FlixChatter Review: Riders of Justice (2021)

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It seems that I watch more foreign cinema during film festivals and I’ve enjoyed quite a few Danish films in the past, a few of them star Mads Mikkelsen. This time, Mads plays Markus, a Danish soldier who comes home from his Afghanistan deployment to his teenage daughter when his wife dies suddenly in a tragic train accident. The event is officially classified as an accident, though a recently-fired math geek Otto (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) who happens to be a fellow passenger on that train doesn’t think so. The movie doesn’t waste its time to get to the point where Markus and Otto’s intersect, and along the way we’re introduced to Markus’ teen daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg), as well as Otto’s equally quirky colleagues, Lennart (Lars Brygmann) and Emmenthaler (Nicolas Bro).

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Poor Otto. Imagine having just been fired from a job, then gets into a train wreck on the way home! When he realizes that one of the victims of the train wreck happens to be a key witness who’s about to testify against the head of Riders of Justice motorbike gang, he becomes convinced it wasn’t just an accident. After the police refuse to believe him, Otto decides to pay Mathilde a visit as he’d seen her at the hospital, largely because he feels guilty that he gave up his seat to her mother on the train. Well, somehow they managed convince Markus that Riders of Justice have orchestrated this whole ‘train accident’ which killed his wife in the process. What follows is a wild, crazy ride riddled with all kinds of anachronistic elements, plenty of wacky algorithm and ‘what if’ suppositions. 

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I wish more films are as well-paced as this one, it’s immediately engaging and it never lets on. The ‘three stooges’ provide the laughs, which is especially hysterical when they pose as the family therapists sent by the government. As Mathilde has always wanted her hard-as-nails father to get grief therapy, she’s quick to believe them. Things got even more bizarre when they end up taking in a young man Bodashka (Gustav Lindh) whom one of the group found in an extremely uncompromising position. I’ll leave off details about him, I think it’s best for you to figure it out for yourself when you see the movie.

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Comedy and tragedy often goes together, but it takes an adept hand to be able to blend the two perfectly. Writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen spun this black comedy yarn skillfully, balancing hilarious, even deliberately absurd humor with dramatic, genuinely moving moments of someone coming to terms with traumatic loss. He’s worked with Mads five times previously, and perhaps with the other cast members as well. There’s a natural rapport among them that doesn’t feel manufactured, which only adds to the strength of this unlikely ensemble. As if we ever had any doubt about Mads’ strength as an actor, this film will remind us again just how remarkable he is. Markus’ breakdown is a memorable moment that shows his vulnerable side, and the one-on-one chat with Otto is my favorite dramatic moment of the movie. I’ve never seen Nikolaj Lie Kaas before but he’s wonderfully sympathetic as Otto and I’d love to see more of Kaas’ work.

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This Danish action comedy could be the gem of the year, delivering laughs and intense brutal action in equal measure. It can switch from hilarity to extreme brutality in quick succession, yet it doesn’t feel jarring. Comedy fans will surely enjoy the moments of them setting up in the barn and weapons training in the woods, but action fans will relish in the ruthless shoot-em-up on the streets. Violence has always been Markus’ form of therapy and Jensen is unafraid to illustrate that point. I also didn’t see the plot twist coming, which is another testament to Jensen’s solid script. 

You might know about the ongoing debate whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie? Well, I feel like Riders of Justice could very well enter the discussion thanks to the final scene. Few would debate that this is NOT just a run-of-the-mill revenge thriller. Now, if you only go by the American poster, you’d be pardoned to assume Mads Mikkelsen is doing his best Jason Statham impression. The original Danish poster with the group (that I posted above) better represents the film that you actually get. The finale is intense, suspenseful, brutal, as well as emotionally heart-wrenching… it’s rare for a movie to be able to hit on all cylinders so well. I enjoyed this one tremendously, I don’t think my fellow critic Peggy is hyperbolic in saying it’s the best film of the year so far.

4.5/5 stars


Have you seen RIDERS OF JUSTICE? I’d love to hear what you think!

MINNEAPOLIS ST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL opens this week!!

MSP Film Society announces the complete line-up of films in the 40th Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF), running Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 23 as a hybrid festival. MSPIFF is Minnesota’s largest film festival and, at 40 years running, a Minnesota cultural institution. MSPIFF40 will present 180+ films by both veteran and emerging filmmakers from around the world, available virtually to audiences throughout Minnesota—and over half available throughout the US!—at MSPfilm.org, plus a selection of special outdoor screenings in

MSPIFF40 opens with a special outdoor screening of SUMMER OF SOUL. Directed by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, SUMMER OF SOUL presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record—created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion.

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The film will also be available to screen virtually for 48 hours, beginning at 7pm on Opening Night, at MSPfilm.org. SUMMER OF SOUL premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award.

MSPIFF40’s CLOSING PRESENTATION on SATURDAY MAY 22 is AFTER ANTARCTICA, directed by Tasha Van Zandt.

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In 1989, Will Steger traversed Antarctica, the longest and most treacherous crossing of the continent in history. Now, over 30 years later, director Tasha Van Zandt follows him again across the continent, which is slowly coming apart due to the global warming crisis.


The Milgrom Tribute (named after the founder of the Minneapolis St. Paul Film Society, Al Milgrom) recognizes the eminent, politically-minded, multi-award winning Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland. Ms. Holland is known as a trailblazing artist whose storytelling often elevates outsider perspectives and whose work as an auteur in the cinematic world is widely recognized as deeply personal and historically significant.

Ms. Holland is known as a trailblazing artist whose storytelling often elevates outsider perspectives and whose work as an auteur in the cinematic world is widely recognized as deeply personal and historically significant. I’ve reviewed one of her films, Mr. Jones, about the Holodomor, that is the man-made famine-genocide in Ukraine in early 1930s, and I look forward to seeing her other films screening at the festival: Europa Europa and Charlatan.

Here’s the trailer for EUROPA, EUROPA with Holland explaining her lighter approach to the holocaust story:
I’ve signed up for the FREE discussion featuring Holland and film critic David D’Arcy live via Zoom this Sunday, May 16 at 2:00pm CDT. 
Minnesota Made Films

MSP Film Society continues our commitment of year-round support to Minnesota filmmakers in multiple ways, from waiving submission fees to MSPIFF, to highlighting the selected films in MSPIFF’s publicity efforts, and offering weeklong theatrical runs and one-off screening opportunities at St. Anthony Main Theatre for festival favorites. Most recently, we have begun to offer our virtual platform so filmmakers can securely screen their films to audiences throughout Minnesota.

One of the feature films screening this year is SAY HIS NAME: FIVE DAYS FOR GEORGE FLOYD.

The incomprehensible police murder of George Floyd on May 25th, sparked a global uprising, the epicenter in Director Cy Dodson’s Minneapolis neighborhood, revealing an immersive observation of unrest in the days between the killing of George Floyd and the charges filed against police officer Derek Chauvin.


You can browse the entire MINNESOTA-MADE lineup here, which includes narrative features, documentaries and short films. Speaking of short films, one of the shorts that I had the privilege to produce is screening at the festival as well!

Written and directed by Julie Koehnen, MASTER SERVANT centers on an ambitious, young railroad executive comes face to face with his own moral decay in his blind pursuit of wealth and status. You can watch the trailer on its official website

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Julie’s follow-up to Master Servant, AWAKENING, which is also set in the Gilded Age, is also screening at the festival. Glad to see fellow MN filmmakers and actors I’ve become acquainted with whose short films made it to the festival, such as AWAY WE GO, THE LAST STATION and PIT STOP.

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Naturally I’m always excited to see women-directed films, and there’s a special Women & Films program you can filter on MSPIFF online schedule!

I’ve already mentioned two films by Agnieszka Holland above, so here are just a few other titles I’m excited about:

  • Holler
  • My Donkey, My Lover & I
  • I Was, I Am, I Will Be
  • The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet
  • Love, It Was Not (doc)
  • The Translator
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit*
  • Women is Losers
  • Dream Horse

Holler has been making waves in various film festivals and its director Nicole Riegel was named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch in 2020. Check out the trailer:

I actually got an early screener of When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and I absolutely love it. Stay tuned for my review of it sometime next week!

In the documentary category, there’s LOVE, IT WAS NOT which centers on a taboo romance between a Jewish prisoner and an Austrian SS officer at Auschwitz.


There are a few films starring big-name actors who were recently nominated for Oscars (Riz Ahmed) or stars in a film that won an Oscar this year (Mads Mikkelsen).

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MC Zed (Riz Ahmed) is a talented and angry young man, a British-Pakistani rapper seemingly at odds with the world and his family in equal measure. He’s channeled that anger into music, but on the cusp of stardom, his own body betrays him.

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Military man Markus (Mads Mikkelsen), returns home to care for his teenage daughter after his wife is killed in a tragic train accident. But when a survivor of the wrecked train surfaces claiming foul play, Markus begins to suspect his wife was murdered.

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Lastly, I’ve been a huge fan of German writer/director Christian Petzold ever since Phoenix and Transit. Here he collaborates again with Transit’s Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer once again. I like both actors and this story looks intriguing!

Undine works as a historian lecturing on Berlin’s urban development. But when the man she loves leaves her, the ancient myth catches up with her. Undine has to kill the man who betrays her and return to the water.


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Which of these MSPIFF movies are you looking forward to?

FlixChatter Review – ROGUE ONE: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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I don’t call myself a Star Wars groupie and honestly I was rather lukewarm about The Force Awakens. At the same time I didn’t hate the prequels trilogy (episode 1-3) though I have to admit there were tons of problems. But the more I hear about Rogue One and that amazing international cast, the more I look forward to it. Well, if only all prequels were as good as this one.

The story is set before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) which as you might recall opens with Princess Leia aboard her starship with the stolen plans to restore freedom to the galaxy, as she’s being pursued by the evil Empire. The fact that George Lucas never explained just how Leia got those stolen plans lends itself to a great spinoff/prequel and in many ways it’s as intriguing a story as the origin of Darth Vader. At the center of the Rebel Alliance is a young woman named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), shown as a little girl sent to flee by her scientist father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) as he’s about to be captured by the Empire and finish the work he’s started, that is creating the Death Star.

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The rest of the film is quite action-packed, as Jyn tries to break free from the rebels in a rescue mission. I love the first introduction of her with K-2SO (voiced by the brilliant Alan Tudyk), the droid is definitely a lively character and he’s even more memorable than BB8 with his dry wit. The rest of the rebel group is made up of an awesomely-diverse international cast: Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook, Donnie Yen as blind warrior Chirrut Imwe and Wen Jiang as Imwe’s loyal friend Baze Malbus. I don’t even mind there’s no Jedi in this movie. I gotta say Donnie Yen is my fave of the bunch, he’s got the most memorable intro with his martial arts skills, but he’s also got some funny one liners! Who knew he’d be the comic relief of the movie along with Tudyk’s K-2SO.

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Because the plot revolves around a single crucial mission to retrieve the Death Star plans, the story is pretty easy to follow. All the action punctuates the story but never overwhelms it. It’s definitely more of a gritty war action film that offers plenty of dynamic battle sequences, both on air and on the ground. There’s less philosophical dialog nor extensive dramatic scenes, but that doesn’t mean the film lacks substance. At the core of the struggle is always Jyn trying to fulfills her father’s mission… “Save the Rebellion and Save the Dream.” And what a struggle it was. The third act centers on the Rogue One team infiltrating Empires headquarters in Scarif, and it’s a real team effort in order to get Jyn to steal the plans. As if that wasn’t tough enough, retrieving the plans is half the battle, there’s the virtually impossible task of actually transporting the data to the Rebel Alliance!


Director Gareth Edwards did a pretty good job directing this (much better than his last blockbuster effort Godzilla in 2014) and he stages the action pieces nicely. The scene inside the control room where the plans are kept are stunningly-shot. It was certainly a well-staged scene that gives me quite an adrenaline rush, whilst K2SO provides the hilarious bits whilst fighting off the stormtroopers. I never felt dizzy or bored watching the battle sequences and there are plenty of suspense throughout. The script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy has a good mix of action, drama and humor, with some emotional moments that never resort to melodrama. I really think the movie benefits from a strong ensemble cast with a capable female lead at the center. I’ve been a fan of Felicity Jones in her dramatic performances (Like Crazy, Breathe In, The Theory of Everything), but it’s nice to see her kick some butt here whilst always keeping her character grounded. She never became some action heroine or anything, which would’ve been silly.

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As for the supporting cast, every member of the Rogue One team is solid. They fight valiantly and the theme of sacrifice and hope give the story emotional gravitas. I feel a bit underwhelmed by Ben Mendelsohn as a high ranking Imperial senator though he looks sinister enough in his caped uniform. But his meeting with the big boss is definitely a memorable scene. Star Wars fans might’ve exploded in geekgasm the moment Vader showed up… then THAT voice came out of him, whoa! Who could top James Earl Jones‘ voice… it was glorious! There’s also memorable Vader scene wielding his lightsaber that made even me want to get up and cheer. Yes we’re not supposed to root for the bad guy, but man!!!

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[Spoiler alert – highlight to read] My biggest beef is the final scene with horrible CGI-ed face of Princess Leia! It’s so distracting and kind of lessens the impact of that powerful scene. Heh, the X-Men films have done a good job making Patrick Stewart & Ian McKellen look half their age, so you’d think with a $200mil budget they could afford to do a better job. They could even opt for doing just a silhouette of her whilst she said the line, that’d surely make it more memorable than showing a bad CGI. Peter Cushing is also back as a CGI character as Grand Moff Tarkin, 

Despite my quibbles, it’s still a pretty darn good movie. The cinematography by Greig Fraser is quite beautiful (he’s also the DP for the gorgeous film LION), complemented by the rousing score by Michael Giacchino. I love that every time Vader showed up the iconic John Williams’ theme song came on! I really enjoyed this one and would definitely watch this again on IMAX. I might even follow up with episode 4, 5 and 6 now that the story suddenly feels fresh again.

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So, what do you think of ROGUE ONE? Let’s hear it!

FlixChatter Review: Doctor Strange (2016)

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I have to admit I wasn’t really anticipating this movie at all. I wasn’t familiar with this character at all and honestly, I have grown a bit tired of seeing Benedict Cumberbatch, though I did like him before he was super famous from playing Sherlock. Now it’s no fault of his but I tend to lose interest fast when an actor becomes overexposed.

In any case, I still went into the screening expecting to be entertained. To a degree, Doctor Strange was a pretty fun movie with some humorous moments. Yet I feel that it treads such familiar grounds. It’s basically similar to Iron Man‘s origin story, but with magic thrown in. We also got a hero who started out as a rich, arrogant genius who suffered a major accident. They also extend their hand just so to exert their power. Perhaps because Iron Man was still a bit of a novelty when it came out 8 years ago in 2008, it made a lot more impact to me and Robert Downey Jr’s performance was quite indelible.

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Stephen Strange’s journey all the way to the Himalayas also reminds me of Batman Begins. But instead of an East-Asian character as The Ancient One, Strange’s spiritual mentor is now a bald woman of Celtic origin with posh British accent (Tilda Swinton). To be honest, all the quantum physics and mysticism concept are lost on me. It was some gobbledygook that never became involving enough to me, though I did get a kick out of the rather comedic Cloak of Levitation. I think my favorite part in the entire movie is when the cloak attaches itself to Strange as he walks on, it was a moment he sort of becomes a superhero.

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Just like the lead, the supporting cast are full of massively accomplished actors. Fellow Oscar-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and British actor Benedict Wong are both in the camp of the Ancient One who became Strange’s allies. It’s rare to see an actor named Benedict to begin with, let alone having TWO of them in the same movie! I love the interactions between the two Benedicts, though the Beyonce/Adele joke seems rather out of place in this universe. There’s also the talented Mads Mikkelsen, once again sporting weird eye makeup as a villain, but he’s nowhere near as menacing nor effective as he did in Casino Royale. There is very little character development in this movie and none of the relationships elicit any kind of emotion, especially the one between him and fellow surgeon Christine (a wasted Rachel McAdams). That said, Cumberbatch himself acquits himself well in the role. He certainly has that ‘cocky genius’ thing down pat, though I wouldn’t call Doctor Strange my fave Marvel superhero by a long stretch.

As for the visual effects. I think it’s to be expected that a $165 mil movie would deliver something great to look at. The space visuals is reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, whilst the whole folding architecture thing is slightly more robust than what we’ve seen in Inception. The movie has a a Groundhog day-style finale with a character encountering death over and over again, going against an entirely CG character, a nemesis called Dormammu that’s apparently also voiced by Cumberbatch. It was kind of a ho-hum ending to me, it was neither intriguing nor emotional in the slightest. The plot seems predictable and seems rather ‘convenient,’ and not once do I feel that the hero was in any great danger.

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I generally like Marvel movies, even those I was initially skeptical about like Thor. But overall I was underwhelmed by Doctor Strange. I think it could’ve been a much better film, or at least just a tad more thought-provoking instead of just mildly entertaining. The script (partly written by director Scott Derrickson) just wasn’t provocative, thought provoking nor memorable. I’m feeling generous in rating this one because I do like the cast, though the movie probably more of a 2.5/5 for me. I think it’s one of the weakest MCU movies so far, and I’m honestly flabbergasted by the high Rotten Tomatoes rating! (But then again I think their algorithm is botched. I mean the same exact rating from two reviewers can be fresh or rotten, huh??) In any case, there’s a post-credit scene but by then I have lost interest in this inevitable franchise entirely.

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So, what are your thoughts on ‘Doctor Strange’?

FlixChatter Review: Casino Royale (2006)

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This review was part of Mark & Tom’s Decades Blogathon that was published back in mid May. But since July 6 is Eva Green’s birthday, I decided to post it here this week.


I can’t believe it’s been a decade since Casino Royale came out. I just re-watched it this weekend to refresh my memory for the blogathon, though I had probably re-watched it a few times in the last 10 years. It’s still as good as the first time I saw it, and I still would regard it as one of my favorite Bond films… ever. I’ve mentioned Casino Royale so many times here on my blog, in fact it’s one of my fave films of 2000s and one of the 8 films I’d take with me if I were stuck on a desert island.

Like many Bond fans, I too had trepidation about Daniel Craig casting (too blond, too short, etc.) but of course we’re all proven wrong the second he appeared on the pre-credit scene. Craig might not be the most good looking Bond actor (and he is the shortest), but he more than made up for it in charisma AND swagger. Apart from Craig’s brilliant casting, it’s the story that makes this film so re-watchable. It’s not only a great Bond film, it’s a great film, period. An origin story of sort, James Bond goes on his first ever mission as 007, and he didn’t get off on the right foot with M right away. The scene when M berated Bond when he broke into her flat was intense but humorous, a perfect balancing act the film continuously play throughout. It’s not the first time we see the venerable Dame Judi Dench as M, but I must say I LOVE the banter between her and Craig even more.

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A great Bond film has to have an effective adversary and we find that in Mads Mikkelsen‘s Le Chiffre, a cold-looking Scandinavian with a bleeding eye. It would’ve been a silly gimmick if not played carefully, but here Le Chiffre is a cool and ominous villain. The fact that he’s really not a mastermind in the likes of Blofeld or Drax, but the fact that he’s not hellbent in ruling or destroying the entire world is frankly refreshing. He is a banker to the world’s terrorists, and so his only motive is money, like most of real world villains are. And a great Bond film also needs a memorable Bond girl. Well, Eva Green‘s Vesper Lynd is perhaps the hottest cinematic accountant ever. “I’m the money,” she quips the first time she enters the screen and into Bond’s heart. To this day I’m still enamored by the train scene to Montenegro, the way Bond & Vesper banter each other with wit and sexual undercurrents is what Bond movies are all about. Vesper is no Bimbo and that automatically made her a bazillion times more intriguing than bombshells in lesser Bond movies.

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Casino Royale isn’t big on gadgetry, and as a longtime Bond fan, I actually didn’t mind it. It’s got everything else one would expect in a Bond movie – the cars, the exotic locations, the suspense, action and quick wit – it’s all there. Compared to Craig Bond movies, the Roger Moore versions feel more like a drama given how relentless and vigorous all the action sequences are. The opening parkour/free running scene apparently took six weeks to shoot and my goodness, I’m out of breath just watching it! This is one sprightly Bond and Craig did most of his own stunts, so it looks believable that he was the one doing the action in the movie. He reportedly has the injuries to prove it too! The car chase wasn’t overlong, but dayum was it memorable. The scene where Aston Martin missed Vesper by a hair and rolled over multiple times still took my breath away every time I saw it.

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But all of that action stuff wouldn’t have mattered much without a grounding story. I think the last time Bond was genuinely romantic and emotional was On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which was when Bond fell in love. The scene of Bond tenderly comforting Vesper in the shower is one of my favorite scenes in all of the Bond films. There is nothing erotic or sexual in this scene, instead it packs an emotional wallop that makes Bond/Vesper relationship one of the best and most convincing romances in a Bond movie. The love story in Casino Royale is core to the plot and it was woven perfectly into all the espionage intrigue.

Vesper: You’re not going to let me in there, are you? You’ve got your armour back on. That’s that.

Bond: I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Bond films are known for being an eye and ear candy, and this probably ranks as one of the most beautifully-shot. The scenery in Venice as Bond stroll in the Grand Canal is especially striking, topped off by the intense fight scene in a crumbling house (shot at Pinewood Studios modeled after Venice’s Hotel Danieli). The soundtrack also ranks as one of the best, done by David Arnold with an homage to the legendary composer John Barry. I can’t get over how much I love the track City of Lovers, which I’ve highlighted for my Music Break here. The theme song You Know My Name by Chris Cornell is also one of my favorite Bond songs, and the cards-themed opening sequence is spectacularly-done.

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Per IMDb, this was the first James Bond movie to be based on a full-length Ian Fleming novel since Moonraker 27 years prior. Goldeneye‘s director Martin Campbell helmed the film from a screenplay from Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis. I wish Campbell would be back in the director seat again as his previous two Bond films rate as one of my all time favorites. There’s so much style & sophistication in abundance here, but never at the expense of story & character. What I also love is that the quieter moments in the movie is still just as intriguing as the high-octane action scenes. That poker game in Montenegro is brimming with elegance as well as suspense, whilst showcasing the film’s excellent production design and costume design. Vesper’s plunging purple dress is a real head-turner and I don’t think Craig has looked more suave than in his tuxedo that Vesper tailor-made for him.

I really can go on and on about this movie as it’s really a masterpiece in the 50 years of James Bond films we’ve got so far. It also made me even more dismayed that the recent film in which the plot directly followed this one was such a downgrade. Looking back at Casino Royale‘s fantastic finale with Bond introducing himself to Mr. White, I expected SO much more than what they gave us with Spectre.

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What are your thoughts about ‘Casino Royale’? Does it rank amongst your favorite Bond films?

Interview with Black Sails’ actor Sean Cameron Michael (aka Richard Guthrie)

FCInterviewBannerChattinWithSCMAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of Starz’s latest flagship show Black Sails, which has been renewed for a second (possibly third?) season before its initial season was done, yay! I was fortunate enough to chat via email with one of the cast members, Sean Cameron Michael, a South African-based actor who played Richard Guthrie in the series.

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I think he’s one of the strongest performers on the show and I love his character arc as the richest black marketer in Nassau where the story takes place. I’m particularly intrigued by how his character would affect the fate of the series’ protagonist Captain James Flint, as well as his lover Miranda Barlow. Check out the interview below:

1. How did you end up working on Black Sails? Was there an audition process that you had to go through?

I believe that they had worldwide auditions for the show back in 2012. I was in Johannesburg, South Africa at the time shooting a movie called The Challenger Disaster with Oscar-winner William Hurt. I had also just wrapped on the popular Strike Back TV series working opposite Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, so it was a very exciting time for me in my career.  

The opportunity to audition for Michael Bay’s first venture into cable television was exhilarating and knowing that this was Starz Entertainment’s next big original series (having been responsible for the amazing Spartacus franchise) was an added bonus.  I had two auditions for the show before I was confirmed as Richard Guthrie.

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2. Please tell us how you prepare for your character Richard Guthrie. Did you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island before?

Although the story of Black Sails takes place about 20 years prior to Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I did read his book and watch the 1950’s Bobby Driscoll film, as well as the 2012 Eddie Izzard movie.  I also referenced a couple of other books based on the time period, including Colin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates and George Woodbury 1951 edition of The Great Days of Piracy.

I watched the Spartacus series again to get a feel for the style of TV drama that Starz has a clear niche in, as well as shows like Downton Abbey to see what kind of accent Mr. Guthrie might have. We worked with wonderful dialect coaches, as well as top hair & make-up artists and costume designers to ensure that the look and feel and sound of these characters would be spot on. As an actor, you take all that information and reference material, and kind of let it settle in the background and try to just “be in the moment”. Of course we were also fortunate to work with some of the best writers, directors and producers in the industry today, so the amount of input and support is incredible.

3. What’s your favorite filming experience in South Africa? The set with the giant Walrus ship looks incredible, that must be a treat working on such an intricate set.

Once you’ve read the detailed scripts and walk onto the most amazing sets, you are automatically transported to that period in history. It all just falls into place quite perfectly and as the cameras roll, you just breathe, smile and be as honest and as real as possible. It’s all quite a mind-boggling and exciting experience. Unfortunately my character didn’t get to spend much time on the awe-inspiring ships, but yes, it is quite breathtaking to behold and there were moments when I felt like a kid again, taking it all in and thinking “Gee wiz, this is a cool experience. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”  The sets constructed at the Cape Town Film Studios are certainly world-class and easily compete with anything found in the US and Europe today.

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4. You had quite a few scenes with Toby Stephens who played Captain Flint. Could you share your experience working with him?

Working with Toby was an absolute treat. Besides being a consummate professional and certainly one of the UK’s finest and underrated actors, he also happens to be very down-to-earth, friendly and funny in person, continually making jokes. When actors meet and do a scene together for the first time, we’re very often testing and perhaps challenging one another, to get a feel for what sort of level in performance we can expect from one another. Toby is a very passionate and giving actor, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on some truly intense and hopefully captivating and entertaining scenes with him.

5. How’s filming Season 2 different than filming the first one? Any tidbits about Season 2 you could share with us?

Before we started shooting season 2, we had the opportunity to watch season 1 in it’s entirety prior to it’s premiere screening around the world. When my scenes were originally filmed for season 1, they were obviously shot out of continuity with the rest of the story. So to finally see these scenes, intertwined with the rest of the intricate story and it’s characters, was helpful and informed me where I needed to go with Richard Guthrie in the next season.  

As an actor, you prepare and then film your scenes under great direction, delivering your best possible performance, but it’s only after the entire show is edited together and you watch the final cut of the episodes months later, that you are able to truly experience first-hand what you hoped to create on set at the time. I believe in season 2 I was able to delve even deeper and get closer to the true essence and heart of what makes Richard Guthrie tick and what drives him as a man in a once very powerful position, but also as a father to his daughter Eleanor. I could not be prouder of my work on season 2 and I cannot wait for audiences to experience what I have dedicated the past year of my life to.

Here’s the trailer for Season 2:

6. Lastly, what other project(s) are you working on right now?

TheSalvationPosterMy latest feature film The Salvation premiered in May this year at the Cannes Film Festival to a six-minute standing ovation.  It’s currently screening all over Europe and due for release in the States in the coming months. I was fortunate to work opposite Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen which was a fantastic experience.

The movie also stars Eva Green, Michael Raymond-James and Jonathan Pryce [as well as Jeffrey Dean Morgan – ed]. I’m currently filming a new South African TV series based on the atrocities of apartheid in the mid-eighties, as well as a short sci-fi film to be released on the festival circuit.

Here’s the full synopsis of The Salvation:

In 1870s America, a peaceful American settler kills his family’s murderer which unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader. His cowardly fellow townspeople then betray him, forcing him to hunt down the outlaws alone.

And you can watch the trailer on youtube.


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Thanks so much Sean for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.
Can’t wait to see season 2 of Black Sails!

Follow Sean on Twitter   and check out his 2014 Actor Reel on Vimeo

http://vimeo.com/109154971


Hope you enjoyed the interview. Have you seen Black Sails? Are you as excited for Season 2 as I am? 

Indie Review: Danish Thriller THE HUNT

This one and In A World (review upcoming) are the last two films I saw at MSPIFF. I have been intrigued by The Hunt for a while because I’ve been hearing great things about it and Mads Mikkelsen’s performance. Well, he certainly did NOT disappoint.

The Hunt a.k.a. Jagten (2012)

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A teacher lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son’s custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie.

I came to know Mads Mikkelsen through his role as a bleeding-eyed Bond villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale but he’s not likely to be known only for that role in his distinguished career and that’s because he’s soooo much better than that.

He’s got an icy, almost ominous look to him but here he’s actually very convincing as a warm-hearted, meek Kindergarten teacher. The little kids adore Lucas in the small community he lives in, and though he’s been through a pretty tough divorce and missing his young son in a bitter custody battle, he doesn’t seem to let that affect his friendly demeanor.

The film opens with a bunch of his best mates jumping into a lake in a cool Autumn day. It’s a Danish film so it’s no surprise to see a big burly guy strip naked as he runs into a lake, which then Lucas has to rescue as he gets cramp as he hits the water. So Lucas is well-loved by his pals too, and it’s easy to see why. On the way to school, Lucas often walks past his best friend Theo’s house whose little girl happens to be one of his students. Everything seems sweet and cute as can be as they walk together to school, but soon it’s obvious that the cute blond girl becomes somewhat smitten with Lucas. It sounds quite normal at first, that is until something she said about him ends up escalating beyond anyone, least of all Lucas, would ever have imagined. There’s no such thing as an ‘innocent little lie’ and boy, this film truly shows us the really WORST case scenario of the townsfolk’s witch-hunt reaction.

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At first I was wondering why the title is called The Hunt (Jagten in Danish), but as I’m watching it, it’s most appropriate. Lucas becomes the victim of being deemed guilty in the court of public opinion, his friends shun him and the whole community practically shuts him out that he can’t even shop for groceries. It’s amazing how fast and seemingly easy people could turn on someone, even one of their own, as even Lucas’ new girlfriend doubts him. He virtually has no way of defending himself and given the grave nature of what he’s accused of, I guess I can’t blame people for being resentful of who they think is the perpetrator. Director Thomas Vinterberg doesn’t pull any punches in creating a tense, unsettling atmosphere with minimalist style. The quiet, almost serene look of his film enhances the feeling of terror, it’s as if I feel like I too was being hunted as I was fully immersed in Lucas and his plight.

The film is not violent nor gory, which goes to show that an adept director could effectively gives us the chills without ‘indulging’ in blood and gore. Mikkelsen is absolutely superb as Lucas in one of the Oscar-worthy performances I saw this year. His character is transformed by this unfortunate event and I kept thinking he’d do something drastic as a result, but thankfully the film is not so predictable. Mikkelsen has this quiet grace about him but with this simmering intensity underneath, you just don’t know what he’s capable of and he could truly explode at any moment. There’s a memorable scene on a Christmas eve that I won’t soon forget. Lucas looked back a few times at one of the men sitting a few pews behind him and the way he stares with his watery eyes sent chills down my spine. At that point he’s a desperate man with nothing else to lose and that sense of sorrow and restrained anger… basically a man at the end of his rope. Mikkelsen was able to capture all of that complex emotion in this one scene.

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The film’s supporting cast is quite good, especially Thomas Bo Larsen as Theo and Lasse Fogelstrøm in his debut film role as Lucas’ teenage son, but the star of the show is undoubtedly Mikkelsen. Props to Charlotte Bruus Christensen for her lush and evocative cinematography that is instrumental in creating the serene but eerie atmosphere. Vinterberg, Christensen and Mikkelsen have all deservedly won an award at Cannes for their respective work. It’s inevitable that Tinseltown would beckon the Danish auteur with his film’s success. I have no problem with that, just so long as he maintain his skillful film-making skills when he makes his Hollywood film.

4.5/5


Thoughts on The Hunt, if you have seen this one, I’d love to hear what you think!