20161124: Comedy Review--Intolerable Cruelty

Name: Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
IMDb: link to Intolerable Cruelty page

Genres: Comedy.   Country of origin: USA.

Geoffrey Rush as Donovan Donaly, Stacey Travis as Bonnie Donaly, Jack Kyle as Ollie Olerud, Cedric the Entertainer as Gus Petch.

George Clooney as Miles Massey, Edward Herrmann as Rex Rexroth, Jonathan Hadary as Heinz the Baron Krauss von Espy, Paul Adelstein as Wrigley, Tom Aldredge as Herb Myerson.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Marylin, Richard Jenkins as Freddy Bender, Billy Bob Thornton as Howard D. Doyle, Julia Duffy as Sarah Sorkin.

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen.  Written by: Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone.
the trap

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Donovan interrupts Bonnie cheating on him with Ollie.  Donovan is enraged, and takes gunshots at the cheaters.  Bonnie engages Miles to defend her.  Miles shellacs Donovan, even though Bonnie is more deeply in the wrong.

2. Marylin employs Gus Petch to get damning evidence on her real estate developer husband Rex.  It looks bad for Rex, but Miles digs up the creature who targeted Rex for Marylin.

3. Marylin marries Howard using the Massey prenup, which is supposed to be a strong wall against divorce for the sake of monetary gain.  Marylin finds a way around it.

Delineation of conflicts:
After Marylin successfully fleeces Howard, Miles is drawn to her availability since he finds a void in his life.  Marylin seems sad over Sarah's life, which seems empty despite her great wealth obtained by fleecing three husbands.

So...what will happen after they get married?  Who will prevail in this battle of the fakes?

Resolution: There are several twists and turns in this clever and deeply bitter depiction of love and marriage in Los Angeles and the USA in general.

One line summary: Feelings and money are the stakes.


Cinematography: 9/10 Nicely shot.

Sound: 8/10 The dialog was easy to understand.  The parallel music was usually appropriate to the scenes.

Acting: 8/10 Clooney and Zeta-Jones were fine.  Billy Bob Thornton was fun as usual, had delivered some surprises.  I liked all the minor players.

Screenplay: 10/10 Witty, funny, irreverent.

Final rating: 9/10 Another sweet comedic effort from the Coen Brothers.


20161121: Horror Review--I Survived a Zombie Holocaust

Name: I Survived a Zombie Holocaust (2014)
IMDb: link to I Survived a Zombie Holocaust page

Genres: Horror   Country of origin: NZ.

Harley Neville as Wesley Pennington, Jocelyn Christian as Susan Ford, Ben Baker as Tane Henare, Reanin Johannink as Jessica Valentine, Mike Edward as Adam Harrison, Andrew Laing as SMP,

Directed by: Guy Pigden.  Written by: Guy Pigden,

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
The film is set on a zombie movie shoot in remote area of New Zealand.  The male lead actor is a jerk and the female lead is a diva.  New runner Wesley, just out of film school, starts his job on a day when personnel are mysteriously disappearing.

The director, SMP, is a dictatorial prima donna.  The cook, due to the quality of her product, is not beloved.

Delineation of conflicts:
As with every zombie film, the zombies want to eat the humans, and the humans do not want to be eaten.  The humans eventually figure out how to kill zombies and gather the clarity to do the deed early and often.  Ample evidence of this resolve does not deter the zombies.

When the two leads become indisposed, SMP tries out the runner and the cook as replacements.  SMP would like to finish his film, but the zombies keep giving him personnel problems.  Also, they seldom obey him.

Resolution: The film does get finished, but without SMP, his second in command, the lead actors, or the original zombie extras.

One line summary: Zombie film shoot.


Cinematography: 6/10 Sometimes fine, other times poor.

Sound: 6/10 No particular problems.  The background music was too florid for me.

Acting: 0/10 There was acting?

Screenplay: 2/10 One bad cliche deserves three more.

Final rating: 2/10


20161120: Crime Review--The Sin Seer

Name: The Sin Seer (2015)
IMDb: link to The Sin Seer page

Genres: Crime.   Country of origin: USA.

Cast: (voice)
Lisa Arrindell as Rose Ricard, Isaiah Washington as Grant Summit, Michael Ironside as Alexander Rachet, Sally Richardson-Whitfield as Nia, C Thomas Howell as Detective Rigers, Carrie Anne Hunt as Melissa, Richard Brooks as Jake Ballard.

Directed by: Paul D. Hannah.  Written by: Paul D. Hannah.
Grant Summit
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
PI Rose and her receptionist Melissa pick up Grant Summit from prison.  Grant interviews Abagail Landers, whose boxer husband Daniel Landers has been missing for three months. She was referred to Rose by Detective Rigers, who thinks Rose has a gift.  Abagail is convinced that Daniel is still alive.

Delineation of conflicts:
The police are done with the case.  Rose decides to take the matter on.  She and Grant pursue the truth, and dig up a nest of problems.

Rose has a gift for knowing the true intentions of those whom she interviews.  This leads to a lot of disagreements about procedure.

Grant is a former boxer who trained at the same gym as Daniel Landers.  Boxing gyms always have their secrets, and Grant's probing of old problems is not appreciated by all.

Grant has a past that landed him in prison.  Have the motives driving him in the past been cleansed, or is he part of the current problem?

Resolution: There are a number of deaths before the source of the problem is neutralised.  The problem is, what exactly is the central problem?  The mob, the cops, or Grant?

One line summary: Female PI with psychic gifts.


Cinematography: 4/10 A narrow depth of focus follows through many scenes.  Other parts of the film are gorgeous in HD.  The mixing is strange.  The use of Dutch angles made good sense in some scenes, and not so much in others.  There were intervals of shaky cam footage, which added to the overall impression that the film was a hodgepodge, not a coherent professional effort.

Sound: 5/10 Not the best.  The dialog sounded hollow all too often.  The incidental music was atmospheric now and then, but did not add all that much.

Acting: 4/10 Michael Ironside's performance was pretty good, as was Isaiah Washington's.  I like Sally Richardson-Whitfield in some properties, but not so much in this one.  The rest of the cast seemed iffy at best.  C. Thomas Howell's role was rather short; one gets the feeling that he was present just to have another recognisable name.

Screenplay: 3/10 Some of the lines sounded outright stupid, which I usually don't care for.  The many biblical quotes seemed more like smoke and mirrors than statements addressing particular points.  The exposition of motivations was often murky.  There were quite a number of flashbacks. There were so many that I found some passages to be chaotic, rather than illustrative.

One also wonders how it is that Grant suffers no legal consequences for all the murders he commits during the film.  Some of these were not concealed in the least, and yet he was not arrested.

Final Rating: 4/10


20161119: Comedy Review--No Reservations

Name: No Reservations (2007)
IMDb: link to No Reservations page

Genres: Comedy   Country of origin: USA.

Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones as Kate Armstrong, Aaron Eckhart as Nicholas Palmer, Abigail Breslin as Zoe, Bob Balaban as therapist, Patricia Clarkson as Paula, Jenna Wade as Leah, Bryan F. O'Byrne as Sean.

Directed by: Scott Hicks.  Written by: Carol Fuchs (screenplay), Sandra Nettelbeck (screenplay).

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Kate is the chef at a posh Manhattan restaurant.  She's a bit intense, and her boss Paula has demanded that she goes into therapy.  Kate fends off her therapist by cooking him dishes that he seldom can resist.

Kate's sister comes to visit.  On the way, she and niece Zoe are involved in an accident.  Zoe is OK, but the sister is not.  Kate has to take over care of Zoe.

Delineation of conflicts:
While Kate took time off, Paula hired Nick.  Nick and Kate have a number of differences about cooking.

Zoe and Kate do not know each other.  That takes time.  Zoe starts to like Nick, his Italian food, and his confident exuberance.

Kate's boss Paula gets on Kate's nerves one too many times.

Resolution: People get to know each other; this often solves romantic and familial problems.  The problems between Paula and Kate are harder to address.

One line summary: Two alpha cooks get to know each other.


Cinematography: 6/10 Fuzzy.  I did not like it.

Sound: 8/10 Mostly OK.  Most of the music was good accompaniment.

Acting: 6/10 I usually like Aaron Eckhart, but I disliked his acting a lot in this one.  Ms Zeta-Jones was fine, as was Bob Balaban.  Abigail Breslin, as usual, was better than expected.

Screenplay: 8/10 As romantic comedies go, this was rather nice.

Final rating: 7/10


20161118: Action Review--Painkillers

Name: Painkillers (2015)
IMDb: link to Painkillers page

Genres: Action   Country of origin: USA.

Tahmoh Penikett as Major John Cafferty, Erica Durance as Trudy, Leslie-Anne Brandt as Guts, Colm Feore as Dr Troutman, Julia Voth as Masters, Riza Santos as Madeline, Roger Leblanc as Talbott, Travis Friesen as Carlyle.

Directed by: Peter Winther.  Written by: Peter Winther, Kirk Roth, Jason Grace.

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
A small group of mercenaries goes on a tough mission.  They wake up in a medical facility, or so it seems.  They remember bits and snatches.  The staff members are supposed to help them recall.

Delineation of conflicts:
Majestic Global Dynamics (the ones impersonating a medical staff) wants an alien power source. The  mercenaries were sent to obtain it. They failed, supposedly, and the search object messed with their memories.  Majestic tries to get them to remember their mission.  Sure.

Resolution: The motives of all involved were questionable.  The betrayals seem endless, but the motivations were largely absent.

One line summary: Shabby amnesia story.


Cinematography: 5/10 There is so much poor CGI to go with the cheap sets.

Sound: 5/10 The dialog recorded fine, but the music seemed mostly discordant with the plot direction.

Acting: 3/10 Pretty poor, except perhaps for Colm Feore.

Screenplay: 1/10 This is a 15 minute story expanded out to 103 minutes.  The 15 minutes was not that good.

Final Rating: 2/10 What was the point of this film?

20161118: Drama Review--Burning Bodhi

Name: Burning Bodhi (2016)
IMDb: link to Burning Bodhi page

Genres: Drama   Country of origin: USA.

Cody Horn as Ember, Landon Liboiron as Dylan.

Kaley Cuoco as Katy, Eli Vargas as Miguel, Sasha Pieterse as Aria, Virginia Madsen as Naomi, Andy Buckley as Buck, Meghann Fahey as Lauren.

Directed by: Matthew McDuffie.  Written by: Matthew McDuffie.
Dylan and Katy
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Ember in New Mexico calls Dylan in Chicago to ask him to come back for Bodhi's funeral services.  Dylan has many issues surrounding Bodhi, and would rather not go.  Miguel is also in Chicago, and offers Dylan a ride to Albuquerque.

Miguel waits for Dylan...and waits, and waits.  During the waiting, he meets the very pregnant Aria, who wants to continue her trip from West Virginia to California.  Dylan decides late, and flies to New Mexico without saying a proper good-bye to his girlfriend Lauren.

Delineation of conflicts:
When arriving in Albuquerque, Dylan stays first with Ember, who takes him to meet Katy (fireworks), then his father (more fireworks).

There are many issues to resolve.  Katy and Dylan dated in high school, but Dylan left for college, then stayed away.  Katy stayed because her father messed up her financial aid.  Afterword, she has an affair and child with Bodhi.  Dylan and Katy are very far apart about this.

Dylan's mother left his father for a time for 'the pool guy' and Dylan is still very angry with his mother about this.  Dylan's father (sort of) adopted a younger son before Dylan left for college; there is still friction on that front.

Most of the characters (Ember, Katy, Dylan, Miguel) try to get clear about their feelings before the 'viewing' at a church and the fun-eral (not funeral) sponsored by Ember.

Resolution: Some issues get ironed out, others get a reset.

One line summary: Millennials discover mortality.


Cinematography: 10/10 Well done.

Sound: 10/10 No complaints.  Some lovely music was chosen.

Acting: 8/10 I had no particular complaints.

Screenplay: 8/10 This 93 minute film moved right along.  I found the film both funny and touching.  However, if one does not like millennials or their issues, this property might drag.  As a man with four millennials in his immediate family, I had no problem connecting with the humor and pathos.

Final Rating: 9/10


20161117: Comedy Review--Night of the Living Deb

Name: Night of the Living Deb (2015)
IMDb: link to Night of the Living Deb page

Genres: Comedy   Country of origin: USA.

Maria Thayer as Deb Clarington, Michael Cassidy as Ryan Waverly, Chris Marquette as Chazz Waverly, Ray Wise as Frank Waverly, Syd Wilder as Stacy, Julie Brister as Ruby.

Directed by: Kyle Rankin.  Written by: Kyle Rankin, Andy Selzer.
Deb and Ryan
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
In Portland, Maine, Deb and Ruby are at a bar the night before the American Fourth of July celebration.  Ruby encourages Deb to hook up with the tall fellow at the bar.  Deb does that.  But after hitting on Ryan, Ryan's fiancee Stacy shows up.  Stacy is not pleased with Deb's presence.

Deb wakes up in Ryan's bed.  Ryan is on the phone trying to figure out how to separate himself from Deb.  Deb and Ryan have a rocky conversation, then decide to split up, to see the people they expect to see, and do the usual July 4 activities.

Unfortunately, there are a huge number of zombies about town.  All the parties seem to have been cancelled.

Delineation of conflicts:
The zombies like to eat regular humans.  Humans don't really care for this.

Deb and Ryan look for news and help.  Both are hard to find since the Internet is down, the local television station is down, and the local radio is down.

Their attempts to connect with people fail until they make it to Ryan's father's house.  They soon discover the source of the zombie infection, but have little idea of how to survive the outbreak, despite Ryan's father's wealth.

Resolution: This is a comedy, and there are a lot of unexpected outcomes.

One line summary: Comedic take on the zombie apocalypse.


Cinematography: 10/10 Well shot.

Sound: 8/10 The dialog was easy to hear.  Music was not much of a factor.

Acting: 5/10 Good grief.  Ray Wise did what I expected in terms of acting, and I appreciated that.  The other actors seemed insistent on delivering the lines like they were meant to be taken seriously, which was off-putting to say the least.

Screenplay: 6/10 I laughed fairly regularly at the one liners and the bizarre situations.  The light approach was taken throughout, so I tossed this one in the silly hipster apocalypse bin.

Final Rating: 6/10 I watched this once on Netflix; that was probably enough.


20161116: Documentary Review--Zero Days

Name: Zero Days (2016)
IMDb: link to Zero Days page

Genres: Documentary   Country of origin: USA.

Principal Speakers:
David Sanger wrote a full-fledged article on Stuxnet for the NYT, and the book, Confront and Conceal (2012).
Eric Chien and Liam O'Murchu at Symantec discuss finding the Stuxnet infection, deciding to investigate it thoroughly, then unpeeling many layers.
General Michael Hayden was the director of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) from May 2006 to February 2009, and director of NSA (National Security Agency) from March 1999 to April 2005.  The general could only say so much, but what he did say was insightful.
Colonel Gary Brown is the staff judge advocate for US Cyber Command, Fort Meade.
Emad Kiyaei is the Executive Director or the American Iranian Counsel.
Gary Samore is the Executive Director for Research of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Eugene Kaspersky is a Russian cybersecurity expert and the CEO of Kaspersky Lab.
Ralph Langner is the director of Langner Communications, an independent cybersecurity consulting firm that he founded in 1988.

Directed by: Alex Gibney.  Written by: Alex Gibney.
One of way too many code graphics
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
The Middle East, Europe, Israel, and the USA have a long history together: disagreements, wars, negotiations.

Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear program out of existence.  In more current times, Israel's bombing Iran's nuclear program out of existence seems infeasible.

Delineation of conflicts:
The USA, UK, and Israel hatch a secret program for ending Iran's nuclear program, or at least slowing it considerably.  The film details how this secret program was brought to light through journalistic inquiry, geopolitical competition, and investigation.

Israel and the USA have a serious disagreement about how to use Stuxnet, or Olympic Games, its internal name.  Because of this, the effort does not stay secret, and the mission fails.

What to do in light of this is open to a lot of discussion, especially after it becomes partially public.

Resolution: All the issues are ongoing.  Iran survived Stuxnet, and its nuclear program is doing better than ever.  Our Cyber Command arm of NSA is little known but well funded.  Iran's cyber warfare program is also well-funded and quite energized.  Other nations have joined the race to cyber warfare leadership; for instance, North Korea and mainland China.

One line summary: Stuxnet: origins, consequences


Cinematography: 7/10 The filming of the interviews with experts were professionally done.

The computer graphics were overly repetitive.  For instance, the 3-D code representations were interesting to look at but were only of use three times: showing the expiration date for Stuxnet in the code, showing the PLC model number in the code, and illustrating the Israeli overwrite that fouled up so many things.  However, the code animations were shown a couple of dozen times; most of these showed no purpose other than to move away from talking heads.

The spread of virus maps were shown again and again and again.  The only times they meant much was when the isolation of the target to Iran was shown, and when the Iranian revenge instances hit America.

Sound: 7/10 I could hear the dialog.  The music used tended to be ominous to the point of seeming manipulative.

Acting: z/10 Not applicable here.

Screenplay: 10/10 Nicely assembled.  The solving of the original mystery was nicely done, and the analysis of the consequences of Israeli overwrites was well-presented.  The exposition of the future of cyber warfare was the scariest of them all.  The block of interview time devoted to Homeland Security's wasted efforts was so discouraging.  So many person-hours were lost due to secrecy (right hand does not know what the left hand is doing), along with the taxpayer dollars wasted.

Final Rating: 8/10


20161115: Fantasy Review--Guardians of the Galaxy

Name: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
IMDb: link to Guardians of the Galaxy page

Genres: Fantasy   Country of origin: USA.

Chris Pratt as Quill, Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Djimon Hounsou as Korath, Lee Pace as Ronan, Dave Bautista as Drax, Vin Diesel as Groot (voice), Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, Karen Gillan as Nebula, John C. Reilly as Corpsman Dey, Glenn Close as Nova Prime, Benicio del Toro as The Collector, Brendan Fehr as Corpsman Dey's partner.

Directed by: James Gunn.  Written by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman (screenplay); Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning.
the main five
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Young Peter Quill listens to music on his Walkman in 1988 at a hospital where his mother is dying of cancer.  His mother gives him a gift and asks for his touch.  He refuses, and she dies.  He runs away, only to be captured by parties unknown in a starship.

2. Twenty-six years pass.  Peter Quill still has his Walkman and his 80s music.  Currently he's landed on a planet to obtain an artifact of some sort.  Other parties want the object as well.

Delineation of conflicts:
Thanos wants as many of the Infinity Stones as possible.  The wielders of the Stones can express huge powers, but also can be overcome by the Stones.  Unfortunately, Thanos seems strong enough to wield the Stone, and possibly all six of them.

The Ravagers, who kidnapped Peter some years ago, want the Stone to sell it.  Ronan, a leader of the Kree Empire, wants the Infinity Stone to give to Thanos, who promises to destroy the central planet  Xandar.

Quill's friends in all this mess are Gamora, a 'daughter' of Thanos, who is upset with Dad.  Drax, a large powerful warrior whose wife and daughter were killed by Ronan.  Rocket, an illegal raccoon-cyborg construction, wants Quill for the bounty on him offered by the Ravagers.  Quill manages to gain his loyalty through a variety of misadventures.  Groot is Rocket's ally.

Quill manages to enlist the help of the Ravagers (as long as Yondu gets the Infinity Stone afterward) and the Nova Corps who defend Xandar, to breach Ronan's ship and stop the destruction of Xandar.  Nebula, Thanos' other daughter, wishes to stop them.  Korath, one of Ronan's officers, has the same goal.

To make things more fun, when Ronan gets the Stone, he decides to keep it, rather than let Thanos wield it.

Will Ronan be stopped?  Will Thanos get the Stone anyway, or will Yondu make off with it?  Will Gamora and Nebula ever be friends again?  Will Xandar remain in one piece?  Will Thanos fry Ronan?

Resolution: There is a lot of fighting at the end.  Many, but by no means all, of the issues are settled, and not without significant losses.

One line summary: Comic space opera from Marvel.


Cinematography: 9/10 Much as I do not like CGI, this was rather good.

Sound: 9/10 The dialog was clear.  Some of the old Earth music was good to hear again, even though it was usually wildly inappropriate and disruptive.  Of course, that was its purpose.

Acting: 1/10 Utter and complete scat.  Chris Pratt is a thousand tons of bad.  I've liked Michael Rooker in the past, but not this time.  I would say the same of Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, John C. Reilly, and Glenn Close.

Screenplay: 1/10 Oh, goodness.  This came from a third-rate, bottom of the barrel Marvel comic.  The first class production values did not make up for the flimsiness of the script, the bad casting for Peter Quill, or the direction that did not make proper use of the good actors who were cast.

Final Rating: 5/10

20161115: Comedy Review--Zombieland

Name: Zombieland (2009)
IMDb: link to Zombieland page

Genres: Comedy   Country of origin: USA.

Jesse Eisenberg as Columbus, Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, Emma Stone as Wichita, Abigail Breslin as Little Rock, Amber Heard as 406, Bill Murray as Bill Murray, Derek Graf as Clown Zombie.

Directed by: Ruben Fleischer.  Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick.
Travelling Family
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. We start in Texas, post zombie apocalypse.  A neurotic nerd whom we will later call Columbus (his city of origin) narrates the coming of the apocalypse and the many rules he has used to survive so far.

2. Columbus meets Tallahassee, a middle aged redneck who enjoys killing zombies and is on a quest for the world's remaining intact Twinkies.  At first they are wary of each other, but the fact that they are both human helps them get over that.  They decide to team up, and to go looking for other people.

Delineation of conflicts:
The few remaining human survivors would like to continue living.  The zombies would like to eat them.  Those humans who do survive would like to find missing loved ones, or try to find a new family.

When the two men meet Wichita and Little Rock (a young woman and her tween sister), they get schooled, losing vehicles and weapons more than once.  This goes on for a bit, until the foursome decide to operate together.  They decide to visit a theme park in California where Little Rock thinks there are no zombies.

Resolution: Both surviving and finding lost loved ones is between hard to impossible.

One line summary: Zombie film both humourous and trenchant.


Cinematography: 10/10 Well done.

Sound: 8/10 Competent.  I liked Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls as an intro song.

Acting: 8/10 Woody Harrelson was brilliant.  His delivery of one-liners was good for many a laugh.  Jesse Eisenberg is not one of my favourites, but this was a good role for his particular talents.  Also, he and Harrelson work well off one another.

Screenplay: 7/10 Just what is this property?  I laughed at it, so it's getting a favourable rating from me.  I liked it as a comedy.  As a road picture, it was not too bad, at least if one is OK with sudden, numerous life-and-death fights popping up along the way.  The side trip to Bill Murray's house was a bit too meta for me, but it still had some good lines in it.

Also, the film decidedly had its somber side.  Columbus wonders whether he will find his parents, whether he will find a mate, whether his rules will keep him alive.  By the end of the film, the answers are no, perhaps, and perhaps.  Tallahassee is bound to the loss of his son, and substitutes the quest for Twinkies as his meaning in life.  Wichita and Little Rock just wanted to get to the illusionary place without zombies.  Do they have any other plans?

So, For Whom the Bell Tolls seems quite fitting.  None of the characters have any real vision of the future save dealing with murderous sub-humans.  This does make sense, since there are no longer enough humans left to sustain the race.

Final Rating: 8/10 Watch it for the laughs and the performances done in the moment.

20161115: Thriller Review--Executive Decision

Name: Executive Decision (1996)
IMDb: link to Executive Decision page

Genres: Thriller   Country of origin: USA.

Kurt Russell as Dr David Grant, Steven Seagal as Lt Colonel Austin Travis, Halle Berry as Jean, John Leguizamo as Captain Rat,  Oliver Platt as Dennis Cahill, Joe Morton as Sgt 'Cappy' Metheny, BD Wong as Sgt Louie, Whip Hubley as Sgt Baker, Len Cariou as Sec Defense Charles White, JT Walsh as Senator Mavros, Marla Maples as Nancy, Richard Riehle as Air Marshall George Edwards.

David Suchet as Nagi Hassan, Andreas Katsulas as El Sayed Jaffa, Robert Apisa as Jean-Paul Demou.

Directed by: Stuart Baird.  Written by: Jim Thomas, John Thomas (screenplay).
Cahill and wounded Cappy with bomb
The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Col Travis and his team lead a mission to recover a large quantity of DZ-5, a neural poison.  The mission fails.  Travis is nonplussed plus.

David Grant takes the flying lesson before his first solo flight.  He's hesitant, but his instructor talks him through it.

El Jaffa is kidnapped by agents friendly to the US.  Nagi Hassan and Jean Paul Menou execute a plot to force the West to release Jaffa.  With a half dozen or so other terrorists, they skyjack a 747 with Senator Mavros aboard.

Delineation of conflicts:
The terrorists announce their demands.  Intelligence analyst Dr Grant gets the call while at a black tie affair.  Soon he's in a situation room led by the Secretary of Defense.

The terrorists want Jaffa released.  SecDef and his experts devise a plan to use a stealth plane to insert commandos on the skyjacked 747.  Col Travis and his team volunteer as the commandos.  Dennis Cahill readies the stealth plane and the unique boarding tube.  Dr Grant gets dragooned into going with the commandos to identify Hassan.

Just to make things more interesting, the DZ-5 that Col Travis' team did not extricate is on the airliner attached to a sophisticated bomb.

Just when the plan looks like it will succeed with high likelihood, some unexpected harsh conditions break the boarding tube.  Col Travis and the stealth plane are lost.  With the smaller team, with Col Travis lost, with bomb expert Cappy severely injured, Captain Rat takes tactical command, and Dr. Grant drives the effort to learn what they need to learn to find the leader and accomplish the mission.

Flight attendant Jean is assigned by Nagi to keep the passengers as calm as possible.  The commandos made contact with her to get more information.  She manages to help the commandos and to keep the identity of the air marshall secret.

Senator Mavros thinks he can negotiate with the terrorists.  Will that work out?  The president springs El Jaffa, who asks Nagi to call off blowing up the nerve gas.  Does that go as planned?  Well, no.  The bomb with the nerve gas payload is more complicated than first expected.  Can Cappy get the bomb defused using Cahill's hands?

Resolution: Just about everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.  The decimated commando team, however, has more skill and luck than anyone might hope for.

One line summary: Well-crafted skyjacking thriller.


Cinematography: 9/10 Nicely shot.

Sound: 8/10 The dialog was clear, and the incidental sound was fine.  Music was not a big plus.

Acting: 10/10 I liked the big cast that had quite a number of good performances.  David Suchet was chilling as the lead villain.  Steven Seagal was just right for his unexpectedly short role.  Kurt Russell gave one of his best performances as a man who was hesitant and scared, but also intelligent, expert, and inventive.

John Leguizamo and BD Wong were excellent as the commandos determined to finish the mission despite the adversity.

Oliver Platt was great as a man delivering beyond his usual skill set and level of courage.  Len Cariou, JT Walsh, Halle Berry, and Joe Morton were solid in smaller roles.

Screenplay: 8/10 The film was 133 minutes in runtime, but did not drag.  The plot moved right along, and had no moments where writing stupidity broke through suspension of disbelief.

Final Rating: 9/10

20161115: Horror Review--Dark Shadows

Name: Dark Shadows (2012)
IMDb: link to Dark Shadows page

Genres: Horror   Country of origin: USA.

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard, Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins, Helena Bonham Carter as Dr Julia Hoffman, Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis, Gulliver McGrath as David Collins, Chloe Grace Moretz as Carolyn Stoddard, Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winter, Christopher Lee as Clarney.

Directed by: Tim Burton.  Written by: Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay, story), John August (story).
Barnabas and friends

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
1. Young Barnabas Collins and his family leave Liverpool, England for the Americas in 1752.  Young Angelique Bouchard tries to assert a connection with Barnabas, but her mother forbids it.  The class animosity is present from the beginning.

2. Years pass, and the Collins family prospers strongly in what would become Maine.  Angelique has followed them to the new world.  Angelique seduces Barnabas, but his family would never allow them to marry.  Angelique, now skilled in magic, kills Barnabas' parents for revenge.

3. Barnabas takes over guiding the family fortunes, and Angelique continues to try to be his significant other.  Barnabas becomes enamored of Josette, and rejects Angelique, despite their history.  Angelique takes revenge by killing Josette and turning Barnabas into a vampire.  She engineers his being buried in a strong coffin bound with thick chain.

4. We jump forward in time to 1972, when Barnabas is released by a construction company.

Delineation of conflicts:
Angelique, in one of several identities that she used over the previous 200 years, runs most of the fishing business in Collinsport.  The Collins family is in decline in terms of wealth and influence.

Barnabas contacts Elizabeth, and reveals who he is.  He uses hidden assets to reassert the wealth and influence of the Collins family.  Together they refurbish Collinwood, the family estate.  They recruit fishing captains and modernise the family's cannery.

Angelique tries again to unite with Barnabas, but he will not have it.  After that, the conflict between them resumes in deadly earnest.  Victoria, David's nanny, reminds Barnabas of Josette, which enrages Angelique all the more.

Resolution: Barnabas and Angelique take their feud to extremes.  Collinsport would never be the same.

One line summary: Film version of the 1960s horror soap opera.


Cinematography: 10/10 Beautiful.

Sound: 10/10 I could hear the dialog clearly, and I enjoyed the musical selections, including original music by Danny Elfman.

Acting: 10/10 I loved the cast and their performances.

Screenplay: 8/10 I liked the humour very much.  I thought the plot development moved right along, as it had to in order to cover so much material.  I wish Jonny Lee Miller had gotten more time as the next to insufferable Roger Collins, and that Dr Hoffman's arc might have had more development.

Final Rating: 9/10 I followed the original soap opera, which I enjoyed quite a bit.  This presentation was much better in all aspects: better actors, better script, better performances, better production values.  It was beautiful to watch, witty to listen to, and its ending was delightful.

20161115: Fantasy Review--Day of Reckoning

Name: Day of Reckoning (2016)
IMDb: link to Day of Reckoning page

Genres: Fantasy   Country of origin: USA.

Jason Hurst as David, Heather McComb as Laura, Jay Jay Warren as Tyler, Hana Hayes as Maddy, Barbara Crampton as Stella.

Directed by: Joel Novoa.  Written by: Gregory Gieras.

The Three Acts:

The initial tableaux:
Fifteen years ago, flying carnivorous monsters emerged from a drilling site, then from several more sites around the globe.  The human population eventually beat them back, but not without huge losses.

In the current day, the signs of their coming are repeated.

Delineation of conflicts:
Humans would like to live.  The monsters would like to kill the humans and eat some of them.

Some humans fight each other to live.  Other humans think the monsters are a sign from 'beyond' or whatever, and that humans need to be judged; such humans seem to prefer the monsters to other humans for this reason.

Resolution: Elimination derbies take their tolls.

One line summary: Another fine offering from the Epic Pictures Group.


Cinematography: 4/10 Most of the CGI footage was terrible.  As the film progressed, this got worse. The design of the monsters is chaotic, as if there were dozens of different kinds of monsters.

As for the natural footage, the second half was in the off-white, grey, green, black palette while barely being in focus.

Sound: 4/10 Usually I could hear the dialog.  Music seldom seemed to be an asset.

Acting: 1/10 Few of the people in the film showed any acting experience or skill.

Screenplay: 0/10 Terrible.  Going scene to scene to scene, the monsters might be (a) in the millions and invincible (b) a half dozen that look beatable (c) creatures that are destroyed by contact with water.  This endless inconsistency is pretty tough unless one is in the 'point and laugh' mood.  The minor theme of divine retribution on humans was just thrown in now and then.  Its development never went anywhere.

Final Rating: 2/10 I would not recommend this film to a friend or a stranger or an enemy.