Archive for the ‘Thriller’ Category

Population 436

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

tn_pop436Yesterday it was officially announced that director Michelle MacLaren will be directing a Wonder Woman movie. She’d been Blogger’s Choice since it got around that Warner Brothers was hoping to get a woman for the job.

It’s a good idea to get some female perspective in some of these super hero pictures, and an interesting challenge. There unfortunately isn’t a very big pool of established female directors to choose from, and zero who’ve been allowed experience in big budget effects or super hero movies. One who came close was Patty Jenkins (MONSTER), who was supposed to do THOR 2, but was fired before filming allegedly for “a lack of overall clarity in her choices.” Women who’ve done medium-sized or small studio genre movies include Karyn Kusama, who did ÆON FLUX; Catherine Hardwicke, who did the first TWILIGHT (then got dumped); Kimberly Peirce, who did the CARRIE remake; and Lexi Alexander, who did the b-movie THE PUNISHER’S WAR ZONE.

To date the biggest budget live action movie directed by a woman is Kathryn Bigelow’s K19 THE WIDOWMAKER. She also happens to be a great action director, but after THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY it’s hard to picture her going super hero. I assume they offered to greenlight six serious contemporary issue dramas if she’d do this, but if so she must not’ve been interested.

So they’re digging into the TV directors. MacLaren got the internet’s eye by directing episodes of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. Obviously they’ve talked to her about what she wants to do, so they have more to go on than the we do. Personally I’m skeptical of counting on the cinematic vision of TV directors. From what I understand TV is usually a totally different gig than movies. They come in and try to follow an established approach, directing a cast and crew already working together as a team who know how it’s supposed to go. It’s the producers and show runners who have the vision. That’s why it’s rare to see one episode of a TV show that stands out filmatistically. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Purge: Anarchy

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

tn_purgeanarchyThat movie THE PURGE was a little better than I expected. You gotta accept a completely asinine premise (that 12 hours of “all crime is legal” free-for-all every March 22nd would virtually eliminate crime, unemployment and poverty) but I like Ethan Hawke’s dedicated performance and the subtext about living a comfortable life distanced from the savagery we benefit from. These people say they don’t believe in killing, but they believe in The Purge because it’s the American way. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Now lo and behold part 2 is better than the first one. Not any smarter, but better put together. Okay, we’ve accidentally bought into this world where The Purge happens, now let’s have a more entertaining story about it. They ditched the home invasion/siege format and deal with people moving through the city trying to evade the mayhem. It’s shot in kind of a digital age noir style with solid yellows and reds often highlighting the spaces between dark shadows. As you drive through the city you pass serious beatings on the side of the road, things on fire, gun battles. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Guest

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

tn_guestFirst I gotta give you that dreaded warning that more than the usual amount of fun in this one comes from not knowing what type of movie it’s gonna be. Not like it’s some crazy rollercoaster or mindblowing, rug-pulling shocker of a twist or anything, but it mixes up genres a little bit and I’m glad I didn’t know where it was going. So you might want to do what I did and just know it’s from the director and writer of YOU’RE NEXT and give it a shot. That worked well for me. But if you want to read my review beforehand anyway, be my guest.

Dan Stevens, who you know from playing the libidinous chandelier designer Lord Downington Abernathy on Downton Abbey, but who I know from playing the douchey soul-patched heroin trafficker in the other new movie I watched the day before this, plays a soldier called David Collins who shows up on Mrs. Peterson (Sheila Kelley)’s doorstep one day. He knew her son Caleb, who died in Afghanistan, says he promised to come check on the family for him and tell them he loved them right to the end. This brings up alot of emotions of course but she invites him in (like a fucking vampire) and he befriends her drinking, Henry-Winkler-esque husband Spencer (Leland Orser, SEVEN), her cool 20-year-old waitress daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) and her put-upon high school son Luke (Brendan Meyer, SPOOKY BUDDIES). So he ends up sticking around for a while. (read the rest of this shit…)

Escape (Flukt)

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

tn_escapebtislESCAPE (or FLUKT) is a great little Norwegian period action movie. If I had seen any other Norwegian period action movies I’m confident this would still be one of the best. It’s kind of like a post-apocalypse movie because the population has been decimated by the Black Plague, and gangs of brutes terrorize anybody with the balls to travel around. One such balls-having family is attacked by one such gang, and only their teenage daughter Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen) is spared.

It’s a gang of five men and one woman, Dagmar (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), who is their leader. Dagmar seems like a real savage and they’re all scared of her, but when they get back to the camp it seems like maybe she’s got some sense of sisterhood, some instinct to be protective of her fellow females. There’s an innocent little girl there named Frigg (Milla Olin), and as soon as she sees her Dagmar turns all motherly, talking to her sweetly and kissing her on the cheek. The men try to intimidate Signe, but Dagmar reassures her. “Don’t worry, they won’t touch you.”

But then, “Unless I let them.”

See, what Dagmar has planned for Signe is worse than what happened to her family. She says she’s barren, but Frigg needs a little sister. So you can see why Signe needs to flukt. Or escape.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Cover-Up

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

tn_coverupex3-dolphYou know, if I find some funk record I never heard of I look at the year, if it came out between 1970 and 1976 then I get higher hopes. ’77 and later is risky. This is a similar concept. There’s still a few Dolph Lundgren pictures I haven’t seen, but I figured COVER-UP was the most promising one because of where it came in his filmography: 1991, that glorious time between the late ’80s and mid-’90s when American action movies were reaching their peak fitness levels, their maximum potential. Dolph did THE PUNISHER and I COME IN PEACE, then this, then SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER.

Well, turns out there’s a reason why you hear those ones mentioned occasionally and this one never. It’s not that memorable. But it has moments. I like moments.

It’s directed by Manny Coto (DR. GIGGLES, STAR KID) who is now mainly known as a writer and producer on 24. This was probly pretty good practice for that. Writer William Tannen is usually a director, he did HERO AND THE TERROR. (read the rest of this shit…)

Patriot Games

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

tn_patriotgamesex3-fordThe traditional action hero is a loner. He might have friends, but he lives and travels by himself. He drifts into town on a motorcycle or on foot, or he lives alone in a filthy apartment, loft, car, or trailer. Maybe he has a kid, usually a daughter, but if so she’s likely been kidnapped and he’s trying to get her back. He might’ve had a family before, might be seeking revenge for their deaths. More likely he just screwed it up. He was too obsessed with his job, or with a specific case or vendetta. She wanted him to quit. Couldn’t take all the worrying anymore. He meant well but he knows it was all his fault. Now he drinks.

There are exceptions to this, but how many? Off the top of my head I can only think of Billy Jack, who is married, Charli Baltimore, who already has a family when she remembers she’s an assassin, and Riggs, who goes and gets married after a couple of sequels. So it happens, but not that often.

That’s one reason why ex-CIA-analyst Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) feels different from other action heroes, and why this type of movie could be considered Adult Contemporary Action. Not only is he a family man before he’s an asskicker, but the movie heavily deals with his family life. He’s got a very successful surgeon wife (Anne Archer), who is pregnant, and a young daughter (Thora Birch), who has pinups of Jason Priestley. They go on a trip to London. They live in a big town house out in the country near DC. He works as a history professor and lecturer (arguably not a badass juxtaposition, since he’s teaching about historical conflicts and strategies, things meant to be applicable to his CIA agentry). (read the rest of this shit…)

Rebel

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

tn_rebelex3stallone“Thanks for the poncho.”

We associate Sylvester Stallone with the ’80s, right? Sure, it was ’76 when he blew up with ROCKY and the ’90s by the time he did CLIFFHANGER. But it was the ’80s when he became Rambo, and RAMBO FIRST BLOOD PART II was the height of his worldwide icon status, it seems to me. The one that inspired a thousand ripoff VHS covers and parodies and was quoted by President Reagan. To people who aren’t into his type of action movies he’s a symbol of Reagan era war-mongering and media violence. To us he’s on the Mount Rushmore of the most prolific and larger-than-life era of the genre we love most.

For all these reasons it’s weird to see him playing a lefty student radical, as he does in REBEL (filmed as NO WAY OUT). Released in 1970, this was his second real movie role, the first being the softcore movie THE PARTY AT KITTY AND STUD’S. This time he plays Jerry Savage, an anti-war activist who’s grown tired of useless campus protests and wants to do something that will make a difference. To that end he’s gotten involved with a Weather Underground type group that’s planning a bombing to protest a popular kitchenware company that’s making a side business of manufacturing tiger cages, “animal cages to hold people” that they prove are not only being used cruelly in ‘Nam, but are also being set aside for future use at home. (read the rest of this shit…)

Enemy

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

tn_enemyENEMY is a weird, spooky thriller that director Denis Villaneuve and star Jake Gyllenhaal did right before PRISONERS. The arthouse freakout before the expensive studio drama that Lee Daniels got fired from. PRISONERS made me pay attention to the former and gain new respect for the latter, so here I am watching ENEMY.

Gyllenhaal plays a depressed college history professor who rents a movie one day and notices that the part of Bellhop #3 is played by a guy who looks exactly like him. Creepy. He does some detective work and tracks down the actor, who also has his same voice and an identical scar. He’s not sure what the fuck is going on, and he’s fascinated, but he’s weird about it. He calls and confuses the guy’s poor wife. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blue Ruin

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

tn_blueruinI don’t know what this has to do with BLUE JASMINE, but it’s pretty good as a standalone.

I saw alot of film festival acclaim for BLUE RUIN as a movie about how bad and ugly revenge actually is. I gotta tell you I was skeptical, because I didn’t want to hear some joyless lecture about the wrongness of something most of us never experience, especially as punishment for our inherent enjoyment of classic action movie formula. DEATH SENTENCE and others prove you can make that point and still have fun.

Luckily my assumptions were unfounded. As the writer Harry once told Flavor Flav, “Don’t believe the hype.” BLUE RUIN isn’t trying to teach us a lesson, it’s actually a fairly traditional and enjoyable thriller about a murder and ensuing mess, spiraling out of control like that time the Cat in the Hat came over and ate cake in the bath tub. It’s just that it comes from young independent filmatists so it feels more like it’s happening to some dude you know than the usual slick Hollywood players. It’s quiet, naturalistic, and you have to piece together the backstory from what’s happening, you don’t get alot of obvious exposition. The avenger is a pretty non-descript nerd named Dwight (Macon Blair). Big, sunken eyes, a little doughy, bad haircut, no cool motorcycle jacket or shades or nothin. Just a normal guy. Could work at Best Buy or something.
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Non-Stop

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

tn_nonstopSo far I think I like the idea of Liam Neeson action vehicles more than the actual execution of them. Both TAKENs were fun, but with post-actiony scuffles and not as tight of storytelling as I prefer in a formula revenge movie. UNKNOWN from what I remember was kinda fun, but what was it about again? He was playing an amnesiac I believe? Yeah, that’s about how I feel about that one.

By far my favorite of this cycle is THE GREY, but that’s because it was all about manly drama. Most of the actual action (anything involving wolves) was as indecipherable as they come. So I came to his new airplane suspense thriller (from UNKNOWN director Jaume Collet-Serra) pretty jaded, but I enjoyed it more than expected.

(read the rest of this shit…)