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)

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: ONE NIGHT AT McCOOL’S

CAST

Matt Dillon (Crash)
Michael Douglas (Ant-Man)
Paul Reiser (Aliens)
John Goodman (Red State)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Liv Tyler (Jersey Girl)
One Night at McCool’s stars Liv Tyler as the gorgeous, and seriously unbalanced seductress, Jewel Valentine, who sucks weak minded men into her life and uses them up like 2-ply tissue paper in her mad quest to achieve her dream of home ownership. Crafted with a strong eye to detail and style, McCool’s flows effortlessly through a series of flashbacks and perspective changes to tell the story of three men who fall so hopelessly in love with Liv’s character, that they’ll do anything to please her. True, the acts they commit in the name of love are outrageous and heinous by our standards, but there is a certain amount of truth in the way Liv manipulates these over sexed rump humpers. Each man represents a separate and distinct character flaw.
Liv herself… is perfect. Her strength, comes from more than just a hot body and a pretty face. Her presence is never overwhelming, nor overt. Nor are her lines delivered with a feverish fervor that crashes its way on to film. Still, when she is present, she commands the screen. All eyes are inexorably drawn to Liv and her soft, quietly confident presence. She doesn’t need grandstanding or cool camera angles, or wild poses to capture everyone’s attention. She does it naturally, with grace, poise, and electric charm that makes this character in particular float to life right under your nose.
Liv Tyler owns this film, in just the same way her character Jewel owns the men within it. And though Jewel is certainly unbalanced, and obviously flawed… still there’s a certain sort of attraction to this woman who knows what she wants, and will use anything or anyone to get it. a great film for a great actress

REVIEW: THE MOD SQUAD (1999)

CAST

Claire Danes (Stardust)
Omar Epps (Scream 2)
Giovanni Ribisi (Ted)
Dennis Farina (Get Shorty)
Josh Brolin (Men In Black 3)
Steve Harris (The Rock)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Michael O’Neill (Bates Motel)
Holmes Osborne (Donnie Darko)
Michael Lerner (Elf)
Monet Mazur (Blow)
Mariah O’Brien (Halloween 6)
Eddie Girffin (The New Guy)
Sam McMurray (L.A. Story)
Toby Huss (Rescue Dawn)

The Mod Squad has an intriguing cast, a director who knows how to use his camera and a lot of sly humor. Shame about the story. When you see this many of the right elements in a lame movie, you wonder how close they came to making a better one. The director, Scott Silver, co-wrote the script himself, and has to take some of the blame: This is a classy production and deserves better.
The premise is from the old TV series. Three young screw-ups are interrupted at the beginning of criminal careers, and recruited by a police captain to form an undercover squad. Their assignment: Infiltrate a club where prostitution and drug-dealing seem to be happening. The mod squad doesn’t carry guns (officially, anyway), doesn’t have badges, and I’m not sure if they can make arrests; maybe they’re more like high-level snitches. The members are described by a Rod Serling-type voice over the opening credits. Julie (Claire Danes) was “a runaway–an addict at 18.” Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) “went straight from Beverly Hills to County Jail.” Linc (Omar Epps) “doesn’t blame his crimes on anything.” (He’s black, and so the implication, I guess, is that this is worthy of comment.) In the good-looking opening sequence, filmed by Ellen Kuras, they’re intercut with dancers at a club, get into a fight, and then find themselves being debriefed and lectured by Capt. Greer (Dennis Farina), who orders them to stand up when they talk to him, quit sitting on his desk, etc. Of course their bad manners are a curtain-raiser to bravery, heroism and astonishing crime-fighting skills.Claire Danes and Josh Brolin in The Mod Squad (1999)The skills, alas, are astonishing because they’re so bush league. The main investigative technique in this movie consists of sneaking up on people and eavesdropping while they explain the entire plot and give away all the secrets. Julie falls for a former lover, follows him to a rendezvous with a drug kingpin (Michael Lerner) and overhears choice nuggets of conversation (“None of them have any idea I know they’re cops!”). Then she follows him home and hides in his closet while the faithless louse sleeps with another woman.

Pete, meanwhile, is even more clever. He creeps up on a hideout and hides behind a wall while tape-recording a full confession. It goes without saying his tape will later be played over a loudspeaker in order to incriminate the bad guys. He uses one of those little $29 microcassette recorders–you know, the kind that can record with perfect fidelity at 20 yards outdoors on a windy day.As the mod squaders were creeping around, eavesdropping and peeping through windows, I grew restless: This is the kind of stuff they rewrote the Nancy Drew books to get rid of. Too bad, because I liked the pure acting touches that the cast brought to their roles. Ribisi (from “Friends,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Other Sister”) has a kind of poker-faced put-upon look that’s appealing, especially when he gets beat up and goes back to Beverly Hills and his dad chortles heartily at the claim that his kid is now a cop. Danes (“William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet”) has a quick intelligence that almost but not quite sells the dumb stuff they make her do. Epps (“Scream 2,” “Higher Learning”) is the dominant member of the squad, who tries to protect the others from their insane risk-taking.And there’s a small but indispensable supporting role by Michael Lerner as the crewcut evil kingpin, who intimidates his enemies by dancing with them (“I’m not a fairy–I just like to dance”). He delivers his dialogue indirectly, as an ironic commentary on the horrible things he always seems about to do. So all of this is a good start, but the screenplay just doesn’t provide the foundation. Consider Billy, the Josh Brolin character, who is Julie’s once and future boyfriend. We know from the first moment we see him that he’s no good. We’re tipped off by how suddenly Julie goes for him; if the point were romance, the movie would let them take longer, but since the point is for her to be deceived, she has to rush in heedlessly. No girl meets a guy who dumped her and broke her heart, and immediately drags him into a toilet stall for sex. Especially not now that she’s clean and sober, as Julie is (although the movie repeats the tiresome cliche that all recovering alcoholics immediately turn to drink after a setback–preferably swigging from a fifth). What I’d love to know is how the screenplay got green-lighted. This is a top-drawer film with a decent budget and lots of care about the production values. The cast is talented and well-chosen. The movie is even aware of potential cliches.

REVIEW: FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS

CAST
Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Mila Kunis (American Psycho 2)
Patricia Clarkson (Lars and The Real Girl)
Jenna Elfman (ED:TV)
Bryan Greenberg (Bride Wars)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)
Masi Oka (Heroes)
Emma Stone (Easy A)
Adam Samberg (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Tiya Sircar (17 Again)
Rashida Jones (The Social Network)
Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother)
Courtney Henggeler (Mom)
Jamie Rellis (Mila Kunis) is an executive recruiter for a leading job agency in New York City, and Dylan Harper (Justin Timberlake) works as an art director for a small internet company in Los Angeles. Jamie has the task of trying to recruit Dylan to interview for a job with GQ and begin working in New York City. Dylan comes to New York and after interviewing for the position learns from Jamie that he has been given an offer to work for GQ. At first Dylan is hesitant to accept the job and move from Los Angeles to New York. But after a fun night exploring the city with Jamie, Dylan agrees to accept the position.
The following day, Jamie presents Dylan with the contract to sign so she can land her commission for recruiting him. Not knowing anyone else in the city, he and Jamie quickly develop a strong platonic friendship. One night, they get on the topic of sex and relationships. They come to the conclusion that sex should not come with so many emotional attachments. As they both feel the need for a physical connection, they agree to have sex without emotion or commitment. After several trysts together, Jamie comes to the realization that this is not really what she wants and she would like to start dating again. She tells Dylan that they need to stop.
Jamie meets Parker (Bryan Greenberg), an oncologist, and they begin dating. After five dates, they consummate their relationship, only to break up the next morning. Trying to be sympathetic and to console her, Dylan suggests she travels with him to California over the Fourth of July weekend, while he visits his family. Initially hesitant, Jamie agrees after much persistence from Dylan. They fly to Los Angeles, where Jamie meets his sister Annie (Jenna Elfman), nephew Sammy (Nolan Gould), and father (Richard Jenkins), who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. While in California, they begin to develop strong emotional romantic feelings for each other, and share a passionate kiss, which leads to a night of close intimacy unlike any other they had shared before. However, the next day, Jamie overhears a conversation between Annie and Dylan, where Dylan admits to having no real feelings for Jamie. Hurt, she flies back to New York. A few days later, Dylan returns to New York, trying to reconcile his friendship with Jamie and find out why she has been ignoring him. He finally finds Jamie, and she informs him she overheard everything he said and has no interest in maintaining any kind of a friendship with him.
Soon after this, Jamie discovers that Dylan may be leaving the GQ position for another job before the year elapses on his contract, which would affect her commission. She confronts Dylan about this, which leads to another argument. Both begin to do some soul searching trying to come to terms with their feelings about their relationship. Jamie spends time with her mother, Lorna (Patricia Clarkson), while Dylan discusses it with Annie over the phone. His sister informs him that their father will be flying to Newark and he needs to be picked up at the airport. While at the airport, his father, in a moment of Alzheimer’s-induced confusion, incorrectly recognizes a passer-by as a woman from his past. Dylan asks him about the woman, and his father, upon regaining his lucidity, says that she was a woman he met in the Navy, that she was the love of his life, and he regrets decisions he made in his youth to let her go. He tells Dylan not to do the same thing, and to go after the woman he loves, if there is any chance of saving the relationship.
Dylan realizes how he really feels about Jamie after talking with his father, and decides to go after her. He calls Jamie’s mother to set up an excuse to get Jamie to go to Grand Central Station thinking she will be picking up her mother. He arranges to have a flash mob dance to “Closing Time” set up to surprise Jamie at the station. When the moment comes, he catches up with Jamie and tells her how he really feels. Surprised and happy by this turn of events, Jamie tells him to kiss her. After sharing a passionate kiss, Dylan suggests it is time they go on their first real date. They go across the street to the Pershing Square café and although they attempt to keep the date casual and relaxed, the film ends with them in a sensual embrace and passionate kiss.
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Enjoyable film. Good acting by main actors especially Mila Kunis.

 

 

REVIEW: INTOLERABLE CRUELTY

 

CAST

George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Catherine Zeta Jones (Red 2)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Cedric The Entertainer (Serving Sara)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Edward Hermann (The Cat’s Meow)
Paul Adelstein (Bedazzled)
Richard Jenkins (The Cabin In The Woods)
Julia Duffy (Scream Queens)
Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa)
Stacey Travis (Mystery Men)
Kristin Dattillo (Cornado)

Donovan Donaly (Geoffrey Rush) a TV soap opera producer, comes home early and finds his wife Bonnie (Stacey Travis) with her ex-boyfriend, Ollie (Jack Kyle). Bonnie hires Miles Massey (George Clooney), a top divorce attorney and the inventor of the “Massey pre-nup”, a completely foolproof prenuptial agreement. Miles wins the divorce case, leaving Donaly with nothing.

Private investigator Gus Petch (Cedric the Entertainer) is tailing the wealthy and married Rex Rexroth (Edward Herrmann) on a drunken night out with a blonde. When they stop at a motel, Gus bursts in and tapes them with a video camera. He takes the evidence of infidelity to Rex’s wife, Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose primary motivation is obtaining wealth and independence via divorce. Rex hires Miles, and Marylin’s friend, a serial divorcée named Sarah Sorkin (Julia Duffy), warns Marilyn that Miles will be a dangerous opponent.
Marylin and her lawyer, Freddy Bender (Richard Jenkins), fail to reach an agreement with Miles and Rex. Bored Miles asks the fascinating Marylin to dinner, where they flirt. The next day he is able to find a witness with his assistant’s help to expose her. In court, Marylin feigns an emotional breakdown over Rex’s apparent cheating on her. However, Miles isn’t fooled by this and gets the Baron Krauss von Espy (Jonathan Hadary) to testify that she had asked him to arrange a marriage to a man who was very rich, easily manipulated, and likely to be unfaithful, proving that Marylin’s testimony was indeed a lie. Marylin winds up with nothing, and Miles’s aged boss, Herb Myerson (Tom Aldredge), congratulates him.
Marylin wants revenge, and finds broke soap-producer Donaly living on the street, still clutching his Emmy statuette. She offers him a chance to reclaim his lost glory if he helps her. Donaly agrees and they begin their revenge on Miles. Soon after, Marylin shows up at Miles’s office with a person she says is her new fiancé, supposedly an oil millionaire named Howard D. Doyle (Billy Bob Thornton). Marylin insists on the Massey prenup, but Miles sees Howard destroy it during the wedding, in a demonstration of love.
Visiting Las Vegas to give the keynote address at a convention for divorce attorneys, Miles bumps into Marylin, who says she is now disenchanted with her wealthy but lonely life, having divorced Howard and received the vast Doyle Oil fortune. Miles is thrilled, and they marry on the spur of the moment. He signs the Massey prenup, but she tears it up. The next morning a disheveled Miles announces at the convention that love is the most important thing, and that he is abandoning divorce suits in favor of pro-bono work. Then Miles discovers that “Howard D. Doyle” was just an actor from one of Donaly’s soap operas. Marylin has tricked him, and now his wealth is at risk. Miles’ boss demands that something be done to save the firm’s reputation, and suggests the hitman “Wheezy Joe” (Irwin Keyes), whom Miles hires to kill Marilyn. Miles then learns that Marylin’s ex-husband Rex has died without changing his will, leaving her millions. Miles rushes to save his wife from the hitman, but Marilyn has already agreed to pay him double to kill Miles instead. There is a struggle and in the confusion Wheezy Joe mistakes his gun for his asthma inhaler, and kills himself.
Later, Miles, Marylin and their lawyers meet to negotiate a divorce. Miles pleads for a second chance and retroactively signs a Massey prenup. She tears it up, and they kiss. Marylin then tells Miles that to get Donaly’s help for supplying Doyle, she suggested an idea to him for a TV show: Gus Petch becomes the host of a big hit, America’s Funniest Divorce Videos.
As entertainment goes this film was laugh out loud at points all the way through. It has a good pace and never drags, and it was visually interesting, unpredictable and clever.