Film Review: The Snowman (dir by Tomas Alfredson)


So, I finally watched the 2018 thriller, The Snowman, and my main reaction to the film is that it featured a lot of snow.

That’s understandable, of course.  The film takes place in Norway and it’s called The Snowman so, naturally, I wasn’t expecting a lot of sunshine.  Still, after a while, the constant shots of the snow-covered landscape start to feel like almost some sort of an inside joke.  It’s almost as if the film is daring you to try to find one blade of grass in Norway.  Of course, the snow is important because the film’s about a serial killer who builds snowmen at the sites of his crimes.  They’re usually pretty big snowmen as well.  It’s hard not to be a little impressed by the fact that he could apparently make such impressive snowmen without anyone noticing.

Along with the snow, the other thing that I noticed about this movie is that apparently no one knows how to flip a light switch in Norway.  This is one of those films where every scene seems to take place in a dark room.  I found myself worrying about everyone’s eyesight and I was surprised the everyone in the film wasn’t wearing glasses.  I can only imagine how much strain that puts on the eyes when you’re constantly trying to read and look for clues in the dark.

Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole, a Norwegian police inspector who may be troubled but still gets results!  He’s upset because his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has a new boyfriend (Jonas Karlsson).  He’s also upset because his son (Michael Yates) doesn’t know that Harry is actually his father.  Or, at least, I think that Harry’s upset.  It’s hard to tell because Fassbender gives a performance that’s almost as cold as the snow covering the Norwegian ground.  Of course, he’s always watchable because he’s Fassbender.  But, overall, he doesn’t seem to be particularly invested in either the role or the film.

Harry and his new partner (Rebecca Ferguson) are investigating a missing person’s case, which quickly turns into a multiple murder mystery.  It turns out that the crimes are linked to a bunch of old murders, all of which were investigated by a detective named Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer).  Gert was troubled but he still got results!  Or, at least, Harry thinks that he may have gotten results.  Nine years ago, Rafto died under mysterious circumstances…

Now, I have to admit that when, 30 minutes into the film, the words “9 years earlier” flashed on the screen, I groaned a bit.  I mean, it seemed to me that the movie was already slow enough without tossing in a bunch of flashbacks.  However, I quickly came to look forward to those brief flashbacks, mostly because they featured Val Kilmer in total IDGAF mode.  Kilmer stumbles through the flashbacks, complete with messy hair and a look of genuine snarky bemusement on his face.  Kilmer gives such a weird and self-amused performance that his brief scenes are the highlight of the film.

Before it was released, The Snowman was hyped as a potential Oscar contender.  After the movie came out and got roasted by the critics, director Tomas Alfredson replied that the studio forced him to rush through the production and that 10 to 15% of the script went unfilmed.  Considering Alfredson’s superior work on Let The Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The film’s disjointed style would certainly seem to back up Alfredson’s claim that there was originally meant to be more to the film than actually ended up on the screen.

The Snowman is one of those films that doesn’t seem to be sure what it wants to be.  At times, it aspires to David Lynch-style surrealism while, at other times, it seems to be borrowing from the morally ambiguous crime films of Taylor Sheridan.  Ultimately, it’s a confused film that doesn’t seem to have much reason for existing.  At the same time, I’ve also been told that the Jo Nesbø novel upon which the movie is based is excellent.  The same author also wrote the novel that served as the basis for 2011’s Headhunters, which was pretty damn good.  So, read the book and ignore the film.

Playing Catch-Up: The Accountant, Carnage Park, The Choice, The Legend of Tarzan


Continuing my look back at the films of 2016, here are four mini-reviews of some films that really didn’t make enough of an impression to demand a full review.

The Accountant (dir by Gavin O’Connor)

2016 was a mixed year for Ben Affleck.  Batman v. Superman may have been a box office success but it was also such a critical disaster that it may have done more harm to Affleck’s legacy than good.  If nothing else, Affleck will spend the rest of his life being subjected to jokes about Martha.  While Ben’s younger brother has become an Oscar front runner as a result of his performance in Manchester By The Sea, Ben’s latest Oscar effort, Live By Night, has been released to critical scorn and audience indifference.

At the same time, Ben Affleck also gave perhaps his best performance ever in The Accountant.  Affleck plays an autistic accountant who exclusively works for criminals and who has been raised to be an expert in all forms of self-defense.  The film’s plot is overly complicated and director Gavin O’Connor struggles to maintain a consistent tone but Affleck gives a really great performance and Anna Kendrick reminds audiences that she’s capable of more than just starring in the Pitch Perfect franchise.

Carnage Park (dir by Mickey Keating)

I really wanted to like Carnage Park, because it was specifically advertised as being an homage to the grindhouse films of the 1970s and y’all know how much I love those!  Ashley Bell plays a woman who gets kidnapped twice, once by two bank robbers and then by a psycho named Wyatt (Pat Healy).  Healy chases Bell through the desert, hunting her Most Dangerous Game-style.  There are some intense scenes and both Bell and Healy are well-cast but, ultimately, it’s just kind of blah.

The Choice (dir by Ross Katz)

The Choice was last year’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation.  It came out, as all Nichols Sparks adaptations do, just in time for Valentine’s Day and it got reviews that were so negative that a lot of people will never admit that they actually saw it.  Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer play two people who meet, fall in love, and marry in North Carolina.  But then Palmer is in a car accident, ends up in a coma, and Walker has to decide whether or not to turn off the life support.

As I said, The Choice got terrible reviews and it’s certainly not subtle movie but it’s actually better than a lot of films adapted from the work of Nicholas Sparks.  Walker and Palmer are a likable couple and, at the very least, The Choice deserves some credit for having the courage not to embrace the currently trendy cause of euthanasia.  That alone makes The Choice better than Me Before You.

The Legend of Tarzan (dir by David Yates)

Alexander Skarsgard looks good without his shirt on and Samuel L. Jackson is always a fun to watch and that’s really all that matters as far as The Legend of Tarzan is concerned.  It’s an enjoyable enough adventure film but you won’t remember much about it afterward.  Christoph Waltz is a good actor but he’s played so many villains that it’s hard to get excited over it anymore.

No Ewoks, No Jar Jar: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016, directed by Gareth Edwards)


rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_posterA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

The evil Galactic Empire spent what had to be billions of Imperial credits to build the greatest weapon in the universe.  It was known as the Death Star and it housed a laser so powerful that it could blow up a planet with just one shot.  And yet, for all the effort and all the years that were spent building it, the Death Star had one glaring vulnerability, an exposed exhaust valve that the Rebel Alliance twice used to the destroy it.

For years, fanboys debated why the Empire would go to the trouble to build a super weapon with such an obvious design flaw.  I have to admit that I was often one of them.  No one else seemed to care but, to us, this was a huge deal.  If the Empire could figure out how to blow up a planet with one super laser, why couldn’t they figure out how to protect that one valve?

Now, thanks to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we have an answer.  We not only know why that valve was there but we also know what was meant in New Hope when the rebel general said that the plans to the Death Star had been stolen at great cost.

Rogue One is a fan’s dream, one that answers questions while expanding on the Star Wars mythology.  Unlike the previous prequels, it adds to the story without cheapening the original films.  In fact, of all the Star Wars films, Rogue One is the first to make the Death Star into a believable weapon of mass destruction.  When it appears over one planet, it blots out the sun.  When it blows up a rebel base, we see the destruction from inside the base instead of observing it from the safety of Death Star.  Director Gareth Evans does for the Death Star what he previously did for Godzilla.

death-star

Unfortunately, like Godzilla, the action and the special effects in Rogue One are usually more interesting than any of the film’s characters.  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, and Riz Ahmed are all good actors but they’re all playing underwritten parts.  No one steps up like Harrison Ford did in the original trilogy.  Commander Kennec, played by Ben Mendelsohn, has a little more depth than the typical Imperial villain but, for better or worse, the film’s most memorable performances come from a CGI Peter Cushing and James Earl Jones providing the voice of Darth Vader.

rogue-one

Despite the underwritten characters, Rogue One is still the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back, a return to the grittiness, the thrilling action, and the awe of discovering new worlds that distinguished the first two movies.  For once, a Star Wars film seems to have more on its mind than just selling toys.  Though we already know what is ultimately going to happen to the Death Star at the end of New Hope, Rogue One is a frequently downbeat film.  There are no Ewoks and, to great relief and rejoicing, Jar Jar is never seen.  The closest that Rogue One gets to comic relief is Alan Tudyk providing the voice of a cynical robot.  The emphasis is on the horrors of war and even the rebels are troubled by some of the things that they have done.  For once, the Rebel Alliance actually feels like a rebellion and the evil of the Empire feels real instead of cartoonish.

Rogue One is projected to be the first of many “Star Wars stories,” stand-alone film that will expand the universe and hopefully clarify some of the points that were left unclear by the original trilogy.  I think it’s going to be very successful very Disney.  I’m just dreading the inevitable Jar Jar origin story.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Official Trailer Finally Arrives


Rogue One

The Rogue One official trailer finally came out after weeks of fans waiting for it since last month’s Star Wars celebration over in London.

At first, people thought the trailer would be released during the celebration, but that didn’t come to pass. Then San Diego Comic-Con came and went and still no official trailer. We already seen the teaser, the sizzle reel from London celebration and even a tv spot that aired in the last week or so. Yet, there was still no full trailer. Fans were waiting with extreme patience.

Once news came down that the first official trailer will show during the Olympics the guessing game began on which day it will be. When it was confirmed that it was to be tonight people worldwide began to wait for the trailer to premiere. And waited during each Olympic event. And waited some more. I, myself, decided I needed a nap and left orders to be awoken when it finally did show.

Well, it did show just an hour into my nap and despite being groggy from being woken up that first image of the desert planet with Forest Whitaker and Felicity Jones conversing got my full attention. The wait was long, but it was well worth it and now the wait for the film’s premiere begins.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set for a December 16, 2016 release date.

Rogue One Wakes Up the Internet with Its First Trailer


Rogue One

The world has been dying to see the first teaser trailer for the next Star Wars. The most recent one came out at the end of last year and already people wondering why this next one hasn’t already come out.

Well, it will come out this December when the public is flush with money to spend on the holidays (though we all know it’s probably to buy Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tickets as holiday gifts for themselves).

This teaser trailer shows us stuff that happened between Episode 3 and Episode 4. It also focuses on a new hero character which has raised the ire of the most vocal minority (very tiny) of the Star Wars fandom. We’re introduced to Jyn Erso played by English-actress Felicity Jones who we learn is not just a criminal of sorts, but one ready with a smartass quip.

Star Wars has another woman in the lead role! First it was Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Then just the last couple weeks, one of the few redeeming things about Batman v. Superman was the appearance of Wonder Woman. We can’t forget how last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road was being called Mad Max Furiosa Road.

The MRA mouthbreaters and Mary Sue labelers have had it up to their neckbeards of having their beloved franchises being invaded by the opposite sex. They’re already calling for boycotts and petitions to get Rogue One from being released as is. They want their fictional heroes to return to the good ol’ days of privileged, white men who rescued and kissed damsels (even if they to be their sister) in distress.

Their shouts and cries of impotent rage has been drowned out by the massive majority of even more vocal supporters of another female heroine in a fictional universe which dares to posit that dangerous question: can women be heroes? It looks like after Rey and now, with this upcoming film’s Jyn Erso the answer may be a collective and very loud “Yes, Yes, Yes.”

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set for a December 16, 2016 release date or be on hold indefinitely if the MRA neckbeard mouthbreaters get their court injuction to delay its release.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #116: The Young Victoria (dir by Jean-Marc Vallee)


Young_victoria_poster

So, earlier, I was having a conversation with my BFF Evelyn and I discovered that we both have a massive girl crush on Emily Blunt.

And really, can you blame us?

First off, Emily Blunt is incredibly talented.  She’s one of those actresses who can play just about anyone and anything.  I have never heard or seen an interview with her where she seemed to be anything less than intelligent and witty.  She speaks her mind and projects an attitude of not really caring what other people think about her.  Add to that, she’s absolutely gorgeous and she has a body and a face to die for.  If I were to ever get a nose job (and that’s always been a temptation for me), I would definitely tell the surgeon to give me Emily Blunt’s nose.

Evelyn and I also love the fact that Emily Blunt always plays characters who kick ass, often times literally.  Whether it was in Looper or Edge of Tomorrow or the upcoming Sicario, one thing remains consistent.  You simply do not mess with Emily Blunt because she’s a fighter.

Finally, Emily Blunt gets to spend every night with Jon Krasinski!

Seriously, how can you not love Emily Blunt?

Emily Blunt first received attention as the result of supporting turns in The Devil Wears Prada and Charlie Wilson’s War.  Her first starring role — or, at the very least, her first starring role to receive wide distribution here in the states — was in the 2009 film, The Young Victoria.

The Young Victoria attempts to do for Britain’s famous Queen Victoria what Elizabeth did for Queen Elizabeth I.  It attempts to humanize an iconic figure and show that, underneath the popular image of Victorian refinement and emotional repression, Victoria was actually a passionate and headstrong woman.  And the film largely succeeds at doing that because Victoria is played by Emily Blunt.

Unfortunately, The Young Victoria is never quite as interesting as Elizabeth.  Whereas both films feature young queens struggling to prove themselves worthy of leading Britain, Elizabeth benefited from being conceived as a renaissance version of The Godfather.  Elizabeth was full of shadowy conspiracies, ominous whispers, and secrets.  When, at the end of the film, Elizabeth had solidified her hold on the British crown, you felt that she had truly accomplished something and that perhaps her victory was worth living the rest of her life as the Virgin Queen.

Whereas in The Young Victoria, the conspiracies basically amount to smug civil servants assuring themselves that Victoria won’t do something and then being shocked when Victoria does exactly what they weren’t expecting her to do.  And, while it’s undeniably fun to watch Victoria refuse to sign away her power and announce that she can decide for herself what her royal role should be, that’s largely because it’s always fun to watch Emily Blunt stand up for herself.

The majority of the film is taken up with Victoria being courted by Prince Albert (Rupert Friend).  Again, there’s no real conflict in Victoria and Albert’s relationship.  We know that Victoria is eventually going to marry Albert.  And, even when the two have an argument towards the end of the film, you know that they are going to reconcile.  What you may not be prepared for is a scene where Albert is gravely wounded while protecting Victoria from an assassin’s bullet.  That’s because it never happened.  A man did attempt to assassinate Victoria but he failed and Albert was not wounded at all.  But then again, why let history get in the way of a good story?

On the poster at the top of the post, The Young Victoria is described as being “gorgeous.”  And really that’s the main reason to see the film.  The film looks really, really good.  The costumes and the sets are wonderfully ornate.  The cinematography is vibrant and lush.  And Emily Blunt’s performance can rightly be called gorgeous.   By the end of The Young Victoria, you really don’t feel like you’ve learned anything new about Queen Victoria.  But you do appreciate Emily Blunt.