“ The Girl In The Spider Web”

The “me,too” movement has a good push with “The Girl In The Spider Web”. Despite its over-powering music, “ The Girl In The Spider Web” shows especially what child abuse can do to the psyche. Revenge takes over in this film with techno skills celebrated and with a chessboard metaphor.

If you have not read the Stieg Larrson trilogy, the characters are a tad blurry. Lisbeth Salander is played by Claire Foy, not Rooney Mara, nor Noori Rapace before her. Like a female James Bond, the Lisbeth Salanders vie for our favorite. Claire Foy shows more emotion, yet Rooney Mara remains my favorite. I liked the impenetrable facade.

Here, in the fourth Salander movie, Foy gives us Lisbeth’s backstory, and it is not pretty. Incest and betrayal forge her childhood into a morphed techno-dragon, who is out to seek revenge on deplorable men: the kind who beat and ravage.

The first sequence has our protagonist rescuing a beaten wife and stringing her apologizing husband upside down in their posh condo. Lisbeth uses her hacking abilities to transfer their fortune to his wife and child. We hear Salander’s harsh, “ Take your child and go!” She complies. When the upside-down spouse demands to know who Lisbeth is, she cooly replies, “You should ask yourself that question.”

While Lisbeth is fighting wrongs, her sister Camilla,(Sylvia Hoeks) has woven a web to make Lisbeth suffer further for leaving her with their incestful father. An even colder fish than Lisbeth, Camilla, always dressed in red couture, seeks to suffocate her sibling. The heavy, black neoprene, womb-like contrivance with its attached placenta that is used to do this is symbolically cool. Camilla cuts a slit over her sister’s mouth and then glues it shut. She is a mess of push and pull, a psychopath for certain. Game board moves keep us guessing.

The writing and wayward plot could use some tightening. The avenging angel trope is mixed with Ducati flair and techy brilliance. When a client asks for the impossible to vaporize his project, Firefall, his young son is kidnapped. The god-like power for a single user gets National Security Agencies honing in for the technologically rich abomination. The chase is on.

Fire and ice imagery and dark sets keep the cinematography interesting. The most explosive scene being when Lisbeth’s loft is firebombed, and she saves herself by diving into her milky bath water. Bathtub safety wins again.

While all of this is a tad James Bond silly, there is a psychological thread that excentuates how “the past can be a black hole”. Director Niels Arden Oplev stays true to “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo”, “ The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”, and “ The Girl Who played With Fire”, by adding more bi-sexuality and cult fun. Pink suitcases full of dildos mesh with cement bunkers, safe room elevators, and mutilated faces cut up by spider-tat-scalpel wielders. “The itsey bitsy spider” is hummed alongside gas masks and electric prods.

Writers Frede Alvarez, Jay Badu, and Steven Knight could have written a better script, but they kept Lisbeth and journalist Mikael Blomkvist alive for another sequel.

“Burnt”

In this restaurant film when lovely blue thistles are displayed London-side, we are ready for a prickly chef; but, two-starred Michelin winner Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is known for sending out porcupine quills. With his bad-boy eye glints, Cooper can play an arrogant prick and so can Matthew Rhys, his co-star. The “Hell’s Kitchen” kind of abuse with the screaming, throwing and demands for control and perfection is much of the film, for sure. But there are surprises. Sy Omar’s cayenned palm being the most memorable. In fact, the supporting cast is what makes this film work. Uma Thurmond as charmed lesbian food critic, Emma Thompson as uncharmed therapist, Daniel Bruhl as besotted owner and maitre’d all bring the hum of life to the food scene.

This testosterone kitchen where “good” means “not good enough”is the Langham. We get the twelve-tone scale as background music as we see scrupulous dishes prepared,plated and delivered. Saliva flows and forks are lined-up,water glasses filled and wine paired. A spot on a glass, a fingerprint on a platter’s edge will keep the goal of a third Michelin star at bay. Sienna Miller plays the talented sous chef,Helene. Her single-mother status and pluck contribute a romantic and familiar interest. How else to change the narcissist! Writer Steven Knight has written some good lines especially for Reece ( Matthew Rhys). He books a reservation under his priest’s name so he can give the last rights.

Cooper makes us care about his second redemption: we have endured his penance of shucking one million oysters already. We get the drugs, the womanizing, the alley fights, the ” would-you-work-for-me-for-nothing” arrogance; the releasing of rats on the completion, not so much so. His Parisian badness still earns him the knives of his mentor Jon-Luc and the forgiveness of Jon-Luc’s daughter. Director John Wells gives us a well-made date movie while not tasting anything new. I’d say “yes,chef” to this one for a slice-of-life savor. There is strength in needing others probably can not be said enough times. No bodies were found floating in the Thames,or sighs at the movie’s end.