Category Archives: Thriller

mother!

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Release Date: September 15, 2017
Screened: September 11, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence; Javier Bardem; Ed Harris; Michelle Pfeiffer; Brian Gleeson; Domhnall Gleeson; Kristen Wiig

I can’t think of a contemporary director who brings the “WTF?!?!” better than Darren Aronofsky, and he proves as much with his latest: the maternal insanity that is mother! 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

Elle

Screened at the New York Film Festival – October 15, 2016

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Release Date: November 11, 2016 (US)
Runtime: 130 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Cast: Isabelle Huppert; Laurent Lafitte; Anne Consigny; Charles Berling; Virginie Efira; Judith Magre; Christian Berkel; Jonas Bloquet

Paul Verhoeven’s first feature in 10 years is a complex work. The director of “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls” is in fine form stylistically, yet provides much more depth of meaning into this piece than we’ve seen in his previous films as he examines the aftermath of a brutal assault. “Elle” is definitely not for everyone (like most of Verhoeven’s films) and will likely not sit well with those moviegoers who lean more towards the politically correct. However, for those of us who have admired the director’s work in the past and understand his general approach to cinema, there is much to recommend here. Continue reading

Black Mass

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Release Date: September 18, 2015
Runtime: 122 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Johnny Depp; Joel Edgerton; Benedict Cumberbatch; Dakota Johnson; Julianne Nicholson; Kevin Bacon; Peter Sarsgaard; Rory Cochrane; David Harbour; Adam Scott; Corey Stoll; Jesse Plemons

Johnny Depp is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination in what is arguably the best performance of his career as James “Whitey” Bulger, a small-time Boston hood who grew to become one of the FBI’s most wanted. Scott Cooper’s riveting “Black Mass,” based on the book of the same name by Boston Globe journalists Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, is a brutal and uncompromising piece, right in line with the life of its subject. Continue reading

The Prince

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Release Date: August 22, 2014
Runtime: 93 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Brian A. Miller
Cast: Jason Patric; Bruce Willis; John Cusack; Jessica Lowndes; Gia Mantegna; Rain; 50 Cent

Do not be fooled into thinking this is a quality picture just because the names Jason Patric, Bruce Willis and John Cusack are in the credits. “The Prince” is one of the laziest, ugliest, not to mention dumbest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Continue reading

No Escape

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Release Date: August 26, 2015
Runtime: 103 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: John Erick Dowdle
Cast: Owen Wilson; Lake Bell; Pierce Brosnan; Claire Geare; Sterling Jerins; Sahajak Boonthanakit

This is the kind of movie I feel like they don’t quite make anymore. “No Escape” is something that Charles Bronson or even Sylvester Stallone might have starred in back in their 70s/80s glory days. Basically, it’s a standard “family in peril” movie, albeit a lot (and I do mean a LOT) more violent than others of similar ilk. Continue reading

Sorcerer

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Release Date: June 24, 1977
Runtime: 121 minutes
Rating: PG
Studio: Paramount Pictures / Universal Pictures
Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Roy Scheider; Bruno Cremer; Francisco Rabal; Amidou

God bless the Film Forum! If it wasn’t for this extraordinary little theater on W. Houston, special engagements of overlooked movies like “Sorcerer” might never be seen on the big screen again, relegated to not-exactly-the-same laptop viewing.

A reimagining of the classic French thriller “The Wages of Fear,” William Friedkin’s follow up to his groundbreaking and genre-defining “The Exorcist” was an ambitious flop back in 1977. The victim of shifting tastes in popular entertainment at the dawn of the blockbuster era, as well as timing (it opened a weekend before “Star Wars,” the phenomenal success of which immediately shattered any chance it had at success), “Sorcerer” has thankfully enjoyed a resurgence in critical acclaim over the years, and rightfully so. While not a perfect movie, it nonetheless fits very much within Friedkin’s oeuvre of hyper-intense, challenging work. Shit, movies don’t get much more intense than this! Continue reading

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

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Release Date: August 6, 1999
Runtime: 113 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Director: John McTiernan
Cast: Pierce Brosnan; Rene Russo; Denis Leary; Ben Gazzara; Frankie Faison

This is a remake of the Steve McQueen – Faye Dunaway classic, unseen (at least at the time of this review) by me, but from what I understand, it was a sexy movie back then. Well, it is certainly one sexy movie now! Director John McTiernan (“Die Hard”), one of my favorite directors, saturates the film with lots of shadows and fade effects; this would have looked great as a black-and-white movie. Those aspects, in combination with the suave-as-shit Brosnan and the combustible Russo, make for an extremely stylish film and a beautiful “motion picture.” Continue reading

Gravity

Gravity

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Release Date: October 4, 2013
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock; George Clooney; Ed Harris (voice)

This is one spectacular movie! Alfonso Cuarón creates a sort-of “2001: A Space Odyssey” for the 21st century. It is tense, expertly filmed and choreographed, and beautifully acted by both George Clooney and an Oscar-worthy Sandra Bullock. “Gravity” grabs you right from the beginning and carries you along for 90 breathless minutes and when it’s over, believe me, you will need to catch your breath. Continue reading