After seeing the trailer for the found footage film, Europa Report, I was intrigued to see how this film was going to differ from another sci-fi film, Apollo 18. The tale of the failed Europa One mission is told in flashbacks via interviews with Dr. Unger (Embeth Davidtz), CEO of Europa Ventures and footage from the failed mission. The footage is not shown in a linear fashion which, I guess, was supposed to raise the level of suspense. However, there has not been a found footage movie yet where a majority the original parties survive. So this film became a “Guess How the Cast Will Die” or “Who Will Go First” game for me.
The futuristic international cast has a few well-known faces: chief science officer Daniel Luxembourg is played by Christian Camargo who is known as the The Ice Truck Killer from Dexter, junior engineer James Corrigan played by Sharlto Copley, the villain in Elysium, and chief engineer Andrei Blok played by Michael Nyqvist, who was in Disconnect and the short-lived TV series Zero Hour. As the film begins, each crew member explains their reasons for embarking on the long journey and their hopes of finding life on the Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The film progresses through the first fatality, which unfortunately was my favorite character and the primary reason for watching the film. Once the crew reaches the moon, it was easy determine who and how the crew would meet their fates. The mysterious life form makes an appearance at the end but it was not worth the time it took sitting through the film.
As a sci-fi thriller/horror film, Europa Report is a standard when you compare it to similar found footage films with the horror elements limited to the last fifteen minutes of the film. The cast gives decent performances with the material they were given.
If you liked Apollo 18, then you will probably like Europa Report. It is 1:30 minutes long.
Shadow Dancer is a tense thriller that revolves around one woman’s struggle with her MI-5 handler who wants her to inform on her IRA brothers. Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) was caught leaving a bomb on a London subway car and given an ultimatum of working for MI-5 agent Mac or going to jail and losing her son. Collette McVeigh returns home and must find away to get information to her handler while staying a step ahead of her paranoid brother and his enforcers.
Shadow Dancer was the third movie of 2013 that featured Andrea Riseborough, who was previously in Disconnect and Oblivion. She delivers an excellent performance as a woman desperate to escape the limited options in her family. We learn how Colette blames herself for the death of the youngest McVeigh son. Was this tragedy the main reason that Collette decided to plant a bomb or was there another endgame in play? In the beginning of the film, Collette seems like she was pulled into becoming a terrorist by her love for her brothers, especially in trying to protect her brother Connor (Domhnall Gleeson). However, by the end of the film, you are trying to determine if Collette is more calculating than her older brother and IRA leader Gerry (Aidan Gillen). Within the main plot of the film, we see Collette’s handler, Mac, develop a ferociously protective relationship with Collette as the office politics her faces places Collette in danger. Clive Owen’s performance was a little odd as you were unsure if his over-protection was being driven by possible romantic feelings or for his need to regain favor in his office. Gillian Anderson has been playing some seriously bad-ass figures in her recent roles. I would highly recommend checking out her performance in The Fall.
James Marsh gives us a taunt thriller about the impact of a terrible past on one woman as she struggles to protect her family. If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Shadow Dancer. It is 1:41 long.
Injured and captured by the police following a jewelry robbery, Eddie Cordero (Ryan Robbins), wakes up in a hospital being guarded by Constable Frances Jane (Zoie Palmer). Cordero tries to charm Jane into letting him go and then pleads with her when he realizes his partner was killed and the diamonds are missing. Later in the evening, Louis Holland (William MacDonald), the leader of crew, arrives to seek revenge for the death of his protegé. Now Jane fights to keep Cordero alive as the two try to find a way out of the hospital ward they are now trapped in.
Cold Blooded is a direct to video crime thriller, however, it was the movie poster of blood streaking down Jane’s face that had me intrigued. Jane loses her hand after cuffing herself to Holland and he is forced to amputate the hand to escape. She spends most of the movie holding a stun gun with one hand and trying to keep hold of her amputated hand under her arm. Zoie Palmer has a good chemistry with Ryan Robbins as they test each other limits. Jane is determined to keep Cordero from escaping but is forced to realize that she may have to sacrifice her integrity to stay alive. There is minimal character development: Cordero will do anything to get away and Jane is a by the book officer. Being confined in an abandon part of the hospital helps to maintain the suspense of the two characters trying to find a way to escape and avoid being captured by Holland and his thugs. There is a small twist regarding the robbery and the death of Holland’s protegé. I thought it was a funny film for a crime thriller.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Cold Blooded. It is 1:26 long.
A Royal Affair is a 2012 historical drama film that was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 85th Academy Awards. This period film centers on the life of Caroline Mathilde of Great Britain (Alicia Vikander) who marries and learns to deal with King Christian VII of Denmark (Mikkel Følsgaard), who is mentally ill. When Christian brings home Johann Friedrich Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) as the royal physician, Caroline Matilda starts an affair with him as well as helps him with managing the political affairs of the country.
Most if not all films about the tragedies of royalty deal with incompatible couples, sexual repression and awakenings, and the political dealings that lead to an inevitable, fatal ending. So moment that Caroline Mathilde jumps into bed with Struensee, the course is set. However, they are not the film’s only tragic figures. King Christian VII, who was portrayed as easily manipulated, lost a good friend and his voice through the designs of Christian’s stepmother, Juliane Marie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, to secure power for his half-brother Frederick and the Danish politician Ove Høegh-Guldberg. I think the best performance came from Mikkel Følsgaard who steers most of the sympathy to his character. You able to see that there are moments of lucidity in between the periods of insanity and that he is truly hurt by Mathilde and Struensee’s affair. This was my first film with Mads Mikkelsen, outside his performance in Casino Royale. I thought his performance was much better in this film and other Danish films that he has appeared in than that of Casino Royale. Alicia Vikander gives a good performance as well as Mathilde and has gone on to star in Hollywood films.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch A Royal Affair. It is 2:17 long and in Danish with English subtitles.
Wallace Avery (Colin Firth) lives a bland life in Florida. He works at FedEx and has a girlfriend who works at a bank. Wallace has a strained relationship with his son, who lives with his ex-wife and her new family. Wallace plans to live the perfect life as a golf pro at an exclusive country club in Terre Haute, Indiana, where he has been promised a job. Planning an elaborate death, Wallace heads out to his new life as Arthur Newman. His first night in his new persona, he meets Michaela (Mike) Fitzgerald (Emily Blunt), a drug addict, who convinces him to let her join his adventure. There is a minor sub-plot as Wallace’s son, Kevin (Lucas Hedges), decides to learn more about his father after Wallace’s disappearance.
Arthur Newman is film about two people running from the bleak aspects of their life. Wallace has convinced himself that he is life was boring and ordinary. Colin Firth definitely captures the banal lifestyle most late-aged people find themselves. The transformation that Wallace goes through as Arthur mainly due to having Mike along on the trip. Mike lives spontaneously by trying out various things that amuse her. She introduces Arthur to a role-playing game, in which they find interesting looking couples, follow them home, break in people’s houses and pretend they are the couple. This closeness leads to them becoming intimate for a short period as they get carried away with their games. Mike is running from her own issues with her twin sister, the real Michaela, current diagnosed as a paranoid-schizophrenic. Charlotte, “Mike”, fears that she will be diagnosed with the illness as well as bears guilt that she is still sane. Emily Blunt has fun in her tragic role and draws out the fun side of Colin Firth’s character. Reality shatters the fantasy world that Arthur and Mike have been living in when they arrive at the golf club in Terre Haute. The realization that they need to go back to their former lives and confront their fears to change their lives for the better.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Arthur Newman. It is 1:33 long.
The desperate attempts for one teen to get out of the dead-end town she grew up in are at the center of the plot for All She Can. Luz Garcia completes as a weightlifter so that she can secure a scholarship that will pay her tuition to the University of Texas in Austin. Her family has a large amount of debt and can not assist her. While her brothers and school teachers try to convince Luz to open the possibility of attending another school, Luz does not consider any other option and will do anything to achieve it.
All She Can is a coming of age story that shows the consequences that Luz faces and her downward spiral when her dreams are shattered. Luz is not unlike many teenagers in American who dream of better things. Luz has to provide for herself, working a job, going to weightlifting practice, and picking up her brother from work. The fact that her dream comes with a high price tag makes Luz seem difficult in her family. Why does going to the local community college sound so bad? Trying to achieve her goals ultimately results in an ironic sacrifice that costs her everything. While All She Can is not a underdog overcoming the odds movie, it does show how the underdog achieves a better understanding of how to obtain her dreams, even it may take her longer than she hoped.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch All She Can. It is 1:34 long.
I am not really a fan of country music but reading the synopsis for this documentary piqued my interest. Chely Wright was an award-winning country music artist from the early 90s. The documentary, Wish Me Away, covers a three-year period of Wright’s life after she makes the decision to come out as a lesbian publicly.
The documentary mixes video diary entries, interviews with her family, friends, co-workers, and moments during her journey. The apprehension and fear that plagues Chely since she realized she was gay are played through the diary entries and a personal conversation she has with her spiritual adviser. There are many factors Wright has to consider: the religious aspects, the conservative nature of her fans and being shunned by the entire country music industry. Wright explains how she was able to keep to the secret from the people closest to her. We also get to see the public responses once Chely does come out and how she able to maintain a positive mindset throughout the experience.
Being an entertainer can definitely be hard on anyone. Your choices are scrutinized and the pressure to be some else to please your fans can be overwhelming. There is a good level of honesty in seeing Chely Wright from the beginning as she questions the things she learned as a child, the guilt and doubt living with a secret, and how she handles her announcement was enlightening and inspiring.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Chely Wright: Wish Me Away. It is 1:36 long.
The 2011 film Entrance centers on a young barista, Suziey, living in Los Angeles. She has grown tired of life in L.A. and does not feel safe walking between home and work. When her dog disappears, Suziey decides to return home. Her roommate convinces her to have a dinner party and that is when the movie livens up.
Billed as a psychological thriller/horror film, we see Suziey slowly descend into a state of despair. She hears strange noises like someone moving around in her house, random guys follow her on the street, and a strange car follows her every move. The beginning hour of the film feels like a typical low budget indie film as we see Suziey go about her day and interact with a few co-workers. The alienation that she feels and the fact she starts to withdraw from people helps push her closer to the edge. However, the audience is shown that the paranoia Suziey is going through is not unjustified. The dinner party scenes are the best part of the film when the Suziey’s fears are realized. The lead actress, Suziey Block, portrays her character in an innocent fashion, yet you feel as though she has been through some trauma prior to the events of the film. Like Duress, the reveal at the ending and the subsequent horror scenes are worth the slow build up in the film narrative.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Entrance. It is 1:23 long.
When a pedophile decides to find his one-time partner, an old crime is recreated in The Silence. In 1986, a young girl was assaulted and killed. The killer left her bicycle and dumped her body in a nearby lake. The case remained an unsolved mystery until 23 years later, the killer strikes again in the same location as the original murder. David Jahn is charged with leading the new investigation to find the child killer under the watchful eye of new Senior detective, Matthias Grimmer.
There are two sub-plots within the film: the first deals with Timo, the accomplice to the original murder, returns to his friend, Peer Sommer, to determine why Sommer killed again and the second focuses on Jahn’s attempts to capture Sommer. Jahn struggles with his grief over the death of his wife and his boss does not take him seriously. Since you learn the identities of the killers early in the film, the normal suspense that movies of this type is lost. The procedural elements of the police detectives reminded me of the BBC Wallander series.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch The Silence. It is 1:58 long and in German with English subtitles.
In the 2009 film, Duress, Richard Barnett (Martin Donovan) is trying to raise his socially awkward daughter, Sarah (Ariel Winter), following the recent suicide of his wife. One night, Richard meets Abner Sovie (Sakis Rouvas), who is in the middle of killing a local store clerk. Instead of killing Richard, Abner decides to teach him how to become a killer. If Richard does not comply, Abner will kill Sarah. Abner tells Richard that all killers want to be understood and that his training is part of a larger plan yet to be revealed.
Martin Donovan gives a decent performance as a man forced to examine how far he will go to protect his daughter. It seems Ariel Winter got an early start on perfecting the characterization of the social outcast. The best part of this movie, if you can sit through it patiently, is the last 10 minutes of the film. While most movie twists/reveals ultimately let you down, the reveal in Duress is actually pretty good.
If you have Netflix streaming, please take the time to watch Duress. It is 1:30 long.