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Slow burn realistic family drama that roils into breathtaking ending
The movie starts with a realistic and all too familiar premise: Kay (Emily Mortimer)'s elderly mother Edna (Robyn Nevins) hasn't been seen in a few days, so Kay and her own daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) go home to look for her. There's signs that Edna might be getting worse than just "getting a little forgetful." There's rotten fruit in a bowl on a table, and little notes all over the house as reminders to do basic tasks. When Edna reappears, Kay begins to not be able to tell if she's slipping into dementia or something more sinister.
The last 20 minutes had me absolutely riveted and holding my breath from the tension. The movie is carried ably mostly by these three actresses, who take a common family drama element and add much more. If you liked the found footage film THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, this is a much more stylish and brooding version of a similar idea.
The Sacrament (2013)
I'm not sure how reviewers dismissing this as overly conventional could not have been affected on some level by this film.
What must have being at Jonestown been like? Mothers watching their own children choking. The dawning realization that they may have made a bad choice. The will of a narcissistic personality like The Father to compel people to do such a thing. This film makes it real.
They're Watching (2016)
The dark side of HGTV
I've long thought that the cable home renovation shows would make for great found footage horror/satire. And here's one that does it right! Likable group of crew members accompany horrible host to Moldova, to film the renovation of an old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere. You'll just love what she's done to the place...especially the basement! Great good fun.
Law & Order: Missing (2002)
My response to earlier review -- CONTAINS SPOILERS
I just watched this episode yesterday, and here's what I think: I think the defendant did say "take care of it" to his buddy Mickey Bastone. I think Mickey took it upon himself to kill the poor girl. Maybe the defendant meant him to, maybe he didn't. What the wife did TIPPED THE BALANCE towards making him look complicit in soliciting the murder. There was no hard evidence until the wife produced the bank withdrawal slip.
This episode is inspired by the real-life disappearance and murder of Chandra Levy, an intern who was having an affair with a congressman back in the '90s. The congressman was NEVER implicated in Ms. Levy's death.
Well, I liked it!
Found this on FearNet and decided to take a chance. I was pleasantly surprised by a cast who I kinda liked and thought were cute, some genuinely creepy atmosphere, actual suspense, and some real chills. Maybe you have to have the right mood & setting for this movie to work: late at night, home alone, seems to really help! It's not a hugely original movie, but what it does it does well. (Jesus, I really need a minimum of 10 lines? What a pain in the ass. Okay...) AJ Lamas is very cute and has a lot of personality. I liked our heroine Lauren and her friend Malina; Alison didn't really get a whole lot to do. I always wondered what happened to Adrian Paul. He seems to be aging nicely, and shows real menace as Spence. The little girl tries hard to be spooky without directly copying from THE RING, and she mostly succeeds. I love when she brings back the Ouija board planchette. All in all, a cheaply made movie that doesn't break new ground story-wise, but delivers a few chills satisfyingly.
Criminal Minds: Tabula Rasa (2008)
A most interesting idea
If a killer wakes from a coma with no memory of his crimes, is he still guilty? That's the intriguing premise at the heart of this episode. Hotch, Reid and Morgan come back to a case they had pursued 4 years before. The suspect fell off a building and was in a coma. (The suspect is played by the same actor who plays Radzinsky in LOST!) Now he's woken up, and the DA is ready to prosecute. EXCEPT the suspect has no memories at all, especially of the murders he committed. The case has to go forward, with key witnesses dead or moved away, and very little evidence.
One of the victim's fathers (whom I will always remember as Brenda and Brandon's dad on 90210) is desperately seeking justice for his daughter. He and Reid bonded 4 years before. Reid worries that the father is becoming unhinged. Their scenes together are wonderful, and shows how empathetic Reid has become as he's matured.
The highlight for me is Hotch testifying about the science of behavioral profiling, which the defense lawyer is trying to paint as pseudo-science. Hotch brutally tears away the lawyer's image. A buzzing Blackberry has never seemed so funny before.
The actor playing the killer is terrific as well. He forms a relationship with one of the guards after he wakes. Could he have done this before? Is he really a different man than the one who murdered those girls? And if so, should he be punished? All very thoughtful and interesting stuff.
Law & Order: Great Satan (2009)
"You were supposed to be on top of this!" Um, nooooo...
A great episode with lots of twists and turns. Actor Ben Youcef as Sameer is excellent. But when their case goes pear-shaped after a revelation in court, the cops jump on informant Sameer and tell him, "You were supposed to be on top of this!" Um, NO, guys. Sameer is a 23-year-old kid, and YOU are the cops. And Lupo's supposed to have all this experience from 4 years overseas. Why weren't YOU guys watching the suspect in question more closely? I'm kind of enjoying season 20 so far, but everybody's brains seem to have checked out. Lupo is making REALLY UNSMART decisions, between last week's getting involved with a witness and this week's operation getting away from him. Come on, guys, you're generally smarter than this.
Best line: when the FBI agent is told about Lupo's service overseas, he asks, "What were you doing?" Lupo smiles. "You don't have clearance." (Bernard, Connie, and Cutter grin.)
Law & Order: Matrimony (1997)
Ms. Bareikis is terrific
This episode was my first introduction to the exotically-named yet All-American-looking Arija Bareikis. She plays Kim Triandos, the drastically younger wife of a Manhattan philanthropist. Turns out she had conspired with Triandos' financial adviser to meet and marry him, and get his will changed in her favor. But did she murder her husband and hasten getting her hands on her inheritance? This is a terrific episode of the classic series, with an interesting story, a good red herring lead, and featured performances by Broadway stalwart Boyd Gaines and Anna Holbrook, a frequent guest star. She's fantastic as Kim's mom who came to help her "get settled after her marriage" and stayed on for over a year. She has the best line towards the end of the episode; I won't give it away here and spoil it for you. But Ms. Bareikis is charming and even a little flirty with Ray. She genuinely seems to have liked her poor old husband too, which adds a nice level of complexity to her character.
Last 10 minutes of film almost redeem the first 80
To be honest, I mostly rented this to get a glimpse of one of my favorite almost-completely-unknown actors, Stephen Gevedon. After the first few minutes of truly horrendous dialog, I watched it on fast-forward until Stephen appeared! But one thing I will give this movie: it has a twist ending that's actually GOOD, makes sense, and works well. Ms. Bako is very beautiful and does her best with the aforementioned bad dialog. Sally Kirkland tries her best, but does not succeed very well. Larry Drake does his "I'm not Benny from L.A. LAW" serial killer thing. (This is not a spoiler; he is on the poster brandishing a big ol' knife.) I wish I could give this 2 1/2 stars on Netflix, but your choices are only 2 or 3, so I gave it 2.
Bruce Almighty (2003)
A sweet fun movie, great date movie. It doesn't push any particular religious agenda, just a general "be nice to people, think about others" attitude. It's kind of too bad that it's got some language and sexual situations, because it would be good for kids and parents to talk about God stuff. Jim Carrey is really a fine comic actor, and I like Jennifer Aniston the more I see her (outside of FRIENDS). Rated 8 out of 10.
How about this cast, huh? Anthony Hopkins, Richard Harris, David Hemmings, Ian Holm, and Omar Sharif, all at the top of their game, in this thrilling adventure. It's a touch dated (I think the bomber only asks for a million pounds), but well-paced and well-made. Great stuff!
Grand adaptation of the Dickens classic
The old (roasted) chestnut A CHRISTMAS CAROL gets a musical treatment. I'm not entirely sure why it's Magoo playing Scrooge, because he plays the character straight (none of the typical blind gags), but it works well! The music is excellent and such a welcome change from regular Christmas hits. I love it!
28 Days Later... (2002)
One of the most unnerving and engaging movies of the year, not just the best wide-release horror flick of '03. It just bowled me over. I love the immediacy of how it's shot on video. It's terrifying and intelligent. It doesn't have any dramatic voiceovers to tell you what's going on. You have to figure out a lot of it on your own. It drags a *tiny* bit in the middle but then swings right back. It will remind horror fans of OMEGA MAN and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but in many ways it's completely original. 8 out of 10.
Cliched dialogue cannot blunt the impact of the violence
**Spoiler: Some small aspects of the plot may be revealed below**
I'm all in favor of films that applaud the dangerous life of cops, and so I thought I would like this. The dialogue is the worst collection of cliches ("This is the job, and when you gotta go, you gotta do it", etc.). Except for Mario Van Peebles' character, who has some heartfelt moments where you feel like you're watching a documentary with a real cop. Where the film excels though is making the violence seem realistic and devastating. I thought I was pretty desensitized to movie violence, but every shot from the automatic weapons resonates and is terrifying. Scenes where a dentist's office across the STREET is riddled with bullet holes really drives home the point. And it makes the cops seem even braver for facing two armed men with Kevlar and machine guns without automatic weapons of their own. Mute the dialogue, and you'll be OK.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Just about perfect!
Where to begin? The beautiful ocean special effects? The fantastic vocal performances by Albert Brooks and Ellen Degeneres? The thrilling fast-paced story? The grand musical score? Little touches like a Buzz Lightyear doll on the floor of the dentist's office, or lobsters that talk with a Maine accent? Whew! It's amazing!
Wonder Boys (2000)
I enjoy action and horror movies as much as the next freak, but sometimes I enjoy a warm character-driven drama comedy. And I really enjoyed this. A distinctly unglamorous Michael Douglas is forced to face the threads of his unraveling life during a weekend complicated by a soon-to-be ex-wife, a pregnant mistress, an editor desperate for a new hit, a self-destructive genius student, and a blind dead dog. Best lines include Katie Holmes' generous assessment of Douglas' 2600+ page opus and practically everything Tobey Maguire says. What a nice movie. You may not want to show it to your mom, but it'd be perfect for sitting around with friends. (8/10)
Vampires: Los Muertos (2002)
Wow, didn't suck nearly as much as I thought it would!
To a certain extent, I actually liked this film better than the original VAMPIRES. I found that movie to be quite misogynistic. As a woman and a horror fan, I'm used to the fact that women in peril are a staple of the genre. But they just slap Sheryl Lee around way too much. In this movie, Natasha Wagner is a more fully-realized character, and the main bad guy is a gal! Arly Jover (who played a sidekick vamp in BLADE) is very otherworldly and deadly. Jon Bon Jovi... okay, yeah, no great actor, but he does OK. At least he doesn't start to sing. Catch it on cable if you can. It's on Encore Action this month.
Shanghai Knights (2003)
"This country blows!" But the movie doesn't.
Artistic? No. Great script? Uh-uh. Huge fun for young fans and old? Good Lord, yes! I love Jackie Chan movies because Jackie Chan loves making movies, and his energy and vigor are clearly up on the screen. I think Jackie & Owen work better than Jackie & Chris (although I think Chris Tucker's one of the funniest actors ever) because Jackie and Owen have a similar energy and laidback style. Fann Wong is gorgeous and I hope she works in American movies more often. Aidan Gillen is a super villain; all he needed was a mustache to twirl. Very cute movie! Something you can take your 10-year-old kid brother to without worrying. 7 out of 10.
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Fun movie, but way too long
It would have been much better if it had been about 20-30 minutes trimmer. You certainly care about what happens to young Frank (DiCaprio), but towards the end you're kind of like, "OK, get ON with it already..." My favorite scene has to be when DiCaprio and Hanks first meet in the Miami hotel room. This is one of DiCaprio's best, and also a touching performance from Christopher Walken. 7 out of 10.
Brilliantly conceived and acted
From the writer who brought us the devilish Francis Urquhart in the HOUSE OF CARDS series comes this wonderful modern retelling of the Shakespeare play. After John Othello (Eamonn Walker) is given the job of superintendent in the wake of a racial police scandal, Ben Jago (Christopher Eccleston) schemes to ruin his one-time friend. Christopher is perfectly lean and hungry as Jago. Eamonn Walker plays the role so soft-spokenly, it becomes even more nerve-wracking as he's driven mad by jealousy. Originally aired in the US on MASTERPIECE THEATER, and beautifully shot for a TV production. (8/10)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
The best hitman/high school reunion movie ever
Who would have ever thought to cast John Cusack as a hitman? Well, no one, which I guess is why John felt compelled to co-write and co-produce this gem. Funny, funny, DARK, and funny script. John is great, Minnie Driver is great, every speaking role is great. Jeremy Piven and John need to work together more often. I loved them together. Just... ah! Great!!!
Liked it, didn't *love* it
Technically well-made, riveting performances from all involved, particularly Robin Williams. The scenes in the fog and the concept shots of Al viewing the world through his exhaustion were great. I just didn't love it as much as I thought I would. I look forward to seeing the original.
The Caveman's Valentine (2001)
The thriller is the McGuffin
The crime story aspect of the story is just filler. The movie is a brilliant exploration of a psychotic's delusional world. It was often difficult for me to realize which was "real" and which was part of Romulus' fantasy life. Aunjanue Ellis as Sam Jackson's daughter is very strong. A lot of the imagery, particularly of Romulus' moth-seraphs, is very beautiful. Great job, director Kasi Lemmons. I look forward to her next film!
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Witty and engaging mystery
8 out of 10. Quite witty, particularly the exchanges between peppy Elsa Lanchester and sulky Charles Laughton, real-life husband and wife. Laughton is coaxed out of recuperation from an illness to defend handsome young Tyrone Power, indicted for the murder of a wealthy old lady. Marlene Dietrich is quite good. Great little twist ending. Good fun.
Session 9 (2001)
Simply made, elegant, and scary!
The guys in this movie have obviously seen the haunted house movies, and they probably wouldn't go work in an abandoned insane asylum if they didn't really need the money. Most of the cast was unfamiliar to me, except of course David Caruso and the youngest guy who I think was the failed shoplifter from EMPIRE RECORDS. But of course the star of the show is Danvers Psychiatric Hospital, which was born to be featured in a horror movie. Great rental value; worth being part of your horror DVD collection. 8 out of 10.