Tag Archives: thriller


MV5BODgyODc1Njg0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjM4NDA2MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I was speaking with friends on the internet last week about how the Friday the 13th series of movies from the ’80s has an emergent continuity. That is to say, there was nobody with an overarching vision of how the series would turn out, or for that matter how many movies there would be or on what schedule. Nevertheless, each new film built on the last, keeping track of what had gone before and incrementally advancing the gestalt image of Jason Voorhees that is now a part of the shared cultural experience.

Spectre is the, what, fifth James Bond movie since the series was rebooted? No, fourth I see. I know that the first two went in sequence, and then apparently in my head the third one contained two movies? Which makes it sound bad, but I did not and retrospectively do not find it to be so. It contains guns, explosions, chases, hot chicks, and vodka martinis. Which is to say, yep, James Bond movie. But it definitely has the same emergent continuity that I had observed earlier that week, elsewhere. (Because I saw it opening weekend and still took this long. Sigh.) Maybe it was a writer taking advantage, or maybe it was actually planned all along; all I know is it did not feel cheap or unearned when it happened. Is that because I know about SPECTRE from the previous continuity? It could be, but I’m a fan of the series and so I don’t mind if that’s why.

Lastly: Christoph Waltz of recent Tarantino fame continues to impress mightily.


MV5BMTQwOTA5Mzc3Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkxODAxMDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Before telling you that you definitely want to avoid +1[1], I should at least try to explain what happens in it. So, the first layer of the onion is that it’s one of those high school / early college break-up movies where the boy and the girl have some kind of valid or contrived misunderstanding, and then the one who isn’t pissed tries to make up with the one who is at a big, raunchy teen movie house party, while various secondary stories play out and roadblocks keep appearing to prevent the inevitable reconciliation.

The complicating factor is some kind of space-spawned electrical disturbance that resets time weirdly. So, like, the first one jumps everything backward about 20 minutes, and you have the people who already lived through those 20 minutes and the people from 20 minutes ago, now both existing at the same time. (Not occupying the same space, because the vast majority of partygoers end up in different locations right before the jump, which is convenient I guess?) Then the same thing happens again, but the backward jump is only like 10 minutes the next time, and so forth. Inexplicably, there are never more than two sets of people, but whatever, go with it. Poorly thought out consequences is not why you want to avoid this movie.

Honestly, the background stories all kind of worked. The nerdy girl’s search for peace, the rowdy best friend’s search for a hot chick to bang, the big group’s reaction to the weird happenings going on around them mostly unnoticed, each of these stories plays out in novel or at least believable ways, which is more than you can say for most teen house party movies. But the main story about the boy trying to reconcile with his wronged ex-girlfriend? It starts off in the exact formulaic way you would expect, with him using found knowledge from the time rewind to get his reconciliation speech just right. And then it gets seriously a whole lot worse, without any kind of ultimate consequence or useful lesson.

Long story short: I want to kick this movie in the nuts. And then I want a time loop to jump back 20 minutes, so I can kick it in nuts again at about 19:30, and then the other me kicks it again immediately afterwards.

[1] Because you should avoid it, I’m not going to be shy about the spoilers. If for some reason you think I’m wrong and you want to see it anyway, probably don’t read this review? Also, make sure you’re good on blood pressure meds.

Project Almanac

MV5BMjIyOTYxMjM0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTE2NTI3MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Did you ever see The Butterfly Effect? The one with Kelso from the 70s Show, right before he turned into Ashton Kutcher? If not, definitely watch that instead. But if you have, it’s probably been quite a while, and you may be ready to walk that territory again. Project Almanac is an MTV movie about a bunch of high school students who find themselves via quirks of causality in possession of the ability to time travel.

Then, they use it to do the kinds of things high school students as envisioned by MTV would do (pass chemistry, go to Lollapalooza, you know), until, inevitably, things start to go wrong. Which is what the movie is really about.

I liked it well enough, probably because of how much I liked the other movie in the first place? I assume it was meant to be neither an indictment nor a non-judgmental representation of how high school popularity works, but instead accidentally represented and indicted that process. And from a time travel logistics perspective, well, I had issues. They used and tossed out causality pretty much at whim, which is annoying simply because time travel logic needs to be internally consistent. Pick your method, but then stay there. That’s all I ask.

Like I said, the only reason to watch this is if you can’t watch the Butterfly Effect for the first time instead. Not because Project Almanac was bad; it wasn’t. It just wasn’t nearly good enough.

88 (2014)

MV5BMjM2ODQxMjU3Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzc1OTE2MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY847_Remember Ginger Snaps? I do, very fondly, even if my viewing of the original movie barely predated my starting to review things. Remember Ginger? ….no, not from Gilligan’s Island, this Ginger, the one I was literally just talking about? My point is, Katharine Isabelle’s face was tugging at my recollection the whole time I was watching 88 on the strength of its Memento-like description on Netflix.

To be clear, this is no Memento. But it does have a cool fragmented parallel story structure where you can’t tell what’s real. The hot girl in the poster (Ginger, you guys, why is this not sinking in?) has obviously had a psychotic break[1], but still, something you’re seeing must be real, surely! And it’s pretty fun trying to figure out what. Long story short, I’ve made bigger Netflix mistakes than this.

[1] Sounds like a spoiler, possibly is a spoiler, but they say it in text at the front of the movie before you’ve even seen her come to herself, confused, in front of a stack of pancakes.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

MV5BMTYyNzUxMzc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDE3MDM3Mg@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_This is weird. On the one hand, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a perfectly serviceable spy movie, in the fish-out-of-water subgenre. It hits all the right beats, it has compelling stakes, both international and personal, and it’s a story worth telling. On the second hand, it’s also a perfectly serviceable Tom Clancy prequel never written, if for some reason you didn’t like that The Hunt for Red October covers the same territory or (more likely) you cannot successfully launch a new franchise reboot while treading international political waters that are 25 years out of date.

The problem is that, despite both of these things being true, the confluence of them feels unnecessary. I mean, I’m completely fine with a Jack Ryan reboot and I hope it worked out and there will be more, because I liked the characters and the premise and I want to see more. Nevertheless, if they had not tacked the name onto the title, I never would have felt like this was a Clancy ripoff. It just did not, in ways I cannot easily express, feel like a Tom Clancy story. This is not, per se, an indictment. Like I said: pretty good movie. I just feel weird saying I liked it without saying that it was also inexplicably branded.

If there are more, I think I hope they feel more Clancyish. Because otherwise, what was the point, really? Oh, but before I forget: Kenneth Branagh did a great job of acting a character that deserved a bigger arc. I cannot speak to his direction because, clearly, the film has left me bewildered for reasons that are unrelated to its factual quality.


MV5BMTYyNzUxMzc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDE3MDM3Mg@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_How to write a review of something that you’d prefer to say literally nothing about, and in fact regret having put genre tags down for? It’s a tricky conundrum, is what. Well, that’s not fair. It’d be very, very easy if I didn’t care whether you watched it, but the truth is that you should, because it’s a very intriguing premise and execution.

Pontypool is, aside from being a movie, a very small town in Ontario. I know this because about twenty minutes into the movie, I looked it up out of curiousity. From my ability to extrapolate Google Maps into the real world, it should have maybe one stop light that goes to flashing after sundown. Four square blocks? Big enough to have a radio station, which is relevant in that the entire course of action occurs in the local AM station, where smooth-voiced news host Grant Mazzy, um, reads and hosts the news on the morning after he has an inexplicable encounter on a foggy road during his commute. For the rest… I want to say nothing, but I can’t justify saying nothing, so I’m going to quote the opening paragraph of the movie, which is Grant broadcasting on a day recently prior to the day the movie takes place. If you can dig the quote, I reckon you will dig the movie.

Mrs. French’s cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. “Have you seen Honey?” We’ve all seen the posters, but nobody has seen Honey the cat. Nobody. Until last Thursday morning, when Miss Colette Piscine swerved her car to miss Honey the cat as she drove across a bridge. Well this bridge, now slightly damaged, is a bit of a local treasure and even has its own fancy name; Pont de Flaque. Now Collette, that sounds like Culotte. That’s Panty in French. And Piscine means Pool. Panty pool. Flaque also means pool in French, so Colete Piscine, in French Panty Pool, drives over the Pont de Flaque, the Pont de Pool if you will, to avoid hitting Mrs. French’s cat that has been missing in Pontypool. Pontypool. Pontypool. Panty pool. Pont de Flaque. What does it mean? Well, Norman Mailer, he had an interesting theory that he used to explain the strange coincidences in the aftermath of the JFK assasination. In the wake of huge events, after them and before them, physical details they spasm for a moment; they sort of unlock and when they come back into focus they suddenly coincide in a weird way. Street names and birthdates and middle names, all kind of superfluous things appear related to each other. It’s a ripple effect. So, what does it mean? Well… it means something’s going to happen. Something big. But then, something’s always about to happen.

John Wick

MV5BMTU2NjA1ODgzMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM2MTI4MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Ironically, I remember John Wick plenty well, since I only saw it like a week ago. Well, no, that’s not ironic at all. That was the premise for the actually ironic thing, which is how little I want to say about the movie.

Partly this is because it’s a non-science-fictional action movie starring Keanu Reeves, and I think everyone on the planet has decided whether they are interested in that movie no matter what I have to say about it. But mostly it’s because this is the purest, least objectionable[1] revenge movie ever made, and I don’t want to take anything away from the impact of that purity and clarity of focus by actually discussing it.

So if you need catharsis for something? This might well work.

[1] Least objectionable motive for revenge, is what I mean to say. Obviously, objectionable things happen, not least among them the impetus.

The Equalizer

MV5BMTQ2MzE2NTk0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTM3NTk1MjE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I know I saw The Equalizer before Myschievia, because I saw it the same day I bought my new canvas tent, which while not as waterproof as advertised, is far more waterproof than I have ever had a tent be in the past. Which is to say, more than a month ago.

I’m kind of sad that this has to be one of the shoddy movie reviews I had mentioned earlier (in point of fact, I may have seen it before I finished reading the Stormlight book, they were within 24 hours of each other, but who can remember?), because I had some thoughts about race and remakes while watching it that I no longer feel comfortable delving into, with the material no longer fresh in my mind. Something about the lack of black action heroes (well, since the ’70s anyway) and incorporating a comedy routine I heard sometime in that same time period but no longer remember the author of that discussed black remakes of what had been white movies, and the cultural shifts that occur and how this movie doesn’t really have that, but it’s all too vague and muddled in my head to feel particularly comfortable making a go at it.

Still and all, if you were wondering whether an action/mystery series from the mid ’80s with a British protagonist needed a modern-updated prequel starring Denzel Washington, with Hit Girl as an Eastern European prostitute who is his initiating client, the answer is: yeah, I’d keep watching that series. (In fact, there’s a sequel in development, but man, just like Star Trek: The Reboot Picture, this would be far better served by a TV season than a movie every two or three years.)

The Purge

MV5BMTU0OTE1Nzk2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE5NDY0OQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The number of things I have to review since this time on Thursday of last week is frankly astonishing. First up, The Purge, which I was reminded of when advertisements for the first of what I presume will be half a dozen sequels starting airing on, I don’t know, the radio? Somewhere, anyway. Then, for a wonder, the first movie of whatever series you happen to be thinking of[1] was actually available for free on my Roku search during the timeframe in which its sequel was dominating the media. Thanks, HBOGo!

Anyway, it’s the near future. Like, ten years from now. And the “new founding fathers” have instituted an annual 12 hour purge, in which all crime, up to murder[2], is legal, with the exceptions that you cannot use “class 4 and above weaponry” and that there are some small number of government officials who are immune. Of course, the hammer falls hardest on those without the monetary wherewithal to hide themselves behind gates and walls, but this is all good because between the shrinking indigent population and the annual catharsis, crime is way down and people feel safe all the rest of the year. Pretty much everyone digs it! Except for people who have been negatively affected, of course, and they hardly count.

Into this morality play is dropped Ethan Hawke, his inexplicably raven-tressed Lannister wife, his needlessly over-sexualized schoolgirl daughter[3], and his moral son, who drops the lot of them in a kettle of boiling fish, or some such metaphor, when he lets a nameless, terrified, and conspicuously black young man into the house after hearing the latter pleading for someone, anyone, to help him. The stage set, about 15 simultaneous games of cat-and-mouse begin. Can the injured young man be trusted? Is it suspicious that the schoolgirl’s boyfriend has picked tonight of all nights to have a man-to-man discussion with Ethan Hawke about his relationship with Hawke’s daughter? What about the people who injured that other guy in the first place? How far with Hawke go to defend his family? Will it be too far? Will it be far enough? Isn’t Lena Headey usually tougher than this? Will the neighbors band together against the external threat? If so, which one(s)? Pretty much the whole movie is Choose Your Own Adventure: Bloody Morality with Racist Overtones edition.

It seems heavy-handed on paper, but I honestly thought it was pretty effective. 1) Because like it or not, there’s no way to tell what anyone’s motives truly are, especially on a night when there are no legal consequences. 2) Because, even if you do want to take a moral stand, or at least a stand geared toward trust rather than betrayal, there’s no guarantee that circumstances will allow you that luxury. Nobody should be put in the position of valuing one life over another, but “should” is also a luxury that we aren’t always allowed.

[1] In this case, it should probably be The Purge, though.
[2] Except rape, right? Right? RIGHT? Because what possible good would that serve, even if you can come to a truce in your mind that the rest of the plan has some kind of upside? The movie did not really address this question at all, which was probably better news for my peace of mind than if it had.
[3] If she had not stayed in the schoolgirl uniform the whole movie, it would not have been even a third as blatant, I don’t think.

Taken 2

MV5BMTkwNTQ0ODExOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjU3NDQwOA@@._V1__SX1537_SY747_Ran out of TV to watch, didn’t feel like going anywhere, and I live in a streaming utopian future where I have access to almost as much human entertainment as I have to human knowledge. (Not in my pocket, so much, because who wants to watch a movie on a 5″ screen?) So, I poked around to see what was showing on my various Roku channels, and spotted Taken 2. I was talking about that just recently, so, hey, why not?

It’s exactly what you’d expect out of a straightforward sequel. Liam Neeson is still a CIA-skinned Jedi Master who goes globe-trotting on occasion in order to overturn kidnapping scenarios involving his family. If you saw the first movie, or if you’ve seen any movie where spies and bad guys chase each other around European cities, there’s really nothing you need me to tell you about it. It’s a mostly competent example of the genre with occasional plot holes big enough to drive a stolen taxi through, but that isn’t really a big deal because the next explosion two scenes from now will take your mind right off of it.

Premise, if you care: remember how Neeson plowed through the kidnapping ring to rescue his daughter last time? An Albanian family wants revenge for one of the trail of bodies he left behind, so when Neeson’s family vacations in Istanbul, the time is ripe to strike back. And you’ll never guess who gets Taken, Too! Haha, I kill me. But seriously, no Chekhov’s gun goes unfired, no Chekhov’s grenade pin goes unpulled, no Chekhov’s learning permit goes unviolated. (Actually, that’s not fair, her father was in the car the whole time.) But the raw point stands. Excess is here, right where it should be, and I’m going to put a little effort into finding Taken 3 now that I know these people follow the rules of sequels.