Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally Potter (Ginger & Rosa) with lacerating irony and such a furious sense of humour that it's impossible to stifle our laughter no matter how we try. Impeccably played by a great cast, it's a lot like watching a play, as it unfolds in real time in a single setting with just seven characters. But Potter's decision to film it in black and white adds a sharp edge of surrealism that makes it also feel like a classic.
It opens as Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) is preparing for a small dinner party to celebrate her appointment as a government minister. With something else on his mind, her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) is completely drunk before the first guest arrives, but Janet doesn't really notice. Her outspoken best friend April (Patricia Clarkson) turns up first with her German philosopher boyfriend Gottfried (Bruno Ganz). Next is feminist professor Martha (Cherry Jones) and her younger girlfriend Jinny (Emily Mortimer), who is pregnant with triplets. And finally it's the banker Tom (Cillian Murphy), hopped up on cocaine with a gun in his pocket. His wife is running late. And over the next hour, everyone lets a few secrets out of the bag.
Continue reading: The Party Review
When a Latin professor, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), sees a young Portuguese woman in a red coat about to throw herself from a bridge, he is compelled to save her. She wrestles her way out of the coat and runs off into the rain, leaving the bemused and mystified professor pondering what it all means. When he discovers a small book in the pocket of her coat, he begins to embark on an odyssey to find her, yet very soon he becomes more interested in the novel's author, Amadeu do Prado (Jack Huston). After discovering tickets for a train to Lisbon stuffed inside the book, Gregorius hastily boards the train himself, throwing caution to the wind, along with his normal, boring life.
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This Norwegian revenge thriller may move at a steady, meandering pace, but it has such a sharp sense of pitch-black Scandinavian humour that it's never dull. As events spiral wildly out of control, the vivid characters are thoroughly entertaining in their misguided attempts at vengeance. And the snow-covered rural community offers an offbeat setting that's refreshingly bright and sunny rather than the usual gloomy grit.
At the centre of the story, Nils (Stellan Skarsgard) is a soft-spoken snowplow driver who keeps the country roads in Norway clear and quietly endures abuse over the fact that he's Swedish. When his grown son is found dead, he refuses to believe it was a drug overdose. Abandoned by his grieving wife, he launches his own investigation, following the trail and quietly killing each thug up the chain as he tracks down the swaggering hothead mob boss who calls himself The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen). Along the way, he gets help from his ex-gangster brother (Peter Andersson), inadvertently re-igniting the war between The Count and rival Serbian mobster Papa (Bruno Ganz), whose own son has been caught in the crossfire. And the body count grows exponentially.
The title refers to on-screen captions that offer a brief moment of respect for each person who dies along the way, which intriguingly puts every act of violence in perspective. This is mainly because the film's central theme is fathers and sons. The Count may be a racist/sexist monster who despises his trophy ex-wife (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen), but he also has an eerily warm bond with his own son. And as these three fathers - Nils, The Count and Papa - circle each other, this paternal theme adds some unexpected resonance to the comical nastiness. All three actors are terrific, combining tenacity and emotion with riotously incorrect actions and attitudes. But of course it's the superb Skarsgard we are rooting for.
Continue reading: In Order Of Disappearance Review
After receiving the news that his son has tragically died from a heroine overdoes, citizen of the year and snow plow driver, Nils (Stellan Skarsgard) sets out to disprove the official report. He steadily uncovers evidence of a turf war between sinister crime boss "The Count" and his rivals from Serbia. It is a turf war which claimed the life of his son, and therefore becomes his problem. Armed with all the tricks of the snow plow trade and a sawn-off hunting rifle, Nils wages his own, bitter war on the criminal underworld, racking up an impressive body count through shear beginner's luck.
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Michael Kohlhaas is a horse dealer living a simple but idyllic life with his beautiful wife, children and their quaint home. He buys some carefully selected horses to take home from a nearby town but on the way he is stopped by a greedy local baron who removes several of his horses apparently unlawfully. When Kohlhaas protests his rights, he discovers that his beloved wife has been ruthlessly killed and so he decides, with his whole world crashing down around him, to embark on a fearless voyage of vengeance. While attempting to gather an army to destroy the monsters who ruined his life, he is confronted by his own religious beliefs which tell him he must forgive his enemies. However, is seems Kohlhaas is willing to face the fiery depths of hell for what those enemies have taken from him.
This film proves that all the right ingredients don't necessarily make a movie work. Even with top-drawer filmmakers and actors, this dramatic thriller simply never grabs our interest. It looks great, and everyone is giving it their all, but the story and characters remain so badly undefined that we can't identify with either.
The story's set on the US-Mexico border, where a slick lawyer (Fassbender) known as "the Counsellor" has slightly too much going on in his life. He has just proposed to his dream woman Laura (Cruz), while he's planning to open a nightclub with Reiner (Bardem). For extra cash, he's organising a massive cocaine shipment with Westray (Pitt). And it's this drug deal that goes wrong, creating a mess that engulfs Reiner and Laura, as well as Reiner's shrewd girlfriend Malkina (Diaz). As his life collapses around him, the Counsellor scrambles to salvage what he can, even as he realises that it'll be a miracle if anyone survives.
There are problems at every level of this production. McCarthy's first original script is simply too literary, putting verbose dialog into the actors mouths that never sounds like people talking to each other. Fassbender and Bardem are good enough to get away with this, but Pitt and Diaz struggle. Both Fassbender and Cruz bring out some wrenching emotions in their scenes, but their characters are never much more than cardboard cutouts. In fact, no one in this story feels like a fully fleshed-out person. And the little we know about each character makes most of them fairly unlikeable.
Continue reading: The Counselor Review
'The Counsellor' tells the story of a naive lawyer who holds the belief that dabbling in drug-trafficking is the best way to earn a little extra cash. However, that dabbling evolves into full-blown dealing which consumes his life and infects with all the corruption, betrayal and pain he thought he could avoid. Now with some seriously ruthless criminals on his tail, he begins to realise that there is nothing that these people will not do to get what they want and the odds on his life begin to get higher and higher. Unless he can work out who his friends are, he has no hope of returning to his normal life, but in a world where disloyalty affects everyone's relationships, he begins to wonder if he really has anyone there for him at all.
Directed by the triple Oscar nominated Sir Ridley Scott ('Prometheus', 'Gladiator', 'Alien'), this high-energy, gritty thriller is all about corruption and how smalls mistakes can lead to major consequences. The screenplay has been written by novellist Cormac McCarthy ('No Country for Old Men', 'All the Pretty Horses') and it features an exciting, star-studded cast ensemble. It is set to reach UK cinemas everywhere on November 15th 2013.
When Dr. Martin Harris awakes in a hospital in Berlin after an almost fatal car crash which put him in a coma for four days; he finds himself alone, his wife was also in the car with him but she's nowhere to be found. Worried for her safety Harris sets out to find her but when he eventually does, she does not recognise him and a stranger has assumed his identity.
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After a brief prologue that finds Hitler (Bruno Ganz) choosing Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) - the woman who would later become the subject of the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary - as his secretary, Hirschbiegel's film whisks us away to 1945 Berlin, where der Fuhrer and company are vainly attempting to keep the Aryan dream alive from a concrete bunker deep underneath the battle-ravaged city. Hitler remains convinced, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the war remains winnable, and Ganz - an actor whose strength is usually found in contemplative silence - superbly brings the horrific fascist to maniacal life, balancing an exhausted, stooped posture and twitching left hand (always held behind his back) with sudden delusional tirades of mouth-frothing madness. Surrounded by increasingly cynical military officers, an unrepentant Hitler is agitated, desperate, and unable to relinquish the belief that his Nazi army will re-mobilize for a final, fatal strike against the Russians. Meanwhile, absurd and surreal last-gasp mini-dramas play out throughout the bunker, from Junge and her fellow secretary's attempts to remain optimistic and Albert Speer (Heino Ferch) and Heinrich Himmler's (Ulrich Noethen) eventual desertions to, most chillingly, Magda (Corinna Harfouch) and Joseph Goebbels' (Ulrich Matthes) plans to exterminate their six children should National Socialism crumble.
Continue reading: Downfall Review
Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...
When a Latin professor, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), sees a young Portuguese woman in a...
This Norwegian revenge thriller may move at a steady, meandering pace, but it has such...
After receiving the news that his son has tragically died from a heroine overdoes, citizen...
Michael Kohlhaas is a horse dealer living a simple but idyllic life with his beautiful...
This film proves that all the right ingredients don't necessarily make a movie work. Even...
'The Counsellor' tells the story of a naive lawyer who holds the belief that dabbling...