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Tag Archive: Pilou Asbæk


Review by C.J. Bunce

With costumes designed by Anna B. Sheppard, the designer for Schindler’s List, Band of Brothers, Inglourious Basterds, and Captain America: The First Avenger, you know your World War II movie is in good hands.

The first ninety minutes of Overlord is the stuff of the classic World War II movie.  Think Guns of Navarone or Von Ryan’s Express or a later film, Force 10 From Navarone.  It’s also modern in the way of Inglourious Basterds, but that movie if it had been filmed by John Carpenter, complete with special effects from The Thing and action from They Live.  It also co-stars Kurt Russell’s son Wyatt Russell (also Goldie Hawn’s son) as the tough and confident Corporal Ford, a John Wayne role like he plays like he’s been making movies for 40 years.  If that isn’t enough to go out and get your hands on Overlord, I don’t know what you could want.

It begins with a paratrooper drop, filmed believably, like Memphis Belle, but with the action of Edge of Tomorrow.  The first 40 minutes follows British actor Jovan Adepo as American soldier Private Boyce, a nice, naïve kid drafted recently and dropped into harm’s way behind enemy lines in France the day before D-Day.  Like Starship Troopers and Edge of Tomorrow, this is 100% authentic war, look and feel, and we follow Ford and boyce and their squad from the air on down to the gates of a town where they hide out and plan to blow up a German radio tower.  Despite J.J. Abrams producing this film and hints to the contrary, don’t expect aliens or zombies–this is not a secret Cloverfield 4.  What Boyce, Ford, & Co. find is a lab beneath the tower where the Germans are conducting experiments on the local French villagers and their own men.  It’s here where the story takes a turn for the weird.

The first 90 minutes are brilliant, face-paced, heart-pounding, nail-biting stuff.  Young director Julius Avery and writer Billy Ray pursue the lore of the German experiments toward a the creation of a “superman” or “super soldier” and what that might be like.  To their credit, they approach this like the Korean series Kingdom, which looked to a virus as the creation of a village of zombie-like villagers.  Here Avery and Ray look to twisted science as well, but they add in a bit of a fountain of youth element as part of the creation of these soldiers.  Spoiler:  They don’t all turn out exactly as planned by the Germans.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This year’s first cinematic examination of life as a borg came from a beloved international favorite, Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson as “Major,” a truly badass heroine who turns a mission of criminal pursuit into a discovery of the self.  Originally published in Japan as a manga comic written and illustrated by Masimune Shirow in 1989, The Ghost in the Shell went on to become an even more popular anime film series beginning in 1995.  Originally titled Mobile Armored Riot Police, Shirow wanted (and eventually secured) the title Ghost in the Shell to pay tribute to Arthur Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine, which inspired his story.  This year’s early spring release of the live action Ghost in the Shell is based on the manga, and its available on streaming services, Blu-ray, and DVD this month.

Any fan of cyberpunk, future Earth, replicants and borgs shouldn’t miss this one.  Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) directed a visual treat, a futureworld that is not on par with the dazzle of either Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner or Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, yet it still works well, and the cinematography choices by Jess Hall (Transcendence, Hot Fuzz, Grindhouse) combined with the music of Lorne Balfe and Clint Mansell (which owes much to the scores for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Tron Legacy) sucks viewers into a surreal plane in a sister realm to Tron or Source Code.  Major is probably Johansson’s best lead role, too–a tempered, thoughtful, deliberate performance dotted with the action and violence her fans look for.  She was well-prepped for the role, starring in as the lead in the dark world of director Luc Besson’s stylish action thriller Lucy, and it’s easy to see Johansson getting cast for this role after that performance.

Although the story begins slowly, as more pieces are added to the puzzles and plot threads the film builds to become a thought-provoking examination of the dark side of cybernetics and future technologies.  The source material for Ghost in the Shell is relatively late to the discussion table for cyborgs, following after Philip K. Dick’s replicants in Blade Runner, the similarly themed man-turned-machine in Robocop, and Martin Caidin’s Bionic Man in Cyborg.  More than anything, the story calls back to the Bionic Woman and Jameson Parker and Mare Winningham made-for-TV movie Who is Julia?, a story of a woman struggling to deal with the world’s first brain transplant.  In Ghost in the Shell Johansson’s character wakes up after a near-death, her brain transplanted into a new (better, stronger, etc.) mechanical body as the first brain transplant subject in a world where cybernetics are now commonplace.  Her doctor is played as an elegant and caring protector by Academy Award-winning actress Juliette Binoche.  But the beauty of the film is that just as it has in parts a very predictable story for its place in science fiction (following a long line of visionary medicine stories beginning with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), Ghost in the Shell offers some satisfying surprises that sets up the story well for a superhero-esque sequel or film series.

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