The Original Swedish title translates to "Men Who Hate Women"

Guess the Swedish title wasn’t catchy enough. Too bad. It captures the horror that is at the heart of this moody Scandinavian noir.

As the movie opens disgraced reporter Mikael Blomqvist (Michael Nyqvist) has resigned as publisher of Millennium after losing a libel suit filed by the subject of one of his journalistic exposes in the monthly magazine.

You know the old saying “One door closes and another door opens.”

Mikael has barely packed up his laptop when he gets an offer he can’t refuse from wealthy retired industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) who is willing to pay Mikael big bucks to investigate the disappearance of his favourite niece forty years ago.  Seems Harriet Vanger vanished without a trace from the family’s private island in the north of Sweden in the fall of 1966 and the case has never been solved.

Luckily the bemused middle aged journalist has 24 year old goth punk computer hacker Lisabeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) to help him figure out some of the clues. As any good reporter can tell you one good story invariably leads to another. Soon the unlikely crime solving couple are navigating their way through a dark twisty mystery involving Swedish Nazis, ritualistic murders and a nasty dysfunctional family with sinister secrets.

The movie is based on the first book in a trilogy by the late Swedish journalist Stieg Larsson. Working with screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg, director Neils Arden Oplev has reduced Larsson’s mammoth 800 page best seller to a fighting trim 152 minutes.

However, you don’t have to read the book to get sucked into the story.  Oplev wastes no time introducing us to the main characters in revelatory ways and plugging us into the plot.

If you are a fan of the books, you won’t be disappointed by the casting. Nyqvist gives Mikael a kind of brooding, understated charm that befits our journalist hero and Rapace is a real find as the titular character. The actress plays Lisbeth with an almost feral intensity while at the same time revealing hints of the whipsmart intelligence and bruised psyche lurking just beneath the surface of that fearsome facade.

It is almost a shock to see the real Rapace who confides in an exclusive-to-Blu-Ray  interview that she worried that producers would consider her “too girlish and feminine” for the role “even though I knew I could transform” into the character.

The onscreen chemistry between Nyqvist and Rapace does a lot to sell the idea of their improbable professional and romantic pairing.

Kudos as well to cinematographers Jens Fischer and Eric Kress who make the frigid settings and locations in the book come alive. I especially liked the way the natural beauty of the Swedish countryside acts as a kind of counterpoint to the unsettling feeling that something is deeply wrong with the people who inhabit this pristine landscape.

Both DVD and Blu-Ray discs come with the original Swedish audio track (with English subtitles) and an English dubbed track.

Having heard both tracks I have to say that the art of dubbing a foreign language film into English has come a long  way from those badly synced Asian karate flicks of yore.

Still, I prefer hearing actors talk in their native language.  If you want to get a feeling for the culture that could serve as a setting for such a unique thriller you really have to experience it firsthand in its original Swedish language version (yes, that means reading subtitles.)

NOTE: There is a relentlessly ugly (but mercifully brief) scene of sexual assault in this film. Viewers concerned with the scene should know that Lisabeth refuses to be a victim and exacts a brutal revenge on her oppressor.  (The novel tends to be more graphic in its depictions of sexual violence.)


Movies U Should See (Even If U Hafta Hunt For ‘Em): THE BAND’S VISIT

An Egyptian military band arrive in Israel for a concert at an Arab cultural centre and end up stranded in a dusty little town in the middle of the Israeli desert.

The plot is easy to sum up. It is what goes on between the lines in this low key charmer that really counts.

The writer and director of The Band’s Visit is 34 year old Israeli TV veteran Eran Kolirin.  This is his feature film debut.

Released theatrically in North America in 2007, the film is set “not long ago” and seems to be infused with Kolirin’s nostalgia for the time of his childhood.  It is shot in the way he remembers things more than the way it is today.

The town where most of the movie was filmed is about two hours from Tel Aviv in the Negrev Desert region of Israel.

Kolirin has strong memories of this kind of small town which was typically built in the 1950s to house immigrants.

Israel and Egypt ended 30 years of war with the 1979 Peace Treaty, brokered by the U.S.A. led by President Jimmy Carter.  However, professional and artistic associations in Egypt were, and still are, reluctant to open up to Israel, citing the continued oppression of the Palestinian people and the occupation of their lands.  This has prevented The Band’s Visit being shown in Egypt, except perhaps in some small academic centres.

Political realities also made it impossible for Kolirin to hire Egyptian actors for the movie and therefore the band members are played by Israeli Arabs. Israeli born actor Sasson Gabai plays the band’s conductor, Lt. Colonel Tawfiq Zacharya.

The film moves at its own unhurried pace and the performances are uniformly natural and believable. In its own understated way the film makes its point that no matter what our differences we all share a common humanity.

Strait2DVD: Angel of Death

Plot Inna Nutshell: Stuntwoman/actress Zoe Bell plays a ruthless contract killer who takes a knife to the head and grows a conscience. Go figure. How It Plays: Quentin Tarentino’s favourite stunt gal Zoe Bell (she doubled for Uma Thurman in Kill Bill ) was feisty and ferocious in  Death Proof so hiring her as the lead in a straight to DVD action pic seems like a no-brainer. Of course, in Death Proof she had Tarentino directing. In Angel Of Death someone named Paul Etheredge is behind the camera. This is his first feature film as a a director. IMDB lists a whack of other credits including props, set dresser, production manager and art director. Don’t give up your day jobs, Paul.  (The DVD is apparently cobbled together from a web series on with some extra footage added for good measure). Miz Bell is a little shaky when it comes to portraying actual emotion but, hey, that’s not why we’re renting this anyway, right? We want to see Miz Bell kicking bad guy butt and that she does without even raising a sweat. Still, I had to ask myself: Where is Cynthia Rothrock when you really need her?

A Date Night with Pizza and Beer

Let’s face it. Any marriage can become safe and boring if you stay together long enough. Take Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey) in DATE NIGHT (88 mins. PG-13)

He’s a tax lawyer. She’s a real estate agent. The couple have two bratty youngsters and a nice home in the suburbs of New Jersey.

Once a week they escape to their favourite restaurant for a date night. They always order the same dishes (potato skins and salmon) and talk about the kids.

Even sex seems like an effort. (Phil: “It’s totally cool if we don’t. “  CLAIRE: “Are you sure? Because those potato skins made me feel kind of gassy.”)

Sure, they love each other. But they are not “in love” anymore.

Where’s the passion? Where’s the spontaneity?

The Fosters are not the only couple who feel that there is something missing in the marital bond.

“We are stuck in these roles together and we can’t break out of them,” Brad (Mark Ruffalo) confides to Phil while his wife, Haley (Kristen Wiig) tells Claire “I feel like we know each other too well. It’s always the same conversations, the same schedule.”

What’s the solution? Brad and Haley are getting a divorce. Phil decides to take his wife to New York for dinner.

Talk about spontaneity. The Fosters get plenty of it when they are mistaken for a con artist couple who have stolen something valuable from a Bad Apple gangster (Ray Liotta) and are chased all over Manhattan by a couple of crooked cops (rapper/actor Common, Jimmi Simpson).

Both Fey and Carell demonstrate deft comedy chops in their respective TV hits (she’s the creator/star of 30 Rock; he’s the heart and soul of The Office). I wish they could have brought the writers from those shows with them because most of this movie plays like one of those unfunny Saturday Night Live skits.

Director Shawn Levy knows how to orchestrate a good car chase but seems to leave the funny stuff up to the cast.

To be honest I didn’t laugh out loud once during the film’s mercifully brief running time.

But then I’m a crusty old English major soberly scribbling down notes while watching the movie alone in a darkened room on a weekday afternoon.

This movie probably plays better if you invite some friends on a Friday night and serve tons of pizza and beer.

Fey and Carell strive mightily to inject some color into Josh Klausner’s paint-by-numbers script and they are so darn likeable in the role they almost succeed.

There is a little romance, a lot of chase scenes and a great cast, even in the small roles. (Mark Wahlberg plays a shirtless security expert in a sly spoof of his action hero image. James Franco and Mila Kunis have cameos as the real con artist couple.)

And I’m betting more than a few housewives will nod in weary recognition when Claire tells her hubby “sometimes I just wanna have one day that doesn’t depend on how everybody else’s day goes.”

Y’know, I would probably like the Fosters if I met them in real life. I might even feel comfortable enough with them to enjoy a movie that is kinda lame but gets by on enormous personal charm.

PIZZA AND BEER RATING: 3 Slices out of Five