The Silver Bullet ~ Passengers

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Synopsis: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

Release Date:  December 21, 2016

Thoughts: It’s okay if you watch this first trailer for Passengers and feel like you’ve been to this space rodeo before.  Peppered with hints of Gravity and The Martian with a little old (Sunday) school Adam and Eve business, our initial look at the late December release feels promising.  I mean, two hotter than Hades A-list stars with their choice of scripts wouldn’t sign up for this without it having some thrust, right?  I’m counting on blind faith that Chris Pratt (Jurassic World) and Jennifer Lawrence (Joy) have chosen wisely.  Under the direction of Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) from a Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) script that’s been orbiting Hollywood stars since 2007, Passengers could pure rocket fuel at the box office if these heavy hitters bring their A game.  As for me…it’s set in space so…I’m in.

Movie Review ~ The Imitation Game

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The Facts:

Synopsis: English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.

Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Allen Leech, Mark Strong, Charles Dance, Matthew Goode, Matthew Beard, Rory Kinnear

Director: Morten Tyldum

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 114 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8/10)

Review:  As I said in my review of the trailer for The Imitation Game, I worry that star Benedict Cumberbatch is getting ever so slightly overexposed.  From his on the spectrum performance in the BBC television series Sherlock to his sinewy performances in August: Osage County, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and 12 Years a Slave all the way to his sinister voice work in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies the actor seems to be everywhere nowadays.

With the arrival of The Imitation Game, we should all brace ourselves for more Cumberbatch in the years to come because it’s his performance here that should really put him on the map, not to mention guarantee his first trip to the Academy Awards.  Though the character could be a distant cousin to his Sherlock, Cumberbatch’s performance as mathematician turned code-breaker Alan Turing is a fully realized flesh and blood wonder, one not afraid to take aloof to the next level yet still managing to keep an audience engaged.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of the film because it’s so multi-layered that you’re better served letting the well-scripted film do the telling for you.  Adapted from the Andrew Hodges novel by young screenwriter Graham Moore, The Imitation Game benefits from Moore’s youth in its execution.  While the material is never dumbed down, it’s related to us through dialogue from someone that clearly has an ear for how to convey complex code talk and wartime business to the masses.

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum (who helmed the bloody good Headhunters) keeps everything moving at a nice clip from the get-go.  We meet a post-war Turing being investigated by the police who look back into his life for clues to a current crime.  Through these passages we learn of Turings involvement with cracking the Enigma code during WWII along with a group of carefully selected scholars (including Stoker’s Matthew Goode and Downton Abbey’s Allen Leech).  From this group a love interest appears (Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina) and instead of feeling shoehorned in, Moore creates a dynamic relationship between Turing and this woman…a relationship that opens up another set of secrets Turing is trying to hide.

Straddling the past and present and multiple covert secrets (both kept and uncovered) is no easy game but all involved score high points for its unqualified success.  While maybe not an edge-of-your-seat thriller, it’s absolutely one that will command you to lean forward and look harder at what’s underneath it all.  An assured film, to be sure.

The Silver Bullet ~ The Imitation Game

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Synopsis: English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.

Release Date: November 21, 2014

Thoughts:  If you’ve had your ear to the awards circuit ground you’d be hearing lots of rumblings about The Imitation Game, a twisty true life thriller that winds through the shadows of code breaking during World War II. I’m a bit worried that star Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, August: Osage County) is reaching a level of overexposure that could backfire against him in the years to come but for now I’ll give him a pass as he has a way of choosing roles that play to his strengths. Joined by Keira Knightley (having a good year in Begin Again and Laggies) and Matthew Goode (Stoker), it’s apparently a film with the kind of good buzz that needs no code breaker to decipher.

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.