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Reviews for September 22nd, 2017

The King's Choice

Directed by Erik Poppe

      In April 1940, King Haakon VII (Jesper Christensen) of Norway must decide whether or not to submit to the Nazis when they're in the process of taking over Norway. He tries to negotiate with Curt Bräuer (Karl Markovics), a German envoy whose commander is none other than Adolf Hitler. Norway had remained neutral throughout WWII, but now's the time for the king to make a crucial decision for Norway while potentially risking innocent lives. Crown Prince Olav (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) and his family have already fled Norway.

      Jesper Christensen gives an effectively commanding performance as King Haakon VII that helps to invigorate The King's Choice and ground it in a little much-needed humanism. The screenplay by Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and Jan Trygve Røyneland feels somewhat dry and pedestrian as though it were moving from Plot Point A to Plot Point B. Moreover, there's no levity to be found. Director Erik Poppe moves the film along in a brisk pace with shaky camera movements that occasionally result in nausea. Detroit suffered from that same problem. When will filmmakers finally learn to stop shaking the camera as a means to generate tension instead of trusting the tension that can already be found within its story and the characters' struggles? King Haakon VII is clearly under a lot of pressure throughout the film, so it's very fortunate that Christensen has enough acting talents to bring the character to life and to give him an inner life even when he's undermined by the dull screenplay.

      Everything from the set design to the costume design and lighting are all top-notch. However, there's an emotional hollowness and coldness to the film that makes it ultimately underwhelming in spite of its subject matter. More humanism, other than the humanism derived from Christensen's performance, would've helped. Although it's gripping more often than not, The King's Choice isn't nearly as moving or powerful as other political thrillers/dramas, i.e. The Lives of Others, or even the recent Viceroy's House.

Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
Opens at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Quad Cinema.


Directed by Jeremy Kagan


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Paladin.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Tag Along 2

Directed by Cheng Wei-hao

      Shu-fen (Rainie Yang), a social worker, meets Lin Mae (Francesca Kao), a mother who's in the process of trying to get rid of an evil spirit from her daughter. Evil spirits might have something to do with the dissapearance of Shu-fen's own daughter, Ya-ting (Ruby Zhan), who's pregnant and has gone missing. Ya-ting's boyfriend (Wu Nien-hsuan) helps Shu-fen investigate what happened to her beloved daughter.

      The Tag-Along 2 has plenty of atmosphere, but not nearly enough scares or imagination. It's a mildly engaging B-movie that overstays its welcome around the hour mark. The lackluster, shallow screenplay by Chien Shih-Keng starts out strong while holding your interest before it grows increasingly repetitive. You can feel the wheels of the screenplay turning and easily predict when the jump scares will occur. Also, there isn't nearly enough comic relief, so the dark tone becomes monotonous and exhausting. The film's attempts to generate pathos and ground the plot in poignancy fall flat with clunkiness. Without being emotionally invested in any of the characters lives, it's hard to truly care about what happens to them, especially during the rushed, CGI-filled third act. The sequels to other Asian horror films like Ju On and Ringu were more effectively frightening.

Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Crimson Forest Films.
Opens at AMC Empire.
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