The Snowman (2017): Slow, Beautiful and Quirky (Review)

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Directed by  Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Let the Right One In) The Snowman (based on Jo Nesbo’s novel of the same name) was made from a screenplay co-authored by   Peter Straughan,  Hossein Amini and Søren Sveistrup) features a case on the alcoholic Harry Hole (pronounced holy) played by Michael Fassbender. Fans of the “Nordic Noir” series featuring the FBI trained inspector will be, no doubt, a tad disappointed with this screen version. 

For a start, there is no mention as to why Hole is such an asset to the police department that his boss is willing to cover for his being AWOL from work. The film also touches all too briefly on the love affair between Harry and his ex-girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) but changes the story line somewhat in order to fit the film in a just under a two hour time period. 

I personally adore the entire Harry Hole series by Nesbo.  The Snowman was sixth in the series and while it seems odd that the filmmakers opted for this late novel the movie still works. We miss the intimacy of the books, there is no real focus on Hole or his alcoholic habit, including the why, or just why he and Rakel are still, on the sly, a couple.

The books emphasize the sexual proclivity of Harry along with his weakness for alcohol and the grip is has on his everyday existence.

However:

The film feels right. The story of Harry, as well as Nesbo’s superb novel The Headhunter  (that also left a good bit out of the film when translated from the novel) has to leave a lot of Nesbo’s work and character development or the finished project would have been in excess of four hours long.

I loved the series and Hole as a character. He felt a bit like a Norwegian version of England’s “Cracker” (played so well by that behemoth of talent Robbie Coltrane – who did have a career before Hagrid in the Harry Potter franchise), in other words, a chap who was head and shoulders above his colleagues in skill sets and yet seriously flawed.

At first glance, Fassbender seems a poor choice to play Hole in “The Snowman.” However, he does shine as the alcoholic cop who is deeply addicted to booze, his ex-girlfriend and the pursuit of criminals. He is also, it seems, addicted to sex and not just with his ex. (This is more evident in the books.)

A woman goes missing and all that is left behind is her colorful scarf; wrapped around the neck of a snowman. The trail then leads Hole and his new partner Katrine Bratt (played by Rebecca Ferguson) to investigate a slew of missing women. All the cases seem to be interlinked and Bratt has her own personal agenda while working on the case.n

Bratt leads us to the most puzzling aspect of the film meant to be directed by Scorsese. Her father, played by a very ill-looking Val Kilmer, is part of the case despite being dead for a very long time. Kilmer, who looks to be on death’s door, has his lines dubbed for the film and it has the effect of throwing one right out of the story.

While Scorsese was attached to the film when the initial prospect of The Snowman being made into a film was in its infancy, Alfredson gives us a pretty well rounded film despite the odd bits of editing and continuity that jar and annoy.

(Moments after finding the head of a missing woman stuck on a small snowman, Hole tells his boss that it is all about missing persons at the moment, which is clearly wrong.)

J.K Simmons affects an English accent, Toby Jones is vastly underused and the film does deviate from its source quite a lot. Still, the mood and atmosphere remain faithful to Nesbo’s novel and the movie looks stunning. There is no doubt that we are in Norway, despite the lack of folks speaking the local lingo. (Although some minor parts do speak in what sounds like Norwegian.)

It would have been interesting to see a Norwegian version of this film, with a cast of Nordic performers and subtitles, but this effort manged to entertain, despite it’s overall length of just under two hours.

The Snowman scores a full 4.5 stars out of five for its atmosphere and the ability to keeps one glued to the screen throughout. The appearance of Val Kilmer serves to mystify rather than intrigue although the rest of the film manages to pull the viewer in nicely.

Check this one out at the cinema, it will be worth it, and then rush out and read the books by Nesbo. You will be glad you did. This is a quirky Nordic Noir thriller that manages to deliver despite deviating from the superb book.

The Foreigner (2017): Taut and Entertaining Version of “The Chinaman” (Trailer)

The Foreigner (2017): Taut and Entertaining Version of "The Chinaman"

The Foreigner, directed by Martin Campbell from a screenplay by David Marconi, is the big screen version of Stephen Leather’s taut and very entertaining novel “The Chinaman.” Jackie Chan plays the lead character and he faces up against Pierce Brosnan and a group of “new” IRA members who are hell bent on starting up the old campaign of terror anew.

Fans of Leather’s work will no doubt notice a few changes, with the title change being the first as well as the character’s nationality change, but this does not affect the story at all.  Overall, the tale’s message is the same and it is very easy to get caught up in Quan Ngoc Minh’s personal vendetta against those responsible for his daughter’s death.

The Foreigner is all about Minh’s search for justice after his daughter is killed by a bomb blast in a small clothes shop.(In the book it is Minh’s daughter and wife who die.) Minh visits the police everyday in order to get the names of those responsible. He even offers to pay for the names but the police, despite not operating that way, do not know who is in this new IRA cell.

Brosnan is Liam Hennessy, an Irish deputy minister with a few too many irons in the fire, who offers to help the British government find the new cell and stop them. He also has a lot more going on than is immediately evident. Minh goes to meet with Hennessy and soon the two men are locked in battle.

The Foreigner, like “The Chinaman” offers a main character who is much more than he appears. Minh may well be the owner of a Chinese takeaway/restaurant but he is the sum of his past experiences. These turn out to be all too deadly as Hennessy soon learns to his chagrin.

The pacing is spot on, like the novel it is based upon, and it feels like a splendid throwback to gritty films like the 1980 Bob Hoskins Helen Mirren gangster movie The Long Good Friday(A film that features a very young Pierce Brosnan as a young IRA assassin and one that also deals with bombings.) It has a touch of “Who Dares Wins” to it and features solid performances from all the players.

Campbell manages to keep things moving at a cracking pace and Chan proves that he is adept outside the action/comedy roles that have made him an icon in the industry. The film looks brilliant with everything meshing together perfectly.

The locations, the film is mainly set in London, are spot on and all lack the glamorous appearance of the capital city in films like “The Kingsman 1 and 2.” The action in The Foreigner steadily increases and while the timeline has been “moved up” to fit the present, the tale loses nothing in this shift.

Anyone who has read the book will find that the film delivers Leather’s story well and one has no problem getting behind Minh in his quest for vengeance and his own personal closure.

This is a full five star film that has been, somewhat strangely, given a limited release. (In the cinema where we viewed it The Foreigner was showing in only one theater cubicle.) There is some cursing (the worst being the “C” word), a tiny amount of vague nudity and a lot of violence.

The Foreigner is playing in cinemas now and is well worth the price of admission. Check it out.

Superstore: Super Hot Store – Dina, Garrett and Sex (Review)

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After last week’s romantic episode, that ended in a sexual harassment case for Amy and Glenn, Superstore heads straight to the sex part in “Super Hot Store.” Despite the sub-zero temperatures outside the building, the Cloud 9 establishment is sweltering inside.

Glenn calls corporate and complains only to be told that the computer says that things are a cool 64 degrees. Tempers are frayed as the heat increases in the store and as the episode continues a newly promoted Marcus and Amy butt heads.

Glenn puts the air conditioner on in his office and Garrett decides to stay in the room while the manager goes up on the roof to fix the heating problem. Cheyenne accompanies Glenn. He manages to change the setting language but nothing else.

He and the new mother do bond over their mutual love of travel and later, after the problem is sorted by corporate, Cheyenne extricates herself from Glenn with a few white lies.

Dina enters Glenn’s office and finds Garrett camped out there. She stays in the cool room with him and the two share uncomfortable silence until Dina says, “sex?” Garrett responds favorably and they have sex at least three times behind closed doors.

Marcus is asked by Amy to clean up a leaking pallet of yoghurt and he responds vaguely. Later, after she discovers the mess is still in the floor, Amy gets angry. She and Jonah go to confront the new man running the warehouse.

Jonah works to mediate the confrontation but Marcus blows it when he tells Amy to smile. She reacts angrily and fires him. Jonah tries to save to situation but Marcus once again puts his foot in it and Jonah seconds Amy’s firing.

In sympathy the entire warehouse team walks out with Marcus. The rest of Cloud 9 try to unload the latest shipment and apart from Sandra becoming trapped behind boxes and breaking the scanner, Amy takes a fall after scooting down the rollers.

Marcus returns and apologizes to Amy and Jonah and is “re-hired” (it is unclear whether Amy actually had the power to fire anyone) and the temperature is lowered by corporate .

Dina and Garrett agree to dislike each other but still have sex and Jonah praises Amy on her toughness and being able to take a fall.

One of the highlights of the episode was Dina’s impression of Glenn when corporate, who had kept Glenn on hold for the entire episode, got back to the manager to say it was the computer after all.

While Dina’s aping of Glenn was not perfect the voice on the other end of the line never noticed it was not the manger at all. Even funnier was the admission that Glenn was right all along about who’s fault it was but he was not there to hear it.

The awkward pairing of Dina and Garrett continues to be one of the funnier aspects of the show. Both of them swear that they cannot stand the other and yet they are apparently sexually compatible.  This odd couple get together is just brilliant.

Lauren Ash and Colton Dun are running a close second to America Ferrera and Ben Feldman as “couple of the year” but for entirely different reasons. Granted, Amy and Jonah are not a couple yet but we believe it will not be too much longer before cupid strikes hard.

Nichole Bloom and Mark McKinney were spot on together on the Cloud 9 roof. The storyline, where this week Glenn realizes that his ancestors were slave traders, was priceless.

Superstore continues to be one of the funniest things on NBC right now. Tune in and see what you think.

Cast:

The Mick: The Mess – Tough Love a’la Michael Myers (Review)

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This week’s episode of The Mick “The Mess” sees things come to a head between Mickey and her sister’s kids. The house is a tip, aka a mess, and no one is cleaning anything up, including Alba who is the family’s housekeeper.

Mickey attempts to take control and lay down the law but she is thwarted by a concerted effort by all three kids. When she forces them to clean the house, they put all the rubbish in Mickey’s bedroom and lock her, and Alba, in the crowded room.

Mickey retaliates with some tough love, a’la Michale Myers (in Halloween) and flings herself out of the bedroom window. She lands on the roof of the car, which Jimmy – who sells Mickey out to party hardy at the Malone’s – is driving.

This act of horror-film superhuman power freaks everyone inside the car out but not enough to keep them from going to the “party of the year.”

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Thomas Barbusca as Chip.

Mickey is flung off the car and after coming to a rolling stop, sits up. Chip is more than impressed as the car full of fleeing family members all agree that the woman is indestructible. Later, at the Malone’s party, Mickey shows up.

With blood on her face and torn clothes, she coldly goes through the party to find the insubordinate kids. First, however, she stomps on Jimmy’s hands after she kicks the chair out from under him. She then grabs Chip, Sabrina and Ben.

While she searches for the missing kids, Alba heads in the other direction to help. She stumbles into a room full of kids and a blue bong. After a hit or more, Alba then shows off her amazing musical pipes by singing “The Lion Sleeps tonight.”

This was an episode highlight, watch this clip and see if you agree:

Throughout the episode Mickey fights for control and even loses Ben, her little buddy, to the “dark side.”  Alba tells her that all the kids went from sweet to evil around the same age. She recommends that Mickey punish them all but especially Ben as he has not changed completely.

Sadly, the youngest child’s older siblings bully him into attending the party and turn him against Mickey. Later, at the party, she and Ben get into a shouting match with the youngster yelling out “Screw you!”

The result is an impromptu spanking in front of everyone. The party goers and the rest of the family, including the injured Jimmy, are aghast.

After everyone returns home, Mickey apologizes and offers to take them all out for a meal. Instead she leaves the lot in the middle of nowhere, takes their mobile phones and tells them to make their own way home.

When the kids return, they grab cleaning utensils and Ben gives Mickey a hug before grabbing a mop and joining Sabrina and Chip in cleaning the house.

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Jack Stanton and Kaitlin Olson “Screw you!”

The Mick just gets better and better. The horror film look of a bloody and determined Mickey stalking the kids at the party was just brilliant. Once again the humor was very un-pc – the spanking would have given most new parents palpitations – but it followed the storyline.

Earlier, when Alba mentions punishment to Aunt Mickey, she is against the idea. “There is no punishment in this house,” Mickey declares stoutly. Later, when she loses to the three brats who have locked her into the room with all the clutter, she flips her lid and goes after them like Michael Myers sans the James T. Kirk Halloween mask.

After a huge open, where the pilot received over 8.5 million views, the series has settled down to a nice 3.6 million average. While not packing them in, the show is doing well enough against the competition to at least garner half a nod to a second season.

Thomas Barbusca and Carla Jimenez continue to tie for the MVP award on this show although Kaitlin Olson earns major kudos for her performance in this episode.  It should also be pointed out that this ensemble cast is working like a well oiled comedy machine with everyone bringing something to the table.

The Mick airs Tuesdays on FOX and it the funniest non-pc comedy on television. Stop by and check it out on the night or later on VOD or Hulu. It is well worth the trip.

Cast:

Superstore: Valentine’s Day – Sexual Harassment (Review)

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It was all about love on Superstore “Valentine’s Day” episode. Although the journey was not smooth for anyone.  In the end, it was all about harassment in the modern workplace, much to Glenn’s chagrin, and Dina manages to scuttle Jonah’s burgeoning romance with Shannon the shoplifting suspect.

Perhaps the highpoint of this episode was the appearance of Bernie Kopell, better known to millions in his decade long run as Dr. Adam Bricker on “The Love Boat.” Kopell has been working steadily since 1961 and in terms of comic performances from the heart, no one does it better.

The storyline this week has Glenn, and later Amy, playing cupid after two Cloud 9 employees find love on Valentine’s Day. Glenn hired them so he begins matchmaking in earnest. Amy, seeing how much Arthur clearly likes Myrtle, does some matchmaking of her own.

Glenn helps her to set up Myrtle and Arthur and it results in the store, Glenn and Amy being charged with harassment. Arthur, is not the sweet little old man that Amy believed him to be.

The staff have to attend a sexual harassment training session run by Jeff. Glenn tells how he got his wife to marry him and describes how he asked her to go out with him every single day till she said yes. Jeff explains that this is not a good thing.

Glenn then goes on to explain that his father, who they both worked for, told her that if she did not go out with Glenn she would be fired. The Cloud 9 staff are horrified.

Jonah believes he has spied the shoplifter from earlier in the season. He talks Dina into letting him act as the plainclothes floor detective. Jonah flies a drone into the gorgeous young woman’s head and when he goes to apologize, he is instantly smitten.

Dina is furious that instead of concentrating on catching the woman in the act, Jonah is flirting with her. The two make plans for a date when Dina turns up in shorts and a hat accusing Jonah of leaving her and the kids in the car for hours.

Jonah then gets into an argument with his “wife” and Shannon leaves while he is distracted.

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Sondra takes her pretend affair with Jeff to new, and expensive, levels. Giving herself a dozen roses and other extravagant gifts from “The Man.” Mateo gets increasingly jealous and Cheyenne ends up telling Garrett that he and Jeff are dating for real.

The cutest part of the episode has Jeff giving Mateo a small Valentine’s Day gift and topping it off by calling Mateo his boyfriend. All jealousy is forgotten and Mateo’s day is made. He then swans out of the dressing room shutting Jeff in.

Amy and Jonah have a splendid moment breaking up all the Valentine’s Day signage, a move that is slightly reminiscent of the forklift mayhem in Secret Shopper. While not as hysterically funny as the carnage caused by the forklift, there is something about these two gleefully destroying things that counts as a win.

Another highlight in this episode had Cheyenne wowing the staff with her “Catch 22” reference. Jonah congratulates her on this show of knowledge. She responds by saying that she has been studying for her SAT’s. “It’s been an extrapolatory experience,” Cheyenne says while working on her giant lollipop.

As part of the sexual harassment training session it looks like the “in love” couple are breaking up. What Glenn brings together he also breaks apart. The highlights of this episode included Dina and Jonah’s argument, the valentine signage carnage and the Arthur/Myrtle storyline.

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Superstore is still the best thing about Thursday night comedy on NBC. Do not miss this one if you like to laugh.

Cast:

Guest starring Bernie Kopell  as Arthur and Andree Vermeulen as Shannon.