Tag Archives: Mads Mikkelsen

SCREENWASH SPECIAL- ARRIVAL, DR STRANGE & NOCTURNAL ANIMALS REVIEWED

SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER CINEMA SPECIAL – by PAUL LAIGHT

I often have all my reviews for the month in one place but occasionally I split them, as is the case here. I haven’t seen that many films at the cinema this month but the three I did see were all excellent in their own way. Here are my reviews with marks out of eleven.

**CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS**

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ARRIVAL (2016)

The wonderfully serene Amy Adams portrays, Louise Banks, an academic linguist whose standing is such that when Earth is visited by twelve spaceships, she is called in by the military to attempt communication. Governments all over the world try various methods in which to discover whether the aliens are intending to attack. What are their primary intentions or targets? Are they friends or foe?

As it is directed by the supremely talented Denis Villeneuve the film moves at a careful but considered pace. When Adam’s accompanies Jeremy Renner’s physicist, Ian Donnelly we at first see the inside of the alien craft and it’s not long before we are faced with the strange-looking cephalopod-type creatures. The narrative meat becomes a series of attempts by Banks and Donnelly to try and crack the visual alien code. Meanwhile, the Chinese and Russians are becoming impatient and, like the Americans, considering attacking the spaceships in a pre-emptive military measure.

I won’t say any more because it would risk ruining the story but what unfolds is a clever and mind-bending turn of events which upsides genre expectations. The intriguing premise, brilliant script, ambient score, stylish effects, subtle cinematography and purposeful direction make this one of the best films I have seen all year. It is an intelligent and emotional science-fiction drama with a beautifully constructed narrative which constantly surprised and moved me.  It also asks big questions on the nature of time, existence and love; informing us that not all extra-terrestrial life in movies has to be monstrous and deadly.  (Mark 10 out of 11)

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DR STRANGE (2016)

Marvel, like they did with Ant-Man (2015) take a lesser known character in Dr Stephen Strange and turn it into one of the most entertaining and spellbinding blockbusters of the year.  To be honest none of this should work, however, it is a testament to the work of a committed director in Scott Derrickson and formidable heavyweight acting cast including: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen and imperious Tilda Swinton, that this mystical soufflé works so well.

Cumberbatch, filtering his Sherlock persona wonderfully, is a gifted, yet arrogant neurosurgeon who following a bone-crunching automobile accident finds his gifted hands are no good to man nor beast. His attempts at physical rehabilitation prove unsuccessful so he goes on a spiritual journey to Nepal in an attempt to fix his damaged body and soul. There he meets Mordo (Ejiofor) and subsequently The Ancient One (Swinton) and that’s where the real fun starts.

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this. Its pacey plot zips along rapidly with some fine comedic one-liners. Cumberbatch and Swinton stand out amongst a fine cast with both of them imbuing their characters with a depth beyond your usual super-hero film. While the origins story is standard genre stuff the magical gifts and capes Dr Strange uses are wonderful fun, as are the hallucinogenic visuals, eye-popping Inceptionesque fight scenes plus mystical marvels straight out of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Lastly, Derrickson deserves praise for several cracking set-pieces notably the out-of-body fight in the hospital and complex temporal-twisting combat with inter-dimensional beast Dormammu. Strange days are indeed upon as Marvel spellbinds us with yet another big comic-book hit. (Mark 9 out of 11)

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NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016)

Filmmaker Tom Ford’s debut film A Single Man (2009) was an eloquent character study of grief, loneliness and existential romance; beautifully photographed, styled and constructed with Colin Firth’s heartfelt performance providing the thudding beats of pathos and pain. It was a film I only saw recently but knew that the director was definitely one to follow, and thus, his second film Nocturnal Animals promised much.

Nocturnal Animals is an altogether colder beast centring on separation of love rather than the meditation on loss like A Single Man. The once again brilliant Amy Adams is a privileged art gallery owner married to Armie Hammer’s rich, yet absent, businessman. She is a hollow woman musing about her failed previous marriage to writer Jake Gyllenhaal and the apparent emptiness of her life, career and the people around her. It is a testament to Ford and Adams that they extricate empathy for such a seemingly spoilt character, but they ably demonstrate that wealth does not defeat loneliness or the guilt of past actions.

Adams’ Susan Morrow is similar to Firth’s George Falconer in that she is lost and flailing in her first world but very human problems. Thrown into the mix is the about-to-be-published book her former husband has written and sent her. So, we end up with two stories for the price of one as the events in the manuscript come to life in Susan’s mind. As she reads it, Jake Gyllenhaal’s (yes, he plays two characters) family are terrorized on a backwater freeway by Aaron Johnson’s violent gang. Michael Shannon also pops up as a busted lung of a cop sick of the scum and his turn is a delight.The sun-bleached, desert and neo-Western style in these episodes provide a fascinating and stylistic juxtaposition to shadowy, cool darkness that is Susan Morrow’s life in Los Angeles.

The two stories collide, compare and contrast each other to fascinating effect as Ford weaves literary and cinematic tropes, brilliantly adapting the original novel on which is it based – Tony and Susan – written by Austin Wright. This, overall, is about storytelling being used as a means not only to haunt and create guilt, but also wreak revenge. It’s a complex watch but beautiful, cold creature to look at. Yet, despite the privilege of Amy Adam’s character I was thoroughly absorbed by her crumbling psyche, while the book within the film is totally gripping too. (Mark 9.5 out of 11)

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SCREENWASH: JULY 2015 by PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH: JULY 2015 by PAUL LAIGHT

Pretty busy this month with my film viewings so here’s every film I watched in the month of July 2015 with marks up to 11!

**MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD**

ANNABELLE (2014) – NOW TV

Prequel to the chilling James Wan horror The Conjuring (2013) which explains the backstory to creepy doll Annabelle and how it came to be such a malevolent force.  While not reaching the heart-in-mouth scares of Insidious (2010) there is much to raise the pulse here. I found the references to the Manson death-cults and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) influences to be interesting and there are some very jumpy moments.  The ending lets it down but worth a look while the star is the gnarled doll which never fails to chill one’s core. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)

ANT-MAN (2015) – CINEMA

This was a blast!  The awesome Paul Rudd plays “good” criminal Scott Lang — a Robin Hood-style thief — who while down on his luck tries one last job so he can gain parental access to his daughter. Little does he know is he’s breaking into top scientist Hank Pym’s (excellent Michael Douglas) place and thus a chain of events occur making Lang a perfect candidate for Ant-Man.  It’s simplistic narrative-wise but what it does have is a fizzing script full of zingers and comedic moments as well as some great action set-pieces built around a complex but well orchestrated final act heist. A fun supporting cast including: Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannevale, Michael Pena and scenery-chewing baddie Corey Stoll add class to proceedings and overall I had a great time watching this. It proved that not ALL superhero films have to be HUGE as sometimes small, rather than big, is beautiful. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

CLOWN (2014) – NOW TV

A father finds himself possessed by a monster having, inexplicably, tried an old clown suit on for his son’s birthday. It’s a low budget horror film from Canada and has decent moments of gore especially toward the end but clunky plotting really lets it down.  It gets on my nerves when screenwriters put massive bits of exposition in the MIDDLE of a film to try and get the audience up to speed with the narrative. Show don’t tell please!  The scene in the plastic-ball pit full of kids was good so worth a look at that. But coulrophobics beware as it gets nasty and definitely not one for the kids! (Mark: 5.5 out of 11)

DRACULA UNTOLD (2014) – NOW TV

This is pitched like a horror version of the 300 (2006) but lacks the brutal style of that muscular classic.  Basically, Vlad must protect his Transylvanian family from marauding Turks so does a deal with a demonic vampire (Charles Dance) to become a super-being. However, it comes with a Faustian price.  Some good action but the gore was too sanitized by the CGI for my liking but brooding Luke Evans — as the eponymous anti-hero — is great in this blood-thirsty prequelization of Bram Stoker’s literary classic.  (Mark: 6 out of 11)

FLAME & CITRON (2008) – NETFLIX

This is a thrilling Danish WW2 story charting the exploits of Danish Resistance fighters/assassins codenamed Flame and Citron.  Mads Mikkelsen portrays Jorgen, the latter of the partnership as he and compatriot Bendt laid waste to Nazis and their Danish collaborators amidst the German occupation.  Mikkelsen is very good at playing smooth characters but here he’s nervy, dirty, sweaty and living-on-the-edge. He brings his classic mournful look to a character fighting inner demons, traitors and Nazis; all the while trying to cling to the family he loves. War brought the worst and best out of people; sometimes at exactly the same time as this film ably illustrates. A fine war story expertly told. (Mark: 8 out of 11)

GOD BLESS AMERICA (2011) – AMAZON PRIME

This was my favourite film I saw in July by a long, long way.  It is a coruscating and murderous satire with a savage script that lays into the United States of the media nation; notably reality TV and talent shows. It has a majestically deadpan and downtrodden performance from Joel Murray as Frank, a lowly office worker, who after having a REALLY bad day decides to go on a kill crazy rampage to rid the world of people who sicken him.  Think Falling Down (1993) but WITH hilarious jokes!  Along the way Frank obtains a teenage sidekick called Roxy and she joins him in the mayhem as they wipe out everyone from hate-filled preachers to obnoxious political commentators. It makes simple but valid critiques about modern culture and allows one to indulge and enjoy the height of revenge fantasies while filtering influences such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), It Happened One Night (1934) and other gun crazy road movies. (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (2013) – NOW TV

This damned awful horror spoof couldn’t even be saved by a cast that includes Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn. It went for an Evil Dead style vibe as a bunch of live-action-role-playing game nerds accidentally conjure up a demon which wreaks havoc on their game-playing.  Ryan Kwanten plays a handsome mechanic who is taken along for the ride and potentially could have been another Ash in the making. But alas the script and style are abysmal and overall this is a charmless film. I will always try and give low budget horror films a break critically speaking but, this is neither funny or horrific enough to make it worth recommending. (Mark: 4.5 out of 11)

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (2014) – NOW TV

The great filmmaker Woody Allen is quietly turning out one film a year and this one is a pleasant sojourn through 1920s France and the relationship between misanthropic magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) and young psychic Sophie Baker (Emma Stone).  Basically, the older Crawford sets out to debunk pretty Sophie’s skills as a medium and it doesn’t take a seer to work out what happens.  It’s a sunny film full of eccentrics and has some interesting discourse on the nature of death and the “other” side.  While it lacks some of the classic Woody one-liners there’s gentle character humour to be found and Firth is always great, so it’s a film difficult not to enjoy.  (Mark: 7 out of 11)

PURGE 2: ANARCHY (2014) – NOW TV

Sequel to The Purge (2013) takes the original’s claustrophobic home-invasion style and widens the action to the violent streets of the U.S.A. Again, criminals and ordinary citizens are given the chance, for ONE NIGHT ONLY, to commit any misdemeanour (rape, robbery, murder etc.) they so desire WITHOUT fear of arrest.  I absolutely love this idea and the first film was pretty decent but this one takes a funky concept and delivers a film which lacks wit, thrills and more importantly horror.  It’s not bad and the social satire works but it lacks a star to carry it and the characters are too paper-thin and badly written to care about. Some fun to be had with the urban warfare and the revenge on the filthy rich socialites that occurs but with a more imaginative director like say, James Wan, this could have been great. (Mark: 5.5 out of 11)

TED 2 (2015) – CINEMA

Sequel, believe it or not, to Ted (2012) – the one from the creator of Family Guy Seth Mcfarlane about the dope-smoking-sex-crazed-alcoholic-filth-mongering-talking-Teddy-bear.  I enjoyed the original but this one was even funnier as Ted (McFarlane) and his thunder-buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) fight the US courts to prove that Ted actually exists as a “person” in the eyes of the law.  The plot isn’t important really and merely acts as mannequin to hang a litany of sexual, druggy, politically-incorrect, sexist, offensive, toilet-humourist gags on.  Wahlberg is a blast, even when he’s drowning in semen, during one particular gross but hilarious scene. If that’s the level of your humour then you’ll love this! (Mark: 7 out of 11)

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014) – NOW TV

The latest TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE FILM was not half as bad as I thought it would be. But then again I could only sit through half of it as it was THAT bad. Here are some comments from my Facebook status: which say it all!

“I’ve never seen anything so lacking in charm.”

Starts off ok, but then becomes a mess.”

“I tapped out after 10 minutes of nothing but clunky exposition and the entire film treating it’s own premise like it’s a joke.”

(Mark: 4 out of 11 – mainly for the well-choreographed fight scenes)

TERMINATOR GENISYS – CINEMA

The iPhone spell checker changes Arnie to “sarnie” which is apt because the new Terminator film is a complete shit sandwich! It’s even worse than I thought it could be. It doesn’t make any sense as a story at all. Only Jason Clarke and Arnie himself save it with decent turns. The convoluted plot was an insult to the memory of the first two films and really this should be called Terminator: Genocide as it must have killed the franchise once and for all. How Jai Courtney gets work I do not know and the title SUCKS!  I just hope Schwarzenegger dies soon and can never say “I’ll be back!” ever again. (Mark: 4.5 out of 11)

TWO LOVERS (2008) – BLU RAY

A really intriguing, human and romantic drama which had some mature performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow, plus magnetic direction by James Gray.  It’s a slow-paced character piece with suicidal thirty-something Leonard trying to find some small happiness following the break-up of a recent engagement.  The joy comes from Phoenix’ darkly humorous and awkward acting performance and it’s the kind of film which at times is sometimes TOO painful to watch as Leonard finds he must choose between two women: the attractive, yet safe, Sandra played by Vinessa Shaw and the sexy, flaky human car-crash that is Michelle (Paltrow). I very much enjoyed this film as it acts as an anathema to the obvious slick-sugar-schtick that Hollywood usually pumps out. (Mark: 7 out of 11)  

 

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #5: MADS MIKKELSEN by PAUL LAIGHT

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #5:  MADS MIKKELSEN by PAUL LAIGHT

You know the drill.  I pick an actor and have a gander at some of the finest roles in their cinematic/televisual Curriculum Vitae.

For my latest tribute I have a look at the mercurial Mads Mikkelsen; a Danish actor who has impressed me more and more in each role I have seen him in.  Here’s FIVE of his finest moments.

***CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS***

CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Mikkelsen was an awesome Bond villain in Daniel Craig’s first outing playing the shifty-banker-come-gambling-addict Le Chiffre.  A fantastic Ian Fleming creation, here he’s visualized with classic bleeding tear duct, pitch black hair, and shark-eyed deadpan stare. Mikkelsen’s ability to convey a callous cold demeanour provided a perfect counterpoint to the free-running energy, muscularity and snarling passion of Craig. Furthermore, Mikkelsen’s intelligence, angularity and range allow him to play striking villains and ALMOST have you rooting for them.

 

FLAME AND CITRON (2009)

This is a thrilling Danish WW2 story charting the exploits of Danish Resistance fighters/assassins codenamed Flammen and Citron.  Mikkelsen portrays Jorgen, the latter of the partnership as he and compatriot Bendt laid waste to Nazis and their Danish collaborators amidst the German occupation.  Mikkelsen is very good at playing smooth characters but here he’s nervy, dirty, sweaty and living-on-the-edge. He brings his classic mournful look to a character fighting inner demons, traitors and Nazis; all the while trying to cling to the family he loves. War brought the worst and best out of people; sometimes at exactly the same time as this film ably illustrates.


HANNIBAL (TV – 2013 – 2015)

It took me a couple of attempts to get into Gaumont/NBC’s lavish adaptation of Thomas Harris’ iconic characters and indeed I bailed watching it the first time round as I didn’t get it.  However, buoyed by fan-boy admiration for Mads and also encouraged by my American girlfriend I tried again and have just whipped through the first two seasons of a killing, cooking and bloody-curdling TV feast. Mikkelsen plays an elegant, urbane and vampiric Hannibal Lecter far removed from the over-the-top-grand-theatrics of the brilliant Anthony Hopkins.  His pursuers are once again Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Jack Crawford (Lawrence Fishburne) as they attempt to track down a number of serial-killers all knocking about the United States of Annihilation.

There is death and blood galore in this series all presented via a beautifully shot and very artistic editing design full of surreal imagery and Rorschach-style montage.  Mikkelsen as Lecter is a delight as he kills and grills his victims with epicurean aplomb. If you like gory imagery, psychological mind games and gothic narrative then this is the show for you. Mikkelsen excels as usual as he can convey a moment of pure evil and black humour with a single look or gesture.  He’s also no stranger to cannibalistic characters having played a sympathetic yet murderous meat-man in the Danish black comedy Green Butchers (2003).  Bring on Season 3!


THE HUNT (2012)

This is one of the best dramas I have seen in a long time.  Mikkelsen is a well-respected Primary teacher in a middle-class Danish village. Following a seemingly innocuous incident with a young girl he is suddenly accused of being a paedophile.  The matter escalates and escalates as he is shunned by those around him and he becomes isolated while protesting his innocence.  Mikkelsen is incredible as this tortured pariah who is terrorized by the equivalent of villagers with torches and pitchforks pursuing a monstrous Frankenstein creation to its doom.  The genius of this challenging film is creating an antagonist out of a kindergarten child’s blurred memory subsequently fuelled by fervent and fundamentalist mob rule. It’s arguably Mikkelsen’s finest performance; full of nuance and pathos as his character Lucas suffers a kind of modern day Kafkaesque ordeal.  Deservedly he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.


PUSHER (1996)/PUSHER II (2004)

Mikkelsen’s debut was in Nicolas Winding Refn’s gritty drug drama Pusher where he played the scumbag Tonny; a lowlife mate of dealer Frank.  He certainly made an impact because when Refn made a sequel he put forth Tonny as the main character of the story.  Pusher II is even more relentlessly grim than the original featuring all manner of dumb, lower-class hoods trying to scrape gold from Copenhagen streets paved mainly with smack and dog-shit. It’s an unglamorous and honest realisation of criminal-life with a lot in common with Scorcese’s Mean Streets (1973), as low-level pushers fuck one another over on a regular basis.

Mikkelsen’s Tonny is a tragic character who is left rudderless by a manipulative father and just cannot cut a break due to both his own lack of intelligence or positive role models.  Tonny’s portrayed like a blind dumb bear chained to a metal stake swiping at those around him as he attempts to find the means to escape or redemption only to realise he’s all alone in the dark.  Never has there been so much sympathy for a movie thug like Tonny as Mikkelsen extracts every bit of humanity he can from the poor beast.