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.
Founded in New Jersey in 1996, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) has not only long been associated with excellent product, but lauded for its ingenuity to produce action figures for films that didn’t get a toy line when they were released in theaters.
Currently, NECA is preparing for its annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic-Con next week to reveal upcoming products and sell exclusives figures from such licenses as “Coraline,” “Aliens” and “Predator.” In the middle of the madness, NECA’s director of product development, Randy Falk, answered a few questions by email about the company’s vintage offerings and SDCC exclusives.
Tim Lammers: Thanks for your time, Randy. I have to admit, I was so thrilled to hear NECA was going to produce “The Lost Wave” of “Prometheus” figures. What factored into that decision? Was it because of the pending release of “Alien:
Covenant” or the continuing success of the your “Alien” line?
Randy Falk: Thank you! For the “Prometheus” Lost Wave, it was little of both, actually. There was continued interest from a small but vocal fan base that five years on still wanted to see these figures happen, and with the release of “Covenant” on the horizon it felt like the right time to do it. This is really a gift for the loyal fans.
TL: Could this signal the beginning of more “lost waves” being produced? Is there another example of something NECA had in the prototype phase that didn’t make it to store shelves, which you would like to see completed now?
RF: I don’t know if I would go that far… the tooling is the biggest expense in manufacturing figures of this kind, and usually if something does not get produced it’s for a good reason, so it’s tough to justify those costs.
TL: What are the chances of the first waves of “Prometheus” figures being reproduced to compliment the “Lost Wave” of figures?
RF: Slim to none, unfortunately. The audience has not grown much since release and as far as the toys are concerned, the sales were never near the level of our “Alien” line.
TL: I think what separates NECA from so many other toy/collectible companies is their commitment to develop figures on vintage licenses whereas other companies concentrate solely on current releases. What drives that mindset to produce vintage licenses?
RF: Honestly, I would be thrilled to work in what I call the golden era/decade of ’77 – ’87 as much as I could. That 10-year period encompasses all the best in film, music, and video games and the nostalgia factor makes these brands successful 30 to 40 years on, not only with the people who grew up with them but the younger audience that has discovered that greatness on video or Netflix or cable. I love the classics and for the most part there isn’t much in modern entertainment that comes close. There is a reason Jason or Freddy or “Alien” or “Predator” still resonate today, or why a 4-year-old loves Gizmo as much as a 40-year-old who saw “Gremlins” in the theater in 1984.
TL: I’m thrilled that you’ve reissued the “Rocky” figure line (and I especially love the “Rocky IV” Apollo Creed). Given that these figures were popular enough to reissue, is there any desire to expand the line to include Mickey, etc?
RF: Thanks, and these are a lot of fun to create. It is unlikely we would do a Mickey or Adrian because of all the new tooling costs involved, added to their limited appeal compared to Rocky, Apollo, Clubber, etc. We do have a fantastic set of maquettes coming, though, based on the puppets used in an old iced tea commercial. These are great versions of Rocky and Mickey.
TL: Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for exclusives being produced by any company for SDCC is the “Coraline” Display and figure. Is that tied into the 10th anniversary of LAIKA, and, is it possible NECA will be reissuing any of its previous “Coraline” figures?
RF: I can’t elaborate too much on this at the moment, but yes, we are definitely celebrating Laika’s 10th anniversary. We love all of their films and are thrilled to be working with them again. “Kubo and the Two Strings” was one of my favorite movies last year, in fact! We have a lot of things in the planning stage now, but for the moment I can only say there will be new figures and more.
TL: It’s great to see that NECA is offering the Jungle Briefing Dutch as an exclusive at SDCC. Any chance we’ll get Carl Weathers’ Dillon at some point?
RF: We would absolutely love to produce a Dillon figure and have made many attempts to reach an agreement with Carl for the use of his likeness as Dillon. Fox, which holds the license for “Predator,” does not have any of the likeness rights to the actors within the film. We were able to make a separate agreement with Arnold to include Dutch in the line, but that happened around the 7th series in the “Predator” line, so as you can see it can take a while. This year we celebrate “Predator’s” 30th anniversary, so we have some Dutch figures and classic Jungle Hunter Predator figures back out in the market. We would still love to include Dillon and hope that one day it can happen, but that is still to be negotiated with Carl Weathers.
Director Ridley Scott is back with his first official prequel to the “Alien” movie series with “Alien: Covenant,” a thrilling sixth chapter in the franchise that began with “Alien” in 1979. The first possibly to more prequels to “Alien,” the film bridges the events of 2012’s “Prometheus” to a new intergalactic ship, the Covenant, which is populated with 16 crew members and 2,000 people in hypersleep headed to a distant planet for colonization.
But when a communication beacon tempts the Covenant to veer off-course, the ship lands on a different planet to discover not only the fate of the “Prometheus” characters Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the android David (Michael Fassbender), but the horrifying destiny that awaits them.
Hear Tim’s review of “Alien: Covenant” with Tom Barnard and Phillip “The Philly Dawg” Wise on KQRS.
While “Alien: Covenant” has the distinct feeling of an “Alien” film (especially when the face-hugging Xenomorphs come into play), Scott, through his expert direction creates tension and bloody gore that easily bests any horror film in theaters today.
The bonus is, there are great actors like Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir and Danny McBride (in a rare, serious role) to help amplify the atmosphere, setting up a tantalizing premise to the next “Alien” film.
Watch Tim’s review of “Alien: Covenant” with Adrienne Broadus on KARE 11.
“Alice Through the Looking Glass” (PG) 3 stars (out of 4)
Wonderland is as buoyant, beautiful and bright as ever in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” a satisfying prequel/sequel to the 2010 billion-dollar blockbuster. Despite a thin storyline, the film is once again bolstered by a lovable cast, spectacular visual effects and stunning production design and costumes. Fans will likely favor the original “Alice” to this follow-up, but it’s an entertaining film nonetheless.
Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice, who after three years of adventures at sea and exploring new lands with her late father’s ship returns home and is beckoned to Underland by Absolem (voice of Alan Rickman, in his final film role), the blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly. Turns out that Alice’s old, dear friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is dying of a broken heart, since he happened upon a remnant that reminded him of the tragic loss of his family to the Jabberwocky years before.
After pleas from the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and company to find a way to save Hatter, Mia sets out to snatch from the personification of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) the Chronosphere – the power source that runs the Grand Clock. It will enable Alice to travel back in time and right the wrongs of the past – that is if her enemy, the banished Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), doesn’t get the device first in a bid to get her crown back.
While Wasikowska and Depp are as strong as they were in “Alice in Wonderland,” Bonham Carter once again steals the show with her big head, bombastic personality, wild chants and maniacal laughs. Her performance alone makes “Through the Looking Glass” worth peering into, even though the time travel narrative falls far short of the events that sparked “Wonderland.” Baron Cohen (along with some CGI mechanical minions) proves to be a grand addition to the “Alice” film family as Time, a touchy taskmaster whose ticker is weakened by the Red Queen and her wicked wiles.
While “Alice Through the Looking Glass” has its share of flaws, the film’s spectacular visual effects make up for the shortcomings. Director James Bobin smartly crafted several jaw-dropping sequences, including trips across the Oceans of Time (which allows the film to cross over into prequel territory). The film also boasts stunning costumes and breathtakingly beautiful settings, both real and virtual. They’re wondrous visions to behold.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” (PG-13) 2 stars (out of four)
X misses the spot in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” a lackluster follow-up to 2014’s brilliant “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” With a tedious 2 hour 20 minute runtime, an overload of visual effects and a plot spread far too thin across too many characters, director Bryan Singer’s fourth “X-Men” film is without question his weakest. It’s a shame because the talent is all there, but ultimately, they’re trounced by the overambitious storyline.
Picking up 10 years after the events of the 1970s (and the rewriting of X-Men history) with “Days of Future Past,” “Apocalypse” picks up in 1983 with the unearthing of the titular character, the all-powerful mutant taking the form in an armored, blue-skinned Oscar Isaac. Once entombed in Egypt, Apocalypse’s followers figure out the key to unleash the mutant, who is hell-bent (along with his four horsemen) on imposing his powers on the citizens of Earth because they’ve lost their way.
Having the wherewithal to even tap into the immense mind powers of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Apocalypse seems unstoppable, that is until Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a new band of mutant recruits (Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler) spring into action to recover their kidnapped mentor and desperately attempt to defeat a seemingly undefeatable enemy.
As passionate as Singer has been about the “X-Men” movie universe since the first film in 2000, you can’t fault him for trying to make the most out of his latest opportunity to tell another tale about the Marvel movie mutants. Yet at the same time, it feels like he’s trying too hard to one-up what transpired in “Days of Future Past” both in terms of the film’s overwhelming special effects and about a dozen mutants, causing the film to lose its focus.
By the time “X-Men Apocalypse” limps to the end, you get the sense that this current iteration of the “X-Men” movie saga is up as its next generation is trained to take on its next foes. It’s too bad, considering the prequel films that came before it started off with such promise, only to end in such an underwhelming fashion. It’s a real disappointment.
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers