The Snowman Movie Review

As Anna from ‘Frozen’ might say – “Do you want to build ‘The Snowman’?”… Well not exactly this ‘Snowman’. He is a mysterious serial killer from the novel by Jo Nesbø. In his novel there is a literary detective named Harry Hole, who is not a run-of-the-mill gumshoe on the Oslo, Norway police department. He is a force to be reckoned with, and when Norway’s first serial killer pops up and taunts Harry, he faces great odds to catch the perp. The popular character from a series of books now comes to the screen.


Oslo Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is a brilliant police officer, whose grueling work is studied at the Police Academy. Yet his troubled life and relationships feed his aloofness and alcoholism. He has broken up with a long-term girlfriend named Rakel Fauske (Charlotte Gainsbourg). She and her young son Oleg (Michael Yates) and her new lover, a doctor named Mathias (Jonas Karlsson), still let Harry hang around now and then. Harry is close to being a father to Oleg, but they are not related. But now Harry’s got a new problem regarding missing people.


Several women have gone missing, and there is some speculation about a return of a serial killer from about nine years ago. Back then, a detective in Bergen, Norway named Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer) had found some dead women after they had gone missing. They had the same profile as the ones that Harry is researching. Rafto believed that he had found the killer, but soon after he told his partner Svenson (Toby Jones), Rafto was found dead. His death was ruled a shotgun suicide, but there were many things unanswered. Such as – who was Rafto’s suspect for the killings?

 

Harry Hole is partnered up with a new officer named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), fresh from the Academy. She is very interested in the missing women. She also has an unusual interest in local business tycoon Arve Støp (JK Simmons). Støp is leading the campaign to get the Winter Games set in Oslo Norway. He also has a keen eye for ladies of a particular age and look. He is assisted in his ‘lady search’ by Dr. Vetlesen (David Dencik), who runs a local clinic for women’s health. But soon, there is a discovery of bodies, or at least body parts. The serial killer has returned, and he is taunting Harry.

The missing women turn up dead, and they are found in pieces. There are letters being sent to Harry, with menacing notes that come from ‘The Snowman’. Whoever is killing the women is also stalking Harry. He and Katrine are finding no luck in locating the killer. But Katrine has a more personal reason to find him. It becomes clear later on that she has ulterior motives to study this murderer and she has personal reasons to do so. But there could be many suspects, like Støp, or Vetlesen. Until the good doctor is found dead of a ‘shotgun suicide’, similar to Gert Rafto. Very suspect, indeed…

Harry Hole is a flawed hero, with many character flaws and addictions. But will he continue to be mocked and taunted by ‘The Snowman’? Will he resolve the attraction he feels for his new partner Katrine, or find a way back to his past love Rakel? Can he find closure for the kidnappings and murders of the young women in Oslo, and find the truth behind the death of Rafto? Can the audience find a reason to stay involved with this overwhelming mess of a plot?


Jo Nesbø has a reputation for writing popular books about flawed people finding refuge in work. However, his novel has undergone a massive change, and it is not for the better. In this adaptation, almost all of the structure is gone; replaced by a hodge-podge of police procedures and unconnected sequences. Many characters are introduced, but with little context as how they relate to the entire story. There are numerous red herrings raised that make you think it might have some significance. But they fly away like the sea gulls that gather around a dead body up in the snow-covered hills.

 

Michael Fassbender does a heroic job attempting to portray the anti-hero character Harry Hole. Rebecca Ferguson and Charlotte Gainsbourg play Katrine and Rakel with a real purpose, and do fine work. The rest of the actors are also OK in their roles, but none of them stand out totally. The entire cast is set back on their heels because of the messy plot. The story must have gone through various rewrites and reshoots. However, One person does stand out. Val Kilmer makes a short appearance, and not in a good way. He no longer looks like ‘Iceman’ from “Top Gun”. The movie has many beautiful shots of snowy landscapes and falling snow.

 

Unfortunately, the story is about as chopped up as one of ‘The Snowman’ victims. The result makes it tough for all the actors, even one as talented as Michael Fassbender. The original story in the novel might have been much better defined, because this story melts quickly away, like the falling snow…

Atomic Blonde – Trailer

ATOMIC BLONDE – July 28, 2017

 Oscar® winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in Atomic Blonde, a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6’s most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. 

The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission.  Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies. 

A blistering blend of sleek action, gritty sexuality and dazzling style, Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch (John Wick, upcoming Deadpool 2).  Also starring John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones, the film is based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City,” by Antony Johnston & illustrator Sam Hart.  Kurt Johnstad (300) wrote the screenplay.

                

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones

Directed by: David Leitch

Screenplay by: Kurt Johnstad

Based on the Oni Press Graphic Novel Series “The Coldest City,” Written by: Antony Johnston and Illustrated by: Sam Hart

Produced by: Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, A.J. Dix, Kelly McCormick, Eric Gitter, Peter Schwerin

Executive Producers: Nick Meyer, Marc Schaberg, Joe Nozemack, Steven V. Scavelli, Ethan Smith, David Guillod, Kurt Johnstad

In Theaters July 28th

http://www.fandango.com

A Monster Calls

“A Monster Calls” is a heart-wrenching yet artistic view into a 12-year boy and his troubled life. With a slowly dying Mom, a divorced dad who lives far away, and a grandmother with a gruff and unemotional manner, he is dealing with quite a lot. Also, his time in school is marred by a group of bullies who confront him every day. If only he had the size and strength and courage of a Monster…

Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) lives in a small rural town in the English countryside. His life is in turmoil because his Mom, Lizzie (Felicity Jones) is getting worse with a terminal illness. It is difficult at school, because there are boys that bully Conor, mostly because he has a sick mom and he is a good artist. Mom and Dad (Toby Kebbell ) are divorced, and he lives in California. Dad comes to visit, but he again shows that he is not part of Conor’s life.

When Lizzie gets so bad that she needs to be in the hospital, Conor must stay with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver). She is strict with Conor, and she cares more about cleanliness and keeping order in her house than she does about Conor. Conor has dreams of being big and strong and getting his way. He wants to set things right, and to get his Mom back. Then one night, something strange happens.

Out on the distant hill, there is an old church and a still older yew tree. The anxiety and pain in Conor’s life is felt by the yew tree. It comes to life, and it comes to visit Conor. The immense humanoid tree seems very scary, yet he speaks with a gentle but authoritative voice. The Monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) has three stories to tell Conor, and when he is done, Conor must tell him one story.

The stories that the Monster tells are illustrated with a beautiful watercolor animation sequence. The first story is about a magical kingdom that has kings and queens. The second story is about a pastor who shames an old man who sells roots and herbs that can cure people. The third is about an invisible man and a monster that helped him. Conor hears the stories, but they do not work out the way that he thought they would.

Conor hears the stories, but he overreacts. He drives away his father and becomes more distant to his grandmother. He goes overboard and destroys everything precious in his grandmother’s living room. He is overcome with rage and fights back against the bully, but sends him to the hospital. In each of these cases, even when he has done something outrageous and destructive, he does not receive any punishment. Conor is simply dealing with too much stress, they all say.

But nobody knows about the Monster, and nobody knows about the stories. They surely don’t know that Conor now has to tell his story, and Conor is very afraid. The Monster said that he was sent for healing, but Conor’s mom is still in bed at the hospital. Conor is sad, angry and confused. Exactly why did the Monster come to visit with Conor?

The story of “A Monster Calls” is very simple and direct. It focuses on Conor and what he is going through. He feels alone and powerless until the Monster calls upon Conor. But the final story reveals the full sadness in Conor’s life and what he truly wants. He is ashamed to have the Monster know what he feels inside. The dread and sadness of the story are then lifted up by the artistic beauty of the story sequences and the emotional release at the end.

Lewis MacDougall is a major young actor who can handle the tricky role of Conor. He is well cast and performs in a very believable way. Felicity Jones does ok with the Lizzie role. However, not a great deal is asked of her in the role, and she fades out near the end.  Sigourney Weaver does a sturdy job as the grandmother, who at first seems very mean and harsh, but she learns that Conor is more important than just things in the house.

The Monster is voiced by Liam Neeson, who has a very distinct quality of overwhelming scariness in his tone, but has a soft and comforting aspect as well. The Monster design is very well-done CGI. It has the unfortunate tendency of bringing to mind a similar character from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”. So the Monster is a huge giant, and he is a big tree. This movie might be called “The BFG 2: The Big Friendly Groot”.

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford, a fashion designer turned filmmaker, gives us “Nocturnal Animals”, his second feature film.  Ford clearly knows beauty when he sees it and makes this film a stunning piece of art to gaze upon, to say the least.  “Nocturnal Animals” is unusually artistic, intoxicatingly dark.  It’s a stylistic and clever drama/thriller that contrasts one scene with the other, one feeling with another and doesn’t give its audience an opportunity to feel vindicated in either of them.

 

At the beginning, we’re led into the tale of Susan (Adams) and her ex-husband Tony (Gyllenhaal).  She is now a successful art dealer married to the rich playboy, Hutton Morrow (Hammer), whom she left Tony for; the playboy who is never home and who sleeps around on her.  If she isn’t at an opening, she’s generally alone.  Unexpectedly, she receives the proof of Tony’s new book to read.  Having always encouraged him to write better she’s excited to begin reading it.  As she reads, she is spooked by how good he has become and terrorized by the narration.  As she reads, the tale unfolds before us.  It flashes back to Susan with Tony when they were younger and we after his face is established, we see that she has interjected her ex-husband into the lead character of the book in her hands.  The story is about loss.  Perhaps Tony’s new book is a message to her.  Maybe it’s just a book but all writing is ultimately about the writer in some sense or another and the loss in this frightening novel is clear and quite brutal… maybe how Tony felt when he lost his wife.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” is enchanting!  The cast is delightful. This is an absolute must see! Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Ford opens the film with a live art exhibit and closes the film the same way.  Though the players are different, it is obvious they are on display.  You’ll be moved by the opening and touched by the end.  The first might incite you to smile and giggle a bit at wiggling pounds of flesh dancing before your eyes and the later will stir you to sadness and despair.  Played beautifully with the music, we see Susan, a living art piece of her own, but I’ll not spoil all of that.

“Nocturnal Animals” is a movie you have to experience.  It’s simply not like all the rest.  It will pull you into the story as Tony’s book does to Susan.  Every background is contrived, locations are perfect, and the performers are good but if you didn’t already believe Michael Shannon is an acting deity, here’s another reason why so many do.

american-pastoral

American Pastoral

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Phillip Roth novel of the same name, “American Pastoral” follows an American family through a personal tragedy; the ultimate reason for it and result of it being very much the focus of that generation of American youth and the young generation of today.  In the 1960’s there were protests over war and protests for the rights of African Americans that got incredibly violent but there was something else going on with many of the protestors that went deeper than the known movements.  “American Pastoral” is a very powerful film about a father, Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov (McGregor) attempting to save his daughter amidst this chaos and ultimately save her from herself.

At a very young age, Merry (Fanning) felt she was in competition with her mother Dawn (Connelly) for her father’s attention.  This assertion needed a defense and she developed a stutter that her perfect mother didn’t have but which Merry always garnered pity and sympathy.  Though very young, she was aware of self.  Merry knew what she wanted; believing that, ‘life is just a short space of time in which you are alive.’  She lived her life with this frame of mind and still quite early in her mental development she witnesses, on television, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who burned himself to death in Saigon.  The reason the man did this was because to protest the South Vietnamese Diem regime’s pro-Catholic policies and its banning of the Buddhist flag.  This leaves a heavy impression on Merry and she grows into an angry young woman filled with guilt for her parents’ wealth, self-condemnation for living the good life when so many others have nothing and a general hatred for all things, making it difficult for her parents to know who she truly is.  She suddenly disappears after a post office bombing that leaves one man dead.  Her parents start to fall apart as the accusations and evidence against Merry begins to grow.  They begin to change during this process and the story goes from a sweet loving family to one divided as Seymour never gives up on finding his daughter, ultimately clearing her name and helping her.  When he finds his darling child and she admits her guilt, he still refuses to give up on her, loving her through the wrong she’s done and the shame she feels toward herself for being born.

Ewan McGregor gives a stirring performance and captivates the audience in his directorial debut. Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Ewan McGregor gives a stirring performance and captivates the audience in his directorial debut.  What little you see of Fanning is compelling and she, as well as her characters chilling beliefs, leaves an impression on you that is hard to shake.  Outside of the unnecessary narration and how the story begins, which is a conversation at a reunion, the movie is powerful and haunting.  This will be considered for nominations this year as it speaks to past civil unrest and what we’re still going through in present day.    

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train

“The Girl on the Train” is based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel of the same name and is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary) and directed by actor/director Tate Taylor who directed “The Help” and “Get on Up”.  There’s plenty of talent there alone to entice you to the theatre this weekend but I’ll give you a few more good reasons to catch this somewhat complicated whodunnit; Emily Blunt, who is simply brilliant in her role, Haley Bennett and Justin Theroux.  The story starts with introducing you to a girl on a train, Rachel (Blunt), more woman than girl in years but girl in behavior, as she tells you of the houses she passes each day and her curiosity as to what the lives are like within them.  She begins to more or less obsess over one particular couple in love, Megan (Bennett) and Scott (Evans), who reside in a house she wished she lived.  He is the sexy husband she desires to have and she is the beautiful young woman with whom she longed to be.  Soon, we learn that she had once lived two doors down in a lovely home that is still occupied by her ex-husband, Tom (Theroux), his wife, Anna (Ferguson), and their baby.  What led to her divorce may be what now leads her to occupy her mind with such things as what goes on in what she considers to be a more perfect life than hers; alcohol, her personal demon.  She drinks heavily, on the train and off, and is paranoid,often blacks out and sees things that may or may not be actually happening, because of her drinking problem. 

The story has a purposely, sometimes agonizingly, slow reveal, using flashbacks to catch you up on what gets Rachel to this point in life.  It also uses this trick to show the direction her life now leads as well as solidly placed scenes to throw you off the scent as to where the chiller is taking you.  It’s leading up to a moment when she gets off the train, wanting to take action on a situation she sees happen and getting involved in something she shouldn’t be.  Her plight gets more and more involved and she gets deeper and deeper into something she now cannot escape.

Some of the dialogue can be trite and a bit stuffy at times but overall, the mystery she becomes entangled in is one of the best I’ve seen since the fantastic, “Gone Girl” from 2014. Not wanting to reveal much more about the story I will add that Blunt is most likely looking at a best actress nomination.  She plays her character with passion and despair and motivates you to go on this journey with her and you’re more than happy to hitch your wagon to it.  Wilson and Taylor have given three woman the opportunity to excel and they more than do.  Theroux, as well as the rest of the supporting cast, also stand out bringing this thriller to life for what will be one of your favorite complex stories of the year.