Category: 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

Contagion

October 2nd, 2011 — 6:46pm

 

***

Contagion-rm  Shortly before we saw this movie we had our yearly flu vaccine. The news of  today happens to be reporting that cantaloupe from Colorado infected with deadly bacteria already have killed 10 people. We know about the SARS epidemic almost 10 years ago that killed almost 1000 people worldwide before being controlled. Certainly we are still in the midst of the AIDS epidemic that has killed many millions of people although our knowledge about this disease and our ability to offer limited treatment has allowed some control over it  (although there is still not a proven vaccine).  So many of us come to Contagion with a mindset that everything that we see in this movie could really happen including the deaths of millions of people. Director Steven Soderbergh depicts the events from different parts of the world as well as the activities inside the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta in a most realistic manner. This almost could have been a documentary film. Perhaps after we have something similar really happen in the future, people will look back on this movie and say they really nailed it . So we certainly  can’t put this movie in the science fiction category. If it isn’t a doc and it isn’t  sci-fi,  it must be a  drama without really much romance or mystery (they know they have  a disease and have to make the vaccine- no real mystery). Despite very fine performances by Matt Damon, Lawrence Fishburne, Kate Winslow and Gwyneth Paltrow, we found we didn’t really care very much about the characters. They were more or less stereotyped or perhaps  “cardboard” without any real dimensions to them. Perhaps that was the idea. They could be everyman or women who lives their lives and then gets a terrible infectious disease or are threatened with getting it. We saw people do desperate things to get the vaccine or food and supplies when they weren’t available but we didn’t really see anyone struggle with any ethical dilemmas. Elliot Gould has a brief appearance in the film as a scientist who was making some breakthrough research and then he was shut down because he wasn’t part of the elite CDC team and we never hear from him again!  Not everyone who may see this movie knows about the potential of infectious disease lurking around the corner that might not be controlled by “the authorities” Others who know better sometimes use a denial mechanism to avoid thinking about the dire possibilities. A movie such as this one might offer a big scare to such folks and who will then feel much better when it is over and they are safe as the walk out of the theater (for now). Perhaps this should be in the “ horror/thriller” genre, which often makes a great movie experience for many people. So if this seems right for you, go for it. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Thriller

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

Super 8

June 28th, 2011 — 3:22am

****

Super 8 rm If you have seen anything about this movie directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg you know that it is about young children, making a movie, science fiction, a train crash,  the world being threatened and a  scary monster from outer space. This may sound like some coming attractions of a bunch of other movies that you have seen in the recent past which you should have been advised to take a pass on. However, the real filmmakers of this picture achieved a touch which not only held our interest, stimulated our thinking but also pushed our emotional buttons. It is well know that Abrams and Spielberg (in different generations) started making films at rather young ages. One could just picture them recalling their idealistic creative youth and putting it into this band of preadolescent kids who are on their super 8 movie making project when all hell breaks loose in their hometown. In the course of confronting supernatural forces and life threatening “ special effects” we get a chance to examine the relationships between these kids as well as the tension and bonding between two  of them and their single parents. We get a glimpse at young budding romantic feelings and also see how most kids would like to imagine they might be a hero and confront dangers. We also are reminded of the potential that our military may not always get it right  It is suspenseful, adventuresome, fun and poignant all at the same time. The young films makesrs as played by  Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, Zack Mills and Joe Courtney  are wonderful in their roles as they show their enthusiasm , humor and horror. Courtney also has the opportunity to reach down into his short life and demonstrate some effective emoting. Elle Fanning, the younger sister of the talented Dakota Fanning is a real standout as the young girl who joins the boys in their filmmaking adventure. Every detail of the plot may not be completely clear but nevertheless you will be on the edge of your seat   emotionally whipped around and still have a lot to think about when you leave the theatre. This adds up to a worthwhile movie. (2011)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Thriller

Chloe

October 23rd, 2010 — 2:23am

***

Chloe- rm– this movie deals with the situation of a partner in a marriage believing that a spouse has lost sexual interest. A middle aged female gynecologist (Julianne Moore) suspects that her college professor husband (Liam Neeson), who always seems to flirt with his female students, may be having an affair. She finds Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a younger but very experienced woman, at a nightclub. She hires her to approach her husband to determine if he seems interested in her. Chloe is to report to the concerned wife as to the results of the encounters. It is clear that from the beginning of meetings between two women, that there was an intense sexual attraction. Chloe is a contemporary of the physician’s son who is starting a career as concert pianists as well as beginning to bring women home. He has a chance meeting with Chloe, which further complicates things. The story turns on an interesting variation of the of plot of the classic film Fatal Attraction. Director Atom Egoyan provides fast pacing to this intense drama. Julianne Moore expresses the intensity of her emotions very well through her facial expressions. The movie was surprisingly explicit especially since we viewed in flight where sexual scenes usually are toned down, on the other hand it was an international airline. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Thriller

Let Me In

September 30th, 2010 — 5:54pm

****

Let Me In- sp You probably don’t want to see this movie unless you like Vampire films with all the blood, gore and death, so they can live another day. But if you like this genre you will get a lot more than just the horror show. It is a very touching story of the coming of age of two 12 years old kids (even if one is 250 years old in a 12 year old’s body) which beautifully shows the innocence of adolescent awakening. There is a very vivid and painful depiction of  bullying by young people which reminds us of the dread that a kid who is the victim of it will feel every day. When there is revenge for this type of treatment, you can imagine what a Vampire. can do. The audience also experiences a palpitating anticipation, which is served up in this type of a movie and greatly helped by a music score with appropriate sound effects which reverberates through your body.  This is all the work of Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay based on the novel  Let The Right One In and a Swedish movie by the same name. Reeves who made Cloverfield, was a guest speaker at our screening of this film. He was very clear on what he wanted to achieve, apparently keeping true to parts of the novel, paralleling the European film and writing from some of his own childhood experiences. He used two excellent child actors, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and allowed them to teach him what a 12 year old might feel in these  unusual situations (of course this required them to rev up their imaginations to the fullest). They really did an outstanding job as did Richard Jenkins who was put in the role of a most evil person and yet the audience almost wanted him succeed in his grim tasks. Be aware that about 20 % of our screening audience which probably didn’t know what the subject matter was going to be, walked out on the movie during the first 15-20 minutes. There certainly was no one under 40 in those walkers. If they had stayed until the end they might have appreciated the thoughtful writing, excellent acting and a top notch Vampire film.(2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Horror, Romance, Thriller

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

September 9th, 2010 — 7:01am

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - 2010* * * *
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
– nf – This is the Swedish portrayal of the first of the three popular novels by Stieg Larsson. There is an American film of this novel due out in 2011. One of us read the trilogy and the other did not. When you have read the book, you are aware of all the subplots, relationships, twists and turns that are left out and of course you pretty much know how the mystery is solved. With a few exceptions, the movie followed the book fairly closely. The one of us who didn’t read the book was pretty much able to keep track of the somewhat complicated plot and the various Vanger family members which could be a tad confusing. The male lead here is not a crusty or a brilliant detective but rather an investigative journalist by the name of Mikael Bolmkvist (Michael Nyqvist) who has just been convicted of libel with a pending jail sentence and has been asked to investigate the disappearance of a the niece of wealthy Henrik Vanger which occurred about 40 years before. The female lead is not the typical beautiful women you might expect to see in this situation but rather a very unusual 26 year old girl name Lispeth Sallander (Noomi Rapce), boyish, attractive, body piercings, dresses in black, rides a motorcycle. and has the huge dragon tattoo on her back. As a child she has had some type of psychiatric care and requires a guardian to manage her finances but is a brilliant computer hacker and has a photographic memory. There is violence, sex and nudity at times in combination but all in the service of the plot, not overdone, but enough to clearly deserve the R rating. The story will pull you in and the direction by Niels Arden Oplev captures the gamut from the beautiful outdoors in Sweden to the effects of painful violence. Despite it being almost 2 and half hours, the film does not drag at all. If you like this movie and are a fan of the late Stieg Larsson who didn’t get a chance to see the great success of his work, there are two more Swedish movies in the can which complete his trilogy and then there is the American version of the first book which is coming out next year. I also heard that additional stories were found on the author’s computer. The Netflix DVD which we viewed had an interview with Noomi Rapace who was quite impressive as she described how she approached her role and inhabited Lispeth for 1 1/2 years while the three films were being made. 2009

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign, Mystery, Thriller

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