Archive for the Crime Category

FAR NORTH Review :: DRAMA :: 067

Posted in Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , on 07/17/2018 by joycereview

Far North (2007)

Asif Kapadia’s film Far North (2007) was an interesting watch to say the least. The story is a unique one and (filmed in Norway) provided a setting and culture that many haven’t seen on the silver screen. When you pick up this title you’ll see that it’s a crime drama… therefore you know that something sinister happens on the ice, but what exactly, you’re not likely to guess.

The plot of this story involves two women, Saiva (Michelle Yeoh) and Anja (Michelle Krusiec) living, presumably in the Arctic region of the Soviet Union (date unknown). Saiva finds a soldier named Loki (Sean Bean) frozen and near death. Their simple life is altered dramatically after this event.

One thing that you are able to recognize right away is that this isn’t your typical Hollywood film. And though this is something I typically enjoy, the pace was a bit slow and the information restrictive. While you learn that a shaman warned Saiva that harm will come to those around her, you learn little else – and nothing about Anja. You also learn next to nothing about Loki, which you think would have come up during long, cold nights.

While the movie was enjoyable, my main gripe is that there could have been more to the story and a lot more that you could have learned from the characters. Even the ending just drops off without a sense of closure. You might be wondering why I’d give this film a seven – relatively high mark for a film I have such a deep gripe about? The answer for this is that while there is a lot more that could have been added, deepening the story, there really isn’t anything else to see fault in.

Well…. one more… but that would be giving away a major spoiler. You’ll just have to see it for yourself!

Let us know what you thought of it in the comments.






Posted in Comedy, Crime with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/14/2018 by joycereview

Game Night (2018)

“Tonight we’re going to take came night up a notch.”


Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are a couple that came together over their love of games. Now, years later, they host game night parties with their fun (and often hysterical) group of friends. On one particular night, Max’s older brother Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler) joins them and, like he always does, goes above and beyond the norm. However, everything goes wrong when his mock hostage situation goes array.
There is so much to like about this movie! Jason Bateman is… Jason Bateman, but who doesn’t love him? Rachel McAdams plays his wife and does so with great zest. It seriously looks like she’s never had more fun making a movie in her life. The one-upper, older brother Brooks is played by Kyle Chander of Friday Night Lights and Bloodline fame. Both he and Rachel hold their own in these comedic roles.

Lamorne Morris of New Girl, plays friend Kevin and gives a stellar performance in every scene he’s a part of. Unsuspectingly though, many of the heartiest laughs come because of Max and Annie’s creepy cop neighbor Gary (Jesse Plemons). Sometimes mistaken (before he made more of a name for himself) as Matt Damon’s twin (they are not related), Jesse has continued to impress the wife and I in all that he’s done (Black Mass, Hostiles, Bridge of Spies, and Friday Night Lights, etc). As an interesting note, he got engaged to actress Kirsten Dunst just last year (2017).While this is in no way a perfect comedy, it is highly entertaining, well-paced and written (Mark Perez). You can also add well-directed as Horrible Bosses (2011) director/actor/writer John Francis Daly adds to his list of achievements. John, one of the main stars of the cult classic Freaks and Geeks, does a great job behind the camera as well. John’s cameo as at the beginning of the film as the tavern’s Game Night questioner that asks the question “What’s the name of the purple teletubby?” … To which they answer together in unison, “Tinky Winky!” And the love connection was made!

There IS one cameo that would possibly be a spoiler if I mentioned it here – so please don’t go searching for it (unless you don’t care for surprises). In the film he goes by the name of The Bulgarian.

Let us know what you thought of Game Night?

How was our ranking? On point? Or way off? If so, why?




Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at ChenCenter.

Every 3rd photo is a brand new review. Or simply check back here from time-to-time. Either way enjoy!!!




Posted in Classic, Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/01/2018 by joycereview

The Godfather II (1974)

Let the hating begin! Keep in mind that I still think that The Godfather II is a fine movie, and though 7 is well under the high marks of 9 and 10 (as many would mark it), I feel that most of this is based on popularity and the crowd/fan effect. The Godfather (1972) has one of the highest rated scores of any film on IMDB at 9.2. Rightly so, as Francis Ford Coppolla and writer Mario Puzo are geniuses. What happens at the end of that movie, as young Michael takes the reigns, leaves you clawing for more. How will Michael move forward? Will he be able to fill his father’s shoes? (Even) What’s the background of the Corleone family? You get this, in a film that runs for 3 hours and 22 minutes – let’s say 3 and 1/2 with a potty break.


Let me tell you first what I loved. The beginning, at least the first 15 minutes was as fascinating as any film I’ve seen. We see a young Vito Andolini as he loses his entire family at the hands of Sicily’s Don Francesco. Not only are we shocked right off the bat, but we instantly remember his words to Johnny Fantana, “A man that doesn’t spend time with his family isn’t a real man” and understand why he said it.

Part II gave us the return of the original cast (minus a few, obviously) thus allowing for a feeling of continuity and continued excitement. It also gave us brilliant performance by Robert De Niro, playing the future Don in his late 20’s-early 30’s. The element that most impressed me was that not only was over 90% of De Niro’s dialogue in Sicilian, but he spoke it well (per an Italian source).

Lastly, the symbolism was wasted on me. From the very beginning we have the image of the chair, the image of young Vito detained at Ellis Island, and the image in our minds of the mature don from the first film.


What detracts from the well-intentioned and overly ambitious script is based largely on structure. Though the film is able to replicate the mood of the first, the flashbacks to 1958 disrupts the narrative and because of the weight of both, leaves you wondering … why this isn’t just two separate films? There are also scenes that seem rather pointless, like the Michael’s actions in Cuba (with quite a bit of footage on the rise of Castro) and Vito’s aid to an elderly widow so she’s not evicted.

Although it is a fine film, it is not without its holes. It certainly doesn’t have the weight, quotable lines, and tight storyline as The Godfather gave us. Besides the murderous intro, the “kiss of death” and the revenge of Vito Andolini… there really isn’t enough in the 200 minutes of film to keep your revitted. But that’s just me!

What did you think and was there anything you think I missed?

Perhaps you think I’m wrong?

Tell me why!




Joyce Review Logo

Don’t forget to LIKE US on FACEBOOK. And if you follow me on INSTAGRAM, the next review will be on every 3rd picture posted. @chencenter




Posted in Action, Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2018 by joycereview

Léon: The Professional (1994)

When a friend requested that I review Luc Besson’s The Professional, I was overjoyed. That meant that I would need to watch it again.

One thing that jumps out at me whenever I hear this writer-director’s name is that he’s a lover of strong women – maybe even moreso than James Cameron. Think about it – La Femme Nikita, young Mathilda in this film, Lucy and the key to the universe, The Fifth Element’s Leeloo.

The Professional is the screen debut of a Natalie Portman, who plays an abused 12 year old kid whose life gets changed forever when she runs into Italian hitman Léon. When her family gets killed, she pleads with Léon to teach her to “clean” – in other words, kill, to get revenge.

Besson gets it right at every turn, especially when setting up the opening! The movie opens with bird’s eye view of NYC, pans over Central Park, then a non-stop street view that finally turns into Tony’s Restaurant in Little Italy where Léon is given a job. Seconds later, we see just how “professional” The Professional really is!

Where this deviates from “perfection” are in several, somewhat trivial places. For one, it makes me question his professionalism when he wears his sunglasses inside (perhaps he doesn’t have to see) and no gloves. You telling me he’s been doing this for years, just killed half a dozen people in the first job alone – leaving fingerprints everywhere (especially on the telephone) and hasn’t been caught yet?

A man cannot live on milk alone.

While it makes the film memorable, Léon, and later, Léon and Mathilda, drink A LOT of milk – which has less to do with looking healthy and more about the strange thought of a gas on the job. I would not propose a full glass of milk before OR after exercise. Just sayin’.

Gary Oldman’s character Stansfield, is one of the creepiest of all-time. But it is a bit of a stretch to have someone like him working for Internal Affairs, popping Librium pills (IMDB), and weakly justifying himself when he “flies off the handles.” But that stretch of the imagination aside, his improvisational scenes were he literally “sniffs out” Mathilda’s father, talks about his love of Beethoven, and exclaims “Everyone!!!!” – just brilliant.

I also have to add that, although I own and watch the International Cut of the film, I prefer the American version where the awkward sexual tension is taken out. At one point in the movie, they get kicked out of an apartment because Mathilda lies to the manager that Léon is not her father, but rather, her lover. As young as Mathilda looks and IS it should be off-pudding everywhere in the world – not just the U.S. Thanks Mathilda, you just made your only guardian a sex offender too… and either he’ll get caught, forced to run or kill an innocent man. Obviously they flee the scene – somehow.

All-in-all, Léon The Professional is an amazing movie, great pacing, tremendous chemistry and well acted. One Easter Egg I’ll leave you with is this… the idea of Léon came to Luc Besson in writing/filming La Femme Nikita. A Cleaner, dressed in a long coat, glasses and a wool cap (played by Jean Reno) fixes a botched job. Besson wanted to expand this character and thus, we have this movie, except that he’s now an Italian with a non-Italian name.

I could be wrong. How popular is Léon as an Italian name?

How did you like the film? What would you rate it? Let me know!




Remember, follow me on instagram @chencenter for the 1st posting of each review. A new film review every third picture.


THE DROP :: DRAMA :: 049

Posted in Crime, Drama, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/01/2018 by joycereview

The Drop (2014)

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a crime drama, and since the wife was out of town and I had a night to watch it, I gave it a go. I was fairly surprised that this movie didn’t get a great deal of buzz, but I think many of you will be presently surprised. Known primarily as James Gandolfini’s last movie, The Drop is a slow-paced drama with a great deal of substance, especially Tom Hardy that comes across as a young Marlon Brando. Though Tom’s character Bob Saginowski is a “not too bright” bartender, there is a lot that he DOES know… and his “coolness” in the film is just as “gangster” as the Chechen bosses that now run Cousin Marv’s Bar.

The pacing was a little slow for my taste, but it definitely didn’t lose my interest – don’t get me wrong! This was a terrific job by director Michaël R Roskam and the entire cast. Because of the puppy as an strong piece of the story, I think I can easily compel the wife to give it a watch.

Keep in mind that since this wasn’t a blockbuster and it’s 4 years old now, so you can probably buy it for as little as $3… which is close to what I found it for.




Follow me on Instagram at @chencenter and get the review FIRST on every 3rd picture. If there is something you’d like me to review, send me a line!


WHIP IT :: DRAMA :: 040

Posted in Crime, Drama, Sport with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 03/09/2010 by joycereview

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut met my heart with shrills of “more Ellen Page,” with mounting excitement (after viewing Netflix’s “Very Long Wait” status), with an 8-year old’s jubilant bounce when I saw it at Best Buy for 50% off (only $9.99) and finally with saddening disappointment as it attempted to reach various highpoints, only to fall victim to cliches and poor acting.

Ellen Page plays Bliss Cavendar, a character as hip and independent as Juno, but without the tongue-savvy eloquence.  She’s somewhat a slave to her beauty pagent-loving mother (played by Macia Gay Harden).  One day she sees some tattoo-wielding roller derby girls and attempts to prove her best friend Pash (played by Alia Shawkat) wrong by auditioning for the preeminently underdog team, the Hurl Scouts.

There’s Smashly Simpson (Drew Barrymore), Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis), Rosa Sparks (Eve), Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), Bloody Holly (Zoe Bell), Eva Destruction (Ari Graynor) and Babe Ruthless (Ellen Page).  The names are fun, the energy is high (at times), and there is something sexy,… very sexy about girls being tough and headstrong.

Bliss Cavendar finds her passion in roller derby, and instead of giving non-derby-watching audiences a better understanding of the rules and competitive progression of the Hurl Scouts, screenwriter Shauna Cross (and director Barrymore) give us, even though some chemistry is present, an awkward courtship between Bliss and indie-rocker Oliver (played by Landon Pigg).

Let me explain myself a bit – –

  • Climbing through a window to have a very PG-13 sexual first in a lit-up pool.  Not your normal kanoodling; we’re talking about overly romantic, fully submersed aquatic relations with Page’s skinny bod desperately trying to stay submerged (let’s not forget that we are aware that her character wears contacts and couldn’t possibly keep her eyes open for that amount of time).
  • Also, when the very intimidating Iron Maven instigates what would realistically be a full-fledged cat fight, playfully becomes a benign food fight, despite the gutsy and “Ruthless” tackling by Bliss on Maven.
  • Band frontman Oliver and derby “Jammer” Bliss are laying on Oliver’s car hood.  When it’s time for Bliss to get to practice, he checks his pockets to find that his keys are lost, somewhere in the large wheat field.  Miraculously, through a game of Marco Polo, Oliver finds them… and then (obviously because he wants to keep Bliss longer) he throws his keys back into the field, creating a moment that (to me) would have meant something along the lines of an immediate castration.  But later on in the film, Bliss draws the “line in the sand” over him not returning her call.  Go figure.

Most of this film, we’ve seen before, but it’s a more-than-decent flick that continues to display the wonderful talents of Ellen Page.  Kristen Wiig is also sensational.  More of a drama than a comedy, Whip It entertained, but did not impress. 

Ellen Page should not have turned down Drag Me To Hell to play this movie, but then again Whip It, without Page, would have been something very frustrating.  It would probably be like when you come home from school and you press power on your old-school Nintendo and you get nothing.  You blow inside the gate, you blow the game inputs, and it leaves you with nothing; empty and depressed…all day long.

Glad that wasn’t the case. 

What were your thoughts on Whip It?


Posted in Crime, Drama, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/18/2009 by joycereview

I’ve got a major itch when it comes to films that explore spiritual and religious matters, and the way Dan Brown can mix such mystery, history and drama is like a masterful wizard creating a potion.  The movie, however, is as interesting as watching someone line up colors on a rubix cube.  The thing is this- I’m quite amazed at someone working a rubix cube, especially when the turns happen swiftly and the colors never fail to stack.  To many film-goers, my fellow readers, they’ll undoubtably feel barraged by the relentless pace and the overly-genius clue-finding of symbologist Robert Langdon.  His surprisingly uncharacteristic and non-agnostic parting lines to the last living seed of Christ (played by Audrey Tautau) was “Godspeed”… and boy!… if that wasn’t a clue at how the successor of The DeVinci Code would play out, I don’t know what is.

Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has returned to Harvard (they have an awesome swimming pool by-the-way) and is met by a Vatican representative explaining they have reason to believe that a secret brotherhood, The Illuminati, has returned and is seeking vengence on the Holy Church.  Four cardinals, papal favorites (known as the “preferitti”), have been kidnapped by someone working for the Illuminati.  The threat is given- one priest killed on the hour (8, 9, 10, and 11) and then Rome will be “purified by light” with stolen anti-matter (yes, let’s amp up our security of nuclear research centers shall we?).  Langdon and physicist, Dr. Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) traipse quite hurriedly across Rome, clue-by-clue, to save the lives of the abducted priests and the numerous leaders and followers of the Catholic Church whom have traveled to the Vatican for Sede Vacante (time from the death of the pope to the election of the new pope by the College of Cardinals).  No fear – for Robert Langdon’s skills are something of a “Godsend” and he’s on the case!

Symbologist Robert Langdon is no Saint Paul, he’s a firm believer of what is “proven” and this is a mutually interesting character for both religious believers and non-believers.  The more eloquent of the scientist agnostics, the character of Langdon (as well as that of the represented Catholic clergy) maintain a respectful boundary between religion and science.  Galileo would be proud.  The large set pieces and locations provide an exuberant amount of eye candy.  Not scenery that initially impresses and dwindles, but ones that make you thirst for more; like a cherry flavored Jolly Rancher.  Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars I-III), Stellan Skarsgard (Ronin, The Glass House), and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Music Box, Shine) are equally great, although I’d actually give an extra-special nod to Armin whose playing of Cardinal Strauss was exemplary.

Where the movie took a nose-dive, was in the condensed editing and the dialogue stylings.  It felt like you were in a museum filled with beautiful paintings…  but instead of leisurely viewing each masterpiece piece-by-piece, you are whisked, tugged and pulled along by a hyperactive 10 year old, leaving you inept of its full meaning.  Lucky for me, I can take speed (if I know what direction I’m going)… and I’m quite used to “not understanding full meanings.”

What was annoying was the dialogue (mainly of Langdon, Vetra and Camerlengo McKenna).  While momentarily impressed when Langdon asked his escort for help with italian, Langdon delivers countless details, myths/ histories to people that already know them… then he might saying something fancy in Latin, and will then make it a point to re-explain (most likely for the audiences benefit.  damn our feeble minds!).

The most laughable of these “failures to deliver” comes when the Camerlengo (McGregor) breaks into a closed enclave of cardinals and gives the mightiest of pep-rally speeches to a congregation of superiors, virtually all of them 3 decades his senior.  There is also a scene involving him, and a helicopter that kills me – watch for it.

I also found it strange that particle physicist, Vittoria Vetra, off the top of her pretty little head, knew the signs and symptoms of a particular poison that may or may not have killed the Pope – like she was a medical doctor!  Hmm… well… I’ve a couple of moles that need a looking at when she gets a chance.

Well many may say that this a great improvement to The DeVinci Code, I miss the self-flagellating albino, Silas (Paul Bettany), and sexy French Agent, Sophie (Audrey Tautau)- Beauty and the beast  (I’ll let you decide for yourself who I’m talking about).  But that was separate movie and my love for Audrey Tautau is just plain biased and we will have none of that here at The Joyce Review.  With Hans Zimmer’s music, along with Joshua Bell violin solos, fast-paced problem-solving in picturesque Rome, Angels and Demons succeeds, but doesn’t triumph.