Having Gerard Butler on the poster isn’t exactly a seal of quality. The trademark angry Scotsman is notorious for stinkers like ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ (2013) and ‘300’ (2007) where all he has to do basically is take his top off, show his ripped muscles and scream “THIS IS SPARTA!” in his ridiculously over-pronounced Scottish accent.
‘Greenland’ is, on the surface, an old-fashioned disaster movie - a comet hits Earth and a hapless band of survivors have to group together to survive it. But I liked how it broke disaster movie cliches. There’s no corrupt CEO who gets eaten first or a pretty, pregnant woman who gets crushed by a meteor. Often with these kinds of movies, you can guess who’s going to die from the minute the credits roll. In the case of ‘Greenland’, I just couldn’t.
This is essentially a minimalist, small-scale family drama about a family scrabbling to survive a global catastrophe and how love and family can be integral in beating crisis. The movie just happens to have a mammoth budget, but the human drama hits home hard especially during a scene where an evacuating and scared mother begs Butler to take her young daughter with him as they escape their home. It’s genuinely moving stuff.
There will be inevitable comparisons with the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of how a global crisis has caused the standard laws of unity and civility into disarray. It reminded me a lot of ‘A Quiet Place’ (2018) which was another movie about a world in crisis with big-budget effects and alien-like monsters, but was really just about a tightly-knit community struggling to survive. Scenes of characters in this movie having to be swabbed and searched by military officers have urgent contemporary relevance in the face mask-wearing era.
That’s not to say ‘Greenland’ doesn’t offer up the kind of special effects spectacle we’ve come to crave from this sort of thing. The asteroid fields and comet fires may be a lot of CGI, but, boy, do they look good and I would’ve loved to see them on a big IMAX screen. Would’ve been very immersive.
‘Greenland’ is a big, strapping crisis movie with spectacular visuals and humane family politics to boot. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
If you’re like me and like a good, serious Sci-Fi, ‘Archive’ (2021) (on multiple platforms) has some really interesting ideas about the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence and how the two are slowly becoming indistinguishable from each other. A portent of the future, maybe?
The basic set-up is a lot like Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ (2013) with a bit of ‘Biccential Man’ (1999) and even a bit of ‘Gemini Man’ (2019) (but we won’t go there!). Now, a lot of people have described Sci-Fi as quite a cold genre emotionally - fearsomely efficient, but lacking a human heart.
I respectfully disagree. I think the best Sci-Fi movies have heart as well as head - ‘Interstellar’ (2014) and ‘Arrival’ (2016) I’m looking at you. But I do understand that science certainly can be a little bit chilly and clinical - I always found that in science classes at school.
In the case of ‘Archive’, I think this movie needed a human heart to bring life to its robotic central character which this movie just doesn’t have. It’s not the fault of Stacy Martin who has a wonderfully artificial voice and robotic mannerisms, but who definitely looks better in the flesh than as an android. A warmer actress would’ve been better suited to playing the real-life version of the character. Martin is a bit too ice queen.
Theo James has always been very wooden and he’s very wooden here - I never believed he was really mourning for the loss of his wife and yearning to bring her back which is a big problem for this kind of movie.
I like the concept, but there’s a real coldness to this film’s execution that should and could easily have been avoided had they cast more suitable actors.
In 2016, Grimur Hakonarsson’s Icelandic oddity ‘Rams’ (2015) was selected as Iceland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. It was a mournful, melancholy tale of an incest-like infatuation between two Icelandic sheep farmers and featured some stunningly foreboding Icelandic scenery.
Two farming brothers (Sam Neil and Michael Caton) are at metaphorical war with one another. Raising different flocks of sheep descended from their family’s famed bloodline, the two men work side-by-side yet are worlds apart. When Lee’s (Neil) ram is diagnosed with a rare and potentially fatal disease, authorities order a purge of every sheep in the valley. While Colin attempts to outwit the powers that be, Lee opts for angry defiance. So can these warring brothers set their fundamental differences aside and reunite their families, save the herd and bring the community back together?
The first thing to say about this remake is that it is a much frothier beast than its original. For one thing, the original had snow, this has sun and, where the original had melancholic synthesizers zinging and humming in the background, this has banjos and pipes. It’s never understated.
The problem is that the Australian outback is just never as foreboding as the Icelandic tundras. I couldn’t shake the feeling, like I feel with many English-language remakes, of why am I not watching the Icelandic film? (which is brilliant btw). That was so much weirder and stranger and funnier despite not having Sam Neil who is, as always, a very grizzled presence. But rent the original, not the remake.
If you’re looking for a big, brash musical extravaganza with terrible hairstyles and classist stereotypes, ‘Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar’ (2021) (on multiple platforms) is for you. It’s scripted by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo - the brilliant duo behind ‘Bridesmaids’ (2011) - and is the story of two best friends (Wiig and Mumolo) who leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on a vacation to the resort of Vista Del Mar.
There’s some spectacular action sequences, singalong song n’ dance numbers and a scene-stealing Jamie Dornan who is an official man crush. I want his abs!
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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*****Butter and Jam Toast
**** Jam Toast
*** Buttered Toast
** Bread and Butter
* Eggy Bread