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The International Review


Excellent
Tom Tykwer's The International can trace its bloodline back to the paranoia peddlers of the 1970s --- think The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor -- but benefits tremendously from our current predicaments. After all, can you think of a better time to open a globetrotting thriller that casts a morally bankrupt financial institution in the villainous role?

This isn't just any bank behaving badly, though. The fictitious International Bank of Business and Credit is a global (yet eerily faceless) entity with employees who are experts at covering the shadow organization's tracks. When necessary, the IBBC can make court records, police documents, and even people disappear. The IBBC established its wealth laundering money for terrorist groups and organized criminals. Now it's bidding to broker a major arms deal with China that would supply weapons to Middle Eastern military factions.

Continue reading: The International Review

Hitman Review


Bad
Gamers typically get all gooey when supposed console-less critics nitpick the big screen adaptation of their favorite platform title. It's part and parcel of the joystick jockey's mantle. Hitman, based on the popular series from Eidos Interactive, is the latest attempt to bring the PlayStation to the Cineplex. Begun in 2000, and with four gaming titles under its belt, players act as a hired assassin, working their way through various levels of intrigue and crazy, chaotic firefights. The purpose, clearly, is to slaughter everyone who's in your way. It's all bloodlust and cloying cat and mouse. Sadly, someone forgot to tell screenwriter Skip Woods about this. Instead, he's crafted something that plays like John Woo drained of all his slo-mo energy and drive. Even worse, it's then turned over to a director who further weakens the material's inherent excessiveness.

For three years, a top Interpol agent (Dougray Scott) has been chasing an elusive, unknown assassin. When a Russian politician is murdered, the cop clearly suspects that Number 47 (Timothy Olyphant) has struck again. The paid killer is informed that a prostitute named Nika (Olga Kurylenko) witnessed the crime. He is ordered to take her out. Of course, it's all a setup. Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen), the supposedly dead candidate, shows up for a speech, and the Russian Intelligence community is out rattling 47's cage. Our antihero saves Nika from a bullet, travels to Istanbul to interrogate Belicoff's drug running brother Udre (Henry Ian Cusik) and returns to the scene of the initial shooting to discover why he was framed. Turns out, it has more to do with one man's paranoia and ambitions than a simple contract hit -- and 47 is destined to play a part in it all.

Continue reading: Hitman Review

Brothers (2004) Review


Excellent
In an intelligent psychological drama, director/co-writer Susanne Bier shows us some sure-footedness in developing a complex story and engaging us with characters that make the traumatic stress disorder resulting from war revealing. Though her film doesn't entirely avoid some clichés and borders on melodrama, it doesn't spoil the timely interest of its core subject and the level of tension that it generates.

Add to that a fine ensemble cast to bring us into it. The two brothers of the title are Michael (Ulrich Thomsen), a career military man who seems to excel at everything, and his no-good brother Jannik (Nikolai Lie Kaas, Reconstruction), for whom Michael is both a role model and an impossible standard to live up to. Jannik's love and respect for Michael, on the other hand, is intertwined with the rebelliousness that comes of this inadequacy. To make the point and to make the relationships clear, the film starts with Michael picking Jannik up when he's released from prison and suggesting, on the ride home, that he should apologize to the victim of his crime. Such propriety. Jannik's prison time wasn't adequate punishment for Michael's high standards.

Continue reading: Brothers (2004) Review

Killing Me Softly Review


OK
Hey, remember when Joseph Fiennes was a big artsy star after Shakespeare in Love? No. Well, neither does he. Today you're more likely to find him in a film like this, a bizarre erotic thriller from Chen Kaige, best known as the director of a variety of Chinese historical epics. Killing Me Softly features Fiennes as a maybe-he's-a-creepy-rapist/maybe-he's-not kinda fellow, and Heather Graham is the woman who falls in love with him at first sight. What develops is a story about a lost mountain expedition (which Fiennes was part of), missing ex-girlfriends, and lots of blind clues (think typewritten letters shoved under the door) that suggest Fiennes is a really bad dude. In the end the film comes across like a kind of cheap knockoff of Basic Instinct, right down to the string-heavy score. Fiennes even has a taste for kinky sex, and as a fearful Graham is tied to the kitchen table she says, "Sometimes I feel like I don't know you." It's pretty campy-silly, but it's surprisingly watchable for some reason, maybe because of the name-brand actors sleazing it in this Skinemax would-be classic. Who knows. Just check out the unrated edition for extra fun.

Max Review


Very Good
Going into Max I knew nothing at all of what it was about. With such a title (and let's face it, a truly awful one at that), Max could have been a story about anything. The last thing I would ever have expected would be that it was a semi-fictionalized tale of a young Adolf Hitler after the close of WWI, when he was trying to make it as an artist.

The Max in question is Max Rothman (John Cusack), an amalgam of various art dealers and teachers who mentors the young Corporal Hitler (Noah Taylor) in the ways of art. Max himself is an artist too (an early performance artist, it seems, based on a bizarre skit seemingly inspired by Pink Floyd: The Wall) and sees potential in the young Adolf, urging him on while watching him grow more political as forces turn him in the direction he ultimately took. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that Max is a Jew (not to mention a one-armed cripple), the hatred of which becomes the centerpiece of Hitler's ideology.

Continue reading: Max Review

The Inheritance Review


Very Good
The Inheritance is a haunting look at how a sudden death in the family -- and the inheritance that comes with it -- can wreak havoc on a man's life.

Christoffer (Ulrich Thomsen) is happy to run his Swedish restaurant, far away from the demands of his ultra-rich family, but when his father dies, it's a matter of hours before he's sucked back in to run the family business, a high-pressure steel factory, rife with all manner of closet skeletons.

Continue reading: The Inheritance Review

The Celebration Review


Extraordinary
Does anything come out of Denmark these days that's not disturbing?

A grand experiment that is a smashing success, The Celebration adheres to the principles of "Dogme 95," a collective of filmmakers who swear to adhere to certain rules in filmmaking: no studio shooting, location sound only, no music, hand-held camera only, natural light only, etc. The full manifesto has ten rules, none of which are commonly adhered to in Hollywood. It's a real surprise to see how magnificent these rules can be when put into the context of a good script and good acting.

Continue reading: The Celebration Review

Max Review


Weak

So much controversy has been swirling around the release of "Max" -- a fictional film about a Jewish art dealer in post-World War I Germany who takes an angry young painter named Adolf Hitler under his wing -- that an important fact has been lost in the debate: the movie just isn't very good.

Criticized for potentially humanizing the most systematically monstrous racist and tyrant of the 20th Century, the picture really has the opposite problem. Hitler, played by the talented Noah Taylor ("Shine"), is so nervously seething with bile, resentment, fear and anger that it's difficult to take him seriously during pivotal scenes in which the young Nazi party organizer is spitting his venomous but empty anti-Semitic propaganda to crowds on the streets of Berlin.

Writer-director Menno Meyjes (making his directorial debut after scripting such films as "The Color Purple" and "The Siege") seems to realize this problem too. He keeps cutting away to audience members nodding emphatically to lend the character credibility he would be hard-pressed to find without such a scripted peanut gallery.

Continue reading: Max Review

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Ulrich Thomsen Movies

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

A Second Chance Movie Review

A Second Chance Movie Review

From Denmark, this morally complex drama is urgent and provocative even if the story is...

Mortdecai Movie Review

Mortdecai Movie Review

Despite a superior cast and terrific-looking production values, this mystery romp is a misfire on...

The Thing Movie Review

The Thing Movie Review

The makers of this reboot couldn't be bothered to come up with a new title....

In a Better World Movie Review

In a Better World Movie Review

This gorgeously assembled Oscar-winning Danish drama explores the nature of violence in a deeply unsettling...

Season of the Witch Movie Review

Season of the Witch Movie Review

It's not easy to understand why anyone agreed to fund this film, as the box...

Centurion Movie Review

Centurion Movie Review

With a raucous, gruesome tone, this Roman-era British action movie takes us back in time...

Season Of The Witch Trailer

Season Of The Witch Trailer

Watch the trailer for Season Of The Witch Behmen is a knight who's battled for...

The International Movie Review

The International Movie Review

Tom Tykwer's The International can trace its bloodline back to the paranoia peddlers of the...

Hitman Movie Review

Hitman Movie Review

Gamers typically get all gooey when supposed console-less critics nitpick the big screen adaptation of...

Max Movie Review

Max Movie Review

Going into Max I knew nothing at all of what it was about. With...

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