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Posts Tagged ‘Matthias Schoenaerts’

Charlize Theron

“THE OLD GUARD” My rating: C+ (Debuts July 10 on Netflix)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Netflix’s “The Old Guard” is almost instantly forgettable…but no movie that gives us Charlize Theron in kick-ass mode can be easily dismissed.

Adapted by directed by Greg Rucka from his graphic novel and competently directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, “…Guard” stars Theron as Andy, a formidable warrior woman who runs a four-man team of freelance commandos (Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts,  Luca Marinelli).

When we first meet them they are “hired” by a former CIA guy (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to travel to Sudan to rescue schoolgirls kidnapped by a predatory militia. Andy and team show up armed to the teeth not only with modern automatic weapons but also with much Medieval cutlery.  No bulletproof vests…but then it turns out they don’t need them.

Because the members of this crew are immortal.  Andy is the oldest, having lived for at least 3,000 years.  The others were picked up over the centuries; apparently each is a genetic/metaphysical freak who for unknown reasons suddenly was endowed with rapid healing and near-instant resurrection.

Betrayed on their mission and left for dead (death doesn’t last long in this instance), the crew clean up the mercenaries who laid the trap (the kidnapped schoolgirls scenario was merely a ruse) and lick their rapidly healing wounds.

Andy, who has devoted her never-ending life to righting wrongs and getting rid of bad guys, has reached the point where she wonders if she’s doing any good any more. “The world isn’t getting any better,” she laments. “It’s getting worse.”

Then all four dream simultaneously about a U.S. Marine, Nile (Kiki Layne), who suffers a seemingly deadly wound in Afghanistan yet recovers within hours. Clearly, she is meant to be the next member of the team, although she greets that news with mixed emotions.  Yeah, living forever and healing instantly is pretty cool; on the other hand, remaining the same age while loved ones wither away is just plain demoralizing.

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August Diehl, Valerie Pachner

“A HIDDEN LIFE” My rating: B+

173 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Spirituality is not something the movies do particularly well.  After all, it’s a visual medium; the inner workings of the heart are not easily captured by the camera.

Leave it to Terrence Malick, the most idiosyncratic American filmmaker ever, to find a way to put a human soul on the movie screen.

In “A Hidden Life” Malick explores the true story of Franz Jaggerstatter, an Austrian farmer who at the height of World War II decided he could not take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler and so spent the rest of his days in a series of grim Nazi prisons.

Jaggerstatter’s story is, unlike most recent Malick films (the magnificent “Tree of Life” and the irritating “To the Wonder”) a fairly linear one.  But the Texas-based auteur brings to the table his trademark eye-of-God perspective, so that while “A Hidden Life” unfolds in more or less chronological order, it’s filled with visual and aural digressions.

The results are heartbreaking, moving and inspiring.

Malick opens his film with footage of Adolf Hitler from Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda documentary “Triumph of the Will.”

We then meet Franz (sublimely underplayed by August Diehl) and his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) swinging scythes in a blindingly green field overseen by rugged alpine crags.  A towering church steeple is always in the background, a reminder not only that Franz is a volunteer sexton (he’s the village bell ringer) but that he takes his religion very seriously.

In a series of interlocking scenes, some only seconds long and dealt like cards from a Tarot deck, we get a sense of life in this tyrolean paradise, Franz and Fani’s courtship, and the life they have built together on a drop-dead beautiful mountainside with three daughters.

It’s a world centered on home, family, farm and village. And it’s almost too beautiful and peaceful for words.

But there are intimations of things going on in the larger world. Fani freezes as an unseen plane passes overhead. Franz has furtive conversations with fellow villagers who share his anti-Nazi sentiments. The mayor (Karl Markovics) when in his cups lets fly with rants about inferior races.

Franz takes his concerns to the local priest (Tobias Moratti), who is sympathetic but advises him to shut up and do what’s asked of him: “You’ll almost surely be shot. Your sacrifice will benefit no one.”

Not even a session with the area bishop (Michael Nyqvist) provides a satisfactory answer to Franz’ heartfelt query: “If our leaders are not good, if they’re evil, what does one do?”

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“THE MUSTANG”  My rating: B+ 

96 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A violent, alienated man and an equally angry horse form an unexpected bond in “The Mustang,” an understated effort that often plays like documentary but carries the emotional weight of a classic drama.

Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s film opens with a roundup of wild mustangs in a vast Western landscape. The animals are herded by  helicopters into stock pens. From there they are loaded onto trucks.

Cut to a Nevada prison where Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has just joined the general population after  months in solitary confinement.  We never learn what he did to merit that treatment; all he’ll say is that he’s not good with people.

The prison psychologist (Connie Britton) struggles to get a word out of the sullen, withdrawn inmate. She’s trying to find a prison job or activity that will interest him. Finally she settles on the horse-training program, which takes recently captured wild mustangs and turns them into well-behaved riding horses that can be sold at auction.

Not that Roman overnight becomes a cowboy.  His main job involves shoveling shit. But he’s intrigued by the violent horse that occupies a metal shed on the prison grounds. The animal inside spends all day banging on the walls and shrieking its defiance. It’s a kindred spirit.

The old hand who runs the program (Bruce Dern) believes the horse is too mean to be domesticated, but gives Roman — who has absolutely no background with these animals — a chance to train the beast. If it doesn’t kill him first.

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Matthias Schonhart, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes

Matthias Schonhart, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes

“A BIGGER SPLASH”  My rating: B 

125 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Among the many on-screen personas of Ralph Fiennes are terrifying mob boss, casually cruel concentration camp commander, serial killer and silky aristocrat.

But nothing he’s done has quite prepared us for the acting dervish on display in “A Bigger Splash.”

In Luca Guadagnino’s steamy and visually ravishing display of psychological noir, Fiennes plays Harry, a renowned music producer who unexpectedly drops in on his old flame, rock star Marianne (Guadagnino regular Tilda Swinton), and her paramour, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Marianne and Paul are living in glorious isolation in a hilltop villa on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria, where they lounge about naked and make furious love in any and all rooms. Their choice of a retreat suggests they just want to be left alone, but neither can turn down Harry, a natural-born glad-handing speed freak who guzzles vino, pees where he likes, and is determined to be the life of the party.

For the music mogul was once Marianne’s lover and the force behind her international career. And as their relationship was winding down, Harry groomed Paul, a documentary filmmaker, to take his place in Marianne’s bed.

So suddenly the couple has as  a houseguest the motormouthed Harry, an interloper who seizes control of Marianne’s record collection, buzzing from one topic to another, erupting in rock ‘n’ roll survival stories and doing an insanely cool and ridiculously sinuous open-shirted dance to the Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.”

David Kajganich’s screenplay — an adaptation of the 1968 French film “The Swimming Pool” — centers on the question of just why Harry has shown up at this time.

For Marianne and Paul are extremely vulnerable. She’s had throat surgery to reverse the damage done by her larynx-shredding singing style. There’s no way of knowing if she’ll be able to resume her career; in the meantime she has been ordered not to speak above a whisper.

This prompts the irreverent Harry to ask Paul: “Does she write your name when she comes?”

 

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far_from_the_madding_crowd_carey_mulligan_tom_sturridge_1“FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD”  My rating: B (Opening wide on May 15)

119 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

Like the 1874 novel on which it is based, the latest screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd has so many melodramatic plot twists that it’s almost laughable.

Yet we don’t laugh. Romance, tragedy and social insight percolate throughout this story of a woman who revels in and suffers because of her stubborn independence.

The success of the book — and any film based on it — lies in Hardy’s ahead-of-his-times feminism, his depiction of subtle psychological states, and the beauty of his language (or visual style, in the case of a movie).

With Carey Mulligan as the strong-willed Bathsheba Everdene and a supporting cast of mostly-solid players, the new “Far from the Madding Crowd” nicely balances those elements.

But a warning: Those who fondly recall John Schlesinger’s 1967 version with Julie Christie may find the approach of director Thomas Vinterberg and screenwriter David Nichols too muted and subdued.

The earlier film had big dramatic moments and oozed a pastoral passion eagerly embraced by its major stars (Christie, Peter Finch, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp). But the Danish Vinterberg, a founder of Scandinavia’s austere Dogme 95 film movement, aims for low-keyed realism rather than high drama.

We first encounter Bathsheba on horseback. She is riding in the proper sidesaddle fashion, but when she’s sure nobody is watching Bathsheba  throws a leg over the big beast and takes off on  a glorious gallop — man-style.

That scene and her encounter with a neighboring shepherd, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), establish her as a woman with big aspirations even if she has no idea of  how to achieve them.

When after just one encounter Oaks asks her to marry him, Bathsheeba turns him down.

“I would hate to be some man’s property,” she says, adding, “You would grow to despise me.”

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