A scientist and an A.I. are remotely operating a Mars lander and they discover a cube. Being as this looked like it was going to be a very low budget sci fi with delusions of grandeur, I didn't expect much. But, they were smart in having nearly the entire film take place in a control room with one actor and a voice for an A.I. As such, they dumped every other dollar they had into spec fx ...with rather good results. The story is convoluted, a bit too philosophical, and the ending raised an eyebrow, but, considering the budget, what they did produce is admirable. OK!
47 Ronin 
Based on a significant historical event in Japan in the 18th century, this tells the story of how a lord of a prefect was unjustly forced to commit ritual suicide and how his men, the 47 Ronin, exact vengeance for their master. Besides going for stylish, with a heavy dose of wizardry, this obviously fictional retelling sticks to actually events pretty closely. The characters are great, the emotions are genuine, the action is engrossing, although nothing really stands out, the sets and costumes are awesome and overall good, exciting film for all but the very young.
32 Malasana Street 
aka Malasana 32
A family moves from a farm into the city and directly into a haunted apartment. This was a rather effective Spanish haunting that was compelling, insidious and creepy with practically every scene dripping with suspense ...although some were dragged out to the point where suspense sort of drifted off into impatience. Great acting, dark and unnerving atmosphere, good story writing with a excellent twist and some truly scary moments. Well done!
During WWI, a couple soldiers travel cross-country to deliver a message to a Colonel to prevent a massacre. This incredibly well constructed odyssey of perseverance is presented in a single-shot format, so that we, as viewers, essentially become a member of the journey experiencing all that the trials and tribulations of our protagonists in real time. The acting was fantastic, especially George MacKay, bringing emotional, heartfelt performances to a truly authentic level. Everything about this film works ...even the slower parts are nice to look at.
7 Days to Vegas 
aka Walk to Vegas
A has-been actor and his group of gambling buddies start an underground poker room which becomes wildly successful ...until he loses everything in a Ponzi scheme. Then he makes a ludicrous bet to walk from L.A. to Las Vegas in 7 days. Although I don't recall any LOL moments, I did have a few good chuckles and was generally amused the entire time. The characters are great, the dialogue was snappy, the scenarios were fun to watch play out and there was a pretty good twist at the end I didn't see coming. Overall, fun entertainment.
A relaxed and informative documentary on things we can do now to change the world for the better. To develop power, farming, education and waste system to save the planet and make it a paradise for everyone. It was refreshing in that it didn't beleaguer the point that the world and our climate are in trouble but rather spent it's time showing us what the world could be, using discussions, demonstrations and real world examples that were entertaining as well as informative. What do you want your world to be like in 2040?
0.0 Mhz 
Five students have a club called 0.0 Mhz that studies paranormal activity. Actually, that's just an excuse to go to some place haunted and party as they really don't believe in ghosts. Ooops! Fairly effective ghost story that didn't really give us anything original and the story was kind of lethargic and drawn out for its type but the characters were likable and it was generally entertaining. Didn't like the ending, though.
12 Angry Men 
Except for the opening and closing scenes, this film takes place entirely in a jury deliberation room where 12 men decide the fate of a young man accused of killing his father. With an all-star cast performing their absolute best, the drama is tense and uncompromising as they all believe he's guilty until one man decides to start questioning it. What unfolds is a journey into prejudice, ignorance, vengeance, compassion and good old common sense that is a joy to behold. Disregard the obvious things that would never happen in a jury room and just enjoy!
3 from Hell 
After miraculously surviving the roadblock shootout in the last film and after spending 10 years in prison, Baby and Otis team up with their brother, Winslow, and murder their way to Mexico. The elements that made the first two films so enjoyable and entertaining and characters so likable, despite the mayhem, is conspicuously missing in this final film of the trilogy making it just dull, profane and ugly. I guess spending 10 years in prison strips away all your charisma. Totally unnecessary and a detriment to the series.
The prequel to the excessively brutal and controversial "Ichi the Killer" is quite tame in comparison. Somewhat campy and very low budget, there's something appealing to the rise of Ichi, a wimp who becomes a killer as it sexually excites him. I'm not quire sure what that appeal is but I enjoyed it.
aka Area 51
Political and public pressure forces the military to give a couple reporters a tour of Area 51. Fortunately, the film isn't quite as ludicrous as believing that would actually happen. The dialogue was very weak and the first 30 min and the final scene were pretty hokey. The rest of the movie was a typical low budget, men shooting aliens slaughtering men scenario which was entertaining but nothing special. Lady Death was a pretty good monster.
The 39 Steps 
A man offers refuge to a distressed woman and then discovers she's a spy. She gets killed and now spies are out to kill him and the authorities want him for murder. Rather enjoyable film for its time with lots of awkward and sinister scenarios, likable characters, a good twist ending and some entertaining comedy relief along the way. Although one of his earlist films, Hitchcock's style is unmistakable.
12 Rounds 
A New Orleans cop manages to capture an international terrorist but the terrorist's girlfriend is killed. A year later, the terrorist forces the cop to play a game to save his girlfriend. This non-stop, edge-of-your-seat, thrill ride is somewhat over-the-top and forced at times, and John Cena is not as charismatic as some action stars, but overall, it's incredibly exciting with a few 'cheer' moments. Also, the story was well written with a twist that changes everything. The director of
Die Hard 2
was in good form on this one.
The host of a show, along with her camera man, accompanies a fire crew as they respond to an emergency. After they arrive, the whole building is locked down and the nightmare begins. This is arguably the best first-person hand-held camera film out there. It feels totally authentic from start to finish and it is one hellaciously intense thrill ride that is violent and terrorizing. I would strongly suggest watching the original Spanish audio version with English sub-titles. The English audio version is done well but it loses that realistic edge somewhat.
Picking up, to the moment, exactly where [REC] ended, we are once again thrust into a non-stop thrill ride that'll leave you breathless. Whereas the first was filmed from the perspective of a news crew's camera, this one is filmed from two different perspectives; the helmet cams of a SWAT team and through the camera of a few teenagers that found a way into the building. Once again, the action feels totally spontaneous and authentic. How the virus got started is an interesting and unexpected twist, as well. Bravo!
2 Guns 
When a pair of smuggler's deal of passports for coke doesn't work out, everything escalates into a huge complicated mess. As far as buddy movies go, this one is not as good as
but it's damn close. The chemistry between Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg is magic, full of wit and a reluctant camaraderie as they realize they're perfect for each other even if they don't like it. Supporting characters are quirky, story is complex but easy to follow, lots of great action. This movie is just plain good fun.
13 Cameras 
A landlord rents a home to a couple who are expecting their first child. He then voyeuristically observes their lives through numerous cameras he's installed in the house. Unnervingly slow and insidiously creepy from start to finish, we're put in a position of being the voyeur as we watch the landlord subtely manipulate a family that is disintegrating through infidelity and mistrust. Quite uncomfortable, stark and not easily forgotten, Neville Archambault is brilliant as the socially vacuous landlord.
10 Cloverfield Lane 
A woman, in an auto accident, wakes up in a bunker lorded over by a well-meaning but totally psycho man who tells her going outside is lethal due to an invasion. The second film in the Cloverfield series is miles above the first in all respects. The performances of all three occupants of the bunker are great (especially John Goodman) and the tension never abates as it goes from suspicion to acceptance to total chaos. Somewhat slow but brilliant character study with a wholly satisfying ending.
12 Strong 
Shortly after 9/11, a group of 12 men are sent to Northern Afghanistan to team up with a local warlord in an attempt to take out a Taliban stronghold. Great dramatization of a mission that, until recently, was kept classified, detailing the biggest Taliban defeat in Afghanistan. The culture clash between the Captain and the Warlord is full of philosophical tension and punctuated by great performances all around. Awesome war action. May be criticized for being too theatrical but isn't that why we go to the movies?
7 Nights of Darkness 
A "found footage" movie of 6 reality show contestants who have to spend 7 nights in a deserted asylum to win their share of $1mil. You have to give Allen Kellogg credit for producing, writing, editing, directing, and starring in this film. However, as ambitious as he may be, we've seen the end result before and far better. Nothing about this film felt real or spontaneous, which is essential if it's supposed to be a found footage, candid reality show. Also, the players were so irritating, I turned down the volume and read subtitles. Couple good jump scares.
A man kidnaps a woman and locks her in a 10x10 padded room until she tells him the truth about her history. It took a while to get to the gist of the issue, with a lot of padding (pun intentional), but once certain things began being revealed, it became a rather interesting story with a very intense ending. Basically, though, the film is a show piece for Luke Evans and Kelly Reilly, as they're practically the only two people in the film, and they do a wonderful job. Unlike the general ratings it's gotten, I actually agree with RT this time.
14 Cameras 
This sequel to 13 Cameras starts out pretty much the same way except, this time, it's a rental home being used by a family of four and a family friend and the video feeds are being broadcast out to the dark web. About halfway through, a subtle shift in events causes everything to slowly collapse into chaos. I felt this film was easily as good as the first as, not only did they extend the insidious nature of the subject, but they layered story line connections from the first film and new plot twists to keep it fresh. Don't know why the bad ratings. Creepy fun!
22 July 
A dramatized but accurate account of the bombing of Oslo and the slaughter at the youth camp on Utoya Island on July 22, 2011 by an ultra-right wing terrorist. This film starts right off with the bombing and massacre and deals mainly with the aftermath focusing on the trial of the terrorist, the political upheaval and the personal story of a recovering victim who was shot 5 times. For me, I was subjected to this boy's suffering far too much and that could have easily been reduced. Otherwise, excellent biopic!
2001: A Space Odyssey 
Regarded as the defining sci fi space exploration film, it's a masterpiece of science realism and film making. I watched it as a young teen when it was released and was totally blown away. My local theater ran it one weekend and watching on the big screen again was a real treat. For some, especially newer viewers, it's way to slow but you have to keep in mind, this film was made before we had even landed on the moon yet and it's intended to be a realistic art piece. If you want to understand it, read the book. Otherwise, just kick back and experience the odyssey.
12 Rounds 2: Reloaded 
This time, an EMT's wife is threatened unless the EMT plays a 12 round game orchestrated by a psychotic engineer. Beyond being a vehicle to ride the coattails of whatever success the first film had by using the 12 round game, this film has no other connection whatsoever. It wasn't bad and it got better as it went along. However, no surprise twist with everything playing out as you'd expect. I didn't like the bad guy much ...the actor seemed to be playing the role far too seriously and dramatically. Nowhere close to the chaos of the first but OK for what it is.
12 Rounds 3: Lockdown 
A cop, just back from psychological leave, stumbles onto a piece of evidence that shows an army of cops are corrupt ...and they don't plan to let him leave the building. Having absolutely nothing to do with the previous 12 Rounds films - in fact, in this one, the title refers to 12 rounds in a gun - this one is basically a
hybrid where the filmmakers said, "Damn the plot holes. Full speed ahead!" And, if you go into it with that in mind, You'll love it. Likable characters, exciting shootouts, inventive escapes, and even a surprise. Great fun.
Because of the Mayan calendar, some believed the world would end in 2012. Case in point, this film. A tour-d-force of global catastrophic spec fx, realistically depicting devastating earthquakes, monstrous tsunamis, Yellowstone exploding, etc., this film spared no expense in keeping you on the edge of your seat holding your breath. The characters, as usual for disaster films, are cookie cutter but likable and portrayed well. Although it got rather sappy at times, there were some genuinely witty and heartfelt moments. Great fun and the best disaster pic, imo.
An author, who writes books on presumably haunted locations, spends the night in room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel ...a room that's been described as "f**king evil". This film is very effective at terrorizing our poor author with an endless barrage of paranormal craziness. That's also the film's weakness in that there's just too much. It really began to lose it's effectiveness after a while and I found myself wondering when it was going to end. John Cusack did a great job but, for some reason, I never felt he was right for the part. Overall, entertaining but should have been shorter.
The 16th Episode 
A YouTube group, that specializes in creating travelogues of places they live in for a period of time, go to Casablanca and end up in a demonic ritual. The characters are completely unlikable ...especially the camera man whose incessant whining and bitching I loathed from the start. There's no way these 3 dysfunctional, neurotic idiots would travel around the world together making YT videos. It's hard to find scares in a film full of angry, stupid, weird people involved in completely unrealistically chaotic and ludicrous scenarios.
30 Miles from Nowhere 
Like a psychotic version of
The Big Chill,
a group of old college friends reunion to a remote cabin of a fellow friend who committed suicide. Then things get strange. The filmmakers did a superb job of presenting our group of old friends as normal but there's always an air of subtle disturbance in every scene making the whole film unsettling. They don't avoid hiding what's probably going to happen but the events unfold in an insane, twisted fashion that had me dialed into every moment. Carrie Preston is awesome as the slightly unhinged, grieving widow. I really liked it.
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T 
aka Crazy Music
A surreal, musical, fantasy, written by Dr. Seuss, about a young boy, forced to practice his piano lessons, has a nightmare about his mom and him being held prisoner at Dr. Terwilliker's Institute and forced to perform on a gigantic piano that requires 500 young boys to play. Vaguely remembered from my childhood, I decided to revisit. Although firmly rooted in the '50's, with some of the tunes and routines hard to sit through, it's still quite nostalgic and entertaining, especially the dungeon musicians scene. Your kids will love it or it will give them nightmares.
Superb writing highlights this bizarre exercise in synchronicity taking place in the little town of Middleton where we follow five stories, all interweaving and connecting in strange ways ultimately brought together by two horrific events that occur at exactly 11:14 pm. A masterpiece in dark comedy, everyone plays their parts with total seriousness but the absurdity of it all provides the viewer with numerous laugh-out-loud moments. You'll even be mentally making connections after the movie is over. Great entertainment.
2 Fast 2 Furious 
Now that O'Conner is a disgraced cop on-the-run, he decides to check out the street action in Miami. He then gets arrested and recruited, along with a friend, to go undercover and nail a drug lord. This movie is one intense car race / chase / stunt action scene, after another, with a story interspersed in there somewhere. But, it's a fairly good story and made the in-between moments worthwhile and compelling. The characters are awesome, the banter humorous and engaging and some super fine car stunts. Just a generally fun and exciting film.
The 12th Man 
A true story, a group of 12 saboteurs gets caught by the Germans in WWII trying to enter Norway. One gets away and attempts to escape to Sweden. Geez, this was boring! His harrowing and torturous journey, which consisted of mostly hiding and letting other people protect and move him around, was compelling at first but 2 hours of watching his misery, I gave up caring. The disastrous landing was shown twice in flashback so there would be some excitment to watch. The trailer contains the rest of the exciting scenes.
24 Hours to Live 
A professional mercenary is brought back from the dead using a medical technique developed by the company he works for. Unfortunately, it only gives him 24 hours and the company finds that it probably wasn't a good idea to bring him back. A exceptionally well made film with a realistically presented story, despite the unrealistic premise, excellent performances from both Ethan Hawke and Qing Xu, and some absolutely stellar, brilliantly choreographed action and gun fight sequences. Very exciting stuff!
[REC]3: Genesis 
Beyond the same virus outbreak taking place in Barcelona during a wedding, this film has no other connection to the [REC] franchise ...much to its detriment. They tried to make this stand-alone campy and amusing but failed miserably. With the exception of a few scenes here and there, this was an awful addition to the franchise. In fact, for those that may want to follow the franchise, skip this one completely as there is no story arc with the other 3 REC films making this one completely unnecessary ...and, at times, painful.
[REC] 4: Apocalypse 
aka [REC] 4: Apocalipsis
Thank God, they made up for [REC]3: Genesis by bringing the story back to it's roots. A direct sequel of the original [REC] storyline (with only a mention of the wedding in [REC] 3), and it picks up exactly where [REC]2 left off ...but without the hand-held camera format. The survivors of the original attack are quarantined on a ship. And, of course, one becomes infected. This movie is intense, violent and, with no where to go, extremely claustrophobic. A worthy sequel and excellent addition to the story.