Tag Archives: Kenneth Branagh

Dunkirk: Surviving the Beach


About 25 years ago, Christopher Nolan and his wife Emma Thomas were crossing the English Channel together with a friend. They were in a small sailing yacht headed for the northeastern French town of Dunkirk, but what initially looked like a pleasant journey turned into a nightmare because of the weather. The 1940 evacuation of over 300,000 British soldiers from Dunkirk has become a legendary historical event in the nation’s history, and Nolan realized that he wanted to make a movie about it. But at that point, he hadn’t even made Memento (2001) and he knew that he needed serious Hollywood money to do a story like that justice.

In the early summer of 1940, the war is going very well for Nazi Germany. After the invasion of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, Allied troops have been pushed back to the beaches of northern France. In Dunkirk, 400,000 soldiers are waiting to be evacuated. Facing German firepower from one side, they’re also routinely strafed and bombed by Luftwaffe planes. Up in the skies over the Channel, RAF pilots do their best to stop the German planes; even though one of the pilots, Farrier (Tom Hardy), gets his fuel gauge destroyed, he’s intent on remaining in the fight for as long as he can. At the same time, war veteran Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter and another boy are crossing the Channel in a small boat as part of a civilian flotilla racing to take part in the evacuation…

Nolan’s first reality-based film
Finally, after three Batman movies, a detour into space (Interstellar) and a film where he twisted time and space (Inception), Nolan was ready for his first reality-based epic – and it became his shortest film yet! Impressive, for a war movie that tells the story of Dunkirk from three different perspectives. Nolan has received an overwhelming amount of praise for this one, but my feelings ran hot and cold. I am certainly an admirer of Nolan as a filmmaker, but he has a tendency to focus primarily on technical aspects rather than storytelling; there’s a slight chill to his attitude. In this case, Nolan was solely interested in giving us the experience of what it must have been like to be one of those soldiers on the beach, one of those RAF pilots, one of those people in the civilian flotilla. No other context. He certainly does that, conveying the claustrophobic feel of being trapped on that beach, having nowhere to run when the Luftwaffe comes after you. A remarkable feat in a film where cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema also gives us breathtaking 70-millimeter views of the blue-gray skies and waters where all the action takes place. There’s pressing tension right from the start, when we see one of the soldiers (Fionn Whitehead) run for his life through Dunkirk’s gardens, bullets whizzing. The script was written with an almost mathematical eye for how to make music and sound design work in harmony to achieve one effect only – have you at the edge of your seat. Hans Zimmer even wrote his score with a constantly ticking clock as accompaniment.

A lot of money doesn’t guarantee a great movie. This account of the events at Dunkirk is so successful not because of its budget but Nolan’s talents as a filmmaker. And even if he seems at times to care more about the technicalities of the evacuation, themes like courage, cowardice and humanity come across clearly. Rylance stands out in the cast; the most emotional drama takes place on his boat. But the surprising addition of One Direction star Harry Styles also pays off; he’s good as the aggressive young soldier who considers having to be rescued from the Germans a disgrace. 

Dunkirk 2017-U.S.-Britain-The Netherlands-France. 106 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema. Music: Hans Zimmer. Cast: Tom Hardy (Farrier), Mark Rylance (Dawson), Fionn Whitehead (Tommy), Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles… Kenneth Branagh. Voice of Michael Caine.

Trivia: The evacuation was also depicted in Dunkirk (1958) and Weekend at Dunkirk (1964).

Last word: “I think the visual nature of the storytelling is something I’m excited about. It’s something I value in films and film history; I’m an incredible lover of silent films. The challenge of taking on what I call a present-tense narrative – that is to say, we don’t learn a lot about the people we’re experiencing this with. We really just try to live in the moment and experience it with them, and look through their eyes. That was the challenge of the film, and as it is shaping up I think that, for me, is the thing that I challenged myself the most with and I am excited about that.” (Nolan, Collider)



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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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The Best Shakespeare Films

400 years have passed since William Shakespeare died on April 23rd, 1616. I recently finished Stephen Greenblatt’s amazing 2004 book “Will in the World”, which vividly brings the Bard to life in a way that feels down to earth. By using the historical facts and records of Shakespeare’s life that we have, and tying them to the sonnets and plays that he wrote, Greenblatt brings us as close to the times and sentiments of the Bard’s life as is possible. A revealing read for me, and so was a visit I made to Stratford a few years ago. There’s something very surreal about standing next to William Shakespeare’s grave.

As expected from a movie blog, I’ve thought about the multitude of Shakespeare adaptations that we have, and tried to come up with the best. The playwright’s work was typically divided into three genres, tragedies, comedies and histories, so let’s take advantage of that:

The historical plays were among the first recorded in Shakespeare’s oeuvre. Cinematically, there is no doubt which king should be crowned the winner – in 1944 and 1989, Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh both turned “Henry V” into masterful vehicles for their own burgeoning careers. In the former case, Henry V was also meant to be a morale booster for British audiences during World War II. In the clip above, Branagh delivers the famous “band of brothers” speech from the 1989 version.

Laurence Olivier’s most famous Shakespeare adaptation is likely his 1948 take on “Hamlet”; Kenneth Branagh failed to match him in 1996 with his four-hour version, even though it is a beautiful, extravagant experience. Roman Polanski made a colorful, bloody movie out of “Macbeth” in 1971, one that fit the director and his style like a glove (watch the opening with the three witches above). Not the most faithful version, but stands on its own as a majestic film. And then there is “Romeo and Juliet”, which always has had a special allure to teenagers for obvious reasons; this was true in 1968 when Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey played the leads, and in 1996 when it was time for Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Those who want their Shakespeare tragedies served with a culturally different context should take a look at Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood (1957) and Ran (1985), his versions of “Macbeth” and “King Lear”.

Shakespeare’s comedies have been given an eclectic treatment on screen. There is no obvious candidate for which one is the best, even if Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing (1993) is quite exuberant and one of the most commercially successful Shakespeare adaptations. It was obviously hard to ignore The Taming of the Shrew in 1967, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; directed by Franco Zeffirelli, it was just as lushly photographed as his Romeo and Juliet the following year. In the clip above, Taylor lets her father (Michael Hordern) have it from her balcony. Of course, we should also mention “The Merchant of Venice”, one of the Bard’s most challenging comedies for modern audiences; not only is this play more memorable for its dramatic ingredients, but its perceived anti-Semitism is hard to take. The film adaptation from 2004, starring Al Pacino, walked a fine line.

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Happy 200th, Frankenstein

On a dark and stormy night 200 years ago, Mary Shelley created Frankenstein. Traveling through Europe, visiting among other places Frankenstein Castle near Darmstadt, Germany, together with her future husband Percy, Lord Byron and the writer John Polidori, Shelley came up with the idea of a scientist who finds a way to reanimate a corpse. When visiting Lake Geneva in mid-June 1816, she was challenged by her company to create a good horror story. A very dramatic dream helped Shelley shape the tale that was published two years later as “Frankenstein”.

The now-classic story may be two centuries old, but is still very much alive. Let’s take a look at how movies and TV have kept the monster vibrant ever since the early 1900s:

  • The silent version: This 1910 film, 12 minutes long, is the first adaptation of Mary Shelley’s story. The monster itself is thoroughly unimpressive. But watch the creation of it three minutes in; visual effects put flesh on a skeleton in a cool, creepy way.

  • The classic: Frankenstein became cinema history with James Whale’s two pictures, Frankenstein (1931) and the masterful Bride of Frankenstein (1935). So much of it was iconic; Colin Clive as the mad genius, the look of his laboratory, Boris Karloff as the ultimate movie monster (even more influential than Bela Lugosi as Dracula) and Elsa Lanchester as the Bride who hisses at her mate. The horror was evident, but the tragedy of the story was equally forceful.

  • The Hammer version: Perhaps not the greatest chapter of the 1950s Hammer reinvention of the Frankenstein tale, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) nevertheless introduced Peter Cushing as the scientist and was popular enough to spawn many sequels. Notable in the way focus lies on Frankenstein as the star, not the creature itself.

  • The black monster: Say hello to the 1970s. Say hello to blaxploitation. Say hello to Blackenstein (1973).

  • The funny monster: Mel Brooks’s definitive masterpiece is Young Frankenstein (1974), his spoof of the Shelley story, starring Gene Wilder as the scientist, Peter Boyle as the Monster and Marty Feldman as Igor the assistant. One of the funniest movies ever made, it was also kind of a reinvention as this new generation of Frankenstein was so reluctant to embrace his family’s past that he started calling himself “Fronkonsteen”.

  • The De Niro monster: Director Kenneth Branagh wanted to create a majestic, Victorian horror movie that was close to Shelley’s original. Robert De Niro was hired to play the monster. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) was worth a look, but the monster became too much of an odd, De Niro-esque creature.

  • The animated monster: Kids have appreciated the comic antics of Kevin James as the monster (or rather, simply, “Frank”) in the Hotel Transylvania movies.

  • The new monster: Aaron Eckhart played the creature in I, Frankenstein (2014), a failed 3D reinvention. However, there’s still hope. Universal is launching a series of horror movies, a reboot of sorts. We’ll see what they end up doing with Frankenstein’s monster.

  • The TV monster: The triumphant return of Victorian horror came in the shape of a TV series, Penny Dreadful. The series, created and written by John Logan, came to an end yesterday. One of its greatest aspects was the touching creature played by Rory Kinnear, who had one of the most memorable introductions on a TV show in recent years. His first, hate-filled, line to the scientist: “Your firstborn has returned… father”.
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Carey Mulligan at 30: Fighting for Women

Carey Mulligan turns 30 years old today, so congratulations are in order. In the clip above, she’s interviewed by Simon Mayo and they’re talking about one of Mulligan’s most recent endeavors, Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd”. She has received praise for her interpretation of Bathsheba Everdene, and tells Mayo that she never saw the 1967 version, which is a good thing if you want to stay as independent as possible from looming influences.

Mulligan fought hard to become an actress. Her ambition was obvious at the age of 16 when she sent Kenneth Branagh a letter after watching his production of “Henry V”, detailing how her parents didn’t want her to become an actress. According to a Telegraph interview, Branagh’s sister sent a reply, saying,

Kenneth says that if you feel such a strong need to be an actress, you must be an actress.

Mulligan’s breakthrough came in An Education (2009), a film that showed how far away from gender equality the 1960s were. Some of her subsequent films, such as Drive and The Great Gatsby, have been more interesting as stylish exercises. But she’s returning to that feminist struggle in the upcoming Suffragette, which follows the early women’s rights movement in Britain, with Meryl Streep playing the influential activist Emmeline Pankhurst.

This is a teaser for Suffragette, which opens September 11 in Britain and October 23 in the U.S. The subject matter is important at a time when women still face widespread hatred from online trolls whenever they speak out… but considering the fact that it’s written by Abi Morgan, who failed to see what would make The Iron Lady (2011) a truly compelling biography, I’m retaining some skepticism. 

Still, Mulligan’s future is certainly looking very bright.

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cinderellaThis adaptation of the old fairy tale was made by Disney and is heavily inspired by their 1950 animated version. The story of the orphaned girl (Lily James) who is mistreated by her wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett), but gets a magical shot at wooing Prince Charming is girlishly romantic and fun for kids. Handsomely mounted, with top talents behind the costume and production design, and Blanchett is intimidating in a wonderfully bitchy Joan Crawford-esque star turn. But we know this story so well, and there’s no real reason for another straight retelling.

2015-U.S. 112 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Screenplay: Chris Weitz. Music: Patrick Doyle. Production Design: Dante Ferretti. Costume Design: Sandy Powell. Cast: Lily James (Ella), Richard Madden (Kit), Cate Blanchett (Lady Tremaine), Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgård, Derek Jacobi… Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon.

Trivia: Emma Watson was allegedly offered the lead role. 

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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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My Week with Marilyn


myweekwithmarilynYoung Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) gets a foot inside a British movie studio just in time to witness the chaos behind Laurence Olivier’s new film project, which partners him with Marilyn Monroe. A very entertaining, sweet and elegant look behind the scenes of the making of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) where two icons clashed. It’s all seen through the eyes of a 23-year-old who is dragged into Monroe’s deep insecurities and needs. Perhaps this film goes a little too far in its dreamy portrait of the star, but Michelle Williams deserves praise; Kenneth Branagh is an equally colorful Olivier. Alexandre Desplat contributed a beautiful piano theme for Marilyn.

2011-Britain. 99 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein. Directed by Simon Curtis. Screenplay: Adrian Hodges. Books: Colin Clark (“My Week with Marilyn”, “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me”). Cast: Michelle Williams (Marilyn Monroe), Kenneth Branagh (Laurence Olivier), Eddie Redmayne (Colin Clark), Judi Dench, Emma Watson, Dominic Cooper… Julia Ormond, Toby Jones, Dougray Scott, Derek Jacobi.

Trivia: Amy Adams and Kate Hudson were allegedly considered for the part of Monroe; Catherine Zeta-Jones as Vivien Leigh.

Golden Globe: Best Actress (Williams).

Last word: “I always had great faith in [Williams] and really believed in her and really liked her. In my experience, those things are very valuable. But there was a time where she worked and we did a big make-up and costume test on camera, and I went to collect her from the dressing room, and seeing the crew’s jaws drop as she walked on set as full Marilyn for the first time was very encouraging. She brought everything to the part. It was a privilege to work with her. I couldn’t ask for more from her process or the way she worked and so on.” (Curtis, Collider)

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


jackryanshadowrecruitYoung Afghanistan War veteran Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is recruited by the CIA to work covertly in a Wall Street company, but suddenly this analyst is turned into an operative and sent to Moscow on a mission. A reboot of Tom Clancy’s character that tries to turn Jack Ryan into Jason Bourne. Kenneth Branagh lacks the skills to do it in an exciting way, and without a genuine interest in security politics that formed the basis of Clancy’s novels, there is no point in using the name “Jack Ryan”. Never dull, but desperately mediocre.

2014-U.S. 105 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Cast: Chris Pine (Jack Ryan), Keira Knightley (Cathy Muller), Kevin Costner (William Harper), Kenneth Branagh (Viktor Cherevin), Nonso Anozie, Colm Feore… Peter Andersson. Cameo: Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Trivia: Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale were allegedly considered as Cathy.

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The Greatest Hits of 2014

It’s time for that annual list of this year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2014 for ya.


* Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – This reboot of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst cum action hero has Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh (who’s also directing), but the trailer disturbingly shows another variation on the Jason Bourne concept.

* Labor Day – Jason Reitman returns, aided by Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, what looked like a promising drama has now been dumped in the frigid January slot.


* The Monuments Men – George Clooney directs this story about museum curators and art historians trying to rescue vital pieces of art before Hitler gets his hands on them. Starring Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig. Originally slated for a late 2013 release.

* RoboCop – The remake has Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman. One vital question remains: What’s the point?

Also interesting to note this month: Kevin Costner and Liam Neeson will clash in 3 Days to Kill and Non-Stop, two action thrillers that look pretty similar in style and tone. One likely hit will be Son of God, a movie based on material from The Bible as well as previously unseen footage.


* The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson’s new movie has a star-studded cast and an intriguing story set between the world wars.

* Grace of Monaco – Another movie originally slated for a late 2013 release, this one is hopefully better than Diana. Nicole Kidman plays the princess.

* Muppets Most Wanted – The Muppets return for a jewel-heist caper. Lots of star cameos, as expected.

* Noah – One can’t help but being intrigued by a Darren Aronofsky movie about the biblical hero. Stars Russell Crowe, and the trailer has Gladiator-esque qualities.


* Captain America: The Winter Soldier – A summer of big blockbusters begins with this Marvel sequel.


Sabotage – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to movies has been largely tongue in cheek, but the trailer for this film, directed by David Ayer of End of Watch fame, suggests a different approach.

* Transcendence – Johnny Depp stars in this sci-fi flick about a scientist who downloads his mind into a computer. Directing debut of cinematographer and Christopher Nolan loyalist Wally Pfister.


* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – The sequel looks like it might have the same problems as the first one. On the other hand, the first one was surprisingly good.

* Godzilla – Looks like a tired retread on paper, but director Gareth Edwards and the cast might make a difference. The trailer has the right look.

* X-Men: Days of Future Past – Bryan Singer tries to unite two franchise threads. Let’s hope it’s better than Star Trek Generations (1994).


* Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise fighting aliens. Again. Directed by Doug Liman.

* How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Could become the animated hit of the summer. DreamWorks will be anxious to make sure that the sequel matches the wonderful original.

* Transformers: Age of Extinction – The last time I made the mistake of giving Michael Bay the benefit of a doubt. This time I’m sure Mark Wahlberg will be lost in a flurry of incomprehensible battles.


* Tammy – Melissa McCarthy puts her stardom to the ultimate test, being directed by her husband, Ben Falcone, in a summer blockbuster comedy that has Susan Sarandon playing her alcoholic grandmother.

* Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – The sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) has Gary Oldman (but Andy Serkis is still the star). Directed by Matt Reeves of Cloverfield fame.

* Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski Siblings return after Cloud Atlas (2012) with another sci-fi movie, this one starring Mila Kunis.


* Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel strikes back with another adventure, this one starring among others Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

* Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s follow-up to their 2005 movie. Postponed for a year after its original 2013 release date. Hardly promising.

* The Expendables 3 – I’ll mention this simply because Mel Gibson plays the villain and the cast also has Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer. I guess it has to be seen to be believed.

As a Swede, I have to highlight two world-famous fellow Swedes this month: Lasse Hallström is set to release The Hundred-Foot Journey, a film about an Indian family competing with a Michelin-starred restaurant in France, starring Helen Mirren, and Alexander Skarsgård who’s starring alongside Meryl Streep in Phillip Noyce’s sic-fi drama The Giver.


* The Equalizer – Another TV show gets a movie adaptation, this one directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington.


* Gone Girl – David Fincher adapted the bestseller, with Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris set to put the screen ablaze.

* Get On Up – James Brown is the latest music star to get a proper screen biography. Directed by Tate Taylor (of The Help) and starring Chadwick Boseman.


* Interstellar – Christopher Nolan returns with one of the year’s most highly anticipated sci-fi films. Starring Matthew McConaughey, who’s clearly continuing his current brilliant streak.

* Dumb and Dumber To – Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return after 20 years. Are they getting any smarter?

* Fury – Another film by David Ayer this year (after Sabotage), a war movie set near the end of World War II. Stars Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.

* The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Francis Lawrence directs this complex endeavor, where author Suzanne Collins’s book has been chopped into two chapters.


* Exodus – Ridley Scott mounts a comeback after the creative abyss known as The Counselor. This biblical epic, starring Christian Bale, looks more like Kingdom of Heaven (2005).

* The Hobbit: There and Back Again – The third and final chapter in Peter Jackson’s insanely protracted franchise

* Annie – Another movie adaptation of the Broadway hit, this time featuring Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz and Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis.

* Into the Woods – The Brothers Grimm fairy tales are presented with a twist in this film, directed by Rob Marshall, and starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.

* Unbroken – Angelina Jolie is set to direct this World War II story, which is based on a best-selling book and adapted by the Coen brothers, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson.

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The Greatest Hits of 2013

It’s time for that annual list of this year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2013 for ya.


* The Last Stand – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first starring vehicle in ten years. Not expecting great things.

* Broken City – Allen Hughes directs this political thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe.


* Warm Bodies – Director Jonathan Levine last made 50/50, so this romantic zombie movie has to be checked out.

* Identity Thief – Melissa McCarthy has two major comedies out this year, which could propel her into greater things. The first one also stars Jason Bateman.

* A Good Day to Die Hard – The fifth movie in the franchise. None of the predecessors have disappointed so far.


* Oz: The Great and Powerful – Sam Raimi’s prequel to The Wizard of Oz (1939) has a few trailers promising exciting stuff.


* The Heat – The Bridesmaids director strikes with another comedy, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Looks like another Stakeout, and could be a major hit.

* 42 – Brian Helgeland directs this drama about Jackie Robinson. Co-starring Harrison Ford.

* To the Wonder – Terrence Malick’s latest, with Ben Affleck leading the cast.

* Oblivion – Science fiction with Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman.


* Iron Man 3 – Shane Black directs this first follow-up to The Avengers.

* The Great Gatsby – Baz Luhrmann’s take on the iconic novel.

* Star Trek: Into Darkness – The second film in J.J. Abrams’s new vision of the old franchise.

* The Hangover Part III – A chance for this gang to redeem themselves.


* Much Ado About Nothing – Joss Whedon does Shakespeare.

* Man of Steel – Superman, as envisioned by Zack Snyder.

* Monsters University – Pixar’s big summer movie is a sequel to Monsters, Inc. (2001).

* World War Z – Zombies, Brad Pitt… and Marc Forster in the directing chair. Looks like a challenging combo.


* The Lone Ranger – Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski reunite from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for an American Western classic.

* Pacific Rim – Guillermo del Toro directing something that looks like a huge Michael Bay adventure.

* The Wolverine – Hugh Jackman returns in his most famous role, this time directed by James Mangold.


* Elysium – District 9 director Neill Blomkamp returns with a sci-fi thriller starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.


* Rush – Ron Howard’s biopic of legendary Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda and the crash that almost killed him. Starring Daniel Brühl.

* The Tomb – Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger break out of a prison; directed by Mikael Håfström.


* Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s follow-up to their 2005 movie.

* Oldboy – Spike Lee’s remake of the South Korean classic.

* Captain Phillips – Paul Greengrass’s latest is a story about Somali pirates hijacking an American cargo ship, helmed by Tom Hanks.

* Carrie – The remake of the 1976 horror classic is directed by Kimberly Peirce of Boys Don’t Cry fame.

* Malavita – Luc Besson’s gangster movie features Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones in the cast.


* Thor: The Dark World – The sequel reunites Chris Hemsworth with Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. Dark Elves are also involved.

* The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen.


* The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – OK, so the first chapter was disappointing. Perhaps Peter Jackson will get it right this time?

* Anchorman: The Legend Continues – Fans are in for a letdown. The original wasn’t that great to begin with, and now they’re expecting the sequel to be a masterpiece. Oy vey.

* The Monuments Men – George Clooney directs this story about museum curators and art historians trying to rescue vital pieces of art before Hitler gets his hands on them. Starring Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Daniel Craig.

* Saving Mr. Banks – Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. Need I say more? OK, the movie also stars Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell and Paul Giamatti.

* Last Vegas – Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline and Morgan Freeman partying in Vegas.

* Jack Ryan – Kenneth Branagh directs this action triller, a reboot of the Jack Ryan franchise starring Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Branagh and Keira Knightley.

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the hot-headed son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is banished to Earth, which becomes an opportunity for his brother (Tom Hiddleston) to seize power of Asgard. The fourth film in the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe shares ideas and references with its predecessors, and by the time a near-indestructible machine that looks like leftovers from Iron Man makes an appearance, it’s obvious that the concept needs fresher ideas. Still, this is a fun, handsome 3D production with a game cast, especially Hemsworth who plays the hero with his tongue firmly in cheek.

2011-U.S. 115 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Comic Book: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby. Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings… Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Rene Russo. Cameos: Stan Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner.

Trivia: At various points, Sam Raimi and Matthew Vaughn allegedly considered directing the film; Jim Carrey was considered for the part of Loki and Brad Pitt as Thor. Thor joined forces with Iron Man, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk for The Avengers (2012). Followed by two sequels, starting with Thor: The Dark World (2013).


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The Boat That Rocked


boatthatrockedIn 1966, teenager Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent to a pirate radio ship in the North Sea to spend time with his godfather (Bill Nighy), the ship’s captain; the crew is a motley bunch of DJ’s. Director Richard Curtis’s first film since Love Actually (2003) is a celebration of an era that not only brought us great music and a sexual revolution, but also helped change a radio market at a time when it was heavily regulated. Very thin script, with predictable life lessons, but offset by lively performances by the crew. Kenneth Branagh has fun as an uptight government official, but the character is too much of a joke.

2009-Britain. 129 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Richard Curtis. Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Count), Bill Nighy (Quentin), Rhys Ifans (Gavin), Tom Sturridge (Carl), Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost… Emma Thompson, January Jones, Gemma Arterton.

Trivia: Released in the U.S. as Pirate Radio, with a 111 min. running time.

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