Category Archives: Thriller

Eye in the Sky

Bill I’s Rating – 3.5 out of 5

Very good thriller, which is conducted in real time, of a British coordinated drone surveillance of a couple of highly wanted British ex-pats turned terrorists arming themselves in a house in the middle of a village, preparing  for a suicide attack in Kenya. Helen Mirren is the Colonel running the operation, which turns urgent into a kill mission once they realize that they can prevent a massacre in a populated area. Her General, played by Alan Rickman in his last role, is risk averse, for both political reasons as well as humanitarian reasons to avoid collateral damage to innocent villagers. The Americans are consulted, because there’s an American citizen/terrorist also in the house, and because the actual drone is piloted remotely by US forces in Nevada. Tense throughout, with realistic portrayals of advanced surveillance technology and techniques and very topical decisions that have to be made and the protocol that has to be followed where the wrong decision could result in massive negative PR repercussions. I would rate this movie higher except when comparing it to Zero Dark Thirty it falls a little short.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I liked this a lot as well.  There’s good tension throughout. The movie does a good job of showing the military options and perspectives as well as the political considerations from a lot of different sides and levels.  Not only does  this show the tough moral choices from the higher up military leaders but also  the lower level operatives as all want to do the right thing under tough circumstances.  This applies not just to those on the ground potentially risking their lives but also from those thousands of miles away.  The director also did a good job of getting us to know the potential collateral damage as the decision makers debated the legality/urgency/morality of trading a high probability of small collateral damage caused by their actions vs high casualties that could be attributed to the terrorists.

This is definitely worth seeing.

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Eye in the Sky Poster

The Big Short

Bill I’s Rating – 4.5 out of 5

Excellent, thriller believe it or not, even though the ending is not in doubt, i.e. the housing market collapses, some banks go under and others need to be bailed out, and many people lose huge percentages of their net worth. This is all based on real-life people and events (it’s based on Michael Lewis’ book), although officially a work of fiction. The director deploys cool techniques to educate the audience on what exactly are these “exotic” financial instruments that the banks created to profit on housing bonds, meanwhile exposing them to exponential risks, while some outsiders figure out how to profit on their prediction of a bursting bubble. Have fun when you watch how they explain this in simple terms. Realize after you see this movie that nothing essentially has changed that would prevent such a financial collapse from happening again, and these “too big to fail” mega firms from having to get bailed out by taxpayers once again.

Bill C’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

Not only is this a really entertaining movie, it’s an important movie that tells a story that we seem to have already forgotten and not learned from.

Director Adam McKay, mostly know as comedy director and his collaborations with Will Ferrell, surprises with his ability to clearly inform on a complex subject while throwing in non-traditional touches (I loved his photo montages) to draw us into the movie.  He gets great and quirky performances from Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell and others.

As Bill says, ultimately this movie tells a sad/scary story that unfortunately could happen again. It makes you mad.

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Crimson Peak

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

No, Crimson Peak is not about the heydey of Harvard’s football team. It’s a warning issued by a ghost to an eight year old girl. Which raised a question for me: do ghosts know the future? I guess, at least Dickens thought so in A Christmas Carol, where  The Ghost of Things Yet to Come warns Scrooge of what lies ahead. Which raised another question for me: if the ghost takes all the effort to warn the girl, and by the way (no spoiler alert, it happens in the first couple of minutes), it’s her dead mother warning her little girl, couldn’t the ghost be a little more specific? I mean, who knows what she means by Crimson Peak? How is that exactly going to help her? And why scare the hell out of her in the meantime?

Anyway, this is a very well done film, kept my attention with an interesting plot and excellent scenery, acting, and cinematography. I don’t seek out horror movies, but this movie has just enough creepiness where I was never too grossed out or even too scared. I recommend you see it! Don’t bring your pre-teens though.

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Bill asks  excellent questions.  Especially the ones about why not be  more specific and why can’t the mother be a little less scary to her daughter.  The shocking thing about Bill’s review is he never mentioned nor picked a picture that included his favorite actress, Jessica Chastain!

The movie is directed by Guillermo del Toro, and while this is no Pans Labyrinth, it is a good movie – more for the atmosphere and effects than the plot.  And as Bill says, the right word is creepy – this isn’t a horror movie that will get you jumping out of your seat.

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Phoenix

Bill I’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Really well done “thriller”, with no screen violence, but an atmosphere of distrust, guilt, remembrance, in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of WWII. You see the ruins of buildings everywhere as folks make their way in their daily life, with American troops controlling key check points on the roads. We follow Nelly, a survivor of a German “camp” as she get her horrific facial injuries healed, and emerges with a new face, and a frightened, hesitant personality.  Her close friend is there to help re-integrate her into society, and pushes her to move to the new Jewish enclave in Palestine, where they can live without the fear of being targeted. Nelly is not interested in that, in fact says she’s not Jewish, but is obsessed at finding her husband. She does find him, but he doesn’t recognize her, and there the plot gets complicated and interesting. How she interacts with him, even after her friend says he set her up (and who amongst her friends betrayed her) to be arrested by the Nazis, is the mystery and how she unveils her true self is the thrilling part. My mother was puzzled by the ending but I thought it was pretty clear. See this movie and I’d be interested in hearing your perspective.

Bill C’s Rating – 3 out of 5

I liked this film as well.  The atmosphere of post WWII Berlin is well done.  The plot has some good twists (although I wasn’t sure what happened with Nelly’s friend was needed) and the acting is first rate.  As for the ending, I thought it was perfectly clear from Nelly’s perspective but Johnny’s emotions  at the end were ambiguous (to me anyway).

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Cop Car

Bill C’s review 3.5 out of 5

Cop Car has a very simple premise: two kids are running away from home and stumble upon a hidden, seemingly abandoned police car.  They take it for a joy ride.  Unfortunately, the cop car belongs to a bad (a very bad) cop, and he wants it back.

This is another  movie with a lot of twists and turns that keeps you sitting at the edge of your seat. James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford do a great job as the two kids, and Kevin Bacon is sufficiently menacing as the cop.  

This movie is a lean 86 minutes, so the action moves along swiftly, and there’s good usage of black humor to break up the tension.

This film might be hard to find in theaters.  For those near an Alamo Drafthouse, you might check for it there.

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The Gift

Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5

Prepare to be tense this whole movie, waiting to see what Gordy, the creepy old high school classmate of Simon, has in mind with his escalating, and weird, kindness and yes, gifts, to Simon and his wife, Robyn. The attractive and upwardly mobile couple has just moved into a cool house near Simon’s hometown and run into Gordy, who seems real nice, until the creepiness signals start to emerge. Joel Edgerton is superb as Gordy, and Jason Bateman does a wonderful job portraying the multi-layered Simon. I have always enjoyed watching Bateman, usually in comedies and playing some variance of the same personality, sardonic, quick witted, and besieged by events out of his control. Quite a different character here though. And Rebecca Hall is perfect as the quiet, nice, sensitive wife with some secrets of her own. I won’t write any more of the plot. See this movie if you like well done building up of suspense. Negative spoiler alert: no blood and guts in evidence, so you can enjoy the mind games without worrying about being grossed out.

Bill C’s Rating – 4 out of 5

As Bill says, The Gift is a smart thriller with lots of twists and turns that continue until the very end and leave  you on the edge of your seats.

Not only is Joel Edgerton fine as Gordy, but he also wrote the screenplay and makes his feature directorial debut with this film.  This is the first time I’ve really taken notice of him as an actor, but he has a ton of credits.  In this role, the creepiness just oozes out of him.

If you like Hitchcockian-type films, definitely try to see this one.

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The Connection

Bill C’s review – 3 out of 5

The Connection is a french thriller set in the 1970s.  A magistrate (Jean Dujardin from The Artist) devotes his life to bringing down a finch drug syndicate.  It’s a companion piece to the French Connection, only made 40+ years later and from the perspective of the  French justice system.

While not  as gritty (or as good) as the French Connection this also  has a gritty view as a cop gets totally caught up in his job and puts everything at risk.

If you don’t mind french subtitles this is an above average film.

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Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Michel in Drafthouse Films' The Connection (2015).
Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Michel in Drafthouse Films’ The Connection (2015).

Furious 7

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

When you get to the 7th event in a series like this it’s pretty hard to out-do the stunts from the previous films.  Furious 7 gives it it’s best shot and you’ll either  enjoy the effort  and the absurdity of the stunts or hate the movie.  Luckily I was in the mood to go along for the ride.

This was also the farewell to Paul Walker who dies in an automobile accident before the film was finished. The film was delayed as they rewrote the movie to incorporate his departure and to use his brother to shoot his final scenes.  While the film manipulated your expectations with his farewell  they did an ok job here.

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A Most Wanted Man

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

A Most Wanted Man is a good spy thriller based on a John le Carre novel.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last roles, plays Gunther, a  German spy operative in Hamburg fighting the war on terror in the post 9/11 world.  This movie is not an action movie – it’s a more subtle spy story relying on detailed and sometimes slow digging into the details to build a case.  What makes the movie interesting is not just Gunther trying to build these two cases and determining how high up the chain he can get but seeing him try to maneuver against those that should be his partners  – other German police organizations and his counterparts in the CIA.  The movie comes together with a few surprises in the end.

Hoffman is excellent in an understated way and this has a good supporting cast with Rachel  McAdams and Willem Dafoe also playing Germans and Robin Wright as a CIA operative.

If you look for a lot of action in your spy thrillers you might find parts of this a little slow  but I enjoyed it.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

I’m definitely in the minority as I just considered this an ok super hero movie.  Maybe if I was more of a Captain America fan I would have liked this more.

I enjoyed the first half better but the film lost me as more of the character motivations and plot were revealed.  I simultaneously thought some of the plot was too over the top while other parts were too predictable.   Other movies have done a better job of commenting on current events like shrinking freedoms in a dangerous world and disclosures of government secrets.

While the action was ok I also didn’t think that was outstanding.  Maybe the great reviews and my anticipation of the first summer blockbuster (summer keeps coming earlier and earlier! ) set my expectations too high.

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