Bantam

IMDb member since May 1999
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    2013 Oscars
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Reviews

Cardinal
(2017)

From the land of the ice and snow comes a nice delight
I was pleasantly surprised and rather taken with this one. It is a crime drama series based on the works of Canadian writer Giles Blunt, that circles around a troubled, yet apparently driven and brilliant John Cardinal.

Billy Campbell starring as the eponymous John Cardinal, and Karine Vanasse as Lise Delorme portray a pair of cops, who start out as unlikely partners and become the go-to guys for strange and bizarre cases.

I have to say that the makeup of Series 1 (as well as 2) does bear some resemblance to works like "True Detectives" and "Bosch", but what struck me most was the eerie absence of action. In its entirety it resembles more the fine art of crime drama I am used from the Scandinavian directors/writers. And it does serve the show really well.

The main protagonists are depicted as "normal people", with all their problems, demons and flaws, who just happen to be cops. I know that the recent overuse of 'broken' protagonists lead to some nasty blackouts recently (I point out the 2nd season of True Detectives), but here it lends some real credibility to the characters. You can really relate to what they are going through. This, paired with really interesting cases, which are still bizarre, but not too outlandish, gives the entire show a "je ne sais quoi" I have been missing in some other shows. Also, the fact that each season has more of a 'British' length, ie. 6 episodes, makes it more compact, without the need to paste in filler episodes, just to come up with a full season. (IMHO shows runners should be able to vary the length of a season. This would prevent boring or unnecessary filler episodes that can, in fact, ruin a whole season of an otherwise enjoyable watching).

In all fairness, Cardinal does not do everything right and can't compare to some Scandinavian thrillers, but it does qualify as well above average. And the 2nd season is a slight improvement over the 1st. So, not all hope is lost.

In conclusion I would say that is far better than the average north-american (including Canadian) crime drama and has a lot of potential. Its European flair (and format) makes it rather enjoyable, if you're into that kind of stuff. And if you want something similar, but way better give 'Hinterland' (a BBC production) a try. Or try Stieg Larsson's 'Millenium' either as the mini-series or the movies - do not watch the 2011 US-remake, it's bad.

Good Time
(2017)

The very talented Mr. Pattinson
I never thought I was gonna live to see the day that Pattinson would become a decent actor. Fortunately, I did.

Having to carry the burden of teen actor on your shoulders is probably a heavy one. Pattinson did not only shrug it off, but he starts to become, IMO a very good actor and in this one he absolutely underlined this.

Let's quickly go over the technicalities. I presume the budged wasn't enormous, but even though, everything is solid. As mentioned, Pattinson's acting is really good. All other actors, even the short, yet shrill appearance by Jennifer Jason Leigh, are really good. The sets are as grimy as they should be, camera and editing are keen and mostly spot-on. The sound editing (and soundtrack choices) was not quite my cup of tea, but it did fit.

The movie is an indie production with a certain 80's flair to it and depicts the hardships of people who try to get by in a gnarly world. The story revolves around two brothers, one of them is mentally handicapped, the other tries to care for him, as good as he can. If I am not mistaken, the entire story plays out in the frame of a couple of days, with a few cuts to allow for the story to progress in the background. Basically it starts at a point where the situation of the two brothers is bad and it gets only worse from there. However, it has a few light moments and and is very realistic. Topics that are covered range from dealing with the harsh realities of life, if you're not quite lucky enough to fit into the mainstream image of a "normal" person, to the futile attempts to get a grip on your life. Also, the movie poses the question of how far you'd go, if you're in tough spot, to live up to the promise you made (here: to care for you brother).

There are no easy decisions to be made, nor is the outcome neither predictable nor happy. The movie ends on a rather bitter note, even though we are led to believe that this ending is supposed to be "good". Personally, I found this ending the movie's strongest part.

If you're still shunning Pattinson for his Twighlight debacle, watch this one and see for yourself how much that man has matured as an actor.

The Circle
(2017)

Outright bad
The basic idea is that Big Data can be good as well as bad, it just depends on how it's being used. So far so good.

The movie however is the super-cliche version of this entire affair. The shallow portrayal of the characters made me cringe several times. And quite frankly, the message is essentially a fairy tale like version of the reality.

Facebook, Google and Apple were, to name a big few, the patron saints of "The Circle". And it could have been a decent movie, alas, it became a naive little story about 'virtually' nothing. (It's not even a parody.)

Let's face it, the real world works different, an no matter how many people try to change the status quo, most of us either do not care to face the reality, or choose to wilfully ignore it. I ask you this: how much impact did Snowden's revelations have on the Big Data gatherers? Little to none. As a matter of fact, it has gotten even worse. Yeah, let's send a 'frown' to those who cut privacy to shreds, that'll show 'em!

If you want to continue in the vein of "live you dream" and deny your brain the work it was made for: thinking for yourself, sure go ahead and watch this. IMO the movie was a total waste of money, talent of the actors and, last but not least, my time.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
(2015)

Some more of this would be rather nice
A friend of mine recommended this series to me, mostly because I like Eddie Marsan, so I gave it a go.

I have not read the book it's based upon, so I can not tell how much the series deviates from the original source, but after watching this I just might pick up the book.

When I started with the first two episodes, I was not quite sure where the story would take the series and I was slightly put off by the whole setup: early 19th century, Napoleonic wars, onset of the industrial revolution... and magic. I kind of hoped it would go into the direction of classic steam-punk. After that I was very pleasantly surprised that it was not a steam-punk setting and rather thankful in the end.

The entire story revolves around "English Magic": its absence over the last 300 years, and its sudden and somewhat violent return. Summing up the story without any spoilers is rather difficult, so I'll stick to general topics covered. As mentioned, it's about the return of magic to the 'modern' world and how it can change the lives of people and reshape history.

Further to this there is a lot about prophecies (self fulfilling or not), friendship vs. competition, abuse of power (given or earned), faith in oneself, love and loyalty and most of all, IMO, the yearning for 'the good olde tymes' - I think that is why they always talk about "English Magic", maybe even the English want to be more English? Whatever that means ;)

The entire story arc is well written out and, this is a huge bonus, it does define its own confines and does not leave them. Some authors tend to pull a rabbit out of a hat when they notice that the story is stuck, instead of making it coherent. In this case the entire story line adheres to its own rules and is still comprehensive.

In terms of production the entire series is well done and most certainly en par with other modern productions. Only here and there there are a few CGIs that could have been done better. The characters seem transparent in their motivations and are easy to relate to. My personal favourite is Mr. Childermass.

Almost all actors do really good in their roles and the overall casting was very good. Paul Kaye was a good choice, I like him when he plays the slightly nutty characters.

However, there are small things that could have been done better. Jonathan Strange's backstory, i.e. how he became a magician, could have been a bit more elaborate. Also, the entire sub-plot with the Napoleonic wars was a bit short, as it is right now it seems a bit like a forced gap filler - maybe the book is more helpful there. One thing I did not understand was the reaction to Magic by the general populace - imagine you see an alien ship landing downtown: okay, you shrug, slurp your 5 o'clock tea and go on with life. That's more or less the extent of what is shown when "English Magic" returns. Well, maybe you have to be English to get it, I would not have been so calm about it, then again, I prefer coffee...

Also, some of the characters could have used a bit more backstory (or screen time), notably Arabella Strange and the Lady Pole, after all, both are the reason for some of the story's most dramatic decisions.

As said, I have not read the book, so I can not tell if this is the same, but the end of this series is obviously a cliff-hanger. Personally I hope they do a follow-up. Six to seven episodes to conclude the loose ends and perhaps give a bit more insight into the past would be appreciated.

It was, in general, a fun series to watch, and most certainly something different than the "usual suspects" these days: crime drama, superhero or the endless soaps. If you want something else, with a truly dapper English flair, give it a go.

Bastille Day
(2016)

Rather average action flick
As far as action movies go, this one is rather average. Even for an Euroflick it's only average, unfortunately. Considering the cast, I would have expected a bit more.

Let's see what we have: The story is slightly far fetched, and considering the day and age, a bit 'frumpy'. A SWAT team orchestrates a false-flag bomb plot to distract the city of Paris in order to steal some money. The entire setup goes awry when a pickpocket steals the bomb. Briar, a disgruntled and somewhat grumpy CIA operative (with the obligatory heart of gold) saves the day by uncovering the plot that reaches up to the Minister of Interior.

Unfortunately the movie looses itself in some inexplicable plot holes. First of all, the amount of money the SWAT team(under the protection of the MoI) wants to grab amounts only to 500 mil €. Really? The European Central Bank alone pumped 1140 billions!!! into the system. So at least they could have transferred some billions of that cyber-money. 500 mil are just peanuts these days, considering the involvement of such high-ups.

Then there is the good CIA, that has secret interrogation rooms in Paris, and which threatens the pickpocket with a non-marked flight that would bring him to some black site. They also withhold information from the French law enforcement and, like they do, crack the case on foreign soil w/o any consequences. Good grief, we know the CIA is almighty and does what it wants, but there is no need to play it down and pretend that it's okay what they do, as long they 'get their guy'.

And there is the thing with the Minister himself. Who on God's green earth does his dirty work himself, when he's the -ing Minister? But this is a plot element used by quite a few writers.

As far as thriller this does not add up. For an action flick it's tolerable.

Let's check the technical side, which has a bit more to offer. The stunts are rather okay, some parts a really well done. Kudos to Mr. Elba (and his stuntman)! Filming is for the most part good, directing goes okay. One sour grape is the overuse of that horrid shaky camera in some pursuit scenes - I really hate those. There is such a thing as steady cam and image stabilisation, right? Editing could be a bit more refined, as well as the sound mixing. I presume the director's short resume might be a factor.

Lighting and sets go totally okay. There are only a few scenes that look a bit 'cheap'. 2nd unit maybe?

Acting is somewhat fair. I never really expect much from action flicks, so...

All in all an almost decent action flick. Unfortunately they tried too hard to copy American action movies. Considering that Eurocinema, (especially the French and British movies) has their own style and flair. A bit more Euro-charm would have served the movie well. Not the best movie of the year, but not the worst either.

La French
(2014)

Less a thriller, more of a drama
Solid French cinema- this would be the ultra-short version.

Even though the movie is being categorised as action and a thriller, in reality it is more of a drama and a biopic. Set in the time frame of 1975 to 1981 it details the struggle between the French police and the the mob. What is now commonly known as the French Connection (the way drugs were smuggled from Turkey to Marseille, refined and repacked there and then shipped off to the U.S.), serves as the backdrop for this movie. On the one hand there is the gang of mobsters (hence the name La French) on the other a special task force dealing with organised crime. Pierre Michel, a magistrate attached to this task force, goes all in to battle the current boss 'Tany' Zampa.

But as said, it's not a flashy action flick. Michele is portrayed as a driven, obsessed man - it is implied that he had some gambling problems in the past - who seems to be actually trying to catch the 'bad guys'. During the entirety of the movie his determination is being shown as close to obsession as possible without too much cliché. It is obvious that his obsession will get him into trouble, sooner or later.

The entire main cast does its best to stay focused on portraying 'normal' people- with all the rational and irrational thinking that drives us. Dujardin does well in his role, even though I found some scenes a bit 'too much'. I presume the director wanted to capture as much of the emotional struggle as possible in those scenes. The movie is little over 2 hours, so IMO a few more minutes to elaborate on the emotional stress magistrate Michele was going through, would have served the movie well.

There is some action here and there, but it's neither flashy, nor heroic. It's the simple, realistic depiction of action and some graphic violence, or rather its absence, that adds to the movie. As said before, the movie is more of a drama, more focused on the characters involved and their struggles. It's one of the movies where even the antagonists have some sort of inner emotional cosmos one can actually relate to.

The movie in its entirety is sombre, a bit bleak and some parts (especially the last 10 mins) have almost a cynical undertone to them. In general there are only a few lighter parts. And that all while being filmed in southern France, ie. it's almost sunny all the time- some shots underline this contrast very nicely: Michele and Zampa meet on an outcrop while the sun is slowly setting in the background.

All those little bits and pieces add up to very solid drama; no light fare, to be sure. Give it a go if you're into Eurocinema.

Le prénom
(2012)

Well done dramedy
A comedy is a tragedy, that does not concern you. Like when we see a person trip and fall. We laugh. For them it's most certainly not funny.

The movie itself borrows from (or was inspired by) the adaptation of Carnage by Polanski. A group of five long-time friends (some are family) get together for an evening of food and wine.

Vincent (Bruel - a fine French actor, btw.) tries to push the buttons of his liberal lefty brother-in-law, Pierre, for personal amusement. He tells Pierre, that he (Vincent) and his wife (Anna) are planning to call their first-born son 'Adolphe'. The exchange between them leads, almost inevitably, to a heated conversation about naming conventions, perceptions of names and ultimately into a meta-discussion about values and bigotry. Mind you, Pierre's children are called Appolin and Myrtille (in the translated version she was named Melody).

The evening goes totally south from there, with everybody having some sort of beef with each other- and not holding back at spilling the beans. There is a lot of resentment, and a lot of venom flying all over. However, the movie ends on a happy note.

Since almost the entire movie takes place in the apartment of Pierre and Elisabeth, it solely relies on the interaction between the characters. And this is what makes the movie great, IMO. The exchanges are really well written, witty and funny. They are also very hurtful, most of them are nasty blows below the belt. This is the part that makes it real fun to watch. Even though most of the dialogue is a kick in the teeth, it is still poignant and delivered with panache. A real treat to watch. I would have loved to watch them in French, but this would have been a waste. However, the translation was superb from what I could gather. It's not easy to make a good movie that is solely dialogue-driven, but this one pulls it off.

As mentioned, since it did not concern me, the entire 'bouquet' of dialogue (insults, innuendos, allegations and hard truths) did really made laugh. A fantastic piece of French comedy with subtle undercurrents and punches aimed at the idyllic suburban life of the (upper?) middle- class. In short: one of the best dramedys I've seen in some time. Well written, well acted and directed! I only realised after checking it, that the team behind this one did also: Bis (2015), L'immortel (2010) and Renaissance (2006). If you want some seriously funny French cinema, grab it.

Antigang
(2015)

Straight forward action flick
This one is a straight forward, no-frills action flick. No twists, no turns.

The cast is decent and the story is plausible without being too cliché laden. Nonetheless, for European audiences some of the action (and subsequently its impact on the "environment" and the consequences for the cops) might seem over-the-top. But we've learned to live with the fact, that "action cops" can blow up a building, to get a pickpocket. And it just earns them 3 weeks behind the desk.

Most of the dialogue is okay, some exchanges are even funny, without being silly. But it's not a Lethal Weapon/Die Hard kinda thing.

Directing goes okay even though some of the action sequences are a tiny bit hectic- the cuts made during editing look a bit like they were made on purpose to emphasize the intense exchange of gunfire. IMO here less would have been more. It would be more en par with the rest of the movie. But in general the overall pace is okay.

As mentioned, the story is a no-frills crime/thriller which is suitable for a decent action flick. Do not expect too much from it, though.

Unfortunately Jean Reno has gotten old. You can tell by the way he moves in several shots- also, when the action kicks in he is "magically" more agile, thanks to stunt people. But he still does well as an aging cop. I just do not like the full beard he is sporting in this one.

To sum it up, it's a decent French action flick, liberally borrowing from American action cinema in terms of craftsmanship.

I Survived a Zombie Holocaust
(2014)

Silly cliché laden fun
Even though zombie horror in currently en vogue, and the lighter side of it (ie. comedy) has its pearls, this one is actually better than average.

This one does the meta-thing: on the set of a zombie movie, a real zombie apocalypse breaks out. And even though the entire movie is laden with clichés, does not mind being trashy and silly, it sill manages to be fun. I assume the budget was tiny, but in my opinion this requires the makes to actually put some thought into the story, the characters and the script. In this case worked out okay.

However, there are some shortcomings. Some scenes are a bit too slapstick, some dialogue lines are plain too silly (instead of being funny). Also, the end is, IMO, a bit lackluster. I thought the writers simply had no idea how to finish it properly, so they reverted back to the meta-story. Seems they reference the entire meta-theme here, since the writer of the first meta-movie had also no idea how to end the movie.(Breaking 3rd, 4th wall?) We end, where we started, at the set of low-budget zombie movie. Unfortunately without any explanation on how the characters managed to escape the sticky situation they were in.

Spoiler alert: two people stand opposite a whole town turned into zombies. CUT and we're back in the meta-level. Huh?

If they would have resolved this little conundrum, the entire movie would be much more fun and more consistent. Apart from that it's another nice NZ production, certainly not en par with Deathgasm or Houseboud, but still fun to watch.

Carne de neón
(2010)

Another pearl from Spain
I was not quite sure what to expect of the movie, but I was positively surprised.

The technical side of things looks like this: art, style and overall theme are nicely done, the director did a fine job here. Considering he did (prior to Carne de Neon) only some minor work. So it's rather astonishing what he pulled off. Editing, lighting and sound are en par with each other and support the entire setting rather well.

However, what really gives the movie its unique charm are the characters. Especially Infantita is such a vibrant and lovable character- he is a transvestite who thinks he's the illegitimate son of Juan-Carlos of Spain. At the same time he struggles to become the woman he always wanted to be.

Similar to this all characters are lovable, somewhat skewed, yet still very much human with normal emotions. IMO none of the characters is really unlikable, they have so much "normality" in them, it's almost uncanny. And from this, and their interactions, this movie draws its strength.

The story is (in parts) slightly crazy, bordering on the absurd. When your Mom gets out of prison, what do you do? Mind you, she was in prison for prostitution. Of course, you open up a brothel for her! What else, right? Joining this main arc we have some sub-plots that tie into the main arc: human trafficking, turf wars, corrupt police, personal problems and maladies, love and friendship. The sub-plots are woven into the main story in an orderly manner, mostly. Here and there is a tiny glitch, or a little bit of a "forced connection", if I may call it that. But apart from slight and tiny misses the story is spot on.

In general the movie looks and feels like a bit of Guy Ritchie, sprinkled with some Tarantino and a whole lot of Spanish zest. You can tell it's an Euroflick and that it was not made to please the masses. But this is exactly what really makes this one stand out.

Slight deductions in score result from the dialogues. Unfortunately I speak no Spanish, so I watched the dubbed version. Maybe something got lost in translation, who knows. I probably did not get all the cultural references either, so I can only blame myself.

If you are looking for some light-hearted entertainment, that still manages to touch a few touch subjects without being goofy or pathetic, you should give this one a go.

Bis
(2015)

Light entertainment
As far as French cinema goes, it has it ups and downs. Not only in quality but in genre, too. This is light entertainment, palatable world- wide (not too many French references and such).

Two men, friends since school times, have a mid-live crisis and travel back into the 80' to relive the moments in life that shaped their future (and current situation). In the end they come to realize that things aren't that bad at all. So far, nothing new.

As far as acting and writing are concerned, it's a decent comedy without touching any tough topics. (If you want a better French flick, watch Intouchables (2011) ). And even though the movie does not re-invent anything, it has its moments, especially when the guys try to monetize on their knowledge of the future.

All in all a nice little flick that'll probably conjure a few smiles and giggles, but that's it. Good for a Sunday afternoon with the family.

Raivu
(2014)

Running out of breath fairly quickly
As far as splatter/gore Japanse movies go this on is rather average, actually it's a bit below that.

The entire story is quickly summed up: Several people are being coaxed/forced into taking part in some sort of "game", which is based on a book. Survival depends on quick wits, knowledge of the book and some luck. If you do not participate, someone you care for (or love) is being killed. Little bit of Running Man here, little bit of Battle Royale here and a lot of Japanese gore all over the place.

Unfortunately the movie does not live up to that expectation and drifts oftentimes towards the absurd. Little gimmicks include, but are not limited to: some nudity, excessive (yet silly) violence, gore, some sideboob, underskirt shots, slapstick and your typical Japanese jokes/jabs on society.

The entire time the plot meanders between funny and silly on the one hand and between action and comedy on the other hand. So, it's neither beef nor fish, and that is what ruins it, IMO. If it would have stayed on one path it probably would have been better. However, for fans of Japanese gore (Asami stars in it ;) ) it surely is entertaining, if nothing else. Just do not expect too much, k?

Colt 45
(2014)

Some pot-holes along the way
The premise of the movie is rather intriguing: A young police-man, working as instructor and gun-smith gets entangled in the machinations of a secret police force.

Unfortunately the movie does not live up the the high standards it set itself.

The story starts out with Vincent (protagonist) being at some sort of tournament. This tournament is basically a time-trail: kill the most people in the shortest time possible (excuse moi, targets). Since Vincent is the beast, he is being singled out by some sort of shady recruiter for some clandestine organization, but refuses the offer to join some sort of shady "above the law" task force. "You were born to rule in hell, not to serve in heaven" - that's how he's described by that recruiter.

This is where the story gets a bit convoluted and gnarly. Milo is being hired to get Vincent recruited but the entire stunt backfires. The covert-ops guys are SO above and beyond the law, that they do not get official funding, but have to get their own money. To do so they rob a money transport and afterward kill a few local thugs to grab their equipment and loot. Seriously?

From there on the movie spirals into a half-baked back and fro of somewhat related sub-plots: Police corruption, local rivalries between cops (on both a personal, as well well as professional level), unfinished sub-plots and some real life drama.

Luckily the movie sheds this entire plumage of frill towards the end gets its act together.

The acting is decent, and I really liked the character portrayals. Also, the casting was, IMO, rather good. Especially the supporting characters were life-like and really 'tart', big plus. As per usual in Euroflicks the action is stout, the violence is brutal, and little is larger than life- which really salvaged the entire pot- hole ridden ride. A decent flick for the Euroflick enthusiast.

Vice
(2015)

A real let-down
Here's the thing with this flick: it could have been way better. Sometimes I wonder if there is QA in movie production, because this one sailed right past it.

Personally I blame the writers and the director, because there is no universe in which Willis and Jane could wreck a movie. Both are seasoned actors who do well in action roles. So, the writers must be blamed... and rightly so, when I look at their resume.

But let's get a bit into ranting mode: The story and the idea in general are both rather decent. Self-aware androids, who seek to be more than what they were built for. Okay, I'll take it.

The execution, however, is poor. Some of the shooting scenes were almost en par with 80' flicks, in other words rather static. Protagonist shoots, cut, bad guy drops. Also, when you apply simple statistics, three guys guys using full-auto rifles should at least get a lucky hit when trying to hit someone running across an almost empty parking lot, right? Well, not here.

The main heroine, who is half a robot half a human, gets a Matrix-style "upgrade" in terms of skills and suddenly changes from a normal person to the bad-ass war-droid *yawn* oh, and gets a new make-up which is really goofy.

What really grinds my gears, like in sooo many other movies, is the fact that those "hackers" depicted (I think they called him the tech-guy in the movie) just punch a few keys, look at some garbled code of unknown origin, and thereby have some window pop up with the information they are looking for. Good grief, what happened to a mouse or at least a touch-pad? Or a decent user interface?

SFX and sound mixing go okay, even though, as mentioned above, there are some rather 80'-looking/sounding parts here, too.

The acting is mostly sub-par, for all involved. There are one or two scenes where something like some finesse shines through, but all in all, the actors involved look lackluster and strike me as bored. Both Willis' and Jane's talent are thrown under the bus, sadly. Even Childers (who proved that she can act, in other movies), performs like a robot, excuse the pun. Therefore I blame the director... and the writers.

On the plus side, I watched it to the end credits, so not all was lost. If you have nothing else to watch, and you do not expect too much, it could run in the background while you iron your socks. But it's not recommended as the main course of your movie session.

Musarañas
(2014)

Don't leave the house
If you have an interest in Euroflicks, you should give this one a go.

While the movie starts out as some sort of post-war drama with a pair of sisters living together after their parents both die. The mother died early, the father died presumably in the war.

But the movie takes a quick turn to a slasher/King's Misery hybrid and does this quite well. It even manages to covey some dark humour here and there which suits the movie well. The cast is small and basically all the action takes place in one flat (this has to do with Montse's fear to leave the flat). But the director did use this "disadvantage" to make the movie a bit more intense.

Even though the story is mostly predictable the end and the final conclusion is no happy end at all.

All in all the acting is very good and Macarena Gomez does really well as a twisted character. (I've seen her in Sexykiller, where she showed some comedy talent, too) The movie is no revelation, but it is much better than some other flicks covering a similar subject. As said, if you are into Euroflicks, give this one a go.

Blinkende lygter
(2000)

The food might be bad...
...but the owners are a hoot.

I'll make this quick: This is one of them totally underrated flicks you either stumble upon or overlook them entirely.

It starts out as a small-time gangster flick. And develops into a comedy/drama that is actually very touching and most certainly does rind with almost all of us.

Imagine: You get the chance to get out of your stagnant daily grind. What would you do? This group of small-time criminals get that chance and they try to get even with their past. All main protagonists did have some serious bumps in their youth (and later on) that left them somewhat damaged. When they get a chance to turn their lives around they grab it and go for it. A much better message than the hollow "live your dream" mantra.

The only shortcoming of the movie are some of the more naive characters. The acting is decent, setting and story go okay. All in all a well done Scandinavian flick (Dansk made, to be precise). Go and give it a try.

En chance til
(2014)

Goosebumps all over
If you've seen Nikolaj Coaster-Waldau in Game of Thrones you haven't seen anything. As an actor this guy is, IMO, totally underrated. Also, Nikolaj Lie Kaas does a superb job.

The movie centers around two guys (played by the both before mentioned actors), both fathers of new-borns. One is a cop, the other a junkie.

I will not go into the details of the story, otherwise it might ruin the fun. But it revolves around those two toddlers, Alexander and Sofus. The story has some devious twists and turns and the conclusions is rather disturbing. However, the acting is, across the board, neigh perfect. The emotions and the desperation flow freely. I was rather impressed. I highly recommend a subbed version, since in this case a dubbing will ruin a lot. I tired it, but I liked the subbed version much more.

It is rather astonishing how the Scandinavian movie makers manage to forge such good movies, while others (I am not looking at anyone ;) ) just manage to produce part IV of the same stuff, being afraid of anything slightly new. Let's do another romantic comedy, why don't you?

Tired of SFX powered no-story junk? The next installment of a funny romance that has nothing to do with reality? Don't wanna see another superhero beating up hapless citizens?If you at least said one "yes", go watch this - NOW!

Rupan sansei
(2014)

Did not steal my heart
Kitamura, the guy who did "Versus" and "Aragami" tires his skill at some material that has been around for a while. To be precise for almost a 100 years (counting in the original Arsene Lupin).

Let me pick up one thing that was mentioned before, the lighting. In general it was okay for me, but that's a matter of personal taste, I guess.

I haven't had a chance to review the mangas and the anime(s), so I am a bit biased. The entire story is somewhat confusing. Thieves stealing from thieves, okay, I can live with that. But the entire sister/brother thing between 'Michael' and 'Fujiko' is a bit too much. Same goes for the strangely misplaced loyalty to his (Michael's) father as well as the weird thirst for revenge stemming from it. Also, the entire "auction" scene makes no sense at all. What kind of auction is this supposed to be? And so forth. The entire story suffers from potholes, inconsistencies and sudden turns that border on the absurd; Parmuk was the bad guy all along? Shocking development! *gasp* The last part, when they break into the "Ark" is way over the top. Which does not help the move, since it's just for show. In terms of story it's somewhat useless. I thought he was a thief, not Rambo incarnate? And you'd need a 170 mil. computer to write a virus that is being carelessly!!! plugged in via USB? Come on, guys.

Apart from that the acting is decent, the characters try to make sense in the confines of the plot but sometimes fall a bit short. Action scenes and stunts are en par with other action/adventure movies. If you just watch it for fun and seek light entertainment, it's okay. I kinda hope this stays a one-off for Kitamura and he will turn to pure action again. As a matter of fact, I've got "No one lives" lined up. Let's hope it's a better treat.

Hae-jeok: Ba-da-ro gan san-jeok
(2014)

Mediocre, at best
I am an avid Asia-flick fan and have recently been watching more Korean stuff. And this one seemed like a decent history/action flick from the looks of it.

There are some things that work in the that one, like the decent action and rather fancy costumes. But that's that, more or less it. The movie suffers from the same trend I've been observing in other more recent Korean movies: they try to be funny, no matter the genre (or the consequences)! I just watched "The Tower" (a disaster movie, more or less) and it had the same problem. Too hard the writers tried to weave in some funny parts, but all it did was diminish the movie.

Here we have pretty much the same: It tries to borrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" and falls short. So, it's not funny all through the movie, neither it delivers as a history/adventure. The characters are bland, the writing is partly awkward (sometimes even bad), bordering on the naive; same goes for the depiction of the characters. Especially the main protagonist strikes me, even though a charismatic leader and great fighter, as child in some instances. Some scenes: face-palm... And for a children's flick it's simply too brutal. So, neither pirate (fish) nor bandit (meat). It also has a Luke-warm environmental touch (the hunt for a whale vs. the greed of man).

As far as the acting goes, it's okay. The sets and SFX are neat. All in all a very mediocre movie not as entertaining as it might have been ("Red Cliff" set a standard a few ears back). But since I know that Korean cinema can deliver much better results, I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Fasandræberne
(2014)

Disturbing & good
If you've seen the previous movie in the series and are looking for something similarly disturbing, yet good, watch this one.

Having said that, let's get a bit more into the details. The main plot revolves around a cold case, similar to the first movie. This case lies back some 20 years, where a gang of youths from an elite boarding school are involved in some rather cruel and sadistic 'activities'. And that is basically where the movie begins.

Carl and Assad are drawn into the case via the suicide of a retired small-town police chief, who tried to solve the case, but apparently got so obsessed with it, that in the end it did cost his sanity, and life.

The casting was, IMO, good as well as is the acting. Like in the first installment. The story is not as entirely gripping as in the first one, maybe because there is little less suspense. The 'cat is out of the bag' rather early in the movie, but that does not diminish the plot. Setting and locations are okay, too.

For the most part the plot revolves around redemption, the (dark) depths of the human psyche and a bit of revenge. And even though the plot is predictable, it still is dark and gloomy. The whole movie sits rather uneasy with me, mostly because of the entire disturbing scenes and hints. While it's graphic, for an Euroflick it's still rather tame. The movie draws mostly from that fact that we, as an audience, love to hate the cruel bad guys, especially when the seem so sleek and 'normal' on the outside. And of course we love to see them get what they had coming.

However, it also has some shortcomings. Carl, as a character, stagnates in his development as a cop, as a father and as a personality. Also, there are some cliché moments, especially the take on the elite's kids in boarding schools going all haywire and being cruel snobs, you know, reasons. Also, the connections between the main antagonist and the chief of police (Carl's and his direct superior's boss) strikes me as not realistic. If you have such connections, things are swept under the carpet. I do not think that Denmark is different and that the cops there are THAT virtuous and righteous. But then again, maybe I've just seen too much news lately about how the police works these days, which stands in stark contrast to how they are supposed to work.

Apart from those bits the movie is rather good and it definitely left me waiting for the upcoming third installment. All in all another good Scandinavian flick.

Wyrmwood
(2014)

Missed opportunity
What in the name of all that is decent happened? If you've seen the trailer and thought: Awesomeness! Mad Max meets the Walking Dead! (In an outback kind of way) Then I dare you to watch this movie and find the same flair the trailer had.

What happened? Was the trailer only bait for potential investors? Was there a screening and they found out that a comedy is better than a decent post-apo flick?

I am rather disappointed, because the trailer showed such a huge potential! The movie is kind-of fun, but that's it. A missed opportunity to make a rather decent movie, that IMO would then have some cult-potential. Like that it's rather meh.

Kvinden i buret
(2013)

Well crafted Scandinavian thriller
This one is a really gripping thriller that has a lot to offer for the semi-initiated viewer (of Euroflicks). The premise is rather simple: a cop (and his team) make a bad judgment call and get shot up badly during an investigation/arrest. Carl, the main protagonists, now lives with that and is plagued by guilt and remorse. After his recuperation his boss offers him to lead a new department. A desk job, so Carl can still do something, w/o being out on the streets. Turns out the department is Department Q, the cold case file storage.

That's that. Now the fun part begins. He get's an assistant and is supposed is tasked with filing, cataloging and eventually laying the cold cases to rest. But his conscience (fueled by guilt) drives him into digging into the old files. And he finds one that looks fishy. So he starts to dig deeper and uncovers, with the help of his assistant, a case of a woman that went missing five years ago.

And this is the part where the movie gets intense and rather disturbing. The original title translates to "woman in a cage", and it really lives up to that title. We learn about a woman who is being held in a "cage" (pressure tank, to be precise) for years now. From there the race against time begins.

I really liked the setting and the pace of the movie. It's more of a slow burn than a flashy explosion. I knew they would solve the case, that was a no-brainer, but that did not matter, this is a clear case of "the journey is its own reward". Carl and Assad are portrayed in a very convincing way, as well as the entire plot-relevant ensemble. Setting and style fit the story and the lack of silly action parts makes it a well crafted thriller. At the end I was actually rather relieved that they solved that case, and I was quite happy that it actually had an happy end! (I am not the greatest fan of those predictable happy ends)

Also, this one has a sequel, that I absolutely will watch. And guess what? They are making a third one!Grab it, watch it and enjoy well done cinema! More, please, Scandinavian movie people!! :)

Hinterland
(2013)

Partly cloudy (S3 update)
I just binge-watched the first season of the show. Not because it was gripping, or exceptional. Mostly because the episodes (mind you, all have proper movie length) have a drilling undertone to them,that grows on you like the moss on those Welsh rocks you see all over the place.

The set-up is, I would guess, the new neo-noir (at least I would place them there). It kinda sombre, somewhat depressing, especially when you look at the bleak landscape and the crap weather. And it seems all the 'movies' take place in autumn or even winter. The Welsh title is "Y gwyll", the dusk. So, even the colours are kinda dim and gone. That is a real plus.

What really bugs me (and at the same time kept me watching it) are the hints given concerning the characters, both the protagonists, as well as the antagonists, but mostly the protagonists. Little will be told about their motives or the background, and much (much TOO much) will be left to the imagination. However, the characters that suppose to drive the show are, as is the land around them, somewhat bleak and dull, too. Tom Mathias strikes me as a fully-functional, yet utterly depressed. In terms of acting all characters look very real, it's almost like talking to you neighbour.

The movies lack action and purely draw their power from the fact that all involved are somewhat 'broken'. So, if it's some gloomy and depressing real-life crime-drama you want, watch this. And since it's winter in the northern hemisphere, they fit in quite nicely. It's like listening to Norwegian Black Metal, whilst driving through the snowy and desolate peaks of northern Scandinavia. Then you know how this music came about or what kind of mood it is supposed transport. The movies work employing the same tactic, IMO.

One big plus is the slow pace, paired up with nice suspense. Something most movies (or shows) seek to avoid by bright colours, action and flashy detectives. All in all it kind of reminds me of a rural, Welsh/British "True Detective". And the use of Welsh yields some credibility. I am hoping for a second season, and I hope for some more insight into the minds of the protagonists. I'd also like to see some more character development (towards bad or good, I do not care).

(S2 update)

So I finished the second series and I am rather taken with it. The character development is still rather slow, but there is enough to work with in order to get a good read on the characters. Also, I am rather surprised that there is so much crime in such a small community. By now the population of the region it is set in should have dropped significantly ;) We're talking some 70k in the region surrounding Aberystwyth. The filming and directing has improved slightly, IMO. There are, however, some plot strands that feel a bit 'forced'. But it's not terribly bad or outlandish. Especially the tie-ins with older cases. I would have expected something like that much earlier (and on a greater scale) considering the small community (see above). All in all a good and worthy continuation of the series- still dark and depressing. And I've found myself enjoying the Welsh parts; a very interesting language.

(S3 update)

The good news is that the pace of the series has not been changed. Pretty much everything that made it great is still there. The writers did a really good job of both coming up with new cases, as well as weaving those past cases and some new plot twists into the overall arc. I also liked the steady, yet moderate, progression of the character development. It might be just me, but I would say that overall acting has slightly improved - maybe because the supporting roles were fleshed out a bit, not sure though and it just might be a gut feeling. The landscape is still dreary, desolate and depressing - like most people who inhabit it. I really like this about Hinterland!

I have actually increased my rating after season 3 and I hope that I will be able to see more of this. Bravo, BBC Cymru!

De behandeling
(2014)

Is this the new noir?
Good flicks come in all shapes and sizes. This one is a take on the pedophile scandal (q.v. Marc Dutroux) in Belgium. The whole setting is, I guess, the new Noir.

So, let's see: we got a good lead actor, a very dark and somewhat twisted story of a cop investigating child abuse/molestation, who in turn has lost his brother to a child molester. With this case he pretty much has to re-live his youth. Scenes and settings look dirty, stale, run-down; the entire movie looks like a park in autumn, on a rainy day - thumbs up for that!

The movie lives and thrives on those bad (to ugly) moments. There is the scene where Nick is confronted by Ivan at Nick's birthday party. Good grief, that was a well-done and scary scene.

My personal moment of disgust was the one in the hospital when Nick questions Alex for the second time, after he talked to the PE teacher. When I realized what was going on, I knew this movie would not end on a happy-happy-joy-joy note.

Let's be clear about it, it does not show that much violence, or graphic detail (Euroflicks tend to do that, in contrast to American ones, where even the most brutal violence is somewhat glossy and, let's be honest, glorified), but the subtle undercurrent is gripping and disgusting at the same time. I guess it feeds into our human obsession to gawk at train-wrecks and other disasters.

The subject matter is difficult, but the presentation is really well done. And fortunately the movie does not judge, it leaves a lot to the viewer. Even the last scene is ambiguous. If you want good Euro-cinema, grab that one.

Edwin Boyd
(2011)

Dry bread
Okay, the movie is based on a true story (a fad nowadays, it seems), and it most certainly has its moments. But in general the entire flick lacks some panache. If it were a Canadian province, I'd say it's (northern) Manitoba on a Tuesday night.

While the main protagonist is portrayed rather decently, as well as his 'transformation' the rest of the movie is a bit stale and dry - I'd go so far to say clinically clean. Yeah, I get it, he's quite a normal guy, a victim of circumstance and all, trying to make ends meet and all. And I dig the story, but it's like eating a loaf of dry bread - you satisfy your hunger but without much joy. Personally I think the director (maybe as writer, too), tried a bit too hard to make it "arty" and forgot that a movie also should be entertaining, otherwise it's just bland ol' life. I'll keep the director in mind, maybe his next flick will be less Manitoba and more Québec.

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