EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Starring Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn, Sandra Bullock, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, Viola Davis
Warner//Rated PG-13//Drama//129 minutes
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download
Marked by several touching performances, "Extremely Loud" is an overly ambitious effort to illustrate the devastating aftermath endured by one family in the wake of 9/11. Thomas Horn portrays Oskar, a 9-year-old whose father (Tom Hanks, in flashback), was killed during the World Trade Tower attacks. The story begins in earnest one year later, when Oskar's mother, Linda (a subdued Sandra Bullock), struggles to hold her family together. Hidden in his father's closet, Oskar finds a key and is determined to search out the lock it opens. Newcomer Horn gives an affecting performance, particularly when in the company of his grandmother's elderly tenant, a role played by Max von Sydow and earning an Oscar nomination. Unable to speak, the old man is a match for the lad whose difficulty communicating with unfamiliar people is a longstanding problem. The story, adapted from the Jonathan Safran Foer novel, presents challenges the filmmakers never quite overcome, but this drama benefits from poignant characters pursuing intersecting agendas. DVD features: Finding Oskar Young and newcomer Thomas Horn. Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack features same plus: Digital Copy, The artistic challenges of adapting the bestseller with Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and director Stephen Daldry, A 9/11 victim's memorial wall photo with the filmmakers, family members, and Tuesday's Children Volunteers, Max Von Sydow: Dialogues with the Renter.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
* * *1/2 (A-)
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgard, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson
Sony//Rated R//Thriller//158 minutes
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray combo pack
The best thrillers often create paranoid characters unable to tame their suspicious natures. Though this type longs to trust someone their flawed personalities prohibit doing so. They seek a remedy by digging into other people's painful truths while grappling with their own. Author Stieg Larsson, a Swedish magazine journalist who is reflected in the lead male character, completed his trilogy in 2004 then died suddenly from a heart attack at 50 years of age. This film adapts his first, bestselling book. His characters inhabit us while his central mystery exposes the fears and grudges that frequently define family relationships. The series was made into a trilogy of Swedish films, the first released in 2009. Both versions are strong. Daniel Craig is just shy of great as middle-aged Mikael Blomkvist, the magazine journalist-owner sued by the deep-pocket subject of his recent expose. Blomkvist escapes his troubles by accepting an offer from elderly Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), a business magnate hoping to solve the 40-year-old murder of his then 16-year-old niece Harriet. Back at the magazine, Blomkvist's partner, editor and married love interest, Erika (Robin Wright) is displeased to be left holding the bag. Harriet's disappearance took place on the family's island where nearly all the suspects (family members) continue to reside. The complexity of the task mounts as Blomkvist, ensconced in a rustic cabin on Vanger's property, learns that many family members no longer speak to one another. He hires Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a brilliant, antisocial 23-year-old, to sort through boxes of papers and run down leads. Lisbeth possesses a photographic memory and wields her sexuality as both a weapon and a tonic. The two-and-a-half hour runtime requires viewer commitment to the family's jagged relationships at the heart of this mystery. DVD features: commentary by Fincher. Blu-ray Combo Pack features same plus: film on both DVD and Blu-ray, making-of featurettes that examine various aspects of the film.