Tag Archives: michael fassbender

‘The Snowman’ is Less Fun than Shoveling in a Blizzard

The_Snowman_(2017)_posterIt’s very rare you’ll be alone in a movie theater but that was how I found myself today when I sat down to watch “The Snowman;” and I’m thankful no one else was there to endure what I had to.


“The Snowman” stars Michael Fassbender as an alcoholic detective named Harry Hole (I am absolutely not making that up). After a series of murders involving women and snowmen, Harry has to find the killer. If this all sounds dumb it’s because it is. Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Val Kilmer(!!) and J. K. Simmons also star as Swedish director Tomas Alfredson directs.


The trailers for this didn’t look very good and the posters and title of the film almost made it look like a comedy that is playing off detective mysteries. “Jack the Ripper” and “The Zodiac” are chilling names of serial killers; “The Snowman Killer” is not. But still, I love me some Fassbender and the rest of the cast is impressive, so I figured I’d give it a go. Turns out, “The Snowman” is one of the most boring and confusing trips I have had at the cinema in recent memory.


Nothing about this plot makes sense and it seemingly has characters that add nothing to the plot. For most of the film, I was trying to figure out and remember which character was which and how they related to the story. Turns out none of that ends up mattering because the big reveal at the climax is unrelated to most everything we just spent 90 minutes learning about.


Despite being set in Norway no character in this film speaks with a Norwegian accent. In fact Ferguson and Fassbender are British and their accents are closer to American than anything European. The only actor (and ironically real-life American) trying to do something with their voice is J. K. Simmons, and it is such a random combination of stereotypical Eastern European accents that it was almost amusing to hear him speak.


The performances are fine(?) but sometimes it feels like it they were filming different movies, with two characters in the same scene seemingly having different tones than one another, and actors playing their characters one way in one scene and other in the next.


This pace of this film is slower than an elderly man trying to shovel his driveway in a blizzard (you didn’t think I’d make it through this whole review without a snow reference, did you?) The editing job was done by Claire Simpson and Thelma Schoonmaker (Martin Scorsese’s longtime editor and three-time Oscar winner); apparently Schoonmaker was brought on late to try and salvage the project and make it as interesting as a post-production edit job can be. She failed.


Not that it’s her or Simpson’s faults, because according to the director about 10-15% of the film’s script wasn’t even filmed due to a rushed production schedule. So that may explain why almost none of the character motivations or reveals make sense or why certain characters you think will play major roles in the climax suddenly disappear from the film never to be heard from again.


“The Snowman” commits the capital sin of cinema and is boring. If a film is bad but still enjoyable (for example, “Boo 2: A Madea Halloween”) then there can be some redeeming of its soul. But “The Snowman” has no soul, no purpose, nothing that can even begin to be worth your time, money or effort.


Critics Rating: 3/10

‘Alien: Covenant’ a Gory, at Times Laggy Adventure

Alien_Covenant_Teaser_PosterRidley Scott is 79 years old and still competently directing major Hollywood movies and meanwhile I’m 23 and can barely make toast without burning it…

“Alien: Covenant” is the 6th canon film of the “Alien” franchise and acts as a sequel to 2012’s “Prometheus,” as well as the second of an intended three prequel films by original director Ridley Scott. Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo and Demián Bichir all star as members of a colony ship that land on an uncharted planet before discovering  a terrifying threat.

I’m not the biggest fan of the “Alien” franchise. I don’t love the first film (I just don’t think it aged well) and the handful of other ones I’ve seen are enjoyably forgettable at best. So I had little interest or anticipation for “Covenant,” although I will see anything with Michael Fassbender and summer blockbusters are my jam. And while “Covenant” may not convert anyone towards “Alien” fandom, it is a decent enough sci-fi adventure with just enough blood and production value to entertain.

I’ll start with the set design and effects, because they’re gorgeous. Ridley Scott has always made great looking films, and often on relatively limited budgets, compared to fellow big Hollywood blockbusters. Despite costing “just” $97 million “Covenant” looks as sleek and investing as anything, with practical location shoots in New Zealand dropping us in a distant world full of lush forests and vast bodies of water. When films like “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” cost $175 million to produce and end up not only being a bad film but looking ugly, Scott really deserves all the praise he gets for stretching every penny (my favorite quote from him: “when you’re spending $250 million on a movie, you should have been fired a year ago”).

The cast all do great work, even Danny McBride who ventures out of his normal R-rated comedy routine. But the real star is Michael Fassbender, who plays the team’s synthetic android. Fassbender is eerie and darkly amusing, and I won’t say why or how but just know he steals the show, and like Scott his dedication to this franchise is to be commended.

Fans of the “aliens bursting out of the humans in bloody fashion” of the original films will be pleased to know that Scott pulls no punches here; this is a very R-rated blood and gore fest. It’s never to the point of getting over-the-top or almost deprecating  like the “Saw” films, Scott knows where to draw the line, but those who are easily squeamish best stay at home; there are two dozen crew members and most are just here to die horrific deaths for our amusement.

The film’s biggest flaws are its pacing and purpose. The first act of the crew discovering and exploring the planet is fantastic and like I said, it all looks incredible. However then the group settles down and hides from the Neomorph aliens and that’s where things slow down and don’t really pick up until the climax; and then the climax suffers from its own issues in the form of faux endings and inconsistent flow. Things just never seem to go along at a steady pace or seem to be building towards anything, which brings me to my other point.

This film really only serves to answer a few leftover questions from “Prometheus” and set up the third prequel film. Most new bits of information we get could really be covered in a few lines of dialogue and not require a two hour, $100 million film to convey, but hey, at least we get an alien bursting out of a man’s chest again, right?

“Alien: Covenant” will please fans of the franchise a lot more than casual filmgoers, but as a non-fan of the franchise I still found enough to enjoy. The film looks great and features some fun, gory kills and for the popcorn crowd that will be enough. Those who like their sci-fi’s with a little more meat and purpose may leave wanting more, but for what it had to do and be, this is a solid late-period Ridley Scott flick.

Critics Rating: 6/10

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

‘Apocalypse’ a Boring Waste of Talent

X-Men_-_ApocalypseThe year of the disappointing superhero film continues.


“X-Men: Apocalypse” is the ninth installment of the X-Men series and the sequel to 2014’s “Days of Future Past,” a movie that I loved and is universally accepted as one of, if not the, best of the franchise. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence all reprise their roles from the previous two films and Bryan Singer once again directs. This time around, the X-Men must stop Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first-ever mutant who awakens from a 5,000 year sleep and wants to destroy the world (because, cliché).


Like I said up top, 2016 has been a relatively disappointing year for superhero films. “Deadpool” is a good movie but both “Batman v Superman” and “Civil War” failed to live up to their promised epic showdowns. Add “Apocalypse” to the list of letdowns, as instead of being an emotional layered picture with interesting characters and engaging plots like the previous X-Men films, it chooses to succumb to CGI destruction porn and a cookie cutter villain.


I love Oscar Isaac. Not to be “that guy” but I’ve liked him for a while, before he was finally thrust into the mainstream last December for starring in “The Force Awakens.” So having him cast as the bad guy in a superhero film should have been a homerun; but it turns out to be a massive swing and a miss. First off, Isaac is buried under a coat of makeup; he is legit unrecognizable and looks like a big blue crayon. Second, his motivations and plan are standard: he wants to destroy the world because he feels humans have ruined it. Yawn. Third, he has three voices: whisper, yelling and autotune. No joke, whenever he starts to yell, his voice sounds like a Britney Spears album. What a waste.


There is a market for mindless destruction films; Michael Bay has made a career off of it. But Bryan Singer is no Michael Bay, and that is a sentence I bet no one ever thought would be typed. Singer’s strengths have always been with his actors and the small, nuanced moments, not the big CGI action sequences. Michael Fassbender again steals the show as Magneto, and has several scenes that really showcase the pain and inner-conflict his character has. But by the end of the film everything is blowing up and the human death count is likely in the millions. If you thought Zach Snyder and “Man of Steel” killed too many civilians then you may want to skip this finale (or this whole movie, if you value your time).


The first act of this movie may be the most boring 60 minutes put on film this year. I am not exaggerating, I rarely check my time in movies but I glanced at the time three times in the first hour. Literally nothing happens: pretentious (and clearly bored and done with this franchise) Jennifer Lawrence is doing her boring search for mutants while standard evil bad guy (who clearly signed onto this before he was approached for Star Wars) is doing his boring search for mutants.


“X-Men: Apocalypse” is a very boring film that can’t even succeed on a mindless action entertainment level. The characters are cliché, boring or just plain wasted (sometimes a combination of the three) and the story is by-the-numbers. I wish the real world apocalypse had taken place while I was in the theater so I would have been put out of my viewing misery; the heavenly hellfire has to be less painful than this.


This isn’t bad in comparison to the fantastic “Days of Future Past;” it is just bad.

Critics Rating: 3/10



‘Steve Jobs’ Near-Perfectly Acted and Written Biopic

SteveJobsposterIt’s going to be awkward when Michael Fassbender wins the Oscar for Best Actor over Leonardo DiCaprio for a role that DiCaprio turned down…

“Steve Jobs” is a biopic based on the man of the same name. Fassbender plays the titular Apple co-founder, while Seth Rogen portrays Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, and Jeff Daniels portrays John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple. Based off a script by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, the film follows Jobs in the hours leading up to the three biggest product launches of his career in 1984, 1988 and 1999.

I have been anticipating this movie for a very long time. I am absolutely in love with Aaron Sorkin’s brand of fast-paced dialogue and long monologues, and this film is a showcase for his craft. I also enjoy Seth Rogen, so even though he isn’t smoking weed and getting into hijinks with James Franco, he was a joy to watch, and he gives the most genuine performance of his career. However the real star of the film is Fassbender who while bearing very little physical resemblance to his real-life counterpart, embodies the brilliant, calculating and at times frustrating nature of the late-great Jobs.

The film is broken up into three main acts, each taking place in the hour leading up to an important product unveiling: the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT box in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. Each one of these time periods is shot on different types of film (16mm, 35mm and digital), so each has a different look and feel. Overall, I really liked these approaches, and thought it was a very unique way of approaching a biopic.

The writing in the film is nothing short of excellent, if not perfect. Like I said, I may be a bit biased because I love me some Sorkin (“The Social Network” is the best written film of all-time, fun fact), but his ability to have characters we should hate become likable and sympathetic. Plus his trademark rapid-fire, almost irrelevant conversations that are often side-splittingly funny, all make Steve Jobs, a man who neglects the acknowledgment of his daughter and makes the lives of all his co-workers a living hell, a man that we want to see succeed.

The acting in the film is all spot on as well, and that is likely a byproduct of the script. Like I said, Rogen is shockingly effective and emotional as the under-appreciated Wozniak, Winslet is quietly great as Jobs’ long-time confidant Joanna, and there is great fun in Michael Stuhlbarg’s abused engineer, Andy Hertzfeld. But much like the title of the film, the stage belongs to Fassbender, who is a tornado of energy and emotion. He is condescending, unreasonable and probably not a very good guy, but he continues to win us over with wise-cracks and breaking things down so that just maybe we can try and see the world how he does.

Director Danny Boyle, like Fassbender, does a great job keeping the energy going, especially for the first two thirds of the film. When Jobs is building Apple up and the trying to tear it down, it is near perfect filmmaking. It’s the third act, the final 30 minutes or so, that the film starts to get winded. It is probably just by comparison, but it felt like the stakes were never as high, and all the real conflict had already been dealt with. The third act, much like most any film, is where we get resolutions and closure with many characters, and I just wanted to go back to the days when Jobs was telling his engineers that if they didn’t fix a problem he would go out on stage and publically name them responsible.

The first act of “Steve Jobs” is fantastic, the second is great, and the third is good, which all in all combines to a pretty great end product. It is hands-down one of the best films of the year, and the writing, directing and acting will all likely win the film some shiny trophies come award season.

Critics Rating: 8/10



‘Days of Future Past’ Best X-Men Yet

X-Men_Days_of_Future_Past_posterThere was a time when the X-Men franchise was the best in the business. The first film, released in 2000, really was the first big-budget comic book-based film. The sequel, which brilliantly titled “X-Men 2”, was considered better than the first. Then writer/director Bryan Singer left and “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” were released, both being met with mixed reviews, and even some hate from fans. Hope seemed lost. Then a very successful prequel, “X-Men: First Class” came out, and that brings us to today.

In “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, the X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants. Bryan Singer returns to the director’s chair, and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen return as Professor X and Magneto, respectively, among other stars of the original trilogy. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender portray the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto, and Hugh Jackman once again plays Wolverine.

I’ve never been the biggest X-Men fan. I love superhero movies (“Spider-Man 2” and “Iron Man” are among my favorite all-time films), but for whatever reason I have never fallen in love with the X-Men. So I am surprised that I loved “Days of Future Past” as much as I did.

Hugh Jackman is great in most every film he does, so it is no surprise that he once again kills it as Wolverine. He carries the film for the first half, as he is tasked with convincing a depressed Professor X (McAvoy) to help him save the future. He has his sarcastic moments along with his badass ones, but he also has a few scenes of pure emotion, which is rare for such a normally stoic character.

My personal favorite character of the film is Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. Some people, myself included, were worried when they saw the character design (a punk teen), especially compared to the one that will be featured in the Avengers sequel (yeah, there will be a different Quicksilver in a different movie played by a different actor, it’s confusing). But Singer handles him well, inserting just enough humor into the character so he doesn’t come off as corny, and Peters in fact adds an extra sense of fun to the film.

For the most part, the special effects are top notch, and the action sequences are very well shot. Whether it is mutants fighting robots or mutants fighting mutants, the action is clear and crisp, and doesn’t fall victim to the PG-13 rating. There was one instance, however, where I was actually in shock that the sequence made the final cut. The CGI looked so obviously fake that I actually chuckled; luckily that is just one 10 second segment of the film.

There isn’t much that “Days of Future Past” does wrong. As with most summer blockbusters, it may drag a little towards the middle and of course the time-travel aspect has some holes when you really think about it, but these are minor flaws that do not hold the movie down too much.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” benefits from the return of the old cast and especially the presence of Singer in the director’s chair. Even someone who does not know much about the X-Men (like me) will be entertained, and the movie explains any and all necessary plot points from previous films. “Days of Future Past” is immensely entertaining and at times emotional and thought-provoking, and it is some of the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year.

Critics Rating: 8/10