Category: Action


Captain Phillips

October 4th, 2013 — 2:11am

Captain Phillips*****

Captain Phillips sp- This movie has all the ingredients of a successful award wining, exciting and enjoyable movie experience. It starts with a true story about Captain Richard Phillips, the American commercial sea Captain whose ship is hijacked in international waters by Somali terrorists He ends up being held hostage while the US Navy and the Navy Seals try to rescue him. You add to this that Captain Phillips is played by Tom Hanks who gives one of his best performances especially in the moving closing moments of the film. On top of all this Paul Greengrass (known for The action packed Bourne UltimatumBourne Supremacy and United 93) as director  rolls out this exciting drama as if you are seeing a documentary unfold before your eyes. Greengrass knows how to bring out sizzling tension mixed with pulse throbbing suspense. He also knows how to get great performances from first time actors such as the team that plays the hijackers and even from a real life young female  navy corpsman who interacts with a distraught Captain  Phillips. The Navy Seals appeared very authentic since they also were the real guys. An added touch was the story line which gave some sympathetic insight into the plight of the hijackers. There was very little CGI on this movie most of which took place at sea.  It was a big budget film at it’s best. The clincher here is that even though you probably know how this movie ends, you will still be on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film  (2013)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, Thriller

The Train

April 8th, 2013 — 6:56am

The Train****

The Train-nf We decided that were going to view this classic black and white film from 1964 directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Burt Lancaster. We believe we may have seen it at the time but we didn’t remember the details. The setting is in France just before the end of World War II and it was obviously filmed about 19 years after the war ended. Somehow that seems much closer to that war than we had felt it was at the time. The plot is relatively simple. The Germans know that the war is coming to the end and the Americans are set to liberate Paris. A high-ranking German officer wants to transport the great trove of priceless French paintings that they have captured back to Germany. The French underground, led by the character played by Burt Lancaster as a French train expert, has decided to prevent that train from getting back to Berlin. We now realize the story is much more complicated than it may have seemed to us at the time. Lancaster’s character is obviously quite ambivalent about whether it is worth risking and losing any more French lives as the war is drawing to an end. He, in fact, has never appreciated art in the first place although in the words of another character who says that this art which are boxes of Renoir, Picasso, Miro, etc etc, “is an essential part of the French people and their heritage.” This important question surfaces throughout the movie including at the dramatic conclusion when he faces down his German nemesis played magnificently by Paul Scofield who asks him among, all the death and destruction surrounding him, if he really knew what he was fighting for? In fact, we wonder what would have happened if the Germans got the art back to Berlin. Wouldn’t the allies have probably found it anyway? The movie is much more than this philosophical question; it is a classic action thriller filled with suspense, even if you think you know how it is going to work out. There seems to be plenty of what today seems to be computer generated action except there were no computers and very little special effects in the 1960s. The supporting cast are leading French actors of the time who all spoke English while playing natives of their country. This includes the famous French movie star Jeanne Moreau who gets a hug from Lancaster, which is as far as the romance, went in this movie. The screenwriters Franklin Coen and Frank Davis were nominated for an Oscar.

If you want to get double your value for the Netflix version, watch it another day with the commentary track of the director John Frankenheimer (also known for Birdman of Alcatraz and the Manchurian Candidate) who certainly deserves a good part of the credit for the success of it. He says that while the film cost about 5 million dollars to make at the time, it would cost over 75 million “today” ( meaning when he did the voice over and he died in 2002) He also reveals that Burt Lancaster did all the stunts himself ( and there were a number of them ) as well as at least one stunt of falling off a roof for another actor. He explains how they actually blew things up and how Charles de Gaulle’s son was a consultant and helped them with the movie. For any budding movie makers he sometimes calls the camera shots stating which was a dolly shot and would be a steadycam shot today or why they used this lens or that lens for good depth of field. He even gives some insight into the dialog explaining in one important scene how they were concerned that the audience wouldn’t believe it if Paul Scofield (the German colonel) who was known to be a Shakespeare talking actor could outfight Burt Lancaster who had played all these tough guy fighting roles in other films. (1964)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Drama, Thriller, War

Django Unchained

January 12th, 2013 — 8:50pm

Django*****

Django Unchained – rm

This is another  Quentin Tarantino revenge movie but yet it is like nothing that we have ever seen before. The brilliance of Tarantino ,who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, is that the movie is not what it seems to be.  It begins looking  like  fanciful story that is a “shoot em up western” – maybe the so called spaghetti western (because they were made also by filmmakers of Italian background,) where some guys come to town on some mission and all sorts of things happen. The movie is initially set in Texas two years before the Civil War. A German-American dentist turned bounty hunter  (Christopher Waltz) ambushes a transport of a few slaves because there is this one slave, Django (Jamie Foxx)  who can recognize three criminal  brothers who he is trying to track down dead or alive  to collect a bounty on their head put there by  the federal government.  The next thing you know, we are being drawn into the world of plantation slavery and the vicious, cruel, sadistic manner  in which white people in the South were treating the blacks (a word by the way was never used since the “n word” prevailed.) Because the viewer can only take so much of this painful inhuman treatment, the film is laced with clear satire and if you can believe it , humor. Then, when the revenge factor kicks in there are endless shootings of mainly white guys with gushes of blood all over the place to the background of what seemed to be haunting western music. The story has it’s twists and turns and didn’t resolve itself for  2 ¾  hours. In the end we are left with an indelible view of the horrors of this period of our history served up to us in satire. In addition this film was a magnificent showcase for outstanding acting performances. Christopher Waltz may very well get himself a second Oscar as the conniving but sensitive dentist bounty hunter. Jamie Foxx evolved from captured slave to an unforgettable John Wayne type hero wearing a pair of shades. Kerry Washington did a great job as Brunhilda the German speaking slave who didn’t say much but her eyes told her story.  Samuel L. Jackson was not recognizable at first by us but he nailed his role as a true “Uncle Tom” at the plantation who ultimately identified with his masters. Finally, Leonardo Di Caprio as the mean rich  Mississippi plantation slave owner really got into his part and must have done a great job since we hated his character.  We didn’t feel that way about the film. In fact, we felt quite the opposite. (2012)

 

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama

Zero Dark Thirty

January 8th, 2013 — 11:44pm

****

Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark thiry

The last time Director Katherine Bigelow and Screenwriter Mark Boal collaborated they made the Hurt Locker which was one of the finest war  films we have ever seen. Since the subject matter this time was the story of the tracking down and killing of Osama ben Laden, it seemed like a natural for them to duplicate their great work.  They ended up doing a very good  job but in our opinion it wasn’t a “repeat”. They initially tug on our emotions by starting the film with frantic phone calls coming from the doomed World Trade Center on 9/11. We then are exposed to the United States  waterboarding suspects who might lead us to Osama ben Laden. This element while uncomfortable to watch, may not be telling the complete story in regard to how key this was to what was to come. The film centers around Maya (Jessica Chastain) a CIA agent who doggedly persists when all the other CIA honchos have their doubts including Leon Panetta CIA director (James Gandelfini)  We are told in the credits that she is a real person who can’t be identified since she is still an active agent. It is too bad that we couldn’t know anything substantial about her other than to watch her determination  despite no one believing her. Nevertheless Ms Chastain carries the film with her riveting portrayal of this American heroine. There also was a great deal of mumbo jumbo on the radio, agents talking back and forth, numerous Arab names mentioned as suspects or people who might have known people. You were never really given enough information to appreciate who they were and what role they played. We also never really get to know the numerous CIA agents, Bureau Chiefs, operatives or whatever. Even the Navy Seal team stays a team and they all blend together in their military fatigues and being viewed through night vision goggles. We will admit that the 2 hours and 40 minutes did go by quite quickly and it was exciting to watch the attack on the compound. It was quite authentic and you felt and thought you were there.  If the real Maya ever writes a memoir, we will be sure to read it and get to know what she was really like and how she brought about the slaying of this dragon. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Drama, History

The Debt

August 4th, 2011 — 6:53pm

*****

The Debt-sp – When you start with a plot that has the Israeli mossad tracking down the “Surgeon of Birkenau”  who is in East Berlin working as a fertility gynecologist, you can be pretty sure that you are going to have an exciting movie. Then when you have veteran Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren  playing the lead along with Jessica Chastain,  an engaging new  actress who has starred in several movies which are coming out over a six month period, it becomes obvious that this is a movie which also deserves your attention. These two outstanding actresses are complimented by Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas, Ciaran Hinds and Sam Worthngton  This is a film that will not disappoint. It is thriller with fast action, great tension along with a story that you may think you understand but it will take you for ride and challenge you in an  ethical dilemma which the characters eventually face. Director John Madden expects the audience to be alert and you may miss a few fine points of the plot but in the end you come away still thinking about the story and the repercussions of it. What else can you ask for? (2011)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, Thriller

Limitless

March 21st, 2011 — 7:00am

**

Limitless- rm We saw this movie in a mutiplex that shows Coming Attractions which they think will have special appeal to the audience that has chosen to see the main feature that is playing in that particular theatre. Therefore we should have been alerted to the genre of this movie when the  three Coming Attractions all showed people getting beaten up, bad guys being chased and one memorable clip where the police are getting ready to track down the criminals and one of them  says they are dangerous, have lots of guns and whatever you do, don’t let them get into cars ( followed by many car crashes ). Now our main feature started off on a very interesting note as the main protagonist, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is shown as a writer with writer’s block who meets his ex-wife’s brother-in law in the street who  just happens to have a top secret drug which when taken will free up the 80% of a person’s brain power that they never really use. When Eddie takes his first pill he not only is able to quickly write a great book much to the surprise of his agent but he also  finds that he has perfect recall of anything he has ever seen, amazing powers of deduction and therefore the skills to do just about any thing he wants to do. Taking these pills on a regular basis of course give him the ability  to seduce women, make money in the financial markets  and figure out ways of defeating people who might be trying to hurt him. Not surprisingly there are people who are trying to hurt him, get the pills and use the powers. There is the requisite bad guy with the Russian accent (Andrew Howard) and an on again-off again girl friend (Abbie Cornish)  who one time has to take a pill to thwart someone about  to kill her, using her temporary boost in  brain power to reverse the tables on him. There is also Carl van Loon (Robert De Niro) a Warren Buffet type character who wants to use Morra to make even more money. This relatively small role of the wise old man character seems to be a reprise of some recent DeNiro castings and is  not worthy of his great talent.  We will grant that a good part of this movie was entertaining and held our  interest but it was not satisfying. Credit should be given to director Neil Burger and his team as they skillfully showed us in flashes the  images of the fleeting memories that were now being recaptured after taking the pill and were being used for some great intellectual or physical feat. Some of these special powers may have been communicated to the audience as  the ending of the film  gave us  the feeling that they may might be setting us up for a sequel, after all the potential of this theme is Limitless.(2011)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Action, Drama

RED

October 15th, 2010 — 4:09am

***

Red- sp- Retired and Extremely Dangerous is what the title of this movie stand for. This cast of actors, while some are a little long in the tooth, are far from retired but  their characters in this movie are certainly dangerous. While you probably can picture Bruce Willis toting a deadly machine gun can you picture Dame Helen Mirren blasting away with an up to date Kalashnilov or whatever they are called? This is what you get in this delightful fun spoof of all the shoot em up, kill lots of people, blow things up,  smash cars,  CIA , FBI movies that you may have seen in the past few years plus some shades of James Bond. In addition to Helen and Bruce, you have great star power from  John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dryfuss as well as excellent performances by Karl Urban, and Brain Cox.  Basically the plot is that the old team has to get back together because they are all on a hit list related to some “ work “ they did in Guatemala 20 years ago. The plot thickens and involves the modern day CIA and maybe the Vice-President in a not such a good way. The story and the actions are completely unbelievable as they are played out, but  you never know about the real secret lives of secret agents. Malkovich plays a delightful character who appears to be completely paranoid but everything that he is concerned about seems to happen with a vengeance. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, veteran movie producer, was at our screening and took us through how he put together this cast and how much fun they all seemed to have making the movie.  He is hoping that older crowd will identify with the RED component and that the younger crowd will be drawn in for the action. We doubt that it will make the Oscar list but a good time can be had by all. ( 2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Comedy

The Town

September 27th, 2010 — 6:45am

****

The Town rm- The Boston Police Department is not going to like this movie. Ben Affleck obviously dove head first into this film, being director, lead actor and co-writer. His character Doug MacRay is a home grown product of Charlestown section of Boston where there have been more bank robbers per capita than any other place in the U.S.A. He and his buddy James Coughlin played by Jeremy Renner and a bunch of other guys blast open the movie pulling off one of those heists. There is plenty of action in this movie including one of best car chase scenes that we have seen since Gene Hackman in The French Connection quite a while ago. You really get to know and understand MacRay and can’t help caring about him and rooting for his relationship with Claire Keesy (Rebecca Hall) the bank manager of the opening robbery who end up being sympathetic bed fellows. Casting Jon Hamm    (of tv Mad Man fame) was a great choice as the opposing FBI agent along with Titus Welliver (the “bad” DA in The Good Wife tv series) who is his trusty assistant. The entire cast of characters is quite believable which is a tribute to their great acting, fast pace and the outstanding directing by Affleck who kept us on the edge of our seats. There also is a sensitive insight into how in some communities and families, young people get drawn into a life of crime from which it is very hard to extract themselves. The question is whether you can suspend reality and swallow the story line when the band of thieves faces down the entire Boston PD including  their SWAT teams and our hero ultimately attempts to do a payback to his beloved town.(2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Crime, Drama, Romance

Inglourious Basterds

September 7th, 2010 — 1:33am

Inglourious Basterds* * * * *
Inglourious Basterds
– sp – The fact that this movie is written and directed by Quentin Tarantino probably best defines it. There are hints of great movies of the past in it and there is even a key plot theme of a movie being shown within this movie. It is two and a half hours but time flies and the unusual story is sure to hold your attention. The setting is World War II and the character played by Brad Pitt is leading a special group of US soldiers to kill Nazi soldiers. The film is filled with unpredictable twists and turns and you will not figure out who is going to live or die. Each character is well developed and the acting is outstanding by an ensemble of well chosen actors and actresses with a truly great performance by Christophe Waltz as an SS officer.There is a touch of gory violence but even the fiery special effects are quite beautiful. The fact that prior to the preview screening that we attended, we were searched for cameras by men in black suits suggests that Tarantino and company hopes that this film will make a surprise explosion on the summer movie scene. It deserves your attention. To be released mid August. (2009)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, Thriller, War

Avatar

September 6th, 2010 — 8:06am

Avatar* * * *
Avatar
– rm- We didn’t see this film until after it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture as well as many other awards. We stand by our prediction that Hurt Locker will earn the award for best picture. Avatar and director/writer/producer James Cameron deserve awards and acclaim for the technical accomplishments in the use of 3D, computer generated animation and special effects. The “out of this world” flying, at times gigantic, horse/dragon like creatures were very impressive although their continued presence for much of the movie was not our cup of tea. The appearance of the avatars as well as that of the people who were being visited or we should say the natives of the land that was being invaded was also quite creative. All their facial features were completely non-human as was the presence of their tail and many of their mannerisms, but yet their behavior was all too human. It was most of the humans who were engaging in the inhumane actions. While the plot was somewhat simple, familiar and predictable, it was the symbolism and important themes that raised the value of the film. One could not help but be reminded of the experience of the native Americans or the native inhabitants of so many other places that have been invaded by intruders seeking to plunder their land. There was a green theme with a spiritual love of nature. Also clear was the presence of strong, good women who possessed both strength of character and strength of purpose. Some of the scenes with helicopter like gun ships setting this very special countryside aflame with bright orange fire explosions with the background radio chatter of the invading forces were reminiscent of scenes from the Viet Nam War and perhaps some later day events. It is probably fair to say that this is an anti-war film. Some might say it is anti-American and others might feel it is not a fair depiction of the real good guys. It certainly is cutting edge and may be the beginning of a new genre. (2009)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Drama

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