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Cleveland Abduction (2015)
A true-life horror! Dark, but inspirational.
Alex Kalyminios directs this story written by Stephen Tolkin of the true-life account of a Cleveland single mother Michelle Knight(Taryn Manning)and her 11-year imprisonment in the home of Ariel Castro(Raymond Cruz). Castro, psychotic and sadistic, damaged himself as a child, was compelled to take out his aggression. The school bus driver kidnapped Michelle as she was trying to go to court to get her three year old son back from social services.
Being a made for TV movie for the Lifetime Channel, this film could have been more gruesome and disturbing than it is. Michelle would become impregnated by Castro and forced into miscarriage. Two other women would be kidnapped and held captive. Amanda Berry(Samantha Doke)and Gina DeJesus(Katie Sarife)were also physically, mentally and sexually abused by their monster captor. The three women helped each other survive. Michelle would be forced to help deliver a child birthed by Amanda.
Miss Knight found strength in thoughts of her son, her ability to write poetry and her singular faith in God. The woman plotted ways to escape and physically tried making their bodies stronger. But it was a fluke that Ariel, usually so self-assured, carelessly left the front door of his home unlocked. Amanda managed to get the attention of neighbors that led to a miraculous rescue and arrest of Castro.
Also in the cast: Pam Grier, Joe Morton and Grace Ransom.
Maps to the Stars (2014)
A dysfunctional family in Tinseltown.
Hollywood seems to love exaggerating its image. Director David Cronenberg provides a bit morbid, low-key creepy look at Tinseltown. Bruce Wagner writes of a dysfunctional Hollywood family. Typical? Matter of opinion. Havana Segrand(Julianne Moore)is an aging actress that still believes she rides the rim of a major comeback. The right part is alluding her; the role of her own dead mother, once a major star. Young snot-nose actor, Benjie Weiss(Evan Bird)is haunted by a young star that died in a fire; plus his estranged sister, Agatha(Mia Walsokowska),has returned from rehab and would love to do the little pain-in-the-ass bodily harm. Benjie's father Stafford(John Cusack)is a self-help guru to the famous and almost famous. Christina Weiss(Olivia Williams)lives her life in shame and hopes Hollywood's Who's Who does not discover a shameful family secret. Some of the creepiness is modified by the panicky musical score by Howard Shore.
Miss Moore is outstanding. Her movie! Also in the cast: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Gibson, Jonathan Walton, Kiara Glasko and Sarah Gadon.
Killer Joe (2011)
Hard and rough redneck drama. Tense!
Oscar-winning director William Friedkin, who gave us THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE EXORCIST, gives us low-brow, trailer-trash Texas as he interprets Tracy Letts' screenplay of his stage play. A young drug dealer Chris(Emile Hirsch)has really screwed-up his already hard life. This story gets darker than dark, when his only hope to pay back money for drugs is to plot killing his own mother for the insurance payout. Chris talks his good-for-nothing father Ansel(Thomas Haden Church)to agree to hire Dallas police detective Joe Cooper(Matthew McConaughey) to do the dirty work. The cop moonlights as Killer Joe and he has strict rules to adhere to. Ansel figures no love lost on his ex-wife...enter into a contract for the hit.
This trashy, black comedy gets nastier, when Chris can't come up with the advance money and Killer Joe demands Chris' pretty virgin sister, Dottie(Juno Temple), as collateral. Joe's sadistic, brutal and sexual side goes on display. When the insurance money doesn't become Chris' saving grace; Joe manipulates some family carnage. You may twist and squirm and may even gag once or twice. The redneck drama becomes very disturbing with multiple sequences of brutality(some sexual).
McConaughey is manic bi-polar to the max. He brings his A game and I'm learning to appreciate him more. Gina Gershon plays Anasel's wife Sharla and she is outstanding for several reasons. She almost gives as much as she gets. Miss Temple could charm ticks off a hound. I am smitten. My favorite sequence is where Joe demands Dottie to put on her new black dress. R rating earned with violence, brutality, language, nudity and debauchery.
Also in the cast: Jeff Galpin, Danny Epper and Marc Macaulay.
Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)
Animated Dracula can't wait for grandson to grow up.
Sony Pictures counting on getting some laughs from viewers of all ages. This time around Adam Sandler gets co-credit for writing. Most of the same voices for characters in the original return. Definitely busy, but how does that relate to being good? It has been five years since Dracula(Sandler)became a grandfather. It was something to endure just to have his daughter Mavis(Serena Gomez) marry a laid-back human, Jonathan(Andy Samberg). Drac is faced with his monster-hotel cohorts still having troubles to accept each others' differences; and the impatient vampire is suffering high anxiety waiting for his grandson, Dennis(Asher Blinkoff), to grow fangs...that is if he has inherited the the right genes. He is sure of it; but he wants to speed up the process.
This is mainly just more of the same wisecracks from the original. I'm wondering if this sequel can garner equal popularity and box office haul of the earlier frantic formula.
Other recognizable voices featured: Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, Fran Drescher, Dana Carvey, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz, Mel Brooks and David Spade.
Black Mass (2015)
Johnny Depp is electrifying as famed crime boss.
Fantastic. Johnny Depp is absolutely at his best as Boston crime figure James "Whitie" Bulger. Depp is smoldering, menacing and terrifying. Bulger terrified his enemies as well as his friends. Hell, sit in the audience terrified. For about a dozen years, the only person the FBI wanted more was Osama bin Laden. This movie progresses through flashbacks of narration from Bulger's former associates, who have already served their time and in witness protection.
BLACK MASS is based on true facts that transpired in the 1970's and '80s. Bulger on the rise as crime boss of Boston's south side ends up in an unholy alliance with FBI agent John Connolly(Joel Edgerton), who grew up admiring "Whitie" in the old neighborhood. They both wanted to take down the Italian Mafia controlling crime on Boston's north side. Why not feed each other information. Making the whole situation debatable...was Bulger an FBI informant or not? William Bulger(Benedict Cumberbatch), is a state senator that manages to keep his hands clean of most doings past and present in the old neighborhood. John Martorano(W. Earl Brown)was a go to man, when things had to be taken care of...you know what I mean. Then of course, there were times when it was some "hands on" by "Whitey". A pressuring FBI boss Charles McQuire(Kevin Bacon) becomes suspicious of Connolly's work...and soon dominoes begin to fall. Out comes deeply buried information concerning racketeering, drug dealing and murder, many murders. James Bulger goes on the run hiding in plain sight.
Brutal violence and thick vulgar language throughout. This true biopic is held together with a super soundtrack featuring the likes of: The Animals, The Allman Brothers Band, Fleetwood Mac, Joe Walsh, Blondie, and The Rolling Stones.
The powerful cast also includes: Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Peter Sarsgaard and Juno Temple.
"Do not answer messages from a dead person".
For those that are computer illiterate, the first four minutes or so will have you hitting the stop button or realizing you may have entered the wrong screen...that is showing UNFRIENDED. Cleverly written by Nelson Greaves and expertly directed by Leo Gabriadze remains the decision of the viewer. This 83 minute tingler of terror takes place on a computer screen. A year after high schooler Laura Barnes(Heather Sossaman)is bullied into killing herself, the group of classmates whose cyberabuse caused the tragedy deal with it in a most eerie manner. These self-absorbed and unsympathetic brats are engrossed in a lengthy video chat and spurious text messaging. During this blabber, they realize that someone else is listening and obviously watching. And can't get rid of the intruder.
Is it a cruel hacker or something supernatural? Whatever, this entity is wicked and has an agenda. Warning: "Do not answer messages from a dead person"; this should engage terror. The teens are coerced into playing a "tell the truth" type game. Insecurities, betrayal and sexual secrets are revealed. What can be done about ending this nasty game? Is one of the six actually the terrorist? Brief violent content, some sexuality and tons of R rated language. This is like coming upon a train-wreck...you can't stop looking.
Also starring are: Shellie Henning, Matthew Bohrer, Renee Olstead, Moses Storm, Courtney Halverson, Will Peltz and Jacob Wysocki. I've been charmed by Miss Olstead since her days on TV's STILL STANDING(2002-2006).
Forty Guns (1957)
Inventive western with stunning cast.
Well followed Samuel Fuller writes and directs this borderline corny sagebrush melodrama. Very apt cast with dialogue a bit sappy, but not without sexual innuendo. Barbara Stanwyck plays Jessica Drummond, a prominent landowner, with her own posse of forty hired henchmen and a theme song. (Really). With a milquetoast sheriff, Ned Logan(Dean Jagger), Drummond has made herself the law of Cochise County, Arizona. The sheriff and whole town knuckles under to her whims and demands as they thunder through the territory. A former gunslinger turned United States Marshall, Griff Bonnell(Barry Sullivan)rides into town with two of his brothers to restore law and order. Jessica becomes smitten with the new lawman, all the while he has eyes for an attractive young female gunsmith(Eve Brent).
In a scene where Drummond is to be dragged down the middle of the street behind a horse, a stunt woman refuses. Miss Stanwyck, in her mid 40's, did the scene herself suffering a few minor lacerations.
Also featured: John Ericson, Gene Barry, Robert Dix, Sandra Wirth and Chuck Roberson.
The Secret of the Whistler (1946)
When is a secret a crime?
George Sherman directs this episode of The Whistler movies, where crime takes no time out. A simple story line that sustains this Columbia B-flick. Richard Dix plays Ralph Harrison a moderately successful artist that is married to a wealthy but ill wife Edith Marie(Mary Currier). Restless, conniving and looking for affection, Harrison begins an affair with one of his models, who is only interested in his money...well, Edith's money. When his wife discovers his unfaithfulness, Ralph becomes desperate when he is threatened with being cut from her will. With pressure from the girlfriend, Mr. Harrison secretly begins to poison his wife. Of course nothing goes unknown by The Whistler(Otto Forrest).
Other players: Leslie Brooks, Mona Barrie, Michael Dunne, Baynes Barron and Pat Lane.
Feared lost; just quarantined!
Wade Vogel(Arnold Schwarzenegger), is a desperate father fearing for his daughter Maggie's(Abigail Breslin) life, after searching for weeks. The teen is found in a quarantine ward at the hospital. Maggie is infected by a deadly outbreak that turns victims into zombies. The girl is released in her father's care, to enable her to spend her last days with her family. Her step-mom(Joely Richardson)leaves the home with the other siblings not wanting to be near as Maggie is due to transform.
Henry Hobson directs this disturbing themed drama. Schwarzenegger tries his hardest, but probably not enough to satisfy critics. Miss Breslin seems effortless in this movie filmed in New Orleans.
Others in the cast: Douglas M. Griffin, Rachel Whitman Groves, Amy Brassette and J.D. Evermore.
The Crime Doctor's Warning (1945)
Evoacative mid '40s crime drama.
You just can't go too wrong when William Castle directs something. I really love sitting back and watching an old Black & White mystery. THE CRIME DOCTOR'S WARNING fills the bill. Very good story line and not-over-the-top dramatic dialogue. Dr. Robert Ordway(Warner Baxter)is a brilliant criminologist and is requested by the local authority, Inspector Dawes(John Lidle)to investigate the murder of two artist's models. Modern artist Clive Lake(Coulter Irwin)seems suspect because of having ravaging headaches and blackouts about the same time as the murders. When it is discovered that the two young ladies posed for a missing painting with a third model, Dr. Ordway seems to be racing the clock trying to find that missing painting, plus the identity of the third model whose life may be in jeopardy.
Also in the cast: John Abbott, Dusty Anderson, Miles Mander and Franco Corsaro.