THE QUAKE aka SKJELVET (2018)
Norwegian disaster flick is a sequel to Roar (Tomb Raider, Cold Prey) Uthaug’s The Wave and continues the story of Geologist Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner). It’s three years after the devastating wave in Geiranger and while Eikjord is seen by most as a hero, he himself is tormented with guilt that his warning could have been made sooner. He is separated from wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) and his children, son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande), who now live in Oslo. When a friend’s death in a tunnel signals Kristian that a massive earthquake could be imminent there, the nightmare begins all over again as he tries to warn authorities and get his family to safety.
John Andreas Andersen takes over directing reigns from Uthaug with a script from Wave writers John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg. He does a great job not only in creating some intense drama to get us emotionally invested in the returning characters, but some nail-biting suspense when the inevitable finally happens. Much like the last film, it’s a bit smaller scaled than the typical CGI filled mega-budget Hollywood disaster films and focuses on the human drama, though the devastation is quite impressive. There are some truly gripping scenes as Eikjord tries to rescue his wife and daughter from the top floor of a collapsing hotel, with the help of his dead friend’s daughter Marit (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen). It can be quite intense and nerve-wracking, especially in the last act and the human melodrama is kept at a realistic level and thus far more effective than if it was over-the-top like most films of this ilk. The FX are once again top notch, for a moderately budgeted film and the Norwegian locations are a refreshing relief from the usual world famous big city locales these movies usually choose. If the film has any flaws it’s that it’s over a bit suddenly, when one expected more and characters are suddenly safe when they were still in the danger zone when last seen. Some transitional shots would have helped. These are minor complaints when stacked up against what director Andersen does deliver.
The cast all return as the Eikjord family. Kristoffer Joner once again makes a solid everyman hero. This time Kristian is a man tearing himself apart by guilt that he couldn’t have saved more in the tsunami in Geiranger, but must do it all over again in Oslo. A good actor making the part very human. Ane Dahl Torp is again strong as Idun. She still loves her husband and is trying to be understanding and sympathetic, even though his new warnings appear as paranoia to her. Jonas Hoff Oftebro is good as the now college age Sondre, though he doesn’t have all that much screen time and Edith Haagenrud-Sande is very solid as young Julia, especially as she is involved with a lot of the action. Pretty Kathrine Thorborg Johansen is also a welcome edition as Marit, the strong-willed daughter of Kristian’s lost friend and quite the action heroine herself.
Overall, it’s a fun movie and every bit an equal to it’s predecessor. It’s human drama is done on a realistic level and thus emotionally invests the audience in the characters. It’s title event comes in the last act and delivers some really nail-biting suspense scenes as the characters we’ve come to like are thrust into highly dangerous situations. The FX are spectacular for a modestly budgeted film and director John Andreas Andersen fills Roar Uthaug’s shoes quite nicely. A really solid and very entertaining disaster sequel from Norway. Would love to see a threequel if they could find a way to get Eikjord back in action without seeming forced or redundant which The Quake avoids.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) little girls who should have stayed in the car like dad told her to.
TOMB RAIDER (2018)
Reboot finds a young, down and out Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander from Ex Machina) refusing to accept her inheritance by declaring her missing father (Dominic West) dead in absentia. When finally forced to do so, she gets a key and clue that sets her on a quest to find out what happen to him. It leads her to the uncharted island of Yamatai where the mysterious Order of Trinity has Archeologist Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) searching for the tomb of Japanese sorceress Himiko. The woman was said to be of incredible power and Trinity wants use of it. As Lara seeks to find her father’s fate, she must now also find a way to stop Trinity from accomplishing their goal.
Do-over is directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug (Cold Prey, The Wave) from a script by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons and is wisely an origin story that starts fresh after the previous films. It’s also refreshingly down to earth in terms of it’s story telling with Uthaug going back to basics with the action and avoiding the bombastic, over-the-top spectacle that has become the status quo. Some may find the action routine, but it evoked the old fashioned action films before digital software allowed for things to become so much larger than life and in some cases, out of control. The pace is fairly swift with an almost two hour running time and just when it starts to drag a bit, we head into the last act tomb raiding finale. The South African locations look good substituting for a Pacific island and the interiors of Himiko’s tomb are interestingly designed, though with all the previous adventure flicks in this vein, the whole traps and puzzles thing is getting very old hat. Possibly why it’s kept at a minimum. Otherwise we get some solid gun-play and fisticuffs and it makes for an entertaining night at the movies with the hope that this franchise has new legs.
Alicia Vikander makes for a solid heroine as young Lara. Purists may feel her petite frame does not suit the statuesque video game character she’s portraying, but she is quite the spitfire and gives Lara both a strength and a vulnerability that make her more than just megapixels. She does action scenes as good as the boys and was convincing as a young woman coming into her inner adventurer. Walter Goggins is a serviceable enough villain. He could have had a bit more gusto, but they were going for a more grounded approach, so he is not the usual pontificating, cackling villain that most movies of this type feature. Dominic West is fine as Richard Croft in flashbacks, which provide backstory and exposition and Daniel Wu is solid as drunken sailor and Lara’s back-up, Lu Ren. We also get appearances by veterans Kristin Scott Thomas and Derek Jacobi, as well as, fan favorite Nick Frost.
Overall, this was a solid action adventure that stripped away the over-the-top overindulgence of today’s action films and settled for a more back to basics approach. Alicia Vikander made for a strong Lara Croft and overcame her petite stature with a tenacity and vulnerability that really worked here. The whole tomb of traps and puzzles thing is kind of worn out at this point, but there was plenty of chases, gunfire and brawling to keep us entertained. A fun flick from Roar Uthaug.
Rated 3 bullets.
Warner Bros and MGM are rebooting the Tomb Raider film series and the new flick is due 3/16/18. We are getting our first look with a new trailer which shows lots of action as fans will expect. The real draw here is that this new version is directed by Roar Uthaug (The Wave) and stars sexy Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) as a young Lara Croft. Will it be better than the Angelina Jolie vehicles? Only time will tell. Screenplay is by Geneva Robertson-Dworet who is also writing the upcoming Captain Marvel film.
THE WAVE (2015)
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Norwegian disaster film from Cold Prey director Roar Uthaug sets up it story by opening with newsreel footage and documentation of real-life incidents of villages being destroyed by rock slides causing tsunami’s in the fjords. As our story opens, geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is on his last day at work monitoring the seismic plates of the mountains surrounding his small village of Geiranger, which sits on the shores of a fjord. There are some odd readings that concern him and continue to trouble him even after he leaves his job on the eve of moving his family to a new town and new life. But old habits die hard and Kristian is afraid that there may be a disaster approaching…and soon. While it’s the height of tourist season and no one wants to believe him, his fears prove right as a massive rockslide hits the fjord sending a devastating tsunami towards Geiranger and Kristian’s family.
Uthaug directs a fun and very intense thriller from a script by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg. It’s a very modestly budgeted film and the SPFX are quite good, but it also is a smaller scaled movie and benefits from that greatly. While we forgo the big spectacle of Hollywood disaster epics, it instead focuses on the very likable Kristian and his efforts to rescue his family from the destruction. It makes it a more intimate portrayal of people surviving a catastrophe and brings the human element to the forefront. It’s a refreshing and more down-to-earth portrayal of this type of situation and is all the more intense and suspenseful as we are endeared to the characters involved. By avoiding the soap opera level melodramatics that these movies embrace, it is a more believable scenario filled with real people and not cliché stereotypes. Uthaug and the writers still fit in all the familiar tropes…no one wants to believe Kristian at first, it is during a tourist season and there is a plot device to keep Kristian’s wife, Idun (Dead Snow’s Ane Dahl Torp) and son, Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) in town during the evacuation. The film is still following the disaster formula, despite it’s less bombastic and simpler approach and this is what made it so satisfying. You can relate more to real people in a more realistic situation than something that is too over-the-top to be anything but a movie. On a production level it looks good for such a modest budget, the landslide and tsunami FX are really convincing and Uthaug brings a solid visual style which gives us some stark imagery. Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund captures that imagery and the beautiful Norwegian scenery very well and Magnus Beite adds atmosphere and intensity with his score.
The cast really make this work, too by presenting a very likable family to become endeared to and root for. Kristoffer Joner is not the usual larger than life character these movies employ, but a very simple family man and passionate about keeping them safe. He may be moving on to a new town and career at the start, but his heart is in geology and his vigil over the mountains and their seismic activity. When disaster strikes he risks all to save his loved ones and anyone else he can. A brave and noble, yet very down-to-earth character played excellently by Joner. Ane Dahl Torp is equally strong as his wife Idun. She works at a local hotel and must bravely act when that hotel is struck by disaster and is filled with tourists. Idun is a woman who can take care of herself and those around her and also will go to extreme measures to protect her family. Ane Dahl Torp really nails the character and gives off a natural sexuality while doing it. Jonas Hoff Oftebro is good as their teen son Sondre who is feeling the effects of the move the most and Edith Haagenrud-Sande is adorable and very sweet and brave as their young daughter, Julia. A rock solid cast.
This was a very enjoyable and delightfully smaller scaled disaster flick. It had a more character driven perspective with some very likable characters and had a stronger emotional core because of it. Director Roar Uthaug brought some of the intensity he gave Cold Prey into this flick and delivers a thrilling and endearing story of a family trying to survive a catastrophe. It’s got a lot of the disaster flick tropes we expect, but in a more grounded tale of survival and unconditional dedication to one’s loved ones. Very highly recommended.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fjords.
COLD PREY (2006)
Cold Prey is an entertaining slasher from Norway that doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but utilizes the traditional elements well and provides sufficient suspense and blood letting. Film opens with a montage of missing persons reports that inform us that over 100 skiers have gone missing in the mountains of Norway and despite this, thousands of people still invade the mountains yearly to ski. Cold Prey focuses on 5 friends who go on a snowboarding trip and when one of the bunch breaks their leg as night is closing in, they are forced to take shelter in an abandoned hotel. Soon they find that this hotel has a dark history. The young son of the owners disappeared and then, sometime after, the owners themselves were killed and the place has been shut down for over 30 years. A room full of people’s personal belongings proves the place has not been totally abandoned and soon, one by one, a masked killer is stalking them with his trusty pick axe. Can spunky strong willed heroine Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and her friends survive?
Director Roar Uthaug directs this horror competently. He knows how to build suspense and and provide some effective kills. The script by Thomas Moldestad also provides us with some likable characters to fear for and a plucky heroine to root for. The cast are fine with leading lady Berdal standing out as the “Jaime Lee Curtis” of the flick and it’s fun to watch her try to elude and battle this masked maniac. The killer himself is no Michael Myers, but is effective enough to evoke chills. Not a classic, but solid enough slasher fun.
3 snow covered masked killers
COLD PREY II (2008)
CAUTION: If you are interested in checking out Cold Prey, you may not want to read the details of the Cold Prey 2 plot.
If you do, read on…
Well made sequel opens shortly after the first film with Jannicke (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) being found wandering in shock in the middle of the road and soon a rescue team finds the killer’s body and his cache of corpses in a glacier fisher. The film then pulls a Halloween 2 (1981) and has sole survivor, Jannicke being stalked through the nearly deserted halls of a soon to close hospital by the killer, who’s been revived by the hospital staff. Of course he brutally kills everyone in his path, while trying to hunt her down along with pretty young nurse, Camilla (Marthe Snorresdotter Rovik).
Despite it’s similarities to the Halloween sequel, director Mats Stenberg still manages some nice suspense and chills and gives us some likable characters to root and be afraid for, as well as, not one but two feisty heroines who are not about to let this masked psycho finish the job easily. He does a good job matching the style and tone of Roar Uthaug’s first flick, while upping the kill quota, so, they fit together nicely and would make a good double feature of Norwegian slasher entertainment. There is a Cold Prey 3, which is a semi-prequel, but nothing I have heard about it makes me want to bother tracking it down.
3 snow covered masked killers