Tag Archives: Colin Firth

Michael Nyqvist 1960-2017

Swedish star Michael Nyqvist passed away yesterday at the age of 56. Only those who were close to him knew that he had cancer. International moviegoers will always remember him primarily as the investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist in the Millennium franchise – and obviously as bad guys in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) and John Wick (2014). Nyqvist worked frequently in international productions and it’s a shame that we won’t see him blossom more on that stage. In the interview above, Nyqvist talks about the benefit of playing a villain – there’s a relief in having no empathy.

Born in Stockholm, Nyqvist was adopted and later wrote an autobiographical novel about his search for his biological parents. After studying in Omaha, Nebraska and Malmö, Sweden, Nyqvist worked in theater and got bit parts in movies before his breakthrough in Together (2000). International audiences also noticed him in the Oscar-nominated As It Is in Heaven (2004). But it was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009) that opened up an international career for him. Nyqvist also won twice at Sweden’s Oscars, the Guldbagge awards.

He still has a few films unreleased, the most intriguing of which is Kursk, a thriller about the Russian submarine that sank in 2000. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg, the cast also has Max von Sydow and Colin Firth.

When news came of Michael Nyqvist’s death, Swedish actors and filmmakers, from the stage and the cinema, expressed their grief. He had many friends. Gerard Butler, who co-stars with Nyqvist in the upcoming Hunter Killer, also felt compelled to send his condolences in an Instagram post.

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The Greatest Hits of 2017

It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2017 for ya. As always, premiere dates may change.


* The Comedian – Robert De Niro gets a chance to redeem himself after appearing in far too many bad comedies. Directed by Taylor Hackford; Danny DeVito has a supporting part.

* Split – … and this is M. Night Shyamalan’s chance to redeem himself after far too many convoluted, bad horror movies. This one has James McAvoy as a kidnapper with 24 personalities.

* The Founder – Early reviews of this drama following the early days of McDonald’s say the movie may not be a masterpiece, but Michael Keaton is aces in the lead.


* The Lego Batman Movie – Will this spin-off to The Lego Movie (2014) be as surprisingly enjoyable as the original? 

* Fifty Shades Darker – Will this sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) challenge its audience more than the original did? The trailer doesn’t look too promising. 

* John Wick: Chapter 2 – Keanu Reeves returns for more action. February really is a month for B-movie sequels.

* A Cure for Wellness – Gore Verbinski delivers a horror thriller, his first since The Ring (2002), and it is set in the Swiss Alps. 

* Tulip Fever – Alicia Vikander stars in this drama set during the tulip craze in The Netherlands in the 1600s. Also has Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifianakis and Cara Delevingne in the cast. Directed by Justin Chadwick, who made The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) look so good.


* Logan – The world seemed a bit tired of all the X-Men movies, but then came the trailer above for James Mangold’s next Wolverine movie, and now we’re all excited again. 

* T2 Trainspotting – Danny Boyle’s long-awaited sequel to Trainspotting (1996) reunites the old cast. Opens January 27 in Britain. 

* Kong: Skull Island – The big ape is discovered during a military mission to Skull Island. The first two trailers look great. Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston. 

* Beauty and the Beast – The live-action version of the 1991 animated classic. Guaranteed to be a box-office hit judging from the online interest in the trailers. Stars Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor and Dan Stevens.

* King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s version of the oft-filmed legend. The trailer makes it look brutal. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur.

* Ghost in the Shell – This manga adaptation has Scarlett Johansson in the lead as “The Major”. 


* Going in Style – The trailer promises no fireworks, but I’m sure it’ll be a pleasure to watch Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Ann-Margret at work. 

* The Fate of the Furious – The eighth film in the franchise adds Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron to the cast. The trailer is quite explosive. 

* The Lost City of Z – Tom Holland and Charlie Hunnam star in James Gray’s film about a real-life explorer who disappeared while searching for a city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

* The Circle – A thriller about a big tech company, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.


* Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – This sequel comes with a fun trailer that promises more of the laughs and thrills that made the original a hit.

* Snatched – Goldie Hawn returns to the big screen after a 14-year absence, playing Amy Schumer’s mother in a raunchy comedy. 

* Alien: Covenant – Ridley Scott returns with this sequel to Prometheus, a film that (judging from the trailer) seems firmly grounded in the Alien universe.

* Annabelle 2 – A sequel that hopefully will improve on the lackluster first filmLights Out director David F. Sandberg has his work cut out for him. 

* Baywatch – The film adaptation of the cheesy 1990s TV show aims for babes, laughs and a few thrills. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are in the leads.

* Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge – The fifth chapter in this franchise. Javier Bardem joins the usual gang. 


* Wonder Woman – The DC films have largely been disappointments so far after Man of Steel (2013)… but this one could change that. The trailers have us all excited. 

* The Mummy – Universal aims to create a monster universe the way Marvel and DC have created cinematic universes out of their superheroes. This one looks exciting, with Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in the leads… but I was hoping for scary.

* Cars 3 – Pixar’s least interesting franchise is beloved by children; this chapter promises to be a little darker in tone. 

* Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Colin Firth returns as a dapper agent in this sequel, and he’s joined by several other big stars. Will bigger equal better?

* Transformers: The Last Knight – The fifth movie in this franchise, and Michael Bay shows no sign of wanting to change it for the better. Audiences will show up anyway.

* The Beguiled – Sofia Coppola directs this Western, which is set during the Civil War and has Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in the cast.


* Spider-Man: Homecoming – Tom Holland introduced his Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and here comes a stand-alone movie that looks like a lot of fun. 

* War of the Planet of the Apes – The third film in this series pits Caesar against an aggressive colonel played by Woody Harrelson. The trailer is no disappointment. 

* Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan delivers a historic epic depicting the famed WWII evacuation of Allied soldiers. As expected, it looks amazing. One of the summer’s few major blockbusters to be grounded in real-life events.

* The Dark Tower – An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel that combines Western with sci-fi. Stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.


* The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, about a bodyguard who has to deliver a client to the Hague so he can testify against a dictator. 

* Villa Capri – Another action-comedy starring an unlikely duo, this time Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones in a story that looks very much like Midnight Run (1988).


* It – Stephen King’s novel was turned into a miniseries in 1990, but here comes the film adaptation. Bill Skarsgård plays the terrifying clown Pennywise.

* American Made – Doug Liman joins forces with Tom Cruise for a thriller about a pilot who becomes a drug smuggler. Based on a real-life story.

* Flatliners – A remake of the 1990 movie, which starred Kiefer Sutherland. He’ll make an appearance here as well. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).


* Blade Runner 2049 – The highly anticipated sequel has Denis Villeneuve directing. Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard. 

* The Snowman – Tomas Alfredson is directing this adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s bestseller, with Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson in the leads. 

The month also has fresh sequels in the InsidiousFriday the 13th and Saw franchises. If there’s anyone out there who still has confidence in them. 


* Thor: Ragnarok – The third film in the series stars Thor and the Hulk, you know, the guys who were too busy to make an appearance in Captain America: Civil War… Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will also show up.

* Justice League – The DC universe’s answer to The Avengers, uniting its big heroes. Zack Snyder has a lot to live up to.

* Murder on the Orient Express – Kenneth Branagh’s all-star remake of the 1974 classic will feature himself as Poirot.

* The Darkest Hour – The story of Winston Churchill’s early days in World War II. Gary Oldman plays the Prime Minister, Joe Wright is directing. 


* Star Wars: Episode VIII – Rian Johnson is directing this film, which will likely devote some time to give Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) a dignified farewell. 

* Jumanji – A remake of the 1995 movie, starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black. 

* Downsizing – Alexander Payne directs this drama-comedy, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig. 

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Kingsman: The Secret Service


kingsmanWhen an agent working for a top-secret intelligence agency is killed, his colleague (Colin Firth) enlists a troublesome teenager (Taron Egerton) to join a group of candidates who will be trained to fill the vacancy. In Matthew Vaughn’s view spy movies were getting a bit too serious, which is why he made this very violent but stylish and lighthearted adventure, not unlike his earlier Kick-Ass (2010). Very British, and so cartoonishly absurd that CGI is a must in many of the fight scenes, the film gets a boost from Firth’s effort as a new kind of John Steed. Would have been more fun though if the one-note story wasn’t so protracted.

2015-Britain-U.S. 129 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Comic Book: Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons (“The Secret Service”). Cast: Taron Egerton (Gary “Eggsy” Unwin), Colin Firth (Harry Hart/Galahad), Samuel L. Jackson (Richmond Valentine), Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson… Mark Hamill.

Trivia: Followed by Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017).

Quote: “I’m a Catholic whore, currently enjoying congress out of wedlock with my black Jewish boyfriend who works at a military abortion clinic. So, hail Satan, and have a lovely afternoon, madam.” (Firth to a Westboro Baptist-style churchgoer)

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The Accidental Husband


accidentalhusbandWhen New York City firefighter Patrick Sullivan’s (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) fiancée breaks off their engagement after taking advice from a radio host (Uma Thurman), he comes up with a plan to exact revenge… Unconvincing from the start, the plan only leads Morgan and Thurman into one situation after another that’s supposed to be hilarious but only feels forced. Maybe this romantic comedy would have worked (slightly) better with different leads; she’s hysterical most of the time and he’s far too bland.

2008-U.S. 91 min. Color. Directed by Griffin Dunne. Cast: Uma Thurman (Emma Lloyd), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Patrick Sullivan), Colin Firth (Richard Braxton), Sam Shepard, Isabella Rossellini, Keir Dullea.

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The Greatest Hits of 2015

It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2015 for ya.


* Blackhat – Michael Mann’s first directorial outing since Public Enemies (2009) is a cyber thriller starring Chris Hemsworth. Its January release makes it hard to really get excited about it. 

* Escobar: Paradise Lost – Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar reaches the big screen in the shape of Benicio Del Toro. Josh Hutcherson plays the innocent young man who becomes a witness to Escobar’s life of crime. 

* Still Alice – There have been several Alzheimer dramas before (most notably Away From Her (2007)), but this one boasts an already heavily lauded performance by Julianne Moore.

* Mortdecai – David Koepp is an unreliable director, but this art-heist comedy might be worth a look. A true star vehicle for Johnny Depp, who needs a hit.


* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski siblings deliver another sci-fi movie, this time starring Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis. The stars will help, but it’s doubtful that audiences will be much attracted to the film.

* Kingsman: The Secret Service – An action thriller from Matthew Vaughn that follows a veteran secret agent taking on a protégé. Starring Colin Firth and Michael Caine. 

* Fifty Shades of Grey – No one expects this adaptation of the hugely successful novel to be any good; the only question is how naughty will it be? And will audiences line up to find out? Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are in the leads.


* Cinderella – Kenneth Branagh directs this movie that seems to follow in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and the Huntsman and Maleficent. Lily James plays Cinderella in the live-action version. 

* Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent (2014). It’s hard to separate this series from the Hunger Games movies and all the other dystopian youth thrillers. But the first film was a huge hit. 

* Serena – Susanne Bier’s first American film since Things We Lost in the Fire (2007) is a Depression-era drama about a love affair between a girl and a millionaire. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are likely to bring star power.


* Furious 7 – There’s an anxiety to make this movie worth the effort, considering it’s Paul Walker’s last. It will no doubt be interesting to see how well the filmmakers have worked around his absence. It certainly looks wild.

* Child 44 – Daniel Espinosa directs this adaptation of an excellent hard-boiled bestseller, a serial-killer thriller set in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and Gary Oldman are headlining.


* Avengers: Age of Ultron – Summer puts in a higher gear with this sequel that reunites some of our favorite superheroes.  I hope Joss Whedon lives up to the original, and I look forward to watching James Spader as the villain.

* Mad Max: Fury Road – Perhaps few expected George Miller’s belated sequel to the 1980s franchise to be noteworthy, but the trailers that have been released so far indicate a furious thrill ride. Tom Hardy is in the lead. 

* Tomorrowland – A new Brad Bird movie is always worth a look. This sci-fi adventure, that was co-authored by Damon Lindelof and stars George Clooney, looks very intriguing.


* Jurassic World – It’s been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park movie and that time difference is illustrated in the story of this sequel. Now it’s a fully operational theme park, and very busy. I’m sure everything will go wrong. 

* Inside Out – The new Pixar movie is a weird concept. We follow the emotions inside a little girl, all represented by quirky characters. Co-directed by Monsters, Inc. director Pete Docter.

* Ricki and the Flash – Meryl Streep plays an aging rock star who’s trying to reconnect with her kids. May sound unremarkable, but Jonathan Demme is directing and Streep is probably a hoot to watch. And there’s Kevin Kline.


* Terminator Genisys – Terminator Salvation (2007) failed to jump-start this franchise, but here comes a movie that seems to be everything – a sequel, a remake and a prequel all at once. And Arnold Schwarzenegger returns. Has to be seen. 

* Ant-Man – Can’t say I’m excited about this latest superhero project, but perhaps a sense of humor will boost it, as in the case of Guardians of the Galaxy. The cast has Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly.


* The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – Guy Ritchie directs this adaptation of the 1960s spy series. I guess Warner is hoping for their own Mission: Impossible franchise. Stars Henry Cavill and Hugh Grant.

* Straight Outta Compton – The story of the legendary hiphop group N.W.A. reaches the big screen. Director F. Gary Gray’s first film in six years. Paul Giamatti is in the cast.


* Everest – A star-studded thriller about a Mount Everest expedition that is hit by a snowstorm. Starring Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright and Josh Brolin.

* Black Mass – Infamous Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger is the subject of this film that focuses on his rise. Johnny Depp plays Bulger and the cast also has Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller and Joel Edgerton.


* The Walk – Did you see the documentary Man on Wire (2008)? Well, here comes Robert Zemeckis’s fictionalized version, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The teaser is eye-popping, and I believe this is an occasion where the 3D will truly serve a purpose.

* The Jungle Book – Hard to tell what Jon Favreau might make of this adaptation, but it seems inspired by the Disney version as much as Rudyard Kipling. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken will provide the voices of Baloo and King Louie.

* Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro directs this ghost movie starring Charlie Hunnam and Jessica Chastain. Early footage was a hit at Comic-Con last summer.


* Spectre – The 24th James Bond movie promises to reintroduce both SPECTRE and Blofeld. Daniel Craig returns and Christoph Waltz plays the villain. Sam Mendes is back in the directing chair after the success of Skyfall (2012). 

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The book certainly did not need to be divided into two separate movies, but here’s the final film in this franchise.

* Midnight Special – Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols returns with a film about a man who goes on the lam with his son after discovering that the boy has special powers. Stars Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst and Michael Shannon.


* Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The most heavily anticipated movie of the year. The teaser trailer got everybody curious and J.J. Abrams’s take on this franchise certainly looks exciting. Now we’re waiting for a first look of the old stars…

* Mission: Impossible 5 – Both the plot and, likely, the title are unknown at this time. But Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner and the other familiar faces from this franchise are returning. Christopher McQuarrie, who made Jack Reacher, is helming.

* Joy – David O. Russell is back with another vehicle for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a Long Island single mom who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur. Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro are also in the cast.

* The Revenant – Alejandro González Iñárritu directs this drama about a frontiersman who sets out for revenge in the 1820s. Stars Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Magic in the Moonlight

magicinthemoonlightIn 1928, famed illusionist Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is persuaded by a colleague (Simon McBurney) to take a closer look at a young mystic (Emma Stone); convinced that she must be a fraud, Stanley tries to resist her charms. Another comedy from Woody Allen that’s light as a feather, which it shares with The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2002), which also featured an illusionist. The uncertainty surrounding Stone’s authenticity puts cynicism against optimism with amusing but bland results. Lovely French Riviera locations; charming efforts from the two leads.

2014-U.S. 97 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Woody Allen. Cast: Colin Firth (Stanley Crawford), Emma Stone (Sophie Baker), Simon McBurney (Howard Burkan), Hamish Linklater, Eileen Atkins, Marcia Gay Harden… Jacki Weaver. 

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The Last Legion


lastlegionIn 460 AD, Rome is invaded by Goths and the new, very young Emperor (Thomas Sangster) is exiled to Capri where he’s protected and guided by a druid (Ben Kinsgley) and a Roman general (Colin Firth). An adventure in classic style, featuring at least one actual historical person, the boy who has been called Rome’s last emperor, which takes us to Britannia where he faces a fanciful future. Plenty of action, a decent cast and a majestic score, but the film is also clumsily edited at times and relies too heavily on half-hearted clichés.

2007-Britain-France-Italy. 102 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Doug Lefler. Music: Patrick Doyle. Cast: Colin Firth (Aurelius), Ben Kingsley (Ambrosinus), Aishwarya Rai (Mira), Peter Mullan, John Hannah, Thomas Sangster… Rupert Friend.

Trivia: Inspired by a novel by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

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Stay Away from Beheadings and Insanity, Future King

The British royal succession has just been secured. Tonight, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a boy, who is now instantly third in line to the most influential royal throne in the world. His name is certain to follow. He will succeed his father William who will succeed his father Charles who will succeed his mother, the current queen, Elizabeth II.

What kind of king will this child born in 2013 become? In the future, it is more than possible that Britain will have abandoned its geriatric royal system in favor of a more modern presidential one… but I wouldn’t be so sure. People in general tend to appreciate the familiar, the traditional. Following a family, the Windsors, through thick and thin may be what the British public prefers, especially in these days of reality shows like Keeping Up With the The Kardashians and its offsprings. When it comes down to it, considering the fact that Kim partnered up with one of the world’s most famous hiphop stars, what is the difference between keeping up with the Kardashians and keeping up with the Windsors? It’s all about glamor and money. I’m sure the current monarch cringes at the comparison… 

As for another male heir to the throne, one could have wished for a different outcome. In the past few hundred years, Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II have been groundbreaking heads of state whose work has either shaped England or provided decades of tranquility for better or worse. In the movies, the kings have largely been a headache. The Lion in Winter (1968) portrayed King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) and his wife Eleanor whom he kept imprisoned for a decade. Henry VIII has been depicted in several movies (especially The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) with Charles Laughton) and notably in a TV show, The Tudors, where the king (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) bheaded wife after wife. Charles I, the king who lost two civil wars and was eventually executed, was played by Alec Guinness in Cromwell (1970). Nigel Hawthorne portrayed the “mad” King George III in The Madness of King George (1994). Then there was Colin Firth whose portrayal of George VI in The King’s Speech (2010) may have started out as worthy of ridicule because of his speech impediment, but ended up as evidence of humanity.

Skärmavbild 2013-07-22 kl. 22.26.30

I don’t believe in monarchy as a system. Which sane person does? The news flash above from CNN is certainly more information than I asked for. But I’m pretty sure that Kate and William’s boy nevertheless will be king one day. Let’s just hope that he won’t imprison his future wife. Or behead her. Or go insane. A speech impediment will be the best possible option.

The clip above shows one of the greatest scenes from The King’s Speech, one that takes the king down to a human level.

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A Christmas Carol


Director Robert Zemeckis had long admired the old Charles Dickens classic and found it perfect material for the performance capture technique he had championed in films like The Polar Express and Beowulf; this time it’s also in 3D. Often dazzling, with the kind of impossibly rich, Victorian Christmas nostalgia that only Hollywood seems able to conjure. There are times when Zemeckis gets carried away in overly lively scenes, and his take on Dickens is thoroughly unoriginal, but Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman are fun to watch in their multiple animated parts, some of them revealing familiar facial features.

2009-U.S. Animated. 95 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis. Novel: Charles Dickens. Cast: Jim Carrey (Ebeneezer Scrooge/Ghost of Christmas Past/Ghost of Christmas Present/Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come), Gary Oldman (Bob Cratchit/Marley/Tiny Tim), Colin Firth (Fred), Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes… Fionnula Flanagan. 


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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Return of the Ringmaster


I prefer my spies dapper. I want to see them sip martinis and seduce women in one breath, and in the next kill enemy agents in cold blood. I want to see nifty little toys, fast cars and insane supervillains hiding in lairs that could only be designed by Ken Adam. But there’s a more melancholy side to me that connects with the depressing world of John le Carré‘s spies. Where Ian Fleming preferred to turn his experiences from the intelligence community into escapist entertainment, le Carré was more interested in the rainy reality.

British intelligence is in a bad place. After a botched mission in Hungary that resulted in the capture of one of their agents, Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong), two of the greatest talents at the “Circus”, veteran agent George Smiley (Gary Oldman) and the organization’s chief, Control (John Hurt), were forced to retire. The top leadership now consists of Percy Alleline (Toby Jones) and three deputies, Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds) and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik). Alleline reached his position because of his ability to deliver high-quality intelligence about the Soviet Union. The government has complete faith in it, but Control was skeptical. Shortly after being forced out, he died. When a younger agent, Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy), tells a civil servant in charge of intelligence that he knows of a Soviet mole within the leadership of the Circus, Smiley is secretly hired to investigate. The veteran realizes that Control had reached a startling conclusion – the mole has to be Alleline, Haydon, Bland, Esterhase… or Smiley himself.

Cold vision of the era
The story was previously filmed as a much-admired miniseries in 1979, and Oldman’s take on Smiley was reportedly inspired by both Alec Guinness’s performance, and le Carré himself. The TV version was shot a time when the Cold War had entered a more routine but still devastatingly chilly phase – and it affects this movie, 30 years later. Director Tomas Alfredson reunited with cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema to recreate what they had done for their breakthrough picture, Let the Right One In (2008) – a cold vision of the era, with desaturated colors, where the smallest of period details matter in every shot. Alfredson shies away from anything that might look like James Bond, but the Circus headquarters still tickle one’s imagination, with conference rooms that come off as a cross between a padded cell and a bomb shelter. All in stylishly bleak brown, orange, gray or military green, naturally. Screenwriters Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan compressed a complex story into a two-hour script that is frankly brilliant. Flashbacks shine a light on the intrigues that brought the Circus to the current depressing state, but the politics of it take second place to the emotions; there is a particularly touching scene where Smiley meets a former colleague who tells him how she misses the war, a time when “Englishmen could be proud”. This sadness permeates the whole film. There are many moments of tension as well, all skillfully staged, but the filmmakers wisely make a point out of le Carré‘s realistic approach. The exposure of the mole never comes as much of a surprise, but rather a logical conclusion; the final scenes are not exciting showdowns, but heartbreaking and down-to-earth – all set, brilliantly bizarrely, to Julio Iglesias’s live version of “La mer”.

It is sadly rare these days to see Gary Oldman in such an impressive role, but he’s the standout in a uniformly excellent cast. His Smiley was once humiliated by tinkers and tailors but now he’s forcefully taking control of the Circus. Still, you wouldn’t notice him if he passed you in the street.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 2011-Britain-France-Germany. 128 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robyn Slovo. Directed by Tomas Alfredson. Screenplay: Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan. Novel: John le Carré. Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema. Music: Alberto Iglesias. Production Design: Maria Djurkovic. Cast: Gary Oldman (George Smiley), Benedict Cumberbatch (Peter Guillam), Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones… Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, David Dencik.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by le Carré (who also has a cameo) and Peter Morgan (who wrote the first draft of the script). Michael Fassbender was allegedly considered for a role. Co-writer O’Connor passed away shortly before the premiere of the film.

BAFTA: Best British Film, Adapted Screenplay. European Film Awards: Best Composer, Production Designer.

Last word: “It was not the intention to make it as difficult as possible to understand, no. The piece of the charm of this genre and John le Carré‘s work is that it is complicated and almost like you get paranoid yourself — you yourself become an investigator, with the material. I think our struggle was to make as much images as possible out of the actions referred to in the flashbacks and the present story. It’s very inspiring to hear how different people have seen the film. I think it’s fantastic to hear what people actually see in it.” (Alfredson, Film School Rejects)


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The King’s Speech: Royal Pains



kingsspeechAfter watching this brilliant drama, I knew I had to consult YouTube for the speech King George VI made after Britain’s declaration of war against Germany. Sometimes, historical events portrayed in films absurdly seem a bit small in comparison with the fictionalized version… but not in this case. The speech King George made in 1939 sounds like the one we hear in the movie. Decisive, yes, but slow and emphasizing certain words and consonants in a strange staccato way. This is truly a reformed stutterer – and his story brings a better understanding of the Windsors.

In 1925, the Duke of York (Colin Firth) is about to deliver a speech to the crowds at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium – but his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) tearfully watches her husband get stuck on the first words. The Prince suffers from stuttering and many doctors have tried to cure him, to no avail. Now Elizabeth desperately turns to someone outside the circle of royal physicians, an Australian speech therapist who has set up shop in London. Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) agrees to see the Prince, although he’s not willing to surrender his principles just because he’s dealing with royalties. Lionel insists on the Prince calling him Lionel and that he must be allowed to address the Prince as Bertie, which is a name only his wife and family use. The Prince reluctantly agrees, but the first session doesn’t end well…

Depressing and inspirational at the same time
Screenwriter David Seidler used to stammer when he was a kid. After overcoming it, he learned of the story how a speech therapist worked with King George VI for years, not only helping him beat his affliction, but also becoming a close friend in the process. The story, convincingly brought to life for this movie, could actually make an excellent play as well, relying heavily on its dialogue, which is frequently witty and insightful. The future king and Lionel share an irreverent relationship at a time when the common man knew almost nothing about the royal family’s private sphere. Lionel becomes an actual friend to a person who’s been sheltered from the real world all his life and has suffered a great deal for it. There is particularly one discussion in the film between the two men where it is obvious what being a member of the royal family means; you do not get to have friends, your life is already set out for you and you do not get to be weak or sickly. George is not really made to fit into this prison… yet, in the end, when his older brother fails to honor the code, George turns out to be best suited for the role as head of state, in spite of his fragile psyche. A lesson that’s depressing and inspirational at the same time, made all the more compelling by Firth’s marvellous performance as George. He’s got the stutter down to a T, as well as the comically violent temper. Rush is the perfect choice to do Lionel, a forthright type of character that he’s played in other films, and Bonham Carter is also convincing as Elizabeth, along with Guy Pearce and Michael Gambon as the two other kings, Edward VIII and George V. Alexandre Desplat’s music score is not as memorable though as that sequence where King George delivers his wartime speech, its melody emphasized by Beethoven’s powerful seventh symphony.

As for Tom Hooper, he knows how to turn history into riveting films and miniseries, not just technically, but also in a way that shines a new light on its great figures. Queen Elizabeth II reportedly appreciates this portrait of her father. Considering how critical it is of her family, perhaps it says something of her own opinions on how the Windsors raised their kids many years ago.

The King’s Speech 2010-Britain-U.S. 118 min. Color. Produced by Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin. Directed by Tom Hooper. Screenplay: David Seidler. Cinematography: Danny Cohen. Music: Alexandre Desplat. Editing: Tariq Anwar. Art Direction: Eve Stewart, Judy Farr. Costume Design: Jenny Beavan. Cast: Colin Firth (George VI), Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue), Helena Bonham Carter (Elizabeth), Guy Pearce, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi… Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom, Michael Gambon.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Rush. Paul Bettany was allegedly considered for the part of King George.

Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Firth), Original Screenplay. BAFTA: Best Film, British Film, Actor (Firth), Supporting Actor (Rush), Supporting Actress (Bonham Carter), Original Screenplay, Music. Golden Globe: Best Actor (Firth). European Film Awards: Best Actor (Firth), Editor.

Last word: “I […] began to think, ‘What is the visual analog? It’s stammering. How do I find a way to shoot Colin that will underline his predicament?’ I began to think that if you’re a stutterer, it’s about inhabiting silence, emptiness, and nothingness. Therefore, is there a way visually of talking about that? So I wanted to put Colin’s face in these close shots in constant relation to negative space. So I used these big empty walls in the consulting room in Logue’s apartment and framed Colin against these big empty walls. Sometimes, he’s small against in the corner with the wall above and overpowering him. Sometimes, there’s just a lot of head room. I like that the idea of the conversation and communication behind nothingness is blasted all in the therapy room. Then, if you look at what I’m doing on Geoffrey’s side, Geoffrey is against in the therapy room…it’s sort of a room like a fireplace. It’s all of his pictures, wall, and papers. It’s domestic and it’s cozy. I watched them make that kind of division in the close-up language between these two men and the worlds they came from.” (Hooper, Collider)

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A Single Man

asinglemanAs the Cuban Missile Crisis is playing out, L.A. college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) is contemplating suicide a few months after losing his partner (Matthew Goode) in a car crash. Christopher Isherwood’s novel broke new ground in the 1960s with its gay subject matter and is treated with respect by fashion icon Tom Ford in his directing debut. Some might complain about the slick surface (beautiful people in perfect clothes moving around in stylish houses and pretty neighborhoods), but Ford lets us know that the dashing Falconer needs to maintain those appearances or fall into the abyss. A moving portrayal of life and despair, anchored by Firth’s exceptional performance.

2009-U.S. 99 min. Color-B/W. Widescreen. Produced by Tom Ford, Chris Weitz, Andrew Miano, Robert Salerno. Directed by Tom Ford. Screenplay: Tom Ford, David Scearce. Novel: Christopher Isherwood. Cinematography: Eduard Grau. Cast: Colin Firth (George Falconer), Julianne Moore (Charley), Nicholas Hoult (Kenny Potter), Matthew Goode, Jon Kortajarena, Paulette Lamori. Voice of Jon Hamm.

BAFTA: Best Actor (Firth). Venice: Best Actor (Firth).

Last word: “I gave [the actors] a lot of leeway because I think one of the things, or well first of all and I don’t really want to talk too much about fashion because it’s very, very different for me in terms of what this was and why I did this and why I hope to keep doing it and was sort of expression it was but there is a certain similarity in that fashion it is a more collaborative field than one might think. You get used to working with [others]. You have to have an idea. You have to have a vision. You have to communicate that to a team of people to help you realize that vision and you have to create an environment that allows those people to give the very best that they can give.” (Ford, Collider)

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Mamma Mia!



mammamiaSophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is about to get married on a Greek island and has invited three men to the wedding, one of whom could be her father. The screen adaptation of the smash Broadway hit that is chock-full of old ABBA songs – such an easy and brilliant recipe for success. Part of the charm is having decidedly non-musical actors like Pierce Brosnan perform some of the songs… but a pro like Meryl Streep is not only funny, she also delivers when it comes to the warbling. You can tell that everybody’s having a great time, and so will audiences. The story is nothing special, but amusing, and the stage musical obviously didn’t have the on-site locations.

2008-U.S.-Britain-Germany. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Judy Craymer, Gary Goetzman. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Screenplay: Catherine Johnson. Songs: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus. Cast: Meryl Streep (Donna Sheridan), Pierce Brosnan (Sam Carmichael), Colin Firth (Harry Bright), Stellan Skarsgård, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried… Christine Baranski.

Trivia: Co-executive produced by Tom Hanks and former ABBA members Andersson and Ulvaeus (who both have cameos in the film). Bill Nighy was allegedly considered for a part.

Razzie: Worst Supporting Actor (Brosnan).

Last word: “It’s a requirement of popular culture that you strike an ironic distance. This doesn’t. It’s a film about women and their whole experiences being hopeful and youthful and older and suffering the regrets that you have over a long life. It’s visceral and I love that.” (Streep, The Guardian)

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