Friday, August 20, 2021

Summer dog days get thrills from Hall in 'House'; Q and Keaton in 'Protege'

Hall frets and ponders alone in her scary 'House.'
Those hot and wayward days where summer movies usually arrive to die hard are here, but a couple of thrillers now playing only in a slew of theaters everywhere do have some moments to call their own. 

The always watchable Rebecca Hall gets to go kind of bonkers in a combo ghost story/psychological stumper called "The Night House." Hall's very recently widowed Beth spends most of the movie dealing with thoughts, videos, mementos and maybe even actual apparitions of her late hubby Owen (Evan Jonigkeit), all mostly in the house he built for her in the woods of upstate New York.

Naturally, that makes it a sporadically spooky affair, with typical bumps in the night here, some footprints on the dock there, and a seemingly kind neighbor (Vondie Curtis-Hall) or loyal friend (Sarah Goldberg, much more likable here than as the neurotic she plays on "Barry") both perhaps ready to spring a plot surprise on the unsuspecting Beth -- and us.

After all, given circumstances we rarely attempt to reveal in a review, director David Bruckner ("The Ritual" and "The Signal") and his screenwriters nicely pace the proceedings to keep us guessing throughout. Still, right from the earliest images, the reason to take any of it seriously becomes the versatile Hall, showing off a remarkable mix of sorrow, terror, toughness and turmoil. Award possiblities anyone?

Rated "R" by MPAA: some violence/disturbing images, and language, including some sexual references; 1:47; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Q enchants Keaton -- quite a bit.
Also opening wide today, "The Protege" gives action junkies an overdose of what they might need, while everyone else should get a kick from a cast led by Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton.

The latter, in fact, gets nicely back into bad-ass "Batman" form, only leaning toward the wrong side of the law, and with a sparkling display of trademark, wise-ass sensibility to boot. May I add that Keaton's chemistry with the equally formidable Q, of "Divergent" fame among other things, adds the cherry to the top of a violent sundae that keeps on dripping with blood and one or two too many fight sequences.

The gist of the story has Jackson's talkative hit man (one major scene even has him reaching for what sounds a little like "Pulp Fiction" dialogue) training Q's title character ever since "rescuing" her 30 years earlier in Viet Nam. Plenty of flashbacks ensue, as well as enough spectacular stunt work from the ever-present leading lady to make "The Protege II" a distinct possibility.
Rated "R" by MPAA: strong and bloody violence, language, some sexual references and brief nudity; 1:50; $ $ $ out of $5

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