By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
"THE INVISIBLE MAN"
Expectations were high when it became
known that a remake of the old horror-thriller classic "The
Invisible Man" was going to be penned by screenwriter and sometime
director Leigh Whannell. It was Whannell who introduced us the
hideous concept in "Saw" and eventual creation of Jigsaw that has
propelled Tobin Bell into horror movie superstardom with that Jigsaw
characterization. Whannell also brought to the screen the iconic
psychic Elise Rainier, played by Lin Shaye, in the "Insidious"
Now updated with all the technology at the
hands of even the common folk, "The Invisible Man," which Whannell
also directed, is an excellent modern rendering of a classic.
Under Whannell's script and direction,
"Invisible Man" is very much the showcase of a capable actress,
Elisabeth Moss ("The Handmaid's Tale), who plays Cecelia, who on the
surface seems to have found a dream life. A graduate in
architecture, Cecilia is now married to Adrian Griffin (Oliver
Jackson-Cohen), a wealthy technology wizard. They live in a vast
home overlooking the Pacific Ocean up in the Northern California.
But as the movie begins, we see Cecilia in
the middle of the night carrying out a detailed plan to leave
Adrian, and we see that this home is more like a fortress and a
prison. She manages to escape, thanks to some help from her sister
Emily (Harriet Dyer) and finds refuge in the home of a close friend
James Lanier (Aldis Hodge), a police detective and single father of
a teen daughter Sydney (Storm Reid).
Cecilia has a savage case of agoraphobia,
terrified Adrian might track her down, but has to break out of that
when she learns Adrian has committed suicide. Cecilia has a hard
time believing a controlling narcissist like Adrian would kill
himself. Nevertheless, she meets with Adrian's brother Tom (Michael
Dorman), who has been tasked with executing the will. Cecilia will
get $5 million provided she does not commit any crimes or show signs
of mental stability.
Naturally, Cecilia starts experiencing
strange things that are pushing her already strong notion that
Adrian, not only a techno genius but a master psychological
manipulator, rigged his death and still is going after her.
As Cecilia gathers evidence to prove her
theory, of course she starts sounding crazy, and things are
happening that alienate Cecilia from the people closest to her,
shutting down her support system. And events take a deadly turn.
Whannell is spot on in creating suspense and
tension and hits the audience with a couple of terrifying and
It is Moss, however, who brings this story
to life. Throughout the movie you root for her, while also getting
exasperated by some of her dumb actions. And you wonder if she is
ever going to wise up and turn the tables on her pursuer. Moss also
took a physical as well as emotional beating as Cecelia, and really
has to dig deep and develop some resolve and cleverness to survive.
The supporting cast is excellent as well,
with Dyer as the skeptical sister having to wrestle with the belief
Cecilia has gone mad; Hodge as Cecilia's friend who as a trained
police detective finds it hard to swallow what she is declaring and
also tends to admit the woman has gone crazy; Reid, who was so good
in the underappreciated "Don't Let Go" last year, offers tender
moments as a young lady is has become sort of a little sister to
Cecelia. Although Jackson-Cohen has very little screen time, his
Adrian character's evil has been cleverly mirrored in the actions of
Dorman as Adrian's brother Tom, who is not what he seems.
"The Invisible Man" is a rarity these days
in being a mainstream horror-thriller film that actually is pretty
good. Blumhouse, the top horror movie studio these days, doesn't
always put out good scary flicks (see "Fantasy Island" below), but
it does come through at times, such as with "The Invisble Man.
"THE INVISIBLE MAN"
"THE LAST FULL MEASURE"
Although it has run its course as a
theatrical release, grossing only $2.8 million, "The Last Full
Measure" is worthy of a viewing when it shows up on other platforms.
Written and directed by Todd Robinson and featuring a stellar cast,
it is the story of how a Vietnam War hero is posthumously awarded
the Medal of Honor, thanks to the efforts of a Department of Defense
Sebastian Stan, known for his work as
Marvel's Winter Soldier, is a different kind of fighter in "The Last
Full Measure." As Scott Huffman, he is a rising star in the DOD in
the late 1990s who is given what is considered a quick-solution
throwaway assignment of placating a Vietnam vet named Tully (William
Hurt), who has been lobbying for an Air Force para-rescue colleague,
Airman William H. Pitsenbarger, to receive the Medal of Honor for
his actions that cost him his life during one of the deadliest days
of the war in Southeast Asia. Pitsenbarger already had been a
decorated airman for his actions in Vietnam, but had been overlooked
for what is the highest honor bequeathed upon a person in the
Huffman, a family man with a young son and
another child on the way, is reluctant to do a follow-up on this
case and initially agrees with his direct supervisor, Carlton
Stanton (Bradley Whitford, "The Handmaid's Tale"), that this should
be wrapped up quickly.
However, as Huffman interviews vets who were
in the deadly battle in which Pitsenbarger was killed, he becomes
more drawn into the story, and when he meets with Pitsenbarger's
gracious and dignified parents, Frank and Alice (Christopher
Plummer and Diane Ladd), he goes all in to see to it the late young
airman receives the honor.
Each of the vets Huffman talks to carry
scars, emotionally as well as physically, in addition to some
amounts of guilt. Takoda (Samuel L. Jackson) and Ray Mott (Ed
Harris) in particular have been burdened with an inability to
forgive themselves for that day and how they dealt with it later.
And Jimmy Burr (the late Peter Fonda in one of his final roles) is
so messed up he can barely function, still mentally in the war.
"The Last Full Measure" shows the mire that
is a government bureaucracy, and as Huffman becomes more invested in
the Pitsenbarger case, he is warned by Stanton to ease up, be a good
little government employee and don't make waves. But Huffman
believes whatever sacrifices he makes in his career are worthy of an
effort to see that Pitsenbarger is honored.
On that fateful day in Vietnam, soldiers are
ambushed and some miscalculations make the horror worse via
misdirected friendly fire. Pitsenbarger and Tully are Air Force
para-rescue specialists sent in to extract wounded soldiers. When
the platoon being attacked loses its medic, Pitsenbarger rappels
down to the fighting zone to treat the wounded, and when it comes
time for the Air Force choppers to leave, Pitsenbarger elects to
stay on the ground, where he is later killed when his takes up a
weapon and fights.
There are several emotional moments in this
movie. Late in the investigation, Huffman goes to Vietnam and meets
with Kepper (John Savage), who takes him to the actual site of the
battle. Keppel has managed to find peace and urges Huffman, whose
empathy has grown strong, to let it all out. In another scene,
reminiscent of when Conrad (Timothy Hutton) comes to grips with his
survival guilt in "Ordinary People," Hurt's Tully is finally able to
accept that his survival really is a tribute to his fallen hero.
Eventually, Huffman comes through and the
Medal of Honor is presented at a ceremony attended by not only
those who lived through that hellish day, but other vets as well,
and those who did live because of Pitsenbarger's bravery finally are
able to come to terms with it.
The script offers this pro cast a chance to
shine. Fonda is stunning as the damaged Jimmy Burr, who luckily has
a dedicated wife, Donna (Amy Madigan) by his side. Harris as Mott
offers some nice moments as a vet-turned-school bus driver who
motors that bus everywhere he goes, and then gets some redemption
when he finally gets a chance to carry out a final request by
For William Hurt, this is one of his
biggest movie roles in years. I am old enough to remember when he
exploded on the movie world in the early 1980s with "Altered
States" and "Body Heat" and then had a run of critically acclaimed
roles in "The Big Chill," "Broadcast News," "Children of a Lesser
God," and his Academy Award performance in "Kiss of the Spider
Woman." Plummer seems to be great in everything he is doing these
days, showing age does not always diminish skills. And kudos to
Madigan, Ladd and Alison Sudol (as Tara Huffman) for their
perspectives as supporting mates.
"The Last Full Measure" is a
lump-in-the-throat movie and but ultimately despite the brutal
realities of war, leaves you feeling fulfilled.
"THE LAST FULL MEASURE"
"THE RHYTHM SECTION"
"The Rhythm Section" is based on the
first of four Stephanie Patrick novels written by Mark Burnell, and
even with Blake Lively in the starring role, it looks like any hopes
of there being any additional Stephanie Patrick movies are, like the
shark Lively battled in "The Shallows," dead in the water.
The script was written by Burnell himself
and the movie directed by Reed Morano ("The Handmaid's Tale"), but
when it hit the theaters in February, it garnered a paltry $891 per
screen in its first week and is pretty much played out as a theater
It is an OK thriller, and Lively put a lot
of physicality into the role as Stephanie -- she even broke her hand
during filming -- so one can hope it reaches an audience via other
Lively's Stephanie Patrick is a woman who is
suffering from richly deserved survivor guilt after her family is
killed in a commercial airplane crash. She deals with this tragedy
in a predictable way, turning to prostitution and drug addiction to
Her way out of this mire comes when she is
approached by an investigative reporter, Proctor (Raza Jaffrey), who
informs the addled woman that the fatal crash was not an accident
but a result of terrorism -- and the perpetrator is still on the
loose. Proctor's flat is wallpapered with research on the crash, and
once Stephanie clears her head she soaks up some of this information
and now becomes energized by a drive to gain revenge on the man who
built and planted the bomb on the plane.
Her clumsy initial foray into fighting
terrorism is understandably amateurish and ends up tragically.
However, Stephanie learns of a reclusive former intelligence
operative, B (Jude Law) and manages to convince him to train her to
become a lethal agent herself. B finally realizes she is totally
dedicated to her objective and works her hard. Upon finishing the
training, B gives her a new identity as Petra, a professional killer
now missing and believed dead. B gives her a final test assignment
and even though it doesn't turn out like B would have preferred, he
allows her to continue the pursuit of the bomber and whoever else
might be linked to the attack.
Lively, married to Ryan "Deadpool" Reynolds
and the mother of three children, has proven she can handle physical
roles with "The Shallows," and while Morano does handle the action
scenes with flair, he gets bogged down in too many places where
Burnell's script becomes too talky.
Overall, "The Rhythm Section" minimally does
what it set out to do. But in the end, there really is no desire to
see Stephanie/Petra in action again.
"THE RHYTHM SECTION"
This looked intriguing. A horror version of
the 1970s television series "Fantasy Island" that featured Ricardo
Montalban and HerveVillechaize. I mean, it WAS going to be a horror
adaptation, right? After all, Jason Blum and his Blumhouse studios
was behind it, this company being a factory of scary movies.
Well, this "Fantasy Island" is NOT a horror
movie, or if it is being marketed as such, it's pretty tame.
It's hard to say exactly what it is. Yes,
there is violence, some action, and island employees who have
zombie-like powers to come back to life. But the death toll is
minimal at best.
It starts out like a horror movie, with a
woman, Sloane (Portia Doubleday) running for her life, in vain of
course, through a jungle. She is dragged away to some unknown but
likely hideous fate.
Sometime later, THE PLANE (or "De PLANE!" as
Villachaize's Tattoo would exclaim) arrives on this tropical island
and the lucky five people who are going to have their fantasies
fulfilled are greeted by Mr. Roarke (Michael Pena) and his
assistant, who is not Tattoo, but a young lady named Julia (Parisa
Fitz-Henley). Roarke gives them a brief orientation with the decree
that the fantasies must come to their logical conclusion without any
The fantasies include a
party-booze-women-(and men) scenario, a chance to be a war hero, an
opportunity to rectify a turned-down marriage proposal and a chance
to avenge being tormented by a bully.
Featured in the trailers was the
revenge scenario in which Melanie (Lucy Hale from "Blumhouse's Truth
it Dare") gets to inflict painful punishment on the person who
picked on her when she was a teen. Turns out to be the previously
seen Sloane, and soon Melanie, who believes that the Sloane she is
punishing is only a hologram, realizes that it is the actual
woman. Before long, former adversaries Melanie and Sloane are
united in quest to flee the island.
Meanwhile, Damon (Michael Rooker, looking
like he just wandered off "The Walking Dead" set) is lurking about
in the forest, but has his own agenda that does not include stalking
and killing people. Oh, well.
It is Maggie Q's character Gwen who wants to
alter the agreement, realizing that her fantasy really is
unfulfilling and begs Roarke to allow her another fantasy that will
liberate her psychologically. Against his better judgment, Roarke
I will credit the writing team of Jillian
Jacobs, Christopher Roach and Jeff Wadlow with an interesting
premise that ties these five people's lives together, but they write
themselves into a trap. "Fantasy Island" ends up a revenge movie
with some plot holes that are best not to mull over. Otherwise
you'll be saying, "wait a minute."
"Fantasy Island" is not a bad movie. It has
some problems with its tone and is one of those films that will
easily be forgotten within months by those who saw it.
"BRAHMS: THE BOY II"
Well, we knew this was coming. At the end of
"The Boy," which hit theaters in 2016, Brahms, the lifelike doll
that a couple was raising as if it were alive to cope with the death
of their real child, is smashed to bits, but the closing scene shows
someone putting the doll back together. So the cards were dealt -- a
sequel was very likely.
Thus here it is. With the same director and
writer (William Brent Bell and Stacey Menear, respectively), at
least there might be some continuity to the story. But really. Is
another chapter needed here?
Well, "Brahms: The Boy II" twice had its
release date postpone. That hinted trouble.
The death toll in "Brahms" is two. Its creep
factor is zero. Thankfully it runs only 84 minutes.
Katie Holmes stars as Liza, a happily
married woman with a young son, Jude (Christopher Convery). After a
traumatic experience in which Liza is nearly killed and Jude, who
witnessed the horror has become withdrawn and does not talk anymore,
just communicating via notes, Liza and husband Sean (Owain Yeoman)
decide to take up residence in the country and end up at the guest
house of the Heel shire Mansion, where all these bad things
centering around Brahms took place.
There, Jude finds the Brahms doll buried in
the woods near the mansion. Why it is buried there is a mystery, but
Jude becomes quite attached to the doll and treats it as if it were
alive. Sean and Liza are a little concerned about this but
consulting with the psychiatrist treating Jude, they are told this
could be a way for Jude to mend himself.
Naturally, paranormal things begin to happen
and Jude's behavior gets more erratic and we see Liza doing the
usual online searches wherein she learns about the sinister history
of Heelshire. A bit too late, unfortunately.
But the overall effect of "Brahms" is,
basically, boredom. Sadly, the end is a hint that another "Boy"
movie is being considered. Now THAT is scary.