Reykjavik Rotterdam

The inspiration behind Contraband (Baltasar Kormákur, 2012); the  thing that grabs you when watching this first movie is that despite having many of the same people involved in producing and directing both movies they are both very different in presentation and style.  Reykjavik Rotterdam has that more “rough around the edges” feel that one expects from Icelandic movies including some previous efforts from Kormákur like Jar City (2005), indeed Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson who played the gruff but likeable detective Erlendur in Jar City (the Arnaldur Indriðason created character from his crime novels) plays the role of Steingimur, which in the remake is the character Sebastian, played by Ben Foster.  What we have here is a very Icelandic movie.

Here the relationship with the Ship’s captain is better explained. The overall plot is less convoluted. The van and the carpet cleaner still play their parts. This is not to take away from Contraband, after all there are probably more people in a suburb of New Orleans than there is in the whole of Iceland, the plot line has to be simpler and less, shall we say, grand. (I’m sure the budget had something to with the scale of both productions). There is a darker edge to the original, but that’s most likely a product of its source.

Watching both movies within a short time of each other gives a master class in perspective.  Both movies ultimately come from the same genetic strain but are quite different in their result. The overall plot line stays the same but how the plot is developed and ho it subsequently differs is interesting. We also see a difference in the characterization, as with many European films there is a subtle but distinct emphasis on the character’s background and personality, usually more so than US movies.

Watching Reykjavik Rotterdam only days after Contraband, I thought it might not work;  I had hoped to watch this movie before watching Contraband, but the DVD arrived late and I had to wait, but as it turned out that was no issue, as both complimented.  It was something like watching the movie before reading the book.

These are two very different movies, two views of the one story but they are not mutually exclusive.  As I mentioned earlier RR is a more grounded movie; they are smuggling alcohol, rather than cash, even down to the painting (and I am not going to say too much here) but, no offense, it is more likely that there would be a Jackson Pollack transported through Rotterdam streets than Panama.  It may be my bias, but I think Reykjavik Rotterdam is a slightly better movie, it might be because of my familiarity with Reykjavik or the acting versatility of people like Sigurðsson. Donnie Wahlberg performs his part well, but it is a part we are used to seeing him play.

Rating = 7/10, well worth a watch, especially if you like a good thriller. I knew the plot, I knew the storyline, but I still watched it and was entertained by it.

This Must Be the Place

Directed by Paulo Sorrentino. This small sentence explains a lot, more so when I say it was Sorrentino who directed Il Divo in 2008.  If this movie has a failing is that you, or at least I did, spend time thinking of people like Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and such like.  This is because Sorrentino’s work is up there with these greats.

Starting off in Dublin we see a bent over, glam rocker who we learn is a former star now living in Dublin in a sprawling mansion surrounded by his ever so eccentric wife (Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading, 2008)who despite being more than sufficiently wealthy actually works as a fire fighter.

The Support cast such as the young Goth (Mary Eve Hewson), her mother (Olwen Fouere, The Other Side OF Sleep, 2011) who seems to be suffering from the loss of a son and is comforted by Cheyenne. The cast in the American side is just as excellent.

One day Cheyenne receives a call, his father is dying. Rather than fly, he has a fear of flying, he takes a ship across to New York.  He arrived too late and his father is already dead.  Talking with his cousin, he is given his father’s diaries, they are actually notes he produced over the years as part of his search for a Nazi prison guard who humiliated him during the Holocaust.

Cheyenne, knows he is possibly depressed, his wife thinks he is bored, he thinks so too. With this in mind he sets off across America to find this man, and himself in the process.  David Byrne of Talking Heads fame makes a cameo as an old friend, thankfully with musical accompaniment. Judd Hirsh presents us with the character of Mordecai Midler a Nazi Hunter who is knew his father.

Umberto Contarello co-wrote the screen play with Sorrentino, it is quick smart and well placed. The screenplay is supported by nicely nuanced cinematography, subtle direction, random characters who would be at home in a Cohen Bros. film and finally a fantastic soundtrack. Leaving aside the Talking Heads/David Byrne contributions, of which there are many and which stand alone by themselves, there is also Nino Bruno and Gavin Friday’s contributions as well as excellent use of Arvo Pärt’s Spiegal Im Spiegal and Alex & Jonsi’s Happiness.  If there was a weakness to the movie, it was that the much of the soundtrack was too well known, that said it was not overpowering and added to the scenes rather than detracted from them.

Quirky, original, independent…weird… this is certainly well worth watching. Sean Penn is world class and shows again why he is one of the world’s most versatile actors , a total pleasure to watch, and a master-class in characterisation

9/10 – go watch it and then buy the soundtrack…and the DVD when it comes out!


This movie revolves around the central character Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg)  (I’m saying nothing about his alarm business and the electrical connections to a name like Farraday) who, having grown up following in his father’s (William Lucking, Sons of Anarchy 2008+) footsteps as a crook and smuggler in New Orleans, is now married, with two sons and his own business.

This ideal world is thrown upside-down when his young brother-in-law is forced to dump overboard the drugs he was smuggling in to New Orleans port when the the ship he was working on was raided by customs.  Having gone to the drug dealer he was working for thinking the issue could be sorted things went from bad to worse. Beaten and in hospital, Chris Farraday and his wife are brought into the affair. After trying to sort out the issue, the dealer simply replied with the threat that if the money was not repaid all the family would be killed.  With  no other option Chris goes back into the smuggling business.

After arranging to bring in forged notes from Panama to the US he signs-on his old ship.  The problem is the Captain hates both him and his father and upon seeing him sets about making his life a misery, this turns out to be the least of his worries.  While on the way to Panama he pulls his team together.  Many of those on the ship have worked with him in the past and help with the mission.  Despite this things go from bad to worse  once they enter Panama.

Over  the course of events he learns just who he can depend on as he is forced to improvise after multiple challenges rise to make life difficult for him.  There are a number of minor, but sign-posted twists in this movie so I’m trying hard not to need a spoiler alert.

Enough about the plot, what about the movie itself? Well, it is based on the Icelandic movie Reykjavik Rotterdam (Óskar Jónasson, 2009) and is obviously different given the options available to Baltasar Kormákur. It should be pointed out that Kormákur co-produced the original movie, he also has 101 Reykjavik (2000) and Jar City (2005) under his belt. This is not one of his best films, but that said, it is not a bad movie.

It is a solid thriller which does what it sets out to do; entertain.  The supporting cast; Kate Bekinsale (Underworld 2003+), Lukas Haas (Brick 2005) et al all do their jobs well and add to the overall movie.

Rating 6/10, it does what it says on the box.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I Was wondering how best to describe this movie, to a certain extent it is a comedy, a situation comedy rather than anything slapstick, it is very British. Indeed just as there may be some Indian stereotypes portrayed in the movie there are certainly a number of British stereotypes shown, indeed that’s probably the key to the movie.  To a certain extent it is also a romance in that there is the normal romance between the individuals which or course happens  – with hilarious repercussions, but there is also the romance with India, Tom Wilkinson (Rocknrolla, 2008), playing a retired High Court judge goes there trying to find a love he left behind 40 years ago, in the days when he lived in India.

Directed by John Madden, one of those very under-rated but excellent directors, who although you may not have heard of him, you will have heard of and appreciated his work with outputs such as Mrs Brown, 1997 or more recently The Debt, 2010.  The screenplay is by Ol Parker, who although not too well know, did “cut his teeth” on Grange Hill with the BBC. The Film itself is based on the novel by Deborah Moggach who wrote the screenplay for the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

There is a scene where the “English” cast are sitting in the airport waiting for their flight when the camera pans wide and reveals them sitting in a row of seats and you just have to appreciate the talent in from of you.  Dame Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey,  2010; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1969 ) plays the part of a working-class former nanny/house keeper with very bigoted views who by force of chance finds herself in India at the Marigold and after the initial shock starts to settle in with some great lines delivered. Having a second Dame in the film is no bad thing and Judi Dench lives up to here reputation playing a widow who always had things done for her (to disastrous ends)  and now finds herself beginning a new life in India.  Bill Nighy (Page Eight, 2011) and Penelope Wilton (Doctor Who, 2005) play a retired couple who begin to realise that it is loyalty and duty which are keeping them together.  Ronald Pickup plays a geriatric Don Juan, while Celia Imry (Calendar Girls, 2003) plays a female version, together they make an improbable team, that just happens to work on screen.

Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire 2008, Skins 2007) play the hapless young man trying to make a success of the crumbling ruin of a hotel which his late father ran into the ground.  Owning a one third share with his other brothers who are quite successful in life he is seen as the family failure, so much so his mother comes to take over and sell the hotel.  As if life was hard enough he has to try and get his mother to accept the girl he loves and wants to marry despite his mother picking a suitable arranged bride. It is to Patel’s credit that he stands equal to such great acting talent.

I’ve not spoken too much about the plot, it is simple a group of people find strength in new form friendships in a strange country and in doing so find out much about themselves.

8/10, a real feel-good movie of the type the British are great at producing, even the soundtrack contributes without stealing the limelight.  The trailer does not do it credit there is a lot more going on than just a group of fish out of water…

Stella Days

Back in 1979 a much younger Martin Sheehan, played a young army captain in a place where he did not belong , on a mission he did not particularly want to achieve. Years later he is again somewhere he did not want to be in Stella Days. In short this is not the fastest movie in the world, but it is not supposed to be. It is a very Irish film dealing with very Irish issues of the time. Knowing what we do now of the times then there is always a potentially dark side to this movie. but thanks to O’Sullivan this never happens  Despite the 1950’s Irishness of this movie the subject matter travels, the story is one which can be translated across times and locations. Sheehan plays an educated, cultured academic priest  who after being passed over for an appointment in Rome and subsequently letting his feelings be known is placed in a rural Irish Parish after years in Rome and the US.  After spending three years in Tipperary he is hoping his exile is over and he can  return to Rome, his dreams  are dashed when the local Bishop (Tom Hickey, The Riordans 1965, Breakfast  on Pluto 2005) tells him he is staying in the town and is charged with building a new church.

Not being the best fund raiser in the world he gets nowhere until the new teacher, fresh from the big city (Dublin) gives him the idea of a cinema. What follows is a very understated master class in the study of belonging, faith (in yourself, dreams and Him), loneliness and finding your place in life. The humour is calm, Stephen Rea plays his usual quiet dark self, here he plays the part of the local politician he is so conservative he makes the Bishop look radical. Along the way  we see Sheehan deal with his doubt, not so much in his faith, but his calling, we see Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta, 2005, Citizen X, 1995)  play the local politician, a man with no doubt but strong conservative conviction. This is not the fastest movie in the world, but it brings you along with it. The performances wheel you in Martin Sheehan is every bit as great as ever, whether it is a young captain, the President of the United States or the local parish priest.

This is a feel good story, told well. If you liked The Playboys (Gillies McKinnon, 1992) or Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988) then you will like this one. I had doubts about the direction at the start, but it turned out well, the script is tight and smart; the delivery is well timed and delivered with some nice laugh out loud moments Rating 8/10, perfect for  when you want to unwind and see a good story.