Category Archives: Thriller

Shaft (2019) | Tim Story



Thirty years ago, J.J. (Jessie T. Usher) was fathered by Samuel L. Jackson’s Shaft, who was immediately estranged from his kid by the mother, Maya, who wants to keep her child’s life from the daily danger that Shaft is surrounded by. Shaft keeps his toe in the water with J.J. by sending presents on birthdays and holidays that often show how out of touch he is, not only in what’s going on in J.J.’s life but also in what is acceptable by standards of our less politically incorrect world. J.J. Shaft works primarily as a desk jockey in the FBI.  J.J. learns that his old friend Karim and sometimes protector died from an overdose in Harlem. Knowing that his friend had turned his life around, J.J. thinks the death smells funny and decides to investigate the cause, leading him to ask questions in a drug dealer’s lair that gets him nearly killed.  Desperate to move on with his investigation, J.J. reaches out to the father he never knew, currently working as a hardboiled private investigator in town, who readily accepts his role as his son’s new protector and mentor of all things “manly”. They soon discover there is, of course, far more involved in Karim’s death than what the official report says, and soon the men find themselves in the middle of a murder case. Tim Story directs this semi-spoof of its own franchise. Richard Roundtree takes a small role as the original John Shaft.


I Am Mother (2019) | Grant Sputore



n this thoughtful sci-fi film, Clara Rugaard plays a young teenager we only hear referred to as ‘daughter’ by ‘mother’, who is has an android body with a soothing woman’s voice (Mother’s finished voice-over acting provided by Rose Byrne). We soon come to find that Mother is an artificial intelligence robot that works within a facility that is raising children in order to learn how to properly nurture them to adulthood, for the purpose of one day repopulating the contaminated Earth that lies outside of their safe enclosure in this post-apocalyptic tale. Daughter is the only living human in the facility, though Mother says that her family, which is a collection of human embryos currently being kept on tap, can be born and raised using a quick-gestation technology that we see Daughter produced from when the time comes. Hilary Swank also appears in a supporting role in this film directed by Grant Sputore.


John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) | Chad Stahelski



John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum spins off its plot from something that happens in the second chapter, namely that John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now “excommunicado” by the High Table that controls the world’s leading organization of assassins for killing someone inside the assassin’s “sacred ground” of the Continental Hotel in New York – a big no-no. that sees a huge bounty put on his head. John has very few places he can run, and he’ll eventually run out of safe havens, but he means to keep himself alive long enough to be able to get himself back into the High Table’s good graces somehow.  Nevertheless, the assassins after him are skilled and ruthless, especially the calculating woman known as The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon), who is busy dishing out nasty revenge on anyone caught helping out their buddy in defiance of the orders.


Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile (2019) | Joe Beringer



This biopic on Ted Bundy covers mostly the ten years between 1969 and 1979, where we find the seemingly sweet courtship of single mom Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) on the part of Ted Bundy (Zac Efron), who seems like an ideal dream man when they meet and seems to be a loving and nurturing father figure to her young daughter over the years. Things take a turn when Bundy leaves their home in Seattle to attend law school in Utah, especially when he gets tagged as a suspect in a kidnapping and murder case that he fits the description of, though the facts don’t quite align enough for him to be the definitive culprit. Elizabeth stays by his side, but Bundy continues to do things that seem to further sink him into legal troubles, making her wonder if he is the serial killer in disguise, or if all of it is the elaborate frame job by overzealous law enforcement seeking to put him away without incontrovertible evidence to nail him for good. Bundy soon becomes a bit of a media darling, with groupies across the country falling under his dreamy spell, including Carole Ann Boone (Kaya Scodelario), who becomes Bundy’s lover and source of strength at a time when Liz has decided to keep her distance.


Dragged Across Concrete (2018) | S. Craig Zahler



Dragged Across Concrete is writer-director S. Craig Zahler’s further exploration of the seamy underbelly of American society, particularly through the prism of how that experience causes ripple effects that throw even innocent people into the wake of the criminals.  Most of the action follows the exploits of two cops in the fictional city of Bulwark, the older burnout Brett Ridgeman (Mel Gibson) and his younger partner Anthony Lurasetti (Vince Vaughn), who get suspended from the force after they are caught on camera going a little too far in roughing up a suspect in the current environment that frowns on the perception of racial profiling. The other major story arc in the film involves Henry Johns, just released from prison, going back to a life of crime in order to provide for his mother (a drug user who has been prostituting herself for needed cash) and disabled younger brother, who has aspirations of becoming a video game developer. The two stories converge when the cops decide they’re going to snatch money from a secretive drug dealer named Vogelmann, while Henry, working for that guy, becomes the wheel-man in a bank heist.


Us (2019) | Jordan Peele



As a young girl living in the coastal California town of Santa Cruz in 1986, Adelaide walked away from her parents while at  the beach boardwalk amusement park, into a seemingly empty fun house, and saw something that would negatively affect her the rest of her life.  Flash forward to today, and Adelaide is now married with two kids, and her husband, Gabe Wilson, has a yen to visit Santa Cruz for a family vacation, not knowing about her deep-seated fear of her experience there.  Despite her qualms, she consents to go, and while things appear harmless, she has a bad feeling about it. Her feeling would turn out to have merit, as they are soon visited in their rental by another family of four that looks just like them, except they mostly can’t speak well, and they’re dressed all in red.  The house soon becomes under siege by the doppelgangers, resulting in a battle for survival – a battle for continued existence, really – between the Wilsons and the Others. Stars Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. Written and directed by Jordan Peele.


Triple Frontier (2019) | J.C. Chandor



After a nearly five-year hiatus from writing and directing films, J.C. Chandor re-emerges with Triple Frontier (for Netflix), in which five ex-military special ops soldiers reunite in order to stage a heist of a murderous major South American drug lord.  Oscar Isaac is the de facto leader of the quintet, playing Santiago, who decides to “get the band back together” for one last mission for reconnaissance for the government to take down the elusive drug lord he’s spent years trying to take down, Lorea, but changes the mission once he discovers that they could do the bust themselves, take out the human vermin the world is better off without, and score the millions of dollars in cash within his jungle-hidden, well-guarded mansion.  Each of the men find that their service for the country hasn’t exactly resulted in the country taking care of them financially, so they figure they should get what’s fair for their years of sacrifice, making it worth their salt to commit to. Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascal co-star in this action/adventure/thriller.


Greta (2018) | Neil Jordan



Although the film is called Greta, Chloe Grace Moretz’s character, a young waitress named Frances McCullen, is the one we follow most, newly relocated to New York City from Boston after losing her beloved mother.  Frances is perhaps a little too nice and accommodating for her roommate Erica’s (Maika Monroe) tastes to not get taken advantage of by the worst the Big Apple has to offer. That niceness comes into play when Frances finds a lost purse sitting on a seat in her subway car, prompting her to return it its rightful owner, a mature Parisian widow living in Brooklyn named Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert).  The two become friends, filling a niche in each other’s lives, with Frances finding a surrogate for her mother in her time of grief, and Greta a surrogate daughter for the one that is no longer in her vicinity. Frances says she’s like chewing gum – she tends to stick around – which is music to Greta’s ears.  However, something feels amiss in the relationship that causes Frances to try to end it, and the less-than-stable Greta doesn’t seem to be taking the separation well. Neil Jordan directs this off-kilter thriller.


Glass (2019) | M. Night Shyamalan



Glass serves as a sequel to two films from M. Night Shyamalan, 2000’s Unbreakable and 2018’s Split, the latter of which tied itself to the former with the post-end title stinger. Bruce Willis makes his return as the ‘unbreakable’ security company owner David Dunn, who, along with his adult son (and sole employee) Joseph, is trying to track down a crazy roaming the streets of Philadelphia who is abducting teenage girls.  James McAvoy continues his portrayal of Kevin Wendell Crumb, aka The Horde, a conglomerations of split personalities that take over Kevin’s body at various points, including the homicidal brute known as The Beast, who is the one feeding on those girls David is looking for .  Samuel L. Jackson also returns from Unbreakable as the titular character, the brittle mastermind self-named Mr. Glass, aka Elijah Price, who has apparently been laying low for some time under heavy sedation.  The three end up rounded up and subsequently kept separate chambers within a high-security psychiatric facility led by Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, whose specialty is in rehabilitating persons who believe they are superheroes. From Split, Anya Taylor-Joy returns as Casey Cooke, who survived her terror-filled first meeting with The Horde while in its persona as The Beast, but who finds herself drawn to help him escape his inner demons.


BlacKkKlansman (2018) | Spike Lee



In this Spike Lee joint, we go back to the 1970s, where we find Ron Stallworth, the first black police detective working for the Colorado Springs Police Department.  In one of his first assignments after laboring behind the scenes to test the waters as a file clerk, Ron is hired to go undercover to record a speech being given locally by black activist Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins), formerly known as Stokely Carmichael, at a nearby college, in which the subject is black empowerment, racist law enforcement, and preparation for the race war they feel will be inevitable. The police thought the speech would incite violence, but Ron saw the speech as just talk in that regard, and inspiring otherwise.