Skilfully made by Swedish filmmaker Janus Metz (the award-winning Armadillo), this film is essentially a biopic about tennis icon Bjorn Borg that centres on his fascinating rivalry with John McEnroe. Indeed, in Scandinavia, the film is simply titled Borg. But the script has a complexity to it that finds clever parallels between two players who seem on the surface to be opposites. And it has things to say that will resonate with audiences who know nothing about tennis history.
It's set around the 1980 Wimbledon final, an epic match that captured the world's attention as it pitted the ice-cool four-time champion Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) against the volcanically tempered upstart McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf, in a nifty bit of casting). While it felt like a battle between the old guard and a young upstart, there were actually only three years between 24-year-old Borg and 21-year-old McEnroe. But while Borg was intensely focussed, meeting with his manager Lennart (Stellan Skarsgard) and keeping his fiancee (Tuva Novotny) at arm's length, McEnroe was partying with his friends, fellow players Peter Fleming (Scott Arthur) and Vitas Garulitis (Robert Emms), at least until time came to meet them on court.
The script digs occasionally into McEnroe's childhood, but spends considerably more time with Borg over the years (played as a youngster by Leo Borg, Bjorn's son, and as a teen by Marcus Mossberg). Intriguingly, when he was younger Borg was a lot more like McEnroe, with a short temper that erupts into epic tantrums, and watching him he learn to suppress them is fascinating. In the present day, Gudnason and LaBeouf capture the characters perfectly both on-court and off, finding big contrasts and more subtle similarities. And both Novotny and Skarsgard have strong scenes of their own, creating real-life people out of what could have been simplistic side roles.
Continue reading: Borg/McEnroe Review
The thing that makes this Disney live-action remake so wonderful is the same thing that might put off some audience members: it's a pure fairy tale. This time, the studio has resisted the snarky, post-modern spin that threatened to turn previous live-action remakes (Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent) into pointless Lord of the Rings-style action epics. Instead, this is a genuinely beautiful, surgingly romantic, exquisitely made fantasy.
With only a few minor tweaks, this is the classic story of Ella (Lily James), whose widowed father (Ben Chaplin) marries Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). She arrives with her two spoiled daughters Drizella and Anastasia (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger), and when she is also widowed, Ella ends up running the household just to keep things from falling apart. But Lady Tremaine and her daughters taunt her with the nickname "Cinderella" and treat her like a slave, refusing to let her attend the ball thrown by the Crown Prince (Richard Madden). He had met Ella before, and is hoping to see her at the ball, but she only gets a chance to go when her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) turns up with some magic to make that happen. And after dancing with the Prince all night, her sudden disappearance sends him on a desperate quest involving a single glass slipper.
To spice things up, screenwriter Chris Weitz has included a conspiratorial sideplot in which the increasingly wicked stepmother plots with a royal advisor (Stellan Skarsgard) to thwart the Prince's wishes. But otherwise, the film hews closely to both Charles Perrault's 1697 folktale and Disney's 1950 animated classic. This includes lavish sets and costumes that continually take the breath away, giving the characters the same silhouettes as their cartoon counterparts. And within this extravagant design work, the actors are able to create surprisingly textured characters. James' Ella isn't a simple farm girl in need of a man. Madden's Prince is looking for real love. And Blanchett's riveting Lady Tremaine is eerily sympathetic even in her darkest moments.
Continue reading: Cinderella Review
Cinderella is an uncommonly kind young woman, overcome with the loss of her dear father. Her kindness extends to rescuing a stag from the woods, who's being hunted by the Prince and his men. Her resolute opinions strongly affect the Prince, who's life and sense of self begins to change following their frosty first meeting. But as determined and feisty as she may be, she still finds herself unable to stand up for herself back home, where she is forced into doing the cooking and cleaning by her wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine and her daughters. That is until she is invited to a ball at the Prince's palace. With the help of her mysterious Fairy Godmother, she transforms into a Princess for the day and, lo and behold, the Prince falls heavily in love with her and will do everything he can to find her after she disappears. But, alas, there are others determined to stand in the way of their happiness.
Continue: Cinderella - Extended Trailer
They've fought private military corporations, Nazi splinter-groups and a Norse god. Now, The Avengers assemble once again to celebrate their success. But when a new project from Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) reveals itself to be sentient and ready to bring the world to its knees, The Avengers are ready to fight amongst themselves while the threat of Ultron (James Spader) grows his strength, and gains allegiance from Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Meanwhile, Stark is seeing hostility from Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) while Captain America (Chris Evans) desperately tries to bring the team back together to stop the Age of Ultron.
Continue: Avengers: Age Of Ultron Trailer
Following her mother's death, Cinderella was faced with a lonely existence while her beloved father took frequent long trips away from home on business. The reality was much, much worse, however, when he remarries the selfish Lady Tremaine who brings with her her two hideous daughters Anastasia and Drizella. She is thus forced to cook and clean tirelessly for her step-family, who ruthlessly take advantage of her chronic generosity and unwavering kindness. Soon, she meets a handsome stranger in the woods while out on an errand, and news of a royal ball quickly reaches the family household. Thrilled at the idea of meeting some new people, Cinderella jumps at the chance to attend, but she is forced back to work by Tremaine and the girls out of sheer spite - and jealousy. The only person who can get Cinderella to the ball on time is her magical Fairy Godmother.
Continue: Cinderella Trailer
A lot has happened since the Battle of New York. The world was attacked by Norse God, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), causing a united force of tech super-hero Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), reanimated World War Two super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans) and Loki's brother - the Norse God of thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Two years on, the Avengers have worked to defeat evil in Godly realm of Asgard, on planet Earth, and within S.H.I.E.L.D., the organisation that brought them together in the first place. Now, with Iron Man in retirement and S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, the world is suddenly threatened by Ultron (James Spader), a robot who seeks to destroy the Avengers now that he has been unshackled.
Continue: Avengers: Age Of Ultron - Teaser Trailer
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.
Continue: In Order Of Disappearance Trailer
With an approach so saccharine that it makes Eat Pray Love look like an edgy thriller, this heartwarming meaning-of-life odyssey is so relentlessly schmalzy that it quickly annoys anyone with even a tiny spark of cynicism inside them. And the annoying thing is that the filmmakers might have got away with it if there was any depth to the constant flow of uplifting sloganeering.
It starts in London, where the psychiatrist Hector (Simon Pegg) has a perfect life with his cheeky girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike). But the misery of his patients is rubbing off on him, so he decides to go in search of the true meaning of happiness. He starts by heading to Shanghai, where he meets a stinking-rich businessman (Stellan Skarsgard) and a sexy young woman (Zhao Ming). But is happiness found in money or sex? Silly question. Moving on, he checks out knowledge and wisdom in Tibet with a monk (Togo Igawa), then charity and power in Africa with an old pal (Barry Atsma), a drug kingpin (Jean Reno) and a gang of heavily armed rebels. Finally, he heads to Los Angeles to explore nostalgia with his old flame Agnes (Toni Collette), who helps him track down an award-winning self-help author (Christopher Plummer) who's known as "the Einstein of happiness".
Based on the book by Francois Lelord, the film is assembled along an outline of Hector's discoveries along the road, so what he discovers is actually written across the screen. But none of it is remotely enlightening, so why is he travelling to China, Tibet and Africa to discover these cheesy aphorisms, which appear on trite motivational posters in every office in the Western world? In addition to the on-screen captions, there are animated segments from Hector's travel diary, which are clearly drawn by a professional artist, not this hapless goofball who can't even remember where his pen is.
Continue reading: Hector And The Search For Happiness Review
Hector (Simon Pegg) is a top psychiatrist who may appear to have everything one needs in life; a comfortable salary, his beautiful girlfriend Clara (Rosamund Pike) and plenty of friends; but after spending day after day listening to people complain about being so unhappy, he's starting to lose faith in his own advice. Bored of his own routine life, he takes a break from counselling and decides to embark on a round the world trip to uncover the true meaning of happiness. Visiting foreign lands far and wide shows him just how different people's lives really are and far from learning whether or not happiness exists, he begins to discover a new way of thinking. His desperate partner is feeling less than joyful about his long absence, but will his return bring them a fresh dose of contentment? Or will he decide that happiness can't be found within his London home?
Stellan Skarsgard and Bruno Ganz - 64th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) - 'In Order Of Disappearance' - Photocall - Berlin, Germany - Monday 10th February 2014
Date of birth
13th June, 1951
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