Category Archives: Thriller

Thriller

Flash Movie Review: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

EVERY TIME I WALKED INTO THEIR house; I was always hit with a mix of different smells. One time it could be cedar, vanilla and dust; well at least I thought it smelled like dust. Another time I would smell a combination of wet grass, sawdust and sandalwood. I always wanted to know where these scents were coming from, but it was impossible to narrow it down to a specific spot in their house. You see, there was so much stuff packed into their house, it was hard to decipher which one item or more were emitting the aroma. Not that their house was messy, it was not. Everything had a place; it was just their house had more places than any other house I had visited. I liked visiting this couple because there was always something new to find whenever I would be allowed to play in one of their children’s rooms, when I was a small boy. One time, when I was playing in their basement, I found a stack of old newspapers that were brittle and yellow. Looking at the dates, I realized they had been keeping these papers for over 30 years. I asked them why and they said that it was proof of the historical events that happened in our lifetime. It did not make too much sense to me, since the newspapers were disintegrating from age.      AS THE COUPLE GOT OLDER, MORE types of different smells floated through the house. For some reason the inside of the house did not look as bright as it did when I was younger. Maybe the paint had dulled over the years or the lights and lamps were dimmed with age. Or maybe, the house was darker because there was more stuff in it; I really wasn’t sure. Not that it stopped me from visiting the two; I still enjoyed my visits with them. Though I have to say their cooking skills diminished greatly. Whenever we were having a meal with them, there was always some food dish that was either not cooked long enough or burnt. I remember one time there was a plate of my favorite, chocolate chip cookies. The bottoms were nearly black from overcooking and when I tried to bite into one, my teeth could barely break the cookie apart. All I could taste was the overcooked parts; they were so bitter and strong that I could not taste any chocolate. Now despite these, let us say, inconveniences; I still enjoyed spending time with them and listening to their stories. They had such interesting things to talk about and I was always a willing participant to hear what they had to say. I felt the same way about the married couple in this horror, mystery thriller.      FOR THE MANY YEARS LORRAINE AND Ed Warren, played by Vera Farming (The Departed, Bates Motel-TV) and Patrick Wilson (Young Adult, The Phantom of the Opera) had experienced demonic forces, the possession of a young man would unleash a force they had never seen before. With Ruairi O’Connor (Teen Spirit, Handsome Devil) as Arne Cheyenne Johnson, Sarah Catherine Hook (Monsterland-TV, The Valley-TV) as Debbie Glatzel and John Noble (The Lord of the Rings franchise, Running Scared) as Kastner; this latest installment of the franchise started out with an interesting story line. I thought Vera and Patrick really sold this film because the script was too blurred in its message. At times I found myself being confused with what timeline I was watching, and the scary thrills were just not there for me. Then suddenly a scene would start that grabbed my attention because it was frightfully intense. If Patrick and Vera were not in this movie, it would have received a lower rating; it already had a tired feeling to it. Hopefully the next installment will go back to its roots where it made a name for itself.

2 stars  

Flash Movie Review: The Silencing

I HAD NOTHING TO OFFER FOR advice except to tell her she would have to let go. It was easy to say but I knew it was a hard thing to do because I had been in the same situation as her. My friend was upset because a close friend of hers had suddenly stopped talking to her. I asked her if they had gotten into an argument or disagreement, but she said not at all as far as she knew. One day they were talking on the phone like they normally have done and then one day her friend stopped returning those phone calls. My friend texted her and when that did not produce any results, she emailed her to ask if she had done something to hurt her feelings. Her requests were met with dead silence. Now she knew her friend had not died because her work phone was still accepting voice messages and her recorded greeting was being updated every day with the new date. My friend said she would rather have been told off or called names or given any type of acknowledgment, that it would have been better than not giving a reason for the silent treatment. I agreed with her; I had experienced it with someone I had been seeing.     WE HAD BEEN DATING FOR 3-4 months. I remember our last date was when I was invited to meet them at their place of business. They took me around to introduce me to their co-workers. A week later my calls and texts were going unanswered. I replayed in my mind the visit to their workplace, to see if there was something I said or did that triggered one of the co-workers to say something negative about me. Nothing came to mind, I thought I was cordial and pleasant. It was frustrating not to get a reason why our relationship was ending. In the past whenever I was breaking up with someone, I always made it a point to tell them face to face, or at least tell them on the telephone. To not give a reason and simply ignore the person is something I consider rude and, in some instances, cowardly. I have always told my friends I would rather have someone call me names to my face or tell me they can’t stand something I do than simply say nothing and walk away. Dealing with the unknown is harder than dealing with the reality of a situation. And I know everyone handles such a thing differently. The main character in this action, crime thriller had his own way of dealing with the unknown.      WITH HIS PROPERTY UNDER CAMERA SURVEILLANCE, a hunter spots a trespasser. Going out to check it would begin a dangerous game of cat and mouse. With Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Gods of Egypt, Game of Thrones-TV) as Rayburn, Caleb Ellsworth-Clark (The Handmaid’s Tale-TV, Wynonna Earp-TV) as taller brother, Josh Cruddas (Anything for Jackson, Business Ethics) as shorter brother, Annabelle Wallis (Tag, Annabelle franchise) as Gustafson and Zahn McClarnon (Doctor Sleep, Strike One) as Blackhawk; this movie’s story started with a good idea, albeit not quite original. There were elements to this film that I liked; however, there really was nothing new presented within it. The cast was okay though Nikolaj was the only one who stood out for me. My overall impression of this picture was that it was done on the cheap. I honestly cannot imagine it ever opening at a movie theater; it came across as something I would have found on TV while channel surfing late at night. The characters were never properly developed and the intensity was not strong enough in my opinion. Chances are some viewers may get a slight thrill out of a couple of scenes; but overall, this movie will quickly fade from your thoughts afterwards.

1 ¾ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead

I FELT AS IF I WERE driving through the site where a horrific battle had taken place. The landscape was painted in shades of white, gray and black; it was supposed to have been predominantly filled with greens, blues, yellows and a multitude of combined primary colors. The road I was driving on appeared to be dusty, as if it had not been dusted in months. I barely could make out the road markings; so, I was driving slower because of all the curves in the road. The black figurines thrusting out of the ground reminded me of a scene I saw in a movie, where the charred remains of the dead residents of Pompeii looked like ashen statues. These black structures looked like they were part of an abstract painting, frozen into freakish poses. Some looked like they had multiple arms while others appeared to have been the results of a mad scientist’s freakish experiments. I was convinced I was seeing whisps of smoke slowly twisting away from different parts of the terrain. The air even smelled smokey with traces of sulfur. When I planned my vacation, none of this was part of my itinerary; I was envisioning wild animals roaming the grounds. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw dull, barren land. It turned out I was one of the first to drive through this portion of the state after it had succumbed to a major forest fire.      TOWARDS THE END OF MY VACATION, I read the forest fire had burned through thousands and thousands of acres. The reporter mentioned the charred remains would help repopulate the landscape, but that it would take time. Those black figurines I saw on my road trip were the burnt remains of decades old trees. I wondered how the animals who survived the fires would be able to live on the land; there could not be any food for them, nearby. It was sad to see the devastation. I know life is a series of events connected in a circle, from birth to death; however, after seeing what I saw I had a difficult time trying to justify the reason for such destruction. From the news I heard and read, there was no word yet about the loss of human life. What did come out sometime later, was that the fire appeared to have been started by a visitor who was camping. I could not believe it. I wondered if the camper(s) even knew what they had done. The idea that these individuals could have been that careless angered me. If you wish to see some of the destruction that can take place in a forest fire, then feel free to watch this dramatic, action thriller.      IT WOULD TAKE EVERY OUNCE OF strength and wits for smoke jumper Hannah, played by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea, Maleficent franchise), to keep the lost boy she found alive in the middle of a forest fire and gunfire. With Finn Little (Angel of Mine, Storm Boy) as Connor, Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Ethan, Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones-TV, The Maze Runner franchise) as Jack and Nicholas Hoult (Tolkien, Warm Bodies) as Patrick; it was fun to see Angelina back in an action figure role. And action is predominately what took place in this movie. With little or no depth to the characters, this was the type of story one only needs to feel; no need for a lot of thought about the story. There were some tense and exciting parts that drove the rest of the scenes that paled in comparison. For the most part there was nothing new in the script; it was simply because of the acting and the thrills that made this an easy picture to watch. However, I do hope those who have been careless when it comes to protecting the land from fires appreciate what smoke jumpers have to do to try and keep a place safe; let alone, see what kind of destruction can take place from a single careless moment.                         

2 ½ stars       

Flash Movie Review: Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse

WHETHER IT WAS RIGHT OR WRONG, I felt a sense of betrayal. Having worked at the company for many years, there was a sense of family amongst the employees. I had worked my way up through a few departments before I settled into a management position. We came from different backgrounds and places, but we all shared a common goal; we wanted our company to be the best. The company had another location out of state that was headed by a relative of the owner. I knew most of their employees by name but had only seen a couple of them when they flew in for business meetings. We had 3 competitors who had their corporate headquarters in the same city as us; so, it was especially “sweet” when we would get a large order that all of us had bid on. I do not know if it was true or not, but I heard the outside salespeople from each company, including ours, were ruthless to each other. Not to their faces, but they would do things like throw away the sample books from a competing company or hide them while placing their books in a prominent location. I knew each of us bought our inventory from the same manufacturers and what sealed the sale was price and customer service.      I SAW MYSELF RETIRING FROM THIS company. That is why it was so hard for me to be told the company was filing for bankruptcy. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I could not understand for what reason was the company closing its doors. As far as I could see we were doing everything we were supposed to do. Many of the employees were there longer than me; some only had a few years left until retirement and now they did not know what was going to happen to them for their remaining years. Unemployment can only take one so far, then what? I put my trust in the company; showing up to work on time each day, getting our customers’ issues resolved and yet all of sudden my life was going into freefall. This is why I felt betrayed. I worked hard and appreciated the rewards I received in the process. I had put my trust in this company and for whatever reason, I was being terminated. The dreams and hopes I had based on my employment had to be put on hold. Not that my job defined who I was; however, it was something I took pride in. My feelings of broken trust and betrayal, though on a different scale, is what I connected to with the main character in this action, adventure thriller.      WHEN HIS LAST MISSION TURNED OUT different from what he expected, a growing suspicion made John Kelly, played by Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther, Just Mercy), question the orders he was receiving. It would take death to get him to find the answers. With Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim, The Last Ship-TV) as Karen Greer, Jamie Bell (Rocketman, Fantastic Four) as Robert Ritter, Guy Pearce (The Last Vermeer, The Rover) as Secretary Clay and Lauren London (Baggage Claim, This Christmas) as Pam Kelly; this movie was a reboot for the franchise. The action scenes were for the most part exciting and I especially enjoyed the performances from Michael and Jodie. However, the script was confusing and sloppy to me. The characters in general were a bit boring at times and I felt the excitement level needed to be amped up. Another negative to this picture was how it was filmed; there were multiple scenes that were so dark I could not make out much detail. I think with a better script Michael could do justice to the franchise. In the meantime, there was an extra scene placed in the middle of the ending credits.

1 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: I Care a Lot

FOUR MONTHS AFTER MY IDENTITY HAD been stolen, I received a notice from the government that my fraud claim was confirmed, and I was not responsible for any losses. It has been a long four months with me contacting different agencies, freezing my credit report and filing a police report. It all started when I received a notice from unemployment that I had been approved to receive benefits; a debit card was enclosed that I was supposed to activate to receive funds. I knew it was a scam since I was currently employed. Due to the pandemic, I had a harder time getting things accomplished to protect myself. There were the multiple calls to the Social Security Administration, where I had to wait on hold until their phone system would tell me no agents were available and to try back later. Once I finally was able to speak to a representative, I could not get an answer to my questions, like why they are dunning me for 4 payments they claim they sent to me. I asked them where were they sending it; if it was to that debit card I did not activate, why couldn’t they just pull the funds back? Still, I could not get a clear answer and was told I should just hold on to all the paperwork that was sent to me.      MY ORDEAL, THOUGH IT WAS A hassle, was manageable for me. However, I did wonder how I would have handled it if I was older. It is weird how it just happens; that sense of vulnerability that enters our consciousness as we get older. When I was younger, I gave little thought to walking in the snow and ice during winter; now, I am hyper aware of where I am stepping on an icy wet pavement. Will I become easily confused in my senior years? Will I be an easy target for scammers? These are things I think about now. They had a news report recently of a senior citizen in a nursing home who was milked out of her savings to the tune of $500,000.00. She was befriended by an employee at the nursing home who would have her sign withdrawal slips for small amounts of money from her savings account. Over time the small amounts added up and left the woman very little to live on. It was heartbreaking to see and confirmed my fears that the elderly can be such easy targets. If I get to a point where I might become easily confused, I hope I would know to find an advocate for me, someone who would watch out for my best interests. If you care to see an example of what could happen, then watch this dark comedy, crime thriller.      MARLA GRAYSON, PLAYED BY ROSAMUND PIKE (A Private War, Gone Girl), had a good thing going of being a legal guardian for those who could not take care of themselves. That is until she became the guardian to someone who had a couple of secrets of her own. With Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones-TV, X-men: Days of Future Past) as Roman Lunyov, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Paradise Hills) as Fran, Dianne Wiest (Hannah and her Sisters, Darling Companion) as Jennifer Peterson and Chris Messina (Away We Go, Ruby Sparks) as Dean Ericson; this Golden Globe nominated movie had an interesting premise. I felt the writers could have gone in a variety of ways to make their point. However, the way they chose I found horrible. I thought the script was mean spirited and ignorant. The only thing that kept me watching this film was the performances by Rosamund, Peter and Dianne. They were excellent; but I do not know how they kept this picture going, because there was no moral compass in the story and there really was no character that elicited any sympathy from me. If it wasn’t for the acting, I would have given this film a lower rating of stars.

1 7/8 stars  

Flash Movie Review: The Little Things

FOR A LONG TIME, I ATTRIBUTED my ability for seeing little details to Sherlock Holmes and the Hardy Boys. Having read the books and seen the movies that they were in, I began to pride myself with the way I observed people and places. A friend and I used to pretend we were detectives who had to follow individuals in the neighborhood, who we suspected of being criminals. I remember following a woman with a shopping cart into the grocery store, who I believed to be a foreign spy; she was shopping for essentials for herself and her co-conspirators back at their hideout. As she was walking up and down the aisles, I kept track of what she was putting into her shopping cart. I waited until she was paying for her groceries at the checkout line before I left and joined my partner across the street. We waited until she came out then followed her back to her hideout. While we were tagging behind her, I updated my friend on the items she had purchased at the store. I pointed out the reason for all the canned goods was because they were planning to be here for an extended time to work on a huge operation that would cause considerable damage to our city. We decided we had better keep her under surveillance for the near future.      AFTER I HAD GROWN OUT OF my detective phase, I stopped focusing on getting every detail of a situation. It faded into the background, or at least I thought it did. Never giving it any thought, I seemed to have the ability to retain full images of things I observed. It wasn’t something that made me think I was doing anything different from anyone else. It wasn’t until a friend asked me one day how I could remember what everyone wore at a party that took place a couple of months ago. We were talking about a mutual friend and I asked him if he remembered they had attended a social function we were at. When my friend could not recall their presence, I told him what the person was wearing and where they were seated. I thought everyone could recall such things, but my friend told me it was not true. A short time later, I discovered not everyone has the ability to see the finer details when they are looking at something. Some individuals take in the “big picture” while others laser focus on certain elements; I have seen it time and again. Whether a person can train themselves in acquiring the skill, I do not know; but I know having that ability was an asset for the main character in this dramatic crime thriller.      DRAWN INTO AN UNSOLVED MURDER CASE, Deputy Sheriff Joe “Deke” Deacon, played by Denzel Washington (The Equalizer franchise, The Book of Eli), began to experience déjà vu. Will his past interfere with the present? With Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody, Papillon) as Jim Baxter, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Dallas Buyers Club) as Albert Sparma, Chris Bauer (A Dog’s Way Home, True Blood-TV) as Detective Sal Rizoli and Michael Hyatt (Nightcrawler, Like Crazy) as Flo Dunigan; this Golden Globe nominee had all the fixings of a good old detective story. With its cast, I was expecting some top notch acting and was rewarded by Jared’s and Rami’s performances. As for Denzel, I was sadly disappointed with his acting; it felt like he was on automatic, doing a repeat of former characters from his past movies. Putting the acting aside, the script had the glimmer of hope in the beginning but then spiraled down to a massive failure. There were a couple of parts that made no sense whatsoever. This poorly thought out script and story turned this movie into a mediocre addition to the murder mystery genre. If only everyone involved with the production of this film had Denzel’s character’s ability to pay attention to the fine details, it then might have been a worthwhile viewing.                        

1 7/8 stars              

Flash Movie Review: Enemy of the State

I THOUGHT I HAD TAKEN EVERY precaution. No matter how many times the bank tellers ask me to insert my ATM card, I must always remind them I do not have one. Nor do I have a debit card. This was one of my decisions to protect myself. It is not that I think the bank has poor security protections, it is because I feel the passageway to get into their websites/portals is only protected by asking for my login and password. I chose not to do electronic banking, prefer instead face to face transactions at the bank. But besides banking, I did all the things that experts suggested one should do to protect their personal identity. I only use one specific charge card for any online purchases, and it has a security alert on it. The passwords I use are the ones that experts have suggested we use with upper and lower cases along with characters. I even pay bills the old-fashioned way with a paper check, envelope and stamp. With everything I do, I thought for sure it would be unusual for me to have any of my personal information stolen. Well, I was wrong because just recently I was the victim of identity theft.     WHEN I RECEIVED THE OFFICIAL NOTICE that my unemployment benefits were approved, I was flabbergasted because I am still employed. Looking over the document, all the information was correct about my employer and my social security number. I decided to talk to my company’s HR department to find out what was going on. The next day with letter in hand, I happened to mention my situation to an employee who it turned out got the same letter. He told me several employees received the letter from unemployment and it was a scam. Along with the letter there was a debit card that needed to be activated. If I had activated it, the scammers would have known they scored, and I would have lost access to my savings. I could not believe how this happened to me, especially because of the things I denied myself as a layer of protection. The first thing I was instructed to do was to freeze my credit report. Next, I had to file a complaint with the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission. Filling out information on a government website for identity theft, I then filed a police report. When I walked up to the front desk of the police station, all I got to say was I had my identity stolen and the officer asked if it was the unemployment scam. It turns out they were familiar since they received multiple claims on it. Even with everything I did I still feel violated and vulnerable. Now having watched this action thriller, I am even more paranoid about my plight.      UNBEKNOWNST TO LAWYER ROBERT CLAYTON DEAN, played by Will Smith (Gemini Man, Collateral Beauty), there was a reason why he was the target of a concentrated effort to attack and destroy his identity. With Gene Hackman (The French Connection, Runaway Jury) as Edward Lyle, Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Runaway Train) as Thomas Brian Reynolds, Lisa Bonet (High Fidelity, Angel Heart) as Rachel F. Banks and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, Ray) as Carla Dean; this film festival winner was a tense and thrilling film to watch. The action was exciting and intense as it set up a typical good vs bad scenario. The acting was fine for this type of picture; I totally enjoyed Gene and Will in their roles. Though there was nothing too deep in the script and character development was more of a bystander, this thrill ride of a movie was totally entertaining to me. And that is despite the subject being identity theft. I may have to revert to hiding cash in cans at my house.

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Escape From Pretoria

NO MATTER WHERE I BUMPED INTO him, I always knew what to expect. He would address me with a nickname he made up back when we were classmates. Next, he would ask me if I was still in touch with a classmate of ours before he would make a snide comment about them. I stopped asking him to not make any comments about them but every time we ran into each other, he still made sure to say something. These days I simply do not react to his comments; instead, I ask him something different to switch the subject. Whenever I have bumped into him, I am reminded how I disliked the pettiness and backstabbing that took place amongst the school’s cliques. He was an instigator who enjoyed all that drama. Because he never failed to make a comment about someone we knew, I believed he was trying to get me to join him in badmouthing people from our past; to what purpose, I had no idea. I did find it puzzling that after all these years he had not changed one bit; he was obnoxious back in school as he was now. It was as if he had never grown up and I had to wonder if he had any friends still from our school days.     IT WAS INDIVIDUALS LIKE HIM THAT pushed me to apply and accept enrollment in an out of state school. Many of the students I grew up with were applying to our state’s university’s main campus. I decided to send out applications to schools from a few states nearby and some that were close to the coasts. As luck would have it, I wound up at a university where only 2 other fellow classmates planned on attending and if they were there, I never saw them. One of my goals for going out of state for school was to reinvent myself. Due to the experiences I had in my schooling, I did not want to repeat it out of state; so, I worked on myself internally. This meant I had to look back and exam painful experiences, hoping to find an inner strength that would help me not to repeat similar scenarios in my new surroundings. I wanted to return home as a grown-up essentially; someone who past classmates would have a hard time recognizing. I will be honest; it took a lot of work to push out the built-up anger and resentment. Not that it is all gone now, but I know I have been traveling on the right path based on former acquaintances’ reactions when meeting me now. I can see similar work was done by the main actor in this film festival nominated thriller because I did not think once he was Harry Potter playing another character.      DESPITE BEING CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED, ANTI-APARTHEID activist Tim Jenkin, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Swiss Army Man), was determined to get out of his prison cell and continue his fight. With Daniel Webber (Australia Day, Thumper) as Stephen Lee, Ian Hart (Michael Collins, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) as Denis Goldberg, Mark Leonard Winter (The Dressmaker, One Eyed Girl) as Leonard Fontaine and Nathan Page (Underbelly-TV, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries-TV) as Mongo; this movie based on a true story was made better by Daniel Radcliffe’s acting. The story itself was given a typical script, but thanks to Daniel and his fellow inmates, I found myself getting pulled into the activist’s plight. There was some unevenness to the directing; but there was no skimping on the parts that needed to be thrilling. The script did not delve deeply into the characters; but for a good old fashioned “prison break” story, this picture can be proud it was able to break out of the pack from similarly themed films.

2 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: Traffic

I MAY NOT REMEMBER A PERSON’S name, but I am good with remembering faces; yet, I had a hard time recognizing this man who was talking to me in the music store. He called out my name as he walked up to me. I am not attaching any judgment here, simply describing what I saw coming down the aisle. This man had, if I understand the phrase correctly, long dishwater blonde hair that looked oily. It cascaded in waves down the sides of his head. Perched halfway down his nose was a pair of wire rimmed glasses that had lenses that looked smudged and dirty to me. He was wearing an oversized, beige canvas jacket that had frayed edges and a couple of discolored spots on it. The jeans he was wearing were extremely faded and were so worn at the knees that you could see the white threading crisscrossing in the fabric. His shoes were so dirty it looked to me as if he had been trudging through a long road of mud. As I watched his face get nearer to me, I tried placing where I had seen it before. There was something familiar about it; I had a feeling that I must have known him from a long time ago.      WE WERE FACE TO FACE WHEN he asked me how I was doing. I said fine but he must have seen the bewildered look on my face because he told me his name. As soon as I heard it, memories of him flooded into my mind. I did know him because we went to school together. So, you will better understand, let me tell you about him. He wasn’t a jock, did not play sports, but he was always trim. His hair back then was a lighter shade of blonde and was thick and cut short. I don’t remember him ever wearing glasses back then; maybe he only used them when he was studying at home. Many of the students in his class considered him a Brainiac; though, he never flaunted his high intelligence, at least he did not around me. A lot of us thought he would become a scientist or philosopher. I remember him always having a paperback book in his hand. So, you can sort of get the idea how shocked I was to see such a different version of him. As we were conversing, I kept wondering what had happened to him that caused such a drastic change in appearance and mannerisms. I think I found the answer while watching this Academy Awards and film festival winner.      WITH HIS NEW GOVERNMENT POSITION ROBERT Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra, Ant-Man franchise), did not realize the impact his new mission would have on his family. With Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, 21 Grams) as Javier Rodriguez, Don Cheadle (The Guard, Traitor) as Montel Gordon, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Mask of Zorro franchise) as Helena Ayala and Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop, Crossing Jordan-TV) as Eduardo Ruiz; this dramatic crime thriller took me a short time to separate and connect all the characters among its three story lines. The large cast was full of top notch acting that ran the gambit of emotions. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Magic Mike), I felt he did a masterful job of keeping the stories moving forward and blending in easily with each other. There were several intense scenes with blood, yet I did not find the violence was in excess. Once I found the rhythm of this picture, I was totally in and lost the concept of time; things kept happening and changing without me losing track once. I especially enjoyed the way the subject was broken down so each story line could focus on a particular aspect of it. Watching this film, I could not help wondering if my assumptions about my old classmate were closer to truth than I first thought.

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Identity

IT SOUNDED LIKE A FUN TIME, so me and a group of friends decided to sign up for it. A charity was holding an event at a large amusement park that was about an hour’s drive away. They had rented out the park for the evening and planned on having games, music, dancing and entertainment besides the rides. I figured it would be less of a hassle to get around the park than on an average weekend day with the big crowds. Also, because they would be serving alcohol in the park, no one under 18 would be allowed. My friends and I were excited about the prospects of having an easier time riding the big attraction rides multiple times. Usually because the lines were so long for the well-known rides, one might be able to go on it only once due to time constraints. I for one do not like waiting in line for over an hour just to ride an attraction for less than one minute. My only concern was the weather; I was hoping there would be no chance of rain, causing the park to shut down some of their rides. Each of us were getting excited as the date got closer.      ON THE DAY OF THE EVENT, with a clear blue sky drifting towards twilight, we piled into one car and headed out on the road towards the amusement park. I was the driver for the evening since I did not care for alcohol. While we were making our way there, we decided to come up with a game plan on how to get as many of the “big” rides in while still taking part in the charity’s planned activities. A quick survey showed most of us were excited to tackle the park’s top roller coasters first. I had heard the newest roller coaster was the ultimate thrill ride because it not only spun and swerved around the track, it also plummeted down to an underground tunnel. Some of my friends were planning on doing that ride more than once; while I figured I would go find a less stressful ride, one that didn’t have spinning as a main component. The fastest spinning I can tolerate is the speed of a merry-go-round. Our excitement increased by the time I pulled the car into the parking lot. With tickets in hand, we headed inside the park to carry out our strategy. As we got to the first roller coaster, I was the first one to notice it was not running. Maybe it was broken? We moved onto our 2ndchoice and discovered the same thing; it too was not running. Paying attention now, as we were walking around, we saw many of the “big” rides were shut down. All the excitement we had built up melted into disappointment. I experienced a similar reaction while watching this mystery thriller.      DURING A TORRENTIAL RAINSTORM A GROUP of random strangers took refuge in a motel. They thought they would be safe for the night until one of the guests was found dead. With John Cusack (Cell, Grosse Pointe Blank) as Ed, Ray Liotta (Something Wild, Shades of Blue-TV) as Rhodes, Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, Griffin & Phoenix) as Paris, John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Pardon) as Larry and Alfred Molina (Saint Judy, Frida) as Dr. Malick; this film festival winner was a good old fashioned thriller in the same vein as an Agatha Christie story. I thought the cast did a decent job with their acting, despite the disconnected script. Not that I did not enjoy watching this movie, I did; but I felt let down as the script started winding down to its conclusion. I thought the filming and sets added an extra level of anxiety and dread to the written words. During the picture, I found myself getting into the story with its plot twists and suspense. If only that level experienced in the beginning had lasted all the way to the end.

2 ¾ stars             

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