Monthly Archives: August 2015

Black Box

blackboxWritten and directed by Matthew Schilling, the Black Box stars Brad Dourif, who is known for his acting talents in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Jason London, Ray Park and Kevin Sorbo also star in this sci-fi thriller.

You would think since Schilling both wrote and directed the movie the story would be pretty good. Like Woody Allen, Nicole Holofcener, James Cameron and Wes Anderson to name a few typically create a vision that is solid and good. Unfortunately, Schilling didn’t pull this off.

Most reviews for Black Box have not been good unless the reviewer was a sci-fi fan. The level of suspense is good with good acting, but the story is a little hard to follow and makes very little sense. I will give it my best shot to try to explain the movie. The black box contains secrets to one’s desires. Vastly different people meet by chance and as it changes hands, which happens every so often, the new owner is willing to do anything for what the box holds inside. The thing inside is the one thing the person covets the most. So much so, it makes them desire it at a dangerous cost.

A mysterious cowboy, played by Kevin Sorbo without much dialogue, delivers the payback in the form of an immortal assassin. The ending is not the best part of the movie. It ends abruptly with a one liner. If Schilling had wrapped the ending up in a proper way, the movie would have been better and more enjoyable to watch.


The Dead Lands

deadlandsThe movie takes place in New Zealand before colonial times when Maoris ruled New Zealand. Polynesian people are the ancestors of the Maori. They originated from south-east Asia and migrated to New Zealand. The movie is about two Maori tribes that have ancient rivalry.  The conflict has been put to rest, and the tribes live amicable.

Until, a young war chief called Wirepa covets the glory gained in battle by rekindling the ancient rivalry. He violently attacks the other tribe. The Chief’s son, Hongi, survives with a few other members of his tribe. Hongi goes after them with full out assault on revenge.

As a strategic plan, they decide to cross through the `Dead Lands’, hence the movie’s name The Dead Lands, where it is believed that a warrior spirit lies in wait. The spirit will devour any person who trespasses, adding a haunting tale to the storyline.

The rest of the movie is action packed outing, with a bunch of martial arts fighting, blood splattering and other violent plundering. The backdrop of the movie is a beautiful tropical forest with the harsh contrast to the story, and the music adds a fair amount of intensity to the movie. A standout actor in the upheaval is Lawrence Makoare as the Warrior, who drives his role with vim and vigor, emotion and pure charismatic presence.

The movie is entirely in Maori with English sub titles. Don’t get caught up in the sub-titles, just watch the movie and the story will unfold. I recommend this movie if you enjoy real violence in a rather barbaric fashion that gets under your skin.

The White Storm

whitestormIf you like John Woo’s classics, you will enjoy this action-filled, police tale. It’s the story of three police officers with striking personalities. One of the officers is undercover while the others are on the force. They make great efforts to bring down a major Asian drug lord. The movie is driven by its story with deceptions and betrayal, suspense and some major action.

Directed by Benny Chan, The White Storm is textured with personalities that have to prove they are righteous, which is similar to movies from the 80s – like Tango & Cash or Lethal Weapon.  The cops are in conflict over their personalities and how they handle the job.  Like one bad cop and one good cop solving a crime together while competing against each other.

The story begins with a brotherhood put to the ultimate test when a narcotics sting operation fails.  Three friends will fight to the end to escape the retaliation of the most dangerous drug lord in Hong Kong.  They are working in the Hong Kong Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau and get caught up in a case with the drug lord. Their sting operation fails, and they are forced to make a devastating decision – two can live but one must die.

Five years later, the two of them declare revenge for their fallen friend.  But, conflict arises and they wind up competing against each other for their own lives. At this point, the story gets real interesting, and I could not take my attention off the movie.

Chan is an award-winning producer and director for the film New Police Story starring Jackie Chan.  He brings action-pack entertainment with a cutting edge of storytelling.

Camilla Dickinson

camillaCamilla Dickinson caught my eye because my daughter enjoyed reading A Wrinkle in Time by the same author, Madeleine L’Engle, who authored Camilla, which the movie is based.

Co-written and directed by L’Engle’s god-daughter, Cornelia Duryée Moore, the movie is refreshing and a reminder that films can be simple, poignant without the box office bonanza. We so often see movies incased with special effects and evil villains out to destroy the world – not the case with Moore’s feature film debut.

Moore was primed to direct this movie with a resume that includes quite a bit of writing, acting and theatrical familiarity. She even co-founded the Seattle Shakespeare Company.

Adelaide Clemens plays the daughter of an affluent family in 1948 Manhattan. At first she seems shy and withdrawn because her mother played by Samantha Mathis is being romanced by a Frenchman. She can’t tell her dad played by Cary Elwes because he is stoic and feels his wife is too emotional and immature to confront the issue.

camilla2Camilla meets her best friend’s brother Frank played by Gregg Sulkin. They begin an innocent courtship that is true enough to reinstate her trust in true love.  Like any story, complications crop up and keep the plot moving along but never really hindering Camilla’s new found independence.  Her independence is nurtured through Frank, his friends and music.  Camilla shares her desire to be an astronomer and study celestial bodies. Frank encourages her and her confidence grows.

The whole cast is very good, but the movie is a bit too long and could use some trimming down where the scenes start too soon and end too late. Still, I enjoyed the movie since it is a believable story of the 1950’s.

The period look is attractive and adds to the story of the era. It is an interesting tale considering whose author later in life created wonderful inspired tales with females as central characters.

Slow West

Directed by John Maclean, Slow Westslowwest is so typical of the true frontier that the movie chases away the notions of the true hero of the Old West. Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jay Cavendish, who is a lovelorn young Scot traveling by horse in the unforgiving frontier. He is hoping to find his lady love, Rose Ross, played brilliantly by Caren Pistorius. Jay comes from a wealthy family, so he isn’t prepared for the rugged terrain and its outlaws.

Rose and her father fled Scotland to escape the law after they accidentally murdered Jay’s relative. Jay has no idea the woman he hopes to find and marry is a fugitive. Just like Scotland’s lore, he is following his heart.

Silas played exceptionally well by Michael Fassbender is a gun slinging outlaw. Fassbender is also one of the movie’s producers. He meets Jay by opportunity and guides him through the frontier in search of his lady love. He promises to keep him alive for fifty dollars now and fifty dollars more when they find Rose.

Jay and Silas are total opposites, so they are not the best of buddies. Silas is a bounty hunter, who shoots first and asks questions later. Jay is refined and mature in respectability. He even gets them out of some scrapes now and then. As if the frontier isn’t hard enough on them, they have a gang of bounty hunters following close behind. The gang is led by Payne played menacingly by Ben Mendelsohn. He and the other bounty hunters are looking to collect $2000 reward for Rose and her father, dead or alive.

Slow West won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, so it has the strength of really good movie. Yet, it is a simple but distressing story that foretells the end through Jay’s dreams. On the other hand, like a Western the story has gun fights, deaths and drunkenness, and the ending is more real than the great Westerns of Old Hollywood.