“Jack Strong” – A Nearly Perfect Cold War Spy Film

Quietly and without fanfare, Polish writer/director Wladyslaw Pasikowski has crafted an historical spy film for the ages.  Jack Strong rivals the very best spy films of the decade – from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to Skyfall.  The film dramatizes the life and actions of one of the most high-impact spies during the Cold War, the polish colonel Ryszard Kuklinski, who over the course of a decade provided over 35,000 pages of sensitive Soviet information to the Americans.  Impressively,  Jack Strong isn’t simply a circuitous celebration of tradecraft and cloak-and-dagger, either.  It delves further into the emotional and personal costs of the spy life than almost any spy film I have ever seen, detailing the damage that Kuklinski’s actions have on his family, friends, and colleagues.  The end product is a three-dimensional spy film that doesn’t resort to action set pieces or large explosions to capture the attention of the audience.  Thus, despite being relatively unknown, Jack Strong is an unequivocal example of the perfect Cold War spy film.

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Building a High-Horror Franchise through Characters: “The Conjuring 2”

The Conjuring was one of the most impressive horror films to emerge from Hollywood in the last decade, so James Wan’s follow-up to the 2013 hit has been widely anticipated.  In a turn that restores a modicum of faith in mankind, the sequel is an overwhelming success.  Ed and Lorraine Warren return with another paranormal investigation, this one based on their most-documented case:  The Enfield poltergeist. As before, the pair and their relationship form the kernel of a masterful supernatural high-horror film.  The Conjuring 2 will delight and terrify genre fans and whichever casual movie-goers have the courage to buy a ticket and peer through their fingers.

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The Monstrous Savage of “Bone Tomahawk” Feels Icky, but is the Resulting Western/Horror/Comedy Worth It?

Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk was a surprising hidden gem from 2015. Starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox, this Western horror film takes its time to get rolling. In the interim, the film establishes an almost survivalist tone, but is still comfortable with its own brand of humor. With a title derived from the preferred weapon of the insane savage antagonists, Bone Tomahawk offers much more attention to detail than your standard slasher flick, and by placing the action in the Old West, we also get to see Kurt Russell’s mustache in its full glory.

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