Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: Citezenfour(2014)

Movie My Way: Citezenfour

Citizenfour

This past week, the trailer for Snowden by Oliver Stone was released.  It is Hollywood film that centers around the now infamous Edward Snowden.  In case you weren’t aware, he was a top level NSA contractor who was tasked with managing and analyzing data systems within the NSA.  He eventually “blew the whistle” on this government agency when he discovered that they were running systems that spied or illegally monitored ALL major digital communications like e-mail, cell phones and internet browsing.  When I say all, that means you too.  If you have a cell phone or use a computer, the data that you create in these systems are ingested by the NSA.  Their reasoning is that under the Patriot Act, they need to be able to monitor all of these communications to ensure Homeland safety against terrorism.  Some call Snowden a liberator.  According to the government, he is a traitor.  What he did can be a major point of controversy with a lot of Americans.  My wife and I differ greatly on our opinions in the matter.  I can see both sides of the story but since I have made a career of working with large amounts of data and extracting insights from business data, I understand intimately how data is king and can be misused if used inappropriately.  This documentary centers around the days, minutes and hours leading up to the actual articles being published in the press and the governments reaction to the releases.  It is a sometimes slow, but very tense documentary that goes into detail about what not only the United States government is doing but how they partner with other governments to accomplish the same tasks.  If you want to be versed on the real story of Edward Snowden before the film comes out later this year, I highly recommend that you give this a watch.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★★★★☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: The Boy(2016)

Movie My Way: The Boy

The Boy

I mentioned this film in my earlier review of another film with the same name.  Though I still prefer that version to this one,  I’ll give this one a fair shake as well.  This version of The Boy stars Lauren Cohan, Maggie from The Walking Dead television show as an American escaping an abusive relationship in America to the English countryside to for a babysitting job for an old wealthy couple only to find out that their “child” is actually a porcelain doll.  Of course you would move to the other side of the world for a babysitting job and not go deeper on your job and responsibilities first.  Makes perfect sense to me.  Of course once the couple leaves for their vacation to very strange things begin to happen around the house.  I thought this film was executed pretty well for what it was.  It at least wasn’t completely incompetent. It is a PG-13 thriller so there are plenty of false scares all over the place but not as many as I had suspected and I was a little surprised the direction it took in the third act which was refreshing.  For the most part, however, this one was by the books and predictable.  This will only be a blip on the radar and will more than likely be forgotten pretty quickly.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: 10 Cloverfield Lane(2016)

Movie My Way: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Clovefield Lane is a distant relative to the much larger film ‘Cloverfield’ from 2008.  Originally, this film wasn’t even related to the Cloverfield universe and was to be a stand alone thriller film called ‘The Cellar.’  Unfortunately, due to issues with the studio losing financing and eventually going out of business before this film was completed, The Cellar was shelved for quite some time.  It wasn’t until it was dusted off and JJ Abrahms studio Bad Robot got involved that they decided invest some time (and money) into re-shoots in order for it to fit into the Cloverfield universe.  No one ever really expected a Cloverfield sequel which is why this one seemed to come from nowhere.  In all, this is a film about Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who after leaving her fiance for unknown reasons, ends up accidentally crashing her car and waking up in an underground bunker chained to the wall and her host Howard, played by John Goodman, is reluctant to let her leave.  I’m not spoiling any of this since all of this was pretty much in the trailer.  Held captive movies can be pretty compelling to the audience since it allows us to relate to the captives.  It always provides us with a “what would I do” scenarios as we watch.  10 Cloverfield Lane does a great job at building some great tension along with some very interesting and quirky characters for a fun ride.  It was well written, well shot and had some nice twists along the way.  So I recommend this film even if you aren’t a fan of Cloverfield.  Even my wife had a good time and she had no clue about Cloverfield.  Highly recommended.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★★★★☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: The Invitation(2015)

Movie My Way: The Invitation

The Invitation

The Invitation is a film about a couple that has been invited to a dinner party at his former home hosted by the ex-wife and her new husband.  As old friends begin to arrive, something just doesn’t sit right with our main player Will.  This is a very slow burn of a film that had me hooked from the beginning.  It plays out innocently enough even though there is noticeable tension between Will and his ex-wife and their traumatic past.  Luckily with plenty of other old time friends there, things just move along normally.  As the film progresses, though, if you are paying close enough attention you begin to see some cracks appear in the veneer like an egg slowly being crushed.  I won’t go into too many specifics as I think that they could spoil a very good movie watching experience for someone who is into thriller/horror type films.  There is palpable tension and suspense in many scenes that pull your loyalties in several different directions and simply leaves you exhausted in the end.  I can see this film not being for everyone but I appreciated its very original approach and simple yet effective concept.  I love finding these independent gems.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★★★★☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: The 5th Wave(2016)

Movie My Way: The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave

The Hollywood love fest that is “teen-novels-to-movies-but-we-hope-everyone-will-like-them” is starting to fade.  Quickly.  Whether you can blame it on the Harry Potter Series, Twilight or even the Hunger Games, there have been quite a few more obscure book titles making their way to the big screen(Divergent, Maze Runner, Percy Jackson).  The 5th Wave is a Sci-Fi action film about a girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, living in Ohio when an “alien” ship hovers over the planet and slowly unleashes “waves” of various things upon the earth in order to control and eventually do in the human race.  It is even stated by our main character that they are doing these things because it is the most efficient way to control the population.  Maybe I am far too logical and am thinking much deeper than I should but to me but it seems to be one of the most inefficient ways of doing things if you wanted to take over a planet.  Anyway, it appears that this film will eventually be a trilogy since this film does indeed end very open ended.  Depending on its return on investment, however, it may not be able to get there since I am not sure this film was very well received.  I don’t want to be TOO overly critical because I know this film is not really aimed at my age group nor am I a fan of the books.  However, there have been others(like said Maze Runner series) that I am not familiar with but have enjoyed a great deal more.  One final thought about these teen novels to films.  I don’t know how comfortable I would be willing to allow my kids under 16 watch these movies.  Indeed this is a PG-13 film and sure there isn’t nudity or a lot of cussing or even a great deal of visible gun violence but these films do tend to depict in great detail massive loss of life.  Whether it is airliners falling out of the sky or tsunami’s rolling over a city I would make sure that my kids completely understood what they were seeing and to not take it lightly.  It sort of bugs me that this kind of “violence” seems to be okay for a film aimed at young adults.  Especially when we can see actual tsunami’s causing very real damage to very real people and locations.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed A New Film: The Girl in the Photographs(2015)

Movie My Way: The Girl in the Photographs

The Girl in the Photographs

The Girl in the Photographs is a horror film from last year about  a small town final girl who grabs the interest of an arrogant Hollywood photographer(Kal Penn) from the same said small town.  It seems that another, more sinister photographer in the small town is also infatuated with this final girl and leaving some pretty disturbing pictures for her to find.  What ensues is a lackluster effort that doesn’t make good on any of the promises made out in the trailer.  Though it is pretty well acted and shot, there just isn’t enough tension to hold interest for a full 90 minutes.  Additionally, there are so many plot holes in this film that we never really ever get to the “why” of the entire film which is crucial when it comes to horror films.  Even the most campy slasher films are able to get to the “why” at some point.  A lot of horror films are trying desperately to create a “franchise killer”(Freddy, Jason etc.) so that they can just keep cranking out sequel after sequel.  To do so, at the very least you need to have some semblance of a who AND a why. Having just the who is simply not good enough anymore.  So though this film had some moments, it ultimately fell flat where it counted.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: Black Mountain Side(2014)

Movie My Way:  Black Mountain Side

Black Mountain Side

Black Side Mountain, as the name may imply, is a dark film set in the cold wilderness of Canada about a team of archaeologists and scientists who are researching a structure that appears to be completely out of place with everything else around it.  Things begin to unravel as they postulate on the origins of said structure and after a while, the isolation and ones own perceptions start to play against one another in isolated and deadly ways.  This is a very low budget film that does a lot with the little it has.  There are many more expensive “horror” films that aren’t able to create the sense of looming dread that this film was able to.  At first, I thought that some of the decisions that our players made didn’t make much sense at all but after thinking about it, I think was what the film makers were going for.  It allows us viewers to relate to other various characters from their perspective and make us wonder why character X did that strange thing.  It just makes for a very strong sense of uneasiness and impending doom.  No jump scares, no jump into frame at the last minute “bagul” type scares.  Just a solid premise executed with a decent degree of competence.  It is almost un-horror but in a good way.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★★½☆☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed A New Film: The Forest(2016)

Movie My Way: The Forest

The Forest

Some of you may be familiar with what is known as the “suicide forest” located in Japan at the foot of Mt. Fuji.  For those unaware, it is a real place that some Japanese people go to ultimately end their life for whatever tragic reasons they may have.  They even have signs at the trail heads urging people to make a phone call for help if they are feeling suicidal.  Though this unfortunate place exists, it makes for a very intriguing plot device for a horror movie.  The Forest stars Natalie Dormer(Game of Thrones, Hunger Games) as Sara Price who gets word that her twin sister Jess, who is teaching in Japan, has gone missing and was last reported to be near this forest.  Wanting to get to the bottom of what happened to her sister, Sara travels to Japan in hopes of finding her.  Again, solid starting point for a horror film.  However, once in Japan, this film slowly starts to put in all of the PG-13 horror tropes and jump scares that have become common place for this style of film and really just ignores the great premise that we were promised.  Additionally, there are  A LOT of plot holes that I just couldn’t get my brain around.  Why would they leave out such important information?  Why would they choose to reveal an essential “twist” halfway through the film?  Just lots of frustration on all fronts.  So yet another great premise ruined by following the formula.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: Point Break(2015)

Movie My Way: Point Break

Point Break

We all know it.  The 1991 classic starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.  Some might even call it a classic, as cheesy it is.  Which is why it is unfortunate that this new edition of the film was just so average.  Point Break stays on the path that we know it to be with a cast of adrenaline seeking robin-hood types that steal from the rich in order to fund their extreme sports addiction yet try to be in balance with mother nature.  In this heavily color corrected edition (the film is very blue throughout), we find out players of Johnny Utah and Bhodi played by unknowns prance their way across the world performing everything from death defying sky dives to enormous wave riding.  As cool as these stunts are, I just couldn’t find myself caring for any of the players in our game.  As “bad” as Swayze’s character was in the original, he was extremely likable and you almost rooted for him.  Same goes for Keanu and his dopey eyed, wooden Johnny Utah.  You just sort of rooted for him.  This version of the film just had bearded men with heavy accents staring menacingly at each other.  I will give this film credit though.  A lot of the stunts that were performed in the film were not CGI and performed by some of the best extreme sports athletes in the world.  The big wave riding was VERY impressive as either some of the better CGI put to screen or some shockingly large natural waves that were ridden by professionals.  If I am to believe the [trivia page on IMDB](http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2058673/trivia?item=tr2696917), I am inclined to believe the latter.  So watch this if you like to see some pretty cool action sports.  Watch the original if you want a fun action movie with likable characters.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Brad Has Reviewed a New Film: Death Machine(1994)

Movie My Way: Death Machine

Death

So I have been on a a bit of a “so bad, it’s good” kick recently thanks to the awesome Youtube channel ‘Good Bad Flicks‘.  I have been actively searching out the lesser known films that flooded the horror market in the 80’s and 90’s.  Often times, I will see a poster and it will remind me of some of the old VHS covers I would see in the video store and wonder what a film like that could consist of.  There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of low budget films about everything and anything.  They often attempt at trying to capitalize on a hit within the genre in order to get green lit for production.  Death Machine is one of those films.  It attempted to capitalize on Aliens, The Terminator and a dash of Robocop.  Surprisingly, it didn’t do half bad.  It stars the always creepy and demented Brad Dourif (Child’s Play, Exorcist 3, Lord of the Rings) as the troubled but brilliant engineer who has constructed the “ultimate frontline morale killer” war machine affectionately known as Beast.  He is able to control this machine by having it prey on peoples sense of fear and it won’t stop until it achieves its goal.  Throughout the film, we see very little of the Beast as it runs through the corporate offices blowing through walls and prey.  Of course, there have to be people for it to go after and in this case, it is some company execs that have teamed up with some techno rebels who are looking to bring the company down from the inside.  With some great callbacks to some memorable characters like Weyland and Yutani of Alien fame, the zen like rebel of Sam Raimi and the corporate shills of Scott Ridley and John Carpenter, it is easy to see that the writers and director are huge fans of the genre.  With as bad as this film should have been, I was pleasantly surprised with how fun it was.  It contained some good humor, great practical effects and like I said, the always demented Brad Dourif to keep everyone on their feet.  The Beast and how it was animated was a highlight!  I couldn’t tell if it was puppetry or stop motion animation, which for 1994 is saying a lot.  This would be a great film to watch with some friends and just have a raucous time.

My Movie Rating:
★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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