‘Dragon Tattoo’ Hacker Hunts Mass Killer; Sunken Treasure: Film

David Fincher gives “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” a sharp English-language makeover without losing any of its vivid characters or gloomy Swedish atmosphere.

Less than two years after a solid Swedish film of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel was released, Fincher (“The Social Network”) has made a better movie about the search for a serial killer by a daring journalist and an antisocial computer hacker.

“Dragon Tattoo” is still set in a snowy land known for civility and social justice. But that isn’t Larsson’s world, which is filled with corruption, greed, prejudice and sexual violence, as graphically depicted in a scene where tech whiz Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is raped by her guardian (Yorick van Wageningen).

The superb cast is led by Daniel Craig as divorced magazine editor Mikael Blomkvist and Mara as his tattooed, facially pierced, bisexual co-investigator. Their relationship, which turns from frosty to amorous, is the linchpin of a sordid story that includes a torture chamber where the killer dispatches his victims.

Other standouts include Christopher Plummer as retired industrialist Henrik Vanger, who hires Blomkvist to find a niece who’s been missing from his dysfunctional family for 40 years; van Wageningen as the guardian who forces Salander to trade sex for money; and Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger, the mysterious head of the family company who lives on an island estate right out of Architectural Digest.

“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” from Columbia Pictures, opens today across the U.S. Rating: ***1/2

‘Adventures of Tintin’

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson were the perfect pair to make “The Adventures of Tintin,” a computer-enhanced 3-D film based on Herge’s graphic novels about an intrepid boy reporter and his faithful dog Snowy.

Both filmmakers have the visual flair and childlike spirit needed to translate Herge’s popular characters for the big screen.

Directed by Spielberg and produced by Jackson, the buoyant movie combines three of Herge’s books into a story about Tintin’s search for a sunken ship that was carrying a vast treasure.

Along with Tintin (Jamie Bell) and Snowy (operated by puppeteer Brad Elliott), the globe-trotting adventure features a dastardly villain (Craig), a drunken ship captain (Andy Serkis) and two buffoonish detectives (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost).

Spielberg uses performance-capture -- a technique that makes the actors look like animated figures -- and other computerized images to produce a pleasing blend of fantasy and reality.

“The Adventures of Tintin,” from Paramount Pictures, opens today across the U.S. Rating: ***

‘Albert Nobbs’

Glenn Close’s androgynous look in “Albert Nobbs” -- think David Bowie with short hair and a tuxedo -- is the most intriguing part of this film about a woman who passes as a man in 19th-century Ireland.

That’s not enough to sustain interest in Rodrigo Garcia’s glacially paced adaptation of a short story that was turned into a 1982 off-Broadway play starring Close as the title character.

Nobbs has dressed and acted as a man for decades in order to keep her job as a hotel servant in Dublin. Her female side is so repressed and her male disguise so empty that she’s lost any connection with either sex.

Secret Lives

She briefly emerges from her shell after discovering that a temporary co-worker (Janet McTeer) harbors the same secret, leading to a tender scene where they both don dresses and bonnets for a seaside stroll.

But Nobbs’s attempt to woo a pretty young servant (Mia Wasikowska) ends tragically, and the film stumbles toward its melodramatic finish.

Close, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gabriella Prekop and novelist John Banville, has the exigent task of breathing life into an expressionless, emotionally stunted character who’s given little to do or say.

“Albert Nobbs,” from Roadside Attractions, opens today in New York and Dec. 23 in Los Angeles for one-week Oscar qualifying runs. It will be released Jan. 27 across the U.S. Rating: **1/2


What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
No stars      Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Rick Warner in New York at rwarner1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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