Monday, April 21, 2014

Til Schweiger: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Til Schweiger doesn't get to do much here, but even a couple of scenes is enough for this charismatic German actor to really liven up this otherwise pretty uneventful movie. His nightclub "detention" scene is a definite highlight, and it's nice to see that he hasn't lost his villain touch. If you need a European bad guy in your movie, it's hard to miss with this casting. Mads Mikkelsen got a bit tastier role, but Til is very noticeable as well. Unfortunately the movie won't raise his profile one bit, and his schedule looks quite modest.

Grade change: 28--->27

Review: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Til Schweiger grade sheet

Image: VVS Films

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mads Mikkelsen: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Mads Mikkelsen is an experienced villain actor, and with Hannibal still going strong, he won't be out of practice for the foreseeable future. His part here is not very exciting as he plays a sophisticated killer named Nigel, who at first is mildly annoyed by some clueless young American's (Shia LaBeouf) attempts to court his beloved wife, but after a while he stops finding it funny and starts doing what he does best. Which is beating people up.

Obviously Shia's character is no match for this guy, which diminishes his gravitas a little. It's always better when the villain is challenged by the hero who makes a fair(ish) contest out of it. When the villain repeatedly bashes the hero's face in, it's not nearly as exciting. Still, Mads is very believable here as a dangerous (and very jealous) man and he has a couple of decent scenes. Not the most memorable part of his career, but he definitely makes the movie better.

Grade change: 33--->32. A supporting part in a cheap straight-to-video.

Review: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Mads Mikkelsen grade sheet

Image: VVS Films

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Evan Rachel Wood: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Evan Rachel Wood portrays a short-haired Romanian beauty who plays cello in Bucharest opera. She's just lost her father and is clearly in a vulnerable state. The fact that she is trying to pull away from her gangster husband doesn't make her life any easier either. And yet, even in such moment of distress she becomes instantly attracted to a stranger who offers her his shirt as a gift. The shirt her father drooled on during his final living moments. Isn't it romantic?

It's not :) The romance plot line is terrible. The main characters barely spend a day together, and yet their love is somehow so strong that it rivals Romeo's and Juliet's. And Shia LaBeouf's clueless traveler is no Romeo. He acts like a stalker on a suicide mission, but I guess some girls like it :) Evan is doing her best with her part, but all she gets to do is be sad and mysterious while using heavy eyeliner and questionable Slavic accent. Okay, I did like the eyeliner :) I think it looks great on her. Performance-wise, however, nothing special here.

Grade change: 35--->33. A co-leading part in a forgettable straight-to-video.

Review: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Evan Rachel Wood grade sheet

Image: VVS Films

Friday, April 18, 2014

Shia LaBeouf: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Shia LaBeouf continues perfecting the skill of getting his character's face smashed into bloody pulp, and I think there are very few actors in the business who can challenge him in that particular field of expertise. When he plays annoying, clueless guys (and he does it often enough) their beat downs are immensely satisfying, and there is plenty of that here. Shia is also very convincing during his character's ecstasy/acid trip. Apparently he took drugs during the actual shooting, so it's not surprising that it looks so real :)

He wasn't equally convincing as a hopeless romantic, who is willing to die for a Romanian gangster's wife, but I tend to blame the weak script. This guy was written as such a relentless moron that it's very hard to take him seriously. All in all a solid job by Shia but a very weak outing for him career-wise. Straight-to-video movies, even cheap ones, can't do much for your professional future.

Grade change: 70--->67.

Review: Charlie Countryman (2013)

Shia LaBeouf grade sheet

Image: VVS Films

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013)

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is a violent fairy tale, which attempts to prove that even an absolute and total moron can get a girl of his dreams if he is persistent enough. Because you see, "love conquers all". It's a very silly movie with a couple of decent scenes and satisfying villains, but it doesn't make much sense.

The main character  has no personality whatsoever. He is defined only by his interactions with other people, which seem pretty random. We meet him when his mother dies and comes to him in a vision just to tell him that he has to go to Bucharest. And so he does. Naturally he falls in love there with a beautiful cello player, who is unfortunately still married to a dangerous criminal. No problem, he'll keep pursuing her while receiving regular beat downs and putting his friends in danger. All for love of course.

It's a noble concept, but 9 times out of 10 behaving like that in a foreign country will get you killed. If you are a small, scrawny guy, repeatedly trash talking, fighting (!) and running away from professional killers will end badly sooner rather than later. Obviously, this is a fairy tale, so he will be fine, but kids, don't try this at home :) Or in Romania for that matter.

Apart from that nonsense, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman is actually somewhat watchable. Acting is fine all around, especially when it comes to villain parts. Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger have always been particularly memorable when playing bad guys, and they steal every scene they are in here. Is it enough to recommend this movie? Not quite, but at least they make it occasionally entertaining. There is also a nice, intense chase scene in the end.

Box office: Non-existent

Should you buy this movie and make me rich? Nope.

Image: VVS Films

Monday, April 14, 2014

Emily Watson: The Book Thief (2013)

Another excellent performance by Emily Watson, playing Rosa, the adoptive mother of our main heroine Liesel. She sheems very strict at first, lacks motherly warmth and is reluctant to bond with the girl, but as time passes by, we see that she has a big heart, a soft side and a smile to die for :) They make a great couple with Geoffrey Rush and share a number of sweet family scenes. It's a quiet performance but an important one for the story.

Grade change: 63--->65. A sizable supporting part in a successful and well-reviewed movie.

Review: The Book Thief (2013)

Emily Watson grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Geoffrey Rush: The Book Thief (2013)

Geoffrey Rush is such a versatile actor that seeing him play the kindest man in the world shouldn't surprise you even if you remember him vividly as a ruthless pirate, brilliant yet haunted pianist (Oscar win in Shine) or Marquis de Sad among many others. He is one of the best character actors working today, and naturally this is a perfect casting.

Geoffrey plays Liesel's adoptive father Hans, who instantly makes her feel at home and loved. He is soft-spoken and kind and instantly recognizes Liesel's desire to learn. He creates an improvised vocabulary on his basement walls and encourages his new daughter to write down words and memorize them. He is also a decent accordion player, a loyal husband and knows how to keep his word. Basically a perfect human being. Geoffrey has many adorable scenes with Sophie Nelisse and his on-screen wife Emily Watson. There is comedy, there is romance, there is drama - it's a wonderful part and a wonderful performance.

Starting grade: 70. Too high? Look at his recent resume and tell me I'm wrong :)

Review: The Book Thief (2013)

Geoffrey Rush grade sheet

Image: Paramount Pictures

Geoffrey Rush


Current grade: 70


70 (The Book Thief)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Review: The Book Thief (2013)

The Book Thief is a sweet yet realistic look at civilian life in Nazi Germany. It's not a fairy tale. People die. people suffer, books are burnt and houses bombed. And yet, at its core it is a very optimistic story. It shows that not every German believed in Hitler's nonsense, not even close. Sure, there were many fanatics and blind followers, but there were normal, good-hearted, empathic people too.

The main heroine, young girl named Liesel (wonderfully played by Sophie Nelisse) is both very unlucky and very lucky. Losing her family at such young age is always a tragedy, but when your own mother can't support you and is ready to give up parental rights, not ending up in an orphanage is quite a fortunate turn of events. And her new adoptive parents are so wonderful that it does start to look like a fairy tale for a while.

Not for long though. When the movie is narrated by Death, you just know that things won't be shiny for long. Liesel will know joy and she will know sorrow, but those scary, hungry, dangerous years might be the best time of her life because she is surrounded by people she loves and is loved by them as well. It's not exactly a feel-good movie, but it shows that even dark times don't have to be hopeless.

The plot is rather thin, and the actual book stealing is not central to the story. Liesel loves to read, she has vivid imagination. which she learns to transform into words with help of her friend - a young Jewish man who is hiding in their basement. She describes outside world to him and discovers what it feels like to be creative and how her words can make people feel something, make them better, make them forget about the horrors of the war.

And that's it really. A simple yet compelling story of a young girl's life in Nazi Germany. There are no battles, no blood, no true horrors of Holocaust, and I think it's for the better. It's honest without being violent, and it's not an easy thing to do in a movie about war.

Box office: Very solid.

Should you buy this movie and make me rich? Yes :)

Image: 20th Century Fox

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Keanu Reeves: Man of Tai Chi (2013)

Keanu Reeves keeps having a bad...decade? Seems like it. Every movie he's been in lately has flopped, and his performances have been equally uninspiring. Man of Tai Chi is not an exception. It wasn't cheap to make (25 mil.) and it didn't go very far during its limited release. Keanu played the main villain who made some speeches, did some villainous stuff and fought the main hero in the final confrontation. An OK performance but nothing special - his character seemed pretty bland to me.

The movie itself, however, is actually pretty good. Keanu directed as well, and his directional debut can be considered a success quality-wise. Man of Tai Chi is not a martial arts masterpiece, but it's very well done. The fights are fast, brutal and exciting, the plot is moderately intelligent, and the main hero (Tiger Hu Chen) can actually act. And that's enough, really, to satisfy me at least :) Apparently not enough to earn enough money to cover its budget though. I guess modern movie-goers need something more from a kung fu movies. Or they've simply grown tired of kung fu movies altogether. 

Grade change: 62--->60. A supporting part in a relatively expensive flop.

Image: Universal Pictures