The Snowman

The Snowman

By: Kevin Jordan

The Iceman Cometh.

 

Oh man, am I proud of that tagline.  I always try to avoid using clunky puns in my taglines, and this movie just begs for something hacky like “This movie leaves everything out in the cold” or “You just got snowed in” or “’Snow joke this movie is bad.”  For the record, those last two came from my wife and they are brilliantly awful.  Basically, anything where the author is forcing a pun into a random sentence should be auto-deleted by whatever method they are using to write.  That includes pens, by the way.  On a related note, Val Kilmer is in this movie and now you know why that tagline is awesome.  I wasn’t even sure he was still alive, especially after he was tricked into doing MacGruber.  If you asked me to name a movie he was in after Red Planet in 2000, I would have blankly stared at you until you wondered if I had fallen asleep with my eyes open.  That includes me completely forgetting he was in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2006), and I liked that movie.  The point I’m trying to make is great job, KJ.  Why, thank you, KJ.

But seriously, what the hell happened to Kilmer’s career?  His IMDB page claims he hasn’t stopped acting, but reads like a bad recommendation list on Craig’s List.  Kilmer was one of my favorite actors, and I guess I assumed he just retired.  Imagine my surprise to see his name in the opening credits of The Snowman.  I thought “Oh hey!  Cool.  Val Kilmer.  I’ll be your huckleberry.”  Now, imagine my surprise when something that can only be described as the physical-embodiment-of-a-witch’s-curse-on-Val-Kilmer appeared on the screen.  And to add insult to injury, the role was just barely above glorified cameo.  As I sat through one of the worst films of 2017, I was devastated to see what The Iceman had been relegated to, and I wondered what he did that caused his career to swan dive into a wood chipper.

Symbolism.

So, yeah, The Snowman is the kind of shitty movie that one would expect to see a former A-lister in because he crapped in some studio head’s cereal, so I’m hoping Val will clear up my confusion (call me!).  However, that doesn’t explain Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, J.K. Simmons, James D’Arcy or Toby Jones headlining a film where the lead character’s name is Harry Hole.  No, I did not make that up and, no, this movie is not a porno.  To be fair, the series of novels the film is based on (particularly a novel with the same title) features that same character with that same name, plus are Norwegian (the author is Jo Nesbo), but come on.  There is a zero percent chance that less than five fake vaginas or butts were left in Fassbender’s trailer.

I have to believe that the book is orders-of-magnitude better than this film, but I don’t speak or read Norwegian, and if there’s an English translation of the book, I wouldn’t know about it.  Call it a hunch.  I did read the wiki page for the novel and, based on the plot synopsis, it’s a safe assumption the screenwriters didn’t read the novel either.  Hell, the marketing people didn’t even bother reading the screenplay because the movie poster says “Mister Police.  You could have saved her.  I gave you all the clues,” even though nothing even remotely similar to that happens in the movie.  Speaking of which…

You know what is never in this movie? This.

(SPOILER ALERT, but please keep reading in order to save ten dollars or more).

I thought this movie was going to be another Silence of the Lambs or Se7en type of movie, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Sure, there’s a serial killer and a cop investigating the murders, but any similarity ends there, including a sympathetic protagonist.  Hole (Fassbender) is an alcoholic detective who is only still employed because of his legendary past.  Two of the first times we see him, he is passed out in a public place, lucky that nobody lights a match near him to keep him from freezing to death (the film takes place in Oslo).  Want to know anything about Harry’s past cases that are so famous they are literally studied at the police/detective academy?  Too bad.  Wondering why supercop is a fall-down drunk?  Synd (that’s Norwegian for “too bad”).  Want to know if all houses in Norway include an interior window into the master bedroom?  Too ba…wait, what?  Really?  Were those windows in the books and that’s actually a thing in Norway?  No wonder the kid in the beginning of the film became a serial killer with mommy issues.  It’s a better explanation than because his mom tried to kill them both by parking her car on a frozen lake (in the slowest ice break you will ever see).

(Note: seriously, those windows are in the movie.  One of them is in the wall between the master bedroom and little girl’s bedroom.  Either parents use that window to scare their kids away from ever having sex or figure it’s easier just to show them the birds and the bees talk.)

I’d like to tell you that any of the other characters are more interesting, but then I’d also like to tell you that wasn’t really Val Kilmer in the movie, but Jame Gumb wearing Kilmer’s skin as a suit.  Ferguson plays Katrine Bratt, a detective assigned to the department investigating a 9-year-old cold case from Bergen, Germany.  When a woman is reported missing, she connects the old case (in which a woman was murdered and partially dismembered) with the missing woman based on – I swear to you I’m not making this up – the old murder and the new disappearance happening during a snow storm.  This connection is so stupid, Harry even calls her out on it, pointing out that it snows a lot in Northern Europe.  As the movie reveals the actual motivations and M.O. of the killer, we learn that connection is indeed flat-out wrong.  Of course, it turns out she’s out for revenge on Arve Stop (Simmons) because she believes Stop is responsible for her father’s death because her father was investigating the cold case before it became a cold case.  Did you follow all that?  In short, she’s a bad detective bent on murder.

You see, it is all about falling snow.

The parade of bad characters continues while the plot contorts itself into a Dali painting.  Stop may or may not be raping orphans and abortion patients, but definitely has a weird phone fetish and is leading the bid for Oslo to be awarded the Winter Cup Games (don’t ask).  Hole’s ex-girlfriend (ex-wife?), Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is kind of sympathetic until bad scene #78, where she goes to Harry’s apartment to yell at him for forgetting his camping trip with her son, then hikes up her skirt and rubs around on Harry’s bumpy part for a minute because her live-in boyfriend, Mattias (Jonas Karlsson), goes to a lot of conferences.  Then, because this really isn’t porn, she just stops all the rubbing before the movie has the decency to remove either actor’s clothing, which should have been the reward to the audience for sitting through 119 minutes of reheated leftover Hot Pockets.

At this point, you are probably just hoping to hear about whatever clever thing the movie does with the snowmen, but clever is wildly optimistic.  As I noted earlier, there is no cat-and-mouse game between the killer and the police, despite what the movie poster promises.  The killer is never taunting Harry or leaving clues.  The killer leaves a snowman sometimes, the body of a snowman with a human head sometimes, the head of snowman and a human body sometimes, and sometimes just builds a snowman on the back of other snowmen.  Most of the time, the snowman goes completely unnoticed by Harry and Katrine, if it is there at all (the partial snowmen melt before the cops show up).  The snowmen in the movie serve the same purpose as every snowman you have ever built – decoration or building something to distract your mind from dwelling on just having seen your parents 69-ing it through the Norwegian viewing window.

For about four minutes after the movie ended, I tried to talk myself into the movie not being that bad, but my friends immediately started crapping on the film, which is usually my lead.  But can you really blame me for hesitating?  Fassbender and Simmons are amazing actors, D’Arcy and Jones are great character actors, Ferguson shows a lot of promise, and Val freaking Kilmer.  Every one of them gave it the old college try, but the college was Trump U.  Bad writing, undeveloped characters, sluggish pacing, cliched dialogue and motivations, and false promises combined to form a movie so bad that not even Kilmer’s doppelganger should have been forced to appear in it.

Rating: Ask for all of your money back, plus the last fifteen years of Val Kilmer’s career.

The Light Between Oceans

By: Kevin Jordan

It’s okay to cry.

light_between_oceans poster

If there is one cliché about parenting that is absolutely true, it’s that there is nothing that can fully prepare you for it.  You can read books, take classes, babysit your sister’s kids, or even intern at an elementary school, but there is always something that will completely surprise you.  Every parent can tell you at least one thing they’ve said that they never imagined would be a single sentence.  Something like “son, please don’t throw Fig Newtons into the shower.”  One thing nobody warned me about was that random things now have the potential to make me tear up or cry.  I’m not talking about typical tragedies or severe injuries or extraordinary joys; I’m talking about crescendos in songs I’ve heard a hundred times.  And, I know exactly when those man-walls-of-toughness I built up over my early years were demolished into a fine powder – the day my son was born (a little over four years ago).  Now, I can’t watch The Lego Movie without yawning to cover up my glassy eyes and even mentioning Hans Zimmer terrifies me.

The Light Between Oceans is exactly the kind of movie I never would have teared up at before parenthood.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a tear-jerker; I just didn’t use to well-up at obvious tear jerkers.  This film features a married couple, Tom (Michael Fassbender) and Isabel (Alicia Vikander), living alone on an island where Tom tends a lighthouse.  A couple of days after her second miscarriage, they spot a boat drifting near the beach and discover a baby and the dead body of the baby’s father.  In her inexplicable grief, Isabel sees this as a gift from God while Tom sees it as an event that must be reported to the mainland immediately.  Isabel convinces Tom not to report it and they decide to raise the baby as their own.  After a couple of years, they return to the mainland to christen the child and Tom discovers who the child’s mother is (Rachel Weisz), and that she, Hannah, visits the grave of her daughter and husband every day.  The guilt he felt before was nothing compared to the level it ratchets up to upon seeing Hannah in the cemetery.  It’s the kind of guilt that not even Catholic or Jewish mothers can inspire (though not for lack of trying).

The full guilt hasn't kicked in yet.

The full guilt hasn’t kicked in yet.

I won’t tell you anymore about the plot and what I did tell you is on the back of the book this movie is based on (same title), so no whining about spoilers.  However, I will tell you that the story is really about love, more specifically what parents will do for their kids and what spouses will do for their partners.  In this scenario, the child is just the catalyst for the choices forced upon these three people.  Think of this as the worst multiple choice test you’ve ever taken and multiply by Romeo and Juliet.

At this point, you probably have two questions.  Question One – why would I review a movie like this when I typically review movies featuring robots, car chases, explosions, or exploding robot car chases?  Answer – Rachel Weisz, Michael Fassbender, and Alicia Vikander.  All three of those actors are near the top of my list of actors I will watch in anything, and they did not disappoint.  Pay special attention to the scene where Isabel is pleading with Tom not to call in their finding and watch their faces.  If you didn’t know what anguish looked like before this film, you will after that scene.

Question Two – did I really cry?  You’ve probably already guessed that I did, but you’re not sure how much.  Answer – I did, but not in the theater.  I held it together through a combination of determination and raw, manly toughness.  Think Tim Allen and his barking and multiply by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Then, I got in my car and made it about five more minutes before my parent brain kicked in and wept like a bride on her wedding day.  Really, that’s all you need to know about this film.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back, but do ask for some tissue for the drive home.