REVIEW: THE CORE

CAST

Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight Rises)
Hilary Swank (The Reaping)
Delroy Lindo (Malcolm X)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Tchéky Karyo (Taking Lives)
Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek)
DJ Qualls (Road Trip)
Alfre Woodard (Iron Fist)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Rekha Sharma (V)
Glrenn Morshower (Supergirl)
Dion Johnstone (Stargate SG.1)
Jennifer Spence (Stargate Universe)
John Shaw (Hollow Man II)

Geophysicist Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) and scientists Serge Leveque (Tchéky Karyo) and Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci) become aware of an instability of Earth’s magnetic field after a series of incidents across the globe. They determine that the Earth’s molten core, which generates this field, has stopped rotating, and within a year the field will collapse exposing the planet’s surface directly to devastating solar radiation. Backed by the U.S. Government, Keyes, Leveque, and Zimsky create a plan to bore down to the core and set off several nuclear explosions to restart the rotation. They gain the help of rogue scientist Ed “Braz” Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo) who has devised a vessel made of “Unobtainium” that can withstand the heat and pressure within the Earth’s crust and convert it to energy, as well as a laser-driven boring system that will allow them to quickly pass through the crust. Construction starts immediately on the Virgil, a multi-compartment vessel to be helmed by Space Shuttle pilots Commander Robert Iverson (Bruce Greenwood) and Major Rebecca “Beck” Childs (Hilary Swank) who will join Keyes and the others. To prevent a worldwide panic, Keyes enlists computer hacker Theodore Donald “Rat” Finch (DJ Qualls) to scour the Internet and eliminate all traces of the pending disaster or their plan.

Virgil is launched through the Marianas Trench from an offshore platform. The team accidentally drills through a gigantic empty geode structure 700 miles below the surface, damaging the lasers when it lands at its base and cracking the geode’s structure and causing magma to flow in from above. The crew repair and restart the laser array in time, but Iverson is killed by a falling crystal shard that hits him in the helmet and subsequently fell into magma, while returning to the ship. As Virgil continues, it clips a huge diamond that breaches the hull of the last compartment. Leveque sacrifices himself to save the nuclear launch codes before the compartment is crushed by extreme pressure.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the public becomes aware of problems after super storms and unfiltered patches of ultra-violet radiation destroy Rome and San Francisco. Finch is unable to stop worldwide panic but instead learns of the top-secret project “DESTINI” (Deep Earth Seismic Trigger INItiative), which is the government’s ‘secondary protocol’ and will be deployed should the Virgil mission fail. Finch relays his information to Keyes, who discovers that Zimsky was one of DESTINI’s lead scientists. DESTINI, according to Zimsky, was designed as a weapon to propagate earthquakes through the Earth’s core, but its first activation unintentionally stopped its rotation instead. Zimsky reveals the government will use it again to attempt a restart of the core. Keyes is convinced it will have disastrous results and has Finch hack into DESTINI’s system and cut its power supply to buy the Virgil more time.

Virgil eventually reaches the molten core, and, as they take readings, they discover that the density of the core is far different from what they expected, which will not allow their plan to work. They calculate that by splitting their nuclear weapons into the remaining compartments and jettisoning each at specific distances, they can create a “ripple effect”, where the power of each bomb will push against the blast of the next, generating the energy required to restart the core. However, because Virgil was not designed to jettison undamaged compartments, the plan requires someone to deactivate a safety switch that is in an area exposed to the extreme temperatures. Brazzelton volunteers and deactivates the switch, dying shortly afterwards.

Keyes and Zimsky race to reset the nuclear charges, and Zimsky gets trapped in one of the detaching compartments. Keyes believes they still may have too little yield, but Zimsky suggests they use the ship’s nuclear fuel source as well, which will leave the Virgil without power. Keyes deploys the nuclear core in the last compartment and detaches it just as the triggered detonations start, successfully restarting the core’s rotation. Drifting powerless in the core, Keyes and Childs realize they can use the unobtainium shell to convert the heat and pressure from the wavefront to power the Virgil, and they are able to escape the core. They break through the crust underwater, leaving them safe on the ocean floor but lacking power and communications. They believe themselves lost but use the remaining power to activate a weak sonar beacon. The beacon attracts a nearby whale pod, and Finch is able to trace their whale songs to locate the Virgil. A week after the mission, Finch unleashes the full details of the mission, including those lost, and of DESTINI to the public via the Internet.

All in all, this is a classic disaster flick, and for a disaster flick, this is above average.

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: LET ME IN

CAST

Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Cara Buono (Happy Accidents)
Elias Koteas (Crash)
Sasha Barrese (The Ring)
Dylan Minnette (Don’t Breathe)
Ritchie Coster (The Dark Knight)
Chris Browning (Agent Carter)

In March 1983, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a disfigured man is taken to the hospital. An unnamed police detective tries to question him about a recent murder. The detective is called to a phone and told that the man’s daughter was just downstairs. While he is on the phone, the man jumps out of the window, leaving behind a scrawled note that reads “I’m sorry Abby.”Two weeks earlier, Owen, an unhappy and lonely 12-year-old boy who is neglected by his divorcing parents, sees a young girl named Abby and an older man, Thomas, moving in next door and notices that she is barefoot despite the snow. Owen meets Abby one night and asks if she is cold upon seeing no footwear on her feet. Abby states that she doesn’t get cold. Owen and Abby become close friends and start communicating by Morse code through the walls of their apartments. At school, a bully named Kenny and two of his friends, Donald and Mark, constantly terrorize Owen, who lies to his mother about it but tells Abby the truth. Abby encourages him to retaliate.Thomas murders a man and collects the blood, but accidentally spills it. Hungry, Abby attacks a concerned neighbor named Jack to drink his blood, revealing that she is a vampire. On another night, Thomas hides in the back of a teenager’s car, murders the passenger, and tries to flee, but crashes the car and becomes trapped inside. He pours concentrated sulfuric acid on his face, disfiguring himself to prevent his identification. He is taken to the hospital, bringing the story back to the first scene.Abby learns what happened and climbs up the hospital building to see Thomas after speaking to the front desk worker who noticed that Abby is barefoot upon departure and couldn’t find her afterwards. She knocks on the window and he points to his throat, unable to speak, and leans out of the window; Abby drinks his blood. Thomas passes out and falls to his death. That night, Owen is awakened by Abby who insists he verbally invite her in. She spends the night in his bed upon discarding her clothes and agrees to be his girlfriend. The next day, Owen’s class goes ice-skating on the river. Kenny and his friends threaten to throw Owen into a hole in the ice. Emboldened by his relationship with Abby, Owen hits Kenny with a metal pole, splitting his left ear and causing him to scream in pain. At the same moment, several kids spot a body encased in the ice and begin screaming. It is the body of Jack, who Thomas threw into the (then unfrozen) river. Along with the body is Thomas’s bag.Later, Owen sees Abby and hoping to make a blood pact with her, cuts his finger. Unable to control herself, Abby laps up a drop of Owen’s blood revealing her vampire form. Not wanting to hurt Owen, she flees and instead attacks a woman named Virginia upon jumping out of a tree. Virginia’s boyfriend Larry witnesses the attack and calls an ambulance upon chasing her off. The next night, Abby admits to Owen that she is a vampire and that Thomas was not her father. Owen discovers an aged photo of her with Thomas as a young boy. As Thomas continued to age, he posed as Abby’s father while she did not physically age past twelve. In the hospital the next morning, a nurse goes into Virginia’s unit to open the curtains and finds Virginia feasting on her own bloody wrists. She has been turned into a vampire by Abby. As sunlight enters the room, Virginia bursts into flames that quickly spread throughout the unit, killing them both and setting the entire floor on fire.Owen sneaks out to spend the night at Abby’s. The next morning, the detective forces his way into Abby’s apartment and finds her asleep. He begins to uncover a window but is distracted by Owen. Abby wakes and attacks the detective to feed on his blood. The dying detective appeals to Owen for help, but Owen does not intervene. Abby tells Owen she will have to leave town. They share a kiss and he watches tearfully as she enters a taxi and leaves.During Owen’s swim class, Kenny, his sadistic older brother Jimmy, and their friends, are seeking revenge for the injury Owen had inflicted to Kenny’s ear. They ambush Owen and throw him into the pool. Jimmy says that if Owen can hold his breath underwater for three minutes, he will only be cut on the cheek, otherwise Jimmy will poke out one of Owen’s eyes. Owen is forced underwater by Jimmy. After one minute, Kenny and his friends realize this is excessive and try telling Jimmy to stop, but he angrily refuses. But then an unseen assailant breaks through the skylight, attacking the bullies, and Owen sees torn-off limbs sinking into the pool all around him. Owen emerges from pool to catch his breath and then sees a pair of familiar bare feet come near him. He then looks up, faintly smiling to see an off-screen Abby.Owen leaves town in broad daylight on a train, traveling with a large trunk. From inside, a message in Morse code is tapped out. Owen taps out a response and then looks out the window, quietly singing to himself “Eat some now, save some for later,” the jingle of Now and Later candy, which Abby and Owen had shared in an earlier scene.This is complex and multi-layered horror story-telling, and a minor masterpiece. Well worth watching in its own right – and then worth comparing with the original, Let The Right One In, so you can judge for yourself which is the most effective. Unlike many Hollywood remakes of European films, this one really was worth doing

REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND

CAST

Tom Hiddleston (Thor)
Samuel L. Jackson (The Legend of Tarzan)
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Brie Larson (21 Jump Street)
Jing Tian (The Great Wall)
Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four)
John Ortiz (Narc)
Corey Hawkins (24: Legacy)
Jason Mitchell (Contraband)
Shea Whigham (American Hustle)
Thomas Mann (Amityville: The Awakening)
John C. Reilly (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Marc Evan Jackson (The Good Place)

In 1944, in the midst of World War II, two fighter pilots – an American soldier named Hank Marlow and a Japanese soldier named Gunpei Ikari – parachute onto an island in the South Pacific after a dogfight. They both engage in close combat, with Ikari gaining the upper hand, but the fight is interrupted by a behemoth ape known as Kong.In 1973, U.S. government agent Bill Randa hires former British Special Air Service Captain James Conrad, a skilled tracker, to guide an expedition to map out an island known as “Skull Island”. Their military escort is the Sky Devils, a Vietnam War helicopter squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard and his subordinates, Major Jack Chapman and Captain Earl Cole. The group is joined by pacifist and photojournalist Mason Weaver, who believes the expedition is a secret military operation. Upon arrival at Skull Island, Packard’s men begin dropping explosives developed by seismologist Houston Brooks to map out the island. However, the air unit is attacked by Kong, who destroys all the helicopters and kills a number of military personnel before scattering the survivors across the island.Packard regroups with some of the scattered survivors, including his door gunner Reles, pilot Glenn Mills, Cole, Landsat employee Steve Woodward, and Randa. After being confronted by Packard, Randa reveals his affiliation to the secret government organization Monarch, which was trying to prove the existence of monsters and determine their threat to humanity.The other survivors (Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, biologist San Lin, soldier Reg Slivko, and Landsat employee Victor Nieves) try to get to a rendezvous point to meet a resupply team arriving in three days’ time. They encounter the local Iwi natives and an older Marlow. He reveals that Kong is the island’s guardian, worshiped as a god by the natives for protecting the island’s inhabitants from many predators, including reptilian underground monsters dubbed “Skullcrawlers”. They have killed Kong’s ancestors, leaving him as the last of his kind. Ikari was killed by one of the Skullcrawlers.Packard’s group begins making their way to Chapman, whose helicopter crash-landed elsewhere. Along the way, they are attacked by a giant bamboo spider in the jungle before Packard kills it. Meanwhile, Chapman witnesses Kong wrestle and defeat a large squid, causing him to flee into the woods, where he encounters a giant stick insect. He is then ambushed and eaten by a Skullcrawler. Conrad’s group helps Marlow complete a boat built from parts scavenged from Marlow and Ikari’s downed planes. They ride the boat down the river, and manage to secure communication with Packard’s group, but the boat is attacked by pterosaur-like creatures which kill Nieves. They regroup with Packard, who insists on searching for Chapman, though his true objective is to find and kill Kong.Marlow leads the two groups to a mass grave littered with the bones of Kong’s kind. There, the same Skullcrawler that devoured Chapman attacks the group, killing Randa and many soldiers before dying in a flammable gas explosion triggered by Weaver. Learning about Chapman’s death, a vengeful Packard blames Kong for the deaths of his men and becomes determined to kill Kong. The two groups part ways, with Packard’s group laying a trap for Kong, while the non-military personnel head back to the boat. While scouting the path ahead, Conrad and Weaver encounter Kong up-close and resolve to save him.As Conrad and Weaver encounter Kong, Packard’s group triggers napalm explosions to lure him in. Kong charges to the lake, where they manage to incapacitate him with ignited gasoline, though Woodward is killed. Conrad’s group arrives and persuades the other soldiers to spare Kong, but Packard refuses to stand down. The alpha Skullcrawler, Ramarak, then emerges from the lake, and Packard is crushed to death by a recovering Kong. Ramarak overpowers Kong and chases the humans. Cole is killed in a failed suicide bomb attempt to kill it, but Kong returns to rescue the others and manages to kill Ramarak by ripping out its innards. He saves Weaver from drowning, as she had been knocked into the water during the fight, and allows the survivors to leave the island.During the credits, Marlow returns home, reunites with his wife, meets his son for the first time, and finally watches a Chicago Cubs game on television. In a post-credits scene, Conrad and Weaver are detained by Monarch and informed by Brooks and Lin that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world. As proof, they are shown archive footage of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. The final cave painting shows Godzilla battling Ghidorah.brie_larson_kong_skull_island_4k-wideKong: Skull Island is the perfect monster movie. It’s an epic display of what a popcorn movie should be. Great visuals, soundtrack, and a pleasant plot that is not bogged down by the melodrama. It’s a giant monster movie.

 

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

 

 

 

CAST

Kristen Connolly (The Happening)
Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Anna Hutchison (Spartacus: Ward of The Damned)
Fran Kranz (Dollhouse)
Jessie Williams (Grey’s Anatomy)
Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers)
Bradley Whitford (The West Wing)
Brian White (Beauty and The Beast)
Amy Acker (Angel)
Tim DeZarn (Fight Club)
Tom Lenk (Buffy)
Jodelle Ferland (Silent Hill)
Adrian Holmes (Arrow)
Ellie Harvie (The New Addams Family)
Patrick Sabongui (The Flash)
Sigourney Weaver (Aliens)
Nels Lennarson (Horns)
Rukiya Bernard (Van Helsing)
Peter Kelamis (Stargate Universe)
Chelah Horsdal (You Me Her)
Terry Chen (Jessica Jones)
Heather Doerksen (Van Hesling)

In a high tech underground facility, senior technicians Sitterson and Hadley discuss plans for a mysterious operation. A similar operation undertaken by their counterparts in Stockholm has just ended in failure. American college students Dana, Holden, Marty, Jules, and Curt are spending their weekend at a seemingly deserted cabin in the forest, a cabin recently acquired by Curt’s cousin. From their underground facility where they possess significant technological control over the area in which the cabin is situated, Sitterson and Hadley manipulate the teenagers by intoxicating them with mind-altering drugs that hinder rational thinking and increase libido. They take bets from coworkers as to what kind of monster will attack the teenagers and discuss the failures of similar rituals in other nationsIn the cabin’s cellar, the group finds many bizarre objects, including the diary of Patience Buckner, a cabin resident abused by her sadistic family. Dana recites incantations from the journal, inadvertently summoning the zombified Buckner family despite Marty’s warnings. By releasing pheromones, Hadley successfully induces Curt and Jules to have sex. Attacked by the marauding Buckner zombies, Jules is decapitated while Curt escapes to alert the group. Marty, a frequent marijuana smoker, discovers concealed surveillance equipment before being dragged off by one of the Buckners. Later, the facility workers learn that the ritual in Japan has also ended in failure, meaning that the American ritual is humanity’s last hope. It becomes apparent that the ritual involves blood sacrifice.Curt, Holden, and Dana attempt to escape in their RV, but Sitterson triggers a tunnel collapse to block them. Curt jumps a ravine on his motorcycle in an attempt to flee and alert the authorities, only to crash into a force shield, killing him. Holden and Dana retreat to the RV to plan their next move, but one of the Buckners, hiding within all along, fatally stabs Holden as they are driving away, resulting in the RV crashing and sinking into a lake. Dana escapes and swims ashore and is beset in turn. As she is attacked, Sitterson, Hadley, and their staff celebrate the successful completion of the ritual, viewing the events from their underground facility. The celebration is interrupted by a phone call pointing out that Marty has survived. His heavy marijuana use has apparently rendered him immune to Sitterson and Hadley’s manipulations.Marty rescues Dana and takes her to a hidden elevator he discovered under a grave. They descend into the underground facility, where a menagerie of monsters are imprisoned. Dana correlates them with the objects in the cabin’s cellar and realizes that those items gave victims the opportunity to choose the agents of their own deaths during the ritual. Cornered by the facility’s security personnel, she and Marty release the monsters, including zombies, goblins, mutants, witches, wraiths, a basilisk, a unicorn, a killer robot, and an evil clown. They wreak havoc and slaughter the staff; Hadley is killed by a merman and Sitterson escapes to the lower level.Dana and Marty flee the carnage (particularly menaced by a giant bat). Dana accidentally mortally wounds Sitterson, who begs her to kill Marty. Fleeing further, they discover an ancient temple and are confronted by the facility’s leader, known only as The Director. She explains that they are participating in an annual ritual sacrifice to appease the Ancient Ones (described as “giant evil gods”). Each facility’s ritual conforms to the rules of that region’s local lore; in America young people are chosen to be sacrificed based on similarity to certain archetypes: the whore (Jules), the athlete (Curt), the scholar (Holden), the fool (Marty), and the virgin (Dana). In order to complete the ritual the whore must die first and the virgin must survive or die last. Since all other facilities have failed, the penalty for not completing the ritual is the extermination of the entire human race. Hence, The Director urges Dana to kill Marty. Dana considers, but she is interrupted by a werewolf attack, while zombie Patience Buckner appears and kills The Director.Deciding that humanity is not worth saving, Dana and Marty share a joint while awaiting their fate. The temple floor collapses and a giant hand emerges, destroying the facility and the cabin itself.The genius of Cabin is the way director/co-writer Drew Goddard and producer/co-writer Joss Whedon have taken this mindset and embraced it. The film sat on the shelf for years when MGM suffered too many financial woes to afford a release, and yet its wit and invention remain as sharp as ever.  In the interest of keeping expectations managed, Cabin doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Its approach to horror is  original. The increasingly realistic and excessively gruesome style that they rode in on is far from universally loved. Cabin spills its fair share of guts, but it’s a good old-fashioned crowd pleaser.Cabin finds a way to access the reservoir of geekiness by engaging it rather than pandering to it.

REVIEW: THE RUM DIARY

CAST

Johnny Depp (Blow)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight)
Michael Rispoli (Kick-Ass)
Amber Heard (Zombieland)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break)
Marshall Bell (Total Recall)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Karen Austin (Summer Rental)

 

Paul Kemp is an author who hasn’t been able to sell a book. He gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he meets Sala, who gets him acclimatized and tells him he thinks the newspaper will fold soon. Kemp checks into a hotel and while idling about on a boat in the sea, meets Chenault, who is skinny-dipping while avoiding a Union Carbide party. Kemp is immediately smitten with her. Kemp and Sala immediately go on a drinking binge, which earns Kemp the enmity of his editor, Lotterman. Kemp also meets Moburg, a deadbeat reporter who can’t be fired. While waiting for an interview, Kemp meets Sanderson, a freelance realtor, who offers him a job writing ads for his latest venture. Sanderson is engaged to Chenault, who pretends not to know Kemp.Later, Kemp moves in with Sala, who also rooms with Moburg. Kemp begins to see the poverty of San Juan, but Lotterman doesn’t want him to write about it, as it’s bad for tourism. Moburg returns with leftover filters from a rum plant; they contain high-proof alcohol. Moburg has been fired, and rants about killing Lotterman. Kemp visits Sanderson and spies him making love to Chenault. He meets Zimburger and Segarra, who want him to help with a real estate scam. Later, Sala and Kemp go to a restaurant and berate the owner for refusing them service; Kemp senses that the owner wants to kill them, and he and Sala beat a hasty retreat, pursued by angry locals. The police arrive and break up the fight, then throw Sala and Kemp in jail. Sanderson bails them out.The next day, Kemp meets with Sanderson’s crew, who tell him that the US military is relinquishing the lease on some prime real estate, and is asked to pick up Chenault from her house. Kemp and Chenault share a moment, but resist temptation. Zimburger takes Kemp and Sala to see the island property, then they head to St. Thomas for Carnival. Kemp finds Chenault, and they wind up on Sanderson’s boat. Sanderson berates Kemp for involving Sala in the deal. At night, they go to a club, and a drunk Chenault dances with local men to provoke Sanderson, with whom she has been fighting. The owners of the bar beat up Sanderson and throw Kemp out of the club. Chenault is left behind at the bar, but where she ends up is not known.The next day, Chenault is gone, and Sanderson tells Kemp that their business arrangement is over. When Sala and Kemp return home, Moburg tells them that Lotterman has left and that the paper will go out of business. He also sells them hallucinogens, which they take. Kemp has an epiphany while under the influence, and resolves to write an exposé on Sanderson’s shady deals. Lotterman returns, but won’t publish Kemp’s story. Chenault shows up at Kemp’s place, after Sanderson disowns her. Out of spite, Sanderson withdraws his bail, meaning that Kemp and Sala are now wanted by the police. Moburg also tells them that Lotterman has closed the paper. Kemp decides to print a last issue, telling the truth about Lotterman and Sanderson, as well as the stories Lotterman declined.To make money to print the last edition, Kemp, Sala and Moburg place a big cockfighting bet. They visit Papa Nebo, Moburg’s hermaphrodite witch doctor, to lay a blessing on Sala’s prize cockerel. They win, but return to the office to find that the printing presses have been confiscated. Kemp continues his quest, leaving Puerto Rico on a sailboat. The end credits explain that Kemp makes it back to New York, marries Chenault, and becomes a successful journalist, having finally found his voice as a writer.Personally I loved every minute of this film and think it’s truly underrated

REVIEW: SAY IT ISN’T SO

CAST

Heather Graham (The Hangover)
Chris Klein (American Pie)
Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow)
Sally Field (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
John Rothman (Ghostbusters)
Jack Plotnick (Nip/Tuck)
Eddie Cibrian (Third watch)
Mark Pellegrino (Chuck)
Henry Cho (Material Girls)
Richard Riehle (Body of Evidence)
Courtney Peldon (That 70s Show)
Lin Shaye (Ouija)
Sarah Silverman (School of Rock)
Zahf Paroo (Defying Gravity)
Suzanne Somers (Serial Mom)
Connor Widdows (Battlestar Galactica)
Greg Kean (Dead Like Me)

The film begins with Gilly Noble (Chris Klein) taking a stray cat named “Ringo” to the animal shelter where he works in Shelbyville, Indiana. Gilly gets his hair cut by a beautiful young aspiring hairdresser named Jo Wingfield (Heather Graham). As Jo cuts Gilly’s hair, she mentions that she recently lost a tail-less cat named Ringo, leading Gilly to tell her that Ringo is at the pound. The excitement causes Jo to accidentally cut off a part of Gilly’s ear, and he is rushed to the hospital where the ear is reattached. To make up for the incident, Jo invites Gilly to her house for lunch the next day, where Gilly meets Jo’s self-centered mother, Valdine (Sally Field), and stroke-suffering father, Walter (Richard Jenkins).Gilly and Jo date for six months before getting engaged, but suddenly a private detective, Vic Vetter (Brent Briscoe), contacts Gilly to tell him that he’s Valdine and Walter’s son. After Gilly and Jo end their incestuous relationship, Gilly moves in with his new family, and Jo moves to Beaver, Oregon to start a new life. After being branded a “sister-fucker”, Gilly loses his job at the animal shelter and is forced to take a job removing roadkill for the highway department.Sixteen months later, a surprise comes to the Wingfield doorstep in the form of a young man named Leon Pitofsky (Jack Plotnick), who claims to be Valdine and Walter’s son and presents his birth certificate as proof. Valdine and Walter feel better for a few moments before angrily lashing out at Gilly and forcing him to leave. Valdine notifies the Beaver police that Gilly is a sex offender. Gilly runs for his life and decides to go to Oregon to inform Jo. On the way to Oregon, he befriends a pilot with two prosthetic legs named Dig (Orlando Jones).Meanwhile, Jo becomes engaged to her ex-boyfriend Jack Mitchelson (Eddie Cibrian), a rich and powerful young man who secretly deals in marijuana, controls over half the town by paying off numerous politicians, and cheats on Jo with his ex-girlfriend, a local cop named Gina (Sarah Silverman). Valdine keeps pushing Jo to marry Jack in order to become involved with Jack’s wealth, although Jo still loves Gilly. Valdine keeps Leon secluded and tells Jo that Leon is a figment of Gilly’s imagination. Gilly tries to hide from the authorities, and Dig frequently aids him in his escape from Jack’s henchmen.Ultimately, Gilly is not able to stop Jo from marrying Jack, who still believes that Gilly is her brother. Police arrive at the marriage scene to inform the family that Gilly died in a car accident, which was actually an act of sabotage by Leon who has been arrested. Jo learns the truth and ends her marriage which causes Valdine to attack Leon and have a stroke. It’s also revealed that Jack was behind Valdine and Walter being misidentified as Gilly’s parents. But unknown to everyone, Gilly was not driving the car at the time of the accident when it was actually one of Jack’s henchmen Steak (Brent Hinkley). Gilly, who has just returned to working at the animal shelter, sees Jo and mistakenly believes that she wants to commit suicide. They are finally reunited on the roof of the same animal shelter that was a catalyst for their coming together.A few months later, Gilly and Jo are married, and Walter, Valdine, Leon, Dig, and many other people attend, with Walter on his feet and Valdine in a wheelchair after her stroke. Also, as a surprise wedding present, Vetter arrives and tells him that he has truly found his mother. In an ironic twist, Gilly’s mother turns out to be Suzanne Somers, who Gilly used to fantasize about while masturbating.Possibly the most bizarre film I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t quite have the spark of a great comedy (like Life of Brian) so you probably won’t be crying with laughter through it, but it is enjoyable and quite cleverly manages tasteless themes and jokes without being tasteless.

 

 

 

REVIEW: THE KINGDOM

CAST

Jamie Foxx (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Chris Cooper (The Bourne Identity)
Jennifer Garner (Alias)
Jason Bateman (The Gift)
Ashraf Barhom (Paradise Now)
Ali Suliman (Lone Survivor)
Jeremy Piven (Mr. Selfridge)
Richard Jenkins (The Mod Squad)
Tim McGraw (Tomorrowland)
Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
Frances Fisher (The Host)
Peter Berg (Going Overboard)
Danny Huston (Wonder Woman)
Anna Deavere Smith (For The People)
Minka Kelly (Titans)
Trevor St. John (Roswell, New Mexico)
Ashley Scott (Just Friends)
Robin Atkin Downes (Babylon 5)

During a softball game at an American oil company housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, al-Qaeda terrorists set off a bomb, killing Americans and Saudis. While one team hijacks a car and shoots residents, a suicide bomber wearing a fake police uniform blows himself up, killing everyone near him. Sergeant Haytham of the Saudi State Police kills the carjackers. The FBI Legal Attaché in Saudi Arabia, Special Agent Fran Manner, calls his US colleague, Special Agent Ronald Fleury, to advise him about the attack. Manner is discussing the situation with DSS Special Agent Rex Bura when an ambulance full of explosives is detonated, killing Manner, Bura, and many others.At FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., Fleury briefs his rapid deployment team on the attack. Although the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. State Department hinder FBI efforts to investigate the attack, Fleury blackmails the Saudi ambassador into allowing an FBI investigative team into Saudi Arabia. Fleury gathers Special Agent Janet Mayes, a forensic examiner, FBI analyst Adam Leavitt, an intelligence analyst, and Special Agent Grant Sykes, a bomb technician, to go to Saudi Arabia. On arrival they are met by Colonel Faris al-Ghazi, the commander of the Saudi State Police Force providing security at the compound. The investigation is being run by General Al Abdulmalik of the SANG, who does not give Fleury and his team permission to investigate.The FBI team is invited to the palace of Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Khaled for a dinner. While at the palace, Fleury persuades the Prince that Colonel al-Ghazi is a natural detective and should be allowed to lead the investigation. With this change in leadership, the Americans are allowed hands-on access to the crime scene. While searching for evidence, Sergeant Haytham and Sykes discover the second bomb was detonated in an ambulance. Fleury learns the brother of one of the dead terrorists had access to ambulances and police uniforms. Colonel al-Ghazi orders a SWAT team to raid a house, managing to kill a few heavily armed terrorists. Following the raid, the team discovers clues, including photos of the U.S. and other Western embassies in Riyadh. Soon afterward, the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Damon Schmidt notifies Fleury and his team that they have been ordered to return to the United States.On their way to King Khalid International Airport, their convoy is attacked and incapacitated. Leavitt is dragged out of the wrecked car and kidnapped while Fleury manages to wound one attacker. Al-Ghazi commandeers a civilian vehicle to chase the fourth SUV and the other car holding Leavitt into the dangerous Al-Suwaidi neighborhood of Riyadh. As they pull up, a gunman launches rocket-propelled grenades at them and a fierce firefight starts. Leavitt is tied up inside a complex.While Sykes and Haytham watch the entrance to the complex, al-Ghazi, Fleury, and Mayes follow a blood trail and kill many gunmen inside. Mayes, separated from the others, finds Leavitt and his attackers, preparing an execution video of Leavitt. She kills the remaining insurgents, and al-Ghazi and the team start to leave. Fleury then realizes there is a trail of blood leading to the back of the apartment, and al-Ghazi sees the grandfather and inspects his hand. When the old man gives him his hand, al-Ghazi sees that the man is missing the same fingers as Abu Hamza al-Masri in the terrorist group’s many videos and confirms his suspicion that the grandfather is the terrorist leader. Abu Hamza’s teenage grandson walks out of the bedroom and shoots al-Ghazi in the neck, then he starts to point his gun at Mayes, prompting Fleury to kill him. Abu Hamza then pulls out an assault rifle and Haytham kills him. As Abu Hamza dies, another grandchild hugs him and Abu Hamza whispers something into his ear to calm the child down. Al-Ghazi dies in Fleury’s arms.At al-Ghazi’s house, Fleury and Haytham meet his family. Fleury tells his son that al-Ghazi was his good friend, mirroring a similar scene earlier in the movie wherein he comforted Special Agent Manner’s son. Fleury and his team return to the United States, where they are commended by FBI Director James Grace for their outstanding work. Leavitt asked Fleury and Mayes what he had whispered to her to calm her down. The scene cuts to Abu Hamza’s daughter asking her own daughter what her grandfather whispered to her as he was dying. The granddaughter tells her mother, “Don’t fear them, my child. We are going to kill them all,” a similar line to what Fleury had whispered to Mayes.The Kingdom is a straightforward action flick with enough critical undertones to not be propaganda. It’s a very exciting thriller to watch, but except for the final scene there’s nothing really thought-provoking here.

REVIEW:THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY

CAST

Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher)
Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Matt Dillon (Crash)
Chris Elliott (Kingpin)
Lee Evans (The Fifth Element)
Lin Shaye (Ouija)
Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent)
Markie Post (Hearts Afire)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Sarah Silverman (A Million Ways To Die In The West)
Khandi Alexander (Dark Blue)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Richard Tyson (Kindergarten Cop)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)

In 1985, 16-year-old high school student Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) lands a prom date with his dream girl Mary Jensen (Cameron Diaz), which is cancelled after a painful and embarrassing zipper accident. After the ordeal gains the attention of numerous members of the household and community and Ted is carted off to a hospital, he subsequently loses contact with Mary.Thirteen years later, in 1998, 29-year-old Ted is still in love with Mary. On the advice of his best friend Dom (Chris Elliott), he hires a smarmy private detective named Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) to track her down. Healy discovers that she is an orthopedic surgeon living in Miami with her friend, Magda, and instantly falls in love with Mary as well. He lies to Ted about her, saying she is grossly overweight with many children, to discourage him from having any contact with her. Healy resorts to lying, cheating, stalking, and even drugging Magda’s dog to win Mary over, but is exposed by Mary’s architect friend, Tucker (Lee Evans), who is heavily reliant on crutches and speaks with an English accent. Enraged, Healy tails Tucker and discovers him to be a fraud himself: he is an able-bodied, entirely American pizza delivery boy also in love with Mary. For years, Tucker has been driving away potential rivals through slander, including one oft-mentioned suitor referred to only as “Brett.”
33geZMyKyy4yTUVAKaKETA9JDVxMeanwhile, Ted decides he still wants to reconnect with Mary and, assisted by Dom, drives down to Florida and discovers the truth about her. Ted seems to have won Mary’s love, until an anonymous letter exposes his connection with Healy, and she breaks contact with him. Ted confronts Healy and Tucker, and Mary is accosted by Dom, who is revealed to be her former boyfriend “Woogie,” who “got weird on her” back in college, stealing all her shoes. When Mary is finally together with all of her deceitful suitors, Ted realizes that the only one who did not resort to lying and manipulation to win Mary was Brett, who turns out to be NFL quarterback Brett Favre. After reuniting Brett and Mary, Ted leaves tearfully until Mary catches up to Ted, saying that she would be happiest with him.
theres-something-about-mary-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000The film concludes with the two engaging in a kiss while a guitarist (Jonathan Richman), who periodically narrated the story in song throughout the film, is accidentally shot by Magda’s boyfriend, who was trying to shoot Ted so he could win over Mary.MaryThe shock comedy aside (zipper and hair gel scenes), purposeful unpolitically correct moments (humor at expense of handicapped, animal cruelty), the most surprising thing about this film is it has heart and is rather sweet. It’s not the completely nasty, cruel comedy you might have been expecting. There’s a nice love story in here too. It’s corny and cliche’d and doesn’t feel overly cloying because there are enough shockingly funny moments to offset it.

REVIEW: GOD’S POCKET

CAST

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Red Dragon)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Christina Hendricks (Drive)
Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class)
Domenick Lombardozzi (Sneaky Pete)
John Turturro (The Good Shepherd)
Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes)
Molly Price (Third Watch)
Glenn Fleshler (Joker)
Lenny Venito (The Neighbours)

Actor turned director John Slattery brings his trademark black humor and cynicism from his Mad Men role (and effective helming of occasional episodes) to the big screen with the successfully offbeat God’s Pocket, a faithful adaptation of Pete Dexter’s 1983 novel about the Lower Depths of a Philly neighborhood. Clearly not for all tastes.Slattery shows great confidence in never explicitly referring to the film’s time frame (’80s) -there are no superimposed Time Cards, no narration, just the period clothing, cars and old rotary telephones to indicate we’re watching a period piece. Hoffman is cast as an outsider in the Philadelphia slum cynically known as God’s Pocket, married to the glamorous Christina Hendricks, living with her nutty and self- destructive son.

Hoffman’s partner in crime is skillfully etched by John Turturro, who like Hoffman is a gambling addict. They are more in danger from The Mob than the police due to their inevitable debts arising from playing the ponies, and Turturro’s pipe dreams of owning a race horse some day.

The ensuing comedy of errors gives Slattery the opportunity to distract and surprise the viewer with unexpected turns of events and shocks. Themes of the story, personal to author Dexter and drawn from his stint as a reporter in Philly, are brought out by the nearly washed-up columnist effortlessly played by Richard Jenkins. His adulterous romance with Hendricks’ character is unbelievable, but Hendricks does lend her ambiguity and nuance known to her legion of fans from Mad Men’s Joan to almost make it work.

Dealing with the venal undertaker Eddie Marsan, Hoffman descends into strange and uncomfortable black comedy dealing with the “body removal” antics involving his stepson, treated by Slattery using a flashback structure that may or may not have been the best choice for storytelling. Various violent outbursts lead to a coda which almost parodies happy endings.

Critics generally dismissing God’s PocketT are clearly entitled to their opinions, but miss the point. Like the great B movies of the ’40s and ’50s (including films noirs), many of which have lived on to entertain future generations of movie buffs who have little time or patience for the big-budget blockbusters (and Oscar-bait) of that era, Slattery has crafted a character-driven, idiosyncratic entertainment that is out of step with current trends.

REVIEW: BURN AFTER READING

CAST

Brad Pitt (Killing Them Softly)
George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
John Malkovich (Red)
Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)
David Rasche (Ugly Betty)
Kevin Sussman (The Big Bang Theory)
Dermot Mulroney (New Girl)
Elizabeth Marvel (Lincoln)

Faced with a demotion at work due to a drinking problem, Osbourne Cox angrily quits his job as a CIA analyst and resolves to write a memoir about his life and career. When his pediatrician wife Katie finds out, she sees it as a justifiable opportunity to file for divorce and continue her adulterous affair unimpeded. Taking her lawyer’s advice, she copies financial records and several other files from her husband’s computer onto a CD. These files contain a rambling, meaningless diatribe by Cox on purported CIA activities.
When the CD gets left on the locker room floor of Hardbodies, a local gym, by a careless law firm employee, it falls into the hands of dim-witted personal trainer Chad Feldheimer and his co-worker Linda Litzke, who mistakenly believe the numerical data in the Coxes’ bank records, and especially, Cox’s diatribes, to be highly sensitive government information. After getting the data traced back to Osbourne, who thinks his memoirs have been stolen, Chad and Linda plan to give the disc back to him for a reward, with Linda planning to use the money to pay for plastic surgery. When a phone call and subsequent meeting with Osbourne provoke a furious reaction and go horribly wrong, Chad and Linda turn over the disc to the Russian embassy, offering more information in return for monetary compensation. With no other data to give them, Linda persuades Chad to sneak into the Coxes’ home to get more files from their computer.
Meanwhile, Osbourne’s increasingly erratic behavior, aggravated in part by his encounters with Chad and Linda, prompt Katie to move ahead with the divorce proceedings. She changes the locks on their house, forcing Osbourne to move onto the sailboat they have docked on the Chesapeake Bay. With her husband out of the picture, Katie invites her lover, Harry Pfarrer, to move in. A womanizing, multi-adulterous deputy U.S. Marshal, Harry is coincidentally also secretly seeing Linda. Harry finds Chad, whom Linda sent to find more files on Osbourne, hiding in a wardrobe in the Coxes’ home, panics, and fatally shoots Chad.
Two days later at the CIA headquarters, Palmer Smith, Osbourne’s former superior, and his director learn that information from Osbourne has been given to the Russian Embassy. The two men are perplexed, given Osbourne’s low-level security clearance, the material delivered to the Russians being of no importance to anyone, and the apparent motive of all involved parties remaining unknown. Smith is told to maintain observation until the situation “makes sense.” Harry, burdened by keeping the day prior’s events secret, gets into an argument with Katie and decides to leave the house. On his way out, he spots a man who has been trailing him for the past several days. After tackling him to the ground, Harry finds out that the man is a private detective hired by his wife Sandra “Sandy” to gather evidence for impending divorce proceedings. Sandy is shown to be having an extramarital liaison of her own. Harry is devastated and goes to see an agitated Linda, who confides in Harry that Chad is missing. Harry agrees to help find Chad.
The next morning, Harry and Linda meet in a park. Linda spots a former date on a nearby bench (ostensibly waiting to meet another online dating hookup), who has also noticed her and is clearly looking in her direction. Harry notices this and asks Linda if she knows the man. Linda, embarrassed to admit to a previous assignation, denies knowing him, which makes Harry suspicious. Linda provides him with more information about Chad’s disappearance. When Linda mentions the name “Osbourne Cox,” Harry figures out that Chad is the man he shot. He panics, realizes that there are strange men in the park (most likely the CIA people trailing Linda) and flees, assuming Linda is a spy. Linda then turns to Ted Treffon, the kindhearted manager of Hardbodies, who has unrequited feelings for her and has been critical of Linda and Chad’s scheming thus far. In her frustration, Linda exclaims that she hates Ted, which devastates him. Believing the Russians have kidnapped Chad, he agrees to go to the Coxes’ home to search Osbourne’s computer. Unemployed and having spent the past several days living on a small boat, Osbourne becomes unhinged when he finds out that Katie has emptied his bank accounts and, no longer having keys, decides to break into the house to get some of his personal belongings. Finding Ted in the basement, Osbourne initially takes him to be Katie’s lover. He soon realizes Ted’s affiliation with Linda and what he refers to as the “league of morons” he feels that he has been struggling against his whole life and kills Ted.
At CIA headquarters a few days later, Palmer and his director try to understand what exactly happened. It is revealed that while trying to board a flight to Venezuela, Harry was detained because his name was on a hot list and that the CIA is holding Linda, who is promising to “play ball” and “sit on it” if they will pay for her plastic surgery. A CIA agent shot Osbourne during his assault on Ted and the bullet has put Osbourne in a coma. The director instructs Palmer to let Harry fly to Venezuela (as that country has no extradition treaty with the US and therefore will not send him back) and pay for Linda’s surgery. The director and Palmer conclude that despite their oversight and the unusual events that have unfolded, there appears to be no lesson for the agency to have learned, be it moral, espionage or otherwise. “I guess we learned not to do it again,” the director concludes (despite not knowing exactly what they did) and closes his file. Meanwhile, staff at the Russian embassy have dismissed the contents of Cox’s ramblings in the files from his computer—arguably the one factor that started off the entire chain of events—as “drivel”.The writing is brilliant and the Coens weave the story in such a way that it reminds me of their previous movie, The Big Lebowski. In the end, as J.K. Simmons character sums it up himself, nothing really happens, but while watching it all unfold, you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity.