Branagh WALLANDER BBC TV series vs WALLANDER Canal!!

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My first introduction to Henning Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander is with the Kenneth Branagh helmed WALLANDER BBC series. I found those shows visually striking and emotionally intense. Only recently have I likewise become introduced to the earlier Swedish series starring Krister Henriksson (earliest episodes dating from 2006, with the latest episodes being in 2013).

There is a degree of fatalism and nihilism in the more slick and stylish BBC reworking of WALLANDER that is absent from the earlier Swedish television series. And I feel that that absence is to the earlier show’s benefit.

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While the Swedish series is no less a captive and mirror of the forlorn land it depicts, there is in the original series and in the captivating and world wearied yet bemused performance by Krister Henriksson a welcome sense of hope, of optimism even in the face of those who have forsworn hope. As such, despite or because of its understated nature, there is something more endearing in the Swedish WALLANDER, something easier worn.

Whereas the BBC version of Wallander is a different animal all-together. First its scale is far grandeur than the Swedish version, essentially each season comprised of three feature length movies, with approximately two years between seasons; 2008, 2010, and 2012 respectively.

Add to that Branagh’s wonderful portrayal of a man ever more broken is superlative. However that degree of depression can be taxing to view. To the BBC WALLANDER’s credit it is a distinct and different take from the Swedish version they were going for and achieved, so it can be viewed as its own thing rather than simply a remake.

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All that to say you can watch the original series and the BBC series and see two distinct and divergent shows, each deserving of your time. But if pressed regarding the version of Wallander that I enjoy the most, I would have to choose the Krister Henriksson series.

While the BBC version has amazing direction and cinematography, powerhouse acting by its lead Kenneth Branagh, and a wonderful score and introduction (reminiscent of the equally compelling LUTHOR), thematically I prefer the less angst ridden and less dire Swedish version. Its low-key delivery making for less hyperbolic viewing.

Grade: WALLANDER BBC series gets a grade of B/B+, and the CANAL Swedish version edges it out with a solid grade of B+.

Wallander Season 1 & 2 [Blu-ray] (This item requires a 1080i compatible player)

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander (Faceless Killers / The Man Who Smiled / The Fifth Woman) [Blu-ray]

Wallander Series 3 [Blu-ray]

Wallander: The Original Episodes, Set 1

Next up I’ll sample the Rolf Lassgard WALLANDER episodes and bring you my take on those.

MOVIE REVIEW! THOR IMAX 3D… The Verdict is…..????

Well the long awaited THOR movie is finally exploding across screens everywhere, and as I mentioned in my previous posts a lot hinged on this film, not least of which is a turnaround in a string of commercial disappointments for director Kenneth Branagh.

Well having just come back from seeing THOR in IMAX 3D… my verdict….??

It’s good, I enjoyed myself. It’s nicely paced, surprisingly smart film that also hit all the notes and plot points to shut-up people who were complaining about a multi-cultural cast, particularly Idris Elba (who always brings it), for pretty much all the story reasons I surmised.

So I was expecting it be action packed, but not necessarily as inventive, and even touching as it was.

Now that said, it does perhaps not quite meet the Juggernaut action expectations built up, but a solid story and performances, make up for that.

Kenneth Branagh handling perhaps the most difficult of all comic adaptations, exceptionally well, finding that difficult balance between regal and relate-able.

THOR even in the comic books, is extremely hard to a/get right and b/command a storyline. Instead working best as the heavy gun of the Avengers, then as a solo character. So for Branagh to steer this ship safely into movie theater shores, is no small accomplishment.

That said the ending felt a bit anti-climatic, the most effective action is clearly in the early portions of the movie. But that aside, the story beats, the emotional intensity, the Shakespearean like levels of tragedy and sacrifice, Branagh hits well. Hits hard enough… to satisfy.

Now leaving the movie proper to discuss the projection of the movie. I saw this in IMAX 3D, paying rather than the normal $8 matinée price, an exorbitant $14.50 for ‘IMAX 3D’. A $6.50 surcharge.

Before seeing this movie I couldn’t get any reviews to really discuss the 3D and if it was worth it. I’ve seen my share of IMAX 3D movies, real ones and the retrofitted AMC ones, and the ones not shot in 3D but simply post-processed, ie THOR.

Outside of a real IMAX THEATER (5 to 8 stories high, viewable at better science centers throughout the world), the best I’ve seen at an AMC IMAX theater (a midget IMAX) is of course AVATAR. Cameron pushing the technology to create 3D that actually works in a cine-plex.

But beyond AVATAR on IMAX 3D, most other 3D films suffer in comparison. THOR is no exception, it looks okay in 3D, but closer to the inferior Sony backed REALD 3D process, then real IMAX 3D. Sony’s inferior REALD 3D, gives a sense of looking into the screen, but it’s unable to give a real sense of the screen coming forward into real space, your space. This is what true IMAX 3D does so well. Not only offering depth, looking into something, but immersion, the film intruding and surrounding your real space.

So THOR IN IMAX 3D, looks okay, it just isn’t great. It isn’t IMAX 3D, and therefore is not worth the $6.50 surcharge. I personally think 3D movies should be the same price as 2D movies, but particularly if you’re going to charge that premium, the 3D experience should be breathtaking, and THOR IN IMAX 3D is just okay. The 3D almost transparent, and therefore, what’s the point.

So all in all if you can see this in 3D for no price increase, go for it. Otherwise avoid and stick to 2D on a big screen, you won’t be missing anything. And may actually gain something in brightness of picture.

3D is a nice thing for the occasional viewing, for the gee whiz factor, but it is no replacement for a really beautiful rendered and composed 2D film.

Just as HDTV for all its praise is not, nor never will be the equal of 35mm film, much less 70mm film.

HDTV is like DVD, a bastard compression medium, used to compress film into something viewable into the consumer confines of a tv and a living room, rather than the commercial standard of a movie screen and theater. Similar, but make no mistake, inferior, to true film.

And whereas a 70mm true IMAX 3D movie is in no way inferior to standard 70mm film, it is not appropriate for everything.

Cinema is a language.

And just as Black and White film can speak in a way color film can’t, and why I’m a huge Film Noir fan, 2D is also a distinct cinematic language, and sometimes that flat plane is the thing.

Not being in the shot, but observing the shot, is the thing.

Just as you can do THE THIRD MAN in color, but you would lose an ineffable part of the tone by so doing, that’s the same way that David Lean’s LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm, saying things about distance and alienation, would be lost translated into the “in-your-face” histrionics of IMAX 3D.

I like 3D in all its forms, to differing degrees, but even in its best forms I understand it’s a gimmick, that should not be overused.

3D ultimately is about lying to your brain, it’s about forcing a lie onto your brain, that this thing in front of you on the screen has as much depth and reality as the person sitting beside you or the world outside the theater.

In moderation it’s a fun gimmick.

But with this recent push to 3D TVs, you risk making it something else. You risk making the exception of lying to your brain, the rule, and what long term effects this can have, particularly on children’s development, growing up exposed constantly to this new medium, what challenge or aberration to their motor skills, and coordination, and socialization?, are questions that in the rush toward a new revenue stream… too many are ignoring.

Some of these 3D TVs are coming with warnings. You should heed them, and leave the 3D in the theater. My gut reaction? Stick to 2D for the home. At least till all the bugs are shaken out.

Likewise troubling, is the Sony push to digitize cinemas, as it has nothing to do with the best picture quality and everything to do with control and maximizing profit streams. The theaters forced to go this route will see their profit margins dwindle, and find themselves ever more at the mercy of the studios. And true 70mm and 35 mm theaters will go the way of the dodo, becoming a high priced specialty item for the few to seek out.

Here ends the public service announcement. :). Back to our THOR review.

Here on out I’ll be avoiding all 3D movies, unless a/specifically shot in IMAX 3D, with the Cameron cameras, or b/if it’s something especially gimmicky and is the same price as a regular film.

So given this criteria Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS III, which meets criteria # 1, will be the next 3D flick I check out. Unlike some people, I’m still quite enamored of Michael Bay’s visuals and always have fun at his movies. So if any movie can visually give Cameron’s AVATAR a battle, it may be Bay’s TRANSFORMERS.

So getting back to THOR, a very good if not great movie, that is poised to be the critical and commercial hit that Kenneth Branagh was definitely needing. And stay past the credits for the easter egg, if so inclined. Nothing earth shattering, but it’s fun that Marvel continues to do this universe building. Giving people a reason to sit through the credits.

Grade is a strong B/B+.

2011 Upcoming Movies/Films to be on the Lookout For!Pt. 1 of 3!

So 2010 was a fantastic year for film. Whenever you get me going to the theater over a dozen times in a year, pretty good year.

So before we continue with the 2010 Year in Review, will 2011 be as exciting?

Well so far the first two months of 2011 are pretty uninteresting film-wise (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu of BABEL film released BIUTIFUL this January. He’s a brilliant director, but the film’s premise doesn’t interest me enough to see it in the theater, but I will pick it up when it hits DVD. There’s a film called LOVE that is listed as a FEBRUARY release but I haven’t seen it in any theaters, like too many intriguing films, such as BLACK DYNAMITE it probably can’t get distribution, so probably will end up straight to DVD, but sounds great. Like this year’s MOON. Another one I hope to check out on DVD at least). So let’s take a look at what films do have me interested enough to pay theater prices to view them:

THE UNKNOWN-Thriller-Release Date: 18 February- I wasn’t a fan of Liam Neeson’s TAKEN, and this film seems to be in the same playground. What does interest me is the director Jaume Collet-Serra, I was quite a fan of his ORPHAN.


Feb 25th sees the release of DRIVE ANGRY 3D and SHELTER. Both I’m pretty lukewarm on, especially DRIVE ANGRY.

So 3 maybes, that’s a pretty pathetic January and February.

March gets a bit better, RANGO is a fun looking, family friendly animated film.

I really am, as a filmgoer, tired of Matt Damon, you would think he was the only actor in Hollywood, but that aside the previews for ADJUSTMENT BUREAU by first time director look very good. So that one is on my radar. But really casting couch, can you cast someone besides Matt Damon?

Also in March you get Jonathan Liebesman’s BATTLE OF LA.

It looks a little less stupid than the similarly themed, and by all reports awful, SKYLINE. However Liebesman gets a little bit of rope with me for his film DARKNESS FALLS, which while it faltered at the middle, and limped to an ending, that first 15 minutes is impressively scary and effective! So BATTLE LOS ANGELES is a weak maybe.

So far a lot of maybes but nothing I’m really committed to seeing in the theater. Until… SUCKER PUNCH. I know going in this is going to be completely nonsensical, but I also know it’s a Zack Snyder film, and he is one of the few directors that creates films, truly deserving of the big screen. His film are visual game-changers, adrenalin fueled power houses, designed to rattle your bones and stun your senses. So even when his films stumble (WATCHMEN) they are still compelling, and Amazing, and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. So SUCKER PUNCH is my first must see movie of 2011. Congrats to Zack Snyder (That said , what the heck is wrong with Zack Snyder hiring a British Actor to Play Superman!? Really? Is America no longer producing actors? All our actors come from England, or Australia, or South Africa or Canada? Really? WTF? Comeon, I know there are home grown actors out there besides Matt Damon!)

Okay, so onto April…

April 1st sees the release of Duncan Jones’ follow-up to MOON, the film SOURCE CODE. An interesting DAYBREAKesque type time mystery/thriller/scifi flick. Sounds good.

James Wan’s INSIDIOUS sounds like a reworking of POLTERGEIST, sounds intriguing but have not seen a trailer. It’s a maybe.

Steven Soderbergh has been more miss than hit for me recently, and I’m getting a little tired of all these female Assassin films (SALT was good, but enough is enough) however HAYWIRE is getting buzz of being Soderbergh’s best film since THE LIMEY, so depending on the trailer may be worth a look.

April 22nd sees the release of the mysterious sounding APOLLO 18. I saw the trailer and looks intriguing, about the moon landings discovering (and covering up) evidence of life on the Moon.

Okay May 6th sees the release of one of the most hyped films of 2011, Kenneth Branagh’s THOR, which I discussed in a previous post. Up there with SUCKER PUNCH as a must see in the theater movie of 2011. It’s been a long time since Branagh has had a hit, I think interest alone will make this film profitable, but it being good depends upon if Branagh, can rise not only to the challenge of a blockbuster action film, but the quality of his own early success. I’m hoping he succeeds, and will be in the theaters to see for myself.

Okay so here it is almost six months into 2011, and the only films with any significant number of characters of color, particularly Black characters are comedies. Inane product like “Medea something something”, and idiots walking around in drag, or whining, snap your finger, shake your head, talk show complaining flicks. I mean I’m sure those films have their place, but everything in effing moderation.

Which is why I LOVED the fact that 2010 gave us films like TAKERS and OBSESSED and even THE LOSERS. It gets old, Hollywood films that have no characters of color, or worse the token, step and fetchit character of color (COP OUT anyone). IT infuriates, mostly because I go to the film festivals and there are dozens of great films and filmmakers of color out there, but their films do not get picked up for distribution.

I can see the conversation going something like this: “Wow a movie that has characters of color not wearing their pants on the ground, or cursing every other word, or not a comedy, or otherwise lowest common denominator?? In other words showing Black People as more than the propaganda and stereotypes we’ve spent billions of dollars to sell to their children? Nope, we don’t want any of that!!” :).

My facetiousness aside, that seems to be the general thinking of the gatekeepers, those who determine what ideas, perceptions, should or should not reach the larger consciousness and conversation of the masses (particularly American).

So my rule these days is to seek out films that star characters of color in non-stereotypical ways, challenging and hopefully uplifting ways (which generally means no Halle Barry movies :) ). And you’ll see by the films I select (with exceptions), if a film doesn’t at least recognize diversity in its casting, I don’t recognize it in the Box Office. It is one of the reasons I have very little use for Woody Allen films.

Okay tirade over, onto the rest of the year of upcoming movies:

June has films that should be heavy hitters, but I’m really not interested in. GREEN LANTERN film, while it has a decent director, not a fan of the lead casting, or the trailer. But film does have Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller and Nick Jones as John Stewart and Taika Waititi as Tom Kalmaku. So those three and decent word of mouth may sway me to see this film. Matthew Vaughn, follows up KICK ASS, with X-MEN:FIRST CLASS, I’m a bit indifferent about the film, but Vaughn is an interesting director, and removed from his uncomfortable juxtaposition of extreme violence and preteen kids, I should have less problem with this film then I did with KICK ASS. It’s a maybe.

And also in June, JJ Abrams, a hit and miss director for me, is coming off a big hit with STAR TREK so I’ll follow him into his latest release… the scifi/alien flicK, possibly found footage film, SUPER 8.


July 1st brings us Michael Bay’s TRANSFORMERS:THE DARK OF THE MOON, and I have to tell you, I have no real interest in TRANSFORMERS, but much like I said about Zack Snyder, I find Michael Bay a filmmaker who makes films that are deserving of the big screen. And he has an amazing eye for camera placement and shot sequences, that stays with me long after I have seen his films. That’s a rare Pekinpahesque ability he has, for getting his images… to persist.

There’s a shot in TRANSFORMERS 2, where Megan Fox is leaning over the prostrate Lebouf, and the helicopter flies over her head in slow motion. It’s an absolutely gorgeous shot. I’ve seen that particular scene maybe twice, about a year ago, and that image is still rock solid in my head. David Lean would be proud.

It’s an amazing understanding of the iconic, and what visually… compels. So caring very little about the Transformers, for his visuals, as well as being a director who uses a diverse cast (While not a fan of his lead actor, his supporting actors are always intriguing) I’ll be in the theaters for this movie.

July 22nd brings us Joe Johnston’s CAPTAIN AMERICA:FIRST AVENGER. Like THOR that’s a no-brainer for me. I’ll be in the theaters for it. And the 29th brings us the latest from Jon Favreau, COWBOYS AND ALIENS. Riding high on his new lease on life with the IRON MAN films, we’ll see if he can continue his blockbuster ways sans Robert Downey Jr.


August brings us yet more hack remakes and sequels, in a year full of them. Among them CONAN (Lead actor looks great, but the director has a horrible track record. This, right now, looks like rental fodder), FINAL FANTASY 5 (This one has a fledgling director, but one who has assisted James Cameron, and writers who did not write the atrocious previous films, but also have not proved themselves capable of doing any better, one of the writers has also written the THING prequel, so FF5 could be a good barometer for how good or bad the THING movie will be), and also FRIGHT NIGHT (by a director of comedic romances).

September 2nd FINALLY brings us a film with a couple of people of color in the lead, Zoe Saldana (of TAKERS, STAR TREK, LOSERS and AVATAR fame… yes she has been very busy :) ) as the protagonist in COLUMBIANO, and Lennie James (WALKING DEAD) as Special Agent Ross.

Though I’m not crazy that Hollywood is trying to groom Zoe Saldana to be the next Halle Berry, or the fact that the film is yet another SALT permutation, about a female Assassin seeking vengeance. Still, I’ll support COLUMBIANO strictly because of the casting of Saldano and James in a thriller.

September 16th brings us DRIVE the latest from director Nicolas Winding Refn of BRONSON and VALHALLA RISING fame, a heist/thriller it’s a wait and see. Stars Tina Huang and Tiara Parker.

Also on September, 16th Rod Lurie who helmed the brilliant CONTENDER and is master of political thrillers, enters more stark thriller territory with the remake of Pekinpah’s classic STRAW DOGS. I’ve never been a fan of remaking great films, the optimum form of that film already exists, re-release it in theaters rather than remaking it, or push the DVD. However, if you’re going to remake something for a new generation, then remake something that you can improve on.

While I quite like the casting of James Woods and Laz Alonzo, and it is intriguing to see Kate Bosworth and James Marsden kinda reprise their SUPERMAN RETURNS roles of ill-fated lovers (though Kate Bosworth looks completely different as a blonde, that and the scant years, have made quite a difference in her face, there’s something quite unusual and perhaps a bit feral in her face in recent stills, that makes her quite beautiful and quite perfect for the role of a woman burning from within), I’m still a bit wary.

No one has ever improved on a Pekinpah film, and I don’t think Rod Lurie is going to be the first.

That is a concern, as is the fact the film hinges on James Marsden filling the role, amazingly performed by Dustin Hoffman in the original, and to date Marsden hasn’t shown the ability to be compelling on screen, or to have the range to make you care about him. X-MEN, SUPERMAN RETURNS he’s always the least interesting person on screen. Still, Lurie tends to be able to get the performances he needs, so I’m intrigued enough to give this one a look.


23rd September sees the release of ABDUCTION. I have no interest in the lead actors, or really the premise, but John Singleton as director makes me intrigued. Mostly because he’s slated to helm the POWER MAN/LUKE CAGE film, and what he can do with this film, will speak a lot on whether POWER MAN/LUKE CAGE will be horrible or great.

John Singleton is a director I keep wanting to like, but his films tend to underwhelm. SHAFT was awful, yet his last film… 2005’s FOUR BROTHERS was good, if not great. So I’m hoping the years since that movie, have made him a stronger filmmaker. We’ll see.

And closing out September we have Daniel Craig in director Jim Sheridan’s DREAM HOUSE, “a couple move into house where murder was committed” type thriller/spook tinged film.

Some honorable mentions that I’m not sure when they are being released:

CARANCHO- Just saw a trailer for this Argentine thriller, and it looks great. Mad, and war touched, and a bit beautiful.

RUBBER- Okay I’ve seen my share of weird movies, but this trailer even gave me pause. A killer tire??? Trailer is pretty funny, take a look.

RED RIDING HOOD- I’m no fan of TWILIGHT, but this take on the Red Riding Hood myth, stars Gary Oldman, and the trailer is pretty good. Plus I’m a huge fan of Werewolf movies. This is one to go see.

BLACK HEAVEN- Distributed by IFC films, the trailer for this French import looks quite compelling. Something about a VR game, that has dark and mysterious consequences in the real world.

CONSPIRATOR- Just saw the trailer for Robert Redford’s latest film, concerning the trial of conspirators in the wake of Lincoln’s Assassination and it looks FANTASTIC.

LIMITLESS- The trailer for Neil Burger’s latest re-imagines the idea of someone with superpowers, powers used not to jump around in gaudy spandex, and fight crime, but the way most would probably use such gifts, to pleasure themselves and to acquire more. It’s WALLSTREET meets THE BIONIC MAN. Nice hyper-kinetic trailer.

BLACK DEATH- This trailer tells a tale of superstition, and a reign of bloody torture during the dark years of the 14th century. Quite compelling trailer.