Thursday, August 19, 2010

Couple of hidden gems in my to-watch pile

These movies do not have historical settings, but they are part of my to-watch pile, or were, for the to-watch pile project.  I did not expect to enjoy either of them as much as I did and decided to pass along the info in case anyone else might be putting off watching them in their piles.

1. Isolation (2005)- The back of this DVD case had a write-up that made the movie sound like a Saw rip-off in which people were used for medical experiments on an isolated farm. I bought it very cheap at a closing video store sale and had it for a couple months before I finally put it in. I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was not a Saw rip-off at all; on the contrary, the experiments were not on people, but on farm animals, namely cows. The acting was more than passable, with Sean Harris playing a farmer who is being paid by a scientist to use his farm and animals for an experiment to improve the production of beef. Sean has a lot of TV credits and a few movies but most notably will be playing in the upcoming Borgias series. The special effects were good and minimal for what they were and the supporting cast was excellent. The story and direction were solid and expressed a good deal of tension and a few startling moments.

I very much enjoyed it and will definitely watch it again. I’d never heard of it when I picked it up, and the subject matter of cows seemed silly at first, but it was well done and fairly realistic in plot and approach. I’d say this one is most definitely worth checking out.

2. Zzyzx (2006)

 This is a straight to DVD thriller that I suspected less than nothing from. The basic premise is that two men who are barely acquaintances make a cross-desert drive to Vegas. Despite warnings that Zzyzx Road in California is a highway that should be avoided due to the lack of anything but barren desert, they decide to take it. Along the way, the relationship between the two becomes strained when they hit and kill a man staggering down the desert road. Afraid of being caught, they wrap him in a blanket and put him in the back seat, during which time the man’s wife, out looking for him, arrives on the scene. The two offer to drive her back to her RV with the body of her husband hidden in the backseat.

What follows is a twist and turn of alliances, deceit, and confusion as the three tourists craft and exact their own plots upon each other. What made this thriller remarkable was that the twists went a different direction than the average thriller, the acting was superb, and the direction was pretty tight. Some of the camera techniques were irritating, but those were few and far enough between. Robyn Cohen, the female lead, was excellent, sleazy, and crafty. She did a more than adequate job, as did everyone on the cast despite having very little on their IMDB pages. Kenny Johnson, with a lot of TV work behind him, and Ryan Fox both played their parts with perfection. The story was very satisfying and there were some unique little scenes that I had not encountered before in thrillers that I was extraordinarily pleased with. I will watch this one again as well.

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