Berlin Syndrome

3.5 Stars

If you feel like having a sinking feeling in your stomach for close to two hours…

Clare (Teresa Palmer) is an Australian backpacking around Germany on her own. Her life is turned upside down when she meets a teacher named Andi (Max Riemelt) on the streets of Berlin.

From the start, Clare seems vulnerable as she is travelling solo, but there’s nothing to increase your concern for a character than to share similarities with them. As an Australian with my family over the other side of the world, I was able to relate to some extent. It didn’t hurt that Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt put in convincing performances as Clare and Andi.

Berlin Syndrome is actually an Australian-made film, but Clare is the only Australian character so it feels more like a German production.

The general plot is fairly predictable, but the film is very well executed and has a few nuances that give extra interest – such as Andi’s multi-faceted character. This makes it feel much more true-to-life whilst adding some uncertainty as to what might happen next. If not for lack of originality in the overall story, I would have given this at least 4 stars. All things considered, it lingers between 3.5 and 4.

Berlin Syndrome is released on DVD in Sweden on 18 September.

It

3 Stars

Good enough.

I was really hoping to be blown away by director Andy Muschietti’s incarnation of Stephen King’s classic novel. And while I can see that it really was necessary to bring it up to date with modern audiences, (check clips from the 1990 miniseries on YouTube and you’ll see how cheap and cheerful it looks!) and it did have a fair share of positive notes, on the whole it didn’t leave me feeling wowed.

It’s 1988 in the small town of Derry when Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) goes missing after being coaxed towards a drain by Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård). As other local children start to disappear, Bill and a group of friends band together to look for his lost sibling.

Bill Skarsgård is no doubt a fantastic actor and is completely transformed as Pennywise. But he lacks the same level of playfulness and aggression that helped to make Tim Curry’s version (from the 1990 adaptation) all the more terrifying. As with anything scary, there is often a lot more to be said for what you don’t see than what you do. I found two scenes in the film to be particularly creepy and neither of them had clear glimpses of Pennywise.

Sophia Lillis did a great job as the only girl in the group of friends, Beverly Marsh. She came across as natural and endearing.

It’s obvious even from the trailer that there are some similarities to ‘Stranger Things’, from the period in which it is set, right down to the cast including actor Finn Wolfhard. But it doesn’t have the same eerie vibe as Stranger Things – that would have added some extra points in my book.

Nonetheless, I appreciated that there was a good moral message – and if nothing else you can leave the cinema with something of value.

For those who are already hanging out for more, there will be a sequel!

It premieres in Sweden on 13 September.

The Beguiled

3 Stars

Textbook drama that writes out cheques its charm can’t cash.

It’s rare to see a film which can rely so heavily on mood and subtlty that it needs little else to appeal. Case in point was Lost In Translation, also directed by Sofia Coppola. What it lacked in storyline and dialogue it made up for in pure ambience. Even though The Beguiled does have a certain level of charm, it’s not in the realms of its predecessor so it ends up falling a bit flat.

Wounded soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) is found in the woods and brought to the local girls school, headed up by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman). His presence starts to affect those around him, including teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and the …. student Alicia (Elle Fanning).

It’s actually an adaptation of a novel from 1966, and has already been made into a film in 1971, starring Clint Eastwood.

The film is undoubtedly pretty to look at, with great attention to detail, and I gave extra marks for this aspect. I was reminded of Picnic at Hanging Rock, which Coppola may have been inspired by. But the story is a bit too straightforward and simple to really get excited about. I had hoped for more intrigue and suspense.

The Beguiled premieres in Sweden on 1 September 2017.

My Cousin Rachel

3.5 Stars

Simultaneously cosy and uneasy.

My Cousin Rachel may well be the perfect film to watch on a rainy afternoon. In typical British-period-drama style it is beautifully shot and has great attention to detail. Adapted from a novel by Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca, The Birds), you can expect an equally suspenseful and bleak story.

Phillip (Sam Claflin) suspects foul play when his beloved cousin Ambrose dies abroad after marrying another of his cousins, Rachel (Rachel Weisz). Iain Glen (aka Jorah Mormont from Game of Thrones) also stars as Phillip’s concerned godfather.

The plot does wind enough to keep you captivated and intrigued, but as with Du Maurier’s other stories, it’s more about the journey than the ending itself. Without giving too much away; I was anticipating a more satisfying ending than I got, but I was most certainly entertained regardless.

My Cousin Rachel premieres in Sweden on 25 August.

Dunkirk

3 Stars

If you were hanging out for a typical Nolan film with elaborate plot twists or charismatic baddies, you may be disappointed.

Sure, members of his usual dream-team are on board (Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy are to Christopher Nolan as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are to Tim Burton), as well as his trademark suspenseful string-based backing track used to full effect. There’s also the attention to detail and beautiful cinematography we’ve come to know and love. But the similarities end there.

British troops and their allies have been surrounded by the German army on the beach at Dunkirk, and are trying to safely evacuate across the water back to England, under the direction of Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh).

On paper the plot sounds pretty dull, so Nolan has done a great job in actually making a watchable movie out of it. But overall, i’d say it’s more interesting than entertaining. It’s the atmosphere and the sense of historic realism that are the real stars of the show. It’s certainly not your typical popcorn flick.

There isn’t a great deal of dialogue, but the acting is decent all round. I was impressed with Harry Styles’ portrayal of a soldier named Alex – he has shown that he is more than just a pop star. Tom Hardy as air force pilot Farrier reminded me of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, with his military coat, posh English accent and oxygen mask.

Dunkirk premieres in Sweden on 19 July.

Tulip Fever

2.5 Stars

Like a livelier, yet absurd version of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

There are some major similarities between Tulip Fever and Girl with a Pearl Earring – both are set in 17th century Holland, involve a portrait painter, and star a beautiful and talented young actress of the day. However compared with its slow-moving yet authentic predecessor, the tale of Tulip Fever is much too far-fetched to be taken seriously.

Orphan Sophia (Alicia Vikander) marries the considerably older Cornelis Sandvoort (Christopher Waltz) as part of a deal in order to leave the orphanage where she lives and send her siblings to live with relatives abroad. Out of obligation to her husband, Sophia does her best to be a good wife in spite of having no feelings for him. That is, until the young artist Jan Van Loos (Dane DeHaan) is commissioned to paint their portrait.

Alicia Vikander is no doubt a talent, but I feel she was miscast in this role as she is much too stiff to display a compelling amount of emotion. The same goes for Dane DeHaan. What could have been a very special and fascinating relationship between the two characters comes across as mundane and boring. Christopher Waltz is his usual unnerving self and does very well with what he has to work with. Judi Dench is absolutely spot-on in her minor role as the orphanage nun.

On the one hand it’s good that the plot doesn’t just stay in one place – it does twist and turn. However some of the storyline seemed to go completely against the nature of the characters and what they would have done in certain situations.

I can’t fault the costumes and sets, the way it was shot and the overall feel of the film which i’m sure has taken inspiration from paintings of the Dutch masters. However these things don’t do enough to make up for the weaker aspects of the film.

Tulip Fever premieres in Sweden on 14 July.

Get Out

4.5 Stars

This unlikely mix of horror-thriller and comedy is pure brilliance!

Since the disappointing plot of A Cure For Wellness in February, I have been hanging out for a thriller that absolutely delivers – and I seem to have gotten my wish far sooner than expected. Writer, producer and director Jordan Peele (of Key and Peele and Keanu fame) is an absolute genius to marry these two genres together with such ease in his directing debut. The humor ends up being a perfect antidote to the very serious and sinister story as it unfolds.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) have travelled out to stay with Rose’s Mum (Catherine Keener), Dad (Bradley Whitford) and brother (Caleb Landry Jones) for the first time as a couple. The already apprehensive situation of meeting her folks is compounded by the fact that he is of African-American descent. And why are the cook and groundskeeper are acting so peculiarly?

I have so many good things to say about this film. The acting overall is really impressive. Daniel Kaluuya gives a remarkable and emotional performance, which I think makes a huge difference to the realism and impact of what happens. You would never know he’s actually British, his American accent is flawless. LilRel Howery provides much of the comic relief as Chris’s friend Rod and is laugh-out-loud funny.

It’s a breath of fresh air these days when a film can stand on its own two feet without any big name actors, acclaimed directors, or franchises behind it to justify its presence.

Rewatchability is very important to me and Get Out is certainly a film I could watch over again. It’s the kind of film you’d like to watch again with someone who hasn’t seen it, so you can clock their reaction.

Get Out gives the cliché line “If you only see one movie this year…” relevance. Probably the best film i’ve seen since reviewing films for Siaeva. But don’t just take my word for it, my fellow critics gave it a round of applause at the end of the press screening!

Get Out premieres in Sweden on 19 April.

Ghost in the Shell

3.5 Stars

A decent blockbuster, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) is the first successfully built cyborg of her kind. With a human brain and a robotic shell, she has been specially developed by Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) as a useful tool for the government’s counter cyber-terrorism unit. Alongside her team member Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and under command of Chief Arumaki (Takeshi Kitano), she is tasked to get to the bottom of a new and powerful hacker who has emerged.

I preferred this version to the anime film from 1995 because it’s far less ambiguous and easy to follow. This does mean it lacks a certain mystery in comparison with the original, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for folks like me who aren’t intrigued enough to watch it multiple times in order to understand the plot. This is certainly more catering to the masses.

Johansson and Asbæk were well cast in staying true to the character traits established in the original film. The futuristic Tokyo cityscape they have created is visually stunning, except on the big screen the cgi graphics are too low quality to really knock your socks off.

All-in-all a good and entertaining film – nothing more, nothing less.

Ghost in the Shell premieres in Sweden on 31 March.

A Cure For Wellness

2.5 Stars

A poor man’s Shutter Island, overcompensated by far too many plot twists.

I really enjoyed Shutter Island so I was interested to see this as it looked like a similar concept… sadly, it falls way short.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is a brash young executive who has been sent by his colleagues to a rehabilitation center in Switzerland to bring back Pembroke (Harry Groener), in order to secure a business merger – but bringing him back becomes much harder than he imagined.

What starts out as a promising and intriguing tale with a beautiful backdrop of the Swiss alps, ends up in a whirlwind of horror clichés. I love a good plot twist, but this plot twists back and forth so many times you just want to slam on the breaks. There really is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’.

I’m not sure if the story is just not expressed well enough or if it literally didn’t make sense, but several times near the end I felt like I needed to consult a second party to explain what was going on. Don’t get me wrong, i’ve seen films where confusion has actually built more suspense; but this was confusing to the point where you start to lose interest.

On the plus side, it does give you an uneasy feeling which stays with you after you have left the cinema. I always appreciate films that can give you an ongoing experience after you’ve seen them, even if unpleasant.

The film really does have all the ingredients for a top-shelf thriller, it’s just the storyline which lets it down greatly.

A Cure For Wellness premieres in Sweden on 17 February.

David Lynch – The Art Life

3 Stars

A dose of inspiration and an art gallery in one.

David Lynch – The Art Life isn’t just for David Lynch fans, but for all creatives. There’s nothing like seeing someone with such passion for their work to get you itching to start new projects yourself.

This Kickstarter-funded film is very much a documentary’s documentary, clocking only 90 minutes in length. I’m sure many know Lynch predominantly for television and film work; but for those who haven’t seen his multimedia paintings and illustrations they are just as wonderfully disturbing and this is worth checking out just for the art alone.

David Lynch - The Art Life

You might think from the darkness he manages to conjure up through his work and art that Lynch was from a broken home or had a traumatic childhood, but this was actually not the case. In fact his life story isn’t especially eventful and perhaps this is why it took so long to be told in the first place. But the spotlight is always brought back to the art life, as Lynch himself describes: art, coffee and cigarettes.

The story ends quite abruptly after we reach the point where Lynch has shot his first feature-length film, Eraserhead. I suppose the die-hard fans whom this is targeted towards already know the rest from that point onwards, but I would still have liked to know his thoughts on how his life changed after he tasted success.

I’m not sure if others will find this as inspiring as I did; it made me want to start up all the creative endeavours I had let slide. But there’s one thing I know for sure: this is one incredibly cool 70-year-old!

David Lynch – The Art Life premieres in Sweden on 14 April.