March 2015


Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell) is a struggling writer with alcohol problems who dreams of finishing his screenplay, “Seven Psychopaths”. Marty’s best friend, Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell), is an unemployed actor who makes a living by kidnapping dogs and collecting the owners’ cash rewards for their safe return. His partner-in-crime is Hans Kieslowski (Christopher Walken), a religious man with a cancer-stricken wife, Myra. Billy helps Marty with Seven Psychopaths, suggesting he use the “Jack of Diamonds” killer, perpetrator of a recent double murder, as one of the seven “psychopaths” in his script. Marty writes a story for another psychopath, the “Quaker”, who stalks his daughter’s killer for decades, driving the killer to suicide and ultimately cutting his own throat to follow him to hell. Billy and Hans steal eventually a Shih Tzu, Bonny, unaware that it is the beloved pet of Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), an unpredictable and violent gangster. The plot thickens and soon enough Costello is on the hunt for Billy, Hans and Marty…

This is the second collaboration between McDonagh, Farrell, and Ivanek, following 2008’s “In Bruges”. And what we are served is a psycho-killer comedy story seemingly a quite open homage to Guy Richie, Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers and Danny Boyle. It´s dark, violent, twisted, gory and comic. It´s a male driven script and unfortunately the female characters are only stereotypic bystanders. All main actors are good (Farrell, Walken, Rockwell, Harrelson) while the females (Cornish and Kurylenko) only have supporting roles and hardly any screen time forcing them to underperform. I reckon “Seven Psychopaths” is entertaining and Tarantino quirky the first 40 minutes and then the movie gets lost in its own animated macabre structure. (3 out of 5)

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Police lieutenant Nyman who is a patient at a hospital in Stockholm is brutally murdered, stabbed repeatedly with a bayonet. The investigation that follows is led by Martin Beck (Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt) and Einar Rönn (Håkan Serner). It turns out that the murdered man had sadistic tendencies and was known among his colleagues for abusing his police privileges and brutalizing civilians. Although his colleagues had been aware of his behaviour, the police force’s esprit de corps had suppressed complaints about him and prevented any reprisals.
The investigation proceeds, and finally Beck and his team find a trail that leads to the murderer, who turns out to be an ex-policeman named Åke Eriksson (Ingvar Hirdwall). Eriksson’s wife Marja had diabetes, and one day, in need of insulin, she had fallen into a coma. She was mistaken by the police as a drunk and put in a jail cell, under the orders of Nyman, where she died. Eriksson blamed the police force for the death of his wife. Now, some years later, he has become a social misfit and the authorities are in the process of removing his daughter Malin from his custody. As Beck and his team close in on Eriksson he climbs up on the roof of the apartment building where he lives in central Stockholm, bringing with him both an automatic rifle and a sharpshooter’s rifle. He starts to fire at any policeman and police vehicle he can spot, picking off several policemen. When the police commissioner decides to bring in the anti-terrorist units, including two police helicopters, Eriksson shoots up one of the helicopters so it crashes on a crowded plaza near the building where he resides. Beck needs to figure out how to take Eriksson out together with his colleagues Lennart Kollberg (Sven Wollter) and Gunvald Larsson (Thomas Hellberg)…

“The Man On The Roof” is a 1976 Swedish film directed by Bo Widerberg, based on the 1971 novel The Abominable Man by Sjöwall and Wahlöö. Widerberg was inspired by the 1971 film “The French Connection” and he wanted to make a Swedish equivalent of that film. The actor Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt was picked for the part as the policeman Beck after Wideberg had seen him with a serious face in a talk show not knowing he was on air. Earlier Lindstedt was mostly known for roles in comedy films. Not one tripod was used for this movie – everything is shot with hand held camera, unique for the Swedish movie industry at the time of shooting. And insurance companies claimed that the helicopter crash would be too dangerous to shoot from a close distance, so director Bo Widerberg himself shot the sequence with a hand-held camera from the riskiest angles. The film won two swedish Guldbagge Awards in 1977, for Best Film and Best Actor (Håkan Serner). The critics were very positive and especially praised the dialogue. Around 750,000 people attended the film in Sweden, making it the most successful film produced by the Swedish Film Institute until Fanny and Alexander was released in 1982. What Bo Widerberg managed to do with “The Man On The Roof” was to create a very dramatic, intense (yet low-key and dialogue driven), nicely shot, action packed police thriller with an american touch you simply won´t forget once you have seen it. Widerbergs style of direction was well known as being straight forward, crazy, intense and more or less anarchic, and I reckon that´s how he made his best movies. The acting is superb and minimalistic (love how Widerberg could use someone literally from the street in a whim in the movie). The attention to detail is beautiful. And the dialogue is great in a combination with the cinematography. Widerberg perfected the swedish action thriller a bit later with “The Man from Majorca” in 1984. “The Man On The Roof” is still one of the best swedish movies ever made and it was a true pleasure to re-see it. (4 and a half out of 5)

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This is a loosely based retelling of France’s iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles during the French Revolution.

I missed out on seeing Sofia Coppola´s “Marie Antoinette” when it came out in 2006, but I do remember it was booed at during early screenings at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Then I recently saw the trailer for the movie which sparked an interest to see it. Coppola has tried to humanise Marie Antoinette and she apparently refused to read the famous biography of Marie-Antoinette written by Stefan Zweig, which she judged too strict. So she turned instead to the book by Antonia Fraser, which makes the queen a more human character, a young girl with no connection to reality who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. To make her more modern and “alive” almost set in the present day. I see a strong influence of particularly Stanley Kubrick, with all the lavish locations, strong colours, the attention to details and the somewhat “sterile” acting. I like the idea of having a soundtrack with New Wave and post-punk bands like New Order, Gang of Four, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants, The Strokes, Dustin O’Halloran and The Radio Dept. In several 2006 interviews, Coppola suggests that her highly stylized interpretation was intentionally very modern in order to humanise the historical figures involved. She admitted taking great artistic liberties with the source material, and said that the film does not focus simply on historical facts – “It is not a lesson of history. It is an interpretation documented, but carried by my desire for covering the subject differently.” The main problem with “Marie Antoinette” is that it´s as boring as Marie Antoinette´s life depicted on the screen. I´m not sure if this is what Sofia Coppola was aiming at, but this historic costume drama fails due to the fact that everything is so toned down and frankly boring you just want it to end when you realise after more than half of the movie nothing will happen that will get some sort of emotional rise within. I have no problem how Coppola has handled the subject and the liberties she has taken, making Marie Antoinette a misunderstood and angst-ridden teenager, but that means as well I want to feel that, which she fails with. “Marie Antoinette” is just a colourful pastry with nothing but fluff inside to my mind. (2 and a half out of 5)

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Stefen “Stef” Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) is a high school defensive back who is both gifted in sports and academics seeking a college football scholarship to escape the economically depressed small western Pennsylvania town of Ampipe and a dead-end job and life working at the mill like his father and brother Greg. Ampipe is a company town whose economy is dominated by the town’s main employer, American Pipe & Steel, a steel mill struggling through the downturn of the early 1980s recession. The Ampipe football team will by the end of the season meet the undefeated Walnut Heights High School. Ampipe appears headed to win the game, when a fumbled handoff in the closing seconds-as well as Stefen’s pass interference penalty earlier in the game-leads to a Walnut Heights victory. Following the game, Coach Nickerson (Craig T. Nelson) lambastes the fumbler in the locker room, telling him he “quit”. When Stefen retorts that the coach himself quit, the coach kicks him off the team. In the aftermath, disgruntled Ampipe fans vandalize Coach Nickerson’s house and yard. Stefen is present and is a reluctant participant, but is nonetheless seen by Nickerson as the vandals flee. From there, Stefen deals with personal battles, including dealing with the coach blacklisting him among colleges because of his attitude and participation in the desecration of Nickerson’s yard and house…

“All The Right Moves” is amongst Tom Cruise´s first movies and he is convincing as Stefen “Stef” Djordjevic who thrives to be a scholar and get out of the grey, small steel mill town he comes from and become something else than his steelworker dad and brother. The coming of age feeling/vibe and the wish to get the hell out of your birth place is easy to relate to, which gives the movie a great sense of realness. I wound´t say that this is one of the best 80s high school movies, but there´s still a lot of good adolescence drama and everything that comes with it. Even if it feels like they tried to fill in as many boxes as possible. And the ending is quite expected. Craig T. Nelson is good as Coach Nickerson and the same goes for a young and radiant Lea Thompson. (3 out of 5)

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In 2154, two classes of people exist: the wealthy, who live on a luxurious space station called Elysium, and the poor, who live on an overpopulated, devastated Earth. While residents on Earth are policed by ruthless robots, Elysium’s citizens live in comfort and regularly use bed-sized medical devices called Med-Bays to keep them free of disease and injury. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon), a former car thief and parolee, lives in the ruins of Los Angeles and works at an assembly line for Armadyne Corp, the military company that supplies arms and weapons to Elysium, and creates the robots that police Earth. An accident at the plant exposes Max to a lethal dose of radiation, giving him only five days to live. Meanwhile, when a caravan of illegal immigrants from Earth attempts to reach Elysium and its Med-Bays, Elysian Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster) orders a sleeper agent, Kruger (Sharlto Copley), to shoot down the shuttles. Elysian President Patel (Faran Tahir) reprimands her and dismisses Kruger from service. Delacourt, vowing to protect Elysium and her own power, bargains with Armadyne CEO John Carlyle (William Fichtner) to write a program that can override Elysium’s central computer and make her President. Carlyle creates the program in his office on Earth and uploads it to his brain for safekeeping, encrypting it with a lethal denial system. Max, knowing his only chance for survival is a Med-Bay, seeks help from notorious smuggler Spider (Wagner Moura), with the assistance of his friend Julio (Diego Luna). Spider agrees to get Max to Elysium if he helps him steal valuable financial information from Carlyle. Recognizing Max’s weakened condition, Spider has his doctors implant Max with a powered exoskeleton, giving him superhuman strength, as well as a brain implant that can store data. Max, Julio and a team of Spider’s men intercept Carlyle’s ship, and Max downloads the data (including the program) to his brain. However, due to the encryption, the information appears unusable. Delacourt secretly deploys Kruger to rescue Carlyle and recover the program. In the ensuing firefight, nearly all of Max’s allies are killed, Carlyle is mortally wounded, and an injured Max retreats to the house of Frey (Alice Braga), a childhood friend whose daughter, Matilda, has leukemia. After learning that Max intends to smuggle himself to Elysium, Frey begs him to take Matilda with him so that she can be cured, but Max refuses. With Max on the run, Delacourt orders an airspace lockdown over Los Angeles to buy her enough time to recover Carlyle’s program…

I haven´t seen Neill Blomkamp´s “District 9”, but I know it was visually stunning. Meaning, I was hoping for the same with “Elysium”. And yes, he does deliver a visually stunning movie at times with an interesting storyline as a backdrop. The main focus is the growing distance between the poor and the rich, a topic as current as ever and not science fiction. The story relates as well to current harsh immigration situations we see every other day in for example Syria. I reckon Blomkamp has managed to balance that and communicate the message. However, everything comes down to how you handle and execute what you got, and I personally don´t like what he has done dramatically with this story. The dramatic structure is of a crappy Michael Bay actioneer, all the actors are all more or less in overdrive giving us extremely overacted results (specifically Jodie Foster), Matt Damon has burnt his presence on the screen in my opinion and is quite boring to see these days, you could see the ending coming a mile a way and it just leaves you with a disappointing gut feeling. The action, the general storyline, the details (weapons, space ships etc) and the CGI is of my liking, but it´s hardly enough to satisfy. (3 out of 5)

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Set against the backdrop of the 1976 election in Sweden, the story is centred around delinquent teenager Iris (Sofia Karemyr), who is sent to live in a juvenile home. She meets her cousin Sonja (Josefin Asplund) there and the two regularly slip away for adventures in the city centre of Stockholm. Together they are recruited to the prostitution ring operated by Dagmar Glans (Pernilla August), a madam well-known to the authorities. Dagmar’s clients are mostly rich and powerful men, including senior politicians of the day. She becomes the subject of a police investigation lead by a young vice officer, John Sandberg (Simon J. Berger). Sandberg soon discovers Glans has powerful clients but also finds his investigation hampered by his superiors and his life threatened by sinister figures…

The story is a fictionalised version of events based on the so-called “Bordellhärvan” political scandal of 1970’s Sweden which linked several prominent politicians to a prostitution ring that included underage girls. Mikael Marcimain has managed to recreate the 70s down to details and that is the strength of the movie in combination with a good script and good acting from all involved. “Call Girl” is an ensemble film with known names such as Pernilla August, Magnus Krepper, David Dencik, Simon J. Berger, Ruth Vega Fernandez and Jennie Silverhjelm. However, it´s Sofia Karemyr and Josefin Asplund that really stands out portraying two girls with a need for love and a home. The undertones and general vibe creates a shady and depressing environment, and the storyline feels as current as ever unfortunately. I do like the whole “Watergate”ish conspiracy tone and the darkness presented. I firmly believe that these sort of stories is far more important to be told on the silver screen compared to something lighter or easier. “Call Girl” is a needed movie and the consequences we see needs to be addressed over and over. (4 out of 5)

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Hijackers working for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the “Che Guevara Group-Gaza Brigade” boarded and hijacked an Air France plane in 1976 and this tv-movie recounts the events and response of the Israeli government and the controversy that the rescue stirred. This version shows the difficult deliberations held by the Cabinet of Israel to decide on a top-secret military raid on the Jewish Sabbath by commandos; a difficult and daring operation carried out over 2500 miles from home, and an unwillingness of the Israeli government to give in to terrorist demands. One commando was killed (the breach unit commander Yonatan Netanyahu, brother of future Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), as were three of the hostages, and 45 soldiers under the dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin. A fourth hostage, Dora Bloch, who had been taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala, was murdered by the Ugandans on Idi Amin’s orders.

“Raid on Entebbe” is a 1977 TV movie directed by Irvin Kershner. Based on an actual event: Operation Entebbe and the freeing of hostages at Entebbe Airport in Entebbe, Uganda on July 4, 1976. The direction is a bit wobbly in my eyes and so is the acting and general feeling, then again with a tv movie from the 70s I wouldn´t expect anything else. We see an ensemble cast with actors such as Peter Finch, Charles Bronson, Yaphet Kotto, Martin Balsam, Horst Buchholz, John Saxon, James Woods etc. But, the one who really stands out is Yaphet Kotto as Idi Amin. Bronson is wooden as always. But, it was nice to see Horst Buchholz, whom I always will remember as Chico in “The Magnificent Seven” (1960). Both Bronson and Buchholz had roles in that classic. “Raid on Entebbe” is interesting from a historic point of view, but as a movie it leaves you with one or two wishes. (3 out of 5)

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