The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
   Director: Niels Arden Oplev, Swedish Film Institute, Rated MA, 152 mins

The first book of celebrated Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, titled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has been brilliantly adapted onto the big screen and made into an extraordinary motion picture by Danish filmmaker Niels Oplev.
   Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), an investigative journalist who writes for the magazine Millennium, loses a libel case against a corrupt Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström (Stefan Sauk) and is sentenced to three months in prison.
   Before beginning his sentence, Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube), the aged former head of a group of companies owned by a wealthy dynasty.
   Vanger wants Blomkvist to solve the case of his great-niece Harriet, who disappeared 40 years-ago when she was just sixteen.
   Vanger is convinced she was murdered by someone in his dysfunctional family.
   Blomkvist is ultimately helped in his investigation by Lisbeth Salander (an awesome performance by Noomi Rapace), a young punk with a dragon tattoo on her back who has been abused and victimised by those in authority, but who is also a ruthless computer hacker.
   The unlikely pair discovers that Harriet's disappearance is also linked to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago.
   In their pursuit to unravel the dark and appalling family history, Blomkvist and Salander soon find out just how far certain members of the Vanger family are prepared to go to protect their secrets.
   Despite the English sub-titles The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an engrossing mystery thriller that is complemented by a great cast, superb cinematography and a tight plot that provides for some startling scenes and tense situations that may not appeal to some people.
   At the same time, like The Silence of the Lambs it is a thoroughly entertaining movie that has been masterfully directed-and like many in the audience, I look forward to seeing the next instalment of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 ½ Rubber Stamps

School Holiday Movies
How to Train Your Dragon
   Director: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders, Rated PG, 98 mins

From the studio that produced Shrek, Madagascarand Kung Fu Panda comes a new animated feature, How to Train Your Dragon.
   Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell, this family fantasy tells the story of Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), a Viking teenager who does not exactly fit in with the longstanding Viking tradition of heroic dragon slayers - much to the embarrassment of his father Stoick (Gerard Butler).
   Hiccup’s world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges him and his fellow Vikings to see the world from a totally different point of view.
   Animation gurus Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch) have come together once again to direct this wonderful animated movie in 3D filled with appropriate levels of CGI effects and humour that the whole family will enjoy, especially the younger members of the audience.
VIC'S VERDICT:       4 Rubber Stamps

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang
   Director: Susanna White, Rated G, 106 mins

The talented Emma Thompson returns to write the story as well as play the wonderful
yet outwardly repulsive nanny in Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang,a somewhat farcical sequel that just does not appear to shine quite as brightly as its predecessor.
   Thompson is still a delight as the scary Mary Poppins character as she helps another desperate single parent by taming their mischievous bunch of spirited children.
   The lovely Mrs Green (played by the charming Maggie Gyllenhaal) becomes burdened with looking after the family farm in the English countryside and her sister's children as well as her own when her husband (Ewan McGregor) goes off to war.
   Besides Thompson and Gyllenhaal the fine cast also includes Ralph Fiennes and Maggie Smith.
   Even though there are some flaws in White’s direction including the omission of some characters from the first movie, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang is still an enjoyable family movie that is written for children and has a sensitive message at its heart.
VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps

The Spy Next Door
   Director: Brian Levant, Rated PG, 94 mins

Jackie Chan’s latest movie can best be described as a martial arts comedy that sees him playing the role of Bob Ho an undercover super-spy with the CIA who is keen to give up his espionage career and settle down with his next door neighbour and girlfriend Gillian (Amber Valleta).
   But he has one more mission to complete before Gillian agrees to marry him- winning over her three highly opinionated children played by Madeline Carroll (Farren), Alina Foley (Nora) and Will Shadley (Ian).
   When Gillian suddenly has to leave town Bob volunteers to baby sit the children so he can earn their approval.
   But when one of them mistakenly downloads a top-secret formula from his computer, bringing Bob's archenemy Poldark (Magnus Scheving) out into the open, it forces Bob to juggle the roles of spy and prospective stepfather in the most challenging mission of his career.
   Despite some poor acting and a weak plot Brian Levant has still managed to direct an entertaining comedy with Jackie Chan in top form doing what he does best in all his action sequences that young children and adults should find enjoyable.
VIC'S VERDICT:       2 ½ Rubber Stamps

Clash of the Titans
   Director: Louis Leterrier, Rated M, 118 mins

Director Louis Leterrier’s blockbuster movie is a remake of the original classic Clash of the Titans (1981) which is a fun-filled fantasy adventure involving Greek mythology and their gods.
   In this latest version set in the Greek city of Argos, a war is about to take place between man and the Greek gods.
   Australia’s Sam Worthington plays the lead character Perseus, the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), who takes on the gods after his family is killed by Zeus' brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes).
   Despite wanting revenge it is Perseus's destiny to rescue Argos from the ruthless rage of Hades and his huge Kraken monster.
   It is only through his courageous exploits that Perseus hopes to prevent Hades from overthrowing Zeus and in turn destroying mankind.
   Though not as good as the original, Leterrier has still been able to assemble a good cast, incorporate some great action sequences, special effects and stunning visuals (especially if seen in 3D) providing plenty of entertainment and excitement that will appeal to older children and adults alike.
VIC'S VERDICT:       3 ½ Rubber Stamps

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