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The Call (2013)
Good thriller that keeps the tension high
This was better than you might expect, and is worth watching. The best part of the movie is the pacing and how it manages to keep a high level of tension throughout the film. I also really liked how realistic the movie seemed - for most of it - and the no-nonsense showing of the super intense and high pressure conditions a 9/11 operator must work under.
Halle Berry is very good as the veteran operator, who, against her training, gets too deeply involved with a harrowing emergency call she receives. She then has to deal with the consequences of the aftermath, and her emotional state is deeply affected. Berry's especially good at showing this vulnerability and her human side here. When another emergency call comes in later in the film that echoes the previous one, she sees a chance for redemption.
The acting is very good from the large cast of characters all around. Every actor seems to be portraying a realistic character, and has good believable dialog.
The only major flaw is the ending, which was a letdown, and just too unbelievable. However, despite that miscue, which can be overlooked as its relatively brief, this is a good thriller. Another thriller that excels this one and has tension and suspense dialed up to the breaking point is "Breakdown", which I highly recommend if you like this movie.
No One Lives (2012)
Just OK, another film with similar themes is much better
Instead of this movie, another film covers the same kind of territory that this one does, and in a much more interesting and compelling fashion. "You're Next" is the movie I would recommend to watch instead.
This horror movie has both pretty bad acting combined with dumb and dull characters, and just feels cheap. The budget must have been low, and it shows. Compared to the far superior film, "You're Next", this movie pales in comparison. If you like routine slasher horror films with a lot of gore, then this will fit the bill. The one bright spot is the leading actor is pretty good. But if you are looking for something more interesting and with much higher quality across the board, then look elsewhere, such as my recommendation.
You're Next (2011)
Very funny black comedy/horror
An unusual horror film with a lot of black comedy and a very good twist. What would happen if in a standard horror movie, the tables were all of a sudden turned? Excellent acting by all involved, and I really liked how it started out as a bog-standard horror flick and then became something else. Lots of (intentionally) very funny scenes and the black comedy bits are consistently funny. I was laughing out loud often throughout the film. Even though the film has buckets of blood and gore, it was not the centerpiece of the movie, like all too often many cheap horror films have as their focus these days. So the excessive gore didn't bother me, because of the light tone and black comedy themes of the movie. I would recommend this movie to hard core horror fans.
Silliness echoing across multiple time dimensions
I'm a time travel and science fiction fan, but this movie was just way too preposterous and nonsensical to take. The plot is laughable, and its basically something you might catch on a really late night playing on the sci-fy channel, that kind of low-rent quality level. The only bright spot is the emergence of a new actress I had never heard of or seen before, the interestingly named Sarah Snook. She does a superb job with her character, and is much better than the movie deserves. I wish the whole movie had centered on her character, and then also had had a halfway decent story line too, instead of the ridiculous plot that is on display. 4 stars for her performance only, even though its wasted in a stinker movie like this one.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
Superb sequel and one of the best horror/thriller movies in some time
I was blown away at how good this movie turned out to be, and a sequel to a fine horror movie in its own right no less, which is rare these days.
The movie created a palpable and tense atmosphere from the outset, when a young innocent couple is stranded on the freeway when their car breaks down. The couple are now faced with surviving alone and unarmed in a big city full of thugs and killers on the prowl, when its the one night a year that all crime is deemed legal, including murder.
The sense of menace and atmosphere is prevalent throughout the movie and really well done, and the story is very interesting and exciting, as a group of innocent people must cope and try to survive a night of brutality and horror where there are no rules. There are plenty of thrills and twists and turns, and the movie creates a very real sense of chaos and danger lurking around every corner.
The setting of the cold and uncaring big city of Los Angeles is excellently shot, with great cinematography. The pacing is amazing and gripping. There is even a theme of redemption in the movie, it is not just a cheap and hollow typical horror film, with guts and gore as the only elements, like so many other lesser horror movies.
The Purge and its sequel have proved to be one of the best horror franchises in some time, by outstanding director James DeMonaco. I only hope he directs a third movie and that it lives up to the first two!
Gone Girl (2014)
Like 2 and a half hours of fingernails on a chalkboard
I was reading some other reviews with people saying how shockingly bad this movie was and I had the same reaction.
This was the most annoying movie I have seen in a long time. The lead woman character has this really annoying and nails on the chalkboard sounding voice, and she narrates long stretches of the movie with that horrible voice. It's not just the way her voice sounds either, her vocal style and the way she uses words compounds the offense and insult to the ears. I was thinking that instead of using torture, they could just put this actress's voice in the film on repeat with a loud speaker, and strap a terrorist suspect in a chair, and he would confess to anything within a half hour!
This movie is also very slow and boring, with the actors seeming to play their roles in a hammy fashion, not taking any of it seriously. It fits the movies plot though, because it is utterly ridiculous and contrived, one of those types of movie plots that no one would ever imagine happening in real life. 2 and a 1/2 hours of this was torture.
A good, if standard, science fiction themed effort
Saw this at a free screening. It turned out to be better than I expected. Johnny Depp plays a brilliant and eccentric scientist who is a leading expert on artificial intelligence, and when he is mortally wounded by an anti-technology extremist/terrorist group, he and his small inner circle of fellow genius scientists embark on an ambitious experiment that will test a radical theory of his.
The plot and overall story is pretty standard fare for science fiction, but it still manages to keep things interesting, with various echoes of other classic sci fi movies like 2001: A space odyssey in there as well. The visuals can be really striking at times, with long, brightly lit white hallways that seem to go on forever in an advanced scientific lab, and neat-o computer-like visualizations of cities. The best part of the movie is the last segment, with some really good twists. No spoilers, but the ending is particularly interesting and well done. There is a nice ambiguity and there can be different interpretations of the overall message of the movie. My friend and I disagreed on what the movie was ultimately saying, for example. It's no masterpiece though, but science fiction fans will like it.
Another modern horror snore fest
Stay far away from this one if you are a horror fan and have seen more than a handful of horror movies. This is just another in a long line of modern horror movies from the past decade or so, where it is full of jump scares and bad CGI ghosts. Ugh. Dumb, boring, and about as non-scary as they come. The best part is the first third or so, with some actual suspense developed, but it never follows through and turns into a generic ghost horror movie from there. The actors all play standard parts, nothing surprising, but the little boy character was mildly amusing, as he always seemed to be scared out of his wits, no matter what was going on in the scene. They could be having a calm normal morning breakfast, and he was scared as heck! I didn't pay a cent to see this, saw it at a free screening, and I think I got what I paid for.
Somewhat over-hyped thriller
I became a Liam Neeson fan when he started his new turn as an action hero in the excellent thriller, Taken. But I think this newest entry in his recent action roles is more routine and by the numbers than what some of the enthusiastic response is giving it credit for. It is a "bog standard" action thriller aboard an airplane, and to me, it seemed a bit too goofy in places and overly contrived. It's not terrible by any means, but nothing special. I hope to see more interesting movies in this genre from Neeson in the future, because I still haven't seen any of his other action movies rise to the level of "Taken" yet.
As far as special effects and set design, the movie is strong in those departments. I think the movie is actually best in its first 3rd, there is a nice style and atmosphere built up, and the movie seems quite promising at that point. Then it slowly goes downhill at an increasing rate from there. By the time the ending rolled around I found it to have become very silly and a disappointment.
Out of the Furnace (2013)
Not just slow, but moves at a glacial pace. And feels like a TV movie
"Out of the Furnace" has an all star cast of current and former huge Hollywood names, but this movie feels very small, and more like a TV drama than a feature movie. It also has a glacial pace, and seems like a 5 hour experience, a real slog. The only bright spot is Woody Harrelson, playing an uber-hillbilly who is a down and dirty scumbag, he shows his usual great range when compared to his recent work as a very different character in the blockbuster Hunger Games movies. This movie is very pedestrian in the story line, with nothing that surprises you, and you know what will happen from a mile away. I would not be surprised if this bombs at the box office. Very dull.