October 29, 2015

Child 44

"There is no murder in paradise."

Child 44 is based on the bestselling novel from Tom Rob Smith and the screenplay has supposedly been floating around for years. The movie was put into limited release earlier this year but got overwhelmingly negative reviews and was even banned in Russia for it's bleak portrayal of the Orwellian-like life under communist rule.

The story involves a child murderer who is killing orphans in Russia, and a decorated military veteran (Tom Hardy) who is pursuing him. However, Russia refuses to acknowledge that one of their own may be a killer and to even say so constitutes treason. This means that Hardy's character must go against the state and investigate independently, which brings him all kinds of trouble. When his wife is accused of espionage, the two are forced to go on the run while an old rival hunts them down. Expect quite a few extremely brutal fight scenes as various agents try to kill them both.

I quite liked the movie despite the heavy Russian accents making some dialogue hard to understand. Having previously read the book it was also easier for me to follow since I already knew what was going to happen, so perhaps that made me like the movie more than someone going into it blindly. It's a shame this didn't do better at the box office because the next book in the series is even better. I still think it is worth checking out despite the dark subject matter.

August 20, 2015


Preservation may be one of the dumbest movies I have watched in a while. It's about two brothers and a girl (who randomly blurts out, "I'm a vegetarian" while deer hunting) who go on an outdoor trip and find themselves hunted by a small group of masked killers.

The premise here isn't anything new - people being chased through the woods by killers they can't see. There is one minor twist that helps makes things a little creepy, but it's certainly not enough to save the movie from it's own stupidity. The two brothers get into arguments based on random pieces of information that are thrown in just before the fighting starts, and I guess this added drama is to serve as filler while we wait for the bad guys to show up.

In one scene, a guy (Pablo Schrieber - aka "pornstache" from OITNB) actually gets the jump on one of the villains and beats him, then takes his gun. Instead of just finishing the job, our would-be hero turns his back to the knocked out bad guy and says, "I guess I'm gonna have to kill you now" while he reloads the gun. When he turns back around, the bad guy stabs him and takes the gun back. WTF? In another scene, a guy escapes a locked porto-potty by climbing out the top while somebody is beating on the door. Again, WTF?

This was a total waste of time.

July 15, 2015


Transit stars Jim Caviezel as a father hell bent on taking his family camping despite the fact that a bunch of armored truck robbers stashed money amid his luggage and start chasing him through the swamps of southern Louisiana.

This movie did not work on many levels, but I thought the premise was decent. Robbers hide the money in order to get through a roadblock, then catch up with the family to get it back. Some things go awry and a bunch of unnecessary family drama gets in the way so that some really stupid decisions are made. Then when the violence escalates it becomes quite unrealistic, like when one guy takes several rounds to the chest and acts like nothing much happened.

Even worse, this movie doesn't look very good. The direction was already not good, but made worse by the choppy editing that tried to use a bunch of jump cuts and failed to make anything run smoothly. Also the whole thing was shot using a green filter that makes everyone look weird and sweaty. It does at least have a cool muscle car and the poster makes it look promising.

In the end, Transit is a B-movie with a couple of recognizable stars but the whole thing is hindered by a poorly written script. Don't waste your time streaming this one.

April 26, 2015


I went into Netflix's latest new series, Bloodline, without having read anything about it. A friend had recommended it, so I decided to avoid all spoilers and go in blindly. This turned out to be an excellent slow burn kind of family drama about a black sheep who brings much trouble to this otherwise picture perfect group.

This show was created by brothers Glenn and Todd Kessler, who previously did the show Damages while Todd also worked on The Sopranos. They take their time fleshing out the characters and thoroughly laying out all the plot details, so much that you will come to sympathize with the villain as much as you will the rest. It's all set in the beautiful Florida keys.

Ben Mendelsohn is mesmerizing as the sociopath brother, Danny, who comes home and starts causing problems from day one. I wouldn't be surprised to see him earn an Emmy for his role here. His older brother, played by Kyle Chandler, is the local sheriff and their sister, played by Linda Cardellini, is a lawyer. Sam Shepherd and Sissy Spacek play the parents, and multiple Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz plays the younger brother. They are all part of a wealthy, well-known and well-respected family who don't need all these dark secrets coming to light.

As things play out, you will learn of their complicated relationships all stemming from the death of a young sister. Danny was blamed though the truth of what happened isn't revealed until the later part of the series. More complications will arise and pretty soon everyone is crossing moral and legal lines. As Chandler's character says toward the end of an early episode, "We're not bad people, but we did a bad thing." If you want to find out what they did, check out this great new show on Netflix.

April 16, 2015

V/H/S: Viral

The first two V/H/S movies were wonderful collections of short horror stories built around a creepy premise where some folks find a cache of old VHS tapes depicting awful happenings. This third movie fails in comparison to everything that made the first two great. It's shorter than before and the individual stories just aren't as good.

One of the stories is about a small-time magician who winds up with a cursed cloak that grants him amazing powers but he has to feed it people to keep it up. That's it - a magician who kills people by draping his cloak over them while they sleep. In another that had more potential than it delivered, a man develops an inter-dimensional door in his house and then travels to the other side and finds a nightmarish world. It has some unfortunately awful and cheap-looking effects that make it laughable. Another story has a bunch of punk kids go down into Mexico to skateboard and they stumble across a Satanic ritual that results in an overlong series of attacks while they run away. The whole thing is encapsulated in a story about an van running amok in the city.

The premise of these films is that they fit into the "found footage" category of movie, but here there are numerous violations of this genre. Far too many cameras are used and there's too much editing, which defeats the whole purpose. This movie only offers a couple of tense moments whereas the two previous films were filled with them.

Don't bother with V/H/S: Viral even if you liked the first two movies in the series. It really doesn't have anything that stands out as being worth your time.

February 2, 2015

Kids for Cash (2013)

Kids for Cash is an infuriating documentary about a crooked judge who was getting kickbacks from a privately owned for-profit juvenile detention center that he helped to create with some business partners. This judge would put kids away from months or even years for the most trivial offenses because he got paid for each one he sent up. He ruined hundreds of lives, pocketed a couple of million dollars doing so, then on ton top of all that he didn't even declare the extra income so they got him for tax evasion, too.

What makes this documentary worth seeing is that the judge actually volunteered to appear in it and try to tell his side of the story. This was a guy who got re-elected on platforms of zero tolerance and the harshest of penalties who then goes on camera and hopes for some leniency and admits he made a mistake. He also thinks he did a lot of those kids a favor. Watching him try to justify his actions will make you wish you can punch him right through your screen.

No doubt this film will make you angry, but it's worth seeing because it demonstrates what can happen when people take a hardline approach to things. It also interviews some of the kids and their parents so it presents all sides fairly and equally. I'm glad this guy got busted, but it took several years and lots of destroyed futures before it happened.