Sunday, June 24, 2018


It’s hard to believe but it’s been 17 years since the first incarnation of the popular computer game character Lara Croft graced the big screen for the first time and 15 since the sequel followed. Both films did well and solidified Angelina Jolie as an action star at the time. Now the character has been brought back to film and the potential same trajectory for its star Alicia Vikander. Norwegian director Roar Uthaug helms this outing and does a wonderful job fulfilling the promise that was on display in his last film Norway’s THE WAVE.

The film opens with Lara as a small child spending time with her father Richard (Dominic West) before he heads out on his latest adventure. Fast forward to the present and Lara now finds herself strapped for cash, working as a bicycle delivery person and racing the city streets for extra cash to live on. Caught by police she’s rescued by the woman now in charge of the day to day operations of Croft Industries, Ana (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Ana wants Lara to settle down and take on the responsibilities that her father left her. If she fails to do so the entire company, including their estate, will be sold off. But even after 7 years Lara is unwilling to believe her father is dead. Meeting with the company lawyer Mr. Yaffe (Derek Jacobi) he presents her with a Japanese box puzzle her father left her before she signs the paper. Solving the puzzle she finds a note left just to her and follows the clues in it to a secret sanctuary her father kept on their property.

Inside she discovers an abundance of charts, maps, notes and books all that were used by her father in an attempt to discover the tomb of Himiko, a mythical queen who was said to have made the rivers run red with blood before her own soldiers captured her and imprisoned her in a tomb hidden on an uncharted island. He also leaves behind a video tape telling her to destroy all of his research. Knowing this is where her father went she follows in his footsteps hoping to find him ignoring his request.

Locating the son of the man who charted his ship for her father, the pair set off to follow his direction to the island that he found. The ship is lost at sea during a storm but fortunately near the island they were seeking. Knocked unconscious Lara wakes to find herself the captive of Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) who works for Trinity, the organization her father wanted to keep the information from. Instead he now possesses the book Richard left behind and the means to locate the tomb. Unless Lara can free herself and stop him first.

Like the video game the movies is based on there is plenty of adventure on hand here as well as enough stunts to keep a slew of union members employed. Also like the game the action is combined equally with the puzzles left to be solved by Lara, something she specializes in due to her father’s training. This makes for a special character for young girls to admire, a woman who outdoes the men in her life and proves she can be whatever she wants to be, a hero to be admired and emulated.

Vikander, who has been moving up slowly with feature turns in a number of films, seems destined for this role. She makes the character of Lara Croft seem more real than ever, a young woman with strong capabilities whose brain is a better asset than her body. Most incarnations of the character have been long on her short shorts and an over-endowed chest. Vikander doesn’t rely on these and instead presents the character more as an honest character. She may be athletically minded but not overly so.

While watching I was taken back to years ago when I sat down in a dark theater and watched as an archeologists by the name of Indiana Jones was unleashed upon the world. Lara Croft is similar to that character, a female incarnation if you will. By the end of the film you’ll be wishing that they continue using the character in more movies. The film is the perfect summer movie, a popcorn munching treat that will keep you entertained from start to finish.


The search for Bigfoot has increased over the past few years, in part fueled by the series FINDING BIGFOOT. Combined with previous efforts to find the elusive beast we’ve seen how groups of people have banded together to search for this creature. But before all of that there were movies being made about not just the search but encounters with Bigfoot or creatures like them. One of the most famous was THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK which fueled the films of its producer/director Charles B. Pierce. Another was the schlock drive in classic SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED. But one that rarely gets the attention it deserves is ABOMINABLE.

Made in 2006 on a minor budget the film didn’t play many theaters but became a hit on cable TV. I can remember it airing to little fanfare but after watching it I was stunned. The movie is far better than one would expect.

Matt McCoy stars as Preston Rogers, a well off young man who lost his wife during a mountain climbing accident a year earlier that left him bound to a wheelchair. His doctor feels that the best thing for him to do to get over the sadness and guilt he still feels for his wife’s death is to send him back to the cabin they shared near the mountain she fell from. Accompanied by a less than sympathetic nurse named Otis (Christien Tinsley who also helped with the creature effects) they reach their destination. Having forgotten a few supplies Otis leaves Preston behind in the cabin for the short trip to town.

While he’s gone new neighbors in the cabin next door arrive, a group of young women out to celebrate the impending wedding of one of their group. Preston hears them arrive, stereo blaring and watches as they unload and go into their cabin. He’s later caught looking at them through binoculars making them assume he’s a peeping tom. Looking into the woods he’s stunned to see a pair of red eyes looking back at him, bumps his chair and is knocked unconscious.

After a nap Preston wakes wondering why Otis hasn’t returned. Looking outside he sees a telephone pole blocking the road. Attempting to alert the girls next door they assume he’s doing more window watching and ignore him. One of the girls goes out to use her cell phone and after looking away for a moment, Preston sees she’s disappeared and her cell phone is laying on the ground.

A side note has three friends in the woods attempting to track down the best that killed the dog belonging to one of them during a short opening segment. As they do so they hear something in the woods. As one of them tracks it down, he finds the first missing girl as well as the beast, hightailing it back to the campfire and more fire power. But the odds of their surviving are slim.

Unable to get to their cabin because of his condition Preston is helpless to do anything but watch as the beast attacks and abducts another girl which the rest later discover. He yells to them and attempts to get them to his cabin but the beast attacks again. Not all will make it but one does. Now Preston and the girl must do what they can to survive before the beast returns.

Director Ryan Schifrin does an amazing job of telling the story using glimpses of the creature throughout the film but finally delivering with some great looking special effects to allow the viewers to see the creature full on. This doesn’t cheat the viewer with a movie that never shows the monster in question but is used sparingly leaving you wanting more. He builds the tension nicely here, forcing the viewer to feel concern for Preston who is unable to do much confined to his wheelchair but not giving in at the same time.

While watching I kept thinking that the film felt like a combination of Alfred Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW melded with a Bigfoot film. I was pleased to find that this was what Schifrin was going for in the extras as he talked about the film. It does so in such a way as to not be a rip off of the classic film but putting its own twist on the idea and it works marvelously.

The acting is something that could have killed this movie. In the hands of terrible actors the movie would have been difficult to watch. Not to worry. McCoy does a fantastic job. Having seen him before I often wondered why he was never a much bigger star than he was. Haley Joel as Amanda, the girl that makes it to his cabin, also turns in a great performance. Her character isn’t the standard dumb blonde bimbo here but someone capable of helping Preston as the two of them face off against the monster. Familiar faces to horror fans will be found here as well. Dee Wallace and Rex Linn are the wife and farmer attacked in the opening sequence, Jeffrey Combs and Lance Henriksen are the two friend accompanying Linn when they go searching for the monster, Paul Gleason and Phil Morris are the sheriff and deputy respectfully going to check on things and Tiffany Shepis is on hand to do what she does best which is be a scream queen.

Without giving it away or supplying any clues one more thing needs noted and that’s the ending of the film. Where some movies on the subject leave you hanging or completely cheat you (as in WILLOW CREEK which I found to be a major disappointment) this one delivers what I think is one of the greatest endings of a horror film in some time. Enough so that I found myself smiling before the end credits began rolling.

MVD is releasing this film as part of their MVD Rewind collection, complete with old mom and pop video store packaging. Not only that they’re releasing it with a brand-New 2K High-Definition transfer from the original camera negative giving it the greatest looking picture possible on screen. Extras are plentiful here with an audio commentary track with Schifrin, McCoy and Combs, an introduction by Schifrin, BACK TO GENRE: MAKING ABOMINABLE a featurette on the making of the movie, deleted scenes and extended scenes, outtakes and bloopers, SHADOWS Schifrin’s USC student film, BASIL & MOBIUS: NO REST FOR THE WICKED a short film written and directed by Schifrin with a score by his famous father Lalo Schifrin, the original 2005 version of the film, an improved version of the film with some minor alterations, the original theatrical trailer, a poster and still gallery, a storyboard gallery and a collectible poster.

This is a must have movie for both Bigfoot fans and horror fans. It delivers on all levels. Even fans of suspense films will want to make a point of watching this one. I know for myself I plan to keep this one handy so I can enjoy it again in the near future. I truly enjoyed it and can’t recommend it enough.


We live in a world where there seems to be little hope. The press has always been fueled by cynicism and pessimism, the catch phrase “if it bleeds it leads” a style of reporting that focuses on the bad with rarely any good news to be found. And abundance of social media has amplified those stories and more with people sometimes using them to do more harm than good. A culture of hoping for failure in a President that some didn’t think won the election or disgust at those who disagree with him is running rampant. Surely there has to be something good in this world.

There is. There has been all along. And on occasion it takes something that takes form in a movie, a book or a song to remind us of that. While the negative aspects of life are being pumped at us non-stop at the same time faith based films are not only on the rise but doing well at the box office. Hollywood is stunned by their success and continue to promote their values rather than those of their audience. So when a movie like I CAN ONLY IMAGINE does big box office one can only hope they take notice.

Based on the hit song and the life of its composer the movie is one the entire family can enjoy in spite of the troubles the lead character faces. J. Michael Finley stars as Bart Millard. As a child his home life is nothing but tumultuous. His parents fight all the time and his father Arthur (Dennis Quaid) is prone to beating his son. Bart has a strong faith though encouraged by his “Meemaw” (Cloris Leachman). He also has support in the girl he has a crush on, Shannon. He even carves their initials on the bridge at church camp.

But coming home from camp Bart discovers his mother has left both him and his father. In an effort to find a connection with his father he does what he can to please him. Being an ex-football star Bart follows in his father’s footsteps until an injury sidelines him for good. In order to get enough credits to graduate he signs up for glee club. With no known talent he’s assigned to become the tech crew but when the teacher hears him singing she gives him the lead in the school musical. His undiscovered talent is found.

Shannon (Madeline Carroll) goes off to college and Bart picks up with a band in need of a singer, seeming to drift apart. Still strong in his faith they tour the Christian youth circuit and develop a following. When manager Brickell (Trace Adkins) hears them he tells them they have talent but they’re not ready. He sees that Bart has songwriting talent but has one thing holding him back from telling his story. That one item that he is running from and yet to confront: his father.

The movie is not an immediate rags to riches story. Rather than focus on the success that Bart Willard later found with his band MercyMe, this is the more personal tale of how he found his own voice and how that translated into a song that has touched millions of lives. It’s a story of pain and anguish and suffering that’s turned around into a tale of forgiveness and affection.  The movie could have taken a different road but instead stayed true to the source material (as much as any movie can) capturing the essence of what inspired the creation of the song in the title.

In making a movie like this it provides hope for the world. It shows that we might not like what’s happening in our lives but if we retain our faith then all things are possible. They might not happen when we want them to or how we want them to but they eventually do happen. It provides a ray of sunshine in world we now live in where all we hear about is the bad in spite of good things taking place.

Finley does a great job here as Bart, the unlikely hero of the story. He’s not in typical Hollywood leading man model but he provides an honest look that matches the real man the film is about. While this is his first film he makes the character of Bart come alive and seem like the honest to goodness person he is. Quaid has had ups and downs in his career and I’ve always thought he deserved more credit than he got. His portrayal of a man disillusioned by being forced to abandon his dreams who crushes those of his child, the meanest father depicted on screen in some time who seeks forgiveness as his life moves on is done in some subtle ways that make his the standout performance here. He deserves Oscar recognition for best supporting actor but being a faith based film the odds of that are unlikely.

This review is not an attempt to deliver a sermon. It is a recognition of a job well done by all involved. It is supportive of a movie that at least attempts to provide a glimpse of what could be for so many, just like the song it is based on does. If you take just under the 2 hours that the film runs to sit and watch it perhaps it could make you think of someone who needs forgiving and it might renew your faith as well. What better thing could a movie offer?