The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

You can use this homepage for posting comments, reviews, and other things that cannot be posted to the group. Of course spam is not allowed. Thanks!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Best of the Fests Film Festival

North Texas Film Festivals Announce
Film Festival Event
(January 10-13, 2019)

First of its kind event celebrates film
with special selections representing 21 film festivals
in Dallas, Fort Worth, and North Texas

Dallas, TX (November 14, 2018) – Film festivals based in Dallas, Forth Worth, and North Texas have joined forces for the first time to present a Best of Fests film festival on January 10-13, 2019. Twenty-one different film festivals will present films that either were popular with their audiences or represent their programming esthetic. The films will be screened at venues across Dallas that include Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas, Studio Movie Grill, and the Texas Theatre,

Participating film festivals include; 3 Stars Jewish Cinema, Asian Film Festival of Dallas, Czech That Film, Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF), Dallas Jewish Film Festival, Dallas Video Fest, Deep in the Heart Film Festival, Denton Black Film Festival, EarthxFilm, Festival de Cine Latino Americano, Flicks By Chicks, Forth Worth Independent Film Showcase, Frame4Frame, Lone Star Film Festival, Oak Cliff Film Festival, Pegasus Film Festival, Q Cinema, Sons of the Flag Film Festival, South Asian Film Festival, Thin Line Film Festival, and Women Texas Film Festival.

EarthxFilm Festival Producer Emily Hargrove (one of the organizers who made Best of Fests happen), said, “The film festival community in Dallas, Fort Worth and North Texas has long been an unsung hero for film lovers locally, bringing films to audiences that they likely would never have had an opportunity to see on a big screen or even be aware of, otherwise. These films come from different sources, different cultures, and countries, yet demonstrate the universal magic and power of storytelling though cinema. We wanted to do something that has never been done before: bring all of these unique film fests together and offer this sampling of these incredible festivals as a gift to film lovers across our region.”

Best of Fests will open on Thursday, January 10, at the Texas Theatre with DIFF’s offering of David Blue Garcia’s thriller TEJANO, about a South Texas farmhand, who attempts to smuggle cocaine across the Mexican border in order to help his ailing Grandfather. The film will be preceded by one of the Flicks by Chick’s short film selections, Liz Cardenas’s IMAGO, about a 15-year-old gay teen’s decision to fully embrace his true identity.

Variety is the theme (as it naturally would be) throughout the festival, including; the Asian Film Festival of Dallas’s screening of Sung-hoon Kim’s RAMPANT, a fresh take on the zombie film sub-genre; Deep in the Heart Film Festival’s screening of Christopher J. Hansen’s BLUR CIRCLE, a drama about a woman still struggling to come to terms with her son’s death two years prior when she meets a mysterious stranger who may change everything; the Lone Star Film Festival’s offering of Rob Smat’s drama The Last WHISTLE, about a high school football coach facing protests from the town when he keeps pushing his team toward a championship despite one of his star players collapsing during a practice; and Q Cinema’s screening of Matthew Montgomery’s DEVIL’S PATH, which follows two gay men as they are attacked and then pursued by murderous thugs looking to finish the job.

Best of Fests will also offer some entertaining and compelling documentaries, including; 3 Stars Jewish Cinema’s screening of Ferne Pealstein’s THE LAST LAUGH, which looks at the use of the Holocaust as comedy and movie material; Dallas Video Fest’s offering of Mark Birnbaum’s THE BIG BUY: TOM DELAY’S STOLEN CONGRESS, about the infamous, criminally convicted former Texas Congressman’s dealings which led to him being put in jail; EarthxFilm’s screening of Matthew Testa’s THE HUMAN ELEMENT, which follows photographer James Balog (CHASING ICE) as he explores how environmental change is affecting the lives of everyday Americans; Festival de Cine Latino Americano’s screening of Jose Manuel Davila’s 1950: THE NATIONALIST UPRISING, about the experiences of Puerto Ricans who participated in the Nationalist Uprising of 1950 to free Puerto Rico from the United States of America; and Women Texas Film Festival’s presentation of Skye Borgman’s film festival hit, ABDUCTED IN PLAIN SIGHT, a true crime documentary about a naïve, church going Idaho family that were “groomed” by a sociopathic neighbor to hand over their 12-year-old daughter to him.

EarthxFilm is the 501c3 fiscal sponsor of Best of Fests. Sponsors and partners include EarthX, Prekindle, Selig Polyscope, Arts OnePass, Alamo Drafthouse, Texas Theatre, Studio Movie Grill, Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas, Kelly Kitchens PR and Wildworks PR.

Film festival passes and tickets are on-sale now. For more information, go to:

The Best of Fests Film Festival official selections:


Director: Ferne Pearlstein
Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min
In this outrageously funny and thought-provoking film, director Ferne Pearlstein puts the question about comedy’s ultimate taboo (the Holocaust) to legends including Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Gilbert Gottfried, Alan Zweibel, Harry Shearer, Jeff Ross, Judy Gold, Susie Essman, Larry Charles, Jake Ehrenreich, and many other critical thinkers, as well as Holocaust survivors themselves. These interviews are woven together with a vast array of material ranging from THE PRODUCERS and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” to clips of comics such as Louis CK, Joan Rivers, and Chris Rock, to newly discovered footage of Jerry Lewis’ never-released film Holocaust comedy THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, to rare footage of cabarets inside the concentration camps themselves. In so doing, THE LAST LAUGH offers fresh insights into the Holocaust, our own psyches, and what else—9/11, AIDS, racism—is or isn’t off-limits in a society that prizes freedom of speech.


Director: Sung-hoon Kim
Country: USA, Running Time: 129 min
A darkness looms over ancient Korea: murderous creatures known as Night Demons have overrun the country. Returning from a long imprisonment abroad, Prince Ganglim discovers that it will take the strength of his entire kingdom to stop the bloody rampage spreading across the nation in this fresh new take on zombie horror from the studios that brought you TRAIN TO BUSAN.


Director: Marta Nováková
Country: USA, Running Time: 105 min
Story of the talented Russian poet, Anna Barkova (1906-1976), who spent twenty-two years of her life in the Gulags. She survived with a help of her poems, owing it to hope for better days and to her passionate love for a woman named Valentina.


Director: David Blue Garcia
Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min
Desperate for cash to save his sick Grandfather, a South Texas farmhand resorts to the extreme: he breaks his own arm to smuggle a cast made of cocaine across the Mexican border.


Director: Tim Oliehoek
Country: USA, Running Time: 143 min
An investigative journalist fights to unmask a prominent art collector as a murderous Nazi war criminal, in the gripping true-life drama THE BODY COLLECTOR. When multimillionaire Pieter Menten (Aus Greidanus) decides to auction off a portion of his prized art holdings, Dutch newspaper editor Hans Knoop (Guy Clemens) receives a tip from an Israeli colleague about Menten’s hidden wartime past. As the mild-mannered but steely and idealistic journalist sets out to uncover the elusive facts, he is warned off the story by fellow reporters, stonewalled by bureaucrats, and threatened by the untouchable Menten and his wife (Carine Crutzen).


Director: Mark Birnbaum
Country: USA, Running Time: 75 min
A look at the criminal investigation of Texas Congressman Tom DeLay on campaign fundraising charges and his efforts to redraw the state’s Congressional districts.

Preceded by
Director: Lizette Barrera
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min
A wayward teen revisits her hometown to reconnect with her cousin, despite her aunt’s wishes.


Director: Christopher J. Hansen
Country: USA, Running Time: 92 min
Jill Temple is a single mother still grieving the loss of her young son after he disappeared two years ago. Unable to face the possibility that she has lost him forever, she pursues every lead and meets Burton Rose, a man with a shrouded past. The details of that past - and how Burton has responded to it - force Jill to look at her life in a completely new way.


Directors: Jay Rodriguez, Rock Davis
Country: USA, Running Time: 110 min
9 STEPS is the dramatic story about the shortcomings of a man, Brian Coleman, whom after being robbed and shot fourteen years earlier, succumbs to a life of addiction and ultimately loses the love of his life and the gift of knowing his only child. It's a story of recovery, redemption, love, and forgiveness and the steps people must take in their lives to get to these places.


Director: Matthew Testa
Country: USA, Running Time: 76 min
Renowned photographer James Balog (CHASING ICE) uses his camera to reveal how environmental change is affecting the lives of everyday Americans. Following the four classical elements— air, earth, fire and water— to frame his journey, Balog explores wildfires, hurricanes, sea level rise, coal mining, and the changes in the air we breathe. With compassion and heart, THE HUMAN ELEMENT tells an urgent story while giving inspiration for a more balanced relationship between humanity and nature.

Director: Jose Manuel Davila
Country: USA, Running Time: 105 min
Five Puerto Ricans who participated in the Nationalist Uprising of 1950 to free Puerto Rico from the United States of America, speaks about the history of this forgotten struggle and the consequences in their lives.


Director: Maria Bunai
Country: USA, Running Time: 11:45 min
Claire searches for love in a story told entirely by what happens after sex.

Director: Liz Cardenas
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
The courageous, life-altering decision to never let anyone bully him again – not even his own father – leads a 15-year-old gay teen to fully embrace his true identity. Based on a true story.


Director: Shelby Hadden
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min
A woman recounts her experience living with chronic pelvic pain – how health professionals have failed her, men have rejected her, and shame, anger, and hatred have plagued her body.


Director: David Salzberg
Country: USA, Running Time: 93 min
APACHE WARRIOR is a feature film made with 100% unprecedented real footage, actual attack pilot gun tapes, multiple cameras and interviews. The film takes the audience into the cockpit of a squadron of Apache Attack Helicopters during the opening salvo of what would be one of the largest invasions in US and World History.


Director: Rob Smat
Country: USA, Running Time: 88 min
When the all-star player of the local high school football team collapses during practice, all eyes turn to the storied head coach. Instead of mollifying the situation, the coach tries to maintain the team's winning streak. The town turns against him, leading to a lawsuit from the player's mother.


Director: Joel Potrykus
Country: USA, Running Time:
With the impending Y2K apocalypse fast approaching, Abbie is faced with the ultimate challenge -- the unbeatable level 256 on Pac-Man -- and he can't get off the couch until he conquers it.

Preceded by
Director: Bobby Miller
Country: USA, Running Time: 9:06 min
A man finds a dying squirrel in a park and has as existential crisis in this surreal, absurd, live-action short film about death.


Director: Crislyn Fayson
Country: USA, Running Time: 3:36 min
A song written by Erica Burkett that touches on the realism of what America has become.

Director: Bob Cummins
Country: USA, Running Time: 6:06 min

Director: Montana Brock
Country: US, Running Time: 4:42 min
A subtle perspective on nature and how distant it can feel due to the sometimes overwhelming industrial industry.

Director: Emily Miller
Country: USA, Running Time: 5:04 min
Louise, and the mysterious events leading up to her funeral.

Director: Alex Poscente
Country: USA, Running Time: 2:13 min
Based off of a poem by Alex Poscente about negative self-image. It is narrative in its story, but avant-garde in its visuals.

Director: Arianna Cadeddu
Country: USA, Running Time: 4:45 min
A classic “monster under my bed” telltale forces a father to confront a traumatic memory.
Winner of the Best Narrative award at the 2016 Pegasus Film Festival.
2017 National Young Arts Foundation Merit winner in Cinematic Arts.


Director: Niloo Jalilvand
Country: USA, Running Time: 2:46 min
Bursting with rising talent, Texas holds a wealth of inspiring and innovative films made by high school filmmakers. At the Pegasus Film Festival, we bring that talent to you.

Director: Alexa May
Country: USA, Running Time: 4:17 min
This film explores the effects and dangers of technology on the current society through the lens of a seventy-year-old grandmother. This film was written, directed, filmed, and edited by one woman wishing to make a difference and inspire other women to become filmmakers.

Director: Jessi Stegall
Country: USA, Running Time: 7:46 min

Director: Ellery Marshall
Country: USA, Running Time: 2:34 min
The “bathroom bill” is a policy debated in sixteen states that would require all people to use the Restrooms and other facilities of their assigned sex at birth. If it were to pass, how would this bill affect a transgender child in school?


Director: Matthew Montgomery
Country: USA, Running Time: 87 min
While searching for his missing brother in a remote gay cruising park, Noah (Stephen Twardokus) sets his sights on a handsome stranger (JD Scalzo). When Noah is viciously attacked, he and his new companion escape through the woods with two menacing thugs in hot pursuit. Lost and frightened, they begin to turn on each other and slowly unravel the truth of what’s really going on around them.


Directors: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
Country: USA, Running Time: 110 min
Inspired by true events, ACT OF VALOR combines stunning combat sequences, up-to-the minute battlefield technology and heart-pumping emotion for the ultimate action adventure. When the rescue of a kidnapped CIA operative leads to the discovery of a deadly terrorist plot against the U.S., a team of SEALs is dispatched on a worldwide manhunt. As the valiant men of Bandito Platoon race to stop a coordinated attack that could kill and wound thousands of American civilians, they must balance their commitment to country, team and their families back home. Each time they accomplish their mission, a new piece of intelligence reveals another shocking twist to the deadly terror plot, which stretches from Chechnya to the Philippines and from Ukraine to Somalia.


Director: Mian Adnan Ahmad
Country: USA, Running Time: 78 min
In a post 9/11 Pakistan faced with challenges of war and conflict, a quest for self-identity leads the inspirational journey of a music show to help reclaim the rich and vast musical heritage of this region. In doing so it has become one of the biggest music initiatives from this side of the world, bringing together unique cultural experiences and genres, including but not limited to folk, sufi, rock, pop and rap music. We experience this important period in music by discovering the show from its humble beginnings, living through its spirit to reach the heart of the experience, as artists unify eastern and western sounds to make music that will resonate across the globe; impacting all involved and planting the seeds for an ongoing inward reflection towards who we are as individuals and as a people.


Directors: Charles Fairbanks, Saul Kak
Country: USA, Running Time: 71 min
THE MODERN JUNGLE is a portrait of globalization filtered through the fever dream of a Mexican shaman, Don Juan, who falls under the spell of a pyramid-scheme-marketed nutritional supplement. Juan’s neighbor Carmen lives simply, in harmony with the land her martyred husband paid for with his life. The film documents their struggles and encounters with outside forces: from capitalism and commodity fetish, to the culture of cinema, and the directors of this film.

Preceded by
Directors: JP Olsen, Kristen Nutile
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min
Robert Kidney has been a musical force since the 1970s. His group, The Numbers Band, celebrating its 47th year, has been praised by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke and Greil Marcus and called “the greatest band I’ve ever seen” by Pere Ubu’s David Thomas. Despite years of praise by peers, the band remains obscure.

Director: Skye Borgman
Country: USA, Running Time: 91 min
ABDUCTED IN PLAIN SIGHT is a true crime documentary that tells the twisting, turning story of the Broberg’s, a naïve, church going Idaho family that fall under the spell of a sociopathic neighbor who will stop at nothing to be with their 12-year-old daughter.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Movies Scheduled for the Week of Nov 11 - Nov 17

Sorry for not posting this yesterday. Been struggling with my yearly cold. Should have gotten that flu shot. Anyways, the weather guys are teasing snow so please drive carefully and stay warm.

Didn't seem like there would be any movies because it usually dries up close to a holiday. But there are multiple screenings and locations. Hope everyone managed to get what they wanted. And you do know that you can help each other if you get a pass, change your mind and go with something else. You can either turn the pass back, or offer it to someone who may need it, or trade for another location. In any case please keep your transactions off the list. Post your query, then negotiate with each other not with the list.

November 11 - November 17

Sun - Nov 11

Veterans Day - Thank you for your service

Mon - Nov 12

The Sun is Also a Star - 7:00 pm - AMC Northpark (note venue change)

Tue - Nov 13

Front Runner - 7:30 pm - Angelika Dallas
Instant Family - 7:30 pm - Cinemark 17

Wed - Nov 14

Fantastic Beasts Crimes of Grindelwald - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark and Cinemark 17
Green Book - 7:30 pm - Regal MacArther and UA Fossil
Widows - 7:30 pm - AMC Northpark

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

I am as cultured as the next guy standing in line at the bus stop, but despite my dislike and lack of interest towards movie musicals, I actually had some semblance of hope for “Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” another in the cookie cutter line of a Disney product containing high production values marketed for the masses.

“Inerstellar’s” McKenzie Foy’s family is invited by uncle Morgan Freeman for a holiday gathering on the mountainside where some misadventures unfold and where Foy’s Clara has to tell everyone she knows about her mom’s untimely departure from this earth. Freeman’s character, Drosselmeyer is a godfather to Clara and her family.

An almost unrecognizable Keira Knightley is Sugarplum, one of Clara’s mom’s creations. Further involvement includes protagonists Shiver (Richard E. Grant) and Hawtorne (Eugenio Derbez). They all come from the imagination of Clara’s deceased mother, who oversaw all of the realm.
Also involved is Helen Mirren’s Mother Ginger, an ominous and foreboding character who turns into an asset after a few predicaments. Like most of her roles as of late, she obviously wanted something that was challenging and a bit demanding since her character’s change in switching sides before film’s end.

“Nutcracker and the Four Realms” was co directed by both Lasse Hallström (“Chocolat,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”) and Joe Johnston (“The Mask of Zorro,” “Captain America: The First Avenger”), who each bring their own oversized version of the original re-telling of “The Nutcracker Prince” to the silver screen.

It’s like the duo were not sure in which direction to take this movie, but for some unknown reason it just treaded in mediocrity. Sure, some of the set pieces were a touch overblown, but when it comes to the realm of fantasy, I’ll take it with a slight grain and pinch of salt.
Also woven into the storyline are a few key scenes with Misty Copeland credited as the ballerina princess. Her appearance, although brief propels the fantasy elements into the storyline.

As I’ve said in the past, I go into movies with a blank slate on my mind, but unfortunately the overblown antics that presided here were just run-of-the mill, lacking any of the verve or spunk that went into the productions for the enjoyable re-telling of C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” (2005) directed by Andrew Adamson.

All of those particular tales, including “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (2010) and “Prince Caspian” (2008” had something to admire or cherish. Neither one exploded onto the screen, but they were each nicely told stories that finished with a satisfactory palate by film’s end.

I also admired Kenneth Branagh’s direction of “Cinderella,” in 2015. There were no hokey song and dance numbers to be found. Branagh just took the tale and told the story simply and cleanly.

To be quite honest, I just wanted more from “Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” even though I can deal with the creepy clowns, the ridiculous McGuffins and the sincerity of this so-so family tale. So the readers know, the screening I attended was in 2-D, not that annoying and pretentious 3-D they charge for an upgrade.

Alas, my thoughts are at a standstill and at an end.

Grade: C
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Girl in the Spiders Web

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Outlaw King

Robert the Bruce, more specifically Robert the Bruce VIII, was a distant relative to the royal family of Scotland. His grandfather, Robert the Bruce VI, claimed the Scottish throne in 1290 but English king Edward I claimed superiority and gave the crown to John de Balliol, also of relation to the Scottish royal family. When the relationship between John and Edward turned, the Bruces supported Edward I. In response to rebellion from Scottish forces led by John Comyn, Edward I invaded Scotland, still with the support of the Bruces. Eventually, the Bruces joined the Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace.

Following brief title cards outlining the tension between Scotland and England, Outlaw King opens with the Scottish lords surrendering to Edward I (Stephen Dillane) after his campaign in the year 1304. Robert the Bruce VIII (Chris Pine) returns to his family home where he marries Elizabeth (Florence Pugh). After seeing that Edward I’s forces have slain and dismembered William Wallace and hung his severed arm up for display, Robert decides to break his vow to Edward I (also convincing his brothers to break theirs) and start his own rebellion against him. When attempting to get John Comyn (Callan Mulvey) to join forces with him, Comyn, who has come to see rebellion as pointless, threatens to report Robert’s plans to Edward I, resulting in Robert killing Comyn. Robert then declares himself King of Scotland, leading to open war against Edward I.

The first feature made by director David Mackenzie following his Oscar nominated critical hit Hell or High Water, Outlaw King arrives with some high expectations. Unfortunately, the film is a disappointment. Outlaw King, written by Mackenzie along with Bathsheba Doran, James MacInnes, David Harrower, and Mark Bomback, does little to help insert the viewer into the situation or to keep them engaged. There is a lot of information to process in this movie, especially with the amount of characters who come in and out of the picture. A few times Robert or Elizabeth got upset over someone dying and I could not remember who the character was or why their death mattered. A pre-final battle speech is included for Pine which brought to mind Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, purposefully perhaps since that movie was about William Wallace, though don't expect anything too riveting from Outlaw King. The speech is brief and doesn't add much.

The film also isn't clear on the passage of time. Other than the year stated at the beginning, 1304, no other dates are given. The events depicted in the movie took place over many years yet Mackenzie's film makes it appear as if the events happened in quick succession, over a much shorter length of time.

There is some fine camera work here. The opening sequence is a long unbroken shot of the lords surrendering to Edward I, following them outside where Edward’s son, also named Edward (Billy Howle), challenges Robert to a sword fight, the camera then returns with the prince (referring to Edward I's son Edward to avoid confusion) back into the tent to be reprimanded by his father for starting the fight before ending by following the group out the back of the tent to watch Edward I launch a flaming rock to destroy a nearby castle. The movie is full of long unbroken takes like this, though none as long as this first scene.

Many of the effects give the feature a cheap appearance. Fire often looks like something from a video game instead of actual flames and the bloody battles are full of artificial blood splatter clearly added later. It was never convincing that these actors were actually in Medieval Scotland.

While performances are mostly fine, none are really worthy of discussion. Pine and Pugh both seem comfortable in their roles, though Pugh gives a more spirited and convincing performance than Pine. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, playing James Douglas (a lord whose land has also been taken by Edward I), teeters so close to over-the-top that his antics and facial expressions come across as comedic at times - which I’m sure was not the intention.

Of the few Netflix original movies that I’ve seen Outlaw King is by far the worst. It didn’t hold my interest and was confusing at times. History buffs who know something about the situation might get some enjoyment out of seeing the story of Robert the Bruce enacted but this is not a movie I’d recommend to most.
(Review by Bret Oswald)

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The Girl in the Spider's Web

Author Stieg Larsson wrote the trilogy The Girl With the Dragon's Tattoo which was made into a 2005 Swedish film series starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace. The American version followed in 2011 with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara directed by David Finchner. After Larsson's passing a new trilogy was written by David Lagercrantz with The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye being up next. Directed by Fede Álvarez and written by Jay Basu, Fede Álvarez, and Steven Knight this film which follows the American series reboots the cast with Claire Foy as the tough hacker Lisbeth Salander. Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist for Millennium magazine is played by Sverrir Gudnason. Unlike the former films, Blomkvist plays a crucial part of the mysteries with the help of Salander's hacking skills. In this one, he becomes a more secondary character.

Lisbeth Salander has become a super avenger for women who suffer from sexual and physical abuse. The opening scenes she is handing out some merciless judgement on a rich husband and redistributed his bank account to his victims. The news outlet and police consider her among the top suspects. She gets a mysterious call asking for help. She is told a computer scientist Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) developed a program called Firewall which accesses the world’s nuclear codes. With the help of her fellow hacker Plague (Cameron Britton) they bust into the NSA computers and steal the program. This alerts Special Agent Edwin Neeham (LaKeith Stanfield) who is not only a brilliant computer scientist, but he has scary martial arts skills too. He traces the source and is soon off to Sweden. There he is stopped by the deputy director of the Swedish Secret Service Gabriella Grane (Synnøve Macody Lund) who tells him to mind his own business.

Lisbeth soon realizes she is caught up in some heavy duty international intrigue when the bad guys break in her house and steal her computer wih the program in it. The bad guys are part of a Spider organization that happened to be run my her psychopathic sister who she abandoned when their father wanted to sexually abuse them. After they blow up her house, she knows that Balder and his autistic son August (Christopher Convery) are the next targets. The program can't be opened unless the cryptic password prompt is answered.

Apparently it snows all the time in Sweden because most of the action Lisbeth's escape from the police over a frozen river on a motorcycle would not have worked. It seems every step she takes the spiders are close behind. The action is pretty fast, lots of fighting, lots of dead bodies left behind. Blomkvist who was pretty integral to the original stories is regulated on the back burner in a more supporting role of researching the Spider Society. And Neeham who was determined to catch Lisbeth becomes a better partner than the magazine guy. By the time the sisters finally become face to face you are too exhausted to care. Claire Foy does capture that androgynous image from the books and gives Lisbeth some needed emotional turmoil. Hopefully the next movie will not be so confusing.
(Review by reesa)

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**** (out of ****)

The mystery at the center of Burning develops gradually and deliberately, so that the outburst of violence at its end feels utterly inevitable. At just less than two-and-a-half hours, co-writer/director Lee Chang-dong’s film might seem an act of overkill with respect to its significant length, but it is instead a work of building tension so quietly that one might only realize his or her breath has been held until the moment of exhaling. That only comes at the end, when the journey has revealed itself to be as exhausting as it is hypnotic. It is important to begin with the deliberation with which Lee weaves this tale.

This is because the inciting incident of the plot comes well more than an hour into the film, an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story "Barn Burning" by Lee and co-screenwriter Oh Jung-mi. It will take me some time to arrive there, as well, because even as Lee and Oh move deliberately toward this moment, they use the preceding time to burrow us deeply into the headspace of a truly original and unpredictable protagonist. By the time we get to that final scene, Lee Jong-su’s (Yoo Ah-in) myriad of vices and psychological issues will have revealed themselves. Until just before that point, though, the film entirely sympathizes us with him.

It is left up to the viewer to determine on his or her own time whether such sympathy for Jong-su is either warranted or earned, but to this point, Lee and Oh have seemingly worked backward. The film begins with its most intimate close-ups of Jong-su while he remains something of a cypher, and as we learn more about his troubled past and begin to see him as a figure of tremendous sadness, the film slowly pulls back from that intimate vantage point to keep itself and its audience at a careful distance. This would be a problem if Lee didn’t have such a firm handle on this character before that distancing act. This is a tragic story, and it isn’t only tragic for Jong-su.

For half the film, we get a delicate semi-romance between Jong-su and Shin Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), an acquaintance from childhood whom he struggles to remember but who remembers him quite well (particularly for an act that, she says, saved her life). They meet when he wins a watch at a raffle in a shopping district, where Hae-mi works on call. The two share a simple but sweet coffee date, at the end of which she asks Jong-su to do her a favor: He will look after and feed her cat while she is in Africa, her first stop on an eventual series of trips around the world for which she has gradually saved some money. Jong-su agrees, and to complicate things for everyone, they sleep together on the eve of her trip.

Immediately, things seem to be off about Hae-mi, about her trip to Africa, and even about the existence of the cat Jong-su is supposed to be watching. When Hae-mi returns from her jaunt, she arrives with a mysterious fellow named Ben (Yeun Sang-yeop), whose presence makes Jong-su jealous and whose smile is just a little plastic and doesn’t quite seem to reach his eyes. After some time spent in each other’s company, Jong-su still never quite feels comfortable, and then Ben reveals his most curious hobby: He likes to burn greenhouses. He simply picks one, sets it ablaze, and gets away with a crime left alone by uninterested police.

This all only brings us to a certain point in this story, at which a character disappears, another investigates the disappearance, and the third has something to hide. The performances are exceptional at compartmentalizing: Yoo plays Jong-su as a man of few words or expressions in a performance that masterfully weighs paradigm shifts with stone-faced austerity. Jeon, in an auspicious debut, is a bright, natural talent in a complex, deceptively sad role, and Yeun is also quite good as a total mystery with a winning smile. Burning moves deliberately, yes, and by the end, the mystery proves unshakable.
(Review by Joel Copling)


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