Michael Fassbender gets trapped in a depressing blizzard of dreariness that he can’t escape in “The Snowman,” a deeply disappointing and depressing crime thriller from executive producer Martin Scorsese and director Tomas Alfredson (“Tinker Tailor Solider Spy”).
Based on the acclaimed novel by Jo Neso, Fassbender plays grizzled Norwegian detective Harry Hole, whose interest in a decades-old cold case murder and dismemberment of a woman is reawakened by the killer’s re-emergence and brutal killing spree.
AUDIO: Listen to Tim review “The Snowman” with Tom Barnard on “The KQ92 Morning Show” (segment begins 10 minutes in).
While the film’s Oslo setting is breathtaking, “The Snowman” fails to gain any sort of momentum from the very beginning, and quickly devolves from there into a dull and confusing story that fails to get its footing until the film’s predictable conclusion.
Scorsese, who was at one time attached to the direct the film, wisely stepped away from this disaster of a movie, which is so bad that even the talents of Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer can’t save it. You can’t entirely blame Alfredson for the failure of the film, as he recently tried to distance himself from the film by saying that he didn’t have enough time on the production to shoot 10 to 15 percent of the script.
With revelations like that, there’s no doubt that “The Snowman” was doomed to fail, and the memories of this stained mark on the resume of all those involved can’t melt and wash away soon enough.
Director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) fully realizes and masterfully completes “Blade Runner” helmer Ridley Scott’s vision in “Blade Runner 2049,” an awe-inspiring sequel that’s far superior to the 1982 cult classic. Bringing original “Blade Runner” star Harrison Ford back into the fold as well as others from the original film, Villeneuve has achieved the seemingly impossible task of not only achieving the same tone of the original film, but fleshing the story out to meet its full potential.
Picking up 30 years later in a dystopian Los Angeles (LA was already in a state of polluted dreariness in 2019 in the original), “Blade Runner 2049” is populated by more replicants than ever before, which, unlike the original models, have been programmed not to revolt and are as human as they’ve ever been with an open-ended lifespan. Still, there are renegade models that have achieved what is deemed a “miracle” that thre
atens to upend the humans’ new world order over their synthetic counterparts, so Blade Runner Agent K is dispatched to retire the replicants involved to quell the threat. However, as K embarks on his mission, he discovers a relic that pulls him into a mysterious labyrinth that forces him to question which side he should be aligning himself with.
The fascinating thing about “Blade Runner 2049” is that Villeneuve clearly isn’t out to reinvent the wheel with the film and make it his own, as much as he’s dedicated to completing the open-ended narrative that Scott created with the 1982 film. While there have been advancements in replicant technology in the 30 years since the original, LA remains virtually the same rain-drenched, dreary environment that provided the original with its most distinct vista.
True, Villeneuve does expand the landscape a bit to give “Blade Runner 2049” some light, but even then, the new locales completely fit within the world Scott created 35 years ago. Villeneuve even went so far to scrap the score created for the film by his longtime collaborator Jóhann Jóhannsson to bring about Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch to make it sound more like the original.
While spectacular on every level from a filmmaking standpoint, “Blade Runner 2049” has a few missteps, not necessarily with the film itself, but with the expectations it sets up for its audience. Ford is billed as a lead opposite Gosling, yet doesn’t show up until 1 hour and 45 minutes into the 2 hours and 44-minute picture; while a couple other principal characters have far-less screen time that fans have been led to believe.
Don’t expect more of anybody to show up in a future version of the Blade Runner 2049, though, as Villeneuve, unlike Scott (who has five cuts of the original) has said this is his final director’s cut. The cast is stellar across the board, including Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Edward James Olmos, David Dastmalchian and Wood Harris. Sylvia Hoeks, a native of the Netherlands, is a particularly a standout as an replicant enforcer.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (R)
Taron Egerton and Colin Firth are back but with less-impressive results in ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle,” another James Bond-on-steroids-type of tale following the out-of-nowhere success of “Kingsman: The Secret Service” in 2014. Skillfully adapted from the hit “Kingsman” comic book, the first “Kingsman” big screen adventure felt completely fresh and unexpected, while “The Golden Circle,” while entertaining, just doesn’t seem to possess the pizazz of the original.
Egerton is back as Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a street-smart punk who was recruited in the independent intelligence organization The Kingsman to become a superspy. But since his mentor, Harry Hart (Firth), seemingly met his fate during “The Secret Service,” Eggsy had to quickly assume the mantle and code name (Galahad) left vacant by his superior, and complete new missions with his faithful support tech, Merlin (Mark Strong).
This time around,
Eggsy and his fellow Kingsman are caught in the crosshairs of Poppy (Julianne Moore), the world’s most-powerful drug cartel boss who wants recognition for the illegal industry that she’s come to dominate. After Poppy virtually eliminates The Kingsman organization in one-fell-swoop, Eggsy and Merlin enact the organization’s “Doomsday protocol,” which leads them to America and the Statesmen – the U.S. version of the Kingsman – to uncover Poppy’s location and her deadly plan to change forever the U.S. war on drugs.
It’s evident from the very first scene that “The Golden Circle,” directed by “The Secret Service” helmer Matthew Vaughn, is going to employ the same, hyper-kinetic brand of filmmaking that made the first film such a blast. But in between, the story seems to stretch itself too thin and lulls as it introduces several new characters, namely the Statesmen – including Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Pablo Pascal and Halle Berry – to the fold.
While the film bills an impressive list of stars for the film, Moore, Berry and Pascal get the most screen time and make the best of it, while Bridges and Tatum are reduced to a handful of scenes.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is Elton John playing himself, kidnapped by Poppy as sort of a pet rocker whose sole purpose is to entertain the off-kilter criminal. He’s funny in every scene he appears in, and (via the help of stuntmen, naturally) has some action moves, to boot. Like “The Secret Service,” there’s no doubt inspired moments like Sir Elton’s in “The Golden Circle,” just not enough of them to justify the film’s overlong 2-hour 20-minute run-time.
It’s a Friday afternoon — exactly one week before his new film “American Assassin” is slated to open in theaters nationwide — and actor Dylan O’Brien is waiting patiently to attend the premiere of the film in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Normally, it’s not the sort of place big premieres outside of Hollywood take place, but this time it’s warranted because St. Paul is the hometown of the Vince Flynn, the late author who created the New York Times best-selling Mitch Rapp novels, including “American Assassin.”
In a phone conversation before the premiere, O’Brien said he expected the premiere — which was attended by Flynn’s widow, Lysa, and their children; producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura; and many of Flynn’s family and friends — to be one of the most emotional events he’s experienced to date. In short, O’Brien was honored to be there to represent the film and commemorate the life and accomplishments of Flynn, who died of cancer in 2013 at age 47.
“Honored is the perfect word for how I feel. It’s going to be really nerve-wracking,” O’Brien said. “It’s really going to be an emotionally-charged night in a way and I’m just really happy to be here, honored to play the character and honored to bring it to his hometown and celebrate.”
Originally released in 2010, “American Assassin” is actually the 11th Mitch Rapp novel, which serves as a prequel story of Rapp before he becomes the expert CIA agent that readers came to know in the books preceding it.
The film version of “American Assassin” chronicles how a 23-year-old Rapp — who lost his parents in a car accident at age 14 — is recruited to become a counterterrorism agent after he suffers another deep personal tragedy at the hands of Islamic terrorists. Michael Keaton also stars as Stan Hurley, a grizzled black ops veteran who trains Rapp; as well as Sanaa Lathan as CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy; and Taylor Kitsch as Ghost — a mysterious figure on the verge of starting a deadly nuclear conflict in the Middle East.
O’Brien has been down the road of adapting well-known books into films before, having starred in the big screen adaptations of “The Maze Runner” novels. For “American Assassin,” the actor said he informed himself of who Mitch Rapp was in reverse, essentially, since he didn’t read any of Flynn’s work before he got the role.
“The script was my first introduction to the role, then obviously I did my research and read about all of the books and the character,” recalled O’Brien, who filmed “American Assassin” after recovering from traumatic injures he suffered during the making of “Maze Runner: The Death Cure.” “I even went to fan pages to read comments on the character just to get an idea of who the guy was outside of the script. Once we got doing it, I really wanted to build him from the ground up and come from me with the thought that I understood this guy.”
O’Brien said her felt his approach to came from a “really original direction.”
“My goal first and foremost was about really humanizing the kind of cold-hearted Mitch we see in the books. Everyone who knows the books describes him as this cold, ruthless and brutal killer, and I can see why,” O’Brien explained. “But I also saw so much more underneath. I was really excited to bring all these layers underneath to life.”
O’Brien, 26, said that readers of the “American Assassin” novel will notice changes from the page to the screen adaptation, mostly because of the shift in time periods. The actor said the move was made largely to give the story more of a contemporary feel, especially in the age where terrorism is at the forefront of people’s minds.
“You get changes with all adaptations, obviously, and this one’s no different, especially considering how the times have changed with what the book deals with and what we deal with in the movie, “O’Brien noted. “We’re updating and modernizing those situations and events, and done some other major things, too, by adding a major character to the film version. You want book fans all over to approve and hope that what you’ve done still captures that spirit, and hopefully they’ll sign off on those changes, especially in Vince’s hometown, and especially from his family and friends.”
Luckily, O’Brien said, Lysa Flynn was a part of making the film happen, and having her seal of approval meant everything to everybody on the production.
“It really started with Lysa. It’s been the biggest blessing to have her so on-board the entire time with her endless support,” O’Brien said. “She just brings such a warmth to the entire process. She was so happy and so grateful just to come to the set to see the story brought to life. That’s made the process so much easier for us, too.”
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers