Movie Review: AMERICAN MADE – this highly glossed over version of the Barry Seal story is Tom Cruise’s best film – and performance – in years.

I’m not ashamed to admit, I’m a fan of Tom Cruise movies.  Not a fan of Tom Cruise the person, I should add, having never met him, but I have enjoyed his screen presence for about thirty years now.  I think he’s a pretty decent actor too, when he tries – something he hasn’t done a lot of in a long time.  Having watched his last offering The Mummy fall on the critics’ sword, and mostly fail to capture the imaginations of the paying public, his career badly needed a shot in the arm.  It so happens that American Made, his second cinematic release of 2017, does exactly that.

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Movie Review: FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET – what starts off as a reasonable genre fusion, devolves into a silly, underwritten mess by the end.

Watching From A House On Willow Street last night, I was reminded of The Atticus institute in a number of ways, but what went through my mind was not so much the end result, but of the premise itself, and how the filmmakers completely failed to exploit it.  In The Atticus Institute, the premise is: what if demonic possession was a real thing, and could it be weaponized?  Of course, that’s not what the actual movie was about, but to me the real story should have been that laid out in the premise.  In From A House On Willow Street, the premise actually is the actual plot, but it’s handled badly: a group of would-be kidnappers abduct the adult daughter of a wealthy family, only to discover that she is possessed by a demon.  Ransom meets The Exorcist.

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Movie Review: DIG TWO GRAVES – half-baked, would-be supernatural “gothic” revenge plot with a grossly uncommitted script

The title of Dig Two Graves comes reportedly from the writings of Chinese philosopher Confucius, who emphasized the cultivation of character virtues and wisdom above action.  It’s debatable whether or not he’s actually responsible for the phrase, which essentially is a warning to those seeking vengeance.  Of the two graves, one is for the quarry, but the other is, metaphorically, for the death of the soul of person seeking that vengenance.  In effect, it’s saying that the cost of vengeance on those seeking it is greater than the sense of justice one expects to come from achieving it.  Upon watching the movie, I mostly disagree with using the phrase as the title.

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Movie Review: GET OUT – an above average, well directed thriller that actually says less about race than you think it will.

I was reminded of two other pieces of entertainment when watching Get Out last night – one was the Southern Gothic horror/thriller Skeleton Key, a movie that I quite enjoyed, and Dan Simmons’s horror novel Carrion Comfort, the audiobook of which I’m currently finishing up.  If you haven’t watched or read either of these, to tell you what they’re about would give away the key plot point of Get Out, but chances are you’ll figure it out around the same time I did, which was round about the time the black cars start arriving at the Armitage estate.  This doesn’t mean the movie isn’t worth watching: it is.  Is it horror, though?  For me, that’s highly debatable.

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Movie Review: THE SHALLOWS – Blake Lively fails to stand out in a frustratingly annoying shark-attack movie.

I can’t understand some people’s definition of horror.  Having watched The Love Witch, and found almost nothing horrifying about it, in either execution or intent, I watched The Shallows, which is described in various places as a horror-thriller, or survival-horror.  I admit, I’m a horror purist, but I just cannot imagine a definition of the horror genre so elastic it stretches far enough to encapsulate either of these two movies.  Especially The Shallows.  And I’m not talking about scary movies, because there are plenty of non-scary movies that are clearly horror.  The Shallows is NOT horror, it’s never even close to being horror, and I’m going to put words in the mouths of the writer (Anthony Jaswinski) and director (Jaume Collet-Serra) when I say this was never intended to be a horror movie.

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Movie Review: SciFi thriller MORGAN is a mostly dull and poorly written retread of other movies.

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Have you heard of the Black List?  I don’t mean the James Spader TV show, I’m referring to the list of great, unproduced screenplays of the year.  Being on the annual black list is something most would-be screenwriters dream of.  It generally leads to a big money sale, and knocks down the doors of the movie industry.  It includes some really good movies – Arrival in 2012, Spotlight in 2013, Manchester By The Sea in 2014, etc.  But it also lists screenplays that went on to be critical and commercial duds: The Johnny Depp scifi thriller Transcendence, and the Naomi Watt starrer Shut In from 2012, and 2013’s Pan that’s best left forgotten.  The 2014 list also includes Morgan, the movie I watched last night.

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Movie Review: OPERATION AVALANCHE – 60s-set conspiracy thriller, heavy on period detail, but light on drama

operation_avalanche

If I’d never had Operation Avalanche recommended to me by an old friend, chances are I might never have watched it.  I’d seen some promotional materials for it, even read the synopsis early last year before it was released by Lionsgate, but a found-footage conspiracy drama about the faking of the first moon landing just didn’t grab me.  Well, cut to January 16, 2017, and I’ve just watched it.  There are a few things to like, but it does fall short of being a worthwhile 80 minutes.

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