REVIEW: IMPERIUM

CAST

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
Toni Collette (Krampus)
Tracy Letts (Killer Joe)
Sam Trammell (Guns, Girls and Gambling)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why)
Pawel Szajda (Under The Tuscan Sun)
Chris Sullivan (The Drop)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)
Seth Numrich (Homeland)
Vanessa Ore (Dark Resonance)

Nate Foster is an FBI agent working to uncover terrorist plots. After some illegally imported caesium-137 is stolen, Nate is recruited by agent Angela Zamparo, who suspects the involvement of white supremacist groups. Through Zamparo’s connections, Foster is introduced to a small group led by Vince Sargent, a local leader who is familiar with their prime suspect, conservative talk radio host Dallas Wolf. Wolf, a figurehead in the movement for his incendiary rhetoric, assembles a gathering of the largest and most influential groups in the northeast. With Sargent’s introductions, Foster becomes ingratiated in the movement and meets Andrew Blackwell, the leader of a premier white supremacist militia, as well as gaining Wolf’s attention by convincing him he can fund an expansion of his radio show. Foster also becomes fast friends with Gerry Conway, a white collar engineer and family man.After earning Blackwell’s trust by saving him during an attack on a white power rally by anti-fascists, Foster is brought to a crude military complex operated by Andrew’s militia. There, Blackwell reveals that he has blueprints for the municipal water network of Washington, DC and is plotting an attack. The FBI begins to suspect that Wolf and Blackwell are working together after Foster meets Dallas at his home and discovers that his house sets off Nate’s Geiger counter. Foster attempts to integrate himself into a possible plot by offering Wolf a substantial financial investment. Instead, Wolf becomes hostile and reports Nate to the FBI. It is revealed that he is merely an entertainer and does not believe in the cause. Blackwell is meanwhile also dismissed as a possible threat. With no further leads, the case is ordered to be closed by Foster’s and Zamparo’s superior. Angered at wasting his efforts, Nate prepares to have his cover identity leave the city.Foster meets Gerry to make his final farewells. Sensing his genuine feelings of uselessness, Conway confides in Nate his membership in a domestic terrorist cell. It is revealed that Gerry and his allies are in possession of the caesium and are plotting to detonate a dirty bomb. With Conway’s introduction, Foster joins the group as supplier of the explosive (TATP). Though his cover is nearly blown several times by the paranoid terrorists, Nate manages to locate the caesium in Conway’s home, and the FBI stop and arrest the terrorists before they are able to carry out the plot. Satisfied that he has made a difference, Nate makes one last visit to Johnny, a teenager and former member of Sargent’s gang who no longer believes in the cause.Imperium is a highly involving “going undercover” based on a true events story which works well as a first rate “thinking man’s” thriller as well as a good drama.

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REVIEW: HOLY ROLLERS

CAST

Jesse Eisenberg (Batman V Superman)
Justin Bartha (The Hangover)
Ari Graynor (The Sitter)
Danny A. Abeckaser (The Iceman)
Q-Tip (Cadilac Records)
Jason Fuchs (La La Land)
Mark Ivanir (Johnny English Reborn)
Hallie Eisenberg (Wild Child)
Elizabeth Marvel (House of Cards)
David Vadim (Punisher: War Zone)
Stella Keitel (Bad Lieutenant)

Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg), is a mild-mannered 20-year-old Orthodox Jewish man who lives with his large family in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. Sam works in his father’s fabric store while studying to be a rabbi. He and his family hope to arrange a marriage for him with Zeldy Lazar (Stella Keitel). However, Sam’s family is much poorer than the Lazars, and he worries he will be unable to provide for them.Sam and his best friend Leon (Jason Fuchs) accept a mysterious job offer from Leon’s brother Yosef (Justin Bartha) and his boss, the Israeli Jackie (Danny Abeckaser). Yosef sends them to Amsterdam, with instructions to wait for him. While there, the pair are given a briefcase, which Yosef says contains medicine, and are instructed to walk it through customs in New York. Back in New York, the pair discover the briefcase contains pure ecstasy. Leon wants nothing more to do with Yosef, but Sam is attracted to the easy money.Sam becomes a participant in Jackie’s operation, making trips to Amsterdam to pick up suitcases. He is paid to recruit other young Orthodox Jews as mules, who implicitly trust him as one of their own. Sam meets the liberal Jewish girl Rachel (Ari Graynor), Jackie’s girlfriend, and drinks alcohol and takes ecstasy with the gang. Sam begins to rise in the organization when he brokers a business deal with European drug manufacturer Ephraim (Q-Tip). Meanwhile, Sam leaves the yeshiva. His new job is well-known around his neighborhood, and his parents kick him out of the house. Sam discovers Yosef has been skimming money from Jackie through side deals. Jackie, however, wants to ship street ecstasy, which contains a higher percentage of other drugs, into America. These drugs, carried by unwitting young Orthodox Jews is picked up by drug-sniffing dogs and the mules are arrested.Sam escapes to warn Yosef, who is high. Yosef suggests they drive to California. Sam returns to his childhood home, where he is greeted by Leon, who has married Zeldy. Sam weeps on his front steps as the sirens in the distance grow closer.I liked the documentary-like quality of the camera work; if almost made it seem like I was watching the movie unfold in real-time. The setting and context the story plays out was Holy Rollers’ biggest strength, in my opinion. How much you enjoy it will depend largely on how much interest you still have in these kinds of stories. I still found it to be pretty entertaining, though.

REVIEW: THE COLONY

CAST

Emma Watson (Harry Potter)
Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil war)
Michael Nyqvist (John Wick)
Richenda Carey (Tomb Raider)
Vicky Krieps(A Most Wanted Man)
August Zirner (Berlin 36)
Jeanne Werner (Bye Bye Germany)

In 1973, Daniel and Lena, a young German couple, become entangled in a Chilean military coup at a time when supporters of deposed President Salvador Allende are getting rounded up by the military under General Augusto Pinochet. When Daniel is abducted by Pinochet’s secret police DINA, Lena tries to find and save her boyfriend.[3] She tracks him to a sealed-off organization called “Colonia Dignidad”, which presents itself as a charitable mission run by a lay preacher, Paul Schäfer. Lena joins the organization to rescue her boyfriend, only to learn it is a cult from which no one has ever escaped. She later finds Daniel, who acts disabled to be overlooked. Daniel discovers the organization is also an illegal operations center for DINA. Lena and Daniel attempt to escape from Colonia Dignidad along with Ursel, a pregnant nurse. Ursel is killed and both Lena and Daniel escape to the West German embassy. Staff from the embassy betray them but the lovers exit the country by air, with incriminating photographic evidence against Colonia Dignidad.Bruhl, Nqvist and Watson all give excellent performances in this interesting drama. Overall pretty entertaining and good to see Watson in a more mature and less innocuous role than she normally plays..

REVIEW: OPERATION CHROMITE

CAST

Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Lee Jung-jae (Warrios of The Dawn)
Lee Beom-soo (Ghost Mamma)
Jin Se-yeon (Enemies In-Law)
Jung Joon-ho (West 32nd)
Kim Byeong-ok (New World)
Park Chul-min (The Villainess)
Jon Gries (Men In Black)

The year is 1950, just a few months after North Korean forces have overrun most of South Korea. After a UN coalition led by the U.S. comes to the nation’s aid, General Douglas MacArthur devises a secret plan to attack behind enemy lines at the port city of Incheon. The risky strategem is opposed by leaders of the other military branches, forcing MacArthur to devise a clandestine operation to gather essential information from within occupied Incheon by coordinating a weeklong South Korean intelligence operation known as X-Ray.The linchpin of this top-secret incursion, Captain Jang Hak-Soo of the South Korean Navy Intelligence Unit (a former North Korean Army officer who defected to South Korea after seeing his father executed in front of him by his fellow communist officers), and seven members of the X-Ray unit disguise themselves as a North Korean inspection unit and infiltrate the North Korean army command center in Incheon, coordinated by Soviet-trained Commander Lim Gye-Jin, a protégé of the North Korean leader, Kim Il-Sung. Their prime objective is to determine the placement of North Korean defenses (such as mines and artillery) and the tactical characteristics of the Incheon harbor, notorious for swift currents and major tidal surges and secure a lighthouse crucial to the landing’s success.Immediately suspicious of Jang’s “inspection mission”, Lim attempts to impede his comrade’s investigation and orders his staff to monitor the new arrivals closely. The U.S. command relays MacArthur’s orders to obtain navigation charts showing naval mine placements in the harbor and prepare a strategy to assist the coalition forces with landing an amphibious assault in a narrow two-hour window between tides. When contacts within the South Korean military intelligence unit known as KLO (Korean Liaison Office, predecessor to current day South Korean Headquarters of Intelligence Detachment, or HID) warn Jang that time is running out to successfully complete the mission, he pushes his group to extremes. Meanwhile in Tokyo, MacArthur prepares Operation Chromite, an invasion force of 75,000 UN troops and over 200 warships to imminently depart for the Korean Peninsula.This is a little hidden gem of a film, you probably won’t find it running anywhere as it has a limited budget and almost zero media behind it. We have a straightforward story of brave men doing brave deeds with honor. Not the best War film, but not bad for a rainy day.

REVIEW: AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING

CAST

Bella Thorne (The Babysitter)
Cameron Monaghan (Gotham)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful eight)
Mckenna Grace (I, Tonya)
Thomas Mann (Kong: Skull Island)
Taylor Spreitler (Melissa & Joey)
Jennifer Morrison (How I Met Your Mother)
Kurtwood Smith (Agent Carter)
Cleopatra Coleman (The Last Man on Earth)

A single mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) moves into a new home with her three children, but the miraculous recovery of her previously comatose teenage son (Cameron Monaghan) leads to a series of sinister events that leave the frightened family fighting for their lives. Bella Thorne and Kurtwood Smith co-star.Amityville: The Awakening is notable for a variety of reasons, and many of them have nothing to do with the quality of the film. For starters, it was completed back in 2012 and has been re-scheduled half a dozen time; it was most recently pulled last June mere weeks before it was set to hit theaters. So, for those of us who have been watching and waiting for Amityville: Awakening, following the film along every bump in the road, the fact that it finally came to fruition is kind of a big deal. But while the release is long overdue, it also coincides with an unprecedented Hollywood scandal: The revelations of sexual misconduct by The Weinstein Company co-founder Harvey Weinstein. Since Weinstein was fired by the company he created, Amityville: The Awakening is the first of his productions to be released. Tellingly, the fallen mogul’s name was removed from the film’s opening credits. Whether there is a resulting Weinstein backlash that will hurt the film’s performance remains to be seen, as fans mull turning their backs on anything that might end up putting money in his pocket.Amityville: The Awakening arrived for a limited time on Google Play today; this will be followed by a limited theatrical release beginning on October 28th. The fact that Amityville: The Awakening was pulled from release so many time indicates that the studio had no faith in the film; it feels like it’s only reluctantly being released at all, and giving it away for free on Google Play suggests Dimension Films already considered it a complete loss. But even with tempered expectations, Amityville: The Awakening is genuinely, objectively fantastic. I don’t know if all the fine-tuning paid off, or if the Weinsteins simply misjudged a winner, but the movie is one of the best PG-13 horror movies of the 21st Century. Had it pursued a hard R, it could have rivaled The Conjuring.As for its ranking within the loosely connected Amityville franchise (a rag-tag assemblage of mostly low-quality knock-offs capitalizing on the infamous address’s legacy), it’s easily number 3; right behind 1979’s classic and 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession. While it can’t touch the original, it’s a treat for those fascinated by the happenings at f 112 Ocean Ave. in Long Island. The film opens with historical documents from the actual DeFeo Family murders that occurred in 1974. From there, and combines several past approaches to the cinematic property; while firmly rooted in the haunted house subgenre, there’s also an emphasis on possession motifs. Like the prequel, there’s a brother/sister dynamic and family dysfunction at the core of Amityville: The Awakening—one that provokes the audiences on several levels.Most surprisingly, and impressively, Amityville: The Awakening is a meta-film. Not only does it retain the “based on a true story” status touted by the original, it exists in a universe where all of the Amityville movies actually exist; essential, it’s a work of fiction that takes place in real life. So, imagine being a fan of the franchise and the chilling paranormal history of 112 Ocean Avenue, and then being given an opportunity to roam the property. That’s essentially what you get: A virtual tour of the iconic Amityville house, complete with windows that look like creepy eyes and a sinister red room hidden behind a wall in the basement. Imagine watching 1979’s Amityville Horror in the actually Amityville house! It would be an opportunity horror and supernatural geeks would pay an arm and a leg for. So, it’s will no small amount of vicarious satisfaction that we see a fictional film nerd do just that.Divorced from the Amityville franchise, Amityville: The Awakening is still a powerful haunted house movie, so one needn’t have seen the original (or the 2005 remake) to dig it. Though there are Easter Eggs and nods to the original aplenty, it fits all the motifs associated with angsty teens in peril. There are some incredible jump-scares, and they’re pulled early; this sets the audience on edge from the get-go and the proceeding suspense works perfectly. There are also elements of medical and body horror; Cameron Monaghan plays James, a teen who’s been in a coma for years and, as a result, his body has atrophied into a waxy, twisted abomination (think Zelda from 1989’s Pet Sematary)—complete with bedsores. It’s got one serious gross-out moment, and could have only benefitted from more; I have no doubt that upping the ante and making The Awakening R-Rated would have only strengthened the end result.While the audience associates the lead protagonist Belle (played by Bella Thorne), James is the personification of paralyzing fear. The claustrophobia of a haunted house is magnified exponentially when one loses the ability to run, react, or even scream. It’s a portrayal of helplessness that most teens, with their lives ahead of them and feelings of invincibility, would consider Hell. Amityville: The Awakening succeeds by rooting itself in the established franchise mythology, then compounding the inherent horror with extreme family dysfunction.I liked Amityville: The Awakening way more than I expected to, and I had higher than average expectations. In many ways, it’s a movie made for Amityville Horror fans, but you needn’t be familiar with the past films or a true-crime buff to get a lot out of this tense and thrill-ride. The film stars strong and maintains its intensity. While not without flaws, this Amityville fan loved it; I’d recommend it to any fan of supernatural horror for an effective & surprisingly nuanced shocker.

 

REVIEW: KILL THE IRISHMAN

CAST

Ray Stevenson (Punisher Warzone)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil)
Vinnie Jones (Arrow)
Val Kilmer (Batman Forever)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Linda Cardellini (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Tony Dartrow (The Sopranos)
Robert Davi (The Goonies)
Fionnula Flanagan (Yes man)
Bob Gunton (Daredevil)
Laura Ramsey (The Covenant)
Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas)
Mike Starr (Radio Days)

In 1960, Danny Greene and his childhood friends Billy McComber and Art Sneperger are longshoremen at the Cleveland docks. Meanwhile, the members are exploited by corrupt union boss, Jerry Merke and the leadership of the ILA union urges Greene to run against him. Meanwhile, Sneperger can’t pay a gambling debt to Cleveland Mafia Capo John Nardi. In return for Sneperger’s debt being forgiven, Greene supplies Nardi’s crew with goods stolen from the docks. Merke finds out, demands a cut of Greene’s profits, and then sends an enforcer to kill him. Instead, Greene beats up the enforcer, then beats up Merke, throws the union leader out of his office, and is later elected union president. He improves the working conditions at the docks while continuing his dealings with Nardi.Greene’s corruption is exposed by the Plain Dealer newspaper and Cleveland Police Detective Joe Manditski, who grew up with Greene in Collinwood, arrests him. Bankrupt and facing prison, Greene plea bargains to lesser charges in return for becoming an FBI informant and being banned for life from organized labor. Greene is released and moves his unhappy wife and daughters back to Collinwood. Nardi gets him work as an enforcer for Hungarian Jewish loan shark Shondor Birns, and later helps pitch a deal to Mafia Capo Jack Licavoli: Greene will force the city’s garbage haulers to join the union Licavoli controls. Greene, McComber, Sneperger, and ex-Hells Angel Keith Ritson terrorize many into joining, but Greene’s friend Mike Frato refuses. Licavoli orders Greene to kill Frato, but Greene balks because Frato has ten children. Nardi tells him privately, though, that, “You wanted to play in the big leagues. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t wanna do.”As Greene prepare’s to kill Frato with a car bomb, he learns from the FBI that Sneperger has returned to gambling, and has become an informant for Manditsky. That night, Greene assigns Sneperger to set the bomb under Frato’s car and presses the detonator as he does it. An enraged Frato later shoots at Greene in a park. Greene returns fire, kills Frato, and is arrested for murder, but released after Frato’s driver tells Manditski that Greene acted in self-defense. Having had enough, Greene’s long suffering wife leaves him and takes the children. Greene sees his elderly Irish neighbor, Grace O’Keefe, being evicted. He intervenes, pays her rent, and she gratefully gives him her father’s gold Celtic cross to wear for protection. Greene begins to use his money and connections to help other Irish-Americans in need, and earns the nickname “The Robin Hood of Collinwood”.Greene wants to open his own restaurant, and asks Shondor Birns to help him. Birns arranges a $70,000 loan from the Gambinos, but Birns’ courier buys cocaine with the money and gets arrested. Birns and Greene argue over which of them should pay back the money; when Greene refuses to pay, Birns hires a hitman to kill him. Greene narrowly escapes, and later kills Birns with a car bomb. After Mafia boss John Scalish dies, both Nardi and Licavoli are considered for succession. Licavoli is chosen due to his closer ties to the Five Families and decides to charge Greene 30% “street tax” for doing business in Cleveland. Greene refuses to pay, crudely mocks Licavoli’s Italian heritage, and vows, “The Irishman’s in business for himself now.” An outraged Licavoli has Greene’s house blown up, but he survives. He then attempts to demote Nardi and take away his crew, only to have the latter join forces with Greene. Vowing to take over Cleveland together, Greene and Nardi start by organizing the murders of Licavoli’s associates, many of whom are blown up. Thirty-six car bombings occur during the summer of 1976, drawing national attention and humiliating Licavoli. After failing multiple times to kill Greene, Licavoli is forced to humbly ask Genovese boss Anthony Salerno to help him kill Nardi and Greene.Having learned of this from the FBI, Greene claims that he wants to leave Cleveland and buy a ranch in Texas, but needs to raise $2 million. Wishing to size up their enemies, Greene and Nardi travel to New York and invite Salerno to invest in the ranch. After they leave, Salerno orders his associates to hire professional hitman Ray Ferritto to kill them both. Nardi is killed in a car explosion, McComber dies in a bombing at the Cleveland docks, and Ritson is shot near his house. Detective Manditski lets Greene know that a master killer is after him. He offers Greene protection, but is told, “My enemies will be taken care of.” After a dentist’s appointment on October 6, 1977, Greene notices Ferritto driving by slowly, and accepts that he is about to die, giving his gold cross to an admiring boy. Ferritto detonates a bomb on the car next to Greene’s, killing Greene instantly. An epilogue, by Manditski, reveals that the investigation of Danny Greene’s murder led to the collapse of the Mafia, not only in Cleveland, but all over the United States.I’m not a big fan of biopics or mobster films like this.  With that said the film is more fascinating and entertaining than most others of it’s type. The actors are all good and well cast, especially Stevenson. He’s always been a cool action bad ass in films before but here he’s really given a chance to show off his acting abilities and range. His performance combined with Hensleigh’s better than average directing make the film one definitely worth checking out. Probably especially if you’re a fan of the genre.

 

REVIEW: HITCHCOCK (2012)

 

CAST

Anthony Hopkins (Westworld)
Helen Mirren (Red)
Scarlett Johansson (Ghost In The Shell)
Danny Huston (30 Days of Night)
Toni Collette (Krampus)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Lincoln)
Michael Wincott (Romeo Is Bleeding)
Jessica Biel (The A-Team)
James D’Arcy (Agent Carter)
Richard Portnow (Kindergarten Cop)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Ralph Macchio (Ugly Betty)
Wallace Langham (CSI)
Currie Graham (Stargate: The Ark of Truth)
Judith Hoag (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Lindsey Ginter (Argo)

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock opens his latest film, North by Northwest, to considerable success, but is troubled by a reporter’s insinuation that he should retire. Seeking to reclaim the artistic daring of his youth, Hitchcock turns down film proposals, including Casino Royale and The Diary of Anne Frank, in favor of a horror novel called Psycho by Robert Bloch, based on the real-life crimes of murderer Ed Gein. Gein appears in sequences throughout the film, in which he seems to prompt Hitchcock’s imagination regarding the Psycho story, or act as some function of Hitchcock’s subconscious mind (for instance, drawing Hitchcock’s attention to sand on his bathroom floor, the quantity of which reveals how much time his wife Alma has been spending at the beachhouse with Whitfield Cook).Hitchcock’s wife and artistic collaborator, Alma, is no more enthusiastic about the idea than his colleagues, especially since she is being lobbied by their writer friend, Whitfield Cook, to look at his own screenplay. However, she warms to Hitchcock’s proposal, suggesting the innovative plot turn of killing the female lead early in the film. The studio heads at Paramount prove more difficult to persuade, forcing Hitchcock to finance the film personally and use his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television crew (over at competitor Revue/Universal) to produce the film, his last with Paramount.However, the pressures of the production, such as dealing with Geoffrey Shurlock of the Motion Picture Production Code, and Hitchcock’s lecherous habits, such as when they confer with the female lead, Janet Leigh, annoy Alma. She begins a personal writing collaboration with Whitfield Cook on his screenplay at his beach house without Hitchcock’s knowledge. Hitchcock eventually discovers what she has been doing and suspects her of having an affair. This concern affects Hitchcock’s work on Psycho. Hitchcock eventually confronts Alma and asks her if she is having an affair. Alma angrily denies it. Alma temporarily takes over production of the film when Hitchcock is bedridden after collapsing from overwork, but this sequence, which included a complicated process shot showing Arbogast’s demise, with Alma’s specification of a 35mm lens, instead of the 50mm lens preferred by Hitchcock for this film, proved to be the least effective in the film.Meanwhile, Hitchcock expresses his disappointment to Vera Miles at how she didn’t follow through on his plan to make her the next biggest star after Grace Kelly; but Miles says she is happy with her family life. Hitchcock’s cut of Psycho is poorly received by the studio executives, while Alma discovers Whitfield having sex with a younger woman at his beach house. Hitchcock and Alma reconcile and set to work on improving the film. Their renewed collaboration yields results, culminating in Alma convincing Hitchcock to accept their composer’s suggestion for adding Bernard Herrmann’s harsh strings score to the shower scene.After maneuvering Shurlock into leaving the film’s content largely intact, Hitchcock learns the studio is only going to exhibit the film in two theaters. Hitchcock arranges for special theater instructions to pique the public’s interest such as forbidding admittance after the film begins. At the film’s premiere, Hitchcock first views the audience from the projection booth, looking out through its small window at the audience (a scene which recalls his spying on his leading actresses undressing earlier in the film–by looking through a hole cut in the dressing room wall–which itself is a voyeuristic motif included in the film of Psycho). Hitchcock then waits in the lobby for the audience’s reaction, conducting slashing motions to their reactions as they scream on cue. The film is rewarded with an enthusiastic reception. With the film’s screening being so well received, Hitchcock publicly thanks his wife afterward for helping make it possible and they affirm their love. At the conclusion at his home, Hitchcock addresses the audience noting Psycho proved a major high point of his career and he is currently pondering his next project. A raven lands on his shoulder as a reference to The Birds, before turning to meet with his wife.The final title cards say that Hitchcock directed six more films after Psycho, none of which would eclipse its commercial success, and although he never won an Oscar, the American Film Institute awarded him its Life Achievement Award in 1979: an award that he claimed he shared, as he had his life, with his wife, Alma.Overall, honestly, I know Hitchcock isn’t a perfect film. No film is. But, I love the film for it’s dramatic and whimsical aspects, the phenomenal acting, score, screenplay, camera-work, and the way the film was done as a whole. If you love/like Psycho, or just enjoy learning about the man known as The Master of Suspense, give this film a go.