Happy 2nd Anniversary!!

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Through the Shattered Lens began as a way to keep me from getting bored on Christmas Eve of 2009 and tonight marks the 2nd year anniversary of that decision. Since then The site has gained several new writers and each of them has brought a unique voice to the world of entertainment blogging. The site doesn’t make money. It’s writers are all volunteers given the free rein to write what they want and how they want to. For a site dedicated to everything entertainment it doesn’t send it’s writers to film premieres or set production visits. It is a site which embraces the notion of grindhouse and that’s what we’ve done and continued to do since it’s inception.

I’ve come to see everyone who has contributed to the site as friends and humbled that they’ve stuck around this long without complaint. We all don’t always agree on what’s written but in the end it’s the civilized manner by which we discuss and debate the things written about that I think sets the site apart from other entertainment sites.

Here’s to hoping that the next year is even more successful and, first and foremost, fun for all involved and those who have continued to visit the site since the beginning. While I don’t know what the future will bring I do know that whatever comes around the corner myself and everyone here will have fun come rain or shine. Here’s to the upcoming year and hope y’all come ’round once in awhile to see what we have up our sleeves.

Til then, just “awwww” at the cuteness that are the Mini Ika’s.

Happy Holidays From The Shattered Lens (And Especially Lisa and Erin!)

Hi, everyone!  Now, I know that some of you may be saying, “It’s Saturday.  Where are the trailers, Ms. Bowman?”  Well, rest assured, a new entry in Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Trailers will be posted next week.  However, today, me and the one and only Dazzling Erin are in Ft. Worth, hanging out with our family and trying to get those final few presents wrapped before Christmas morning. 

(Luckily, we live in America and not Europe or else it already would be Christmas and then we’d really be in a spot.)

So, again, the trailers will resume next week.  For today, however, I’d rather share with you one of my favorite movie endings of all time.  Yes, you’ve seen it a hundred times and you might be watching it on TV right now.  But I don’t care.  The ending of It’s a Wonderful Life always brings a tear to my eye.

Happy Holidays!

Quick Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. by David Fincher)

Addendum: Leonth3duke has added his own thoughts on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which are worth reading. Lisa Marie has also added her own viewpoint on the film.

I think had I not seen the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, this would be a far easier review to write, really. I tried reading the book a number of times, and found it really tough with Larsson’s exposition to stay with it. As such, this review is somewhat biased, perhaps heavily so, and it may be a little spoiler-ish. My assumption here is that with the novel having been available for some time now, and a separate movie to watch, there are very few people who don’t know what the story’s about.

A funny thing happened while watching David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the other night.  In the middle of the film, the projector turned off. After I calmed down, eyeing the exits and thinking the Blob might have made it’s way into my theatre, the audience had fifteen minutes of quiet to wait and give their thoughts on the movie.

One fellow stepped down from the seats, ready to ask for his money back when he stopped and turned around.

“Does anyone know what the F this movie is about? ‘Cause I’m frickin’ confused!” he raised his arms to the audience, pleading for reason.

“It’s about a girl with a Dragon Tattoo.”, Someone yelled back.

“What is supposed to mean!?” The angry man replied, sounding a lot like Rooney Mara in The Social Network. “All I’ve seen is Bond shiver his butt off and this chick type away on her laptop. This is garbage.” And with that, he left.”

“Yeah, this is some bulls—.”, Another fellow said as he left.

Needless to say, the movie resumed. There was a problem that caused their fire alarm to shut off and it stopped every film in the theatre. I’m not sure how much I may have missed, but I’ll probably see this again during the weekend.  I know, it’s not the best of review lead ins.

The simplest thing I can say about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is this:

– If you read the book and saw the Swedish film, this version only puts on a coat of Fincher Paint on the story. From the opening credits that rival the one in Se7en to the fade to black, it’s all distinctly Fincher’s touch on things.  You could almost argue that it feels like a Bond film, the way they did it. This basically means that the lighting might be dimmer in some places and the film may be more stylized. It comes across feeling more like a motion picture than the Swedish version, which to me felt a little more like a tv movie.

If you never read the book, I would highly recommend the Swedish version first. It’s on Netflix, and as some of the material is delicate, doing so would give you the freedom to hit the pause or fast forward button should you find yourself uncomfortable. That’s kind of hard to do in a movie theatre without walking out on the money you spent on a movie ticket.

And if you saw the Swedish Version, missed the book and are wondering if you should spend your money on this, Rooney Mara really is the only reason to give this a try. It’s essentially the same story, but with a different ending that’s tighter and closer to the book than the Swedish Film. While Rooney’s Salander may not be hard hitting as Noomi Rapace’s Salander , she deserves so much credit for throwing herself into this as deep as she did, and helping to create her own version of Lisbeth.  Daniel Craig, on the other hand, seems to be more restrained here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the story of Mikael Blomkvist, an editor in chief of a magazine called Millenium in Sweden who is dealing with a mishap on a libel case against a magnate named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. His recent notoriety catches the attention of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, who’s really having a great year), who asks him to investigate the 40 year old murder of his niece, Harriet. Of course, prior to asking Blomkvist to take on the case, Vanger’s lawyers perform a background check on him with the help of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Salander happens to be both an ace Hacker and sports a photographic memory, which makes snooping into Blomkvist’s files a cinch.

Eventually, through his investigation of the Vanger Family on their private island, it becomes apparent that Blomkvist needs a little assistance, so he asks the lawyers if Salander can be brought on to work with him. It’s when the two characters meet that the story really picks up some steam.

While I loved it (I’m going back to see it again over the weekend, I think), there was the odd feeling that something was really off. At one point in the film, I find myself quirking my brow, because it occurred to me that there was just a little too much sex in the movie. I understand that’s not something one should complain about, but the Swedish version of the film led me to believe that Salander’s motives for any kind of passion were just a “want, need, have” and move on. In this version, she came across almost needy. It’s not even the right word. Where Rapace’s Salander felt cold and calculating even though the later parts of the story, Mara’s Salander feels like she’s warming up to Blomkvist emotionally. Of course, this could be attributed to screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fischer) playing the story closer to the book than the other film, but it was strange for me in that sense. Fincher, who is notorious for control over his scenes may also be to blame here. If you have access to the behind the scenes for The Social Network, you can watch some of his interviews on the behind the scenes to get an idea of just how much he likes to control where a scene goes.

I don’t hate Fincher. I own Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network and love all three of these, but even I have to admit that as cool and as stylish as the film is, something’s just off. I loved the film, but it’s just different.

The movie was advertised as the ‘feel bad film of the year’, and in that sense, they’re not lying. Keep the kids home, please. All three versions of the story contained a rape scene. Fincher and Co. Don’t pull any punches here, making it all a little disturbing for anyone not actually prepared for it. One standout to the film has to be the score, developed by Oscar Winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (something I’ll never be fully able to handle saying, having been a Nine Inch Nails fan since the mid ‘90s). The movie has no clear-cut theme to it, but the music that fuels the scene add an extra layer to things. That I really enjoyed.

So, overall, the remake didn’t really need to be made, but it does make me interested to see what Fincher and Zaillian have in store if they decide to continue the Millenium Trilogy. My hopes are that they give Lisbeth Salander a bit of a sharper edge than she already has. Mara herself, they don’t have to worry about. She’s a definite lock as Salander, and I’m happy for her on that. It’s where they choose to take her that I’m concerned about.

Best anime of 2011

With the year rapidly coming to a close, and the apocalypse soon to be upon us, I thought it would be a good time to make my pick for the one anime of the year that if you watch no other, you should at least watch this.

There were many worthy candidates this year.  From top notch dramas like Ano Hi Mita no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (or AnoHana for short) to very solid slice of life shows like Hanasaku Iroha and Usagi Drop, comedies like the second season of Ika Musume, and Working!!, to more thoughtful fare like Fate/Zero, all these and more could and deserve to be delved into more in depth.  Perhaps I’ll manage to do that at some point.  But as good as these and other shows this year were, there is one title that stands out from the crowd.  I speak of a little show called Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

This is a difficult show to talk about without spoiling things, so I’ll try and be careful to avoid dropping any huge bombs about the show, but a few things do need to be brought up.  First off, don’t let the images fool you.  This show takes the cutsey magical girl genre, and drags it through the darkness, permanently staining it.  It starts off very standard, where you have our titular heroine, Madoka, saving the traditional mascot character Kyubey from harm.  From there, she’s and her friend Sayaka are introduced to another Magi, Mami, and then another character, Homura, shows up and plays the role of chief rival/antagonist.  All sounds like every other magical girl show you’ve seen, or heard about, yes?  Well, you get a feel for what this show is really like with the events in episode 3.  It’s something that should definitely be experienced firsthand to get the best impact out of it.  I had it spoiled for me prior, because people are jerks like that, but even knowing what was going to happen didn’t make it any less shocking, so I can only imagine how people who saw it for the first time without any inkling of what was going to happen felt.

After that episode, things continue to follow along a very tragic storyline, and you can pretty much feel the sorrow that everyone experiences.  In a lot of cases, when anime has these tragic storylines, the emotions can feel cheap and manipulative.  But with this, even though they of course WANT you to feel that way, you end up feeling that way without it seeming like you were forced into it.  When each of the girls find out the truth behind what they’re doing, you get a range of believable emotions, from sadness, to anger, to despair.  This isn’t the typical reaction where a plucky young girl tries her best with a never say die attitude and prevails against all odds.  Things don’t go as the heroine wishes, and in fact the show seems destined to end with the complete opposite of a happy ending.  Even the ending itself is debatable as to how happy of an ending it really was.  And I think that’s a refreshing change of pace.  Madoka ends in a way where you could take it as being a happy type ending, or you could view it from another person’s perspective as having lost something important.  There does remain a tiny glimmer of hope, but it’s one that could easily be extinguished.

While the story written by Gen Urobuchi is the real meat and potatoes, the art and animation is certainly worthy of calling this the best anime of 2011.  The character designs were done by Ume Aoki, who has a very distinctive style as seen in her previous works such as Hidamari Sketch.  They’re typically characterized by wide faces and large eyes, even by the standards of anime, which lends a nice contrast to the seriousness of the show.  People in the know also were a bit more prepared for the direction the show took, since it was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo, who has some amount of note for taking shows in different directions and using a lot of surreal imagery.  And that is very evident in scenes where the girls are fighting against the witches.  The backgrounds look as though they’re walking through a Dali painting.  It’s a very effective blending of animation and CGI.  Plus the fluidity of the animation in the battle scenes shows that no corners were cut in any aspect of production.  The musical score is also done by well known composer Yuki Kajiura, whose tracks set the perfect mood for each scene.

While there is no one universal title that everyone everywhere will point to and say “This is a masterpiece!” Puella Magi Madoka Magica is definitely a title that people shouldn’t just write off as yet another tired old magical girl show and should give it a fair chance.  Tastes are always subjective, but this is one that you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you missed seeing it.