Category: thriller

Movie Review: The Firm

It’s been a while since I did a review on here for film, so why not visit a nineties thriller? I read The Firm when it came out in paperback–still remember the cover quite vividly. I missed the movie when it was out, but I’d heard good things. Good enough to have it still be kicking around in my head as a “film I’d maybe like to watch” years later. Then I saw it was directed by Sydney Pollack, and it officially made its way to my Netflix queue.

The only problem? That 154 minute running time. That’s an awful long time for a thriller to keep thrilling, and it’s too much for me to have time to watch in a single evening these days. (Busy man, am I.)  But I two nights in a row? I could swing that.

The movie was a pleasant surprise. Taut and tense throughout, with some fine performances. Not the best thriller I’ve ever seen, but it was twisty and turny and managed to keep me guessing for most of it. (It helped that I haven’t read the book in something like 20 years.) Tom Cruise plays the part of a young lawyer, fresh out of law school and at the top of his class, who’s recruited by all the top law firms. He accepts an offer that seems too good to be true.

And of course, it turns out to be just that.

Seriously, people. When are you all going to learn that offers that are too good to be true should just be turned down without further thought? I blame Cinderella and her fairy godmother. People see the credits roll on that Disney movie, and they all think that offer worked out for her. It didn’t. Think of the poor woman now: slave to a mouse in a suit, forced to sit in parade after parade chock full of gaping tourists.

Not quite a happily ever after, is it?

But wait–I was writing a film review here, wasn’t I? Right. Other highlights of the movie for me were the score (sparse piano music for the most part, often used to great effect) [*EDIT–My agent rightfully pointed out I ought to give props to Dave Grusin, the composer of said score. It really is one of the features of the film.] and Wilford Brimley. Anytime you can have Mr. Quaker Oats play an evil security guard, you’re in for a treat. I like to think all the oatmeal shilling was just a cover for his spy escapades.

Anyway. It’s a good movie. Rated R for a fair amount of language, alas. Still, if that doesn’t turn you off, there are definitely worse ways to spend 154 minutes of your life. 7/10.

Kahaani: Netflix Instant Indian Awesome

There’s been a film in my Instant Watch queue for quite some time, and Denisa and I finally got around to checking it out last night. It’s Kahaani, and the premise sounds unusual to say the least: an extremely pregnant woman goes to India in search of her husband, who went missing a few weeks before. I love that concept–a typical thriller plot, but with a very atypical thriller protagonist. The main question–the one that kept me from watching it for so long–was would it be able to deliver a full length feature that was compelling, based on that premise alone. Because it would be easy for a movie like that to start strong and then just dwindle away in boredom.

Netflix said I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars, though–in the end, I had to give it a shot, and I’m very glad I did. Netflix was spot on–I give it 8/10.

The plot itself unfolds more or less naturally. There are some spots that are predictable in an “I knew what was going to happen a few seconds before it happened” sort of way–one I don’t mind that much. It’s when I know what the ending is going to be by about the 15 minute mark that things are really egregious, and I’d be surprised if anyone manages to predict where this one goes.

The acting is very well done, and the setting is superb. I love international movies because they let me see how the world is portrayed elsewhere. If you stick to a diet of strictly blockbusters (or even just strictly American cinema), you get a skewed view of things. Sort of like if you just listen to conservatives or liberals to the exclusion of all others. This film takes place entirely in India, and it captures that essence quite well.

I was also fascinated listening to the language, as the characters jump from Hindi to English constantly–often in the middle of sentences. Judging from its IMDB record, it appears there’s some Bengali peppered in there, too. As a former linguistics major, the movie was fun for the languages alone.

And the movie was made for under 2 million dollars, which I just love. Too often these days it seems like film makers assume good cinema needs tens of millions thrown at it, and that’s just not true. Often, special effects are just patches covering over poor storytelling and character development.

If any of you have already seen it, I’d be interested to hear what you thought about the climax, which is certainly one that I could see people liking or disliking. I don’t want to say any more about it than that, but feel free to talk about spoilers in the comments section.

In any case, if you’re looking for a tense thriller that’s pretty darn clean (some violence, but nothing too over the top), and you’ve got Netflix, give this one a shot. I doubt you’ll be sorry you did.

Once Upon a Monster Reacher

It’s been a while since I did a movie review, so how about two for the price of one today? Especially since the two movies are very different from each other. First up let’s do Jack Reacher, a Tom Cruise thriller about the investigation into a sniper shooting. I’d heard some about the movie before I watched it (the biggest tidbit was that 5′ 7″ cruise was playing the part of 6′ 5″ Reacher), but I didn’t quite know what to expect. Overall, i was happy with the results. It wasn’t the most awesome thriller I’ve seen, but it certainly was diverting, with a plot that toed the line between predictable and ridiculous from time to time, but never quite went over. Quite violent for a PG13 movie. If you’re in the field for a thriller, you could do much worse than this one. 3 stars out of 4.

Once is a strange movie to review. It’s a musical romance that borders on far too cutesy from time to time. A street musician in Ireland meets a girl from the Czech Republic. There was a lot about the movie that I really enjoyed. The songs were good–and I was even more impressed when I discovered that the two leads are also the singers and songwriters for the music in the film. I don’t recall seeing something like that ever. It also managed to avoid some of the bigger ruts a lot of other movies like this fall into, so props for that. On the other hand, it’s got 38 f-bombs, most of which are in the first five minutes of the film. I watched this one with Denisa, because from what I’d heard of the movie, it was right up her alley. She almost made me stop the film right at the beginning. Thankfully, some judicious use of the fast forward button (coupled with the fact that this was Irish swearing, and for some reason the f-word doesn’t seem as harsh when it rhymes with spook.), got us over that speed bump, and she also ended up enjoying the film. (Though if I’d known exactly how many swears were in those first five minutes, I likely never would have given the film a try. It’s not one I’d watch on my own.) And it won an Oscar for best song. Nice movie (3.5 stars out of 4, with bonus points awarded for artistic talent), but really–why would filmmakers go and do something like alienate a large potential audience right off the bat, for a throwaway scene that didn’t need the bad language to begin with?

Finally. Monsters University. I enjoyed the first movie a great deal. This second one? Another strong showing. It’s very different from the first, which was really fanciful. I loved the world building in that first movie. This one falls more in line with a straight up college movie, but the jokes are rapid fire, and the characters are well done. Did it feel like I was watching a retread of other college movies like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, or any number of summer camp flicks? At times, yes. It’s definitely deep in its genre. But should you penalize a movie for being what it says it’s going to be? I don’t think so. It still managed to be surprising in parts, and I really enjoyed it. 3 stars out of 4, mainly because it’s a shade less strong than its predecessor, and so it pales some in comparison.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think?

Adventures in the Power Outage

FrozenAt 5:34 yesterday, the power went out. We’d had about a half inch of ice coat everything earlier in the day, so it wasn’t exactly unexpected. It ended up being out for around 4 hours. (Our house is in a very good spot to avoid power outages–not far from the hospital and Walmart. People want their hospitals and their . . . cheap junk products. I later learned downtown had no power for almost 12 hours.) Keep in mind, this is Maine, so when the power goes out, things can get cold very quickly. (The temperature last night dipped into the single digits.) Thankfully, we have our wood stove and enough wood to last us until summer and back into fall again, if the zombie apocalypse hits us. We discovered a few things:

  • Kids really like blackouts. TRC and DC were pretty hyper, I think primarily because everything is so different. It’s a big adventure to them, and trying to corral them isn’t too easy when you can’t see everything.
  • We need more candles. We had enough for the evening, but we’re running low now. We also could use a few more hand-cranked flashlights. (Why even bother with battery-powered ones? They’re always out when you need them.)
  • We could use some water storage. Denisa and I got to talking (there wasn’t much else to do) while we were sitting there watching our wood stove, and that’s probably the one area that we’re weakest on when it comes to emergency preparedness. We’ve got a ton of flour (thanks to her bread making) and plenty of heat, but for water, we’d have to end up carting it in from the stream out back in an emergency, something neither one of us would like to do.
  • I don’t think I’d do well as a pioneer or medieval serf. For one thing, a lot of the things I like to do require good light (reading and complex board games) or electricity (movies, computer games). That said . . .
  • iPads are excellent blackout tools. I had board games, books, music, movies, and a portable flashlight, everywhere I went. Hooray for Apple products. 🙂
Anyway–glad we got our power back, and glad I was already done with my revising yesterday before the outage hit.
(Side note: I just watched some of the movie I linked to in the picture for this post: Frozen. It’s the story of three idiots who manage to get themselves stuck on a ski lift fifty feet above the ground, with no one expected at the hill for another five days. It’s supposedly a horror, and while it certainly had some elements that could have been horrific, for me the mood was ruined by how appallingly stupid the three main characters are throughout the movie. One of them isn’t even bright enough to zip up her lousy coat when she gets cold. Come on, folks–I’m not talking rocket science here. Anyway–it will hardly make me afraid to go up the slopes the way Jaws made people afraid to go in the ocean, so I’ll leave it at that.)
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