“The King’s Choice”: More engaging than thrilling

ROSEMARY SCHWEITZER
schwe035@rangers.uwp.edu

Two of the most jam-packed days in Norwegian history

War movies. I am reasonably sure we can agree that films centering around the topic of war are rarely cheerful. They might have moments of comedic relief or a heartwarming or uplifting ending, but on the whole, an average war film will at least leave watchers with a single tear threatening to fall. With this in mind, I have not gone to see that many war movies over the years.

When I sit in a seat, potentially with some popcorn or candy, I want to laugh and be merry, not weeping openly over men and women who died because someone somewhere got on their high horse and tried to take over the world. However, if I had to watch a war movie for say, I do not know, a film review for “The Ranger News”, I would not run away screaming.

Maybe it is not so bad

As it happens, “The King’s Choice” was easier to get through than I had hoped. Set in 1940s Norway, the film takes place over the course of roughly three days, and focuses on the decision of King Haakon VII, during that time. At that point in the war, Norway was determined to remain neutral, but Germany was equally determined to overrun and occupy the country.

King Haakon and the rest of the royal family flee to a safe farm in the countryside, and thus begins the game of cat and mouse between the Norwegian government and the Germans.

No bark, massive bite

With a cast of sympathetic and engaging characters, “The King’s Choice” does a good job of capturing the attention of its audience and making them invest in the final outcome. Haakon himself is a tall, weary-looking sixty-eight-year-old who looks as though a strong wind could carry him away.

The gentle nature with which he speaks to his grandchildren and the young soldiers he comes across throughout the film is refreshing and more human than monarchs are normally portrayed as. This made it a genuine surprise when Haakon’s backbone shone through as he defended his country and all the people within it that depended on him.

The King’s Choice Awards

“The King’s Choice” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but the only awards it formally won were from the Norwegian International Film Festival. The film was awarded with best Norwegian film, best music and sound design, best screenplay, visual effects, editing and best supporting actor.

If you missed UW Parkside’s run of “The King’s Choice,” the film is available for rent or purchase on YouTube and Amazon.

Newest “Tomb Raider” suffers pitfalls

Movie is mixed bag, yet Laura Croft is finally respected

TRAVIS NORTHERN
north004@rangers.uwp.edu

It is no secret that video game movies are often notoriously bad. Faithfully adapting interactive entertainment into a passive viewing experience is quite the challenge, since it serves as a less engaging method of delivering a familiar story.

March 16 saw the release of “Tomb Raider” as an attempt to tackle the task and quell common criticisms of the genre. The film centers around video game icon Lara Croft, the titular Tomb Raider, as she embarks on an adventure to find her missing father on a mysterious, deserted island. The film does suffer some of the same predictable pitfalls as other adaptations, but Lara Croft’s footing is surprisingly stable this time around.

A re-imagined character

Back in 2001, Angelina Jolie portrayed the original version of Lara Croft: an oversexualized action heroine. In contrast, Alicia Vikander plays the far more serious protagonist of the rebooted Tomb Raider title of 2013 (which, by the way, is amazing), and she does it surprisingly well.

This Lara is a troubled young woman turned hardened survivalist. From her dramatic delivery to her muscular physique to her detailed expressions, Vikander commits. Lara is an instantly sympathetic character, and the dangers she faces are grueling, all thanks to the convincing performance.

Thankfully, director Roar Uthaug is the first of three filmmakers to treat the character like a human being. The camera does not oversexualize Lara Croft. This issue, commonly known as “The Male Gaze,” never burdens the film, and that is massively respectable.

The film’s shortcomings

Inevitably, “Tomb Raider” is not as good as the game upon which it is based. Over ten hours of story were crammed into two hours of footage, and it shows. The pacing takes a dip at the end of the second act. Some character motivations do not remain consistent. A few plot points could not hold up to even moderate scrutiny.

My biggest criticism of the film was of its villain–Vogel, played by Walton Goggins. Whereas I loved his performances in “Lincoln” and “The Hateful Eight”, Goggins mutes his performance here. He looks and sounds bored the entire movie, which is quite disappointing to see from such a skillful actor.

A final verdict

2018’s “Tomb Raider” is a mixed bag. Despite its flaws, the movie is undoubtedly entertaining. Not only is Alicia Vikander inspiring in the role, but the action throughout the movie is also clever, grounded and gripping.

The film is “popcorn” entertainment–pulpy action with a handful of effective character moments sprinkled throughout. Its protagonist is well-realized, and the the plot serves up a relatively robust adventure story, which is a miracle for a video game adaptation. On the movie grading scale, “Tomb Raider” gets a “B-” from me.

“Neruda”: Apparently I don’t get it

Neruda (1)
A screenshot from the film. COURTESY OF FANDAGO.COM

Probably the best film I will happily never watch again

ROSEMARY SCHWEITZER | schwe035@rangers.uwp.edu

“Neruda” has been a divisive movie since its 2016 release in Chile. Though it has all the hallmarks of a successful thrill-ride, the film also has intense drawbacks that only seasoned film connoisseurs, do not seem to mind. Stunning settings and stirring music are overpowered by flowery dialog and so few likable characters that it should be criminal.

The film revolves around two persons in particular. The first being the poet and communist politician, Pablo Neruda, who is forced to go on the run when President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla outlaws communism in Chile. Neruda is a wholly unpleasant man, who drinks too much and clearly believes himself to be not unlike a god.

The second person is a fictional police detective, Oscar Peluchonneau, that tirelessly chases after Neruda when he is forced to go into hiding. Peluchonneau would be a satisfactory character, where we to not hear his self-aggrandizing inner monologue throughout the duration of the film. Neither character is particularly likable, so by the time I got to the film’s “epic” conclusion (complete with tense orchestral backing and the slowest foot chase to ever take place in fact or fiction), I was begging for the sweet, sweet release of end credits.

To be fair, the relationship between Peluchonneau and Neruda is one of cat and mouse, and it is difficult to discern which is which at various points in the film. The two taunt and toy with each other in a manner reminiscent of Sherlock and Moriarty, even if Neruda seems to be ahead for the majority of the film.

Well, at least someone likes it

“Neruda” has received a fair amount of critical acclaim, with a seven out of ten on IMDb, and a ninety four percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won ten of its forty nominations, most of which were for either Best Foreign Film, Best Art Director, or Best Cinematography. All valid nominations as it was a rather beautiful movie and the directing was (objectively) good, however I do not know if I would say it was the best foreign film of 2016. When compared to the other films in UW-Parkside’s foreign film series this year, it falls somewhat flat for me, and I would rank it third out of the four films I have viewed from the series. The technical merit and beauty, simply could not outweigh the pretension and unnecessary nudity of the film as a whole. Oh, did I not mention the nudity? Do not get me started. Just do not.

Maybe I don’t get it

All things thoroughly considered, I suppose I cannot actually say that I hated the film, but I must be missing something. I acknowledge my seemingly visceral reaction, and perhaps that has to do with my understanding of the larger themes, and if I were to watch it later in life, I would enjoy it. Perhaps if I were a fan of Pablo Neruda’s writing, the plot would interest me. However, I am not, and it does not. Only time will tell.

If you missed Parkside’s run, and I have not scared you off, the film is available on Netflix. Tell me why I am wrong.

Divergent: Shockingly Good

I will admit, I tried to hate this movie. I tried hard. I turned my nose up at it when it hit theaters back in March; I gave it a ‘wait for DVD’ status on my to-see list, even then I was weary about it. Watching previews for it I was reminded of so many science fiction novels of the past with the idea of the post-apocalyptic caste system. But I had to see what all the hype was about. Starring “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” star Shailene Woodley alongside previous co-star from The Spectacular Now Miles Teller and co-star from The Fault in Our Stars Ansel Elgort, and including Theo James, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet, the cast was likeable. Woodley has the ability to play a naively innocent teenager perfectly, as she has done many times in the past, which is exactly what this film called for.

The story line is genuinely entertaining. The whole movie takes place in an apocalyptic Chicago. The people of the city are broken into five groups; a lot of the castes seem to focus on simplistic ideas, which make it seem like there is directed hostility towards capitalism, with the leaders of the intellectual group being the main antagonists and also essentially the head of the other groups. The other “factions” as they are called focus on things like selflessness (the original group that Woodley’s character was born into), peacekeeping, honesty, bravery, and protecting the people of the city. Even with the notion that each of the groups were not allowed to communicate at all with each other, which is a very over done concept, the story line held its own. I guess there’s a comfort in watching the same thing that has been done before.

Without wanting to give anything away, despite the rest of the movie being entertaining enough, the ending of the movie was very disappointing and extremely predictable. With 3 more films to be released with 2 other books in the series, the end of this first installment was extremely final. It would have been a fine enough film independently, which is how I would have thought it was if I didn’t already know that there was more to come. The ending leaves nothing to what could possibly come, or even that there is more to come; with so many deaths in the first of the series, not saying whose, it just seemed to end. But I guess we’ll just have to wait until next March to see where this is going.

Article by Krista Skweres

Cyrus strikes again – a review, by a human

Care for a bit of commentary on what’s new in the world of Miley Cyrus? But of course you do! It is becoming impossible to avoid hearing about the girl since she has taken the world of young, mislead girls that shout out “YOLO” followed by a quaint giggle because they find the slogan so meaningful, by storm. While this recent sensation is arguably more disconcerting than the Hipster community finding solace in PBR, thus causing the price of a once affordable six pack to sky rocket, Miley Cyrus’ newly released music video for her song “Wrecking Ball” seems to take the cake for bad things we are forced to accept.

Continue reading Cyrus strikes again – a review, by a human