Tag Archives: Thrillers

Seven Days

Surgeon Bruno Hamel (Claude Legault) is living a seemingly idyllic life until his young daughter is raped and murdered. Obsessed with vengeance, Bruno concocts a plot to kidnap, torture and execute the man responsible for the crime. Once his plan comes to fruition, he’ll turn himself in. Director Daniel Grou makes his feature-film debut with this thriller based on a novel by Patrick Senécal. Rémy Girard and Fanny Mallette co-star.

Brian
Rating: 6 out of 10
Warning: some minor spoilers!

If you think, based on the description above, that this is another Hostel it most definitely isn’t. The grief of loss is presented in a very real and palpable way that drew me in. The husband and wife (played brilliantly by Claude Legault and Fanny Mallette) are real people dealing with the most horrific thing that can happen to a human being, the loss of a child. It’s that sense of reality that drew me into the story. Who wouldn’t want revenge for the rape and murder of their child? Who wouldn’t want to make their attacker suffer unimaginably? Who hasn’t questioned whether imprisonment is “enough” for a crime of this magnitude?

So, for a film raising all of these interesting questions, why is it a lowly 6? I feel the story takes a lot of turns that made it too ridiculous that it started to lose me. For one, there’s a point where the father kidnaps the mother of a previous victim of the same killer who murdered his daughter. Why? He saw her in a TV interview talking about how she has forgotten about the killer. He finds it so offensive that he chloroforms her and takes her to the hidden cottage where the killer is being tortured so she can face him. All of this is done while there’s a massive manhunt for him going on. It really never needed to get that ridiculous. The more basic the story became, the better it was. Why take the doctor away from the confrontations with the murderer as well as his own demons? That also reminds me of another weakness of the story. The writer decided to have zero dialogue interaction between the father and the killer. I can understand the idea that he wouldn’t even want to speak with him but why deprive the audience of what could have been several interesting exchanges to further flesh out the characters?

On a positive note, newcomer director Daniel Grou has a terrific sense of pacing and his use of silence in the film is excellent. I love when filmmakers take the time to show us a story visually without music or dialogue to paint a story.

I must also note that the film is horribly violent and contains scenes of extended torture. It’s certainly not for the squeamish. In fact, I would bet most of you will not like or enjoy it. I don’t think that was the ever the intention. I took from it that if you were given a chance to make the punishment fit the crime, would you lose your soul in the process?

John Carpenter’s: The Ward

Master of horror John Carpenter returns to form — and to the director’s chair — for this chilling thriller in which a young woman, Kristen (Amber Heard), is sent to a mental institution with a past as dark and haunted as her own. Terrorized by a ghost, each of the other patients in Kristen’s ward begin to disappear, and that’s just the beginning of her long nightmare. Jared Harris (“Mad Men”) and Danielle Panabaker (Friday the 13th) also star.

Brian
Rating: 8 out of 10

The master is back! It has been far too long since we’ve seen a new John Carpenter film. The last time we saw a feature length film by the esteemed director was 2001’s disappointing “Ghosts of Mars.” Well, I’m here to say not only is he back but this is the finest film he has made since 1994’s “In the Mouth of Madness.”

All of the John Carpenter trademarks are here: the gloomy and atmospheric cinematography, the suspense, the great buildups and chases, and the twisted ending. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am a card carrying John Carpenter fan. His resume speaks for itself: “Halloween,” “Escape from New York”,” The Fog,” “The Thing,” and the list goes on. However, there were many that thought his time had passed. He had gone through a very productive 1990’s only to walk away from filmmaking into a semi-retirement. I really hope he doesn’t stay away this long again because “The Ward” shows vitality far younger than his age and hearkens back to a time where films unfolded slowly over time to build to a true climax. A lot of the credit for the film goes the terrific performances all around, but particularly Amber Heard who plays a convincing and strong lead. Her strength as the character of Kristen really roots the film and drew me into the story. The script is also very good by brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen. But, in the end, it’s John Carpenter’s direction that brings it all together. The scares will make you jump out of your seat and the action will have you on the edge of it. The last 30 minutes are absolutely gripping. If there’s a weakness, it takes a bit of patience to get to the good stuff. The first 45 minutes will have you confused but just sit tight; all will be explained eventually. It really feels good to see John Carpenter back to his low budget horror roots where he belongs. Hopefully, he’s back for good.

Check out our Top 5 John Carpenter movies of all time.

Top 5 Movies Shawn Was Right About

Matt

I tease my cousin Shawn about his taste in movies a little more than I probably should.

Shawn loves classic, critically-acclaimed cinema as much as I do, but he also loves shoot-em-ups, science-fiction, and action movies I would never even consider watching. He loves the, and I quote, “‘splosions,” and “pew pew.” He said he enjoyed “The A-Team” more than “Black Swan,” and said “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was good.

He can be sentimental, too, for movies like “Shrek Forever After.” He loves TV, which I don’t. But he does a superb job on our sister blog, TV-Tastic.

I ran him through the ringer for his review of “The A-Team” and I figured since I beat him up all the time, I should do a Top 5 list of movies Shawn was right about.

5. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: In this case, I thought this installment of the Star Trek film franchise was silly and far too wide a sidestep from the franchise. Shawn, a giant Trekker of the most massive scale, explained to me that I shouldn’t over think it. This is the Star Trek comedy. I hadn’t watched it in a long time and went back for a second viewing. Shawn was right. This is a lighthearted, fun Star Trek adventure that is very accessible and I enjoyed far more the second go around.

4. X-Men: Before going to see this  in the theater with Shawn, I really thought it wasn’t going to work. With a massive cast and so many characters to develop in the huge X-Men Universe, I didn’t think they could pull it off. I really wasn’t amped about seeing it, but Shawn really wanted to go. And he was right. It was a blast. The Wolverine performance by Hugh Jackman remains among the best ever in comic book films. I was wrong, yet again.

3. Mr. Brooks: This was a movie I totally would have overlooked. Kevin Costner has passed his peak, and I don’t really seek out his films anymore. But Shawn reviewed this film for us, and based on his recommendation, I checked it out. Very solid little psycho-drama, mystery movie with a really good performance by Costner. Good choice, Shawn.

2. The Other Guys: This was another one of those movies I would have passed over. I like Will Ferrell, and all, but another buddy police comedy? Like that hasn’t been done? Well, this happens to be one of the best ones. We laughed often and hard in the theater when we went to see it. We had a blast, and I’m glad he got me to go.

1. The Matrix: Man oh man oh man, was I wrong about this one. Because Keanu Reeves was in this, I instantly wrote it off as a crap-fest of epic proportions and literally scoffed at Shawn when he glowed about it to me over coffee. When I finally got around to seeing this on video — God, was I late to the party — I was hooked on “The Matrix.” This is one of the best action/sci-fi films of all time. While the sequels may have left a bad taste in our collective mouths, the original remains a modern classic.

Shawn 5, Matt 0.

Buried

While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife. Does Paul have the instincts he’ll need to save himself? Director Rodrigo Cortés crafts a tense psychological thriller with sociopolitical undertones that doubles as an exercise in claustrophobic terror.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This is an exceptionally gripping, frustrating, terrorizing film to watch. It’s also outstanding.

Cortés paints a sad and maddening film with an outstanding performance by Reynolds, who carries the film as the only actor on screen. The film is completely minimalist, shot only from the coffin the truck driver wakes up in until the very end of the picture. There is only one major flaw, and that is a big wagging finger scene at the big corporations who are contractors in Iraq. I won’t spoil the scene, but you’ll know it when you see it. It’s the only very weak moment of the film. It sits there like a bee on your picnic salad.

Aside from that, it’s 90 minutes in a coffin with a man who is frantically trying to get out with a few items provided to him by the terrorists who put him there. There is dialogue with himself, but the cell phone was brilliant because he makes calls to the FBI, trying to get them to help. He’s put on hold, bounced from person to person, and you find yourself exasperated. This film is not for everyone. It disturbed my wife because it’s very dark. She had nightmares. The film, itself, is a nightmare.

Black Death

Sean Bean stars in this historically rooted horror-thriller as Ulric, a church-appointed knight in the age of the Bubonic Plague’s first wave who’s tasked with investigating rumors of a woman (Carice van Houten) who can bring the dead back to life. A young monk (Eddie Redmayne) named Osmund is aiding Ulric on his quest to root out the necromancer — and to determine whether or not she has ties to Satan.

Brian
Rating: 9 out of 10

When I saw the trailer for “Black Death,” I thought there was no way they couldn’t screw it up. It looked promising but seemed to focus a lot on the medieval torture devices that the Christians used on who they believed were heretics. I was flat out wrong. “Black Death” not only makes almost zero missteps, but I’m proud to say it’s the first great film of 2011.

What makes “Black Death” truly stand out is showing the darkness of human nature. There are no heroes here. You have flawed men and women trying to survive during a period where the worst plague in human history is storming the land and the church is blaming it on demonic forces. So, not only are our characters fighting against a faceless enemy in the plague but an inner plague in the downfall of men supposedly serving God. The main characters, on orders from the bishop, are going to a land that has not been touched by the plague, and is flourishing despite the worldwide outbreak. They bring their torture devices and want to find the heretic and rid the demonic forces that have rejected God and used witchcraft to keep their town safe and healthy. Now, if that was actually all true, I would say it sounds boring. There are so many twists, surprises, and plot benders that it keeps the film moving in a very dark direction that is worthy of its title. Now, I wouldn’t dare give any of them away here but let’s say it brings up several question: What makes a person evil? Is God truly present, and if so, why does he make these people suffer? There are many others and they are all profound. Director Christopher Smith holds it all together and gives the film such a uniquely dark and bleak visual style that is a perfect complement to the story. Grays are very gray, blacks are very black, and colors are washed out and flat. The look feels as helpless as the characters. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Eddie Redmayne, who plays the young monk that volunteers to guide the holy crusaders to their destination. There is a real journey to his character and he is spellbinding in the role. I know it will be long forgotten by next year’s Oscars, but consideration for best supporting actor is not out of the question. So, for those with strong stomachs (it is very violent) and can handle dark stories (boy, is it ever) I highly recommend “Black Death.”

Rampage

Dejected by the futility of his tedious life, bitter small-town resident Bill (Brendan Fletcher) takes matters into his own hands by constructing a bulletproof outfit, picking up his semi-automatic weapons and attempting the largest killing spree ever seen. Written and directed by controversial filmmaker Uwe Boll, this ultra-violent action movie features jarring handheld camerawork and original dialogue largely improvised by the cast.

Brian
Rating: 0 out of 10

Welcome to the Rampage review. I’d like to share some adjectives to describe the film and its director. Uwe Boll is a talentless, worthless, brain dead, passionless, soulless, blind, and creatively DOA director. His script is disgusting, stupid, pointless, and probably written in crayon. And the film itself is offensive, irresponsible, ugly, and flat out horrendous.

It would be impossible for me to truly clarify my hatred of this movie. You want to know the plot? A college age kid puts on a Kevlar armor body suit and murders innocent men, women, and children by the dozens. Why? It’s not really explained nor does it need to be. This film is so bad, the only thing that offended me more than the senseless violence was the senseless script or lack thereof. How in the hell does this classify as entertainment? I am not offended by violence when it is relevant to a story. ” Taxi Driver,” “Fight Club,” and “The Passion of the Christ” all had extreme violence that served a purpose. This film seems to think murder is somehow entertaining. Now, how is it different than your typical slasher films? That’s easy. There’s no suspense, no buildup, no justice, and no fighting back from any protagonist. We, as an audience, basically sit and watch the main character slaughter people. Thanks Uwe Boll. You just reminded me why you made our “top 5 worst directors working today” list. Stay the hell away from the movie business. I say with no hesitation, “Rampage” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

The American

On the heels of a rough assignment, assassin Jack (George Clooney) declares that his next job will be his last. Dispatched to a small Italian town to await further orders, Jack embarks on a double life that may be more relaxing than is good for him. Although duty will surely call, Jack becomes friends with Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and falls for villager Clara (Violante Placido) in this suspense thriller directed by Anton Corbijn.

Lauren
Rating: 5 out of 10

I think I liked “The American.” It wasn’t what I thought, but, I didn’t hate it.

It started with George Clooney and a gun fight, so I thought it was going to be an action-packed movie. Even the poster shows Clooney on the run. But, it is not an action movie.

There’s a lot of quiet waiting and even the gunfight scenes are quick and clean. Clooney hides out, waiting for his next assignment, in a small Italian village where he befriends a priest and a prostitute.

There’s something very cool about the movie, but also something missing. Some sort of … energy, I guess. I don’t think Clooney smiles once. There’s no levity.

Salt

After she’s accused of being a Russian sleeper spy, rogue CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) goes on the run, using every tactic, accent and disguise she knows to elude her pursuers, clear her name and protect her husband. Her supervisor, Winter (Liev Schreiber), buys her story, while counterintelligence officer Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) decidedly does not and will do anything to stop her in this fast-paced, intrigue-filled spy adventure.

Brian
Rating: 4 out of 10

Movies have come a long way from the action films of old. They’re faster, bigger, louder, and a lot more expensive! It certainly doesn’t mean they’re better. Call me crazy but I’ll take a good story and characters over $200 million dollar budgets any day. For example, if you go back and watch the original “Dirty Harry,” it seems ridiculously slow but somehow you get wrapped up in it. Why? It has a great story and an iconic hero and villain.

Salt is the total opposite. I didn’t really give two shits about these characters. The only thing that seems to differentiate one character from another is their level of ass kicking training and whether they had an accent or not. The plot is also pretty stale. I’d go into detail but I wouldn’t want to ruin……oh, fuck it. The story is that a Russian agency trains kids from 6- 12 years old to blend into American society and then releases them so they can get an education and then corrupt the United States from within. Why would anyone give a shit about what they learned when they were 10 years old? How would you keep the loyalty within the group? If you broke contact, wouldn’t they forget? And, if they were in America for that long, what motivation do they have for following through? Well, of course none of that is explained because the creaky plot would probably blow up. But, I have to say that Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber are very good and make the most out of a very thin script. Also, the action is top notch. I looked up the budget and it was $110 million and you see every bit of it on the screen. Chases, shoot outs, and fight scenes are choreographed and executed to perfection. But, in the end, it reminded me of the “Matrix” sequels: all style and no substance.

Black Swan

In director Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, ambitious New York City ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lands the lead role in “Swan Lake” but soon thinks her dreams of stardom are threatened by a rival ballerina (Mila Kunis). As opening night approaches and the pressure to be perfect builds, Nina’s obsession descends into paranoia and delusion. The film earned Golden Globe nods for Portman, Kunis, Aronofsky and Best Picture.

Matt
Rating: 10 out of 10

Since “Inception” hit theaters, I’ve been waiting for the movie that will beat it for best picture. We all know the Academy would never give a science fiction film best picture, and this is the one to do it. But I don’t hold a grudge. It’s a better film, and the best movie I’ve seen this year.

It’s the classic self verse self conflict story line, but what Aronofsky lays before us is a gripping story that keeps us just confused enough to be engaged in the story — even if we know the ending before we walk into the theater. This is simply a phenomenal piece of work, and Portman gives the best performance of her career and she simply must win best actress at the Oscars.

Portman gives great depth to her character, a young, naive woman who is obsessed with being the perfect dancer while blocking out all emotion and pleasure in her life — whether it’s the love of her mother, emitting passion in her dance, or being sexual. This film felt like I was watching a Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, and I loved every minute of it. Bravo!

The Town

As FBI agent Adam (Jon Hamm) hunts for them all around Charlestown, Mass., highly skilled bank robbers Doug (Ben Affleck) and Jim (Jeremy Renner) plan their next hit. Meanwhile, Doug falls for do-gooder Claire (Rebecca Hall), who is unaware that Doug took her hostage during his last heist. Affleck directed and co-wrote this intricate action/drama that co-stars Blake Lively as Krista, Jim’s sister and Doug’s troubled former flame.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

After “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy,” I thought Ben Affleck was the future of Hollywood. Then he and Matt Damon won an Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store. But then he came out with a string of awful movies, like “Daredevil,” “Armageddon” “Gigli” “Paycheck” “Jersey Girl” “Reindeer Games” and possibly the worst movie ever, the Michael Bay disaster “Pearl Harbor.” But Affleck has redeemed himself and his career in recent years with “Gone Baby Gone,” “Hollywoodland,” “State of Play,” a funny supporting role in “Extract, and now this Oscar-worthy film.

Affleck is finding himself as a director. “Gone Baby Gone” is one of the better films in the past few years, and “The Town” stands up to it. There is an intriguing love story between Doug and Claire that is intertwined with the FBI investigation. Jeremy Renner has a strong performance as James, the thug friend of Doug who is out of control and reckless. Blake Lively has the best performance of the film as Doug’s trashy, junky sister. I think she could easily be nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar.

The town has a nice mixture of bank heist action, suspense, conflicted love and friendships, criminal mystery and personal drama. It’s a dynamic film that has a lot going on. It gets lost at times because of the amount of characters and plot that need developing, and it slows down at times because of it and some aspects aren’t developed in great detail, but this film is definitely worth seeing in the theaters. Don’t be surprised if it gets a handful of Oscars nominations.