William Horberg

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The Promise Review

Very Good

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians by the Turkish government between 1915 and 1923. Turkey has long denied that this took place, so the filmmakers take a rather soft approach to the story, setting out a romantic plotline with the genocide as a backdrop. So the resulting drama is somewhat uneven, but the events are so powerful that the film can't be ignored.

It opens in 1915 as the Ottoman Empire is collapsing. Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is a young Armenian studying medicine in Constantinople with a promised fiancee Maral (Angela Sarafyan) back home. Even so, he falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), who shares his rural Armenian background. But she has a boyfriend, Chris (Christian Bale), who is investigating rumours of war as the Germans arrive to help the Turkish government round up its ethnic minorities. Mikael is soon arrested, but escapes from the work camp to return to his parents (Shohreh Aghdashloo and Kevork Malikyan) and Maral. Meanwhile, Chris and Ana are trying to report the story of what's really happening, and Mikael joins them to help a group of orphan refugees.

Yes, this is a sweeping epic in which there's a lot going on, and it's filmed on a lavish scale. The characters' lives continually intersect throughout the story, and the intensity of the wartime atrocities is seriously powerful. On the other hand, this makes the four-sided romance feel like a melodramatic distraction. The actors are solid, but the earnest tone undermines any real emotional edge. Isaac is sincere and decent, Le Bon is strong and wilful, Bale is solid and cynical, and Sarafyan is lost in the shuffle. Aghdashloo, as always, provides wrenching support.

Continue reading: The Promise Review

The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman Review


Very Good

Shia LaBeouf is well-cast in this freewheeling combination of comedy, romance and action. He plays a scruffy guy with no plans and nothing to lose, lost in a strange culture while falling in love with the wrong woman. It's not a particularly original premise, and much of what happens feels wildly improbable, but the characters and situations are so entertaining that we can't help but hold on for the ride.

It opens in Chicago, where Charlie (LaBeouf) watches helplessly as his mother (Melissa Leo) dies in hospital, asking her what he should do next. Then there she is appearing to him, telling him to visit Bucharest. "That's weirdly specific," he replies, but he follows her advice, and on the flight over has another encounter with a dead person. This one asks him to look up his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) and give her a message. Of course, Charlie is instantly smitten, but tries to ignore the fact that Gabi's psychopathic husband Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) looks easily capable of murder. As does the mobster club owner Darko (Til Schweiger) Charlie has a run in with while out on the town with his youth hostel roommates, two chucklehead Brits (Rupert Grint and James Buckley).

As the title suggests, Charlie feels like death is inevitable for him, especially now that he seems to have caught whatever that kid from The Sixth Sense had. LaBeouf gives Charlie just the right mix of hapless loser and quick-thinking resourcefulness, and his chemistry with Wood is tetchy and fun to watch. Meanwhile, the scene-stealing supporting stars Mikkelsen, Schweiger, Grint and Buckley add a terrific mixture of comedy silliness and dark peril. This seems to be director Fredrik Bond's main goal here: to blend genres from grim drama to sweet romance to goofy slapstick to Taken-style action violence.

Continue reading: The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman Review

In Secret Review


Good

Filmmaker Charlie Stratton takes a rather obvious approach to Emile Zola's iconic 1867 novel Therese Raquin, ramping up the melodrama while drenching everything in shadowy doom and gloom. It's such a bleak film that it sometimes feels like a spoof, pushing every emotional story element to the breaking point. But the resilient premise still has something to say.

In deeply repressed 19th century French society, Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is an orphan raised by her over-involved aunt (Jessica Lange), sharing a bed with her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton). When she comes of age, Therese is simply expected to marry Camille, after which all three move to Paris to open a shop. Soon Therese meets Camille's old pal Laurent (Oscar Isaac), who sparks her lust in ways the wheezy Camille never could. And as they begin a torrid affair, Therese and Laurent know that they can only be together after Camille is dead. So they hatch a nefarious plan, but life doesn't play out quite as they expect it to.

Writer-director Stratton makes everything so stylised that it can't help feeling stagey, with streets, sets and costumes that are relentlessly drab. The main colour scheme is dark greys and browns, and everything is swamped in murky shadows as the characters swap anguished glances. The actors do what they can with this. Olsen and Isaac manage to generate some sweaty chemistry, which transforms into something very different in the final act. Felton finds some humanity underneath Camille's obnoxious exterior. Lange merrily chomps the scenery as the glowering, over-reacting matriarch. And casting Matt Lucas, Mackenzie Crook and Shirley Henderson in key supporting roles can't help but add some unexpected comedy ("I have a touch of the vapours!").

Continue reading: In Secret Review

Video - Forest Whitaker Takes Family To 'Black Nativity' NY Premiere - Part 3


'Black Nativity' Forest Whitaker arrived with his wife Keisha Nash Whitaker and daughter Sonnet Whitaker at the movie's New York premiere held at the Apollo Theater. 'Working Girl' actress Melanie Griffith and husband 'Desperado' star Antonio Banderas were also spotted at the event.

Continue: Video - Forest Whitaker Takes Family To 'Black Nativity' NY Premiere - Part 3

Death At A Funeral Review


OK
If you've seen Frank Oz's 2007 British comedy, it feels rather pointless to watch this almost word-for-word remake. Sure, the setting is different, but the uneven mixture of slapstick and sentiment are still here, so newcomers might find it diverting.

Aspiring author Aaron (Rock) is preparing his father's funeral amid all kinds of distractions. His novelist brother Ryan (Lawrence) jets in from New York, but won't help at all. His wife Michelle (Hall) is pushing him to move out from their mother's (Devine) house. The boyfriend (Marsden) of his cousin (Saldana) has just accidentally been given a hallucinogen. Uncle Russell (Glover) is on the rampage. And a small man (Dinklage) has something shocking to announce.

Through all of this, Aaron's hypochondriac best friend Norman (Morgan) tries to maintain some semblance of order. But he's useless.

Continue reading: Death At A Funeral Review

Milk Review


Good
Thirty years before Sen. Barack Obama broke through a significant political color barrier, Harvey Milk tore down a similar wall that was obstructing America's gay community from holding political office.

Milk finds experimental auteur Gus Van Sant taking cautious steps back toward the mainstream to celebrate Harvey's accomplishments. Van Sant's tender human-interest story, which showcases Sean Penn's considerable talents, is a closer relative to earlier efforts such as Finding Forrester or Good Will Hunting than to recent, abstruse features like Elephant, the spare Gerry, or the haunting Last Days.

Continue reading: Milk Review

The Kite Runner Review


Good
Practically no other nation's modern history has been so rife with grief and shattered expectations as that of Afghanistan; a fact utilized to maximum effect by Marc Foster in his adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's book club blockbuster The Kite Runner. Starting in the relatively chaos-free years before the Soviet invasion and concluding in the middle of the Taliban's theocratic lockdown, the film manages the difficult task of tracking massive historical upheavals while keeping tightly focused on the people forced to live through such tumultuous changes.

The character who ties the whole narrative together is Amir, a spoiled brat of a kid who turns into a spoiled writer as an adult only to grudgingly submit himself to the rigors of becoming a hero near the conclusion. In the mid-1970s, the young Amir (Zekiria Ebrahimi) lives with his prosperous father, or Baba, in a nice house in Kabul. Amir lives a pretty decent and sheltered life, his best friend, the fiercely loyal Hassan (played with emphatic nobility by Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada), is the son of the family's head servant, and will do practically anything Amir wants. His Baba is a proudly educated and modern man, with his jazz records, turtlenecks, bottles of liquor, and well-kept Mustang; the last particularly beloved by the Steve McQueen-worshipping boys. Amir and Hassan are an excellent team when it comes to the fascinating Afghan take on kite-flying, where pairs of boys get into high-altitude duels, trying to cut the strings of their opponents kites (the sport was later banned when the Taliban came to power).

Continue reading: The Kite Runner Review

Blow Dry Review


Weak
Hmmm, what's this movie with Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook on the cover? Must be some nutty teen comedy, right?

Well, with one cancer diagnosis and one death in the first 15 minutes, Blow Dry is hardly the feel-good romance you'd expect. Strikingly similar to The Big Tease, Blow Dry tells the story of a haircutting competition that descends on a small town in Britain. Celebrities (well, celebrity stylists) from around England arrive to compete, and the local boys get into the act as well. But while the drama unfolds with models and shears, another drama takes place among the locals -- largely involving various romances and a singular cancer victim.

Continue reading: Blow Dry Review

William Horberg

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William Horberg Movies

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman Movie Review

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman Movie Review

Shia LaBeouf is well-cast in this freewheeling combination of comedy, romance and action. He plays...

In Secret Movie Review

In Secret Movie Review

Filmmaker Charlie Stratton takes a rather obvious approach to Emile Zola's iconic 1867 novel Therese...

Advertisement
Death At A Funeral Movie Review

Death At A Funeral Movie Review

If you've seen Frank Oz's 2007 British comedy, it feels rather pointless to watch this...

The Kite Runner Movie Review

The Kite Runner Movie Review

Practically no other nation's modern history has been so rife with grief and shattered expectations...

Blow Dry Movie Review

Blow Dry Movie Review

Hmmm, what's this movie with Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook on the cover?...

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