The Pelican Brief

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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.

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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

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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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Terminator Genisys

terminatorgenisys

Terminator: Genisys

Directed By: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Matt Smith, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-Hun Lee, Sandrine Holt, Michael Gladis, et.al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: C

After helping John Connor defeat Skynet once and for all, Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect John’s mother, Sarah, from a Terminator sent to kill John before he can be born. However, while Kyle is being transported, John is attacked, and the past that Kyle is sent to leads to a different future than the one he originally came from. Teaming up with a battle-ready Sarah Connor and the Terminator sent to protect her after her parents were killed in an earlier attack, Kyle directs them to 2017, the year that Judgment Day is now set to take place. Aided by a police officer who witnessed an attack on Kyle by a T-1000, they attempt to put a stop to Skynet once and for all, and put history back into place.

This reboot of the popular franchise isn’t necessarily bad, per se, but it’s not great, either. Despite getting James Cameron’s seal of approval before its release, poor critical and fan reviews all but ensured the planned trilogy wouldn’t be fully realized. The storyline itself is interesting, and puts a different spin on the What-Ifs of previous sequels. Another ding on the movie is the fact that the two leads don’t have the chemistry of their predecessors, and come off as if they’re playing against a sibling rather than a soulmate. Other than that, the actors seem to work well together, and Jason Clarke looks reasonably like someone who could be a child of Emilia Clarke (no relation) and Jai Courtney. This movie may have actually faired better had a large plot twist not been spoiled by the trailers and posters for the movie, which turned off a number of fans and potential moviegoers. Had that not happened, the movie itself may have been better received, and potentially been able to play out the 3-movie arc that was originally planned.

The special effects are all well done. In addition to explosions and bullet strikes, there are also some CGI graphics. Since the movie was meant to be seen in 3D, there are also some effects that would have added depth to the scenes. All background filler is unnoticeable.

Anyone looking for a decent sci-fi/action movie would probably enjoy this, so long as they’re not huge fans of the original. All in all, it’s a rather harmless way to burn a couple of hours, and viewers don’t need to pay much attention to the plot once the ball gets rolling.

Terminator: Genisys isn’t available free to stream anywhere at the moment, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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Discovery of Witches Season 1

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A Discovery of Witches: Season 1

Starring: Matthew Goode, Teresa Palmer, Valerie Pettiford, Malin Buksa, Owen Teale, Edward Bluemel, Aiysha Hart, Alex Kingston, Greg Chillin, Trevor Eve, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Network: SkyOne/Sundance
Grade: A
Diana Bishop, a witch descended from a powerful line, travels to Oxford as a guest lecturer and to continue her research into history and alchemy for an upcoming academic papers she’s writing.  While there, she comes across a book called Ashmole 782, which, unbeknownst to her, has been missing for centuries.  After receiving a powerful burst of magic from the book, creatures around the world (witches, vampires, and daemons) all felt the strange burst and many become determined to figure out where it came from and why.  Among them is Matthew Clairmont, a vampire and professor of Biochemistry at Oxford, who begins following Diana in order to learn how she was able to summon the book and persuade her to do it again.  However, the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to deny their growing attraction, which would be a violation of Conclave Law, as well as Diana’s growing power.  As more and more creatures seek out Diana for the knowledge they believe she possesses, she and Matthew fight not only to protect their lives, but their love as well, and attempt to unravel the secret behind the missing text and what it means for the future of the creature species.
I’m a bit of a sucker for fantasy, so this immediately appealed to me.  Not only was the storyline compelling, but it wasn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.  I have yet to read the book series it’s based on, but based on what little I’ve read, the show is a fairly faithful adaptation of the first book.  The acting is well done, and Goode and Palmer have excellent chemistry.  A handful of the actors use accents that aren’t their own, but they do a fairly good job of it.  Although it was a bit disconcerting for me to hear actors I know to be British speaking with an American accent.  While most of the show was filmed in Wales, there were some scenes filmed in England and Italy, which added some nice touches of realism.
The special effects were all well done, and any background filler wasn’t noticeable.
While not all of the creature abilities are outlined, it doesn’t detract much from the storyline, as some things can be surmised just by watching the show and others are likely to be explained in upcoming seasons.  It’s a serialized show, so you do need to pay a little bit of attention, and there is a large, prevalent romantic story so anyone who doesn’t enjoy romance mixed with their adventure stories may not like that aspect of the show.
A Discovery of Witches is only available to stream from SkyOne in the UK and Sundance/Shudder in the US, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.
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Venom

venom

Venom

Directed By: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Melora Walters, Peggy Lu, et. al.
Rated: PG-13
Grade: B

Shortly after a space shuttle operated by the Life Foundation crashed to earth and resulted in the deaths of the onboard crew, investigative reporter Eddie Brock is granted an interview with the Foundation’s CEO, Carlton Drake. Despite being told by his boss not to mention the crash, Eddie uses inside information he found on his fiancé’s computer to corner Drake, which results in Eddie losing both his job and his fiancé. Six months later, Eddie is still unemployed since he was effectively blackballed as a reporter due to the Drake incident and is barely managing to keep his life together. One day, however, he’s approached by Dr. Dora Skirth, a colleague of Carlton Drake’s, who informs Eddie that Drake recovered alien life from an asteroid before the shuttle crash, and has been performing human experiments in an attempt to create hybridized life forms with the beings Drake calls Symbiotes. After Skirth sneaks Eddie into the Life Foundation labs, Eddie becomes infected with a Symbiote calling itself Venom, and the two team up to stop Drake, who was infected with the only other remaining Symbiote, Riot, from bringing the rest of the Symbiote race to Earth, which would result in mankind being wiped out.

Based on the comic book character, who was introduced as a villain in the Spider-Man comics, Venom, according to some of what I’ve read, picks up after the character is given its own line of comics and is turned into more of an antihero. The movie itself is pretty good. As I’m not overly-familiar with comic books, I was only aware of Venom as a straight-up villain, so seeing him in the hero role took a little getting used to. The actors all do well, and Tom Hardy gets to show off his comedic skills with a bit of physical comedy. He also does a good job of portraying someone who isn’t completely in control of their own body in the scenes where Venom first makes himself known. Riz Ahmed seems to enjoy playing the bad guy and he makes you believe that the character thinks what they’re doing is right.

The effects are well done. The alien visages look a little off at times, but until the end fight scene, you don’t see them enough for it to matter, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

Comic book fans should enjoy this. Despite some scathing critical reviews, the movie isn’t bad at all. It peppers in just enough humor to keep it from being melodramatic, but takes itself seriously enough to not be farcical. And, while it’s not a backdoor entry into the MCU, as many had hoped, it holds it’s own and creates an interesting universe nonetheless.

Venom is currently not available free to stream, but it can be rented from Redbox or Netflix home delivery service, or purchased from a participating store or on-line retailer.

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