and Haddock find Red Rackham’s treasure and a clue to the Unicorn‍ ’s location in a walled-off room in the cellar. The film ends with both agreeing to continue their search of the shipwreck.
A fairly simple plot, very much in the style of adventure films both animated or not. The quality of animation is excellent throughout clearly a lot of effort has been put into the production. The film is quite fast paced,  The ending leaves the door  for other sequels.