Category Archives: thriller

Remember

Remember_3D_BD_OcardThis is a gem of a movie directed by Oscar nominee Aton Egoyan and written for the screen by Benjamin August, stars two very talented, Oscar-winning actors Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau.

I must digress and tell you I saw Plummer perform his one-man play about the late John Barrymore. I was fortunate to meet the playwright of Barrymore as well. I am compelled to praise Plummer’s performance and the play.

Remember is a story about very dark truths, lying just under the skin is the truth that comes to light when you least expect it. The movie is an intense thriller, and I was fortunate to see it on Blu-ray. We follow Zev, played brilliantly by Plummer, who has dementia and is recently widowed. He is a Holocaust survivor and will stop at nothing to get justice for his family. Being an Auschwitz survivor and with the aid of a friend, played by Landau, they discover that the Nazi guard who murdered both their families some seventy years ago is living in America under an assumed identity. Zev sets out on a gripping journey that tests both his will and his fading memory as it brings him closer to the retribution he seeks.

The movie has several memorable scenes. One is with the State Troop, son of a Nazi, with a German Shepard that Zev visits looking for the Nazi guard. Dean Norris plays the State Troop with such a gripping edge. I was so afraid for Zev. I was literally on the edge of my couch telling my husband, “This is such a good movie…”

The supporting cast is priceless including two talented child actors, Peter DaCunha, and Sofia Wells, offering the innocence of people unsuspecting the horrors of Holocaust.

The ending is so good and meaningful, which makes me wonder. For some perhaps, dementia or forgetting is just a way to protect those from transgressions who care not to reveal to themselves and others.

I applaud Egoyan, Plummer and Landau, great story and great performances.

The Blu-ray features an Audio Commentary with Director Atom Egoyan, Producer Robert Lantos & Writer Benjamin August. It also includes “Performances to Remember” Featurette and “A Tapestry of Evil: Remembering the Past” Featurette.

Backtrack

03139824135580_z_backrcluDirected by Michael Petroni, known for directing The Book Thief, combines paranormal with a mystery in a plot that twists suspense to an all-time high. The story is like The Sixth Sense  but in reverse. It is refreshing to watch a movie that is so different.

Oscar winner, Adrien Brody, and Sam Neill star in the spine-chilling thriller, Backtrack. Suspense is the key word because it kept me on the edge of my seat as the shocking story slowly unfolds.

We follow Psychologist Peter Bower, played by Brody, as his life is thrown into turmoil when he discovers that the patients he has been seeing are ghosts. Risking his own sanity, Peter delves into his past to uncover a terrifying secret which only he can put right.

I am not a fan of psychologists because the profession is built on the premise that man is an animal. I completely disagree. Though, this movie is really good.

The Blu-ray and DVD have some nice behind-the-scenes featurettes including “The Psychology of Backtrack.

All in all, Brody carries the movie along with strong supporting actors. The story is just as strong with a resolution that is believable.

Exposed

ExposedDirected by Declan Dale, Exposed is not an easy film to watch because nothing is explained in the movie until the very end.  We meet Isabel, played pleasantly by Ana de Armas. She is a young Dominican woman, whose husband is in Iraq, and she lives with his engaging and happy family.

Her brother-in-law is connected to the mob in some way, but they are very close since his brother is deployed.  For some reason, late at night, he lets her go home by herself on the subway, which is the first mistake in the movie.  No one in their right might would let that happen. While Isabel is on the subway platform, she has strange visions, and they are not explained.

The visions consist of male albino in a black suit and a completely white-styled woman to look like she is a Capital from The Hunger Games. I want to stop here for a moment to point out Isabel continues to have visions of the Capital woman through the movie. She reappears as all black and finally as all red. I am not sure of the purpose behind these visions, and a 2-minute scene with Isabel and her brother-in-law or another family member about the visions would have been great.

After we see Isabel in the subway, the story cuts to a detective Scott Galban, underplayed by Keanu Reeves, who is investigating his morally suspicious partner’s murder. The movie continues to cut from Isabel and the detective throughout the movie, indicating a relationship between his dead partner and her.  Much later in the movie we find out the connection.

Isabel’s life seems strange and inconsistent. One scene she is working at a child-care center, and then she is waiting on tables at a local restaurant.  She befriends a little girl at the child-care center. The girl is quite like Isabel and shows signs of having problems at home with her father. Again, the movie doesn’t explain why this relationship is in the movie until the end.

Galban is widowed, grieving for his partner, and has a young son staying with his sister because he can’t cope with his life. His partner’s wife, played by Mira Sorvino, flirts with Galban while making demands her husband’s murderer is brought to justice as long as they don’t expose any of her husband’s transgressions.

The story continues with more stuff being added to the plot without explanations, making the movie even more confusing. Eventually, the end arrives and everything comes together, but it wasn’t worth the time to find out.

It is rumored there is a director’s version of the movie, but the studio intervention made the movie worse, hacking it to confusion. The director’s version is much better and casts more light on the characters, central themes titled Daughter of God.   Let’s hope the director’s version is release in the near future.

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

the lady with the carDirected by Joann Sfar, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun reminds me of the 1960s European thrillers as an erotic, hazy story that spellbinds you because you can’t quite figure out what is going on with the femme fatal character. Is she good…is she bad? Still, she is the center of the movie, played by Scottish actress Freya Mavor.  Her luxuriant outfits, and cinematographer Manuel Dacosse leering camera offers the possibility of a good movie, yet the rambling mystery never fully takes shape.

Based on the 1970 remake starring Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed, which I never saw, the story actually comes from Sebastien Japrisot’s convoluted 1966 novel.  The story follows apparently a normal French secretary Dany Doremus, played beautifully by Mavor.  She works for a shady boss, played by Benjamin Biolay. She arrives at his home to transcribe important documents. His wife, played by Stacy Martin, is at home, and she used to be friends with Dany. Now, they are uncomfortably distant. The couple asks her to drive them to the airport the next day.  They let her use his classic blue Ford Thunderbird. After dropping them off at the airport, Dany decides to take a joyride.

The movie is a bizarre journey, acid trip, and murder mystery. Nothing seems to add up as the story feels like an aimless road trip.  Situations happen to Dany, and she seems like she has a pipe in her head or a screw loose, but nothing is quite explained as to what is happening.

The story comes together, but by the time that happens, everything is lost. All except, Mavor as Dany. She is every man’s hot dream as well as Sfar, who films her at every and any angle to evocate what men want or can’t get enough of her.

The music haunts the film and crawls under the skin, especially with Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” pulling off a mind-blowing result.

All in all, the movie has some good merits, and some will enjoy it.

Pay Back

paybackThe title makes it easy to figure out Pay Back is a revenge movie. Directed by Fu Xi, the movie is totally Hong Kong style and enjoyable if you like these types of movies. The style is choppy and unclear at times, which is, most likely, Fu Xi’s style.

The real reason this type of movie attracts people is the fight scenes.  Pay Back scores big time with the fight scenes, but there are a couple of mediocre ones. The tongue and cheek aren’t too bad either with a jab at being good citizens. As good citizens, we are supposed to tolerate life as it comes. Not so true oh wise one, karate chop, and jab.

The story is about a decent man, who has a wife and child, but trouble comes along. His family is taken away from him by vicious gang members. Now, it is payback time, so the gang is hunted down and fight scenes ensue.  The movie has potential, but a bit convoluted with scenes not relating to other scenes.

I am sure it is worth watching if you like martial arts.

Mojave

mojaveDirected and written by talented and Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan, Mojave indicates that Monahan is better at writing movies than directing them. On his next try, he should take a course in Directing 101.  He has a talented cast with moments that are enthralling, but these factors barely compensate for moments of inauthenticity and emotional contradiction.

Thomas, played well by Garrett Hedlund, is a well-known filmmaker who is filthy rich but troubled. He goes on a journey into the Mojave Desert to set himself apart from his life of prosperity, coked-up producers, and seedy agents. He hopes to find comfort and peace. All the same and one of the inconsistencies of the story, Thomas demonstrates the opposite. He screams at the coyotes, drinks, and drives crazily. He even crashes his jeep. Stranded with less than a gallon of water and some smokes, he heads off to nowhere. It obvious he is heading for a death wish. Then, he sees a figure over the horizon.

The figure is Jack, played well by Oscar Isaac, who appears at Thomas’ campfire. Jack has a screw loose with backwoods intelligence. He talks non-sequitur about Shakespeare, Jesus, and government corruption. All in all, he is downright evil. Thomas and Jack start fighting with Thomas leaving him unconscious by the fire.

From this point on, the story gets mighty crazy, convoluted, and just plain wild, depicting the worse of Hollywood.  The movie is really about men confronting their demons. The cinematography by Don Davis is magical with wide shots of moonlit landscapes and dark, foreboding interiors.

Mark Wahlberg shows up as the over-the-top, coked-up producer, and Thomas’ producing partner.  He offers comic relief to the high-tension testosterone movie. I am not sure that was Monahan’s intention.

Which brings me to the conclusion that I would have liked to have known the characters better, so I could understand their motives and actions. Otherwise, it is just too confusing.

I am sure Monahan will direct another movie. But, his dance card is a bit full with 10 screenwriting gigs, so it will be some time before we see him take another jab.

Extraction

extractionDirected by Chris C. Miller, Extraction opens with CIA field operative Leonard Turner played by Bruce Willis. The scene is an important part of the story because his wife is killed by the bad guys, and he prevents his son from being killed as well.

Next, we see his son Harry, played by Kellan Lutz, and it is ten years later. He followed his father’s footsteps and is a CIA agent.  He is training under the keen guidance of Leonard’s best friend Ken played by D.B. Sweeney. Harry wants to be a field agent like his father but keeps getting turned down. He is assigned to a project involving a top secret piece of electronic equipment called CONDOR. It is pretty powerful and can control anything electric.

Leonard is sent on a mission to purchase CONDOR and gets captured. Harry finds out and wants to save his father, but is told to stand down. Harry figures out who captured his father, but the CIA says he isn’t strong enough to help save his father and send him home with an armed escort. Harry breaks away and sets his sights on saving his father.

Victoria Phipps, played by Gina Carano, is assigned to the case. She is one of the best field agents, and to make the story more interesting, a former lover of Harry. She lets him join her and help track down CONDOR, find his father, and take down the bad guys. Time is the key to pulling this all off, and they have to work fasts. The story has some twists and turns and confusion occurs on trying to figure out who are the bad guys and who are the good guys.

Seems like a pretty good action movie, but in all honest it isn’t that great. Technical glitches with the overall sound and vocals are disconcerting. The odd edit cuts and jumps prevent the flow of the story. On top of that, I enjoy watching Carano do her action stuff, which I have seen in her other movies. She’s great, but in this movie, she doesn’t do all that much. I mean, she is a former MMA fighter. Let her show her stuff.

All in all, I really wanted to like this movie, but it started off great and went downhill from there.

Mi-5

MI5Kit Harington plays a former MI5 agent, Will Crombie, who investigates the disappearance of Harry Pearce played by Peter Firth when he is blamed for the escape of a ruthless terrorist. Harington is known for starring in Pompeii, and I happy to see him in a different role.

Directed by Bharat Nalluri, Mi-5 is a very compelling spy-thriller and conspiracy movie. I am amazed by all twists and turns the storyline follows. Even the end has a twist I wasn’t expecting at all. The movie kept me on my toes trying to figure out who is who and who is now who. Just one betrayer after another carries the story. The characters in the movie are very real in the sense they conflict with the spy work they do. Is it morally justified or for the great good? Nice touch on ethical choices, which is refreshing. “You are responsible for your actions.”

I did notice the budget constraints of producing this movie, but still the action scenes were skillfully done but not over the top. Just enough to hold my attention and believe the scenes were real. Some movies go way overboard on the action sequences, then I no longer believe in what is happing because it is just to unreal.

I heard that this movie is based on a British TV show called Spooks, and when the show was distributed to the States, the title was changed to MI-5.  With that, if you are familiar with the TV show, you will notice the same characters in the movie and be able to follow the storyline much better than someone who hasn’t seen the television show.

The Last Witch Hunter

the last witch huntVin Diesel movies make money and entertain in a simple but direct way. The Last Witch Hunter is a little different and not such a simple movie. Directed decently by USC alumni Breck Eisner, the movie is both largescale and commendable. Eisner crafts a distinct urban fantasy-horror universe, which looks different from other movies of the same genre.

The story begins in the past with a group of silver-haired warriors on an important journey to slay the evil Witch Queen, played by Julie Engelbrecht, responsible for placing a curse on whole the countryside. The warriors fight bravely with suspense and terror as if they are fighting a monster, not a witch. All in all, this part of the movie is very good.

The story moves forward to the present, we meet Kaulder, played by Diesel, who is an immortal hero with a very complex or angst personality. If you are familiar with Diesel’s characters, you know he is still sarcastic and badass as ever, making his dedicated fans over-the-top, hand slapping happy.  He teams up with Axe and Cross, a group of priests. Dolan played brilliantly by Michael Caine, works closely with Kaulder, but retires and unexpectedly dies. Kaulder suspects his death is caused by “dark magic beyond evil,” meaning the Witch Queen.

Eisner adds a lot of action scenes with some awesome scary scenes, a strong supporting cast, and plenty of really useful computer effects with vibrant monsters and crazy spells. However, the story has no surprises only clichés, yet it’s a Diesel movie, so no complaints either.

Elijah Wood is excellent as Kaulder’s sidekick, a geeky priest in New York City. He adds a lot to the story and production. I like seeing him with Diesel because they are so different in real life.

All in all, it is a pretty good movie and worth seeing if you are a Diesel fan.

Lords of London

lordsoflondonWritten and directed by Antonio Simoncini, Lords of London is about family ties and loyalties being tested.  The thriller takes place in the dark city of London and exotic Italy with lush sunsets and beautiful, colorful landscapes. Ray Winstone (Snow White and the Huntsman) is billed as the star of the movie, but he is not in the movie all the much. Glen Murphy, Giovanni Capalbo (The Passion of the Christ) are the real stars of the movie while introducing Cassius Terence Murphy.

On the Internet, the reviews are not all that great, but the movie won Best Film at Italy’s Abruzzo Film Festival and New York Hell’s Kitchen Film Festival World Cinema.

We follow London gangster, Tony Lord, who is believably played by Murphy. Lord is the son of the notoriously ruthless Terry Lord, who is played very well by Winstone, which is a typical role you will see in other movies like The Departed.  He is a natural gangster while being shown in flashbacks and is not in the movie all that much. The story is about his son Tony, who must confront his father’s past. We see his father being violent and abusive toward his son.  The scenes work in the film because they build the tension of the storyline as a whole.

All in all, Simoncini crafts a well-honed movie through the editing of the film. He cuts from the present to the past, which is very effective as the story unfolds.