Gideon58's Reviews

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Eye for an Eye (1996)
It's no Death Wish, but a 1996 look at the concept of vigilante justice called Eye for an Eye does suffer from a problematic screenplay, but it is so well acted and directed that you almost don't notice.

Oscar winner Sally Field plays Karen McCann, a woman whose 17 year old daughter is brutally raped and murdered and though the police do bring the perpetrator to justice, he manages to get off on a technicality, which prompts Karen to take justice into her hands. Unfortunately, Karen doesn't have a clue as to go about this, evidenced in a lot of very dumb and dangerous moves to make this psycho pay.

The screenplay, based on a novel by Erica Holzer, is a compelling story but the combination of our heroine making a lot of dangerous moves and the screenplay being very protective of the villain make this a very difficult watch. The movie starts off brilliantly though, with director John Schlesinger's mounting of the horrific crime that is the hook for the film. Karen's daughter opens the door to her killer while talking on the phone to Karen, who is caught in a traffic jam and can't get to her daughter in time.

Other troublesome plot points included the fact that Karen's ex-husband and her daughter's father couldn't be troubled to return to town because of his daughter's death while Karen methodically begins shutting her current husband, Mack (Ed Harris) out of her plans. The grief support group turned out to be rather unsettling as it was revealed that these meetings were populated by people who could provide justice for people who wanted more than grief therapy. I also didn't like Mack and Karen letting their younger daughter run from them in that zoo after what happened and that scene in the school playground almost made me lose my lunch.

This film reminded me of another film Schlesinger directed called Pacific Heights that was just way too protective of the bad guy. There's no way that this guy should have gotten around everything he did and be allowed to walk around free as a bird for as long as he did. We know somehow that satisfaction is on the way, but it takes WAY too long to get to the terrific final showdown.

Sally Field offers her accustomed solid dramatic turn as Karen. The IMDB revealed that this role was originally offered to Jamie Lee Curtis, but I really liked Field. Field gets solid support from Harris and a bone-chilling turn from Kiefer Sutherland as the killer. It has its problems, but I couldn't turn away.



Luck (2022)
Apple goes the Disney Pixar route in 2022's Luck, a visually arresting but overly cute and overly complex story that, like most Disney Pixar features, offers a story that is hard to stay invested in and borrows too much from other movies, but features a terrific voice cast.

Sam Greenfield is an 18 year old orphan who has just aged out of the adoption system and been given a job and an apartment, separating her from her best friend at the group home, a little girl named Hazel, who is excited about a scheduled visit from a young couple who might be adopting Hazel. Sam has a disastrous first day at her new job but things start to look up when she gives half of her sandwich to a cat named Bob, who, in exchange, gives her a lucky penny. This penny changes Sam's life completely and decides she has to give it to Hazel to make sure she's adopted. Unfortunately, Sam loses the penny and when Bob says he doesn't have anymore, she follows Bob down a secret passageway leading Sam to the secret organizations of Good Luck and Bad Luck, where Sam seeks Bob's help in getting another penny for Hazel.

The screenwriters for this intricate animate adventure are the creatives forces behind films like Cars, Trolls, and Kung Fu Panda, films that I have seen, which might account for my confusion and occasional boredom with this film. Exposition setting up Sam as a person with terminal bad luck goes on way too long, though really she just appears to be a klutz. Once Sam gets to the land of Good Luck, the story starts to pick up but the way Bob fights Sam and everyone else in the story makes no sense. The theme of this movie seems to waffle between the theory that good and bad luck together and that there is no such thing as luck at all, but never completely commits to either theme. And in another Disney Pixar tradition, there are two too many endings.

There is no denying the technical mastery in the mounting of this story. The animation is gorgeous and beautifully detailed. Watch every moment in the story where the camera zooms in on Sam...the fur on the cat looks so realistic the viewer wants to reach out and stroke the creature. Or look at the scales on the hands of the dragon. So much detail went into the look of this movie, I wish the same kind of detail could have gone into the screenplay.

There is some great voice work with standout work from Whoopi Goldberg as the Captain, Jane Fonda as the Dragon, and especially Simon Pegg as Bob, but this one is too long and saccharine to bring it home properly.



The Right Stuff
A 1983 Best Picture Nominee, The Right Stuff is a heart-stirring and visually opulent look at the formation of the U S space program that might be a tad overlong, but provides solid entertainment with a historical accurate story, incredible production values, and a once in a lifetime all-star cast.

The film begins in the mid 1950's as we watch air force pilot Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepherd) become the first pilot to break the sound barrier, a move that has the air force going after their next goal, space exploration and beating the Russians to it. This leads to the formation of the Mercury 7 team of astronauts consisting of Alan Shepherd (Scott Glenn), Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid), John Glenn (Ed Harris), Gus Grissom (Fred Ward), Scott Carpenter (Charles Frank), Wally Schirra (Lance Henricksen), and Duke Slayton (Scott Paulin). The film documents their often rigorous training regiment, the effect this program has on their families, and the battle for ultimate control of their missions because it is implied that the administration who controls the program doesn't really know what they're doing.

Director and co-screenwriter Tom Wolfe based the screenplay on a book by Wolfe and that's one of the great things about this movie. It's difficult to articulate, but this recreation of historical events plays out as fiction, because Kaufman and Wolfe put the audience right in the center of the incredible events that take place here, as well a inside the minds and hearts of the people involved. I've often complained in the past about films that cover too much territory. This film covers a lot of territory and does it really well.

There's no denying that the film is a real time commitment and didn't need to be quite as long as it is, but there isn't a whole lot that I could see cutting. There's a flashback scene with Cooper and his wife (Pamela Reed) that we could have lived without and some discreet editing of the Yeager story was possible since once the Mercury 7 team was chosen, Yeager was pushed to the periphery of the story and then brought him back for a heart-stopping finale. Loved a lot of the training sequences, including the guys' struggles to produce a sperm sample, John Glenn's tirade against the guys' extra curricular activities, the tragedy of Gus Grissom's first solo flight, and Glenn's return to earth after his first mission, scenes which made any slow spots in the film irrelevant.

In addition to the Best Picture nomination, the film received seven other nominations and won richly deserved statues for Sound, Sound Effects Editing , Film Editing, and Bill Conti's thunderous music. Sam Shepherd received a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but this reviewer thinks that nomination should have gone to either Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, or Dennis Quaid, who I have never enjoyed onscreen more as the cocky Gordon Cooper. Also loved Donald Moffat as LBJ. Other stars who pop up along the way include Barbara Hershey, Veronica Cartwright, Scott Wilson, Kim Stanley, Jeff Goldblum, Harry Shearer, and John Dehner. A dazzling motion picture experience more than worth the time commitment.



Day Shift
A veteran film stunts coordinator named JJ Perry makes a less than stellar debut as a director with Day Shift an overheated and over the top supernatural thriller that tries to substitute stunts and visual effects for a story of sense and logic.

This 2022 film is set in San Fernando and stars Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as Bud Jablonski, a divorced man with a young daughter whose family thinks he works as a pool cleaner. Not long after we see him clean a pool, we see Bud enter the house where his real profession is revealed: Bud hunts and kills vampires for fun and for profit. He now needs a serious shot of profit in order to keep his daughter in is life. He is given a final mission by the organization where he used to be employed, as long as a young office geek named Seth (Dave Franco) accompanies and documents his actions.

This movie pretty much confuses the viewer from jump...his opening battle with a vampire who looks like an old lady comes with no backstory behind it. We then learn that vampire hunting is like a Fortune 500 business in Los Angeles and that it is unionized like longshoremen or Teamsters. Bud used to be part of the organization but made a lot of mistakes resulting in the loss of his union card which forces him to turn to a veteran hunter named Big John (Snoop Dogg) to vouch for him so that he can earn the money he needs. Apparently, there is a lot of money in vampire fangs and Bud thinks this is the quickest way to get the money he needs.

First of all, I don't get that he was able to keep what he did from his ex-wife and daughter all this time. The connection between the old lady vampire and the primary vampire was a little hard to swallow. This screenplay's conception of what a vampire is was a little confusing as well...the vampires in this film seem more like zombies and have varying degrees of power and survival skills. Some are taken out by a single gun shot and some keep getting up and coming at our hero. A lot of vampires get beheaded during the proceedings, but when Seth finds himself beheaded, he's able to put his head back on his body? Seriously? Eventually, the vampires start outnumbering the good guys and just seem to be toying them. This is when interest definitely starts to wane.

Jamie Foxx, whose film career has been doing a slow and methodic decline since winning the Oscar for Ray, must have really needed the money. I thought Dave Franco and Snoop Dogg were terrific though, making the most of the confusing material. It's dark and gory, displaying some technical panache, but as a complete movie experience, it definitely misses the mark.



The Abyss
Before he became "King of the World" directing Titanic, James Cameron knocked it ut of the park as the director and screenwriter of The Abyss, a chilling, claustrophobic, and heart-stopping aquatic adventure that had this reviewer holding his breath for most of the running time and might have been robbed of a Best Picture of 1989 Oscar nomination. Will try to review without spoilers.

A nuclear submarine is destroyed and is lying at the bottom of the sea. A group of professional divers and some Navy SEALS are sent to the area to locate the sub and possible survivors. The two teams of dividers are headed by Bud and Lindsey, who used to be married. As the recon mission winds down, we watch as one of the team members goes full psycho mode and our heroes encounter an aquatic creature that might not be of this earth.

Cameron has really zeroed in on one of my biggest insecurities in this film. Because of a near-drowning incident I had as a child, to this day, I get very uncomfortable with movies that spend a lot of time underwater and this movie stays underwater. Cameron presents the ocean as something bottomless and unapproachable. The power of water is as powerful here as the power of fire was in Backdraft. Even the opening scenes of the sub going down scared the bejesus out of me...they reminded me of the plane crash in Cast Away, for my money, cinema's greatest plane crash.

The temptation to look away whenever a window filled with water from the opposite side or an open hatch couldn't stop oncoming water was very strong. Bud and Lindsey caught in a tight spot with water circling their necks reminded me of the final moments with Clooney and Wahlberg in The Perfect Storm. What was most impressive about the story was the unbridled realism of the first half of the movie and how the addition of the supernatural element was seamless, leading the viewer to a climax that defies explanation.

Cameron's exquisite attention to production values cannot be denied. The film won a richly deserved Oscar for Visual Effects, but cinematography, editing, and sound were Oscar-worthy as well. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio light up the screen as Bud and Lindsey. Grab onto something because this is not an easy watch, but well worth it. Believe it or not, the fastest two hours and twenty minutes I sat through in a long time.



I haven't seen The Abyss in years, but that sequence where
WARNING: spoilers below
she drowns on purpose because they only have enough oxygen for one person? Ugh--that scene is emblazoned in my brain



It's an unpopular opinion, but The Abyss is my favorite James Cameron film.

As far as I'm concerned it's the only valid opinion.


It's everything Cameron does well, but in a movie that actually lives up to his obvious talent.



I haven't seen The Abyss in years, but that sequence where
WARNING: spoilers below
she drowns on purpose because they only have enough oxygen for one person? Ugh--that scene is emblazoned in my brain

That was REALLY hard to watch



When my friends and I saw The Abyss in 1989 I literally threw my soda at the screen I hated the ending so much. When Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's character says, "We should all be dead," I shouted out, "YEAH, YOU SHOULD BE!" and hurled what was left of my ginormous Coca-Cola at the screen. It exploded like a concession stand grenade at the base of the screen, just beyond the front row.

a) I would tell my nineteen-year-old self not to throw that soda because an employee making minimum wage has to clean it up and they had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the film being screened
b) my gesture was mostly for my friends' benefit as I believe there were only three or four other people in the entire theater that afternoon screening, on its opening day
c) I still really hate the ending

When the movie was released on LaserDisc I bought it and gave it another shot. I still hated the ending it built to, but the making-of documentary included, "Under Pressure: The Making of The Abyss", was absolutely fascinating, much more interesting to me than the movie itself. And then when Cameron went and made Titanic with all of its water I thought, this idiot doesn't learn from his mistakes.

__________________
"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra



Emergency (2022)
There was an episode of the ABC sitcom where Andre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) is waiting for an elevator and when the elevator door opens, he sees a white female toddler standing in the elevator all by herself. This freaks him out, he freezes doesn't go anywhere near the child, and runs away as fast as he can. This scene is the first thing that flashed through my head as the 2022 film Emergency began to unfold. It starts off as relatively on-target black comedy with a prickly racial undertone that bubbles to the surface as the story progresses, turning the film deadly serious, thanks to solid direction and first rate performances by the leads.

Like the Jim Cummings film Thunder Road, this is a full length remake of a short film, released in 2018, directed and written by the same people. The 2022 Prime Video production centers on two black college students named Sean and Kunle, roommates and BFF's, who are looking forward to an event called a legendary, which is seven different parties all happening the same night. Before they leave for the event, Kunle wants to check on the progress of a science project before they leave and when they get to their house, they find a white teenage girl on the floor of their living room, half conscious and vomiting. They find their other roommate, Carlos, who was so into his video games, he had no idea how the girl got there.

Among the issues that come up are the fact that Sean and Kunle are black and this girl is white and Sean is afraid that if they alert the authorities, that a lot of incorrect assumptions will be made about how this girl ended up this way on their living room floor, initiating a serious discussion about exactly what to do, while the girl's older sister, who is at the legendary, realizes her sister is missing and is on the job trying to locate her.

The screenplay by KD Davila, who received an Oscar nomination for a 2020 Live Action short called Please Hold is squirm-worthy and kind of bold because it addresses a segment of racism that a lot of people would like to think doesn't really exist, kind of like the 2005 Best Picture Winner Crash. This film features a lot of behavior that we would like to think doesn't exist in 2022, but there's nothing that doesn't ring true here. Even though we might think it's wrong, we understand when Sean wants to extricate himself from the situation. We also understand when the older sister wants to blame our heroes for everything. It seemed that this girl's condition was more than being drunk but that's not really addressed. It's impressive that most of the story irons out pretty smoothly with one delicious payoff during the final minutes of the film that we definitely don't see coming.

Carey Williams' direction is unapologetic and emotionally charged, making it hard for the viewer to remain neutral. He also gets spectacular performances from Sebastian Chacon as Carlos, Donald Elise Watkins as Kunle and especially RJ Cyler, so memorable in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as Sean. This one treads on some iffy cinematic ground, but it was a lot more interesting than I thought it was going to be.



When my friends and I saw The Abyss in 1989 I literally threw my soda at the screen I hated the ending so much. When Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's character says, "We should all be dead," I shouted out, "YEAH, YOU SHOULD BE!" and hurled what was left of my ginormous Coca-Cola at the screen. It exploded like a concession stand grenade at the base of the screen, just beyond the front row.

a) I would tell my nineteen-year-old self not to throw that soda because an employee making minimum wage has to clean it up and they had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the film being screened
b) my gesture was mostly for my friends' benefit as I believe there were only three or four other people in the entire theater that afternoon screening, on its opening day
c) I still really hate the ending

When the movie was released on LaserDisc I bought it and gave it another shot. I still hated the ending it built to, but the making-of documentary included, "Under Pressure: The Making of The Abyss", was absolutely fascinating, much more interesting to me than the movie itself. And then when Cameron went and made Titanic with all of its water I thought, this idiot doesn't learn from his mistakes.

I remember hating The Abyss, I just don't remember why. This could have been the reason. Unlike you I am not going to go back and research it to find out why I hated it.



Absolute Power
The screenplay has its problems, and the direction spoon feeds too much to the viewer, but Clint Eastwood hits a positive mark as the star and director of Absolute Power, an often ugly and compromising crime drama centered around a lot of people with a great deal of power who think said power condones often unconscionable behavior.

The 1997 Malpaso production stars Eastwood as Luther Whitney, a career jewel thief who has just broken into the home of a wealthy philanthropist (EG Marshall) and has just pocketed thousands in cash and jewelry from the vault in the master bed. Luther is forced to hide in the vault when he hears a couple enter the room and begin having rough sex that gets out of control, resulting in the woman's death. It's not long before we realize that the victim is the philanthropist's wife (Melora Hardin) and the man roughing her up is the President of the United States, Alan Richmond (Gene Hackman).

The President's Chief of Staff (Judy Davis) and his secret service team (Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert) appear almost immediately to cover up what happened. Somehow, Luther manages to get out of the room with the murder weapon, realizing he might need it as collateral to save his life. Attempts to murder him before he gets out of the mansion fail and a deadly hunt begins for the thief, which eventually involves his estranged daughter (Laura Linney).

The screenplay is based on a novel by David Baldacci, that was adapted for the screen by two time Oscar winning screenwriter William Goldman. Baldacci and Goldman have crafted a solid basic story, but there were several plot points I just didn't buy. When Luther is fleeing the mansion on foot being pursued by the secret service guys, we see the speed at which he's moving and the speed at which they're moving and I just didn't buy that they didn't close enough to take him out. Was also hard to believe that during the cover up of the crime scene with the Chief of Staff that Luther was able to get hold of the attempted murder weapon, a letter opener. And after witnessing Luther's initial awkward reunion with his daughter, I just didn't buy him agreeing to meet her in a public place a couple days. Most of all, it aggravated that is story put all kinds of targets on Luther's back while the President walked around without a care in the world.

This is another one of those movies that is very protective of the central character and I'm not so sure that Luther would have come out alive at the end of this story. The director also seems to feel the need to spoon feed us things that don't need to be fed to us, like his escape from the assassination attempt or Haysbert's hospital mission. Loved that scene of Hackman and Davis on the dance floor though.

As always with a Malpaso film, production values are first rate and Eastwood has surrounded himself with a superb cast. Gene Hackman drips evil as the President and I loved the fact that even though Hackman and Eastwood are the leads in the film, they have no scenes together in the film, like Hanks and Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. Linney, Davis, Glenn, and Haysbert make the most of their roles as does the always watchable Ed Harris as the head detective on the case, who feels the need to remind Linney that he lives alone. A solid little drama as long as you don't think about it too much.



Family Camp
For my money, the worst film of 2022 (so far), is Family Camp, a dreadfully unfunny and rampantly predictable comedy that suffers from a screenplay that pretty much comes from other movies and a cast of actors nobody has ever seen before.

This is the story of two families who are forced to share a cabin at a church retreat. Tommy Ackerman is an investment broker, who brings his wife, Grace and their two kids. Eddie Sanders is a chiropractor accompanied by wife Victoria and his two kids . Of course, Tommy and Eddie hate each other on sight, fueling a major feud during the athletic contests that they must compete in, followed by their getting lost in the woods and getting kidnapped by a couple of nuts from a recently cancelled reality series.

The main problem with this film is a serious lack of experience in front of and behind the camera. Director and co-screenwriter's resume consists of five short films and a TV miniseries. The story here contains elements of films like Johnson Family Vacation, The Great Outdoors, National Lampoon's Vacation, Summer Rental and a very obvious wink to the 1981 classic Caddyshack. The so-called athletic competition includes an almost 15 minute scene involving a game called Bubble Ball which isn't nearly as funny as the director thinks it is. There is also an archery competition between Tommy and Eddie that brings the film to a dead halt, though it does figure into the story later. And once the guys get lost and kidnapped, the film totally lost me, not really caring if they were rescued or not. The capper was when Tommy's obnoxious son actually wonders off by himself at the beginning of the third act to find his father, after treating the guy like crap for the rest of the film. The romance for Tommy's daughter also fell flat.

According to the IMDB, Tommy Woodard and Eddie James who play Tommy and Eddie, respectively, are childhood friends whose resumes are as sparse as the director's and after sitting through this debacle, I can see why. I will admit that the film does feature gorgeous cinematography by James King, but it's hard to recommend anything else here. A-list actors stayed away from this mess. The film is full of unknown actors. The biggest name in the cast is Leigh-Allyn Baker, who played Ellen on Will & Grace, who plays Tommy's wife. The only reason I can see for watching this if you need something to put unruly children to sleep. One hour and fifty one minutes of my life I'll never get back.



The Rock
The late Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Michael Bay cemented their skill at providing definitive action entertainment with the 1996 epic The Rock, a dazzling melange of blood and violence with some actual human characters at the center of it all that takes a little longer to wrap than necessary, but effortlessly keeps the viewer on the edge of their chair.

General Frances Hummel (Ed Harris), who did three tours in Vietnam, has been fighting for year to get reparations for the families of the soldiers he lost during the war. The death of his wife triggers a final act to get what he wants: He has gotten is hands on a deadly nerve gas that can destroy the city of San Francisco and then, along with a select crew behind him, takes over the legendary island prison Alcatraz with 81 tourists as hostages unless the IS government agree to pay the millions in reparations. The government decides to send a chemical weapons engineer named Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) and a career burglar (the late Sean Connery), allegedly the only man to escape from Alcatraz, to put a stop to Hummel.

Simpson and Bruckheimer, the producer of other action classics like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop had all kinds of Hollywood juice by the time this project rolled around and put everything they had behind it, including another claimed action/adventure pro like Michael Bay in the director's chair. The skills of Simpson, Bruckheimer, and Bay manage t make the slightly cliched screenplay not as much of a hindrance to making this story viable entertainment.

What I did like about this story is the way the story initially sets up Hummel as a sympathetic character but doesn't take too long to establish him as the villain of the piece. On the other hand, the story is not subtle about constantly reminding us that Goodspeed is not a soldier, but putting him in the role of a soldier, though I loved his initial encounter with Connery that did climax with an incredible car chase, even though it might have taken up a little more screentime than necessary.

Bay's direction is grisly and imaginative, doing a wonderful job of showing the power of entities like fire and water. There was one eye-popping sequence where a bomb is set off in a tunnel and Cage and Connery have to dive underwater to avoid being blown up. We are equally blown away when we watch a soldier get impaled on a prison fence pole. Of course, it goes without saying that filming the story at the actual Alcatraz prison was a master stroke that gave the proceedings a very haunting quality.

With all the attention to production, it wasn't surprising that a lot of the performances were overripe, though I thought Connery and Harris were spectacular. Action lovers will definitely get what they're looking for here, thanks to the professionalism behind the camera.



The Gray Man
Netflix scores with 2022's The Gray Man, a slick and expensively mounted espionage thriller in the best tradition of James Bond that works thanks to some stylish direction and a pair of charismatic lead characters.

The film stars Ryan Gosling as Six, a CIA-trained assassin who, at the completion of an assignment, finds himself in possession of a very important disc that contains some very incriminating evidence involving his employers and also finds himself at the mercy of a dangerously psychotic assassin and torture expert named Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans).

Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, who were behind most of the Avengers franchise, deserve the lion's credit for this elaborate story, adapted from a novel by Mark Greaney, that actual takes a couple of decades to play out and, of course, is not played out in chronological order. The story makes some odd time jumps. The film opens with Six being released from jail by his new boss, Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), then jumps eighteen years where we learn Fitzroy's niece has been kidnapped, then flashes back to two years between Six's first meeting with the niece, then moves to the present where Six has to face the unbalanced Lloyd while trying t keep Fitzroy and his niece safe. We could have done without the two year flashback, which just seemed to pad screentime.

What I did like about this story is something that usually bothers me in stories like this. A lot of times in spy movies likes this, especially when most of the players involved, seem to be working for the same organization, it's difficult for the viewer to decipher who the white hats are and who the black hats are, but it really works to this film's advantage. A through line for this Six character throughout as that he doesn't know who he can trust and, fortunately, he does realize this early on and entertainment values is gleaned throughout as we try to figure out who Six can trust and who he can't. Loved when the niece told Six that his name was unusual and he replied, "I know, 007 was taken,"

The Russos keep this story moving all over the planet in several exotic locations, moving at breakneck speed so we don't notice minor plot holes which eventually become irrelevant. The film features extraordinary production values, including breathtaking cinematography, film editing, production design, and sound.

Ryan Gosling could use this film for his audition as the next James Bond, providing the story with a durable and undeniably human hero at the center of this story and LOVED Chris Evans, as the evil and crazy Lloyd. The IMDB reveals that Evans was originally offered the role of Six but chose to play Lloyd instead. He made the right decision. He brings a delicious snarkiness to the role that recalled Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor in the original Superman. A frail-looking Thornton and Alfre Woodward score as Six's few allies in the story as does Julia Butters, who had a featured role in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood as Thornton's niece. It's slightly longer than it needs to be, but solid entertainment is provided as long as you don't think about it too much.



Jacknife
Jacknife is an emotionally charged drama from 1989 that centers around three really broken central characters. Fortunately, these three character are so well cast that they make the movie seem better than it is.

Robert De Niro and Ed Harris play Megs and Dave, respectively. They were in Vietnam together and share a tense reunion a month after returning home where it seems the bond they formed in Vietnam was a lot more important to Megs than it was to Dave. Their reunion is further complicated by the instantaneous attraction between Megs and Dave's sister, Martha (Kathy Baker).

Actually based on a stage play by Stephen Metcalfe, what we get here is a look at three messed up people in the middle of their lives where minimum backstory is provided to fill in a lot of the holes, We see PTSD issues with Megs and Dave. Megs has attempted to deal with it in a healthy way but Dave has just decided to bury everything in a haze of alcohol and pills. We also see the conflicted Martha trying to encourage a romance with Megs and simultaneously fighting it every step of the way. Dave eventually deals with his issues, but I did like the way the story didn't wrap up in a convenient little bow.

The actors truly invest in a story that doesn't allow them to rely on the screenplay. A lot of what happens with these characters comes through in the eyes and the body language. There are a couple-of hair-raising incidents that do demand attention, like the high speed truck adventure with Megs and Dave's meltdown at the prom.

De Niro is solid, as always, and Kathy Baker proves why she is one of the industry's most underrated actresses, but Ed Harris steals the show here as the explosive open wound, Dave. For fans of great acting, this is a must see.



Thirteen Lives
He was robbed of a Best Director Oscar for Apollo 13 and won a Best Director Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, but Hollywood's most underrated director, Ron Howard, pretty much trumps his work in those films with his latest masterpiece. 2022's Thirteen Lives is a harrowing, heartbreaking, and frightening docudrama about a prickly and hopelessly complicated rescue mission with sympathetic characters at its heart that had this reviewer's stomach in knots for the entire running time and me holding my breath during the final act.

This incredible true story is about a trio of British divers (Collin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen, Joel Edgerton) who fly to Thailand when they are contacted about a group of twelve boys who are on the same soccer team, who, along with their coach, are trapped in an elaborate system of underground caves, constructed under a mountain range that begins to develop gaping holes due to excessive rain.

The divers arrive in Thailand and are able to locate the boys and their coach. They are all alive, but they come to the conclusion that they don't have a viable way to get them out. They reassure the villagers that the boys are alive but make no promises regarding rescue. Eventually, a solution does come to light (that I found shocking), but it has never been done before and there is no guarantee that the thirteen victims will survive.

Howard and the screenwriting team are to be applauded for meticulous eye for detail and the commitment to realism involved in its presentation. First of all, loved the fact that the film takes place in Thailand and Howard never forgets that. We don't meet an English-speaking character until close to twenty minutes into the running time so like this past year's Best Picture winner, Coda, there are large portions of the story that we don't know what the Thai characters are saying, but Howard makes sure we understand at all times what is going on through their facial expressions and body language. Watch the reaction of the villagers when they initially learn the boys are still alive or when they see a video of the boys that the diver took and distributed as proof that the boys are alive.

Like he did with Apollo 13, Howard also manages to tell this story from all angles, not just those thirteen lives in jeopardy. We are privy to the efforts to seal the caves, we are privy to one female citizen convinced that she's not getting the whole story, we are privy to one of the diver's mind preoccupied with his father and there's a heartbreaking scene in the cave where the coach expresses his guilt about what has happened, again, not in Engish.

Howard really knocked it out of the park here, never forgetting the "docu" or the "drama". Loved that Howard puts a clock and a compass on the mission immediately, which just heightens the tension. And for those, like me, who knew nothing of these events, nothing is foreshadowed or guaranteed. The cast is first rate with standout work from three time Oscar nominee Mortensen, who does a British accent as credible as his Brooklyn accent in Green Book. An extraordinary motion picture that left me limp. Big bouquet to Ron Howard.