REVIEW: THE SNOWMAN (2017)

Starring

Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (Independence Day: Resurgence)
Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
David Dencik (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Ronan Vibert (Hex)
Chloë Sevigny (Lizzie)
James D’Arcy (Bates Motel)
Genevieve O’Reilly (The Legend of Tarzan)
Alec Newman (Dune)

Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017)At a remote cabin amidst heavy snowfall, a woman confronts a brutal man named Jonas saying she is going to tell his wife about their illegitimate son. The son overhears this and leaves the house and builds a snowman. Jonas leaves angrily in his car. The woman and her son pursue him, but lose him in the snow. She lets go of the steering wheel, causing the car to drive off the road onto a frozen lake. The boy manages to escape from the sinking car, but the woman stays inside in an apparent suicide.Harry Hole is a brilliant but troubled inspector with the Norwegian Police Service’s Oslo district, struggling with the aftermath of his break-up with his girlfriend Rakel and her new relationship with Mathias, a renowned surgeon. Harry was very close to her son Oleg, who is unaware that Harry is his biological father. Oleg mentions, on an outing with Harry, that his mother (Rakel) refused to let him search for his father. Harry receives a mysterious letter signed with the drawing of a snowman, and is paired with a brilliant new recruit, Katrine Bratt. The two are assigned to a missing persons case of Birte Becker, who vanished from her house after being followed home by a red Volvo.Rebecca Ferguson, Michael Fassbender, and Joakim Skarli in The Snowman (2017)The police receive a report of another missing woman named Sylvia Otterson. When Harry and Katrine travel to her farmhouse to investigate, they find her alive and well. They brush the report off as a prank call and leave, but shortly thereafter a figure wearing a black ski mask stalks and kills Sylvia outside her house, using a wire fastening harness to decapitate her. Harry receives another call about Otterson, and returning to the farmhouse comes face-to-face with her identical twin sister Ane. They search the property and find Sylvia’s beheaded corpse inside her barn, and her head atop a snowman inside an empty storage tank.Jonas Karlsson and Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017)Connecting the letter with the presence of a snowman at the crime scene of the murder with the snowman at the scene of the first woman’s (Birte) disappearance, Harry’s research leads him to a previous case in Bergen, involving a similar set of circumstances. He travels to meet the case’s investigating officer Gert Rafto, but upon arrival learns that Rafto died eight years prior through what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and that the case went cold after his apparent suicide. Inside Rafto’s old cabin, he finds a jacket and a photograph that lead him to realize that Katrine is Rafto’s daughter, and is likely out to find her father’s real killer.Michael Fassbender in The Snowman (2017)Katrine believes that Arve Støp, a business tycoon implicated in the earlier case, is behind her father’s death. Støp is involved in a high-class prostitution ring overseen by Idar Vetelsen, a doctor working at a clinic all the current victims had visited. Birte’s cell phone begins transmitting again, and the signal is traced to Vetelsen’s house. When the police raid it, they find Vetelsen dead of a shotgun blast to the head, along with the remains of Birte and another victim named Hegen Dahl. Katrine begins to seduce Støp at a fundraiser event, and he asks her to meet him in his hotel room. She sets a trap for him inside, but she is attacked and drugged by a masked figure who severs her right finger and uses it to unlock the biometric security measures on her work tablet, wiping all the data from it. The next morning, Harry sees the impression of a snowman atop his snow-covered car, and inside finds Katrine dead in the driver’s seat.Rakel tells Harry that Oleg has run away after Harry missed a school camping trip which he was supposed to have gone to. Oleg stays at a friend’s house, and when Rakel arrives to tell Harry the two kiss and almost have sex. Mathias calls to tell Rakel that he is picking up Oleg to take him home. Upon returning home, Mathias drugs and ties up Rakel, then does the same to Oleg, taking both of them to a cottage in Telemark. Harry locates the cottage, where he finds that Mathias has Rakel and Oleg hostage with the cutter to Rakel’s throat. Mathias is revealed as the boy at the start of the film, who hated his mother for committing suicide and, thus, abandoning him. Harry attacks Mathias and manages to get the cutter off of Rakel’s neck, losing a finger in the process. Mathias escapes and Harry gives pursuit, chasing him onto the ice. Mathias manages to shoot Harry, but the ice beneath Mathias’ feet suddenly cracks and breaks apart, dropping him into the water below and dragging him under the current to his death. After having his injuries treated, Harry returns to the police precinct, and volunteers for a new homicide case.The movie is really slow-paced at first, it does pick up in the second half though. It’s got a very creepy, disturbing feel to it as well, and Fassbender is good in the lead. The characters aren’t very well developed though, and the movie is mostly just dull. It might be worth watching late one night.

REVIEW: THE WHITE QUEEN

CAST

Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible 5)
Max Irons (Red riding Hood)
Faye Marsay (Game of Thrones)
Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk)
James Frain (Gotham)
Janet McTeer (Insurgent)
David Oakes (Victoria)
Eleanor Tomlinson (Jack The Giant Slayer)
Juliet Aubrey (Primeval)
Caroline Goodall (Hook)
Freya Mavor (Skins)
Elinor Crawley (Ordinary Lies)
Amanda Hale (Catastrophe)
Veerle Baetens (The Verdict)
Michael Marcus (Lucan)
Michael Maloney (The Young Victoria)
Hugh Mitchell (Nicholas Nickleby)
Rupert Young (Island at War)
Robert Pugh (Love Bite)
Rupert Graves (Fast Girls)
Andrew Gower (Outlander)
Shaun Dooley (Cuffs)
Arthur Darvill (Legends of Tomorrow)
Emily Berrington (Humans)

As a history buff I was sceptical about this series but I was also interested to see the story of these historical women who helped shape history as we know it today.  The series is based on the Cousins War series written by Phillipa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl. The Cousins War consists of five books, each focusing on a different woman who has a hand in the battle for the crown of England. The first book is The White Queen focusing on Elizabeth Woodville; the second book is The Red Queen looking at the mother of Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort as she looks to secure her son’s position as a future king. The Lady of the Rivers looks at the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Jaquetta Woodville, a Burgundian Duchess who marries out of duty before marrying a lowly squire for love. The Kingmaker’s Daughter follows the daughter of Lord Warwick, Anne Neville, and her journey as she is sold as a pawn in her father’s bid for power before finally becoming the Queen of England, wife of Richard III.The series follows the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville; three women who are largely forgotten in history. With its debut it has received mixed reviews; the daily mail found the inconsistencies laughable – the drainpipes in the background; the telegraph believed it left much to be desired on all fronts; however Harry Vennings reviews that “somehow the show succeeds as a historical drama” despite being “unashamedly romantic in it’s approach”.I myself was sceptical but have since jumped on the bandwagon and was hooked. It is the women who are the focus of the show as they plot to stay in power or gain power, or simply to just stay alive, and they are interesting in their own right. The one who stands out from the beginning is Jaquetta Woodville, former confidante of Margaret D’Anjou, who made her first appearance in episode 4. Jaquetta is a very shrewd woman who knows how to take care of herself; the best example is her trial in which Warwick accuses the Lady Rivers of witchcraft and she leaves the kingmaker speechless – I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it is a great scene.The character who grew on me is Anne Neville who was a sweet but naive young girl forced to grow up fast as she is married off to the Lancastrian Prince Edward and heads off to battle in the train of Margaret D’Anjou, even gaining respect from the self proclaimed “Queen Militant” who I found fascinating too. A woman in a man’s world with a husband incapable of remembering what day it is never mind ruling a kingdom; so she takes a stand to secure her son’s crown. When you think about it, would you stand back as someone steals what you believe rightfully belongs to your child? Wouldn’t you at least try to fight for their inheritance? By the end of episode five I had a great respect for the vilified “she wolf” and the kingmaker’s daughter.My least favourite is Margaret Beaufort who seems as if she has some kind of mental disorder the way she walks around talking to God. She is not very likable, but you can understand that she hasn’t had a happy life – she was only twelve when she was married and pregnant with her only child Henry. She was then forced to give him up and marry another man, but her life is devoted to her son and God and she believes that her son is the next King of England, so she becomes determined to see it come true.The series has received a lot of negative reviews, but personally I enjoyed the show. It’s not The Tudors but it isn’t meant to be and I like that it brings the women to the foreground.

REVIEW: HERCULES (2014)

CAST

Dwayne Johnson (Get Smart)
Ian McShane (Deadwood)
John Hurt (Hellboy)
Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist)
Aksel Hennie (The Martian)
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters)
Reece Ritchie (The Lovely Bones)
Joseph Fiennes (Flashforward)
Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible 5)
Joe Anderson (Hannibal TV)
Ian Whyte (Prometheus)

Hercules is the leader of a band of mercenaries composed of the spear-wielding prophet Amphiaraus of Argos, the knife-throwing thief Autolycus of Sparta, the feral warrior Tydeus of Thebes, the Amazon archer Atalanta of Scythia and his nephew storyteller Iolaus of Athens. Hercules is said to be the demigod son of Zeus, who completed the legendary Twelve Labors, only to be betrayed by Hera who drove him insane and caused him to murder his wife Megara and their children during a visit to King Eurystheus. Throughout the film, it is not clearly established that Hercules is truly the son of Zeus, and many are skeptical of the claim as well as of the stories of Hercules’ famous Twelve Labors. Despite this, Hercules displays unusual strength and nigh-unmatched skill in combat. Hercules is frequently haunted by the memory of the deaths of his wife and children by his hand, as well as visions of Cerberus.
After finishing a recent mission and saving his nephew on the Macedonian Coast in Northern Greece in 358 BC, Hercules and his team are celebrating and drinking at a tavern when they are approached by Ergenia on behalf of her father Lord Cotys who wants Hercules to train the armies of Thrace to defend the kingdom from bloodthirsty warlord Rhesus. Hercules accepts after he and his men are offered his weight in gold, and the band is welcomed to Thrace by King Cotys and General Sitacles, leader of the Thracian army. However, Rhesus has reached the Bessi tribe in Central Thrace and Cotys insists that Hercules lead the army into battle to defend the Bessi, despite their lack of training. However, they are too late as Rhesus’ sorcery has turned the Bessi against the Thracians.
After the Bessi are defeated, Hercules properly trains the army, then Hercules and Sitacles confront Rhesus and his soldiers on the battlefield before Mount Asticus. The Thracians force Rhesus’ army to retreat, but Rhesus himself rides out to confront Hercules and is defeated by him. Rhesus is taken back to Thrace as a prisoner, where he is tortured and humiliated. Hercules takes pity and stops the townfolk from throwing more objects at him, then Hercules mentions Rhesus’ actions of burning down villages, Rhesus tells him it was not him or his army, and tells Hercules that he has been fighting on the wrong side. Later in the hall of the palace, Rhesus has been chained up and left on display. Noticing that Ergenia has taken pity to him, Hercules confronts her and finds out Rhesus was telling the truth in that he was merely retaliating against Lord Cotys’s aggressive attempts to expand his kingdom. Although Ergenia doesn’t agree with Lord Cotys’s methods, she goes along with them for the sake of her son Arius, Lord Cotys’s successor to the throne, who is being threatened by Cotys.
After receiving their reward, the mercenaries are ready to leave, but Hercules decides to stay behind to stop Cotys, and all but Autolycus choose to follow him. However, they are overpowered and captured by Sitacles and his men. While chained, Hercules is confronted by King Eurystheus, who is in league with Lord Cotys. Eurystheus reveals that he drugged Hercules the night his family died, viewing him as a threat to his power. Hercules’s family was in fact killed by three vicious wolves sent by Eurystheus, resulting in Hercules’s constant hallucinations of Cerberus. When Lord Cotys orders Ergenia to be executed for her betrayal, Hercules is encouraged by Amphiaraus to believe in himself just as everyone believes in him. In a show of superhuman strength, Hercules breaks free of his chains, saving Ergenia and slaying the wolves with his bare hands. Hercules releases the prisoners, including Rhesus, and then confronts King Eurystheus, impaling him with his own dagger. He is attacked by Sitacles, who is then stabbed by Iolaus.
Outside, Hercules and his forces battle Lord Cotys and his army. Arius is taken hostage, but then rescued by Autolycus, who has decided to return to help his friends. In the ensuing battle, Tydeus is mortally wounded while protecting Arius, but fights on slaughtering numerous Thracian soldiers. Hercules again uses inhuman strength and pushes a massive statue of Hera from its foundations and uses it to crush Lord Cotys and many of his soldiers. The remaining soldiers see Hercules as lightning flashes in the background. The surviving soldiers bow to Hercules, and Arius takes the throne, with Ergenia at his side, while Hercules and his men depart in search of other adventures.
As the credits roll, an animated retelling of the Twelve Labors shows how Hercules accomplished these feats with the help of his companions.The running length is long enough to feel satisfied and not so long that it overstays its welcome. The plot twists you see coming a mile away but at least it tries to do them. Other than one characters actions near the end which was so obvious it was stupid to include.  In conclusion, its worth watching. It takes it times to grab you, but once it does it doesn’t let go.