Tag Archives: the girl with the dragon tattoo

Review – Side Effects (15) [2013]

Side Effects - title banner

Star Rating: 4/5

Director:

  • Steven Soderbergh – Traffic, Contagion, Behind the Candelabra

Cast:

  • Rooney Mara – A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Social Network, Her
  • Channing Tatum – The Eagle,White House Down21 & 22 Jump Street
  • Jude Law – The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Contagion, Dom Hemingway
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones – Traffic, Playing For Keeps, Red II
  • Vinessa Shaw – The Hills Have Eyes, 3:10 to Yuma, Siren
  • James Martinez – Gravity, The Sessions, An Artist’s Emblem

Music Composer:

Before taking medication, one has an idea that for all the positives of the medicine there is likely to be negative implications. These are better known as side effects, and doctors should always make their patients aware of them for reasons of liability. Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh’s second medical thriller in the space of eighteen months, soundly illustrates some of medicines’ many snags as well as the trouble doctors could find themselves in if they don’t make their patients aware of them.

Martin (Channing Tatum) and Emily (Rooney Mara) looking like an aesthetically perfect couple, dressed smartly at a friend's party.

Martin (Channing Tatum) and Emily (Rooney Mara) looking like an aesthetically perfect couple, dressed smartly at a friend’s party.

Side Effects more or less begins with Martin (Channing Tatum) coming out of prison to be reunited with his wife, Emily (Rooney Mara). Emily, however, seemingly suffers from depression and other self-esteem issues, and appears unable to cope with life. So, after attempting suicide, she meets Dr. John Banks (Jude Law), who prescribes her a series of drugs to make her feel better, after consulting with Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Emily’s previous doctor.

The drugs work initially for Emily. But then the side effects kick in. And with consequences for Emily, Martin and Dr. Banks.

Side Effects is a slow-paced medical thriller that is mysterious and gripping for its apt 106 minute running time. Although the plot has several contrived moments, all of these are explained reasonably well, so the film does not feel like a patch-work for lazy script-writing. What’s more, the film has a generally unsettling ambience and leads to an unexpected conclusion that is most welcome.

Dr. John Banks (Jude Law) chewing his breakfast, wondering how his world has turned upside down due to Emily's reaction to the drugs he prescribed her.

Dr. John Banks (Jude Law) chewing his breakfast, wondering how his world has turned upside down due to Emily’s reaction to the drugs he prescribed her.

In part, the disquieting atmosphere of Side Effects is due to the strange, yet thought-provoking music that is virtually on tape-loop during the movie. The other reason is due to good dialogue and acting, not least from Rooney Mara in the lead role. Invariably, her character seems to be permanently on a medically-prescribed drug or suffering from a drug’s drawback; in particular, the latter, and Mara plays it all troublingly well.

Surprisingly, Jude Law, as the doctor in danger of losing his career, performs decently too. He might show little compassion toward his wife, Deirdre (Vinessa Shaw), and son, but Law is certainly considerably better here than he is in (the mind-numbing) The Holiday and in Contagion, wherein he adopts a laughable Australian accent. (As if anyone would believe that Jude Law were Australian!)

The beautilful and manipulative, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), unaware that someone is looking at her through the window.

The beautilful and manipulative, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), unaware that someone is looking at her through the window.

Channing Tatum, in his comfort-zone as the handsome and charming husband, gives a standard demonstration of his acting skills, while Catherine Zeta-Jones, as arguably the villain of the movie, is just as cunning and classily appealing as she was a decade ago in Intolerable Cruelty.

Thus, Side Effects is an enjoyable film that is likely to take viewers by surprise. Granted, it has plot conveniences, yet one is likely to forgive the movie for these as the storyline is intelligent and keeps audiences in suspense. Furthermore, one is likely to be more wary of the downside of certain medications after watching the film; and doctors, if they did not already, are likely to become paranoid about being sued by their patients for prescribing them medications with foreseeable and unforeseeable side effects.

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Review – Prometheus 3D (15) [2012]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

With the exception of American Gangster, the last decade has been a poor one in terms of quality films for Ridley Scott, the three-time academy award nominated director/producer. Kingdom of Heaven, Body of Lies and Robin Hood are just three of many terrible movies that he’s created, even if he has made lots of money from them. Prometheus continues this downward trend, even though it is a return to the theme of his highly successful revolutionary 1979 movie Alien.

Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) with the captain of the Prometheus vessel, Janek (Idris Elba).

Prometheus is the prequel to Alien. In 2089, archaeologist love-birds Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes II: A Game of Shadows, The Drop) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green – Brooklyn’s Finest, Devil, Black Dog, Red Dog) discover a star map among several unconnected ancient civilisations. Believing that they can discover the origins of humanity, they join a crew on the space-vessel Prometheus bound for the moon where they hope to unearth the answers.

Piloted by David (Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class, Shame, 12 Years A Slave), a haughty human-looking android with supreme amounts of knowledge, the spaceship arrives at their destination. After being given a telegrammed video by the elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce – The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech, Iron Man III), the patron of the trillion-dollar expedition, and a speech by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron – Monster, The Road, Snow White and the Huntsman), a Weyland Corporation employee sent to monitor the mission, the crew set off to investigate the nearby mysterious site.

They are told to avoid contact with any unknown substances. But with some people falling behind, and other members of the crew deceiving others, the humans do come into with the unknown substances. And to dire consequences.

Charlie, Elizabeth and David exploring the cave to find the origins of humanity. Will the statue in the background give them their answers?

The premise on which Prometheus is based is not a bad one and there are some good, refreshingly 1980s-style sci-fi horror moments to keep one in suspense. In 1979, these were innovative, but now the Alien vs. Predator genre has become so abysmally cliché that all of the horror in Prometheus looks samey and unoriginal.

And as is typical of the above-mentioned genres, little of Prometheus’ dialogue or plot makes any sense. (Even Ridley Scott has admitted that the movie leaves some questions unanswered, which suggests that tying up loose ends was not half as relevant to him as making a fortune.) The very beginning of the film (which I have not mentioned) bears no relevance to the rest of the film; with the exceptions of Elizabeth and Charlie, the reasons and motives of the various crew members aboard the Prometheus expedition are unclear or not mentioned at all; and the very end of the movie is as biologically possible as mating a bear with a piranha and producing a wolf.

Worse, Prometheus gives us virtually no insight into the origins of Alien. For a movie that is a prequel to the series, it is inexcusable. Imagine if Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins had not explained the origins of Batman? What would have been the point in it? The same questions must be asked here.

As Prometheus’ storyline nosedives, the cast do the same. All of the actors have poorly-explained, two-dimensional characters and none of them have any chemistry between them on set. They create such little empathy that viewers are unlikely to care when they start to drop off. Even Noomi Rapace, who was brilliant as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish versions of The Girl With The Dragon series (aka The Millennium saga), struggles in Prometheus to keep audiences interested (despite spending a percentage of the movie running around wearing not much more than a tankini). Only Michael Fassbender, as the emotionless and enigmatic robot, has the ability to maintain viewer’s concentration. But Fassbender’s character has too many holes to be plausible.

Wounded, Elizabeth is limping round the Prometheus vessel in little clothing to find some help.

Actors and characters aside, at least Prometheus has some decent sci-fi-style special effects. They are not spell-binding, though, because one has seen similar CGIs in God knows how many other movies in the genre before. What is a pity though is that the 3D is so pathetic. For a movie like Prometheus, there should have been more effort put into the 3D aspect of the film to make it worthwhile.

All-in-all, Prometheus is another appalling film to add to Ridley Scott’s recent movie-making collection. Almost nothing works in the film, from the storyline to the cast to the 3D. For a director/producer of Scott’s capacity, whose diverse range of films over the years have been of high quality, it is simply not good enough.

(PS. Read my review of 2014’s Exodus: Gods And King for more on Ridley Scott.)

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