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.

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.

The Hateful Eight: 70mm

4 Stars

Quentin Tarantino is a true artist, in every sense of the word.

As with any artist’s work, the hallmarks we really appreciate that make this uniquely his are a joy to behold. All he really needed to do was stick to his winning formula, and he’s done just that with The Hateful Eight. The suspense, the drama, the graphic violence, meticulous scene-by-scene progression – it’s all there.

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The story unfolds as bounty hunter (Quentin seems to have somewhat of a fascination with bounty hunters, see Django Unchained) John Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting his murderous prisoner Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) through snowswept Wyoming by stagecoach to collect his reward money. Along the way he is joined by another bounty hunter, Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), as well as a man who claims to be the sheriff of their destination town of Red Rock.

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What starts out as a fairly slow paced and dialogue-driven affair gradually gains momentum until you are completely drawn in; unaware of fact until the Overture sign comes up and you snap back to reality. After a short intermission, the drama builds up further, into a sort of Western who-dunnit situation. The tension is fantastic.

Even though there is no denying that the 70mm shots of scenery are beautiful, it’s the dialogue and acting which are the true stars of the show here. I would say if you can’t see it on 70mm it will not dampen your enjoyment by any means. Please note: those with sensitive hearing should bring ear plugs, the musical score seems to have been turned up to maximum levels!

This could certainly have been a 5-star film according to my rating system, I just felt like it didn’t completely deliver with the way it tied up in the end. Then again, I had the same issue with Pulp Fiction. Each scene when viewed individually was virtually perfect, but I felt a certain lack in satisfaction with the ending, when looking at the movie as a whole. Don’t let that phase you though, this film is well worth seeing (and I don’t mind saying I enjoyed it much more than Star Wars: The Force Awakens!).

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The Hateful Eight: 70mm premieres in Sweden on January 1, 2016 at Biograf Rigoletto in Stockholm; the digital version follows with release in cinemas throughout the country on January 13.

Spectre

3 Stars

What you’d expect, and not much else.

Another film down and it just feels like standard operating procedure. Overly dramatic theme song, Bond using as many different modes of transport as possible, visiting exotic cities, drinking martinis, fast cars, watches, having it away with the women – you get the idea. If that’s all you want from a Bond film, then great. If you expect a little more you may feel somewhat short changed.

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This time round, James (Daniel Craig) is in hot water with his new boss, M (Ralph Fiennes). After receiving a tip-off in the mail from the previous M (Judi Dench) now deceased, he embarks on a new mission she has assigned him. Going against all orders, and with the help of colleagues Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Wishaw) he discovers an organisation called Spectre, which threatens the very existence of their secret service.

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I was interested in seeing Monica Bellucci but her part is in fact very minor. Léa Seydoux has a considerably greater role than she does. Christoph Waltz is very much the stereotypical baddie, much like an Alan Rickman for our generation. Then there’s Ben Wishaw as Q, I can’t talk about the actors and not mention just how much his character reminds me of Moss from the IT Crowd.

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The opening scene does set a high standard. Set in Mexico, at the ‘Day of the Dead’ festival, the costumes and overall vibe is really enticing, with pulsing background music and you just wonder what is going to happen next – a great way to open the movie. There is a pretty spectacular fight scene in a helicopter as well. But then as the film progresses it soon relaxes into safe and expected 007 territory.

It feels like the whole Bond film series could really do with a shake-up of sorts. There’s a fine line between being sentimentally endearing and downright predictable. I’m sure fans will be satisfied but I doubt that any will be blown away by this. Perhaps they do need a new actor to play Bond, just to up the interest level. They need something fresh, in any case. Hopefully the next one will wow us a little more!

Spectre premieres in Sweden on October 30.

Black Mass

3 Stars

Welcome back, Johnny!

I have to say; it’s about time Johnny Depp went back to more serious roles like this. Granted, the hair and makeup department did have to pull out all the stops to make him look believable as aging gang leader James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, but his acting really carried it through.

The film is based on the true story of Bulger, an organized crime boss of the South Boston ‘Winter Hill’ gang. Whitey’s brother Billy (Bennedict Cumberbatch) is a senator, and his childhood friend John (Joel Edgerton) has since joined the ranks of the FBI. When John decides to enlist Whitey as an informant to take down a rival mafia gang he inadvertently gives him the ability to run rampant.

It wasn’t until I started to write this review that I realized how little there is to the film aside from some stellar acting performances. The fierceness of Depp as Whitey Bulger is probably the most entertaining part of all. He is completely ruthless and takes no prisoners. In true gangster style, he reserves all of his love and compassion for his family.

It’s an enjoyable film in general, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

Black Mass premieres in Sweden on September 25.