Movie reviews: 11/2015
Movies seen this month: 13
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  Title: Memento
Genre: Drama  Year: 2000  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Russ Fega  Director: Christopher Nolan

My Review: Screenplay written by Christopher Nolan, based upon the short story "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan. Directed by Christopher Nolan (Following (1998), Insomnia, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar). Starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano and others. One of my favorite directors wrote and directed this twisted movie (short story by his brother). It's a thrilling mystery about a man who can't remember the recent past. He's trying to figure out who murdered his wife. Unfortunately, he can't remember what happened, two weeks ago, a week ago, a day ago - Hell, he can't remember what happened 10 minutes ago. There are two story lines here - One moving forward, towards an inevitable conclusion, and another that's moving backwards, towards a horrifying beginning. An innovative film technique that's difficult to implement, Christopher Nolan masters the technique and brings us a very compelling mystery at the same time. It really kept me on the edge of my seat. Trying and trying, again and again, trying to figure out who murdered Leonard's wife (Leonard is the Insurance salesman, played by Guy Pearce, who can't form new memories). Watching this movie is a great mental exercise. As soon as you think you're getting a grasp on the plot, the scene shifts and we're moving backwards in time to uncover more clues. Wait a second, I didn't know that - This changes everything! Rewatching the movie years later, I was still surprised by the outcome, but the characters, by the surprising revelations. It's a great mystery that involves the viewer and challenges your concepts of perception and time. I give this one a 5 out of 5.

Summary: A man, suffering from short-term memory loss, uses notes and tattoos to hunt down his wife's killer.

  Title: Johnny English
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy  Year: 2003  Country: UK, France, USA  Rating: Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Tasha de Vasconcelos, Ben Miller, Greg Wise, Douglas McFerran  Director: Peter Howitt

My Review: Written by too many people. Directed by Peter Howitt (Anti-Trust, Laws of Attraction, Sliding Doors). Starring Rowan Atkinson (best known for his 'Bean' role/character), John Malkovich, Natalie Imbruglia and others. The best part of this movie is Rowan Atkinson. His physical style of comedy is quite funny. Rowan stars as Johnny English the decidedly English spy. The spy thriller spoof follows our unlikely hero as he does his best to save England from the evil French despot, Pascal Sauvage (played by John Malkovich). After all the competent spies at MI5 are put out of commission, the British Secret Service has no choice but to activate the only agent remaining at the 'Secret Spy Agency' - Luckily for us, the plot doesn't really matter, because It's the comedic portrayals by Atkinson and Malkovich that drive this movie. It's tough to take a five minute sketch comedy and make it into a feature length movie. Atkinson is hilarious, and Malkovich delivers an exceptionally funny role with his outrageous French accent. Malkovich seems to enjoy his role far more than I would have anticipated. James Bond meets Naked Gun. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Summary: Rowan plays the eponymous lead character in a spoof spy thriller. During the course of the story we follow our hero as he attempts to single-handedly save the country from falling into the hands of a despot.

  Title: Wings
Genre: Drama, Romance, War, Action  Year: 1927  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Richard Arlen, Jobyna Ralston, El Brendel  Director: William A. Wellman, Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast

My Review: With multiple writing credits: Screenplay x2, Titles x1, Story x1, Story idea x1, and two directors: William A. Wellman (A Star is Born (1937), Other Men's Women, Night Nurse, Wild Boys of the Road) and Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast (uncredited). Starring Clara Bow, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers, Richard Arlen and many others. A classic tale of the air. Early aviation on film. Released in 1927, this film captured the nations attention while Charles Lindberg had just crossed the Atlantic (first solo flight across the Atlantic in a plane), and the nation was obsessed with the ideals of aviation. In its simplest terms, this movie features the competition of two young men as they both woo the same woman. It's WWI and the two young men come from different backgrounds - One is rich and privileged, the other poor and humble. They've both opted to server their nation in the very dangerous role of the US Army Air Force pilots. While they compete for the attention of their shared love, war breaks out. They're both posted to France over the front lines. Every day could be their last. The stunts and aerobatics work was all done with real people and real airplanes. No cgi or 'special-effects'. Even a silent film, when it's well made (proper use of gestures, body language, facial expression and occasional interstitials) can convey plenty of drama, and this movie is packed with that - Melodrama to spare. The two men are allies on the battle field, but adversaries in matters of love. Technically, I was very impressed by the attention to detail in the aircraft, the uniforms and the set work. I give this movie a 4 out of 5.

Summary: Two young men from the same town but different social classes end up as fighter pilots in WW1. Jack Preston is a keen auto mechanic, building and modifying cars. David Armstrong comes from a wealthy family. They are both in love with the same woman, Sylvia. Her heart belongs to David but she doesn't let Jack know and plays along with his infatuation. Meanwhile, Jack's neighbour, Mary, is deeply in love with him but he just views her as a friend. WW1 interrupts the romantic entanglements as Jack and David enlist in the US Army Air Service (Air Service of the AEF at the time). They are initially bitter enemies, due to them both vying for Sylvia's affections. Over time, however, they become very good friends. They are both posted to the same fighter squadron in France, where being a fighter pilot means every day could easily be your last.

  Title: Spectre
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller  Year: 2015  Country: UK, USA  Rating: Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci  Director: Sam Mendes

My Review: Based on the characters in the Ian Fleming novels, why did this movie need four writers? Eight writing credits can only mean one thing - A piss poor script. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Skyfall). Starring Daniel Craig, Christopher Waltz, Lea Seydoux and many others. The fourth time that Daniel Craig has played James Bond. The acting was quite good, but some (myself included) might criticize the screenplay as being a bit pedantic and too 'inside'. While it makes for good James Bond backstory, it's not exactly necessary given the character's role. He doesn't need to delve into his own background, and we don't need that either. Unfortunately, for me, the screenplay was far too familiar and the twists far too easy to predict. The movie took too long to unfold, and parts of it were paced too slowly. Combining the extremely fast moving action segments with the slowly unfolding character plot made for a somewhat schizophrenic movie. If Bond wasn't frantically struggling for survival, he was slowly plodding along trying to unravel the mystery surrounding a secret organization known as SPECTRE. The action scenes were spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed them, but the rest of the plot seemed flat and less than worthy of the movie. I like the fact that they were trying to tie SPECTRE back into the James Bond genre, and give the franchise a more cohesive base with which to move forward, but it really wasn't a very good screenplay - Subjecting the audience to this lengthy backstory was a bit much. Perhaps they could have played out a SPECTRE underpinning by spanning a backstory across multiple films. I liked the film, and enjoyed the backstory, but it wasn't as good as I expected from a Bond movie. The production, music (except the Falsetto Sam Smith opening), locations, film work, editing, sets, costumes and casting were all superb. The action sequences (except the unbelievable and physically impossible snow plane chase scene) were excellent as well. Too bad the screenplay didn't match the overall production value. I give this Bond movie a 3 out of 5.

Summary: A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia, the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE. Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh, the new head of the Centre of National Security, questions Bond's actions and challenges the relevance of MI6 led by M. Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny and Q to help him seek out Madeleine Swann, the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White, who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the daughter of the assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot. As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he learns a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks.

  Title: The Hallow
Genre: Horror  Year: 2015  Country: UK, USA, Ireland  Rating: Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley, Gary Lydon  Director: Corin Hardy

My Review: Screenplay by two people, based upon a story written by three people… How does this work? Why do three people need to come up with a story for a movie? Why do two people need to write the screenplay? Directed by Colin Hardy, who also carries credit on the story and screenplay (This is his only feature length diretor's credit). Starring Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton and others. Set in Ireland, this movie tells the story of a young family who've moved into the old mill house. It rests in an idyllic spot in the woods, but that woods is also an enchanted hallow - A place where the woodland spirits live, and now these people are upsetting the faerie folk. There's really nothing new about this story. Family moves into a haunted house and weird things start to happen. What follows is a fight to survive against the demonic creatures that inhabit the woods. Despite good acting and excellent digital effects, this story hasn't got much more going for it. The story isn't new, it's just that the digital effects allow for a more dramatic retelling. While there was a good deal of real tension building throughout, it's replaced with simple scares and screams towards the end. In the end it’s the acting and build up from the first two thirds of the movie that carries this one past the finish line. I give it a 3 out of 5, but I doubt I'll remember it a week from now.

Summary: A family who moved into a remote mill house in Ireland finds themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.

  Title: Terminator Genisys
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi  Year: 2015  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons  Director: Alan Taylor

My Review: Screenplay by two people, based upon characters created by two different people. Directed by Alan Taylor (Best known for his work in TV shows, including Game of Thrones. Feature length films include: The Emperor's new clothes & Thor - The Dark World). Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke and many others. Continuation, or demise? Of the Terminator franchise. This movie was simply a rehash of old concepts and themes. John Connor (played by Jason Clarke) is the leader of the human resistance in the future. He sends Sgt Kyle Reese (played by Jai Courtney) back to the past (1984) to protect Sarah Conor (played by Emilia Clarke) from a terminator sent to kill… Umm, that plot sounds kind of familiar. It's the exact same plot as the original movie. They manage to change some of the character motivations and add a few twists to the plot, but essentially it’s the same. If you can't guess the outcome, you haven't seen any of the previous Terminator movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a familiar role, but missing is Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn (from the original Terminator). The digital effects aren't bad, but they're not on par with the effects displayed in Terminator 2. It's a chase film with time travel and cyborgs. Pretty basic. Most of the music is slightly off key with the action, and the acting is mediocre at best. It's a pretty good summer blockbuster, but it doesn't really do much for the franchise, and it certainly doesn't rate as memorable. I give it a 3 of 5.

Summary: When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured time-line. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: To reset the future...

  Title: Gargoyles
Genre: Horror  Year: 1972  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Grayson Hall, Bernie Casey, Scott Glenn  Director: Bill L. Norton

My Review: Written by Stephen and Elinor Karpf. Directed by Bill Norton (as B.W.L. Norton) (Cisco Pike (TV Movie), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV Series), Tour of Duty (TV Series) More known for television shows than feature movies). Starring Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Grayson Hall, Bernie Casey and others. This made for TV movie is better than many made for the theater feature length films. At only 84 minutes, it manages to tell a creepy, suspenseful tale of survival, where humans may be the threat and the threatened. A paleontologist and his daughter are traveling through the southwester U.S. when the stumble upon a colony of actual 'Gargoyles'. I remember watching this movie when I was 10 or 11. I used to stay up late to watch the scary movies. With a blanket draped over the TV (to muffle the sound), I would silently watch the Creature Features television show, while struggling not to scream, shout or otherwise disclose my late night viewing. I can remember this movie vividly (I now own a copy, and I've seen it many times). The creepy voice of the leader of the Gargoyles - Especially the way he said 'Diana' (the name of the professor's daughter - played by Jennifer Salt). The special effects were rock bottom, but the music, pacing and screenplay created a sense of dread and suspense throughout. The use of slow motion was a brilliant play, the voice filtering (for the Gargoyles) and the silent flight of the Gargoyles over the Arizona desert made for gripping dread in this late night viewer. Surprisingly good acting and superb costumes & makeup for such a low budget film. This movie still creeps me out to this day. A made for TV Horror movie that outshines some of the highest budget flicks. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Summary: Whether it's 1972 or 2002, it doesn't matter, "Gargoyles" is just simply grand entertainment of the highest order. A professor/writer and his daughter (Cornel Wilde & Jennifer Salt) come across a bunch of (recently re-birthed) gargoyles in the desert. Some of the highlights: an excellent and mysterious beginning (the first 20 minutes or so wherein some old desert rat shows the professor and his daughter a gargoyle skeleton in some dark barn/shack out in the middle of the desert; night comes down and then the gargoyles attack), Great spooky atmosphere, haunting soundtrack, excellent gargoyle costumes (remember this was a TV movie, not some big-budget blockbuster), good cast, dirt bikers, chases, hellish cave sets, cool gargoyle voices, grisly gargoyle murders, etc., etc. Hey, there's got to be a reason all these Amazon costumers are giving this TV flick such a high rating and stating how they never tire of seeing. Add me to the list! Definite proof that you don't need a big budget to make a great, engrossing flick.

  Title: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy  Year: 2015  Country: USA, UK  Rating: Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani  Director: Guy Ritchie

My Review: Written (in part) and directed by Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Sherlock Holmes (2009)). Starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander and others. Set in the early 60s - The Soviet Union and the United States are bitter enemies, but they have to work together to prevent nuclear devastation at the hands of a mysterious criminal organization. A CIA agent (Napolean Solo - Played by Henry Cavill) and KGB operative (Illya Kuryakin - Played by Armie Hammer) team up to defeat the husband wife team behind an international corporation selling terror to the highest bidder. The movie starts out with a thrilling East Berlin breakout and car chase. To spice the movie up a bit more - Two men and a woman - They cast the smoking hot Alicia Vikander as an improbable third operative. Gabby is the asset that agent Solo (Henry Cavill) exfiltrated from Berlin. She joins the team because she's got family ties to the crime syndicate behind the 'bad guys'. The movie is a fairly authentic period piece, with excellent costumers, props, set pieces and locations. The character are sexy and somewhat superhuman. The production value is outstanding, the pacing rocket fast, the plot transparent but tight. The action is sizzling and the direction excellent. The only problem with the movie is its implausible and cliched premise. Even if it is necessary, I can't imagine these agencies working together effectively. Their self-interests would get in the way and the bad guys would win. I give this movie a 4 out of 5.

Summary: In the 1960s with the Cold War in play, CIA agent Napoleon Solo successfully helps Gaby Teller defect to West Germany despite the intimidating opposition of KGB agent Illya Kuryakin. Later, all three unexpectedly find themselves working together in a joint mission to stop a private criminal organization from using Gaby's father's scientific expertise to construct their own nuclear bomb. Through clenched teeth and stylish poise, all three must find a way to cooperate for the sake of world peace, even as they each pursue their own agendas.

  Title: The Big Blue
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Sport  Year: 1988  Country: France  Rating: Starring: Rosanna Arquette, Jean-Marc Barr, Jean Reno, Paul Shenar, Sergio Castellitto  Director: Luc Besson

My Review: Written (in part) and directed by one of my favorite Directors - Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, Lucy). Starring Jean-Marc Barr, Jean Reno, Rosanna Arquette and others. Here is a visually stunning and intense story. A beautifully shot adventure, filmed in some stunning locations (Lesser/small Cyclades islands of Greece, Peru, France, US Virgin Islands). I have two versions of this movie. The theatrical release and the Director's cut (this viewing). The theatrical version is actually a better version to watch (in my opinion). The cinematography is fantastic. The music, locations, sets, costumes and casting were perfect. The performances were outstanding. Watching this movie is like being transported to a magical world across the sea. I only wish my television was bigger - So big that it wrapped all the way around my living room. The characters are unforgettable, life-like, utterly convincing and genuine. The story tells a very dramatic tale of deep sea competitive divers. The rivalry and bond between the men who risk it all to be one with the sea. I give this movie a 5 out of 5.

Summary: Enzo and Jacques have known each other for a long time. Their friendship started in their childhood days in the Mediterranean. They were not real friends in these days, but there was something they both loved and used to do the whole day long: diving. One day Jacques' father, who was a diver too, died in the Mediterranean sea. After that incident Enzo and Jacques lost contact. After several years, Enzo and Jacques had grown up, Johanna, a young clerk in an insurance office, has to go to Peru. There she meets Jacques who is being studied by a group of scientists. He dives for some minutes into ice-cold water and the scientists monitor his physical state that is more like a dolphin than human. Johanna can not believe what she sees and gets very interested in Jacques but she's unable to get acquainted with him. Some weeks later back in her office, she finds out that Jacques will be competing in a diving championship that takes place in Taormina, Sicily. In order to see Jacques again she ...

  Title: Child 44
Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller  Year: 2015  Country: Czech Republic, UK, USA, Russia  Rating: Starring: Xavier Atkins, Mark Lewis Jones, Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman, Fares Fares  Director: Daniel Espinosa

My Review: itten by Richard Price, Tom Rob Smith, Johan Melin. Directed by Daniel Espinosa. Starring Xavier Atkins, Mark Lewis Jones, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace and others. The movie is based upon a trilogy (of novels) written by Tom Rob Smith. The story is set in the Stalin era of the Soviet Union (~1933-1953). The plot involves a pro-Stalin security officer who decides - despite the fact that there is 'no crime' in the Soviet Union - to investigate a series of child murders. The story is deep, sidetracked by political ramifications and personal motivations. The period piece shows signs of detailed research and much care. Perfect uniforms, set-work, locations. The cast performs flawlessly, and the direction is superb. The screen-play, dialogue and acting fully immerse the viewer in a different world. Despite the hardships involved, the primary investigator pursues justice for the murdered children and their families. He's demoted, exiled, punished for his efforts - yet still he persists. An excellent movie in all regards. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Summary: Based on the first of a trilogy by Tom Rob Smith and set in the Stalin era of the Soviet Union. The plot is about an idealistic pro-Stalin security officer who decides to investigate a series of child murders in a country where supposedly this sort of crime doesn't exist. The state would not hear of the existence of a child murderer let alone a serial killer. He gets demoted and exiled but decides, with just the help of his wife, to continue pursuing the case.


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