REVIEW: THE SKULLS III

CAST

Clare Kramer (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
Bryce Johnson (Willow Creek)
Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Steven Braun (The Trip)
Karl Pruner (The Recruit)
Dean McDermott (Open Range)
Maria del Mar (Robocop: Prime Directives)
Brooke D’Orsay (Two and a Half Men)
Shaun Sipos (Texas Chainsaw)

the_skulls_iii_big4Keen observers have doubtless already guessed the surprising twist in The Skulls III. That’s right, this time it’s a girl! Taylor Brooks, played by Clare Kramer, is the daughter of a congressman, who is himself a Skull. Her brother mysteriously died during his own initiation to the Skulls, and now she is determined to force her way into the group and finally gain respect from dad. The fact that the Skulls don’t want her, and that her entry necessitates her long suffering boyfriend be excluded to make room for her, don’t matterin the slightest, much to his irritation.2013_05_08skulls3-uvicMostly because we wouldn’t have a movie otherwise, Taylor succeeds in getting herself tapped for the Skulls. She excels more than she could possibly have imagined at the reality show like tasks that make up the revealing process, and begins to have romantic feelings for her fellow initiate Brian (Steve Braun), which is convenient since she has most likely irreparably damaged her relationship with her boyfriend. Of course, things are not as straightforward as they first appear, and a dead body soon appears, causing moral dilemmas for Taylor’s congressman father. Action and thrills ensue.1909345,IoXe6lwO0QMh6Z04p6fOKZYvOlooUZkWjQYZrXa4RHqhx6Bc2+v7wgMLdv+hcmIcSr_7eqK9guqJkPpD4fA6uw==I think this film is worth watching.Clare Kramer is a strong actress and is just as tough as her male counterparts. It was good to see The Skulls from the female perspective.

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REVIEW: THE SKULLS II

CAST

Robin Dunne (Sanctuary)
Nathan West (Bring It On)
Ashley Tesoro (The Wereolf Reborn)
Lindy Booth (Cry Wolf)
James Gallanders (Bride of Chucky)
Christopher Ralph (Animorphs)
Aaron Ashmore (Smallville)
Andrew Gillies (Mutant X)
Simon Reynolds (Saw IV)

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Picking up several years after the first film, Ryan Sommers (Robin Dunne) is a student at an unnamed university, believed to be Yale University by the sports teams logo and various New Haven, Connecticut, imagery seen throughout the film. He and lacrosse teammate, Jeff, are tapped for the elite “Skulls” society. Despite his friend Jeff’s zeal for being tapped, Ryan is ambivalent toward admission into the Skulls seeing it as a form of control from his older brother, Greg (who is a member), and its distraction from his beautiful, socialite girlfriend, Ali (Ashley Tesoro).

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Soon after being tapped, Ryan (having received inside information from his older brother Greg) stages an accident during one of the Skulls’ secret initiation rituals by faking that he has been accidentally stabbed, only to reveal that it was a sophomoric joke. Not amused, the senior leadership led by Parker Neal (Nathan West) decide to punish Ryan and Jeff by making them clean the attic of the Skulls tomb. While cleaning the attic that night, both Ryan and Jeff hear someone on the roof, only to discover it is fellow Skulls member, Matt “Hutch” Hutchison and field hockey team captain, Diana Rollins. While peeping on Hutchison and Rollins as she begins to disrobe, Ryan notices her drinking from a flask that Hutchison gave her. Soon thereafter, she starts to become dizzy and then falls off the roof of the Skulls tomb. Trying to alert the other members in the tomb, Ryan is told that nothing is wrong and he must have been seeing things.the-skulls-ii

Ryan later goes to his brother Greg about the incident, believing that the Skulls have covered up Diana Rollins’ death. Greg agrees to give Ryan a key to the tomb, so that he can investigate further, but this later turns out to be a ploy in order to lure Ryan there. Ryan is told the supposed truth about what was really taking place. He is fed a story by Parker Neal that, due to Ryan’s sophomoric joke during the initiation ritual, the Skulls staged Diana Rollins falling off the roof as they had staged (years earlier) the death of a former member’s roommate when he too was not taking membership seriously. This was all a test to see if Ryan would remain loyal to the Order by not going to the authorities. The former member’s roommate story is a direct reference to the first film and the death of Will Beckford, Lucas McNamara’s roommate. Not convinced by this ruse, Ryan begins to do research, and later discovers from Beckford’s parents that their son was killed by the Skulls for doing an expose on the secret society and breaking into the tomb; this was the storyline from the first film.

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That evening, Ryan receives a phone call from his brother Greg that Diana Rollins was killed in a car accident while returning from a supposed ski trip in New Hampshire. At this point, Ryan knows the entire scandal has been a cover-up to protect Matt Hutchison and the Skulls from public humiliation. Due to his digging around, the Skulls turn Ryan’s life into chaos. His brother Greg is fired from his high-level position as an attorney at Skull member Winston Taft’s firm, Ryan’s girlfriend Ali accuses him of assaulting her, and he is pursued by the Skulls at every avenue. Through his friendship with Ali’s roommate, Kelly (Lindy Booth), he later discovers that his apartment is bugged, and the Skulls will stop at nothing to cover up Diana Rollins’ accidental death, even attempting to run him and Kelly down in the streets of New Haven.the_skulls_II_big4Ryan and Kelly believe that the only true way to expose the Skulls is by getting their hands on the coroner’s report, showing that Diana Rollins did indeed have drugs and alcohol in her system, and that she had been dead for days, not hours. Ryan’s brother, Greg, uses his acquaintance, county coroner Dr. Phillip Sprague, to gain inside information — Sprague was offered a prostitute by the Skulls to switch the coroner’s reports. Later, breaking into Sprague’s office, Ryan steals the real report and goes to the police. In the meantime, Jeff has already come forward stating the Skulls covered up Diana Rollins’ death and that Matt Hutchison was responsible. Hutchison is taken into custody; Parker Neal narrowly escaping arrest himself. Back at the Skulls tomb, Skulls chairman senator George Milford states that shame and disgrace has been brought to the Order by this scandal. Believing that Ryan will be expelled from the Order, Parker egotistically states that he believes casting out Ryan is a smart move, only to discover that he is the one being expelled. Parker is seized by members of the Order and his brand of membership is removed from his wrist as he screams out in pain. Ryan casts himself out of the Order. The final scene show he and Kelly kissing in her car as they begin a new life together.the-skulls-ii

This film is just as good as the original. The actors are certainly no less charismatic. The plot is a great sequel to a good film.

REVIEW: THE SKULLS

 

CAST

Joshua Jackson (Cursed)
Paul Walker (The Fast and The Furious)
Hill Harper (Limitless TV)
Leslie Bibb (Mom)
Christopher McDonald (The Perfet Storm)
Steve Harris (The Mod Squad)
William Petersen (Manhunter)
Craig T. Nelson (The Incredibles)
Nigel Bennett (Forever Knight)
Noah Danby (Bitten)
Matthew G. Taylor (Immortals)
Malin Akerman (Watchmen)

Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson) is a student with aspirations to become a lawyer. A “townie” who grew up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, he did well enough in school to attend college on a scholarship where he is a champion rower. His best friends at college are his love interest Chloe (Leslie Bibb), and Will (Hill Harper) who is the coxswain of the Bulldog 8’s rowing team of which Luke is the captain (at the victory party for the 8’s, Chloe is revealed to come from a wealthy family which is why Luke is reluctant to reveal his feelings for her). Luke’s friendships hit the rocks when he is invited to join a secret society known as “The Skulls”. After Luke passes the first part of the initiation process – theft from a rival frat together with boxing prodigy Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker) as his co-conspirator and alleged “soulmate”, and being lectured in the secret ritual room by a senior Skull that is standing in front of a wall with the word “WAR” engraved into it in huge capital letters. A senior Skull explains to Luke that the Skulls require their members to prove themselves in war. Luke has a falling out with Will when the latter realizes that Luke has become a Skull.Luke quickly strikes up a friendship with his alleged soulmate. Caleb’s father, Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson), is the current Chairman of the Skulls and a Federal Court Judge who is pushing for a position in the Supreme Court, and his partner Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen), takes an interest in Luke. Eventually Will, who has been conducting research on the Skulls for some time, discovers their secret ritual room. Will gets caught in the room by Caleb and in the ensuing struggle he falls and is knocked unconscious. Caleb is ordered to leave the room by his father, who then orders Skulls member and the University’s provost Martin Lombard (Christopher McDonald) to break Will’s neck. The Skulls manage to move the body and make it look like Will committed suicide in his dorm room by hanging himself.Luke is greatly troubled by the death of his best friend, especially because Will’s family is the only family he had (due to the death of his parents at a young age), and becomes suspicious that Will was in fact murdered. He initially thinks that Caleb is guilty of the murder, and Caleb thinks that he himself is guilty since he assumed that Will was dead when he left the room. With the help of some of his ‘townie’ childhood friends who have turned petty crime into an art form (Luke also bribes them to help him by giving them the car he had been given by the Skulls, a 1963 Ford Thunderbird convertible as an apology for missing his friends birthday the week before), Luke obtains the Skulls security tapes that prove Lombard committed the murder and in trying to convince Caleb of the truth (that it was his father who was responsible for Will’s death), Luke realizes how scared Caleb is of his father. Before Luke can show the evidence to police, the Skulls council, who know Luke has stolen the tapes, vote that he is no longer loyal (Litten Mandrake blackmailed Levritt with pictures of him and his much younger mistress to allow the vote to carry). When he does go to the police, the tape is switched by Detective Sparrow (Steve Harris) and Luke is confined to a mental hospital under the control of the Skulls.With the help of Levritt and Chloe, Luke manages to escape the hospital and he and Chloe survive an attempt on his life by Lombard who is shot and killed by Detective Sparrow (who it turns out is working for Levritt). Luke decides that his only option is to fight the Skulls by their own rules, and “bring war to them”. He challenges Caleb to a duel at the Skulls’ private island, by invoking rule 119. Litten tries to take his son’s place in the duel but is denied the opportunity due to another Skull rule (119b, line 15). After Luke and Caleb take their ten paces and turn around, Luke drops his gun and tries to convince Caleb of the truth and that he is not responsible for Will’s murder. Despite being pressured by Litten to kill Luke, Caleb cannot bring himself to pull the trigger. At this point, Litten loses control, grabs a pistol, and attempts to shoot Luke himself, but before he can fire, Caleb shoots his own father. The wound is not a fatal one, but Caleb, mortified at what he has done, tries to kill himself but is stopped by Luke.The film ends with Luke’s realization that Senator Levritt waited to help him until he had no other choice but to duel and eliminate his rival (Caleb’s father). Luke becomes disgusted with the order and refuses to participate further, despite threats from Levritt that he will be tracked down someday, and despite, or even because of, Levritt’s offer that the Skulls will accept him because he has proven himself in war. As Luke walks away Levritt says to himself, “Well done son, well done”. It has been speculated, because of this along with other incidents in the film (such as him comparing their backgrounds, Luke’s unknown father situation, and Levritt taking an immediate liking to Luke), that Levritt may be Luke’s father. The final shot of the film shows Luke reuniting with Chloe.

OK the plot is old hat (a secret society that rules the government and covers up a murder or two) but the movie is entertaining. The plot is relatively intelligent and fast-moving; the cast is uniformally good–even Joshua Jackson!; there’s no graphic gore (or nudity); and the action scenes are well-done and exciting. Not a great film by any means, but a fun, action-filled, entertaining two hours. Just don’t think about it too much afterwards.