Movie Review: “Deepwater Horizon”

Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Dylan O’Brien, Ethan Suplee
Peter Berg

Everyone remembers the images of the BP oil spill that dominated the TV news cycle back in 2010 – the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig engulfed in flames, the rivers of black crude oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico – but not many people know the details of what actually happened. It remains the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, and director Peter Berg recreates it in stunningly authentic detail for his latest film. But while “Deepwater Horizon” is a pretty effective disaster movie with some decent thrills and enough explosions to make even Michael Bay jealous, it doesn’t seem to have a purpose. It works just fine as a dramatic reenactment of corporate greed gone horribly wrong, but unlike the real-life incident, it will quickly be forgotten.

There were a lot of heroes aboard the Deepwater Horizon on that fateful day, but Berg centers on a quartet of Transocean contractors – including chief electronics technician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), bridge officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and floorhand Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) – to tell the harrowing tale. When Mike, Jimmy and Andrea arrive on the offshore drilling rig for a three-week shift, they discover that an important safety procedure has been ignored due to the project falling behind schedule. Adamant about the safety of his crew, Jimmy insists that they run some additional tests before anyone begins drilling, much to the annoyance of BP executive Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich). After the tests prove inconclusive, Vidrine pressures the workers into starting the job anyway, leading to the tragic accident that claimed the lives of 11 men and caused irreparable damage to the surrounding waters.

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Movie Review: “Penguins of Madagascar”

Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich
Eric Darnell & Simon J. Smith

And so it’s come to this: spinoffs.

To be fair, “Penguins of Madagascar” makes perfect business sense on a number of levels. The penguins have been a TV staple for six years, so giving them a full-length feature has zero risk and a built-in audience. As an added bonus, launching a spinoff buys time for DreamWorks to plan the next “Madagascar” movie (currently scheduled for 2018). The tail is clearly wagging the dog here, for better and for worse. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s a shallow one. It’s also strange to get an origin story, and a hollow one at that, for characters we’ve known for almost 10 years.

The movie begins with Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon), as young penguins, daring to go against the conformist penguins and battling leopard seals in order to save a runaway, unhatched penguin egg, which would ultimately be Private (Christopher Knights). From that day forward, the four vowed to go against the grain and live for adventure. One day, they are captured by Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), who’s actually an octopus in disguise that is fed up with the overall cuteness of penguins, and plans to ruin them for all mankind. Enter the North Wind, a government agency assigned to protect animals in danger. Their leader is a wolf (Benedict Cumberbatch) whose name is classified. Skipper does not like having to answer to Classified, but as penguins begin disappearing around the world, the two must find a way to coexist and catch Brine.

“Penguins of Madagascar” has a fantastic running joke that, frankly, I’m surprised no one has done before. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it is, because spoilers. It’s the best thing about the movie, though, and for that alone, you don’t want this to be spoiled by a film critic.

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Movie Review: “RED 2”

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough
Dean Parisot

Though it featured a veritable who’s who of some of Hollywood’s greatest veteran actors, 2010’s “RED” was a bit of a surprise hit, earning $200 million worldwide during the doldrums of October. You’d forgive Summit Entertainment for wanting to fast-track a sequel then, even if the source material on which it’s based (Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer’s three-issue comic book series of the same name) was completely exhausted in the first film. Of course, that hasn’t stopped series writers Jon and Erich Hoeber from continuing their story of retired, extremely dangerous CIA agent Frank Martin, and although it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as its predecessor, “RED 2” is still a good deal of fun thanks almost entirely to its star-studded cast.

Following the events of the last movie, Frank (Bruce Willis) has been trying to lead a quiet, domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but she yearns for another adventure. And her wish is granted when Marvin (John Malkovich) tracks Frank down to warn him that they’ve been framed as domestic terrorists involved in a top secret operation known as Nightshade, a ludicrous Cold War plot to sneak a portable WMD into Moscow, only for it to go missing. But the Russian nuke is very much real, and the only person who knows of its whereabouts is Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the physicist responsible for building it, who’s been locked away in a British insane asylum for over 30 years, despite being believed dead. So when the U.S. government hires a deadly assassin (Byung-hun Lee) to take Frank out, he must team up with his fellow operatives to recover the bomb and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

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