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.

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.

The Danish Girl

3 Stars

Lower your expectations.

With 2015 being the year of Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transformation, there was no time like the present to release a film dealing with the struggles of someone who comes to terms with the fact that they are transgender. Perfect timing, yes – but The Danish Girl is not an especially remarkable film in and of itself.

thedanishgirl1

In 1920s Copenhagen, married artists Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) seem like a solid pair with 6 years of matrimony under their belts. That is until Gerda needs Einar’s help in posing as a woman for a portrait. The film is based upon a book which is a work of fiction loosely based upon the story of the real Einar and his wife.

theDanishGirl2

Eddie Redmayne’s performance is marvelous in some ways, and falls short in others. On the one hand he already has the feminine characteristics in his face, he is perfect for the role from that perspective. Yet I still found it too much of a stretch for him to be believable in the admittedly taxing role. Some of the scenes are extremely ‘in-your-face’ as far as the discovery of his true female self (named Lili Elbe), and it was difficult to separate the actor from the character in these scenes especially. I’m not sure if it’s a lack in the acting or whether it’s just too much of an ask to come across as entirely genuine. He seemed to be stuck in a smiling facial expression whenever he was acting as Lili. According to Redmayne, this was deliberate – however it did seem odd that she would be smiling even when she was reacting to something negative.

There are some points that you can’t fault about The Danish Girl. The costumes, the period setting, and Alicia Vikander’s portrayal of frustration as his long-suffering wife.

theDanishGirl3

On a side note – what’s up with the discrepancies between accents in some films? Eddie Redmayne has kept his British accent, Alicia Vikander’s accent sounds decidedly British as well – the only one in the film who has put any sort of effort into a convincing Danish accent is Amber Heard in her minor role as their friend Ulla. She deserved special mention here purely on the effort, the Danish accent is quite subtle yet it actually makes a big difference.

If the subject matter is particularly interesting to you, it’s worth a look. The overall vibe is a bit like ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ so if you enjoyed that you will probably like this as well.

The Danish Girl premieres in Sweden on February 5.

Spotlight

3.5 Stars

Sometimes true stories don’t deserve to be brought to the big screen; this is not one of those times.

Spotlight has managed to take a story which admittedly doesn’t have huge ups and downs, you even know what will happen in the end, and yet it’s delivered in such a way that it remains captivating throughout.

spotlight1

Spotlight is the name of a team of investigative journalists who uncover hard-hitting stories at the Boston Globe. In 2001, editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) starts working for the newspaper and wastes no time in making his mark. He suggests to the head of Spotlight, Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton), his team including look further into the case of a priest who was allegedly sexually abusing children with the full knowledge of the archbishop of Boston. Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) are doing most of the interviewing work, tracking down victims to confirm and elaborate on their experiences.

spotlight2

While all of the acting was virtually flawless, Mark Ruffalo is particularly good in his role, even down to the fact that Michael Rezendes is of Portuguese decent – Mark really does look Portuguese! But much more than that, as an actor who is passionate about human rights, this really shines through in his performance.

Even though most people already know about the sex-abuse scandals of the Catholic church, this film was very important because it breathes life into it again and gives it a greater sense of realism. It’s worth noting that this is an authentic account of what happened, the main journalists have vouched for its accuracy. If the film itself isn’t enough to give you a jolt, then watch out for the credits at the end – they list all the locations around the world where similar scandals have been brought to light. It’s not a short list, by any means.

spotlight3

It isn’t really fair to compare this to a fictional movie where anything could happen, which is why my rating may seem low – but for this genre it’s at the top of its game.

Spotlight premieres in Sweden on February 12.

The Revenant

3.5 Stars

That bear scene, though.

If there’s any reason at all to see The Revenant, it’s certainly for the performance of Leonardo DiCaprio. This role demanded everything that he had, and he delivered 100 percent. There’s a heartfelt scene where he’s hugging his son, and his emotions are so intense that he’s producing deep forehead wrinkles in a formation I’ve never even seen before.

theRevenant1

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) are part of a hunting team sourcing fur pelts in the woods. With native American Indians on their tail, their hard-earned hoard is threatened and their leader, Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) must decide what to do next. When unruly team member John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) starts to show his rebellious side, tensions start to run high.

Special mention to Tom Hardy whose acting was also outstanding. His accent is so perfect it’s easy to forget he’s actually a Londoner. As the sinister Fitzgerald he’s able to give creepy looks just with his eyes, reminiscent of Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler.

theRevenant2

The violence and gore in this film is perhaps even more than Tarantino-level – and that’s saying something. It’s clear to see that no expense has been spared with getting the special effects right, especially in the surreal scene with the Grizzly bear (see trailer). Then of course the beautiful wintery landscapes are a joy to behold, director Alejandro Iñárritu yet was very particular about using only natural landscapes and light – no CGI was used for these shots.

Yes, the quality of many aspects of this film is extremely high. So why only 3.5 stars? Actually it’s the storyline. It was good, but just not compelling enough to be remarkable. The Revenant is worth more for its individual parts than the overall package.

The Revenant premieres in Sweden on January 29.

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.

hatefulEight1

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.

hatefulEight2

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!).

hatefulEight3

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.

Brooklyn

3.5 Stars

Quality period drama, period!

It may be called Brooklyn, but it’ll have you thinking in an Irish accent by the end of it. This cosy, emotion-driven piece is a breath of fresh air.

brooklyn1

This is the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish girl who leaves her homeland to improve her prospects and start a new life in Brooklyn, New York. Setting in proves difficult at first, but just as she starts to make roots in her new home unforseen circumstances bring her back to Ireland. She is then forced to choose between her new life in America and her old life back home.

The acting here is superb. Lead actress Saoirse Ronan has been nominated for a Golden Globe in this role and it’s clear to see why. Julie Walters has a small role as the boarding house landlady where Eilis is staying, and adds her typical quirky sense of humour to proceedings. Domhnall Gleeson is perfect as Jim Farrell, the most eligible of bachelors back in Ireland who has eyes for Eilis. For those who have seen him as General Hux in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s remarkable what a versatile actor he is.

The only thing I would say that is lacking here is that I did lose some respect for the main character, as a great deal of her suffering in the last part of the film is self-inflicted. Although this does lend itself to the realism of her character (no one is perfect, of course); it did lose her some sympathy votes from me, and therefore there was a certain measure of love lost for the film as a whole. Reminiscent of my reasons of disdain for the main characters in Amélie and Into The Wild, although not to the same extent. For those few out there who didn’t like those films for the same reason, you’ll know what I mean.

Brooklyn premieres in Sweden on February 26, 2016.

The Walk

3.5 Stars

Get inspired.

If you have a dream which is yet unfulfilled, you need to watch this film. If it doesn’t inspire you to take action, I don’t know what will. Directed by the man who brought us Back To The Future (my favourite film), Robert Zemeckis.

thewalk1

This is the true story of Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the French man who dared to live his dream of walking a high wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center without a safety harness. With a huge helping hand from circus high-wire performer Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) and a group of ‘accomplices’, he embarks on the unbelievable stunt. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does amazingly well here, you’d swear he was really French. The things actors have to do these days in order for filmmakers to get a big name on the movie poster!

thewalk2

I find that true stories which are made into films tend not to be as gripping as fiction. Real life tends to have less ups and downs. This is one of the better ones; there are moments where you’d swear it was made up. This is a very good film, the reason why it just missed out on 4 stars was the re-watchability factor. I just can’t see myself wanting to watch it again.

thewalk3

Don’t make any extra effort to see it in 3D; as with many other films these days, it’s so rarely used to full effect.

The Walk premieres in Sweden on October 9.