Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after last year's beautiful adaptation of Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. Set in 1970s Denmark, this intimate drama explores a complex web of relationships ignited by a social experiment. It's a beautifully made film with an ace cast of actors. And the layers of resonance keep it involving even when it drifts into melodrama from time to time.
After inheriting the home where he grew up, architecture professor Erik (Festen's Ulrich Thomsen) and his news anchor wife Anna (A Royal Affair's Trine Dyrholm) decide to move in. But the house is too big for just them and their 14-year-old daughter Freja (Martha Sofie Wallstrom Hansen). So they invite their old pal Ole (Lars Ranthe) to join them, then vote to admit several others, including a couple (Anne Gry Henningsen and Magnus Millang) with a frail 6-year-old son and a guy (Fares Fares, of The Keeper of Lost Causes) who wears his emotions on his sleeve. With the house full, their lives become enjoyably full. Then this warm extended family has to face a serious challenge when Erik falls in love with his student Emma (Helene Reingaard Neumann) and decides to move her into the house as well.
While the entire cast is excellent, the main focus is on central quartet of Thomsen, Dyrholm, Hansen and Neumann, each of whom delivers a surprisingly textured performance as an engaging person whose personal decisions create all kinds of issues for the people around them. Obviously, Dyrholm's role elicits the most sympathy as a woman trying to be open-minded about her husband's affair, but unable to avoid the feeling that her life is crumbling around her. Her scenes with Hansen and Neumann carry an extra emotional kick that's very moving. Meanwhile, Thomsen is sympathetic but not very likeable, understandably.
Continue reading: The Commune [Kollektivet] Review
From Denmark, this morally complex drama is urgent and provocative even if the story is full of lapses that make it feel oddly implausible. It's a reteaming of director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen, whose breakout 2004 film Brothers (remade in 2009 with Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire) had similar problems: a high-concept premise that makes the dilemma more important than plot coherence.
Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau returns home to Denmark to star in the film. He plays Andreas, a detective who is horrified when he and his partner Simon (Ulrich Thomsen) find badly neglected infant Sofus in the home of lowlife ex-con Tristan (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) and his junkie girlfriend Sanne (Lykke May Anderson). But there's no legal way to remove the baby from his parents. This hits Andreas especially hard since his son Alexander is the same age and his wife Anna (Maria Bonnevie) is struggling emotionally with motherhood. Then Alexander dies unexpectedly and Andreas hatches a plan: he swaps the dead Alexander for the abused Sofus. Obviously both of the mothers notice this immediately, but Anna accepts it and no one will listen to Sanne's outcry. And Tristan is preoccupied with trying to cover up what he thinks is his son's death.
Bier and Jensen work diligently to set up this premise, with details that try to address each aspect of the story, but it simply never holds water. For example, we never believe that Andreas' action is something any caring husband would do, especially one who works for the police. Or that Anna and Simon would go along with it. So as the story becomes increasingly entangled, everything begins to feel like it's heading for the only conclusion possible. Thankfully, Bier and Jensen are skilled enough to make all of this compelling, challenging the audience to confront each decision the characters make and consider the moral repercussions of everything they do.
Continue reading: A Second Chance Review
Despite a superior cast and terrific-looking production values, this mystery romp is a misfire on every level. The only vaguely entertaining moments come in some snappy wordplay that's presumably all that remains of Kyril Bonfiglioli's beloved novel Don't Point That Thing at Me. Otherwise, the film feels clumsy and outdated, and even Johnny Depp's quirky schtick seems halfhearted. So even though it looks great and elicits a few giggles, it's such a mess that it's hard to imagine why anyone got involved.
Depp plays Lord Charlie Mortdecai, an art expert whose immaculately kept manor house is at risk of foreclosure due to unpaid taxes. So he leaps at the finder's fee when his old pal MI5 Inspector Martland (Ewan McGregor) asks him to investigate a murder linked to a missing Goya painting. The problem is that Martland still holds a torch for Charlie's wife Joanna (Gwyneth Paltrow), a brainy bombshell who launches her own investigation into the case. With his trusty manservant Jock (Paul Bettany) by his side, Charlie is taken to Moscow and Los Angeles in search of the Goya. And it all boils over in a chaotic encounter with a smirking art collector (Jeff Goldblum), his man-crazy daughter (Olivia Munn) and a sneaky killer (Jonny Pasvolsky).
Despite quite a lot of adult-aimed innuendo and violence, director David Koepp (Premium Rush) shoots the movie as if it's a hyperactive kiddie flick, all bright colours and shameless over-acting, with whooshing digitally animated transitions and a series of awkwardly staged car chases. None of this is remotely amusing. Even the constant double entendres are painfully overplayed, while the cartoonish Received Pronunciation accents put on by Depp, Paltrow and McGregor are more distracting than humorous. All of this leaves the characters impossible to engage with on any level; they aren't funny, endearing or even interesting.
Continue reading: Mortdecai Review
At a Norwegian base in Antarctica, a scientist (Thomsen) has assembled a crack team to investigate the discovery of an enormous flying saucer under the ice, complete with an alien creature frozen into a nearby block of ice. But palaeontologist Kate (Winstead) barely has time to examine the specimen before it explodes into the night with some secret weaponry that's rather tricky to fight against. Kate and her colleague Adam (Olsen), along with tough-guy American helicopter pilots (Edgerton and Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and the Norwegian team are all at risk now.
Continue reading: The Thing Review
After his mother dies, 12-year-old Christian (Nielsen) and his father Claus (Thomsen) move from London back to Denmark. Christian is angry at the world, and lashes out at the bully (Holm) in his new school. He befriends the bullied Elias (Rygaard), whose parents Marianne and Anton (Dyrholm and Persbrandt) are splitting up, partly because Anton spends large periods of time working as a doctor in rural Africa. Then after a local bigot (Bodnia) slaps Anton, Christian hatches a plan to get revenge in a very violent way.
Continue reading: In A Better World Review
After 12 years murdering men, women and children in the Crusades, Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman) have a crisis of conscience and desert the army. They end up in a remote town, where they agree to escort an accused witch (Foy) to a distant monastery that has the only incantation that can destroy her and halt the Black Death. They're accompanied by a resolute priest (Moore) and his sidekick (Thomsen), then joined by an altar boy (Sheehan) determined to become a knight. Of course the journey is fraught with surprises.
Continue reading: Season Of The Witch Review
Quintus Dias (Fassbender) seems to be an unusually lucky centurion. Stationed in the nastiest outpost on the edge of the Roman Empire in Britain, he's the only survivor of a Pict attack by the vindictive Gorlacon (Thomsen). So he teams with General Virilus (West) and heads back into the hot zone. Again, the Picts launch a devastating attack. This time seven Romans survive, and it becomes a cat-and-mouse chase as mute huntress Etain (Kurylenko) tenaciously tracks Quintus and company across the Highlands. Can they make it back to safety in the south?
Continue reading: Centurion Review
Flickering Lights boasts an impressive cast from a broad range of Danish films and television (Mifune, The Celebration, Pusher, The Kingdom), which is put to good use by Jensen's witty script and slow but deliberate direction. Torkild (Søren Pilmark) is the head of a small time gang, pulling small jobs for a gangster known only as the Eskimo. After his 40th birthday and a botched heist involving 4 million krones, Torkild and his gang are forced to hide out in an abandoned inn in the middle of nowhere. The gang has to wait only until Peter (Ulrich Thomsen), who was shot, is well enough to travel, so they can continue on to Barcelona. But after meeting some of the locals and finding moments of peace in this secluded hideaway, Torkild conveniences the rest of the gang that staying put may be the future for which they are all looking. The gang uses the money to buy the inn and renovate it, making it into quaint family restaurant that people drive for miles to visit, not because of the food (the boys apparently never learn to cook), but for the atmosphere.
Continue reading: Flickering Lights Review
For almost five years now, Hollywood studios have beentrying to duplicate the success of "Gladiator"by making the same big-budget historical battle epic over ("TheLast Samurai") and over ("Troy")and over ("KingArthur") and over ("Alexander").
Each movie has re-imagined history from a modern, let's-keep-an-open-mindperspective and hewed to a shopworn formula in which the hero rallies hismen against great odds and for a greater good. He invariably leads theminto the same blood-and-mud war scenes, which are always shot in the samestaccato slow-motion that characterizes the chaos of combat but forgetsthe audience needs to be kept abreast of who is winning. The hero alsoalways finds time to romance a beautiful woman from another culture.
Aside from having different casts, the only significantvariations between these films seem to be 1) whether the hero was of noblebirth or came up from nothing to become a great leader, and 2) whetherthe battlefields are green and forested or brown and sandy. One thing mostof them definitely have in common is that they've bombed at the box office.
Continue reading: Kingdom Of Heaven Review
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