REVIEW: A HOLOGRAM FOR A KING

CAST

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

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

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REVIEW: KNIGHT MOVES

CAST

Christopher Lambert (Highlander)
Diane Lane (Batman V Superman)
Tom Skerritt (Alien)
Katharine Isabelle (Hannibal)
Daniel Baldwin (Cold Case)
Megan Leitch (Omen IV)
Blu Mankuma (Tin Man)
Rachel hayward (Motive)

They met only once, but back in 1972 David and Peter had left lasting impressions on one another, for one of them was stabbed continually with a fountain pen, leaving him with everlasting bodily scars. As for the other, his savage attack on his childhood opponent after his public humiliation and defeat was a catalyst that ended his parent’s marriage, as his father left forever; his offspring discovered his mother dying, having been slashed with a broken bottle. This boy spent the next twenty years in and out of asylums and foster care. Now it seems he’s become one of the youngest, most successful chess grandmasters in history. Brilliant if troubled widower with a precious daughter, he suddenly finds himself a suspect in his casual lover’s murder. When more homicides occur Capt. Frank Sedman and his partner Det. Andy Wagner discover that a serial killer is at work on a Pacific Northwest island. With our chessmaster becoming more and more connected to the deaths, shrink Kathy Sheppard is brought in to figure out if this chess prodigy is as innocent as he claims to be.I really didn’t know what to expect when I rented Knight Moves.  This is a very well-made film. It had me guessing the whole time. Christopher Lambert was great as the Chess Master playing a game with a serial killer. He should do more films like this. The supporting cast was very good and Carl Schenkel’s direction kept the film moving at a nice pace.

REVIEW: ALIEN

CAST

Sigourney Weaver (Galaxy Quest)
Tom Skerritt (Poison Ivy)
Veronica Cartwright (The Witches of Eastwick)
Harry Dean Stanton (Avengers Assemble)
John Hurt (Hellboy)
Ian Holm (The Hobbit)
Yaphet Kotto (Midnight Run)

The commercial spacecraft Nostromo is on a return trip to Earth with a seven-member crew in stasis: Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, Navigator Lambert, Science Officer Ash, Warrant Officer Ripley, and Engineers Parker and Brett. Detecting a mysterious transmission, possibly a distress signal, from a nearby planetoid, the ship’s computer, Mother, awakens the crew. Following standard company policy for such situations, the Nostromo lands on the planetoid and Dallas, Kane, and Lambert head out to investigate, damaging their ship upon landing in dust. They discover the signal is coming from a derelict alien spacecraft. Inside, they find the remains of a large alien creature whose ribcage appears to have exploded from the inside.

On the Nostromo, Ripley determines that the transmission is not a distress signal but a warning. In the alien ship, Kane discovers a chamber containing hundreds of eggs. As he inspects one, a creature springs out, spits acid through his space helmet and attaches itself to his face. Dallas and Lambert carry the unconscious Kane back to the Nostromo. As acting senior officer, Ripley refuses to let them aboard, citing quarantine regulations, but Ash violates protocol by overriding Ripley’s lock and letting them in. The crew are unable to remove the creature from Kane’s face, as its grip is strong and its blood is an extremely corrosive acid. It eventually lets go, crawls away, and dies.

The crew repair the ship and lift off. Kane awakens and seems healthy, but during the crew’s final meal before re-entering stasis, he chokes and convulses in pain before a small alien creature bursts from his chest, killing him, and escapes into the depths of the ship to molt. Since attacking the creature with conventional weapons could result in its corrosive blood breaching the ship’s hull, the crew attempts to locate and capture it with motion trackers, nets, electric prods, and flamethrowers.

Brett is sent to look for the crew’s cat, Jones, and the now fully grown alien attacks him and disappears with his body into the air shafts. After a heated discussion, the group devises a plan to jettison the creature out of the ship. Dallas enters the Nostromo’s labyrinthine ventilation shafts, intending to force the alien into an airlock, but it ambushes him. Lambert, realizing the alien is killing the crew one by one, implores the others to escape in the ship’s shuttle. Now in command, Ripley explains that the shuttle will not support four people, and recommends that they continue with Dallas’ plan of flushing the alien out.

Accessing Mother, Ripley discovers that Ash has secretly been ordered to return the alien to the crew’s employers, who consider the crew expendable. When Ripley confronts Ash, he tries to choke her to death. Parker intervenes and knocks off Ash’s head, revealing him to be an android. Parker reanimates Ash’s head, and Ripley interrogates him. They learn he was assigned to the Nostromo to convince the crew to capture the creature and return it for analysis, even at the expense of the human personnel. Ash taunts them about their chances of survival against the “perfect organism.” Parker turns a flamethrower on Ash.

Ripley, Lambert and Parker agree to set the Nostromo to self-destruct and escape in the shuttle. However, Parker and Lambert are ambushed and killed by the alien while gathering life-support supplies. Ripley initiates the self-destruct sequence and heads for the shuttle with Jones, but the alien blocks her path. She retreats and unsuccessfully attempts to abort the self-destruct sequence, then returns to retrieve Jones, finding the alien gone. She narrowly escapes in the shuttle as the Nostromo explodes.

As she prepares to enter stasis, Ripley discovers the Alien is aboard the shuttle. She dons a spacesuit and opens the shuttle’s airlock, causing explosive decompression which forces the Alien into the shuttle’s open doorway. She propels it into space by shooting it with a grappling hook, but the gun catches in the closing door, tethering the alien to the shuttle. Ripley activates the engines, blasting the alien into space. After recording the ship’s final log entry, she places herself and Jones into stasis for the voyage home.Quite simply one of the best films ever made.

CHRISTMAS 2017 REVIEW: TED

CAST

Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy)
Mark Wahlberg (The Other Guys)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan)
Joel McHale (Spider-Man 2)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Aedin Mincks (New Girl)
Patrick Warburton (Get Smart)
Laura Vandervoort (Bitten)
Matt Walsh (Semi-Pro)
Jessica Barth (Next)
Bill Smitrovich (The Phantom)
Alex Borstein (Family Guy)
Ralph Garman (Yoga Hosers)
Jessica Stroup (Prom Night)
Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon)
Ryan Reynolds (Buried)
Norah Jones (My Blueberry Nights)
Tom Skerritt (Alien)
Mike Henry (The Cleveland Show)
Robert Wu (Hot Tub Time Machine)
Ted Danson (The Good Place)
Patrick Stewart (American Dad)

In 1985, 8-year-old John Bennett is a lonely child living in Norwood, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, who wished for his new Christmas gift—a jumbo teddy bear named Ted—to come to life and become his friend. The wish coincides with a shooting star and comes true; word spread and Ted was briefly a celebrity.27 years later, John (now 35) and Ted are still living in Boston, and are still staunch companions enjoying a hedonistic life. John is dating Lori Collins, who is from Philadelphia. As their anniversary approaches, Lori hopes to marry John but feels he could not move forward with Ted around. John is hesitant about making Ted leave, but he is persuaded to act when they find Ted at home with four prostitutes.John finds Ted his own apartment and a job at a grocery store, where Ted begins dating his coworker Tami-Lynn. Lori learns that John has been skipping work—using her as an excuse—to continue to spend most of his time with Ted. John and Lori are invited to a party put on by Lori’s womanizing manager Rex, but Ted lures John away to a party at his apartment with the offer to meet Sam J. Jones, the star of their favorite film, Flash Gordon. John intends to stay only a few minutes but gets caught up in the occasion. Lori finds John there and breaks up with him. John blames Ted for ruining his life and tells him to stay away.John and Ted confront each other about their ruined friendship and they fight but manage to reconcile. To repair John’s relationship with Lori, Ted arranges for an old lover, singer Norah Jones, to help by having John express his love for Lori with a song during her concert. He does an off-key rendition of All Time High by Rita Coolidge and is booed offstage. Lori is touched by the attempt and returns to her apartment where Ted confesses about his role in John’s relapse and offers to leave them alone forever if she talks to John.Lori is persuaded, but Ted is kidnapped by Donny, an obsessive stalker who idolized Ted as a child. Donny plans to make Ted his brutish son Robert’s toy. Ted manages to reach a phone to contact John but is immediately recaptured. Realizing Ted is in danger, John and Lori locate Donny’s residence and track him to rescue Ted. The chase leads to Fenway Park, where John punches Robert, but during the chase, Ted is damaged and falls onto the field ripped entirely in half. A police car arrives, forcing Donny to flee. John and Lori gather Ted’s stuffing and Ted relays his wish that John be happy with Lori before dying from his injuries.Unable to accept Ted’s death, a distraught John and Lori attempt to repair Ted, which proves useless. Feeling guilty about the incident, Lori makes a wish on a shooting star. The next morning, John hangs his head while looking over Ted’s dead body. Fortunately, Ted is magically restored and reconciles with John and Lori, encouraging them to resume their relationship. John and Lori are married (with Sam Jones as the presiding minister), and Ted comfortably accepts having a life of his own as he and Tami-Lynn continued their love affair. Sam Jones attempts to restart his career and moves into a studio apartment with Brandon Routh. Rex gives up his pursuit of Lori, goes into a deep depression, and dies of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Donny gets arrested by the Boston Police Department for kidnapping a plush toy, but charges are dropped. Robert hires a personal trainer, loses a significant amount of weight, and goes on to become Taylor Lautner.Comedies are hit and miss, or run out of steam towards the end. Ted, however, is not one of these and this is why it is probably one of the best and most original comedies I have ever seen. Perhaps the plot is fairly standard, but with the creator of Family Guy at the helm, things don’t always go the way you expect.

REVIEW: POISON IVY (1992)

CAST

Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet)
Sara Gilbert (The Big Bang Theory)
Tom Skerritt (Alien)
Cheryl Ladd (Unforgettable)
Jeanne Sakata (XXX 2)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Catch Me If You Can)

FIm0Kzkj1P7aov_1_aSylvie Cooper (Sara Gilbert) is a teenage girl at a private school for the wealthy. At a local hangout, she first meets Ivy (Drew Barrymore), a street-smart but poor and trashy girl, and witnesses Ivy mercy-killing a heavily wounded dog. In their second meeting, when Sylvie’s father Darrel (Tom Skerritt) comes to pick her up, Ivy asks for a ride, and Darrel reluctantly agrees. Ivy makes an excuse to sit in the front with Darrel. She puts her feet on the dashboard and deliberately allows her mini-skirt to fall back onto her hip, revealing her legs, which Darrel notices.poison_ivyA few weeks later, Sylvie invites Ivy to her house. She tells Ivy that Darrel is her adoptive father and that her biological father is African-American. She also says that she once tried to kill herself. They meet Sylvie’s sickly mother, Georgie (Cheryl Ladd), whom Ivy later wins over by talking about her scholarship and helping her unblock her oxygen tank. Soon after, as both of Sylvie’s parents enjoy Ivy’s company, they practically allow Ivy to move in. Ivy and Sylvie share clothes and sleep in the same bed. As they have similar figures, Georgie lends Ivy some of her clothes.3696d4affd4b2e847380b40b0444a5de

In an attempt to improve his failing career, Darrel decides to throw a party at his house, and enlists Sylvie to help him. However, Sylvie is needed at work on the night of the party (due to Ivy’s interference), so eventually Ivy assists Darrel during the party. After the party, she dances with Darrel in the kitchen and they hug. Georgie walks in on them and storms upstairs. Ivy apologizes to Georgie and claims that Darrel was under stress and she was only comforting him. Georgie believes Ivy, accepts a glass of champagne drugged with sleeping pills, and falls asleep. Ivy sits on the bed next to Georgie and begins to massage Darrel with her foot while he kisses her legs.kinopoisk.ruOver the next few days, Ivy continues changing her appearance and wears Georgie’s clothing more often. Sylvie becomes increasingly irritated with Ivy for her growing presence in her family, and her anger reaches a breaking point when even her dog chooses Ivy over her (in fact, it was because Ivy has some dog treats in her pockets). Sylvie skips school and tries to spend some time alone. Darrel picks Ivy up and they go into the forest, where Ivy gets Darrel drunk and has sex with him. The next morning, Georgie plays a cassette tape that Sylvie made for her and walks out onto her balcony. Ivy walks up behind Georgie, talks to her and without warning, pushes her off the balcony. As Georgie is known to have a mental illness and has threatened to commit suicide previously, Ivy is not suspected. A few weeks later, Sylvie talks Ivy into going for a ride in her mother’s sports car. When Sylvie becomes suspicious of her involvement in Georgie’s death, Ivy crashes the car, then moves the unconscious Sylvie into the driver’s seat.FIm0Kzkj1P7aov_1_aIn the hospital, Sylvie hallucinates that her mother is sitting in front of her. This inspires her to get back to her house in an attempt to save her father from Ivy. When she gets to her house there is a raging storm. She runs inside to get out of the rain, experiencing hallucinations all along the way. When she gets inside, she sees Darrel and Ivy having sex and flees the room. As Darrel goes to look for Sylvie, Ivy goes up to Georgie’s old room, plays the tape Sylvie made for Georgie, wears Georgie’s robe and walks out the balcony. Sylvie sees Ivy and, because of her head injury, believes that it is her mother, and makes her way to the balcony. Sylvie tells Georgie that she loves her and Georgie says she loves Sylvie too. When they kiss, Ivy begins to use her tongue, which breaks Sylvie out of her hallucination. Ivy says Georgie wanted to die and now the three of them can be a family. Sylvie pushes Ivy over the balcony, but Ivy holds onto Sylvie’s necklace. The chain breaks and Ivy falls to her death. The film ends with Sylvie narrating that she still loves and misses “her”, following the parallel between Ivy and Georgie.poison_ivyDrew Barrymore never looked better than she did in this film and it’s easy to see why Tom Skerritt is tempted by the teenage temptress. Sara Gilbert, who older readers may remember from Roseanne and younger readers as an occasional actress in The Big Bang Theory, plays a very good supporting role in this tight, memorable, and erotic thriller.

REVIEW: THE DEAD ZONE (1983)

CAST

Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Brooke Adams (The Accidental Husband)
Tom Skerritt (Alien)
Herbert Lom (And Then There Were None)
Anthony Zerbe (Star Trek: Insurrection)
Colleen Dewhurst (Road To Avonlea)
Martin Sheen (The West Wing)
Nicholas Campbell (Naked Lunch)
Barry Flatman (Odyssey 5)
William B. Davis (The X-Files)

In the town of Castle Rock, Maine, Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken), a young schoolteacher, is in love with his colleague Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams). After having a headache following a ride on a roller-coaster, Johnny politely declines when Sarah asks if he wants to spend the night with her.As he drives home through stormy weather, Johnny has a car accident that leaves him in a coma. He awakens under the care of neurologist Dr. Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom) and finds that five years have passed and that Sarah has married and had a child.Johnny also discovers that he now has the psychic ability to learn a person’s secrets (past, present, future) through physical contact with them. As he touches a nurse’s hand, he has a vision of her daughter trapped in a fire. He also sees that Weizak’s mother, long thought to have died during World War II, is still alive and that a reporter’s sister killed herself.As news of his “gift” spreads, Johnny is asked by a sheriff (Tom Skerritt) for help with a series of murders, but he wants to be left alone and therefore declines. Sarah visits with her infant son and she and Johnny consummate their previous relationship (they had declined to make love before being married). Having a change of heart, Johnny agrees to help the sheriff and, through a vision at the crime scene, he discovers that the sheriff’s own deputy is the killer. Before they can arrest him, the deputy kills himself. Johnny is then shot by the man’s mother, who in turn is killed by the sheriff.A disillusioned Johnny, now barely able to walk, moves away and attempts to live a more isolated life. He takes on tutoring jobs for school children, working from home until a wealthy man named Roger Stuart (Anthony Zerbe) implores him to come visit his son. Johnny and the boy, Chris, quickly form a friendship but, after seeing a vision of a boy falling through ice and drowning during a hockey game, Johnny warns Stuart not to let the boy go. Stuart ignores him, but Chris believes him and stays home. Two boys die during the trip, proving Johnny right. Johnny then realizes he has a “dead zone” in his visions, where he can actually change the future.Johnny attends a rally for Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen), a U.S. Senatorial candidate for whom Sarah is a volunteer. Johnny shakes Stillson’s hand and has a vision of him becoming President of the United States and ordering a nuclear strike against Russia that brings on a nuclear holocaust. He seeks Weizak’s advice, asking, by way of example, if he would have killed Adolf Hitler if he had the chance, knowing in advance the atrocities Hitler would commit. Weizak replies that he would have had no choice but to kill him. Johnny leaves Sarah a letter, telling her that what he is about to do will cost him his life, but that it will be a sacrifice he is willing to make.Johnny loads a rifle and takes aim at Stillson at a rally held in a church. His shot misses the target, but Stillson grabs Sarah’s baby and holds him as a human shield. A photographer snaps a picture of Stillson holding the baby just as Johnny is shot by a security guard. Confronted by an angry Stillson, a fatally wounded Johnny grabs his hand. He now foresees Stillson’s reputation and political ambitions being ruined, after the photograph of his cowardly act is published in the media for all to see (“No Future For Stillson”, reads Newsweek); Stillson will then shoot himself. Johnny tells Stillson he’s finished. Sarah embraces Johnny and tells him she loves him as he dies.Director David Cronenberg, smoking hot at the time with masterpieces of his own – Scanners and Videodrome, delivers a film that resonates perfectly with King’s book, with pacing and tone that capture what was best about King in this period. King himself was experiencing his golden age, with Cujo, Firestarter, Carrie and The Shining rounding out his catalog within a few years. The film can be summed up once and for all in a single sentence. Dead Zone is perfection.

REVIEW: MAMMOTH (2006)

CAST

Vincent Ventresca (Dollhouse)
Summer Glau (Firefly)
Tom Skerritt (Alien)
Constantin Draganescu (The Concert)
Cole Williams (North Country)
Charles Carroll (Robocop)
Leila Arcieri (XXX)

dark-breed-3Frank Abernathy is the curator of the natural history museum in Blackwater, Louisiana. He is a widower who doesn’t seem to have time for his daughter, Jack. Frank’s father, Simon, is a B-movie enthusiast who believes in extraterrestrials and shows his favorite movies at the local theater. The city loses its electrical power just as Simon, Jack and her boyfriend Squirrelly exit the theater. They watch an object streaking through the sky and crashing into the museum. Thought to be a meteorite, they later find out it is a craft containing an alien lifeform. Trying to adapt to the Earth’s atmosphere, it latches on to the first organism it finds – the museum’s most notable exhibit, a frozen Wooly mammoth.

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A security guard witnesses the revival of the prehistoric elephant, which kills the guard. With the creature on the loose, two government agents, Powers and Whitaker, track Frank down. While the agents and Frank try to figure out what happened and what to do, the mammoth heads into the forest, where it kills anyone it comes across. The beast’s path soon brings it to a huge party attended by Jack and Squirrelly.They survive the attack and meet up with Frank and the agents. The mammoth suddenly appears and kills Agent Whitaker while Agent Powers, Frank, Jack and Squirrelly escape. While the mammoth continues its rampage around the town, the government is preparing to detonate a nuclear bomb on the alien-possessed elephant. The group must find a way to take the creature down without destroying their town.22581281ebr0nnurhg7pygaqtgvkfi1myu8tk50f3x2zzsiwwc5vllmaincufwgyzgonpfg54bcgdkzs2m9ecdxuiwqAfter devising a plan to stop the mammoth, Frank, Powers, Jack and Squirrelly are joined by Simon and town sheriff Marion Morrison at the local factory to encase the creature in ice, just like it was before. While en route, Squirrelly is killed by the mammoth, but the plan moves forward at full speed. The mammoth arrives at the factory, and is doused in molten steel. It then slaughters Sheriff Morrison, off screen. They figure out that liquid nitrogen is the only way to stop the mammoth once and for all. The mammoth is lured into the liquid nitrogen trap. Frank, Jack, and Powers, among other survivors, escape as Simon sacrifices himself to pull the release valve and smash the controls, forcing the liquid nitrogen to spray out and freeze both Simon and the mammoth.The movie ends as Simon’s frozen body is put in government hands, and the refrozen mammoth is put back out as an exhibit.dark-breed-4There’s quite a lot I liked about Mammoth. The acting was very good for the type of film it was, the story is fun, it incorporates quite a few classic B-movie elements like aliens, government agents, scientists, corny dialogue, hit and miss effects and a race against time to stop a nuclear bomb from destroying them all. The action is pretty good and most of the humour works, and at 87 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Despite essentially being a B-movie, the actors actually play it straight, which is what makes it quite funny. Mammoth knows exactly what it is but is still mostly quite serious, with just the occasional knowing wink to remind you how silly it actually is. According to Wikipedia, the film was nominated for a 2006 Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. While several of the effects in the film were really well done, the actual Mammoth itself isn’t exactly up to the standard that Jurassic Park set, but it looked much better than what we often see on the sci-fi channel