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Kong: Skull Island (2017)
Kong As Island Defender
Exciting new version of the King Kong story stars John Goodman as a secret government representative(Monarch) organizing a team of fellow scientists and soldiers(led by Samuel L. Jackson) to explore the mythical Skull Island which is inhabited by a variety of monsters, with Kong being the apparent King of, though he is often in battle with an aggressive species of giant iguana-like lizards that threaten all their lives. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson also star as a tracker and photographer to aid the mission, though John C. Reilly also shines as a stranded WWII soldier who attempts to lead the survivors off the island to rescue...if they can survive the journey.
Excellent F/X bring Kong to vivid life like never before, though of course the original 1933 version is still best. Second in a series of updated Toho "monsterverse" films, in which Kong, Godzilla(2014) and other Japanese monster stars will appear.
Rogue One (2016)
A Story Of Hope
First in the stand-alone/spin-off series of "Star Wars" films is a winner. Set in-between Episodes III & IV, story has a ragtag group of rebels(led by Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones) who are made aware of an alarming new super-weapon just completed by the Empire called the Death Star that is capable of destroying whole planets, and so come up with a desperate plan(aided by the Rebel Alliance) to steal the schematics of it in order to exploit a weakness built into it by a most personal architect and "collaborator" - Jyn's father Galen(played by Mads Mikkelsen), though that won't be so easy, as Darth Vader(still voiced by James Earl Jones) is on the way to stop them...
Superb prequel takes its time to build, but delivers a rousing third act filled with well-staged ground and outer space battle scenes that gives this a welcome gritty feel. Filled with knowing cameos(especially regarding Grand Moff Tarkin) and touches, film is obviously made with love and respect by director Gareth Edwards and the whole crew, with a final sequence and scene that hits the bulls-eye.
Will give real hope to "Star Wars" fans that new parent company Walt Disney is on the right path at last, though of course only time will tell for now...
Phantasm: Ravager (2016)
End Of The Road
Fifth and final film in this series is mostly a showcase for stalwart series star Reggie Bannister as Reggie, former ice cream vendor turned wandering warrior still in pursuit of the evil Tall man(played by the late Angus Scrimm) in his never-ending plan of world domination, which seems to be coming true, though it is equally possible that poor Reggie is suffering from dementia, since he is visited in hospital by an older Mike(A. Michael Baldwin) who thinks it's all in his addled mind, though both realities seem to be converging to a final reckoning point...
A much-delayed, low-budget yet ambitious sequel that was produced sporadically over many years, which explains the patchy and convoluted narrative structure presented here, which is of course the chief problem. Unlike Part I(even II), there is little here that is eerie or original, and expecting any kind of proper closure at this point is ultimately futile, despite the earnest efforts of everyone involved. Still, "Phans" will want to see it regardless, as(for better or worse) this is the end... though you will certainly want to stay through the closing credits!
The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The Hodgson Haunting
James Wan returned to direct this superb sequel that sees Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga resuming their roles of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are first seen(in a most effective prologue) investigating the notorious Amityville haunting in 1976, before moving forward a year to being asked by the Church to look into the veracity of the reports of a haunting in Enfield, England, where the Hodgson family(a single mother and her four children) are being terrorized by a seemingly evil old man who had died in the house, but as the Warrens discover, the situation is far more complicated and sinister than that...A match for the original, this intelligent, chilling, frightening sequel is even better, with a well crafted plot that pays off emotionally and spiritually by the heart-stopping climax. A model of its kind, and further installments done like this would be most welcome, as there are still more cases to tell...
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Eighth "X-Men" film,(though the first one taking place entirely in the new, altered time-line) is set in 1983, where a powerful, ancient mutant named Apocalypse(played by Oscar Issac) has been reawakened, and is hellbent on ridding the world of all traces of human civilization, who enlists four mutants(Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto) to help him in this task, though the combined powers of Charles Xavier, Mystique, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast, Nightcrawler and Qucksilver may be too much even for a self-styled god... Action packed if bloated entry has big ideas but fairly routine execution, and I still think this new time-line(effectively negating five of the first six films in the franchise!) is quite needless and misguided.
Hugh Jackman does make a brief, obligatory appearance which sets up the planned ninth film in the series. Wolverine is not done just yet it seems...
Jurassic World (2015)
The Park Goes Global
22 years after the disastrous events of the first film, a new park(renamed World) was built upon the ruins of the original, and has been a huge success for about a decade, but an increasingly apathetic public has led the new corporate owners to authorize an experimental dinosaur created from various DNA sources that is large, fierce, and intelligent, so naturally breaks free of its paddock to wreck havoc, creating a domino effect of calamities that will lead to even more destruction and loss of life. Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt co-star, as does returning actor B.D. Wong as Dr. Henry Wu from the first film.
Fourth film in this series was a massive hit, effectively updating the story to 2015 and a new generation. Good plot and characters, exciting action by director Colin Trevorrow, though of course this is(intentionally) much like the original.
Ending of course sets up the planned Part V...
The Outer Limits: The Premonition (1965)
Dewey Martin stars as Jim Darcy, an Air Force pilot who is flying an experimental X-15 plane when it hits a sonic boom and suddenly crash lands. Jim is safe without injury, but his wife Linda(played by Mary Murphy) is also driving close by, and goes to him when they both realize that a freak accident of the plane hitting Mach 6 has somehow caused them to trip the time barrier a short distance into the future, where everyone is frozen until time catches up with them, which means they must be back in their proper places, or be stuck in limbo like some poor man/being they encounter at the airbase, not to mention they must save their little girl who is about to be hit by a truck after leaving her daycare center... Interesting episode has good acting and involving characters, with the limbo man especially tragic.
The Outer Limits: The Probe (1965)
Last episode of the series sees a cargo plane traveling through a hurricane and making a crash landing into the sea. The survivors(including Peter Mark Richman and Peggy Ann Garner) find that their rubber life raft is not on the water, but instead is on a metal surface, and indeed they appear to be inside some mysterious structure that turns out to be an unmanned alien probe that had scooped them up for examination, though a strange microbe creature has escaped sterilization, which just might keep them alive if they can figure out a way to communicate their plight to the unknown intelligence...Good episode has fine acting and an intriguing premise that holds viewer interest. Though the series' cancellation was unfortunate, this does at least provide a fitting end.
Anthony Eisley stars as Colonel Barham, a dying astronaut confined to a wheelchair who volunteers to be a part of an experimental operation that will see his healthy brain removed from his body, and placed in a complex artificial container connected with a supercomputer that will allow him to undertake the mission to Mars that is being planned. Unfortunately, the arrogant-minded Barham becomes even more so, developing an inflated egomania and a dangerous form of mind control that threatens the lives of the staff. Grant Williams also stars as Major McKinnon, and Elizabeth Perry as the Colonel's wife. Uninspired episode is mired in too many clichés to succeed.
The Outer Limits: Counterweight (1964)
A six person crew(played by Michael Constantine, Jacqueline Scott, Sandy Kenyon, Crahan Denton, Larry Ward, Charles Radilac) has volunteered to participate in the first simulated test space flight to the planet Antheon. There is even a panic button on board that, if pushed, will immediately end the flight, and any chance of their going on the real thing. The captain(played by Stephen Joyce) and stewardess(played by Shary Marshall) do what they can to help, but paranoia and personality clashes emerge, threatening the success of this experiment, as some malignant force seems determined to stop the mission... Tedious episode misfires much like the flight itself, though the monster is nicely done.