Category Archives: thriller

Extraordinary Mission Brutal and Raw

From Alan Mak and Felix Chong, co-writers of The Departed and director of Infernal Affairs, the movie follows Lin Kai, played by Huang Xuan, in Extraordinary Mission. The movie is razor sharp with intense lighting that heightens the tension in each scene.

The movie takes place in Hong Kong where crime is center staged. Lin Kai is an undercover officer delegated to break through the Twin Eagles drug cartel. The story moves fast and the shots are tight. I never found my thoughts wandering.  The subtitles were tough to follow at times because the movie moved fast with raw intensity.

Yihong Duan plays an impressive cartel boss and a firm conviction in his ruthlessness.  Seeing both Xuan and Duan in scenes together was like watching a full charged emotional push-and-pull. Their scenes were not just a cat and mouse game.  It was brutal and raw.

The movie takes a turn that I was not expecting. Xuan acting talent shines when Kai is coerced into gradual drug addiction while attempting to locate the cartel’s production base.  Being strung out on drugs creates more complications when Kai realizes Eagle has been plotting a violent revenge against his supervisor Li Jianguo, played by Jiadong Xing, for over a decade.

The ending is brutal but fun to watch.  The creative minds of Mak and Chong is a vision you don’t want to miss.

James Patterson’s Zoo: Third & Last Season

Zoo: Third Season from CBS is the last season for the drama series based on the novel written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwige.  The story takes a jump forward and is set 10 years after the animals were cured and humanity was left sterile.

The season follows Abraham, played by Nonso Anozie, who is now a doctor and is helping Clementine, played by Gracie Dzienny, find her father Mitch, played by Billy Burke. The huge plot point is Mitch is being held in suspended animation in a secretive location.

The year is now 2027 and the world has reached a tipping point. The human population continues to dwindle due to a sterility problem and devastating threat rises in the form of the hybrids. These hybrids are an army of unstoppable lab-made creatures who are hell-bent on destroying mankind. Although the team has become estranged over the past decade, they are forced to overcome their differences and reunite when they learn that Mitch is alive. As the planet’s future hangs in the balance, the team must race to stop the hybrids and their creator – a shadowy figure with a startling connection to the team’s past.

Another change of events is Jamie, played by Kristen Connolly, is now a successful author trying to find “The Falco” and what is left of the Shepherds. Still, there is Jackson, played by James Wolk, and Logan, played by Josh Salatin. Both are trying to hold the hybrids at bay. As I went through the DVS I discovered that all the characters work super hard to overpower and wipe out the hybrids. At the same time, they are an urgency to find a cure for sterility.

The third season DVD arrives with deleted scenes and a gag reel that complements the whole package as the final season of a series that started off like a rocket ride and slowly fizzled as the storyline became scattered.

2:22

Directed by Paul Currie and starring Michiel Huisman, Teresa Palmer, and Sam Reid, the movie follows air traffic controller Dylan Branson, played by Huisman, where two planes almost collide after a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few seconds.

As a result, Branson is suspended from his job, and he becomes cognitive of repetition of sounds and events in his life at exactly the same time every day. Guess what time that is? The title of the movie, 2:22.

The underlying pattern soon builds and draws him New York’s Grand Central Station daily at 2:22 p.m. He meets up with a woman who works in an art gallery, Sarah, played by Palmer, disturbingly complicated by her ex-boyfriend Jonas, played by Reid. Still, Dylan must break the power of the past, and take control of time itself.

Every day, on the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal, Branson sees a businessman at the ticket counter reading a newspaper, a couple kissing, six school children, and a pregnant woman standing under the famous clock. It’s not always the same businessman, but it’s always the same pattern.

Earlier in the day – other patterns play out and haunt Dylan – a plane flies overhead, glass shatters, car screeches. It becomes clear to Dylan, and to Dylan alone, that these supposed random series of events, in this busy, noisy city, are not so random.

This is the enigma of 2:22.

How this movie plays out is crucial to whether or not the movie will be enjoyed, and Currie describes it best, “2:22 is about the fear of love. It’s also about the past that can secretly haunt us all. It’s a story about a guy who is trying to protect his girl at all costs, against time itself. Time is both Dylan’s ally and his enemy.”

The movie isn’t perfect and some may find it hard to enjoy, but it is a good attempt at a complex topic about taking control of time both the past and the future.

A Kind of Murder

Directed by Andy Goddard, who spent quality time directing Downton Abby episodes, A Kind of Murder follows an obsessed crime novelist, played by Patrick Wilson, who is married to a suicidal wife, played by Jessica Biel. The movie is suspenseful, fascinating along with a captivating storyline that includes twists and turns like an old-fashion movie.

With such a talented cast, I was surprised that the movie’s tempo was slow and not as engaging as it could have been like the novel the movie is based. The novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote other popular psychological thrillers such as Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The movie follows a crime novelist obsessed with an unsolved murder case begins to fantasize about committing a crime of his own. His marriage is an unhappy one, and his desire to be free from his beautiful but damaged wife becomes an obsession. But when his wife is found dead the lines blur between innocence and intent, forcing the question who, in fact, is the real killer?

The movie is a thriller and has a story that should be engaging, but somehow it fell flat in the third act.

Mechanic: Resurrection

mechanicresDirected by Dennis Gansel, the action-packed, thrill ride is the best way I can describe Mechanic: Resurrection because the movie takes off right at the get-go. Bullets spray and jaws get smashed with the starring power of Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop, an assassin who makes each of his targets’ deaths look like accidents, whose calm retirement is shattered when a former employer requires his services.

The movie also stars Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Yeoh.

The movie follows Bishop as he returns as the Mechanic in the sequel to the 2011 action-thriller. When the deceitful actions of a cunning but beautiful woman, played by Alba, force him to return to the life he left behind, Bishop’s life is once again in danger as he has to complete an impossible list of assassinations of the most dangerous men in the world.

Mechanic: Resurrection includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes looking at the development of the sequel, scoring the film, a breakdown of the Malaysian prison break sequence, and in-depth interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Jason Statham.

Tommy Lee Jones arrives but for not long. He still adds a lot of fun, which I enjoyed because he is a veteran and makes it look so easy. Jessica Alba looks good like a trophy. I just wish her character had more depth, but that is Hollywood for you. All in all, the movie is fast paced with tons of action and totally no-brainer entertainment. Any Statham fan will want to see this movie because it reeks action fight scenes only Statham knows how to do best.

The Hunger Games 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack

3d_rgb_hungergames4kultraocrd Lionsgate released the epic singularity franchise, The Hunger Games series on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, which includes both Blu-ray and Digital HD. All in all, it is an amazing product for such a gripping story.

As most remember, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire, who took the world by storm with a four-film cumulative worldwide box office of 3 billion cash flow.

Fans can see the movies with four times the resolution of Full HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) that delivers the brightest, most vivid and realistic color and greatest contrast from 4K Ultra HD.  However, similar to other 4K movies I have reviewed, the whole movie’s vivid, realistic color and contrast are not consistent. I find in the hand-held camera scenes of these 4K movies, the technical potential is limited, if not a bit shaky.

Don’t get me wrong. Checking out Lionsgate’s catalog 4K titles, I am impressed with the products so far. It makes watching movies at home so much better with the Dolby Atmos track sounds, which are incredible because it utilizes every speaker.

Now the quality of the look is a bit unforgiving because the effect is over the top.  Noticeably, in the first half of The Hunger Games. The colors are saturated and nearly grainy.  Watching the scene when the District 12 team is eating before the games is a good example where the colors, black levels, and overall clarity are below standards for the quality hype.

Disappointingly, just about every scene at The Capital looked saturated. When the movie arrives at the Games, I was impressed and in awe over the rich details of the overall setting in the forest and the way everything looked pristine.  It made watching the 4K version worth it.

One thing that didn’t help the 4K, as mentioned earlier, was the shaky-cam style.  In the first mad dash for supplies in the games, the camera was all over the place and the 4K clearness was like a second thought to the scene.  Even though about half the movies technical quality didn’t appear any better, if slightly worse, the other half of the movie is a pristine, vibrant upgrade and fun to watch.

The 4K version special features offer extras, which includes a commentary with Stephen Mirrione, Sheena Duggal, and Lon Bender. Even though they are not the stars or director, their passion for the movie come through, creating a worthwhile commentary.

3d_rgb_hgcatchingfire4kultraocrdDirected by Francis Lawrence, Catching Fire 4K

Ultra HD had the same technical issues I mentioned in The Hunger Games 4K Ultra HD.  The scenes in the training room and outside are clear and pristine like a gemstone. The crystal clear and the 4K upgrade really stands out.  Yet, the scenes in The Capitol, mostly most CGI, are saturated and almost blurry at times.  I noticed there is a bit more of an upgrade compared to The Hunger Games. I am curious as to why that is so.

The audio sounds perfect like the first film. The Dolby Atmos track is a wonderful upgrade and sounds faultless.

The 4K Ultra comes without exclusive features, but the package includes a copy of the Blu-ray.

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The Ones Below

3d_rgb_theonesbelow_brwrpThe Ones Below, written and directed by David Farr, is an intense psychological thriller. The movie features really good acting and the suspense keeps the movie flowing intensely. The movie stars Clémence Poés, best known for playing Fleur in Harry Potter, David Morrissey, Stephen Campbell Moore and Laura Birn. The British movie is really intense and ideal for those who appreciate a thriller with gripping fear.

Expecting their first child, Kate, believably played by Poésy, and Justin, played by Moore, become friendly with their new neighbors, Jon, played by Morrissey, and Theresa, played by Birn, who are also expecting, in the downstairs apartment. With the undertones, there is a sense that something is dreadfully off and threatening about the new downstairs neighbors. Things take a turn after a dinner party upstairs and the new neighbors start to show sinister intentions towards Kate and Justin after an unfortunate tragedy strikes. The relationship turns threatening, leaving the couple fearful for their well-being. With an ending that twists around and leaves an unsettling feeling of despair, this psychological battle with the tenants in the apartment downstairs continuously keeps the tension and tone of the movie at a high level.

Farr, the screenwriter for both Hanna and The Night Manager, make his directorial debut with this movie. He did a fine job of crafting a dark, modern fable in which the lives of two couples become fatally intertwined. Kate and Justin live in the upstairs flat of a London house. Thirty-something, successful and affluent, they are expecting their first baby. Everything appears well on the surface though Kate harbors deep-rooted fears about her fitness to be a mother and her ability to love her child.

One day, another couple, Jon and Theresa move into the empty apartment below. They are also expecting a baby and, in stark contrast to Kate, Theresa is full of joy at the prospect of imminent motherhood. Pregnancy brings the women together in a blossoming friendship as Kate becomes entranced by Theresa’s unquestioning celebration of her family-to-be. Everything changes one night at a dinner party in Kate and Justin’s flat. Kate begins to sense that all is not as it seems with the couple below. Then a tragic accident throws the couples into a nightmare and a reign of psychological terror begins.

Keep in mind, The Ones Below is a dark movie and stays that way to the end.

High-Rise

high-riseHigh-Rise, from genre-bending director Ben Wheatley, is an attempt to adapt the classic J.G. Ballard novel of the same name with a brilliant and talented cast including Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss. If you watch the movie knowing it is dark satire, then you might not have a problem watching this movie. It is boring at times because the pacing is off, but the acting is what saves the movie.

But the message is clear and just as poignant today as it follows the inevitable result of a breakdown of social strata and public decorum, known as class warfare. The classic book is a dystopia with a very strong message, but the movie doesn’t even come near to the heart of the book.

Dr. Robert Laing, played pretty solid by Hiddleston, recently moved into a luxury, high-rise apartment building designed by the enigmatic Mr. Royal, played by Irons. With a literal divide of the classes, the wealthiest residents live on the upper floors with the best amenities while residents on the lower floors experience routine blackouts and other disruptions of basic services. As additional flaws in the building begin to emerge, both physically and socially, the lower floor residents revolt, turning the building into a battlefield for an all-out class warfare.

I wanted the movie to be good and worth seeing because the Ballard’s book tells a great story and the actors are really good. Yet, the script and editing could be tighter. It just dragged on and on with no reason.

The Blu-ray comes with some bonus features that includes a commentary from Tom Hiddleston, Ben Wheatley and Producer Jeremy Thomas, an in-depth look at adapting the beloved novel from the page to the screen, a look at the acclaimed film’s 70s set design, special effects, and more.

Gridlocked

3D_CMYK_Gridlocked_DVDWrpDirected by Canadian Allan Ungar, Gridlocked is a typical action thriller resembling a combination of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

The story follows former SWAT leader David Hendrix, played by Australian-born Dominic Purcell, is down on his luck and has failed to receive medical clearance after taking a bullet on the job. Despite being highly trained and competent, his efforts have been reduced to routine tasks for the NYPD. As if things couldn’t get any worse, he’s been forced to babysit movie star Brody Walker, played by Canadian and 5x World Karate Champion Cody Hackman, a hard-partying celebrity that’s been sent on a mandatory ride along as part of his probation.  Pampered and irritating, Walker is the last thing Hendrix needs. But all of that changes when a police training facility comes under attack by a team of ruthless mercenaries led by the mysterious Korver, played by Tony-nominated Stephan Lang.  Now, Hendrix and Walker must band together with the remaining survivors to fight back and keep the mercenaries from overtaking the compound. The only problem is Hendrix and Walker do not get along, and they just might kill each other before the mercenaries do.

Lethal Weapon’s Danny Glover plays fatherly-type Sully, and it great to see how him in this role and makes the movie more gratifying.  Other supporting actors such as Vinnie Jones and Trish Stratus do a pretty decent job of moving the story along, and the main mystery to the storyline is revealed about half way through the movie. With Purcell as a good guy and Vinnie as a bad guy, we all know where this goes with some manageable humor in their remarks in a teasing way

I am not going so far as to recommend the movie. But if you are looking for an action thriller that you haven’t seen yet, then stream or rent this one. It’s worth it.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity_RGB 3D DVD OCardWritten and directed by Jacob Gentry and earning the L’Écran Fantastique Award at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival, Synchronicity is considered a stunning science fiction adventure. The movie stars Chad McKnight, Brianne Davis, and Michael Ironside.

It is a fascinating thriller that blends time travel and romance with corporate espionage. The musical score takes you even farther than the story itself. Compose Ben Lovett’s music is spellbinding.

The story follows physicist Jim Beale, played by McKnight, who invents the world’s first ever time machine. He quickly finds himself fighting to prevent a takeover from his largest benefactor, Klaus Meisner, played by Ironside. In order to keep the rights to his invention, he must journey back in time himself to prove that it works. On his travels, he soon meets a beautiful, yet dark and mysterious woman named Abby, played by Davis.  He believes she may be working with Klaus to gain control of his life’s work. What he discovers in the past brings the story to full fruition.

Gentry starts the story while it is already underway, which offers a voyeur perspective of what is happening to Beale.  At first, I felt like I was intruding, then I felt comfortable and understood what was happening in the movie.

The movie, in its own way, hooked me because I wanted to know what would happen next.