A fun, big budget romp that was one of the better “disaster” movies of the 1970s…mostly because of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, who anchor the all-star cast. Not much in the story department here…a fire starts in a high-rise which is poorly built because of cost-cutting. The nature of the “disaster film” beast is that they are not made to be GREAT films…they are made to entertain and thrill. This one does that in spades and even features some strong performances. If you want a good, mindless flick, you really cannot go wrong with this film.

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Many people consider this one of the most frightening films they have ever seen. I wouldn’t exactly go that far…but for a suspense film, it’s top-notch. Maybe one of the reasons some folks see it as more of a horror movie than a thriller is that the main character is blind and it is a little more dastardly to taunt and threaten a person with a disability of some sort. The blind person, in this case, is Audrey Hepburn, who is quite convincing as a person without sight. You never really think…oh, well she’s just acting. You actually believe her blindness… forgetting that she’s Hepburn and, of course, not really blind. Hepburn’s boyfriend gets unintentionally tangled in a drug smuggling ring and through a series of events, the man looking for his drugs comes after Hepburn. Even though the entire films packs suspense, the finale is the part that really will have you jittering if your seat.

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When young rookie FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) becomes involved in a case that requires the assistance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), she quickly finds herself in over her head. Clarice is assigned to the case of a serial murderer who calls himself Buffalo Bill. In order to track down Buffalo Bill, Clarice needs to talk with Dr. Lecter, a psychiatrist turned cannibal, who is serving a life sentence for his crimes. Dr. Lecter might hold the key in unlocking the identity of Buffalo Bill, but in exchange for information, Clarice has to give up some of her past secrets to him. The crimes and horror of this film are not what makes this a stellar movie, but rather it’s the intense psychological battle that is fought between Clarice and Dr. Lecter that adds to the perfect combination of fear and tension to this film. Ms. Foster’s performance as the inexperienced, innocent agent who is not emotionally ready to take on the evilness of Dr. Lecter is right on target. The audience can see the terror in her eyes as she does her best to stare down Dr. Lecter. Mr. Hopkins, though, steals the show with his cunning and tense portrayal of the intelligent, shrewd killer. Dr. Lecter plays a game with Clarice as he tries to weed secrets out of her. Both performances were honored with Academy Awards, and when you watch the film, you will most definitely see why. In addition to Academy Awards for acting, the film, directed by Jonathan Demme, won Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay (based on the novel by Thomas Harris).

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Not for the faint of heart, but this one is just fun! It’s OVERLY violent, but I think that was what they were intending here. The filmmaker seems to be having fun with the violence…intentionally making it so over the top it becomes campy. And Clive Owen here is almost charming in his sorta-bad-guy/ hero role. The plot is pretty inconsequential…as it usually is in movies like this. Clive Owen sees a pregnant woman being chased and he jumps in to save her…but he ends up only saving her baby. The other part of the plot (WHY the woman is being chased) is completely ludicrous but again, that doesn’t seem to affect the film. It is not a movie for everyone but if you liked Sin City or Lucky Number Sleven or if you like intense action movies, check this one out. I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

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I LOVED this book. I couldn’t put it down…literally. Walker’s writing is strong and intense. His story was filled with suspense but not over dramatic. Revolving around a highly flawed main character and set in Chicago, among other locales, this book is a stand-alone thriller, but it has spurred me on to read all of the other book Walker has written, series or not. The relationship between the boy and the main character is highly believable. It never gets too sappy or mushy. And the ending is strong. I was hoping against hope that Walker wouldn’t ruin the ending as many authors do by taking the “Hollywood” way out. But, the ending is as strong as the first pages. I’ve met Mr. Walker on a few occasions and he is, on the surface, a mild, unassuming man. But, he sure writes a WILD, FAST-PACED thriller. A GREAT thriller!

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Gritty and intense, this film is one of the more noir-esque films of the end of the 20th Century. It’s dark and brooding, as film noir films of yesterday, but it is quite brutal, which of course is the sign it’s a movie of the modern era. Brad Pitt plays a newly transferred cop who gets partnered with a soon-to-be-retiring cop, played by Morgan Freeman. The two begins to investigate a series of very brutal crimes based on the seven deadly sins. Freeman’s character is methodical and deliberate. Pitt’s cop is brash and overeager. Together, though, they solve the crimes and find the criminal…but is it too late? The use of a film technique called “bleach bypass” helped the movie get its dark, shadow-filled look. And, boy does it work…because even when nothing sinister is going on, the film retains its stark feel…giving the audience a constant feeling of dread.

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When I took screenwriting classes in college, I always wondered if I would make it in Hollywood. One of the reasons I never did is that I do not write like Woody Allen. I’m not always a fan of Allen…most of his recent films have been so-so comedies (with the exception of the unique Melinda and Melinda), but Match Point is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and most assuredly the best film of 2005, in my opinion. Why? How about this…not a word is out of place and there is nothing extra that should be in the film and nothing that shouldn’t. It’s a perfectly constructed film all the way around, I attest solely to Allen’s writing. The actors are good in their roles but I wouldn’t say that’s what “made” the film for me. Allen just simply has a way of working a story so it seems so easy and so perfect at the same time. It is a neat, clean circle…the story starts off with one thread and that thread runs through the entire film but in a subtle way until the ending, when you realized, “OH, I get it.” The story revolves around a young tennis pro who gets a job at an upper class athletic club and soon makes friends with one of the members…an affluent young man who has both a pretty, demure sister and a beautiful, sultry fiancée. The tennis pro falls for the sister but really falls hard for the fiancée. What happens from there leads to a complex, intricate series of events that keep the audience guessing at every turn. The ending, unlike most films I’ve seen recently, will not disappoint or ruin the masterfulness of this film. What happens right up to the last second will only increase how strong this film is…which is proof of Allen’s genius.

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Give this one some time to grow on you…I came close to giving up about 30 minutes into this film. Then, just as I practically had my finger on the STOP button of my remote, the plot settled down and began to come together. I understand what the director (Mike Hodges of Croupier fame) was trying to do in the beginning. He was trying to set the stage of a dark, murky movie by showing us the characters in little segments to make us deliberately confused. Just because I understand what Hodges was doing doesn’t mean I like it. Once the crime has been committed, all of the pieces begin to fall into place and turn a complicated premise into a smart, original thriller. We get to know the characters we had only seen in bits and pieces before. We get to know what led up to the crime that is committed. We get to know some back-story on the main character, played brilliantly by Clive Owen. Owen’s character has turned his back on his former criminal/gangster ways, disconnecting himself from his family and friends, and become homeless (he lives out of his van in the woods and moves from one cash-paying construction job to another). The story hinges on the believability of Owen. We HAVE to believe his character in order for the story to work. Of course, going from gangster to homeless man is quite a personality change. But, is the change sincere or just a weak way to escape his past? Owen, once back around his former friends and “associates,” tries his best to stay clean but crime’s a-calling. Owen fights and fights off his temptation and the question of whether he will win the fight is almost as thrilling as the mystery around crime. The ending, at first, bothered me. I wanted a more solid ending…I wanted to know about the characters and what happened to them. But, as I thought more about it, based on what we know about the Owen character, the ending is just as it should be.

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Did you ever look for something and it’s not where you remember putting it but the next time you look, it’s there? Sure, it happens to all of us occasionally and we think “I’m losing my mind.” In a second or two, that thought is replaced with something else and we forget about our minor brain lapse. But, what if things like that would continue to happen? What if we kept seeing things and hearing thing and doubting our sanity…little occurrences at first and then major things like losing pieces of jewelry and misplacing practically everything…? Well, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight experiences all of these things plus more. Her husband, played with cruel intensity by Charles Boyer, might or might not be “helping” her out in the insanity department. Regardless, he becomes less and less sympathetic with her as she slips more and more out of reality. The audience never really knows whether Bergman is insane or not. I mean she hears footsteps above her…and we hear them too…but it’s not until the end until the plot is uncovered. Director George Cukor directs this so passionately that at times it has the feel of a horror film. When the light from the gaslights dims, the look on Bergman’s face is pure terror…as if she was being tortured. And…as you come to find out…she is. But how…and by whom????

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I’m sure most people have seen this one and I’m most definitely not in the minority for liking it. I just think this is one of the best action/suspense films in years. Yes, it’s ALL supposed to be set in Illinois and us Illinoisans know that we do not have any kind of dam like that in this great state. But, ignoring that, this one is just top-notch in most every way. Harrison Ford plays Richard Kimble, a doctor who comes home to find a one-armed man attacking his wife. Kimble fights with the man, but the murderer gets away. Kimble is accused of the murder, when the police don’t buy his “one-armed man” story. After managing to escape from incarceration (one of the best train crashes ever put on film), Kimble makes it his mission to come back to his hometown of Chicago and find the one-armed murderer. It’s sharp, fast, well structured, well acted, has just enough humor, and is riveting when it needs to be and laid back when it needs to be. Basically, just a good film.

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