I ADMIT I DO HAVE MY FAVORITES. My top three to see when I go to a zoo are the monkeys, big cats and bears. Chimpanzees, in particular, have a special place inside of me since my first stuffed animal was one. When I visit a zoo or a variation of an animal sanctuary, I not only pay attention to those animals that attract a crowd of people, but also to those less popular ones. I find it interesting; no matter which zoo I am visiting, the same type of animals draws the same size crowds. From my observations animals that have fur or hair are more popular than those that have scales or bare skin. There are always more people around a giraffe than a snake. I believe the more an animal has human like mannerisms, the more comfortable humans are around it. Many times, I have seen throngs of people gravitate to the bear enclosure when someone is trying to get one of the bears to sit up for a peanut or marshmallow (not that I am condoning the feeding of animals). You should hear the people laugh and cheer if the bear not only sits up but catches the tossed food item in its mouth. It is as if one were teaching their pet; there is a connection being made to something familiar. THE ANIMALS THAT TEND TO SCARE or at least cause people to be fearful are those that do not display any type of human characteristics. Snakes, bats and spiders come to mind first for me, as examples. Pair up a tiger stalking its prey and a snake doing the same thing; I am willing to bet people will have a more negative reaction to the snake than the tiger. Image how many more children became fearful of snakes due to the Harry Potter books? There is nothing cuddly or warm about snakes; people tend to put negative connotations on the species. All snakes are trying to do is survive, just like any other animal. Now I grant you if a movie studio wants to do a non-fantasy horror film, the easiest thing for them to do is to demonize a less popular animal. Something on the order of a killer shark or piranhas would easily fit the bill. Sure, there have been rabid dogs and angry birds; but, they all miss what I refer to as the “ick” factor. There is something about a hairless/furless crazed animal that scares us more. See for yourself in this action, adventure horror film. DESPITE BEING IN THE PATH OF A category 5 hurricane Harley, played by Kaya Scodelario (The Maze Runner franchise, Moon), would not let anything stop her from checking up on her dad Dave, played by Barry Pepper (True Grit, The Green Mile). What she found could easily kill her. With Morfydd Clark (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Call Up) as Beth, Ross Anderson (Unbroken, The Silent Storm) as Wayne and relative newcomer Anson Booth as Stan; the animals were the stars of this picture. The acting did not move me much; however, I put most of the blame of it on the script. It did not make sense in parts and I felt the writers were trying too hard to make the viewers care for the actors. There was not anything that made me jump out of my seat; it was more of me feeling “icky” at several scenes. Again, this was simply due to the animals in the story. If the writers had gone the campy route, this could have been a fun B movie. As it stands now, it was just okay. Okay like watching a past movie released in the theaters airing repeatedly on television. If there is nothing else playing, one might decide to see this one. Just remember there will be blood in the water.
Throughout the animal kingdom there are numerous examples of the mother and father protecting their young. A docile animal turns into a ferocious killer when her or his child is being threatened. Among humans, how many of us have heard amazing stories of a parent’s sudden super human strength to save their child? Though I am not a parent, I can understand that protective instinct. When my niece and nephew were little, whenever we were out in public, I usually walked behind them and their parents. It was something that instinctively occurred in me; looking out for any potential danger that might bring harm to them. Starting out with the similar premise of a parent protecting their child, this action film had everything in place to create a tense story inspired by true events. With his son jailed for possession of drugs, it would take something creative for John Matthews, played by Dwayne Johnson (Tooth Fairy, The Rundown), to get his son out before the hardcore inmates would beat his son to death. Striking an unusual deal with district attorney Joanne Keeghan, played by Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage, Mr. Woodcock), John would go undercover to set up a sting operation for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Let us do a quick review here: we have a parent willing to do anything for their child, dangerous inmates and drug dealers. Sounds like an exciting movie to me; I was completely wrong. It seemed as if all the actors had the life sucked out of them, going through their motions in a deflated state. I gave credit to Dwayne Johnson for taking on a serious role, but his inexperience in a dramatic role led to a poor performance. Besides Susan Sarandon getting a badly written role, I was stunned with Benjamin Bratt (Miss Congeniality, Love in the Time of Cholera) as drug kingpin Juan Carlos “El Topo” Pintera. There was zero depth to his character. The only thing that resembled excitement was the car/truck chase scene and Barry Pepper (Broken City, True Grit) as Agent Cooper. I can only imagine what the parents of the writers and director must feel about their children’s work after seeing this dull film. Brief scenes with blood.
1 3/4 stars
Greed is that insidious demon that once fed will forever more be hungry. Through the years it seems as if there has been an increase in the amount of corruption and greed in the world. Living in a state that has had an over abundance of corrupt politicians, I find it absolutely despicable that the men and women who have been elected into public office have so little regard for the people who elected them. I guess having the adulation and support from the masses is not enough to support their egos. In this crime thriller corruption became a deadly business. Private investigator Billy Taggart, played by Mark Wahlberg (Ted, The Fighter) was hired by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler, played by Russell Crowe (Les Miserables, Robin Hood), to follow his wife Cathleen, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones (No Reservations, Entrapment). But when Billy discovered he was set up for a more diabolical reason, he would need his years of police training to seek out revenge. The idea behind this story was solid enough to have built an exciting, tense drama. Unfortunately the writer and director were ill equipped to make this happen. The acting was dull; Mark Wahlberg was beyond generic, having acted the same way 100 times before. There were fringe characters that popped in and out as the story tumbled into a mess. The only character I found interesting was Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks, who was played by the underrated but always excellent actor Jeffrey Wright (Source Code, Quantum of Solace). I kept looking at my watch throughout this film; never a good sign. The only pleasure I received was from the quick ending, even with its cheesiness. I am afraid the real crime being done here was me buying a ticket to see this poorly done movie.
1 2/3 stars
Hawaii is one of the three states I have left to visit to complete my list of seeing all 50 states. I am saving it for last because I want to spend more time there to explore the islands. From friends’ descriptions I know I want to hike to the top of a dormant volcano, where clouds can be found nestling in its crater. Just from the photos I have seen, it appears as if the colors bursting from thick foliage, abundantly blankets the land. With these visions as a constant reminder, I was eager to receive this movie based on true events. Set in the late 1800’s the story was about Princess Kaiulani, played by Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World, Neverland), the last royal family member of the Hawaiian monarchy. As a young girl she was sent to England for her safety. Being schooled and raised in a foreign land was hard for the princess; some people referred to her as the “Barbarian Princess.” However, it was in England where she eventually fell in love with Clive Davies, played by Shaun Evans (Being Julia, Cashback). With the United States looking to colonize her country, the Princess would have to choose between her love for Clive or her homeland. The historical aspect of the story, such as it was here, was what held my interest in this film. My lack of knowledge in Hawaii’s colonization made this viewing experience sad for me. The beauty of the land was finely displayed in the filming. I thought this movie’s downfall was the love interest part. Even if it was true, it was a distraction for what had a bigger impact as a story–the royal monarchy versus the United States. The acting was forgettable for the most part; however, I thought the scene with President Grover Cleveland was well done. Though I still plan on visiting Hawaii one day, I now realize the road to paradise was filled with potholes.
1 3/4 stars — DVD