For the past few weeks Sabrina has been reviewing a series of books by Stieg Larsson, the best-selling thrillers starring the dark and gritty world of Swedish master hacker Lisbeth Salander. The first of those books generated quite a buzz worldwide and it was adapted onto the silver screen in 2009 by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev along with a full Swedish cast.
Being a Swedish movie, you'll have to go through hell to find a proper DVD of it in any of the shops. Torrents are available and proper subtitles too, and it's worth going through all the trouble if you're a big fan of Larsson's books.
Those who have read the book will know the basic plot: an aging business executive, Henrik Vanger, hires the disgraced editor of Millenium Magazine, Mikael Blomkvist, to track down a niece who disappeared forty years ago. Mikael enlists the help of nefarious computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (the titular character), and together they attempt to uncover the actual fate of Harriet Vanger using the resources and information provided by Henrik. Things turn ugly as the duo open a few can of worms, grotesque murders and rape cases jumping out from the past and threaten their lives at the present. The murky past of the Vanger family is slowly unraveled and viewers are treated to a few roller coaster rides as the reclusive Vanger family members try their best to keep everything dead and buried.
At almost three hours of runtime, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo manages to cram most of the story elements in. This will bode well with the fans of the book, a rare occasion in which a movie lives up to the expectations heaped on it by readers and fans. The Swedish cast, a mostly internationally inexperienced bunch, pulls off the acting beautifully with crisp dialogue delivery that can only be possible with a real Scandinavian accent. Noomi Rapace brings the tortured soul and social rebel of Lisbeth to life, while Micahel Nykvist and Sven-Bertil Taube play commendable roles as Mikael Blomkvist and Henrik Vanger, respectively. The settings are undeniably gorgeous, the cold, seemingly heartless Swedish countryside providing a suitable environment for a gripping thriller.
The feel of the movie is not far removed from the Bourne trilogy, fast paced and an air of tension and drama always hanging in the air. The musical score suits the pace of the movie to a tee, pitching and rolling with the characters' emotions and dialogue, making the movie a complete package. One very important thing is the maturity of the content. In every possible way, this is not a movie for the under-aged. Coupled with very high levels of violence and profanity, the general theme of the movie is the torture and victimisation of women, a disturbing theme for young kids.
If you think reading subtitles off a screen are too distracting to watch a movie properly, you're in luck, since a Hollywood version is coming out this December, starring Daniel Craig and a few newcomers. Until that comes out, with its inevitable brand of Hollywood glamorisation, the Swedish version is well worth the watch. Just don't judge a book by its movie. I blame you, J.K. Rowling, if anyone does.
DIRT 3 IS JUST LIKE DIRT 2. ONLY BETTER
By E. R. Rony
Dirt is an off road racing game that really gets down and dirty. Like the last one, Dirt 3 has a long and varied career mode and tons of multiplayer options. Added to this is a split-screen multiplayer option with support for two controllers. That means if you have the right gaming rig, like-minded friends will NOT want to leave. For that, Codemasters has provided a stick for beating them off. Optional extra though.
There are a lot more cars to choose from all the way back to the 60's. Now that's a welcome addition. You get the coolest of the cool such as the boxy and victorious Audi Quattro, the super sleek Lancia Sratos and Mr Bean's Mini. Yes, the Mini despite being small and mini, was a formidable force in rallying.
And then there's Gymkhana events. What's Gymkhana? Google it for the real videos of Ken Block stringing his rally prepped car in ridiculously awesome stunts. And you get to do that in the game. Jump, donuts, jump some more.
Brilliant. While not exactly Forza Motorsport, the cars are beautifully and accurately modelled. And the damage modelling is quite superb although there are times the cars look a little like bendy plastic than something that should break off into pieces. But hit a bump or pole and watch the respective window shatter outward. In older cars, the doors sometimes fly off. There's better air conditioning. The environment is fantastic with grass moving, people annoyingly leaning out to take pictures (but you can't run them down sadly) and mud, ice and dirt gradually cake onto the cars as you progress.
All the cars sound like they should. A 60's Mini with a straight through exhaust snorts while an Evo IX turbo spools up and whistles just right. And each road surface gives off the accurate sounds to give you plenty of feedback as to what surface you're on. Helps when you're in cockpit view. Also the navigator's instructions are crisp and clear but you get the option to ramp it up a bit to make it more realistic and hence difficult to comprehend above the roar of the engines.
Each of the cars handle like they possibly should since the closest to rallying I've been to is six inches from my TV. Surprisingly, I found it easier to handle using the keyboard than a controller. But when you increase the difficulty levels, things get more interesting. Opponents play harder, your damage becomes more intense but winning becomes just that much more sweet.
What to look for
Racing line Turning on this option allows you to see when you should brake, the corners you need to take. Play with this for a while to tune your skills. Then get rid of the nanny aids to really get into the game.
5 flashbacks Bad crash? Totalled the car? Use the replay function to rewind a little into the past and try again. You'd want this in real life.
Variable weather This keeps races from becoming predictable and repetitive.
The game has an inherent sense of speed that's missing in a lot of racing games. Lots of different vehicles, beautiful scenery and intense races make this game immensely enjoyable and replayable.
MUST WATCH TV
Writing crime drama is like filling a form these days. They all have the same tried and tested plot mechanisms that nearly all of us have outgrown. Even if you start to watch an episode out of curiosity, it seems to go on and on until they have run out of their allotted forty five minutes. The same old murders, same old motives and crime solving has been going on for so long that the viewer's can tell who the murderer is, ten minutes into the show. Seriously how many crime dramas do we need on television? Just when you think you've had enough, they bring you another one.
The Mentalist is a crime thriller show featuring a person who claimed to be a psychic. Don't cringe just yet, it's not like Psych. Well not much anyway. The plot goes like this: Patrick Jane (played by the charming Simon Baker), is a well known former stage psychic and con artist who now works as a consultant for California Bureau of Investigation. He has a great gift of observation; he's able to deduce a person's character from the faintest clues in the background, rapidly putting things together to get a bigger picture.
Jane's team includes his boss, Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) who has a half exasperated-half amused view about his ways of dealing with people, cool headed Kimball Cho (Tim Kang), Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman) and rookie detective Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti).
The reason Patrick Jane came to work for CBI is because he wants to take revenge for his wife and daughter's brutal murder by a serial killer named Red John. Red John has a special kind of animosity for Jane; he almost likes him. As the story has to move forward, Jane gets closer and closer towards Red John and in the meantime passes time solving murder mysteries.
Now among all the other cop shows, why and how does it stand out? Well, because it's pretty much the best among all of them and some more. You have here a sceptical broken hero who has nothing to lose, combine that with charms and a killer smile and you pretty much get an ideal hero for any TV show. You have a serial killer that's impossible to catch; great story writing and the other characters also have a life on the show. Also, even though the two main characters have good chemistry, the show writers don't milk it till it's annoying.
The Mentalist is more or less the best crime drama on television right now, with interesting characters hoping to solve deep, complex and interesting crimes. Even better is the fact that this show is very addictive. Once you start watching it, you're hooked. And since this review is being written after its third season's finale was aired, there's a good many episodes waiting for you. It's time you put your summer vacation to some good use.