By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
Forty-three years ago, "Jaws" set the
standard for the shark movie and triggered a near-industry of
predator-in-water thrillers. While most of these movies were cheesy
rip-offs, including the three increasingly silly "Jaws" sequels
featuring the absurd premise that one family, the Brodys, would have
multiple encounters with great white sharks, occasionally some
decent ones would break through, most recently "The Shallows" and
"47 Meters Down." And then there are the "Sharknado" misadventures
that do an ample job at poking fun at themselves.
Now comes "The Meg," which is kind of in the
middle between adept shark movies and the ultra goofy ones. But who
can pass up a chance to see Jason Statham ignite his bad-ass vibe on
a killer animal rather than human villains?
"The Meg" borrows a plot device from "Deep
Blue Sea," in which scientific research unwittingly releases hell
upon the waters of the Earth. The idea here is to present a warning
that while exploration may be good, sometimes things should be left
Based upon the series of books by Steve
Alten, "The Meg" introduces Jonas Taylor (Statham), who, in a
familiar character device, is a man who was very good at what he did
-- in this case a deep-sea rescue expert -- until a tragic incident
leaves him discredited -- he insists something huge attacked the
submarine which he was trying to rescue and led to its destruction
-- and relegated to a life of beer drinking and repairing fishing
That is until he is motivated to return to
his area of expertise. An off-shore research facility is serving as
a home base for some real deep-sea nosing around at a place called
the Mariana Trench. Penetrating through a layer of cloudy water --
some sort of parfait corridor -- lies a flourishing habitat of fish
and other creatures, but during a dive by a submersible down there
-- being piloted by Taylor's ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) -- the
vehicle is attacked by some huge creature and disabled.
Taylor manages to rescue all but one member
of the crew, but later he is redeemed when it is discovered that
indeed there is a huge beast swimming around -- the supposedly
extinct Megalodon super shark is alive and well, and manages to gain
access to the upper levels of the sea.
So now it becomes the usual
kill-it-before-it-kills-many-people adventure. Yes there are some
subplots in the movie: a hate-turned-love relationship between
Taylor and Suyin (Bingbing Li), leader of the research team and who
has an adorable daughter, Meiying (Sophia Cai); and the actions of
the usual cast of associates that include the funny cowards, the
computer and tech experts and the wealthy person who sees potential
dollars instead of peril.
"The Meg" is full of scenes that force the
viewer to dispel disbelief, but overall it is fun. Not to be taken
seriously, "The Meg" is a good way to wind down the summer movie
Another end-of-the-summer action flick,
"Mile 22" is packed with gunfights, car chases, hand-to-hand combat
and the marvels of high-tech gadgetry.
Mark Wahlberg stars as James Silva, leader
of an elite paramilitary team in the CIA called Overwatch. His team
of foot soldiers includes Alice Kerr ("The Walking Dead's" Lauren
Cohan) and Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey). They are supported by a group of
people in a hub, surrounded by computer terminals, et al, handling
communications and surveillance, that is led by Bishop (John
Is it me, or is there ALWAYS a high-level
spook named Bishop in these movies?
Anyway, Silva is brilliant but also seen by
colleagues as obsessive, narcissistic and just an asshole. He can be
grating and abusive but otherwise trusts his team.
The plot of "Mile 22" centers around
Overwatch transporting a mysterious police office from a Far East
country to a plane and asylum. This man, Li Noor (Iko Uwais), claims
to be in possession of some vital information, and this appears to
substantiated, as the police force from which Li Noor is fleeing
seems to have an endless supply of manpower and artillery that it is
employing to kill the guy as well as Overwatch personnel.
Because the mission is being recalled via
flashbacks during a debriefing of Silva, it is obvious things went
way wrong. No spoilers here, but I will tell you the finale is so
obviously a set-up for a sequel.
"THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS"
Jim Henson might be spinning in his grave --
given he was buried rather than cremated -- over this movie.
Directed by his son Brian, "The Happytime
Murders" is not a family-friendly Muppet film. It is raunchy as one
can get, an R-rated comedy wherein the funny stuff is about as
unsophisticated as it can be. So this is a guilty pleasure through
Just like the Muppet movies, it is a film
that mingles a live cast with puppets. It is also a throwback to the
noir murder mysteries a la Raymond Chandler.
That Melissa McCarthy is the lead star in
this is no surprise. This is the kind of movie where she shines --
yeah the comedy is low-brow, but she is infectious in pulling it
off. But it is a surprise that Maya Rudolph, known for drama and
more gentle comedies, signed on to this.
Actually, the lead character in this is Phil
(voiced by Bill Baretta while Ryan Tran does the physical acting), a
puppet who is a disgraced police detective turned private
investigator in a Los Angeles where humans co-exist with
puppets but the puppets are marginalized -- an obvious dig at
prejudice that, while meaningful gets pushed a little too much here.
Just as he takes on a case of uncovering a
blackmail scheme, Phil soon finds himself drawn into a murder
mystery when his brother, who starred in a popular children's puppet
TV show, is killed, and soon other members of the cast are dying.
LAPD Lt. Banning (Leslie David Baker),
needing Phil's connection to the puppet world to help solve the
murders, teams him up with Det. Connie Edwards (McCarthy), who
happens to be Phil's former partner on the force, and the two have
been adversaries since a botched shooting.
Connie and Phil have to set aside their
differences and try to find out who is doing the murders and why.
Meanwhile, Phil's secretary Bubbles (Rudolph) becomes a valuable
The screenplay by Todd Berger, who has
written some shorts featuring the Smurfs and Kung Fu Panda, is rife
with the F-word and sex jokes as well as a jab at drug addiction --
what's snorted is not cocaine but the high it produces is extremely
But like a lot of these adult comedies,
there is a gentle soul underlying everything, harkening to honor,
trust and friendship. This movie, other than being a puppet-human
interaction effort, is not very original, but there are moments in
which you cannot help but laugh -- guiltily.
NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD / BLU-RAY:
"THE SONG OF SOLOMON"
Demonic possession has been a steady horror
sub-genre since Linda Blair, barely in her teens, portrayed the
sweet, innocent Regan in "The Exorcist," wherein she is transformed
into a hideous, foul-mouthed monster when her soul is invaded upon
by the demon Pazuzu.
These films, in which the main event is the
actual good vs. evil exorcism, have a very narrow corridor to
navigate when attempting to add something new to the theme.
"The Song of Solomon" is part of the
American Guinea Pig outlet of horror films, spawned from the Guinea
Pig element of underground graphic Japanese movies.
and directed by Stephen Biro, "Song of Solomon" centers around a
young woman named Mary (Jessica Cameron), who witnessed the brutal
suicide of her father and now appears to be possessed by a demon.
The emotional wallop of "The Exorcist"
stemmed from seeing Regan before the possession, and witnessing her
brutal descent into the physical and spiritual chaos once the demon
In "Solomon," Biro does not present any such
prelude. The only clues we get about Mary are culled from her
father's desperate, pre-suicide ravings, and from a brief interview
of Mary by a doctor. At first this seems to be an unfortunate
misfire, but as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Biro
has a bigger theme to spell out.
It has to do with the End Times, from the
biblical revelations of the rule of the Antichrist that is
subsequently squashed by the Second Coming of Christ.
The Ordinary (Andy Winton), a high official
of the Catholic Church, has received word from the highest echelons
of the church that this possession of Mary has the implications of
determining the fate of Heaven. Her soul must be saved or all is
lost. This may well lead to the Super Bowl of Exorcisms. The
Ordinary first dispatches Fathers Blake (Jim Van Bebber) and Lawson
(Scott Gabbey) to perform the exorcism. The Ordinary even gives
Father Blake an ultimate weapon -- one of the three Golden Bibles
of Antioch -- to use in the ritual.
The Ordinary does not tell Father Blake that
there is a contingency plan in the works: The Ordinary is ready to
send two more priests, Father Corbin (Gene Palubicki) and Father
Powell (David McMahon) to resume the exorcism should Blake and
Except for scenes in which The Ordinary
briefs Fathers Corbin and Powell, "Song of Solomon" from this point
focuses on the exorcism, where the priests are clearly overmatched.
This is where Cameron is showcased in a
performance wherein she literally puts her body through a ringer.
With unkempt, stringy hair and sans makeup, Mary looks to be beaten
by life. But, oh, the words she expels, courtesy of the demon, as
the exorcism goes one-on-one. And yep, there are body contortions
and skin cracking open.
And the regurgitation scene is one that
makes "The Exorcist's pea soup blast seem like child's play. You
might want to refrain from eating before viewing that scene. Also,
it is interesting to hear what Cameron had to say about that scene
in an interview included in the special features offerings.
The final act of "Song of Solomon" delivers
a horrifying jolt that concludes: nothing, but nothing, will stop
the biblical prophesies from transpiring.
Jessica Cameron's performance carries the
movie. Whatever she was before she became possessed, she now is an
entity that is wickedly confident, uncaring and terrifyingly
unstoppable. Even when she is restrained on the bed, she can shrug
off those "The power of Christ compels you" chants.
"Song of Solomon" is low-budget, financed by
Indigogo fundraising, but Biro and his team have put together a film
that looks high-budget. The special effects team of Marcus Koch and
Jerami Cruse -- the latter who was tasked with making Cameron's Mary
so hideous looking -- pulled off some incredible visuals.
Director of photography Chris Hilleke beautifully captured the mood
with a dark, ominous atmosphere.