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.

Advertisements

REVIEW: YOUNG GUNS 1 & 2

CAST

Emilio Estevez (Bobby)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe)
Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men)
Dermot Mulroney (The Grey)
Casey Siemaszko (Stand By Me)
Terence Stamp (Superman 1 & 2)
Jack Palance (Batman)
Terry O’Quinn (Lost)

John Tunstall (Terence Stamp), an educated Englishman and cattle rancher in Lincoln County, New Mexico, hires wayward young gunmen to live and work on his ranch. Tunstall is in heavy competition with a well-connected Irishman named Lawrence Murphy (Jack Palance), who owns a large ranch; their men clash on a regular basis. Tunstall recruits Billy (Emilio Estevez) and advises him to renounce violence saying that “He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.” Tensions escalate between the two camps, resulting in the murder of Tunstall. Billy, Doc Scurlock (Kiefer Sutherland), Jose Chavez y Chavez (Lou Diamond Phillips), Richard M. “Dick” Brewer (Charlie Sheen), “Dirty” Steve Stephens (Dermot Mulroney), and Charlie Bowdre (Casey Siemaszko), consult their lawyer friend Alexander McSween (Terry O’Quinn), who manages to get them deputized and given warrants for the arrest of Murphy’s murderous henchmen.
Billy quickly challenges Dick’s authority as leader, vowing revenge against Murphy and the men responsible for killing Tunstall. The men call themselves The Regulators and arrest some of the murderers, but hot-headed Billy is unable to wait for justice. He guns down unarmed men and goes on to kill one of his fellow Regulators (later arrival J. McCloskey) in the paranoid (but correct) belief that he was still in league with Murphy. The men are stripped of their badges, which they find out about by reading a newspaper. That same paper also confuses Dick for Billy, showing a picture of Dick labeled Billy the Kid, a nickname to which Billy takes an immediate liking.
While the local authorities begin their hunt for Billy and the boys, the Regulators argue about continuing with their warrants or to go on the run. One of the men on their list of warrants, Buckshot Roberts (Brian Keith), tracks them down, barricades himself in an outhouse, and Dick dies in an intense shootout. Billy appoints himself as the new leader, the gang becomes famous and the U.S. Army is charged with bringing them to justice under Murphy’s corrupt political influence.
The gang eludes attention for some time, and Charlie gets married in Mexico. While attending the wedding, Billy meets Pat Garrett (Patrick Wayne) who is not yet a sheriff, but warns Billy of an attempt on Alex’s life by Murphy’s men that will happen the next day. Thus the gang packs up and heads off to save Alex. Back in Lincoln, Murphy’s men, led by George W. Peppin, surround Alex’s house, trapping the Regulators, and a shootout begins. A ceasefire is called for the night. In the morning, accompanied by Murphy, the army comes in and torches the house, but Chavez escapes out the back. While the house is burning, the men come up with an escape plan. They begin throwing Alex’s possessions out the windows of the second floor. Billy places himself inside of a large trunk, and when it lands in front of the house, he leaps out and begins to open fire.Meanwhile, Doc bursts out of the side stairway, followed by Charlie and Steve. Everyone makes it to the lawn, but Billy is shot twice in his arms. Charlie challenges the bounty hunter John Kinney (Allen Keller); Kinney shoots Charlie and Charlie fires back, killing each other.
Chavez comes from behind the army on horseback, and jumps the barricade to get extra horses to the Regulators. Billy jumps on one horse, but Doc is shot trying to get on another. Doc still manages to pick up his girlfriend Yen Sun (Alice Carter), Murphy’s Chinese sex-slave, and they ride off. Chavez tries to get Steve on a horse, but is wounded and falls to the ground. Steve helps Chavez on to a horse, but is left alone and unarmed. The Army and Murphy’s men shoot and kill Steve. Alex cheers on the boys as they ride away. The army opens fire on him with a Gatling gun and he is killed. As the remaining men ride away, Murphy hurls threats and curses after them, but is stunned when Billy turns back and shoots Murphy right between the eyes, killing him. The final scene is a voice-over of Doc explaining what happened afterwards: Alex’s widow caused a congressional investigation into the Lincoln County War. Chavez took work at a farm in California. Doc moved east to New York and married Yen Sun, whom he had saved from Murphy. Billy continued to ride until he was found and shot dead by Pat Garrett. Billy was buried next to Charlie Bowdre at Fort Sumner. A stranger went to the grave of Billy the Kid late one night and made a carving in the headstone. The epitaph read only one word: “PALS”.
The film toils with emotions throughout and brings a slight comic relief. Emilio Estevez shone as the major star, although packed out with many big names Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Kiefer Sutherland, Dermot Mulroney, Terence Stamp and Jack Palance. Deserved more awards when released and holds as a great film all these years later. Westerns usually become dated very quick but this holds tension throughout.

CAST

Emilio Estevez (Bobby)
Kiefer Sutherland (24)
Lou Diamond Phillips (Stargate Universe)
Christian Slater (Interview With The Vampire)
William Petersen (CSI)
Alan Ruck (Speed)
R.D. Call (Waterworld)
James Coburn (The Great Escape)
Balthazar Getty (Brothers & Sisters)
Robert Knepper (Cult)
Viggo Mortensen (Lord of The Rings)
Leon Rippy (Stargate)
Tracey Walter (Conan The Destroyer)
Jenny wright (NEar Dark)
Richard Schiff (The Cape)
Ginger Lynn (The Devil’s Rejects)

Image result for young guns ii
In 1950, attorney Charles Phalen is contacted by an elderly man named “Brushy Bill” Roberts. Brushy Bill tells Phalen that he is dying and wants to receive a pardon that he was promised 70 years before by the Governor of New Mexico. When asked why he wants the pardon, Brushy Bill claims that he is really William H. Bonney aka “Billy The Kid”, whom “everyone” knows to have been shot and killed by Pat Garrett in 1881. Phalen then asks if Bill has any proof that he is the famous outlaw. Brushy Bill’s story begins with the remaining Regulators having gone their separate ways. Billy has become part of a new gang with “Arkansas” Dave Rudabaugh (Slater) and Pat Garrett (Petersen). The New Mexico governor has issued warrants for the arrests of those involved in the Lincoln County Wars, including Billy, Doc Scurlock (Sutherland), and Jose Chavez y Chavez (Phillips), who are dragged into town and imprisoned to await hanging.
Image result for young guns ii
Meanwhile, Billy meets with the new governor Lew Wallace who agrees to pardon Billy if he testifies against the Dolan-Murphy faction. Billy soon finds out that he was tricked into being arrested with no chance of testifying against his old enemies. After escaping, Billy along with the help of Rudabaugh and Garrett, pose as a lynch mob to spring Doc and Chavez from jail. When the gang successfully escape Lincoln, Billy mentions the Mexican Blackbird (a broken trail only he and few others know that leads down to Mexico). Garrett decides not to go with the gang and, instead, open a boarding house. As they make a run for the border along with farmer Henry William French (Alan Ruck) and 14-year-old Tom O’Folliard (Balthazar Getty), cattle baron John Simpson Chisum (James Coburn) and Governor Wallace approach Garrett to offer him the job as Lincoln County Sheriff and $1000 to use whatever resources he needs to hunt Bonney down and kill him. Garrett agrees and, forming a posse, begins his pursuit of the gang.
Billy and the gang soon come to the town of White Oaks where they meet up with former companion, Jane Greathouse (Jenny Wright) who runs a local bordello. Later that night, the town lynch mob comes for the gang and are intent on a hanging. Deputy Carlisle tries to negotiate a deal, “the Indian” (Chavez) for a safe rideout. Billy refuses the offer and pushes the Deputy out the door, who is then accidentally killed by the lynch mob. Garrett soon tracks Billy to the bordello, but is too late. Billy and his gang are continuously tracked by the posse, narrowly evading capture, but Tom (being mistaken for Billy) is soon shot dead by Garrett. As they hideout, Billy admits that the Mexican Blackbird doesn’t exist; it was just a pawn to get the gang back together and to keep riding. Doc is angered and tries to leave for home, but he is shot by one of Garrett’s men and sacrifices himself to enable his friends to escape. Billy the Kid is soon brought back into Lincoln by Garrett and is sentenced to death by hanging. He is visited by Jane Greathouse, who arranges to leave a pistol in an outhouse. Billy uses the pistol to kill two guards and escapes to Old Fort Sumner. By the time he arrives, Dave has abandoned the group to make his way to Mexico, and Chavez is dying from a bullet wound. During the night Garrett finds Billy unarmed. Billy asks Garrett to let him run to Mexico and tell the authorities that he killed him. Garrett declines because he believes Billy would not be able to resist coming back to the United States (which would lead to Garrett’s death for lying). Billy turns around, forcing Garrett to have to shoot him in the back, which he does not. In the morning, a fake burial is staged for Billy and Garrett’s horse is seen being taken by an unknown figure (implied to be Billy). Brushy Bill admits he never stole a horse from someone he didn’t like, and further admits he didn’t like Garrett; he loved him. Phalen, convinced that Brushy Bill is Billy the Kid, agrees to help him.
The epilogue reveals that Arkansas Dave was beheaded once he reached Mexico to discourage more outlaws from crossing the border; Garrett’s book detailing his pursuit of Billy was a dismal failure and he is eventually shot and killed in 1908; Brushy Bill met with the Governor of New Mexico but despite corroboration from several surviving friends of The Kid, he was discredited and died less than a month later; whether or not Brushy Bill was Billy the Kid remains a mystery. The final shot shows Billy pointing his gun at an off screen target, saying to the target “I’ll make you famous”.
Not only does Young Guns 2 have some explosive action scenes, it has some great drama, you will really feel for Billy and his pals as they meet their maker one by one. Christian Slater provides some brilliant humor in the role of ‘Arkansas’ Dave Rudabaugh – His comic foreplay with Emilio Estevez provides the film with some of it’s most memorable scenes.

REVIEW: MANHUNTER

 

CAST

William Petersen (CSI)
Kim Greist (Brazil)
Tom Noonan (Robocop 2)
Dennis Farina (Romeo is Bleeding)
Brian Cox (X-Men 2)
Joan Allen (Pleasantville)
Stephen Lang (Avatar)
Frankie Faison (Luke Cage)
Chris Elliott (Scary Movie 2)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted 1 & 2)
Marshall Bell (Total Recall)

Thomas Harris’ extremely popular “Hannibal Lector” character has appeared in 80% of the author’s novels and five separate feature-length films. Most would find Lector synonymous with 1991’s landmark The Silence of the Lambs, in which Anthony Hopkins turned the soft-spoken cannibal into a cultural icon. The character’s subsequent film appearances are all more exaggerated than the last, so it makes sense that 1986’s Manhunter shows Hannibal at his most…normal? It also serves as director Michael Mann’s third film, but it flopped at the box office and still stands in the shadow of its more popular young brother. Based on Harris’ second novel Red Dragon (and remade in 2002 by Brett Ratner), Manhunter deserved a bigger audience then and still deserves a bigger one today.

Part thriller, part character study and part horror film, this tale of FBI profile expert Will Graham (William Petersen) often crackles with suspense. Having retired to his peaceful family life due to exhaustion, Graham is approached by his former boss Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) after an unknown killer’s quiet rampage has already left two families dead. Hannibal isn’t the culprit, of course: he’s safely behind bars due to Graham’s tireless efforts with the FBI, but he might be personally linked to the killer at large. Fearing another series of murders may be only weeks away, the intensely dedicated Graham decides to pursue the case, using his behavioral knowledge to carve away at the killer’s unknown location.

As in Silence of the Lambs, the character of Hannibal Lector (here spelled “Lecktor”, and portrayed by Brian Cox) only pops up occasionally to offer twisted guidance, but his presence looms heavily over the entire film. Silence’s menacing Buffalo Bill is one-upped, though, by the more sympathetic, layered and quietly intimidating Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), a lab worker whose dark personal life fuels violent impulses. Working on a lunar cycle, Dollarhyde’s third slaughter grows closer as Graham and Crawford attempt to track him down. Manhunter’s approach to Dollarhyde is extremely effective: the film’s almost half-over before we even catch a glimpse of him, and the slow reveal works wonderfully.Manhunter is arguably the least-known of the “Hannibal Lector” films…and that’s a shame, because it’s easily second best behind Silence of the Lambs. Michael Mann’s solid direction anchors this cat-and-mouse thriller quite well.