Bridge of Spies – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies, Movies I Own  Comments Off on Bridge of Spies – A Movie Review
Oct 172016
 

Bridge of Spies Movie PosterDuring the cold war, a lawyer, James B. Donovan is recruited by the CIA and involved in an intense negotiation mission to release and exchange a CIA U-2 spy-plane pilot, Francis G. Powers. The pilot was arrested alive after his plane was shot down by the Soviet Union during a mission and stays in the company of a KGB intelligence officer, Rudolf Abel, who was arrested for espionage in the US.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Tom Hanks, Alan Alda, Mark Rylance, Domenick Lombardozzi, Victor Verhaeghe, Mark Fichera
Runtime: 142 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Drama, History, Thriller; Released: 16 Oct 2015

Lay wasn’t feeling great, so after going out to grab a bite, we came home and watched this from Amazon, and we both enjoyed the movie a great deal. Continue reading »

The Imitation Game – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on The Imitation Game – A Movie Review
Jan 112015
 

Imitation_GameBased on the real life story of legendary cryptologist Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

Runtime: 114 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Biography, Drama, Thriller; Released: 25 Dec 2014

Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Andrew Hodges (book), Graham Moore (screenplay)
Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear

As the movie begins we hear Alan Turing saying, “Are you paying attention? Good. If you’re not listening carefully, you will miss things. Important things. I will not pause, I will not repeat myself, and you will not interrupt me. You think that because you’re sitting where you are and I am sitting where I am, that you are in control of what is about to happen. You are mistaken. I am in control. Because I know things that you do not know. What I need from you now is a commitment. You will listen closely and you will not judge me until I am finished. If you cannot commit to this, then please leave the room. But if you choose to stay, remember that you chose to be here. What happens from this moment forward is not my responsibility. It’s yours. Pay attention.” Continue reading »

Movie Review – Gone Girl

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Movie Review – Gone Girl
Oct 202014
 

Gone Girl Movie PosterOn the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

Rating: 9.3/10 (238 votes)
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Gillian Flynn (screenplay), Gillian Flynn (novel)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry
Runtime: 149 min
Rated: R
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Released: 03 Oct 2014

Well, this one deserves the hype. Me and Lay went to watch this one last night at the AMC Theater in Brandon. The theater wasn’t packed, but there was a sizable crowd, which was, for a change, reasonably quiet.

David Fincher has crafted, in his clear-cut no-nonsense style, a powerful mystery-thriller that would likely win kudos from Hitchcock. I have never read the book, nor any Gillian Flynn books, but she crafted a great story, and executed the screenplay very well.  Continue reading »

The Bag Man-A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on The Bag Man-A Movie Review
Jun 052014
 
The Bag Man (2014)
The Bag Man poster Rating: 5.3/10 (13,919 votes)
Director: David Grovic
Writer: David Grovic, Paul Conway, James Russo (original screenplay "Motel")
Stars: John Cusack, Rebecca Da Costa, Robert De Niro, Crispin Glover
Runtime: 108 min
Rated: R
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Released: 20 Mar 2014
Plot: A criminal bides his time at a seedy motel, waiting for his boss after killing several men and making away with a mystery bag.

We love us some Redbox. Watched this on May 25, 2014.

This was kind of a throwaway choice. We didn’t see anything we really wanted to watch, but I like John Cusack, so we went for this.

You have to suspect something up when you see acclaimed actors in an unheard of film that is also made by an unknown director. The Bag Man is such a film that uses a lot of gist from a lot of other similar movies.

These actors are Robert De Niro and John Cusack. De Niro will always be remembered for his mob playing roles, and Cusack is a well-known character-defined actor who came into the limelight after playing a skilled assassin in Grosse Pointe Blank. What De Niro and Cusack do in this movie is basically play those characters again, but in a dark, twisted and bizarre setting that is hard to figure out. Continue reading »

Runner Runner – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Runner Runner – A Movie Review
Oct 062013
 

Runner Runner Movie PosterPrinceton grad student Richie, believing he’s been swindled, travels to Costa Rica to confront online gambling tycoon Ivan Block. Richie is seduced by Block’s promise of immense wealth, until he learns the disturbing truth about his benefactor. When the FBI tries to coerce Richie to help bring down Block, Richie faces his biggest gamble ever: attempting to outmaneuver the two forces closing in on him.

In Theaters: October 4, 2013; MPAA Rating: R (for language and some sexual content.); Genres: Thriller, Drama

Director: Brad Furman

Writers: Brian Koppelman, David Levien

Cast:  Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Michael Esper, Oliver Cooper, Christian George, Yul Vazquez, John Heard

We went to see this Saturday night at Britton Plaza. It was OK, but I’m glad we didn’t pay AMC prices.

Richie Furst (played by Timberlake) is a Princeton graduate student who promotes an online gambling site on campus, earning commissions to pay off his tuition. The school clamps down on his activities, and he loses all his savings on a last ditch all-or-none bet. He does some in-depth study of the site, and discovers it might be “cheating” (is anyone surprised). So Furst is off to Costa Rica to seek Ivan Block (Affleck), the kingpin of online gaming. Continue reading »

The Pact – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on The Pact – A Movie Review
Sep 062012
 
The Pact movie poster

Watch the trailer

After their mother passes away, sisters Nicole and Annie reluctantly return to their childhood home to pay their last respects. While staying overnight in the house, the sisters sense a mysterious presence in their midst: noises startling them in the night, objects moving about, a fallen picture of an unknown woman posed next to their mother. Annie begins experiencing a series of intense and disturbing dreams visions that lead her to uncover something terrible about her mothers past that is finally revealing itself.

In Theaters: July 6, 2012; Genres : Adaptation, Horror, Thriller; Run Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

Director: Nicholas McCarthy

Cast: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Haley Hudson, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Samuel Ball, Agnes Bruckner

This one is no longer in theaters. It was more of an Indie film, and apparently never got wide distribution. We heard about it on CBS Sunday Morning when David Edelstein mentioned as a good horror movie during a segment on the show. We’ve generally found ourselves in agreement with him on things he likes, so we found this one available on Amazon Instant Download.

“The Pact” is a decent horror/thriller film. The basic plot seems simple enough — a young woman’s sister convinces her to come back for their mother’s funeral, despite that the two sisters were estranged from their mother for a while. When she comes back, her sister is gone, and strange, supernatural things begin to happen. (In fact, this may be the messiest ghost you’ll see. Continue reading »

Fair Game – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies, Politics, Presidency  Comments Off on Fair Game – A Movie Review
Dec 142010
 

As a covert officer in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Valerie Plame leads an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Valerie’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, is drawn into the investigation to substantiate an alleged sale of enriched uranium from Niger. But when the administration ignores his findings and uses the issue to support the call to war, Joe writes a New York Times editorial outlining his conclusions and ignites a firestorm of controversy.

Genres: Drama, Thriller, Adaptation, Biopic and Politics; Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.; Release Date: November 5th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language.

Starring: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Noah Emmerich, Liraz Charchi, Nicholas Sadler

Directed by: Doug Liman

We saw this in the theater the first weekend it was out. There was a decent crowd, but the theater was not packed.

The movie follows the story based on testimony and other public information.. On the other “side,” we have a list of claims that even at the time were discredited and are still discredited, but there is no “version” of how and why this country went to war with Iraq. The film leaves no argument because there is no other side. And to date, we still do not have a reason as to why the administration chose to stand before the world and make claims they knew to be discredited.

The events leading up to the declaration of war take up about half the film’s running time. In the first half, we see what Valerie Plame does at the CIA. It’s surprisingly detailed and candid and came across as authentic.  It shows how operatives are often recruited to work with inteligence services. While these various operatives are fiction, we assume they are close to the truth. And the outcome for them when the Bush Administration’s cover is blown makes one very ashamed of our leaders.

The second half of the film omits the sensational allegations concerning journalists Judith Miller and Robert Novak since neither of the principles in the film ever had contact with them. Valarie Plame and Joe Wilson were only their victims. And as the heads begin to roll the relationship of the Wilson’s takes center stage. While that’s interesting, it’s not what concerns us the most in this story. Joe Wilson, played by Sean Penn, is more gentle than the person we saw on media outlets. While Penn conveys the idealism of Wilson.

Naomi Watts, as always, gives a terrific portrayal of a woman who lives two lives. The Valerie Plame we saw at the Senate Hearings is in Watt’s performance, but we also see the strength, intelligence and commitment she makes to a job that requires her to play many sides of the same fence. For instance, there’s a domestic scene where Wilson complains about the danger of his wife’s job and he never knows where she’s going or if he’ll ever see her again. Plame patiently listens and then says, “I’m going to Cleveland.”  It’s a rich and likely accurate illustration of what it must be like to be married to someone who works for the CIA.

As he always does, Penn just stepped right into the persona of Joe Wilson. I don’t know how he does it, but he looked a lot like Wison, and just seemed to have the mannerisms I remember from Wilson’s various TV appearances down pat. The guy is just an amazing actor all around.

In the end, we leave the theater hearing only one side of the argument, and that’s because the Bush Administration has never been called to account for why they insisted on the war with Iraq. We do see why they needed to destroy the lives of these two people, and in doing so harmed much more than a married couple in Washington, DC. This is well acted, tightly written and directed with straight-forward finesse making it one of the finest films of the year.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 8.00 out of 10)
Loading...

The American – A Movie Review

 Culture, Featured, Movies  Comments Off on The American – A Movie Review
Sep 062010
 

As an assassin, Jack is constantly on the move and always alone. After a job in Sweden ends more harshly than expected for this American abroad, Jack retreats to the Italian countryside. He relishes being away from death for a spell as he holes up in a small medieval town. While there, Jack takes an assignment to construct a weapon for a mysterious contact, Mathilde. Savoring the peaceful quietude he finds in the mountains of Abruzzo, Jack accepts the friendship of local priest Father Benedetto and pursues a torrid liaison with a beautiful woman, Clara. Jack and Clara’s time together evolves into a romance, one seemingly free of danger. But by stepping out of the shadows, Jack may be tempting fate.

Genres: Romance, Thriller and Adaptation; Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.; Release Date: September 1st, 2010 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for violence, sexual content and nudity.

Starring: George Clooney, Thekla Reuten, Paolo Bonacelli, Violante Placido, Irina Bjorklund

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Do not let the trailers fool you, there is about 10mins total of action in this film. The bulk of this film is long shots of Clooney, coming to grasp with his life and going about completing his last job. Most “one last job” movies are high-energy action flicks driven by a veteran actor playing a character with a troubled history, but Anton Corbijn’s “The American” operates as a character-driven mood piece, a precise and quiet visual portrayal of a man trying to quit his dangerous profession who is constantly haunted and pervasively paranoid.

Way different from the Clooney-led thrillers of the ’90s, “The American” broods under the Corbijn’s precise visual style. Those expecting Clooney’s return to suave criminal mastery will find themselves waiting and waiting for this film to pop. It doesn’t. There is no mêlée of Bourne-style assassin-chasing amid the hillside towns of the Italian countryside, so for many, shots of Clooney doing push-ups and putting together a rifle will become tedious. In fact, I would have taken his rifle from him and used on myself if I’d had to watch one more scene of him driving out of the village through the country-side.

I couldn’t make any sense out of this film. I swear there is no story whatsoever. The George Clooney character appears. He is involved in something shady. He is very quick on the trigger, both with his concealed snub-nosed automatic and with his lovely female companions. But why he does what he does remained a mystery to me. He seems to be working with an organization and he speaks over the phone from time to time with someone who might be his boss, or might not. There is some lovely photography, and lord knows there is nobody more photogenic than the star here, but if you can figure out what is going on and why, then you’re way ahead of me.

The landscapes are breathtaking. The action is sparse with more of a dread sense than any real kind of action. But then again, this film presents the life of an assassin more the way it probably is. Not a lot of flash, just a lot of looking over your shoulder, day-to-day mundane mixed in with an occasional beat of action.

In regards to the performances, they are solid. George Clooney proves his worth as an actor yet again with his portrayal of this tormented, cynical man of few words. Violante Placido is also very effective as the girl. Thekla Reuton is icy and more than scenic in her performance as the in-between person working with Clooney. Paolo Bonacelli is compelling as the priest whom Clooney befriends, and Johan Leysen is chilling in his moments as the mysterious person who always answer his phone with a gruff “Yeah?”

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 10)
Loading...

Green Zone – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Green Zone – A Movie Review
Mar 222010
 

During the U.S.-led occupation of Baghdad in 2003, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller and his team of Army inspectors were dispatched to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. Rocketing from one bobby-trapped and treacherous site to the next, the men search for deadly chemical agents but stumble instead upon an elaborate cover-up that inverts the purpose of their mission. Spun by operatives with intersection agendas, Miller must hunt through covert and faulty intelligence hidden on foreign soil for answers that will either clear a rogue regime or escalate a war in an unstable region. And at this blistering time and in this combustible place, he will find the most elusive weapon of all is the truth.

Genres: Drama, Thriller, Adaptation and War; Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.; Release Date: March 12th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.

Starring: Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Antoni Corone, Nicoye Banks

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Green Zone is the latest Iraq War inspired motion picture. The film is based on the 2006 non-fiction book ‘Imperial Life in the Emerald City’ by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a journalist for The Washington Post. I haven’t read the book so I can’t comment on how closely the film follows it.

I enjoyed the Bourne movies, so I was expecting a decent movie, and got it. Green Zone is fast paced, and never takes the time to get sappy. The war being fought in the film is more between the Pentagon and the CIA than the US v Iraq which makes it all the more interesting and finally allows you to see a hint of things from Iraq’s perspective for a change.

The premise set up in the film about the ‘Intelligence’ surrounding Weapons of Mass Destruction used to justify the invasion is entirely believable. Matt Damon is well suited to his part as a unit leader Roy Miller, as is Brendan Gleeson as the CIA man and Greg Kinnear is appropriately nasty as Poundstone from the Pentagon – all turn in good performances. Shot on location in Morocco, Spain and in England I could have sworn we were in Bagdad the whole time. The settings are completely believable. Greengrass uses a lot of handheld camera work to build suspense. It may be a little too much for some people, but I thought it worked as a style element for this film.

There is no denying the fact that there are political viewpoints in the movie. By now everyone should know the intelligence was manufactured, and the US knew months before the invasion there were no weapons. It’s also clear that installing a government there has been a disaster, and this film begins to show some of why that is, and how we “screwed the pooch” in the earliest part of the war. The best scenes in the movie involve the meetings among the Iraqi factions trying to keep the country from collapsing into further chaos. They’re too brief, but they crackle with what’s going on now. I especially waiting on the film that shows even more of this perspective.

All-in-all, a very good movie, and well worth the time and money.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 – A Movie Review
Jan 172010
 

In early afternoon, four armed men hijack a subway train in Manhattan. They stop on a slight incline, decoupling the first car to let the rest of the train coast back. Their leader is Ryder; he connects by phone with Walter Garber, the dispatcher watching that line. Garber is a supervisor temporarily demoted while being investigated for bribery. Ryder demands $10 million within an hour, or he’ll start shooting hostages. He’ll deal only with Garber. The mayor okays the payoff, the news of the hostage situation sends the stock market tumbling, and it’s unclear what Ryder really wants or if Garber is part of the deal.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller, Crime/Gangster and Remake; Release Date: July 24th, 2009 (wide)

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Brian Haley

Directed by: Tony Scott

I’m behind on writing reviews. We watched this on DVD a couple of weekends ago. We never saw this in the theater. I wasn’t expecting much from this remake of the original, especially with Travolta in a starring role, and because it was a remake by an explosion-happy director (Tony Scott). But, it was actually not too bad, with some nice plot twists.

Of course, the biggest reason the movie succeeds is Denzel Washington. Washington plays a disgraced (investigation pending) transit executive who’s currently slumming as the control chief. On his shift, naturally, a 1:23 train out of Pelham (New York City) suddenly stops in the middle of its run, and a hijacker demands $10 million to be delivered in exactly one hour, or passengers start dying unnaturally.

What makes this a little more than your typical cat-and-mouse game is the undercurrent of what’s gotten Washington’s character into hot water, as well as Travolta’s character’s actual motives.

Washington and Travolta play off each other very nicely, with Washington’s flawless portrayal of a flawed man far more convincing than Travolta’s garden-variety unhinged wacko. Essentially, Washington was good enough to counterbalance Travolta’s overacting.  Washington’s Walter Garber is unsure of himself, an actual Everyman thrust into a madman’s master plan.

There are some changes from the original, true, but they don’t seem contrived; for example, Walter Matthau was a transit cop in the 1974 version, not some under-investigation suit.

The action is tense throughout, especially since you assume that the hijackers are going to have to murder someone at some point (otherwise, why have a deadline?) Somehow, the movie manages to be gripping and realistic without being over the top. There are some minor bouts of nonsense, and maybe in the final 20 minutes or so it’s a little by the numbers in its approach to action, but overall it’s not bad at all. It’s certainly a lot better than I’d expect a John Travolta movie to be, but maybe that’s because he’s the bad guy here, and they’re expected to be over the top.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...

Men Who Stare at Goats, The – A Movie Review

 Culture, Fun Stuff, Movies  Comments Off on Men Who Stare at Goats, The – A Movie Review
Nov 132009
 

Men Who Stare at GoatsReporter Bob Wilton is in search of his next big story when he encounters Lyn Cassady, a shadowy figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit. According to Cassady, the New Earth Army is changing the way wars are fought. A legion of “Warrior Monks” with unparalleled psychic powers can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it. Now, the program’s founder, Bill Django, has gone missing and Cassady’s mission is to find him. Intrigued by his new acquaintance’s far-fetched stories, Bob impulsively decides to tag along. When the pair tracks Django to a clandestine training camp run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper, the reporter is trapped in the middle of a grudge match between the forces of Django’s New Earth Army and Hooper’s personal militia of super soldiers. In order to survive this wild adventure, Bob will have to outwit an enemy he never thought possible.

Genres: Comedy, Thriller, Adaptation and War; Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.; Release Date: November 6th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for language, some drug content and brief nudity.

Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Rebecca Mader, Stephen Lang and Robert Patrick

Directed by: Grant Heslov

Lay and I went to see this last weekend. The movie is supposed to be based on fact (from Jon Ronson’s book) but the concept is so silly that director Grant Heslov and George Clooney  really can’t help but make fun of it, and there are some good laughs here. Just no real story.

Ewan McGregor plays journalist Bob Wilton, a jilted husband who goes to find a big journalistic adventure to provide his masculinity to his backstabbing wife. But he winds up stuck in Kuwait waiting to get into Iraq. One night he meets Lyn Cassidy (George Clooney), a familiar name to him from a previous interview he did years before about psychic-spies. Lyn was the best in what was called the “New Earth Army”, started by Vietnam-Vet Bill Django (Jeff Bridges) in the 80’s to create soldiers with super-powers who could prevent conflict. The Army was later dismantled and used for evil purposes by the movie’s antagonist Hooper (Kevin Spacey) but Lyn tells Bob he’s been re-activated, and has a secret mission to do in Iraq. Bob, thinking Lyn crazy but interesting at the same time, decides to ride along with him and go where the action is. Along the way, Lyn tells him stories of others dubbed, “Jedi Warriors.”

Most of the movie is flashbacks, beginning with Iraq War 2003 and chronicling all the way back to the beginning of New Age warfare. There are weird and crazy laughs. The lines are good too. “We tried invisibility but then worked it down to just not being seen”, Lyn tells Bob during on of their discussions. Clooney is perfectly eccentric as a guy who lives by the mindfulness-over-warfare principal and McGregor is a whiny, but solid straight-man. Bridges is also terrific as this free-spirited hippie. Only the laughs and flashbacks (which feel like a series of sketches) aren’t enough to distract from the fact that “Goats” really has no compelling narrative. The forward-moving story in Iraq 2003 has very little momentum. Spacey appears later on again as the villain but the conflict is weak and the movie has more than over-stayed its welcome.

All-in-all, it’s probably worth seeing, but I’d wait to rent the DVD.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...
snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake snowflake