Movie Reviews

by Tim Van Schmidt

***** Excellent
**** Good
*** Average
** Poor
* Not Recommended

The Devil’s Double ****

Chosen to act as a stand-in double for Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday, an Iraqi man’s life becomes a nightmare. The movie becomes a powerhouse display of acting by Dominic Cooper, who plays both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia, the man forced to become the mad man’s “brother.”

Directed by Lee Tamahori…2011…109 min…featuring Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi.

Apollo 18 ***

A secret mission to the moon produces unexpected results. The entire production is shot with hand-held cameras, the footage supposedly filmed live by the astronauts as the events are happening. The image interruptions and distortions throughout the production help underscore the hap-hazard sequences. But what ends up making me squirm the most isn’t the action, but the intensely cramped quarters in the LEM and orbiting capsule, not to mention the constricting space suit and helmet- very claustrophobic.

Apollo 18…Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego…2011…86 min…featuring Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins.

Pi ****

This movie is gratingly heroic in its attempt to break the mold of linear storytelling. Cut up scenes, half in, half out of reality, aided by challenging electric music, mirrors the mental instability of a mathematician being driven crazy by his self-stated genius. His obsession with numbers leads to potential breakthroughs in both financial deals and religious theory and he gets hounded by those who want his results.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky…1998…84 min…featuring Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman.

Twilight ***

A down-on-his-luck PI living with a pair of faded Hollywood stars gets snarled in a cold case murder. There are no special effects here- just simmering crime action and layers of manipulation and lies.

Directed by Robert Benton…1998…94 min…featuring Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, Reese Witherspoon, Stockard Channing, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, Margo Martindale, John Spencer.

King of Devil’s Island ***

A stark Norwegian island serves as a facility for processing mal-adjusted boys. Abuse lights a fire among the residents, who stubbornly and violently rebel against authorities.

Directed by Marius Holst…2010…116 min…featuring Benjamin Helstad, Trond Nilssen, Stellan SkarsgĂ„rd.

Miller’s Crossing ***

Tough guys run the show in this gangster work-out. The talk is peppered with slang and it gets violent, but as gangster movies go, this one is pretty tame. It’s a lot about double crosses, cheating and lying and the one left standing in the end isn’t always the smartest, but the luckiest.

Directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen…1990…115 min…featuring Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi.

Prometheus ****

Stylish sci-fi thriller that acts as a retelling of the “Alien” story- at least there are some very, very similar details. But also some added elements, advanced special effects plus some pretty good acting that all work together to help give this an ambiance all its own. It’s a gorgeous and interesting production to look at, imaginative and scary.

Directed by Ridley Scott…2012…124 min…featuring Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce.

Europa Report ***

The dream of a lifetime- to explore another world- is undertaken with dire results. In this case, the target is a moon of Jupiter, where water is expected to be found- and life. The movie brings up more questions than supplies answers, but like “Apollo 18,” this one hammers home the claustrophobic nature of long term capsule living. Also like “Apollo 18,” the film is made up of what is supposedly footage shot by the crew, served up in multiple panes on the screen. This is pretty much hard science, leaving the nature of alien goings-on mysterious, and the movie is stronger for it.

Directed by Sebastian Cordero…2013…90 min…featuring Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, Christian Camargo, Daniel Wu.

Oblivion ***

A technician servicing essential equipment for human colonies in space makes some mind-bending discoveries about what happened on Earth, abandoned after a ravaging war with invading robots.

Directed by Joseph Kosinski…2013…124 min…featuring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo.

Read more: Movie Reviews by TVS