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332 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Prisoner Re-Imagined, 26 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First thing that popped in my head was this reminds me of The Prisoner. And that is good, indeed. The Prisoner was a weekly ride one looked forward to. It reeled you in because the protagonist was aware of many things but just couldn't circumvent them enough to escape. Patrick McNee was "The Prisoner" and in Wayward Pines so is Matt Dillon. Not a remake, but a hell of an updated series with The Prisoner as a jumping off point. This is good enigmatic writing with a good lead in Matt Dillon.

If you're wondering the supporting cast is really nice too and the quirky Julliette Lewis adds many layers. But, first it's the story and it ain't giving up much. Nope, it's playing it close and tight. You'll simply either get on board or you'll flee. That's the perfect litmus test too!. Why, because this series demands commitment. There is no instant gratification to be had. Slow uptake, slow reveal, and loads of nuance.

So…what is Wayward Pines about? Who the hell knows…at least early on. And in that the story stingily gives us just enough to bait one to watch. Excellent. I'm hooked and I really don't even believe anything is believable. Truly something wicked good this way comes. But, wait…this could go south at any minute and in that lies something dangerous and compelling.

Agent Burke (Dillon) finds himself a victim of a mysterious accident and wakes up in the hospital from Hell. In short order he gains a bit of balance yet is crushed almost instantly. He's on a mission to find two missing agents and it seems he'll be either the third, or forth, (his partner is dead which he'll soon realize) to go into the abyss. The worst problem isn't the accident, the missing agents, or even death. Nope, once you come to Whispering Pines, it appears you can never leave. Yet you can live in either a new persona...or a Hell on earth.

So, here we have a modern re-imagining of the classic British TV show "The Prisoner". It really isn't anything other than a liberal re-write, yet it seems totally fresh At this is point - post Lost and Twin Peaks - it fills a gap in edgy television. Oh, you'll get the similarities, but they won't matter past the endless mystery which is very much alike. this is good, fresh, and fearless writing…at least early on (just 3 episodes in). The big question is can Shamaylan rise up once more? Can he inspire this to be a weekly addiction? Heckl if I know, but 3 episodes in I'm hooked for now.

The Forger (2014)
Nice Little Heist Movie With A Heart, 25 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Forger, on the surface, doesn't seem as if it would really be a fit for John Travolta. I mean he's more like a Brooklyn Vinnie Barbarino, than a Sean Connery worldly type. It's all in the story though and it ain't half-bad. Somehow Travolta segues right in.

Looking not so young, a bit weathered by the years, maybe vulnerable somewhat, the role of The Forger, Ray Cutter , is effectively played straight by Travolta. The story revolves around the three generations of which Ray is the middle. He's separated from his son Will as he's doing a prison stint. Teenager Will is living with granddad Joe, (Christopher Plummer) and his time may be short due to illness. Ray decides to agree to a job for thug Tommy Keegan in order to pay off a judge for an early release. The deal involves Ray forging a priceless Monet, The Umbrella Girl, which in itself is remarkable feat. This he will, reluctantly, do in order to be with his son. After the requisite uneasiness of Ray's return, also complicated by the attractive Agent Paisley's (police dept. detective) interest, the three Cutter men bond over one last job. It's played pretty low-key which, surprisingly, works better than you'd think. Still, this is a job fraught with "land mines" around which the Cutters have to rise to.

All in all, it's the compact story of the last hurrah of a splintered family who came back together. A modest heist movie with a heart. Not a blockbuster, just a decent little movie that connects more than not. A good watch.

Ex Machina (2015)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Garland Fully Arrives. Recommended., 23 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watching Ex Machina you'll witness a talent coming into his own. That would be Alex Garland who wrote and directed this movie which feels, at times, on a plane with 2001: A Space Odyssey. The viewer glimpses into a future in which so much will go wrong at the hand of man. It's often an uncomfortable watch, yet totally mesmerizing due to Garland's masterful vision and compact writing.

This movie may, at first, not seem nearly as amazing as it is. The idea of the AI genie out of the bottle isn't, of course, remotely original. Forget that, however, because the AI as realized in Ex Machina is. What could be cold and analytical is compelling with little sensationalism save for some well envisioned futuristic technology.

Ex Machina never bores, nor does it seem to speed along. The blackness just creeps in and builds. The locale and sets impress. The cinematography captures the feel of a Moreau's Island type world within a world, complete with the out-of-touch brilliant mad scientist. The protagonist, Caleb, is both lab rat and a litmus test of morality and conscience. It's a great conflict keeping the viewer off-balance in a good way.

Garland, like the visionary director/writer Orson Welles, along with an amazing performance by Alicia Vikander as bot Ava, has constructed an disturbing view of the hubris of man. Domhnall Gleeson plays the central figure, Caleb, in his likable geek persona. Worth special mention is Oscar Isaac as the bent billionaire scientist Nathan, he's the right balance of unconscionable menace and futuristic visionary. Perhaps not for the masses like the Kubrick's epic "2001", it many times feels more prescient.

Wild Card (2015)
Story Falters, But Statham Brings It., 19 June 2015

Being pigeonholed is tricky if in that box there has been a more than just a little success. In a nutshell, that's Jason Statham. He's the ultimate Charles Bronson, brooding and somewhat wooden by choice. What raises Statham's star above it is his athleticism which is much more physical, even graceful here, blending martial arts with heaps of conflict. Hard to deny in the narrow range he seems to live in he's got lots of charisma. Statham even flirts with nuances of some real acting chops too, at times reminiscent of what is probably his best role in The Bank Job. Overall, however, brute sensationalism in a rather mundane plot limits the sum total of Wild Card.

All things mentioned though Wild Card is a good movie and Statham carries it well. One just wishes for less bombast and more of Statham playing a character who isn't an island. Here he's a complicated loner who we really don't get to know past the excellent fight scenes. And they are quite expertly rendered, truly some of the best fight scenes I've ever witnessed on film. Only trouble is they, more or less, eclipse whoever his character, Nick Wild, really is. It leaves one wishing for more. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent too. So, if you're content with Statham as mainly just a way cool action figure you'll be pleased. This movie is actually rated too low, it should be a solid 6.5, maybe even a 7l I'll go out on a limb and give it my recommendation simply because I never got bored and I did enjoy it.

2 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Movie Making At It's Purest...Just Breakdown & Go See It!, 1 June 2015

I guess you could say my interest in Mad Max movies is non-existent. At 55, I've never seen any of the previous ones even though I watched my share of movies during the VHS years of which the original was a breakout hit. So, why now am I not only watching a MadMax movie, but reviewing it? Simply because I'm guessing there are others not unlike me.

I like a good action movie or sci-fi flick and often watch ones I feel are over-ambitious ending up flat. Especially some that require total belief suspension which are, in my opinion, harder to pull off. With that in mind I wouldn't have desired to see the latest Mad Max movie as I had nothing invested in the franchise previously. What changed my mind is I kept hearing on multiple TV shows positive diatribes on the movie. After decades of being immune I broke. You know what? I really enjoyed it.

This is pure movie making because the story isn't at all creative or, really, even compelling. The acting isn't anything special either though I realize some probably differ in my opinion. What is special is the sum of dramatic local vistas, unique characters brought to life, and a constant pummeling action that hardly lets up. This is what makes the movie so edgy and fun to watch. Here's some writers who found the right director and cinematographer to make a completely unbelievable storyline work due to "hand-in- glove" synergism. The props are "off-the-hook" as if someones drug-addled imagination came to life on the screen. I didn't feel I was "dumbed-down" either as I watched this. It's a kind of grand "steam-punk" industrial art movie discussed as a an action movie.

So, here I am telling you other resisters to break down and go see a movie I'd never thought I'd even want to see. That's excellent movie making!

Maggie (2015/I)
14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Not Nearly As Involving As Needed... & Certainly Slow, 12 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think a lot of folks will like this movie. I think many more won't go out of their way to. This isn't to say it is not a watchable movie as it certainly is. What it requires is a lot of patience as it evolves slower than paint drying. It feels, on purpose, claustrophobic as per the situation the main characters have found themselves in. It's dark and depressing for the most part.

This is Arnold Schwarzeneegger like you've rarely, if ever, seen. He is in a dramatic role that, although has a little action, is the polar opposite of his usual shtick. I'd say he is good enough that he maybe ought to move in this direction more since 60+ action heroes have got to be a shrinking market any way you cut it. And, the girl who plays his doomed daughter brings a somber combination of humanity and suffering to a good level indeed.

Its the pace and the story that really didn't reel me in. I'm not immature, but I just couldn't invest enough in the story to wade through what felt like visual and mental molasses. I didn't finish it I readily admit as I lost that degree of interest. In fairness I heard an opinion by Dave Schrader on DarknessRadio that he felt it had some kind of good, or interesting, ending. I don't know...and am just not interested in this one enough to revisit it. Everyone is uniquely different and if you long for a very humanized zombie drama devoid of the usual head exploding action, and don't mind something slower than Heinz ketchup, check it out, At least you see Arnold can actually act outside of blowing up stuff and knocking people through walls.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The Title Is Exactly What This Movie Is About, 11 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A dark movie about a out-to-pasture hit-man whose past comes back to extract revenge. That revenge,is not directed primarily on him but on his estranged son. Prompting Jimmy Conlon to deal with his present as well as past.

Run All Night is slightly familiar in that Liam Neeson is cast as a father who must save his child. Other than casting him as a fearless father the sameness ends there. Condon is a complicated criminal (he seems in older age to be broken by unrequited issues of a criminal life's consequences) whose loyalty is equally split between his lifelong best friend kingpin Shawn McGuire and his estranged son. Choosing loyalty to both necessitated leaving his family as his criminal life would surely put his family in constant peril. The cost was great, in Conlon's older age he's alone and broken. The only consolation for a man who has many misgivings about his dark deeds is that his son, Mike, played by Joel Kinsman isn't tainted by a life of crime and has a wonderful family of his own. That all changes in almost an instant and things happen, as the title intimates, in the course of a night.

Perhaps the story does have a few holes, but it is rooted in a grim, if sensational, reality. Overall, it fits and the pace of the movie is relentless with action, tension, and uncertainty. As a whole it works well and in no small part due to the spot-on performances of Neeson, Harris, Cinnamon, and a cameo by none other than a super grizzled Nick Nolte. Though he has the least screen time, of the main cast Vincent D'Onofrio does an equally excellent job of playing the role of Detective Harding who seems like the only not on the take cop. Run All Night does a good job keeping the viewer invested with a decent enough story made tons better by the fast pace and stellar cast.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Early To Say...Could Be Great, 7 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a duality to this show. It's a family and crime drama combined. With a large family, most involved in the family's Key West bungalow biz both directly and not, it's kind of multi- faceted. The initial drama centers on the black-sheep son coming home. He's a wild-card with a checkered past and he's like in his late forties so at this stage there's lot of questions as to his intent. There's a lot going on, but some important stuff is played enigmatically and nothing is too clear too fast. It's the kind of slowly building drama with a big undercurrent of darkness and conflict. Only four episodes in I can see both brilliance and possible overreaching to be complex with just about every character. It requires more patience than, say, Breaking Bad. The question is if it as good in the dark/crime part as Breaking Bad or even True Detective. At this point it's open and quite possible.

2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
They Got It Right!, 25 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Marvel's Daredevil is darkly real where S.H.I.E.L.D. is just bombastically…silly. Not that Daredevil isn't total fantasy, but it, somehow, grounds itself in something much more, well, believable. Thats kind of an oxymoron to be sure when Matt (Daredevil) constantly takes, and dolls out, more punishment than a human can. Still, this works so effectively.

The backdrop is New York's Hell's Kitchen and if there's a more virulent place on the planet, it's just as bad and can hardly be worse. Post mafia the Russians run the place with their criminal enterprises. But, they answer to Fisk who, in turn, answers to a multi- national cabal of colorful characters. It's all here, but the centerpiece is Daredevil the blind enforcer of justice in a microcosm of the shadow elite crime lords…sort of speak.

Jumping off of a much darker, and real, set of criminals we get a central character who we can really get behind. His back-story constantly resonates with his innate sense of morality to create the perfect crime foil. And, he's a blind newbie attorney just barely scrapping by. What's not to cheer for?

Certainly it is a comic book hero come to life and as such one must suspend a huge degree of rationality. That rationality is checked at the door though and the events in which Daredevil must survive all have a grounding in something real, as opposed to the unreal nature of the evil forces S.H.I.E.L.D. has to ridiculously work against. You probably gather I lost interest in S.H.I.E.L.D. after a half-dozen episodes, but six in here and I'm hooked. This is an excellent adaption of a compelling comic book character. It lives and breathes outside paper as many comic book adaptations struggle to do. A definite recommended watch.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
At Least It Wasn't More "Found Footage", Still Misses More Than Connects, 16 April 2015

Australians have a way with stark stories and visuals and this is such a film. However the usual magic of the whole rising above the humbleness ain't here. Should I have known by the name? Maybe in some culture somewhere the so-called "Babadook" commands respect or something, I thought it sounded pretty dumb and in no way hip or cute...or scary. As you can guess I'm a bit at odds with this movie. In some ways I think it could have been a lot better, but it stumbles on it's own dogged determination to build a world of misery for Amelia (I think that's the mother character's name). From the start there isn't a thing that seems pleasant or right, maybe save an elderly lady that babysits the son sometimes. The viewer simply can't invest in the mother or the son and we're not given anything other than the crazy black vapor of the Baba-whatever. The boy is so irritating he's either the most vile child actor of recent memory or he's actually got issues? Either way one quickly feels nothing for the kid, or the mother for that matter. Let 'em lie in their dingy beds in their dark home without any friends save for the "dookie man". I can't even remember how it ends I was so divested of the entirety of it. Move along, nothing to see this is getting good reviews alludes me.

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