Knight of Cups

3.5 Stars

Like sleepwalking through LA and Vegas for 2 hours.

Knight of Cups is to Los Angeles as Lost in Translation is to Tokyo, albeit far more dreamy and artsy. In fact, the entire film is shot as a dream sequence.

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Rick (Christian Bale), is a Hollywood writer who is trying to find himself. He ponders on memories of his life and romances (played by Natalie Portman, Freida Pinto and Cate Blanchett, amongst others) as well as the relationship with his father (Brian Dennehy) and brother (Wes Bentley).

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It has to be said, Knight of Cups is not for everyone. It’s more like an art piece than a movie’s movie. You wouldn’t watch this with popcorn, you’d watch it with dark chocolate and coffee. Ironically, you’d probably need the caffeine in order to stay awake! Due to the dreamlike nature of the way everything is shot, it’s more than a little relaxing. If you’ve seen Enter The Void, you have some idea of what I mean, although this is even calmer. Granted, it’s a little slow in parts and maybe dare I say it, boring. Strangely, there is enough interest and appeal overall to ride out the duller moments.

The acting needed to be flawless for this to work as it should, and you can’t really go wrong with such a strong cast. Even the lesser known actresses who play Rick’s other love interests are very natural and true to life.

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Don’t expect any intricate plotlines, this is much more about the atmosphere and experience than the story. There has been great care placed in making it a real treat for the senses. That’s the hidden gem about this film; it’s almost as if it helps you to appreciate life in a new way. I admit I probably enjoyed it more than most people would, seeing as LA is one of my favourite places in the world. I can imagine it would be nice to have on in the background at home on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Knight of Cups premieres in Sweden on 1 April.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

2.5 Stars

Hyped up piece of nonsense.

I guess if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, you can’t really expect much from a concept like Batman versus Superman. With the right execution they just might have been able to pull it off. Unfortunately, they didn’t.

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I did my best to reserve judgement until the film came out, but it turns out that people were spot-on with their reservations about Ben Affleck as Batman. His acting is way below par; most of the time he just looks bored. This isn’t at all helped by the fact that he spends half the film channeling Bane rather than Batman. However this is more down to the flawed character development than the acting itself.

Batman isn’t the only character who seems a bit off. This incarnation of Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is awkward and nerdy – he’s more like The Riddler played by Jim Carrey in Batman Forever. Certainly not the powerful and strong business man that he’s meant to be. Then there’s Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), who looks like he should be working for some high-end men’s fashion brand. There’s no way you can believe he’d lower himself to the ranks of butler. He’s not even dressed like Alfred.

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Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) seems like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the film. Then there’s the story, and the script, the uninspiring action scenes… I could go on.

There was one thing they did get right, though. Henry Cavill IS Superman. He gives a flawless performance in spite of what he has to work with. This makes a huge difference to the film, and saves it to some extent. It’s a shame that Spiderman is on Marvel rather than DC Comics, to see Andrew Garfield’s Spiderman vs Superman instead would have at least been superb acting on both counts. Jesse Eisenberg does give a decent performance though, in spite of the odd direction of his character.

For all its flaws, at least it’s not mind-numbingly boring – and i’ve ranked it accordingly. All I can say now is: “Internet, bring on the memes!”

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice premieres in Sweden on March 23.

Secret In Their Eyes

3 Stars

A promising thriller with a B-grade ending.

The best thrillers keep us guessing and intrigued up until the end when the full story is revealed and everything slots perfectly into place. The story is so carefully crafted that you are left stunned at the final outcome. Then there’s the less than perfect ones. Sure, they can be just as entertaining and leave you eager for the ending – but then it comes and you realise the only reason why you would never have guessed it is because it’s so absurd. Yep, Secret In Their Eyes is one of those…

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In the aftermath of 9/11, a team of investigators including Ray Casten (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Claire Sloane (Nicole Kidman) and Jessica Cobb (Julia Roberts) are working for the counter-terrorism unit of the FBI. When Jessica’s daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham) is found in a dumpster, Ray takes it upon himself to investigate.

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The story is based upon an Argentinian novel from 2005, and has been written by the film’s director, Billy Ray. The novel was initially made into a Spanish-speaking film similarly titled ‘The Secret In Their Eyes’ in 2009. The 2009 film is a full 2 stars ahead of this version on IMDB, so you’d probably be better off checking out the original instead.

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I can see why they needed such a strong cast (Both Kidman and Roberts are Oscar-winners, Ejofor has been nominated) to play these characters, but I am surprised that each of them accepted after reading the closing pages of the script. You can’t help but feel a bit embarrassed for them.

Secret In Their Eyes is in fact decent viewing up until the disappointing finale, so I had to rank it a little higher than average considering the overall experience. The film premieres in Sweden on March 18.

Room

3.5 Stars

Like a true story that’s not really true.

Room is the story of Joy (Brie Larson) and her son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who live their lives within the confines of a small room. 5-year-old Jack, who has never actually been outside his whole life, is under the impression that the room is the entire world.

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The pace of the film and the way the narrative plays out mirrors real life so much more than fiction. While the realism part is most welcome, it’s a little dull in parts – to the point where a part of me was hoping for some sort of misfortune just to liven things up a bit! I wouldn’t go as far to say that it was boring at any point, but there is a lot to be said for a strong tempo and flow. The concept of the story is far superior to the actual screenplay.

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Acting really is the star of the show here and i’m sure that is much of the reason why the less exciting parts are still entertaining to a certain degree. Brie Larson’s Oscar was well deserved for her portrayal of Joy. Jacob Tremblay also does an outstanding job in his role as Jack, especially considering his age. The musical score by Stephen Rennicks is really nice as well. Listen out for a beautiful track which plays during the height of the drama.

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Room is a decent film, and worth a look – but I must say it’s not the sort of film where you walk out feeling wowed and eager to have a conversation with someone about it (as I expected it to be).

Room premieres in Sweden on March 18.

Where To Invade Next

2 Stars

Michael Moore paints an overly simplistic view of what some European countries (and Tunisia) are doing better than America.

The title ‘Where to invade next’ is a little misleading. You’d expect it to be a doco about America’s military invading other countries and causing problems. Although that is touched on briefly at the beginning, It’s actually about Michael Moore himself “invading” other countries, looking at the way they deal with certain issues, and suggesting that America steal those ideas.

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There is a great deal of interesting content here, and food for thought. For each country he visits he has a clear message on what the country is doing right and what America is doing wrong, which he tries to prove with interviews and facts. This is fine, as long as it is watched with an open mind and a realisation that there is always going to be the side of the story he didn’t bother telling. I would be surprised if there weren’t things on the cutting-room floor which were left out for reasons of contrast. All opposing points of view are completely glossed over.

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Unfortunately, I had to seriously downgrade this film for two key reasons. Firstly, Michael Moore’s interview style is extremely irritating. Some of the questions he asks, you’d think he had an IQ of zero. Sometimes he repeats the inane question again for effect. I actually felt sorry for some of the people he interviewed. He can’t think much of the intellectual capacity of his viewers, if he thinks this is at all necessary to drive home a point.

Secondly, there is a segment about women in power in Iceland. This is all well and good, but some of the comments in this segment are extremely sexist towards men. Not only that, but at one point they decide to just film shots of women looking at the camera and doing nothing. As if we are aliens who have never seen women before, and are getting an introductory video. Very strange, and if anything it is an embarrassment to women.

Where To Invade Next premieres in Sweden on April 15.