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Underworld: Blood Wars (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)

April 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

Images courtesy of © 2017 Lakeshore Entertainment Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Underworld: Blood Wars

DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2017

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmost (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, French

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (Strong Bloody Violence and Some Sexuality)

RELEASE DATE: April 25, 2017


Based on the Characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len wiseman, Danny McBride

Directed by Anna Foerster

Screenplay by Cory Goodman

Story by Kyle Ward, Cory Goodman

Producer: David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright

Co-Producer: David Minkowski, Jackie Shenoo, Matthew Stillman

Executive Producer: James McQuaide, Ben Waisbren, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Music by Michael Wandmacher

Cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub

Edited by Peter Amundson

Casting by Julie Hutchinson, Maya Kvetny, Suzanne Smith

Production Design by Ondrej Nekvasil

Art Direction by Bryce Tibbey, Martin Vackar

Set Decoration by Beatrice Brentnerova

Costume Design by Bojana Nikitovic


Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Theo James as David

Tobias Menzies as Marius

Lara Pulver as Semira

Charles Dance as Thomas

James Faulkner as Cassius

Peter Andersson as Vidar

Clementine Nicholson as Lena

Bradley James as Varga

Daisy Head as Alexia

Oliver Stark as Gregor

Sveta Driga as Amelia


In the next installment of the blockbuster franchise, Vampire death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.


With the success of the “Underworld” films, the fifth film “Underworld: Blood Wars” continues the storyline about the war between the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves).

Directed by Anna Foerster (“Outlander” TV series) and as screenplay by Cory Goodman (“Priest”, “The Last Witch Hunter”), the film is a sequel to the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening” and features the return of Kate Beckinsale as the immortal vampire Selene and Theo James as David.

The film also stars Lara Pulver (“Edge of Tomorrow”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “The Special Relationship”), Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”, “Casino Royale”, “Atonement”), Daisy Head (“The Last Seven”, “Guilt”), Clementine Nicholson, Charles Dance (“Ghostbusters”, “Alien 3”, “Game of thrones”), James Faulkner  (“Downton Abbey”, “Da Vinci’s Demons”, “Game of Thrones”), Bradley James (“Merlin”, “Damien”, “Dis/Connected”) and Oliver Stark (“Into the Badlands”, “Luther”, “MindGamers”).

What is “Underworld” about?

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war.  In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

In the first film, Selene who has fought and killed Lycans believing that they were responsible for her family’s massacre learned from Kraven that Viktor was responsible for her family’s death.  With Michael near death due to the silver nitrate in his body that was shot by Kraven, Lucian (who was revealed to have started the war because he was in love with Sonja, a vampire and daughter of Viktor and was killed by her father to stop the relationship between a vampire and Lycan) tells Selene that in order to save him, she must bite him.

Selene has bitten Michael and transforming him to half Lycan/half vampire and both killed Viktor.  Meanwhile, the next elder vampire that is in line to be revived is Marcus and because Singe was killed near Marcus’ tomb and his blood has dripped into his tomb, that Marcus will now be revived early.

The first film would with Selene knowing that she has changed the course of the war by converting Michael by making him half vampire/half Lycan and because she aided a Lycan, she will now be hunted.

“Underworld: Evolution” begins with the three vampire elders: Marcus, Viktor and Amelia in the year 1202 A.D.  Viktor and Amelia capture William Corvinus (brother of Marcus who happens to be a powerful Lycan).  As Marcus tries to defend his brother from being harmed, Viktor has William imprisoned in a secret location for eternity.

Fastforward to the present, Selene hides Michael in a safehouse but returns to the vampire coven to confront Kraven.  She knows that Kraven has plans to eliminate Marcus and wants to stop him before he does.  But because Lycan blood is what has dripped into Marcus’ tomb, Marcus has now reawaken as a Vampire-Dominant hybrid.

Selene also learns the true reason why Viktor spared her from death when her family was massacred and why they were massacred.  And because of that reason, Markus is wanting to get to her as well.

Alexander Corvinus has given Selene his blood and thus given immortality.

Since then, both Selene and Michael have been on the run trying to protect each other from both vampire and Lycan who want them dead.

Because creators of the “Underworld” films wanted to explain how the feud between the Death Dealers and the Lycans started.  “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, a prequel to the first two films, was created and released in theaters back in 2009.

With the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening”, after the events of “Underworld: Evolution”, the world now knows that vampires and Lycans exist.  And there is a massive cleansing (known as “The Purge”) as humans now try to exterminate vampires and Lycans.  Survivors have now moved underground, while both Selene and Michael have become the hunted.

Split off from each other, both try to come together during a standoff with the authorities but as Michael is shot and falls into the ocean, Selene goes after him and tries to save him.  But in the process, both are separated by a detonator.

Fast forward, 12 years later and during this time, “The Purge” has now been concluded as 95% of the vampires have been annihilated and the Lycans are considered as extinct.

Selene is being kept inside a cryogenic suspension by the medical corporation known as Antigen, which are trying to create an antidote for the virus which creates vampires and Lycans

Known as “subject 1”, someone has broken into the lab facility and have released Selene.  As Selene awakens and puts on her leather costume, she looks for Michael but is not sure where he is kept and thus she escapes Antigen facilities.

eanwhile, murders are occurring in the city and while the normal judgment by police is to think that the vampires had committed the crime (since Lycans are thought to be extinct), Detective Sebastian (played by Michael Ealy), looking at how the body was murdered, doesn’t think so.  And he spots Selene, who quickly disappears.

But also spotting Selene is a young vampire named David (played by Theo James).  He goes to track down Selene, who is trying to find answers of where Michael may be.  When David tracks her down, he tells her the truth that the Lycans have been forced to live underground, no food, diseased and something has riled them up in order for them to go back up to the surface.  And he thinks Selene knows the answer to why the Lycans are back.

But Selene starts to see images, images that usually come from the bond that she has with Michael.  Thinking that Michael is in trouble and is being hunted by the Lycans, she and David fight them off but instead of finding Michael, she finds a young girl named Eve (played by India Eisely).

Why does girl have this power and why is Selene reacting to it?  As the three are pursued by the Lycans, Eve tells Selene that she was Subject 2 at Antigen and was responsible for setting her free.  She also revealed that she was in a chamber next to her mother…which would be Selene.  Needless to say, Selene is shocked because 12 years ago, she was with Michael.  Now when she awakens, instead of finding Michael, she finds out that both had a daughter.

This now leads us to the fifth film in the “Underworld” series, things are not looking good for the vampire covens as they are nearly wiped out by the Lycans.  Both groups are seeking out Death Dealer, Selene (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale) for the deaths of Viktor and Marcus and the Lycans, wanting Selene in order to find her daughter Eve (who has the blood of vampire-werewolf) and want to create an army of vampire-werewolf hybrids.

Because of the threat of either side looking for Eve, Selene’s daughter was taken away from her to an undisclosed location in order to protect Eve.  That even Selene has no idea of her daughter’s whereabouts.

Semira (portrayed by Lara Pulver), a council member of the Eastern Coven wants Selene to be granted clemency, so she can train the Eastern Coven’s neophyte Death Dealers.

And as Selene arrives to the Eastern Coven with her protege, David (portrayed by Theo James), while training the Death Dealers, Semira’s lover Varga (portrayed by Bradley James) betrays Selene and kills all the Death Dealers as planned by Semira.

Semira drains Selene’s blood and will drink it in order to gain her power, but when vampire elder Thomas (portrayed by Charles Dance) and David arrive, a battle begins with Semira and Varga.

And in order to save their lives and buy time for David to rescue Selene, he sacrifices his life in battle.

As David and Selene head to the Nordic Coven, pursuing them are Marius (portrayed by Tobias Menzies) and the Lycans who are intent in finding out where Eve is located.  But also pursuing Selene is Alexia (portrayed by Daisy Head), a death dealer from the Eastern Coven and the lover of Marius, the Lycan leader.


VIDEO:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” is presented in 2160p High Definition (2:40:1). The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray.

Picture quality is fantastic as closeups show amazing detail and the film maintains its cool, dark look with blues, gays and blacks.  Black levels are nice and deep and for the most part, the film looks great in 4K Ultra HD!

IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 5.1), French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English-Audio Desription Track 5.1 Dolby Digital.

I was so pleased with this soundtrack and just hearing constant immersive audio coming from front channels and also the surround channels for the many action scenes throughout the film.  The music soundtrack also is utilized for the surround channels as well.  Also, great use of LFE.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with the following special features on the second Blu-ray disc:

  • The Evolution of Selene – (8:09) A featurette about the main protagonist, Selene and interviews with Kate Beckinsale and producers of the film.
  • Old & New Blood – (6:15) Cast and producers discuss the Nordic Coven featured in the film.
  • The Evil Evolved – (6:07) A featurette about the Eastern Coven and the Lycans.
  • Building a Blood War – (12:01) Director Anna Foerster and producers discussing of bringing back the look of the original but creating something fresh and new.
  • Underworld: Blood Wars – The Official Movie Graphic Novel – Darkstorm Comics graphic novel.  Using your remote, you can cycle through each page of the comic book.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld: Blood Wars” comes with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray discs and an UltraViolet Digital HD code.


With the original “Underworld” trilogy, there was a good focus on the storyline between the vampires (Death Dealers) and the Lycans (werewolves) and balancing it out with the action.

While I have always looked at the “Underworld” films as your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film series.  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the writers were moving away from the “Twilight” mushy romance (or Romeo & Juliet romance, as I called the first two films).

With “Underworld: Awakening”, the film became more action-heavy and as far as the storyline was concerned, the romantic element was eliminated and became more of a focus on Selene’s daughter having vampire/Lycan blood, making her a target for both sides.

Selene had become the hunted, as both sides want to know where Eve is located and that storyline continues with “Underworld: Blood Wars”.  And once again, you get a popcorn action film with actress Kate Beckinsale once again donning her tight black leather uniform that fans have come to love about the “Underworld” films.

But I’ve felt the film has taken a step into the direction of popcorn action with a forgetful storyline that seems like it would be appropriate more for a video game than a film. But giving the film the benefit of a doubt that writer Cory Goodman is trying to setup a connection for the next film, I can’t help but feel bad for director Anna Foerster.

Having loved what she has done with the “Outlander” series which feature episodes that are character and story-driven, Foerster is left with trying to create a film that revolves around chaotic action.

But despite the forgetful storyline, I did enjoy the film for its connection to the series as I enjoy the “Underworld” storyline.  I just wish there was more of it to enjoy because the characters are important and while it’s new to take adventures to a different coven and focus on the war with the Lycans nearly wiping out the vampires, you just feel that there should be more.  Considering the original trilogy was story-driven, you just want to see a good story go along with that chaotic action and not have the action dominate so much of the film.

So, considering how I enjoyed the original trilogy and knew that the fourth film “Underworld: Awakening” was heading to a different direction than the previous films, “Underworld: Blood Wars” remains consistent with the last film with no engrossing story, just a film with plenty of action and visual effects.  But yet, the final minute gives us a tease of something for fans of the film to look forward to when the sixth film is released in the future.

As for the 4K Ultra HD release, picture quality is magnificent and the darkness of the film with the use of blues, grays and blacks are still continued with this latest film.  Close-ups show great detail and Lycan transformations look great.  And similar to the last film, the lossless soundtrack is magnificent and immersive.  And considering the amount of action in this film, audiophiles should be quite thrilled to see how immersive the action sequences are and the use of the surround channels and LFE.

And as far as special features go, you are given a good number of special features including the official movie graphic novel and a few featurettes on a second Blu-ray disc.

Overall, while “Underworld: Blood Wars” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline and fans of the previous film can expect to see a lot of fighting, a lot of deaths, non-stop action and Kate Beckinsale continuing to look awesome and also kicking a lot of arse!

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, if you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Blood Wars” will definitely appeal to you!

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Like its predecessor, the second film of the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” features another awesome performance by Noomi Rapace!  The storyline is Lisbeth-driven and the film makes you craving for more.  But the sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” does provides the necessary bridge for the final film.  A good, suspenseful film overall.

Images courtesy of © 2010 Music Box Films. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden)

YEAR OF FILM: 2009

DURATION: 2 hrs., 9 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Swedish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Widescreen 2:35:1, Subtitles: English

RATED: R (For brutal violence including rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language)

COMPANY: Music Box Films

Released Dated: October 28, 2010

Directed by Daniel Alfredson

Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

Screenplay by Jonas Frykberg

Executive Producers: Anni Faurbye Fernandez, Lone Korslund, Peter Nadermann, Ole Sondberg, Mikael Wallen

Associate Producer: Jenny Gilbertsson

Line Producer: Susann Billberg-Rydholm

Coordinating Producer: Jon Mankell

Music by Jacob Groth

Cinematography by Peter Mokrosinski

Edited by Mattias Morheden

Casting by Tusse Lande

Art Direction by Jan Olof Agren, Maria Haard

Costume Design by Cilla Rorby

Starring:

Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander

Lena Endre as Erika Berger

Peter Andersson as Nils Bjurman

Michalis Koutsogiannakis as Dragan Armanskij

Annika Hallin as Annika Giannini

Sofia Ledarp as Malin Erikson

Jacob Ericksson as Christer Malm

Reuben Sallmander as Enrico Giannini

Yasmine Garbi as Miriam Wu

Ralph Carlsson as Gunnar Bjork

Georgi Staykov as Alexander Zalachenko

Hans Christian Thulin as Dag Svensson

Jennie Silfverhjelm as Mia Bergman

Per Oscarsson as Holger Palmgren

Sunil Munshi as Dr. Sivarnandan

Anders Ahlbom as Dr. Peter Teleborian

Micke Spreitz as Ronald Niedermann

Johan Kylen as Jan Bublanski

Tanja Lorentzon as Sonja Modig

Paolo Roberto as Paolo Roberto

Magnus Krepper as Hans Faste

Based on the international best-selling novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire is the explosive follow-up to the literary and cinematic hit The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. In this second installment of Stieg Larsson’s phenomenal “Millennium” trilogy, Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. A researcher and a Millennium journalist about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered and Salander’s prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and violent behavior makes her an official danger to society. Mikael Blomkvist, Salander’s friend and Millennium’s publisher, is alone in his belief of Salander’s innocence. Digging deeper, Blomkvist unearths evidence implicating highly placed members of Swedish society – as well as shocking details about Salander’s past. He is desperate to get to her before she is cornered – but no one can find her anywhere.

Stieg Larsson is known in Sweden for his contribution to sci-fi fandom but to the outside world, he is known posthumously for his “Millennium” trilogy especially with the novel “Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women)” aka “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, the first novel of the trilogy and a novel based on manuscripts by Larsson written but unpublished until after his death in 2004.  In 2008, Larsson became the second best-selling author in the world and the trilogy had sold 27 million copies in more than 40 countries.

In 2009, the film received its Swedish adaptation and the film which was created for $13 million would go on to earn $102 million worldwide and now a US version based on the novel has been greenlighted and currently, an American production of the film is now being filmed.

With the third and last film of the trilogy titled “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” currently screening in US theaters, the sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” titled “The Girl Who Played With Fire” makes its way onto Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Music Box Films.

Like the first book in the Millennium Trilogy, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” (which was published in January 2009) became a #1 best seller.  While the book received positive reviews from reviewers, the sequel also did quite well in the box office as the $4 million dollar film went on to make $62 million worldwide.

The film takes place a year after the events which transpired in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.  Hacker Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace) has managed steal money from the Henrik Vanger and Wennerstrom’s accounts and used the money to fund her vacation around the world, purchasing the latest in technology, finding new areas to live, while using new identities.

Meanwhile, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist) is still working at Millennium Magazine alongside his sometimes lover/boss Erika Berger (played by Lena Endre), and fellow staff.   The group is in talks with hiring a new employee named Dag Sevensson who is working on a story to blow the cover high profile individuals tied to sex trafficking in Sweden and those involved in the high office who abuse underage girls.  Erika receives approval from Mikael and the crew in hiring Dag.

Meanwhile, as Lisbeth manages to get a new home in Sweden while staying in the Caribbean, she decides to return to Sweden after spending a year abroad and she visits her former employer Dragan Armanskij and finds out her former guardian Holger Palmgren is still alive after his stroke.  She goes to visit him and spend time with him and then gets back to business of hacking and hacks into her current guardian’s computer.

While she does her check on her guardian Bjurman (the man who raped Lisbeth), she finds out that he is planning to remove the tattoo she put on him (a tattoo that says he is a rapist and sadistic pig).

Lisbeth finds out that Bjurman has not been reporting positively to his superiors about her and thus she pays him a visit to give him another reminder of their deal.   So, after she breaks into his home and holds him at gunpoint with his own gun, she warns him that he must continue to file those reports and he better not remove those tattoos.  Also, if he does anything wrong, she will send the video of him raping her to the media outlets and if anything bad happens to her, that video will automatically be sent to those outlets.

When she leaves, Bjurman is upset and calls someone up to take care of her and to retrieve the video of him raping her.

Lisbeth then goes to visit old friends which include her former flame Miriam Wu (played by Yasmine Garbi) who has no place to live but since Lisbeth has a new place to live in the city, she offers her old apartment to Miriam and tells her that it has been paid for the entire year.  The only condition is that she must forward her mail to a P.O. Box that she gives her and of course, Miriam can’t resist getting a free place to live.

Meanwhile, at a family function, Mikael receives a call from Dagg who is about to go on a vacation with his girlfriend Mia Johansson (his girlfriend also wrote a thesis on sex trafficking for her doctorate).  Dagg tells Mikael about making a change for his article and including an important name of a man that goes by the mysterious name of “Zala”.  Mikael said it maybe too late but he’ll see what he can do.  Dagg also ask for Mikael to meet with him real quick to pick some new photos for the article up at his apartment .

When Mikael arrives at Dagg’s apartment complex, he notices all these people standing outside the apartment saying they heard gunshots.  When Mikael walks into Dagg’s apartment, he finds both Dagg and his girlfriend shot to death and a gun left behind.  And sure enough, police have traced the gun to Bjurman and on that gun was the fingerprints of Lisbeth Salander, who is now the prime suspect in a double homicide.

Jan Bublanski (played by Johan Kylen) leads the police investigation and Mikael tries to defend Lisbeth and tell him that there is no way she could have killed Dagg and his girlfriend.  There was no way.  But the police feel they have the evidence and now must find her.

Mikael now feels that because Lisbeth saved his life (as seen in the last film), he must do what he can to  help her and acquit her of these crimes.  But things don’t look good as the police go to visit Bjurman in regards to his gun being used in the deaths of two people, and to find out that someone has killed Bjurman as well.  And because he was Lisbeth Salander’s guardian, police now feel she has a motive for revenge.

With no leads and no idea where Lisbeth is located, Mikael does all he can to investigate the people who met with Dagg for his story and sees how it relates to Lisbeth.  Meanwhile, Lisbeth does some investigating on her own.

But unbeknown to Lisbeth, there are people out there who want her dead.

Will Mikael be able to help Lisbeth?

VIDEO:

“The Girl who Played with Fire” is presented in widescreen (1:85:1).  Because I am reviewing a screener disc and not the finalized version, I can’t comment on overall picture quality (as the version I was viewing seemed a bit compressed).  But I will say that for those who do want the best in picture quality for the film, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is available on Blu-ray.

I can say that one thing in which the original film “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” definitely shined was its location and the many shots of various locations with both Mikael and Lisbeth doing quite a bit of traveling together.  For “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, there is less emphasis on location and more action-based shots and also shots that focus on actress Noomi Rapace’s character.    May it be capturing facial expressions to bedroom scenes or disguises, the cinematography for this second film is much more personal, especially since the two main characters are not together for the majority of this film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Girl Who Played with Fire” is presented in Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1 and English 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Since I am reviewing a screener DVD, I can’t comment on the English dub as my screener did not come with the English soundtrack.  But for the most part, dialogue was clear for the Swedish soundtrack.  Audio was primarily center and front channel-driven and there are a few action-based sequences but I didn’t really notice any major surround usage. But once again, this is a screener DVD and not the final DVD.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Girl Who Played With Fire” comes with the following special features:

  • Theatrical Trailer – Featuring the trailer for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and upcoming releases from Music Box Films.

Note: Because we are reviewing a screener disc, there were no special features included and I am going what is printed on the back of the DVD cover insert.

My first foray into “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” came from my wife. Her family members have loved the novels and my wife was going crazy reading all three novels and then watching the film. She has told me many times to read the novels in the trilogy but with so many books in my reading queue, I figured, why not see what the hype is all about and watch this film for myself.

And as I watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, I was drawn in by the performances of Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. Their performance was magnificent, as was the cinematography by Jens Fishcer and Eric Kress. Just the amount of footage shot in various weather conditions and locations was quite impressive but most of all, bringing the novel to life (as my wife would say).

The first film was not only suspenseful but it literally sent chills down my spine. And I have to admit, I loved the first film and had high expectations for the sequel.  Of course, my wife had warned me prior to watching the film if I was willing to read the second book but being as busy and stubborn, I refused to read the book and wanted to tackle the film head on.  Afterall, the first film was so spectacular, I expected the pairing of Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace to be fantastic.

But I quickly realized, the pairing between Nyqvist and Rapace was nowhere to be found until the final ten minutes of the film.  As a matter of fact, the film ends rather abruptly.  There is no feeling of a true ending like we saw with the first film and immediately, you realize that the second film was just a bridge for the third film.

But that’s not to say that “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is a bad film because its not.  As a matter of fact, Noomi Rapace does a wonderful job playing Lisbeth Salander and I admit that with the first film, I was really caught up with her character and just loved watching Rapace play the role of the spunky, dark Lisbeth.  But at the same time, what made “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” work so well, was because the characters of Lisbeth and Mikael were like the odd couple.  Two very different individuals who just bonded. And how they bonded, despite the much darker storyline of the first, it took the viewer by surprise and won us over.  You had a well-written story, cool character and just the circumstance of these two together was just impressive.

And I felt, OK…this couple hasn’t seen each other for a year, I can’t wait to see how they react when they get together in “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and I waited….and waited.  And realized, these two are not going to be together in the film.  And  unfortunately, the moment that they were together…it was the final minutes of the film under unfortunate circumstances.

But while the first film featured the two working together, and they do work together albeit separately, this film is quite literally two independent stories of Lisbeth trying to find out who set her up while Mikael tries to find Lisbeth before she gets herself killed and also doing what he can to vouch for her innocence.

Another interesting character development in this second film are the introductions of Lisbeth’s friends.  Her lover Miriam Wu plays an important role in the film and also her boxing buddy Paolo Roberto (in which the Swedish boxer plays himself) gets a good dose of the action scenes for this second film and not Mikael, which I found quite interesting.

But “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is a Lisbeth film.   We get to learn a little about Lisbeth’s past and learning that her trauma goes even farther when she was incarcerated as a child but by saying that, I was told by my wife and a few friends that the film adaptation of the second book is quite different.  As mentioned, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” tries to show us why Lisbeth likes to be a loner, why she has this shell around her and rarely lets anyone in and heard that the book does a great job in portraying her loneliness, her solitude and her being disconnected with the world around her.

I know people who have watched it and have read the books and have commented to me that the book focuses more on Lisbeth that too much of that emotional focus is lost because the film tries to focus more on the cat-and-mouse storyline.  Personally, there were quick scenes of Lisbeth’s past as a child and maybe these things are explained in the third film but unfortunately, without having read the books, even I felt that I may have been missing something and after watching the movie, I felt I had a barrage of questions for my wife who is a diehard fan of the Larsson’s trilogy and she loves the books and her answer to me was, “want to know more about Lisbeth? Read the book!”.

I often wondered how the film would have played out if it was directed by the first film’s director Niels Arden Oplev and received a screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg.  But Daniel Afredson did a good job but I felt the pressure was more on Jonas Frykberg because the sequel would have so many high expectations.  Alfredson takes a methodical approach and what we get is a plot that features less off the darkness, less of the torture but the pacing keeps you on your feet with its suspenseful storyline.

“The Girl Who Played with Fire” keeps you guessing and keeps you wondering what will happen next but it does try your patience and by the end of the film, you are left a bit confused and a feeling of “is that it?”.  And yes, that is it… but you’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out how it all ends in the third and final film of the Millennium Trilogy, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” .   I’m truly hoping the third film delivers with its final payoff and making us feel that this buildup from this second film and the way it ended without a finale but more like a “too be continued” type of film,  I hope the final film ties up all the loose ends of this second film.  At least I hope so!

If you enjoyed “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, definitely give “The Girl Who Played with Fire” a chance!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor) (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

August 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Brilliant, just brilliant!  “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a genuine and unique thriller that I was literally absorbed by the wonderful performances by Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace, the awesome cinematography and a storyline that literally sent chills up my spine.  Definitely one of the best modern suspense films out there!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Music Box Films. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

YEAR OF FILM: 2009

DURATION:2 hrs., 32 minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Swedish 5.1 Dolby Digita, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Widescreen 2:35:1, Subtitles: English

RATED: R (For disturbing violent content including rape, grisly images, sexual material, nudity and language)

COMPANY: Music Box Films

Released Dated: July 6, 2010

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

Screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg

Executive Producers: Anni Faurbye Fernandez, Lone Korslund, Peter Nadermann, Ole Sondberg, Mikael Wallen

Produced by Soren Staermose

Associate Producer: Jenny Gilbertsson

Line Producer: Susann Billberg-Rydholm

Coordinating Producer: Jon Mankell

Music by Jacob Groth

Cinematography by Jens Fischer, Eric Kress

Edited by Anne Osterud

Casting by Tusse Lande

Production Design by Niels Sejer

Costume Design by Cilla Rorby

Starring:

Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomkvist

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander

Lena Endre as Erika Berger

Peter Haber as Martin Vanger

Sven-Bertil Taube as Henrik Vanger

Peter Andersson as Nils Bjurman

Invgar Hirdwall as Dirch Frode

Marika Lagercrantz as Cecilia Vanger

Björn Granath as Gustav Morrell

Ewa Fröling as Harriet Vanger

Michalis Koutsogiannakis Dragan Armanski

Annika Hallin as Annika Giannini

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her beloved uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and the tattooed and troubled but resourceful computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

Author Stieg Larsson, who died suddenly in 2004, left behind three unpublished novels, known as the “Millennium” trilogy, which have become a global sensation, elevating Larsson to the world’s second best-selling author last year (behind The Kite Runner’s Khaled Hosseini). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the decade’s major literary success stories, selling over 8,000,000 copies worldwide, and the film adaptation is the highest grossing Swedish film in history and 2009’s highest-grossing European production.

Stieg Larsson is known in Sweden for his contribution to sci-fi fandom but to the outside world, he is known posthumously for his “Millennium” trilogy especially with the novel “Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women)” aka “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, the first novel of the trilogy and a novel based on manuscripts by Larsson written  but unpublished until after his death in 2004.

In 2008, Larsson became the second best-selling author in the world and the trilogy had sold 27 million copies in more than 40 countries.

In 2009, the film received its Swedish adaptation and the film which was created for $13 million would go on to earn $102 million worldwide and now a US version based on the novel has been greenlighted and currently, casting for the film is now being done in the US.

With the third and last film of the trilogy titled “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” set to be released in Sweden later in 2010, the film was received US distribution by Music Box Films in theaters and in July on DVD.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” revolves around a man named Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist).  Mikael is a hard-working journalist who writes for the publication “Millennium” and in the process of going after a billionaire named Wennerström and unveil his shady business practices of supporting gun runners and illegal criminal activity, he was set up and now he finds himself in a losing libel case which will land him in prison for a few years.

With only six months of freedom left, he receives a call from Frode (played by Ingvar Hirdwall), lawyer for very wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger (played by Sven-Bertil Taube) and arranges a meeting for both men.  When Mikael goes to meet with Henrik, Henrik Vanger knows of Mikael’s determination and persistence as a journalist and briefs him on a disappearance of a woman named Harriet Vanger, a former babysitter for Mikael when he was younger.

Mikael learned that 30 years ago, something happened to Harriet and with no lead to her disappearance (and everyone thinks she is dead), Henrik wants Mikael to find her killer.  Also, when Harriet was alive, she would send Henrik an artwork of a flower every year for his birthday and even after her disappearance, someone is sending Henrik this artwork (Henrik suspects it may be the person who has murdered her). But what makes the investigation quite interesting is that someone from Vanger’s family may be the person responsible for murdering her.  Also, Henrik’s brothers were also people who were loyal to the Nazi party and some who have hidden secrets in their personal life that they may not take so kindly that someone is looking into the past.

So, with six months left of freedom and the fact that Henrik is willing to compensate him quite nicely, Mikael agrees to take on this case and move closer to Henrik’s home to find anything he can that is related to Harriet’s disappearance

Meanwhile, a goth-like young woman Lisbeth Salander  (played by Noomi Rapace), who is a pro computer hacker, a photographer for hire, had been hired by Frode to study and learn what she could about Mikael.   Although her spying on him is done,  there is something about Mikael that interests Lisbeth and she enjoys hacking his computer to dig up information of what he is doing in his personal life (or what he is investigating).  And while she is hacking into his work computer, she finds his investigation on the disappearance of Harriet to be quite interesting and wants to help.

Although it seems that Lisbeth seems to be having fun hacking and spying on people, her life is not as great as she has a tough life.  As a person who lived in a ward for an unknown crime that she committed when she was younger, a government official that oversees her money is using Lisbeth’s weakness as a way for him to get sex.  Lisbeth is unwilling but the government official threatens her that if she doesn’t do what he says, he can make her life inconvenient.  So, she feels that she must perform for this government official in order to get any money that she earns from her job.

As Mikael’s investigation seeming as if he has hit a dead end, Lisbeth finds a code on his computer.  The code was written on a bible by Harriet and no one, including the police have been able to crack the code.  But Lisbeth, who is very intelligent (and also has a photographic memory), knows what the code means and maybe able to help Mikael with his research.  She wants to help him but if she does, it may reveal to him that she has been spying on him and hacking his computer.

But these two complete opposites may benefit each other in trying to solve the disappearance of Harriet Vanger.

VIDEO:

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” looks very good on DVD.  The cinematography by Jens Fischer and Eric Kress is well-done.  The various shots throughout Sweden during the various scenes of daylight, night, snow and heavy rain was well-captured.  I didn’t notice any compression artifacts or any major PQ problems.  Personally, I was impressed by the cinematography that I actually am looking forward in picking this film up on Blu-ray and watching it via HD.  It’s a stunning film that the director and cinematographers really did a wonderful job in bringing Stieg Larsson’s novel to life.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is presented in Swedish Dolby Digital 5.1 and an English 5.1 Dolby Digital dub.  I watched the film in its original Swedish presentation with English subtitles and the audio is very well-done.  Great use of crowd and hardware ambiance, music and various action scenes that utilize the surround channels.  Audio is clear and understandable and I actually would have love to hear the lossless soundtrack for this film on Blu-ray.  But people who are curious about the Swedish track should know that it is clear.

As for the English dub, I prefer not too watch dubs but my wife does and I watched a little bit with the English dialogue and its well done.  The good news is that the dub track is not by American’s trying to be Swedish which is good news and that the dub actors due have a slight accent.

But for both audio tracks, we vouch for the audio tracks that we listened to.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Noomi Rapace – (12:30) An English interview with actress Noomi Rapace (who plays Lisabeth) who talks about playing the role of Lisbeth and enjoying the original novel and what preparation was done to transform to the character of Liabeth and the pressures she felt in playing this major role.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:43) The English dubbed theatrical trailer for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.
  • The Vanger Family Tree – A graphic showing the Vanger Family Tree.
  • TGWPWF Preview – (1:25) An English preview of the second film in the “Millennium” trilogy, “The Girl Who Played With Fire”.
  • Previews – Music Box Film Trailers

My first foray into “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” came from my wife.  Her family members have loved the novels and my wife was going crazy reading all three novels and then watching the film.  She has told me many times to read the novels in the trilogy but with so many books in my reading queue, I figured, why not see what the hype is all about and watch this film for myself.

And as I watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, I was drawn in by the performances of Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace.  Their performance was magnificent, as was the cinematography by Jens Fishcer and Eric Kress.  Just the amount of footage shot in various weather conditions and locations was quite impressive but most of all, bringing the novel to life (as my wife would say).

This film was not only suspenseful but it literally sent chills down my spine.  The film is not for the weak at heart when it comes to violence and torture.  The film has many graphic moments of people who have been murdered, people who have been raped and I’m not going to sugarcoat things… this film is violent.

But the film is also a suspenseful, haunting thriller that not only grabs your attention, you literally root for these characters that are completely opposite but they take you on an amazing ride with quite a bit of twists and turns along the way.   I have no problems saying that “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is one of the best modern suspense films that I have watched in long while.  And I’m talking about overall acting, cinematography, pacing and how well the story is conceived.  It’s a fantastic film!

So far, a lot of the reviews haven been quite positive for this film.  Those who have read the novel have had positive feelings while some have a hard time with the casting choices.

Duane Dudek of the Journal Sentinel writes, “The lead character, a crusading journalist, looks older and seems duller, and the title character, an anti-social computer hacker wearing a spiked dog collar and black lipstick, seems as if she belongs in a vampire movie. And the story that was so compelling on the page, about the disappearance of a teenage girl 40 years earlier, feels simplified and literal.”

Personally, these characters are what I loved about the film.  The character of Mikael Blomkvist is an experienced writer who is taking on a billionaire and now having to face a serious libel charge that he libeled him due to false information he was given.  I just don’t see this part going to a younger talent.  Considering the US version has hired 007 actor Daniel Craig to play Blomkvist, the more seasoned writer than is very astute, observational and wise made Michael Nyqvist perfect for the role.  And Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth was a wonderful casting choice.   To see her as an anti-social, goth-like computer hacker brought another dimension to this film.  I literally can’t picture anyone but someone from the underground and also different from the norm in playing the role.

Since I haven’t read the novel, I don’t know how much detail was left out but for the most part, this is one of the few instances where I felt the longer duration has helped the film (where so many filmmakers abuse the longer duration for a film and sometimes lose sight of what made their film so entertaining with banal scenes).  Personally, I didn’t feel the story was simplified but having read a variety of those who felt it was a solid adaptation and others who felt that the book was better, it’s all subjective.

If there was one subject that I feel may touch a nerve with viewers is a rape scene (well, actually there are others who have been raped and tortured) but there is one graphic scene that may turn people off.  I for one, dislike disturbing scenes like this in a film especially if was done for shock value.  In the case of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, although a film that contains a lot of violence, I felt that the violence was not gratuitous and was appropriate to the story but again, this is subjective as I’ve read those who felt it was appropriate and others who felt it was bit too much for their taste.

As for the DVD, the DVD doesn’t come with a lot of special features but the interview with Noomi Rapace was quite interesting to watch and see how she dealt with playing the character and seeing how the public had felt about her performance.   Also, it was cool to see the trailer for the second film which I really look forward too. But I wish there was an audio commentary track, featurette and more interviews.

Personally, as much as I enjoyed the DVD version, I now want the Blu-ray version.  The cinematography was just great as was the audio that I want to watch this movie in HD and also hear it in lossless audio.  If you are debating between both Blu-ray and DVD, I’ll tell you right now, go with the Blu-ray version because a movie this good, demands to be seen on Blu!

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a fantastic film featuring an awesome performance by the talent, a chilling screenplay adaptation and wonderful cinematography and music.   It’s a film that will no doubt send shivers towards your spine but you will feel that you are captured by the film by the solid performances courtesy of Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace.  These two were absolutely wonderful.  I know there is a US version coming out soon but personally, the Swedish film was done exceptionally well and both the Blu-ray and the DVD comes with the Swedish and dubbed English soundtrack.  But I just hope that the US version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” doesn’t become another film that joins the list of horrible US remakes.

Overall, I absolutely loved this film and if you have not watched this film yet, I absolutely recommend one putting this on their must-buy list for 2010.   “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is highly recommended!

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