Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie review: The House on Haunted Hill

 
 Stay in a haunted mansion overnight and win $1 million dollars. Simple. Oh, we forgot to mention it is a former insane asylum. And the host is a horror buff who enjoys scaring people with special effects. Oh, and the host and his wife are trying to kill each other. Umm, and we are going to give all the guests loaded weapons. And, did we mention, the house really IS haunted? Those left in the morning will split the prize money if there is anyone left.

Geoffrey Rush (Price), Famke Janssen (Evelyn), Taye Diggs (Eddie), Peter Gallagher (Blackburn), Chris Kattan (Pritchett), Ali Larter (Sara), Bridgette Wilson (Melissa), Max Perlich (Carl), Jeffrey Combs (Vannacutt).

This one starts with some nicely strange background before jumping right into the plot. Not much character development up front, probably because it comes later in the plot and was much more interesting that way. The plot isn’t unusual or even unique but is nicely told with a good mix of history, horror, and special effects. However, if you are expecting a terrifying horror movie, this isn’t it. The movie is decent but it just isn’t scary. Quite a few scenes come off as campy and this is such a formula horror flick that most everyone will at some point find themselves telling the characters “Don’t go in there!” or “Don’t split up!”. There were some freaky parts, just not scary parts. And the ending, though tense, was a bit ridiculous.

Acting was mixed though I felt most did pretty well considering the depth of the film. More seasoned actors would have looked out of place so some of the less experienced actors actually made the film better.

Special effects were nicely done throughout the film as were camera work, sets, background and sound. I particularly enjoyed the Manson cover at the end. Dialogue left a bit to be desired but hit the mark for a genre compliant horror flick.

Overall this is a decent horror flick that did the story justice though it was light on the actual horror component. It just wasn’t a scary film psychologically. You could do much better if you want to be scared but not a lot better if you want a cookie-cutter horror flick.

Violence, blood, gore, language and some sexuality/nudity so save this one for the oldest teens and above.

Released: 1999
Reviewed: 7.17.17
Star rating: 3 out of 5
Genre: Horror, Supernatural Horror, Halloween, Thriller, Mystery

copyright ©2017 Dave Riedel

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movie review: Snowden

 
 In 2013, CIA technician Ed Snowden shocked the world by releasing to the press stolen CIA documents outlining extensive illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Melissa Leo (Laura Poitras), Zachary Quinto (Glenn), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Ed Snowden), Rhys Ifans (Corbin), Nicolas Cage (Hank Forrester), Tom Wilkinson (MacAskill), Shailene Woodley (Lindsay).

Snowden follows along as Ed Snowden rises through the ranks of the intelligence community. Eventually earning a high security clearance, Ed finds multiple programs he wrote have been corrupted for illegal surveillance on U.S. citizens and others. Dismayed by government corruption, Snowden steals and then releases to the press classified U.S. government security documents.

While the film is interesting, with a 2 hour plus run-time focused primarily on the drama, it can be a bit slow at times. The film is based both on real events and The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena and feels like it followed the known facts fairly well.

Acting was good with Gordon-Levitt portraying Snowden and delivering quite nicely. Quinto was enjoyable with high energy and intensity. Leo and Wilkinson rounded out the main cast nicely and both were solid. Ifans and Cage were enjoyable in smaller roles, and the remainder of the supporting cast presented well.

Camera work, sets, and backgrounds were fairly mild but solid and fit the film. Dialogue was solid with nice depth, and presented the details easily. Sound and soundtrack are fitting.

Overall Snowden is a well done drama with just enough thrill to keep the audience engaged. The greatest factor influencing enjoyment of this film is probably individual feelings about the ethics of government surveillance and whether you feel Snowden is a traitor, or a patriot.

With some mild sexuality, violence, and foul language, save this one for older teens and above.

Released: 2016
Reviewed: 7.16.17
Star rating: 3 out of 5
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Biographies, Crime Drama, Political Drama

copyright ©2017 Dave Riedel

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