Tag Archive: mystery


Matthew McConaughey is a pretty big name actor if you think about it. If you think of romantic comedies then his name will be one of the first few you associate with the genre, along with Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl. Funnily enough, if you also think of plain bad films (and I’m talking really bad, not bad but enjoyable, just bad) then Matthew McConaughey must also be synonymous with that too! He does however, have a huge legion of fans, mainly of the female gender and probably because of his looks rather than his acting ability, but you would be hard pressed to find a man who counts Matthew McConaughey among their favourite actors. Now it looks as though that may be set to change as McConaughey opts for more dramatic roles than we are used to seeing him in.

McConaughey began work as an actor in television adverts and the rare television episode appearance but then he got his big break back in 1991 in Dazed and Confused. Maybe, and I never thought I would say this, McConaughey put in a performance that was too good, because this is pretty much what made him a shoe-in for any male lead role in a romantic comedy. As an actor you don’t want to get pigeon holed into one genre but as a young emerging good looking man then you are always going to be wanted for romantic comedies (the same happened for Chris Pine and Chris Evans in recent years although not to the same extent).

Throughout the nineties Matthew McConaughey tried out many different genres including crime (A Time to Kill), drama mystery (Contact) and action (The Newton Boys) but didn’t have as much success in these as he did with his romantic comedies and at the turn of the century McConaughey really started to churn out the rom-coms. In 2001 McConaughey starred in The Wedding Planner alongside Jennifer Lopez and although he continued to try and be versatile with his career it is his rom-coms in this decade that are his most famous films: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Failure to Launch, Fool’s Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.

Now though, there seem to be no signs of Matthew McConaughey returning to make another romantic comedy as he has taken on more serious roles in recent years. This began with McConaughey taking on The Lincoln Lawyer which was a thriller that received great reviews from critics and McConaughey won high praise for his performance in the lead role. Killer Joe, a crime thriller in which McConaughey plays a contract killer/police detective, also won a lot of praise; then Magic Mike came out which also got surprisingly positive reviews from critics. Next up for Matthew McConaughey is Mud, which is already getting a lot of praise from early screenings and that is a drama so it appears that Matthew McConaughey is taking on more serious roles recently and these are really helping his reputation.

McConaughey’s next film project will be another drama The Dallas Buyer’s Club before taking on war film Thunder Run alongside Gerard Butler and Sam Worthington, two more actors who have a lot to prove in my opinion. McConaughey’s recent film choices do signal a more serious approach with his career and this can only be good news. I hope he succeeds.

 

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It is probably the most needless remake in the history of remakes: the novels that the film were based on were only released in 2005 and the novels were turned into films in Swedish (makes sense considering the author of the novels was Swedish and the film itself takes place in Sweden) in 2009 to very positive reviews. Apparently though it is deemed impossible for people to watch a film in a foreign language and so it was remade for a larger mainstream audience with studios hoping to cash in. So how good is the remake?

Daniel Craig is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just lost his reputation in a very public court hearing. Blomkvist is then hired because of his investigative talents to take on a case of a disappearing girl that happened over 40 years ago. He works with Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a very complicated girl with a dark past but is a skilled computer hacker, to delve deeper into the mystery. The pair bond as they work together to uncover hidden secrets in a dark past of the Vanger family.

Rooney Mara is brilliant as the title character; she has to put in a very very emotional performance and she goes through some very dark and brutal scenes. Mara’s dedication to the role was clear beforehand as she got several real piercings instead of opting for fake ones for her character and that dedication shows on screen. She has good chemistry with Daniel Craig who seems to be the only person in Sweden without a Swedish accent but that can be overlooked. Most people will know Daniel Craig as James Bond and playing such an iconic role it becomes difficult to distance yourself from that. It takes a really good film and a really good performance to move away from being thought of just as Bond and Craig accomplishes that here with a very assured and understated performance. Yorick van Wageningen, Christopher Plummer, Stellen Skarsgard and Joely Richardson make up part of the supporting cast in what is an all round wonderfully crafted cast.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo lasts for two and a half hours but moves at such a fast pace that this doesn’t drag at all. The opening twenty minutes as the film introduces it’s characters is a little sluggish and uninteresting but it is vital to gain backstory. Once Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist takes on this mysterious case though the film begins to roll and doesn’t waste a second to look back. There are lots of things happening at once and if you blink you may miss something important; you can’t take your eyes off the screen for a second. They mystery of who is responsible for the missing girl all them years ago is fantastic and keeps you guessing with revelation after revelation having lasting effects on the Vanger family at the centre of the film. There are parts of the film that are horrible realistic and will make you cringe at the sight of it but the sensitive issues are handled well and the brutal events are handled even better by director David Fincher. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a crime thriller deserving of the highest acclaim.

Fincher is easily one of the best directors of the past twenty years churning out Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network and now this; I would say The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is second only to Fight Club and even gives that a run for its money. The suspense created throughout the feature is wonderful and the beautiful editing is what makes this such an invigorating watch. Once the mystery is solved things revert back to how they did at the beginning and the film unwinds slowly but we are too invested and curious about the characters to mind that any more.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a masterpiece.

My Rating: 9/10.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

Winter’s Bone, an American independent drama, was released back in 2010. It launched Jennifer Lawrence’s career and achieved critical acclaim at the same time, being nominated for four Oscars.

Ree Dolly is a seventeen year old girl living in the Ozarks. Here she takes care of her catatonic mother as well as her brother and sister. Ree’s father is out on bail and skips his jury date, going missing which means that Ree and her family will lose their home, which was put up as a bond for her father, unless Ree can find him.

Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely brilliant as the unflinching main character and carries the film superbly well. Maybe I am a little biased due to my love for Jennifer Lawrence but her performance in Winter’s Bone saw her become the second youngest actress to be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars so she can’t have been that bad! The acting in this film is actually breathtaking. A lot of the cast had never acted before appearing in this low budget drama but you could never tell that. Each and every cast member gives a fantastic performance, right from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes all the way down to the two children that play Ree’s younger brother and sister.

The story blends together themes of family, patriarchy, self-sufficiency and poverty and in doing so, Winter’s Bone managers to grasp a great sense of realism. Much of the story is told through pictures and visuals rather than dialogue as for most of the film there is very little talking going on. It means that great attention is needed to fully understand the development of the story and you will need to work hard to pick up on certain plot points. This doesn’t make the film any worse though and Debra Granik should be praised for her great directorial work.

Unfortunately, Winter’s Bone is incredibly slow paced and whilst this is probably done to give a more realist layer to the film it can leave the audience, at times, just waiting for the next big thing to happen and it might not happen for a long time. The first half of the film especially is very slow and we take a longer time than needed, perhaps, to get to know the ins and outs of Ree’s family. Slow pacing meant that this hour and a half long film feel a lot longer than it is.

Winter’s Bone takes itself very seriously, at times too seriously. But as well as this, the whole mystery of where her father is or who has killed him is built up as if we are in for a shock ending, something big. However, the ending is very anti-climatic and leaves a hole inside the audience, leaving them feel like they have missed out on something.

Despite this though, Winter’s Bone did get 4 Oscar nominations and will probably split audiences. As many people like this, there will be just as many people who don’t and I can see why people would or would not like this drama, but I did like it.

My Rating: 7/10.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets is the sequel to Disney’s commercially successful original National Treasure film of 2004. When released back in 2007 Book of Secrets claimed the number one spot at the American box office and became a commercial success worldwide, and yes, plans for a third film are in place. So is this sequel actually any good?

Book of Secrets is an adventure mystery film that once again follows treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates. This time, Gates looks to discover the truth behind the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, by uncovering the mystery within the missing 18 pages from the diary of assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Justin Bartha injects some fantastic comedy into the film.

Disney pulled together a fantastic cast for the National Treasure franchise, particularly in Book of Secrets. A supporting cast of Justin Bartha, Diane Kruger, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren and Bruce Greenwood are led by the inconsistent, for want of a better word, Nicolas Cage who plays the smart adventurer Benjamin Franklin Gates. In my opinion Jutin Bartha as Riley Poole, Gates’ colleague and friend steals the show with a fantastic performance; he provides great comic relief and offers up plenty of laughs for the audience, a great shift from Bartha.

Book of Secrets is a family friendly film, aimed at children primarily but there is plenty there for the older viewers to enjoy as well. We follow Nicolas Cage on a journey that stretches across Europe and America connecting clues to solve their mystery. Whilst there is a lot to enjoy and keep the audience’s attention I do think that Book of Secrets lacks in story depth and character development which is pretty disappointing. It is very clearly defined which characters are good and which are evil but they are given no time to develop and instead the emphasis is on moving the action forward, which of course is not always a bad thing, but the loose strings holding the action together are sometimes too ridiculous to believe even for this film.

The action scenes are really enjoyable though and there will be things that you will laugh at, whatever your sense of humour may be suited to. The final action scene taking place inside Mount Rushmore is a very good climatic scene and to be honest, parts of the film show real intelligence in film making and writing. Something I did actually hate though, were the horrible cockney accents we were subjected during the Buckingham Palace scene.

As Book of Secrets was a hit it should come as no surprise that there is a sequel being planned at the minute. And the ending of the film leaves it open with the mystery surrounding ‘Page 47’ being mentioned. I would welcome a third film of the franchise. National Treasure: Book of Secrets lacks depth but it excels in fun and is a great film to watch when you just want to be entertained.

My Rating: 6/10