Category: Thriller


10 Cloverfield Lane

August 6th, 2016 — 2:42am

Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 12.49.22 PM**

10 Cloverfield Lane-rm

On a cross country air flight, one of us (MB) usually tries to catch up on a movie that we missed and heard had good press. I thought that this movie would fit that bill especially with it being a J.J. Abrams Production. I expect to see some well-done science fiction or a horror story with some interesting twist. It is directed by Dan Trachtenberg who did Portal: No Escape with a somewhat parallel theme of a woman waking up in a testing facility with no idea how she got there.

An attractive woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) jumps in her car and is leaving her husband. She is driving on the open road and suddenly there is some kind of a crash and she finds herself in an underground house with a big somewhat scary looking man (John Goodman) hovering over her. The guy presents himself as a survivalist who has been planning for the end of the world scenario, which he says is happening. He just happened to save her and bring her into his underground well-equipped house to save her from the aliens and poison gasses, which are outside. Obviously, there are more details. First, you don’t believe him, then you do or maybe you don’t but on the other hand? Can she escape? Should she escape? Is this movie all about the meaning of abuse? What is the music, and other noises in the background telling us? Yes, on one hand it seems fairly believable, but a gasmask made from soda bottle? Come on. If anyone can make us believe a fanciful tale J.J. Abrams (Star Wars etc) should be able to do it.

In the end, I needed more. Maybe I’m not the right demographic. The film did gross $72 million, however I believe there are better films around and I suggest that you pass on this one.(2016)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Horror, Thriller

The Wave

February 24th, 2016 — 6:34am

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 10.43.40 AM***

The Wave- sp

This film was the entry from Norway for the Best Foreign Film for the Academy Awards. It shows a beautiful community with magnificent fjords, mountains surrounding a body of water. It looks like a lovely place to live or visit. But much like Southern California, they have had natural disasters in the past which eventually can happen again. In this case, instead of an eventual earthquake, it can be an avalanche of a crumbling mountain, which would fill the water and create the inevitable rising up of a tremendous mountain of water or a tsunami. The possibility of such a disaster is constantly monitored so people can be warned if it should be about to happen. This is the setting for this film and the dramatic build-up of tension as we meet some of the people who are monitoring the possibility of a tsunami and we will also meet the family of one of them. This part of the film could not have been done better.

The movie is directed by Roar Uthaug, who participated in writing the story and the screenplay with Martin Sundland, and John Kare Raake. The main character is Kristian who is played by Kristoffer Joner.

You are on the edge of your seat even though you are pretty sure what is going to happen. You just don’t know exactly how it’s going to go down and how it will impact the characters that you have met. When things eventually break loose, the special effects are outstanding. We have a combination of horrific things happening and in the midst of it, among the many frightened people, are the characters that we care about.

So far so good, but then we realized that the plot is becoming thin and unbelievable. No matter how good and realistic the special effects may be, when the story becomes a “fairy tale” the movie loses a great deal of its credibility and becomes almost laughable. In retrospect, the characters were stereotypical with very little complexity. Yes, it is scary and we live in earthquake country so it reminded us that you never know if the next disaster is around the corner. But that is really all the movie was able to do. (2016)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Thriller

The Manchurian Candidate

January 4th, 2016 — 1:59am

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 10.54.16 AM****

The Manchurian Candidate- nf

I was on a cross country flight and I checked out the movies available that could be viewed on board. In honor of the Frank Sinatra Centennial, there was a choice of several movies in which the great singers starred. I chose the classic Manchurian Candidate. This 1962 movie deals with the subject of the Cold War and the brainwashing of American soldiers captured during the Korean conflict. Just a few minutes into the film, I realized that it had relevance to a contemporary subject in the world today. Our headlines are filled with stories about terrorist, some American born, who have been radicalized by Jihadist groups who are trying to bring about terrorism In the United States by murdering people and disrupting the life of their sworn enemy.

In this black and white movie, Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) and Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) are two of several soldiers captured by the North Koreans and flown to Manchuria where the Chinese with the help of the Russians used newly developed brainwashing techniques which include drugs and hypnosis. Marco and Shaw are part of the small group of brainwashed soldiers returned to the United States. Shaw is programmed to do the major damage. Some of the other soldiers are beginning to have bad dreams at night which makes them believe that things are not what they seemed to be. Raymond Shaw’s mother (Angela Lansbury) who is a mother from hell is now married to United States Senator Iselin (James Gregory) who is a communist sympathizer which obviously has significance to the people controlling the returning soldiers. Raymond Shaw falls in love with Jocelyn Jordan (Leslie Parrish) but his controllers don’t like that turn of events and do something about it. Marco Bennett (Sinatra) becomes the hero here and there are some very dramatic and exciting scenes.

This movie was very well received. Angela Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar. Director John Frankenheimer won a top award by the Directors Guild and Sinatra was able to put another notch in his belt for his outstanding acting to add to his status as a legendary singer.

Some day someone will make a film which might tell the story behind the headlines of how the ISIS terrorist organization brainwashes some of its victims to commit terror in the United States with lethal weapons. When the movie, The Manchurian Candidate was made in 1962 there had been U.S. pilots captured flying missions over North Korea and were shown on TV praising their captives while in a trance-like state. So if you’re ready for one of the outstanding movies of the 1960s, pull this one up on Netflix. (1962)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Thriller, War

American Sniper

January 31st, 2015 — 10:57pm

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 10.57.50 PM***

American Sniper –rm   After being shut out at the box office last week because it was sold out we finally got in to see this film. It has already grossed over 217 million dollars (so they really didn’t need our money) on a budget of 59 million dollars to make it. The film has been nominated for an Oscar as best picture and Bradley Cooper as best actor as well as receiving nominations for sound, sound editing and best adapted screenplay by Jason Hall. (It was adapted from the book by the sniper himself Chris Kyle) It is directed by Clint Eastwood. We tend to side with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who decided that this film didn’t make the grade for any Golden Globe Awards. In our opinion we just didn’t make any emotional connection with the character as depicted in the movie. Yes, we were genuinely touched at the end of the film when there were actual movie clips of the funeral tributes to this war hero who died as a civilian in 2013. (Sorry about the spoiler but you probably knew this already and it won’t take away from the movie). He had an unusual skill with a long range rifle and he cared about his buddies. Chris Kyle had more than 160 “kills” which is the most by far in the history of the United States military. He volunteered for extra tours of duty (actually having 4 tours and he had over 1000 days in a combat zone) despite the pleading of his wife (played by Sienna Miller) that she and their children needed him. He could have spent more time at home training other soldiers. Perhaps the writers and filmmakers try too hard to stick to the exact story presented to them and don’t use the poetic license that a good fictional drama can explore when they develop a character. It was interesting to us that we felt the same way about the movie Unbroken (see our review) which was another recent movie about a real life war hero which stayed close to the  facts without very much depth.. It also didn’t move us although our admiration for the man especially as shown in the book was tremendous. Compare this to what we think is one of the greatest war films to come out in a long time, The Hurt Locker (see our review). This was fictional drama perhaps based on real events, but the main character is a composite. In our opinion this allowed the writers and director to explore subtle themes and find ways of bringing about an emotional attachment with the audience. In the the American Sniper, as in most war movies today, the combat scenes were very realistic. The sound was fantastic (does deserve the potential Oscar acclaim ) and the music with a lot of drums and included one composition credited to “the man of all seasons,” the director Clint Eastwood, was quite effective. There were the requisite expensive special effects, which likely made it just like it would really be if we were there. Sometimes all the smoke made it hard to see who was shooting who and we couldn’t tell the bad guys from the good guys but maybe that is the way it is in some combat situations. But without a strong connection to the main character we can’t put this film near the top of our list. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Thriller, War

A Most Wanted Man

July 24th, 2014 — 6:30am

**Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 10.49.05 PM

A Most Wanted Man- sp- When you have Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his last movies (we understand there are few unreleased ones still in the can) and a John LeCarre spy story, you expect a sure hit. However, in our opinion this movie doesn’t make the grade. From the very beginning, we weren’t sure what was going on and who were the good guys. Maybe this was deliberate ambiguity but it didn’t quite work for us. We are told early on that the movie is set in Hamburg, Germany the locale where the 9/11 plot was hatched and surveillance is very high. We meet the cast of characters which included roles by William Dafoe and Robin Wright. Director Anton Corbin and cinematographer Benoit Delhomme were very creative with their dramatic shots from high above or through reflections in glass or through train windows. The cuts and the scenes are often quite short and we felt we never got a good bead on the back story of the characters. There wasn’t overwhelming action and most of the time and the spy thriller tension just wasn’t there for us. Phillip Seymour Hoffman did do a great job and carried the movie. His chain smoking, ruffled character showed the full range of emotions from a subtle intellectuality to a very believable rage. He certainly was a great actor (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Thriller

Gravity

October 5th, 2013 — 10:11pm

gravity-movie-poster-closeup***

Gravity rm– We saw this film in newly furbished movie theatre with very comfortable large seats that go back almost 180 degrees, a gigantic new screen and a magnificent sound system that was capable of shaking the entire building. We chose the 3D showing which was perfect for this film. The view shown of earth from space was breath taking. Director Alfonso Cuaron obviously had the money and the special effects people to make the most of this experience You probably have seen the coming attractions of this film. You can also get a pretty good feeling what it is like to float in space with only your thrusters to move you around by going to the movie web site and take their simulated space walk where you control the movement (http://gravitymovie.warnerbros.com/#/experience). So what is left?A little of George Clooney and a lot of Sandra Bullock who really carries the movie. She flips, turns, worries, frets, thinks about her daughter and really does a great one woman show. There really is no great story line.  It is a fun experience and perhaps it shows you the state of the art for making a movie “in space.”  We think many sophisticated movie goers will probably want more than this movie provides. Maybe visiting the website will be enough.. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Thriller

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

Witness

September 3rd, 2013 — 6:07pm

***Witness

 

Witness- nf  This is a 1985 thriller directed by Peter Weir and stars Harrison Ford as John Book a very honest Philadelphia police detective who is investigating a murder of an undercover cop. There is a witness to the crime and that is a young Pennsylvania Dutch Amish boy, dark suit and black hat, who happened to be in a men’s room stall when the crime went down.He identifies a picture of the killer who is  McFee,  a  dirty cop ( Danny Glover) involved with two other cops  wheeling and dealing narcotics big time. When they learn of the witness, they are out to get the kid and the good cop who gets injured in a shoot out with McFee. Book, along with the kid and his beautiful widowed mother Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), return to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for him to recuperate from his injuries (they can’t take him to a hospital where the bad cops would find him). This is where the Amish live  in the beautiful countryside with horse drawn carriages and peaceful non- violent traditional  ways. They have their Council of Elders, prayer meetings and even a barn raising where all the men pull the frame up and begin to hammer away before taking a break for the meal prepared by the women of the community. This story allows a bringing together of two divergent cultures yet both living in the 20th century side by side. Add to this a romantic twist as the beautiful Rachel and the dashing Book are drawn to each other. You know the trio of the dirty cops are going to track them down, guns blazing and you can be sure there is going to be an exciting climax with uncertainty to the if and how  Rachel and the good detective will resolve their relationship. This is a unique premise, an unusual setting and a well done breath taking movie. Viewing the Netflix Special Feature, which includes interviews with Director Peter Weir and the various actors will add to your enjoyment. (1985) 

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Sabotage

September 3rd, 2013 — 5:07pm

 

Sabotage***

Sabotage-nf– (aka The Secret Agent)   We received this DVD in package of items at a charity event. Sometime later, my 9 1/2 year old grandson and I were looking for a movie to watch together and he chose this black and White  1936 Alfred Hitchcock classic. Even a  few years before the official start of World War II the British were wary of secret hostile actions towards their country by Germany. There is Mr. Veloc (Oscar Homolka), an owner of a movie theatre who is really a German spy.  He sets off a secret bomb that only temporarily disrupts the electricity in London.  His wife (Sylvia Sidney) who works in the movie theatre is completely unsuspecting of her husband’s devious role and doesn’t want to give refunds to the movie patrons saying the electricity failure was an act of God. Ted (John Loder), a  secret Scotland Yard detective, suspects foul play by Mr Veloc and goes undercover working in a fruit stand next to the movie theatre. Mr. Veloc, hiding his secret intentions, counteracts his wife and orders refunds to be given. He then plans the planting of a more sinister bomb to another movie theatre secretly hidden among movie reels to be delivered by his wife’s kid brother (Desmond Tester). This young courier has a certain amount of time to deliver the package. His curiosity in events along his journey through the bustling city means that the bomb could go off while this likeable young man is in transit. Hitchcock, of course builds up the tension showing the time and events until there is a premature explosion. The screenplay based on the  novel  The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad also allows Hitchcock to use all the tricks at his disposal to grip the audience with fear and concern as there is a murder in the story as well as a love theme. Scary music suggesting something terrible and devious is about to happen is skillfully  used by this great Director. Things never turn out as you expect.   The movie might be classified as film noir as it is mostly dark (and grainy) but it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Certainly not one of the best of the movies from the director who was known as “ The Master of Suspense “ but one which any film aficionado would probably enjoy. If you chose to seek this one out, remember that Hitchcock was known for making cameo appearances in his films. He appears at the 9 minutes mark in this one, right after the lights go back on and before the lady shuts the kiosk window. Wearing coat and hat, he walks from center screen to the (viewer’s) left, leaning back and looking upwards. That is Hitchcock ! (1936)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Thriller

Now You See Me

June 10th, 2013 — 5:59am

**Now You See Me

Now You See Me- rm – The opening scene is a great magic trick which you in the movie audience can participate if you pick a card, any card from the deck being shown to you. It is the first 40 seconds of this trailer for the movie- after the commercial . What comes next is a thriller caper with lots of magic. The first trick was people at a gigantic Las Vegas show robbing a bank in Paris . Everything seemed to get more grandiose from there. The screenplay by Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin and directed by Louis Leterer built one preposterous gimmick after another. The key magicians Jesse Eisneberg, Isla Fischer and Woody Harrelson seemed to be one step ahead of the FBI and Interpol led by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent. What might have been a great car chase through Manhattan’s highways and bridges was known to anyone from New York as unrealistic as the cops never weave in and out of traffic dangerously risking innocent people’s lives – especially just to catch a potential money thief. Michael Caine of course is always great as some rich guy entwined with tricky magicians seemingly getting away with lots of money. Morgan Freeman is intriguing as usual, this time as the ex-magician who exposes other magicians (perhaps based on the real life “ Randy, the Magician ”). Do we have very clever magicians, an inside job, get rich quick artists or a bunch of robin hoods?? In the end there is a good chance you are not going to care that much. Now that we have seen it, you don’t have to. (2013)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Thriller

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