REVIEW: THE ATTICUS INSTITUTE

CAST

William Mapother (World Trade Center)
Rya Kihlstedt (Heroes Reborn)
John Rubinstein (Robocop: the Series)
Sharon Maughan (The Bank Job)
Harry Groener (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Ivar Brogger (Andromeda)

The story of the film is presented in documentary format, with footage of the events punctuated by interviews with people related to them. In the early 1970s, Dr. Henry West (William Mapother) founds the Atticus Institute in rural Pennsylvania, hoping to find evidence that proves supernatural abilities such as ESP are real. Despite the best work of West and his aides, however, every subject that comes to the institute seeming to display such abilities are ultimately proven to be frauds. The team is demoralized in their work by the time Judith Winstead (Rya Kihlstedt) is brought to the institute by her sister Margaret, who is troubled by her disturbing behavior. Judith immediately proves to be a different case than the previous subjects, passing all the tests with incredible proficiency and leaving no doubt that her abilities are genuine. Her behavior remains erratic, however, and many of West’s staff become uncomfortable with her, even while their boss’s fascination with her increases. With the usual tests proving to be no challenge for Judith’s incredible power, the team gradually introduces new tests that show her to possess even greater abilities than first imagined.Judith’s behavior grows more unstable as her abilities evolve, disturbing West’s staff. Bizarre events begin to happen to the aides and their families outside of the institute, which they suspect Judith is somehow influencing, and many of them resign from their positions to escape from her. As the situation escalates, the team seeks help from the United States military; under the influence of military advisors, they conduct new tests that lead to Judith manifesting new abilities such as telekinesis and pyrokinesis. One day, Judith experiences a violent reaction to a spectral photography experiment, and when the images are checked, a cloud-like entity is observed temporarily leaving Judith’s body during her convulsions. This leads the team to realize that Judith’s powers are the result of demonic possession.With this discovery, the military seizes full control of the institute under a pretext of national security, and the situation spirals completely out of control. Soon, the military decides that Judith’s abilities can be utilized as a weapon against the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and they begin conducting increasingly inhumane experiments on Judith against West’s objections. Using methods such as electroshock therapy, the military try to tame the demon and force it to cooperate in exercises such as identifying the location of enemy bases, ignoring the effects these tests have on Judith. As these experiments ultimately prove fruitless, the military decides to try removing the demon from Judith by having a priest perform an exorcism while a soldier is connected to Judith via machinery. The process shows promise at first, but Judith suddenly lashes out and gravely injures the priest, disconnecting the electrodes attached to her before passing out. As the staff try to reattach the electrodes, Judith experiences a violent seizure while the demon attacks West through the body of the soldier connected to her. An unseen force blasts through the facility, killing all present. As the cameras come back online, Judith – now free of the demon’s control and restored to her true self – breaks down when she sees the carnage around her. The demon enters the room in West’s body, having fully consumed his soul, and stands before Judith’s cell as she pleads for help. West kills Judith by telekinetically bursting her heart, then calmly exits the room and disappears.The film concludes with a note revealing that Judith’s body was buried in an undisclosed location following an autopsy, and her case remains the only instance of possession officially certified by the United States government. Dr. Henry West, after disappearing on October 23, 1976, was declared legally dead in 1982 and his whereabouts have been unknown for over forty years.Overall The Atticus Institute is one of those mediocre horror films that you can coast your way through if you are just determined to watch it. There isn’t any real connection given between the character development and the audience. The horror and chilling elements aren’t really scary or affective unless you are 12 and really creeped out by demons and paranormal stuff. The framing device and story arc is so done to death, that it becomes a bit boring and you find yourself asking “why am I watching this?”.

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REVIEW: DIRTY GRANDPA

CAST

Robert De Niro (Joy)
Zac Efron (Bad Neighbours)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth)
Zoey Deutch (Ringer)
Julianne Hough (Rock of Ages)
Dermot Mulroney (Young Guns)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Night Before)
Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (Stargate Universe)
Adam Pally (Don’t Think Twice)
Henry Zebrowski (Heroes Reborn)
Mo Collins (Mad TV)
Danny Glover (2012)

Jason Kelly is a lawyer who works for his father. Jason’s grandmother dies, and after the funeral, his Army veteran grandfather, Dick, asks Jason to drive him to Boca Raton, Florida. Jason is getting married to his controlling fiancée, Meredith, in one week, but decides to take his grandfather anyway.On the way there, the two meet Jason’s old photography classmate, Shadia, along with her friends Lenore and Bradley. Dick and Lenore are instantly attracted to each other. Dick tells the girls that he is a professor and that Jason is a photographer. They all go their separate ways, but Dick convinces Jason that they should meet the girls at Daytona Beach, Florida, because Dick wants to have sex with Lenore. The two go to a golf course, where Dick flirts with two women.At Daytona Beach, they meet up with the girls and the girls’ friends, Cody and Brah, whom they compete in beer jugging. That night, a drunk Jason, wearing nothing but a Hornet fanny pack, parties and smokes crack cocaine that he gets from a drug dealer named Pam. He steals a motorcycle and wakes up the next day on the beach. During an awkward FaceTime with Meredith, a boy grabs the fanny pack and takes it off; his father suspects Jason of being a pervert and calls the police, who promptly arrest Jason. Dick bails him out, and the two visit Dick’s old Army friend in a nursing home. They meet the girls again and enter a flexing contest with Cody and Brah; when they lose, Dick alters a T-shirt cannon to fire a beer can at the winning duo, hospitalizing them and stay at their place. After Dick reveals to Jason that he was a member of the Special Forces, the two go to a nightclub with the girls. Dick gets into a fight with some men after they bully Bradley for his homosexuality. The next day, Jason goes to a protest with Shadia and she tells him that she is leaving soon and going to live on a ship for a year.That night, Jason plans on telling Shadia who he really is, but before he can, Cody does an online search on him and tells Shadia that Jason is already engaged. Jason then gets caught with drugs and is thrown into jail again. The next day, Dick bails him out and tells Jason that his real reason for the trip was to convince Jason not to go through with the wedding. Jason leaves Dick and drives back home. During his wedding rehearsal, Dick hacks into the computer system, revealing embarrassing photos of Jason during the party. Jason says that he cannot marry Meredith, who reveals that she had an affair. He, Dick, and Pam use Pam’s ice cream truck to catch up with the bus that Shadia is on as she is leaving. Jason and Shadia kiss, and he gets on the bus with her. Dick goes to his house in Boca Raton and finds Lenore there waiting for him, and they have sex. Dick and Lenore get married and have a baby, and Jason and Shadia are named the godparents.Robert De Niro is also awesome on the role all throughout. I also really liked the supporting characters, especially Jason Mantzoukas as a drug dealer who had me laughing every time he was on screen. Sure this movie isn’t nowhere near a comedic masterpiece and nor is it trying to be. It is a fun ride from beginning to end, and despite all the clichés, the jokes are what make this ride worth it.

REVIEW: IMPERIUM

CAST

Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
Toni Collette (Krampus)
Tracy Letts (Killer Joe)
Sam Trammell (Guns, Girls and Gambling)
Nestor Carbonell (Bates Motel)
Devin Druid (13 Reasons Why)
Pawel Szajda (Under The Tuscan Sun)
Chris Sullivan (The Drop)
Burn Gorman (Game of Thrones)
Seth Numrich (Homeland)
Vanessa Ore (Dark Resonance)

Nate Foster is an FBI agent working to uncover terrorist plots. After some illegally imported caesium-137 is stolen, Nate is recruited by agent Angela Zamparo, who suspects the involvement of white supremacist groups. Through Zamparo’s connections, Foster is introduced to a small group led by Vince Sargent, a local leader who is familiar with their prime suspect, conservative talk radio host Dallas Wolf. Wolf, a figurehead in the movement for his incendiary rhetoric, assembles a gathering of the largest and most influential groups in the northeast. With Sargent’s introductions, Foster becomes ingratiated in the movement and meets Andrew Blackwell, the leader of a premier white supremacist militia, as well as gaining Wolf’s attention by convincing him he can fund an expansion of his radio show. Foster also becomes fast friends with Gerry Conway, a white collar engineer and family man.After earning Blackwell’s trust by saving him during an attack on a white power rally by anti-fascists, Foster is brought to a crude military complex operated by Andrew’s militia. There, Blackwell reveals that he has blueprints for the municipal water network of Washington, DC and is plotting an attack. The FBI begins to suspect that Wolf and Blackwell are working together after Foster meets Dallas at his home and discovers that his house sets off Nate’s Geiger counter. Foster attempts to integrate himself into a possible plot by offering Wolf a substantial financial investment. Instead, Wolf becomes hostile and reports Nate to the FBI. It is revealed that he is merely an entertainer and does not believe in the cause. Blackwell is meanwhile also dismissed as a possible threat. With no further leads, the case is ordered to be closed by Foster’s and Zamparo’s superior. Angered at wasting his efforts, Nate prepares to have his cover identity leave the city.Foster meets Gerry to make his final farewells. Sensing his genuine feelings of uselessness, Conway confides in Nate his membership in a domestic terrorist cell. It is revealed that Gerry and his allies are in possession of the caesium and are plotting to detonate a dirty bomb. With Conway’s introduction, Foster joins the group as supplier of the explosive (TATP). Though his cover is nearly blown several times by the paranoid terrorists, Nate manages to locate the caesium in Conway’s home, and the FBI stop and arrest the terrorists before they are able to carry out the plot. Satisfied that he has made a difference, Nate makes one last visit to Johnny, a teenager and former member of Sargent’s gang who no longer believes in the cause.Imperium is a highly involving “going undercover” based on a true events story which works well as a first rate “thinking man’s” thriller as well as a good drama.

REVIEW: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3: SECRET OF THE TOMB

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Robin Williams (Hook)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder)
Ricky Gervais (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jake Cherry (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Rachael Harris (Barley Lethal)
Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rebel Wilson (Grimsby)
Skyler Gisondo (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Rami Malek (Battleship)
Patrick Gallagher (Sideways)
Mizuo Peck (A Case of You)
Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3)
Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins)
Percy Hynes White (The Gifted)
Mickey Rooney (Revenge of The Red Baron)
Bill Cobbs (Oz The Great and Powerful)
Andrea Martin (Black Christmas)
Brennan Elliott (Curse of Chucky)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Anjali Jay (Izombie)
Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness)
Hugh Jackman (Logan)
Brad Garrett (Finding Dory)

In 1938 Egypt, a team of archaeologists discover the tomb of pharaoh Ahkmenrah, including a young Cecil Fredericks, finding the magical Tablet of Ahkmenrah. The locals warn the group that removing the tablet will end its magic. In present day New York City, Larry Daley remains the night guard of the American Museum of Natural History. He, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila the Hun, Jedediah, Octavius and Dexter the capuchin monkey help re-open the Hayden Planetarium. A new wax Neanderthal resembling Larry named Laaa is introduced, identifying Larry as his father. Ahkmenrah shows Larry that the tablet is corroding, which later causes the exhibits to act erratically, causing mayhem at the planetarium’s reopening. Afterwards, Larry catches his son Nick throwing a house party, who plans on taking a gap year to sort out his life.Larry reunites with Cecil, now in retirement, who realises the end of the tablet’s magic will cause the exhibits to become lifeless. Cecil explains Ahkmenrah’s parents, Merenkahre and Shepseheret, may be able to restore the tablet’s power, but are located in the British Museum. Larry convinces the museum’s curator, Dr. McPhee, to let him ship Ahkmenrah to London to restore the tablet, convinced that McPhee knows its secrets. Larry and Nick travel to the British Museum, bypassing the night guard Tilly. To Larry’s surprise, Roosevelt, Sacagawea, Attila, Jed, Octavius, Dexter, and Laaa have come as well. Laaa is left to stand guard while the others search the museum, the tablet bringing its own exhibits to life.They are joined by a wax Sir Lancelot who helps them fight off the aggressive museum exhibits like a Xiangliu statue and a Triceratops skeleton. Jedediah and Octavius fall through a ventilation shaft, but are rescued from an erupting Pompeii model by Dexter. The group find Ahkmenrah’s parents, learning the tablet’s power can be regenerated by moonlight, since it is empowered with the magic of Khonsu. Lancelot mistakes the tablet for the Holy Grail and steals it, leaving to find Camelot. Larry and Laaa are locked in the employee break room by Tilly but escape, Laaa remaining behind to distract Tilly, but they become attracted to each other.Lancelot crashes a performance of the musical Camelot, starring Hugh Jackman and Alice Eve as King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, but Larry and the others chase him to the theatre roof, where the New York exhibits begin to die. Lancelot then sees that the quest was about them and gives the tablet back. The moonlight restores the tablet’s power, saving the exhibits. They decide that Ahkmenrah and the tablet should stay with his parents, even if it means the New York exhibits will no longer come to life. Back in New York, Larry spends some final moments with his friends before sunrise. Three years later, Larry now works as a teacher, and a travelling British Museum exhibit comes to New York. Tilly becomes the new night guard, and gives the tablet to Dr. McPhee, showing him its power, and allowing the exhibits to awaken again. Outside, Larry watches them party inside.Fans of the franchise will be pleasantly surprised by the heartfelt and sentimental Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. The thoughtfulness and homages to ancient history are present and the jokes have a wide enough range to make any age giggle.

REVIEW: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Ricky Gervais (Muppets Most Wanted)
Jake Cherry (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Robin Williams (Hook)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Christopher Guest (This Is Spinal Tap)
Alain Chabat (A Thousand Words)
Jon Bernthal (The Punisher)
Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder)
Mizuo Peck (A Case of You)
Bill Hader (Power Rangers)
Rami Malek (Battleship)
Patrick Gallagher (Sideways)
Brad Garrett (Finding Dory)
Jay Baruchel (This Is The End)
Keith Powell (30 Rock)
Craig Robinson (Zack and Miri Make A Porno)
Clint Howard (Apollo 13)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Eugene Levy (American Pie)
Mindy Kaling (Ocean’s Eight)
Ed Helms (The Hangover)
Jonah Hill (Get Him To The Greek)

Larry Daley, former night guard at the American Museum of Natural History, now runs his own direct response television company that sells inventions based on his experiences. He returns to the museum, discovering most of the exhibits will be moved to the Federal Archives at the Smithsonian Institution and replaced with holographic information providers. The Tablet of Akmenrah is to remain in the museum, leaving most of the exhibits without the ability to come to life at night. After the exhibits are moved, Larry receives a phone call from the cowboy Jedediah, who informs him that Dexter the monkey stole the Tablet and took it to the Smithsonian, bringing every exhibit in it to life. Larry travels to Washington, DC, navigating his way to the archives with help from his son Nick while posing as a night guard.Larry finds his friends trapped in their shipping container under attack from Akmenrah’s evil older brother Kahmunrah, accidentally activating the tablet and bringing the exhibits in the Smithsonian to life again. Kahmunrah reveals his plans to use the tablet’s powers to conquer the world. Larry escapes, aided by a gigantic octopus and General George A. Custer, who is captured, and then the adventurous Amelia Earhart, who becomes his travelling companion around the museum. The two evade Kahmunrah’s men, trapping them in the portrait of V-J Day in Times Square. Kahmunrah enlists fellow evil historical leaders, Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Al Capone to help capture Larry and retrieve the tablet. Jedediah tries to help but is placed in an hourglass. Kahmunrah is unable to open the Gate of the Underworld with the tablet, sending Larry and Amelia off to translate it or Jedediah dies.While searching for someone in the museum who can help, Larry and Amelia end up falling in love. They travel to the National Air and Space Museum, briefly encountering the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. Inside the museum, Larry grounds all of the aircraft and rockets from taking off, before a group of Albert Einstein bobbleheads inform him that the combination is the value of pi. Napoleon, Ivan, and Capone’s troops arrive, prompting Larry and Amelia to escape using the Wright Flyer. They crash the plane into the Smithsonian, where Kahmunrah uses the acquired combination to summon an army of bird-headed warriors. Lincoln crashes in through the window, frightening the warriors back into the Underworld.Amelia gathers an army of allies including Larry’s friends and Custer, leading to a climactic battle. Larry obtains the tablet, banishing Kahmunrah back to the Underworld. Amelia flies Larry and the New York exhibits back home, giving Larry a final kiss before taking off in her plane, knowing she will become dust before reaching the Smithsonian. Larry sells his company, donating the money to the museum to renovate it, and the exhibits remain, capable of moving about at night under the pretense of being animatronics. Larry is rehired as night guard and aids a woman who resembles Amelia.As sequels go, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” proves the exception to the rule. Director Shaun Levy’s ambitious as well as imaginative follow-up to “Night at the Museum” tops the original. One of the reason that it surpasses the first film is the casting. Amy Adams is terrific as Amelia Earhart, and she makes an impact on the movie with her presence. Of course, part of this is due to the historical person that she plays. She exerts a charisma that none of the women had in the first film.

 

 

 

REVIEW: NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins)
Carla Gugino (San Andreas)
Mickey Rooney (Revenge of The Red Baron)
Bill Cobbs (Oz The Great and Powerful)
Jake Cherry (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice)
Ricky Gervais (Muppets Most Wanted)
Kim Raver (24)
Charlie Murphy (Norbit)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
Anne Meara (Zoolander)
Robin Williams (Hook)
Patrick Gallagher (Sideways)
Rami Malek (Battleship)
Pierfrancesco Favino (The Last Kiss)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder)
Brad Garrett (Finding Dory)
Mizuo Peck (A Case of You)

Larry Daley is a divorced man from Queens, hoping to find a good job to impress his ten-year old son Nick, his ex-wife Erica believing he is a bad example for their son. Larry is hired at the American Museum of Natural History to replace the retiring security guards Cecil Fredericks and his colleagues Gus and Reginald. Larry meets the museum’s neurotic curator Dr. McPhee, and museum docent Rebecca Hutman, who plans to write a dissertation on Sacagawea. On his first night, Cecil hands Larry an instruction manual on what to do in the museum, warning him not to let anything “in or out.”Larry soon discovers that at night, the museum’s exhibits come to life and cause havoc for him. Amongst the lively exhibits are a playful Tyrannosaurus skeleton named Rexy; a mischievous capuchin monkey named Dexter who destroys the instructions; the warring factions of cowboys and legionnaires led by Jedediah and General Octavius; violent Attila the Hun; a talking Easter Island Head that desires gum; the fire-seeking neanderthals; and a wax model of Theodore Roosevelt, who is in love with Sacagawea.Roosevelt explains to Larry that the exhibits have come to life every night since the arrival of an Egyptian artifact, the Tablet of Akhmenrah, the mummified pharaoh trapped in his sarcophagus. He also explains to Larry that as night guard, it is his job to make sure that no exhibit sets foot out of the museum, otherwise they will disintegrate into dust if the sun rises while they are outside. The next day, Cecil advises Larry to research history to make up for the instructions’ destruction. He studies in libraries and from Rebecca. Larry puts his new knowledge to good use on his second night, but some of his plans backfire and the neanderthals set their exhibit on fire, leading to one becoming dust after venturing outside. After having doubts and almost getting fired the next day, Larry offers to introduce Sacagawea to Rebecca, but she thinks he is mocking her.On his third night, Larry brings Nick to the museum to watch the exhibits come to life, but they strangely do not. They catch Cecil, Gus, and Reginald stealing artifacts, who explain the tablet’s magic has allowed them to feel physically young in their old age, and plot to frame Larry for the theft while they enjoy a happy retirement. Nick activates the tablet, but Cecil steals it, locking Larry and Nick in the Egyptian exhibit. They free Akhmenrah, and rally the exhibits to stop the thieves and retrieve their colleagues who fled out into Central Park. Gus and Reginald are captured, but Cecil escapes by stagecoach.Larry and several exhibits give chase, where they stop Cecil and recover the tablet, using its magic to escort all of the exhibits back into the museum before sunrise. Rebecca witnesses this and makes amends with Larry, subsequently introduced to Sacagawea. The next day McPhee fires Larry, but when they go into the museum, they find it is crowded due to last night’s strange activities, and Larry is rehired. During the credits, Cecil, Gus, and Reginald were granted mercy by Larry and work as janitors.While the story could have been a little better, that’s a minor quibble. For the most part, this is exactly what it sets out to be, fun entertainment the entire family will enjoy.

REVIEW: A HOLOGRAM FOR A KING

CAST

Tom Hanks (Sully)
Alexander Black (Berlin, I Love You)
Sarita Choudhury (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay)
Sidse Babett Knudsen (Westworld)
Ben Whishaw (Paddington)
Tom Skerritt (alien)
Tracey Fairaway (Enough Said)

“Do you ever feel you might have done it differently?” is the question that Tom Hanks’ character asks himself again and again in A Hologram For The King (adapted from Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel.) Alan Clay is a middle-aged, middle-class American businessman whose life is dribbling away from him. He has split up from his wife. He can no longer afford to pay his daughter’s college fees. There’s a lump on his back that may be cancerous. A last chance to save his career comes in the form of a trip to Saudi Arabia, where he is to pitch a potentially lucrative IT project involving holograms to the king.This is a very strange film, perched between whimsy and despair. German writer-director Tom Tykwer is very good at capturing the sense of ennui and pointlessness that his protagonist feels as he wrestles with the metaphysical meaninglessness of existence. Hanks is often cast as the dependable American everyman type. Here, he shows a darker, more anxious side to that character. It is one of his richest recent performances. Bonhomie, optimism and wisecracking can only get Clay so far. His cheerfulness becomes harder and harder to maintain. Tykwer is also sharp in his observations of the Middle East and its relations with westerners. There are many carpetbaggers looking to redeem their lives and make their fortunes in the desert kingdoms. Instead, what they find is the emptiness at the core of their own lives. For Clay, nothing seems very real or meaningful at all.It seems crazy, though, for Tykwer to treat such downbeat material as the stuff of screwball comedy. The bleaker Clay’s predicament, the lighter and more facetious the storytelling becomes. The director isn’t above a certain self-conscious, post-modern jokiness. The opening sequence, in which we see Clay miming away to Talking Heads’ Once In A Lifetime as if he is trapped in a 1980s pop promo, is especially bizarre.As Clay and his younger colleagues wait in the desert for a meeting with the king, he is frequently on the verge of humiliation. When he tries to have sex with a Danish woman, he can’t manage it. When he jokes about being a member of the CIA, he risks being lynched. At first, he just isn’t able to decode the world around him. Even the behaviour (and musical tastes) off his genial driver Youssef (Alexander Black) perplexes him. The themes here are similar to those in Anomalisa, the brilliant recent animated feature by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson that also looks at middle aged angst. The difference is that A Hologram For The King has a redemptive, comic undertow. If nothing is real or meaningful, then that means nothing needs to be taken too seriously. Instead of despair, there’s always romance and scuba diving.