REVIEW: HEROES – SEASON 3

Starring

Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Adrian Pasdar (Supergirl)
Jack Coleman (Spawn)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and The Beast)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)
Hayden Panettiere (Nashville)
James Kyson Lee (Sleepy Hollow)
Masi Oka (Get Smart)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Ali Larter (Final Destination)
Dania Ramirez (Mojave)

Sendhil Ramamurthy in Heroes (2006)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Brea Grant (Halloween II)
Ashley Crow (Minority Report)
Željko Ivanek (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Jamie Hector (All Eyez on Me)
Ntare Mwine (Treme)
Blake Shields (The Hollow)
Robert Forster (Automata)
David H. Lawrence XVII (Lost)
Kristen Bell (The Good Place)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange)
Alan Blumenfeld (Pathology)
George Takei (Star Trek: TOS)
Dan Byrd (28 Days)
Francis Capra (Veronica Mars)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wofe and Kids)
Demetrius Grosse (The Rookie)
Lisa Lackey (Planet of The Apes)
Eric Roberts (The Finder)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl)
Loren Lester (Red Eye)
Jessalyn Gilsig (Nip/Tuck)
David Anders (Izombie)
William Katt (Carrie)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Breckin Meyer (Garfield)
Taylor Cole (The Originals)
Aarti Mann (The BIg Bang Theory)
Justin Baldoni (Jane The Virgin)
John Glover (Smallville)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kevin Alejandro (Arrow)
Kenneth Choi (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Diana Scarwid (Psycho III)
Ravi Kapoor (Bones)
Edwin Hodge (Red Dawn)
Alexa Nikolas (Red State)
Cam Clarke (The Lion Guard)
Ellen Greene (Little Shop of Horrors)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Michael B. Silver (Jason Goes To Hell)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)

Hayden Panettiere and Milo Ventimiglia in Heroes (2006)I love the concept of a weekly show about people dealing with superpowers and an evil government agency coming to get them. I also really like that it doesn’t shy away from the violence, especially when it comes to the ruthless power collecting ultimate bad guy (who at times shows his good side) Sylar. What I don’t like is how scattered and uneven this show has become. I dare anyone to try and make sense out of the first half of the season titled “Villains”. The only crime committed was a lack of concern for a coherent plot. Luckily the second half of the season “Fugitives” got the show focused in and back on track. More after the jump…Masi Oka, James Kyson, and Brea Grant in Heroes (2006)The first half of the season “Villains” was advertised with big campaigns claiming that this season “Heroes will battle Villains.” I was super stoked because the way my mind pictured the structure of the show was switching the narrative focus over to the villains and showing the events through their perspective making all the good guys side characters. I realize this sounds a bit ambitious, but coming off of a lackluster sophomore season I thought the creators were pulling out all the stops. This is not what happened. Instead what came out of the first half was a jumbled, messy plot that had moments of brilliance mixed in with a heavy dose of confusion. I still was thoroughly entertained, but I’m an easy sell when it comes to anything comic book oriented.Zachary Quinto in Heroes (2006)The plot of “Villains” centers around the revelation that Arthur Petrelli is in fact alive and planning some dastardly things at Pinhearst, in his search for the catalyst (the nebulous source that gave all these characters powers). If Arthur can get his hands on the formula then he can create a whole slew of super humans to do his bidding. This is a pretty cool plot, especially when a ton of super baddies are released from Level 5 during a crisis leading to HRG and Sylar teaming up to round them up. Sylar has a lot of moral issues this season as he grapples with his true nature, is he a monster or was he programmed by the Company to be this way?Jack Coleman in Heroes (2006)There are some really fun things he gets to do this season, especially the buddy cop-esque episode where he and HRG are trying to stop a bank robbery being held up by super villains. The plot gets confusing when time travel keeps being thrown in and the actual source of the catalyst was jumbled for me. Is it Claire or Hiro’s mother or both or just a formula? I have no idea. There’s also a two-part episode where another eclipse happens and they all lose their powers. I understand why in the dramatic arc of the story this was put in, but it’s not fun to watch superheroes without powers and these two episodes dragged a bit. I liked the initial idea and towards the end the showdown with Arthur and the Petrelli boys is great, but this half loses steam here and there with just too many ideas on the table.Now comes the second half of the season “Fugitives,” which I thought was awesome! Nathan outs himself to the President as being a person with abilities and is then put in charge of rounding up all people like him in the interest of Homeland Security. Nathan’s motives are a bit sketchy, has he turned to the Dark Side or is this all a way to help Claire, or is it a way to work the system from the inside and eventually destroy it? I’m not telling, but there are a decent number of twists throughout. The reason this half of the season works so much better is because there is a clear through-line and the story is way more focused. Basically it’s the U.S. government versus everyone with abilities, as villains team with heroes and the lines of good and bad are blurred to fight a bigger enemy that threatens all their existence. It’s also a classic comic book plot that works well for a reason, because it seems realistic that this is how our government would react if living Weapons of Mass Destruction started popping up all over the country.Hayden Panettiere, James Kyson, and Brea Grant in Heroes (2006)“Fugitives” has a clear bad guy in the ruthless Agent Danko, who will stop at nothing to detain and sometimes simply destroy anyone with abilities. HRG and Angela start playing both sides and their characters have some great moments. Sylar takes a trip down memory lane to try and find out who his real parents are and some interesting new developments come up leading him down a darker path then before. And Sylar acquires his best power yet, when he kills a shape-shifter, could he be any more unstoppable? While Nathan grapples with the morals of the decisions he’s made and how to fix this manhunt he’s started. Not to mention a great deal is revealed when the gang of heroes goes to Coyote Sands to find out about a mysterious project called “Icarus” which turns out to be a concentration camp for people with abilities where some pretty bad stuff went down. Lots of action, suspense, twists, and a more focused plot makes “Fugitives” a bad ass return to form for a series that has had some ups and downs, but is still dear to my nerdcore heart.Hayden Panettiere, Masi Oka, and James Kyson in Heroes (2006)The first half of season three meandered a bit, but was still fun to watch. The second half reminded me why I started watching the show in the first place and gives a great deal of hope for season four, especially with the cliffhanger we were left with at the end of “Fugitives.” Let’s just say it won’t be politics as usual this coming season…

 

REVIEW: HEROES – SEASON 2

Starring

Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Jack Coleman (The Vampire Diaries)
Masi Oka (The Meg)
Greg Grunberg (Alias)
Adrian Pasdar (Agents of Shield)
Hayden Panettiere (I Love You, Beth Cooper)
Noah Gray-Cabey (My Wife and Kids)
Ali Larter (Obsessed)
Sendhil Ramamurthy (Beauty and The Beast)
David Anders (Izombie)
Kristen Bell (The Goood Place)
Dania Ramirez (Mojave)
Dana Davis (10 Things I Hate About You)
James Kyson Lee (Sleepy Hollow)
Zachary Quinto (Star Trek)

Masi Oka in Heroes (2006)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Jimmy Jean-Louis (Arrow)
Adair Tishler (Dollhouse)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Shalim Ortiz (Grand Hotel)
Nicholas D’Agosto (Gotham)
Katie Carr (A Perfect Man)
Eriko Tamura (Dragonball Evolution)
Cristine Rose (How I Met Your Mother)
Ashley Crow (Cake)
Dianna Agron (Glee)
Barry Shabaka Henley (The Terminal)
Holt McCallany (Justice League)
Lyndsy Fonseca (Agent Carter)
George Takei (Star Trek: TOS)
Dominic Keating (Star Trek: Enterprise)
Randall Bentley (Upside)
Adetokumboh M’Cormack (Lost)
Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek: TOS)
Tohoru Masamune (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Mark Christopher Lawrence (Chuck)
Alan Blumenfeld (Wargames)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat)
Elya Baskin (Spider-Man 2)
Leonard Roberts (Smallville)
Rena Sofer (Traffic)
Sabrina Perez (Terminator: TSCC)
Saemi Nakamura (The Wolverine)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Jaime Ray Newman (The Punisher)

David Anders and Masi Oka in Heroes (2006)Initially, I wasn’t watching Heroes when it aired on TV, though I did manage to catch the first season when it came out on video, and I was amazed. I think it did a couple of things exceptionally well. Combining the nature of a hero and villain into the framing of a comic book, it managed to capture the feeling of serialized television at a level that not many shows reach. Almost every week, you were left with a scene that made you immediately want the next seven days to go by as fast as humanly possible. Additionally, creator Tim Kring made the heroes global. While many were in America, one was located in Japan and spoke Japanese with his friend. I don’t recall a prime-time show devoting an entire storyline to one foreign-speaking character in awhile, but I don’t watch as much as others to know for sure.Katie Carr and Milo Ventimiglia in Heroes (2006)Nevertheless, Heroes has captured the hearts and minds of many, and Season Two was full of expectations following the Season One cliffhanger, where Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar, Judging Amy saved his brother Peter (Milo Ventimiglia, Rocky Balboa) from blowing up the world by grabbing him and flying the brothers into the atmosphere while Peter’s niece/Nathan’s biological daughter Claire (Hayden Panettiere, Remember The Titans) watched from below. The first episode of Season Two found the characters in many different positions. Peter was alive but severely burned. Claire was starting school in California, away from the comforts of Odessa, Texas, but under the watchful eye of her father Noah (Jack Coleman) and away from the mysterious yet diabolical “Company.” Nathan’s friend Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg, Alias) was becoming a New York Police Detective and staying with Mohinder (Sendil Ramamurthy) while the two raised Molly (Adair Tishler, Pop Star). Niki (Ali Larter, Legally Blonde) seemed to have her power under control and has D.L. (Leonard Roberts, Drumline) and Micah (Noah Gray-Cabey, Lady in the Water) with her as well. Finally, remember that Japanese character I spoke of earlier? Well Hiro (Masi Oka, Get Smart) is in 17th century feudal Japan, wondering what it is exactly that he’s doing there. And Sylar (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek) was last seen crawling into a sewer, never to be seen again?Dania Ramirez and Shalim Ortiz in Heroes (2006)It’s from here that things get a little complicated. Kring, Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and the rest of the show’s cast and crew listen to fan feedback and truly take it to heart, and I’d be remiss to not mention Kring’s interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he seemed to creatively say “My bad!” when discussing the viewers’ reaction to the second season. Among the things discussed were the character development of new heroes and villains, which might work in other places, but not when you have an already established cast of characters. To borrow from another show for a second (specifically Lost), if the fanbase is there, you can get away with dropping in a new character or two, and bring character development along at your own pace. Do we know all there is to know about Ben’s backstory? And he’s been on the island for a couple of seasons now. The balance between keeping a new character fresh while advancing the older characters’ arcs is a challenge, but maybe virtual abandonment wasn’t the best way to go for Kring. It also didn’t help Kring that Maya and Alejandro were his version of Nikki and Paolo either. With the exception of Elle (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars), Kring would have been better suited to keep the familiar faces more at the forefront. But hey, what’s done is done.Kristen Bell in Heroes (2006)There were other elements of the show that Kring rued over as well, but one other thing that occurred that impacted the show and was out of his control was the Writers’ Guild Strike which forced Kring to curtail the season, along with a story arc that would have had apparently significant ramifications, if the supplements on this set are any indication. The main stories for Season Two surrounded the characters’ physical and emotional states after their initial mammoth confrontation, but also for several older cast members who were being stalked and eventually eliminated by a hero with a grudge. And hovering over everyone’s heads was a virus that, if released, would have wiped out the world, as Peter finds out in a flash forward of sorts.David Anders in Heroes (2006)Upon further review, perhaps Season Two of Heroes doesn’t deserve as much scorn and ridicule as it’s received. If we were to examine the season as a living breathing figure, it would be comparing it to someone who committed murder, but in the time after the act, showed remorse for the act and the loss. When it starts to take tangible steps on the road to recovery, the townspeople put down their pitchforks and torches, but the murderer gets hit by lightning before the townspeople can accept or forgive him. As a post-script to all of this, the moral of the story appears to be that you can learn from your mistakes, and Kring debuted the Season Three episode at the 2008 Comic Con in San Diego. The show hit the ground running after nine months in creative cold storage, but there are still components of it that make revisiting Season Two a slight prerequisite, so spend the time in doing so.Eriko Tamura in Heroes (2006)One of the reasons why I devoted so many words to Heroes is that, well, there’s a lot to talk about. It’s worth revisiting Season Two not only for what happened, but for what might have been as well. The storylines are decent, and the band came back for another tour so to speak, and with this presentation you get solid technical specs and a multitude of extra material. Fans of the show should snap this up promptly.

REVIEW: MEMENTO

CAST

Guy Pearce (Prometheus)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix)
Mark Boone Junior (Batman Begins)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Thomas Lennon (Santa Clarita Diet)
Callum Keith Rennie (Californication)
Jorja Fox (CSI)

The film starts with the Polaroid photograph of a dead man. As the sequence plays backwards the photo reverts to its undeveloped state, entering the camera before the man is shot in the head. The film then continues, alternating between black and white and color sequences.The black and white sequences begin with Leonard Shelby, an insurance investigator, in a motel room speaking to an unseen and unknown caller. Leonard has anterograde amnesia and is unable to store recent memories, the result of an attack by two men. Leonard explains that he killed the attacker who raped and strangled his wife, but a second clubbed him and escaped. The police did not accept that there was a second attacker, but Leonard believes the attacker’s name is John or James, with a last name starting with G. Leonard conducts his own investigation using a system of notes, Polaroids, and tattoos. From his occupation, Leonard recalls a fellow anterograde amnesiac: Sammy Jankis. Sammy’s diabetic wife, who wasn’t sure if his condition was genuine, repeatedly requested insulin; she hoped that he would remember having given her an injection and stop himself from giving another before she died of an overdose. However, Sammy continues to administer the injections, and his wife falls into a fatal coma.The color sequences are shown reverse-chronologically. In the story’s chronology, Leonard self-directively gets a tattoo of John G’s license plate. Finding a note in his clothes, he meets Natalie, a bartender who resents Leonard as he wears the clothes and drives the car of her boyfriend, Jimmy Grantz. After understanding his condition, she uses it to get Leonard to drive a man named Dodd out of town and offers to run the license plate as a favor. Meanwhile, Leonard meets with a contact, Teddy, who helps with Dodd, but warns about Natalie. However, a photograph instigates Leonard not to trust him. Natalie provides Leonard the driver’s license for a John Edward Gammell, Teddy’s full name. Confirming Leonard’s information on “John G” and his warnings, Leonard drives Teddy to an abandoned building, leading to the opening, where he shoots him.In the final black-and-white sequence, prompted by the caller, Leonard meets with Teddy, an undercover officer, who has found Leonard’s “John G,” Jimmy, and directs Leonard to the abandoned building. When Jimmy arrives, Leonard strangles him and takes a photo of the body. As it develops, the black-and-white transitions to the final color sequence. Leonard swaps clothes with Jimmy, hearing him whisper “Sammy.” As Leonard has only told Sammy’s story to those met, he suddenly doubts Jimmy’s role. Teddy arrives and asserts that Jimmy was John G, but when Leonard is undeterred, Teddy reveals that he helped him kill the real attacker a year ago, and he has been using Leonard ever since. Teddy points out that since “John G” is common, he will cyclically forget and begin again and that even Teddy himself has a “John G” name. Further, Teddy claims that Sammy’s story is Leonard’s himself, repressing the memory to escape guilt.After hearing Teddy’s exposition, Leonard consciously burns Jimmy’s photograph, writes a message to himself on Teddy’s photograph not to trust Teddy, and drives off in Jimmy’s car. He has Teddy’s license plate number tattooed as the second attacker, leading to his eventual death.This film will leave its own memento on your mind, and you’ll have a hard time forgetting how much you enjoyed it.

 

REVIEW: FREAKY FRIDAY (2003)

CAST

Jamie Lee Curtis (Scream Queens)
Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls)
Mark Harmon (Chasing Liberty)
Chad Michael Murray (Agent Carter)
Harold Gould (Stuart Little)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Christina Vidal (See no Evil)
Rosalind Chao (Just Like Heaven)
Willie Garson (Out Cold)
Julie Gonzalo (Veronica Mars)
Marc McClure (Superman)
Mary Ellen Trainor (Roswell)
Erica Gimpel (Profiler)

Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) is an average teenager who constantly fights with her stodgy widow mother Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) and annoying younger brother Harry (Ryan Malgarini). The conflicts are: Anna’s rock band which Tess hates because she thinks that they are all noise, Tess’ upcoming second marriage to Ryan (Mark Harmon) which Anna is not emotionally ready for because her father died three years ago, and Anna’s claims about her archrival Stacey Hinkhouse (Julie Gonzalo) who doesn’t stop torturing her and has Tess convinced that she and Anna are still best friends like they used to be; sadistic English teacher, Mr. Elton Bates (Stephen Tobolowsky) who gives her an “F” on everything she does no matter how hard she tries. Tess also disapproves of Anna’s crush, Jake (Chad Michael Murray), an older student.

The entire family, plus Ryan, eats out at Pei-Pei’s Chinese restaurant, where Anna begs Tess to let her go on an important audition with the band. However, Tess refuses to let her go since the show is on the same Friday as the rehearsal dinner. The two begin arguing again until Pei-Pei’s mother interrupts to give them fortune cookies, which contain a body switching spell, causing an earthquake only they felt. The next day, Tess and Anna wake up in each other’s bodies, figuring that the fortune cookies are responsible for the switch, but cannot go directly to the restaurant as Anna has to go to school and Tess has to attend to her therapy patients, taking each other’s roles. At school, Tess finds that Anna is not only right about Stacey when she assaults her, but Mr. Bates also gives her an “F” on a pop quiz about Shakespeare’s Hamlet even though she answered everything right. She soon recognizes him as a former classmate who asked her out to the prom, but she turned him down, and he is now taking it out on Anna. She threatens to report him to the school board unless he stops abusing Anna. Before Anna goes to Tess’ office, she gives Tess’ body a makeover, much to her dismay. At lunch time, Anna and Tess go back to the restaurant to confront Pei-Pei and her mother, but Pei-Pei explains that only showing selfless love to one another will break the spell. In the afternoon, Anna attends Harry’s parent-teacher conference, where she reads a composition about how much Harry actually admires Anna. She sees her brother in a different light and vows to treat him nicer. Meanwhile, Tess attempts to make amends with Stacey but Stacey frames her for cheating. Jake helps her finish the test, which makes Tess realize that she has misjudged him. Unfortunately, Jake is no longer enamored with “Anna” after Tess sabotages Stacey’s test.

Meanwhile, Ryan surprises Anna with an interview on a talk show to discuss Tess’ new psychology book. However, Anna turns the interview into a wild romp to cover the fact she hasn’t read the book. Tess and Jake catch the interview on TV and while Tess is embarrassed, Jake is impressed. Later, Anna bumps into Jake at a coffee shop and they bond over their favorite music. Jake begins to fall in love with “Tess” and attempts to pursue her, much to the real Tess’ horror.

At the rehearsal dinner, Anna’s bandmates come to try to convince “Anna” to sneak off to the audition but they are caught by security. Ryan surprises Tess and Anna by giving “Anna” permission to go. Ryan explains that he just wants the kids to accept him and Ryan urges “Tess” to go support the band, finally winning her over. Since Tess can’t play, Anna unplugs her guitar and plays while Tess mimes along and enjoys doing so. Jake is in the audience and he realizes that Anna is the one for him. Tess also realizes how fun music is and promises to treat Anna’s band with more respect. Back at the wedding rehearsal, Tess tells Anna to ask Ryan to postpone the wedding, so that Anna will not have to go through marrying him in her mother’s body. Instead, Anna proposes a toast where she finally accepts Ryan because of how happy he makes Tess. This is the final act of selfless love needed to break the spell and another earthquake has the two switch back bodies. On the wedding day, Tess and Ryan marry, and Anna and Jake start dating with Tess’ approval. Anna’s band also plays at the wedding. Pei-Pei’s mother attempts to give Harry and Grandpa the body switching fortune cookies when they argue, but Pei-Pei confiscates them in the nick of time.Hilarious film with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, much better than previous versions of this type of film.

REVIEW: WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!

 

CAST

Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns)
Topher Grace (That 70s Show)
Josh Duhamel (Transformers)
Nathan Lane (The Producers)
Sean Hayes (Will & Grace)
Gary Cole (Crusade)
Ginnifer Goodwin (Walk The Line)
Kathryn Hahn (We’re The Millers)
Octavia Spencer (Insurgent)
Amy Smart (Road Trip)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation)
Jordana Brewster (Fast & Furious)
Paris Hilton (Veronica Mars)
Wendy Worthington (Bones)
Patrick Fischler (Happy!)

MV5BMTYyNDY3NzI0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjU0OTQyNA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1528,1000_AL_An old-fashioned comedy geared towards teens, “Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!” didn’t connect with audiences, but this lightweight comedy deserved a bit more of a following. The picture is certainly no classic, but there’s a few appealing performances, clever gags and occasional moments of sharply funny dialogue. The picture stars Kate Bosworth (“Blue Crush”) as Rosalee Futch, a small-town West Virginia cashier smitten with movie star Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel  “Transformers”). When Hamilton’s agents decide that his days of wine and women are over, they come up with a contest idea where one winner will be flown out to go on a date with the actor. Watching from the sidelines is her co-worker, Pete Monash (Topher Grace), who’s never told Rosalee his feelings about her.

While the date goes well, there’s something about the pure, West Virginia goodness of Rosalee that appeals to Tad, prompting him to purchase a place in her small town and spark a war between him and Pete over Rosalee. Standard romantic comedy fare, but played well.

The film’s performances go a fairly long way in pushing the film past the fact that most will feel as if they’ve seen some variation of this story a thousand times. Grace (of “That 70’s Show”) amps up his usual delivery and timing, resulting in some terrifically funny moments.  I greatly enjoyed Bosworth in “Blue Crush”, where she portrayed that character with a great deal of determination and heart. Here, her small town character is sweet and genuine, topped off with Bosworth’s charm and smile.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! is a nice, sweet little movie with a few big laughs, fine performances and charm.

REVIEW: BURIED

 

CAST

Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
José Luis García Pérez (La verdad)
Robert Paterson (Faust)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Samantha Mathis (American Psycho)
Kali Rocha (Buffy)
Chris Willaim Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Anne Lockhart (Tangled)

For several seconds after the opening credits of Buried have ended, the screen is dark, the soundtrack silent. Director Rodrigo Cortés holds that empty screen for as long as he can, and then he keeps holding it; we lean forward, peering into the darkness, straining our ears for any sound that will punctuate the stillness. (It’s a brilliant, if risky, tool for focusing an audience.) Finally, thankfully, there is a quiet cough, then breathing, breathing which becomes more panicked in the darkness. As Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes from a blackout, bound and gagged, he lights his Zippo and realizes what has happened. He’s been buried alive.

Conroy is a contractor in Iraq, a truck driver for a company that (he stresses at one point) is not Blackwater. His convoy was ambushed by a band of insurgents; many of his co-workers were killed. He has been placed in a rickety old wood coffin and buried somewhere in Iraq, who knows where; he’s got his Zippo and his flask, and his abductors have left a Blackberry, which they use to inform him that he is being held for ransom. They don’t seem concerned that he can also call for help, because no one can help him.

Cortés tells Paul’s story in (basically) real time, the 90 minutes or so he’s got until his phone battery, Zippo, and air all run out. So it is the tale of a man trapped, in a seemingly impossible situation, who must keep his wits about him and focus on his own possible survival, slim though his odds may be. The challenge that Cortés places on himself (and on screenwriter Chris Sparling) is borderline masochistic: he stays inside that 2’x7′ box with Conroy for the entirety of the picture. No prologues, no flashbacks, no cutaways, nothing but what is happening right there in that moment, pushed in, pressed up, squished like a vice.

Sparling’s clever screenplay seems to think through every possible action and reaction, and then push two steps ahead; he’s playing three-dimensional chess, and if there are holes in the logic or progression of events, I didn’t see them.  Reynolds, the only face on screen for the entire 90+ minutes, gives an unassuming, matter-of-fact, and ultimately effective performance.