• Forum
  • Archive for the ‘Suspense / Thriller’ Category

    Get Out (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 18th, 2017

    Sometimes…if there’s too many white people, I get nervous.”

    Some of the very best horror films/psychological thrillers succeed by taking a relatable source of anxiety and cranking it to 11. For example, The Exorcist can be viewed as the worst-case scenario for anyone suffering a crisis of faith, while The Shining taps into the madness of being cooped up with your family for too long. Get Out works because it uses the nerve-wracking experience of meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time as a jumping-off point to tell a subversive, insightful, and entertaining story that mashes together Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Night Manager – Uncensored Edition (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 7th, 2016

    “Anyone can betray anyone.”

    The word “spy” tends to conjure images of international intrigue and attractive people getting into exotic adventures. But don’t blame John le Carre. Despite being one of the most successful and prolific spy novelists of the past century, le Carre’s stories tend to be aggressively un-sexy, morally murky tales that focus on the psychological toll of intelligence work. That’s why it’s interesting to find that The Night Manager — a British miniseries that also aired on AMC — manages to straddle both sides of the spy fiction fence.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Viral

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 7th, 2016

    The setup for Viral is promising enough. Throughout the early part of the film, we get subtle yet effective hints at the escalating catastrophe that is about to infect the story. (We hear about someone’s mom coughing uncontrollably, plus a video of a bloody, unexplained elevator attack goes, well, “viral.”) So it’s a shame that this sci-fi/horror thriller is limited by both its micro-budget and (more importantly) a filmmaking team that only sporadically delivers the goods.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Misconduct (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 12th, 2016

    There’s a grand, lurid tradition of cinematic saps who think with the wrong head and get themselves in a heap of trouble. Misconduct tries to tap into that spirit while also mimicking none other than Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma (who was pretty much mimicking Hitchcock himself). Those are some lofty goals, but — at least on paper — Misconduct has some heavy hitters on hand to help achieve them. Unfortunately, this legal thriller is guilty of sloppy, nonsensical storytelling and largely wasting the talents of a pair of screen legends.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Mojave (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 8th, 2016

    Look at where the world is because of solitary dudes going mental in the desert.”

    Depressed, deplorable artist Tom heads to the Mojave Desert, where he unexpectedly meets his match in crazed, charismatic drifter Jack. The fact that their tense encounter results in a death is one of the least surprising things about Mojave. What initially appears to be a cat-and-mouse game set in the desert turns out to be an interesting, uneven meditation on perception vs. reality that spills over into the vapid world of Hollywood.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Americans: The Complete Third Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 9th, 2016

    They are hard to get…”

    Naturally, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings — the Soviet spies next door at the center of FX’s The Americans — have proven to be exceedingly elusive. Over the course of three seasons and 39 episodes, they’ve dodged numerous close calls from the federal government, enemy agents, and from within their own household. But while various parties have tried to catch the main characters in the act, the thing that makes The Americans one of the very best shows on TV is that it’s actually incredibly easy to “get” Elizabeth and Philip; their efforts to keep their (unconventional) family together are universal.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Convergence (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 11th, 2016

    A detective appears to be trapped between heaven and hell in Convergence, which is not all that different from the way I felt watching this supernatural thriller. On one hand, I was impressed by some of the mood and unsettling imagery established by writer/director Drew Hall; the film is mostly set in an abandoned hospital, which inspires even more dread than spending time in a fully functional one. Then again, there are also a lot of nonsense characters and story elements here that don’t get a satisfying payoff, making Convergence an occasionally confounding and hellacious slog.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Visit (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 4th, 2016

    At this point, the most shocking M. Night Shyamalan-related twist would be for the director to make a movie that people actually enjoyed. (The “M.” stands for “maligned,” right?) Hopes weren’t exactly high when it was announced Shyamalan — who was once fated to become either “the next Hitchcock” or “the next Spielberg” — would be dabbling in the fading found footage genre. So imagine my surprise to find that The Visit — a broad, nutty mix of comedy and horror — is the director’s loosest, most playful effort since Signs. It’s also his first (subjectively) non-terrible flick in about a decade.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Wrecker

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 4th, 2016

    This road is like a magnet for serial killers.”

    There’s a difference between paying tribute and ripping somebody off. Wrecker — a high-speed, low-budget actioner — bills itself as “an homage to road classics like Duel.” Unfortunately, that’s far from the only nod to Steven Spielberg’s 1971 thriller. Wrecker rehashes every significant story beat from Duel, except with a lot less filmmaking skill and a pair of infinitely more annoying protagonists.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Tiger House (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 3rd, 2015

    There are no tigers — or any other large cats — to be found in Tiger House. The closest we get is a rather hefty guard dog whose screen time is tragically cut short. (Figured I’d give the animal lovers out there a fair warning.) Instead, the only prowling we see in this low-budget home invasion thriller comes from the violent gang of thieves who bust into a suburban home and hold the unsuspecting family inside hostage. Unfortunately for the crooks, there’s already an uninvited visitor in the house.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    “31 Nights Of Terror” Dark Places (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 16th, 2015

    People have short attention spans. And there’s always another murder.”

    Barely a year after Gone Girl became a mid-range blockbuster, we’re already getting our second big-screen adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel. To be fair, both Gone Girl and Dark Places went into production around the same time in the fall of 2013. But that just means someone anticipated that a single shot of Flynn’s twisted brand of Midwest murder/mystery mayhem wouldn’t be enough to satisfy movie audiences.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    “31 Nights of Terror” Poltergeist (2015) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 8th, 2015

    “They’re hee-eere”

    That instantly-iconic horror movie line — delivered in a cheery, chilling, sing-songy voice by the late Heather O’Rourke — signaled the arrival of malevolent spirits in 1982’s Poltergeist. In 2015, “they’re hee-eere” could just as easily refer to the latest glut of horror remakes. (Thankfully, there’s still at least one *sacred* cow.) That list now includes a new version of Poltergeist, which features some solid thrills and (for better and for worse) sticks pretty closely to the original.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Legacy (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 16th, 2015

    If something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. It’s a lesson that’s hardwired into our brains, yet often proves impossible to resist. That idea is also what jumpstarts the action in The Legacy, which is equal parts stylish, campy, and compulsively watchable. The 1978 thriller, directed by future Return of the Jedi helmer Richard Marquand, now makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Shout! Factory.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Curse of Downers Grove (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 4th, 2015

    If nothing else, The Curse of Downers Grove lives up (or rather down) to its morose title. It’s too bad because this (non-)thriller actually has a promising premise: every year, a supposed curse in the titular suburban Illinois town kills a senior at the local high school. The movie could’ve gone for darkly comic thrills or tried to construct a mystery around who the latest victim might be, to name just a couple of examples. Instead, this shoddy, inert flick squanders a variety of opportunities on the way to its preposterous conclusion.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    True Story (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 10th, 2015

    Sometimes the truth isn’t believable. That doesn’t mean that it’s not true.”

    Talk about truth being stranger than fiction! That proverb absolutely applies to the real-life story of Mike Finkel and Christian Longo, two men from seemingly disparate backgrounds who were thrust together by extraordinary circumstances. Their relationship is the basis for True Story, a drama about duality and deception. But while the truth is often stranger than fiction, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more entertaining.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    White God (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 27th, 2015

    At this risk of going all 30 for 30 on you, what if I told you one of the most layered, soulful performances I’ve seen all year comes courtesy of a canine? White God is a hypnotic, Hungarian parable about a girl and her dog. Sounds simple enough, but director Kornel Mundruczo places an unprecedented amount of storytelling responsibility on non-CGI, four-legged performers. The results are occasionally uneven, but frequently spellbinding.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    The Forger (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 29th, 2015

    It honestly took me a while to get over the opening shot of The Forger. The shot itself is rather unremarkable: it’s a simple close-up of star John Travolta sitting in a small room by himself and staring straight ahead. But between his ridiculously obvious wig and the waxy texture of his face — the actor now looks like he’s wearing a Michael Myers-style “John Travolta” mask — I knew it was going to be pretty difficult to take him seriously, no matter who or what was playing. It’s a shame because there’s actually a pretty decent family drama to be found within The Forger.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Beyond the Reach (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 17th, 2015

    I’m hard pressed to think of a movie star who is better at playing rich a-holes than Michael Douglas. He’s played a Murderous Rich A-Hole, a Rich A-Hole Who Gets Put In His Place, and a Self-Destructive Rich A-Hole, to name just a few. And that’s not even counting his Oscar-winning turn as Gordon “Greed is Good” Gekko, the Definitive Rich A-Hole. It’s tempting to tidily sum up Beyond the Reach as “Gekko’s Got a Gun.” Unfortunately, what starts out as a picturesque two-hander becomes more preposterous as it goes along before completely flying off the rails in the final act.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Cut Bank (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 27th, 2015

    “Welcome to Cut Bank, MT. coldest spot in the nation.”

    When you make a darkly comic crime thriller that centers around a bunch of bumbling schemers and a single, righteous cop — and then you name that movie after a frigid, real-life city in the northern part of the U.S. — the comparisons to Fargo are simply impossible to ignore. Thankfully, Cut Bank is buoyed by its own dry, lively cast of characters who are brought to life by a nimble set of performers.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (2)

    The Pyramid (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 19th, 2015

    If nothing else, The Pyramid has an intriguing premise. A father-daughter archaeologist team discovers an unusual, three-sided pyramid buried 600 feet underground that might even predate the ancient Egyptians. Essentially, this is Ancient Aliens as a found-footage horror film. Yes…unfortunately, I said “found footage,” a cinematic device that now feels even more decrepit than your garden variety mummy. So while the film’s opening act probably got people like this guy extremely excited, the movie falls apart the deeper the characters descend into the titular pyramid.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Apparition

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 8th, 2015

    “Too much time alone, you get stuck up in your head. Your brain becomes a maze.”

    The most important thing you need to know about Apparition is that it’s not a horror movie. (The second most important thing you should know is that this is a different film from The Apparition, which is one of the worst movies I’ve seen during my three-year stint writing for this site.) Yes, there’s a haunted house, cranky spirits, and an abnormally high number of jump scares. But at its heart, this low-budget thriller is a drama about dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    John Doe: Vigilante

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 22nd, 2015

    “A vigilante is simply somebody who violates the law in order to punish a criminal for what they believe is right, for what they believe is justice.”

    It’s easy to understand the appeal of big screen vigilante justice. We’ve all gotten tangled up in red tape, which is why it’s so gratifying to watch somebody tear through it. (And often spray some red elsewhere.) John Doe: Vigilante ends up being as ludicrous as any of the 17 Death Wish movies, but it also goes beyond putting the entire blame on “the system.” There are some interesting ideas at play here, including the notion that there’s a little Vigilante in all of us.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Pioneer (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 23rd, 2015

    The Norwegian oil boom of the early 1980s isn’t the most obvious setting for a thriller, but director Erik Skjoldbjærg manages to squeeze plenty of intrigue out of what seems like a pretty dry subject. Of course, Pioneer could never be described as “dry” in the literal sense since the film follows a group of commercial divers in Norway as they try to establish the country’s first petroleum pipeline 500 meters underwater.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Revelation: The End of Days

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 16th, 2015

    2,000 years ago, the Bible prophesied the return of Christ…but only after God inflicts seven years of torment on the world to test the faith of mankind.”

    It’s not quite seven years long, but this two-part, three-hour TV movie — History’s latest foray into original filmmaking — is likely to test the faith (and patience) of anyone who watches it. Revelation: The End of Days is intentionally less glossy than previous network offerings like Bonnie & Clyde and Houdini because it takes a ground-level look at the apocalypse. But in scaling back to achieve that aesthetic, the result is both frustrating and amateurish.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)

    Poker Night (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 12th, 2015

    As far as I’m concerned, a filmmaker has to work pretty hard to screw up a poker game. (And for the record, I feel the same way about cinematic sniper fights and train heists.) It’s an inherently high-stakes situation that is both familiar and unpredictable, and in the hands of the right director a poker game can be either thrilling or funny. At various points, Poker Night manages to be both. But even though I certainly wouldn’t say writer/director Greg Francis screwed up this stylish horror-crime thriller, the movie is flush with flashbacks and subplots that distract from the really good stuff.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    CommentComments (0)
    CSS Template by RamblingSoul | Tomodachi theme by Theme Lab