Category Archives: Mystery

Valley of Shadows

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Release Date: October 20, 2017 (Norway)
Screened: September 10, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet
Studio: Film Farms; Them Girls Film; Anna Kron Film
Director: Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen
Cast: Adam Ekeli; Kathrine Fagerland

While there is stuff to admire in Valley of Shadows, this Norwegian import really wasn’t my cup of tea. This is one of those movies that is long on atmosphere, but short on action or dialogue. A very European movie in style and nature, Valley of Shadows will only appeal to filmgoers who are into minimalist exercises in style. Continue reading

A Simple Plan

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Release Date: January 22, 1999
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Bill Paxton; Billy Bob Thornton; Bridget Fonda; Brent Briscoe; Gary Cole; Chelcie Ross; Becky Ann Baker; Jack Walsh

This is one of those “What would you do?” movies (another example would be Indecent Proposal, though this one is vastly superior). You know the setup: a group of seemingly simple and moral individuals are confronted with a pot of gold/pile of money/Pandora’s Box…choose your temptation, and must make a fateful decision that will test their characters. Of course, things do not go as planned, as they tend not to do in movies like this. Continue reading

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

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Release Date: August 27, 1971
Runtime: 89 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: John Hancock
Cast: Zohra Lampert; Barton Heyman; Kevin O’Connor; Gretchen Corbett; Alan Manson; Mariclare Costello

This low-key quickie hearkens back to a sort of golden age for low-budget chillers. While not as gruesome as some of its contemporaries (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes), this film makes tremendous use of its spooky old house and outdoor locations. Despite a horrendous title, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is an effective little creeper: high on atmosphere and long on style. Continue reading

The 4th Man

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Release Date: March 24, 1983
Runtime: 102 minutes
Rating: Unrated (closer to R)
Studio: International Spectrafilm / Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Jeroen Krabbé; Renée Soutendijk; Thom Hoffman; Dolf de Vries; Geert de Jong

It’s only fitting that a movie review site called The 4th Reel review a movie called “The 4th Man,” so here goes!

A virtual blueprint for his later, more mainstream potboiler “Basic Instinct,” “The 4th Man” exhibits all of the elements of director Paul Verhoeven’s mode of outrageous storytelling that has made him one of the most audacious film directors working today.

This one is stamped Verhoeven all-around: the icy blonde, the tortured author, the lethal dagger, the bisexuality, the fast cars….there are so many parallels to “Basic Instinct” (one of my all-time favorite movies, by the way) that they’re difficult to count. It’s almost as though he saw in “BI” an opportunity to make an even more outlandish version of “The 4th Man.” I loved it…loved every twisted, depraved minute of it. Continue reading

Mike’s Murder

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Release Date: March 9, 1984 (screened June 22, 2014 – 16th Annual Provincetown Film Festival)
Runtime: 109 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: James Bridges
Cast: Debra Winger; Mark Keyloun; Darrell Larson; Paul Winfield; Brooke Alderson

This is an often overlooked, unseen 1984 film from director James Bridges (“The China Syndrome,” “Urban Cowboy”). While not entirely successful, it’s still an interesting curio and a helluva time capsule for 1980s enthusiasts. Continue reading

Passion

Screened at the Provincetown International Film Festival – June 22, 2013 – US premiere

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Passion

 

 

Release Date: August 30, 2013
Runtime: 105 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Entertainment One
Director: Brian De Palma
Cast: Rachel McAdams; Noomi Rapace; Karoline Herfurth; Paul Anderson

De Palma is up to his old cinematic tricks (that’s a good thing) in his latest, a remake of the French noir “Love Crime.”

Rachel McAdams, the best Hitchcockian blonde since Kim Novak in “Vertigo,” plays Christine, the head of an ad agency in Berlin. Noomi Rapace (“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” – Swedish version) is her employee, Isabelle, in what would be a sort of account executive position, I guess. The two have an ideal working relationship, until Christine takes credit for Isabelle’s campaign idea on a major account. Then the tug of war begins, which will include manipulation, humiliation and, eventually, murder. Oh, what fun!
Continue reading

Body of Evidence

It’s Flashback Friday!

This Week’s Flashback Movie….

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Release Date: January 15, 1993
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: MGM
Director: Uli Edel
Cast: Willem Dafoe; Madonna; Joe Mantegna; Anne Archer; Julianne Moore; Frank Langella; Jurgen Prochnow

Hoo-boy!!! This one’s a doozy! No one in this train wreck could possibly have thought that they were in a good movie. If they did, I have some waterfront property in Kansas to sell them.

In the wake of the success of “Basic Instinct” in the spring of 1992, the erotic thriller was a “hot” commodity. There was “Whispers in the Dark” in August of that year, “Guilty As Sin” in June of ’93, and William Friedkin’s “Jade” in 1995. Even “Basic Instinct” star Sharon Stone got back in the sack for “Sliver” in 1993. Most were lame excuses for big name stars to get naked. But none was more ridiculous than “Body of Evidence,” released in January (nuff said) of 1993. Starring Madonna and Willem Dafoe, this has to be one of the least intelligent movies ever put to celluloid. Continue reading

Side Effects

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Release Date: February 8, 2013
Runtime: 106 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Open Road Films
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Jude Law; Rooney Mara; Catherine Zeta-Jones; Channing Tatum

Instead of going out with a bang, Steven Soderbergh decided to go out with more of a tremble. While his latest, and purportedly last movie, is an entertaining enough social thriller, it is not the big, shiny, mass-market type of movie that has characterized his output in recent years (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Ocean’s Thirteen”). While it’s never a bad thing for a director, especially one as talented as Soderbergh, to flex his or her creative muscle and produce an eclectic mix of films, in my opinion, if this is going to be your last movie, why not go out with a grand, splashy piece of entertainment as a send-off?? Critics be damned! Continue reading

Stoker

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Release Date: March 1, 2013
Runtime: 99 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Chan-wook Park
Cast: Mia Wasikowska; Nicole Kidman; Matthew Goode; Jacki Weaver; Dermot Mulroney

This is a nasty little number.   The first English-language film from Chan-wook Park, director of “Oldboy,” is a modern gothic nightmare that leaves you thinking, “Thank God that’s not MY family!” Continue reading

Mama

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Mama

 

 

Release Date: January 18, 2013
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Universal
Director: Andres Muschietti
Cast: Jessica Chastain; Nikolaj Coster-Waldau; Megan Charpentier; Isabelle Nelisse; Daniel Kash

This is a creepy little movie.

Mama tells the tale of two little girls who are brought to a cabin in the woods by their suicidal father.  The father intends on killing the girls (very uplifting), but something gets to him first.  The girls are discovered years later, living in said cabin in a feral and animal state.  They are brought to a psychiatric clinic where Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) intends to study their assimilation back into society.  Coming to the girl’s rescue is their uncle, Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and his rock-chic girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), who will assume parental roles for the girls, much to the chagrin of their maternal aunt (Jane Moffat).  The older of the two girls, Victoria (Megan Charpentier), has retained some language skills, while the younger, Lilly (Isabelle Nelisse), was barely a toddler when her father died.  After the uncle falls down a flight of stairs and lands in a coma, it is left to Annabel to become a surrogate, single mom and care for the girls, who keep mentioning a seemingly imaginary friend named Mama.

Who or what is Mama?  What happened to Victoria and Lilly in that cabin?  Who or what killed their father?  All questions are answered in due time. Continue reading