Woman in Gold

It has been a little while but I am back! I’ll start putting reviews up as I watch movies! What a great movie to come back from after a break.

Summary

Sixty years after fleeing Vienna, Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman, attempts to reclaim family possessions that were seized by the Nazis. Among them is a famous portrait of Maria’s beloved Aunt Adele: Gustave Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I.” With the help of young lawyer Randy Schoeberg (Ryan Reynolds), Maria embarks upon a lengthy legal battle to recover this painting and several others, but it will not be easy, for Austria considers them national treasures.

Yay or Nay?

For sure Yay. This was moving, inspirational, and above all portrayed many facets of the human condition.

It begins with Maria (Helen Mirren) finding letters from that pertain to art that was stolen by the Nazis during World War II, among them is Gustave’s Klimt’s famous portrait. In Austria, the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer is considered the Mona Lisa of Austria. From here the government is unwilling to yield despite evidence that Randy (Ryan Reynolds) uncovers. It is an uphill battle and from that point forward Ryan Reynolds gives a A+ performance. It is one of his more serious roles and you half expected him to crack jokes here and there but he stayed true to the course.

The star of the show was obviously Helen Mirren, who gave a performance that would have made anyone proud. Just as she played a very vivid character, so did her counterpart in the flashbacks to when Maria was a young girl. They choose a good actress to play a younger Maria, and Tatiana Maslany was both heart breaking and endearing. You can see how the young Maria transitioned into the older one.

The absolutely stunning Antje Traue was easily transformed into the subject of the painting; Adele. You can hardly tell she was one of the Kryptonian from Man of Steel or the grungy woman from Pandorum. She is stunning and beautiful yes, but it is through the flashbacks and the way that she is described that makes her endearing. I believe this is one of the strongest aspects of the entire film. You don’t care for these characters just because, you care for them through other people. The most pinnacle of these is of course through Maria’s character.

This entire movie is a piece of art in itself. Between the cinematography and the story, it was an instant hit with me. It is one of those movies you can tell just about anyone about because it decides that class is a more important way to get the point across then violence. There are hair raising moments but nothing that is terrifying or grotesque. This is a piece of art that is beautifully done and wonderfully presented.

What do the experts say?

Rotten Tomatoes: 5.2/10

Roger Ebert: 2.5/4

IMDb: 7.4/10

I say 7.5/10. The reason it doesn’t get the full points is because there were a few loose ends that were left in the air. I have to say the biggest *spoilers* is they never tell you what happened to Maria’s husband.

Recommendations

Book Thief (2013)

Age of Adaline (2015)

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

12 years a Slave (2013)

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Blackhat

Summary

After a Hong Kong nuclear plant and the Mercantile Trade Exchange in Chicago are hacked by unknown perpetrators, a federal agent (Viola Davis) proposes that the FBI work with China to find the cyber-criminals. The leader of the Chinese team, Chen Dawai, insists that convicted hacker Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) be released from prison to help with the investigation. As Nick and his comrades chase their quarry, it becomes evident that the hackers have a sinister motive for their actions.

Yay or Nay?

A thriller that isn’t short on action, but is short on originality.

If you want a movie that is long, doesn’t make you think too hard, and the originality of the ‘villain’s’ plan doesn’t matter, this might be your movie. It is a ‘slow burner’ that takes time to build. There are times when you want to yell at the screen (CHECK THE CAR! – If you watch this you’ll get it.) and it takes a while for plot points to be finalized. So there is a growing suspense; fair warning it was very anti-climactic at the end.

I am sad to say that Chris Hemsworth falls flat as a hacker. It wasn’t believable. Nor was the romance between him and Chen Lien (Wei Tang). That being said Chin Dawai did an excellent job and was the breath of fresh air. This was nearly matched by a villain whose voice didn’t match his look. Sadak, portrayed by Yorick van Wageningen, could easily be a bond villain. A very creepy and brute force bond villain.

Worse was the script for the way two well-trained agents handled many of the scenes. My mouth actually dropped open before I asked ‘What are they doing? Are they trying to get themselves killed?’ It stretched the believability of the plot. In order to add a sense of realism it felt like too many characters died. Perhaps that was a mechanism to increase tension or suspense but it just seemed wasteful. It was almost like they were trying to get killed sometimes.

Overall this film was predictable on many levels and was anti-climatic. It was long, built the suspense slowly and was only fun because I watched it with someone. The brutality of some of the scenes really took away from a cyber-movie feel. Despite the great cast it felt like the screenplay was mishandled.

What do the experts say?

IMDb: 5.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 3.4/10

Roger Ebert: 3.5/4

I agree with everyone else. This felt like a 4.5/10 max because of all the problems; mostly farfetched character portrayals that didn’t seem natural and the overall slow burn that was follow-up by an utter let down.

Recommendations

Hackers (1995)

Swordfish (2001)

The Net (1995)

Live Free or Die Hard (2007)

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Summary

Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), whose late father secretly worked for a spy organization, lives in a South London housing estate and seems headed for a life behind bars. However, dapper agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) recognizes potential in the youth and recruits him to be a trainee in the secret service. Meanwhile, villainous Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) launches a diabolical plan to solve the problem of climate change via a worldwide killing spree.

Yay or Nay?

This is a spy movie that didn’t take itself too seriously. It is unpredictable in its predictability and fantastic. So Yay!

It is hilarious. I am not just talking about Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Valentine, either. I meant the entire movie is hilarious. Despite some of the heavier moments about petty crime that occurs in areas of poverty and domestic abuse in the home, this movie makes light of nearly every situation. From action scenes to grim realities, it is all around unstoppable fun.

It is important to point out that the humor can get raunchy and the violence is gratuitous, not to mention the bad language at exactly the right moments. It is a combination of all the spy movies that has a spectacular cast, top notch action scenes, and story line that is familiar but unpredictable.

It was really good to see Colin Firth take on another amazing role. He is like the British Johnny Depp, but only changes his role not necessarily his entire look. Getting a little old for romances (Magic in the Moonlight was a little awkward) I was thrilled to see him move from the King of England in the King’s Speech into an action role. An action role where his character is epic. principled, and up there with 007.

It makes fun of every spy movie, doesn’t take itself seriously, and if you can realize its satire love it for what it is. Just don’t sit back and wonder how many innocent people would die if this really happened; entertainment for those who don’t take it seriously. Entertainment for entertainments sake.

Hoo-rah that there are women competing to become a spy, good to see women getting in on a gentlemen game. A good line to live by, “being a gentleman has nothing to do with the circumstances of one’s birth. Being a gentleman is something one learns.”

What do the experts say?

IMDb: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 7.4/10

Metacritic: 5.8/10

Yesh Metacritic, lighten up. This movie is great and deserves the praise. 8/10 without even blinking and it might even deserve more. There is something in its over the top craziness that was hard to predict that almost deserves more. Yet it was a little too much luck and the overall story arc was predictable. It deserves the 8 just because I burst out laughing more then once. Not for those who like serious movies or family friendly. This is rated ‘R’ for good reason.

Recommendations

Kick-Ass (2010)

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The Maze Runner (2014) (Review)

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

A Killer Among Us (Available on Netflix)

Summary

In the small Oregon town in which she lives, Helen Carleton is shot dead point blank four times execution style outside her pet store. There are no eyewitnesses. She is survived by her husband, Nick Carleton (Tom Cavanagh), and their three children. After three months, Detective Joe Moran (Boris Kodjoe), the lead investigator on the case, officially closes it although it is unsolved, which doesn’t sit well with the family. However, he is still working on the case unofficially as he believes that Nick arranged her murder. As such, he asks the eldest Carleton offspring, high school senior Alex Carleton (Tess Atkins), to assist him on the case, which is against the law as she is still a minor, who would not be under the guidance of her guardian. He doesn’t initially tell Alex why he needs her help, but Alex is more than willing to provide whatever assistance she can to catch her mother’s killer. When Detective Moran eventually tells Alex his belief about Nick, she is initially reluctant to “spy” on her father but after a few strange behaviors Alex is starting to wonder if Detective Moran is right.

Yay or Nay?

It was okay. It felt a little rushed at points and really slow at others. You weren’t sure exactly what was going to happen next which is the only reason it stayed interesting.

There are a lot of good points made that are repeats from various cop/serial killer movies. Such as ‘most people are killed by someone they know’ and ‘the husband is always the #1 suspect.’ Themes such as these aren’t what makes this an interesting movie. It is the way the suspense was set up. You are suspicious of Nick’s behavior but there are enough plot points to make you wonder. Every time she is snooping and Nick catches her, you feel the stress as she tries to come up with a lie. The reason I am going to mark this a little higher is because of the suspense factor alone. Not to mention Tom Cavanagh can pull off creepy and overbearing well.

The setting works but there are cuts and movement from scenes to other scenes that aren’t seamless; they actually feel uneven or that you missed something. The cop feels over the top and reckless at times. It seems like he is blinded in his pursue of the truth and doesn’t care about the fallout. What is worse is Alex is grieving for her mother and the character somethings acts out of control. The entire ending scene seems unbelievable and over the top. I don’t think the screenwriter took enough time looking into police procedure. Based on my limited knowledge even I knew there were serious issues with how the cop and department was portrayed. Not to mention he didn’t seem willing to do much himself, kept Alex in the dark, and basically shoved her in the right direction and said ‘have at it.’

Despite some of the plot pitfalls there are enough plot twists and turns to take it interesting. Not to mention that there are realistic elements to the outcome. Despite the over dramatic moments and the slow parts, it wasn’t all entirely terrible.

What do the experts say?

IMDb: 5.7/10

Not much in the way of expert reviews to go off of. I’d give it a 4.5/10 for the suspense factor alone and how creepy Tom Cavanagh can be (bravo). This is a unique sort of whodunit because I found Alex to be unpredictable and that meant you didn’t know what she was going to do next, no so much who the killer was.

Recommendations

Disturbia (2007)

The Uninvited (2009)

The Frozen Ground (2013)

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (Swedish – 2009)

The Eleventh Victim (Available on Netflix)

Summary

An Atlanta Assistant District Attorney, Hailey Dean (Jennie Garth), pursues the conviction of a serial killer. When he attacks her in open court she leaves to become a therapist. When he gets free he is obsessed with showing her exactly what he thinks of her insulting his work. So he starts ‘creating’ his works of art again.

Yay or Nay?

Boring and gives away the ‘twist’ in the beginning.

It was absolutely boring, disjointed, and made me shake my head on multiple occasions because of how nonsensical it was. The only good character from this whole plot was her ‘best friend’ who wasn’t in any part of the movie. The ‘romance’ between the main character and another doctor was lukewarm. The only person that was great was the serial killer and his unique way of killing. It brings a whole other meaning to the idea of serial killers have a unique signature and them considering themselves artists.

If you pay attention at all to this movie the entire plot twist is ruined. Absolutely and utterly ruined in one fell swoop at the beginning half of the film. I actually sighed how hard I didn’t have to work to figure it out. However, if you only half pay attention to this movie the twist at the end may come as a surprise. Or if you purposely don’t look for anything unexpected to happen in this film. And the predictable second twist was totally unbelievable.

It also make most characters, especially the detectives, look like idiots throughout the whole movie. Not to mention that most of the actions taken by the main character are absolutely idiotic. If she was really a prosecutor she would have given information about certain things…namely a pen (you’ll understand if you feel brave enough to watch this ‘thriller’)…but instead she stays quiet. It made me say out loud ‘really?’ more than once.

This was a thriller where the only redeeming aspect was how the killer posed the bodes like works of art. Beyond that the ‘facts’ strained credibility to its breaking point and utterly contrived. In the end the interesting dynamic of the killer can’t save this terrible film. This is based on a book and I imagine the book is much better than the movie. Perhaps give hat a try and not waste your time on the movie.

What do the experts say?

IMDb: 4.4/10

Amazon: 2.8/5

3/10 without blinking. As a writer this movie was boring, contrived, and had absolutely nothing interesting to offer beyond the serial killers interesting way he poses the bodies after death. It is sad but you almost want the serial killer to succeed in killing her, just so the movie will end. If it wasn’t for the crazy serial killer Cruise (Colin Cunningham) this movie would have been a snooze fest. Something to watch and fall asleep to when you are sick.

Recommendations

Visually stunning and interesting killers:

Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Seven (1995)

The Cell (2000)

Whodunit:

Usual Suspects (1995)

Identity (2003)

An Amish Murder (2013) (Review)

An Amish Murder (Available on Netflix)

Summary

Sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community of Painters Mill, Ohio. A young Amish girl, Kate Burkholder, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Murders. In the aftermath of the killings, the town was left with a sense of fragility, a loss of innocence, and for Kate a tragic event makes her realize she no longer belonged with the Amish. Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate Burkholder is back. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate for Chief of Police. She’s certain she’s come to terms with her past–until the first body is discovered in a snowy field that are just like the murders from 16 years ago. Kate vows to stop the killer before he strikes again. But in order to do so she might have to expose a dark secret that could destroy her.

Yay or Nay?

A good whodunit movie with an interesting look into clashing cultures. I would say it was good not great.

The acting was superb, and I felt that each character had a lot of depth. Nothing is simple or straight cut in this movie. People have suffered, and they all have pasts. Pasts that could come back to haunt them. Kate (Neve Campbell) seems like a traumatized individual almost more than a determined heroine trying to solve a case. This dynamic makes her seem almost barely functioning at times. Yet the actress does an excellent job to showing her intelligence and perseverance. It is a strange balance of a personality that she almost pulls off. Even the supporting characters are unique enough to seem like a real work place setting. There is also the aspect of the Amish Community which is very fascinating. Since I live far away from any community like that it was also very interesting.

Moving away from the interesting concept of you can never go home, there was also the family and romantic aspects. Although this felt like a crime movie there were a lot of other veins happening at the same time. The story about her family, her ban within the Amish community, the secret of her past, the lost love she abandoned when she ran, and the new love interest. All of those sit on top of the crime story and I feared distracted too much from it. This is what takes it from a good crime/thriller and turns it into a drama with romantic undertones.

I wouldn’t jump to watch this movie but I was just interesting enough to keep watching. I usually avoid whodunits because my friends call me supernatural in my abilities to figure out the ‘bad guy,’ but I just pay attention. Little hints are dropped throughout the movie that point you in the right direction. Also if you have any deductive reasoning, you may consider angles that the main characters eventually get to.

A movie that is more about the subplots then the crimes but seems to right itself near the end of the movie. It is somewhat boring at times unless you invest in the characters, like a little romance, and stick it out until the end.

What do the experts say?

IMDb: 6.2/10

Amazon: 4.2/5

6/10 seems like a fair assessment. Most people who watch serial killer based movies would enjoy this. It is teenager friendly but the content of course involves murder and other violent acts. There are a few snapshots of dead girls but nothing overly graphic. The killer at the end is chilling and there are a few suspenseful moments that make you drop everything to watch it.

Recommendations

The Bone Collector (1999)

Lovely Bones (2009)

Murder by Numbers (2002)

Fracture (2007)

Seventh Son

Summary

Centuries ago, a supernatural champion named Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) defeated Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), the queen of the witches. Now, she has escaped imprisonment and kills Gregory’s apprentice (Kit Harington). She summons her followers and prepares to unleash her wrath on humanity. Only one thing stands in her way: Master Gregory. Gregory takes Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a seventh son of a seventh son, as his new apprentice. Unfortunately they only have until the next full moon to teach Tom what usually takes years: how to prevail against dark magic.

Yay or Nay?

This is a B-Movie through and through. It looks and feels like a B-movie even with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore in tow. It exists only to entertain and I’d only recommend it to fantasy enthusiast. Not a fan of the genre then walk away.

This story is average, the characters cliché, and the outcome exactly as you’d expect it to be. Evil vanquished and a boy come into his own. Ta-da. Yet despite its absolutely expected moments there are a few parts that make you laugh. Actually the first 15 minutes of the film were the best. You get to see Jeff Bridges kick some persons butt with a tankard of ale and then make quips about it immediately afterwards. It was unfortunate how short of a time Kit Harington is in the movie but I don’t blame him for getting out early and only doing a cameo role.

As with most B movies the scenes felt rushed in some areas where it shouldn’t have been and then others just dragged out. To the point that you are left wonder either ‘that’s it?’ or ‘can we get on with it?’ back and forth through the film. Despite those moments there are a few good fight scenes, and some decent CGI work that filled out the film. Bringing it in a full circle. There were also some parts that made me laugh out loud, but that was only because Jeff Bridges portrayed the character in such a weird way. I mean you knew it was Jeff Bridges and you could see it was Jeff Bridges but you were left scratching your head as to what he was thinking when it decided to portray Gregory in such a way. Yet despite his weirder moments he was kind of fun, like he wasn’t taking the film or the role too seriously.

Despite the plot and everything coming together I have to say I liked the characters. The actors, mostly, did a wonderful job. Julianne Moore was the best amongst them and she did evil well. I actually would love to see them work together again (haven’t seen them together in a film since the Big Lebowski). I actually kind of thought her portrayal reminded me of Charlize Theron in Snow White and The Huntsman. Although Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes both played decent roles, it was really her that I felt won out.

At the end of the day this film is fun but completely forgettable. You’ll watch it and it will slide to the back of your mind forgotten nearly as soon as you watch it.

 

What do the experts say?

IMDb: 5.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 1.2/10

Roger Ebert: 2.5/4

Metacritic: 3/10

By no means was it bad but it wasn’t good either. It was simply okay. Which I why I give it a 5/10 for fantasy goers and 2/10 for non-fantasy goers. If you want some mindless entertainment for an evening and like fantasy, this might just be the movie for you. A typical fantasy with nothing memorable about it. Except maybe  Jeff Bridge’s ‘I’m-not-taking-this-serious’ attitude.

 

Recommendations

Stardust (2007)

Jupiter Ascending (2015) (Review)

Dracula Untold (2014)

Maze Runner (2014)

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)