Movie Review ~ Headhunters (Hodejegerne)

 

The Facts:

Synopsis: An accomplished headhunter risks everything to obtain a valuable painting owned by a former mercenary.

Stars: Aksel Hennie, Synnøve Macody Lund, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Director: Morten Tyldum

Rated: R

Running Length: 100 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Focus Puller ~ Eirik Holst Aagård

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review: Now that Sweden’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy has been published and the movie versions are getting released, it’s time to look at the works of another Nordic author that’s been a hot commodity in Norway.  It’s safe to say that Tattoo’s late author, Stieg Larsson, paved the way a bit for Norwegian Jo Nesbø’s crime novels to get some visibility in the US.  Tapping into that same chilly vein, Nesbø has a knack for creating stories with flawed characters you reluctantly root for.  While some may think that Nesbø’s bestseller “The Snowman” may have been the film we’d see it’s actually the older Headhunters that’s seeing the light of the silver screen first.

At its core, Headhunters has a fairly routine set-up filled with the requisite double/triple crosses, femme fatales, and a decent amount of bloodletting.  What sets this Norwegian produced film apart from your direct to video fare is a healthy set of twists to what you expect that keeps you on edge and unprepared for what’s coming next.  Adding a layer of comedy to the mix is one of those unexpected delights that feels totally right even though a times its so wrong.  There’s an outhouse set-up that had the audience roaring at the same time they were ‘ew-ing’…it’s pretty brilliant.  Foreign films aren’t afraid to take their violence to the extreme and there are several stomach churning moments that led me to involuntarily avert my eyes. 

Now you may read that last sentence and it could be a deal breaker for you – please, don’t let it be.  Headhunters is one of the better movies I’ve seen in 2012 and boasts terrific performances under the watchful eye of a director that knows what he’s doing.  It’s a technically grand film with impressive cinematography and a dynamite score that is in perfect harmony with what is developing onscreen.  Even when you think that the film can’t possibly untangle itself from the web its weaving it manages to do so without apology or resorting to a cheap payoff. 

Right from the start the movie has to win us over because our lead hero (Hennie) is actually a not very nice guy.  A seemingly bland headhunter by trade but art-thief in practice he’s got a comfortable life with a stunner of a wife (glamazon newcomer Macody Lund).  With mounting bills and a lifestyle to support he’s out for one big score and he sees possibility when Clas Greve (Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones) arrives on the scene.  But Greve has some, um, grave secrets that are unearthed and that’s all I’ll say because to give away more would expose some plot turns too interesting to spoil.

Even though a remake is (naturally) in the works be the cool person in your office and see the original now.  Subtitles in Norwegian will keep you busy reading as you watch the events develop on screen but try to keep up because this film waits for no man (or woman).  Once the film takes off about thirty minutes in it doesn’t give you a chance to breathe — cars crash, heads roll, secrets are reveled, and more than a little blood is spilled.  It’s a first rate thriller that proves you don’t need a dragon tattoo to create sparks. 

Movie Review ~ Men in Black III

The Facts:

Synopsis: Agent J travels in time to MIB’s early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.

Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 103 minutes

Random Crew Highlight:  Strange Woman (uncredited) ~ Jennifer Bartels

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review:  Dictionary.com defines serviceable as “capable of or ready for service; usable” and this is an exceedingly good way to describe Men in Black III.  After a ten year hiatus MIB3 is being unleashed into theaters smack dab in the middle of prime summer kick off season.  It’s a perfectly fine movie that never does more or less than is required of it.  The problem with that is with The Avengers going above and beyond the call of duty and several other hotly anticipated films being released in the next few weeks is “perfectly fine” good enough?

The film is aided immensely by two new additions to the team.  First up is screenwriter Etan Cohen who has worked closely with Mike Judge on King of the Hill and was the writer for Tropic Thunder.   His screenplay has a nice creativity to it while furthering the story of our central characters.  Cohen is smart enough to play to the strengths of both men and while Jones’ Agent K is absent most of the film, his doppelganger Brolin plays the young K with spot-on accuracy.  Brolin is actually the other strong feature on display.  As I mentioned before, he’s the perfect choice of a young Jones and nails the squinty glare and country twang that Jones should probably trademark.

Smith is an actor that’s really never done much for me and that opinion isn’t going to change based on his work here.  I always feel that Smith is playing himself and has just showed up to say his lines and collect his check.  Yes, he brings a certain suaveness and comedy to the role but how does it different from the suaveness and comedy of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or the suaveness and comedy of Hitch or the suaveness and comedy of Wild Wild West?  I long for Smith to try something new and play a villain…not just an unlikable character.

Even if the film gives Smith a nice arc near the end it didn’t make-up for the previous ninety minutes of posing and smart alecky antics that feels out of date and incongruous with the free-spirited tone of the movie.  Smith needs to take a page from Jones who displays the right amount of exhaustion and timing that the film deserves.  He’s able to convey bemusement in a face with more lines than a Moliere play and not make you feel he’s running through the paces.

Supporting player Thompson also is smart enough to color her limited screen time with tongue planted firmly in cheek.  With a perfectly coiffed head of hair and that no-nonsense accent, she’s a nice addition to the boys club although she disappears about halfway through and her presence in the final act is missed.

The main villain, Boris the Animal, is given life by Flight of the Conchords star Clement in an absurdly strange performance.  With a badly dubbed voice modulation, the impressive part here is Rick Baker’s fun creature effects.  Like Boris, his imagination runs wild throughout the movie causing equal amounts of havoc for the characters and glee for the audience. 

That’s where the Men in Black series has always excelled, the visual effects.  Leaving no end of the galaxy unexplored the creative juices are squeezed for all they are worth and that’s where the real enjoyment of the film is to be had.  The general plot concerning Agent J’s time-travel to 1969 to head off past and present Boris interacting with past Agent K is a nice structure to display mod elements both worldly and otherworldly. 

Director Sonnenfeld is back for a third time as well and he continues to mine the talents he gained as a cinematographer (Misery, Big, When Harry Met Sally…, Blood Simple) by finding interesting angles and shots that work well with the 3D effects.  It’s not at all necessary to see the film in 3D but if you do find yourself putting on the glasses, rest assured that it does look good.  Danny Elfman’s score is more of the same…his recent work on Dark Shadows notwithstanding I think Elfman’s work all sounds like something off the same album.

While the first Men in Black was an ambitious romp, its sequel was a turgid mess of inflated egos and budgets run amok that made a lot of money while simultaneously turning its audience off.  A decade later I feel a bit more forgiving and found some saving graces to this third entry.  Aside from Smith’s half committed performance, this could be a worthwhile trip to the movies if your outer space needs have not yet been met.

The Silver Bullet ~ “Bag of Hammers” Trailer

Synopsis: A comedy about two misfit best friends incapable of growing up, whose direction is tested by an abandoned child, worn beyond his years; together they invent the family they’ve always needed.

Release Date:  TBA 2012

Thoughts: Indie movies have an uphill battle in this new generation of technology.  Nowadays, having indie-cred only goes so far and it’s the story you tell that will keep your audience interested.  I’m not quite sure Bag of Hammers is the movie you’ll be busting down the cinema door to see but there were enough interesting faces in this trailer to hold my attention.

The Silver Bullet ~ “The Sapphires” Trailer

Synopsis: It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

Release Date:  TBA 2012

Thoughts: There’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned crowd pleaser and The Sapphires looks to fit that bill.  A Dreamgirls-esque set-up paves the way for a comedy from down under that is getting some buzz around the current Cannes film festival.  Some are saying it’s a flash in the pan with word of mouth generated more from Harvey Weinstein than critics but ultimately it’s the audience that will decide if this one sings.  The spirited trailer definitely kept my interest so I’ll be looking forward to this one when it’s released in the US later this year.

The Silver Bullet ~ “Skyfall” Teaser

Synopsis: Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Release Date:  November 9, 2012

Thoughts:   Ah…Bond is back.  It’s been nearly four years since his last adventure and while many were left unsatisfied with Quantum of Solace on repeated viewings I see what the franchise was going for.  It’s still not my favorite entry but it existed as a way to end a particular chapter on the Bond saga.  With that taken care of, the series is free to explore a new storyline and the description of Skyfall sounds quite juicy.  With director Sam Mendes at the helm expect a different kind of action film with expertly designed camera shots and more nuanced performances from all involved.  With the film adding Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, and Javier Bardem to the roster (as well as a new Q!) I’m counting down the days to Bond’s arrival.  Once we get a little closer to the release date I’ll be reviewing all of the Bond films for the blog – stay tuned!

The Silver Bullet ~ “Elena” Trailer

Synopsis: A woman turns to devious means to support her family in this drama.

Release Date:  May 16, 2012

Thoughts: Director Andrei Zvyagintsev made quite a splash with his 2003 film The Return so his latest thriller, Elena, arrives to hungry eyes.  I enjoy these foreign films about deception and betrayal because they are always willing to go where US films won’t – to the true dark side of human nature.  These European films have a slow burn and a unexpected love of turning the genre on its ear and from what I’ve read Elena has several good tricks to play on us.  Your enjoyment of these films depends on how far you’re willing to look within yourself and feel out your inner demons…and sometimes cleaning house (as it were) is a good thing!