The Accountant

I love watching a film I know hardly anything about that has mediocre scores on Rotten Tomatoes and that surprises the hell out of me to be on my best films of the year list. Watching the Accountant was like that for me.

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The rest of this review may contain spoilers

This is a film of two worlds: 1) a history and upbringing of an autistic boy and 2) The path of adulthood and a career for that boy after becoming a man. As it turns out, high functioning autistic people make ingenious accountants. Ben Affleck is this man and he is so good, many underground crime bosses use him to “uncook” their books. Let me reiterate, he is really good at it.

We are catapulted from stories of his youth where his father mercilessly trains him to fight a exist alone to his life as a criminal accountant who’s cool as a cucumber. If you heard he was doing well and not getting caught year after year, you might think to yourself, “Ok, so what’s the problem. This guy has it made.” Wrong. There are some real issues that would prevent the average person from being happy in his shoes. First, he can’t have relationships. His autism gives him tunnel vision and he is literally unable to walk away from projects. He attempts a relationship with Anna Kendrick but it never really pans out because of his disorder. In more than one way, it gets in the way.

In this film we see what Affleck’s character can do as a result of his father’s horrifying training. He is a machine when it comes to fighting. He is able to see details no one else does and this makes him not only an accounting weapon but also what we might call a para-military soldier and killer.

So, these are just some if the amazingly creative particulars written into this gem of a film. Affleck is at the top of his game. There are many shoot-em-ups from which he generally emerges victorious. I loved every minute of this film. They say people with autism are on a different level than the rest of us. This film shows that shouldn’t be looked down on. Someone with autism, trained in this way, could save the world. Would he be happy though? The jury’s still out.

Psycho 2 5/10

I will respect any movie with the Psycho name attached … up to a point. The movie should be connected to the original in cohesive ways and this one is not.

Psycho II (1983)

For starters, Norman Bates is released from the insane asylum after demonstrating his sanity. That wouldn’t just happen. Second he is released back to all the old triggers including the hotel. No psychiatrist on the case would allow that.

At his job (he looks and acts very wooden in the film) he meets Meg Tilly’s character and they hit it off. This also feels forced and unrealistic. This film could have been so great! I haven’t yet seen III so perhaps they got closer to Hitchcock in their conventions. II looks like a cheap TV movie or lampoon on the original. When someone is murdered it’s serious but not so in this film universe. The sheriff gives a knowing laugh when recalling Norman’s story. There was no verisimilitude, it was not entertaining in the least. Worst of all, none of it was logical. 5/10

Diabolique (1955)

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An abused, neglected wife and her husband’s jaded mistress plot the perfect murder.



The biggest pat on the back for this film goes to the writers. The way the characters are developed turns the screw of intensity until finally the ending is revealed. If you haven’t seen it, let me say it is not like other endings, it is a magnificent one, set apart.

Many writers were involved in starting and completing this film. After the final scenes’ power, you will likely agree with me it shows! The director is Henri-Georges Clouzot. He is known for other intensely dark yet compelling thrillers like this one. The films he has done as listed in his IMDB bio are: “Le Corbeau and “The Wages of Fear.” I admit to not seeing these films, but I want to after seeing “Les Diabolique.” He is compared in the bio to Hitchcock except with films that “do not have as much light relief.”

Le Corbeau got Georges in a lot of trouble. The French government thought he presented France in a dark and bad light so he was banned from making films for several years. Though there are many other stories about this director, I feel that one is the most telling about his honesty and integrity as a filmmaker. Thank goodness I don’t live in a censored state like he did. I don’t think I would be able to stand for it. Inevitably, this made him tough and thoughtful about his craft.

The brutal scene pictured here is a good followup to the director who crafted this amazing film. By today’s standards, it’s tame but for 1955 it was more brutal & mysterious than Hitchcock and that’s why people still love it to this day.

This film takes place in a French boys’ school where most the characters work. The Headmaster has been cheating on his wife for years and his mistress as well as the wife, work at the school. This is where the story is told and the exquisite tension begins.

You see a far different school than ours in America today. The teachers are smoking in the presence of the students, the kids food fight regularly, although it is smart how they just don’t feed them for the malfeasance. It seems to be ameliorated the next day. Funny what a schoolmaster hunger can be right? The headmaster is a womanizer, a rapist (in theory), and an all around unlikable guy. We start to see right away he needs to be killed, or at least we hope. As the two women drive together, they discuss a plan to get rid of this guy once and for all. For all intents and purposes, it seems like a perfect plan for murder.

I want to make a comment about the practical effects. Obviously back then it was all they had to work with but they are so much fun to watch. I recently watched “Eyes Without a Face,” another classic horror, and the car scenes were so funny to me. It looks so fake and yet they probably thought it was so real for the time. The scenes in these cars are even more archaic and also more funny to me. It really shows how far we’ve come with effects. Now back to the idea of this plot, with no spoilers.

The film is black and white of course and filmed almost entirely at the house which is the school for boys. The swimming pool that is part of their plan is at the school. They do a great job distracting the viewer with activities of the children. We find that the husband/headmaster has a lot to lose if his wife divorces him. He hits her and treats her miserably. As the viewer it’s hard to not imagine killing him, he’s that bad. BUT as we all know in the civilized world, it’s never appropriate to kill someone. We watch these two women make their plans, as he equally humiliates the mistress though not as badly, and their path takes them to another location: a holiday hotel.

The little couple that manage the hotel are side-splittingly funny. They are innocents and it’s funny how people intending to kill can look at innocents with such jealousy. Once the deed is done, there’ll be no going back.

I’ll leave my summary there for you. I haven’t given anything away except the fact that there is a great ending. I would challenge you to be brave and watch this old film. It’s better than so many modern murder mysteries.  If you’ve seen it, do leave some thoughts in the comments. I enjoy discussing this and other murder mysteries in this genre. Thos eare my thoughts, what did you think of this film?

 

21 Grams

No, this film isn’t about drugs as the title hints. It’s a people study. In this heroic film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, a handful of characters are under the microscope for us to try to analyze. Their lives intersect in odd ways but that really isn’t the amazing thing to watch for. It’s their drives and why they do things that should captivate the viewer. I know it did that for me.

21 Grams (2003)
R | 2h 4min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 16 January 2004 (USA)

A freak accident brings together a critically ill mathematician, a grieving mother, and a born-again ex-con.
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (as Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Writer: Guillermo Arriaga
Stars: Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, Naomi Watts

Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, & Naomi Watts are the top stars in this dramatic film about what drives people. The writer Guillermo Arriaga has done a fantastic job giving us a dollhouse type view of these normal people engaged in their lives. I first became interested in the director when I saw “Birdman,” another film that puts regular people right up to the screen larger than life. In watching what they do, we can quietly and privately look at ourselves. These films cause us to question our motives.He is an excellent director but I find some of his formulaic conventions unnecessary to make us introspective.

If you like deeply portrayed characters, look no further. I greatly enjoyed this film but personally didn’t need all the “coincidences” to make it powerful for me. I give this film an 8/10.

Secret in Their Eyes

“Jess: Life Sentence Ray Kasten: For you as well.” When you catch murderers for a living, it must bite that much harder when they murder your child. When you know the wheels of justice grind slowly, it must be hard not to take the law into your own hands. Secret in Their Eyes (2015) Cast … Continue reading

Jess: Life Sentence
Ray Kasten: For you as well.”

When you catch murderers for a living, it must bite that much harder when they murder your child. When you know the wheels of justice grind slowly, it must be hard not to take the law into your own hands.

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)
Cast
Chiwetel Ejiofor

as Ray Kasten

Nicole Kidman

as Claire Sloane

Julia Roberts

as Jessica Cobb

Directed by
Billy Ray
Written by
Billy Ray, Juan Jose Campanella
Other Info

Mystery, Thriller, Crime
Rated PG-13
1h 11min

Secret in their Eyes is a mystery thriller that started advertising far before it was released. The Julia Roberts factor was likely the reason there. Her movies almost always draw in the minions but sometimes they do fail to convince them. I wonder if her being listed at #3 on the IMDB cast page has to do with that. In the days of “Erin Brokovich,” “Pretty Woman,” et. al. the list goes on, she would likely have appeared first. Now, the two above her are a much hotter commodity.

It’s a great thriller! I don’t understand exactly why the critics have been so hard on it. It has a strong backbone of a story that was adapted from a 2009 Argentine film, “The Secret in Their Eyes.” That film won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards. As I watched this film I felt empathy, revulsion, anger, and so much more. I felt I was among the characters, not just in the audience. I think it’s a universal theme of revenge.

There’s a twist at the end some may not see coming. The movie is made very well but it was a little predictable for me. Some viewers will enjoy the thriller aspect of this film as it unfolds while others will find the locations limiting and the events unbelievable. Takes on face value, this is an excellent thriller. I definitely enjoy watching it to the credits even though there were times I could clearly see what was going to happen next. After all, Jess Cobb’s daughter is brutally murdered and she becomes a basket case. I knew for sure some sort of retribution would happen, and it does. The manner and details of that retribution are what they hope you’ll go to see after the trailer. It’s a very cool thing, I recommend it!

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.

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Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.

7 Minutes

What happens in the span of 7 minutes is the result of a lifetime of choices. This is a bank robber movie that should win tons of editing awards for the amount of times it flashes back. Though imperfect and without accomplishment in some ways, the film uses a clever framework to tell the story of a bank robbery in staggering detail.

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7 Minutes (2014)
Cast

Luke Mitchell, Zane Holtz, Jason Ritter

Directed by

Jay Martin

Written by

Jay Martin

Other Info

Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated PG-13
1h 32min

This is a cinematic film produced by the “Starz” network. The immediate claim to fame is Jason Ritter, the late John Ritter’s son. He is part of a group of young men who feel so hopeless in their hometown the only way out they see is armed robbery.

The cool aspect of this movie that really sets it apart from other guns and crime movies is that it flashed back often to explain the origin of the particular event we are watching. We don’t just see 20-somethings robbing a bank, we see their life circumstances that brought them to their criminal mindset. We see behind the drama that caused the robbery. This is masterfully written, acted, and edited.

“7 minutes” has a lot of flaws but I still really enjoyed watching it. It’s as if they tried to accomplish too much of a “wow” with the story. I think a story that focused on just one of the main characters would have been more engaging. It’s been said if you aim at something, you may miss it but you will get closer than if you aim at nothing. The film lacks a clear focus and I was hoping for a standard shoot ’em up that wasn’t so complicated. After all, how much do we as the audience need to be shown to see that robbery is a really bad idea that will likely end us up dead? “7 Minutes” is a great crime movie that entertains despite trying to too much. I recommend it.

Son of a Gun

If you want to see Ewan Macgregor whoop some ass, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to see him steal some gold, you’ll get a twofer here. This movie was entertaining credits to credits.

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Son of a Gun (2014)
Cast

Ewan McGregor as Brendan Lynch
Brenton Thwaites as Jesse Ryan “JR” White
Alicia Vikander as Tasha
Jacek Koman as Sam
Matt Nable as Sterlo
Tom Budge as Josh
Nash Edgerton as Chris
Damon Herriman as Wilson

Directed by

Julius Avery

Written by

Julius Avery

Other Info

Crime, Thriller
Rated R
1h 50min

There is so much going on in this film other than robbing gold. Still, I kept getting excited about the scenes where gold was involved. There’s something primal about that I think. What child hasn’t wondered what a gold bar is worth? What movie watcher hasn’t wanted to hold one. That may be why the director chose it.

My one issue with this move is that entirely too much is going on. In the prison scenes, the guards are all victims. Much of the cast’s background is only scantily explained. For this reason, it lost a star with me which doesn’t mean I disliked it, just that it could have been better.

We get to see Ewan MacGregor kick ass. He may become the next Liam Neeson after this one. He never struck me as a tough or even large man but when he steps on screen he commands the rooms, the fights, and all things in his way. This level is the best one to defend this movie on. MacGregor has never been better in a thrill I have seen him in. You could be perfectly justified going to see it on that aspect alone.

This film tells a story that involves jail, but it’s not a jail film. There’s a girl but not much romance per se. There’s a grand elaborate scheme but you don’t get too many details, and as I said earlier there is the gold. Just a little more backstory on the some of the characters would have helped.

I’m beginning to think gore in crime thriller is becoming required by the studios. There is a lot of blood and gross scenes. I’m waiting for the crime thriller that doesn’t lean on blod and guts unmercifully to tell a thrilling story about crime. Having said that, this is a really fun film and it contains many of the modern conventional approaches to ts genre. Ewan Macgregor is excellent and really commands the screen. I recommend this movie highly.

The Baytown Outlaws

“All right you got a job. You clean toilets or cut grass or whatever the hell it is you do. This is what I do. I shoot people in the face.” Brick Oodie

Info from: IMDB
The Baytown Outlaws (2012)
R | 1h 38min | Action, Comedy, Crime

When three redneck brothers agree to help a woman save her godson from an abusive stepfather, they become targets on the run from an odd cast of characters.

Director: Barry Battles
Writers: Barry Battles, Griffin Hood
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Longoria, Thomas Brodie-Sangster

This film is for uncomfortable silences with dates for your daughter as you’re waiting for her to get ready. It’s a Jim Dandy way to get the message across that you see the wisdom in violence and you will do no more than chuckle after he’s been killed. I’ll have to keep it around for when my two girls start dating.

“The Baytown Outlaws’ is no Tarantino film. Still, it clearly aspires to be with the subject matter, twangy bass string guittar solos, and the like. For such poor acting and script, I was impressed so many famous actors are in it: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Langoria, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster all grace the screen. As I said earlier, there may be appeal with very young boys, say 10-15. You know the ones who only recently put down their cap guns and bows and arrows.

Beyond that I see very little that would hold the long term attention of Tarantino fans. Thornton is frightfully bad as the boss, that needs to be said. It didn’t get me interested in “Bad Santa 2” he’s filming now. For bad acting, almost no believability (for example where are the cop cars?) and little originality, the film lost some points with me. I don’t recommend it.

It might have done better as an HBO series where the characters had time to develop and the audience could care over time. As a full length movie, it’s a B movie, I don’t care who they cast in it. I aim to promote and sell people on original ideas. For example, “10 Cloverfield Lane.” I’m getting weary as a critic go to see the same movies played with different title again and again. There are a few moments that are memorable, (see below.

This short scene is my favorite gag, a near success at a Tarantino moment:

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

The lives of three young women and why they became punk revolutionaries is the main idea of “Pussy Riot: a Punk Prayer.”

Pussy_Riot-A_Punk_Prayer_PosterIt’s a real situation and a real “group” (instead of a band) that protests the Soviet Union through punk songs and performance art. They claim to be non-violent, which is good. In some of their protest situations they have been threatened and violence has been enacted against them. Three visionaries of the group: Mariya Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova occupy the film’s content and their stories are inspiring or enraging depending on your political and moral point of view. I found these three women and their art hugely inspirational. I think we forget in America what freedom is and that at some point, it needs to be sacrificed for.

These three women feel that Russia needs to get more progressive. By that I mean, women should be allowed to have a life with or without men.

They also feel there should be a clear separation between church and state. More than anything, they detest the policies of Vladimir Putin, the current leader of the Soviet Union. Many of their songs decry his regime. I liked the open and forward thinking of the women but some of their techniques, such as the naming of their group and some past indiscretions on film, in my opinion are not as universally embraceable as they could be. I’m writing a review about their documentary but I cringe a little creating the title with the word “pussy” in it. Is there another way we could name this group without fanning the flames of the conservatives? I am no revolutionary but I might recommend to Pussy Riot a slightly more marketable and palatable approach to its persona.

These women spend at least 6 months in jail (I lost track after all the updates and frankly am too lazy to look up this significant particular). When they address the court or the press, it is breathtaking. They scribble tomes while behind bars and nearly every time they read their words, they are met with unguarded applause. These is something to these revolutionaries but the movie feels at times as if much of it is staged. If not staged, the movie sometimes feels like HBO camera crews are betting on a worldwide interest in a documentary. This to me is gauche. Not everything can be captured in a documentary. Would Johnny Rotten want to be followed by HBO? How about Ghandi? Hmmm, maybe? Having said that, this movie reminds me of the times I fought to be outside the “system.” So many people these days, especially our youth, accept their position playing video games and being bored. We don’t have to accept the role society gives us. We can break out and be original. It could start by protesting the things we dislike in society. I wonder if many American kids would risk going to jail to try and make the government change. Let’s hope more American kids get that message from Pussy Riot.