MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Movie Review – Gravity (2013) — October 27, 2013

Movie Review – Gravity (2013)

Movie Synopsis: Astronauts Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) find themselves in grave danger when a massive accident finds satelite debris flying towards their location in space, where they are on a mission of scientific exploration orbiting earth.  The two must work together to survive in space and somehow return to earth, despite the fact the planet cannot get in contact with them to send help, and that additional debris continues to hurtle in orbit of the planet.

Movie Review: This film, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien), was in simple terms, perfect.  The acting by principle characters Sandra Bullock and George Clooney was exceptional.  In fact, these are the only two actors we see on screen for this entire 90-minute movie, and the fact the film does not drag and flies by and is so powerful, really showcases how strong these two are.   Bullock and Clooney are exceptional actors.  Clooney’s ability to showcase humour and strength gives the film early power.  Bullock’s ability to showcase vulnerability and fear, but also resiliency and determination, provides tearful and human moments, and gives the film power throughout, particularly mid-way through and in the conclusion.  The movie in large part rests on their shoulders, and they give stellar performances.   The shots of space and of earth and of the sun are magnificent.  The sound effects, and lack of sound in some parts given the fact is made early on that in space sound is absent, is used to great effect.  The soundtrack and usage of music to highlight the poignancy of various moments is very well utilized here.  The storyline, both about the dangers of space but also about moving on from grief, are intertwined and well written by Alfonso Cuaron and son Jonas Cuaron, who co-wrote the screenplay.  Overall,  as director, writer, and producer, Cuaron has done a wonderful job in this must-see film.  Well Done!

Overall Review: 5 stars out of 5

Movie Review – The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish) (2009) —

Movie Review – The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Swedish) (2009)

Movie Synopsis: Following immediately from the second film, we see Lisbeth Salander in hospital but facing the prospect of a trial for murder and attempted murder, as well as running the risk of being placed into a mental institution, the same one she was abused in earlier by evil Dr. Peter Teleborian.  Mikael Blomkvist continues to use his sources and resources to track down the truth of what is transpiring, and he starts to learn some very serious truths about corruption that runs to the highest levels of national powers in Sweden running back decades.  In his efforts to stop it without getting himself or his friends hurt, however, he must be very careful, particularly because he has involved his sister, lawyer Annika Giannini, in representing Salander at her court case.  Blomkvist must work with Salander (from behind hospital walls and prison cell) and Giannni to solve the truth of this case, before the court convicts.

Movie Review: This third film, based on the novel by Stiegg Larsson, is a very satisfying end to the trilogy.  The story becomes extremely complex, and the screenwriter and director have done a nice job at summarizing the many complexities of plot and story and character into a manageable movie for the audience.  The roles of Salander (Noomi Rapace), Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), and Giannini (Annika Hallin) are played extremely well, and we really have come to care about these characters, a great testament to the work they have done.  The combination of character development, constant intensity and action, and  the continuing evolution of the corruption angle and presence of many mysterious and dangerous characters, allows a fantastic story to be told here.

Overall Review: 4 stars out of 5

Movie Review – The Girl who Played with Fire (Swedish) (2009) —

Movie Review – The Girl who Played with Fire (Swedish) (2009)

Movie Synopsis: Lisbeth Salander has been able to travel around the world, enjoying some time off from her previous world.  However, when she returns to Sweden to take care of business and is summarily accused of multiple murders, she is on the run from the police and dangerous criminals out to get her.  Meanwhile, journalist and friend Mikael Blomkvist works tirelessly with his magazine staff to get to the bottom of the murders and try to clear Salander.  The work will also cause him to explore her mysterious past, which is full of frightening truths.

Movie Review: The second film in the Stieg Larsson trilogy is another exciting tale of action, espionage, thrills, and character development, with Salander and Blomkvist in two intertwined but seperate places, both working towards similar but different ends.  As we see Salander work to uncover the frightening details of her past, and as we see Blomkvist work to solve the mystery around the murders Salander has been accused of, it is amazing to see how the stories come together, and how the friendship of the two grows despite the fact they are physically apart for much of the film.  The chemistry between them is clear despite this physical seperation, and again shows the skilled acting of Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist.  The plot develops into new ground with this second film, and although it doesn’t quite have the intense whodunit nature of the first film, what it has instead is some very frightening and intense scenes.  Because of the great work done by the screenwriters and cast, we care about many of these characters, and so the scenes become all the more dramatic and urgent.  Although not quite as enjoyable as the first movie, this one is still an excellent film that explores some intense issues.

Overall Review: 4 stars out of 5

Movie Review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish Edition) (2009) —

Movie Review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish Edition) (2009)

Movie Synopsis: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist has just got out of prison for a conviction of libel against a criminal that he featured in his magazine Millennium.  He is down on his luck, however he becomes embroiled in an even larger news story that involves Lisbeth Salander, a skilled hacker and researcher who has a complex past.  Blomkvist and Salander team up at the request of an aging but wealthy businessman to investigate the disappearance of his niece many years earlier.  He believes she was killed in cold blood by another family member.  As Blomkvist and Salander investigate the case, and develop a closer relationship despite Salander’s introverted state, they encounter personal danger given the troubling histories they are uncovering from this extended family.  Salander also has to face a dangerous situation from a man who has control over her finances.

Movie Review: This complex mystery tale based on the award-winning Swedish novelist Stiegg Larsson’s first of three novels with these characters is a very satisfying adventure indeed.  We get a great mix of action, intrigue, politics, exploration of real issues in Sweden, romance, and of course some very frightening scenes.  The filmmakers here have not shied away from showing some of the more disturbing elements of the novel, which is a credit to them because that is what makes these novels so excellent, for showcasing in a fictional story the true reality of serious situations like sexual abuse and exploitation of women and children.  The screenwriters have taken a complex and long novel and done a greta job distilling it down into a manageable movie-length piece while staying true to the story.  Main acting roles by Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace are exceptional, and they bring to life the characters from the novels.  Scenes from Stockholm and rural Sweden are magnificent, and make us feel we are there right beside them.  Overall, this is a great film that brings us into the world that Stiegg Larsson brought us with his trilogy.  Well Done!

Overall Review: 5 stars out of 5

Movie Review – Salt (2010) —

Movie Review – Salt (2010)

Movie Synopsis: When CIA agent Evelyn Salt is accused of being a Russian double-agent, and at the same time when her husband mysteriously disappears from her home, she finds herself on the run from American and Russian forces, as she hurries to protect her husband and uncover what is going on around her.

Movie Review: This action-adventure-thriller starring Angelina Jolie in the role of Agent Salt is definitely an action-packed movie, with a lot of great action sequences, excitement and adrenaline throughout, and a lot of interesting twists and turns, some of which are genuinely surprising for the audience.  At the same time, some of the action sequences did become somewhat predictable and unbelievable, with the usual questions of how many times someone can jump from vehicle to vehicle without getting injured.  Furthermore, the overall plot and premise was somewhat farfetched, which detracted slightly from the movie.  Slight references to the past helped to frame and shape some of what we new about the characters, however overall there was limited character development in the film.  But in terms of a general fast-paced movie full of action scenes, definitely this was an enjoyable movie on that basis.

Overall Review: 3 stars out of 5

Book Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith —

Book Review – The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith


▪   Book: The Cuckoo’s Calling

▪   Author: Robert Galbraith

▪   Genre: Mystery

▪   Year of Release: 2013

▪   Read 455-page hardcover edition in September 2013.

Book Description: When a supermodel by the name of Lula falls to her death in a cold winter’s night in London, the ensuing police investigation rules it a suicide by an addicted and confused star with a lot of personal problems in her life.  However, her step-brother comes to private detective and ex-military operative Strike Cormoran with a request that he investigate this incident, in the belief that his sister was in fact murdered.  As Cormoran begins his investigation, while battling his own personal issues and in the company of a new temporary secretary Robin, he realizes that this case has many strange twists and turns indeed.

Book Review: This book, written under a pseudonym by famed British author J.K. Rowling, was blasted into the media spotlight after Rowling had tried to keep her authorship hidden, but someone in her lawyer’s office couldn’t keep quiet about it.  The mystery novel is actually a fairly engrossing and enjoyable read.  Rowling has commented that she felt less pressure and more free to write this book without attention to her name.  The result is an enjoyable mystery tale with a lot of intriguing characters and suspects.  The principle characters of Cormoran and Robin are quite interesting to watch, as their interplay develops over the course of the novel.  It is a shame a little bit more time isn’t given to the two, who actually play off each other quite nicely.  One other negative point about the novel is that although the ending components become very exciting and fast moving, this 455-page mystery novel feels like it drags a little bit in the beginning and middle sections.  It almost feels like we didn’t buy into all the concepts and characters, and that perhaps not all of the dialogue and scenes are required in the beginning and middle components.  Certainly some mystery novels move at a much faster pace than this one.  However, overall, this novel has interesting characters and an enjoyable concluding section, convincing us that Rowling has what it takes to write in this genre.

Overall: 3 stars out of 5.