Category: Thriller


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

The East

May 30th, 2013 — 7:17am

 

The East****

The East- sp – This is a dark espionage thriller with an attractive secret agent going under cover to find and infiltrate the terrorists. This has vibes similar to the hit TV series Homeland. Instead of Claire Danes we have Brit Marling. Instead of a government agency we have our heroine working for a private security agency that does work for the some of major corporations. (We, in fact, did learn that in reality there are these very sophisticated FBI/CIA like operations that do this type of cloak and dagger work) Instead of terrorists striking the homeland being from Al Queda, the terrorists in this movie are all home grown American eco-terrorists who are bent on giving the corporations which poison the environment a piece of their own medicine. As for example a pharmaceutical company that might produce a drug with known serious side effects, which they down play or another company that knowingly, pollutes waters that give people cancer. So we have an exciting, suspenseful movie with social issues, ethical conflicts and a few surprising twists and turns. There was surgical operation on a kitchen table that didn’t ring true to us and a quick reveal that we would like to have had more of a set up but overall this was a very skillfully written film  by the female lead Brit Marling along with the Director Zal Batmanglij who previously collaborated together  on the screenplay of the well received film Sound of My Voice . The movie was very exciting and entertaining as well as stimulating in getting us to think about some important issues that maybe are being put out of sight. We recommend that you do see this one. (2013)

Comment » | 4 Stars, 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

Side Effects

February 7th, 2013 — 8:08pm

****Side Effects copy

Side Effects sp- Whenever there is  movie where the main character is a New York  psychiatrist (Jude Law) we become particularly attentive and critical since we are quite familiar with this world . In this case we are also initially confronted with psychiatric drugs, that are advertised to the public, may have side effects, are prescribed by psychiatrists who get money and free trips fromy the drug company etc etc. However Director Steven Soderberg (Sex Lies & videotapes, Erin Brockovich, Contagion) and screen writer Scott Z. Burns (Bourne Utlimatum and the  documentary An Inconvenient Truth) while fully capable of an expose type film had something else in mind. This is a classic thriller, which uses what they imagine to be the underside of psychiatry and psychiatrists to provide a complicated and well done plot.  An all star cast of Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vinessa Shaw was assembled although one of these star roles  was much shorter than others. Soderbergh must  take pride in creating a film which demonstrates in a subtle manner that it is inspired from classic films of the past. The photography and editing may seem familiar to movie buffs in the cuts, breaks and in other ways. The Director of Photography is listed as Peter Andrews which is the same name as Soderberg’s father and the Editor  is listed as Mary Ann Bernard the same name as his mother. Soderberg is known for using these pseudonyms as he takes on these other duties to put his full imprint on the film. As good movies of this genre do, it rivets you in your seat, taxes your intellect to follow the twists and turns  of the plot, and thrills you with excitement and suspense.  In the end we were not inclined to argue with any psychiatric depiction with which we might disagree but rather we were caught up thinking could this happen to us and what a great and tense experience we had watching this film.(2013)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Thriller

Terribly Happy

November 14th, 2011 — 7:38am

****

Terribly Happy- nf-  ( In Danish with English subtitles) It is not surprising that this film and cast has won numerous international awards. The direction, acting, photography, lighting is all on the mark and the story is suspenseful and gripping. This film project got started when two men who were friends in their youth growing up in rural Denmark and now were achieving success in their respective fields were able to reconnect. Dunja Greg Jensen a writer, shared a story he was writing, based on some true events in his family, with film director  Henrik Rubin Genz who then collaborated with him in the screenplay for this movie. It is the story of a Copenhagen policeman Robett (Jakob Cedergren) who  is reassigned to small isolated town. The people here are a tough somewhat odd group and John gets drawn into a situation with  a married couple, where the man, by the name of Jorgen (Kim Bodnia)  has been abusing his wife Ingerlise (Lena Maria Christensen). Ingerlise appears to have what we psychiatrists call a Borderline Personality and she succeeds in seducing our policeman Robert. Things then begin to have serious twists and turns which makes this movie a very exciting thriller. The movie succeeds in that the viewer is able to identify and feel empathy with Robert despite the fact that he works  his way into some “deep shit” and does some things that are not very nice. This is not so much of a “who dunnit movie” as it is a “what is he going to do now movie” which, will keep you on the edge of your seat and give you a good ride. (2008)  

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

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