Movie reviews: 04/2015
Movies seen this month: 11
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  Title: The Imitation Game
Genre: History, Drama, Thriller, War  Year: 2014  Country: USA, UK  Rating: Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech  Director: Morten Tyldum

My Review: Screenplay by Graham Moore, based upon a novel (Alan Turing: The Enigma) by Andrew Hodges. Directed by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters, Passengers). Starring Bennedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and others. A World War II movie - A True Story that focuses behind the front lines, way behind the front lines, not at the headquarters, not in the cities and homes of those besieged in bunkers, but at the hidden places and seldom mentioned men and women who toil away in windowless buildings to solve puzzles before, during and after the worst of the war. One of those people was Alan Turing, who for many years was shunned by the government in England; finally recognized, despite his sexual 'proclivities' for the great debt that he is owed by millions upon millions. How different would the world be today, if we had not been able to crack the German's Enigma code? I was very happy with the movie. While they didn't give much credit (in the movie) to the Polish Mathematician's efforts to break the code (yes - they broke the code before the English). I definitely liked the look and feel of the movie as well as the pacing and characters. I really liked the MI6 character (Stewart Menzies) played by Mark Strong. While the movie has been criticized for some of its historical inaccuracies, one can only laud it for its theatrical accomplishments. A great movie. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Summary: Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain's top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

  Title: The Day of the Jackal
Genre: Thriller  Year: 1973  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, Mathilda May  Director: Fred Zinnemann

My Review: Screenplay by Kenneth Ross, based upon the book (same name) by Frederick Forsyth. Directed by Fred Zinnermann (High Noon, From here to eternity, A man for all seasons). Starring Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair and others. A superb political thriller based on a best-selling novel (of the same name). The clock is ticking, France is on guard against assassination. Someone is trying to assassinate Charles de Gaulle, and the killer is a professional assassin; a man known only as 'The Jackal'. This movie takes place in the early 60s in France and the location shots are excellent. Based partly on fact. There were many assassination attempts on Charles de Gaulle during this time period. The president of France was a favorite target of radical groups across Europe, and this book brings those fears to the screen. Edward Fox is superb as the calculating killer hired for a cool half million! As the Jackal makes his cold, calculated and precision plans, the French police are desparately scrambling to find the Jackal - They know that he's been hired to kill the President, but can they figure out where and when he will strike? Tense drama and a high stakes game of cat and killer. No need for absurd special effects or cgi. This movie keeps you at the edge of your seat without resorting to cheap thrills and scantily clad women. The first five minutes of the film are more than enough to convince you. You must watch this movie. Excellent editing, superb direction and splendid acting. A 5 out of 5.

Summary: A professional assassin codenamed "Jackal" plots to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France.

  Title: Automata
Genre: Thriller, Science Fiction  Year: 2014  Country: Bulgaria, USA, Spain, Canada  Rating: Starring: Antonio Banderas, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Robert Forster  Director: Gabe Ibáñez

My Review: Written by too many people, including the director Gabe Ibanez (this movie is his second feature length film). Starring Antonio Banderas, Birgiette Hjort Sorensen, Dylan McDemott, Melanie Griffith and others. A Sci-Fi mystery/thriller. When I saw the name Antonio Banderas, I immediately assumed it was an action film. In this movie, Banderas plays Jacq Vaucan - An insurance agent. He's investigating claims that some 'Robots' have been repairing themselves, and that's not allowed. It's definitely an unusual movie, and refreshing in that regard. The movie is set in the not too distant future of 2044. Our planet is being devastated by solar storms. The radiation has killed off most of the human population, and Robots have been recruited to help us rebuild. Now there's a danger that they're no longer taking our orders. Jacq is investigating whether these rumors are true - Are we in danger of becoming obsolete? It's a great concept, this is a pretty good movie. The acting and direction aren't the best, but the digital effects and visuals are quite good. I enjoyed it. I liked it. I give this a 3 out of 5.

Summary: In 2044, solar storms have killed 99.7 % of the world's population and only 21 million people survive. The ROC Corporation has designed and built robots called Automata Pilgrim 7000 to help to rebuild the world. These robots have two security protocols; they can neither harm humans nor alter themselves or other robots. When police officer Sean Wallace shoots a robot and claims that it was altering itself, ROC insurance agent Jacq Vaucan is placed in charge of the investigation. Soon he believes that there is a "clocksmith" illegally modifying the robots. Jacq wants to live in the coast and asks his boss and friend Robert Bold to transfer him with his pregnant wife Rachel Vaucan to the coast. Robert offers the possibility if Jacq resolves the case. Jacq and Wallace go to a brothel where the modified robot Cleo attends and Wallace shoots its leg, expecting that the owner will lead them to the clocksmith. They meet Duprè but she is not the clocksmith that is modifying the robots. Soon ...

  Title: Take Shelter
Genre: Thriller, Drama  Year: 2011  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon  Director: Jeff Nichols

My Review: Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Mud, Midnight Special). Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham and others. This movie is set in Ohio, but we can imagine that this is any suburban town in the storm plagued central midwest. The main character (Curtis - played by Michael Shannon) is a young husband, father and low income wage earner who is struggling with medical bills, a family history of mental illness and marital problems. As the storm clouds move closer, he starts experiencing some foreboding hallucinations. Visions of a massive storm, one that destroys everything in its path. The movie is a dreadful, slow moving drama, filled with tension and anxiety. As Curtis takes steps to assure his families survival, he begins slipping into a reality where his imagined storm is becoming reality. Emotionally wrenching, the movie is a slow moving storm in many ways. The music although appropriate for the movie, really did grate on me after an hour or so. While this movie was quite slow in parts, the payout is the emotional drama and acting performances. I give it a 3 out of 5.

Summary: Curtis, a father and husband, is starting to experience bad dreams and hallucinations. Assuming mental illness, he seeks medical help and counseling. However, fearing the worst, he starts building an elaborate and expensive storm shelter in their backyard. This storm shelter threatens to tear apart his family, threatens his sanity and his standing in the community, but he builds it to save his family's life.

  Title: Radio Free Albemuth
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction  Year: 2010  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Shea Whigham, Jonathan Scarfe, Michael Rothhaar, Katheryn Winnick, Scott Wilson  Director: John Alan Simon

My Review: Screenplay and direction by John Alan Simon (based on a novel - of same name - by Philip K. Dick). Starring Shea Whigam, John Scarfe, Michael Rothhaar, Alanis Morissette, and others. This movie, set in a dark dystopian future, is based on a Philip K. Dick novel. It's a Sci-Fi drama which tells the tale of a record store clerk experiencing visions from an alien entity. He moves his family to Los Angeles where he becomes a music company executive. Soon he is drawn into a dark conspiracy involving an alien invasion and the authoritarian government of president Fremont. I love Philip K. Dick novels, but this movie should have been made by someone else. The acting is flat, the dialog needs work, the sound is horrid, the editing and cinematography are all lacking. The timing was off in many of the scenes and the translation from book to film left something behind. I found myself struggling to stay awake during the movie. The pseudo-religious, sci-fi, babblings of characters made me cringe at times. Like I said, I really like Philip K. Dick's novels, but… 1 out of 5.

Summary: Berkeley record store clerk Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) begins to experience strange visions from an entity he calls VALIS that cause him to uproot his family and move to Los Angeles where he becomes a successful music company executive. With the help of best friend, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick himself (Shea Whigam) and a mysterious woman named Silvia (Alanis Morissette), Nick finds himself drawn into a dangerous political-mystical conspiracy of cosmic proportions. The story is set in an alternate reality America circa 1985 under the authoritarian control of President Fremont, a Nixon-like clone (Scott Wilson).

  Title: Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
Genre: Horror, Comedy  Year: 2012  Country: Canada, Denmark  Rating: Starring: Thure Lindhardt, Georgina Reilly, Dylan Smith, Alain Goulem, Paul Braunstein  Director: Boris Rodriguez

My Review: Screenplay written (based on a story by Jonathan Rannells) and directed by Boris Rodriguez (Director for various episodes of television shows: Fatal Vows and Deadly Secrets). Starring Thure Lindhardt, Georgina Reilly, Dylan Smith and others. Thure Lindhardt plays a once famous artist, struggling to find 'inspiration'. Lars has moved to a small Canadian town, where he's taken a position at a local Art School. The school is glad to have him, and he's looking forward to the therapeutic respite offered by this bucolic small town. Unfortunately, he's also saddled with a house guest. Eddie (played by Dylan Smith), the mute, man-child, who suffers from a rather bizarre sort of nocturnal, ambulatory, disorder - He eats small animals in his sleep! If you think that part is weird, you're in for a pleasant surprise. What follows is a charming if somewhat disturbing movie about art, inspiration and some unusual forms of therapy. Well directed, acted and produced. The soundtrack was quite good, as was the editing. The dark humor was perfectly paced and subtly played. The makeup and special effects were exceedingly well done. This movie speaks well of Boris Rodriguez and his debut as a feature-length director. I hope to see more of his work. 3 out of 5.

Summary: Lars Olafssen, once a young celebrity in the art world is slipping away fast into the land of has-beens. His long-time art dealer, Ronny, is now an ungracefully aging hipster who desperately wants his meal ticket back. But Lars refuses to paint. His creativity comes at too high a cost - his inspiration is carnage - blood, guts and limbs. Not surprisingly, this lead to a dreadful breakdown in the past. Nevertheless, an eager Ronny arranges a teaching job for Lars at an art school in Koda Lake, a small Canadian town in the middle of nowhere. It's a "therapeutic" measure for Lars - a means to conquer his need to paint in the "safety" of a country retreat... That is, until Eddie comes into his life.

  Title: Public Enemies
Genre: Crime, Drama, History  Year: 2009  Country: USA, Japan  Rating: Starring: Christian Bale, Christian Stolte, Jason Clarke, Johnny Depp, Stephen Graham  Director: Michael Mann

My Review: Screenplay by three different people (including Michael Mann), based on a book by Bryan Burrough. Directed by Michael Mann (Thief, The Keep, the Last of the Mohicans, Heat), starring Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Christian Stolte, and others. The Great Depression created a climate of unlimited possibilities to organized crime and desperate individuals alike. Here is the story of one such character. Johnny Depp stars as John Dillinger, eclipsing nearly all the other actors in this movie (other than Christian Bale - who's acting was better) about the waning days of John Dillinger. Christian Bale stars as Melvin Purvis - the G man charged with Dillinger's demise. Following Dillinger in his dangerous deeds, the movie moves across the country as Dillinger moves from prison to bank heist to hideout. Based on a book about Dillinger, the movie contained a good deal of factual drama and action. The video effects were well done (especially the firearms effects) and the camera work notable. While Dillinger may have thought that he was center stage, the times were far more momentous than any single man. The FBI was fighting for survival, justification, redemption and expansion. The Mob was doing their best to dominate local governments, remain below the radar and reap the rewards of graft, greed and a low profile. Dillinger served as distraction, threat and catalyst to those larger issues. Excellent editing, acting and production. An epic drama of American ideals. 4 of 5.

Summary: The difficult 1930s is a time of robbers who knock over banks and other rich targets with alarming frequency. Of them, none is more notorious than John Dillinger, whose gang plies its trade with cunning efficiency against big businesses while leaving ordinary citizens alone. As Dillinger becomes a folk hero, FBI head J. Edger Hoover is determined to stop his ilk by assigning ace agent Melvin Purvis to hunt down Dillinger. As Purvis struggles with the manhunt's realities, Dillinger himself faces an ominous future with the loss of friends, dwindling options and a changing world of organized crime with no room for him.

  Title: Pi
Genre: Mystery, Drama, Thriller  Year: 1998  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Stephen Pearlman  Director: Darren Aronofsky

My Review: Aka Faith in Chaos. Screenplay written by Darren Aronofsky (based on a story by Darren Aronofsky, Sean Gullette and Eric Watson). Voice overs written by Darren Aronofsky and Sean Gullette. Brilliant direction by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman and others. Brilliant - A brain twister. Part sci-fi, part history, part documentary. This movie is a shining example of what happens when the right person directs the right film. Shot in black & white, this cerebral thriller confounds the senses. Pleasing to the eye, enthralling to the ears and captivating the mind. The mysteries abound in this strange movie about math and religion. Can someone find god through science? Great casting, great acting and absolutely unstoppable writing. I enjoyed this movie so much that I analyzed it from begining to end and took copious notes. In April of 2015 I purchased a digital version of the film from iTunes (the VHS version was wearing out). This movie gets a 5 out of 5 because that’s the highest rating I give out.

Summary: In NYC's Chinatown, recluse math genius Max (Sean Gullette) believes "everything can be understood in terms of numbers," and he looks for a pattern in the system as he suffers headaches, plays Go with former teacher Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis), and fools around with an advanced computer system he's built in his apartment. Both a Wall Street company and a Hasidic sect take an interest in his work, but he's distracted by blackout attacks, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions..

  Title: Calvary
Genre: Drama  Year: 2014  Country: Ireland, UK  Rating: Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran  Director: John Michael McDonagh

My Review: Screenplay and direction by John Michael McDonagh. Starring Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillen, Dylan Moran, Isaach De Bankole, M. Emmet Walsh, and others. Brendan Gleeson plays Father James in this powerful drama about sin and virtue, revenge and forgiveness. As a small-town priest in Ireland, the Sunday confessional can be a place of redemption or damnation. When one of the parishoners threatens to kill Fr. James in one week's time, Fr. James is sent upon a journey of faith in man, belief in a high-power, and an examination of his own values. It's a bit slow moving at times, but the strength of acting, direction and screenplay are undeniable. There are comedic elements, especially in the acting of Chris O'Dowd and others, but the film's topics are too dark to cover with flippant dialog. The setting is a bucolic small town in Ireland, and the camera work is outstanding in capturing the sense of isolation and closeness that surrounds such a tightly knit community. All the characters in this movie are broken sinners in one way or another, but Fr. James does his best to reveal the goodness in all of them. The score also accentuates the viewing experience in a positive way. The casting is flawless and performances unmatched. If only the film weren't quite so bleak in its outcomes. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Summary: Father James is a small-town priest in Ireland whose Sunday confessionals suddenly include a threat to kill him in a week's time as a matter of principle. Deeply troubled and conflicted about how to respond, Father James tries to go on with his calling through that week. However, that proves impossible as he is confronted with a troubling variety of spiritual challenges from both his estranged daughter and his own parishioners. In those dispiriting struggles, Father James' life begins to fall apart as time runs out towards a confrontation that seems to crystallize his values and what he wants his life to be.

  Title: Frank Herbert's Dune - Director's Cut
Genre: Sci-Fi  Year: 2000  Country: USA  Rating: Starring: William Hurt, Alec Newman, Saskia Reeves, James Watson, Jan Vlasák  Director: John Harrison

My Review: Screenplay and direction (Known mostly for his work/screenplay and direction of television shows (notably Tales from the Darkside) by John Harrison (based upon the novels of Frank Herbert). Starring William Hurt, Alec Newman, Saskia Reeves, P.H. Moriarty, Ian McNeice, Giancario Giannini, and others. A made for TV series (three episodes). A Sci-Fi channel mini-series production. This particular version is the directors cut. Three discs and 295 minutes of viewing. It's a good thing I'm on vacation! I love the Dune series of books. The absolute best books I've ever read (including the novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson). This epic series manages to capture a small piece of the rich tapestry woven by those books. In a far, far, future, mankind has colonized the universe, conquered space, and become a highly evolved, highly specieized race of beings, inhabiting all manner of environment. Despite the technological, psychological and physical achievements of mankind, the universe is still ruled by corruption, intrigue and deception. In this futuristic vision of mankind's fate, an obscure desert planet and it's hardy desert dwellers become the focal point for an evolutionary change in mankind's struggle. As man teeters on the brink of a new dark age, one man becomes the fulcrum, destined to tip the balance one way or the other. The series fulfills the pageantry of Frank Herbert's vision. Populated with a rich, colorful palette of characters, some excellent special effects (considering the budget for six hours of production) and acting. The story is epic, dramatic, and powerful. I love it. 5 out of 5.

Summary: A three part mini-series based on Frank Herbert's classic Science Fiction novel entailing politics, betrayal, lust, greed and the coming of a Messiah.


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