Tag Archives: Fede Alvarez

The Girl In The Spider’s Web (2018) Movie Review By Philip Henry

The Girl in the Spiders Web

Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez, Steven Knight & Jay Basu, based on characters created by Stieg Larsson
Stars: Claire Foy, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant

So after kicking the hornet’s nest and playing with fire, the girl with the dragon tattoo – Lisbeth Salander – is back. This time in the guise of Claire Foy who is probably best known for her starring roles in TV period dramas like The Crown, Wolf Hall and Upstairs, Downstairs. The actress clearly wanted to do something different and by swapping corsets for corpses she has done just that. A lot of critics have complained that Foy is too empathetic in a role already made famous by Noomi Rapace in the original Swedish version and later by Rooney Mara in David Fincher’s Hollywood remake, but I can only see this as a positive aspect of this film. Lisbeth still has very few lines and a huge chip on her shoulder, but the decision to give her less facial piercings and let her keep her eyebrows goes a long way to helping the audience identify with her.

The Stieg Larsson novels were published posthumously after the author died when he was just 50. His publisher was in possession of a huge manuscript which she later chopped into three novels and hoped they might sell 10,000 copies to cover the publication costs, but to date they have sold in excess of 80 million, so it’s no wonder they wanted to keep this franchise alive, even if its author was not. So a fourth (and fifth) novel was written by David Lagercrantz using Larsson’s characters. Diehard fans were not impressed by in large, and the fact that the screenplay for this film messes with the canon of the original novels has upset them even further.

I haven’t read the new novels, and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed with the originals either. The stories are good, but they all need a hell of an edit. To the best of my memory, the first book starts with 20-30 pages of pointless information and after the story climaxes and the baddie gets his just desserts, the book goes on for a further 100 pages of tedious epilogue. So I won’t be judging this film on how well it stands up against the books, just how it stands up as a film.

And I think it does pretty well as an action/ thriller. The story begins with a scene from Lisbeth’s childhood, revealing yet another fetish that these books love to tell us is going on in Swedish homes right below our noses. Young Lisbeth escapes leaving her sister with her perverted father. Then we skip ahead to present day and Lisbeth is doing what she loves to do; making men who hurt women pay. It’s a nice introduction to the character for newbies, but somewhat misleading as she is then hired for some James Bond style espionage and what should be her character’s main focus is sidelined to the B story.

Stephen Merchant has escaped Ricky Gervais’s clutches and written a piece of software that can access any country’s nuclear launch system via a laptop, but he’s having Oppenheimer-levels of regret now, thinking this thing he created isn’t safe in anyone’s hands and should be destroyed. So he asks Lisbeth to steal it from the NSA server in Washington, which she quickly does, and then some very sinister parties come looking for it, and some not so sinister, like the Swedish government…

‘Who do you think should have it; the Americans who are involved in every war, or Sweden, who has never gone to war with anyone?’ I suppose you can’t argue with that logic.

Cue some nice action, explosions and chases on Lisbeth’s famous motorcycle, on foot, and in a lovely Lamborghini Aventador. About half way through the movie things take another twist as someone from Lisbeth’s past shows up also wanting this software – go on, guess who it is!

OK, so the movie isn’t perfect. Some things you can see coming a mile away, and you could argue that Lisbeth’s ease at hacking anything with a microchip makes life very easy for her, but the film rattles along at a great pace and certainly from a commercial point of view I think it’s more accessible to the masses. Much as I think Fincher is a genius, I wouldn’t be surprised if this beats his adaptation at the box office just because it isn’t as bleak.

I must flag up a pet peeve of mine at this point: stupid kids in movies. You know that scene in nearly every thriller where the adult says: ‘Just stay here and you’ll be safe,’ and as soon as the adult is out of sight the kid moves towards danger right away, quite often for no apparent reason. I see this so often in films and TV shows and it drives me nuts! It’s really lazy storytelling. It happens in this film, too, and the kid in question is supposed to be a genius, but when his phone rings and the caller ID says it’s someone the kid saw with his brains blown out a few hours earlier, he doesn’t for a second think this might be an attempt to track him, he just answers expecting the dead man to be on the other end of the phone! Come on!!!!

Stupid kid aside, I enjoyed this incarnation of Stieg Larsson’s anti-heroine. The action scenes are well executed and the plot weaves like a Lamborghini through Sunday drivers. The end mirrors the beginning, leaving a big plot strand open and paving the way for a sequel if this one should deliver at the box office. I hope it does, as I could quite happily sit through another adventure with Lisbeth.

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Don’t Breathe (2016) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

Don't Breathe Review

Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez, Rodo Sayagues
Stars: Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette

Plot:  Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 88%   Audience 77%

Why I Watched It: Besides it being a horror film this got huge buzz, every year there seems to be a horror film that both critics and fans love and for 2016 this was the film, I actually got this on iTunes cause I really wanted to see it.

Random Thoughts: The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe something surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.  I add this definition cause being a horror/genre fan you pretty much have to do this during every film and for me when I’m asked as a viewer to do it too much it takes me out of the movie.  Like I said this film is well liked and I have to say I pretty much hated it and it comes down to this the film asked me to suspend my disbelief more than I was willing to do.  Horror films are funny cause you can pick them to death or you can sit back and just enjoy the ride.

What I liked: The film is shot well and they use the one setting very well, they made the house not only scary but foreign.  The idea of this film is very cool basically taking a Die Hard ripoff idea and turning it around the people breaking in are the ones in danger the one person is the threat.  The film is tense and it does build nicely.

The core of this film is Stephen Lang, a genre pro and a guy who can pull off being a bad guy but he’s the one outnumbered and blind.  He’s good here and he does even have that much dialogue he mostly speaks near the end of the film but he’s a presence and a physical actor.  I also liked Dylan Minnette who I’ve now seen in three different films in the last couple of months, he’s a likeable actor and in this film he’s the only likeable actor. The sound in this film is good and for the most part tech wise this is a solid film, well directed and set up.

What I Didn’t Like: Man I have a ton of problems with this film, so many stupid things so many things that took me out of the film.  None of this film holds up to any logic.  The leads are people who rob houses the only one with a reason for doing this is Jane Levy and it’s because she’s trapped in movie cliched trailer park hell, the one character called Money, don’t even get me started he robs a house they all don’t wear gloves and he pisses on the floor, now they say if we don’t still over $10,000 dollars worth of stuff it’s not a major crime, so does this mean the police don’t even investigate it.Also Minnette’s father works for a home security company but why does he have everyone’s keys.  None of this makes sense.

Here comes my major problems with the story, there’s some spoilers but I’ll try not to be too heavy handed.  So Lang the blind guy they want to rob cause he got money from when his daughter was killed in a hit and run, oh and he’s an army vet, and yes he’s the bad guy.  They go to his home and he has bars and all this stuff up but one window is left, this is the beginning of the lazy writing once they get into the house.  The film turns into one big idiot plot fest.  The break in, he doesn’t hear this he gets up actually walks by one of the them, he doesn’t sense anything but a little later he smells their shoes that they took off so they wouldn’t make noise, he smelled shoes.  This stuff just took me out of the movie and started my head shaking, now the big things I couldn’t get past is later in the film Land becomes this unkillable, all knowing monster, he gets to places way faster than humanly possible he also has a demon dog, now not really but no way in Benji could a real dog do half of this crap, a dog who jumps into a vent and goes after someone, really?

Also they sent up that this man lives in an area all by himself, it’s a ghost town except for him, they make Detroit look like a rotten city from the future, they do this so of course cause they’re lazy.  Now here comes the part where my jaw dropped, I’ll try to trend lightly here but we find out that Lang has a women in the basement, now he’s a blind guy, so he would have to have kidnapped her brought her home then trap her, and yes folks it gets worse cause after something happens he takes the Jane Levy character straps her up and then I kid you not grabs a turkey baster with his man seed and proceeds to tell her he’s going to impregnate her, just wrap your head around this, I mean if this was played like an over the top Roger Corman movie I would have went man that’s just screwed up but this is played straight, wow 87% Rotten Tomatoes.  If it’s possible the big finale is even worse as they get out of the house and did I mention the film starts with this scene of them out of the house, so we know where it’s headed in the opening shot.

Final Thoughts: This was a huge disappointment, I was honestly Gobsmacked at how bad this was, now I get I’m in the minority and usually I’m very forgiving with horror films but maybe the hype made me except more but I found this to be a very dumb and lazy written horror film that was all style over substance.

Rating: 2/10

Don’t Breathe (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

Don't Breathe Review

Director: Fede Alvarez
Writers: Fede Alvarez,  Rodo Sayagues
Stars: Stephen Lang,  Jane Levy,  Dylan Minnette

Fede Alvarez has created a simple, nerve shredding, thriller of an experience with the appropriately titled Don’t Breathe. Focusing on the nefarious activities of three young burglars as they attempt to rob a blind, war veteran of a reported hidden fortune he received following the death of his daughter. What should be the easiest robbery there is turns to disaster and things don’t play out as intended.

The film begins promisingly, from an aesthetic point at least, with a stunning, if not slightly unnerving overhead pan down to a man dragging an unconscious woman by the hair up an abandoned street. From a story perspective, however, the opening half hour isn’t quite so promising, as it tries to flesh out the motivations of the three burglars; Rocky (Jane Levy); Alex (Daniel Zovatto); Money (Dylan Minette) and the early foundations of the robbery. Rocky has the biggest motivation to pursue the potentially lucrative robbery, with a young sister to look after and living out a miserable existence with two idiotic parental figures; whilst Alex, the son of a respected police officer, has the least. Meanwhile, Money, the main architect behind the robbing of the blind man, is mouthy, a wannabe gangster, and if truth be told, a bit of a dick.

Thankfully, the pace steps up nicely once the story moves beyond the fairly short character development and brazen stakeout scene. The stakeout whilst offering nothing of any real note to the overall story, does do an effective job of highlighting the sheer isolation the blind man finds himself living in, with the entire neighbourhood appearing abandoned and badly run down. The trio make their move on the house in the dead of night, why they thought this would be necessary when robbing a blind man living in isolation is still something of a mystery, but nonetheless they did and almost immediately they meet the first of many obstacles in the form of the mans menacing Rottweiler that’s lying in wait behind the gate. Money drugs the animal, but their progress is halted shortly afterwards with no obvious way inside. The vast majority of the windows are barred and the doors, including one to the basement, are securely locked. Rocky soon spots a window on the second floor and volunteers to climb through, which she does after some short bickering from an apprehensive Alex.

The whole tone of the film changes the moment she enters the house. Alvarez cranks the tension up instantaneously, with small noises such as glass shards hitting the floor becoming excruciatingly loud. This brooding tension only increases when the blind man (Stephen Lang), who somehow avoided being knocked out by gas released into his room, appears downstairs after the idiotic Money ignores the others pleas and needlessly fired a gun. The next scene plays out as a sort of microcosm of the story in general, when Money completely underestimates the hardened war veteran, fails in a pathetic attempt to intimidate him with the gun and then gets choked out and shot dead for his troubles. A horrified Rocky, standing nearby and at this point still undetected, has to hold in her emotions and makes a retreat to the adjacent closet, whilst Alex, who earlier left in disgust at Money’s attitude, foolishly decides to re-enter the house.

What’s plays out next is a deadly game of cat and mouse between the remaining intruders and the increasingly enraged blind man. There’s so many painfully, claustrophobic moments of silence and tension throughout involving Rocky and Alex narrowly avoiding detection or death whilst sharing tight spaces with their pursuer. There’s also a multitude of different twists and shocks, including a disturbing, gruesome one involving a baster that I’d rather not reveal in too much detail. These are extremely effective in completely changing the dynamic of the story and who you’re rooting for or against. There’s also an abundance of fake-outs, where the two intruders look home and dry, but then get pulled right back into the little house of horrors, sometimes literally, for more terrifying ordeals. And my god that scene with Rocky and the Rottweiler inside the crawl space made my toes curl in a moment of sheer unadulterated panic.

Lang is outstanding in this film and streets ahead of his co-stars as the blind man. Don’t Breathe isn’t particularly dialogue heavy and the little present within isn’t going to win any awards. In complete contrast to Patrick Stewart’s masterful colloquial performance as the villain in the genre sharing Green Room, Lang has to rely solely on his lean, brawny, physical attributes and an extremely unsettling presence to flesh out his menacing villain. And he manages to do this extremely well. The only real standout from the rest of the cast is Jane Levy, who shares the biggest chunk of screen time with Lang and puts in a decent enough performance. I’m going to go ahead and give a shoutout to that Rottweiler too, who genuinely performed better than Dylan Minette’s Money.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Breathe, but it’s certainly not without its faults. As previously mentioned; the film is slow to start, especially in the first half hour; it’s extremely sparse on meaningful dialogue; the burglars are cartoonishly basic in their motivations, with little to no development as the story progresses and the blind man transforms into an almost supernatural, Michael Myers-esque character as the film enters the final act. The latter was perhaps the most disappointing aspect of an otherwise fun, realistic and highly enjoyable horror.