This Week In Movies By Pete Hammond: “SAW VII,” “Stone,” “The Girl That Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”

By Pete Hammond In a tacit admission that Halloween and the World Series may be just too big a distraction for moviegoers there was only one wide national release this week, and that was the abominable, not-screened-in-advance-for-critics seventh and mercifully final edition (they promise) of the torture-porn “Saw” horror series. Lionsgate has sprayed the Halloween territory with these movies for an astonishing seven years in a row , finally flatlining in 2009 with “Saw VI” which bombed. So why a seventh? The 3D phenomenon of course , and by making “Saw 3D” and clearly labeling it as the last in the series Lionsgate was able to grab the number one spot at the boxoffice with an estimated $24 million , $10 million more than what “Saw VI” did on its initial weekend last year. Considering the hiked prices for 3D tickets and that over 90% of them accounted for the “Saw 3D” total this figure really was not a big whoop and the film ought to deservedly plummet next weekend when Hollywood’s holiday season offerings get officially underway.

The next biggest release this week, but on only 153 screens, was yet another “series” film finale but one that was wildly different than “Saw 3D” to be sure. Music Box’s third in the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy , The “Girl That Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” came in just under a million bucks with about $915,000 which while under the initial totals for the previous two films, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (now with about $10 million overall) and “The Girl Who Played With Fir”e (now with about $7.5 million overall), it is still pretty phenomenal considering these are Swedish subtitled arthouse movies at heart from a tiny upstart American distributor. Of course they are all based on the international best selling series of Larsson novels so that certainly helps. And compared to what the English remakes, now underway for Sony Pictures with David Fincher directing and Daniel Craig starring will ultimately do , it’s impressive collective gross is a mere pittance. Foreign language film lovers have to be heartened though since this proves if people really want to see something they will put up with subtitles. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” proved that in spades and it’s nice to see another global success story like this one take hold.

Star Noomi Rapace was in town this week promoting the release of “Hornet’s Nest” and attending the Hollywood Awards gala where she received a Spotlight award which she says she was excited to get. She had been doing a string of interviews all day and I asked her if there was any difference between what foreign and American journalists ask her about playing her now signature role of Lizbeth Salander. “I think that probably the nude scene and the rape scene, it’s a bit more. People ask more about it over here and I think that people, maybe in Sweden and Scandanavia are a bit more used to sex scenes or whatever you call it, that are a bit more naked,” she told me. “Many journalists in America ask me about the rape scene and how I approached it, how I prepared, what my thoughts are about the aggressive and more brutal scenes.” After that press barrage and Monday night’s gala Rapace hopped on a plane back New York and then straight to London to resume filming her role as a gypsy opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the Warner Bros sequel to last year’s hit holiday release, “Sherlock Holmes.” The instant fame that Lizbeth Salander has delivered to Noomi Rapace is paying off big time already.

Left: Milla Jovovich – Right: Noomi Rapace

Speaking of those Hollywood Awards Spotlight awards, another actress in town to get one was Milla Jovavich who delivers the finest performance of her young career in the current drama, “Stone” playing the cunning wife of prisoner Edward Norton who tries to seduce the warden Robert DeNiro in order to free her husband. Although the Overture film continues to slowly expand its run across the country it hasn’t been able to make much of a box office splash which is too bad because the acting in it is superb , particularly Jovovich who flew in from Germany where she’s filming a new version of “The Three Musketeers” in order to accept her award. When I talked to her recently she told me the “Stone” role was a welcome challenge and a change particularly after doing four films in the hit “Resident Evil” series of action films. “For everybody it was really a different kind of movie. It’s so full of gray areas and they are such flawed characters. It was fun finding all the layers of her, not just a femme fatale or manipulator. I very much view her as an animal in some sense, “ she said. She had nothing but praise for her co-stars and loved working with DeNiro of course. “For any actor what an honor to work with Robert DeNiro and he’s such a sweet man. When you get to know him it’s like this beautiful dance with Bob because he never plays it like you think he’s gonna do it,” she says. Whether a big audience gets to see “Stone,” on the level of her” Resident Evi”l films for instance, isn’t the important thing for Jovovich. “Sometimes a small movie gets recognized today or 20 years from now. So I just do the things that make me feel interested as a person and an actress. I have a lot of fun making the action films and using that cachet to get the smaller films made. It’s all a beautiful journey for me to do as many diverse things as I can in my life,” she says. “You can’t let anything get you down. You just have to get up and keep going and doing what you love to do. The most important thing is I keep getting opportunities to do more movies and that’s amazing. I started when I was 9 and now I’m 34 and I’m still going strong.”

Photos Courtesy Getty Images

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— Pete Hammond

About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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