Tag Archives: Alexander Skarsgard

From the Land of the Ice and Snow

The Northman

by Hope Madden

Robert Eggers releases his third feature this week, a Viking adventure on an epic scale called The Northman.

You had me at Robert Eggers.

On display once again are the filmmaker’s aesthetic instincts, his mastery of framing, and his ability to squeeze every ounce of brutal beauty from a scene. This film is gorgeous, simultaneously broadcasting the wonder and unconquerable ruggedness of its Nordic land and seascapes.

There are also familiar faces. Anya-Taylor Joy plays Olga, a spoil of war too cunning to remain long in bonds. She’s joined in smaller roles by Eggers favorites Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, and Willem Dafoe as a wizened court jester.

Now, if you’re not a fan of the director’s two previous features, 2015’s The Witch and 2019’s The Lighthouse, that does not necessarily predict your feelings about his latest effort. Eggers is working in a different genre with a different, far larger cast and scope this time around.

Alexander Skarsgård is the film’s titular hero; Claes Bang, his uncle and foe.

What you have is a classic vengeance tale: prince witnesses royal betrayal and the murder of his father. He loses his mother and his crown and vows revenge. You’ve seen the trailer.

I will avenge you, father.

I will save you, mother.

I will kill you, Fjolnir.

Skarsgård is cut to play a Viking. His performance is primarily physical: blind rage looking for an outlet. He’s believably vicious, bloodthirsty, single-minded and, when necessary, vulnerable. The entire cast around him is equally convincing.

Nicole Kidman – who played Skarsgård’s wife in the HBO series Big Little Lies, graduates to mother here, while Ethan Hawke plays his father, King Aurvandil War-Raven.

That’s a good name.

Oh, plus Bjork because Iceland. In fact, Egger’s co-writer here, beloved Icelandic novelist and screenwriter Sjón, penned not only last year’s gorgeous folk horror The Lamb, but also Bjork’s early work with Lars von Trier, Dancer in the Dark.

Classic is exactly how The Northman feels. The story is gritty and grand, the action brutal and the storytelling majestic. As is the case with Eggers, expect a fair amount of the supernatural and surreal to seep in here and there, but not enough to outweigh the meticulously crafted period realism.

Place Your Bets

Godzilla vs. Kong

by George Wolf & Hope Madden

Here’s a sampling of the things we yelled at the screen during Godzilla vs. Kong:

“Boom! In the face!”

“Kyle Chandler is a terrible father.”

“Skull f**k him!”

“It’s just a flesh wound, get up!”

So you could say we were engaged in this battle, the one that’s been brewing since the end credits stinger from the excellent Kong: Skull Island four years ago. GvK can’t quite match that film’s tonal bullseye, but it easily lands as second best in the “Titan” Monsterverse that was reborn with 2014’s Godzilla.

Picking up three years after the tedious Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the film finds Kong contained on Skull Island under the respectful eye of Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall).

Meanwhile, Godzilla attacks APEX’s Florida headquarters – seemingly unprovoked. Mansplaining Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) says Godzilla’s changed his hero stripes, but his daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and “Titan Truth” podcaster Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry, committing grand theft scenery) think there’s got to be more to the story.

There’s plenty more, and Dr. Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) believes Kong could be the key to proving his Hollow Earth theory about the Titans. Ilene agrees to allow the heavily sedated Kong to be transported by sea, but far from Godzilla’s favorite swimming holes, of course.


Director Adam Wingard (You’re Next, Blair Witch) clearly realizes that monster mashes aren’t compelling if you can’t tell who’s fighting, and the technical aspects of GvK bring the Titan battles to vibrant life. Pristine cinematography, detailed CGI effects and a wonderfully layered sound design elevate the thrills early and often.

And that is what we’re here for, isn’t it?

That’s a familiar refrain when the human arcs in these films are so woeful, but screenwriters Eric Pearson and Max Borenstein toss the overwrought melodrama of King of the Monsters and add a frisky sense of welcome fun.

Yes, there’s another cute kid (Kaylee Hottle) with negligent guardians, and more than enough characters, locations and theories to keep up with. But even if you fall behind, you’ll catch up when these two Titans throw hands and tails, because they mean business.

They’re timing ain’t bad, either, as this is the kind of cinematic spectacle that could mean very good business for newly reopened theaters that badly need it. It’s a PG-13 return to form for a legendary franchise, with plenty to reward your popcorn munching and ringside commentary (keep it clean at the multiplex, please).

Just pick your screen size, and get ready to rumble.

House Divided

The Aftermath

by Hope Madden

While there are a number of fine points to James Kent’s The Aftermath, novelty is not among them.

You don’t need to know the plot, you just need to glimpse the movie poster: Jason Clarke is married to Keira Knightly; Alexander Skarsgård lives in their attic.

What happens, do you think? Any guesses?

It’s a love triangle you’d have to have your eyes closed to miss. No, the plot is not going to surprise or, to be honest, particularly entertain. Give Kent and Aftermath credit, then, for mining its backdrop for genuine tension, not to mention fascinating historical detail.

Knightly is Rachael Morgan, wife of a British colonel (Clarke, obv). She joins him in his post-victory assignment in what’s left of Hamburg, 1946. He’s been given the home of a German architect, Herr Lubert (Skarsgård), and in Morgan’s compassion (and naivete), he invites the former owner and his teenage daughter to stay on rather than face the harsh realities of the camps.

Clarke—who too often plays cuckolded husbands to waifish beauties and handsome houseguests—offers a sympathetic turn as a grieving man coming to grips with both a crisis of conscience as well as profound grief. Through him we glimpse the chaos of a divided city, conflict and hatred still echoing through rubble-strewn streets.

He’s intriguing, as are those minor characters who orbit his military life: the rogue Aryans still loyal to the cause, comrades taking pleasure in continuing to punish Germans, and the teenage girl lurking in the shadows of his own home.

Though the film continues to direct your attention to the beautiful people struggling against their desires, it’s angry adolescent Freda Lubert (Flora Thiemann) whose silent contempt compels attention. She’s wonderful, creating a spoiled, misguided character who’s hard to like and harder to predict.

It’s a nice distraction from a film that is otherwise as unsurprising as any you’re likely to see. Knightly and Skarsgård perform admirably in blandly familiar roles. And, of course, they look glorious. But pretty as they are, every moment they’re onscreen you’ll wish to be back out in the ruins of Hamburg with the actual characters.

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

The Hummingbird Project

by Christie Robb

Director Kim Nguyen’s contributes a meditation into the nature of success in the modern world.

Wall Street traders and cousins Vincent and Anton Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgard) resign from their jobs as high-frequency traders and embark on a quest to build a ramrod-straight fiber-optic cable joining the servers of the Kansas and New York stock exchanges. The objective: to make stock trades a millisecond faster than their competitors and make millions in the time it takes for a hummingbird to flap its wings.

Obstacles block their path—mountains, swamps, health issues, reluctant property owners, and a vengeful ex-boss played by Salma Hayek.

The technobabble in the film feels like it is based-on-a-true story. But, it isn’t. Eisenberg plays Vincent as a monomaniac. He’s almost as focused on his line as Ahab is consumed by destroying Moby-Dick. Skarsgard disappears into the role of Anton, contorting his height into an excruciating stoop and delivering a genius-on-the-spectrum performance that is nuanced, funny, sad, and kind of inspiring.

The Hummingbird Project is often beautifully shot, with frequent use of slow motion footage. However, it struggles in focus. It could easily have been tweaked into several different movies. One can imagine editing it into a comedy like Office Space. It could have been Hitchcockian corporate thriller by expanding Hayek’s role. Or it could have shone more of a spotlight on the relationship between characters to flesh out what seems to be the movie’s purpose: questioning whether racing for wealth is really a better use of time than downshifting to spend time with the people around you.

As it is, the movie tries to be too many things and ends up being an ok entry rather than a good one.


Gorilla Tactics

The Legend of Tarzan

by George Wolf

Me Tarzan. You Jane?

No, this apeman has a slightly larger vocabulary.

You’ll hear that famous phrase in The Legend of Tarzan, but only for ironic purposes. This new reboot takes its cue from recent superhero films that have embraced the darker side of their legend.

We drop in on Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgard) in the late 1880s, years after his return to Greystoke Manor and the name John Clayton, as he’s living the aristocratic life with wife Jane (Margot Robbie) in a London mansion full of servants. Flashback segments do fill us in on the couple’s jungle past, but credit screenwriters Craig Brewer and Adam Cozad with a welcome pivot from the usual origin story formula.

Clayton is called back to the wilds of the Congo thanks to a devious plan from Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), special envoy to Belgian King Leopold. Rom can deliver a fortune in diamonds to his King, but only if he can deliver Tarzan to a Congolese chieftain (Djimon Hounsou) looking to settle an old score.

So John and Jane head back “home,” with U.S. envoy George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson) in tow, but when Rom puts his kidnapping plan in motion, Tarzan’s particular set of skills come out to play.

Director David Yates, who guided the Harry Potter film series to an epic conclusion, keeps his camera fluid, his landscapes beautifully panoramic and the action frequently thrilling.  Yes, it gets a bit silly and a bit more anachronistic, but Yates brings an ambitious scope to this modern Tarzan, with a respectable side of social conscience even when it panders.

Skarsgard’s chiseled physique certainly looks the part, and his somewhat robotic lack of range serves him well here. Robbie provides plenty of spunk, but her Victorian-era Jane could have just as easily beamed down from last Halloween. As for their chemistry…hey, those CGI jungle animals look fantastic!

Waltz and Jackson are well, Waltz and Jackson.

It probably won’t set the stage for a string of blockbuster sequels – and to its credit, isn’t trying to – but for most of its nearly two hours, this new Tarzan really swings.




Marling Heads in Interesting Directions

The East

by Hope Madden

If we’re honest, I think we are all either secretly impressed by and quietly frightened of Anonymous, or we’re openly impressed by and quietly frightened of them. I personally haven’t done much to draw their ire – I haven’t rigged an election, abused a teen, or even misused Wikipedia for my own malicious gain. Yes, I broke into my neighbor’s house when I was 8 and stole a bunch of Barbie clothes. It’s true – they might come for me for that! But you don’t have to be a potential target to worry over unchecked power, no matter how much genuine good a group does.

That conflict is the heartbeat of Brit Marling’s new film The East.

Marling is a filmmaker to watch. She’s co-scripted three films in which she’s starred, each offering an intimate, thoughtful, refreshingly off-kilter perspective.

In this work, Marling plays Sarah, an undercover agent working for a corporate counter terrorism firm. She combats terrorists combating big business. In her first assignment, she infiltrates the anarchist collective The East, a group using an “eye for an eye” approach to retaliate against eco-destructive corporate greed.

Early on, the film feels sometimes lazily scripted, as happenstance and coincidence play too large a role in Sarah’s investigation. But the film mostly overcomes these faults. Co-writer/director Zal Batmanglij builds tension well, and – as is often the case with Marling’s work – the film is not taking you exactly where you think it is.

Marling’s finest performance has been as the guru at the center of Sound of My Voice – also co-scripted and directed by Batmanglij – but she hasn’t yet disappointed. Here she possesses a veneer of calm that makes the inner conflict that much more provocative.

It helps that she’s joined by such a strong cast. Playing Sarah’s mentor, Patricia Clarkson is exquisite, as always. Ellen Page plays against type and succeeds, and Alexander Skarsgard shines, as well, in a tough role that requires him to be at once admirable and despicable.

The East is a finely tuned thriller with a thoughtful story to tell. What looks at first like heavy-handed liberalism morphs into  moral ambiguity by the second act, but Marling’s not done yet. She makes some interesting choices, and as this film points out, the choice is always there to make.