REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – I’M JUST F*CKING WITH YOU

I'm Just F*cking with You (2019)

Starring

Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper)
Hayes MacArthur (Life As We Know It)
Jessica McNamee (The Meg)
Charles Halford (Constantine)

Hayes MacArthur in Into the Dark (2018)Larry is a loner who styles himself as an internet troll. When he checks into a motel to attend a friend’s wedding, he meets the nighttime caretaker, Chester, who is a self-styled joker (possibly with a capital “J”), being really into bad jokes as well as messing with people’s heads for a laugh. After the jokes start becoming more intense and go too far, Larry and his sister start to wonder if Chester is really who he says he is.Pooka-10If you have social anxiety, this could very well be a triggering film. From the germophobic troll Larry to the not-sure-what-his-deal-is-but-has-an-infectious-smile Chester, the film has believable characters that have depth a strange way. While it seems you think you know everything about these characters quickly, you actually learn enough to get the story going but there are many hints at more depth in them. Also, the characters actually evolve as the film progresses, something that I’m finding to be an increasing rarity and when it’s done, you’re usually beaten over the head with it. Here, the evolution feels natural given the circumstances.ITD_IJFWY_SEW_21292RHere’s the thing: This is a low-budget, small-cast indie film that does exactly what a film is supposed to do. It’s written impeccably, kept simple so as not to introduce plot holes, has actual story structure, dynamic characters, and can actually make the audience feel a little edgy even with tongue firmly in cheek. It reminds us that the horror/thriller can be fun and even funny. I haven’t seen other entries of “Into the Dark,” but I’m probably going to remedy this very soon.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: PATHOLOGY

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CAST

Milo Ventiglia (Heroes)
Michael Weston (Garden State)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Lauren Lee Smith (Mutant X)
Johnny Whitworth (Ghost Rider 2)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Larry Drake (Firefly)
Alan Blumenfeld (Jingle All The Way)
Sam Witwer (Smallville)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Jarvis W. George (Stargate SG.1)

The intro shows a camera recording faces of corpses, with their mouths being moved by medical students.

Med school student Teddy Grey (Milo Ventimiglia) graduates top of his class from Harvard and joins one of the nation’s most prestigious pathology programs. There, a rivalry develops between a group of interns and Teddy. They invite him into their group, which entertains itself with a secret after-hours game at the morgue of who can commit the perfect undetectable murder. Eventually the group’s leader, Jake Gallo, realizes that Teddy is sleeping with his girlfriend, Dr. Juliette Bath. When Teddy catches several members of the group in lies, he realizes that what initially seemed like vigilante killings are, in actuality, just innocent people murdered for sport.

Teddy’s fiancée Gwen arrives to stay with him in his apartment. Gallo, angered by Juliette’s infidelity, kills her for the next game. However, just as they are about to begin the autopsy on Bath (in the meantime plotting Teddy’s death), Gallo realizes that the gas has been left on in the room, resulting in a massive explosion as one of the group lights a meth pipe, killing everyone but Teddy who was not in the room. Gallo realizes what is about to happen and survives. Teddy is seen walking away from the explosion.

Later, Gallo manages to kill Gwen in what he believes to be the “perfect murder”. Upon completing his autopsy report on his murdered fiancée, Teddy is knocked out by Gallo and then is forced to trade verbal barbs with him. Teddy uses some of Gallo’s own rhetoric against him in reverse psychology fashion, after which fellow pathologist Ben Stravinsky frees Teddy and together they kill Gallo in exactly the same way that he killed Teddy’s fiancée. In the process, they vivisect Gallo.This is quite a good thriller if you can get past some of the implausibilities: for instance, how very convenient to have a fully functioning pathology lab that no-one knows about; and would you really bring your girlfriend to live with you when your mates are a bunch of psychos? .

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: AMUSEMENT

Starring

Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Katheryn Winnick (Vikings)
Laura Breckenridge (Related)
Karley Scott Collins (Pulse 2)
Jadin Gould (Man of Steel)
Jessica Lucas (Gotham)
Alisha Boe (13 Reasons Why)
Tad Hilgenbrink (Lost Boys: The Tribe)
Reid Scott (Venom)
Rena Owen (Star Wars – Episode II)
Kevin Gage (G.I. Jane)

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Shelby

While on the highway, Shelby Leds and her boyfriend Rob Alerbe pull over for gas, joined by a semi-truck and a Jeep. At the gas station, Shelby sees a frightened woman in the truck’s back window, though Rob does not see her and tells Shelby that the trucker said he was driving alone. On the road, the same woman jumps from the truck and lands on their car. The truck continues onward as Shelby, Rob, and the driver of the Jeep stop to help the woman. Rob then drives after the truck to get its plates, but fails to catch up and returns only to discover the Jeep driver injured, with Shelby and the woman missing. The Jeep driver says the trucker took them, and they take the Jeep to an old, isolated house. The Jeep driver goes alone to the front door, where he overhears the trucker talking on the phone, claiming he is the woman’s father and that he was taking her to a rehabilitation facility for a drug addiction. Meanwhile, in the Jeep, Rob discovers Shelby and the woman under a tarp in the backseat, bound and gagged. The Jeep driver kills the trucker when he goes out and then approaches the Jeep. Rob locks the door and tries to drive away, only to discover that the keys are missing. The Jeep driver then breaks open the window with his sledgehammer and kills Rob.avatar_user990414_313539111753239

Tabitha

Elsewhere, Tabitha Wright is spending the night in her aunt’s house to babysit her cousins, Max and Danny. She finds out that their babysitter, June, had already left, though she was supposed to wait for Tabitha to arrive before leaving. Later that evening, a man claiming to be June’s boyfriend, Owen, arrives looking for her since she missed cheerleading practice. He leaves when Tabitha tells him she does not know where June is. While exploring the house, Tabitha finds the guest bedroom decorated with clown toys, and becomes particularly scared of a life-sized clown doll sitting on the rocking chair. She later talks with her aunt about the life-sized doll, but is told that the family has no such a doll. Tabitha and the boys are then attacked by the clown, who the boys insist is Owen. Tabitha helps the boys escape before hiding in the shed. Inside, she opens the closet and finds June’s corpse. The clown enters the room, his laughter similar to the Jeep driver’s.avatar_user990414_1695531774049405

Lisa

Sometime earlier, Lisa Swan and her boyfriend Dan begin searching for her roommate Cat, who had disappeared during a party the night before. They go to an old hotel that Cat said she will be at. Lisa tries to get in, but the caretaker, a man whose face is covered by a face mask, refuses to let her in. She convinces Dan to pose as a health inspector and look inside. After letting him in, the caretaker shows Dan a music player and encourages him to play it, claiming there is a surprise in the end. Dan does so, and at the end of the song, a knife flies out of the speaker, stabbing him in the eye. Unable to get in contact with Dan, Lisa sneaks into the house and meets an apparently deaf man, who leads her to a room filled with beds that have dead bodies stuffed into the mattresses. Lisa finds Cat stuffed alive in one mattress, but as she attempts to free Cat, the deaf man attacks her, revealing himself to be the killer.deianeira_circle_of_fire

Connection

In a police interrogation room, Tabitha is revealed to be alive and in shock. When she does not answer the interrogator’s questions, he leaves her alone. Tabitha then reminisces about her childhood, where she, Shelby, and Lisa were once all friends at Briar Hills Elementary School. After they were tasked to design miniature sets inside shoeboxes that can be viewed through peepholes, a male classmate demanded to see their work before showing his to Tabitha; it was of a rat chained up and its skin pulled back to reveal its organs. Tabitha is then interrogated by a therapist who asks her about Shelby and Lisa. When Tabitha says that they were all friends at Briar Hills Elementary, the therapist remembers a patient she once had who was from Briar Hills. Then, she comes to a realization and informs Tabitha that Lisa and Shelby are also here, before leaving to find a phone that works. Tabitha wanders out after her and discovers that she is not in a police station. She finds the therapist dead and sees the police interrogator, who was the killer all along, approaching.AmusementTabitha flees to the basement, where she finds herself trapped between two glass walls. Beyond either side, she finds Shelby and Lisa, bound and gagged and their skin pulled back similar to the rat in the boy’s shoebox. The killer initially taunts them, but then reveals that the two are unharmed, and that their opened skin is just a trick. Just as the man is about to kill Shelby, Tabitha pretends to laugh, prompting him to open the glass wall and approach her. Tabitha then stabs him in the neck with a scalpel she had grabbed and unties her friends. As they try to escape, Lisa and Shelby are killed, while Tabitha climbs a ladder that leads to a barn shed. She hides in a room with props used to kidnap the three women as well as the dead bodies of other people the killer had murdered. The killer surprises her as he looks through a peephole, and reveals that she is in the back of a truck, which is by the same old house where Rob died. After he drives a short distance, the truck stalls. Tabitha takes hold a spiked weapon and, when he returns to look through the peephole again, stabs him through the face, killing him.downloadTabitha restarts the truck and drives away, narrating about how she and her friends had laughed at the killer when they were young, thinking that he was a joke. After he was sent away, they had forgotten all about him, but he never forgot them. She then remarks that even though it was all over, she still cannot get his laugh out of her head.740full-amusement----------------------------------(2008)-screenshotThe best thing about Amusement is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than a horror movie. It’s not trying to be theater or shock cinema, it’s not trying to be a high-tension thriller, and it certainly isn’t designed to ‘make you think’ or carry some kind of a pseudo-political ‘message’ to viewers. Amusement isn’t great cinema, but it’s definitely a decent popcorn horror flick

REVIEW: LEGION – SEASON 3

Legion (2017)

Starring

Dan Stevens (The Guest)
Rachel Keller (The Society)
Aubrey Plaza (Child’s Play)
Bill Irwin (Sleepy Hollow)
Navid Negahban (Homeland)
Jeremie Harris (Fargo)
Amber Midthunder (Roswell, New Mexico)
Lauren Tsai (Summer Dream)
Hamish Linklater (The Crazy Ones)

Lauren Tsai in Legion (2017)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Harry Lloyd (Game of Thrones)
Stephanie Corneliussen (Mr. Robot)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Jemaine Clement (Men In Black 3)
Jean Smart (Watchmen TV)
Jason Mantzoukas (The Good Place)
Vanessa Dubasso (Sex School)

Dan Stevens and Rachel Keller in Legion (2017)Legion’s closing credits resurrect the musical cue that began the montage depicting the life of David Haller way back in the very first episode: “Happy Jack” by The Who, a song almost fairy-tale-like in its simplicity, about a man who responds to the cruelty and alienation of the larger world with a smile, who refuses to let it get to him and maintains his positivity regardless of what he may encounter. Back then, it seemed like an ironic choice, as we watched a boy become a man in a series of slow-motion tableaus depicting what a troubled, damaged mess his world had become. Now, much like the finale to which it serves as a coda, it almost feels too earnest and pat, a not wholly earned note of sincerity at which any possible challenge is barely hinted. Yes, Legion went out with a profound optimism and sense of hope for the future, ending even its most underserved storyline with a bit of deus ex patriarch that rescues our protagonists from darker fates and opens them up to a potential future in which anything is possible. We few, we happy few.The sense of uplift and moral simplicity argued for by the ending is so genuine, it feels churlish to point out the ways in which it might be compromised. And yet the world created by Legion has been so murky and full of messy ambiguities, so touched by the very notion that nothing as simple as “a clear answer” could ever sufficiently account for any philosophical or existential question about what it means to live a good life, that to suddenly end on a note that tries to sweep the board clean and say “Let’s do it all over, but better” with hardly an implication of the too-broad generalities implied (and some conclusions not even related to David’s reset that similarly make everything okay) comes across as rushed, at best. After an entire season of David trying to undo his entire life—and restart everyone’s existence in the process—he succeeds. Rather than killing Farouk, he comes to terms with his nemesis, and with a smile and handshake, they initiate a do-over of the past few decades, while Switch looks on approvingly. It’s not quite the Wayne’s World “mega-happy ending,” but it’s not far off. No one dies. Everyone grows, or begins again, seemingly of their own choice. And yet.This uneasy conclusion might be best embodied by the climactic performance of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” when it looks as though Then-Farouk has captured David on the astral plane and bound him in a straitjacket, the ancient mutant finally responding to David’s insistence that, “I’m a good person, I deserve love,” with a firm, “No. You don’t.” David screams, and suddenly we’re treated to the song, David singing to his long-distant Gabrielle, asking her all the worried questions about his life that had never been answered before. But the song allows her to reply, and suddenly (so we’re meant to understand) David is filled with love, with the feeling of safety and warmth that had been missing. She assures him that she’ll always be there—we even see Gabrielle singing this to baby David, as Syd stands freeze-frame beside her, fighting the Time Eaters—and it’s all the succor adult David needs to break free from his straitjacket and turn the tables on Then-Farouk, just before Xavier and Now-Farouk stop him and explain that, hey man, war isn’t the answer, it’s the problem.Now, this might be a case where “Mother” fits effectively enough into what Noah Hawley and company wanted to convey. After all, it’s a song where a scared young man asks his mother for reassurance, and she’s there to say everything is going to be ok. That’s a tall order, and it works wonderfully in the show, as David’s (or Legion’s, really) other selves cut loose in an exuberant mosh pit of release, a sense of being freed. Because Farouk’s scornful reply to David’s cry for love is only an affirmation of what the troubled psychic secretly suspected this whole time—that he wasn’t worthy of love. Now, with his mother assuring him that his most fundamental need is met, he can break loose of internal and external bonds. But you’d have to be pretty naive to look past the meaning of the lyrics: This is a song about seeking reassurance in a world of uncertainty and danger, but the source of that reassurance and authority is also putting their own fears into him, and building a protective wall so high that it might prevent him from ever growing and connecting with others. It’s a dark double-edged sword, in other words, and leaving aside the Cold War metaphors, it could be read as saying that even with a mother’s love, the next iteration of David is going to end up troubled in a wholly different way. That would be a bleak reading.Nothing in the rest of this episode really supports that read, however. It’s a happy ending if ever there was one, where even our most malevolent and violent characters realize the error of their ways and band together for a peaceful resolution. I couldn’t have imagined Legion capable of crafting an ending like this, especially during the turbulent times of the past two seasons, so there’s a cathartic sense of uplift here that even my criticisms of this hasty conclusion can’t drag down, which is nice. It’s like watching World War II end with soldiers from both Axis and Allied sides joining hands and singing “All You Need Is Love.” You know it can’t last, but it’s a hopeful thought embodying the best of humanity.Legion (2017)Yet it’s still too pat in places. This is especially apparent in Switch’s storyline. Lauren Tsai did her best with a seriously underwritten role, but the character was never really more than a small collection of tics standing in for a whole person. The premiere hinted we might get a fuller portrait of Jia-Yi—the monotony of her routine, her longing for adventure, the fear of her father’s roomful of robots that infected her sense of self—but aside from a nightmare sequence and a few lines here and there, Switch never developed into anything more than a plot device. It’s why she could be pushed and pulled by David and Division throughout the season, and nothing she did ever seemed out of character—because there wasn’t enough character there for her actions to go against. So when her father literally appears out of nowhere, and reveals that she’s a “four-dimensional being” who simply needed to shed her human skin (and her baby teeth) in order to ascend to a higher plane of existence, it’s an airless reveal, with no gravity to the outcome. I’m glad Switch didn’t just end up ripped apart by Time Eaters—that would have felt unnecessarily cruel, but it also would have felt of a piece with the show we were watching up until now—yet it doesn’t pack much emotional weight.Wally Rudolph and Aubrey Plaza in Legion (2017)At least the conclusion of Kerry and Cary’s arc gives them a simple ending that feels both earned and justified narratively. Cary’s last-second suspicion that the two of them joining together again (to create “twice the temporal identity”) would confuse the Time Eaters enough to fight them off was one of those abrupt “oh, okay” explanations you just have to roll with, but it was undeniably stirring. Similarly, watching Kerry age as she fought doesn’t necessarily make sense on a logical level, but it felt emotionally true—all her years of protecting the “old man” finally catch up to her during what she assumes will be her last stand. And when they embrace at the end, him no longer “old man” but “brother,” it’s poignant and profound.Hamish Linklater, Navid Negahban, and Amber Midthunder in Legion (2017)Still, all of this means everything and nothing, right? Because here comes the do-over. Meaning, all of this gets erased (well, Switch presumably remains a higher entity), so the progress may or may not be in vain when the new iterations of all these characters develop. Not everyone, perhaps—the assumption here is that Then-Farouk won’t return to being a monster, the glasses of enlightenment passed to him by Now-Farouk remaining in his consciousness, just as Gabrielle and Xavier will presumably remember this strange sequence of events that led to them recommitting to a life together, caring for their child. (Also, hi: When did Now-Farouk become this mellow, enlightened chap? Wasn’t he psychically raping Lenny, over and over, as recently as last season? It speaks to the idea that season two of Legion didn’t think its next season would be the last.) Regardless, it still creates a tonally odd ending, in which ends somewhat negate means. To wit: If David had killed then-Farouk, would it have changed anything about the reset, other than one less powerful psychic in the world? He had already received the reassurance of affection and security from his mother, after all, implying she had now committed to loving her son. Even with a season that has been at least in part about the importance of doing right in the absence of any greater meaning (to cite my analysis from a previous episode, if nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do), it’s hard to feel the same emotional stakes we would’ve, had this whole story not been building to a “once more, with feeling” reboot.But Syd and David’s final scenes do convey some of the melancholy ambiguity of this otherwise very happy ending. “I bet you’re gonna turn out extraordinary without me around,” he tells her. “Yeah, I am,” she says, and in the space between that exchange lies everything that hurts about this goodbye. Because it entails Sydney losing her second childhood, the one that means so much; it means she loses all the pain that David caused her, but also a defining experience which, as she told her younger self, is the linchpin of life: “You fall in love. And that’s worth it”; it’s the disintegration of self that, just a few episodes back, she was worried would hurt. But as she makes clear, there’s a more innocent soul who deserves a better chance than any of them: Baby David. Syd agrees to give up everything that has happened to create her, the strong and powerful woman she has become, because that’s a life lived. And someone else now needs the same opportunity to get the kind of better childhood that she received from Melanie and Oliver.Dan Stevens in Legion (2017)Legion is ultimately a show about the need to make simple, fundamental choices in the face of overwhelming confusion. (That opening crawl about how “what it means is not for us to know” is a bit disingenuous—they’re writing this damn thing, after all—but certainly in keeping with the show’s themes.) We rarely know the best thing to do in any given situation, but we usually have an idea of what the right thing to do would be. Or one of the right things, anyway: There’s a universe of options out there, and despite our general helplessness when confronted with the forces of history, we have enough agency to choose safety and love. We can choose protecting others, rather than leaving them exposed to the vicissitudes of fate. And we can sure as shit not choose war. But we do all this against a backdrop of our lives that is never as orderly and coherent as time would make it seem. This is the firmament of Noah Hawley’s worldview. It’s one he arguably makes most clear in his novel, Before The Fall: “Because what if instead of a story told in consecutive order, life is a cacophony of moments we never leave?” The opportunity to tell a story like Legion must’ve seemed like a gift to someone who understands life in this way, a chance to really discuss our existence in the manner it’s experienced: disjointed, fragmented, curling back in on itself and returning to key moments over and over, in different ways, until we have enough to call it our story. Such a messy, expressive stab at meaning surely deserves a happy ending. Or at least the attempt at one. So David, and all other Davids out there (because you—we—are legion in number): Be a good boy.k

REVIEW: LOST – SEASON 1

Starring

Naveen Andrews (The Brave One)
Emilie de Ravin (Operation: Endgame)
Matthew Fox (Alex Cross)
Jorge Garcia (How I Met Your Mother)
Maggie Grace (Taken)
Josh Holloway (Colony)
Yunjin Kim (Shiri)
Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent)
Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Dominic Monaghan (Flashforward)
Harold Perrineau (Constantine)
Malcolm David Kelley (Deriot)
Ian Somerhalder (The Vampire Diaries)
Terry O’Quinn (The Rocketeer)

Naveen Andrews, Daniel Dae Kim, Emilie de Ravin, Matthew Fox, Jorge Garcia, Josh Holloway, Yunjin Kim, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O'Quinn, Harold Perrineau, Ian Somerhalder, Maggie Grace, Malcolm David Kelley, and Evangeline Lilly in Lost (2004)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Fredric Lehne (Men In Black)
L. Scott Caldwell (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina)
Kimberley Joseph (Hercules: TLJ)
Michelle Arthur (Mission: Impossible III)
Greg Grunberg (Heroes)
John Terry (Full Metal Jacket)
Veronica Hamel (Cannonball)
Neil Hopkins (D-Sides)
Michael DeLuise (Wayne’s World)
Kristin Richardson (Rock Star)
William Mapother (THe Mentalist)
Mira Furlan (Babylon 5)
Andrea Gabriel (2 Broke Girls)
Navid Negahban (Legion)
Nick Jameson (Frozen)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Charles Mesure (V)
Tamara Taylor (Bones)
David Starzyk (Veronica Mars)
Jim Piddock (Mascots)
Robert Patrick (Termiantor 2)
Brittany Perrineau (Felon)
Swoosie Kurtz (Mike & Molly)
Kevin Tighe (My Bloody Valentine)
Zack Ward (Transformers)
Julie Bowen (Modern Family)
Mackenzie Astin (The Orville)
Beth Broderick (Sabrina: TTW)
Daniel Roebuck (Final Destination)
Skye McCole Bartusiak (Don’t Say A Word)
Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and The Furious)
M.C. Gainey (Breakdown)

 

Dominic Monaghan and Evangeline Lilly in Lost (2004)Lost Season 1 succeeds first and foremost in character development. Lost is about relationships and before we can understand the dynamic behind the various relationships that develop over the course of a season, we need to understand what motivates these characters. This shows approach of having an individual episode focus on a single character through flashback, while formulaic, is a brilliant decision.Jorge Garcia and Harold Perrineau in Lost (2004)

Episodes like “The Moth” (Charlie), “Confidence Man” (Sawyer) and “Walkabout” give us a wealth of information about the people we are being introduced to. These episodes and others are entertaining, exciting and contain pivotal character moments that are still important to the story even in season four and undoubtedly beyond. As I’ve said, this is the foundation for the whole universe that we are being presented and the team behind Lost nailed it right from the “Pilot”.With character being such an important focus of the first season, the major story and mysteries surrounding the island are deliberately underdeveloped. After the survivors’ first night and their encounter with the monster we know this island is anything but normal, but we are only given glimpses from that point on. Over the course of the season we discover that there are other people on the island but beyond that we really don’t learn anything.Josh Holloway in Lost (2004)The truth is that if the writers had tried to develop the story at the same pace as the characters it would have all been too much, too soon and the whole world they are trying to build would have come tumbling down like a deck of cards. Saying that the story is underdeveloped may sound like a complaint but I feel that it was the best decision. We are given a thin vertical slice of what is to come in later seasons and that is all we really need.Of course, there are a plethora of individual character stories that thrive over the course of the season.Naveen Andrews in Lost (2004)Jin and Sun’s tumultuous relationship and betrayal, Charlie’s battle with drug addiction, Claire copping with being a parent and the love triangle between Kate, Jack and Sawyer are just a small few of the intriguing storylines that take place. All of these work to strengthen our understanding of the survivors.Definitely of note is the story of John Locke and his relationship with the island. It’s a fascinating story to watch unfold over the course of the season and Locke’s journey is very different from the rest of the survivors. He starts perceiving the island as a living entity and develops an understanding of it that everyone else fails to understand and they fear him for it.Yunjin Kim and Evangeline Lilly in Lost (2004)Terry O’Quinn does an exceptional job of portraying Locke’s development over the course of the season. He brilliantly presents a troubled and destroyed man who has experienced a profound miracle and is now trying to make sense of what has happened to him.As long time fans have come to expect, Michael Giacchino’s score adds an extra amount of depth to the season. He stands out as one of the premiere composers on television and Lost would simply not be the same without him. Most of Lost’s twists and turns may not have the same impact the second time around but that doesn’t mean that their importance isn’t appreciated. This show’s opening season set the foundation for things to come over the course of the series.

REVIEW: DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

CAST
Andy Serkis (The Hobbit)
Jason Clarke (Terminator Salvation)
Gary Oldman (Robocop 2014)
Keri Russell (Waitress)
Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four 2015)
Kodi Smith-McPhee (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Kirk Acevedo (Fringe)
Judy Greer (Ant-Man)
Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper)
J.D. Evermore (Cloak & Dagger)
Michael Papajohn (Spider-Man)
Ten years after the worldwide pandemic of the deadly ALZ-113 virus, or Simian Flu, human civilization is completely destroyed following martial law, civil unrest and the economic collapse of every country in the world. Over 90% of the human population has died in the pandemic, while apes with genetically enhanced intelligence have started to build a civilization of their own. Near the ruins of San Francisco, Caesar leads and governs an ape colony located in the Muir Woods. While walking through the forest, Caesar’s son Blue Eyes and his friend Ash encounter a human named Carver, who panics and shoots Ash, wounding him. Carver calls for the rest of his small party of armed survivors, led by a man named Malcolm, while Blue Eyes calls for the other apes. Caesar orders the humans to leave. The remaining humans in San Francisco, who are genetically immune to the virus, are living in a guarded and unfinished high-rise tower within the ruined city. Prompted by Koba, a scarred bonobo who holds a grudge against humans for his mistreatment, Caesar brings an army of apes to the city tower where he conveys the message that while the apes do not want war, they will fight to defend their home. He demands that the humans stay in their territory and states the apes will stay in theirs too.
Malcolm convinces his fellow leader Dreyfus to give him three days to reconcile with the apes to gain access to a hydroelectric dam in their territory, which could provide long-term power to the city. Dreyfus, distrustful of the apes, arms survivors using an abandoned armory. Malcolm then travels into the ape village, but is captured by gorilla guards, who bring him to Caesar. After a tense discussion, Caesar allows Malcolm to work on the dam’s generator, if they surrender their guns. As Malcolm, his wife Ellie and son Alexander work, they bond with the apes. Mutual distrust of both sides gradually subsides; the truce is endangered when Caesar’s infant son Milo discovers a shotgun smuggled in by Carver, but the two sides reconcile when Ellie offers to help treat Caesar’s ill wife Cornelia with antibiotics. Meanwhile, Koba discovers the armory and confronts Caesar, questioning his allegiance and taunting him over his “love” for humans. In response, Caesar severely beats Koba, but at the last moment refrains from killing him; adhering to his philosophy that “ape not kill ape”, Caesar hesitantly forgives Koba. The furious Koba then returns to the armory, where he steals an assault rifle and murders two human guards. Returning home, he secretly kills Carver, stealing his lighter and cap.
The dam is eventually repaired, restoring power to the city. During the celebration, Koba sets fire to the apes’ home, then, unseen to anyone else, shoots Caesar in the shoulder, causing him to fall from the settlement’s main tree. In the panic of the loss of the alpha and the fire, Koba takes charge, and having planted Carver’s cap at the scene of the shooting, urging the apes to fight against the humans. Malcolm’s group hides as Koba leads the apes into San Francisco. The apes plunder the armory and charge the tower’s gates. Despite heavy casualties, the apes breach the gates using a hijacked tank, overrun the tower and imprison all the humans as Dreyfus flees underground. When Ash refuses Koba’s orders to kill unarmed humans, citing Caesar’s teachings, Koba kills Ash and imprisons all those known to be loyal to Caesar.
Malcolm’s group finds Caesar barely alive and transport him to his former home in San Francisco. Caesar reveals to Malcolm that Koba shot him, realizing his notion that apes were better than humans was naïve and that apes can be as violent as humans. Malcolm leaves the group and heads to the city to find medical supplies for Caesar. While looking for medical supplies, Malcolm encounters Blue Eyes; disenchanted with Koba’s leadership, the young ape spares Malcolm’s life and returns to the house with him, where he reconciles with his father. Caesar grows nostalgic watching a video clip from his childhood of his former owner and father figure Will Rodman on his old camcorder as Malcolm learns of Caesar’s past. A plan is put into action: Blue Eyes returns to the tower and frees the caged humans and apes loyal to Caesar, then Malcolm leads the apes, unseen, into the tower from below. After accomplishing this, Malcolm encounters Dreyfus, who informs him that his men have made radio contact with military survivors at a base to the north, who are on their way to help fight the apes. Caesar confronts Koba at the top of the tower, but as they battle, Dreyfus detonates C-4 charges he has planted beneath the tower. The resulting explosion kills him and collapses part of the tower. Caesar overpowers Koba, with Koba hanging over the edge of the tower. Pleading for his life, Koba reminds Caesar that apes do not kill apes, but Caesar states that Koba is not an ape and lets him fall to his death.
Malcolm informs Caesar of the impending arrival of human military reinforcements and both lament the lost opportunity for peace. Caesar tells Malcolm that the humans will never forgive the apes for the war they started and advises him to leave with his family for safety as the two of them acknowledge their friendship. As Malcolm disappears into the shadows, Caesar stands before a kneeling mass of apes, awaiting the war to come.
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The exhilarating action scenes and set pieces are of a grander scale than in ‘Rise’ and with the use of some truly spectacular digital effects that are as realistic as any you will see, makes for an absorbing visual feast. But the finest achievements of the film lie in it’s thoughtful, emotional core, that cleverly aligns our sympathies with both apes and humans and makes for a moving and thoroughly rewarding experience that is far removed from the one-dimensionality of today’s brainless blockbusters.

REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER

CAST

Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher)
Luke Grimes (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane)
Jake McDorman (Limitless TV)
Cory Hardrict (Crazy/Beautiful)
Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War)
Keir O’Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars)
Sam Jaeger (Hart’s War)
Sammy Sheik (Nikita)
Mido Hamada (Homeland)
Eric Close (Dark Skies)
Brian Hallisay (The Client List)
Leonard Roberts (Buffy)
Marnette Patterson (Starship Troopers 3)
Max Charles (The Neighbors)
Jonathan Groff (Frozen)
Owain Yeoman (The Belko Experiment)
Clint Eastwood (The Mule)

Growing up in Texas, Chris Kyle is taught by his father how to shoot a rifle and hunt deer. Years later, Kyle has become a ranch hand and rodeo cowboy, and returns home early, to find his girlfriend in bed with another man. After telling her to leave, he is mulling it over with his brother when he sees news coverage of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and decides to enlist in the Navy. He qualifies for special training and becomes a U.S. Navy SEALs sniper.Kyle meets Taya Studebaker at a bar, and the two soon marry. He is sent to Iraq after the September 11 attacks. His first kills are a woman and boy who attacked U.S. Marines with a Russian made RKG-3 anti-tank grenade. Kyle is visibly upset by the experience but later earns the nickname “Legend” for his many kills. Assigned to hunt for the al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Kyle interrogates a family whose father offers to lead the SEALs to “The Butcher”, al-Zarqawi’s second-in-command. The plan goes awry when The Butcher captures the father and his son, killing them while Kyle is pinned down by a sniper using a Romanian PSL sniper rifle. This sniper goes by the name Mustafa and is an Olympic Games medalist from Syria. Meanwhile, the insurgents issue a bounty on Kyle.Kyle returns home to his wife and the birth of his son. He is distracted by memories of his war experiences and by Taya’s concern for them as a couple – she wishes he would focus on his home and family.Kyle leaves for a second tour and is promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Involved in a shootout with The Butcher, he helps in killing him. When he returns home to a newborn daughter, Kyle becomes increasingly distant from his family. On Kyle’s third tour, Mustafa seriously injures a unit member, Ryan “Biggles” Job, and the unit is evacuated back to base. When they decide to return to the field and continue the mission, another SEAL, Marc Lee, is killed by gunfire.Guilt compels Kyle to undertake a fourth tour, and Taya tells him that she may not be there when he returns. Back in Iraq, Kyle is assigned to kill Mustafa, who has been sniping U.S. Army combat engineers building a barricade. Kyle’s sniper team is placed on a rooftop inside enemy territory. Kyle spots Mustafa and takes him out with a risky long distance shot at 2,100 yards (1,920 m), but this exposes his team’s position to numerous armed insurgents. In the midst of the firefight, and low on ammunition, Kyle tearfully calls Taya and tells her he is ready to come home. A sandstorm provides cover for a chaotic escape in which Kyle is injured and almost left behind.After Kyle gets back, on edge and unable to adjust fully to civilian life, he is asked by a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist if he is haunted by all the things he did in war. When he replies that it is “all the guys he couldn’t save” that haunt him, the psychiatrist encourages him to help severely wounded veterans in the VA hospital. After that Kyle gradually begins to adjust to home life. Years later, on February 2, 2013, Kyle says goodbye to his wife and family as he leaves in good spirits to spend time with a veteran at a shooting range. An on-screen subtitle reveals: “Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help”, followed by archive footage of crowds standing along the highway for his funeral procession. More are shown attending his memorial service.This film, contrary to some reviews, does not glorify war nor killing. It doesn’t hide the horrors of war, and certainly doesn’t romanticize it, nor the toll it takes on the man and his life, his relationship with the civil world. It is brutal and ugly, because that’s what war is. Something one forgets about, the reality of it, the real men who fight for everyone’s safety and liberty. Bradley Cooper is remarkable in his portray of Chris Kyle, especially the way he holds his jaws, mouth and lips.

REVIEW: WEDDING CRASHERS

CAST

Owen Wilson (Zoolander)
Vince Vaughn (Swingers)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes)
Isla FIsher (Grimsby)
Jane Seymour (Smallville)
Ellen Albertini Dow (Patch Adams)
Keir O’Donnell (Paul Blart: Mall Cop)
Bradley Cooper (Joy)
Henry Gibson (Sabrina: The Teenage Witch)
Ron Canada (Ted 2)
Jennifer Alden (Surrogates)
Dwight Yoakam (Panic Room)
Will Ferrell (Elf)
Kathryn Joosten (Desperate Housewives)
Rebecca De Mornay (The Hand That Rocks The Cradle)
David Conrad (Agents of SHIELD)
Geoff Stults (The Finder)
Larry Joe Campbell (The Orville)

John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) are divorce mediators in Washington D.C. who “crash” wedding parties to meet and bed women. At the end of a season of successful crashes, Jeremy takes John to a wedding for the daughter of the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, William Cleary (Christopher Walken). Once inside, the pair set their sights on Cleary’s other daughters, Gloria (Isla Fisher) and Claire (Rachel McAdams). Jeremy ends up having sex with Gloria on a nearby beach during the reception. Gloria is possessive and quickly becomes obsessed with Jeremy, and Jeremy urges John to escape the reception with him.Meanwhile, John attempts to court Claire, the maid of honor, but is interrupted by her hotheaded boyfriend, Sack Lodge (Bradley Cooper), who is unfaithful and disrespectful behind her back. When Gloria invites Jeremy and John to an extended weekend party at their family compound, John overrules Jeremy to accept and get closer to Claire. John and Jeremy become acquainted with the Clearys at their home: the Secretary’s wife (Jane Seymour) sexually harasses John; Gloria’s brother Todd (Keir O’Donnell) tries to seduce Jeremy during the night; Gloria continues to lavish unwanted sexual attention on Jeremy; and Sack repeatedly injures Jeremy during a game of touch football. At dinner, John spikes Sack’s wine with eye-drops to make him sick and get more time to connect with Claire.John and Claire continue to bond the next day on a sailing trip. The suspicious Sack takes the men on a hunting trip, where Jeremy is shot in the buttocks. While he recovers, John and Claire go on a bike ride to a secluded beach. Claire finally admits she isn’t sure how she feels about Sack and ends up kissing John passionately. Meanwhile, Gloria tends to Jeremy’s wounds and reveals to him that she is not as innocent or inexperienced as she initially let on. Jeremy realizes that he himself has been played and that he may be in love with Gloria.Ready to confess everything to Claire to convince her not to marry Sack, John is interrupted by Jeremy being chased out of the house: Sack has investigated and revealed John and Jeremy’s identities to the family. Betrayed, Claire turns away from John and the Secretary tells them to leave. Over the following months, John attempts to reach Claire but she refuses to see him. He attempts to crash Claire and Sack’s engagement party but is caught and beaten by Sack. Confronting Jeremy about abandoning him, he learns that Jeremy has secretly continued his relationship with Gloria. Betrayed, John spirals into depression, crashing weddings alone and becoming nihilistic and suicidal. Meanwhile, as Claire and Sack plan their wedding, Claire’s doubts grow. Jeremy proposes to Gloria and tries to ask John to be his best man, but a depressed John refuses.936full-wedding-crashers-screenshot1John visits Jeremy’s former wedding crashing mentor, Chazz Reinhold (an uncredited Will Ferrell), who convinces him to crash a funeral. While there, he reconsiders his belief in love and marriage and rushes to Jeremy’s wedding. John joins the wedding mid-ceremony to Jeremy’s delight, but Claire is upset by his appearance, prompting John to profess his love to her and his regret for his past behavior in front of the congregation. Sack interrupts, but Claire finally tells him that she can’t marry him. Sack tries to attack John, but Jeremy intervenes to knock him out, and John and Claire kiss. After the wedding, the two couples drive away from the ceremony together, discussing crashing another wedding together, apparently skipping Jeremy’s own wedding reception.wedding_crashers

I admit Wedding Crashers is far from perfect, at time situations seem too contrived, the nudity is laughably gratuitous, and Claire’s evil fiancée Sack (Bradley Cooper) is an almost too heavy-handed device to make Wilson look good. But if you can look past all that, and simply accept it for what it is, you’re left with a very funny film.

REVIEW: PAUL BLART: MALL COP

CAST

Kevin James (Grown Ups)
Keir O’ Donnell (Wedding Crashers)
Jayma Mays (The Smurfs)
Rain Rodriguez (Austin & Ally)
Shirley Knight (As Good As it Gets)
Stephen Rannazzisi (Imagine That)
Peter Gerety (Inside Man)
Bobby Cannavale (Ant-Man)
Erick Avari (Stargate)
Allen Covert (Big Daddy)
Adam Ferrara (Rescue Me)

Paul Blart (Kevin James) lives in West Orange, New Jersey with his teenage daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez), and elderly mother, Margaret (Shirley Knight). Aspiring to join the New Jersey State Police, he trains at the police academy, but his hypoglycemic medical condition causes him to collapse just inches from the finish, therefore failing the exam. To shape things up for his career, Blart works as a security guard at the West Orange Pavilion Mall.Blart patrols the mall on a Segway to assure things are safe and clean. He goes to the surveillance room and trains Veck Simms (Keir O’Donnell), who is new but uninterested on the job. Meanwhile, Blart eventually becomes acquainted with Amy Anderson (Jayma Mays), the vendor of a new kiosk. He meets her one evening at a restaurant with other mall employees. Things initially go well, but Blart is sidetracked when he decides to participate in a nacho-eating contest with his friend Leon (Jamal Mixon). The hot sauce is more than Blart can handle, and he begins chugging down several alcoholic beverages causing him to become excessively drunk and incoherent. He crashes the party and makes a wild exit by falling through a window.Two days later, on the night of Black Friday, an organized gang of thugs disguised as Santa’s Village employees begin what appears to be a bank heist inside the mall. They take Amy and other customers in the bank hostage. Simms is revealed as the gang’s leader – his mall security job was a ploy to gather intelligence. They are keeping the hostages as insurance for the gang’s escape. The crew forces shoppers to exit the mall and strategically places motion sensors around each entrance to detect any attempt to enter or exit the building.Blart takes a break in the arcade and plays Detroit Rock City via Rock Band. He eventually walks back out in the mall, and discovers the entire mall is evacuated and under a state of emergency. Upon realizing this, he calls the police, and slips out of the mall to speak with Commander Sergeant Howard (Adam Ferrara). Blart realizes Anderson is still inside after spotting her car in the parking lot and decides to return to the mall to look for her. A state SWAT team soon arrives with Commander James Kent (Bobby Cannavale) at the helm. Kent, a former classmate and bully from Blart’s childhood, takes control of the police units and orders Blart to let them handle the situation. After spotting Anderson as one of the hostages, Blart refuses and attempts a rescue. Vastly outnumbered and physically outclassed, Blart takes a stand against Simms’ crew using improvised measures to take them down one by one. He discovers credit card codes written in invisible ink on the burglars’ arms and realizes that their real plans go beyond robbing the bank.Maya, unaware of what has happened, shows up at the mall on her way to bring Blart some food, but Simms’ remaining henchmen seize her and add her to the hostage group. Blart manages to arrest all of Simms’ accomplices and attempts to evacuate the hostages by pulling them up through an air vent. The plan fails when Leon cannot fit. Simms enters the room, capturing Blart and forcing him to give up the credit card codes he recorded on his cell phone. Simms escapes, kidnapping Anderson and Maya. As police swarm the mall to apprehend the criminals and rescue the hostages, Blart borrows a display minivan and joins Kent in pursuing Simms to the airport, where he is attempting to escape to the Cayman Islands.After a brief scuffle, Blart overpowers Simms and puts him in handcuffs. Moments later, however, Kent pulls his gun on Blart revealing that he was in cahoots with Simms. Kent demands the phone containing the codes from Blart, who refuses and responds by smashing the phone into the ground. Before Kent can retaliate by shooting Blart, Chief Brooks (Peter Gerety) of the mall security team arrives in time and shoots Kent in the arm. Kent and Simms are arrested, and Anderson and Maya are returned safely. For his bravery and assistance, Howard offers Blart a job with the New Jersey State Police. Blart honorably declines opting to remain in mall security. Blart and Anderson are eventually married in the mall, where they exchange vows on a set of black and white Segways.

It’s a fun film that  really  works and raises a smile. Critics aside it’s an enjoyable film.

REVIEW: THE BREAK-UP

CAST

Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers)
Jennifer Aniston (Just Go With It)
Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy)
Cole Hauser (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Jason Bateman (The Gift)
Judy Davis (The Dressmaker)
Justin Long (Tusk)
John Michael Higgins (Still Waiting…)
Ann-Margret (Lucky)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Jurassic World)
Peter Billingsley (A Christmas story)
Keir O’Donnell (American Sniper)
Geoff Stults (The Finder)
Mercedes Mason (Fear The Walking Dead)

Gary Grobowski (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke Meyers (Jennifer Aniston) meet at Wrigley Field during a Chicago Cubs game and begin dating, eventually buying a condominium together. Gary works as a tour guide in a family business with his brothers, Lupus (Cole Hauser) and Dennis (Vincent D’Onofrio). Brooke manages an art gallery owned by eccentric artist Marilyn Dean (Judy Davis). Their relationship comes to a head after the latest in an escalating series of, “Why can’t you do this one little thing for me?!” arguments. Brooke, feeling unappreciated, criticizes Gary’s perceived immaturity and unwillingness to work on improving their relationship. Gary is frustrated by Brooke’s perceived controlling, perfectionistic attitude, and expresses his desire to have a little more independence (particularly when arriving home from work, wanting to unwind).

Brooke becomes irate when Gary fails to offer to help her clean up after a big dinner party at their home; and, still frustrated from their earlier, unresolved argument, breaks up with him (despite still being in love with him). Brooke seeks relationship advice from her friend Addie (Joey Lauren Adams), while Gary goes to tell his side of things to friend Johnny Ostrofski (Jon Favreau). Since neither is willing to move out of their condo, they compromise by living as roommates; but, each begins acting out to provoke the other in increasingly elaborate ways. Gary buys a pool table, litters the condo with food and trash, and even has a strip poker party with Lupus and a few women. Meanwhile, Brooke has Gary kicked off their “couples-only” bowling team, and starts dating other men in an attempt to make Gary jealous

When their friend and realtor Mark Riggleman (Jason Bateman) sells the condo, Gary and Brooke are given two weeks’ notice to move out. Brooke invites Gary to an Old 97’s concert, hoping that he will figure out that the gesture is meant to be her last-ditch attempt to salvage their relationship. Gary agrees to meet her there, but misses the hidden agenda, and misses the concert—unwittingly breaking Brooke’s heart. When Gary goes out for a drink with Johnny, his friend points out that Gary has always had his guard up, has been guilty of a lot of selfishness, and never gave Brooke a chance, emotional intimacy-wise.

Afterwards, Brooke quits her job in order to spend time traveling Europe. When she brings a customer from the art gallery home one evening, Brooke finds the condo cleaned and Gary preparing a fancy dinner to win her back. He lays his heart on the line and promises to appreciate her more. Brooke begins crying and states that she just can not give in anymore and, therefore, does not feel the same way. Gary seems to understand and kisses her before leaving. It is later revealed that Brooke’s “date” (who initially asked her out, but she politely rejected) was actually a client interested in a piece of artwork she kept at the condo. Both eventually move out of the condo. Gary begins taking a more active role in his tour guide business, while Brooke travels the world, eventually returning to Chicago. Some time later, they meet again by chance on the street as Gary is bringing home groceries and Brooke is on her way to a meeting. After some awkward but friendly catching up, they part ways but each glances back over their shoulder and they share a smile.

Despite good performances from the leads, “The Break-Up” is an awkward, unfunny movie that fails to engage its audience.