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daniel craig

Mini Movie Reviews: SPECTRE and BROOKLYN

Movie awards season is in full swing, so I’ve been attending multiple screenings a week. Last week I saw four movies, and this week will try to screen three. As much as I’d like to write detailed reviews, I can’t keep up due to work and sleep. Plus, laziness. So I’ll be posting shorter reviews of the movies I see in the next couple months, starting with these two.


SPECTREDirector Sam Mendes’s second James Bond outing and star Daniel Craig’s fourth improved upon the last two films in the franchise to become my favorite with Craig after Casino Royale. I chose to know nothing about the plot before viewing, just plunked myself into a theater seat, and said, “All right, entertain me.” And it did.

The opening sequence is usually among the most thrilling, and this one, set in Mexico City during Día de los Muertos, had me on the edge of my seat. The movie contains several other memorable set pieces involving helos, trains, boats, and fancy sports cars. The action isn’t Michael Bay-ish, meaning it’s not mindless destruction. There’s often an emotional undercurrent to the most explosive scenes, because Bond is trying to save someone’s life or exact revenge.

Craig is ultra cool, tearing across the screen with confidence. His leonine grace makes him equally suave in a tux and dangerous in a fight. This time out, he gets to play some of Bond’s personal backstory, making 007 more accessible than usual.

Despite much press calling her a Bond woman, Monica Bellucci isn’t the female lead. It’s good to see her on screen, alluring as ever, but she has only one scene. Léa Seydoux is the true Bond girl, one who’s believable as a doctor and doesn’t turn into a screaming mess when things get rough. The actress’s most effective features are her expressive eyes, which can go from steely to vulnerable and back again in .02 seconds.

Christoph Waltz is creepy as the villain, but we’ve witnessed this performance before. (See: Inglourious Basterds or any of his 93 other movies in which he plays a baddie.) Andrew Scott is also very good as a jerk; fans of BBC’s Sherlock might recognize him as Moriarty.

Even as Mendes continues to move the franchise forward, he pays homage to past Bond films by including fun references to iconic elements such as a certain white kitty, the classic Aston Martin, and a hulking, hard-to-kill thug who calls to mind Richard Kiel’s Jaws. As for Sam Smith’s rendition of the title song, the only thing I can remember about it is thinking, “Wow, dude can sing high.”

Nerd verdict: Satisfying Spectre



brooklynSaoirse Ronan stars as Eilis, an Irish lass in the 1950s who’s sent to Brooklyn, NY, by her older sister due to a lack of career opportunities for young women in their hometown. With the help of a Catholic priest, Eilis gets a job in a high-end department store while going to school to study bookkeeping.

She also starts seeing an Italian boy named Tony and life looks good—until a sudden death calls her back to Ireland. While there, she meets another young man who makes her wonder whether her life belongs in her home country or across the ocean in America.

The story, from Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name, sounds simple, but the movie is highly affecting (while containing more than a few laughs). Sobs were heard throughout in the audience, and some of them might’ve come from me.

During the post-movie Q&A, director John Crowley said he wanted the adaptation, penned by Nick Hornby, to be emotional but not sentimental, and he accomplished his goal. He had able help from Ronan, showing a much softer side than she had with past characters, and Emory Cohen as Tony, whose chemistry with Ronan is palpable and sweet.

The supporting cast, including Domhnall Gleeson as Jim, the third point in the love triangle; Julie Walters as a boardinghouse’s den mother; and Jim Broadbent as the priest who watches over Eilis; is rock solid. The lush cinematography and period costumes made me nostalgic for a time when the world seemed more beautiful and less complicated.

Nerd verdict: Moving Brooklyn


Book Review—BRIDGET JONES: MAD ABOUT THE BOY by Helen Fielding

mad about the boyI really hated starting this book after I’d seen Entertainment Weekly‘s major plot spoiler in a headline on its homepage, with no spoiler alert or option to have the spoiler revealed only to readers who click on the article. Up to that point, I’d avoided all of Helen Fielding’s interviews and was happily clueless, awaiting the return of Bridget Jones.

So, if you hadn’t heard about the bomb Fielding dropped and intend to read the book, I’ll warn you there will be SPOILERS in this review. I wasn’t going to include any but it’s hard to discuss the story without revealing the Very Big Deal.

Stop now if you don’t want to know.

Last chance to bail.



OK, Bridget is now 51 and a mother of two grade-school-aged children, Billy and Mabel. She’s also a widow. *Sob*. Mark Darcy was killed while on a trip to Darfur, doing his international rights work. (The book starts five years after Mark’s death, but backtracks a year, and then catches up to the current year.) Bridget is getting back into the dating game via different online methods, including Twitter and dating sites. She engages in a relationship with a 29-year-old “toy boy” named Roxby but called Roxster due to his Twitter handle. She juggles this with her single-mum duties and work on her screenplay, a modernization of Hedda Gabler.

It’s good to see Bridget back, nutty as ever, but the humor is tempered by sadness. It’s to Fielding’s credit that she created a character whose absence is deeply felt even in a book where he does not appear. When the children do something wonderful and Bridget wishes Mark were around to witness it, or when it’s late at night and Bridget’s loneliness intensifies, the scenes are poignant.

Fielding doesn’t dwell on the sadness, though. Bridget snaps back to her usual go-getter self, and her pluckiness in the face of adversity is probably one of the reasons readers like her.

But sometimes Bridget—and the author—tries too hard to be funny, as if to entertain a younger audience. There are a lot of fart jokes between Bridget and Roxster. And jokes about syphilis and gonorrhea. And pubic lice and diarrhea and throwing up in your mouth. A couple of the jokes made me chuckle but I did wonder at times if I’d wandered into a Hangover sequel.

The ending is predictable; you’ll most likely spot the person Bridget ends up with right at the beginning. That part is OK because in Bridget Jones’s Diary, it was also obvious right away that she’d end up with Mark.

What I question is how this new man managed to develop the intense feelings he seems to confess to Bridget near the end. Mark had known Bridget since they were both children, so despite only occasional encounters in Diary, it was believable that he could have fallen in love with her somewhere along the way.

In Mad, she has only brief run-ins and limited conversations with this new romantic interest. The two barely know each other so it’s not clear where the feelings come from. It seems he’s into her because she’s such a mess, a damsel in need of rescuing, and that’s not a strong foundation for a relationship.

There’s one thing I’m hoping for if this book gets a movie adaptation. Fielding described Mark in Diary as looking like Colin Firth and the actor ended up playing Mark. In this latest book, she describes Bridget’s love interest as looking like Daniel Craig and Bond-ish. Make it happen for the movie! I’m mad about that boy!

Nerd verdict: Pages 386, pages too long 60 (approx.), issues 2 or 3, overall still good

Amazon | IndieBound


Movie Discussion: SKYFALL

The AFI Fest started last week (wrapping up today) and for the third year, I’ve been attending as a press member. Last night was the annual “Secret Screening,” revealed at the last minute as Skyfall. Guess who fell out of her chair when she read that announcement?

Mr. PCN and I hustled down to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, and following are our reactions to the 23rd James Bond movie, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, and Naomie Harris. The spoiler-free plotline is that things get personal for M.

Mr. PCN: I love the title sequence. Reminds me no one else does it like that.

PCN: It was gorgeous and hypnotic. I can’t hum Adele’s tune, though.

Mr. PCN: As with most Bond movies, the opening action was awesome.

PCN: It was intense. Love how the audience cheered when he first appeared.

Mr. PCN: Craig is wonderful, but he looks a little more beat-up than usual. It makes sense in context of the plot, but was still startling.

PCN: Like you said, he had to look like that, considering all that happens to him in just the first fifteen minutes. Makes him more human. But then he puts on those Tom Ford suits and all is right with the world again. I was obsessed with those suits! They could cut you, they were so sharp. They fit him so well, in silhouette he looked naked.

Mr. PCN: *rolls eyes*

PCN: These are astute observations. Costumes are an important part of cinema.

Mr. PCN: Uh-huh. Moving on to Bardem. It’s no surprise he shines as the villain. His performance is flawless, and the flirtation scene between him and Bond is hilarious.

PCN: Bardem is mesmerizing. He’s so unpredictable; I could never tell when he was going to smile at someone or kill them. He doesn’t overdo the villainy, but instead exudes charm and humor, which makes him even scarier, a la Hannibal Lecter. And his introduction via that one long take in which he does the monologue while walking slowly toward the camera is well done. What’s with him and ugly character hairdos, though?

Mr. PCN: Ha! What I want to know is: Why is Bérénice Marlohe getting so much press when her Sévérine is so underwhelming?

PCN: I agree. Naomie Harris, though, is sexy because she’s smart and competent.

Mr. PCN: She’s more of a driving force. Q is bit of a conundrum. He’s not as fun as John Cleese or Desmond Llewelyn. And Q’s gotta have fun with Bond and his gadgets.

PCN: And he’s not that smart. Makes mistakes, and is kind of slow to realize things that seem obvious to viewers. Not Ben Whishaw’s fault, though, more the way the role was written. What did you think of the action sequences?

Mr. PCN: The opening train-and-crane is the best.

PCN: Yeah. Supposedly, most of the stunts were real, not CGI’d. Craig had to fight on a moving train, tethered to a safety line, and told not to look down.

Mr. PCN: Komodo dragon was good, too. Short and snappy.

PCN: The Shanghai fight was nicely shot, against the neon lights and shadows.

Mr. PCN: But it was kind of confusing.

PCN: Yes! I wish some of the fights were filmed in two-shots so we could see the choreography more. As is, there are a lot of fast cuts and closeups. I couldn’t see the moves or tell what was going on sometimes.

Mr. PCN: I enjoyed the nods to early Bond films, like the Aston Martin DB5.

PCN: With the original plate from Goldfinger! And when Q gives Bond simple gadgets and says, “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that anymore.”

Mr. PCN: I don’t think this breaks any new ground, but harkens back to vintage Bond.

PCN: I think it’s both old and new. Several important elements were reinvented, but with reverence to what’s gone before.

Verdicts: Mr. PCN—Skyfall floats, but doesn’t rise; PCN–Skyfall‘s a solid soldier

Note: Besides the AFI Fest, the Variety Screening Series has also begun. Check back soon for reviews of Anna Karenina, Hitchcock, Silver Linings Playbook, and Life of Pi.

Photos: Francois Duhamel/Columbia Pictures



OK, my thoughts aren’t THAT loud and there are no tattoos on Joey, the horse in War Horse (there is a birthmark), but I am combining my thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and War Horse in this post. I’ve been traveling and it’s been planes, trains, and automobiles for the past twenty-four hours, so the following won’t be full-length reviews but lists of the pertinent points I want to make about each movie.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If you’re curious about this movie at all, it’s probably because you’re a) a diehard fan of the books and/or Swedish movies and want to compare, b) you haven’t read or seen any of the other versions but are thinking about checking this out to see what all the Stieg Larsson and Lisbeth Salander hubbub is about, or c) you’re a David Fincher fan. So here’s what you want to know:

  1. Rooney Mara is convincing but her Lisbeth is different than Noomi Rapace’s. Rapace was fiercer, with an undercurrent of anger even when she was still, whereas Mara’s Lisbeth is cooler, as in detached. She also looks younger and more waifish, closer to the book’s description. Bottom line, though, Rapace’s performance leaves a much more indelible impression.
  2. If you’ve read the books and seen the Swedish movie, you don’t need to see this one (my review of the book is here and the Swedish movie here). It’s faithful, down to the sluggish exposition in the beginning. There are no surprises because you know everything. The change in the ending, a source of controversy, is not a big deal and it works. Without it, the two-and-a-half-hour movie would’ve been even longer.
  3. Except for the dark, freaky title sequence, you can’t tell this is a Fincher movie, though after The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Fincher style seems to be expanding.
  4. The biggest laugh at the screening I attended came from a T-shirt Lisbeth is wearing when she first meets Mikael.
  5. Daniel Craig is a sexier Mikael Blomkvist, which justifies his ladies’ man status in the novels. The actor starts out doing a slight Swedish accent but abandons it fairly quickly (everyone else keeps theirs on). This isn’t about him, though. It’s Mara’s movie. And while she does just fine, Rapace left combat boots that are hard to fill.

Nerd verdict: Fine film, but redundant for those previously Tattooed

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The protagonist of this movie, based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, might also be autistic or have Asperger’s, like Lisbeth. Eleven-year-old Oskar Schell, whose father died in 9/11, finds a key the senior Schell left behind and goes on a quest to find out where the key fits, believing it’s a clue to a puzzle his dad would’ve wanted him to solve.

  1. Thomas Horn, who has never acted before, is an amazing find as Oskar. His role is extremely difficult, for not only does he carry the movie, but he has long monologues spouting facts and figures that would twist the tongue of actors twice his age and experience. Horn is a Jeopardy! kids champion and obviously has the smarts to make the dialogue convincing, but he also has emotional intelligence, a harder thing to access, especially on cue. You can see him thinking, and then feel what he feels.
  2. Tom Hanks plays the dad in jovial Hanks fashion, and Bullock has some moving moments as the mom. It’s nice that it’s no longer a surprise when she turns in strong dramatic work. Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, and Max von Sydow also have standout scenes, but their roles are all small.
  3. It might still be too soon (it may always be) for a wide audience to accept a movie about 9/11. Scenes of people falling from the sky in slo-mo don’t help.

Nerd verdict: Perhaps too Loud, too soon

War Horse

An English lad named Albert raises and trains a horse named Joey that his father bought at auction to help around their farm. It’s quite clear, though, that Joey is much too spirited for mundane farm life, and when WWI breaks out, Albert’s father sells him to the cavalry. The movie is Joey’s journey through the war and the people—civilians and military from all sides—whose lives he touches.

  1. The horses who play Joey are great actors, displaying such a vivid personality, you can almost tell what Joey would say if he could talk. If you’re not invested in his fate, then your heart is smaller than the Grinch’s.
  2. Director Steven Spielberg thankfulky holds back on the war depiction instead of giving us the full Private Ryan, but some of the scenes are no less traumatic. Yes, awful things happen to the horses. I wept more than once, but didn’t feel manipulated because of Spielberg’s restraint.
  3. Tom Hiddleston (Loki!), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock!), and Emily Watson have small roles but make the most of them. Their absense is felt when they’re not on screen.
  4. The most memorable scene is one that shows the ridiculousness of war, how people wouldn’t want to kill each other if they could see they’re not that different when standing eye to eye instead of gun to head. The scene is more striking because it uses humor in the middle of a tense situation, and the point is made while we’re laughing, which is sometimes a more effective way to communicate than making others cry.

Nerd verdict: Star Horse

What are you looking to seeing this weekend? If I don’t see you here again before Sunday, I wish you a holiday that makes you feel like a kid waiting for Santa to come the night before. Smile big, spread joy, and may it come back to you tenfold.


First Tintin Movie News Are In!

I was thrilled to hear over the weekend that most of the first reviews for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secrets of Unicorn are not only positive, but overwhelmingly so! Many of you know the Tintin books are the first titles I remember reading on my own as a kid and absolutely loving. Despite the fact this movie was directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, I was concerned it wouldn’t deliver the sense of wonder I felt experiencing Hergé’s work. The trailers didn’t quite win me over, either.

But the reviews coming in from Europe, where the movie will open later this month (December 21 in the U.S.—argghhh!) are comparing it to the Indiana Jones movies, using descriptors like “visually splendid,””gorgeous,” “stunning,” “lavish,” and “breathless.” The Hollywood Reporter says it’s “a good ol’ fashioned adventure flick that harkens back to [Spielberg]’s action-packed, tongue-in-cheek swashbucklers of the 1980s.” It’s almost enough to make me hop on a plane to France so I can see it two months before its stateside release.

If interested, you can read full reviews from The Sun (UK), The Hollywood Reporter, and HitFix.

Anyone else as excited as I am?


Movie Review: COWBOYS & ALIENS

I went to a screening of Cowboys & Aliens last night and my trusty contributing writer, Eric Edwards, was there, too. The following is our discussion afterward.

But first, a quick synopsis: A man (Daniel Craig) wakes up in a desert town with no memory of his name or where he came from. He has a strange metal cuff on his left arm that can’t be removed. He encounters the sheriff (Keith Carradine) and the cattle rancher (Harrison Ford) who seems to control the town, and gets caught up in an alien attack the very night he arrives. A beautiful woman (Olivia Wilde) says she needs the stranger’s help and next thing he knows, he’s out to get the town’s abductees back.

Pop Culture Nerd: This is one of those instances when the actors make the script look way better than it probably reads.

Eric Edwards: Yeah, with no-name actors, this would not have been as good, but the title is what drew me in. C’mon, it’s Cowboys & Aliens! Who wouldn’t want to see that?

PCN: Uh, I need more than a title. Sometimes you have a great title and a movie that’s garbage. Other times, the reverse is true. I went because of Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. I like Olivia Wilde, too, but she’s not the main attraction. It’s not their fame, though, that elevated this movie. It’s their talent. Craig made the movie. Ford was chomping hard on that Western scenery at times but I forgave him because, you know, he’s Harrison Ford. I love Han and Indy too much to hate on him. For now.

EE: This was like a big bucket of popcorn. While you’re eating it, you’re enjoying the salt, the butter, the crunchy. But as soon as you’re done, you realize you didn’t eat anything nourishing.

PCN: I agree but I don’t think the filmmakers were trying to make a steak dinner. It’s OK to simply aim to make an entertaining movie, which this is for the most part. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t stop me from noticing its flaws. With such a fantastic premise, it could have been so much better.

EE: What did you think of Daniel Craig’s character?

PCN: I like him but he’s a cipher in the beginning of the movie, to himself and to us because he has amnesia. It’s hard for me as a viewer to have deep emotional stakes in a character who doesn’t know exactly what he stands for.

EE: We saw what he stood for! He didn’t try to cause harm. He only defended himself when he had to.

PCN: That’s not really standing for something. Most people, even criminals, have an innate defense mechanism when they’re threatened. It doesn’t make them heroic.

*Mild spoiler*

EE: Yeah, but it’s how they approach their situations. I never felt that The Stranger/Jake reacted in any way that was purely selfish. That’s why it’s kind of surprising to find out he’s a wanted man.

*End spoiler*

PCN: Don’t get me wrong. I was definitely rooting for him because Craig gave him gravitas. He has such incredible presence, even when he’s not speaking, that you know The Stranger is the guy everyone will pin their hopes on without even knowing if he’s good or bad because he’s the only one who can get the job done. I give Craig credit for bringing that. I don’t think it was on the page.

EE: Yeah, he radiates cool with an underpinning of danger.

PCN: And his pants were tight. I wasn’t looking but they kept showing the view. But I digress. It’s interesting how, compared to Craig’s stillness, Ford seemed over the top. He looked like he was posturing and he’s usually the king of deadpan.

EE: He and Craig were kinetic together, but when Ford had scenes with other characters, they didn’t play as well. It’s like Craig grounded him.

PCN: I was choking a little on the cornball manly dialogue between Ford’s character and the young boy, Emmett (Noah Ringer). The whole business about the knife was too foreshadowy and heavy-handed, and what he said to Adam Beach’s character near the end made me groan.

EE: There were a lot of clichés. It’s like the writers didn’t trust the intelligence of their audience.

PCN: Well, there were five writers credited for the screenplay. That’s never a good sign.

EE: Olivia Wilde’s role could have been played by anyone.

PCN: It’s not her fault they didn’t give her enough to do! I know Ella’s supposed to be mysterious but I got tired of all her lurking and stalking of Jake in the beginning. I was saying in my head, “Just state your business, woman!” Wilde did what she could. She sure had great eyebrows and white teeth for the West in 1873. What did you think of the aliens?

EE: I think we saw too much of them and they lost their fear factor after a while.

PCN: I didn’t find them intimidating at all, and I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to aliens.

EE: They were scarier when we couldn’t really see them and could only hear them. And at first, I thought their spaceships looked liked X-wing fighters!

PCN: I thought that, too! I was expecting Wedge to radio in. But I’m not sure the Force was with this movie.

EE: It’s entertaining. It’s cowboys and aliens. Don’t look for much more than that.

Nerd verdicts: PCN—Cowboys not wild enough in the West, EE—Craig gives Cowboys a kick in the pants



Nerdy Links

Got lazy busy this week despite (because of?) the short week so I’ll just post or link to a few things I found interesting around the web.

Here’s the international poster for David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I have no idea why Lisbeth is half-frontal naked. Because she’s not objectified enough or the movie needs more attention?

Entertainment Weekly reports that Martin Scorsese might direct a biopic about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Not sure this would be a good idea. Who amongst our contemporary stars could play the iconic couple? EW suggests Clive Owen and I’d be completely behind that, but I’d have to say no to Catherine Zeta-Jones. The actress is gorgeous but oddly lacks charisma. Do you have any casting ideas?

The funny video below, George Lucas Strikes Back, explains why the Star Wars prequels were so awful: Lucas was kidnapped twenty years ago and an impostor made those movies. Short Round makes a cameo in this “trailer” and the actress playing Leia really has her Carrie Fisher impression down.

The Rap Sheet put together a list of 100 crime fiction novels you should check out this summer. I’ve read some of them; there’s some good stuff on there.

One of the books on the list, Duane Swierczynski’s Fun & Games, is in my top three of favorites so far this year. It’s the first in a trilogy featuring a great new character named Charlie Hardie. Duane is doing a fun giveaway for those who pre-order F&G. Prizes include personalized copies of his five previous novels, postcards from him as he travels across America on his book tour later this month, and the chance to name a character in the third Hardie book. Get the scoop here.

David Sedaris has a new short story out. It’ll be published in the paperback version of his Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk but you can read it here now. It’s titled “Vomit-Eating Flies” and isn’t for readers with weak stomachs but it has his trademark wit and commentary.

June 1 would’ve been Marilyn Monroe’s 85th birthday, so LIFE released rare photos from when she was a 22-year-old actress just starting her career. The pictures show her taking ballet, acting and singing lessons, and Marilyn seems delighted by everything. See the rest of the gallery here.

Photo by J.R. Eyerman/LIFE

Finally, my Friday reads are Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot and Karin Slaughter’s Broken. What are you reading?

Have a great weekend!

Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.



In case you weren’t watching the American Idol results show last night, the second Cowboys & Aliens trailer premiered and the movie, opening July 29, continues to look gooood. I can’t embed the video but you can see it here.

The trailer for another big summer movie debuted this week: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Brian Cox and Andy Serkis. Are you a fan of the previous ape movies? How does this origin story look to you? I can’t decide if it’s must-see for me.


First Photos of Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander has posted the first photos of Rooney Mara in training for David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The pictures aren’t great quality but they’re clear enough to see Mara looking Lisbeth-y. You can click on the site’s name to see more photos.

Do these look promising or are you still skeptical? I want pics of my boy Daniel Craig as Blomkvist! [UPDATE: For the first official photos of Mara as Lisbeth, click here.]


The Girl Who Will Play Lisbeth Salander Is…

…Rooney Mara.

David Fincher has finally chosen the lead actress for his adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mara, 25, will star opposite Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, Robin Wright as Millenium‘s editor Erika Berger, Stellan Skarsgard as Martin Vanger, with Max von Sydow in talks for Henrik Vanger.

A few weeks ago, Fincher had whittled down his choices to these four actresses, three of whom are foreigners. Fincher went with the sole American, presumably because he worked with her in his upcoming The Social Network. I don’t know anything about Mara’s acting so I won’t judge but will admit I was kinda rooting for one of the others since the filmmakers are apparently still setting it in Sweden. Then again, Mara has as much chance as the others of being believable since they’re not Scandinavian, either.

For more info, click here.

Lisbeth fans, what do you think? (UPDATE: Here are first photos of Mara in character.)


The Right Girl

As announced earlier this week, Daniel Craig is confirmed as Mikael Blomkvist in David Fincher’s version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the two sequels in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy. I whooped for joy at this news because I think there’s no better choice for Blomkvist. Craig has the intelligence to portray the journalist and the sex appeal to convince us Blomkvist is a ladies’ man.

But now the focus turns towards the casting of Lisbeth Salander, which is more crucial to the success of the franchise. According to numerous sources, Fincher has narrowed his choices to the following four actresses:

  1. Léa Seydoux
  2. Sarah Snook
  3. Rooney Mara
  4. Sophie Lowe

I’m excited that three out of four are foreigners—Snook and Lowe are Australians, Leydoux is French—and all are unknown here. When I watch the movie I’ll want to see only Lisbeth up there, not thinking, “Oh, that’s Ellen Page /Natalie Portman/Carey Mulligan in punk makeup.”

What do you think? Do you want an unknown or more established actress as Lisbeth? Judging only from their photos, do any of these give off a Lisbeth vibe to you? How do you feel about Craig as Blomkvist?


Interview: Nerdy Questions for THE PENNY PINCHERS CLUB's Sarah Strohmeyer

Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

Author Sarah Strohmeyer must have a crystal ball. When she started this book, our 401(k) hadn’t been reduced to 201(k). But now the title of her new novel, The Penny Pinchers Club, could apply to our nation as a whole, not just the support group that Strohmeyer’s protagonist joins.

Kat, a forty-something New Jersey mom and shopaholic, finds evidence that her husband, Griff, is preparing to leave her for his research assistant. Instead of throwing him out or driving off in a huff, Kat must pretend she doesn’t know anything and bide her time until she saves enough money to live on her own. She joins a group of eccentric, budget-conscious people to help her accomplish this goal.

pp clubIn the midst of all the coupon clipping and Dumpster diving, Kat’s old boyfriend resurfaces, someone who conveniently has loads of cash. Many years ago, he had proposed to her but she turned him down for Griff, choosing the hot, romantic guy over the nice, stable one. A couple of decades later with her marriage on the brink of collapse, Kat wonders if she made the right choice.

This synopsis doesn’t do justice to Strohmeyer’s witty prose and endearing characters. It’s a fast, sexy read that surprises just when you think you know where it’s headed. It also gives you easy tips on how to save money and who can’t use that?

I’ve always enjoyed Strohmeyer’s zesty writing from the Bubbles Yablonsky series and now that I’ve had a chance to do an e-mail interview with her, I like her even more (she’s a Colin Firth and Daniel Craig fan!). Read her answers to my nerdy questions and tell me you don’t want to invite her to dinner and have her dog drive her over.

PCN: If you had to start a club to pinch something else besides pennies, what would that be?

Colin Firth

Colin Firth, Photo: Jim Wright

Sarah Strohmeyer: Colin Firth. Or maybe Daniel Craig. Nah, he’s too wiry. Definitely Colin. More to pinch.

PCN: Ooh, I’ll take both. One for each hand, please. What’s the one thing you will never give up, no matter how cash-strapped you get?

SS: Books. Wine. Dark chocolate with cherries. Though not necessarily in that order.

PCN: Kat chose to marry a man she was crazy about over one who had lots of money. What’s the most romantic but cheapest date you’ve ever had?

SS: This is horribly corny and I’m embarrassed to admit it—walking hand in hand as a light snow fell on a quiet December night 21 years ago, stopping to kiss under a tree as my future husband asked me to be his wife.

PCN: That is romantic but neither cheap nor corny. What’s cheap is when Kat goes Dumpster diving with her friend for groceries and an antique chair. What would you Dumpster dive for?

SS: Colin Firth. No, wait. He can’t be the answer to EVERYTHING.

PCN: Sure he can!

SS: I would Dumpster dive for more talent. And maybe if I accidentally threw out my engagement ring. When my brother was 13, we had to comb a landfill on Cape Cod for his retainer that he “accidentally” tossed in the trash. Ninety-degree heat. Stinking lobster shells. Seagulls threatening to pick out our brains. Fun times. (And, no, we did NOT find the retainer.)

PCN: Um, maybe that’s a good thing? One of the characters in the book turned out to be worth millions but struggling with the burden. What would you do with that kind of money? Would you still write if you didn’t have to work anymore?

Strohmeyer's dog, Fred

Strohmeyer's dog, Fred

SS: I would still write but I wouldn’t care if I sold. (Bliss!) I’d like to say I’d use the money to make sure no child anywhere went hungry at any time, but I think that’s a pipe dream. In truth, I’d buy a house I just saw in the New York Times that’s built over a stream in a California forest. Then I’d read, write, cook, hang with my family and play with my dogs. Kind of like my life now, except the $2 million crib.

PCN: I love your list of DOs and DON’Ts for saving money at the end of the book, which included a recipe for making your own mildew-remover. Any cheap, easy dinner recipes you’d like to share, too?

SS: Tortilla casserole:

1 package corn tortillas

2 cans black beans (or be a Penny Pincher and pressure cook your own)

1 large jar salsa

3 Tbs cilantro

8 oz cheddar cheese


Heat oven to 350. Combine drained beans, salsa, cilantro in saucepan. Heat on low and stir until warm and flavors meld. Grate cheese.

In a casserole dish, spoon some of the salsa sauce on the bottom, cover with two or three tortillas, 1/3 sauce, 1/3 cheese.

Then another layer of tortillas, sauce, cheese and repeat, topping with cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 1/2 hour. Remove foil and broil for a few minutes until cheese bubbles.

Let sit five minutes, cut and serve. Reheats well. Serves tons of people. Can be made ahead of time easily and is great for weekday dinners. Plus, it provides complex proteins and is suitable for vegetarians. (My son’s one—grrr.)

Serve with a green salad. I usually make this on days when my son has a game and then put it in a timed oven so it’s ready when we get home.

PCN: I have no immediate plans to invite tons of people over so that will feed me for a week. Thank you. Next question: It’s said that the best things in life are free. What are some of the best things in your life right now?

Strohmeyer's backyard

Strohmeyer's backyard

SS: Generic antidepressants. Not free, but cheap. Best things are my husband and kids (though my 18-year-old daughter’s a bit of a trial). The view of the mountains out my back door. Running around the dirt roads in my neighborhood. My basset hound, Fred, aka Mr. Bigglesworth. My friends and books. The hat I’m knitting. The fact that my cholesterol is 177 and I feel healthy and alive.

PCN: What would you tell someone who said he/she’s on a budget right now and can’t afford your book?

SS: “I’m sorry.” Then I’d suggest the library, a Penny Pincher haven.