Reviews

80 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
8/10
One of the best Norwegian crime series ever!
21 April 2019
Varg Veum is the hero of the titular novels written by the godfather of Scandinavian crime fiction, Gunnar Staalesen, and he is one of the most well fleshed out characters in the genre. The name translates in English as ''wolf in a holy place'' and is the best description for Staalesen's protagonist who is a private investigator with a strong moral compass and decent, though not extraordinary, detective skills that help him to solve the various cases he takes. His past experience as a social worker, mainly dealing with delinquent children, make him more sensitive and intuitive and also helps the audience to empathize with him.

The television adaptations are wonderful and Trond Esper Seim proves to be the best choice for the role of Varg. His performance is measured and esoteric and it succeeds in the difficult task of embodying a demanding fictitious character who has become a legend in his hometown of Bergen. All the stories, twelve in total, are compelling and engaging, unfolding in a nice, steady pace and some of them have some well-placed and effective twists that make them all the more intriguing. The cinematography is also breathtaking with the majority of episodes set in the beautiful Norwegian landscape.

In the sea of today's Nordic Noir television exports, ''Varg Veum'' stands out both in terms of quality and entertainment. If you are a fan of the genre, you should check out immediately this Norwegian production which is on the top-5 on my list of the best Scandi-Noir television series of all time. It should also be noted that the book series are ongoing and the latest novel, titled Wolves at the Door, was published on April 14, 2019.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Lawyer (2018– )
8/10
Another successful Swedish crime series.
16 April 2019
''Advokaten'' is a show set in both Sweden and Denmark, the story is set in the cities of Malmö and Copenhagen respectively, bringing to mind the iconic Bron/Broen series, a title referring to the -now- widely known Øresund bridge, the boundary between the two Scandinavian countries. The action in this series though is mainly set in Copenhagen and the show's casting emanates from both Sweden and Denmark. There is a number of popular and experienced actors such as Thomas Bo Larsen (''Festen'', ''Bedrag''), Nicolaj Kopernikus (''Forbrydelsen'', ''Bænken''), Alexander Karim (''Arne Dahl'', ''Johan Falk'') and Malin Buska (''Snabba Cash'', ''Happy End''). It should be also noted that the series writing credits list three very popular Swedish crime fiction novelists, Jens Lapidus, Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. Hjorth and Rosenfeldt are known to the audiences by their Sebastian Bergman book series while Lapidus is the author of one of the biggest commercial hits, that is the ''Snabba Cash'' trilogy. This is a story about vengeance and the two protagonists', the siblings Frank and Sara, search for the true perpetrator of their parents tragic murder 20 years before. After the murder, Frank and Sara were placed in different foster families, thus losing touch for a good number of years before they met again. Frank is the titular lawyer, while Sara is a police officer working on the Narcotics division. When Sara locates a person connected to their past, he tells them that her parents' executioner was a now renowned Danish gangster, Thomas Waldman. Sara will quickly convince her brother to join her in an attempt to bring Waldman down once and for all. As a result, Frank will join the law firm which provides its services to Waldman and pursuit his goal by sabotaging him from the inside. The plot reminded me a bit of another Swedish crime series, titled ''Innan vi dör'' (2017), but in my opinion ''Advokaten'' was not as good. It is a slow-burner and the viewer must have the patience to watch the first three or four episodes without giving up. The show becomes better after episode four when the whole plot is set and the various conflicts begin to arise. There is a lot of intrigue as the main characters are connected in different ways, while their targets clash with one another. I found the two protagonists being rather weak as characters and it was a bit difficult to identify with them, but on the other hand the antagonist(s)/villain(s) were rather exciting .The tempo gets faster from episode five onwards and the show never becomes tedious, but it unfortunately ends up in a lackluster finale which disappoints and leaves a bitter taste to the audience. Overall, I would claim that ''Advokaten'' is a show destined for the fans of Scandinavian crime fiction who will be satisfied by this ten-part crime series. Sadly it lacks the necessary qualities to be classified as a classic in this popular genre.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Quicksand (2019– )
6/10
Well shot, but hypotonic.
13 April 2019
''Quicksand'' is originally a novel, written by Malin Persson Giolito and it should be noted that the book was awarded with the Glass Key Award (2017). This 6-part television series remains faithful to the original material and if you liked the novel, I think that you will be satisfied by this adaptation. ''Quicksand'' narrates the story of Maja, an upper-class teenager in today's Stockholm who, along with her boyfriend Sebastian, opens fire in their school class one morning with fatal consequences. So, as anybody can understand, there is no mystery here regarding the whodunit aspect but the emphasis is given to the whydunit. What reasons could possibly Maja and Martin have in order to commit such a horrendous atrocity? Through the, slow-paced, evolution of the plot we gradually learn about the true motives of the two perpetrators and the wider context of their troubled lives. There is a lot of family and courtroom drama involved, as we follow Maja's prosecution from her arrest all the way till the final verdict. The main problem is that I find it impossible for the audience to really empathize with Maja, who is the main protagonist, or with any of the main characters for that matter. It is a sad and distressing story, narrated in a distant, even cold, manner. I believe that it will mainly appeal to the readers who enjoyed the novel, otherwise I don't think that it matches with other recent Nordic Noir television exports in terms of quality.
4 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
An amazing sci-fi, philosophical thriller/horror film from Italy.
3 April 2019
Marquis Pierre Simon Laplace was one of the most notable French intellectual of the 18th century whose work influenced the scientific fields of mathematics, physics and astronomy. Laplace is widely known for his -almost theological- faith in the purely deterministic nature of the existing world, where an intellect capable to comprehend and analyse the position of all "items of which nature is composed" would find the future no more mysterious than the past. This is a theory that nowadays, in the light of modern approaches especially in the quantum mechanics, seems obsolete, even irrelevant, but this fact doesn't prevent it from being a totally compelling premise for an intriguing film which transcends a number of different genres such as science fiction, crime fiction, horror and others. ''Laplace's Demon'' begins when a number of young scientists are invited by a mysterious super-researcher in his mansion, literally in the middle of nowhere in order to participate in a self-invented experiment which aims to show that everything, including the diverse human behavior, can be totally predicted by a mathematical formula. When they enter the -terrifying- estate they soon realize that they were invited there in order to be killed one by one by an uknown force which takes the form of the chess piece of regina. Gradually, realizing the terrible truth behind the bizarre invitation by the shady professor, they will have to find a way to move as unpredictable as possible, thus to deconstruct and finally destroy the experiment itself. This is a movie that is shot in black and white, a fact that adds to the gloomy and grotesque feeling that permeates the story as a whole. There is also some great dialogue regarding fundamental philosophical and scientific questions about the possibility of a world where free choice is nothing more but a mere illusion, a concept created by the human need to believe that himself is the sole agent of his actions. ''Laplace's Demon'' is a film that every true cinephile should add to his collection and it is really a shame that this little masterpiece is so little-known outside the Italian frontiers. This film who also certainly appeal to the physics as well as the philosophy scholars who prefer to watch movies that truly broaden their horizons in understanding the great world, a little better. This is a solid 5/5 star rating. Not to miss!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Jackpot (2011)
8/10
A cunning crime comedy from Norway, based on a Jo Nesbo's story.
3 April 2019
''Arme Riddere'' is a short, in running time (85 minutes), but also fascinating and enticing viewing experience that will appeal to the many Nordic Noir fans around the globe as it is based on a story by the Norwegian super-star crime writer, Jo Nesbo, the author of the notorious Harry Hole series. This is a really compact film where the intricate as well as -in many parts- amusing plot unfolds at a brisk pace, leaving no room for pointless dialogue scenes that contribute nothing to the movie's central theme and plotline. The story sets off when four friends and colleagues win the Jackpot in the national lottery and it is narrated through the police interrogation of the main protagonist, Oscar, who is the last man standing alive, as all his other friends are dead. The main question of the film is this: is Oscar a reliable narrator of the events that occurred after the lottery win or he is lying in order to keep himself out of the prison? The riddle is solved in the last -intent- ten minutes of the film where everything turns upside down, as it often does in Nesbo's stories. This is a movie that is worthy of your attention and its short running time makes it even more easy to watch. The cast is doing a fine job with some of the most well-known and respected Norwegian, and Scandinavian in general, actors starring in the main roles. Peter Andersson (''The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'',''Kommissarie Winter'', ''Kraftidioten''), Henrik Mestad (''Okkupert'', ''Conspiracy of Silence'') and Mads Ousdal (''Varg Veum'', ''Wisting'') are some of them. If you are a Jo Nesbo's, fan, you should watch it immediately and the same goes for every Scandi-Noir aficionado.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Mule (2018)
6/10
Clint Eastwood's Swan Song.
27 March 2019
This is a movie that greatly disappointed me as I was expecting a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller and after watching the first hour I was convinced that there was nothing intriguing as far as the plot is concerned. Eastwood is decent in the role of Earl Stone, a ninety year old horticulturist and Korean War veteran who transfers massive amount of drugs on the behalf of the Mexican mafia. Earl is tempted by the easy money and gradually becomes more and more important for the cartel as he is the perfect mule, an old man with -seemingly- nothing to hide, a man that no police officer would search extensively in a road block. This is the premise of the story, but ''The Mule'' is basically a character study from a director who tries to compromise with his own mortality. Earl is struggling to restore the broken family relationships, with his wife and daughter and the movie focuses on the protagonist's attempt to repair something that he thought was long gone. This is not a drawback per se but the audience should be properly warned about the nature and mood of the film in order to indulge in its melancholic imagery. The direction as well as the performances by the actors are of high quality, and -in a way- counterbalance the weak plot of ''The Mule''. If you are a fan of Clint Eastwood's films make sure not to miss it, though if you expect a tight, action-packed crime/thriller better look elsewhere.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A tight-knit vengeance story.
19 March 2019
This French film is a quiet and subtle experience, even though its main theme is the revenge of a young girl, Mélanie (Déborah François), against an aged piano master, Ariane (Catherine Frot). Ten years ago, Mélanie was a little girl full of dreams about becoming a popular but in a crucial audition, the rude behavior of Ariane, who was a member of the jury, broke her concentration, leading in a disastrous result. In the present day, Mélanie gets hired by Ariane's husband as a babysitter and after awhile he wins Ariane's trust and she is appointed to be her page-turner during a crucial and possibly career-ending audition that will take place in a few days. The page-turner of a pianist is a sensitive as well as important role and after so many years, Mélanie has the chance to extract her revenge from the person that destroyed her future as an artist and musician. ''The Page Turner'' is a short film, its running time is no more than 80 minutes, and as a result the story moves forward quickly, though not in a frenetic pace which confuses the audience. The two protagonists are both decent in their respective roles, especially the reserved and low-key performance by Déborah François is memorable, while the use of piano music adds to the creepy atmosphere of the movie. You always expect that something bad will happen anytime soon, something that makes ''The Page Turner'' an engaging and suspenseful watch. There is also some food for thought concerning the main themes of the story, such as obsession or the limitations of vengeance. Overall, this film was above mediocrity and if you like more refined and played-down thrillers, you should definitely watch it. In my opinion, ''The Page Turner'' is a movie that is oriented towards European audiences rather than American.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A heart-rending story about parenthood and loss in today's Copenhagen.
15 March 2019
This is a really sad film, directed by one of the most prominent female Danish directors, Susanne Bier (''Brothers'', ''The Night Manager'', ''In a Better World'') and starring an all-star cast with names such as Ulrich Thomsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. There is also a brief appearance by Peter Haber, known mainly from the legendary ''Beck'' television series and the cinema adaptation of the first Stieg Larsson's novel in the ''Millenium'' trilogy (''The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo''). The story revolves around Andreas (Coster-Waldau), a police officer who is facing a tragedy in his personal life as he loses first his infant son in an accident and after awhile his wife commits suicide leaving him alone and desperate. Andreas will kidnap the son of a junkie couple and in a way, try to replace his dead offspring with the, neglected by his real parents, baby. This is a slow-burning movie which retains its suspense and interest as far as the main abduction plotline is concerned, but emphasizes on the characters' emotions and reactions, specifically focusing on Andreas tormented soul and the viewer finally identifies with a baby kidnapper, a difficult achievement for a crime film. Susanne Bier is an experienced and talented auteur who prompts the audience to ponder on the film's main themes, that is the question of what really is a good parent and the nature of grief as well as its dire consequences to the human beings. This is a film that will appeal mainly to European audiences and it is nothing like the typical films of the crime genre that the American audiences -mainly- are used to. So, if you are expecting tons of actions or high levels of suspense, better skip it. If, on the other hand, you believe that entertainment is something more than mere enjoyment, try to watch ''A Second Chance'' (original -Danish- title: ''En chance til'') pronto.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Gift (VI) (2015)
8/10
Not the usual, generic crime/thriller movie.
14 March 2019
This movie was a pleasant and much appreciated surprise, a film that stands out from the majority of the American -crime/thriller- genre productions that we watched in the last few years. ''The Gift'' is a low-key, low-budget film which relies on its great plot and characterization rather than the use of special effects. It is a suspenseful story which begins when the married couple of Simon and Robyn decides to move from Chicago into Simon's hometown in order to make a fresh start, attempting to flee from the -many- problems they had in the previous few years. The exact nature of these problems are gradually revealed to the viewer and we learn the whole truth in a slow, though suspenseful, way. As the couple is shopping for their new home, Simon runs into an old classmate of his, Gordo, whose behavior seems to be a little off at the beginning, and it quickly deteriorates to stalking and criminal actions against the couple. The riddle that lies on the center of the film's plot is the reason behind Gordo's increasingly bizarre behavior. Robyn will quickly suspect that Simon is not telling her the truth about his past misdeeds and sets off to find out the truth herself. She finally realizes that the person she trusts the most, her husband, is not who she thought he was and this fact aggravates her mental issues, that she successfully dealt in the past, leading to paranoia and total lack of trust in Simon. What makes ''The Gift'' a different, as well as a highly recommended, thriller is its great finale that leaves the audience hanging but at the same time is the most appropriate ending in this disturbing story of bullying, lies and violence. The movie offers catharsis to the audience in an innovative and ingenious manner, making the ''Gift'', a picture which will remain to the viewer's memory for a long time. I am not a big fan of Jason Bateman but I have to admit that he is decent in his portrayal of Simon and Rebecca Hall is excellent as Robyn. Joel Edgerton, who is also the writer and the director of the film, is convincing in the difficult role of odd Gordo and I hope that we will have the chance to watch him in future productions. To sum up, ''The Gift'' is a movie that guarantees entertainment and should not be missed by any true fan of the genre.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Gone Girl (2014)
8/10
A silver screen adaptation, equal of the titular novel's level of quality and intrigue.
11 March 2019
''Gone Girl'' is one of those rare type of films which are at the same level, in terms of quality and character, with their original source, that is the novel. Gillian Flynn's ''Gone Girl'' is her third, in chronological order, novel that was published, after ''Sharp Objects'' (won the 2007 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for the best thriller) and ''Dark Places'', a book which was also successfuly adapted to cinema film in 2015 by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, starring Charlize Theron. ''Gone Girl'' received wide praise and many compliments, and it is considered to be Flynn's tour de force, a crime/mystery novel narrated by -more or less- unreliable characters' point of view, a fact that makes the viewer to remain vigilant for the 2 hours and half that is -approximately- the movie's running time. The story revolves around the two protagonists, Nick and Amy Dunne, a married couple which seems to be totally in love with each other at the beginning of their relationship, only to find out in time, that they fell in love with an illusion of the other that they built themselves. The intricate, though not hard to follow, plot of the film begins to unfold when in the day of their fifth's wedding anniversary, Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappears from the house and seems to be gone for good. Her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), is shocked at first and seems to be willing to day what is necessary to find out the truth behind his wife's action, but slowly it becomes obvious that Amy had set him up for her -supposed- murder. Through Nick's conversations, mainly with his twin sister, Margo, the viewer discover that things were not what they seem and the marriage of Nick and Amy was far from being ideal. As the days pass and Amy is still missing, the police begins to unearth the clues that Amy had left them in order to incriminate Nick and after finding the -possibly- murder weapon they arrest him. This is a -condensed- synopsis of the film's first one hour and the following 90 minutes has a lot of twists and turns in store for the viewer who must not lose his focus in order to fully enjoy the viewing experience of one of the best crime films of the year (2014). ''Gone Girl'' is a film, having two truly shady characters as protagonists which are hard to like, much more to identify with, but this doesn't mean that they are not brilliantly outlined and fleshed out, as well as alluring and enthralling. Rosamund Pike's performance is a great one but unfortunately Ben Affleck's acting is below expectations and perhaps with another actor in the role of Nick, ''Gone Girl'' would be irresistible. David Fincher's direction is impeccable -as always- and guarantees an unforgettable artistic achievement, a movie that the audience will remember for the years to come as on of the iconic flicks of the crime/mystery genre. If you still haven't watched it, do it without giving it a second thought. You will be thoroughly entertained and intrigued by this fabulous storyline and plot.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Jar City (2006)
8/10
An exemplary film of Icelandic Noir.
9 March 2019
''Jar City'' (original title:''Myrin'') is a movie adaptation of Arnaldur Indridason's third installment in the infamous Inspector Erlendur crime novel series. The book was a huge success, it won the Glass Key award for Best Nordic Crime Novel (2002) and introduced the author in wider audiences around the globe. This was the reason that impelled one of the most prominent Icelandic auteurs, Baltasar Kormakur, to attempt a silver screen adaptation of the novel, one that remains faithful to to the mood and the character of Indriason's text. Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (''Trapped'', ''Reykjavik-Rotterdam'', ''Cold Light'') is a remarkable actor and does a terrific job in portraying one of the most interesting characters in Scandinavian crime fiction, the solemn and reticent Inspector Erlendur. His relationship with his junkie, pregnant daughter, Eva Lind, which is an important theme in all the Indridason's novels, is explored as much as it can be in the confinements of the movie's running time, and adds to the impeccable characterization of the protagonist. The story concerns the investigation of the Reykjavik homicide unit, consisting of Erlendur, Sigurður Óli (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) and Elinborg (Ólafía Hrönn Jónsdóttir), into the murder of a middle-aged man, Holberg, who was beaten with an ashtray by an unknown perpetrator. The investigation team scrutinize the victim's past and soon discovers that Holberg was accused of rape in the past. This is the basic premise of the plot which is tightly-knit and non-superfluous while it unfolds in a measured, steady pace, never becoming tiresome for the viewer. Though it is a rather straight story, there are some twists and surprises to keep the spark alive for the audience. The main advantage of ''Jar City'' is its wonderful cinematography. Reykjavik is a character itself and the director offers some great visual impressions of the city through aerial shots and succeeds in aligning the film's mood with that of the grey, almost impersonal town where this classic police procedural is set. Baltasar Kormakur (''101 Reykjavik'', ''The Oath'', ''Everest'') is a gifted artist and this is one of his first movies that established him as one of the best Continental directors. If you enjoyed the books in the Inspector Erlendur series, you will definitely love this film but even those who are not familiar with Arnaldur Indridason's work, will be thoroughly entertained.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
An existential mafia-film of rare visual beauty, directed by Paolo Sorrentino.
8 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Paolo Sorrentino is one of the greatest contemporary European auteurs and his films are known for their stylistic elegance and the unique visual imagery that the Italian director creates. ''The Consequences of Love'' (original title: ''Le Conseguenze dell'amore'' is a little-known and massively underrated masterpiece and its viewing experience is a true delight for the human senses. The film has another advantage and its name is Toni Servillo, one of the best actors in his generation in both Europe and U.S. The films protaogonist, Titta Di Girolamo, is a quiet and taciturn lodger in a small hotel in the Swiss city of Lugano. Titta is living there for the last eight years, away from his homeland (Italy) and his family. The reasons for this (kind of) exile are unknown to the audience at the beginning of the movie and the viewer has to use his imagination in search of the possible reasoning behind Titta's current predicament. During the first 30-40 minutes or so, we -as audience- are introduced to the repetitive, purposeless and mundane everyday routine of the protagonist who is also the narrator o f the story and we can hear his thoughts in voice-over. Gradually, Titta also reveals some of little secrets to us like his heroin use, and slowly as the plot unfolds we learn the truth about Titta's special kind of imprisonment in a hotel room for those last few years. Eight years before, he managed a big amount of money that the almighty Mafia has given to him in order to invest it. Due to bad luck -or perhaps incompetence- Titta lost the money and he was sent to Switzerland to act as a middle-man for the mob, delivering each week a suitcase full of laundered money to a Swiss bank. Titta's predictable and uneventful existence will start to shake when he meets the young Italian girl, named Sofia, who is a receptionist in the hotel he lives. Sofia is portrayed by the exquisitely beautiful actress, Olivia Magnani, the granddaughter of Anna Magnani who is one of the most popular Italian cinema divas. Magnani -literally- shines in each and every scene she is in and her character is the one who will attempt to get to know the mysterious Titta a little better, even they they haven't spoke a word the two years that she works as a receptionist to the hotel. What makes this movie unforgettable is, first of all, the masterful direction by Sorrentino who is an expert at using the camera in a way that captures the essence and mood of Titta's solitary existence, while reflecting his innermost feelings and thoughts. Apart from that, the performances are excellent and Toni Servillo ought to get nominated for a number of awards as he is able to essentially transform into the character of each film he is playing. I really doubt that there is an actor more suitable for Titta's role than himself. Servillo's acting stands out, of course, because ''The Consequences of Love'' is a film that concentrates on the protagonist's character, thus offering the actor more space to show his skills. But the secondary roles also, Magnani being the first, do a magnificent job and add to the movie's whole character. This is a movie the every cinephile should watch, though I believe that it will appeal more to the European audiences. It is one of the rare times that I evaluate a film, tv series, and novel in such a manner, but ''The Consequences of Love'' is worthy of 5/5 star rating.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Tu hijo (2018)
8/10
A character-oriented vengeance story from Spain.
6 March 2019
This is a Spanish production (original title: '' Tu Hijo ''), directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas and starring one of the best contemporary European actors, Jose Coronado, whose performance as the protagonist, Jaime, is truly riveting. Jaime is a middle-aged surgeon, married with two kids, Markos (Pol Monen) and Sara (Asia Ortega). When Markos gets seriously injured after a nasty fight outside a nightclub, Jaime will have to face his worst nightmare, how own son is in a coma and decides to find the person responsible and revenge his boy.

This is the basic premise of the story, and it certainly is not one that we, as viewers, haven't already encountered numerous times in films of the genre. The difference is that ''Tu Hijo'' is, above all, a study of the protagonist's character, concentrating on his feelings and emotional reactions rather than relying on the strength of its script and plotting. Coronado combines intensity with subtlety and is compelling in his portrayal of a shattered man, determined to get revenge for his son's current predicament. The director chooses do many close shots to Coronado's face which reflect the wide range of Jaime's conflicted feelings, ranging from pure rage to the sense of helplessness and despair, while displaying the actors skills.

Of course, the above facts do not imply that ''Your Son'' is a boring film with a weak plot. On the contrary, I that it has a compelling plot which unfolds in a slow -though effective- tempo and leaves no loose ends. The story reaches its climax in the final ten minutes of the running time and the finale comes as a surprise to the viewer who definitely expects another decision made from the protagonist. Personally, I think it was a great, though-provoking ending which suited perfectly the film's mood and tone. ''Your Son'' is a movie that you will think about for days after watching as it raises valid questions regarding justice, vigilantism and the meaning of familial obligation.
9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Snowman (2017)
3/10
A major letdown.
4 March 2019
All fans of Nordic Noir around the globe were expecting the release of this film, that was the first American adaptation of a Jo Nesbø's novel. ''The Snowman'' is the seventh installment in the infamous Harry Hole series and also one of the most horror-like books of the Norwegian super-star crime author. I enjoyed reading the book a few years ago, though I don't think that it is one of the best in this legendary series, as it lacked the ingenuity in plotting that is one of Nesbø's trademark characteristics as a crime writer. Nevertheless I was eager to watch the silver-screen adaptation, especially when I heard that Martin Scorsese was ready to participate in the production team. Unfortunately, the final result was below mediocre and the ending of a film found me feeling sad that so many viewers around the world will form their opinion on both on the book author and the Nordic Noir as a genre, based on this unsuccessful attempt in producing a crime/thriller that echoes the melancholic mood of the novel(s). The main -but definitely not the only- flaw with ''Snowman'' is its bad editing which makes the viewer feeling confused over a story that seems to be disjointed and not making any sense in some parts. The pacing of the movie is uneven and jumbled, lacking in both fluctuations and climax. The director, Tomas Alfredson is an experienced auteur and the person behind the camera in major commercial and artistic hits such as ''Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'', and ''Let the Right One In'' seems to be out of his depth in this one, while the actors try to do their best, but without proper guidance make cardboard characters that have little in common with the fleshed-out, compelling characters like Harry Hole or Katrine Bratt. I can't recommend ''Snowman'' even to the most ardent films of the Nordic Noir genre and those who are fond of Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole universe and characters should better skip this one.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
La trêve (2016– )
6/10
A well-shot, though conventional Belgian crime series.
4 March 2019
Belgium is a rising power in the Continental crime fiction genre and has delivered a large number of novel, movies, and television series which stand-out due to their high production values and intriguing storylines. ''The Break'' (original title: ''La trêve'') is another addition to the recent Belgian tradition of crime television series production and even though it has an auspicious beginning, promising a great, suspenseful ride lasting 10 episodes, it gradually disintegrates in a mere repetition of the timeworn, cliched tropes that we, as viewers, have already seen enough times. The story is narrated in two different timelines, one in present where the protagonist, Inspector Yoann Peeters (Yoann Blanc), is held as a prisoner in a mental facility and he is interviewed by an experienced female psychiatrist for reasons that we learn slowly as the series progresses. In the past timeline we follow from the very beginning the police investigation in the murder of a young, black football player which takes place in the small town in Belgian Ardennes, with a population of a few thousands. The investigation follows the well-known process that we witness in -almost- every generic police-procedural crime series (or novel). Each and every character in the show becomes eventually a suspect just to be proven innocent and move to the next one. This parade of suspects has become one of the most repetitive tropes in crime television productions as it began with the rise of the Nordic Noir genre, and more specifically with the legendary Danish crime series, ''Forbrydelsen'' which was the first to present this plot device. After that, a vast number of the later productions copied it and as a result, nowadays, it is considered to be -more or less- obsolete. Despite the above fact, ''The Break'' is a show with solid characters and great actor performances especially by Yoann Blanc who portrays the protagonist, Inspector Peteers, delivering a strong, though subtle performance. He succeeds in expressing the soul torment of the detective and his mood fluctuations. To sum up, if you are a fan of European crime series television shows watch this bearing in minds that in terms of plot and narrative structure doesn't offer anything innovative.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Tabula Rasa (2017– )
8/10
An outstanding Dutch crime series with a flawless script.
28 February 2019
''Tabula Rasa'' is a 9-part television series, created by Malin-Sarah Gozin and Veerle Baetens who also stars along with Stijn Van Opstal as Anemie and Benoit D'Haeze respectively, a young married couple with one daughter, a little girl named Romy. The story begins with Anemia being in the psychiatric ward of a hospital, unable to recall the events that led her there and also incapable of making new memories. She has to rely on a notebook where she sketches the faces of the people she meet and writes down who-is-who, a trope that we first encountered in Christopher Nolan's masterpiece, ''Memento'' where the protagonist suffered from a similar memory dysfunction. Anemie soon learns that she is the prime suspect in the disappearance of Thomas De Geest, a person she cannot remember meeting at all. This is the premise of the story that unfolds in nine episodes (50 minutes each) and the scriptwriting team of ''Tabula Rasa'' is worthy of a special praise as they leave no loose ends and the final episode explains everything that we saw happened in the previous eight. This is a brilliant achievement as many crime television series, or movies, are known for having massive plot-holes and demanding from the viewer to constantly suspend his disbelief, stretching its limits. In this case however, the finale is thoroughly satisfying and also has a tremendous plot twist that makes the viewer see the whole story from a brand new perspective. In terms of a clever and dignified ending, ''Tabula Rasa'' is one of the top series of last year. I should also mention the exceptional performances by both the two protagonists and the secondary characters like Rita, Oli, Nikki, and the enigmatic Vronsky that Anemie meets in the psychiatric facility. There are a lot of small twists and cliffhangers during the unraveling of the plot that obliges the viewer to watch one more episode in order to find out what happens next in this suspenseful thriller with some horror and whodunit-elements. The themes that the series attempt to explore are time, memory, obsession, grief and many other questions raised by the series' great dialogue parts. If you still haven't watched it, you better find the time to indulge in this little diamond from Netherlands.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Vice (I) (2018)
7/10
Christian Bale in another Ovidian Transformation.
28 February 2019
This is a semi-biographical film on the life and political career of the controversial ex-vice president of USA, during the G.W. Bush administration, Dick Cheney. ''Vice'' begins with the role of Cheney in the Nixon's presidency years, and his upgrade to White House chief of staff (1975-1977) after the Watergate scandal. The director, Adam McKay, focuses on Cheney's close relationship with Donald Rumsfeld who was a friend of his and kind of a political mentor, and the significant relationship between Cheney and his wife, Lynne (Amy Adams). Later, Cheney would become The second half of the movie focuses on the years of Cheney's vice-presidency, during G.W. Bush's administration (2001-2009) and especially on crucial events of the contemporary American history, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent anti-terrorist hysteria as well as the invasion of Iraq, in 2003. The movie is fast-edited and attempts to cover long time-spans (nearly four decades) in just a few screen shots, and even though that works well for the most part, it sometimes gives the viewer a rushed feeling that make him feel uncomfortable and prevents him from fully concentrating on the film's narrative flow. Cheney is outlined as a tough and cynic politician, with anti-democratic tendencies, who saw opportunities for the advancement of his political career even in the worst disasters. Nevertheless, ''Vice'' shows his vulnerable side as well, that revolves around his wife and daughters. Christian Bale does, once again, an amazing job as he totally transforms into Dick Cheney with the help of an Oscar-winning makeup and hairstyling team. Bale ''gained 45 pounds, shaved his head, bleached his eyebrows and exercised to thicken his neck for his role as Cheney'' (IMDB Trivia) and proved that he is one of the best method actors of his generation. He even studied heart-attack prevention as Cheney has a history of heart-related diseases. Sam Rockwell in the role of G.W. Bush is great too in portraying the indecisive and easily manipulated George W. Bush. If you are interested in biographies or in modern American political history, this is definitely a must-see film. But apart from that, ''Vice'' is worth watching purely because of the incredible performance by C. Bale.
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Oath (2016)
8/10
A fascinating crime film from Iceland.
25 February 2019
''The Oath'' (original title: ''Eiðurinn'') is an Icelandic production, directed by the famous auteur, Baltasar Kormákur who gave us the exceptional ''Jar City'' in 2006 -a film based on a novel by Arnaldur Indridason- and is also the creator of the compelling television series, ''Trapped''. Kormákur is also the screenwriter of this film along with Ólafur Egilsson, and the protagonist as he portrays Finnur, an upper-class surgeon and father of Anna, a troubled teenager who is madly in love with a low-life criminal, Óttar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson is great in his performance). Of course, Finnur doesn't approve of his daughter's relationship and he is willing to do anything in order to win her back and be a family once again. But things spiral out of control and Finnur finds himself in a tough spot where he has to violate the Hippocratic Oath -this is the titular ''oath''- that every doctor takes in the beginning of his career, or lose his offspring for good. The plot unfolds on a rather steady tempo and the viewer has the opportunity to indulge in the great cinematography of the movie which is one of its greatest merits. The Icelandic landscape is a character in itself and always triggers a variety of gloomy, melancholic feeling that suits the story perfectly. ''The Oath'' is an emotional story about the existence -or not- of limits in the actions of a parent who wants to save his child from corruption and decay. The finale is moving and unconventional, giving the viewer's imagination space for his own interpretation. The production values of the film are of high quality and I think that ''The Oath'' is a better movie from the majority of the crime films produced in Hollywood. Baltasar Kormákur proves -once again- that he is a rising star in direction and that his point of view is insightful as well as humane.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Sunset Limited (2011 TV Movie)
7/10
A film solely based on dialogue between just two characters.
23 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Sunset Limited is originally a theater play, written by Cormac McCarthy whose most popular novels such as ''No Country for Old Men'', ''The Road'', and ''All the Pretty Horses'' were successfully adapted into cinema films. The movie is directed by Tommy Lee Jones who is also the actor portraying one -of the two in total- characters of the story. The movie begins with T. Lee Jones's character, who is credited simply as ''professor'' and without any name, attempts to commit suicide on a train station. For his good -or bad?- luck, Samuel L. Jackson's character, credited just as ''black'', rescues him in the last minute and convinces him to accompany him to his house for a conversation. The title, ''Sunset Limited'' is the name of a train in the film's universe but also a metaphor for suicide, which is the main theme of the movie.

What follows is a 90-minute dialogue between the professor and the black man, who is also an ex-con and addict, in which the two characters contemplate about a number of philosophical, social and existential questions, like the nature of God and religion, the meaning of the original sin, addiction, incarceration, the ''burden'' of knowledge, and many others. The black man is a deeply religious person whose motives are originate in kindness and love for the fellow man. His good intentions though seem not to be enough to save the professor as the latter inhabits a dark world, devoid of any hope or goodness. He says, ''Show me a religion that prepares one for nothingness, for death. That's a church I would enter'', and continues ''The shadow of the ax hangs over every joy (...) every road ends to death''.

This highly pessimistic world-view by the professor which can be ultimately boiled down to his phrase, that is, ''In the end it's all about futility'', triggers the conversation which though long, it never becomes tedious. I was kept completely focused on the dialogue, and I didn't care for the total absent of action. The script is worthy of Cormac McCarthy's reputation as a writer. The viewer hang on the two character's words, arguments, and theories about the existence -or not- of God.

The performances are compelling by protagonists, with Tommy Lee Jones shining as the cynic, defeatist professor who is adamant in his beliefs till the ending which leaves room for various interpretations. ''Sunset Limited'' is a movie that you will want to talk about with your friends as it concerns every living and conscientious human beings. It will appeal most to those who are keen on the subjects of philosophy, theology or even sociology.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Stella Blómkvist (2017– )
5/10
Flashy, glamorous but lacking on both originality and script.
22 February 2019
This is a 6-part television series (the duration of each episode is around 45 minutes), directed by a young, talented Icelandic director, Óskar Thór Axelsson (''I Remember You'', ''Trapped'', ''Black's Game'') and having Heida Reed, in the role of the protagonist, Stella Blomkvist. Stella is a big-shot lawyer in today's Reykjavik which seems to have the same problems as every major European capital does. Each story is completed in two episodes, so -in total- there are three separate stories linked by a common plot thread which involves corrupt politicians, tabloid scandals and the forbidden videos hidden in the ''blue bag'' which everybody wants to possess, but only Stella knows its whereabouts.

Stella's character is a tough as nails, dynamic counselor who is always chasing the big cases, both for the prestige and the money. She doesn't mind bending the rules when that is what's demanded but she is far from immoral, as she seems to have a rather strict set a principles and a clear as well as unambiguous sense of right and wrong. As a result, Stella is a sympathetic character who manages to win the audience from the first episode, but this show is lacking strong secondary characters who would help the stories to seem more plausible and be more engaging. The ''bad'' characters are nearly caricatures, or at best, they are one-dimensional and exist for the sole purpose of moving the plot forward. The pacing of the show is fast and effective and the editing is worthy of a special mention. The stories themselves, though being entertaining, are a far cry from the high standards of the best Nordic Noir television productions.

Overall, I cannot say that it is a show that I wouldn't recommend, but there are a lot of flaws in this Icelandic production. If you expect the quality and brilliance of other Icelandic series such as ''Trapped'' you will definitely be disappointed. If you are looking for a crime show that is easy to watch and equally easy to forget, then you should take a chance and watch this.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Carnage (2011)
8/10
''I believe in the god of carnage whose rules have been unchallenged since time immemorial''.
21 February 2019
The above line belongs to Christopher Waltz who is superb in his portrayal of the unpleasant and in many times even annoying, Alan Cowan who is visiting along with his wife, Nancy (Kate Winslet), the parents of a kid that got in a nasty fight with their 11-year old son, Zachary, which led to the serious injury of the one. Michael (John C. Reilly) and Penelope (Jodie Foster) are Ethan's parents, the boy that got beaten with a stick by Zachary. The meeting is arranged in order for the two couples to straighten up any misunderstandings in a civil manner and write a common report of the incident that happened in the kid's school. As the time passes, the arguments get more and more heated leading in a climax where all four characters of this theater play (written by Yasmina Reza), are literally screaming.

This is an one room-set movie, directed by Roman Polanski, based solely in its great dialogue and the good performances by the small cast. I think that Christopher Waltz gives the best example of a careful and subtle approach to his role as Alan and Jodie Foster is also excellent in her portrayal of the nervous, borderline hysterical, Penelope. ''Carnage'' is a short film in length (about 80 minutes), with literally no action parts and the sole focus is on the characters and their strained relationships. While at the beginning the dispute and conflict is between the two couples, as the story unfolds there seem to be a lot of cracks and bickering between the couples themselves. As the film reaches its end, it is clear that the Longstreet's living room has become a war-zone and that every man (or woman) is for himself.

Some may view ''Carnage'' as a social satire, targeting the upper middle class hypocrisy and lack of moral direction while others will simply indulge in its many merits without caring for a strict genre categorization. I belong to the second group and i choose to watch this film as a work of art mainly and not a medium of expressing political ideas. One must not miss the artistic wholeness of this movie by searching for any possible hidden meaning behind every line. I believe that ''Carnage'' is worthy of its director's name as it is a bold attempt of transferring a theater play in the silver screen.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Reckless (2014)
7/10
A Dutch remake of ''The Disappearance of Alice Creed''.
21 February 2019
''Reckless'' (original title: ''Bloedlink'' is the story of the kidnapping of a girl in order to get ransom from her rich father. The synopsis may seem to be very generic and contrived but the direction, tempo and performances make all the difference in this Dutch Remake of an English movie, titled ''The Disappearance of Alice Creed'' (2009). The relationship dynamics between the two abductors and the victim is moving the plot forward and the suspense is ever-present. There are also a lot of plot twists, successfully embedded in the plot, especially one in the middle of the film that changes the viewer's perspective on the story. The performances by all the three actors are convincing and Sarah Chronis is compelling in her portrayal of the victim character, Laura. Furthermore, ''Reckless'' is a rather short-length film, the running time is under 90 minutes, and has a really tight-knot plot with no redundant scenes and dialogue. If you love European crime fiction this is definitely a movie to keep in mind.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
The weakest installment in an otherwise great movie series.
19 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of Jussi Adler Olsen's ''Department Q'' novels, and I've greatly enjoyed all the seven books in the series so far. I think that the Danish film adaptations were almost perfect, casting two magnificent actors for the roles of Karl and Assad, Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares (''Easy Money'', ''The Nile Hilton Incident'') and remaining faithful to the soul of the books, their bleak atmosphere and twisted villains. Unfortunately, ''Journal 64'' proved to be weaker than the previous three films, the best of them being ''A Conspiracy of Faith'', as it lacks in both pacing and plot. The story deals with a number of significant social problems that reach far back in Denmark's history such as the mandatory sterilization of socially disadvantaged women. As it happens in every ''Department Q'' series, we watch two narratives unfolding, one in the present with the investigation by the police and one in the past set in the remote island of Sprogø where a series of horrible experiments on innocent young women were committed. The investigation begins with the gruesome discovery of a sealed room in an apartment in Copenhagen where four embalmed bodies are found. Karl and Assad soon discover the link of the case with the shady history of Sprogø and the heartbreaking story of Nete Hermansen who lost her child and got sterilized by the repulsive doctor, Curt Wad. The main problem with this film is that it tries to tell a story of about 600 pages in two hours. As a result, a lot of qualities present in the book are absent because of the necessity of the limited running time. This problem is the main reason that the author of the novels, Jussi Adler Olsen, stated in an interview he gave that he hadn't seen any of the films and has no interest or participation to their production. The script seems to be hastily written and the scenes succeed one another in a synoptic manner, giving a contrived feeling of to the viewer. The tempo of ''Journal 64'' is rather flat and monotonous. The ending is anti-climactic, giving no real catharsis or satisfaction to the viewer and it is also not short of cliches that dominate crime films. The villain(s) is not convincing and nothing reminiscent of the vicious antagonists of the previous three installments. That being said'', Journal 64'' is an easy to watch film which can be entertaining especially if the viewer is not demanding and do not take the film seriously. The visual imagery is beautiful as in every film in the series, and the duo of the protagonists are great in their roles. If you are a fan of the novels or the previous trilogy, you don't want to miss it as it is the last movie in the series as the producers declared. Make sure though not to have high expectations and be ready to show leniency to the film's -many- flaws.
9 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A black comedy with venomous humor, from Iceland.
18 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This film was a more than pleasant surprise for me. I am a big fan of Icelandic literary and crime fiction, while I am always checking out any movie or television series produced in the island, irregardless of genre. ''Under the Tree'' (original title: ''Undir trénu'') is a dark, character-based drama which flirts with other genres, especially comedy, and one can successfully characterize the film as a tragicomedy. In the case of ''Under the Tree'', the characterization takes priority over the story which is schematic and concerns the dispute, between two neighboring families, about the existence of a big tree on one's garden that conceals the sun from the other one. The ''war'' between the two families becomes crueler and more hateful as the plot unfolds and finally, the story concludes with a tragedy involving the son of one of the two rivals. The performances are remarkable as the film is casting an army of seasoned Icelandic actors like Þorsteinn Bachmann and Sigurður Sigurjónsson. Edda Björgvinsdóttir' performance as the obnoxious and creepy Inga is worthy of a special mention. This is a rather disturbing storyline and the viewer should be warned in advance about a brutal animal cruelty scene near the end of the film. The director, Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, a young and talented Icelandic auteur puts the strained relationships between two middle-class families under the microscope and seems to be relentless regarding his observations and conclusions on the contemporary urban-based human condition. So, if anyone expects to see a light movie in order to laugh, ''Under the Tree'' is not the right film for him. On the other hand, those cinephiles who understand entertainment as recreation, rather than simple amusement will be thoroughly satisfied by this little-known diamond of film, coming from the remote Iceland.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Ófærð (2015– )
8/10
Frosty and claustrophobic.
14 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Trapped is a 10-part television series, created by Baltasar Kormakur, who also directed the first and the last episode of season 1, and casting some of the most popular Icelandic actors such as Olafur Darri Olaffson and Ingvar Eggert Sigurdsson. The series is shot in two of Iceland's northernmost little towns, Siglufjordur -well-known by Ragnar Jonasson's Dark Iceland book series- and Seyðisfjörður. The chilly setting adds to the claustrophobic sense that is ever-present on the show and the wild landscape effectively transmits the melancholic feeling of the story to the viewer. The first scene of the series is set at 2008, where a fire in a remote building outside the town, kills a young girl and injures another young man who is then believed to be guilty for the arson and sent to prison. This is a very significant scene for the rest of the plot which continues its unfolding seven years later (2015).

The protagonist, Andri, is a police officer of Seyðisfjörður, an isolated little community with a low population -the police precinct is consisted by only three people- where a mutilated body is found. At the same time, a ship from Denmark moors in the town's port and, initially, Andri thinks that the murder was committed by a passenger but soon realizes that the truth may be hidden inside the closed society of Seyðisfjörður and its residents. Soon, the body count rises and the nation's media demand answers, so a special investigating team from Reykjavik is sent to take over the case. The commander in chief of the Reykjavik group is an old colleague of Andri and their relationship is very tense and antagonistic, but in the end, it is Andri and his small team that solve the puzzle of the multiple homicides.

Trapped is a slow-burning mystery, and the viewer must be patient even if the first three or four episodes seem a bit confusing or tiresome. As the plot unfolds , the persistent viewer will appreciate the depth of both the storyline and the characters. The last 2 episodes are emotionally touching as the finale and the solution of the case has repercussions for Andri's personal and familial life as well. The emotional aspect is also emphasized by the compelling use of music (the opening theme is one of the best in Nordic tv series) which underscores the humane aspect of the storyline. In this show, there are no typical villains, at least not the kind that is predominant in most of American crime television series, but only human beings, deeply-flawed and traumatized who reach their breaking point and commit the crime(s).

Overall, I think that Trapped is one of the best Nordic Noir television exports in the last years and proves that Iceland, even though being a small country, has a lot of talented artists who contribute to the genre. Baltasar Kormakur is an auteur with great potential as it was proved in Myrin (2006) and Eiðurinn (2016). Yrsa Sigurdardottir,Arnaldur Indridason, Ragnar Jonasson are just a few of the many accomplished crime fiction authors who are also popular outside Scandinavia, in wider audiences.

Season 2 of Trapped aired on 26 December 2018 and I am eagerly expecting the English subtitled version in order to relive the great experience of the first cycle. If you still haven't watched it, do yourselves a favor and relish this great show.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

Recently Viewed