Category: Z-View

“War of the Worlds: The Attack” (2023) / Z-View

War of the Worlds: The Attack (2023)

Director: Junaid Syed

Screenwriter: Junaid Syed, Tom Jolliffe

Cast: Sam Gittins, Vincent Regan, Alhaji Fofana, Lara Lemon.

Tagline: They Are Here

The Plot…

Three teenagers are at ground zero for one of the Martian landings. Once the Martians begin their takeover the kids fight among themselves, with others as well as the alien invaders in their effort to survive.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Take three teenagers, a Cliff notes version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds and turn it into a low, low budget movie. Then you’ll have War of the Worlds: The Attack.

War of the Worlds: The Attack (2023) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Mystery of the 13th Guest” (1943) / Z-View

The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)

Director: William Beaudine

Screenwriter: Tim Ryan, Charles R. Marion, Arthur Hoerl based on THE 13TH GUEST by Armitage Trail

Cast: Helen Parrish, Dick Purcell, Bill Pullman, Dean Norris, Mik Scriba, J.T. Walsh, Herb Mitchell and Bill Nunn.

Tagline: IT’S MURDER! An Unseen terror holds an entire family in fear!

The Plot…

When Marie Morgan was eight years old she attended a gathering called by her dying grandfather.  In attendance were Marie’s aunts, uncles, cousins and her grandfather’s lawyer.  Grandfather tells everyone that Marie is to return on her 21st birthday by herself to read his will.  It’s clear that Grandpa doesn’t much care for any of them except Marie.

Thirteen years have passed.  Marie returns to the old house.  It hasn’t been lived in for over a decade.  As Marie thinks back she remembers that there was an empty seat next to her grandpa.  Twelve people were in attendance.  She wonders who the empty seat was for.  Marie opens the sealed will.  As she does someone enters the house and a gunshot is fired.

When the police arrive they find Marie dead… but not from a gunshot.  But wait, that’s not really Marie.  And now another person who was at the original meeting is found in his seat murdered!

How many will die before the Mystery of the 13th Guest is discovered?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Mystery of the 13th Guest is a low budget quickie typical of many “B” pictures of the era.  It’s directed by William “One Shot” Beaudine who knocked out over 400 films during his career.  They didn’t call him “one shot” for nothing.  If you’ve seen a Bowery Boys flick, odds are you’ve seen his work.

If you know what you’re getting going in, and you have an hour to kill, you won’t be disappointed.

The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The Last Seduction” (1994) directed by John Dahl, starring Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg & Bill Pullman / Z-View

The Last Seduction (1994)

Director: John Dahl

Screenwriter: Steve Barancik

Cast: Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, Bill Pullman, Dean Norris, Mik Scriba, J.T. Walsh, Herb Mitchell and Bill Nunn.

Tagline: She wants it all… & she wants it now…

The Plot…

Bridget (Fiorentino) convinces her husband Clay (Pullman), to steal a load of pharmaceutical cocaine and then sell it to a drug dealer.  When Clay comes home with $700,000 he thinks their troubles are over.  Once he pays off his loan shark,  he and Bridget will still have well over a half million dollars.

While Clay is showering, Bridget steals the money and takes off.  She decides to lay low in a small town under an assumed name.  Bridget learns Clay has hired a Private Investigator to find her, Now needs a plan to get away clean and fast.

When Bridget meets Mike Swale (Berg) she comes up with the perfect idea,  The plan is devious and will kill the lives it doesn’t ruin.  Bridget can’t wait to get started.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

I saw The Last Seduction when it was first released.  I rated it a 4 then. This re-watch earned a 3.  The Last Seduction is good, but not as good as I had remembered.  I think the reason for the lower rating is I’m older.  When I was younger it was easier to believe that Mike could be so taken by the great sex and mystery of Bridget that he left reason behind.

The director, John Dahl was on a roll when he helmed The Last Seduction.  His two previous films were Kill Me Again and Red Rock West.  He co-wrote both as well.

The Last Seduction features standout performances from  Linda Fiorentino, Peter Berg, Bill Pullman and Bill Nunn. A young Dean “Breaking Bad” Norris also has a small role. (He also had hair!)

The Last Seduction (1994) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Gunman” directed by Pierre Morel, starring Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem & Idris Elba / Z-View

The Gunman (2015)

Director: Pierre Morel

Screenwriter: Don Macpherson, Pete Travis, Sean Penn based on THE PRONE GUNMAN by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Cast: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Daniel Adegboyega.

Tagline: Uncover the truth.

The Plot…

Jim Terrior (Penn) ex-Special Forces, is a mercenary working in the Congo.  Terrior’s cover is providing security to humanitarian projects.  Terrior has developed a relationship with a doctor named Annie.  Although they’re in love, Terrior hasn’t told Annie his true reason for being there.  Unknown to Terrior, his black ops partner, Felix also has eyes for Annie.

When orders come down to assassinate the Congo’s Minister of Mining, Terrior is given the assignment.  He is to complete the hit and then immediately leave the country.  Terrior does as ordered.

Eight years later, Terrior still carries feelings for Annie.  Although he is no longer a mercenary, Terrior suffers from PTSD.  Now he works in impoverished areas digging wells so villages will have water.  Terrior hopes to make amends for his past.  One day, without warning, a hit squad comes to his job site and attempts to murder him.  Terrior is able to kill them all.

Now Terrior is on a mission to discover why, after all these years, he has been targeted for execution.  Terrior learns that his former partner, Felix and Annie are married.  He also discovers that their former boss, who ordered the hits, has formed a successful international security firm that works for the Pentagon.  As Terrior digs deeper the truth begins to unravel…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

It’s interesting that Sean Penn, like the character he plays, has pretty much turned his back on his profession to do humanitarian work.  Penn is an excellent actor.  He is able to play the quiet as well as the action scenes with equal success.  I wish we saw him do more movies (especially action themed).

I’d never seen Jasmine Trinca before.  She’s very good.  I hope to see her in future films.  Javier Bardem is excellent.  If you only know him from No Country for Old Men, you’ll be surprised to see him in this role.  Idris Elba doesn’t have a huge part, but I always enjoy his work.

Director Pierre Morel also helmed Taken, District B13 and From Paris with Love, so you know we are in good hands.

The Gunman (2015) rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Touch of Evil (1958)” adapted, directed and starring Orson Welles, starring Charlton Heston & Janet Leigh / Z-View

Touch of Evil (1958)

Director: Orson Welles

Screenwriter: Orson Welles based on Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson

Cast: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Ray Collins, Dennis Weaver, Valentin de Vargas, Mort Mills, Victor Millan,Harry Shannon, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mercedes McCambridge, Joseph Cotton  and Marlene Dietrich.

Tagline: THE STRANGEST VENGEANCE EVER PLANNED!

The Plot…

Miguel “Mike” Vargas (Heston) and his new bride, Susan (Leigh) are visiting a small Mexican/American border town.  Mike is a Mexican Special Prosecutor.  Susan is an American.  Their honeymoon is cut short when a car bomb explodes killing two people.  Although the explosion took place on the US side, the bomb was planted while the car was in Mexico.

Mike tells Susan to go back to their hotel while he assists with the initial investigation.  Hank Quinlan (Welles), the local police Captain, arrives and takes over the investigation.  Quinlan is a recovering alcoholic, and a bigot with a bad attitude.  In short order, Quinlan has a suspect.  He’s a Mexican married to the daughter of one of the victims.  It looks like an open and shut case when two sticks of dynamite are found in a shoebox.  What Quinlan didn’t know is that Mike had accidentally knocked the shoebox over minutes before.  The box was empty.  Mike accuses Quinlan of setting the kid up.

Meanwhile, Susan is stopped before she gets to the hotel.  Her husband is prosecuting a drug case against a major Mexican crime family.  “Uncle” Joe Grandi attempts to scare Susan and sends her to the hotel with a message for Mike to drop the case.  Uncle Grandi learns that Mike won’t back down and that Mike has made an enemy of Quinlan.  Grandi approaches Quinlan and suggests a partnership.  They’ll kidnap Susan and force Mike to do their bidding.

Of course things don’t go as planned for anyone.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Touch of Evil gets better with every viewing.  If someone preferred it over Citizen Kane, I wouldn’t argue.

Janet Leigh is best known for her role in Psycho.  She shows a wider range here and if Norman Bates saw how sexy her character is, his head would explode.

Welles is the powerhouse behind Touch of Evil.  He adapted the novel and made changes to improve the story.  He starred in and directed the film.  When Universal Pictures locked him out of the editing booth, Welles submitted a 58 page memo of suggestions to improve the cut.  Decades later that happened.  The restored version won several awards and a spot in the National Film Registry.

Heston and Welles have a great supporting cast.  Akim Tamiroff as Uncle Joe Grandi is both funny and scary. Welles wanted Dennis Weaver to improvise.  Weaver took that to heart.  His character is all over the place… and I mean that in a good way.  Zsa Zsa Gabor shows up in a blink-and-you-might-miss-her cameo.  While you can have eyes wide open and miss Joseph Cotton’s.  For Mercedes McCambridge’s role, she dyed her hair, adopted an accent and rough look. While some of the folks are only on screen for a short time, their impact is huge.

Touch of Evil (1958) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“Cape Fear” starring Gregory Peck & Robert Mitchum / Z-View

Cape Fear (1962)

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Screenwriter: James R. Webb based on The Executioners by John D. MacDonald

Cast: Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Lori Martin, Martin Balsam, Jack Kruschen, Telly Savalas, Barrie Chase, Paul Comi, Edward Platt and Will Wright.

Tagline: Now, he had only one weapon left – Murder!…To prevent an even more shocking crime!

The Plot…

Max Cady (Mitchum) was recently released from prison.  Cady served eight years for a sadistic rape.  Now Cady has one thing on his mind, to take revenge on Sam Bowden (Peck).  It was Sam Bowden who stopped Cady’s assault.  It was also Bowden’s testimony that got Cady convicted.

Sam Bowden is a well respected small town lawyer.  But the law is going to be of no help.   Cady is smart and as devious as he is cruel.  Cady stops Bowden on the street.  From all appearances the meeting is cordial.  But Cady lets Bowden know he’s out of prison.  He subtly threatens Bowden, his wife and their young daughter.

Cady increases the threats and intimidation. Bowden realizes that Cady won’t stop until he’s done the sick things he’s threatened.  There may be only one way to stop Max Cady…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The film covers some very dark topics for 1962.  Despite censors, the movie makes it very clear what Max Cady has done and plans to do.

I like to describe Cape Fear as the best Hitchcock movie not made by Hitchcock.  The score by Bernard Herrmann helps.  J. Lee Thompson was an Alfred Hitchcock fan and it was his intent to film scenes like the master.  Cape Fear is my favorite film directed by J. Lee Thompson.

I’m a Robert Mitchum fan.  Mitchum always adds to a film’s enjoyment factor.  His portrayal of Max Cady is my favorite Robert Mitchum performance.  That’s saying a lot because he’s always good.

Gregory Peck was an excellent choice to play the good man who discovers that the law isn’t going to save him or his family.   Peck and Mitchum are supported by an outstanding cast. Polly Bergen, Lori Martin, Martin Balsam, Jack Kruschen, Telly Savalas and Barrie Chase all get opportunities to shine.  Look for Edward Platt in a cameo.

Cape Fear (1962) rates 5 of 5 stars.

“The Stone Killer” (1973) starring Charles Bronson / Z-View

The Stone Killer (1973)

Director: Michael Winner

Screenwriter: Gerald Wilson based on A Complete State of Death by John Gardner

Cast: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, Paul Koslo, Norman Fell, David Sheiner, Stuart Margolin, Ralph Waite, Alfred Ryder, Walter Burke, Kelley Miles, Eddie Firestone, Charles Tyner,  Byron Morrow, Frank Campanella and Robert Emhardt.

Tagline: Take away his badge and he’d top the Ten Most Wanted list!

The Plot…

Detective Lou Torrey (Bronson) killed a 17 year old hood who fired first.  Torrey’s shooting is justified, but the heat is on.  Torrey is quick with a gun and pushes past what is legal to get the guilty.  So Torrey leaves the New York City to become a member of the LA police force.

When Detective Torrey comes across clues that the Mafia is planning something big, no one believes him.  As he digs deeper, Torrey discovers that mercenaries are working with the mob bosses.  Soon Torrey is in their sights.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Charles Bronson and Michael Winner hit gold with The Mechanic.  Unfortunately, lightning didn’t strike again with The Stone Killer.  It would however, when they teamed the following year with Death Wish.

The Stone Killer is definitely a ’70s movie.  Detective Torrey is made in the mold of Harry Callahan, but The The Stone Killer is at best a poor man’s Dirty Harry.

If you’re a fan of character actors, you’ll enjoy all of the faces popping up throughout The Stone Killer.  You’ll see Martin “Psycho” Balsam, Norman “Three’s Company” Fell, Stuart “The Rockford Files” Margolin, Ralph “The Waltons” Waite, Alfred “Star Trek” Ryder, Charles “The Outlaw Josey Wales” Tyner, Robert “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” Emhardt to name just a few.

The Stone Killer isn’t one of Bronson’s best, but it does have more high falls than a John Wayne western and a car chase worthy of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The Stone Killer (1973) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Whiplash” (1948) starring Dane Clark, Alexis Smith and Zachary Scott / Z-View

Whiplash (1948)

Director: Lewis Seiler

Screenwriter: Harriet Frank Jr., Maurice Geraghty, adaptation by Gordon Kahn from a story by Kenneth Earl

Cast: Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, S.Z. Sakall, John Daheim  and Alan Hale.

Tagline: “Sure I know you’re a two-timer!…but I’m going to kiss the two-timing out of you!”

The Plot…

When Michael Gordon (Clark) learns that he’s sold his first painting, he wants to meet the person who bought it.  So he tracks down Laurie Durant (Smith) and invites her to dinner.  There’s an instant attraction between the two.  Dinner leads to an evening swim. Then breakfast the following morning.  When Laurie spots a thugish looking man entering the cafe, she quickly leaves.

Michael learns that she has returned to New York City. He follows.  Mike finds Laurie singing in a nightclub. When she finishes, he goes to her dressing room.  There Mike gets into a fight and knocks out a hood.  Turns out the hood was a middleweight contender who works for Rex Durant (Scott), the owner of the nightclub.  Rex is also Laurie’s husband.  Rex tells Michael he’s got the makings of a champion prize fighter.  Soon Michael is climbing up the ranks and trying to put Laurie out of this mind.

But we all know that’s not going to happen.  Let the love triangle roll…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Whiplash works better than it should.  It’s got the sensitive artist who’s also a championship caliber fighter.  Two lovers who cannot be together because of a sadistic man.  A mob boss surrounded by thugs to protect him.  Some of the most unrealistic boxing scenes outside of The Three Stooges.  A fighter who refuses to “stay down”.  A secret revealed.  And a mob boss who gets his in the end.  (“Did someone call a taxi?”)

Dane Clark projects just the right amount of cockiness.  While I find him more believable as a sensitive artist, than a tough guy, for some reason he does a fine job playing both here.  The camera likes Alexis Smith and so do I. Zachary Scott is a villain audiences love to hate.  Kudos also to S.Z. Sakall.  His scenes are a joy.

Whiplash (1948) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Ledge” (2022) starring Brittany Ashworth / Z-View

The Ledge (2022)

Director: Howard J. Ford

Screenwriter: Tom Boyle

Cast: Brittany Ashworth, Ben Lamb, Louis Boyer, Nathan Welsh, Anaïs Parello and David Wayman.

Tagline: Don’t Lose Your Grip.

The Plot…

The night before a climb, Kelly (Ashworth) and Sophie (Parello) meet four guys in the cabin across the way.  The guys, less experienced climbers, are going up an easier path of the mountain in the morning.  When the fellas invite the girls over for a drink, they agree to “just one”.  After some small talk and the drink Kelly is ready to head back to their cabin.  Sophie decides to stay longer.

After a few more drinks, Sophie is ready to call it a night.  On the way to her cabin she is attacked by one of the guys.  He tries to rape her.  She scratches his face, In their fight he kicks Sophie. She falls twenty feet onto rocks.  When the other guys show up, they are forced to come up with a cover story.  Sophie was drunk. She fell while showing the guys her climbing skills.  Once they have their alibi, the guys throw Sophie off the side of the mountain.

Kelly had heard Sophie’s cries and arrives in time to see Sophie thrown to her death. The men see Kelly and begin to chase her.  Realizing that there is no help around, Kelly begins to free climb the mountain.  Her only escape is up.  The guys grab gear and head up an easier path.  The rock face is too sheer for Kelly to climb down.  They get ahead of her, trapping her on a ledge just below them.  It’s just a matter of time now…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Ledge is an okay way to spend a little less than an hour and a half.  Much of that credit goes to Brittany Ashworth.  She’s believable as a climber and likeable as the character.

What keeps the movie from a 3 star rating are the clichés.  Kelly’s lover, also a climber, fell to his death trying to retrieve her engagement ring.  Now she’s climbing in his memory.  The rapist character is a psycho who has been bullying his three friends since elementary school.  Now as adults they continue to hang with him because they fear him.  He’s so bad that he’s been having sex with one of his friend’s wife on a regular basis for years.  The other friends knew but were so afraid they never told.

Still, the situation of being stuck on a mountain top ledge with a psycho right above you provides an interesting scenario.  If there’s nothing better on, give The Ledge a go.

The Ledge (2022) rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Encounters” (2023) / Z-View

Encounters (2023)

Director: Yon Motskin

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

There are many documentaries that explore the idea that humans have had encounters with extraterrestrial beings.  What sets Encounters apart from most of those is that Encounters focuses on situations where several, sometimes dozens, of people experienced the same event.

Encounters is a four episode mini-series.

In the first episode the encounter took place over Central Texas. Dozens of people saw an UFO followed by US aircraft.  Although there were official denials at first, radar data confirmed what people said they saw. The incident was covered in national and international news.  One man became so obsessed it cost him his business and his marriage.

The second episode covers another famous encounter.  In 1994, over sixty children at a  Zimbabwe school claimed to have seen a spaceship and alien.  A prominent psychologist tested the students and said results indicated they were telling the truth.  This episode features interviews with some of the same children who are now adults, dealing with the impact of their encounter.

The third episode details an encounter at a small Welsh village that led to multiple UFO sightings.

The four episode explores the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. There were multiple UFO sightings observed and filmed by many witnesses.  The encounters took on a religious/spiritual aspect for many of those involved.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

I am always impressed by people who seem to have nothing to gain (and often a lot to lose) who come forward with their stories.  Some witnesses are more believable than others.  Encounters presents a mixed bag.

My favorite episodes were the first and fourth.  The first because of the sheer number of folks who came forward.  I would like to know more about the man who lost everything because of his obsession with the encounter.  The fourth episode provided video of the UFOs flying over a nuclear plant that began to have a meltdown due to an earthquake.  After the UFOs appeared, the readings began to change to a safer output.  I’d like to hear more experts weigh in on that.  I also enjoyed the religious/spiritual aspect witnesses in this episode displayed towards the encounters.

Encounters (2023) rates 3 of 5 stars.

“The Adjustment Bureau” (2011) starring Matt Damon & Emily Blunt / Z-View

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

Director: George Nolfi

Screenplay: George Nolfi based on “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick

Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Michael Kelly, Anthony Mackie, Terence Stamp and Pedro Pascal.

Tagline: Your Future Has Been Adjusted

The Plot…

David Norris (Damon) was the leading candidate for a Senate seat.  A foolish college prank that Norris pulled years ago blew up on Social Media and cost him the race.  As Norris, thinking he’s alone, goes over his concession speech he meets Elise Sellas (Blunt).  There’s an instant attraction between the two.  He gets her first name and phone number before she has to run off and he has to give his speech.

The next day, Norris plans to call Elise.  He’s surprised to discover that a group of well dressed men are going to do everything in their power to keep the two apart.  Norris is told that if he and Elise get together it will ruin “the plan”.  As crazy as it sounds, this plan will change the world.  Norris sees enough to realize he’s not dealing with humans.  He also realizes that he’s got to see Elise again… no matter the cost.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

The Adjustment Bureau crosses into several genres (sci-fi, romance, drama) and works well in each. 

The Adjustment Bureau will leave the viewer thinking about free will, destiny and how far would he/she would go to be with someone… even at the expense of the “greater good”.

Matt Damon and Michael Kelly are excellent. Emily Blunt, Anthony Mackie and Terence Stamp give performances that take the film to another level.  Watch for Pedro Pascal.  He has a cameo as a Maitre D’.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011) rates 4 of 5 stars.

TOO MANY BULLETS by Max Allan Collins / Z-View

TOO MANY BULLETS by Max Allan Collins

Publisher: Titan Books

First sentence…

At the end of this narrative, certain guilty people go free.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When Robert Kennedy asks Nate Heller to be his bodyguard, Heller agrees.  How could he refuse?  Nate and Bobby had been friends for years.  Plus security is a service that Heller and his agency provides.  Nate agreed even when Bobby’s demands made protecting him nearly impossible.  “No guns” and Nate as the only bodyguard. That’s how Nate Heller came to be present when Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

Of course the conspiracy theories started almost immediately.  The same people who killed John Kennedy got to Robert.  It was the mafia, the C.I.A., the… you fill in the blank.  It was a conspiracy.  There’s no way it was a lone gunman.  Heller didn’t buy into any of it.  He was there.  Hell, he was one of the first to grab Sirhan Sirhan as the little murderer was still firing.  No, they got the right guy.

Then Heller begins to hear things that don’t add up.  The number of bullets for instance.  By almost every account, there were more bullets fired than Sirhan’s gun could hold.  There were witnesses who saw more than one gunman.  Their reports were dismissed without merit.  Plus Sirhan Sirhan’s lawyer didn’t present evidence that could have brought doubt as to if he acted alone.  Then there were the questionable characters all around the periphery of the assassination.  Even though Nate was there, he was starting to have questions.

So Nate Heller decides to do his own investigation.  What he discovers isn’t in any history book and just might get him killed.

+++++

I’m a huge fan of Max Allan Collins’ Nate Heller series.  Heller is a fictional detective who finds himself in the middle of real crimes.  Heller ages in real time as the series progresses. His tales are fiction mixed with extensive research and historical fact. Heller has been in the mix on everything from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping/murder to the suspicious death of Marilyn Monroe and much more. It’s fun watching Heller interact with famous (and infamous) folks right out of our history books. Equally enjoyable is Collins’ take on the crimes and what may have really happened.

TOO MANY BULLETS is another great addition to the Nate Heller legacy.  It gets my highest recommendation.

Rating:

“Strays” (2023) starring Ashley Madekwe / Z-View

Strays (2023)

Director: Nathaniel Martello-White

Screenplay: Nathaniel Martello-White

Stars: Ashley Madekwe, Samuel Paul Small, Maria Almeida and Justin Salinger.

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

The movie opens with a Cheryl, young bi-racial woman, discussing concerns about racial discrimination and finances with her sister.  Cheryl places a note for her husband on the refrigerator and leaves. Later we see her ignore calls from her husband.

We then shift forward several years.  Neve is a bi-racial woman married two a white man.  They have two bi-racial high-school aged children.  The family is well off.  Neve works as the Deputy Headmistress at the elite private school her children attend.  Neve is very high strung. Her world seems to be coming apart.  Neve has issues with “blackness”.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Strays is described as a horror thriller. I gave up looking for horror or thrills after 32 minutes.  The movie moved at a snail’s pace.  It was obvious that Cheryl and Neve are the same person.  Neve’s character is unlikable and that didn’t help.  Ashley Madekwe was excellent in the role.  I look forward to seeing her in better productions in the future.

Strays currently has a 4.8/10 rating on IMDb.  It has a 2.1/5 audience rating.  As for me…

Strays (2023) rates 1 of 5 stars.

“Day of the Dead 2: Contagium” (2005) / Z-View

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005)

Director: Ana Clavell, James Dudelson

Screenplay: Ryan Carrassi, Ana Clavell

Stars: Justin Ipock, Laurie Maria Baranyay, John F. Henry III.

Tagline: Every day has a beginning

The Plot…

In 1968, the Ravenside facility was a military hospital.  A biological experiment there accidentally turned soldiers into zombies.  Immediately things were out of control.  A private stole one of the vials and placed it in a thermos.  The soldier was killed trying to escape but the thermos was never found.  Thankfully the zombie uprising at the facility was contained. Word of it never leaked out.

Now Ravenside Memorial Hospital serves people struggling with mental illness. When one of the patients finds a thermos, you know what is about to take place.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

This movie was titled in an effort to cash in on George Romero’s success with zombie films.  It has NO relationship to Romero or any of his movies.

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium’s tagline is “Every day has a beginning.”  The same can be said for the movie.  It had a beginning and it began badly.  I hoped it would get better.  It didn’t. I tapped out after 41 minutes.

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium currently has a 2.3/10 rating in IMDb.  

Day of the Dead 2: Contagium (2005) rates 1 of 5 stars.

“Gemini Man” (2019) starring Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen & Benedict Wong / Z-View

Gemini Man (2019)

Director: Ang Lee

Screenplay: David Benioff, Billy Ray, Darren Lemke from a story by Darren Lemke, David Benioff

Stars: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, Ilia Volok.

Tagline: Who will save you from yourself

The Plot…

Henry Brogan (Smith) is an assassin for a secret US government agency.  He’s the best in the business, but the kills are starting to weigh heavy.  Even though he’s “taking out” really bad people, it’s getting harder to pull the trigger.  So after his last kill, Henry retires to a cabin by the sea at Buttermilk Sound, Georgia.

Soon after, Henry is contacted by a former partner.  Henry learns that he was given bad intel for his last hit.  The guy Henry assassinated wasn’t the threat to our government that Henry was led to believe.  When Henry’s former partner is killed, Henry knows he’s next.

What Henry doesn’t know, is that one of the agents sent to kill him is his clone.  If Henry’s the best assassin ever, how can he beat a younger, stronger version of himself?

Henry better figure it out and fast.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Gemini Man has an interesting plot.  The technology of 2019 is good enough to make a young Will Smith acting/fighting with his older self work. 

Will Smith makes a good hero.  He’s matched by an equally good villain in Clive Owen.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong are standouts.  Winstead is believable in the quiet moments as well as when the action revs up.  Wong provides restrained comic relief.

The action scenes come at a rate that allows you to go with the flow instead of thinking, this is a pretty by-the-numbers story

Where the movie goes off the rails is the last battle between old Will, Winstead, young Will and a large number of heavy armored and armed agents.  Despite the fact that they’re outnumbered and outgunned, Will and Winstead leave cover repeatedly to move forward. They kill agents by shooting them in the neck. Since the agents are wearing bulletproof helmets and armor, that’s the one shot that will take them out. 

Then if you can accept that 51 year old Will has repeatedly battled 21 year old Will to a standstill, you also have to buy that 55 year old Clive Owen who has spent the last few decades behind a desk can also hold his own in a fight with the best assassin in the business.  If your suspension of disbelief is still hanging in, wait until they bring out an even younger clone of Will Smith to kill the 21 year old clone and the original. 

I was tempted to rate Gemini Man a “2” but until that last battle, it was a solid “3” so I’m going with that.

Gemini Man (2019) rates 3 of 5 stars.