DVD Picks: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

May 19, 2012

Raleigh News & Observer

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Thriller; rated R for brutal violent content including rape and torture, strong sexuality, graphic nudity and language; available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download

The Gist: A tenacious journalist and a punk rock computer hacker team up to solve a series of murders and disappearances that go back 40 years.

The Lowdown: Director David Fincher’s adaptation of the blockbuster Swedish crime novel is a dark vision indeed, with some of the most violently disturbing scenes ever put into a mainstream film. The brutality is there for a reason, though, as Fincher (“Se7en”) expands on the book’s themes of societal corruption and violence against women.

It’s also a ripping good crime thriller, with great characters and terrific lead performances from Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara as the iconic Lisbeth Salander. And the cinematography is astounding, with characters and settings all visually draped in a cerebral, icy chill.

The Extras: The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack includes a commentary track from Fincher plus more than four hours of behind-the-scenes material on the book and the production specifics.

The Bottom Line: A fierce and utterly engaging crime thriller in a generous home video package.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: “Dragon Tattoo” also has one of the coolest opening credits sequence ever, a menacing swirl of disturbing abstract imagery with music by Trent Reznor, Karen O and Led Zeppelin.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Spy drama; rated R for violence, some sexuality/nudity and language; available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download

The Gist: Novelist John le Carre’s classic Cold War spy story gets a smart, stylish film adaptation.

The Lowdown: Gary Oldman stars as retired MI6 lieutenant George Smiley, who must uncover a Russian mole lurking in the inner circles of British intelligence circa 1971. Complex and artful, “Tinker, Tailor” is a must-see for fans of the spy movie genre. Director Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In”) strips all the usual action tropes – no car chases, no gunfights – and delivers a lean, tense thriller that requires (and rewards) your full attention.

The rest of the cast is populated by formidable actors (Colin Firth, John Hurt, Tom Hardy) and in the film’s best moments the screen vibrates with tension. Oldman won an Academy Award nomination for his role as the preternaturally calm, almost reptilian spy master Smiley. Fans of the espionage genre will find that the plotting is pleasurably dense and complex. I watched it twice, and I’m still not sure what really happened.

The Extras: Feature commentary with Alfredson and Oldman, some deleted scenes, and a series of interviews with the cast and writer le Carre.

The Bottom Line: The best spy movie in recent years, with a stellar cast and careful attention to historical detail.

Double Secret Bonus Tip: The 1979 UK version of the film, with Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley, is now out on DVD as well, with a Blu-ray version coming in April.

Quick Picks

• I’m happy to report that Kermit and the gang are back in business with “ The Muppets,” a reboot that preserves the franchise’s patented goofball charm. Good jokes, good songs and some funny home-video extras – be sure to check out the blooper reel.

• Director Roman Polanski returns with the tight-focus comedy “ Carnage,” in which two sets of parents square off over their kids’ schoolyard fight. Based on a stage play, the film takes place over the course of one awkward evening, and stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz.

• Just in time for Easter, the family-friendly rock-n-roll bunny fable “ Hop” blends live action and animation, with James Marsden and voiceover work by Russell Brand and Hugh Laurie. As with so much second-tier kidvid material out there, it’s not exactly good, but it’s not too bad either.

• Similar in theme to this weekend’s big movie release “The Hunger Games,” the Japanese 2000 sci-fi cult classic “ Battle Royale” is a hyperviolent saga of teenagers forced to hunt and kill one another. Not for the squeamish. The original film has been packaged with the 2003 sequel on DVD and Blu-ray.

Also New This Week: Argentinian romantic comedy in “ The Wave,” Scottish hiking drama in “ A Lonely Place to Die,” American politics in the Criterion reissue of “ The War Room” and Jonah Hill in the child-care cautionary tale “ The Sitter.”

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