A Star Is Born

StarIsBorn

Directed By: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chapelle, Greg Grunberg, Drena De Niro, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: A-
After barely making it through a sold-out concert, down on his luck rocker Jackson Maine heads to a Los Angeles drag bar where he meets Ally, a struggling songwriter who performs at the bar part-time.  After spending the evening getting to know her, Jackson invites Ally to his next concert in Las Vegas, where he invites her on stage to perform one of her songs.  When he finally convinces Ally to perform one of her songs solo, her career takes off, and what ensues is a volatile, passionate romance as they both try to balance out Ally’s skyrocketing career with Jackson’s own failing one.
An emotional roller coaster almost from start to finish, this most recent remake of the classic film is an incredible feat for first-time director Bradley Cooper to have taken on, and he manages to make a beautiful film worthy of the nominations it received.  The chemistry between Cooper and Gaga feels real and natural.  Lady Gaga’s inexperience as an actress seems to have worked well in her favor here, because it conveys into a character discomfort with the sudden limelight she finds herself in, and while Cooper is not a professional musician, he does a more than adequate job in singing for his character.  His character’s relationship with his brother, played by Hollywood staple Sam Elliott, is one of the central relationships in the movie, though it probably should have gotten focus than it did.
Most of the effects used are background filler and not noticeable.
So long as you don’t mind emotionally exhausting dramas, you should enjoy this movie.  It’s adequate pacing lets the audience absorb the information before moving forward, and you find yourself truly caring about the characters as endure their struggles.  And, while it may not be something you want to watch on a weekly basis, it is likely that you would want to watch it again, and it shouldn’t begin to grate on those repeat viewings.
A Star is Born is currently free to stream through Hulu, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.
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Bad Samaritan

BadSamaritan

Directed By: Dean Devlin
Starring: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Kerry Condon, Carlito Olivero, Jacqueline Byers, Tracey Heggins, Rob Nagle, Lorraine Bahr, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C
Sean Falco, an amateur photographer supplementing his income by valeting cars and robbing some of the restaurant’s customers, loses control of his life when one of the houses he breaks into belongs to a sociopath who has a woman tied up one of the rooms.  As the man, Cale Erendreich, takes his revenge on Sean for compromising his illegal lifestyle, Sean races against time to clear his name and free the woman before she’s killed.  Enlisting the help of an FBI agent who believes that Erendreich may be a serial killer only she is certain exists, Sean does all he can to protect his loved ones and gather evidence that Erendreich is a killer.
This movie should have been better than it was.  The idea of a petty thief who accidentally crosses paths with serial killer and becomes a target gets points for originality, but unfortunately its potential isn’t fully realized.  Sean is portrayed as a loveable screwup with ‘standards’ (he won’t get a photojournalism job because that would be selling out) who is almost unbelievably dumb (leaving doors unlocked, etc.), meanwhile, Erendreich is almost supernaturally intelligent (he hacks into Sean’s computer files/social media/etc.) and quickly becomes an almost unbeatable foe who expertly turns Sean’s life upside down in only a few days.  Another thing that bothered me was the accent Tennant used.  While not outright bad, I’m more used to his natural and/or English accents from previous endeavors.
Most of the effects used are background filler and not noticeable.
While not entirely boring, this movie definitely could have been better than what it was.  Instead of giving real stakes and tension, they go more for cheap thrills and a breakneck pace that doesn’t allow for anything to really be processed before moving forward to the next ‘danger’.  As long as you don’t get your hopes up too high, you should have no issue with having watched this movie, though it may not be something that gets repeat viewings.
Bad Samaritan is free to stream through Hulu and Amazon Prime, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Kim Possible (2019)

KimPossible

Directed By: Zach Lipovsky & Adam B. Stein
Starring: Sadie Stanley, Sean Giambrone, Ciara Riley Wilson, Todd Stashwick, Taylor Ortega, Alyson Hannigan, Connie Ray, Erica Tham, Patton Oswalt, et.al.
Rating: TV-G
Network: Disney Channel
Grade: B+
Teen hero Kim Possible, who overcomes any obstacle in her path, finds herself unusually out of her element upon beginning high school.  Despite having her best friend, Ron Stoppable, tech whiz Wade, and new friend Athena by her side, Kim’s continues to slowly lose control over her once-perfect life.  When her nemesis, Dr. Drakken, is broken out of prison by his henchwoman Shego, Kim discovers that it’s not just her personal life that she’s out of step with, but when one of her friends is put in danger, Kim does everything she can set things right and rescue her friend and stop Dr. Drakken’s evil plot.
The plot for this movie – What happens when the intrepid hero loses their special spark? – was surprisingly original for a children’s made-for-TV movie.  It’s not often franchises, existing or potential, are willing to not only admit that the main character is flawed, but to actively show them make potentially disastrous mistakes and learn and grow from them.  The actors themselves work well together, and the ones playing Kim and Ron have a wonderful platonic chemistry.  It was also nice to see Todd Stashwick get to have fun with a role, instead of the straight-up bad guy he usually plays.
Some of the bigger/more prominent effects falter to scrutiny, but this is on par with other DCOMs (Disney Channel Original Movies).  Most of the background filler isn’t really noticeable.
We didn’t have cable growing up, so I was largely unfamiliar with the original cartoon that this DCOM is based on, and though I have seen a handful of episodes since watching this movie, the cartoon doesn’t have much bearing on the movie’s plotline.  That said, this is a cute movie that should appeal mostly to the younger crowd, although adults who don’t mind kids movies should find it enjoyable as well.
Kim Possible is free to stream through the DisneyNOW app, and is available for purchase or rental at any participating store or on-line retailer.

The Pelican Brief

PelicanBrief

Directed By: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, James Sikking, William Atherton, Robert Culp, Stanley Tucci, Hume Cronyn, John Lithgow, Anthony Heald, Jake Weber, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B

When two Supreme Court justices are murdered on the same night, Tulane law professor Thomas Callahan takes it upon himself to investigate possible reasons for the murders, especially since one of the judges was terminally ill. With the help of his girlfriend/student, Darby Shaw, Callahan comes up with a plausible theory that the authorities haven’t thought of, which theorizes that the judges were killed to aid an appeal of a court decision to protect a piece of land housing a rare subspecies of brown pelican. After turning the brief over to a friend at the FBI, Callahan is murdered, and Darby seeks out the help of both Callahan’s friend in the FBI, as well as investigative reporter Gray Grantham, who was also close to one of the murdered judges. After Gray is contacted by an insider at a high-powered law firm, he begins to believe that there is more to the murders than meets the eye, and he and Darby race against time to uncover a plot that leads all the way to the President of the United States.

Based on the John Grisham novel of the same name, this political thriller is well-paced and manages to keep the viewers attention throughout. Both Roberts and Washington were rising stars at the time and do great work with the material. The story itself remains relevant, even all these years later, since it’s not too hard to see a high-ranking politician ordering/being complicit in an assassination for financial and/or political gain.

There aren’t many special effects beyond background filler, which isn’t very noticeable.

This movie is something of an underrated gem. While it may not be as flashy as some action movies, it offers a well-paced story with a decent ticking clock. One of the few flaws was a character who was supposedly protecting Darby, though that wasn’t made completely clear. Other than that, this is a movie most people should enjoy, even if it’s just to get a glimpse of two stars before they were mega-famous.

The Pelican Brief is currently not available to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.

Hanna

Hanna

Directed By: Joe Wright
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, John Macmillan, Jessica Barden, Olivia Williams, Jason Flemyng, Tom Hollander, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: A-

Sixteen year old Hanna Heller was raised in isolation by her father Erik, so he could train her to be the ultimate killing machine. When she feels she’s ready, she activates a beacon that brings the CIA to their doorstep, and begins her ultimate mission of taking down Marissa Wiegler, Erik’s former handler with the CIA, whom Hanna believes to be behind the death of her mother. As Hanna tracks Wiegler, she also makes her way back to Germany to make contact with a friend of her father’s, and in the process gets her first taste of the outside world. Despite making new friends, Hanna’s mission takes precedent, and her cat and mouse game with Wiegler comes to a deadly and explosive head.

As far as action thrillers go, this movie was incredibly well done. The basic plot isn’t too far outside the realm of believability, especially given that the program Hanna was meant to be in seems to have been developed in the wake of the Cold War. The acting is well done, and the characters seem to work well together. Cate Blanchett’s southern accent gets a bit annoying after a while. Saoirse Ronan does an excellent job of balancing near-psychopathic tendencies with a genuine curiosity in the world she’s experiencing for the first time.

There aren’t too many effects used, and what little there is isn’t really noticeable.

This is an excellent movie that I would highly recommend. The story and characters are well developed, and the violence isn’t overwhelming. Even people who don’t generally enjoy action movies should enjoy this one.

Hanna is currently not available to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.

Demonic

Demonic

Directed By: Will Canon
Starring: Maria Bello, Frank Grillo, Cody Horn, Dustin Milligan, Scott Mechlowicz, Aaron Yoo, Megan Park, Alex Goode, et.al.
Rating: R
Grade: C+

When Detective Mark Lewis is called to a crime scene at an abandon house, he arrives to find three dead bodies and an unconscious man in one of the bedrooms. He calls in his girlfriend, police psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein, to interview the young man, who says his name is John, as Detective Lewis and the other officers called to the scene attempt to find evidence that will help them piece together what happened and tell them whether John is an innocent victim or the perpetrator of the brutal murders. John recounts what he can remember about the previous night, as well as the events that lead to John and his friends being in the house, eventually revealing that John’s girlfriend, Michelle, and her exboyfriend/the group’s leader, Paul, are missing. As the night progresses and evidence is pieced together, Detective Lewis and Dr. Klein slowly learn the troubling truth behind the events that occurred in the house.

This was a semi-decent horror/thriller that tended to drift between being actually good and just bad. While the storyline is a tried and true staple of the genre (young people investigate haunted house, get more than they bargained for), the constant switching between found footage and traditional camera styles gets a little grating after a while. They should have picked one and ran with it. I’m sure they could have figured out a way around some of the scenes that would have called for a different type of camera style. The story itself gets a few points for originality, even if it does occasionally dip into predictable.

Most of the special effects involve seeing ghosts on a camera screen and/or appear to be practically done. The background filler is what little CGI is used aren’t really noticeable.

I’d say that this is worth at least one watch, and might be something that people who don’t usually watch horror movies could watch without getting too freaked out. There are one or two jump scares, but the majority of the movie is fairly tame.

Demonic is currently available free to stream through Netflix, and can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased through a participating store or on-line retailer.

Announcement

Hey all!!

I know I’ve been absent for the last week or so.  Real life and a small mental health blip have made it a bit difficult to get stuff done.  However, I haven’t given up on this project and will be back to it soon enough.  I’m searching Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Vudu and Crackle for streamables and have a pile of books calling my name.

In other news, I got my very first donation!  I want to give a great big thank you to my donor, and am in the midst of streamlining that process for the future.  Hopefully it won’t require upgrading my account because, donation aside, that’s not something I can afford right now.

As always, your input and content suggestions are always welcome and appreciated.

Thanks much.

~Kelly (aka That Girl)

Polar

Polar

Polar

Directed By: Jonas Åkerlund
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Hudgens, Katheryn Winnick, Fei Ren, Ruby O. Fee, Matt Lucas, Robert Maillet, Anthony Grant, Josh Cruddas, Richard Dreyfuss, Johnny Knoxville, et. al.
Rated: TV-MA
Grade: C+

Duncan Vizla, a haunted expert assassin nearing a mandatory retirement that comes with a multi-million dollar final payout, decides to take on one final job for his employer, a company called Damocles. In the course of attempting to complete the assassination, Duncan learns that there was more to the job than he had been told, and eventually deduces that it was a setup intended to get him killed. Upon returning to one of his homes, this one located in a remote Montana town, to quietly wait for 50th birthday, he finds himself becoming enthralled with his nearest neighbor, Camille, a quiet, vulnerable young woman. However, his employer has sent an elite group of young assassins after him to ensure that they won’t have to make the payment. After the initial attack fails and Camille is taken, Duncan does everything in his extensive skill set to get her back.

This movie should have been much better than it actually was. Despite having several better than average actors and an interesting, somewhat original plot. Toward the beginning of the film, the action is often interrupted to splash a character’s name across the screen manga-style, and the pacing seems off. All but a handful of characters spend the entirety of their screen time chewing on scenery and hamming it up. The only explanation we’re given for Damocles wanting to kill off its retiring assassins is pure greed, which doesn’t hold up to the level effort put into eliminating Duncan. There’s also a plot point revolving around Camille recounting a story of being raped by a mall Santa while working as an elf, which is never really cleared up as to whether she made it up after her true motivations for moving to the town are revealed.

The effects are all pretty good. There isn’t too much CGI used, and the background filler isn’t obvious.

This movie is probably best saved for when you need background noise while working on another project. Despite having the potential, the movie doesn’t really find it’s feet until the last 10 minutes or so, but by then, you may be wondering if you can request your time back. Mikkelsen and Hudgens do a great job with their respective roles, but then again, they seem to be the only ones taking anything seriously.

Polar is currently only available though Netflix, and can’t be viewed through any other service. There is no word as to whether or not they plan to release it for purchase/rent.

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Chain Reaction

chainreaction

Chain Reaction

Directed By: Andrew Davis
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn, Joanna Cassidy, Chelcie Ross, Nicholas Rudall, Tzi Ma, Krzysztof Pieczynski, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B+

Shortly after a successful test of a green energy generator, University of Chicago undergrad student Eddie Kasalavich returns to the lab he’s working out of to find his professor murdered and the energy prototype set to overload. With the FBI attempting to arrest him for murder and espionage, Eddie goes on the run with the only person who believes him to be innocent of the crime, fellow researcher Dr. Lily Sinclair, who appears to have also been framed. Together they attempt to gather evidence that proves their innocence while forces both inside and outside the law attempt to track them down.

So far as spy-ish thrillers go, this one hold up fairly well. While far from perfect, a storyline involving a new, clean energy source and the desire to keep it away from the general public is something that’s still applicable in today’s society, especially as we currently try to seek out alternative energy sources to stop dependence on fossil fuels. The reasoning behind the bad guys’ wanting to destroy such an energy source is typically financially motivated, as they try to make it out to be for the benefit of the global economy. The fact that they don’t come off as complete crazies, even now, shows how strongly written and acted it is.

Some of the effects haven’t held up very well over the years, but a surprising number of them have. The background filler remains mostly unnoticeable.

Pretty much anyone looking for a decent action/thriller should like this movie. As stated before, the story is fairly solid and holds up surprisingly well, though I can’t say much about the science. It was also interesting to see Morgan Freeman play against type as one of the bad guys, thought he does keep his hands clean throughout the majority of the movie.

Chain Reaction isn’t currently available free to stream anywhere, but it can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, as well as purchased through any participating store or online retailer.

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Magnificent Seven

magnificentseven

The Magnificent Seven

Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-Hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Ruflo, Martin Sensmeier, Hayley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Jonathan Joss, Cam Gigandet, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: A-

In the late 1800s, the small town of Rose Creek is being overrun by a robber baron named Bartholomew Bogue, who runs a mining operation nearby. When a confrontation between Bogue and the townsfolk results in several deaths, newly created widow Emma Cullen and her companion Teddy Q seek out the help of Sam Chisolm to defend the town when Bogue returns with reinforcements to finish what he started. After agreeing to help, Chisolm recruits a local con man and gunfighter named Josh Faraday, using a horse Faraday lost in a bet as incentive. Chisolm then sends Faraday and Teddy to another town to recruit a man named Goodnight Robicheaux, who, along with a knife-wielding fighter named Billy Rocks, agrees to take the job after learning they’ll be paid. In search of more men to recruit, Chisolm and Emma come upon an outlaw named Vasquez squatting in the home of a dead man, and Chisolm offers him a chance to avoid punishment in exchange for joining him. After the two groups reunite, they seek out trader Jack Horne, who is recruited after killing the men who attempted to kill him. As they head back to Rose Creek, they are happened upon by lone Comanche Indian named Red Harvest, who joins their cause after Chisolm speaks with him. When they return to town, they fight off the men that Bogue left behind, and use the time until he returns to prepare the remaining townsfolk for the battle that awaits them.

This remake (of a remake) is one of the few that holds up when compared to the original. It’s also one of the few times that the modern leaning towards representative casting makes sense, as it would be probably incredibly likely to see a mixed bag of cultural and racial backgrounds amongst a group of mostly outlaws in the Old West. The actors all work well together, and everyone seemed to be having fun. The story itself is somewhat believable, with there being at least one documented instance of this type of things happening to small towns near mining ventures.

The effects seem to be mostly practically done, with the only CGI likely to be background filler, which isn’t noticeable.

This movie should appeal to anyone looking for a good action/drama or atypical western. The storyline is good, and you come genuinely to care about the characters. Some of the dialogue can get a bit cheesy and Chris Pratt is in typical form of not taking himself seriously, but other than that, it’s a solid movie that should appeal to most viewers.

The Magnificent Seven can be streamed free through Amazon Prime, and can also be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, as well as purchased through any participating store or online retailer.

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